This is Nothing
Chie and Yosuke
Chie is more than a little uncomfortable today and she has just figured out why.
She's in Junes, at the food court; and she's having lunch, but she's not alone. It's likely she's staring into space too, but doesn't realize this until a set of fingers waggle in front of her face.
"Is anyone in there?" someone asks. The voice is male and impatient; when she looks up, she sees the boy to whom the voice belongs, and he is staring at her like she has thoroughly offended him. She pushes his hand aside and tries to appear like normal.
This one word reply does nothing to ease his frown.
"Don't 'what' me. I've been pouring my heart out to you and you weren't even listening!"
She'd roll her eyes if she were up to the effort. Yes, ignoring that part about the "heart"and the "pouring"; he wouldn't it mean it that way. Of course not. And of course she isn't a little annoyed because of it. "Sorry, guess I spaced a bit."
"A bit?" he sneers, like he's picked up on her insincerity. "What's the last thing I said then?"
"Something about Junes," she says automatically, naming his favorite reason for self-pity.
"Bz-zt. Wrong." That X he forms with his arms – is it really necessary? There are many things he does that are unnecessary, she has noticed .
Cue a heavy sigh. "Give me a hint?"
"Come on, Satonaka, were you really not listening?" She really hates it when he whines. He scrunches his face up and leans in waaay too close, and-and the combination is just too much for words!
"What the– Hanamura, space!" she yelps, pushing his face away with both her hands. In a way, her position in his life is a convenient one: she can complain all she wants about private space trespass without having to worry about it being taken in a dangerous way. It's convenient – and annoying. Right now, more than ever.
He's angry with her now and she doesn't blame him. "What is wrong with you? You seemed fine a while ago!"
That's because she wasn't aware of anything a while ago. She was as blissfully ignorant as he currently is (and will forever be, at least until she figures out what she wants from this).
If she had not given in to that stupid idea of thinking about this situation, she wouldn't even be in this mess.
"Oh wait, I got it. It's your lady problems, isn't it?"
Something in his phrasing, the know-it-all lilt, brings her attention back to him. She slumps forward, chin in hand, and grumbles, "What are you talking about, Hanamura."
"The reason why you're all moody. Sheesh, if it's your time of the month, you should've said so."
"WHAT? It is not– I'm not– How is that any of your business?" she snarls, getting up so suddenly that her chair clatters to the ground. It's a Sunday, but there are few people in Junes. Nobody but the staff members milling about pay any attention to the two teenagers out in the food court.
That is part of the problem of course. It's a weekend. The thought deflates her instantaneously.
"Ugh, whatever," she mumbles, shoulders sagging from defensive to defeat. "Sorry. Guess I'm still stressed from those midterms."
"No kidding." From his wary tone, he must be eyeing her with some scrutiny.
"Yeah... Even though it's all over, I can still feel Morooka's creepy stare, you know?" She forces a laugh.
"Oh yeah. That guy needs to start buying his pants a few sizes larger, if you know what I mean." He snickers, and she feels considerable relief.
"In bigger sizes."
"Bigger pants, yeah."
As a comeback it's pretty lame, but they laugh at it anyway. Hanamura's easy to please that way; you laugh at his jokes, everything's all good, awkwardness banished. Well, any traces of the visible kind.
She remembers her chair and is thankful for an excuse to turn her back on him. "So what were we talking about again...?" Yes, back to square one, just as things should be. They start where they last left off and everything stays the same.
A shadow falls across her line of vision just as she is about to pick up her chair.
"Marketing strategies," says Hanamura, who lifts the seat off the ground before she can do anything about it, and he sets it to rights, casual-as-you-please, before he leans over the backrest on his elbows. The expression on his face tantalizes and taunts her. "Try to keep up this time, hm?"
"You liar! So it really was about Junes!" she exclaims, inwardly rejoicing at this scapegoat of a topic.
"Excuse me? You started it."
"What! I did not!"
He's all smug disbelief when he drops this bomb: "I invite you to hang out and the thanks I get is you spacing over me? When a guy feeds you, he expects something in return, Satonaka."
When the rage hits her, it renders her momentarily speechless. Her mouth works up and down a few times. The intensity of it surprises even herself.
"Is that how it is?" she finally manages. She doesn't realize that she's been living out a fantasy until she feels it shattering at the very moment he utters those words. That's right, this isn't what she wants it to be. She can pretend at it for as long as she wants, but at the end of the day, this just isn't it.
Never has she hated herself more than at this very moment. Why, Chie, is it so difficult for you to hold your emotions in?
It takes a gargantuan effort to excuse herself, to storm off in the direction of the main store without exploding. Maybe it's thanks to the burning sensation in her eyes that threatened embarrassing things while she sat there in front of him. If there is one thing she will never do, it's cry in front of him.
Especially if he's the cause. She will not be the pitiful child who cries because she is deprived of something sweet.
She had to hide out somewhere he couldn't go. The bathrooms were too obvious (and wouldn't stop him, knowing him and his lack of shame) so making a snap decision, she heads up to the second floor and makes a beeline for the dressing rooms.
