Title: The Thirteenth Hour
Word Count: 1445
Summary: It's hard to make a difference when there's only two of you against the mysteries that hide below the surface of the world. Loneliness brings two teammates together one night during the Dark Hour...but what happens during the Dark Hour tends to stay in the Dark Hour.
Written for neutraltwin!
It’s almost midnight, and Akihiko can tell that Mitsuru is agitated when she leaves her room to come sit in the lounge; she’s usually studying – that’s why she’s top of the class. In fact, even though she seems discontent with being alone tonight, there’s a book in her lap, but it’s unopened, untouched.
Akihiko knows he should study more often, but he can’t quite bring himself to the same level of dedication that Mitsuru does. He’d been half-dozing when she’d seated herself, and he watched as she’d simply sat in silence, her presence unannounced by nothing other than well, her presence.
He’s not sure what it is that makes him stand up and cross the room, other than the realization she looks so damned miserable that he feels he has to do something, even if his decision leads to nothing more than a lecture or a blast of ice to the face. He seats himself next to her, leaving enough space between them so that they may both be comfortable. He expects her to say something -- anything, but she doesn’t.
What’s wrong, he wants to ask, but as he looks at her, the words die on his lips, his mouth half-open; he almost doesn’t have to ask – it’s so clear and yet, this is Mitsuru and he doesn’t want to make incorrect assumptions. …Or maybe it’s just that he doesn’t want his suspicions confirmed as truth.
She’s a strong person, right? No matter what’s getting her down right now, she’ll pull through; she always has and Akihiko has absolutely no reason to doubt this. It doesn’t seem right to ask; doesn’t seem right to meddle so in the end he remains completely silent as Mitsuru continues to look at her lap.
He knows that maybe he shouldn’t, he continues to watch her; notices when her lips open partially – and no, this is not the time to be having thoughts like that, and he tries to shake himself out of it, somewhat unsuccessfully – watches the words she wants to say die on her lips just as his own had died on his.
It’s late, almost midnight, and he finds himself growing dozy; he’s done his best to train his body to grow accustomed to sleeping before the Dark Hour starts, easier to sleep through it when they can do nothing in it, nothing but notice how quiet the world seems without the constant hum of electricity that lights the city skies brighter than the stars themselves, nothing but sit in the shadows of that eerie green glow that transcends the time that is neither today nor tomorrow, while there are Shadows out there, capital S, that they should be fighting, but cannot.
So he’s not too surprised when he realises that his eyes are closing and that there’s nothing he can do about it, so drained and empty of energy that he cannot almost stand, cannot find somewhere to sleep that is more appropriate, cannot acknowledge that Mitsuru’s shoulder is not the best of places to fall asleep on –
“Akihiko.” He awakens to the murmur of his own name, disoriented and confused, a hand that is not his own clutching at his vest. Where is he, why is he not is in own bed and who –
And the events of the evening prior come flooding back to him; the simply defeated look on Mitsuru’s face, the pervading silence in the dorm room lounge, falling asleep on the couch next to Mitsuru.
The light coming through the windows is green, and the TV he was sure they’d left on now shows nothing. It’s the Dark Hour, Akihiko realises, feeling his chest tighten uncomfortably. There should be out there, doing more, but Mitsuru keeps claiming that it’s far too dangerous and the thought makes Akihiko scoff. Wasn’t that the point of the missions? She hates it when he says that, though, so he doesn’t – too often.
Mitsuru’s hands are flat over his stomach and Akihiko’s not really quite sure how to deal with this, so he focuses on her face once more, trying to see if that trace of sadness from earlier still lingers.
It does, but there’s a fire in her eyes; one Akihiko can’t quite place – and like most situations where it comes to Mitsuru Kirijo and her emotions, he’s not sure that he wants to. After all, no-one knows her better than herself, right?
“Mitsuru?” he asks against his better judgement, voice blearier than he’d like, but then again, she’d just woken him up so he hopes she’s not expecting too much more from him.
Her fingers clench tightly in the fabric of his vest as she looks at him. “I –“ She trails off, which Akihiko finds strange in itself, but now that she’s started he finds it almost maddening that she doesn’t finish: she doesn’t what?
He is distracted from further rumination on the matter when Mitsuru leans forward to kiss him.
It happens all so quickly that he doesn’t know how to respond; in fact, he’s fairly sure any logical reasoning skills he may possess are not functioning – that’s why he goes with instinct, which is safe most of the time, but sometimes not with her, and he moves his lips against hers, hands moving automatically to her waist, pulling her closer – she is so soft and warm, he wonders if he’s simply dreaming.
Mitsuru pulls their mouths apart momentarily, and Akihiko tries to say anything, ask, possibly if this is what she wants, if she’s okay with this, but he doesn’t know how to articulate his thoughts; what sounds stupid in his head is just plain dumb aloud, in every sense of the word, and he stays silent until her mouth is on his again, moving beyond being simply chaste and curious to demanding and explorative, tongue pushing, pressing – Her hands settle on the sides of his face, and he becomes more self-conscious of where his own are, doesn’t know where they should be, because he doesn’t want to assume and she won’t say, and hasn’t it always been like this?
Hadn’t they always been like this?
She strokes his skin, they’re kissing more than breathing; his hands have moved down of their own volition, toying with the hem of her skirt; he’s still half-expecting this to end any time soon, for her to come to her senses, to break free from whatever spell has overcome her and construe this as all another misunderstanding – which would be entirely his fault, of course.
She pulls a bit at his vest, and oh god, is she trying to remove it, and he’s just starting to think that maybe he could get used to this, the girl he’s trusted (loved?) since junior high just as interested in him as he is in her, although he knows she would never admit it – who would want him, after all? He’s had no hopes, no expectations, so all he can do is take this oddity, this one special moment, he redefines, for what it is.
Her hands slip underneath his shirt and he wonders how they got there – yet he doesn’t have long to wonder, because all of a sudden, the lights come back on, the green glow is gone, and the television revives itself with a roar; he’s not sure what programme they were watching before but that’s not what’s important right now.
What’s important, or at least, what captures Akihiko’s attention is the way Mitsuru sits primly upright, hands clenched at her sides as though they hadn’t been kissing and touching just moments before, and the look in her eyes feels like a punch to the stomach for Akihiko, and he, yet again, finds that he wants to say something – wait, Mitsuru – but he still can’t, and seemingly, nor can she, as she bites her lip, straightens her skirt and stands up, not even looking at him before turning to head up the staircase to her room, the book from earlier this evening left behind.
He stays on the couch for several hours or more, replaying the events of the Dark Hour over in his mind, until he’s steady enough on his feet to make his way to his own room and tired enough to sleep without dreaming of Mitsuru.
She apologizes the next morning, without specifically referring to the events of the night prior but still with such a way with words that Akihiko wish he himself possessed. He stammers in response, and she laughs, and everything is back to normal, or, at least, what’s normal for them – which means, of course, that they never speak of the incident ever again.