A/N: I'm supposed to be studying but I'm just so good at distracting myself I ended up here. Anyway it's my very first Genshiken fanfic and first non-yaoi fanfic ever so please be kind. This was done like last christmas but my beta kind of disappeared and since I love this fic too much to abandon it, I decided to post it now. Beta is me so I know there are tons of mistake still left. Please let me know and I'll try to correct it ASAP. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Genshiken isn't mine. I gain nothing but my mother's wrath from writing this.

Real

Madarame tried not to glance at his reflection on the stores' display windows as he passed the street of Shibuya which was busier tonight due to the special occasion. He lowered his eyes, avoiding people's gazes, not wanting to know how they paid attention to his otaku appearance –his round glasses, faded suit, stained shirt, his… Did he look all right?

He risked a quick glance at his reflection and found to both his relief and horror that he looked almost exactly like his otaku self four years ago, except with more lines on his face. Madarame hunched his back and resumed his slow pace. Who was he fooling? The people he was about to meet were very well aware of his otaku-ness and expected nothing less than for him to show it proudly just as he had boasted in his college years.

Madarame smiled sarcastically to himself –or rather his new persona, Madarame, the regular employee. Well, otaku idealism was good while it last but this was real world, real life. The options weren't laid out in front of him like in video games, the repercussion could be harsher that a scripted yell or the delay of sex scenes, the life story wasn't as predictable as a programmed plot… The heartache lasted longer than the end credit.

A carefree smile fixed itself onto his lips automatically as he entered the familiar restaurant. Madarame grinned when greetings poured in as he entered the room his friends had occupied and he felt a little lighter somehow, knowing that here, with these people, he didn't have to pretend, he could be his real ugly self. Madarame returned the greeting, trying not to stare too long at one particular face in the group.

"You're late, Madarame-san." Sasahara said when he took a seat on the vacant sitting mat beside him. The younger man seemed more mature now, the calmness and confidence he exuded grew stronger as time goes by, completing the appearance of a young professional he was now sporting.

"Sorry, sorry, had to finish some paperwork. I went here straight from the office." Madarame gestured at his attire and spared a glance to Ogiue who was sitting tensely next to her boyfriend and smiled at her, noticing the dark circles under her eyes. She must've been working late to make her deadline again. It was so characteristic of her to act all tough when she was in fact so close to her limit. "So we're not going to the temple this year?"

"Well, since Ohno… er, Tanaka-san is pregnant, we couldn't possibly do that." Sasahara replied nervously. Even though it had been a little over a year since Ohno's marriage to Tanaka, the editor still slipped when mentioning the cosplayer's surname. "Oh, and Keiko, Kugayama and Kuchiki couldn't make this year."

"Ah, gomen…" Tanaka apologized unnecessarily. The happy smile on his face showed that he had little regret though. In fact he seemed happier than Madarame had ever seen in the many years they had known each other. Madarame continued to smile, ignoring the slight pang of jealousy in his chest, knowing somehow that he would never be in the designer's shoes.

"You can go without me." Ohno –now Mrs. Tanaka- said hurriedly with a shy blush and a nervous chuckle, vainly trying to hide his large stomach. Madarame knew she had no complaint even though she wasn't able to wear her beloved costumes, enjoying the real-life role she would soon assume. "I'll just wait here."

"What are you talking about? We can't leave you here alone. We'll just go to see the first sunrise together later."

No matter how Madarame prepared himself, he couldn't help the little flutter in his heart when he heard the voice that had been plaguing his dreams even to this day. He tried to smile neutrally, not strained as it threatened to be, and ran his eyes over Kasukabe Saki's maturing look. Nothing seemed to change at all, time had kindly stopped to preserve her beauty, her light colored hair, feminine feature, sharp brown eyes, red lips, the gentle curve of her body… But no, there was a change, the golden band on the ring finger of her left hand, identical to that on Kousaka's. Madarame lowered his eyes slightly, not wanting the bitterness to show. She shouldn't know. Hadn't he decided on this when he refrained from telling her the truth years ago?

Madarame lifted his head when he noticed Ohno's concerned gaze on him. He laughed to hide his nervousness and pain. "I heard they're going to make a live action movie for Kuji-Un." He began.

He didn't have to look to know that Kasukabe was rolling her eyes. The topic brought the men to gather on one side of the table, in a heated discussion of the cast that would play their beloved characters. Yet even in the discussion, Madarame couldn't help noticing Kasukabe who had scooted closer to Ohno to ask about her pregnancy and married life. He forced on a smile when she asked a far too intimate detail, earning a gentle pat on the shoulder and a kind warning from Kousaka. But the air grew thin, suffocating him with warmth, intimacy, and love that he could never partake in. Swallowing a painful lump in his throat, he reached for the glass of beer and downed it.

Unfortunately no amount of alcohol could drown his despair, fooled him enough to think that this wasn't reality, this wasn't real, and he wasn't here, single, painfully in love with his friend's wife, very much aware that he would never have her affection in return.

"I'm gonna get some fresh air." He said, standing up slowly, trying not to glance too long as she finished another glass of beer while chatting with a sober Ohno.

