Kareshi Kanojo no Jijou - But I stood in the background

A KareKano fanfiction by Cheshire Grin

[Disclaimer: I don't own Kare Kano. Tsuda Masami and other people do. Get used to it.]

And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what it was you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst I think. When the secret stays locked within not for the want of a teller but for the want of an understanding ear.
-Stephen King, Different Seasons-

I'm dying, praying,
Bleeding and screaming.
Am I too lost to be saved?
Am I too lost?
-Evanescence, Tourniquet-

Chapter 8: By love's stifled screams

* * *

Sometimes I think that the world is just a little too big for us all. It's not something I can really define very well. It's a feeling I've had for a long time now. The first time I realized it was when I was seven.

There was a girl in school that I had recently begun to watch. I wasn't really sure why I started to watch her. It just happened. There was a level of interest that I didn't really understand back then. I just found myself watching her, thinking how pretty she was, feeling both sick and entirely wonderful at the time.

I think perhaps that the reaction I felt to this girl scared me a little. I wasn't entirely sure what it meant. The idea that I might love her had never occurred to me. I suppose that it rarely does to seven-year-old boys.

I wasn't sure what it was. Sometimes, when my father would let me stay up, we would sit outside in the summer and watch the stars. There were a few times when I was lucky enough to see a shooting star whiz though the panorama above. At those times I felt a similar feeling. Similar but.. not quite the same.

Nevertheless, I didn't understand that feeling either. If I had been asked to explain it to someone back then, I doubt I would have been able to. Even now, I'm still not really sure that I could. I suppose it might be a sense of wonder.

Yes. Wonder that something could be so beautiful. Something so remote and beautiful that it passed entirely out of the reach of my ability to comprehend. It made me feel.. small.

Small. The same way I felt when I looked at the girl who had so occupied my attention back then. In a way it made me happy, simply because she was so lovely but in another way it also made me a little sad. Not because I felt that I could never be near this girl or anything like that. At seven the very thought of holding either a pretty girl or a falling star were equally ridiculous. I just..

Even now I just can't explain it. I get the feeling that I will never be able to do so. The best I can do is to say that at both times I felt very small.

Back then my parents used to fight a lot. They had been like this for several years now so I was kind of accustomed to it. Looking back I can say that they really had very little in common and perhaps they married a little too early and even rashly. It took them until I was eleven to finally grow accustomed to each other and settle into a familiar rhythm.

But at age seven, their fights were another thing that seemed so big that it passed out of the range of my understanding. It seemed wrong somehow and yet I felt that it couldn't be that way. I had always thought that my parents were perfect and these fights simply must be a part of it. The thought was too big, I guess, and I didn't have it very often. As a child I could never keep my attention fixed on any one thing for a long amount of time.

I'm not quite certain but I think it was around then that the enormous difference between men and women occurred to me. The strange almost alien attraction to the opposite sex. The intangible 'thing' that seemed to hang in the air between my parents sometimes, something entirely different to the anger when they were fighting.

Something that seemed to bring them together almost forcibly, something that existed in the weird kisses they sometimes gave each other.

I found myself thinking of the pretty girl at school, as she stood under a tree and laughed in joy at sight of all the birds flying above, and at the same time of my parents, their raised voices clashing and colliding about the kitchen. I felt something inside me begin to hurt very badly. I didn't know what to do so I sat and cried for a long time, hiding my face from the world that suddenly bared its teeth, as if to eat me whole.

That was the first time I remember having this feeling, when these two foreign thoughts seemed to loom above me like malignant spirits, seeming both too large and too unnatural to exist. I felt then that the world was too big and that I was too small and my head hurt with the sudden confusion of it all. It scared me more that anything else had up to that point.

Since then, that feeling has never really left me. Oh, it disappears sometimes and often won't bother me for months at a time but it always comes back, as familiar as ever. Just that one simple thought. A silly, childish notion.

The world is too big, nothing more. But no other thought is needed. At once the all too familiar confusion returns and once again I feel as small as I did on that day ten years ago, as afraid as I was back then.

But as frightened as I am by that, it can't compare to the other thought that sometimes comes to me at these times.

Am I the only one that ever feels like this?

Because, watching the other people that inhabit this world, and the ease which they relate to each other, it seems as if that may be so.

How can simple reality be that frightening? How is it possible?

In these times, when the world seems far too big to understand, let alone live in, I, Asaba Hideaki, seventeen years old, can only do the same thing that I did all those years ago. As shameful as it is, all I seem to be able to do is cry.

Cry.. and hide my face away from the world.

* * *

One simple act of kindness. How can it say so much?

