Disclaimer: Last Game is the property of Amano Shinobu. All the amazing characters belong to them.
It had seemed like the perfect idea at the time he’d made the offer. ‘Why don’t you just stay with me?’ The words had fallen from his mouth so easily that he couldn’t have planned it any better. It was smooth. His kindness would be evident from his actions. He was someone she could depend on when needed, even in such an important situation such as this. Most importantly, it was an opportunity.
She’d accepted his offer, much to his surprise. Only now he had to figure out how best to use this opportunity he’d been given without completely blowing the whole thing and destroying everything he’d accomplished in the past decade. He knew from experience (a very hard and soul crushing experience that will likely leave him scarred for life) that pushing Kujou too much would send her running in an attempt to avoid him.
Inviting her to spend the night at his apartment where they could be alone, just the two of them, was definitely not pushing too hard. Using his imagination to pretend any number of the experiences he would have with her as the ideal scenario of everyday life where they lived together wasn’t playing with fire at all. He could be calm and professional about this. Playing the part of the helpful friend was easy for him—since she’d insisted on friend zoning him for the past decade. He wouldn’t have any trouble controlling himself while living out his wildest fantasies.
An old man comes to stand next to her in the metro car and Kujou moves a little to give him space. The only problem is, her body shifts against Naoto, closing the space between them completely as she moves closer to him instead. He drops his head as he slams his forehead into the metal pole he gripped with in response to her movement. ‘I’m delusional. There’s no other explanation for this stupid reasoning to offer in the first place. How can I possibly make it through a whole night after the day I’ve already had? It’s not possible. I’ll be lucky to get off the metro without doing something stupid.’
A chill went up his spine and something subconsciously called out to him to look down. He flinched, intuition dead on as the face staring back at him looked as if it desired to cut him while he slept. Hands gripping her shoulders firmly, Naoto takes a step back and shoves her away enough until they were at arm’s length. The train stops, reaching its current destination before Naoto does, causing him to lose his balance and tumble to the floor of the subway car.
There's the briefest moment of disappointment to cross the girl’s face before she’s on her knees and checking on him. There’s no way she could possibly realize he shoved himself away from her since she’s instantly invaded his personal space again. Apparently her strange behavior was going to continue until she finally crashed from exhaustion for the evening or he broke and acted selfishly. Whichever came first.
Naoto hated losing. Especially to Kujou.
“This is our stop,” he lied, crawling to his feet. Excuses rolled in through his head and he tried to grab one as quickly as possible. Hoping to delay things for a moment before he came up with one, he reached down to help her to feet, but she’d already stood back up before he’d had the opportunity. Maybe not everything was different about her today. “There’s a grocery store we need to stop at before we head to my place. I don’t have any food.”
The truth was, he had plenty of food but no knowledge on what could be put together with the ingredients he had on hand. He needed to focus on taking small steps to reach her and one of those steps was to learn to acquire the things he wanted with his own two hands. There were words she’d spoken years ago that had stuck out in his head from a very early age and caused a shift in his reality from that moment on. ‘That just shows the success of your father. That doesn’t mean that you are excellent.’ He’d recently gotten a job waiting tables at a café to pay for things on his own. It didn’t cover everything but he was still in school and the job was just a stepping stone to get him where he needed to go. The maid didn’t come every day anymore. Naoto had also taken it upon himself to prepare at least a couple of meals for himself each week in an effort to learn to cook.
Each of those baby steps were designed to get him closer to Kujou in some way or another. He wanted to show her the work he’d been doing, but he only knew how to make a couple of limited dishes that were extremely easy to prepare. She probably wouldn’t be very impressed but for some reason he still wanted her to see the changes he was making.
He understands he's in over his head the moment they step in the door of the grocery store. The entire atmosphere over Kujou changes the moment they enter the store. It's almost terrifying to see the way her gaze suddenly gets serious and her focus shifts from whatever she'd been concerned about moments before to now. "What sale are we after?"
Sale? What sale? Naoto didn't think he'd ever attended a sale before for anything specific. He's always been willing to pay full price for everything he’s ever bought. He had money and he could afford it so why haggle over the price? But from the look in her eyes Kujou appeared ready to go into battle. “I just needed to get some eggs. This isn’t supposed to be some fight.”
“You should come on Wednesday instead. Eggs are always discounted on Wednesdays.”
There’s no possible way he’d know that prior to this moment because he’s probably only stepped into a grocery store a dozen times total in his life before now. “I’ll remember that the next time.” Because he knew, there would be a next time.
“Is there anything else you need?”
“I’m not really sure. I should probably get some more vegetables.” He can’t help watching the way Kujou scans the area with an expert eye, as if she was developing a game plan. Naoto on the other hand had no idea where either the eggs or the vegetables were in this whole building. “Is there anything you want to pick up? You can keep it at my place until tomorrow if you want.”
“Chicken was supposed to be on sale today,” she says thoughtfully, putting her purse in the cart he’d grabbed when they’d entered. “It might not be too late to get some. I’d hate to miss that since we’re here. Why don’t you go get the vegetables you came for and I’ll grab the eggs since they are near the chicken.”
And just like that she was gone.
