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The Place She Called Home

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“Is that the last of it?”

Miku clicked the suitcase closed. “I think so. Did you check the closet again?”

“Sure did.” Hibiki leaned against the wall. “I swear the vacuum was in there last I saw it. Where the heck did it go?

“Maybe a ghost came and took it,” Miku teased.

Hibiki grinned. “With our luck? Wouldn’t be surprised.”

She pushed off the wall and stood up. “So,” she said. “That’s really it, huh?”

Miku looked around. The books had been cleared off the bookshelves, the furniture was tucked away in corners, the floor had been swept clean and the trash cans emptied. The dorm she and Hibiki had lived in for almost three years at Lydian Academy was as empty as when they had first moved in. All the contents of those years were neatly packed into suitcases and propped up by the door, ready to be rolled out in the morning. Less than twenty-four hours before they officially moved out.

It still didn’t feel real. Graduation had always seemed like such a far-off affair. There were always more important things to worry about: classes, music, SONG, the Noise, everything related to the Symphogears and the danger Hibiki put herself through. Even in their last year, after the world was finally saved and they’d finally confessed to each other, these days felt like they would go on forever.

And now, suddenly, they wouldn’t.

“That’s really it,” Miku responded.

If any of her tumbling thoughts had leaked out with those words, Hibiki didn’t seem to notice. She slumped to the ground on her back and sighed a loud, deep sigh. “Man. I actually finished high school.”

“You sound surprised.”

“Can you blame me? I never would’ve passed my classes without you.”

Miku smiled. “Hey, give yourself some credit. You’re the one who actually put the work in.”

“I guess.” Hibiki grinned up at her. “Still, thank you, Miku.”

Oh no. There it was. That grin that always made her face red. “W-well,” she stammered, trying to recover, “I guess there’s nothing left to do but take a bath and sleep.”

“Eeeh?” Hibiki sat up. “But it’s our last night here! Don’t you want to make it special?”

“Remember how early the train is tomorrow? You really want to get up at 7 without a good night’s sleep?”

Hibiki faltered. “I…” She sighed. “Yeah, you got me there.”

Seeing her pout, Miku grew even redder. Sometimes, her girlfriend was so cute it was scary. “I’ll get the hot water running,” she said, quickly making her way to the bathroom. “Why don’t you check for the vacuum one last time?”

“Aye-aye, captain!”

* * *

For some reason, the bathwater felt especially warm tonight. Miku felt like she was soaking in a big, fluffy blanket that cradled her all around. Could homesickness have that kind of effect? It seemed possible, at the very least.

“Aaaaaah.” Hibiki leaned back against the wall of the tub. “This is heaven.”

Miku giggled. “I’m gonna miss this tub.”

“Me too.”

They fell silent, listening to the quiet sloshing of the water. Miku’s eyes found Hibiki’s naturally as breathing. They were so soft and warm, like little puddles of sunlight. She wanted to dive into those eyes, to swim in the sunlight as it coated her entire body, caressing and creeping in-

“Miku?”

“Nothing!” Miku yelped, jolting so hard she sprayed water out of the bath. “I’m good!”

“Huh?”

Stupid, stupid, stupid! “I-um-sorry,” she stammered out. “Just thinking about stuff!” She slumped into the water until it came up to her nose, hoping it would hide her furious blush.

Recently, she’d found it harder and harder to keep her cool around Hibiki. Almost everything her girlfriend did- every gesture, every expression, every kind word or good deed- was just so damn alluring. Sure, she’d always known Hibiki was attractive, but it didn’t used to affect her this much. She was able to admire Hibiki’s beauty from a distance. Now, though? Sometimes, her sun shone bright enough to give her sunburn.

Maybe it was the lack of sex. Over the past year, as they fumbled through the first stages of their relationship, they’d slowly become more intimate together. They would kiss each other, touch each other, run their hands under each other’s clothes. But they still hadn’t crossed the final line. No matter how far they went, something always seemed to draw them back before the big moment. And every time it happened, something inside Miku grew hungrier and hungrier. Even when she was the one who stopped things from escalating herself! How unfair was that?

