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sitting in silence

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He was the first to notice her missing piercing- that is, the first one other than Nino, the peculiar girl seeming to have already known.

The red, gleaming piece of jewellery which Miou was so fond of stood alone, gleaming shyly. It much resembled a lonesome star in the dark night, shining on brilliantly even without any companions, pushing on strongly even when the odds were against it- the darkness threatening to smother the flickering light at any moment.

Then he mentally pieces the bits together, and realises why that image seems so utterly familiar. His eyes silently shift to where the petite girl was seating with a clouded curiosity. The girl's short hair shifts just a bit- and the lone piercing stands out among her dark strands, making her other ear look bare in comparison.

It reminds him of her, Haruyoshi allows the revelation to flit about in his head, and he entertains the notion- he usually sees Miou in everything he does, but this observation does actually have some backing to it. Not just his resigned, love-sick mind projecting his feelings on everything he saw.

As he walks over to join them, Miou excuses herself the moment he takes a seat. Her footsteps are light and even, and he doesn't miss the way she hardly turns to acknowledge him as she walks away.

Dark eyes lingering on her retreating back, a small frown surfaces at the corner of his lips as he turns back to the small, stone table where the others were seated.

His eyes impassively observe the others at the table, and with a heavy lurch in his stomach, Haruyoshi realises that the people sitting at the table were all In No Hurry members- and they were indeed answering their manager's call.

Miou was distancing herself again. From Yuzu, from In No Hurry, from him. He disapproves of the way she does it so resolutely every time they get a call about the band's progress, especially so since the manager called Silent Black Kitty (her band,) a rip-off.

Something within him still adamantly feels that she was still a member, and not currently the lead vocalist of their rival. His heart twists at the knowledge that the days they spent making music together were probably long gone.

(Mildly, he contemplates the situation from her point of view. She had faithfully played the part of Alice all this while, but when the real Alice had showed up she must have felt so painfully betrayed, unappreciated in spite of what they told her. What Yuzu told her.)

... he misses playing along to her voice more than he cared to admit. Nino's voice is interesting, a figurative diamond in the rough, but it's just not the same. It used to be just the four of them, after all. 

He wonders if Yuzu ever felt the same, even if only for a fleeting moment. 

Haruyoshi longs to feel the vibrating strings of his guitar under his fingers as he deftly plays along to her vocals. Miou always did her best (always does), and her hard work and silent dedication to the band showed in their skyrocketing ratings and the insanely fast rate her voice was improving with each practice session, each recording, and each performance.

More than once, he catches her doing breathing and diaphragm exercises when she thought no one was noticing. He never points it out, however- he wouldn't ever ridicule her on purpose. At most, he just lets a small smile appear on his face and turns away before she notices that he's watching her. When she does, he's glad that he's always able to cover up the fact with a simple wink, or a smirk. She would roll her eyes, smile, and turn back to whatever she was doing before.

Somehow, small-sized, tomboyish and earnest Miou, of all people was able to break down his walls.

Her presence made his spirits soar, but damn, did it make him hurt inside. Haruyoshi has long since stopped counting the number of times her eyes turn to Yuzu for approval, or the number of times she disregards his advances. What was more astounding was the fact that even with that hollow feeling in his gut which bit and tore at his insides, he could never bring himself to resent the black-haired midget who was his best friend.

So Haruyoshi plays it off. What else could he do when he has fallen so hard, and so fast?

(Everytime he joke-jokingly asks her out, she always rejects him, with contagious laughter and wide grin. He likes seeing her smile at something he did, but for once, he really wishes that she would just say 'yes'.)

There's an unopened box of pearl earrings in his pocket- the one he never gave to her for her birthday. He had chosen them because of their lustre and their innocent shine- which admittedly reminded him of how heart-wrenchingly radiant she looked while singing. It's cheesy, and he wonders if he can ever bring himself to present her with the earrings without making it out to be some kind of joke.

When Haruyoshi notices that Miou has returned from her small excursion, he first notices the bright smile playing on her lips and wonders how much of the smile is actually genuine. He wonders if she sees the young Nino, sitting at the seat she has sat in for years. In this moment she settles into the chair beside him, and he watches as her eyes naturally dart over to where Yuzu sat first, for just a split second, before they meet his eyes with a wry curl to her lips.

"If it isn't Haruyoshi-senpai." Her voice is smooth, teasing, and her smile makes his heart skips a beat.

"Nice of you to join us, Miou." He lazily waves back to her, a smirk already forming on his face.

'Welcome back,' he almost says, but catches himself just in time.

She casually tucks a strand of runaway hair behind her ear, the one with Yuzu's piercing, and he finds himself wanting to ask her about the other one. But their interaction was brief, for she quickly turns away to address Yuzu, a new light in her eyes, and Haruyoshi's fingers curl around the small box in his pocket before they begin to achingly unfurl.

Alas, he lets go of the box and brings his hand onto the table empty-handed.

(Maybe that box of earrings would never be opened. Maybe he would never be able to make her feel less alone. Maybe, her eyes would never light up when they saw him, like how they did with his best friend.)

And once more, Haruyoshi pushes all thoughts of the small box in his pocket- and that of the lone piercing- to the back of his mind. His gaze shifts to the dark-haired girl beside him, but he glances away immediately.

He doesn't say anything else for the duration of lunch. Instead he looks down and contemplates how it would be like to hear Miou's laughter directed at him, and only him.