Wako leaned her elbows on the sill of one of the school’s wide windows and stared out over the dusty courtyard between the classrooms and the dormitory. Normally she’d be spending lunch with Ruri, or maybe Sugata and Takuto. Ever since Watanabe-san had dropped her little surprise on them, though, Wako had been avoiding all three of them a little, so here she was in one of the quiet back hallways instead. Thinking.
She’d known practically all her life what a miko was; she lived at a shrine, after all. She’d spent most of her life also knowing that she was a slightly different kind of miko—her “kami” were a bunch of machine-creatures, and just possibly aliens. But that hadn’t changed the basics. The old basics. She protected and purified and interpreted for those who didn’t have such a strong ear for their local kami-robots. And she was marked. She was given to her kami, and forbidden from giving herself to anyone else. That was just how it worked.
Only apparently it didn’t. The cybodies, according to every piece of data Kate had dragged out of Okamoto-sensei, weren’t jealous of their mikos the way kami were supposed to be. If the miko drivers wanted to take human lovers, there was nothing stopping them. The morning after Kate had come back, dazed, to tell her it seemed true, Wako had spent her morning ritual meditating on all the memories of Wauna she still held in her heart. It felt true; at least, the only memory of anything resembling jealousy was in the faint, confusing memories of Samekh’s nature and purpose, and Wako didn’t think purity, ritual or otherwise, would matter at all to the consuming hunger of Samekh.
All of which meant that Ruri’s teasing about choosing either Sugata or Takuto had a new point on it.
It was a painful point, because Wako understood, with the clarity that believing you or someone you loved was about to die brought on, that she loved them both. Very much. And that they might just both love her back. How was she supposed to choose? She folded her arms on the sun-warmed metal of the sill and buried her head in them with a sigh. It seemed as though, whatever happened, and whoever finally broke the triangle, someone was going to have to be hurt. She hated that.
Voices drifted up, indistinct, from the courtyard below and Wako glanced up. Students weren’t really supposed to go back to the dormitory during school hours, when there wouldn’t be any school officers to supervise.
It was Shinada-senpai down in the courtyard, though, and Wako supposed wryly that the residential advisor was allowed. She was less sure about Honda-senpai and Gouda-senpai, who were both with her. Wako doubted anyone would say anything, though. Those three had been inseparable since middle school. She remembered them, a little, from back then, and they’d still all been together when she’d caught up again in high school.
Why couldn’t she and Sugata and Takuto be like that?
Wako stifled a groan at the thought. Was that what they’d have to do, to stay together? Not let anything be romantic or… or anything, between them at all? Because, for all Shinada-senpai teased their schoolmates sometimes, none of those three had ever dated anyone. Certainly not each other. Wako jammed her chin on her folded arms, glum, and watched while Gouda-senpai explained something vigorously to the other two, hands shaping and slashing the air. Honda-senpai seemed skeptical about whatever it was, arms folded firmly over his broad chest as he leaned back against one of the courtyard trees. Shinada-senpai was listening, though, head cocked, hands on her hips. She lifted one hand to wave in a circle at the three of them, asking something, and Gouda-senpai nodded sharply.
Wako wondered what they were talking about. She could hear a little of their voices from up here, but no words. They seemed pretty intense about it, though, and the thought niggled at the back of her mind that Kate had identified these three as the ones who’d kidnapped her earlier this year. Surely they weren’t planning anything else like that, though…
Her thoughts broke off and her eyes widened as Gouda-senpai gestured briskly at Honda-senpai, as if waving Shinada-senpai toward him. She could see Honda-senpai stiffen against his tree, even from here, and there was a smile on Shinada-senpai’s red lips as she went and rested her hands against his chest. Wako thought she asked him something.
After a frozen moment, slowly, Honda-senpai nodded.
Shinada-senpai leaned against him, standing on her toes to wind her arms around his neck, and Wako clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a squeak as they kissed. Gouda-senpai was just standing there, arms crossed, every line of him looking… vindicated maybe? Had he stepped aside, the way Sugata had tried to when he still thought he was going to die? Wako chewed on her lip, eyes clinging to the three of them even though she knew this was private and she shouldn’t be watching. If these three could make it work, somehow, and still be friends then maybe…
Her eyes stretched wider when Gouda-senpai strolled up to Honda-senpai and Shinada-senpai, and clapped a hand on Honda-senpai’s shoulder. She could see the flash of his teeth, as he grinned, from two floors up. Shinada-senpai hooked her hand around the back of his neck, and he smirked as he leaned down to kiss her too.
When he drew back, Wako caught Shinada-senpai’s expression for just a moment, and it was full of fierce satisfaction.
Gouda-senpai cocked his head up at Honda-senpai, thin mouth tilted in a wry smile as he asked something. Wako thought Honda-senpai was a little redder than usual, but he nodded just a little and leaned in to meet the light kiss Gouda-senpai offered.
Wako spun away from the window so she could put her back to the wall beside it. She was breathing fast and light, above the hand still pressed to her mouth. Three of them. All three of them. Not just Shinada-senpai with both the boys. In fact, it had looked like Gouda-senpai’s idea, to be with Honda-senpai too!
