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Cliche Confessional

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The interwoven bars of steel were cold against her skin, a consequence of the fast approaching evening.  The rays of the rapidly retiring sun sent little tongues of flame to prance on the exposed metal framework, stark against the backdrop of deepening blue sky behind it.  The rooftop was quiet.  Almost tranquil, were it not for the sounds which floated up from the front lot below, the celebratory chaos of the spring festival.  All the same, it could probably still claim the title of the most peaceful location in the school at the moment.  Which was at least half the reason why Satsuki was there.  The remaining half was linked directly to a particular individual who had selected it as the site for their meeting.  Requested it, to be precise.  An individual who was somewhat conspicuously absent.

Satsuki glanced down at her phone and curled her lips over into a partial frown.  I should’ve seen this coming.  Timeliness is not one of his qualities.  I’m giving him five more minutes, and then I’m out.

Her eyes wandered away from the screen and down toward the festivities below, which were still very much in full swing.  It appeared as though preparations for the folk dancing were underway.  I’ll be damned if I’m missing out on my last chance for that.  Single or not, I’m gonna make it count.  He better hurry the hell up if he doesn’t want to arrive to an empty roof.

The metallic squeal of a door sliding open brought her attention back up to her immediate vicinity.  Rotating about, she leaned her elbows against the railing and watched as the possible object of her ire (only time would tell for certain) joined her on the rooftop.  “Say, who was it who asked me to meet him at five-fifteen?,” she inquired, a healthy dose of sarcasm in her voice.

“Leo held me up.  You know how it is,” Hajime answered with a shrug, waving off the question.  “Hey, you ever think about how it’s kinda weird that it’s this easy for us to get up on the roof?  Like, seriously, you’d think they’d lock this shit or something,” he gestured back toward the door as he continued, “but nope.  I mean, they even have a stair well that leads right up to it.  Come on, they might as well hang a sign on the door that say ‘designated ditching area’ or something.”

Satsuki rolled her eyes and fought down the urge to sigh.  “That’s your great insight for the day, huh?  What next, that Haruki Nakamura is an asshole?  Show a little creativity.”

“Man, there’s no pleasing some people, is there?,” he drawled snarkily as he moved to lean up against the wall not far from her.

“It’s called having standards,” she retorted.  “You should try it.”

He yawned dramatically.  “Thanks, no thanks.  Sounds booooorring.”

As his elongated syllable came to a close, Satsuki remarked disdainfully, “You know, I’m starting to wish I wasn’t wasting my time up here, when I could be enjoying better company.”

“Better company?,” Hajime asked incredulously.  “Like who?  Don’t tell me you mean Miss Bible Belt!  ‘Cause you can’t say you have standards in one sentence and turn around and say you want to hang out with the Pentecostal freak in the next!”

“Momoko’s just fine, thank you very much!,” Satsuki shot back.  She paused momentarily, and then added, with less vigor, “Even if she is a little . . . enthusiastic sometimes.”

“Oh yeah, and by enthusiastic, you mean crazy!  I swear, she was playing a Casting Crowns song on repeat in her car the other day, like she thought if we heard it enough times, it would brainwash us into singing along or some shit!  And now it’s stuck in my head!  Do you know what that hell’s like?  All I can hear is ‘Who am I?’ over and over again, like it’s some sort of evangelical summoning incantation!  Say it three times and Joel Osteen appears!”

Satsuki shuddered.  “Oh, that one’s bad.  But,” she continued, “For your information, I’ve had it worse!  At least you didn’t have to listen to Chris Tomlin!  That’s a whole different level of pain!”

“No way it can be worse than this!  This has like, one entire piano part in the whole song, and it just plays over and over again, until my brain starts bleeding!”

“Are you kidding?  That’s all of them!  Just be glad that one’s almost a normal length.  He has this one song that goes on for so long you can’t tell if it’s a new song or not, because it sounds exactly like what you heard five minutes ago, but that doesn’t really mean anything!”

“Ouch.” Hajime winced sympathetically.  “That does sound pretty bad.  Kinda makes me glad she mostly sees you when she’s in town.”  His sympathy turned into a satisfied grin.

