[Sequel to: Fearful Reunion]
AN: As I didn’t feel the “only one person’s POV” format would work for this part, and switching back and forth a lot with the — markers might be too distracting, I decided to go for a more traditional “show a bit of both” approach here. I hope you’re not too disappointed in me.
“H-hi Ruby,” Yoshiko said nervously. Ruby briefly thought about how this was one of the few times she had seen Yoshiko in casual clothes. It was typically either the school uniform, the practice clothes, an idol outfit, or one of her fancy, stylish outfits that Ruby adored so much… no, this wasn’t the time to think about that!
“Yoha-Yoshiko-ch-san,” Ruby said. She wasn’t sure how she wanted to address Yoshiko right now. Ruby still felt hurt, and a bit afraid. But there was also anger bubbling underneath, that made her want to hurt Yoshiko back. To make her understand how Ruby had felt.
Just seeing Yoshiko standing there, sheepish and uncomfortable, made Ruby feel an urge to hit Yoshiko where it would hurt. She was perhaps more scared of how she was feeling than she was of Yoshiko.
Hearing how Ruby stumbled over how to address her stung Yoshiko a little. It drove home even further just how much she had messed up. Could she really do this?
“S-should I close the door?” she asked. After a short pause Ruby nodded, so Yoshiko slowly closed the door before facing Ruby again.
“May I sit down?” she asked cautiously. Yoshiko was feeling so lost, and really didn’t want to make things any worse.
“Mhm…” Ruby replied quietly. Yoshiko sat down across from her, and they both ended up staring the table. Ruby’s and Hanamaru’s cards were still lying on it.
Ruby had considered saying no, but having Yoshiko stand there would be worse than having her sit at the same table.
“Ruby, I…” Yoshiko started to say, but the rest of the words got caught in her throat. She wanted Ruby to understand how sorry she was, but it was so hard to even say it. Ruby looked up at her with an expression that made Yoshiko flinch.
Can’t you even tell me? Ruby’s eyes seemed to say. Yoshiko couldn’t look into those eyes any longer, and quickly bowed her head. As if in submission. She decided to try again.
“I… I’m really sorry! I’m so sorry, Ruby! So very sorry… I was stupid. I didn’t… I really didn’t mean to hurt you,” she blurted out, losing a bit of steam towards the end.
“But you did,” Ruby said curtly. The tone of her voice made Yoshiko feel like she’d been slapped.
“You hurt me, Yoshiko… san,” Ruby had nearly said -chan out of habit. Yoshiko didn’t deserve that right now. “You laughed at me… why would you…” Ruby wondered if she was going to cry again, but she mostly felt the anger rising. Yoshiko looked up at her.
“I d-didn’t-” she started to say, but Ruby cut her off.
“No,” she said sharply, and got up. Ruby looked towards her bed. “I’d never felt worse in my life…” She looked back down at Yoshiko.
“E-even if you were going to t-turn me down, how could you laugh at me? How could… how could you?!” Ruby yelled, all of her frustration and pain spilling forth. Yoshiko flinched again.
They could hear Ruby all the way out in the living area, and Dia especially wanted to run over, but Kanan stopped her.
“I had worked so hard… to find the courage… to tell you how I feel,” Ruby was still quite loud, and she could feel something trickling down her cheek. “I really gave it my all… I did my best…” She forgot her catchphrase this time. “And you just… you j-just…” Her voice cracked, and she collapsed back on the floor.
“W-why di-didn’t you be-believe me…” was the last thing she said, the wind having gone out of her sails. Ruby covered her crying face with her hands.
Yoshiko felt like the full weight of her sin was placed upon her. Why hadn’t she believed Ruby? Why had she been so sure at the time? For all her talk of being a fallen angel, she had never thought she could fall so far in such a way.
“Ruby…” she said cautiously, wondering if she was going to get interrupted again. But Ruby remained silent. Being honest was probably the only thing Yoshiko could do now.
“I don’t know,” she said to start with. “I don’t know what made me… why I thought…” She swallowed as she could feel her chest tightening. “I-I-I thought there was n-no way you could actually be…” Was there something warm on her cheek? “I w-was so sure… but looking b-back at it now, I-I can only see h-how stupid I was.” Was it okay to move closer to Ruby? Yoshiko wasn’t really the huggy type, especially not compared to someone like Chika or You, but she desperately wanted to comfort Ruby if she could.
“I’m r-really sorry for what I d-did, Ruby,” Yoshiko said as she decided to chance moving a little closer. “I s-shouldn’t h-have…” She was sniffling now? “I sh-should have u-understood,” Ah, how unsightly she surely looked.
Ruby lowered her hands so they no longer covered her eyes, and she could see Yoshiko slowly moving closer. Yoshiko froze when she realised Ruby could see her. Ruby smiled ever so slightly at seeing Yoshiko look so ridiculous. It was okay since her mouth was still hidden. She decided it wasn’t necessary to move further back.
Yoshiko relaxed, but didn’t keep moving closer.
“C-can you g-give m-me a second ch-chance?” Yoshiko was only half-sure where she was actually going with this. “I-is there a-any w-way I can s-start making t-this be-better again?” Was it really okay for her to ask such a thing?
Ruby lowered her hands and pulled her knees up to lean her head against.
“Yoshiko-chan,” she said, more calmly than she had thought possible. Maybe because she was rather tired now. “Even though you hurt me, I still… I still love you,” she confessed. “I’ll accept your apology…” she took a deep breath. “On the condition that you tell me your reply, r-right here and now.” Ruby hugged her knees tightly. “E-even if you t-turn me down, I-I’ll forgive you s-so long as y-you do it properly…”
Yoshiko felt a bit shocked. That wasn’t exactly what she had expected to hear. Ruby was braver than Yoshiko was, especially since she could see how Ruby had started trembling.
Does she expect me to turn her down? I guess I can’t blame her for that, Yoshiko thought. She wasn’t sure how to answer. She still wasn’t sure whether or not she loved Ruby. She hadn’t allowed herself to think about it before. But maybe it was okay.
“If…” she started, and Ruby braced herself for whatever was coming. “I-if you are truly okay with a screw-up like me, then I will swear by whatever dark powers you want me to that I will give you my be- my Ru-rubesty.” That was really embarrassing to say, but just this once was okay. She held out her hand to Ruby, who just looked at it for several moments.
Having gotten her answer, Ruby’s feelings were still a mess. Can it really work? she asked herself, unaware that Yoshiko was thinking the same. Eventually, just before Yoshiko was starting to lose hope, Ruby reached out and touched her hand.
“Okay,” Ruby said with a slight smile. “Thank you, Yohane.”