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Trying to be Normal

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CHAPTER 01: NORMAL=ARGUING WITH MY BOOB SELF.

12:00 THURSDAY. IN RAN'S/KUDO'S/CONAN'S APARTMENT. SLOWLY BECOMING A PERMANENT PIECE IN THEIR LIVING ROOM SET.

"Cousin-Shinichi, I'm tired of not being able to sit on the sofa," Conan mumbles frowning at me.

"Dude you're playing freaking Legend of Zelda you gotta stand up anyway." I point at the T.V. I'm on their sofa again. It's the perfect place to get over the fact that KAZUHA STILL EXISTS. Sure it's been a couple of days since we first saw each other, but ugggghhh the drama that has yet to desist is still there.

"For once, I agree with Conan." Kudo leans in his chair. "Don't you have a roommate to bother now?" True, there is Kaito, but eeh…I don't really want to bother him about it. I feel like my problems would get in the way or something so whenever he asks me if I need to talk about something I always refuse. He seems so in control with his life and I don't want to mess that up. Hence the reason I'm in Kudo's place all the time. I can mess up his normalcy all the time.

"Yes, but no one knows me like you guys," I say, reaching for Kudo. He kicks my arm away, disturbed. I snort. Man, Kudo is the only person I know who truly hates human contact. Except for Ran's, of course.

Ran opens the door and walks in. "I'm back! Oh, and so is Heiji-kun." She takes off her shoes and sets her bag by the door. "Should I make you something?" She asks, pecking Kudo on the cheek. Conan stares at them. Wow, this kid's crush couldn't be more obvious.

"Nah, I already ate something from my actual apartment." I say, watching Ran PLATONICALLY kiss the top of Conan's head. Conan reddens, and continues playing Zelda with extra determination as if he's saving Ran.

Apparently his crush can get even more obvious, and by the way Kudo's fuming, Conan has yet to back down. TALK ABOUT THE PERFECT SET UP FOR A SITCOM!

"There is a strong reason to stay…" I mumble, still watching the three of them. "And a strong reason to buy a video camera…"

"Actually there's a stronger reason for you to leave," Ran replies as she takes her seat on Kudo's lap. Pfft, I don't think she knows how sassy that came out. "I talked to Kaito-kun at the café today and he was wondering where you were." She looks at me, waiting for a reaction. "When I told him you were probably with us again he looked so sad." She keeps staring.

"I feel like you want me to respond…" I say, sitting up.

"He thinks you hate him, Heiji!" She folds her arms, frowning. Ack—when Ran drops the honorific she either loves you or is extremely fed up with your shit, and if you couldn't tell it's the latter. "Sure, it's nice to see you again, but you're ignoring the nicest guy I know and I don't like it!"

Kudo taps Ran's shoulder. "I thought I was the nicest guy you know."

"Shinichi, not now." Ran glares at him.

Conan laughs loudly, but quickly stops when he gets the 'Ran death glare'.

"Anyway," Ran loosens up, and all three of us let out a sigh of relief. "If there's one thing I know about Kaito-kun, is that he likes helping people." She smiles. "Maybe he can have a different way to handle this little Kazuha situation of yours since he actually knows her more than we do."

Conan turns to me grinning. "Maybe he can teach you better comebacks."

"I hope you become a shoe in your next life," I tell him. Kudo fails to cover his mouth when he laughs.

"C'mon Heiji—opening up to people isn't bad," Ran replies, glancing at Kudo for support.

"Yeah, we don't want a repeat of freshman year." He grins.

What he's hinting at is how the two of us became friends. I met Kudo through Ran and I dunno he seemed really shifty then—maybe because he was always in and out of the hospital, but that's another story. I always butted heads with him because we're so similar. Finally, after Ran locked us in her closet to 'become the greatest friends on the planet', we finally realized that we, mostly me, were stupid and became the greatest friends on the planet.

Kaito's not a bad guy either. He's actually totes awesome, and he would be more helpful in comparison to Ran and Kudo since he actually works with Kazuha…sigh…apologizing isn't my strong suit. I don't like doing it, but it must be done.

"Okay, okay…" I get up from the sofa and head to the door, making sure I make Conan lose a life in his game. "You guys are really awesome."

"We know," Ran says.

"We're too good for you." Kudo waves.

"LEAVE ALREADY—I FREAKING HATE YOU!" Conan yells.

12:45 MY/KAITO'S APARTMENT. I HEAR A GIRL SINGING FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR. I SWEAR TO ALL THE MILLENIUM ITEMS IF THERE'S A GHOST…I'M JUMPING SHIP.

I open the door and see no one. THIS IS GETTING OFF TO THE WRONG START.

"Kaito!" I call, closing the door. "You have a feminine singing voice, but that's cool…I can live with that!"

"AAH IT'S YOU!" The girl voice screams. SHIT. GHOST. FUCK NO. "I'M DOWN HERE!"

I follow the sound to a laptop on the coffee table. Oh my god, I'm in the fucking Poltergeist movie.