“Uh huh.  Now you know what you’re missing out on,” Satsuki stated, crossing her arms.  “Plus, you can’t act like she’s not your friend too.  Even if she is obnoxious.  And . . .” she paused dramatically, before pointing an accusatory finger in Hajime’s direction, “At least she’s not a pervert.”

Hajime’s grin promptly disappeared.  “Who are you calling a pervert?,” he asked indignantly, imitating Satsuki’s recently crossed arms.  “Because I’m totally not one.”

“Bullshit!,” Satsuki declared.  “If there was an image in the dictionary next to the word ‘pervert,’ it would be you leering at some girl’s butt like some creep in his sixties.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about man, but it sounds like a load of crap to me,” Hajime replied dispassionately, fixing his hand behind his head, and closing his eyes as if absolutely relaxed.

“You can anime pose all you want, it doesn’t change the truth,” Satsuki commented decisively.

Hajime stifled another fake yawn.  “Yeah, but since it’s still not true, I’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“Oh, really?”  Satsuki remarked, a note of challenge entering her voice.  “You so sure about that?”

Hajime cracked open one eye and regarded Satsuki apathetically.  “Yep.  One hundred percent.”

“Hmmm, alright.  If you say so.”  Satsuki tone had taken a more devious turn.  “I guess I’m just the type of person who prefers empirical evidence, if you know what I mean.”

The brow above Hajime’s open eye crawled higher on his forehead.  “Empirical what now?

“Empirical evidence.  Like, for example, how would you react if I . . . told you what color my bra was right now?”

Hajime’s eye abruptly snapped shut.  “I don’t think I’d have any particular reaction,” he responded slowly, his voice unnaturally even.

“Huh, really?  Wow, color me impressed.  So, you’re saying that you wouldn’t care if I mentioned it was pink.”

“Yep.  Pretty much,” Hajime replied, his tone clipped.  Satsuki could hear the slightest wave in his voice.

“Okay then.  Well, good to know.”  She paused, tilting her head, still playing innocent.  “By the way, Hajime, why do you have your eyes closed anyway?”

“No reason,” Hajime answered, in the same brusque manner as his last response.  “Just cause I felt like it.”

“I mean, alright.  I just don’t want you to miss out on anything.”

“Like what?” Hajime asked, his eyes still very much shut.

“Oh, I dunno, like me hiking up my skirt so you could see that I have on a matching set today.”

Hajime’s eyes abruptly flew open.  In unison, a small trickle of blood ran down from his nose.  His cheeks flushed crimson as he saw that he had been deceived.

“I knew it!”  Satsuki proclaimed triumphant.  “You are such a perv!  Come on, did you actually think I was gonna show you my panties?!  You’re insufferable sometimes!”

Hajime looked away hastily and snorted.  “I have no idea what you’re talking about!,” he asserted, although his embarrassment was evident in his voice.

“Uh huh, I’m sure you don’t.  At least you have the decency to be ashamed about it nowadays.  I mean, when we were younger, you were just creepy!”

Hajime didn’t look back, but his tone shifted as he spoke again, to something vaguely resembling apologetic.  “Yeah, well . . . I was kind of stupid sometimes back then.”  He turned back, a confident (although less cocky than previously) smile returning to his face.  “But hey, I guess I’ve matured some.”

Satsuki face was rich with skepticism.  “We’re eighteen.  If your idea of ‘acting your age’ is actually being embarrassed by the fact that you’re a perv, then I think maturity’s lost on you.”

Hajime shrugged, maintaining his casual demeanor, but not fielding an outright comeback.  “Maybe so.”

Satsuki shook her head, looking as though she was more annoyed then outright angry.  “Whatever.”  She glanced over her shoulder at the activity below.  It looked as if she still had a little time before the dancing began.  “So,” she began briskly, “Why am I up here anyway?”

He followed her gaze out over the edge of the railing, through from his position, she doubted he could actually see down to the ground.  “Well, like I said when I asked, there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.” 

“Alright.”  Satsuki nodded.  “So, what is it?”

“It’s kinda important,” Hajime revealed, reaching up to scratch at his neck.  He still sounded collected, but Satsuki could discern a barely audible tremulous quality to his voice.  Whatever the topic in question was, it seemed like he was trying to play it off like no big deal.

“Important, huh?  Like, season two important?”

Hajime gave a short laugh.  “I wish.”

