live-action canon, post-series
(also -- i feel i should mention that i've only seen the drama; haven't read more than five or six pages of the manga, which is probably a travesty of near moose-proportions. i'm hatching plans even now, however, to remedy the situation. possibly with the assistance of pie and coffee. and who knows what sort of splugging afterbirth of a fic might result from that frightful combination...? truly, a potential grotesquerie to avoid.
...i've forgotten where the point was in all that.)
This fic utilizes Every Trope J-drama has ever employed. Fair warning.
[i don't even own the USB drive this fic is saved on. what're the chances i own the original story?]
Akiyama finds that it's impossible to leave her alone for any length of time. How she's managed to fend for herself and stay alive as long as she has is still a bewildering point of interest for him, and it annoys him (like everything about her annoys him, from the frequency and irrefutable sincerity of her wide, gleaming smiles to the lightness of step and ease of manner afforded only to those few –often mindless and completely idiotic—denizens of the world wholly unburdened by the knowledge of the wickedness lurking in every dark corner, beyond every shadowed threshold), because he's a genius after all, and anything that escapes his immediate understanding vexes him. But more than the mystery of her persistent, obnoxious innocence and unflagging willingness to believe in anything and everything that bid her do so, there is the issue of her utter ineptitude at staying out of trouble.
Sometimes, the sheer magnitude of her stupidity is almost irreconcilable, and there are occasions when he almost manages to pull himself away from her, to convince himself that she isn't any of his business, and neither are any of her manifold, (often unwittingly) self-imposed misfortunes, but invariably, neither of these concerns ever breaches the impossible-to-quantify 'almost' barrier and cross over into absolutes, and he stays.
Watches, waits, and stays.
And then, when she has gone, satisfied that the world is a magical and incandescent utopia where no one ever lies and no one ever gets hurt and everything eventually works out for the best, he follows in the shadows her brilliance casts, seeks out the darker elements that would dare to beguile her, and punishes them. (To his credit, he does always try to give said ne'er-do-wells a chance to make amends. They very rarely ever do.)
For the better part of three months, his spare time has been consumed by making sure she doesn't throw herself headlong into some financial or physical snafu, and it's beginning to wear on him. He can't imagine his life with her actually in it, and so he never answers her phone calls, despite her determined attempts to reestablish contact. The Liar Game, whether truly over or not, has yet to be reinitiated, and with the absence of school, the freedom from the monotony of prison, and the (possibly only temporary) reprieve from the pernicious game that had brought Kanzaki Nao to him in the first place, he finds that he has nothing better to do than to silently repay the peace she's managed somehow (despite her inconceivable naivete) to bring him. If nothing else, it's a comfortable routine; sometimes the characters (more often villains than not) are vaguely to strongly reminiscent of one another, but at least the work is very rarely ever boring.
Tonight, it seems, the girl has clearly had enough of waiting around for the fourth stage of the Liar Game to reunite them, and she's doing a spectacular job of offering herself up –freely and eagerly—for all manner of humiliation and abuse. Two men, formerly posted at the bar, whose presence he's marked only for their not-so-furtive glances at his gullible charge's table, seem finally to have overcome their sobriety, replanting themselves on either side of her, where she appears perhaps slightly uncomfortable at their proximity, but otherwise unperturbed or suspicious of their intentions.
Something else about Kanzaki Nao that he does not –no, refuses to understand is the way she makes him feel. Now, for instance, he cannot –will not identify the source of the warm anger that rolls over him in increasingly virulent waves as he sits, watching her socialize in an entirely platonic and overtly-friendly manner with these men who very clearly have no interest in anything she has to say. He wonders, not for the first time, at the inexplicable absurdity of his attachment to this hopeless creature.
The two young men don't seem the type to drag her bodily out of the restaurant, but he's monitoring them carefully anyway to make sure they don't try to slip anything into her food or drink. Surely, surely she wouldn't be idiotic enough to leave with these men, and Akiyama resolves decisively that unless she does (his brow furrows and his head pounds because this scenario isn't entirely out of the question), he's staying put, safely out of her visual range, definitively out of her life.
And, of course, despite his resolve, he nevertheless finds himself approaching her table (some fifteen seconds later) with something resembling horror (though more closely related to uncomprehending disbelief) twisting unpleasantly in his gut as she answers one of their more lewd questions (apparently phrased vaguely enough for her to miss the implication entirely) –with all the oblivious effervescence of a two-year-old, and an oh-so-sprightly and enthusiastic,
"M, of course!" He watches the man she's addressed meet the gaze of his friend on the other side of her with a wide, leering grin, eyes bright with excitement, and his stomach lurches. "Akiyama-san seemed a little uncertain about it at first when I asked him, and I almost said yes to 'S,' but then he decided that I really am 'M.'" Her smile is broad and she is so painfully clueless that he can't help but to reflect on the possibility that Natural Selection has been reworking some of its more fundamental parameters for survival. A sigh of tired exasperation shudders through him.
