This plotbunny sprung up after I played the game. It made me giggle to think of a shopkeeper getting all frazzled over Neku coming in! So, I decided, why not make him more frazzled than before? It's always so fun to mess with characters!

Some of Makoto's dialogue came from the game itself! The rest of it... well, let's just you're only getting the lighter bits, hm?

I don't own any of the characters. This is only for my own twisted pleasure.

Makoto Miki, "Mick" to his friends, thought that running the Shadow Ramen shop after giving up on the "crafty promoter" lifestyle would be easy. Sure, he had to deal with managing his employees (which was a lot easier now that he didn't make them dance on the job), ordering supplies (who knew that foreigners liked egg rolls that much?!), and shop upkeep, but it was something he enjoyed far more than manipulating people to his own ends. In fact, most days he was humming with satisfaction as he manned the till, greeting customers and listening to their idle chatter when he wasn't wiping down the counter and tables.

It was only when a certain customer walked through the door that his happy demeanor faltered, coins rattling softly in his suddenly trembling hand. The brunette gulped and wrung his hands surreptitiously behind the counter, then took a deep breath and tried to smile for his customers.

"I'll take a shadow steak ramen," Neku Sakuraba said boredly, hands stuffed in the pockets of his baggy white shorts. His ever-present headphones were, surprisingly, nestled in the folds of his black and purple sleeveless shirt around his neck, orange hair fluffing up a bit without the weight of the headphones.

"Hm… that's all they have today," Shiki Misaki grumbled, brown hair brushed back from her face. She was wearing something different from her usual green sweater, this time in a Natural Puppy ensemble that served to bring out the sparkle in her blue eyes. In her arms was her ever-present stuffed animal, something that Makoto found odd, as she looked a bit too old to have an obsession with plushies. "I'll have one as well."

"We will too!" Raimu "Rhyme" Bito piped up, her usual orange shirt bearing a stylized cross this time rather than a skull, as Makoto had grown used to seeing. Behind her, Beat, her older brother, didn't seem to be paying attention, so engrossed with the wheels on his skateboard he was. He was the only one that Makato had yet to hear called by anything but his nickname.

"Ah-" the shopkeeper stuttered, then swallowed hard. "I see. Anything else for you today?"

Neku glanced over the menu, then shrugged. "That's everything."

The order pad suffered from Makoto's shaking hand, the characters a bit malformed but readable. "Your total is 20,000 yen," he managed to say without stumbling over the words. Was it him, or was Neku looking at him oddly? Without a word the teen handed over the cash, his hand brushing Makoto's. A shudder ran through the shopkeeper.

"Here's your change."

Neku accepted the cash and glanced over at the rest of the restaurant. "Come on guys, let's find seats."

"Ah!" Makoto started to stay, then stopped when those strangely knowing eyes once again fixated on him. Looking away, he mumbled lamely, "Y-you sure look nice today… again."

"Er, thanks?" With a strange look his way, Neku followed his group of friends to the counter, where the seemingly antisocial teen started an animated discussion about pins with Rhyme and Shiki.

Is he really dressing up just for me? Makoto wondered, turning around and handing the order slip back to the kitchen. Picking up his washrag, he ducked out from behind the counter and advanced on a recently used table. As he went through the motions of clearing the table he thought he felt piercing blue eyes following around, and another shudder worked its way through him. He gulped.

What if he comes by because he's into me? the frazzled shopkeeper thought dazedly. He had a girlfriend! Hadn't he mentioned that to Neku recently? Or maybe he already knew… This isn't in the manual!

He heard the bell ring and retreated back behind the counter almost gratefully, retrieving the bowls two at a time and depositing them in front of the teens. Neku smiled at him as he was setting down the bowl, and the resulting tremble in his hands nearly caused him to upend the contents on the teen. He fought to control the blush that tried to rise in his face, turning determinedly away before he said or did something stupid.

"Oh, Mr. Miki?" the boy's voice stopped him. "Can I have an order to go? My mom said she wanted to try some."

Makoto forced a smile onto his face and turned to collect the yen Neku was holding out. "Yes, th-thank you."

Neku smiled again. This was the second smile in one visit, a record for the normally taciturn boy, and Makoto had a sneaking suspicion that there was more than one motive behind the boy's request.

As he relayed the order to the kitchen, he couldn't stop thinking about Neku's small smiles at him. More? he thought, more distressed by the second. I'm onto you!

Neku and his friends finished their ramen without bothering him again, and he turned to go to his office in the back and let out some stress with a call to his girlfriend. Neku's visits always sent him into nervous fits!

"Mr. Miki!" the boy's voice called, stopping him in his tracks. He couldn't help the look of dread on his face as he turned to the teen. "Thanks for the ramen, it was good as always."

"I always aim to p-please," Makoto said with a small bow. "See you again… I'm sure."

When Neku left, his friends chattering behind him, the shopkeeper felt his knees give out and had to catch himself on the till. You're just being silly, he told himself firmly. He just really likes your ramen… and staring at you… and…

Behind them, Neku faintly heard the sound of someone banging their head against a wall and smirked. "Well, well."

Shiki giggled, clutching Mr. Mew close. "He really does have a crush on you, Neku!"

"I feel kinda bad, though," he mumbled, scratching the back of his head. "He seemed really nervous. I hope he doesn't figure out I'm doing it on purpose."

Beat spazzed, staring at him with wide eyes. "Wha- you mean you want him to think you're hitting on him?"

"I'm not hitting on him," Neku protested, reddening slightly. "I'm just…"

"Leading him on?" Rhyme put in.

"Purposely being nice to him?" Shiki added.

"Making him think you're gay, man!" Beat exclaimed.

"Never said I wasn't!" Neku said unthinkingly. When he realized that he'd basically come out with that sentence, he averted his eyes and mumbled, "at least, not entirely. I'm just… open, okay?"

Shiki giggled. "I wonder if you don't have a crush on him."

"I don't!" the teen protested.

"Watch out, Neku," Rhyme teased. "We may be attending a wedding before long."

"Wha?" Beat asked, looking at his younger sister blankly. "Who's getting married?"

They all laughed.