Naoto wasn’t quite sure what to do. He really didn’t know his way around a grocery store. Typically the maid picked up groceries for him; he didn’t have to do anything. Not even cook if he really didn’t want to spend his time doing that. Attempting to do that had been a recent endeavor and he still only tried from time to time.
He was just about to take the cart and go search for the vegetables when suddenly Kujou’s phone rang from within her purse. Naoto just stared at it in horror and fear. He’d already gathered his nerves and determination to have her over. He knew he shouldn’t do it but he couldn’t help looking in her purse to see who was calling. Fujimoto. If she knew that Fujimoto called she would likely change her plans from staying with him to go stay with her instead. For some reason, right now that seemed like the worst thing that could happen.
With every ring of the phone, Naoto felt a sense of dread building up in him as he looked around to see if Kujou would be returning to answer the ringing phone. After the fourth ring, without a sign of her returning, Naoto frantically flipped open the phone to speak with Fujimoto. Terrified of getting caught, he turned away from the aisle to stare at the shelves and pressed himself against them. “What?” he hissed into the receiver as quietly as he could manage.
“Ah—Y-Yanagi-kun? Why are you answering Miko-chan’s phone? She called—“
“Everything is fine,” he whispered. “I’ve taken care of it. She doesn’t need you.”
The silence on the other end is deafening and he almost immediately regrets the words. The regret only intensifies when she starts to speak again, amusement laced in her voice. “Taken care of what exactly?”
Looking around, he sees Kujou turn the corner and panics. “Nothing!” he screeches frantically slamming the phone closed and rushing back to the cart to shove it in Kujou’s purse before she caught him with it. Acting as if he hadn’t been doing anything, he leaned against the cart while he internally had a heart attack. He couldn’t breathe as he waited for the phone in her purse to ring again, this time with Kujou standing there preventing him from intercepting it.
She places a couple small packages of chicken and a carton of eggs in the cart and looks up at him with curious brown eyes. “I thought you were going to get some vegetables?”
The sound of a text notification interrupts them.
Before he can even admit to her that he has no idea where anything was located in the store, there is another. And then a third.
“Uh, I’m not sure what to get,” he replies, trying to ignore his phone, from which a fourth notification has just chimed.
“Shouldn’t you check that?” Kujou frowns, tilting her head as she looks at him curiously.
Definitely not. “It’s fine. I’m sure it’s not important.” He hasn’t even finished when the fifth notification goes off.
“Why don’t I go get the vegetables? What kind do you need?”
“Whatever you like in fried rice…” Since that was the only thing he knew for sure he might be able to pull off right now. That was the only dish he’d successfully managed to make and he still had trouble with it but at least it was edible. He chose that one to start with because even a ten year old could make it—but that ten year old had been Kujou so maybe there was something easier he could have tried instead.
She looks over her shoulder at him curiously when he gets a sixth notification as she walks away, but he doesn’t move an inch until she’s out of sight again. When he finally yanks his phone out of his pocket, he can’t help but feel a little grateful that Fujimoto chose to text him instead of calling Kujou’s phone back. Leaning against the shelf behind him, Naoto checks the messages that came in from their friend.
- -Did you just hang up on me?
- -What do you mean it’s taken care of?
- -Exactly what are you taking care of?
- -…do I need to call her and find out what stupid thing you did?
- -Yanaaaaaagi. Answer me.
- -And I even dressed her up all nicely for you. This is how I’m repaid?
His entire body stiffens in memory to the last comment, reminded of all the traps Fujimoto set up on their outing to tease him. Damn her and her sadist nature. This was hard enough for him without her messing with his head. Desperately his fingers fly over the screen of his smartphone as he texts her back.
- -She locked herself out and Miwa won’t be back until morning. I’ve got it taken care of.
- -That skirt was criminal. I’m not thanking you.
Kujou returned as he waited to see if Fujimoto would respond, putting the veggies she’d selected in the cart with the rest of the groceries. “Is there anything else you can think that we could use?” he asks, just as the notification alert goes off. He checks it as Kujou shakes her head in the negative.
- -Don’t take her to a love hotel.
- -She looked cute. I hope you didn’t insult it.
His entire face blooms into a fiery red blush as he contemplates murder. Seriously, who did she think he was? Attention on the phone as he responds, he falls behind Kujou a step as they make their way to the register to pay for their groceries.
- -MY DAD OWNS A CHAIN OF HIGH END HOTELS! WHY WOULD I? We’re staying at my apartment.
- -I’m glad you find this all amusing. The short skirts, pretending she doesn’t eat, letting me pay for things. I about had a heart attack when she said she wanted to go someplace to be alone.
Kujou’s pulling money out of her purse to put towards the food she’d grabbed for herself. He knows better than to insist on paying for it all so he just pulls his portion out of his wallet and hands it to the cashier.
Fujimoto’s response comes as he’s putting his change away. He takes a moment to put his wallet back in his pocket before checking it.
- - ?? I just did her hair and helped pick out an outfit to wear. I don’t know anything about the rest of that.
Naoto stared at the screen in shock for a moment before looking up at the girl patiently waiting for him to take one of the bags of their groceries. The sound of his phone clattering to the ground echoing like a shotgun around them after it slipped through his fingers.