Recharge and Recovery
[A/N: It’s been a while since the last entry in this series now, so to spare anyone who doesn’t want to go back and read those previous stories, here’s the TL;DR: Aoba and Hifumi are living together, and are engaged.]
Hifumi is resting in the office at home. There had been a meeting at work today, and by the time she got home she was exhausted. Aoba had gone shopping to give Hifumi some quiet time. Hifumi smiles fondly thinking about her fiance, certain she has made the right choice.
She could have gone taken a nap in bed, but if she ends up sleeping too long, it will ruin her night’s sleep. Dimming the lights in the office, and resting on the couch in there is an acceptable alternative. She has a napping pillow similar to the one at work, and is currently resting on her side while gently petting Sojiro with two fingers. The little hedgehog has a perpetually grumpy look, but Hifumi can tell he loves her. She’s sure he likes Aoba too, even if Aoba isn’t as convinced. She puts too much stock in his expression.
It isn’t too long until she can hear Aoba at the front door. Hifumi feels like she has dozed off a bit, and has probably been in here for an hour or so. Aoba is trying to make as little noise as possible, which makes Hifumi smile again. It’s not strictly necessary, but she appreciates the effort.
After she puts away the groceries, Aoba walks over and very gently knocks on the door to the office before opening it, and poking her head inside. Hifumi turns around to look at Aoba, but can’t be bothered to get up. She knows Aoba won’t mind.
“Hey sweetie,” Aoba says softly. “How are you doing? Want me to get you anything?” she offers, and Hifumi thinks it over. There isn’t really anything that springs to mind.
“No… but can you take Sojiro, and feed him?” Hifumi asks. He’s wandered onto the coffee table, where he’s currently sniffing at, and nibbling on some paper.
“Of course,” Aoba replies, and steps into the room. Before picking Sojiro up, she leans down to give Hifumi a quick kiss on the cheek. Hifumi reaches up, and grabs Aoba’s shirt so she can pull her down into a proper kiss before letting her go. Aoba giggles, and gently pats Hifumi on the head, then picks up Sojiro. He sniffs Aoba’s fingers, then settles down. “I’ll get dinner ready. It’s beef stew, so it’s easy to keep warm. Come out whenever you’re ready,” Aoba says.
Hifumi nods. “Thank you,” she says with a smile, and Aoba smile back before she heads out of the room. Hifumi wishes she could just steal some of Aoba’s energy sometimes. Perhaps sometimes she does. There’s certainly something invigorating about her at times.
The new position at work is still taking some getting used to, but Hifumi generally feels good about it. Okay, she is perhaps a little too quick to cut Aoba slack, considering their relationship. But Aoba also has a lot to get used to with her new role. It’s not a bad thing that Hifumi wants to help her fiance. Probably. Once they have both found their feet a bit more, she can start being more strict. Probably. At least Yun is there to be a voice of reason.
There’s no denying it’s tiring for an introvert like Hifumi though. Especially at the meetings her social anxiety will kick in. But hopefully she’ll get used to that. Or more used to it at least. She has come a long way with the team in the past year, and has gotten several comments on how she’s more expressive and open. It’s not like it is easy yet, but it’s easier. And a lot of that is thanks to Aoba. Having that one person she doesn’t feel anxious around. Even if that person can be a bit mean. So as long as she takes enough time to recharge regularly, it should be fine.
After dozing off a little again, Hifumi starts to smell the stew. She could probably stay in here a little longer, as she can still feel that heavy feeling in her chest a bit. But smelling the food also makes her realise just how hungry she is. Well, she’s not going to able to relax like this, so she pushes herself up, and gets off the couch. She stretches her body, then exits the room. Aoba is wearing the ‘Little Devil’ apron Hifumi got for her, and Hifumi has to smile at how cute she looks.
“Oh! Hello beautiful,” Aoba says when she notices Hifumi, and smiles brightly at her. “Are you feeling better?” She has just finished the stew, and was about to set it aside for re-heating later, but now it seems that isn’t necessary.
“Yeah, thanks,” Hifumi replies, and leans against the door-frame for a bit, gazing affectionately at Aoba.
“Did I spill something on myself, or something?” Aoba asks when the awkwardness of Hifumi’s prolonged gaze starts to set in. She carries the pot to the table.
“No… I was just thinking you’ll make a good housewife,” Hifumi says teasingly. Perhaps Aoba’s mean streak is rubbing off on her.
