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Happy Level-Up, Becky!

So, I only managed to finish one-half of your present. It's nothing that you asked for but something that we'd talked about before. The OTHER half should be finished tomorrow. I just didn't have time today.

But I love you and I am glad I know you even if you DO drag me into fandoms. Tiny fandoms. Fandoms so small that I have to write fic because there are only ten of us and only half of us write things. THIS IS TRUE LOVE, BECKY.

Anyhow! The first half of your present!

Good at it

Kagami notices her but he can't say why. She's just a girl on the street, walking her bike and carrying a clear file with papers in it. Something about her seems delicate, lovely. Something about her tugs at him. He jogs over to her side. "Hey, can I help you with that?" he offers.

She ducks her head down, her hair swinging across her face and hiding her from view. "It's all right," she says, softly, softly. A little bit of steel in the words, something firm at the core, a strength.

Right then he knows that she's not like anybody he's ever met before. "No, really!" he puts his hand next to hers on the handlebar. "If we're going the same way, I want to help!" He smiles at her because he can see her peeking sideways at him through the curtain of hair. "I'm Kagami and I'm just going to work." He points down the street. "At Bistro Le Salle." He smiles at her again, encouragingly. "So isn't it okay if I help for a little bit? If you think it's too weird after that, it's not like we'll see each other again."

"Bistro La Salle?" the girl murmurs. "I'm going there." She looks away, starting to walk again, still pushing her bike. "There's a job…"

Kagami keeps his hand on the bike too, pushing with her. "I'll put a good word in for you with Yumiko," he tells her, grinning. He feels breathless and accomplished somehow. "I don't think you'll need it," he laughs. Because somehow, just somehow…

Her name is Hiyori and she's hired on as a waitress, like Kagami is a waiter, but she quickly gets bumped up to kitchen staff after she saves something that Kagami—who is trying to make drinks, bus tables, and watch the food for Yumiko—lets burn. Not only does she save it, she does something with it that makes it delicious.

Kagami watches her working through the pass-through window and puts his chin in his palm, leaning. "One day I want you to cook something for me," he says rashly.

Hiyori drops the spoon in the soup.

"Oh, after work, Kagami-kun," Yumiko says. "We have customers who don't want to watch you flirt." She smiles as she comes out and shakes her head. "If that's what you can call it."

Kagami just grins at Hiyori. "Someday, okay?"

Her faint nod is more than good enough for him. He can't stop smiling.

It's all tiny things—little nods, smiles hidden by the way her hair falls as she ducks her head, letting him walk her bike for her all the way to the corner where they part. Kagami counts this as dating her.

"I think we're dating," he tells her as they walk.

Her head bows and her hair hides her. "You don't know anything about me," she protests faintly. "My past or my family. Anything."

Kagami stops and pushes her hair back, tucking it behind her ear. "I don't have to. The Hiyori right in front of me is the one I want to know." He pushes the bike ahead when she looks at him. "If there's something you want me to know, you'll tell me. That's what's important."

She's let go of the bike and she actually has to scurry the few steps to catch up. Her hands, when they rejoin his on the bike's handlebars, are so close that he can feel the warmth of them. "I have a bird," she says quietly. "Her name is Puri-Puri." She won't look at him.

"Puri-Puri?" Kagami laughs. "Like the band, right?" He sings the first few lines of 'Fly, Baby, Fly' and laughs when Hiyori turns her face and smiles at him fully. She has such a beautiful smile, when she really lets it go. "I'll see you at work tomorrow," he tells her. He touches her hand, just a brush of his fingers to the back, as he lifts his hands away and lets her have her bike back.

Hiyori bites her lip and then nods. "Tomorrow."

One day as they close together, Hiryoi stops him from turning out the lights by putting her hand on his sleeve. "Ah…" she says.

Kagami turns and smiles at her and notices the faint pink spilling across the bridge of her nose and into her cheeks. "Hm?"

She doesn't answer, just goes to the kitchen. He follows and when they're both inside, she opens the big refrigerator and takes out a covered plate. She doesn't look at him as she goes about reheating it. Kagami says nothing. She sets it in front of him, steaming warm and says, "Earlier, before we got busy…"

Kagami looks at his plate. There's miso mackerel on it and he knows for a fact that they didn't do anything with mackerel today. "You cooked for me," he realizes. Hiyori nods soundlessly. Kagami takes a bite and it is so delicious he could cry. He actually makes a sound that has Hiyori looking at him. He swallows hastily. "You could open your own restaurant," he tells her seriously. "You should."

She blushes and looks away. "It's not very good," she says. "I'm…"

"It's fantastic," Kagami cuts her off. "It's amazing. YOU are amazing." She looks back at him, eyes peering up through her lashes because she won't lift her head. But her hair is tucked behind her ear and not hiding her face. Kagami pushes his plate aside. "Okay, this is going to be gross…" he warns her.

"What?" she asks but he's already leaning over and his mouth is pressing against hers for one precious second. "Ah!" she puts her hand up, covering her mouth.

Kagami grins at her. Somehow he feels like he's just done something that will stay in his memory forever, indelible sunlight on the skin of his soul. "Yeah, sorry about that," he says. And then he laughs. "Hey, let's go out together on an actual date next time."

She lets him take her to the movies, to an amusement park, for a walk along the river as the sun sets red in the summer sky. He holds her hand, sometimes. He kisses her once or twice. And the entire time…somehow...

Hiyori looks at the petals on the flowers in the butterfly garden. "I'm not very good at this," she says softly. "Being a girlfriend. Being—" she looks down and her hair hides her face again.

Kagami touches his mouth, where her kiss lingers. Somehow, despite how much he cares for her, how much he honestly just really likes her, he doesn't think he's in love with her. He touches her hair and pushes it back. She doesn't look at him and he decides to go for it, just go for it. He leans over, hands on his knees, and turns his head to look up in to her face. "I'm not so great either," he says. "But you know what? I think we were both really great at being friends. Don't you?"

"I—" she looks at him, thinking so hard and so obviously, then: "Yes."

Straightening up, Kagami dusts his hands off. "Then that's settled." He feels settled, comfortable. "Do you want to visit the duck pond once we leave this part?"

"Yes." Hiyori is smiling at him. "I want to see the ducks together."

It's not awkward and Kagami is happy. Simply happy.

Some time later, when cold winds blow and snow-heavy clouds scuttle the sky, Kagami leans against the pass-through. "Hey, one day I'll cook for you," he tells Hiyori.

Hiyori doesn't look up from rolling an egg. "No thanks."

Kagami laughs. "One day," he promises her. "I really will!"

"Save it for somebody special," she tells him. She looks up and smiles, just a tiny bit. "That person will even like a first effort that doesn't taste very good."

"That kind of thing is an honor," Kagami says. It's not so much an agreement as it is an acknowledgement and a thank-you and a soft, surprise kiss from a summer-romance memory.


"A hotdog. It's this…I guess you'd call it a tube shape…a tube-shaped piece of meat, big about like this...and it's in a—"

"I know what a hotdog is!"