"Kirumi, I'm fairly sure you've sanitized and sterilized this entire house at least four times already, and it isn't even noon!" Kaede smiled and shook her head at the aptly-titled Ultimate Maid as she began to scrub the floor yet again.
"One can never be too cautious, Kaede," Kirumi replied calmly as she continued to work. In reply, Kaede's smile disappeared.
"I mean it, Kirumi, you're overcleaning. All of… this?" the Ultimate Pianist gestured to the room around them. "It's unnecessary!"
"One can never be too cautious, Kaede," Kirumi repeated patiently, enunciating a little more forcefully this time. "With Covid-19 proving to be such a dangerous and omnipresent threat, I must take all measures and precautions to protect you from it."
Upon saying this, the maid began to scrub the floor with increased vigor. Kaede continued to look down at her with sad, frustrated eyes.
"I appreciate the concern, Kirumi," she began. "But it really isn't necessary. One deep-clean per day is enough. Four is just overkill!"
"I am sorry, Kaede, but that is a request I cannot take," Kirumi still did not look up, but Kaede didn't need her to. She could hear a new edge to Kirumi's usually-serene voice and the message couldn't have been clearer. "It is my pride, honor and duty as your personal maid to care for and serve you as best I can, and if this is what I must do in order to fulfill that goal, then so be it! For this is my selfless devotion!"
In response to this, Kaede felt her heart skip a beat, and then she cursed herself. Kaede had, many times before, tried to break Kirumi out of her one-track-minded devotion to her role as Ultimate Maid, but after the Corona virus started, it felt like all of Kaede's work had just gone down the drain, and Kirumi had reverted back to her usual slavishly devoted self. Kaede was glad Kirumi enjoyed her life of service, but surely there was more to her than just that, right? After all, Kaede was the Ultimate Pianist! But there was more to her than just music.
But try as Kaede did, even driving the smallest wedge between Kirumi and her identity as the Ultimate Maid had been nigh impossible. And again, with the Corona virus, Kirumi's maid-ish tendencies had come back full force. Already, every plate and platter, and every piece of silverware, had been totally sterilized twice (and Kirumi did this after every single meal, which she, herself, cooked, being incredibly careful only to use the freshest, safest, healthiest food.). And every piece of cloth in their house (whether it was clothing, towels, bedsheets, rags, doormats or curtains) had been thoroughly washed, dried and hand-pressed (which was also something she did daily). And of course, Kirumi had started scrubbing the floors for what was maybe the fifth time that morning (after having swept, vacuumed and mopped them. And everything on them).
"Kirumi, please!" Kaede finally took a more aggressive approach.
"Kaede?" Kirumi finally looked up, expression genuinely puzzled by Kaede's frustration. Kaede gestured for her to stand, so she did. "Do you have a request?" the maid asked. It was a sincere question, but the wrong one to ask at that time.
"Awww, jeez!" Kaede pouted and crossed her arms. "I appreciate your devotion and care and I'm glad you like being the Ultimate Maid and all, but you really do need to relax! I'm not kidding when I say that the overcleaning is an issue!"
"Ah, there is no need for you to worry about that," Kirumi promised reassuringly, missing Kaede's true point. "I've already taken that into account, so although I have been cleaning often, I have been using techniques to minimize the detrimental effects of overcleaning!"
"That's not what I mean!" Kaede cried. "I mean that you need to look after yourself too! Not just me!" In reply, Kirumi's face softened.
"Kaede, I appreciate the sentiment, but you need not worry! I am taking care of myself. I know I must be in peak condition in order to serve you to the best of my ability, so I-" but that was as far as Kirumi got before Kaede interrupted her.
"That! That right there, Kirumi! It's both your best and your worst quality!" she cried. "You look after yourself, yes, but only for the sake of others! Can't you just, for once, take care of yourself for your own sake? Quarantine and the virus have been hard on all of us and you need to monitor your health, physical and mental and emotional, just as much as you monitor mine!"
