Impressive

Normal

by Tamakia'gss

Disclaimer: FLCL belongs to whoever created it. You'd think I'd know, but I don't.

AN: I got depressed by the lack of Eri/Naota fanfics out there, so I decided to write one, hoping that it would inspire other more fabulous authors to follow suit. hinthintpokepoke That's really all there is to it. This is my first FLCL fic, and the characters are probably OOC. It's hard to predict how people will change as they grow up, you know?

--begin--

Nothing much impressed Eri Ninamori anymore. True enough, it was hard to impress her before, but it was still worse now than ever.

Sometimes she wished she could be more like other girls. She wanted to giggle at the boys and wear daringly short skirts and bat her eyelashes innocently. She wanted a simple bouquet of roses to be able to sweep her off her feet, to have a spoken "I love you" make her swoon. She wanted to be normal, but she couldn't find it within her to be anything but a cool, even-tempered, logic-driven realist.

Sometimes she blamed her father, but she knew it was generally unfounded. It wasn't his fault the citizens of Mabase failed to notice his idiocy and kept reelecting him as their mayor, even after repeated scandals. Well, in truth, it probably was his fault, but still, he hadn't raised her to be like she was. She just…was. She liked to tell herself she was the only sane one in her family, and between her father's dishonesty and political dealings and her mother's paranoid bitterness towards the world, she probably was.

Public high school didn't impress her, either, so she asked to be enrolled in a prestigious private high school. Her wish was granted, and she was then able to learn that the private school was equally unimpressive. She asked to be transferred back to her old school after only a week. Her father was annoyed, but she reasoned that she'd rather be unimpressed while surrounded by people that she knew and generally liked. As always, her father found it easier to give her what she wanted so she'd leave him alone, so her wish was granted yet again.

Despite being one of the smartest students in the school and the head of several clubs and committees (anything to keep away from home for as long as possible), her dry personality and complete evenness kept her from having many friends. In fact, all her "friends" were really more like acquaintances; none were what she would have considered a true friend. Not anymore. She didn't really feel like she knew any of her old friends anymore.

Masashi and Gaku were still around, though pursuing their own interests that had little to do with her. Though the Eri had drifted apart from the boys over the years, they both found time to hang out with her occasionally, and she welcomed the company. She wondered sometimes why they bothered to seek her out, and Gaku had once told her, in one of his rare serious moments, that he worried about her. She hadn't known what he meant then, but now she did. He was worried by the increasing amount of apathy she was showing as she aged. Nothing excited her, nothing impressed her, but yet she was not depressed in any way. She just…was.

And then there was Naota, a boy she had secretly considered to be her closest friend (Eri's view of friendship was a little warped). She knew about his romantic interests in both the high school girl, Mamimi, and the crazy housekeeper woman, Haruko. He loved both, had wanted to be with both at various times, and they both deserted him, just like that. It had stung her a little at the time that the one person he wasn't interested in (herself) was the one who wouldn't leave him. Eri really thought he was going to be okay, though, for a while afterwards…besides some mild depression, he seemed to be coping well. Then, seemingly overnight, he had changed.

He started wearing darker clothing to school (when he bothered to show up) and had stopped talking to his friends almost altogether. He started hanging out with the school's druggies and watching decidedly morbid, bloody movies. Violence fascinated him, but thankfully he never seemed inclined to ever be physically violent towards people or animals. He was always skipping class, and only did enough school work so that he passed. He was rude to all the teachers and constantly harassed the students unfortunate enough to sit near him. In short, Eri felt like she didn't even know him anymore. He never even acknowledged her existence when she would wave at him in the hallways, and eventually she stopped.

All this "bad boyness" only made Naota popular with the girls, and he seemed to drink up the attention. He jumped from girlfriend to girlfriend with alarming speed, never dating a single girl for more than two months. All of them reminded him of Mamimi or Haruko in some small way, be it the way she talked, looked, or dressed. However, it seemed that these replacements couldn't compare to the real thing, and the poor girls were callously kicked to the curb. This got him the reputation of being a player, which made him even more the target of girls who viewed him as a "challenge." It disgusted Eri. She had never liked boys like that, and she had downright refused to make an exception for Naota.

All this led to the reason why Eri was sitting in a deserted classroom after school on a fine spring day, reading over some paperwork for one of her clubs. She had no boys to tease with flirty clothing, no "family" event to attend, and the teachers all thought of her as a nice, responsible young lady who could take care of herself while they left. As she flipped one of the pages in the stapled packet, she was dimly aware of a figure approaching the desk and assumed it was a student coming to ask her a question about something or other. Nothing could have prepared her for the metal baseball bat that crashed down on her desk with a deafening thud, mere inches away from her fingers.

Eri screamed in surprise and shot up out of her seat, knocking her desk with her knees and tumbling it over, and then tripped backwards over her seat and fell, knocking the desk behind her over as well. (Sure, she wasn't impressed by anything anymore, but that didn't mean she couldn't get the living daylights scared out of her.) She lay indignantly on the floor, tangled up in various pieces of furniture, with varying pieces of her body hurting like hell.

"Hey, Ninamori," her attacker said casually.

"N-n-naota!" Eri gasped, trying to calm her racing heart. "What the hell is wrong with you?!"

"I can see your panties," he remarked in a bored tone, ignoring her question. "You should wear something more flattering than granny panties."