Miku blew bubbles under the water. Sometimes, she wondered if there was something wrong with her. If part of Shem-ha was still inside her, urging her to surrender to her basest impulses. Or maybe she was always that way and being possessed by a goddess just drew it out of her. Or maybe it wasn’t wrong at all and she was still blaming herself for pointless things because she just couldn’t get out of her own way. Or maybe it was all wrong and she was a horrible, selfish person who didn’t deserve any of the good things she had.

Stop it, brain. Not helping.

“Hey.”

Miku glanced up. Hibiki was staring at her with a worried expression. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Pangs of guilt prickled Miku’s chest. Of course she’d worry about you, dummy. “I’m fine,” she mumbled. “Just… thinking.”

Hibiki scooted a little closer. “It’s weird, isn’t it?”

“What’s weird?”

“All this.” Hibiki waved her arms around. “Leaving.”

Miku blinked. She’d been so wrapped up in her feelings that the thought had almost slipped her mind. “I guess.”

“Cause I’ve been thinking.” Hibiki readjusted herself. “Lydian’s orientation is next month, right? So in a few weeks, some freshman are gonna move in here. They’ll live here like we did, and they’ll just, like, never know, right? It’s like we’ll never have lived here at all.”

Miku thought about it. The kitchen where she always made dinner. The dining room table where they always ate together. The living room where she helped Hibiki with her homework every night. The top bunk they always slept in together. The bottom bunk they used as a storage space. All taken over by new people, used for new purposes. A home that was once theirs would cease to exist, overwritten by something entirely different. Like it never existed in the first place.

“I’m gonna miss it,” she said, trying to ignore the loneliness creeping into her.

“I know, right?” Hibiki ran her fingers through her hair. “It’s like, I wish we could leave something behind.”

“Like what?”

“I dunno. Something that says, ‘we lived here,’ or something. That way even when we’re gone, it would still be our home in some way, you know?”

Miku smiled. “Maybe that’s our vacuum.”

Hibiki burst out laughing. “That’s it! Miku, you’re a genius!”

“Eeeh? Was it really that funny?”

Hibiki couldn’t answer; she was still chortling too hard. Watching her, Miku felt her skin tingle with electricity. How did this always happen? How did every doubt and fear wash away so quickly in her girlfriend’s presence?

How is it so easy to love you?

And then, a thought occurred to her. A thought that made her face go red from her nose to the backs of her ears. Normally, she’d chase this kind of thought out the moment it crossed her mind. But the warmth of the bath and the brilliance of Hibiki’s laughter were too cozy for it to leave. It settled down, put out roots, and stuck before Miku even realized what was happening.

Don’t you dare.

“H-hey, Hibiki.”

“Yeah?” Hibiki finally stopped laughing.

Stop before it’s too late.

“Y-you know… if you want t-to… if you…”

“Miku?” Hibiki’s voice grew worried again. “What is it?”

You don’t deserve this.

Almost without realizing, Miku felt herself creeping forward. Inch by inch, scooting along the bottom of the tub, growing ever closer to the girl on the other side.

She’ll hate you.

Shut up.

You’ll ruin everything.

SHUT UP.

“Hey,” Hibiki tried again, “I’m here. Whatever’s wrong, you cannNNMMMMGH!”

And Miku was upon her, Miku was kissing her, Miku was pressing her body onto hers, Miku was pushing her back against the tub wall, Miku was falling into her like she wanted to swallow her whole. Hibiki slipped and barely stopped herself from collapsing into the water. Her lips opened in shock, tried to close, then relented and accepted Miku’s attack. Their tongues intertwined. The water sloshed around and spilled over the sides of the bathtub.

When Miku finally pulled back, she was breathing heavily. A thin trail of drool lingered between their tongues. Hibiki stared up at her with a face red as the sun at dawn. The sight made something hot surge through Miku’s blood vessels. If the voice in her head was still telling her to stop, she couldn’t hear it.

“Hibiki,” she said, trying to control her hunger. “I-if you really want to leave a mark on this place… I know something we can do.”

