Disclaimer: I know absolutely nothing about the driving laws in Japan, nor anything at all about their regulations regarding licenses, permits, at what age they get their permits, etc. Oh, and I don't own FLCL, either. Just thought I should mention that.

Don't call me Ta-kun


The summer months were rolling by, and it was nearly time for Naota to return to school. The events of last year, and Haruko, were a fond memory. Mamimi and Naota were under the bridge, huddled close to one another.

"I'm thinking of getting my liscense, Ta-kun," Mamimi said.

"You should. Definitely," Naota said, not even reminding her not to call him Ta-kin. He had been hinting at this for months.

"Ta-kun…can I stay with you, Ta-kun?" Mamimi asked.

"Why do you want to?" Naota asked.

"Because…well, you know. Why was that again?"

Naota understood perfectly. "Of course you can, Mamimi. I'd do anything for you."

Mamimi hugged Naota close to her chest, nearly crying. "Oh, Ta-kun!"

" 'Naota,'" Naota corrected.

"Oh, Naota," Mamimi said.

Naota hugged back. "I love you, Mamimi, and I want to help you. Any way I can."

"Naota," Mamimi cooed.

It had taken some time, but Naota had convinced his father, Kamon, to let Mamimi stay over for a while. Naota was cleaning the room up a bit while Mamimi was in the shower. Specifically, he removed all the stuff that was reminiscent of his brother. The last thing he needed was for her to go all lovesick over his brother. Well, any more than she usually was.

Somewhere in America, his brother was hitting a home run right now. Actually, America was on the other side of the Earth, right? The original Ta-kun was either asleep or just waking up right now. Naota wondered, was his American girlfriend sleeping with him right now? Did they sleep together? How could he just dump Mamimi off like that?

Mamimi had clung to Naota when his brother left. At first, it was just another thing he did just because he did it. Because life in Mabase was a slow death. Haruko had changed all that. Not the town; incredibly, Mabase was so dull that even a series of giant robot battles couldn't kick life into it. She had changed Naota. He was no longer dying. And he was no longer willing to let Mamimi die this death, either. No matter what it took to save her. Naota finished cleaning up and sat on the bed.

Mamimi entered, wearing nothing but a towel, and sat next to him. "I'm going to need to study for the written test," she said.

"We'll get you what you need," Naota said. He scooted in close to the older girl, under her arm. "Don't worry. You have me, and I believe in you. I'll be here for you, because I love you."

"Forever?" Mamimi asked.

Naota paused before answering. "For as long as you need me."

"What does that mean, Ta-kun?" Mamimi asked.

" 'Naota.'"

"What does it mean, Naota?"

"It means what it says," Naota said.

"And if I need you to be with me forever?" Mamimi asked.

"Then I will stay with you forever," Naota promised.

"Oh, Ta-"

"Don't even say it. My name is Naota," Naota cut her off. He didn't want her to call him that name, especially not after the promise he had just made.

"Naota," Mamimi breathed.

"You ought to find yourself some pajamas, Mamimi," Naota said.

"Don't worry, you'll ace the exam tomorrow," Naota said encouragingly.

"Ta-kun --"

Naota interrupted her with a kiss. "Don't worry; I have faith in you. And don't call me 'Ta-kun," Naota said.

"I love you, Naota," Mamimi said.

Naota felt warm. This was the first time she had said this to him; well, the first time she had said this to him and used his real name, that is. "I love you too, Mamimi," Naota said. And to prove it he kissed her, and put more into it this time. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to take a shower."

He went and did just that. Naota tried not to think, as he scrubbed the shampoo into his hair. He would do anything for Mamimi. Because he loved her, and she needed him. Naota thought of Haruko, who he also loved. Naota was only twelve, but he had already learned what most people never learn their whole lives long: that there are many kinds of love. The way he loved Haruko was different from the way he loved Mamimi. And neither love overwhelmed every other emotion he had. It only seemed that way, because it was fueled by it. Sometimes you love someone because of what they were, sometime in spite of it. Sometimes both and neither at the same time. It wasn't that the heart was a lawless thing, it was just that the law that it obeyed was such a complex and subjective thing that it was impossible for any human to see the rhyme or reason.

Naota turned off the shower and reached for a towel to dry himself off. He wrapped the towel around himself and walked back to his room for a change of clothes.

"Ta-kun," Mamimi said sitting on his bed.

Naota sat down on the bed next to her. "Don't be afraid, Mamimi. You're going to take that test tomorrow and you're going to pass."

Mamimi kissed him, and her hands began to wander to the towel.

"No," Naota said.

"No?" Mamimi asked. "You said that you'd do anything for me, though."