Up until now I had never understood the stories I read or the few television programs I had seen. One in particular stands out. A television show. A cartoon. Just a silly little children's story about a young guy who ends up with five different women, from space no less, falling in love with him. Of course, the poor guy never knew what to do and ended up bumbling through each episode with most of the girls fighting each other for his affection. A silly show, sure.

But then, it had never made any sense up until now. I remember watching it years ago and thinking how stupid these girls were, how foolish to all fall in love with some loser like that. I mean, sure, he was a nice guy and all, but.. he wasn't THAT good. So what if he had shown a little kindness. There are probably hundreds of guys just like that. How could these ridiculous women decide that was enough to repay with a lifetime of devotion? How is that worth fighting and waiting with the others on the offhand chance that the young man will notice these feelings, and perhaps return them?

A simple act of kindness. Nothing more.

I never knew just how much that could mean. How much it said. How quickly it could change your response from mild gratitude, further and further, each new kindness growing and multiplying this feeling into a kind of dependence. A gratitude that makes you want to do anything for that person, makes you depend on them, count the days till you see them again, makes your heart beat and your head cloudy whenever they are near.

Stupid, I know. I sound like a freshman girl with a crush on her upperclassman. Just a silly little girl wrapped up in an unrealistic dream.

But I don't feel like that. I know all too well who I am, what I am and most especially what I am not. I'm not young and innocent. I'm not heartsick or coquettish. I don't giggle and sigh and become red-faced. I'm not dreaming. I gave that up a long time ago.

I am nothing more than a castaway, someone who is drowning, grasping blindly for anything to stay afloat. Clutching at straws. Begging for shelter with nothing to offer in return.

How true that is. I have nothing left it seems. Nothing to justify anyone giving a damn. Poor, little Maho has returned back to a cinder girl, mourning the cruel chime of the clock that dispelled the brief dream of royalty.

Nothing left. The mirror testifies.

Eyes puffy and swollen from crying. The sockets bearing large dark patches, the eyes themselves are bloodshot. Hair hanging limp and dead, lips red and sore from being bitten, nails either broken or bitten down to the quick, any pretext of vanity fading like the few flakes of nail polish that remain. The school dress hangs and billows, suddenly a size too big. Just an ugly little waif of a girl.

What doesn't show in the mirror is reflected in the eyes of my mother as she watches me trudge to my room and slam the door. It's written on the school reports that no longer decorate the fridge door. No more dreams of beauty and riches. Hell, I'll be lucky to even pass.

Lying on my bed, tears come once more. Please God, no more. I'm so scared.

A little act of kindness. Just this once, can't it be something more?

Can't I just..

Thinking about it doesn't matter anyway.

One simple little kindness.

All I have left to hope for.

* * *

I feel like something has changed. Something is different, not in a dramatic way or anything like that. It's neither good nor bad but just there. It's like a soft breeze, barely felt at the beginning of spring but carrying something new with it. I'm still not sure myself what exactly has changed. Maybe it's my ideals, my worldview, reality itself even, I don't know. I just know that something HAS changed.

Perhaps it has to do with the way I look at her now, the way she sits next to me at lunchtime, neither of us saying anything, not needing to, just knowing what the other feels like. Perhaps it's in the way we talk, when we do talk, speaking softly as if afraid of something overhearing us. Perhaps it has to do with the way that all the other girls I used to hang out with have just seemed to fade away, like something not quite real. Not 'real' in the same sense as the girl sitting next to me. Maybe it's none of these things or all of them.

I guess I just can't stop thinking about her. Over the last few days I've been wondering, contemplating things very seriously. I wonder whether I love this girl. I suppose that's a good place to start. I've never really thought about it before. Sounds strange huh? Asaba 'Powers' Hideaki not thinking about love. But it's true. I haven't thought this way before. Even when I kissed her. That was somehow a different feeling, desire, lust, confusion maybe. But not this.

If I do love Maho, then love is not at all like I expected. I can't really put that expectation into words but I felt that love was some kind of ecstatically gleeful and joyous feeling. Some sort of sublime happiness, but I don't feel that way at all. Mostly I feel a strange kind of content. Yeah, I guess that's it. Content. Sitting next to her, I don't feel bored or restless or even a need to say anything. It sounds silly, sure, writing this stuff down, but I swear I've never felt more serious in my life.

I feel kind of worried a lot too. I think I'm coming to understand a fair bit of what Arima goes through. I think I can understand why he threw me into a wall way back when we first met. Most of all, I can understand that dark look he gets in his eyes all too often. That jealousy, the need to protect, is settling in. I want, no.. need, to protect her, help her, take away her pain, and at the same time I feel a helplessness because I can't protect her any further than being here with her.

