A/N: Love this pairing and thought I'd give them a shot. This fandom is kind of intimidating, but it's nice to write them anyway.
Feedback: Yes, please.
The cold breeze slammed another sheet of rain onto her, helplessly drenching her.
Eri never did master vacant stares as her eyes study the length of the rising river's water. She automatically begins to calculate how the overflowing water laps at the edges of the sidewalk in a semi-rhythmic pattern. The rough tides seem out of place when she thinks about the general calm of most afternoons.
The school uniform clings to her and perhaps on another occasion, it would have been attractive, Naota muses as he walks along the bridge to go home. He stops beside her, umbrella opened with barely enough space for one, but he manages to make room for her, even if it barely makes a difference how much rain falls on her.
The first thing that strikes him is how she wears her devastation like a heavy shroud that doesn't allow her to register much of anything else.
He's always considered her attractive, more so than the bubblegum teenage idol on magazine covers who make his classmates drool. Those sharp eyes (blue-gray, like the sky) don't miss much even though she feigns ignoring her surroundings.
For all the similarity, this scene is characteristic of Mamimi and what she would do, but Eri is different. She's stronger, more stubborn and driven to a fate that she can see so clearly. Seeing her like this is odd, so out of character for the know-it-all class president and the composed, precise image she's worked to cultivate over the years.
He says nothing, holding onto the grip of the umbrella's handle. His pants are getting wet and it's fairly uncomfortable, especially since he's getting cold from the wind blowing past them.
"He's gonna get married," she says and he knows exactly what she's talking about. "To that fucking floozy."
He's taken aback, seeing as the last time she mentioned anything about the matter, it seemed as though her parents were getting along. The political campaign last year had them prominently featured as the perfect family complete with smiles and accomplishments. But then, he's always been aware of the distance between image and reality.
From the looks of it, she probably walked off in the middle of dinner, since she's still wearing her school outfit. A quiet and sort of dramatic protest in her own way. He doubts she's capable of breaking dishes to prove a point.
He merely stares as more water accumulates in her hair and makes her clothes weigh more. The back of his jacket is undergoing the same fate, he notes with some discomfort as he shifts his weight from one foot to the other.
"You're gonna get sick," he says flatly, masking his concern under that sarcastic tone he's mastered so well.
When she turns to face him, her eyes are surprisingly clear and there's barely any evidence of that persistent anger coupled with sadness and frustration.
"Come on," he adds with an edge of impatience before taking her arm to guide her away.
She nods once and seems somewhat relieved at the warmth his hand radiates through the heavy material.
By an implied mutual agreement, they won't mention their meeting at school the next morning. Because even though they're friends, they're different (he's labeled a delinquent for skipping class whenever he feels like it; she never misses a day, even if it kills her).
He sure as hell isn't out to corrupt her because she won't let herself. And she's not quite out to reform him because seriously, how terribly cliché is that?
Despite the glimmer of a sort-of attraction she's been harboring for him for several years, she isn't willing to reduce whatever this is into a caricature of a bad romance taken from sappy films. She's quite content to wait until this thing loses its grip on her so she can finally get over idealizing this ridiculous crush. But sadly, that stupid attraction is there, manifesting itself in the way she worries for him.
And to have him look after her for a change isn't helping her with the I need to get over you timetable. It doesn't help that she's scrutinizing him for any possible meanings in the way he looks at her by mentally replaying it over and over. She scrubs at her scalp with the available minty shampoo hoping it will wash away those thoughts.
The hot spray that hits her in the shower is slightly painful at first, since it makes the numbness go away. She is made aware of the steam and the chill of the hallway when she steps out in the robe Naota lent her.
She doesn't knock when she goes into his room (the first door on the left at the top of the staircase), which is why she sees him hunched over a guitar.
He plucks gently at the cords, sounding out a low melody of no particular order and as easily forgettable as the fleeting whimsy that inspired it. It's really kind of rare to see him so concentrated like this.
Upon looking up, his eyes are slow to raise his gaze at her. There's an odd shiver that trails down her back that she tries to attribute to a random bead of water sliding down her spine.
It is a strange moment when she has nothing to say, completely dumbfounded by the way he's looking at her. Something burns under her skin in a slightly masochistic way that doesn't feel bad at all. She feels herself warming under the attention.
"Your clothes are drying," he says aloud after a moment longer of silence. There's that matter of fact tone that should belong to her, but somehow manages to elude her at the moment.
