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She Gives Me Strength

Chapter Text

She had been the one to suggest it in the first place and with such confidence nonetheless, yet, Mary could not shake that feeling off.

 

No, that feeling would not leave her alone.

 

At first, she had been so sure it was a remaining of the thrill she had felt from her gambling match with Yumeko, and though it was almost as intense, she knew deep down it was not that.

 

Something was off. Usually, she would have asked her masked partner and now friend about it, but for the first time in weeks, she was completely alone. No one was there to follow her to her next class, to scare her when she was leaving the bathroom or to analize her every move.

 

In fact, not so long ago, she would have considered that a blessing. But not anymore... She could not tell exactly when it started but she had gotten used to that presence by her side, to her. Somewhere along the way, this 'forced partnership' had become genuine. Mary and Ririka really cared for each other.

 

Of course, it was not the first time that the girl cared for someone, she cared for her parents, and her friends, Yumeko, Itsuki, Tsuzura, Yukimi and even (although she would rather die than admitting it out loud) Ryota.

 

So why was it so different this time ? Why was her heart beating so fast and her guts aching like that ? Maybe one of the Yobami sisters had played a last trick against her in a desperate attempt to win more votes ?

 

She had never been poisoned before, so she would not know. But this strange feeling made it difficult for her to breathe, she was hot as well and her stomach was hurting... It had to be poison.

 

It had to be it.

 

... Right ?

 

Some kind of poison that would somehow only activate when she was thinking of a certain someone she was currently missing more than she cared to admit, even though she had only been gone for a few hours...

 

Sadly, Mary was smart, she was logical and she knew what she was feeling was not poison, although it might as well have been...

 

Yes, maybe, just maybe, Mary was worried about Ririka, but mostly because she had left her with their shared 250 votes... Maybe Kirari was a fierce opponent, but Ririka was too, and Mary knew it would be an even greater challenge to her, the girl who wore a mask everyday and stayed in the shadow of her twin sister despite her incredible gambling skills.

 

She had no doubts in her partner's ability. In fact, she could not wait for her to beat the current president, the girl who had apparently never tasted defeat before. Not yet at least.

 

As she arrived in front of Kirari's office, Mary had to face it. She knew she was not simply worrying for a 'friend', in fact, she had a good enough taste of what worrying for a friend felt like after hanging out with that reckless idiot who risked her life every time she could for some stupid gambles...

 

Falling for a Momobami ? Really ? And the president's twin of all people ? What was wrong with her ?!

 

She had yet to decide what to do now... Why was she even here ? She knew the president's scary secretary could arrive at any moment to tase her, or worse, for lurking around Kirari's office without any apparent reason, protecting the office and the person inside like a lioness protecting her favorite toy... Or in that case the favorite toy protecting the lioness. But it did not matter now, it was too late to think of that and no one was in the hallway anyway.

 

What was her plan now ? Barge in and challenge Kirari herself ? As much as she wanted to be the one responsible for her downfall, she knew she could not. This battle was Ririka's, and Ririka's only.

 

It was absurd really...

 

Ririka could handle this... She was sure of it.

 

" Mary is always angry about something... ", a shy voice she recognized all too well interrupted her train of thought.

 

Why was she talking about her ?

 

More than worry, curiosity had now taken over, so the blonde girl decided to eavesdrop on what was being said inside of the room. Luckily, the sound was faint but still high enough for her to hear.

 

" … And she's much more vulgar and ill-mannered than I thought at first. She's clumsy, she's violent... And she flies into rages. ", Mary was very self aware of all of that, but hey !

 

To say she had originally come here out of worry for the girl... Even though Ririka was clearly not finished with her speech, Mary could not stop all of her past insecurities rushing right back at her. She was not angry, like she would usually be in that kind of situation, what she felt was closer to disappointment with a pang of sadness.

 

Had it all been a lie from the beginning ? Was she being played by yet another Momobami ?

 

No, it could not be... Ririka had already proven her loyalty and her friendship to her, and for some reason, as naive as it may seem, Mary trusted her. Still , the mere thought that she might have misread the situation entirely made her want to throw up.