"Akiyama-san, eh?" The other man is chuckling, and she laughs because it seems like the appropriate thing to be doing. He doesn't know if he likes the sound of her laughter or not, the way it lilts and dances, chasing the curves of her smile up to crinkle her large brown eyes. "Is Akiyama-san your boyfriend?" It brings him pause when, in response to this question, she chokes briefly on the drink she's in the process of swallowing, some of the liquid spilling from between her lips to dribble gracelessly down her chin and onto her dress. The man to her left, more non-descript than his friend (though the one Akiyama has instinctively singled out as more wary-worthy), guffaws unattractively and lifts her napkin from beside her plate, reaching as if to wipe soda from her face, his voice dripping with an unspoken jeer,
"Or maybe just your crush…?" The man's fingers, encased in the napkin as they are, are halted abruptly mere centimeters from her chin.
"You were right the first time." Akiyama says, (not-quite) glaring at the man whose name he doesn't know and won't ask for.
Meanwhile, Nao is staring up at him in shock, soda still slipping over smooth, luminous skin.
"A-Akiyama-san!" He gives the two men several seconds to piece the situation together, and then glances meaningfully at each of them in turn until they stumblingly dismiss themselves. He finds that he's glad neither one of them are in the mood to make a scene; frankly, he has no interest in getting into it with two drunken idiots to defend the honor of a girl who still doesn't realize she's wearing her drink.
He watches her reprovingly while he moves to inhabit the seat to her right, pulling his shirtsleeve up and over his wrist so he can dab at the thick, syrupy liquid yet clinging to her fair skin.
"Akiyama-san, what…is…" Her voice drops to a conspiratorial whisper, and her head ducks slightly so it's just beside his, "…is it time for the next round?" He doesn't respond at first, instead holding her wide-eyed gaze with an impassive stoicism he hopes she's used to by now, his sharp mind not working around anything except the contours of her face, the barest jut of her lip—
His eyes descend to his shirtsleeve, hovering inches away from her face, and with his other hand he tilts her face up by her chin, moving his sleeve (rather more slowly than the situation may actually permit) underneath her jaw, over her throat, down the exposed part of her collarbone, and just as he makes the decision that it's time now to pull away, she trembles, minutely, barely at all, and sucks in a tiny, ragged breath, and he thinks for an instant that maybe she isn't completely hopeless—but then he's pulling away from her, sitting up, ignoring the searching Look in her eyes, speaking,
"No, it isn't. I just happened to be out for a bite to eat, and then I overheard some ridiculously trusting and overly-naïve girl telling a couple of guys things people don't speak of in polite society, and I had to come over and tell her to keep her mouth shut." She seems confused initially as to his meaning. But then it apparently dawns on her, and she claps a hand over her mouth.
"I-I'm sorry, Akiyama-san! I figured since they didn't know about the Liar Game, it wouldn't matter if I told them which way I'd voted on the S&M question. Plus it seems like it's a pretty common question…" His forehead encounters the heel of his palm in an uncharacteristic overt display of frustration.
He was wrong. She is, now and forever, completely hopeless.
"Never mind. Stay here. I'm gonna go get a menu." His heart leaps into his throat when, after standing and turning to retrieve said item, he feels a light pressure at his wrist, as if five very small, very timid fingers have wrapped around it.
"A-Akiyama-san…I'm glad to see you again." He spares a glance back at her, where she's smiling nervously. This is a somewhat different expression than he's used to seeing, and it throws him. Just a little. "And…and…earlier, when you were talking to that man…did you…did you say you were my...boyfriend?" His fingers flick into a fist, the movement convulsive and inadvertent. Her smile is open and earnest and hopeful.
She's beautiful, breath-taking, and the acknowledgment isn't so much surprising as it is enormously irritating.
He considers telling her that the declaration had obviously been a spontaneous subterfuge to fend off her two inebriated companions and whatever (likely unsavory) intentions they'd been harboring, considers lecturing her for making such an easy target of herself and trying to impress upon her the need for discretion and the folly of her habit of blindly trusting strangers, but the quiet profundity of her touch renders him incapable of speech altogether.
Alarmed, he twists his arm free of her flimsy grasp and takes a measured step backward, appraising the girl as her countenance falters for an instant, crestfallen, before she manages a feeble grin, the strained quirk of her lips a pale, flat imitation of its beaming counterpart.
He's beginning to become acclimated to this exasperation, he muses darkly, and mentally heaves a sigh that feels a lot more like grim resignation than he'd prefer.
"Yes, well," he begins, carefully avoiding the catalytic peril of touching any part of her, "someone's got to keep an eye on you." The return of her smile threatens to blind him.
In the unhappily abrupt way of dawning epiphany, he realizes he's never going to escape her, that he's always going to be stuck with her and the trouble trailing along beside her wherever she goes, like some freakishly malicious puppy.
...and the horrifying, sickening part?
He doesn't think he even minds.
When I first wrote this, there wasn't yet a category for Liar Game fic.
So this's been sitting on the shelf for a while, forgotten and neglected, until I decided to start rifling through old materials for something new to post.
[newly revised and polished for sheen on 09.13.09]