“Hey!” Aoba exclaims, playing at being offended, but her expression softens quickly. “If you can joke like that, I guess you really are feeling better.” She smiles, partly in relief. At times like this she wishes she could do more to help recharge Hifumi, even though she knows that’s not how it works. “Come sit. I made it just how you like it.” Perhaps she would make a good housewife, but Aoba has no plans of just staying at home while Hifumi works.
Hifumi enters a state of food bliss as she starts eating. It really is exactly how she likes it. Perhaps Aoba is the better cook at this point. Okay, maybe not overall, but there are at least a handful of things Hifumi thinks Aoba can do better than her. Yet she still has some fond memories of how basic Aoba’s skills were in the beginning. But she’s a fast learner.
Aoba takes great joy in watching Hifumi enjoy the food she cooks for her. She wonders if she’ll ever get tired of it. Though she won’t brag openly… well, not too often at least… she is proud of how her skills have grown. Being able to do something well, that makes someone you love happy, is a good feeling.
After dinner Hifumi helps clear the table, but then Aoba insists she should go sit down while Aoba handles the rest of the cleaning up. Hifumi can still feel a hint of fatigue, so she doesn’t argue too much. She’ll make it up to Aoba another day. Sitting down on the living room couch, she checks to see if there’s anything good on TV. There isn’t really, so she just leaves it on some action movie, and turns the volume down a little.
Aoba comes over shortly after, and gets behind the couch to rub Hifumi’s shoulders.
“Tough meeting today?” Aoba asks, while Hifumi closes her eyes in satisfaction.
“Mm… not really… not more than usual… but you know how it is. How I am,” Hifumi says. While she has come a long way, she still has a long way to go as well. And there had been a lot of stuff happening this week before the meeting as well.
“I’m proud of you. You’re really getting into your new role,” Aoba says earnestly, and Hifumi blushes a little.
“So are you,” Hifumi says, and tilts her head back to look up at Aoba. “I can tell you’re more confident than you were even just a couple of weeks ago.” Aoba had been nearly paralysed by the responsibility at first, but now she’s really growing into it.
“Eheh, some days it doesn’t really feel like it,” Aoba admits with a hint of humour. She also has a long way to go still. “Are you still scared of Umiko-san?” she asks.
“Um…” Hifumi blushes deeper. “A-a little,” she admits, and tilts her head back down. “She is so intense when she gets serious. It’s… hard to deal with.” She doesn’t really have a lot of experience with people like that, but she dearly hopes she’ll get used to it, or will find a way to deal with it somehow.
“She’s really not so bad when you get to know her,” Aoba says. “Just don’t get her started on her hobbies, unless you have time to spare.” She still remembers some of her early experiences, where she learned that with Umiko your curiosity really can get the better of you. “But if you anger her, then… rawr!” Aoba lunges down and play-bites Hifumi’s neck.
“Eek! Aoba!” Hifumi squeals, and swats at Aoba. “Be nice!” Aoba laughs, and pokes at Hifumi’s sides, making her squeal louder. But Hifumi is able to catch Aoba, and pull her over the couch. With a yelp she goes, and Hifumi starts tickling her before she can recover.
“Ahahahaha, stop, stop! I give up!” Aoba yells out. Hifumi relents, and Aoba gets to catch her breath. “Ahaha, oh my. You’ve gotten better at this,” she says, grinning up at Hifumi.
“Well, you certainly give me enough opportunities to practice,” Hifumi replies, and boops Aoba’s nose. “I love you, you know,” she says in complete honesty.
“I know,” Aoba says, perhaps a tad smugly. “I love you too.” She reaches up to stroke Hifumi’s cheek, then sits up, and snuggles right up against her fiance. “Oh! I know something about Umiko-san, if you want to hear.” There is that mischievous tone in her voice again.
“Hm? What is it?” Hifumi asks. She leans her head against Aoba. Having someone small and soft really is bliss.
“You have to promise to keep it an absolute secret,” Aoba says, oddly serious. “But maybe it’ll help you see her in a milder light.”
Hifumi thinks it over, but in the end her curiosity wins out. “Okay, I promise,” she says.
“Well, you see, I heard from Nenecchi that she and Umiko-san…” Aoba starts telling Hifumi what Nene had told her about Nene and Umiko dating. Hifumi is rather surprised, as she has a hard time imagining Umiko being all lovey-dovey. It does indeed give Hifumi a different view of her.
Nene had said that Aoba wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, but Hifumi isn’t just anyone. There’s nothing Aoba would hesitate to share with her lover. Nene will probably come to understand that feeling soon enough.