Unexpectedly nervous, her hand reaches up to scratch the nape of her neck when she realizes the front of the robe is a little too exposed, showing off way more cleavage than he's ever seen on her. She immediate covers up by tucking the front of the robe deeper into her side and tightening the belt until she's sure it'll leave a mark on her skin.
"Right," she replies, turning around, suddenly embarrassed.
The blank wall stares back at her blush and she finds herself hating the attention that makes her feel like a silly little girl.
He's smirking as she hears him dig through his dresser to retrieve pajama pants and one of his old shirts.
While she's huffing angrily at herself, he steps up behind her to offer the clothes as his arm winds around her shoulder.
"Here," he says simply. She fails to see how the look he gives her takes in the slope of her forehead to the tip of her chin.
And with a simple word, she notes the soft tone of his voice, slightly melodic in her ear. She wants so much to hear it again, just like that. But before she has a chance to thank or berate him, he's stepped out into the hallway, letting the door click shut behind him.
Ninamori pulls on her damp hair in exasperation.
Dinner is another thing altogether, as Ninamori sits in with the Nandaba family.
She hasn't spent the night since they were both twelve during the time that weird girl claiming to be the alien housekeeper hung around. For all the strangeness of that time period, this seems rather normal to her now. Comfortable, even.
Kamon babbles on about his 'zine and the benefits of being an underground publication, even though no one reads it. Shigekuni barks orders at Kanti, who merely shuffles around to serve them all as efficiently as possible. For not even tasting the food, the tempura Kanti made is well done and reasonably seasoned. She's learned a long time not to question such oddities and just take a certain amount of mystery to go along with it.
The most notable thing she sees is that Naota doesn't look as sour as when they were younger. He seems rather laid back this time around and doesn't bother trying to cover up or excuse his family's weirdness.
The rain hasn't let up and for once, she's grateful for the bad weather. There's probably minor flooding that would surely impede her from going home and it's not a bad thing at all, considering the awkward silence of the past few weeks.
A clap of thunder sounds through the small dining room, making Kamon jump and cling to the nearest body available. Naota yanks her away in time to avoid Kamon colliding into her. The last thing she sees before the lights go out is Naota's frown directed above her head.
She ends up plastered against him instead and if the lights had stayed on, the two would've looked as though in the middle of a intimate embrace.
"Umm, thanks," she mumbles to his collar bone.
This close, he smells like a lazy afternoon in the sun. It's rather nice, she thinks as she reluctantly extracts herself to sit upright once more. A mostly dormant part of her suddenly wakes as she wonders what it would be like to press her lips against his skin. But then she silently kicks herself for even thinking about such a thing in the middle of an awkward situation.
Amid the wailing sounds of Kamon bemoaning the lack of electricity and his grandfather pointing out some random historical fact about thunderstorms, Naota merely clears his throat.
"Yeah, no prob," he mutters, although he feels his face heat up.
No doubt she'd call him a pervert for even thinking about her in any way less than platonic. Somehow, that doesn't explain why she's so slow to move away from him and reaches for his shoulder even when she doesn't need it to steady herself.
Still, they're both grateful for the dark since it means they don't have to look at each other, lest it break the spell of indifference.
Kanti eventually makes it to the circuit breaker despite having Kamon stuck to his leg.
Perhaps because of Kamon's insinuations about Eri's presence well after dark, Naota has the bright idea to catch a late movie on the television even though it is a school night.
If anything, the neutral living room area would keep his father from saying stupid things about the two of them sleeping behind a closed door in the same room.
An old detective story is playing in black and white and mostly faded grays on the screen. It emits a soft glare on the living room walls, casting nonthreatening shadows behind them. Even the dialogue is subdued underneath the tense plot.
Her eyelids are dropping before half of the film passes and she's not sure if she'll be able to stay up long enough to know if the butler did it. As she struggles to remain awake, her tired body begins a slow downward slide that eventually has her resting against a pleasant warmth. For all the things troubling her, she can't seem to recall a single thing as she breathes easily.
Naota doesn't bother trying to move her, since he's too tired himself to really do anything about it. It's when he looks down at the stray locks of hair across her face that he realizes they probably should have gone to sleep in his room. Because then the two of them would be in separate beds (since he's long gotten over saving Tasuku's spot) and she wouldn't be sidled up next to him.
Yeah, he thinks skeptically, even though he's brushing away soft hair from her face.