Looking back at what I have written, it sounds as though the writer is all maudlin and gooshily romantic, but that's not true at all. That's perhaps the strangest thing about how I feel at the moment. All the amorous feelings I once felt have seem to have gone to sleep. They're still there but they just don't seem as important. When I hold her as she's crying I no longer wonder what it would be like to kiss her or whether her breasts are as soft as they look. I feel content just to have her head on my shoulder and to be able to comfort her and in a weird way I also feel grateful.

She's not at all like the girl I imagined falling in love with, that is if this IS love. I feel the need to explain this. I always thought that I would end up with someone more like me, I guess. Beautiful and carefree and well dressed. Maho is really none of those things in a conventional sense. At least, not at the moment.

But that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because she is real. I can't really say it any better. She is in a way more real than any other girl I have ever met. Maybe because I've seen what's under her mask, or maybe because she's seen what's under mine, I don't know, but I don't feel alone anymore.

I guess that's what this whole diatribe has been about really. Gearing myself up to be able to say this one, all-important thing. I no longer feel alone. That it doesn't matter if I love her, or she loves me or anything like that. That might be nice, sure, but it all pales in comparison to that one thing.

And that's why I'll be with her as long as I can, why I'll seek her out and protect her if need be, help her in any way I can.

Because I am no longer alone.

* * *

I don't know if I'll ever get used to this. I'm sure as hell I'll never understand it. Damn, I can hardly even bring myself to believe it.

He's still sitting there. Sitting next to me.

Not saying anything. Just there. It's.. comfortable, him just sitting there. Next to me.

Just like yesterday. And the day before.

In fact for a whole week he's been doing this.

Seems I've drawn a lunchtime companion.

It's strange. I'm not really sure how I feel about this. Am I happy? Mad? Indifferent?

He's changed. Not the same as he used to be. He's very quiet now. Serious. I hardly recognize him. Oh sure, he looks the same. Outwardly at least. But that's not important. It's his eyes. Once upon a time they sparkled. Full of quixotic mischief and quick humour. They don't do that anymore. Now they're dark and brooding and they look right through you.

In fact sometimes they're rather frightening. But then he smiles and it's all just my imagination. Well almost, anyway.

His smile. That's changed too. It's become sad.

What are we doing to each other? What have I done?

I can't decide whether things are better now or worse. I'm not so alone anymore now.. but those eyes, that silence. They make me feel.. guilty. And stupid.

I'm being selfish. He's just being nice and I'm making him miserable. Miserable just like me. He doesn't talk to any of his other friends now. Every time I see him he's alone. Or with me.

I still remember the day before yesterday when one of the girls he used to hang around with approached us. She was very polite. Asked if he was okay and even asked me how I was, even though I didn't know her. She did nothing wrong. But that didn't seem to matter. He just fixed her with those eyes of his and said, "I'm busy. Please go away."

I should have said something. Should have looked shocked or angry or something like that. But I didn't. I just sat there. Because a strange new part of me, despite being a little shocked at his rudeness, was suddenly very glad that he said that.

Very glad. And very relieved.

I'm being selfish. I should tell him that I'm okay, that he doesn't need to hang around a loser like me. Something.. anything like that.

But I won't. I can't.

Because I need him. Because he's real. The only thing real enough and solid enough that I can cling to right now. Because if he had walked off to chat with that other girl I might have just died. Because right now I'm so scared and crying inside and he's the only one who will cry with me.

Because. Because in some strange way that I simply cannot fathom..

I think I love him.

Oh God. Things are not better than they were before.

Now they're worse.

Oh God.. Please God I can't take this. Don't make me cry again. I don't want to have to cry in front of him again. I've done it too many times lately.

Please. Please. I don't want to feel stupid again. I don't want his sympathy.

I can feel the tears rolling down my face. I can hear my breath hitching.

Please God. I don't want this.

I want..

I want his love not his pity. I want us to make each other laugh, not make each other miserable.

Please God. I want his..


Why is he touching my face?

* * *

She's crying again. She's been doing that a lot lately. It always starts the same way. A single, lonely tear running down her face, creeping slowly down toward her chin. Then suddenly bursting forth in a torrent, her breath hitching and becoming fitful.

Other than that, she never makes a sound when she cries. No screams, no groans, only a flood of tears and laboured breathing. Always this sudden, silent release.

It kills me. It just breaks my heart to see it.

She cries like she's all alone.

I had decided it was enough for me to just be with her. To be together, not alone. That's the most important thing.


Why is she crying like this?

Does she still believe she's alone? Doesn't she realize that I'm here. That WE'RE here?