“M-Miku?” Hibiki flushed, if possible, even redder. “Eh!?”

“Do I need to spell it out?”

“No!” Hibiki almost squeaked. “I mean, yes? I mean, no I want to but yes I get it? No, wait, is that reversed?”

“Hibiki.”

Hibiki shut up.

“This is our last night here. I want… I want to make it special.” She shakily inhaled. “Is… it is okay if… if we finally do it?”

Not good. Her desperation was starting to creep into her voice. Stop it. Don’t pressure her.

A hand reached up and stroked her cheek. “Are you sure?”

Miku’s eyes found Hibiki’s once more. There were so many tangled emotions reflected back at her. Anxiety. Desire. Hope. Yearning. Wanting. The fire in her veins started to burn hotter. Is that how I look to her?

“Yes,” she whispered. “I’m sure.”

“Okay.” Hibiki licked her lips in nervous anticipation. “Then… we better move to the bed.”

* * *

“Is it too much?”

“N-no. You can… keep going.”

“Are you sure?”

“Hibiki. I trust you.”

“O-okay.”

They were lying in bed, the covers thrown to the side. The lights were off; only the bedside lamp provided illumination. Hibiki’s hand danced and weaved under Miku’s pajama shirt. It caressed the swell of her breasts, teased her nipples, traced ticklish paths across her skin. She rested a hand close to her mouth and ran her teeth along a knuckle, not quite biting it, but carving the sensation into her skin all the same. If she didn’t distract herself, she feared the touches alone would make her fall to pieces.

Neither of them knew why they’d put on clothes just so they could take them off again. Maybe it just felt right that way. Or maybe they were too embarrassed to start things fully naked.

“Ah!” Miku let out a gasp as Hibiki pinched her nipple. She curled her toes and let the shudder pass through her.

“Sorry!” Hibiki’s hand fell back. “Are you okay?”

Miku nodded, momentarily unable to get words out. Keep going. Keep going.

She wasn’t sure if Hibiki could hear her thoughts, but as if she could, the golden-haired girl dove right back in. Her hand spilled over Miku’s stomach; her fingers slipped into her belly button and kneaded softly as if kneading dumplings. She leaned in and pressed her mouth to Miku’s neck. Miku sucked in a breath from the sensation.

“Hibiki,” she whispered. She could feel the girl’s lips leaving their mark on her collarbone. “Hibiki.”

“Miku.” Hibiki pulled back to look her in the eyes. “Can I… go on?”

“Yeah.”

The bedsprings shifted. Miku felt Hibiki’s hands at the bottom of her shirt. She adjusted her position, let those hands lift the fabric up, up, up and over her head, finally tossing it to the floor. The chilly night air raised goosebumps on her bare skin.

“Wow,” Hibiki murmured. She seemed almost mesmerized by the sight.

Miku instinctively covered her breasts. “I-it’s not like you haven’t seen them before.”

“I know.” Hibiki’s ears turned pink. “But… you really are beautiful.”

Now it was Miku’s turn to blush. “Flirt,” she mumbled.

Hibiki leaned in and bashfully pecked her on the nose. “Hey, I try my best.”

And then she kissed Miku on the lips, a deep, longing kiss. Miku accepted it without question. She let her arms fall, let Hibiki’s hands return to her breasts and stomach. Slowly, she slipped her own hand into the waistband of Hibiki’s pants.

“M-Miku?”

Miku’s hand hesitated. “Should I stop?”

“No. I just…” Hibiki inhaled. “You… won’t think it’s weird right?”

“Why would I?”

Hibiki glanced away. Suddenly, Miku felt her heart seize up with pity. “Oh, Hibiki,” she whispered, “you don’t have to be scared of me.”

Hibiki looked back at her. “Miku…”

“I love you. All of you. There’s nothing weird about you.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

Hibiki breathed. In the dim light, Miku could see a faint wetness in her eyes. “Thank you.”

Miku felt her chest squeeze with yearning. The next second, she leaned in and started kissing Hibiki again. Her hand traced the inside of her waistband, then slipped down into the soft fabric of her panties, one finger at a time, to wrap around-

Oh.