His blames his muddled thoughts on sleep when she presses his hand against her cheek and mumbles incoherently. Gradually, he shifts to lie on his back and she follows suit by trying to find a comfortable spot as she uses his chest as a pillow.
Rising early is a habit Eri gained long ago by hearing it so long from her parents to get to class on time. She's gotten to the point where she can anticipate her alarm clock by at least 15 minutes.
This morning is no different, even without the alarm. She's more tired than usual and her arm is asleep, but she's in relatively good shape as her bleary eyes open. Still, she revels in the warmth from an unknown source and even burrows into it a little more, nuzzling what she perceives to be a cushion in the unknown room.
Then she feels a slow rise and drop when she finally notices that there's a heartbeat under her ear. And it's quite steady.
Her eyes snap open and take a moment to properly focus on the surroundings.
The nearly mute morning news broadcast is playing on the television. Old curtains are filtering pale sunlight into the room. The two of them are asleep on the couch. And she's on top of Naota.
While her first instinct is to scramble off him and bolt out of there, she's aware that such movements would wake him. And that would be no good, since it would intensify the awkwardness of the situation.
She's surprised at how rational she can think so early in the morning, especially with a potentially difficult moment on her hands.
She proceeds slowly to raise herself off him, sliding her head off his chest first. Her arms are next, even though she can't really feel one of them all that well. It's a breathless moment when she hovers over him momentarily and makes the mistake of looking at him.
And it hits her how freaking adorable he looks then and there. Well, except for a few stubborn strands of hair over his forehead that she very much wants to push out of the way.
He's still asleep and it's definitely a good thing, lest she be blamed for wanting to take advantage of him. And while he may be sort of right (after all, she did stay over uninvited), coming onto him is not the kind of thing she's interested in doing (not most of the time anyway, if she's completely honest and certainly not now).
But he's breathing calmly and slowly while she tries to get a hold of herself in the current dilemma.
The latest lessons in probability from class kick in, telling her there's a strong chance he'll wake up if she jars him too much.
Her semi-acrobatic skills come into use as she maneuvers herself off him. Then she remembers how the bad blood flow of her arm is not going to provide any support when tries to grip the edge of the couch and winds up rolling onto the floor in a semi-gracious state.
She tenses, waiting for him to wake up and freak out.
But when nothing happens, she merely stares at the ceiling and works on making the circulation flow properly again in her arm.
And after finally leaving the pesky couch, she takes a moment to celebrate her victorious escape by stretching her arms upward and arching her back. Her head is rolling pleasantly on her shoulders when she finally realizes that she's wearing his (very comfortable) clothes and there's a quiz she forgot to prep for.
The good student in her begins to panic since since she doesn't know exactly where her school uniform is hanging.
She takes another look at him and remembers seeing him sleeping before. That time when he didn't show up to class for a few days. She'd foregone the morning ride to school and decided to walk instead. He was asleep on a sidewalk bench like some bum under a thin layer of newspaper. And beside him was the housekeeper with bright pink hair.
Her fists tighten.
She stares at him again. There's one arm his above his head and the other is on his stomach. It leaves her momentarily wondering if he fell asleep with his fingers in her hair. Unconsciously, her fingers rake gently along her scalp.
That brief bit of anger as the memory somewhat fades away, but not enough for her to get completely over it.
A little inspiration arrives when she kneels beside him and reaches out to brush back that annoying lock of hair from his face.
For all her breathless anticipation, nothing happens.
He dreams away normally, steadily.
Slightly braver, she lets her fingers trail along his forehead, down his cheek and across his jaw. And then studies him some more, taking in the lines of his face so up close.
I need to get over you, she chants in her head, even though she's looking rather intently at his mouth and wondering entirely too much about how the exact feel and pressure of a kiss would taste.
Technically, they've kissed before, but it was mostly accidental, seeing as he was knocked out by the vespa woman as he hurtled towards her. In that way, it doesn't really count if she's the only one that remembers it. He was out cold with those cute kitty ears on his head appearing when his hat had fallen. Kind of like he is now. Minus the strange appendages, that is.
Ninamori sighs, thinking how nothing's ever really been all that normal between them in such a boring town.
An echo of a fairy tale reminds her of sleepy royals that are supposed to wake up and she wonders if it applies to boys as well. She's tempted to run her thumb along his lower lip to see if it's really as soft as it seems, but withdraws her hand at the last second.
Instead, her hands reach lower before she pulls out the pillow under his head.
This time, he wakes up freaking out.