First thing was first.
She had to get him out of the museum, which, after taking her vow of silence, was much harder than she had anticipated. She tried leading by example, going to her bedroom, putting her hair up, dabbing on a thin layer of makeup, and even switching into public worthy attire, but when she came back to the living room, there Suga sat. He was reclined on the couch, nose buried deep in a book. Shiori couldn’t make out the title, but by the way Suga’s long, slender hands grasped the full length of the spine, it seemed like something short – nothing too time consuming.
It was just like Suga to be reading when the roof over his head was questionably unsound. She shook her head in disapproval, and did her best not to grumble along with the motion, but couldn’t help finding the sight a bit comforting. He was just so comfortable there. She couldn’t imagine anyone else sitting there, with that book, with that smooth face and focused eyes.
Yet, there was a strong possibility there would be someone else. She had to make sure that wouldn’t happen.
So, she marched over to the perfect, little scene and stopped right in front of him, arms crossed. He peered up at her from behind his book. He nodded towards her, then motioned toward her outfit. She shook her head, refusing to respond. It would take much more than an inquiry about her clothes to get her to speak, even if he looked adorable behind a book.
He sighed, then closed his eyes, as if in meditation. Then, finally, opened his mouth.
Shiori couldn’t hold back the smile. She nodded in approval before motioning for the door. Suga followed her motions, but the moment his eyes lighted on the door, he was already shaking his head in refusal.
“… No… where…? Why?”
She shook her head. There wouldn’t be answers, not until they were out the door anyway. This was proving to be a successful tactic, and she couldn’t help feeling a bit smug about it. He opened his mouth again, brows cinched together, preparing for another refusal, but Shiori wouldn’t give him the chance. She plucked the book from his grip, leaving his hand to flail in shock between them. She gripped it in both of her’s to then tug him up from the couch. Suga’s mouth hurriedly tried to form words, but all he could manage were uncomfortable, shocked sounds.
It didn’t take much to drag him to the door, but once there, he managed to regain some form of consciousness. He gripped the door frame and all her efforts came to a halt. Shiori peered back at him, her outside in the lingering mist of rain, him standing firm on the inside. His teeth were clenched, holding back words she was sure he had been forming since she had yanked him up from the couch.
“Why… why are you doing this?”
Shiori thought hard about it, not sure how to answer. The moist air clung to her skin, hot and sticky. It wouldn’t be long before it would start raining again. If they left quick enough, they could be the rain. She was sure of it. Finally, she muttered.
“I want to help you.”
Suga pursed his lips. Shiori could barely make out the way his teeth chewed and worked on his lips as he mulled over her statement. Finally, he dropped his hand from the door frame and stepped out into the mist with her. She couldn’t hold back a small smile as she turned to keep walking, him close behind, hand-in-hand through the mist.
She gave him the choice. Did he want the small shops, with specialty items rather than full racks of every part of an ensemble, or the little department store. The full-sized store was a bit farther away, but it would have more people, and more opportunities to interact, to work on social skills. Plus, if he chose the small shops, that would require them walking through the impending rain to get from shop to shop, just to make sure they had everything to prepare for his interview. Still, the village shops were familiar, and she was sure he would choose them, but, much to her surprise, he walked past all of them.
She was proud, if not a little worried, too. She couldn’t help gazing up at him, wondering how long it had been since he went outside of the village – or even outside of the museum. Her heart ached.
They had just made it to the department store by the time the rain started pouring again, breaking through the hot mist and cooling everything back down to an almost frosty fall day. She shivered from the unfamiliar temperature. For a moment, Suga’s hand seemed to grip her’s tighter, but she couldn’t be sure if it was just her imagination. Shiori didn’t think on it much more as they walked through the doors to enter the lobby of the store. People milled about aimlessly, not really looking at anything, as they waited for the rain to let up. Children were squealing at their parent’s feet, and parents were grimacing in response. It was all so familiar to Shiori, much like her old home in the city. Suga, on the other hand, tensed, awkwardly stiff as he moved about the people.
Shiori, once the one dragging, was now being dragged through the throng. She watched Suga’s muscles tense in his back, rigid and straight, as he tried to find some clear space for them to stand – maybe even just to breathe. He led her all the way to the kitchen ware before the people began to clear and were replaced by shelf after shelf of pots and pans. It was then Suga stopped, took in a deep breathe, and relaxed. It was strange how comfortable he was around so many inanimate objects.
“This… was not such a good idea.” He breathed, dabbing the sweat from his forehead.
Shiori shook her head, not in disagreement, but rather because she had known it herself, and she was already regretting it. While she wanted him to break out of his shell, she didn’t want to give him anxiety attacks. She wanted to help, not hurt.
“You’re right.” She wilted. “Maybe we should head back to the museum.”
Suga’s eyes met her’s, and they held that gaze for a long time, both mulling over what the other might possibly be mulling over. Finally, Suga tugged at her hand.
“There are shirts… over here.”
Shiori smile, a small, proud smile. Maybe there was a chance after all.
To be continued…
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