Author's note: For those unfamiliar with the series, Touma=female. Fujioka is just very, very confused.
Second note: Ugh, the upload thing messed up the italics and spacing without me noticing. Should be fixed now. I had to do it manually...the word document confuses it for some reason
Update 5/31/09: Minor proofreading, textual revisions. Implies some things more strongly.
Fujioka raised his hand to the doorbell. He stuck his hand forward-
No, wait. That was wrong. He shook his head, unsettling carefully combed hair, and remembered a conversation from the day before.
Fujioka! She had said, thrusting a finger in his face from across the kotatsu.
What is it, Minami? As always, he had been painfully aware of his inability to call her by her familiar name. His tongue would always trip a little before her name, causing the barest hint of hesitation. She never seemed to notice, though.
The proper thing to do, after all this time, was to at least switch to a more familiar form, with an honorific, like Kana-san or Kana-chan.
He blushed, imagining it.
Arrgh! He put his hands to his head, shaking it again. I'm getting off-topic!
Back to reminiscing.
You're a real bother, you know that?
You always ring the doorbell and wait politely by the door when it's already unlocked. What the hell? That bastard Chiaki always makes me go too!
Who are you calling a bastard, baka-yaro? It's for your own good! You should be the one to open the door for Fujioka!
This from the girl who always insisted on sitting between his legs while reading one of her thick textbooks, Chiaki herself. Lately she had been growing taller, and her prominent hair was starting to jut into his neck. There were other reasons to try to get her to stop, but he could never manage the willpower to say no.
What? How does that even make sense? What kind of logic is that?—another blow to his heart—Anyway, the point is, the door is usually unlocked! Just let yourself in! Save me the hassle!
She was standing now, going for the argumentative advantage of looking down on her opponent, propelled by the boundless energy that drove her into perpetual motion, the same energy that had set his heart throbbing all those months ago, when he first saw her in the sunlight.
He clutched his chest.
Damn it. How long has it been? How many times have I seen her? And still…
She had leaned forward, gotten in his face.
You got that?!
She pushed him with a finger, in the chest, almost hard enough to topple him over.
Your hair is in my face, baka-yaro! said Chiaki.
Cowed by his own inexpressible emotions, he could only manage a meek:
Sure, yes, Minami… His tongue tripped again.
Ah, okay, good. Suddenly subdued, Kana walked back to her side of the kotatsu, folded her legs and returned to her manga. She took a sip of her tea, throat now dry.
It wasn't true that he always rang the doorbell. Sometimes, when he could hear what was going on inside, he let himself in. But to just walk in with no warning…he didn't want to run into Haruka emerging in a towel from the shower. Or worse, Kana.
Not that he hadn't already seen-
He cut off that train of thought and drew himself back into the present.
Here goes nothing.
He turned the doorknob and pulled the door outward. No unclothed angels from his dreams assailed his eyes.
What the hell. I'm being paranoid and I know it. She was right, I've been here enough times…
As he hung up his jacket, his eyes wandered down to the shoes by the door. Hmm, Chiaki was home, and, ah, Touma. He was here almost as much as Fujioka was, drawn by the inescapable female allure of the household. But Kana wasn't here? Wasn't she the one who had invited him here? Well, she was too much to be confined one place, after all.
He smiled at his own foolish comment, pulling off his sneakers. Ah well, nothing to be done but to greet Chiaki, sit down, and wait while enjoying some of Haruka's excellent tea. No, wait, she wasn't home. Well, he would just have to wait.
He was in an excellent mood.
He turned right towards the open wooden sliding door, right hand raised in greeting, mouth open to speak. He wore stylish jeans and a t-shirt, appropriate for the weekend, and his hair was slightly tousled.
His hand froze mid-wave.
On the ground at the other side of the kotatsu, Chiaki lay on the floor, Touma on top. They were sharing a passionate kiss.
After what seemed like an eternity, they decoupled.
It was Touma who pulled herself upright first.
"That was it, huh? I really don't see the big deal." She leaned back and looked up at the ceiling, pushing hair away from her eyes.
"Really? It seemed rather…interesting." Chiaki seemed pensive. She got up on her elbows.
"That's the first time I've heard you admit anything is interesting. Enjoy it that much?" Touma reoriented her head to look Chiaki in the eyes.
"Shut it, baka-yaro. But you're right. I don't see why Haruka gets so secretive when it comes to things like this. With the way Kana annoys me about this, you'd think it would be something bigger. Or more exciting."
"Ah, who knows?" Touma was leaning back again, back into her customary posture of preparing to take a nap. She grabbed a tangerine that had rolled onto the floor. "Remind me how I let you talk me into this again?"
"You're the only one who won't immediately leak it to Kana. I can't trust Uchida to keep a secret and Yoshino…she's too quiet. Among other things."
"You're being paranoid." Touma tossed the fruit up and caught it. "But no one will know. I guarantee it."
They were too involved to notice Fujioka's presence. For his part, Fujioka hadn't heard a word said, lost in his own private world. One part of his brain was actively engaged in trying to shut down another part that had noticed Chiaki's strong familial resemblance to Kana. Yet another was drawing uncharitable comparisons between himself and Touma. Finally, his mouth groping for words, he managed an incoherent splutter.
They jerked their heads around to look at him. Touma dropped the tangerine, mouth agape.
"I'msosorryI'llleaveyoutwoalone!" He finally managed, and turned counterclockwise to rush for the door.
"Fujioka, wait, this-! Wait up! This-" Touma reached the door and stuck her head out past the edge to yell at him. She stopped.
Fujioka was frozen halfway to the door, hand reaching for his jacket.
No. This isn't right. I shouldn't be running. I'm Touma's mentor! I teach him soccer! He has no parents, and his brothers are useless! He told me this. So why am I leaving? I can't leave like this. It's my job to stop this! They're too young! Yeah, that's it. No, wait…
Touma warily watched his back as he muttered to himself, his outer demeanor broken. She watched for long enough that when he finally straightened his back, decision made, she jerked back in surprise.
"Touma." He turned around, his face hard.
"Oh God." Touma wasn't aware she had said it out loud.
"Come with me. We need to talk." He gestured with his hand.
The Banchou had arrived.