"I do look after myself for my sake," Kirumi replied, head tilting and eyebrow crinkling confusion. "Nothing brings me greater joy than to serve others, so in order to fulfill my needs, I look after myself so that I may look after others. Besides, you know I find cleaning therapeutic. Forgive me if my incessant cleaning seems superfluous, I can try not to do it in your presence anymore, but I do not wish to stop."
"No, no," Kaede could only heave another sigh. There was so much to unpack right there… "Kirumi, I'm sorry, you don't need to apologize. Nor do you need to make extra accommodations for me. I don't mind you cleaning, and I'm glad it makes you happy! I was just trying to get you to see that sometimes, breaks are beneficial. Especially for you, especially during Corona and quarantine! I'm capable of caring for myself, you know?"
"Yes, Kaede, I do know that," Kirumi promised. "But even so, with all my might and strength, I will ensure your safety and health, for it is my utmost priority as your personal maid! If you were to fall ill while under my care, it would be a grave error on my part, and I will have failed you and myself. It would be an unforgiveable lapse in my skill and it would forever tarnish my pride and reputation as a maid. I cannot allow that! And more importantly, I do not wish for you to fall ill, so whatever I must do in order to keep you safe, I shall do it, for this is my selfless devotion!"
"Aww, jeez!" Kaede muttered again, crossing her arms and pouting once more. This time, though, she was looking at the floor rather than Kirumi. Even though part of her frustration was aimed at Kirumi, some of it was also aimed at herself, and Kirumi's passionate declaration brought that self-oriented frustration out. Maybe Kirumi considered Kaede her master, but Kaede considered Kirumi her friend and equal.
Yes, Kaede was employing Kirumi's services, but that was only because Kaede was so very fond of the maid that she was willing to use any excuse to keep her close. Of course Kaede felt flattered that Kirumi considered her a worthy master, but it still made the pianist uncomfortable to think that Kirumi didn't see their relationship as anything beyond professional. It left Kaede feeling… unfulfilled. And perhaps a little guilty that while she saw Kirumi in one light, Kirumi clearly saw her in a very different one.
"You are displeased," and there Kirumi went again, wonderful and annoying, able to expose all of Kaede's secrets just because of how observant she was. "Forgive me, I did not mean to overstep my boundaries. I do not know why I behave like this when I am around you."
"Behave like what?" Kaede's embarrassment turned into interest. Did Kirumi think she treated Kaede differently than other masters? Kaede was keen to know now. But Kirumi winced, gritting her teeth and looking away worriedly. It was clear she regretted letting that secret slip out, but it was too late to take it back and she had no credible reason to deny Kaede this request, so Kirumi was forced to explain…
"I have served many excellent masters before, but none have ever made me feel the way you do," the maid admitted slowly, painfully. "I cannot explain it, but somehow, it feels different, serving you. The pride and joy I feel is more than simple satisfaction. It's stronger, deeper, and more… personal and… intimate. I find myself drawn to you, but in more ways than simply wishing to support your future. It is if I want to be your future instead, rather than just supporting it… I have already lapsed in my duties as a maid by revealing all of this to you, and yet, for some reason, I have no desire to stop. I know no maid should ever be so open with her client, yet I feel a great desire to bear my soul to you. I do not understand it. Do you? I know maid shouldn't ask her client about such-"
"No, that's wrong!" Kaede interrupted at last, her personal annoyances vanishing from her mind now that Kirumi was actually opening up to her. This was an occurrence rarer than Corona and Kaede was not going to miss it! "There's nothing wrong with reaching out when you realize that you need help! Besides, maybe you think your feelings for me, whatever they are, are harmful, but I disagree!" the Ultimate Pianist insisted.
"Hmm?" Kirumi tilted her head, a sad look in her eye as she gloomily awaited Kaede's explanation.
"Consider it like melody and harmony!" Kaede began excitedly. "You can have a successful piece of music with just melody, but harmony is what really makes it magic! And harmony can interact with melody in all kinds of ways: running in parallel, or intertwining and overlapping, or contrasting and countering the melody in something of a harmonious discord! But no matter how they interlock, it only ever serves to improve the quality of the music overall because whether they clash or run together, they always build off of one another! Do you get it now?"