"Promise not to call me 'Ta-kun,'" Naota said.

"Why, Naota?"

"Because I'd do anything for you, but using me as a stand in so that you can vicariously have sex with my brother through me is not going to help you," Naota said. He had looked 'vicariously' up specifically in anticipation of a day when he would have to have this talk. "Promise me that you won't call me Ta-kun, and won't think of me as Ta-kun; then I'll do anything you want."

"Okay, Naota. I promise," Mamimi said. She kissed him, and reached for Naota's towel. This time, he did not protest.

Naota's form was wrapped around Mamimi, waiting for sleep, but so far his mind was still racing. She hadn't called him 'Ta-kun,' but there were times where she was biting her tongue. Naota supposed that it was a hell of a lot better than nothing. It was an amazing experience, and the afterglow was speechless, but that wasn't why he had done it. He had done it because she had needed him to do it. It wasn't a moment of passion, it was a moment of need. And Naota had come through in a squeeze. He wouldn't have chosen to do this with Mamimi had it not been important -- he was only twelve, after all --but it had been, and he was proud of what he did. With that though, he slept.

"Hey, Naota," said Ninamori Eri.

"Hey, Ninamori," Naota said.

"Where's Mamimi," Eri asked.

"Learning to drive," Naota said.

"Oh, so she got her permit?"

"Yup. Passed with flying colors," Naota said. "She ought to have. We studied night and day for that thing."

" 'We?'" Eri asked.

"We," Naota said.

Eri looked at him for a full five seconds, the gears working in her head. "I see."

Naota nodded. "I truly think you do."

"I've got my license, Ta-kun!"

" 'Naota.'"

"Naota?" She wasn't correcting herself; she was leading into a whole other conversation.

"Yes?" Naota asked.

"I've been thinking about going to the city, and becoming a photographer," Mamimi said.

"You should," Naota said. "It'll be good for you."

"You really think so, Ta-"

" 'Naota,'" Naota stopped her.

"You really think so, Naota?"

"Really and truly," Naota said solemnly. "I love you, Mamimi, and I want what's best for you."

"Okay, Ta- I mean, Naota."

Naota was surprised to learn that a bus to Tokyo even went through Mabase, much less stopped in it.

"Good bye, Mamimi. I love you," Naota said. He realized that he sounded like his brother had, only that time around, Mamimi had been the one that was left behind.

"Come with me, Naota!" Mamimi said. "You could live with me, we could get a flat…" she noticed that Naota was looking at his feet, very intently. "Naota?"

He looked her in the eye. "I love you, Mamimi, I want you to know that. I love you…but I'm not in love with you."

"You said that you'd be with me forever, Naota."

"I said that I'd be with you for as long as you needed me. And the promise still stands If you need me to run away with you, then I will. I'll stay by your side for as long as you need me, because I do love you."

Part of Mamimi wanted to say that she still needed him, wanted to keep him with her forever. She knew that he would never leave her if she needed him, not like his brother. He'd never leave, he'd never cheat, he was as virtuous and honorable as his name would imply. But she didn't. It would be unfair, after all that he had given her, to make him give up everything and everyone he knows to take care of her. He was paying a debt, and not even his own debt; his brother's debt. As much as it would hurt her, she would have to pull away from him. She wouldn't be worthy of his love if she made him waste his life with her. "Good bye, Nao-kun."

"Kiss me, Mamimi," Naota said. It was the first thing he had ever asked of her, and she did it. "Good bye, Mamimi. Keep in touch."

Naota looked at the picture in the magazine Mamimi sent him. He knew that it was her work, because it was of him. He was holding the guitar and Haruko was on the vespa, floating in midair. He hadn't of guessed that he had looked so…heroic. Go figure. The caption said "FuRi KuRi," and he still didn't know what that meant.

"What's that?" Eri asked.

"Hey, Eri. It's a magazine from Mamimi," Naota said.

"So it's true that she's gone? Hey -- you just called me by my given name, didn't you?"

"Yup," Naota said. He took a swig of the soft drink and grimaced a little.

"It's the sour kind," Eri observed.

"Yup. And no, it's not what you think," Naota said.

"What is it, then?"

"It's like something Haruko told me once. I don't remember exactly how it goes, but the gist is that sometimes things aren't sweet, sometimes ramen isn't very good, but that can be fun, too, in it's way."

"You have no idea what you're talking about, do you?" Eri said.

"Not a clue. But still, I think I see her point," Naota said.

"Me too," Eri said.

"So, what are you doing after school?"


i realized that my breaks weren't showing up for some reason. i'm sorry.maybe it's less confusing now.