ULTRA IMPORTANT BLAH BLAH BLAH

Comic Party is the trademark of Leaf/Aquaplus as licensed in the United States by Right Stuf International, Central Park Media, and Tokyopop Entertainment. All rights belong to the copyright holders. This is a work of parody/homage.

Please don't sue.

This is going to be a Taishi x Aya fic. Yes, Taishi x Aya. I'm not forcing you to read it, so don't read it if you don't like it. :-P It's not slapstick comedy like Comic Party as we know it; it'll have its moments, but this is mostly a bit of romance and angstiness. I last wrote fanfic when I was about 16, so this is my first project in about five years that isn't original writing, rather based off of an established canon.

The canon/timeframe I'm using is the Comic Party anime, right after the end of the series. No, this isn't the Tokyopop or CPM manga version, nor is it Comic Party Revolution (As soon as I get cable, maybe even today if it's ready, I'll torrent it). Everything
happens there leads into this. I tried to keep it as locationally accurate as possible. Enjoy and reviews are welcome!

A/N: On 12/9/04, I made copious use of the Backup/Export feature to replace all those single spaces between sentences with a proper double space. I also corrected italicizations that should be there but were somehow not transferred. This is an ongoing project. Enjoy the new results!

Opening: "She Walks in Beauty" by George Gordon, Lord Byron

"She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!"

The Nameless Grace

Prologue: The Second Snow

It didn't take much time for Japan to return to a normal, if not snowy, Asian nation after Christmas. Tsutenkaku Tower still presided over the bustling Kansai city of Osaka, NHK still broadcast old Tetsuwan Atomu reruns at midnight, and Tokyo was still the cramped metropolis that it always was.

The snow hit everyone by surprise. After a snowy Christmas Eve, the "White Christmas" so sought for its stark, evocative beauty came upon the otherwise nightmarish metropolis. Yet lives went on, trains kept running, and people kept walking on. However, the second round of snow had yet to happen. After the winter premiere of the fan-organized Comic Party, the snow fell gently once again on Tokyo.

Part 1: Cloudless Climes and Starry Skies

Saturday, December 26th, 200X
Akihabara, Tokyo
9:50 PM

The snowfall was light, but enough to cause foot traffic in the brightly-lit neighborhood to lessen. While not exactly a banner night for business, most of the electronics and entertainment shops were still open, their bright neon signs casting flashes of color on the snow already on the ground and giving auras to the snow already falling. Sitting on a bench, a youth with well-groomed green hair wearing a navy blue overcoat over his light brown suit and white turtleneck listlessly rolled a can of coffee between his hands. He had obviously been sitting there for quite some time, as there was a noteable dusting of snow on his shoulders.

"Someone else, is it?" Taishi Kuhonbutsu remarked in his best inquisitive/cynical tone, rolling the coffee can. He had initially bought it as a hot coffee to keep his gloveless hands heated, but it had long since gone lukewarm. "And who, pray tell, might that be..."

Taishi sighed, the steam of his breath billowing up into the cold night air. "But how can this BE!" he suddenly exclaimed, thrusting the coffee can up to the sky in a triumphant pose, his voice evoking the air and tone of an angered Karl Marx or Vladimir Lenin. "My sister, such words, the pain that they invoke cannot be spoken of!" He thrust both hands up to the sky in a silent protest against the gods of the universe.

Please, just let me get through this. Let me be me again. Let me put it behind me, let me be strong enough to move forward. I really am strong. I've been through bigger disappointments, been through worse before!

It's not working...

No crowd cast strange looks, no familiar glances went astray, no friendly voices said "Taishi's losing it again." Nobody lamented his geekness, nor tried to dodge his presence.

A statue in the snow. That's it.

What a night.

He slumped down, leaning on the bench with his arms spread across the back. Staring up at the snowing sky, his mouth slightly open, Taishi blinked out a few snowflakes that fell behind his Lennon-frame glasses.

This is as close to crying as I can get over her, I suppose.

Saturday, December 26th, 200X
Sanadokan Coffee House
Ikebukuro, Tokyo
7:50 PM

"Comrade Yuu," Taishi said, standing and bowing theatrically at the waist. "Thank you for coming."

"Geez, you're laying it on with a trowel today, Taishi," Yuu Inagawa said (rather loudly) by way of reply, waving her harisen threateningly at him. A couple of heads turned at the Kansaijin in the doorway of the coffee shop, a less-fancy storefront in the otherwise upscale Ikebukuro neighborhood. She kicked the snow off her shoes and brushed her hair out with her hands, melting some of the snow.

The more I'm around her... the more she looks like an angel, and with the snow in her hair like that...

Masking his emotions with his trademark borderline-wild-eyed smile, he stood until Yuu came and sat down across from him.

"Gah, I'm still recovering from ComiPa yesterday," Yuu exaclaimed, stretching her arms up behind her head. "Kazuki and I were tag-teaming our table, taking quick jaunts out to go dojin-shopping, and then how we all went out for drinks and okonomiyaki afterward. What a day..."

"It seems like it was quite the stressful day, my sister," Taishi said with a nod as a waitress came up.

"I'll have a genmai tea and a strawberry millefeuille," Yuu said after the waitress made the necessary pleasantries.

"An oolong tea and bitter mousse cake, if you please, comrade," Taishi said with a nod at the waitress.

"Bitter chocolate?" Yuu said with a raised eyebrow. "I'd think you'd want as much sugar you can take in with the way you always are."

"Comrade, I am on the ComiPa Diet; I save my sugar and caffeine for when I really need it... hitting the convention circuit, of course." Taishi grinned, leaning forward a little. "And you can't say it doesn't pay off, no?"

Yuu shook her head, her two ponytails lazily undulating in waves. "Can't say that in the least. It's probably all that residual energy of yours that got Kazuki off his butt and back to drawing dojinshi."

"It was for something greater than myself," Taishi replied nobly as the waitress brought over their pastries and strainer teapots with cups and saucers.

"Enjoy," she said, placing them in front of the two as they talked and waited for their tea to steep.

"Well, here's to ComiPa," Yuu said, hoisting her teacup.

"To ComiPa," Taishi repeated, clinking his cup against hers. They each took a sip of their tea.

"I have to admit, this is definitely something new," Yuu remarked. "I'm not used to seeing you detached from Kazuki's side."

"He may be my eternal brother in dojinshi, but he does have to recuperate," Taishi responded passionately, contemplating Yuu through the steam of his tea.

You can do it, Taishi. Be subtle. Be smooth. You know her. You're her friend.

"Besides, I was hoping you and I would at least have a chance to talk outside the context of ComiPa or the preparation thereof," Taishi remarked.

"Oh?" Yuu grinned, raising an eyebrow. "You mean you talk about things other than ComiPa?"

"Ouch," Taishi said jokingly. "Et tu, Inagawa-san?"

"Cut the '-san' business, Taishi," Yuu said, waving her harisen threateningly with her free left hand as she sipped tea from the mug in her right. "If you're going to ditch that 'comrade' line of yours, you're going to call me by the name any other friend would call me."

Any other friend?

"But of course, Yuu," Taishi said, folding his arms, closing his eyes, and smiling with a nod. Can't be shocked, Taishi thought. Can't show surprise. Don't let her just see you as a friend...

"It just occurred to me during ComiPa that I really know so little about you... besides dojinshi, your rivalry with Oba-san. I know there's got to be more to Yuu Inagawa besides that."

"Taishi, this is a whole other side of you..." Yuu said, somewhat stunned. "I mean... there's really not that much about me to find out."

Taishi shook his head and smiled gently. "Call it just a wandering little voice in my head that just wondered about you a little..."

Yuu smiled, closed her eyes, and shook her head. "I think I know what you're getting at, Taishi."

Taishi raised an eyebrow. Does this mean something? Does she feel the same way? Kami-sama, Buddha, any compassionate god or spirit, please let her feel the same way...

"I'm sorry, Taishi. I'm flattered, I really am, but... well, I never saw us as anything more than friends, and I don't want to change that..."

Taishi held up his hand, chuckled, and then began laughing in his standard way. "But of course, but of course, comrade Yuu!" he exclaimed, back to his usual self. "Far be it for me to bring about such intimations to the contrary. The worldwide brotherhood and sisterhood of dojinshi is indeed one that thrives on such friendships, such that it will be the very ease of cooperation that brings about our conquest!" Punctuating his speech with a trademark "Muahahahahahahaha!!" he thrust his fist to his chest in a dramatic salute, eyes turned skyward with a look of glee.

Grandstand. You've got to grandstand. Make her think it doesn't matter. Pound your chest, be masculine, be strong. Don't make it look like you're trying to restart your slowly sinking heart.

Taishi's dramatic performance was interrupted with a loud, cracking WHAP! as Yuu's harisen firmly impacted on his head. "Can it, mein fuhrer, we're in public," she said flatly. Taishi rubbed the impact point gingerly, sitting down gently.

Yuu pointed the harisen at him, closing one eye and acting like she was aiming a pistol. "It's not you, it's me," she said. "Lame excuse, I know, but if you start getting all depressed and angsty on me, I'll knock you all the way to Sapporo. Hear me?"

"I hear you, comrade, I hear you," Taishi said, holding up his hands in surrender and grinning. "There's no need for violence. I will comply with your demands as you have negotiated them."

"Good," Yuu said with a grin, "just so I know you're not disappointed or anything."

Who is it?

"It's just... well, to be totally honest, I like someone else."

She's always very honest...

"Oh? I never would have expected you to have your eyes on someone in that manner, comrade."

Why did you have to be honest to me, Yuu...

And who is he?

"Dare I ask who the lucky person is?" Taishi asked inquisitively.

"'fraid that's a carefully kept se-cr-et." Yuu said, teasingly sticking out her tongue.

It was all Taishi could do to keep his standard impassioned, almost-fanatical look on his face. She's so cute. I never saw her do anything like that before... something so feminine like that...

Later...

