Author's Notes: If you are a newcomer to this series, I suggest you read 'Time Out! Substitution!' before reading this fic. Thanks in advance!
Moving on, to everyone who has supported the Time Out! Substitution! project, here is my labor of love to you! The sequel to Time Out! Substitution! is finally here! Chapter 1, commence! Once again, thank you very much and I hope you enjoy it! As in all my works, reviews are appreciated!
Full Court Press!
Chapter 1 – Prologue
The sun was up and about in suburban Osaka that morning as I lay half-asleep in my bed. With one eye closed, and another looking out to that purple sky slowly turning to blue or yellow or whatever hue you may want to invoke to describe the morning sky. I never really figured out what color it was… but it definitely wasn't periwinkle. Bored by the thought finding the proper color to describe the sky, I stretched and got up from bed with a nice long yawn. Getting up on my feet, my half-asleep self stood before a mirror and sighed. I was wearing my pajamas, not a skirt and blouse… and the fact that the hair on my head was my natural black and not the dirty brown of that wig was reassuring too. Traumatic events like that memorable day have a way of rooting themselves in your daily routine. Making sure I wasn't unconsciously cross-dressing every so often was a point in case. The fact that I actually had a paperback copy of 'Freudian Psychiatry for Dummies' now in my study was another… It's been about a month since that grand performance at Sakura-gakou's Cultural Festival already, but I'm pretty sure these tiny quirks I developed will be there for quite a long time.
Rubbing my eyes, I took off those pajamas and slipped into the two-piece Gakuran uniform, my actual uniform in my actual school. No ribbons, no frills, no breezy skirts. This was the uniform men are supposed to wear – I take pride in it everyday. Remembering that time I had to walk around school in my sister's uniform was something else after all, but that medal I deserved for practically making my dignity commit suicide hasn't come in the mail yet – it probably never will, oh well. At least it was over.
Now that I was in my uniform again, I stepped out of my room and headed downstairs early. The early bird gets the worm after all… or in this case, the extra cup of rice. Practically running down the stairs, I got on the table eagerly and waited patiently for the spoils of my punctuality.
"You're up early young man." Mom said as she fried fish and eggs on the stove, "And I assume you're heading out early again."
"Maybe." I said with a grin as I sank into the dining chair. Mom then put the rice bowl and the dishes she had already finished making before me. "Thanks mom."
"Are you absolutely sure you don't want me to make you lunch though?" Mom asked with a smile
"Yeah, don't worry about it." I reassured as I started to eat. Before I could even taste my first wedge of tamago though, Dad came over from the ground floor master's bedroom and Ritsu came from her room upstairs.
"Tch, he got the extra rice again…" Ritsu muttered
"Yeah…" Dad groaned, "We should get here earlier next time."
What was this, a sustenance embargo or something? I won this extra rice fair and square!
"Well, Satoshi-kun got here first." Mom defended, "So as promised, he gets the extra rice today."
"It's called democracy, people." I joked. Dad's and Ritsu's grumbling stomach however told me they weren't laughing. The two of them just dejectedly took their places on the table and sighed.
"Satoshi-kun's been inspired lately." Dad then laughed, rustling my hair, "Usually, it was me or Ristu who competed for the extra cup."
"Yeah." Ritsu said, remembering that time, "You used to be curled up in bed till fifteen minutes before class."
"What can I say?" I said proudly, "I just really like my food!"
"Whose food exactly, Satoshi-kun?" Mom asked as she joined us at the table, "My cooking or Ui-chan's? Ui-chan has been making your lunches for quite a while now."
Oh dear, they had me cornered. It was a usual occurrence here in the Tainaka household recently, so I already knew how to respond.
"I like both." I laughed, "All food is good, mom."
"Then why have Ui-chan make your lunches?" Ritsu prodded, "Ever since that day…"
Ritsu and my parents then burst into laughter. Ungh… they still remember that day.
"At least she doesn't make you cross-dress." Ritsu laughed harder, "If ever she does, you're free to borrow my headband anytime."
"Shut it…" I said angrily, before laughing myself. That certain conversation piece wasn't exactly my favorite, but looking back at something like that was quite funny. Whether or not that meant I was laughing at myself was another question though. Whatever. It reminded me of that other thing that came about from that memorable day. I asked Ui out and now the two of us were dating. I still can't believe I actually asked her out... but it's all good. At least I know I'm still a healthy guy.
"Ever since that day," Ritsu said, "the two of you have been going out. The girls have been talking about it at school, you know."
"So do my friends at my school… sheesh." I said, "They just won't let it go."
"It's because you've changed, kid." Ritsu said, "You used to be such an apathetic 'I don't care if the world blew up tomorrow' person."
I still was, for the most part, but I didn't tell her that.
"Now though, you're much sweeter." Ritsu teased, "All thanks to Ui-chan."
Ungh… rainbows and butterflies had no place in my dark, cynical world. Ever since Ui-chan came into my life though, that's changed somehow and I've accepted that - that immigration of rainbows and butterflies and all things cute I used to (and still somewhat and always will) despise just won't stop. But it's okay. The dark side never really had cookies anyways. Being with Ui was much sweeter than cookies.
"Just remember these things, son." Dad said, pointing his chopsticks at me for emphasis, "When it comes to relationships, you have to give it your all."
Here he goes again…
"You have to maintain it," he said passionately, "you have to be sweet to her, you have to listen to her, you have to help her whenever she has problems… and you always have to defend her."
What's this? Telling a fifteen year old boy about how to treat his girlfriend…
"I know it sounds silly in this day and age, but until you're willing and able to do those things with all your heart… then you can't call it love. If you truly love each other, then you'll be together no matter what."
"That's right." Mom added, "Your dad and I were married when we were young because we liked each other and wanted to have a family, but we stayed together all these years because we loved each other. There's a difference between liking and loving, Satoshi-kun."
Wait… was she saying she wanted me to get married to Ui? Not this early, mom! Not this early! I still have my whole life ahead of me… though that doesn't mean getting married to her wasn't part of my plan. Let me at least get a stable job first...
"Let's talk about that in the future, shall we." I said with a smile, "We've only been together for a month. Who knows what'll happen tomorrow?"
"It's just a piece of advice, young man." Dad chuckled, "Now finish up. She's probably waiting for you already."
"I'm going too!" Ritsu said, finishing up her own food as well, "I'm walking with Yui and Mio to school today after all – I might as well tag along."
"Right." I said, putting my plates in the sink, "Let's go sis."
"Have a nice day." Our parents said to us as we left. Then we were on our way. What the future holds for me and Ui, I don't really mind. Bring it on! I've been through hell and back already... how much worse could it get?
To Be Continued