Wako peeked back out the window. The three of them had settled against each other under that tree. Shinada-senpai was snuggled into Honda-senpai’s chest, fingers fisted tight in Gouda-senpai’s uniform jacket as she held him close. Gouda-senpai had his arm around her as he rested against Honda-senpai’s shoulder, eyes closed. Honda-senpai had wrapped his arms around them both and turned his head to press his lips to the wild brush of Gouda-senpai’s hair.
The sight of them like that made Wako’s chest ache. She wanted that, she knew, abrupt and sure. She wanted that for herself, with Takuto and Sugata. She wanted it for Takuto and Sugata. She wanted it to work, without anyone having to make the faces both boys had made when they talked about visiting her after she married the other one!
She slid down to sit against the wall, knees pulled up so she could rest her forehead on them. Could it happen? Could it work? The boys were important to each other, she knew that. Takuto had been just as determined to get Sugata back as she had been. Sugata had trusted Takuto with her happiness. They’d saved each other, more than once. Could it work?
In the silence of the hall, she whispered out loud, maybe to the cybodies she’d served for so long or maybe just to fate, “Please let it work.”
Sugata eyed Wako down the length of the table as she prodded at her fruit salad with a fork. All of them who had grown up together made jokes about Wako’s appetite, but the truth really was that if Wako didn’t want to eat, something was very wrong.
“Wako?” Takuto asked, looking across the table at her, forkful of omelet poised but suddenly ignored. “Everything okay?”
Sugata hid a wry smile in his napkin. He was the one who noticed first, but Takuto was the one who would come right out and ask first. It was their relationship to Wako in a nutshell.
Expecting Wako to say it was nothing, he was startled when what she actually said was, “It’s just… Well.” She fidgeted with her napkin, not looking at either of them. “You know how Ruri teases me about you two?”
Sugata did indeed know, and had to repeatedly stifle the urge to strangle the girl for pushing things when, honestly, he would be perfectly happy if Wako took her time making that decision. “Did she say something that upset you?” he asked quietly.
“It’s not… it’s just…” Wako put her fork down with a sharp tap and looked up at them, one after another. Her eyes were bright and her mouth was in a determined line. “I don’t want to make that choice.”
Sugata sat back with a soft sigh. She’d decided on neither, then. He supposed, this way, it meant neither he nor Takuto would be closed out. Even if neither of them really got what he wanted either. “If that’s what you want, of course.”
“Wait,” Takuto said slowly, looking back and forth between them. “Wako said… that choice. Is there something else you want to do?” he asked her softly, hopefully.
Wako was folding and unfolding her hands, now, but her eyes were still steady. “Yes. I don’t want to have to choose between you. I don’t want one of you to do anything dumb,” she shot a momentary glare at Sugata, “like trying to ‘give me up’ to the other. I want it to be the three of us.” She finished, lower, starting to be a little uncertain, “The three of us together. If… we can?”
Sugata realized he was staring at her.
“You want… um.” Takuto was slowly turning red. “Both of us?” His voice was a little weak, kind of the way it got when Watanabe was entertaining herself by making him blush.
Wako was a little pink too, by now. “It’s just… I know the two of you are important to each other, too. Right?”
Takuto looked over at Sugata, wide eyed. He didn’t, Sugata reflected distantly, look like anyone’s steadfast defender, or like someone who would get into a knock-down drag-out fight to pull a friend out of a funk, or like someone who would unleash a monster and then chase it into space and nearly kill himself destroying it, just to save a rival. But he had done all of that. Sugata’s voice was a little rough when he finally answered.
“Important. Yes.” He swallowed the roughness down, looking down at his plate. Takuto was important to him, probably more so than anyone he’d only met this year had a right to be, but that didn’t mean he’d ever thought about this kind of relationship with him! “Wako, I… are you really…?”
“I’m just asking if it’s possible,” she said softly.
Sugata’s head jerked up and he stared at Takuto, shocked. Takuto’s blush had gone down, and in its place was that earnest clarity, that rock steady look he always seemed to wear when setting out to accomplish completely unreasonable things. Learn the sword in mere months. Defeat a whole organization of other star drivers. Enter a threesome with his best friend and rival, and their mutual romantic interest. Sugata closed his eyes for a moment, fighting a sudden urge to laugh. “Nothing has ever complicated my life like you have,” he murmured.
When he looked up again, Takuto was smiling, bright and open and just a little challenging. “Well, maybe that’ll be a good place to start.”
Sugata gave in and laughed.
They got through the rest of breakfast with amazingly little awkwardness, considering what they’d just agreed on. It didn’t trip Sugata up again until they were leaving, and he offered Wako his hand down the front steps. She squeezed his fingers a little, smiling up at him with such relief and hope that his heart turned over. He hesitated, looking down at her and finally offered his other hand to Takuto.
Takuto looked back at him, thoughtful in the way that was always a bit startling in someone as guileless as Takuto was. When he smiled this time, it was small and true, and his hand closing around Sugata’s was warm. It felt… good. Perhaps, Sugata thought, this could work after all.
They had a place to start, at least.
He and Takuto still walked on either side of Wako, on their way to school that day, but when Ruri met them at the stairs and immediately teased Wako for keeping both of them dangling, Wako only laughed, bright and clear. The sound lit up the morning, and for once Sugata didn’t hesitate to catch Takuto’s eye over her head. They shared a smile and Sugata let himself hope. Maybe. Maybe it really would be all right, after all.
He tipped his face up to the morning sun, and smiled at the future.