“So, what is all this then?”  She gestured around broadly at the roof.  “I thought this was a pilot or teaser, or something!”

He shook his head.  “Nope.”  He raised an eyebrow.  “Did you really?”

She crossed her arms again.  “So what if I did?  What’s wrong with that?  A girl can dream you know.”

He inclined his head dubiously.  “I mean, it’s been like fifteen years though.  Pretty sure if there was gonna be a season two, it would have been in ‘o-three, or something like that.  Plus, did you forget about the fact that we kind of bombed?”

She threw up her hands irritably.  “We all agreed never to talk about that!  Anyway, for the record, we were big overseas!  So your argument is invalid!  I mean, we’re clearly in our dub iterations right now, based on the fact that Momoko’s a protestant pain in the ass!”

“Oh yeah, and success overseas in really a crowning accomplishment, huh?,”  Hajime riposted.  “Because as we all know, Americans have such excellent taste in humor!”

“I think we’re plenty funny!,” Satsuki protested.  “Plus, you’re just mad they made you into even more of a perv than you were in the original!”  Her eyes flashed defiantly.

“No shit!,” Hajime agreed emphatically.  “I mean, why couldn’t they have had Ayres play the pervert?  Just give him a camera and an Italian-sounding name, and he’s good to go!”

“Because,” Satsuki pointed out authoritatively.  “Somehow Haberkorn would’ve ended up in it too, and then some weird twincest arc would’ve developed!”

“Dammit, even though that makes practically no sense, I hate it when you’re right!,” Hajime griped.

“Anyway,” Satsuki said with a pointed roll of her eyes, “If this isn’t a teaser for the second season, what is this?”  Without warning, she froze.  “Wait . . . is this an OVA?  Son of a bitch!”  She threw her hands up in the air, and leaving her place at the railing, marched forward past Hajime.  “Well, I might as well just leave now, because I can forget about having any meaningful character development!  It’s all pointless filler from here on out!  We can kiss progressing the story goodbye!”

“It’s not that either,” Hajime deadpanned, sounding thoroughly unimpressed by Satsuki’s exasperation. She wheeled about to look at him, halfway to the door.  “Well then what is it?”

“It’s nothing from the studio,” he clarified.

Tossing her hands into the air in vexation once more, Satsuki shot a scathing look up into the sky.  “Damn you corporate bastards!,”  She raged theatrically with a shake of her fist.  “You don’t know a good thing when you see it!  This is quality material right here!  Where’s my reboot, dammit?!  My resume’s looking pretty fucking empty right now!  What do you have to say about that?!  You promised me a franchise!  Do you hear me?  A franchise!  With merchandising options and an advertising campaign with a popular pizza chain that I can’t name for legal reasons because you screwed up that deal!”

“You know, you’re getting kinda out of character right now,” Hajime observed.

Satsuki halted her rant and looked over at him, blinking.  “Huh.”  She nodded in realization. “Guess you’re right.  But you are too.”

Hajime rolled his hand in a loop, prompting her to continue with that train of thought.  Instead, she merely looked at him doubtfully.  “Well, don’t you wonder why?,” he asked after a moment.

“Hmmm . . . now that you mention it, yeah,” she admitted.

“Great,” he responded with faux-cheeriness, his face all but beaming.  “Because I’ve got the answer.”

“Alright,” Satsuki, sounded none too enthused by Hajime’s mock happiness.  “Out with it then.”

“This is a fanfic,” Hajime announced brightly.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!,” Satsuki swore loudly, and stomped for the door once more.  “I’m outta here!”

“Hey, wait!,” Hajime called after her.  

She turned back to glare at him.  “What?  I’m not sticking around to get pulled along for this shit show!  Hell no!  Either I’m going to end up being completely out of character, this is going to turn into some absurd smut that makes me out to be some kind of wanton slut, or half the things I say aren’t going to make grammatical sense!  I have too much self-respect to put myself through whichever it’s going to be!  And just look at me already!”  She glared up at the sky once again.  “I mean, I know I can get angry, but not this angry!  I have a personality you know!  I’m not just a cardboard cutout tsundere!  Stop trying to turn me into a walking stereotype!”  As she continued, her voice abruptly dropped, and a calmer comportment was revealed.  “I mean, come on.”  She hesitated, pursing her lips, and then nodded.  “Huh.  That’s better.  Anyway,” she fixed her eyes on Hajime once more, “I’m still not staying.”