"YOU'RE THE HARDASS THAT'S MAKING KAITO FEEL BAD! WHY I OUGHTA FUCK YOU UP WITH MY MOP RIGHT NOW!" She threatens.

I…uh…what…?

"Who are you and why are you cursing me out?" I ask. Boy, if I had a 5 yen coin for every time I've been asked that question…

"THAT SHOULD BE THE LEAST OF YOUR WORRIES, BLACK OCTOPUS." She leans close to the screen. Black Octopus? "YOU SHOULD BE SO GLAD THAT I'M NOT PHYSICALLY THERE OR I WOULD SO KICK YOUR ASS TO THE NEXT FUCKING YEAR OF THE FUCKING SNAKE. HOW DARE YOU TREAT KAITO WRONG! I'M GONNA GET YOU AND SO IS MY DAD—HE'S A POLICE OFFICER!"

You wouldn't believe how much this happens to me. Like honestly. You wouldn't. "So is mine. Superintendent Supervisor in fact."

She falters. "He's a SS?" She looks away from the screen, angrily crossing her arms. "WELL WHATEVER NO ONE CARES. IT'S JUST A TITLE."

Ah, so her dad's at a lower rank. Hehehe…

She continues venting at me, and I just listen because honestly I feel like anything I say will make her even angrier at me.

"I'm back~" Kaito calls when he opens the door. "Heiji!" He smiles when sees me, but his smile immediately drops when he hears the girl ranting at me. "AOKO!" He rushes over to the laptop. "STOP."

I stare in disbelief. THIS IS AOKO!? THIS IS HIS GIRLFRIEND!?

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN STOP?! I'M ON A ROLL NOW KAITO. I'M CHIPPING AWAY HIS STUPIDITY ONE CURSE WORD AT A TIME!" Aoko screams, pointing in my direction.

"Aoko," Kaito starts. His voice is so calm in comparison to hers… "What did I say before I left?"

She crosses her arms, pouting. "Don't curse him out if he comes back to the room because we have to live with him…" she recites angrily, glaring at me. Hey, it's not my fault you're crazy.

Also, can we just feel bad for me for a second? I know that's really vain to say, but I've been yelled at a lot recently…

"Well, I do want to apologize," I say.

Kaito turns to me, surprised.

Aoko grins. "I knew I was doing the right thing."

"Aoko, blindly cursing people out won't fix everything." Kaito shakes his head at his girlfriend, before turning to me. "Anyway Heiji, you don't have to apologize for anything."

"Yes, he does!" Aoko says. Geez, she never stops. But I guess that shows how much she cares about him.

"Yeah, I do," I nod. "I've been a jerk for no reason. Well, I'm not used to talking deep stuff with random people, but you're not a random person-you're my roommate and I should treat you like one." I say.

"Aw, it's okay. It's funny, you act just like Aoko." He laughs.

Aoko and I glance at each other. I don't think either of us can tell if that's a good thing.

"I can't believe you said that about me…." She mumbles.

IT'S A BAD THING APPARENTLY.

Kaito laughs. "I was gonna bring Aoko downstairs with me, but since Heiji's here I guess you two can have fun sharing your similarities! I'll be back!" He blows a kiss to Aoko and gives me a friendly pat on my back before heading to the door.

"Wait, wait, wait—do you think you could, I dunno, persuade your boss to waste like a couple more minutes up here?" I blurt out.

Kaito raises one of his eyebrows curiously. "Why?"

"Well…" I rub the back of my neck. "I'm in the mood to share some….emotions…" I force out the last word. Man, I don't think I ever said the word emotions out loud in my entire life.

"Kazuha emotions?" He asks, walking back to me.

I nod. "Kazuha emotions."

"PERMISSION GRANTED!" Aoko announces.

Kaito winks at her. "Thanks, Bimboko." He sits on the couch and puts his girlfriend-laptop in his lap.

"Your welcome, Jerkaito." She giggles.

Wait, what? "You're the manager of the café? Why the heck are you not here?" I ask, leaning close to the computer screen.

"Father-Daughter Vacation week—NOW SHARE YOUR KAZUHA EMOTIONS," Aoko orders, slamming her hand on her desk.

I let out a long sigh. "So Kazuha and I have been friends since we were basically fetuses. We've never been apart and for a long time, I don't think either of us thought we were going to be separated. In senior year of high school, I got this cool scholarship to go to America to study away and Kazuha was really afraid of not having me around and….she kinda confessed to me…."

Kaito and Aoko gasp loudly.

"What did you say?" Kaito asks.

"I told her that I didn't have the same feelings…and that it was better for us if we stopped being friends…and we haven't talked since then."

"Heiji, I know we just met, but you're a major freaking idiot," Aoko replies after a while.

I roll my eyes. "Aoko, you've been insulting me all this time. My impression of you hasn't changed." I sigh again. "Anyway, I thought that I could forget about what happened…but for some reason I can't—like, I think about Kazuha even more so. Even though, now we're just screaming at each other it's still nice to know to see and talk to her." I smile some.

"Oooooh?" Aoko and Kaito say, grinning.