Kaede looked hopeful as she finished her analogy. Perhaps music and maids had nothing to do with one another, but in the same way Kirumi understood maid-ship the best, Kaede excelled at music. And nothing gave her greater joy than talking about music in any capacity! She just hoped the analogy would translate over…
"Are you saying my feelings for you are beneficial to both of us?" Kirumi asked, head still tilted, but the sadness in her eye was now pensiveness. She raised a gloved hand to her chin as she continued to reflect on Kaede's words.
"Yes!" Kaede said excitedly, spurred on by Kirumi's thoughtful look. "Perhaps you think your feelings are bad, but maybe you just need to start looking at things another way. Maybe whatever disagreements we're having are just part of our harmony!"
"That is…" Kirumi murmured, eye slowly widening in understanding. "I have never thought about that…" she lowered her hand in awe. "Incredible, Kaede, you observe it from a different perspective…"
"See? This is what I mean. We need each other. We complete each other," Kaede grinned. It took all of her willpower not to just start cheering. Instead, she reached for Kirumi's hands, taking them in her own. The gloves were so silky…
Kirumi, meanwhile, looked startled, but she did not pull away. Instead, she only stared at Kaede's hands as they closed over her own.
"We are harmonious hearts, so to speak," Kaede murmured shyly, blushing now. "And I would like very much if you would be the harmony to my melody… Or you can be the melody and I will be the harmony," she added with a small laugh. "I'm cool with either."
For a moment, there was only silence, but then Kirumi finally opened her mouth.
"Kaede…" one word, so many emotions. Kaede had never heard so many in Kirumi's voice before and her heart skipped another beat in reply. Hearing Kirumi say her name like that made her feel mushy, weak and ecstatic all at once.
"I… would be honored to be your harmony…" Kirumi finally managed to find her voice, then she raised Kaede's hands to her face. Kaede's heart was pounding faster than a metronome on its highest tempo. But the second Kirumi pressed her lips to the back of Kaede's hands, Kaede's heart stopped completely and she was sure she'd died and gone to Heaven.
It then took Kaede a full 15 seconds to regain at least a basic level of coherency even though the kiss had ended 10 seconds ago.
"Are you alright?" Kirumi asked, but this time, she was smiling rather than looking concerned. Although she was no longer kissing Kaede's hands, she was still holding them tightly. Kaede opened her mouth, but all she could do was smile in breathless silence. Kirumi gave a soft giggle in return, but this only served to make Kaede's heart explode again. Kirumi had the cutest laugh and it made Kaede indescribably proud and happy to think that she was responsible for that laugh! And what made it all the sweeter was how rare it was, and the fact that it had come on the heels of Kaede finally getting the maid to open up.
But the best was yet to come. After getting Kirumi to open up about her feelings for Kaede, Kaede managed to talk the woman out of her overcleaning. Even though Kirumi still took hygrine very seriously, especially during the outbreak, because she was finally able to admit that some of her overcleaning had stemmed from an overprotectiveness for Kaede, she felt ready to take it down a few notches. And it would begin with her not cleaning the floor for a fifth time. Instead, she was going to take a break and listen to Kaede play piano!
While Kaede's fingers danced along the keys, she continued to steal glances at the woman sitting beside her on the bench. Kirumi's eyes were shut and she wore a beatific expression. She was also swaying gently to the music and it made Kaede beam with pride and joy. She was ecstatic to see how lost in the music Kirumi was, and it made her feel all the happier to know that she was the one who had led Kirumi into this state.
That was perhaps the best thing about Kirumi's little, impromptu confession: realizing that it meant that Kirumi felt the same way about Kaede that Kaede felt about her! (And even better, Kaede got this confirmation from Kirumi herself!) And it was during this time that Kaede realized that she was swaying to the beat of the music too. In that one perfect moment, the two of them were truly connected, and it felt like Heaven. Harmonious hearts indeed!
AN: For Penguinlover611 again! I actually had A LOT of fun writing this! I love both of these girls too much! This was just so wholesome! So in the words of Kirumi, thank you for giving me such a wonderful request!
Also, yes, this is an AU where the Killing Game never happened.