He reached out toward her slightly, looking more than a bit cautious.  “Just hear me out on this, okay?  It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.  I mean, trust me, when I first heard the news, I wasn’t exactly thrilled.  I mean, I thought they were going to turn me into a harem protagonist!”

“Oh yeah, because you’d hate that so much,” she responded suspiciously, but not nearly as cantankerous as she had been moments before.

He shrugged, a pale shade of pink infecting his cheeks.  His voice sounded moderately guilty as he spoke.  “I mean, there’d definitely be some perks.  But,” his tone shifted to a more certain one, “I’d basically lose any chance of getting a personality.  Beyond being that ‘random horny dude all the fifteen year olds think is a great main character.’”

Satsuki snorted, but didn’t argue with his assessment.  “Fair enough.  So, what changed your mind then?”

“Well, I may or may not have taken a little bit of a . . . well, let’s called it a sneak peak,” Hajime replied suggestively.

“You did what?”  She sounded wary.

“I took a sneak peak,” he reiterated, a smirk twisting over his face.

“How?”

“I hacked their files on the cloud.  Let me tell you, they had some pretty interesting stuff saved in there.  Like, for example—“

“I genuinely don’t want to know,” Satsuki interrupted in a flat tone, which quickly turned dubious once more.  “And you’re telling me you hacked into something?”

Hajime rolled his eyes and held up his palms.  “Fine, fine, Leo helped me with the hacking part.”

“I knew it!,” Satsuki announced with conviction, pleased that her suspicions had been proved correct.

“Yeah, yeah, rub it in, why don’t you?,”  Hajime fired back.  “The point is, it’s not all that terrible!  I mean, it’s definitely not great, I mean, some of the jokes are pretty tedious, and we end up out of character way too often, but all the same, it’s not trash!  Or, at least complete trash anyway!  And, best of all, there’s actually some character development!  I mean, to be fair, I don’t know how it’s all going to pan out, now that we’ve knocked a few bricks out of the fourth wall, but it can’t be all that horrible.”

Satsuki didn’t seem all that convinced.  “A few bricks?  I’m pretty sure the entire wall is rubble at this point.  Because it’s definitely not a wall anymore.”

“You know, now that I think about it, you’re probably right,” Hajime agreed.

“Glad you think so,” Satsuki remarked dryly.  She furrowed her brow and glared up and the sky, looking rather thoughtful.  Hajime watched her, looking somewhat contemplative as well, or at least as much he could, given that such a state wasn’t exactly natural to him.

“So, whatcha think?,” he hazarded after he estimated a minute or so had past.

Satsuki’s eye flicked his direction, before her head swiveled to look him straight on.  “Alright,” she said tepidly.  “I guess I’m in.  I’ll give it a shot anyway.  But I’m not making any promises.  If they start trying to turn me into some kind of Mary Sue train wreck, I’m out.  And so help me if the OCs are annoyingly perfect.”

Hajime nodded, a small smile tweaking his lips.  “Wouldn’t expect anything less.  I’m totally with you on the OCs.”

“So, what now?,” Satsuki asked.

“Well, to start with,” Hajime began, “We should probably stop obliterating the fourth wall to the point where it’s impossible to rebuild.”

“Not a bad first step,” Satsuki concurred.  “Might be just a bit important.”

“Just a bit,” Hajime echoed.

A few brief seconds of silence fell between them, both still looking fairly reflective.  Satsuki was the one to break it.  “Alright.  Well, since that’s out of the way, I have some dancing to get to.”  She dipped her head in the direction of the door.  “You going to join in the fun?”

“Actually,” Hajime replied, his voice uncharacteristically quiet, “There was a second thing too.”

“Huh?  A second what?”

“A second thing I wanted to talk to you about,” Hajime supplied, still rather unusually reserved

“Oh.”  Satsuki hesitated temporarily.  “Well, can it wait?”

“Not gonna lie, it’s also kind of on the important side,” Hajime answered.

Satsuki glanced down at her phone, very much pushing back the temptation to take her leave regardless of how supposedly important the second topic Hajime wanted to broach was.  “Alright.  But I am going to be dancing, so this better not be some sort of gargantuan revelation that takes a half hour to unpack.”