 

" That and... ", there was more ?!

 

" She gives me strength. Thanks to Mary I've learned about purpose. I've learned about friendship. I've learned about will. Thanks to Mary, I have become myself... So... Kirari, I want you to gamble with me. "

 

Mary could not stop the violent blush invading her cheeks. All the worries she had felt seconds ago had now vanished.

 

People praising her was not something new to her, but this time it hit different.

 

She had noticed changes in the girl's behavior, of course, but she was not expecting to be the cause of that change. This declaration to Kirari alone was proof that she had been right to trust the girl. She had made the right choice. It was a gamble she had won.

 

 

Ririka was about to exit the building and head home to mentally prepare for her next game, probably the most important one she had ever played, when she saw a familiar blonde girl waiting for her at the entrance.

 

" Mary ? What are you still doing here ? ", she said as she reached her friend, not that she was not happy to see her, but she had gotten used to the girl almost running from her after school hours. Not so much anymore, though, sure they even hung out a few times after school lately but still, Mary's classes had been ended over an hour ago.

 

" I... I was waiting for you...to... you know, see how it went with Kirari ? "

 

Saotome Mary... Had been waiting for her ? To check on her ?

 

" Oh... Well, it went as well as you could expect I guess... We're gambling tomorrow. "

 

"  I see... And that's it ? "

 

" Was there supposed to be something more ? ", Mary was acting strange... And was it a blush on her cheeks just now ?

 

" No, you're right, I guess I'm just nervous... You know this election has me on edge. "

 

" Me too... ", it was weird but the girl could sense that somehow, Mary was not telling her everything. They had spent enough time together for her to know when something was off, and something was definitely off this time. Still, she knew prying would not make her partner open up, so she decided against saying anything. The day had been long for the both of them, she was probably just tired. This election was draining for them, but she knew in the end it would be worth it. Nothing could stand against Saotome Mary's will.

 

" I should head home. Have a good evening, Mary. "

 

" Yeah. You too, Ririka. "

 

As she was walking away, Ririka reached inside her school bag to put on her mask again. She had agreed not to wear it around her partner but she was still more comfortable wearing it outside, although, thanks to Mary, she could see herself not wearing it at all someday, without it being for an impersonation of her twin but as her own person. Small steps. She was already not wearing it as much at school, which was a huge progress on its own.

 

" Ririka ! ", she heard the blonde girl call for her one last time from a distance, so she turned.

 

" You don't need anyone, you know ? You're strong enough on your own. "

 

Ririka froze. She knew perfectly what she was referring to...

 

But... how ? Did she hear her ?

 

Not that she was upset about it or anything, she just wished she could have had the chance to say it to her directly, when the time came. She knew honesty was key in every partnership, and friendship, so she would have told her eventually, but sharing her feelings was hard and there was so much more she wished to tell the girl.

 

Mary was already too far gone for her to add or ask anything more, and maybe it was a good thing. It would let Ririka the time to think on those feelings she could not truly explain yet.

 

Was it why she had waited ? What did it mean exactly ? And why was she even asking herself that in the first place ? Of course it meant Mary valued her as a friend. Nothing more. Yet, she could not stop her brain from imagining something more, something that somehow felt even more right than just a friendship with the girl.

 

The white haired girl eventually started walking again as her driver was waiting for her, however, after those last words from Mary, she decided she did not feel like wearing her mask right now, so she put it back in her bag and headed toward her car.

Chapter Text

Mary could not believe what was happening, or what she was currently doing, yet, there she stood in the line of a bakery near Hyakkaou Academy at least 30 minutes before the gates of the school even opened. Granted, she was used to come early to school, as a scholarship student she could not afford to be late even once, but this ? This was different.

 

The croissant she was buying was not for her, and the reason she was so early was not out of pure dedication to her classes.

 

In fact, if she had had the chance she would have slept a little longer given the awful night she had spent... Her night had been invaded by the relentless thought of a certain silver hair girl, and Mary had ended up barely getting any sleep.

 

She had never been so stressed for a gamble in her entire life, even when the odds were so low no one believed she could win, or the stakes so high it could ruin her entire life. Hell it was not even her gambling this time !