Miku’s breath caught in her throat. “It’s… hard.” she whispered.

Hibiki blushed. “W-well, can you blame me?”

Miku bit her lip. Now that it was in her hand, all her senses seemed to be drawn to it. It was hot, thick, straining against the confines of Hibiki’s panties. Slowly, she traced her fingers up and down, feeling its length and warmth.

“Ah!” Hibiki’s hips trembled. The thing in Miku’s hand heaved like an angry mule kicking against its restraints. In that instant, Miku realized: this thing was just as hungry as she was. And it wanted out.

“H-Hibiki.” Miku brought their faces together. “I want… I want to see you.”

Hibiki was panting from Miku’s touch. “You too,” she gasped out.

How they managed to get their clothes off, Miku wasn’t sure. She was sure she’d combust if she moved away from Hibiki for even a moment. But soon enough, her pants and underwear were on the floor, and Hibiki’s pajamas soon followed. They kneeled facing each other, completely naked.

Miku awkwardly rubbed her hands on her thighs. She and Hibiki had seen each other nude countless times before. Heck, bathing together was an everyday occurrence. There shouldn’t be anything unusual about this. But feeling Hibiki’s gaze on her bare skin made her self-conscious like never before. She was being unwrapped like a chocolate truffle, and every nerve in her body was anticipating the moment she was finally eaten.

Not that Hibiki seemed to be faring much better. Her cheeks were a brilliant crimson, her mouth contorted in an odd fusion of smile and frown, her legs squirming against the bedsheets as if trying to hide the protrusion between them. But there was no force on earth that could hide it now. It stuck up eagerly, announcing itself to the world with brazen confidence. It was the only thing among them without an ounce of shame.

“W-wow,” Miku managed to get out. “I’ve never seen it that big before.”

She inched closer. In the light of the bedside lamp, she felt like she was seeing Hibiki more clearly than ever before. The round swell of her butt resting on the soles of her heels, her compact breasts prickled with goosebumps, the familiar scar resting between them, and the many, many other scars that hadn’t yet faded. There was a story written in Hibiki’s body, a story Miku could spend the entire rest of her life reading and never fully comprehend. What secrets might be lying around every curve, every hidden crevasse, waiting to be uncovered?

And then there was the main attraction, still reaching to the sky as if to invite Miku down to join it. It bounced slightly with the motion of Hibiki’s legs. Miku felt the heat in her body roil like thunder. “Wow,” she said again.

“I’m sorry!” Hibiki covered her face with her hands. “I-it’s weird after all, isn’t it?”

“Of course not!” Miku cupped Hibiki’s face in her hand. “I-it just surprised me a little. But I’m happy.”

Hibiki peeked through her hands. “Really?”

“Really.” Miku felt the heat rising in her. “After all… you got this way for me, right?”

A pause. Slowly, Hibiki managed to lower her hands and reveal her beet-red face. In her eyes, Miku could see her own hunger reflected back at her. She instinctively sucked in breath. Not good. Already the heat was starting to crawl down and consolidate between her legs. It was only a matter of time before it became impossible to bear.

“Miku…” Hibiki’s voice was practically trembling with arousal. “Is it okay? To want you this badly?”

Another surge of heat. Miku curled her toes again. “You… want me?”

“Yeah.” Hibiki rested a hand on Miku’s thigh and started creeping it up. “You’re so beautiful it hurts to look at you. And I want to do this right. But… I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold back.”

Oh. That was it. That was the most she could bear. Hibiki’s words, Hibiki’s eyes, Hibiki’s body, they all broke through the last of her self-restraint. Her blood vessels roared with fire. Her loins screamed in agony. Before she realized what she was doing, she grabbed Hibiki by the shoulders and rolled her onto her back.

“Wah! M-Miku!”

Miku straddled her. Her limbs trembled from the rush. There was nothing in her mind now, no fears or regrets or second-guesses. There was only the burning-hot girl beneath her and the spot where their bodies rubbed against each other.

“Then don’t hold back.”

“Miku?”