Hajime chuckled.  “Nah, I don’t think I’d call it gargantuan.”

“Then fire away,” Satsuki remarked without much enthusiasm.

Hajime didn’t respond for a few moments after this, his gaze sliding away from Satsuki toward the sky.  When he did speak, his voice was measures, but restrained, as though he was hesitant to let much energy flow into.  “There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you.  For a while.  Even before the whole, well, thing I can’t talk about without breaking the fourth wall.”

“Pretty sure you just broke it there,” Satsuki observed.  Hajime paused, before shrugging disparagingly and continuing.

“And I figured, hey, why not bring it up after I mention the whole you-know-what.  Because regardless of what you think of it, it can only look good in comparison to the other thing.”

“Well, I think I’m following you so far, so don’t mess it up,” Satsuki commented, her voice no longer quite as monotoned.

“I’ll do my best.”

“You better,” Satsuki stated, fixing Hajime with a curious stare.

He gave a short, wry sort of laugh, and then fell briefly silent, before beginning anew.  “Seemed like I should take the opportunity while it was still there, you get what I mean?”

Satsuki slanted herself to the side and rested her shoulder against the wall behind Hajime, watching him, a speck of interest in her eyes.  “You think you’re gonna lose it soon?”

“It’s looking that way,” he answered simply, foregoing any further elaboration.

She poked him verbally, seeking more information.  “Why’s that?”

“Well, somebody decided that college here wasn’t good enough,” he replied in a sarky manner.  “So they just have to go overseas.”

“Maybe they’re just trying to get away from their one idiot friend,” she rejoined with equal sarcasm.  “Eight thousand kilometers or so ought to do the trick, right?  Or do you think they might need to shoot for a little farther?  You never know how persistent some people can be.”

“Nah, eight thousand’s probably good enough.  It’s not like they can follow her.”  The wit had left his tone, leaving it sounding almost resigned.  Satsuki half thought she could also sense a note of remorse in it.

“Good to know.  I’ll be sure to tell her that,” Satsuki said, the humor dissipating from her voice as well.

“Heh, thanks, I appreciate it.”  He hesitated, his voice catching without warning before he could say more.  She waited, her gaze traveling down to take in the concrete floor beneath them.  “Eight thousand kilometers is kinda a ways, you know?,” he mused aloud.  “Makes a guy think about things.  Differently, I mean.”

Her eyes rose slowly back up to inspect his back.  His posture was almost rigid.  Tense and strict.  As if he had been posed like a mannequin and frozen into that position.  “I suppose it is,” she sympathized.

“You ever look at a map of it?  Lot of blue space between here and there.  It’s almost like looking at the sky.  Like it’s a whole different world over there.  On the other side of the horizon or some shit like that.”

Satsuki quirked an eyebrow.  “You know, I’d almost say that sounds poetic.  Aside from the whole, ‘conveniently ignoring the islands’ part of it.

Hajime waved a hand, tossing aside the critique.  “Eh, whatever.  Details details.  Point being, it’s a damn lot of blue.”

“That’s your point?”

He chuckled a bit.  “Not really, but apparently, the guy we’re talking about here thought it was clever or something.  Like you said, he’s kind of an idiot.”

“Good to know he’s accepting reality,” Satsuki opined in amusement.  “Maybe he’s not so hopeless after all.”

“Man, if he heard that from you, he’d probably be fucking glowing or some equally stupid shit,” Hajime remarked.  “It’d totally screw up his image though.”

“What image?,” Satuski inquired, a playful lilt in her tone.

“Trust me, this guy has a total bad boy vibe going for him.  He’s channeling Jason Dean circa nineteen-eighty-eight.”

Satsuki sighed melodramatically.  “Ah, Christian Slater’s career.  May it rest in peace.”

“Amen,” Hajime agreed vehemently, similarly histrionic for a fleeting instant.

Satsuki’s melodrama resolved into a more businesslike attitude.  “Alright, now that we have the obligatory Slater diss out of the way, can we get this thing moving a little bit?  Like I said, I’m serious about the whole dancing thing.  If I miss it because of you, your ass is dancing.  And I don’t mean the waltz boy.”  She threw her hands up into fists and struck a stylized boxing pose.