 

But, despite the fact the fact that she would never be caught admitting it out loud, Mary was caring by nature. And these days she happened to care very much about her 'partner in crime', and having heard what the other girl said to her twin, she knew the feeling was mutual. Well, the feeling of having found a true friend that is. The falling part of it was bound to be one sided, and she did not care because a Momobami would never think of her like that, and more importantly she could not be falling for anyone at the moment, Momobami or not, constant cute deep blush or not, she had a goal and nothing was more important than that.

 

She had to win this election and get rid of this stupid house pet system. She had to.

 

That was why she was buying this croissant, not as a suitor, but as a friend who was supporting Ririka in her upcoming battle. If she was nervous, then she could not imagine how the girl was currently feeling and as sweet as Ririka was, Mary had never seen her hang out with friends before. Ririka was shy and constantly hiding behind that annoying mask of hers, she did not open up a lot and so Mary was almost certain she was one of the girl's only friend. It was her duty as a friend and partner to try and make the girl feel at ease.

 

That was how the idea of buying the girl a croissant came into her mind, everyone loved those right ? Especially a rich girl like her, surely she was used to cuisine from all over the world so a french pastry would most likely be among her alimentation habits.

 

Once she got her order, Mary made her way to school. The walk was not too long, because of course the fancy bakery was near the fancy school, right ?

 

When she arrived, Ririka was already there, alone. Usually Kirari would be next to her but once again, this was no usual day.

 

The girl seemed lost in her thought, even when she was wearing that mask, Mary could tell, they had spend enough time together for that.

 

She did not even notice the blonde girl approach her and shivered slightly when Mary touched her shoulder.

 

" Oh Mary, hi. "

 

" Hey, how are you ? "

 

" I don't really know, to be honest. ", Ririka sighed through her robotic voice.

 

Usually, the girl seemed impassible when she was wearing her mask, the thing acted like a physical wall between her and the outside world. She was protected behind it, she could be vulnerable without anybody noticing. It was reassuring, it was her way of protecting herself. But now, Mary could see right through it, even in the way the girl was standing, she could see something was off, anyone could.

 

And of course something was, there was no way of knowing how the gamble would end, or what twist Kirari would pull up even (especially) against her own sister.

 

" Well... I know it's not much, but I got something for you. "

 

" You do ? "

 

" Yeah consider it a good luck gift ? ", Mary said before panicking and realizing she was being way too honest about her feelings, " You do have our votes on the line after all... ", she said with a slight blush, similar to the one Ririka usually wore.

 

" A gift ? "

 

" Yeah, I know you probably already had breakfast served by a bunch of domestics and all, but uh... Just in case you didn't, here. ", she said as she handed the small bag to her.

 

" Wha- ", before Ririka could ask anything or even take the bag herself, Mary shoved it into her hands. The silver haired girl opened the bag and was surprised to see one of her favorite French pastry. " A croissant ?... And you bought it for me ? ", she asked in confusion.

 

Mary was starting to lose patience, " Yeah I told you that already ! Were you even listening ? "

 

Ririka did not say anything in response, instead she started taking her mask off with her free hand.

 

Mary had not been expecting that, they were still around students who were all staring just a little too much, still confused by that partnership. Surely Ririka had noticed the whispers and the glances, so why was she still taking it off ?

 

The blonde was well aware this whole taking her mask off started because of her, but she just asked the girl to do that when they were in private. It was not because of some valuable twin information anymore, she just respected the girl's boundaries. If she was not ready to take it off in front of people, then Mary would never ask her to do that.

 

" You know... You don't have to take it off right now. We're still around a bunch of people, so if you're not comfortable you can just eat it later ! "

 

Instead of putting the mask back on, Ririka just sent her a warm smile, putting on a brave face, " I know. "

 

For once, Mary's blush was beating Ririka usual one, she sighed loudly in an attempt to seem unbothered by the girl's new found confidence. " Alright... "

 

Mary looked at the time and realized she had to go before running late to her first class, the school was so huge it would take some time before reaching her class. " Okay... Anyway, I gotta go... ", then added, " I can't wait to see you crush the president. ", she smiled confidently before hesitating.