Why can't I protect her? Why can't I help her when she needs it?

My hand reaching out and gently touching her cheek, tilting her head to face mine.

My mouth forming the words "Please don't cry" but losing them somewhere in the depths of my throat as she looks up at me.

I never meant to kiss her.

But it all came back. That feeling. That bond. Still the same after all these months. More painful but more exhilarating. I fell in love with Maho all over again.

Besides, what else could I do?

That feeling wasn't the only thing that came back. Something else came with it.

Want. Desire.

I want.. something more.

I want..

I want..


A stray thought whizzed through my consciousness.

Damn it Hideaki, you think too much.

It made me grin.

* * *

This isn't happening. I'm dreaming.

But.. But his hand, he's touching my face. Is.. is he going to..

A wide and startling grin suddenly burst out on his face. For a brief moment it made me smile back.

He's just trying to cheer me up. My smile disappeared. Strangely, it popped back.

Well, at least he's being Asaba again. That's the first grin this week.

Sigh. Still, just this once, couldn't it be something more?

My mouth formed an odd union between a smile and a grimace and decided to stay that way.

I guess a smile's better than nothing.

Of course, that's when he leaned in and kissed me.

* * *

I didn't expect her to kiss me back. I guess deep down I was expecting a rerun of the last time I kissed her. Of course I was hoping that wouldn't happen but hope never quite conquers fear.

I never even dared to hope that she'd kiss me back like this though.

I can't breathe. A vacant thought. It doesn't matter. This is wonderful. I don't want it to stop. I feel.. happy. Happy and also sad.

We are drowning.

Where did that come from?

I can feel her, simultaneously radiating joy, misery, fear and desperation. Pouring it into me through the kiss, all the things she can't say put forth into action.

I love her. Suddenly, startlingly nothing more than a fact. Nothing so remarkable.

Fear. Why am I so frightened?

Will this all disappear when we stop? Is this a dream? Does she see into me the way I seem to see her? Is this growing up?

We are drowning. Again. I understand it this time. We are clinging to each other, trying to stay afloat in a world far to large and frightening to understand.

Happiness. I'm not alone. There is another at the end of the world.

Tears escape from my eyes and pool in the space where our cheeks meet.

I don't want this to stop. I'm afraid of what will happen when it does.

All to soon however, it does stop. A breath only lasts so long. A finite moment. All too much of a reminder of mortality.

We pull apart slowly, panting for breath. I'm afraid.

Please don't let this be the end.

I force my eyes to rise toward her face, reinventing fear at what I might find there.

A timid, frightened smile.

"Thank you." Barely audible.

Palpable relief. It forces my lips into a large grin.

The tears still drain slowly from her eyes. She's still crying.

But.. there's something different about it this time. Despite the tears there is a smile on her lips and her eyes are sparkling with something I can't define.

Gradually it widens, and bursts into an odd mixture of laughter and that indefinable other. It strikes me that in a strange way her tear-stained face is almost unbearably beautiful.

For no reason at all I find tears in my own eyes.

* * *

It's strange. I can't stop crying.

My lips still tingle from where he kissed me. A thousand and one thoughts buzz loudly through my head but pass too quickly to be understood. I feel as if I might explode with the sudden, blaring confusion of it all.

Isn't this what I wanted?

This confusion, this sudden lack of control. Is this happiness?

I want to laugh. I want to cry. I want to scream out at the heavens but I have no idea what I would say.

I guess I never thought about what I would do if I ever got what I wanted.

All I can do right now is breathe, each breath it's own confusing eternity, yet also a reminder of reality, something to cling to, something that makes sense among all the anarchy that exists in my head.

Why do I feel more frightened than I ever have before? Why do I feel lighter than I ever have before? Why do I feel as if something inside me is both dying and growing at the same time?

Why do I still have no control?

Just this once..

I think I can live with it.

Just this once, I think I can keep smiling.

* * *

A loud rumble from my stomach pulls me back from my introspection. Maho bursts into a fit of giggles. I can't stop the shamefaced look that appears on my face. Somehow, it clears the air.

"Hey, Maho? Have you eaten yet?" My mojo makes itself known with a sudden, mischievous inspiration.

"No, not yet."

"All of a sudden I feel like Chinese. What do you say? School can live without us for one afternoon. I happen to know a really great restaurant."


Laughing, we make our way out of school grounds and toward the train station.

* * *

It's kind of weird the way things have turned out. It's strange the way a year can change you. Slowly over the last few months I've been coming back again and again to this little diary I started so long ago.

A whole year? Has it been that long? Sometimes it seems as if it had only been the space of a heartbeat, other times it's as if it has been an eternity.