Hajime swiveled back to look at her and blinked, looking strangely nonplussed.  “Uhhh.”

“And while we’re at it,” Satsuki carried on, reassuming her casual stance against the wall, “What’s with this whole third person schtick?  It was old after approximately the third sentence.”

Hajime blinked again, and chased it down with a sigh.  “Remember that little thing about not grinding the fourth wall into little bits of dust?  And hey, I like the ’third person bit!’  It’s edgy!”

Satsuki shook her head, looking a bit aggravated.  “Alright, fine.  But let’s move this a little quicker alright?  And if by ‘edgy,’ you mean equal parts cringe-inducing and cliche as all hell, then congratulations, you’re correct!  So drop it, cool?  And let’s get on with it!”

Somewhere off in distance, emanating from an indeterminate location, a rousing chorus of “Get on with it!,” filled the air.  Both individuals on the roof glanced off in its general direction.  “It’s like they just want a lawsuit or something?,” Satsuki said wryly.

“Fanfic, remember?”

“Don’t remind me.”  Her tone resembled the audible equivalent of an eye roll.  “Anyway, where were we?”

“Getting on with it,” Hajime supplied.  At this, a second iteration of the chorus could be dimly heard.  The protagonists both shot another quick glance toward it, before shrugging and turning back toward each other.

“Right,” Satsuki agreed.  “Let’s do that.”

“Cool,” Hajime concurred.  “Anyway, what I was trying to get to,” he continued, “Was that thinking about all that distance, made me think about some other stuff.”

“A philosophical observation, to be sure,” Satsuki commented mordantly.

“Glad you think so,” Hajime said, not thrown off by the snark.  “One of those things I ended thinking about was how I should probably say a couple things before you’re on the other side of an ocean.  I mean, what else am I gonna do, send it to you in an email someday?”

“That’d be a whole new level of pathetic, even for you,” Satsuki observed, though her voice sounded more humorous than biting.

“Hell yeah, you’re right about that,” Hajime agreed.  “I mean, what kind of a guy would do that kind of thing?”

“Leo,” Satsuki offered bluntly.

Hajime grinned cockily.  “Exhibit A as to why I beat him every time.”

“In what?,” Satsuki asked dubiously.

“Getting all the ladies,” Hajime responded pompously, sounding every bit a conceited dirtbag.

“You’re both single, horny, and stupid,” Satsuki pointed out witheringly.  “Really not seeing the difference here.”

Hajime’s act crumbled as he reverted to his decidedly less sexist personality (not to say that he still wasn’t a bit of a pig, only that he wasn’t that much of an ass).  “Fine, you got me there.  But my point still stands.  I’m not doing this by email.  I’m not a total idiot.”

“Damn,” Satsuki shook her head in mock disappointment.  “Guess I have to give you that.  Now, keep it moving.”

He nodded, and then folded his shoulders up into a shrug, his palms opening.  “Just want me to cut to the chase, huh?”

“Yep.  And while you’re at it, making it snappy.”

“Okay.  Will do.”  He looked down and inhaled sharply.  His gaze locked with hers as he looked back up.  “So, what I’ve been trying to say this whole damn time is that I like you Satsuki.”

A small, droll smile played around Satsuki lips.  She reached out and gave Hajime a light punch in the shoulder.  “I mean, obviously,” she remarked in a laid-back voice.  “Bro, we’ve been friends for what, seven years?  Like, dude, putting up with someone for that long requires not hating them.  And hey, for what it’s worth, you’re not terrible yourself.  At least, when you’re not being a total pain in the ass.”

Hajime froze, his face furrowed uncertainly.  “Uhh . . . “   He blinked, very much perplexed.  “I think you took that the wrong way.”

“Dude, what are you talking about bro?,” Satsuki said, assuming a deep, stereotypical jock voice.

Hajime looked downright concerned now.  He looked off to the side momentarily, grimacing.  “What the hell is up with this writing?,” he muttered to himself.  “Did they just watch ‘Dude, Where’s My Car?’ or something?  Cause this just took a turn for the shit.”

Satsuki looked at Hajime intently, adopting a bearing of supposed concern herself.  “Dude, you okay there man?  You look like a New England Patriots fan on February Fourth, Two Thousand and Eight bro.  And that’s some heavy shit right there dude.”