I drop my smile. "No. Stop thinking whatever you're thinking." I point at them. "You're thinking something that isn't true."

"Who said we were thinking that you want to get it on with Kazuha?" Kaito asks, glancing at Aoko.

She nods. "Who said we were thinking it's totally obvious you want to love her down."

Kaito looks away laughing loudly. "LOVE HER DOWN?"

Aoko laughs. "It's the same as get it on!"

I get off the couch and head to my room. I'M NOT GONNA SIT HERE AND BE EMBARRASSED. "I'm locking myself in my room now."

"Noooo!" Kaito says reaching for me. "COME BACK HEIJI! LET ME LOVE YOU DOWN!"

Someone knocks on the door, and I walk over to open it. Maybe it'll be a good distraction from 'LET ME LOVE YOU DOWN'—and NO, I do NOT want to love Kazuha down. I just want to be on good terms again.

"Oi Kaito—eehhhhhhhhh…." Kazuha trails off when she sees me. Of course, fate would have it that Kazuha would be here. OF COURSE. "I forgot you existed…" And of course she's provoking me to say something to her. OFFFF COURRSEE.

"I forgot your bad haircut." I mentally smack myself for saying that when I see her shocked expression. I think I may have crossed a line there…

"Well, I forgot your hat-hair!" She yells.

"I forgot your terrible sense of style!"

"I FORGOT YOUR STUPID POWER-RANGERS JACKET!"

"Wait, what." I hear Aoko say behind me.

"I FORGOT YOUR DUMB MY LITTLE PONY RAINBOOTS!" At this point we're nose to nose, growling at each other. Heh, I think I won this one.

She falters and stomps her feet when she can't think of anything. "GO AWAY."

"YOU WALKED OVER HERE."

She stomps her feet again and storms away. I close the door and let out a sigh. "I think I won that one."

Kaito nods. "Do you feel better?"

"Not…really…" I lean against the door. Really, I feel even worse.

"Then you didn't win anything, I guess," Kaito tells me.

"Is that seriously how you guys argue?" Aoko asks. "I feel like I just watched a scene from a Disney Channel movie."

"I can't help it! I don't like talking about personal things so I think of random stuff whenever I argue with someone!" I say.

"Actually now that you mention it, Kazuha's the same way. Whenever she ranted about you before she never told us what you did. She just made a point to scream about something weird about you—like your love for rabbits."

SHE TOLD THEM ABOUT MY RABBITS. UGGGH HOW DARE SHE. SHE SAID SHE WASN'T GOING TO TELL ANYONE.

"SHE'S OBSESSED WITH THE JUSTICE LEAGUE!" I scream.

"Wooow…" Aoko leans on her arm. "It's kinda crazy how you guys work…Kazuha's like…the boob version of you…

Kaito almost falls over from laughing. "I'm getting that on a t-shirt I swear…." He steadies himself, and says "Anyway…heh…if you want to get on good terms with her you have stop arguing."

"But how do stop arguing with your boob self?" I ask.

Kaito grins and picks up Aoko-laptop. "Leave that to me and Bimboko here."

"Yaaay plans!" She claps happily.

9:00 A.M. WEDNESDAY. IN THE HELL HOLE WITH THE OTHER CAFÉ WORKERS. I WAS LITERALLY BLINDFOLDED ON THE WAY HERE.

Kazuha grimaces at my presence. "Why is he here?"

"WHY WAS I BLINDFOLDED?" I yell over her.

"All of your questions will be answered when Aoko turns on her webcam that her father accidentally destroyed in the middle of the night." Kaito replies, clicking around on his laptop.

Knowing Aoko, she and her dad are running around the house fighting each other with mops.

"Whatever you're thinking about Aoko and her dad is probably correct," Keiko says beside me.

"You're joking." I lean against the counter. "I've known her for a day."

"I've known her since we were three—she has yet to stop surprising me." She chuckles at this.

And as if on cue, Aoko shows up on Kaito's laptop, extremely fuzzy. "Sweet, it works! I actually thought I would need to get a new one once the rat swallowed it."

Keiko nudges me. "You see?"

Terumi twitches. "…why was there a rat…"

"WHY WAS I BLINDFOLDED?" I yell again.

Aoko is unfazed. "I was just getting to that Heiji. Calm your hair spike."

Kazuha snorts loudly at this.

"Anyway, I asked all of you here for a meeting because well we're adding a new addition to the team!" Aoko smiles at me.

Oh no…she is not hinting at what I think she's hinting at…

"Starting tomorrow, Heiji will be our new barista!" She claps happily.

"BANZAI!" Kaito cheers, popping doves out of his sleeves.

Terumi and Keiko clap. Kazuha and I are in complete shock.

"That's why you were blindfolded by the way." Aoko smiles. "Getting a new job has to be a major surprise!"

Kazuha leaves the room, still eerily quiet. Terumi and Keiko follow her and I walk over to my roommates.

"What are you two planning?" I ask.

"Planning? I would think we're helping, right Aoko?" Kaito smiles.

"Yeah, yeah! This is the plan we thought up." