Genshiken belongs to Shimoku Kio and others, not to me. No copyright infringement is intended or implied.

Note: Spelling is based on the fansub here.

Consolation

Madarame didn't have too much luck looking for a job at first. He didn't know how to present himself well in interviews, and talking to companies could be awkward. It wasn't like interacting with other fans in Genshiken or at conventions. But he had done well in school so far, and had been reading tips for better social skills, and he was fairly certain that he would have something lined up soon.

He did not have as much time for Genshiken as before, but he still needed the club as an outlet for his obsession. Anime and ero games still fascinated him, and he had not yet missed a single episode of any of his favorites. He still had nearly every episode of Kujibiki Unbalance memorized. But there were other things in his life now, whether he wanted them or not. The time of doing nothing but watch and live anime and manga with occasional breaks for school was ending.

As he approached the club room, he began to calculate how many more Genshiken meetings he would be able to attend before school ended for him. But before he could even open the door, he heard someone yelling.

"How could you do that to me!"

It was Kasukabe, probably yelling at her boyfriend yet again. Madarame really wished that she and Kohsaka had found another place for their fight. In fact, lately he wished that she would stop attending meetings. Well, he had always wanted that, because she didn't even like anime. But now it was because she made him uncomfortable. For some reason, he often found himself looking at her, and wondering why she didn't just find a boyfriend better for her than Kohsaka was.

And Madarame had had several disturbing dreams where his anime women had been replaced by Kasukabe. That was just wrong. Yes, he was getting older and maybe it was time to find a real girlfriend, but that couldn't be Kasukabe, even if she weren't already with someone else. Madarame was even more obsessed with anime than her boyfriend was, and he didn't have the advantage of good looks.

Still, there were times that he thought about how Kohsaka treated Kasukabe. He brought some of these fights on himself. Madarame had never had a girlfriend, but he would know better than to watch anime during sex or leave a date to go buy a game. He would just not date on those nights, and it would solve the whole problem. When all was said and done, Madarame's head was less in the clouds than Kohsaka's was. But Kasukabe didn't even know Madarame very well, and she would probably never realize that.

He was woken up from his introspection by an escalation in the fight. Kasukabe was nearly screaming now.

"Kissing another girl! I saw you! Don't lie!"

"Saki-chan, she suddenly started flirting with me, and I accidentally kissed her."

Madarame stood in the hallway, stunned. He had thought that the fight was just about anime again. He had cheated on her with another girl? Kohsaka had not even realized that Kasukabe liked him until someone else told him, so how could someone that clueless attract yet another woman? And why, when he had Kasukabe?

He stood at the door, feeling guilty for listening but not wanting to interrupt. Kasukabe's voice was choked with sobs now.

"There's no such thing as an accidental kiss. You don't even kiss me often enough because you're always reading stupid manga and playing perverted games. And now you go and kiss someone else? You just don't care about me!"

"That's not true, Saki-chan," answered Kohsaka's voice. "I just made a mistake. She started talking to me about anime and I--"

"Anime? So that's it. I always knew that would happen. You'd meet some girl who was an otaku like you and dump me for her. Well, fine, you two enjoy yourselves rotting your brains with garbage. Maybe she'll cosplay for you!"

"That's not what happened, Saki-chan," he said.

"Just get away from me! I never want to see you again!" she shouted.

Kohsaka opened the door then and saw Madarame. The sound of Kasukabe's sobs was loud in the hallway.

"Saki-chan is a little upset," Kohsaka said. "I tried to calm her down, but it didn't really work."

Madarame couldn't believe that Kohsaka didn't look more concerned. Hadn't his girlfriend just broken up with him? Speechless, Madarame only nodded as his friend walked away down the hall. Then Madarame stood listening to Kasukabe cry and wondered what to do.

"You should go in there and try to comfort her," he thought. "You can't just stand out here like an idiot when you know she's crying."

He shook his head. He was no good with girls or comfort. If he tried to make Kasukabe feel better, he would only mess everything up. But he could still hear her, and finally he couldn't take it anymore. He hesitantly tiptoed through the door. Kasukabe's head was down on the table, her shoulders shaking. Madarame felt helpless.

Finally he drew a small package of tissues from his pocket and put them on the table. "Do you want a tissue, Kasukabe-san?" he asked.

She looked up, her face covered with tears. "What the hell are you doing in here?" she asked.

"You don't have to yell at me," he said nervously. "It's Kohsaka's fault you're crying, not mine."

She glared at him. "You listened at the door? I thought even you would be above that."

"I couldn't help hearing. Honestly, I didn't want to," stammered Madarame. He was beginning to be upset himself.

Kasukabe grabbed a tissue out of the packet and began swiping at her face with it.

"I just can't believe he did it," she muttered.

"I can't either," Madarame replied.

"I always thought I would lose him to anime, not to another woman. Even Sasahara-san's sister didn't get him away from me. But I guess he found the best of both worlds, a girl who loves anime too. I give up."

She had started crying again. Finally Madarame reached tentatively for her hand and squeezed it.

"Hey, he was lucky you went out with him. He could have sat alone in his room like the rest of the fans."

"Like you, you mean?" she asked.

He blushed. "Like all of us."

Kasukabe took a deep breath. "I know you think I only liked him for his looks."

Madarame really had thought that she only liked Kohsaka because he was handsome. But now he just shook his head.

"No, no, I never--"

"But honestly, he was a nice person too, even if he was so much of an otaku. At least, I thought he was a nice person until now."

She put the tissue to her eyes and began sobbing again. Madarame gathered his nerve, reached out tentatively, and put an arm around her shoulders. He was afraid she would hit him, but instead she did something unexpected. She turned and buried her head in his shoulder.

Madarame just sat for a minute, afraid to move, then gently put his other arm around the shaking girl. She felt good nestled up against him like that, and he liked the scent of her hair.

"This is the wrong time to be having thoughts like that," he said to himself. "She just broke up with her boyfriend."

"I think Kohsaka was stupid to hurt you," he said. He almost added, "If I had a girlfriend like you I would never do that," but thought better of it.

"Really? You don't think he's better off with an otaku girlfriend?"

"Well, I don't even know who this girl is; she doesn't come to Genshiken," said Madarame. Realizing he was being too logical, he added, "But you're very pretty and you're smart and determined, how could she be better than you?"

He couldn't quite believe he had said that. But Kasukabe didn't hit him or yell. She just held on to him more tightly.

"It will be all right, Kasukabe-san. You'll find someone better, someone who isn't even interested in anime," he said awkwardly.

Kasukabe looked up for a moment and said "Someone who doesn't carry around a Kujibiki Unbalance tissue holder?"

Madarame looked at the tissues on the desk.

"Yes, I guess that's what I mean," he said bleakly.

Saki still didn't let go of him though. "At least someone like that wouldn't cheat on me," she said softly.

"No, I... he wouldn't," agreed Madarame.

He didn't want to say anything further; it would only ruin everything for real this time. He just held her, and patted her head gently, and let her cry.