Hajime’s eyes had ceased to function correctly, and were now blinking rather rapidly, struggling in vain to process the utter absurdity of Satsuki’s abrupt personality shift.  “Ummm, Satsuki, you get that I didn’t mean as a friend, right?,” he managed to force out.  “I mean, in a, well, you know, in a, aww shit, in a romantic sort of way.  You get that, right?”

Satsuki paused, and furrowed her brow, looking downright distraught.  “Dude, I feel for you man.  I really hate to be the one to break it you bro, but I’m just not gonna be able to roll with that, you feel me?”

Hajime nodded slowly, doing his best to keep up his cool composure.  “Uh, yeah, I get whatcha mean.  Guess that’s all then.”  He moved to arc around Satsuki, heading for the roof access.  Abruptly, she caught him by the arm as he passed, bursting out into laughter.

“You ate that right up!,” she declared through giggles, keeling over in mirth.  “You should have seen the look on your face!”

Hajime staggered back, not anticipating the move, and wrenched his arm from Satsuki’s grasp.  “Wait, what?,” he asked in confusion.

“I was just fucking with you!,” she revealed, her face red with laughter.  “And you totally bought it!”

“Why, you, you,” he stuttered through his words, his own face going red, albeit a hue brought on by embarrassment rather than amusement.  “I should have known!,” he complained loudly.

Satsuki met his eyes, grinning widely.  “Pure gold, that’s what that was.”

Hajime’s eyes narrowed in annoyance.  “You’re a bitch, you know that, right?”

“And you’re an asshole, so I guess that makes us even,” she sallied back with confidence.

“Shit, why do you have to keeping being right like that?”

“Sorry, I don’t make the rules,” Satsuki responded with a sassy hair toss.  “I just win with them.  Speaking of which, I thought you were going to tell me something I didn’t already know.”

Hajime looked at her, uncertainty creeping back into his expression.  “So . . . is already knowing it a good thing, or . . .?”  The question hung in the air between them.

Satsuki pursed her lips and looked up into the sky, putting on a front that made it look as though she was thinking critically about something.  “Well, in this case, that all depends.”

“Depends?  On what?”

“On your dancing abilities,” she answered.

“My dancing abilities?,” Hajime echoed doubtfully.

“Hell yeah!,” Satsuki confirmed.  “I did say I was going to be dancing, didn’t I?  And you’re coming along.”

“I am?”

“Yep.  And if you can keep up, we’ll take it from there.”

“You’re taking this better than I expected,” Hajime stated blankly.

Satsuki poked him in the shoulder.  “Seriously?  I mean, you think you’re the only person who’s allowed to have a crush, is that what you’re implying?”

He shook his head quickly.  “That’s not what I meant at all!”

“Good.  You know, you should be happy.  Leo lost our bet.”

“What bet?,” Hajime asked, his eyebrows rising steadily.

“Oh,” Satsuki replied nonchalantly.  “We had a bet as to whether or not you’d actually have the balls to confess.  I just won three thousand yen.  Leo’s gonna be pissed.”

Hajime sucked in a breath and mimed wincing.  “Oh yeah.  You know, I want to be mad about that, but I really can’t.”

“Seeing Leo flip out’s gonna be too fun, right?”

“Damn right!,” he concurred.

“I knew it!”  She turned toward the door.  “Now, let’s go make some next door shippers happy.”

“Next door shippers?,” he asked suspiciously as he followed her inside.

“Yeah,” she replied matter-of-factly.  She then shot a worried glance in his direction.  “Unless you’re one of those people who thinks Sajime sounds better.  In which case, you need to stop.  Right now.”

Hajime appeared perplexed.  “What the hell is Sajime?,” he demanded, anxiety creeping into his voice.

“You don’t spend a lot of time on the wiki, do you?”

“Again with the fourth wall breaks!”

“Eh, it’s already rubble, who cares?”

“I do!”

“Obviously the writer doesn’t!”

“Who said they know anything?!  And am I the only one who thinks this resolve is way too rushed and makes no sense?  Like, talk about a half-assed ending!”

“Oh, now who’s out of character, Mr. Suspension of Disbelief is My Kink!”

“What the fuck does that even mean?!”

“I dunno, look it up!”

“Hell no!  I don’t even wanna think about the possibilities!”