Disclaimer: I don't own FLCL. I'm not nearly demented enough to make something that crazy.
The day was drearily sunny, with tattered ivory clouds lazily wandering the full sapphire sky. The noises of an afternoon in a normal, average city filled the drifting haze; cars honking with loud, annoyed sounds, lazing dogs giving the odd whine and bark for their absent owner, and the occasional human voice.
Naota laid beneath the bridge, closing his eyes, feeling the too comfortable warmth of the sky settling in around him. He probably should have been at school, but frankly, he just didn't care.
It wasn't that he was depressed or anything.
Nothing ever happened here, that's all.
"Drink?" a voice asked, at once loud and sweet, like a ripe apple about to burst.
Opening a single eye, he felt some of the helpless daze drift away. He looked at the shimmering can, then at the purple haired girl holding it. "No thanks." He grunted, turning on himself and facing the wall of the bridge.
"I thought you liked sour stuff now." Ninamori Eri frowned, settling down next to him, smoothing out her school skirt as she leaned her head back, into the sky.
"I can drink it now, s'all." Naota murmured, flipping back over as he crossed his arms behind his head, rumpling his uniform in a manner that made the girl wrinkle her nose in annoyance. "It doesn't mean I like it."
"Baby." Ninamori taunted softly, clucking her tongue and opening the drink with a crisp snap. After glancing at him one more time, she took a slow, easy gulp. She rather liked the sour stuff.
Naoto pretended he didn't notice the way her pale, delicate throat moved as it moved to push down the sour liquid.
"I'm not a baby." He muttered stubbornly, closing his eyes, a long, deep frown etched into his face. He wasn't interested in anything right now, least of all debating about idiosyncrasies such as sour stuff.
"And that's why your sulking under a bridge instead of going to school?" Ninamori responded, bemused as she swirled the contents of her sour drink, her small, pink tongue dancing on the edges of her lips as she wiped away a few drops.
"What about you?" Naota shot back irritably, curling into a small, crunched up ball. "Why is the class president out of school so early?" he asked, more as a challenge than curiosity.
"No reason." She had come to find him, of course. It was rather exasperating, as she always seemed to find him when he was deepest in his not-depression.
"Right." Naota said disbelievingly, turning his head with just enough effort to look at her and raise a single eyebrow.
"Believe whatever you want. It doesn't really matter." Ninamori drank deeply, letting the sour flow through her.
Naota's a bit of a pack rat.
His room is littered with memories he won't let go of.
A guitar which doubled as a weapon, a reminder of something he had lost, something he'd found, and his first real kiss with a woman he knew he loved.
Which is why it rests against his desk, out of sight unless he chooses to look for it.
There's a photo, of him, holding a guitar on a day he chooses not to think about. It has no frame, its crumpled on one corner and sits underneath a paperweight in a drawer.
A few letters rest in another drawer. One from his brother. Two from Mamimi.
He's read them once or twice before he tosses them haphazardly in the drawer. After that, they sit there, making dust and living in the shadows.
He doesn't really want or choose to look at these memoirs. But he doesn't feel like throwing them away, either.
Either way, nothing ever changes in his room.
"I stopped by your father's bakery earlier." Ninamori comments, standing in the glaring sunlight, looking back at him with shadowed eyes. "You weren't there."
"I was out." Naota replied stubbornly, not really knowing why he was so defensive. He's got a can that's gone too sweet in the heat, and keeps drinking it.
It's still better than the sour stuff.
"Jeez, you're a derelict, y'know that?" she said, exasperated, shaking her head, rubbing her palm through her hair. "You'll never graduate if you always skip school. Even I can't keep covering for you forever."
"I didn't ask you to." He responded irritably, stubbornly drinking down his overly sweetened cola.
Ninamori sighed, shaking her head once more. "Well, I've got to go head home. At least try to come to school once this week." She said, waving her hand as she ran, not walked, off hurriedly, into the horizon.
She's always on the move, Naota suddenly thinks.
He's always here, waiting for nothing at all.
But she always comes to him, in the end.
Occasionally, his father will ask how school was.
And on a rare occasion, Naota will tell him the truth, and say it was the same as ever.
Because usually, he has better things to do than spend his time at school.
Well, not really better. But everything's relative, in the end.
Most of the time, he's under the bridge, wasting away with dreams of nothing at all.
Sometimes, Ninamori's with him. Sometimes she's not.
Sometimes, they talk.
She's not like Mamimi, with kissing and odd phrases and cigarette smoke drifting.
Instead she smells like sugar-sweet air, and cuts to the quick with biting, realistic cynicism that snaps out of her mouth with rapid, harsh tones.
Mamimi dreamed and talked utter nonsense that made him feel rather annoyed.
Ninamori scowls and snaps about adults that make him feel a bit less alone.
Its not the same as with Mamimi.
But that's okay.
Naota finds he's only bothered sometimes.
"We're organizing a school play." Ninamori said casually, on a day that was brutally warm and furiously bright, with a sky that was an intense shade of sapphire.
Naota frowns as his quarter nearly misses the slot, and he lightly bites on his lip in frustration, putting it in. "So?" he muttered, knowing where this would lead and trying to defy the inevitable.
"We're doing Peter Pan. And you're going to be Peter." She said it in such a way that it seemed impossible to protest.
An annoyed look crossed Naota's face as he punched the button rather hard. "No." He replied stubbornly. "I won't do it."
"You're always like this." Ninamori rolled her eyes, speaking in exasperated tones. "What's your problem with school plays?"
"I just don't like it, that's all." He grabbed the can, popped it open, and let the sweetness fill his throat.
"Well, you're going to do it." And with that, she punches in her own drink.
Sour stuff, as usual.
When Naota gets to school, with Gaku and Masashi tagging behind him, pestering him with questions on where he goes when he's gone.
He never answers.
His chair is in the back of the classroom, next to the window. Ninamori says its because he wants to keep an eye on the sky.
Naota just doesn't want to stare at the classroom all day.
As the noises of the teacher, the students, and the town merge into one drone, he closes his eyes and falls asleep.
By lunchtime, Ninamori's dragged him out of the classroom, berating him about sleeping on the one day he comes to school.
He never really listens all that well.
He does however, hear her ask him to just give the play a chance. Just this once.
Her hair shines in the noon light, and her shoulders, squared back, kind of remind him of a person at bat.
After a moment, he grunts and nods, feeling a better and not wanting to show it.
"Thanks for coming." Ninamori said, much quieter and less jaded than she normally sounds. "I appreciate it." Her face looks a tad red in the hot, dying sunlight.
Frowning, more to hide than to show, Naota turned away, feeling the heat around him unusually well. "Yeah, well. I guess there was nothing better to do."
"Aw, come on. It's not all that bad." She chided, stepping next to him easily. Her sweet smell drifts in and out, and he frowns a bit deeper. "After all, you get to be the hero of the play, fighting pirates, having sword fights, and being a kid forever."
He refuses to mention that he's dealt with pirates, fought with a guitar instead of a sword, and isn't a kid. "It's childish." He muttered sullenly, placing his hands in his pockets because it feels comfortable there.
Ninamori turned towards him with a single, perfectly arched eyebrow. "This coming from the boy who drinks nothing but sweet stuff? Grow up and have a little variety once in a while, jeez." She shook her head, placing it in her hand.
"I like things staying the same, that's all." Naota replied stubbornly. "There's nothing wrong with liking sweetness best, is there?"
"Everything changes." Ninamori looks oddly solemn when she stares at him in the last life of the light.
He stares back without knowing why.
The sun faded out.
He'd never admit it, but Naota rather likes being Peter Pan.
Its not like he enjoys being a child. Or the fighting.
He just likes the fact that for Peter, nothing ever changes.
Life would be so much nicer if it was like that, Naota thinks.
Of course, life would also be boring, but he doesn't want to admit that just yet.
Ninamori's been cast as Wendy. When she's supposed to be thinking of happy thoughts, her eyes are barely kept from rolling. She tells her stories with a rather snide edge, which tells everyone right away she doesn't believe a whit of her own words.
Naota is pretty sure she cheated to get into this role too.
He doesn't say anything though.
But its certainly not because he wants a thimble.
"So Naota, you're the lead again." His father said casually over curry dinner, taking a mouthful with an easy gulp.
"Yeah. It doesn't really matter though." He replied apathetically, poking his curry with a wrinkled nose and an air of disgust.
"Ninamori must really like you." The elder was looking at him with a rather sly, knowing look that irritated Naota.
"It's not like that." He denied stubbornly, and looked again at his spicy curry. "You know I hate the spicy stuff." He said pointedly, staring at his father as though it were his fault.
His father merely shrugged, letting the glasses shift on his nose. "Its all we have right now." He said simply.
Frowning, Naota was faced with skipping dinner and eating something he disliked.
"You should at least try." His father said rather slyly. "There's nothing wrong with trying something new.
"Well, I don't like it." Naota scowled deeply, and glared at the spicy curry.
But he ate it anyway.
After the performance, Ninamori forced him to come to the cast party that immediately followed.
"You're the lead character," she reminded him pointedly, dragging a half-unwilling Naota toward the backstage, and then out, to a restaurant on the other side of town with lights that shine too bright and chandelier's that rather annoy him.
They celebrate a play about trying not to grow up by pretending to be grown up, wearing nice clothes and standing about, drinking tea as though it were sake, making jokes about the rather pointless journey getting there.
Naota finds himself standing in the corner as the dance begins, and he frowns. A few of the girls offer him a dance- he refuses, because he can't dance.
When Ninamori comes, flushed from the hot lights, she looked at him with a disapproving frown. "Dance already." She said, barely audible beneath the pounding beat and whirling corona of light.
"I don't want to." Naota replied stubbornly, taking the punch in his cup down with one go. Its bittersweet to his mouth.
Shaking her head, Ninamori dragged him out of the shadows and into the light, and danced with him.
And though he'd never admit it, he rather enjoyed dancing.
"Did you have fun?" Ninamori asked, the next day. It didn't seem all that bright, but it was still warm.
"I guess." Naota said vaguely, shrugging his shoulders as he reached into his pockets. "I still think Peter was a bit childish though." He added, as an afterthought and addendum.
"He just didn't want to grow up. But in the real world, we all grow up sometime." Ninamori replied, in a wizened tone that was rather off-setting.
Naota paused, and look back at her in the gleaming sun. He looked down at the coin in his palm, which dully reflected the light.
He put it away.
Ninamori looked at him with surprise. "Aren't you going to get a drink, like always?" she asked tartly, raising an eyebrow.
"I feel like something else." He looked at her, and a smile passed his lips. "You want some spicy curry?" he asked, looking towards her, the light, and beyond.
Ninamori regarded him for a moment, then looked at him with a wry smile of her own. "Alright. But this isn't a date, so don't get any funny ideas."
Naota looked back at her with a bit of disbelief, shaking his head with false indifference "Yeah, yeah. Whatever."
Everything changes, in the end.
Because that's life.