When the Chairman smiled brightly at him and asked, "So, Suoh, who are you taking to the Spring Ball?", Suoh knew something was up.
"Did you get the expense report for the eleventh-grade field trip done?" he asked suspiciously.
Nokoru blithely ignored him. "Because I know you wanted to take Nagisa, but - " Suoh winced. Of course the Chairman knew already, even though Suoh had carefully not mentioned anything. " - she has that recital with what's-his-name - "
"AKUTSU SHUNSUKE!" Suoh growled, a lot louder than he'd meant to.
" - right, with Akutsu Shunsuke, the violin prodigy. So she can't take you to the ball. But who are you going with?" Nokoru's smile was pure candy-coated mischeif.
Suoh decided to stall. "Who are you going with?"
"Ah, well, I don't think I'll have a date that night. So many girls have asked, and I couldn't bear to break their hearts by rejecting them in favor of another woman." Nokoru gave a small, regertful sniff. This was his usual answer; Suoh had yet to figure out a good argument against it. "But what about you? Surely such a handsome fellow has girls just begging for a chance -"
"I don't know," Suoh interrupted, feeling very annoyed.
Nokoru beamed and pulled out his fan. "I have an Idea," he announced. Suoh groaned and leaned against the doorframe, knowing the field trip expense planning was not likely to get done that day. "I'll escort you myself. The ladies couldn't possibly be jealous of you, and neither will Nagisa. But I'll have to find a dress - "
"You'd be seen in public in a dress?"
" ... well, yes." Nokoru beamed. "For a good cause. And I shaln't announce that it's me, of course. It can just be our secret. Well, and Akira's, and Nagisa's, it wouldn't be fair not to tell her, hmm?"
" ... alright."
"Excellent! Now let's go look for a dress! You'll help me pick it out, of course?"
Suoh groaned. The afternoon was shot, but there was nothing he could do about it.
On the night of the ball, everyone except Suoh was busy staring at the beautiful blonde on his arm, the one in a sweeping white satin gown, waving an ostrich-feather fan. Suoh was busy trying not to fall through the floor in embarrasment.
Perhaps the worst part was that Nokoru was so good at waltzing, even in high heels. His usual clumsiness did not apply around women, and apparently, it did not apply in women's clothing either. He danced with so many men (and adventerous women) that Suoh was exhausted just watching. After about an hour, Suoh have up, declared they needed some fresh air, and dragged Nokoru outside into the rose garden.
Nokoru took his champagne with him and giggled far more than was necessary for the disguise. "Why, Suoh," he said. "I do hope you're not planning an assualt upon my maidenly virtue."
" ... How many glasses of champagne have you had?"
"I do not believe this. Sit down." He pushed Nokoru onto the bench beneath an arched trellis; Nokoru went with no resistance. "Stay here. I do need a walk, and I don't want you falling down."
"Okay." Nokoru seemed quite happy with this idea, but he seemed to be happy with everything right now. "Hurry back!"
Suoh wandered off, grumbling. He passed a fountain and turned, heading for the garden entrance, lost in thought.
At the entrance to the garden stood Nagisa.
Suoh stopped dead, dumbstruck. She was a vision in lilac, wisteria blossoms woven in her hair. She was smiling at him. He tried to think of something to say, and finally managed, "I thought you had a concert." Stupid, stupid, stupid. How romantic was that?
"It was cancelled at the last minute," she answered. "Akutsu-san fell and sprained his wrist, and we had to reschedule. So I thought I would come to the dance anyway." Suoh's heart lept into his throat. "Have you and Nokoru been enjoying yourselves? Where is he, anyway?"
She was only eleven, but Suoh knew she'd be the most beautiful woman at the dance. Not the cutest, or the prettiest, but the most beautiful. Her hands, so delicate and gentle - each breath that made the bare beginnings of a bosom quiver beneath her dress (and oh, that was not a thought he should be having for another four or five years, damn his teenage hormones) - her delicate eyes, shining with hapiness - The most beautiful woman at the dance. Even more than Nokoru. Suoh wanted to tell her all this. Instead, he found himself saying, "He's - resting, over by the Maiden's Blush trellis, he was danicng quite a lot - "
"Let us go pay our respects, then," Nagisa said, and sailed toward the trellis. Suoh trailed helplessly in her wake, blushing almost too hard to speak. After all these years, she still had the same effect on him.
Nokoru was leaning heavily on the trellis post, waving his ostrich-feather fan in front of his face. He might have brightened when he saw them, but he was already so flushed and limpid-eyed it was hard to tell. "Greetings," he said, and held out a hand.
Nagisa took it and sat beside him. She looked up at Suoh, somewhat concerned. "I think I'd like a drink before I try to dance." Suoh blanched, but Nagisa smiled at his discontent. "Orange juice, please."
Nokoru watched Suoh go, curiously. "You look stunning," he told Nagisa when Suoh had vanished back into the ballroom. "I especially like the wisteria flowers. So does Suoh, although he'd never tell you."
"Why not?" Nagisa smiled at him. Nokoru was charming, in his own special way.
"Because," Nokoru decalred, picking over his words with inberiated care, "he's no good at pretty words. He loves you. Very much. You're a lucky girl. But you just have to know it, because he'll never say so."
Nagisa thought this over while Nokoru waved his fan vigorously, trying to cool down. She noticed the champagne glass, and hoped he wasn't planning to have any more. "So how does he show his love? Everyone does, you know. Somehow. It's inhuman not to."
"Blushing," Nokoru finally decided. "He blushes whenever he's near you. And he brings you flowers."
Nagisa laughed. "And with you, he shows affection by yeliing at you. He's no good at pretty words, alright."
Nokoru blinked owlishly. "With me?"
"Yes, with you. I've seen you together enough to tell."
"Oh." Nokoru thought about this for a while. "He loves me?"
"Of course he does." Nagisa gently rapped Nokoru across the knuckles. "Men are such idiots," she said, but she said it very fondly. "You're a very lucky man."
"Yeah. I guess I am." Nokoru laughed. "I guess we're both lucky."
"Becuause Suoh is very choosy, but once he's decided he loves someone, he'll never abandon them." Nagisa smiled up at the moon wistfully. "I know that because of you," she declared very quietly. "He's always been loyal to you, so I know he'll never abandon me for some other girl." Glancing over at Nokoru, she took in the elegant dress again. "Although seeing you like this, I do wonder."
"Don't worry," Nokoru told her mournfully. "I'll never be much a girl. I've barely been wearing these heels for two hours, and my feet ache. How will I ever finish the dance?"
"Well," Nagisa said, a hint of mischief in her eyes, "there's an easy solution to that."
"So what were you up to while I was away?" Suoh asked suspiciously, at the sight of the two people he cared for most leaning against each other laughing, Nokoru's high heels sitting in a bush on the opposite side of the path.
Nokoru smiled and waved his fan. "Oh, nothing much," he said, and giggled again. "Girl talk."