 

Without a warning, she kissed lightly the silver haired girl's cheek and left.

 

None of them really understood what had just happened, on one hand Ririka could feel her heart bursting through her chest and her soul slowly leaving her body. On the other hand, Mary was almost running away from her, not knowing where this came from and frankly terrified by her own bluntness.

 

Or... maybe she did know, maybe it was just a weird reflex she had had, or maybe it was something she had thought about doing for the past week. Either way, she did it. There was no turning back now. So much for keeping things strictly professional... She thought.

 

What she had not anticipated though, was the fact that, like everyday for the three weeks or so, Ririka would follow her around the entire day, at least until the gamble with her twin.

 

Needless to say, the rest of the morning was spend in an unbearable silence from both sides... As they were trying to find the true meaning of the gesture.

Chapter Text

The rest of their morning had been spent as awkwardly as one could expect given the sudden gesture of affection Mary had given Ririka.

 

Not one of them had dared to mention it, or had dared to say anything for that matter. They were back to the early stages of their partnership, where Ririka would just follow her around in silence, except this time, Mary was just as silent. She had not even made one snarky remark at the girl.

 

Everyone could feel the weird atmosphere, but they knew Mary, it was best to let her cool down before asking anything, no one was brave or crazy enough to try anyway. Well, no one except Yumeko of course.

 

" Are you okay Mary ? You haven't said a word all morning ! Even earlier in class, I'd never seen you get an answer wrong. "

 

" I uh- I didn't have much sleep last night that's all... ", she tried to avoid the question as well as she could, while feeling Ririka's eyes burn into her. Why did she keep staring at her like that ? It's weird, even for her... Mary thought.

 

" I see... Maybe it's a full moon ? "

 

" Or maybe you were nervous ? ", Ryota finally dared to speak, " You're gambling against the president today, right ? ", he asked after turning to the masked girl.

 

" Yes ", she answered with her usual robotic voice as Mary choked on her food. What the hell was wrong with that guy ? She definitely was nervous but there was absolutely no need for others to know that, or point it out.

 

" How exciting ! ", Yumeko clapped in her hands for emphasis. " You must be so excited ! Gambling with the President was so fun. "

 

" uhm ", Ririka was clearly not used to Yumeko's unusual enthousiasm, but before she could think of anything to say, she felt the chair next to her move abruptly. A part of her vision was clouded because of her mask but she knew exactly what had caused that. She turned to Mary who was already up and leaving, just to be sure.

 

" My apologies. ", she said as she bowed to Mary's confused friends. Then, she ran after the girl who was already gone from the cafeteria.

 

If she had been a second later, she would have missed the girl entering one of the music rooms nearby. And, without hesitation, she followed her.

 

Mary was already seated by the window when she entered the room. The blonde girl was on the window sill, watching outside. Despite not having reacted when she entered, Ririka knew she had noticed her.

 

She approached slowly and sat at the edge of the sill, next to Mary's feet. She faced the classroom as Mary was still trying to keep her focus on the other side of the window.

 

" You know... ", she started as she took her mask off, " I don't think I thanked you for this morning. ", the shy girl paused and felt her cheeks heat up at the thought of this morning, so she added, "… For the croissant I mean... "

 

Mary scoffed, " Well, no offense but you Momobamis are not known for your incredible politeness. "

 

Rirka chuckled lightly, and Mary realized it was the first time she heard her laugh. So, she made the mistake of looking at her. What a stupid move, really... The silver haired girl was even prettier that way.

 

" I suppose you're right... "

 

Another silence settled in, this time, much more comfortable than the previous one.

 

" Ririka ? ", Mary was the first to break it.

 

" Yes ? "

 

" About this morning... I'm sorry. It was in the heat of the moment, I want you to know it didn't mean anything. ", Mary surprised herself with how easily the lie came out of her mouth. What surprised her even more though, was the way Ririka's expression dropped.

 

" Oh... Yeah. Of course. "

 

" Well... I'm glad that's settled. I didn't want things between us to get awkward, you know ? ", she added while getting up and heading toward the door while Ririka stayed put.