Maho and I have grown very close over the last few months. There's been quite a commotion at school about it. I've found a lot of letters from my fan club girls in my locker. The contents of these letters vary a lot but the strange thing is that many of them are supportive.

In my own mind, I can't really see where I've changed from what I was like when I first come to this school, but I think I must have changed in a big way. I've noticed that people have gradually begun to treat me differently. I think they must see me a different way now days.

My fan girls are the most obvious. They've nearly all drifted away now. Maybe they found that they weren't quite as in love with me as they thought. I guess I'm not really sure.

I'm not the only one who has changed, though. Yukino and Arima have finally found what seems to be a happy medium. They're still very much in love and Arima keeps on about marriage after graduation. Yukino stubbornly insists that she's too young but smiles every time he brings it up.

In our last conversation, Arima confessed that he thinks she's right about being too young. He says he's just teasing her. But something in his eyes makes me disbelieve him.

That conversation was over a week ago. We've drifted apart over the last few weeks and I hardly even see him now. We're still friends and still get along but something has changed. I don't think we need each other anymore.

Tonami and Sakura finally got together as well. Tonami dotes on her and she yells at him a lot but gets antsy whenever he's not around. It's kind of funny in a way.

I've taken to writing a lot lately. I guess I really must enjoy it. Mostly poetry or just thoughts, stuff like that. It's all pretty bad but I think I'm getting better.

One day I'll give this little diary to you, Maho. All the things I've wanted to say to you but never had the words to do so. I'm not ready yet, but I think I will be soon. Just as soon as things settle down. I know we don't get along perfectly, I know I'm not nearly as good as you deserve, but I really do love you.

I want you to know that. Somehow, I think you already might.

* * *

I still cry a lot. Sometimes I wake up in the night feeling frightened and disorientated. My head spins and I feel like a violin string wound five octaves too high. I have nightmares most nights. That old feeling of confusion isn't ready to leave yet. I still feel ugly.

Asaba cries too sometimes, but only when he thinks I don't see him. Life is still very hard. We fight a lot.

We never break up though. I think sometimes that we're just too frightened to let go of each other. I also wonder whether that's a good or a bad thing.

I still haven't decided. But I think I'm getting closer to thinking it's a good thing.

I really do believe that I love him. I believe he loves me too. I guess I really can't complain too much. It could be worse.

I guess it could be a lot worse.

I stay over at Asaba's place a lot. My mother thinks I'm becoming a delinquent. I'm sure she also thinks I'm a sex freak.

The funny thing is, we've only made love once so far. I guess I could tell her that but I don't think she'd believe me. The truth is that I'm often afraid to go to sleep. When I wake in the night feeling like I've just stepped off the planet it's nice to have a bit of reality to cling to.

To my future self..

I hope that this will be the last entry in this little scrapbook of mine. I still hope you never read this.

But if you do..

Are you happy? Sad? Do you feel?

Are you still with Hideaki? I hope you are.

Because right now I think I'm still crying a little inside.

Because right now I think that if he left..

I might just die.



Author's Notes:

Well, well folks. That is the end to this little saga of mine. THE END!! Drumroll please!

Seriously though, this fic has become a lot different to what I had intended when I first started writing it. It was originally supposed to be a one shot, comprised of the first chapter only. But then I thought about Asaba and the second chapter appeared. Things just went on from there. Now it's reached a total of around 35,000 words and is currently the second longest Kare Kano fic on ff net. I never imagined that the story would be so big!

On a bit of a side note, has anyone noticed the poem in the chapter titles? Just a short little thing that I thought was kinda cute.

Somewhere around the third or fourth chapter I started to really regret writing this in first person. It's so difficult to express many things to the reader when limited to one person's viewpoint. However now I'm actually glad I did it the way I did. It turned out far better than I had any right to expect.

I wrote this mostly because I really like Maho, she's a lot like me and there just didn't seem to be any stories about her. I guess I have a thing for the underdogs. They always seem to be my favourite characters. Heh. ^_^. Everyone seems to like writing Yuki and Arima. They even popped up a fair bit in my story! Not that that's bad, but well.. like I said, there just aren't enough stories about Maho. ;)

This is getting kinda long winded so I'd better wrap it up.

Thanks go out to my faithful beta readers Paul Corrigan, Jen "Chen Yingzhen and Tytus Mak. Give them a round of applause. This story would have been far more error prone without their help.

Thanks also to all the people who took the time to comment. I'm so glad that people have read this and enjoyed it.

Well, that's all for now. Thanks for reading this far. Check out my profile if you want to see what I'm working on now.

Ja ne,

Cheshire Grin Wheresmyspoons@yahoo.com