Eri extricated herself and stood huffily, wincing as she brushed her skirt back down. "My underwear is none of your business!" she snapped, still half in shock. She righted the school furniture while mentally estimating how many bruises she'd have the next morning, and noted that Naota did nothing to help or hinder her. He merely watched her every move, which she found thoroughly unnerving and slightly irritating.

"What do you want?" she snapped at him when she had finished, crossing her arms and glaring.

"Go out with me," he said, looking her in the eye.

Eri stated at him like he'd grown a second head. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me," said Naota.

"Yeah, I heard you. What the hell did you mean by it?"

"The same thing I usually mean when I ask girls out. Get with the program, Ninamori," he drawled, rolling his eyes.

"Oh, you mean I should stay with you for a few abusive weeks before you get tired of me too and cut me loose?" Eri asked angrily. "Like hell, Naota. Go find some other floozy to amuse yourself with."

"Your language is awful today," Naota announced, to which Eri rolled her eyes impatiently. "But anyways, I only dumped those girls because I never liked them in the first place."

"Oh, and I'm supposed to believe that you like me after you just spent the last how many years pretending I didn't exist? That's really gonna work," she scoffed.

"I ignored you because you reminded me of them," Naota said simply, and Eri knew who he meant.

"No I don't, Naota. Your other girls did; you would say so yourself."

"All those other girls reminded me of Haruko and Mamimi superficially. With the other girls, I could always pretend they were those two. You…you were always representative of the memories and feelings I was trying to suppress. You were there at the scene, present at the events. You were a tangible memory of a painful moment in my life that I wanted to forget, and I could never pretend you were someone else."

"And now you want those memories back." Eri kept up her annoyed visage, but secretly was surprised at his words. His face looked so honest as he said them, but a niggling doubt still lingered.

"No, I want you back. I could have had you back then but I didn't want you. Now I do."

"Well you have a funny way of showing it," she said, looking pointedly at the bat in his hands.

At this, he chuckled. "Yeah, that. You seemed so cold recently; I just had to make sure you were still human."

"Well I don't appreciate it," Eri informed him pointedly. "And how do you know you can still have me back? How do you know I haven't moved on?"

He shrugged. "Guess I was just hoping."

"Well, sorry to disappoint, but I'm not interested, especially after that stunt you just pulled," she said huffily, packing her bag and avoiding looking him in the eye. If she did, he would have seen through her lies. Maybe he did anyway.

"So if I tell you I'll be under the bridge at sunset, you won't show up?" he asked.

"That's right. I'm sorry, Naota." Eri pushed past him and walked down the school's hallways, looking back occasionally to see if he was following her. He wasn't, and she didn't know if she was relieved or disappointed.

She didn't go home right away. Instead, she wandered around the city lost in her thoughts for a couple hours, until one of her father's assistants called to say that her father was worried about her and wanted her home right away. Eri decided not to point out to the woman (her name was Satomi) that if her father had really been worried about her, he himself would have called. Declining the offer of having a car sent for her, Eri walked home.

Dinner was interrupted by another one of her parent's fights; over what, Eri had no idea. She had stopped listening a long time ago. Excusing herself from the table, she told Satomi that she was taking another walk. Eri generally liked her. Satomi was efficient, nice, more than likely not having an affair with mayor, and (Eri suspected) the only person at the moment that cared about her. Too bad her father worked the poor woman constantly, or Eri might have struck up a better friendship with her.

Eri again wandered the city aimlessly, or so she thought. It was therefore a surprise to her when she looked up and realized she was crossing the same old bridge that Naota wanted to meet her under. She looked towards the west, shielding her eyes. The sun was half set. A sudden impulse seized her and she leaned over the railing and searched the riverbanks for Naota. He wasn't there. Her heart panged unexpectedly. He wasn't there. He really was just playing her. Tears threatened to well up in her eyes.

"I said under the bridge," came a drawl from behind her. She jumped in surprise and whipped around. "You suck at following directions."

"W-w-what are you doing here?" Eri stammered, knowing it was a stupid question. Why was it that he could so easily tear down her icy resolve?

"What are you?"

"Well, I wasn't looking for you if that's what you're thinking!" Eri said.

"Of course not." Stupid Naota with that stupid all-knowing smirk on his stupid face. It seemed as if his eyes were seeing into her soul, and Eri wanted to slap him. "So, you hungry?"

"No." That, at least, was true. She had already eaten dinner.

"Liar, liar."

Eri gaped at him. "Liar? Seriously?" Of course she told lies, but no one ever called her on it. "You're so…so juvenile!"

"I know this great place not far from here. Burgers and Coke, like the old American dates." He walked off, pausing and glancing back when Eri didn't follow. "Coming? It's my treat."

His words jumpstarted her back into action. "It better be!" she snapped. "And don't you think this is a date, because this is just you paying me back for that stupid stunt you pulled today!"

"Sure."

He had that smirk again, that one that screamed "Liar." For some reason, it didn't make her angry anymore. She started after him, suddenly happier than she had been in a long time. Still, it was important that it not seem like she was giving in easily.

"And we're going to have to do something about they way you dress, too. I'm ashamed to be seen with you," she said as she caught up.

"Right." He was still smirking, but when he looked at her it turned into a full smile. Eri's heart leapt. He looked as happy as she felt. Naota offered his hand to her and she took it without hesitation. She could feel the metaphorical ice around her heart melt, and she gave out a giggle. Naota gave her a strange look and she giggled again. Finally she was beginning to feel like a normal teenage girl.

--end--

That's it. I tried. Tell me what you think.