Author's note: To be honest, I'm not sure if it's a good idea to be writing this. But that's what experimentation is for, I guess. I was motivated by the last episode of Okaeri and Kana's supposed runaway note. It was obviously wrong and impossible but at the same time…strangely plausible. What if it had been real?
Well, think of this as an alternate-universe Minami-ke and, as always, reviews are appreciated.
She dragged herself aimlessly down the sidewalk, eyes unseeing, oblivious to the world. It was late, and the few pedestrians remaining stared at the strange brown-haired girl muttering to herself, but then hurriedly turned away.
Stupid. So stupid.
If she had just kept herself under control, held herself back, she could just walk back now and no one would be the wiser. If she had just thought it through, instead of letting it tear her apart, she wouldn't be here to start with.
But it was too late. The note was written. By now, her sisters would have certainly noticed it, and read it. Digested its consequences.
It was too late to go back.
No, maybe not-
Yes it was! How could she go back? What would she say? That it was a joke? They wouldn't believe that. How could she face them?
But how could she do anything but go back? Where would she go? How would she live?
An ironic smile crept up her features. At least if she had planned this, she would be more ready. She would know how to dodge the police, she would have money, train tickets, somewhere to go.
But instead she had just snapped. She had never anticipated that. Snapped and made an utterly insane decision. And now she couldn't go back.
But where will I go?
The thought process had looped in her mind over and over.
She mustn't scream. It would attract attention, perhaps the police. It would make things infinitely worse.
But what would she-
WHERE WILL I-
A car horn sounded, incredibly loud, blaring into her right eardrum.
With more adroitness than she thought she still had, she jumped backwards back onto the curb.
"Watch where the hell you're going!" the passenger yelled at her, leaning out the window and shaking his fist at her, his voice dopplering into the distance.
For a long moment, she just stood there, breathing heavily, watching the car shrink into the distance, then crossed the street and kept walking.
It was already twilight. The last few rays of the sun barely struggled over the buildings to her left. She was suddenly aware of how disheveled she looked, how cold it was in her insufficient clothing.
It's August! It shouldn't be-
She finally noticed the clouds that had been gathering overhead, shifting in to fill the space left behind by the departing sunlight.
Oh, of course, if I had been paying attention-
But she hadn't been, of course.
She smoothed out her clothing, which had been jostled in collisions with pedestrians she simply hadn't bothered to avoid. She reached back, grabbed her two long twists of hair, made sure they were fine.
So where to now?
She wasn't going to start that again, was she?
It's a valid question. I can't stay out here. I have to find-
Suddenly, she realized.
She realized where she was walking.
It's amazing what you discover when you look where you're going, she thought sardonically. I guess I really do want to be there.
She shook her head at herself, swinging her hair behind her in that manner she so liked. As she did so, a drop of water hit the crest of her forehead.
She looked up in shock.
Oh, of course.
She broke into a run, as the water began to fall with greater rapidity. She would be there soon.
Kana smiled to herself.
Fujioka stared at the phone receiver in his hand.
Come on, Fujioka. It's now or never.
He had heard from Chiaki that the Minamis were going to celebrate Tanabata this year, with a mini-bamboo tree and wishes hung by Uchida and the others. He wanted to go, but strangely, Kana hadn't said a word of it to him yet.
He needed to call.
He swallowed hard and moved his finger to press the digits.
The doorbell rang.
He almost dropped the receiver, bobbling it in the air before catching it and slamming it down, a little too hard.
He didn't really know what he was expecting. Maybe his parents somehow having caught the flight home ten hours early, or some delivery person. Whatever it was, it certainly wasn't what he saw, looking through the peephole. His eyes flew open wide and he made great haste to open the door as quickly as possible, his mind already trying to make sense of this development.
"Minami!" he exclaimed, as he flung the door open and beheld again the sight of Kana, breathing hard, drenched soaking wet, standing on his doorstep.
"What's going on here? Come in, come in. What happened? Did you get caught in the rain?"
She held up a hand.
"I don't want to talk about it. Please, just-just let me stay here. Only for the night."
"Minami, what is-"
"Please. I would...greatly appreciate it if you just set up a bath now. Or no, I'll do it myself."
"No, no, it's okay, let me. Just stand here."
As he ran down the hallway, she stood there shivering, waiting.
The phone rang.
Her heart jumped into her throat.
It was them. It had to be.
"I'm sorry, could you get the phone?"
She didn't move. She just stared at it, sitting there, five steps from the front door, ringing.
Eventually, the answering machine responded.
"Oy, Fujioka, pick up your phone for once. Over at that girl's house again? Don't think you can just go wild with your parents gone! Anyway, call me back; I want to talk about this footwork training you have slotted for us..."
She breathed a sigh of relief, then realized what must be done.
She reached behind the phone and pulled the cord, carefully making sure it looked like it was still in.
She ran to his parent's room, breathing silent apologies for dripping all over the floor, and pulled that one as well.
Fujioka's phone was last to go, and then she hurried into the bathroom, and ran into him on his way out.
"I, I thought you might need some help..."
"Minami, what's going on? Why are you here? Where are your sisters? Should I call them and tell them you're her-"
She grabbed him by the shoulders, hard, and looked pleadingly into his eyes.
"No! No, you can't. You can't. Please don't. I beg of you. Just one night. I'll go back tomorrow."
He looked at her, bewildered. He had never seen her like this.
It went against his better instincts, but looking at her, he couldn't-
"Alright. Alright. Just take the bath. I don't have any clothes for you to wear, so I'll give you one of my old t-shirts. Just promise me-"
She was already walking in, getting ready to shut the door, but she turned to look back at him.