The blond noticed him though, and with an all-too-familiar teasing grin waved. "Don't pass out while you're on your own."

The air felt warmer suddenly, much warmer that alcohol could make him, much warmer than a late December night should be. Madarame walked slowly past busy street and crowded stored, feeling slightly lightheaded but not from the beer. Was Kasukabe worried about him? Was that what she meant? But what if she did? They were friends, right? Wasn't it normal for friends to be worried about each other? Or did she mean more? Could she possibly mean more? Why would she mean more?

Madarame sat on a bench on the sidewalk, trying to clear his mind. He shook his head, chuckled mirthlessly, telling himself how pathetic he was for loving a friend's wife, how pathetic he was for loving the most wonderful woman he'd ever meet in his pitiful existence, how pathetic he was for not being able to get rid of the improper emotion, how pathetic he was that he had walked to Kasukabe's office when his original intention was to stay away from her. Madarame sighed, staring at the tall building that signified how much Kasukabe had advanced as a designer and how he, a mere salary man, didn't deserve her. He reached to his chest, itching to take out the wallet that contained the picture of Kasukabe as the president, the only thing of her he possessed.

"There you are, Madarame-san."

Madarame nearly jumped when he heard the voice. "Kousaka." He greeted almost guiltily, removing his hand from his chest. "What are you doing here?"

Kousaka took a seat beside him. "I'm looking for some snack." He answered with that perpetual smile that erased the mark of age from his face for just as his wife he was also saved from the cruelty of time, looking at the building in front of them.

Madarame wished the alcohol would soon kick in and make him oblivious. But no, here he was, sitting next to Kousaka, the husband of Kasukabe, the most good-looking otaku he ever came across, the successful game developer in a major game company, the one chosen by the only one he would ever love. Definitely pathetic. But this was reality, this was a real story of a real sad life.

"Kasukabe… uh, your wife has really made it, eh?" he said, genuinely happy yet hurt at the same time.

"Saki-chan has been working so hard to get to this." Kousaka said. Madarame noticed that his eyes shone when he mentioned his wife's name and felt his heart crushed. "She did complain about not being able to spend much time together so we planned to take it easy next year. We want to try for a baby."

Madarame had thought it wasn't possible to feel more pain, but he was wrong. No word could describe how his heart clenched painfully in his chest and his body tingled with anger and jealousy and self pity. He tried to smile. This was his friend, the man Kasukabe married, the man she chose, the man she loved and she was his Saki-chan, his wife, his lover. Madarame had no place in their relationship. He had no right…

"Heh. I feel like I'm the only one who hadn't gotten anywhere." Madarame said bitterly to lighten up the atmosphere that slowly broke him down.

"You've worked hard, Madarame-san. You'll get what you want one day." Kousaka cheered him up with a friendly smile.

No. Never, because you, Kousaka, already had what Madarame coveted the most, Madarame thought. But Madarame bit his tongue and chuckled. "We'll see, eh? Come on, they're waiting for us."

They returned to the restaurant in relative silence and Madarame somehow managed to brace himself against hours of watching the unattainable. Smiling and joking and arguing, he knew no one knew what was going on, no one knew the pain, no one took enough time to see. And it hurt how he longed for a concerned insult but at the same time didn't wish for it as it would break him down.

An hour before sunrise they went together to a small temple where they could see the magnificent view of the first sunrise of the year. Madarame walked behind the group, feeling a little left out but was far too used to it to complain. It was his designed place, at the back, where he always was, where he could get secret glimpses of his dream. No, he didn't mind. He didn't mind at all when he stood there cold and all alone, waiting for the sunrise while his friends shared the warmth of their respective partners. He didn't mind. He was used to it, used to the loneliness, the jealousy, the pain, the endless yearning. He was used to it all.

Madarame held his breath as the lighted orb peeked from the distant horizon for he had now learnt to find beauty in those which weren't necessarily two dimensional. Then his eyes, even though he was unwilling, strayed to the couple sitting on the steps in front of him, marveling on how, no matter how many times he'd seen it, his heart was still crushed whenever Kasukabe and Kousaka kissed. He smiled lightly despite the stabbing pain in his chest. Maybe next year Kasukabe would be absent to care for a newborn, maybe next year she would arrive with the evidence of her overwhelming success, maybe next year she would be bored of the ritual and opted to stay at home. But Madarame knew what would not happen next year was her separation from Kousaka. He knew that what they had, rare and precious as it was, was real. He knew it from the way she watched Kousaka when he slept, the way she clung to him, spoke to him, talked about him, looked at him and the way Kousaka held her when she cried, gently chided her when she teased too far, teased her mercilessly, held her with his arms and gaze and words, that their love was real, as real as the love Madarame felt for her.

Madarame stared at the rising sun, pondering on a wish to make. A great sale of video games and doujinshis? A raise in career? A divorce? Madarame chuckled lightly, not missing the pleased purr of the voice he heard whisper in his dreams, not bothering to look to know the warmth, affection, and compassion in her eyes as she gazed at her loved one.

His wish, it was a simple wish.

Make her happy. Just make her happy.

OWARI

A/N: what do you think?