Once she is there, she shuts herself in a booth and gathers herself into a corner, buries her face in her knees and sits still.
You will not think about him, you will not see him in your mind. You will not go over your conversations with him, not remember the nice ones, not replay the ones that made you feel like the most stupid being in the entire universe. Neither will you remember the nasty ones, the biting ones, the steel-tipped, armour-piercing painful ones that bury themselves in the softest part of your core.
It is hard. It is hard having these feelings for someone who will never feel the same way.
Chie has her little cry right then because she is overwhelmed and just sixteen. But when she finally emerges from her hiding spot, her face is dry and her mind is clear.
She manages to leave Junes without bumping into him again. She knows he probably went home anyway.
He left her less than a dozen messages in her inbox. She reads each one as she gets off her stop and reaches her street.
Can you tell me where you are?
Satonaka, can you come out of hiding now? I'm sorry.
Hey... Where are you?
Come on, reply already. Where. Are. You?
Are you seriously that mad at me?
Can you come out and meet me outside? I'll be waiting at the table.
Look, I was just kidding when I said that, okay? Thought you'd catch the joke...
Message me later, okay? So I at least know you got home safe.
Really, she doesn't know whether to laugh or scream or throw her phone into the nearest garbage can. Why can't he care in the way that she wanted him to care? Why was it important to her that he cared at all?
After all, it was nothing really. She was just having lunch with him today. Lunch at Junes on a weekend.
Lunch, just the two of them, on a weekend, because he was bored and she was bored and there was nobody else free to hang out with them.
She could laugh, she could cry – maybe she'll do both for a change. And after she does, though her burden isn't any less heavy, she feels like she can take a step forward.
The weekend ends and the weekdays begin, and she doesn't speak to him for a week. Yukiko gives her these worrying little looks but she puts off telling her best friend for as long as it takes.
Why couldn't it have remained Souji? she wonders. It would be so much easier with Souji because he has always felt so unattainable to someone like me.
The weekdays end and the weekends begin, and it is pure coincidence that she is walking along the floodplains when she is hailed by him.
"You still mad?" he asks meekly.
Her first impulse is to punch him because she doesn't want to see his face, or that expression on his face, or feel the skip in her pulse just before it goes erratic.
"I messed up, I get it... My parents always chew me out for running my mouth like that. You'd think I'd learn something from it but..." He sighs. Her lips compress. "Souji froze me out too, when I told him," he adds.
"Good for him," she says tersely, turning around so sharply that she just barely catches the change in his expression.
"Aha! I got you to talk! Wait – where are you going?"
Back to him, all she can hear is his voice, which is better. She doesn't know what to do with herself right now. The fact that he doesn't notice her distress just increases her frustration.
"Don't follow me!" she snarls.
"But we're still not okay, right? Look, I already said that I'm sorry! What more do you want?"
She stops and swings around.
"Why" – she jabs a finger to his chest – "does it even matter to you?" Fury, white-hot fury, pours into her as all of her confused thoughts finally condense into a single realization: "You said it yourself, Yosuke! 'When a guy feeds you, he expects something in return'!"
Hot tears are already trailing down her cheeks when she registers them. His expression is just blank and numb. That right there confirms it for her: not just as a girl... did he never even consider her a proper friend?
What was she to him then?
"I'm just your go-to girl when you don't have anyone else to talk to, huh?" Sniff. Sniff sniff. She wipes her face with the sleeve of her jacket. "Just feed me and I'll totally listen to anything you have to say, huh?"
"Chie– " He stops himself. Looks down. Mumbles: "...it's not like that at all..."
"We're friends right, Hanamura?"
"Of course we are– "
"I always feel miserable around you , you know." He looks absolutely stricken when she says this – it goes straight to her heart. She has to swallow hard to keep her nerve. "It's not all you. Sometimes you catch me at a bad time. But sometimes, it's just the stuff you say..."
He's looking down at his shoes. She's looking down at her shoes. "...yeah. I never mean any of it, it's just– "
Looking down at the ground, avoiding his face, she is determinedly not saying anything as she waits for him to explain himself. He can stew in the silence for all she cares.
Does she still care? She peeks at him, his dejected form, his face clearly still avoiding her direction, and is disgusted to find that it's still there.
Why. Why is the attraction still there? Why does it magnify the hurt so?
Why does she still like this guy in spite of everything?
A relationship between the two of them could never work out under these circumstances.
"When you figure it out, give me a call."
He tries once to call her name, but she ignores him and heads on the path she started.
Are they friends?
Were they even friends?
Did they have to be friends?
Right now, she knows where she wants to stand with him. Should she wait for him to figure out where he wants her to stand?
They had lunch together, once, at Junes.
It was the weekend and it was just the two of them.
She felt something he didn't and it lead to one thing and then another.
Where will it lead next? Where will it end? She doesn't know.
She knows where she wants it to go, but for now, she's given up on ever getting there.
It's a road for two, to that place she wants to go.
AN: Leaving this here... for posterity. Until I am able to write something more satisfying than this angst fest, haha (hoooo boy).