 

" I know. " , she said more sternly than usual, she might as well have been wearing her mask to be honest.

 

"… Good, then... ", It was not good. She knew that, and why the hell was Ririka acting like that ?

 

It was almost as if...

 

No. There was no way.

 

Still, Mary had to check. She had to know, otherwise that stupid feeling would never leave her. She needed to be certain. What did she have to lose anyway ? She had already messed up by kissing her cheek earlier.

 

She stopped in her tracks and faced Ririka, who was now standing.

 

" Is everything okay ? "

 

" Yeah. ", clearly that was a lie as she was already putting her mask back on.

 

Mary approached her slowly, and once she was close enough, she carefully removed Rirka's mask and the girl let her do it without protesting. " Did... Did you want it to mean something... ? "

 

Ririka only looked down in response... And after a few seconds, she finally said, " What if I did ? "

 

The silver haired girl looked up to find the other girl's eyes bore into her own. It was only now that she noticed just how close they were to each other. She could feel her breath, she could smell her perfume... And all she needed to close the gaps between their lips were just a couple of inches. So close...

 

"Oh... ", Mary's breath was short, all she could look at were the other girl's lips. All her attention was on them. The other girl made the first move. Her lips were finally about to touch her own when-

 

" Here you are ! Ryota, I found them ! ", Yumeko said as she burst into the room. " Oh... Sorry. Did I interrupt something Mary ? "

 

The two girls jumped away from each other and Ririka put her mask back on so fast, you would never imagine she was on the verge of kissing someone seconds before. The two girls were as red as their uniforms by the time Ryota joined.

 

Mary cleared her throat loudly before joining her friends, followed by the other girl, " Nope. Nothing at all. " Although, both of them were still slightly panting from all the tension.

 


 

" WHAT DO YOU MEAN I CAN'T COME INSIDE ?!!! ", Mary was not about to let this slide.

 

" The president explicitly requested that the Vice-President, the assigned Election Committee member and the President herself would be the only ones allowed in the room. ", Sayaka answered calmly.

 

" This is bullshit ! What is she afraid of ?? We're not gonna cheat ! My votes are on the line too, I have the right to watch ! ", the blonde girl was fuming, so she turned to her acolyte for support  " Say something ! You're still Vice-prez, she has no right to dictate who goes in that room ! ", she pointed at the raven haired girl in front of her.

 

"…"

 

" Well ? Aren't you gonna say anything ?! ", she stared at Ririka in disblief before sighing loudly... Of course she was not going to say anything.

 

" What the hell ! I don't care, I'm still going in. "

 

Ever since their moment in the music room, Mary had been more on edge than ever. She was about to kiss me ! I think... And Yumeko came in... Why did I agree to be friend with her again ? And what am I supposed to do now ?!

 

The atmosphere between them was as tense as ever. Of course, they had not had the time to talk about what happened, or rather almost happened. And now here they were, minutes away from Ririka's most important gamble and Mary could not even come with her ? She had seen the girl's gambling abilities, sure, but still, she wanted to be there for her, support her. She wanted to show her she was not alone in this fight.

 

Without any warning, Mary started to rush past Sayaka, and just as the girl was drawing her infamous taser, the masked girl grabbed Mary's hand.

 

" It's okay, Mary. Stay here. ", she instructed the girl through her mask, squeezing her hand tightly.

 

" But- "

 

Mary tried to argue but she was out of arguments. Ririka's simple touch had been enough to calm her down. By her tone, Mary knew there was nothing she could do or say that would change her decision anyway. She was still highly against it, of course, but what could she do ? Ririka had her own will now, she had even played a big part in that, and so she had to respect it.

 

The silver haired girl took her mask off once again and flashed her a warm smile before mirroring the girl's gesture from this morning and kissing her on the cheek.

 

This time Mary really was truly speechless, frozen even. And by the time she came back to her senses, she was alone in the hallway with Sayaka. The later did not comment on what she had just seen, she knew it was not her place. Besides, she understood the Momobami twins' power of attraction better than anyone.