"Promise me you'll tell me what's going on here. I-I need to know you're okay, alright? You don't-you don't look right."
She nodded, just barely.
She had known when she came here that she wouldn't be able to avoid his questions. He would have to know now. But-
"Afterwards, alright? And do you intend to just stand there and watch me undress?"
That would ordinarily be a surefire way of getting him blushing and out the door, but instead his face just became more worried.
Something is wrong. She's acting so strange-
But he just looked at her eyes and tried to read them as he backed out of the doorway and shut the door.
By the time she walked back out, toweling off her hair, and wearing a soccer T-shirt and jeans that were both too large for her—Fujioka must have had an interesting time slipping in and dropping the clothes off—he had already set up a sleeping mat next to the kotatsu, with pillows and blanket. The dishes were already set on the kotatsu.
It was still too early to sleep, of course, so she lay down on the mat and just stared at the ceiling.
"You've got the wrong idea."
She sat up.
"You can have my bed," Fujioka said. "I'll sleep there."
"Why? I can't allow that. No I'll sleep out here."
"No, no, I insist. I don't mind.
"Well alright, if you say so…"
She wondered why he didn't just use his parents' bed, but wasn't going to be rude by asking.
For his part, it embarrassed him just to think about her sleeping in his bed, but he couldn't think of another way that made sense and didn't involve her sleeping on the floor. His parents were returning in the morning and would probably want to sleep straight away.
Oh that's right…
He would just have to bear with it. Surely they would understand why he couldn't just leave a girl out in the rain.
The microwave beeped. He walked over and pulled out a tray of food, and one cup of cup noodles. He set it on the table.
"Go ahead and eat as much as you want. I'm not much of a cook, so this is just what my mom left in the fridge. I'll be okay with these noodles. I can eat whatever you leave behind."
She was going to protest, but then thought better of it.
They ate in silence, except for the sounds of slurping and clattering utensils. The rain outside provided soft background noise.
Kana remembered eating noodles with Chiaki once, long ago.
When they finished eating—or rather when Kana finished eating, since she wasn't eating with anywhere near her usual gusto—he collected the plates and went off to wash them. She didn't stop him.
When he came back, for a long moment they just sat there, on opposite sides of the kotatsu, saying nothing.
"No, it's okay."
"I've thought about it. You've invited me so much to your house. I've got to owe you for that, right? I owe it to you not to ask."
They looked each other in the eye.
"I can't accept that."
"You don't understand. I want you to know."
It was well past one in the morning. At some point, they had gotten too tired to sit, and instead just lay on the floor. But still she kept talking.
"So it's totally stupid, right? I could have said something to Chiaki at any time. I could talked with Haruka at any time. I could have told them I was tired of being called "bakayarou, " tired of being ignored, tired of being smacked around, but instead I hold it in and do something stupid like write a pretentious note saying 'I'm leaving.' To where? All I've done is prove that I'm just as useless as they say I am. I really am useless, aren't I?"
"No, don't say tha-"
"Just admit it! I'm not as nice as Haruka, I can't cook, I'm not as smart as either of them, I can't even win against Chiaki in a damn board game-"
"Come on, that's not true-"
The movement had come so naturally, in the flow of the moment, that it took a moment for him to notice what he had done, that he had reached out and pulled her over, so that her head lay on his chest, his hand tangled in her hair. He couldn't undo it now.
"It's-it's not true. You're not useless to me, and you're not useless to your sisters either. You know that. How could you think that? Promise me you'll go home tomorrow."
"…I know that. Of course I do. I regret leaving."
She breathed deeply.
"But I don't regret coming here."
He looked down, into her now unbearably soft eyes, and held her closer.
Those soft eyes…
It was foolish of him to fall asleep, of course, but they were both tired, and when her eyes closed, he felt what remained of his energy drain away…
He was woken by the sound of the stove hood turning on.
He immediately started to sit up, but was forced to pause and pull Kana's arms off him. She muttered something, made a grab for him, then turned away.
His mother looked at him from the kitchen.
"So, Fujioka, it seems we have a visitor."
Come on, Fujioka. You can do this. You can say something without sounding retarded.
"This-this isn't at all what it looks like!"
"Don't worry. I'm cooking enough for your…friend as well. It's almost noon. But we need to talk."
Kana pushed herself up, rubbing her eyes.
"Hmm, what's going on? Oh."
She looked around.
"I unplugged your phones. I'm sorry about that, but-"
"Ah. Could I use your phone then?"
Fujioka watched as she dialed the phone, answered questions about where she was, and apologized over and over. Finally she hung up.
"They're coming to pick me up. It's a good thing I called now. They were about to invoke the police. It will take them a while to get here."
After she changed back into her now-dry clothes, and a lunch in which his parents asked remarkably few questions, the doorbell rang.
Kana said farewell and walked quietly out the door. He shut it behind her.
He watched through a window as Haruka yelled at Kana and Kana just stood there and took it, head bowed. He watched as the three broke down and cried, there in each other's arms. He watched as they finally turned and nodded at Takeru, who had simply stood quietly, far to the side. Like Fujioka, he knew better than to involve himself. And he watched as they walked out of his field of his view.
Finally, when he couldn't take it anymore, he ran out and waved at her maniacally, yelling her name-not "Minami!" but "Kana!"-from the balcony.
She turned, and waved back, just as maniacally, and yelled right back. She smiled in the way his heart had ached for ever since she had turned up at his door, wet and tired and so, so sad.
She was back.