"Here, just so there's no hard feelings, I'll even do something a Kansai girl would never do. Pick up the check." Yuu reached for the slip of paper just as Taishi held up a hand.

"Comrade, it was I who asked you here, and I who shall shoulder both the joy and the sorrow. That sorrow easily includes a few thousand yen for tea and pastries."

"Nah, I got it," Yuu said, shaking her head. "At least let me assuage my guilty conscience for earlier."

"But comrade, you must allow me to assuage my guilty conscience for even implying the possibility of such transgressions within the dojinship."

WHAP!

"Okay, okay, you can pay!" Taishi said, recovering his glasses, which had flown off from the harisen slap.

"See, I told you not to get all angsty and emo on me," Yuu said with a chuckle, tucking her harisen into her purse. "Here, I'll atone by paying, and you can atone by walking me to the nearest Marunochi Line station. I gotta get home to Ogikubo."

"Fair enough," Taishi replied as Yuu set down ¥2275 for the two of them.

I get to walk her to her station, Taishi thought as they walked towards the Ikebukuro JR Station, talking and trading stories that they hadn't yet caught up on from ComiPa. I get to walk her to her station as she just floats through the snow. I get to be around the object of my affections.

He bunched his hands in his pockets, having left his gloves at home. I get to see her fall in love with someone else. I don't get to be there, I don't get to feel the smoothness of the skin on her hands... I don't get to kiss her good night, I don't win. I lose.

"Oh, here we are," Yuu said as they came up on the station, a few minutes later. She spun around on her heels, hands tucked behind her back, smiling. "Thanks for walking me baaaWHOA!"

As she spun quickly, she slipped on a patch of wet ground or ice from the below-freezing temperatures. Reacting like lightning, Taishi whipped his hands out of his pockets and dove forward, catching Yuu as she slipped backwards toward the ice.

For a moment... just for a moment... let me be something to you. Let me have been the man who helped you, the man who at least got the chance...

Yuu felt her falling sensation swiftly come to a stop, but not with the hard hit of concrete to her back and to her head. Instead, she was at a sharp angle, her weight being supported by two strong arms. She blinked from the sudden cease in motion, and looked up to see Taishi's dark green eyes steeled with concern, not more than six inches from her.

Taishi had caught Yuu in the closest accidental equivalent of a slow-dance partner being dipped precariously low to the ground. Yuu's breath involuntarily quickened, turning into puffs of steam in the cold night. Taishi breathed at a similar pace, only deeper; the both of their hearts were pounding. Half from adrenaline, half from the position that they were in.

A cold breath of wind blew across Ikebukuro and the two high school seniors. "Are you okay, Yuu?" Taishi asked, his voice having lost all elements of theatre and bluster.

"Yeah, I'm okay," Yuu said, swallowing. "You're pretty quick... thanks for saving my butt like that."

Kiss her. This is your only chance, Taishi.

"It was nothing..." Taishi said, smiling. "I'm just glad you're okay."

This is as close as you'll get. You can kiss her, despite her love for someone else. Just here and now. Kiss her... it's the only chance you'll get.

The next five seconds were the longest five heartbeats of Taishi Kuhonbutsu's life. Before she could tell him to help her back up, he pulled Yuu to her feet, let go of her, and stepped back.

"You've got far too much that you've given to the worldwide dojinship to be injured," he said in a mock-scolding tone. "Don't go damaging that brain of yours, or worse, your drawing arm."

"Ha!" Yuu scoffed, rolling up her sleeve and flexing her bicep. It didn't do much in the musculature sense, but it made the point. "It'll take more than a slip-and-fall to stop the star of Karamitei, Yuu Inagawa!"

Never again. This won't ever happen again. One kiss, and then you could have dealt with the consequences.

"Thanks again for saving me," Yuu said, closing her eyes and smiling. "And thanks for tonight, too. I needed a night out."

"The pleasure was all mine, my sister," Taishi said, adjusting his glasses after they had come a little loose from the sudden rescue. "Will I see you at the Meiji Jingu shrine for New Year's?"

"You betcha!" Yuu replied as she dug out her rail pass and swiped it into the station turnstile. "I can't wait to see everyone; just make sure you give Eimi the wrong directions!"

They waved their farewells. Taishi stuck around long enough to see her sneakers disappear up the stairs to the station platform, then turned smartly around and exhaled deeply.

"So, this is being shot down, is it..." Taishi muttered to nobody in particular. He held up his hands, the ones which had held Yuu only a moment ago, and as if to mock himself, maneuvered his hands as if they were aircraft crashing to the ground.

"Kaboom," he said, sighing deeply.

You could have. You should have. Why didn't you? Why in the living hell didn't you kiss her? She's wonderful, you have so much fun together, you've spent so much time talking... being with each other. Being friends... is friends. But to be more would have been wonderful... and it'll never happen.

"I'm sorry, comrade," Taishi said, looking up at the snow falling from the sky. He blinked away the tears forming in his eyes, but they couldn't even form before the cold winds began to pick up a little, drying his eyes out. "I had to fall back on my promise not to get depressed about this."

To be continued...