“Don’t hold back.” Miku sunk down to whisper into Hibiki’s ear. “Let it go… and give me everything.”

A strangled sound escaped Hibiki’s throat. The sound of the last rational thought escaping the room. Arms closed around Miku’s waist. Hips shifted under her. Something hard, hot, and shivering pressed against her. Her lips parted, open, eager…

And just like that, they were one.

“Haaaaugh!”

The cry burst from her lungs unbidden. Her entire body spasmed from the shock. She grabbed Hibiki’s shoulders in a vain attempt to steady herself, but it was no good, she was already melting, melting into a golden pool of ambrosia and nectar, melting into something not entirely herself yet unmistakably her own, and the fire between her legs was exploding and swirling and racing to the tips of every last nerve in her body and oh gods, Hibiki!

“Miku!” Hibiki’s voice gasped in her ear like a drowning sailor. “Are… you… okay?”

“Don’t… stop!”

That was all Hibiki needed. She thrust her hips up, slowly at first, then faster, then faster still, driving into Miku with relentless desire. Each thrust sent another burst of fireworks through Miku, exploding and reverberating deep in her bones. She buried her face in Hibiki’s shoulder, moaning as her hips bucked and her limbs shook.

“Miku!” Hibiki’s arms raced up her body, wrapping around her back. “Miku!”

“Hibiki!”

Thrust. Thrust. Thrust. Miku squeezed against Hibiki like a lifeline. She bit the sheets beneath them to stifle her cries (no good: they still came out). Was she even still alive? Or was this how it felt to die at the hands of something ancient and unstoppable?

In that case, I don’t mind losing my life here.

“Aaaaaaah!” A wave crested over her, and her head burned white with pleasure. Her back arched as her loins erupted. Everything was shattering, tumbling, spinning, swirling, crashing. She was adrift in a typhoon of sensation. The world might as well not even exist.

Then, a new sensation: sheets at her back. Somehow, Hibiki had flipped her over, reversing their positions. Now the golden-haired girl looked down at her, face flushed and chest heaving like she was running a marathon. Her entire body was speckled with sweat that shimmered in the dim light.

“Hi…bi…ki…”

“Miku.” Hibiki’s voice was rasping more deeply than ever. But her eyes sparkled with almost childlike joy. “I love you.”

She started thrusting again. But not the reckless, devouring thrusts of before. These were rhythmic, tender, penetrating, like the embrace of an ocean shore at high tide as it peacefully carries you away. They parted Miku’s walls with grace, kissed the tip of her inner sanctum. They filled her not as an invading army, but as a weary traveler finally returning to the comforting bosom of home.

Miku’s mouth opened and closed in silent gasps. Her body shook with ecstasy. The fire inside her was no longer hot; now, it was warm and wet, like the bath they’d just shared together. Or the meals she’d always cooked for her. Or the nights they’d always spend under the covers. Or the sensation of warm arms around her, a soft voice in her ear-

“Miku, you’re my sunshine. You’re the place where I’m warmest. I’ll always come back to you.”

Another thrust. Another tremor. At last, Miku found her voice. “Hibiki…”

“I’m here, Miku.”

“Hibiki… please…”

And somehow, Hibiki understood her perfectly without another word. She sunk on top of Miku and kissed her. Miku wrapped her arms around her and answered her kiss with all the strength in her body.

For all the nights I was too scared to do this before.

She felt every inch of Hibiki’s skin against her own.

For all the time we lost.

The musky mingling of their sweat.

For all the time we still have ahead.

The heat of the promise thrusting inside her.

For everything I don’t want to be scared of anymore.

The pulse of her core accepting it.

Hibiki Tachibana…. I love you.

“Miku.” Hibiki’s breath was growing even shorter. Her lips pressed against Miku’s own. “I think… I’m close to…”

“It’s okay.” Miku’s embrace grew tighter. “Give me… everything.”

Hibiki made a noise halfway between a laugh and a sob. Her thrusting grew faster. Her hips drove into Miku’s as if trying to fuse with her. Miku wrapped her legs around the girl in response. Her breath came in aching gasps. She held on tightly as the storm raged, as the pressure mounted, as everything started to fade to white once more-

And then, eruption. A burst of blinding light that set her body aglow. A spike of release that lay her flat against the sheets, crying one last exaltation to whatever god was listening. Hibiki collapsed on top of her, shaking with rapture. Something warm and wet gushed into her, filling her with the golden glow of sunshine. It was the sensation of overcoming, of crossing the threshold, of seeing beyond the horizon for the first time. It was so far beyond the human language’s ability to describe it that trying at all seemed almost laughable.

And indeed, Miku was laughing. Laughing for the sweat on her skin, the warmth between her legs, the girl in her arms, and the joy in her heart. Laughing for the unquantifiable truth she’d just learned. Laughing for the song resounding in the world around her, in an unknown language she understood perfectly.

“Miku.” Hibiki’s voice breathed in her ear. It wasn’t a statement; it was a question. Asking her if she was alright. If this was what she wanted. If this was a moment that would last forever.

And Miku answered her the only way she could: “I love you.”

* * *

“Guess we’re gonna miss the train.”

They were lying in bed, basking in the afterglow of their first time. The sheets were tangled and soaked with sweat. The bedside lamp was still casting its dim glow over them. At this point, sleep seemed more like a far-fetched joke than anything else.

“Hey, all we have to do is stay up all night. Then we can make the train and sleep while we’re riding it!”

“You, stay up all night?”

Hibiki flashed a smile. “Don’t worry. When I put my mind to it, there’s nothing I can’t do!”

Miku giggled. “Don’t I know it.”

For a moment, they simply looked at each other. They were still naked, but for some reason, it wasn’t embarrassing anymore. Miku found her eyes drawn to the scar between Hibiki’s breasts. How many years had it been since that scar changed their lives forever? Their lives before the Zwei Wing concert seemed like a dream now.

“Hey.” Hibiki blushed a soft red. “Thank you.”

“Me?”

“Yeah.” Hibiki reached out and held Miku’s hand in her own. “Tonight… was one of the best nights of my life.”

Miku felt her cheeks redden in tandem. “Mine too.” Unconsciously, her free hand drifted down to her stomach, feeling the warmth Hibiki had left in her.

“I’ve wanted to do this for a while, you know.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. But I kept getting scared at the last second and pulling back. I wish I could be as brave as you.”

“Are you kidding? Do you know how long I’ve been holding back?”

“But you made it eventually.”

“Hibiki…”

“I mean it.” Hibiki’s eyes were warm and loving. “You really are amazing. Never forget that, okay?”

Miku suddenly felt like she wanted to cry. “I’ll… do my best.”

“Good.”

They sat in silence for a moment longer, listening to the ticking clock. “So,” Miku finally asked, “you think we left a big enough mark on his place?”

Hibiki flushed a deep crimson. “Oh yeah. Definitely.”

Miku grinned. Now that it was over, the reverence of their love-making was almost comical. “I bet we’ll traumatize the new kids. They’ll show up on moving day, and the first thing they’ll think when they reach the bedroom is ‘someone fucked in here’.”

Hibiki snorted. “Yeah, that’ll teach them to steal our home!”

They both laughed. Miku was amazed at herself; she’d never been the type to throw curse words around. Staying up so late must be making her loopy. I bet Chris would be proud.

In truth, Miku wasn’t too worried about leaving the Lydian dorms anymore. After all, it was never the room itself that made this her home. It was never dorms, or furniture, or lost vacuum cleaners. It was a girl named Hibiki Tachibana, a shining sun that gave her a place to belong as effortlessly as breathing. As long as they stuck together, then wherever they ended up would be home enough. And the memories they carried with them would be all the legacy they needed to leave behind.

Yawning, she cuddled up to Hibiki and rested her head in her girlfriend’s shoulder. “Promise you’ll stay awake for me?”

“Promise. We’ll make that train for sure.”

“Okay.” Miku closed her eyes. “Goodnight, Hibiki.”

“Goodnight, Miku.”

And Miku drifted off to sleep, comforted by the warm embrace of the place she called home.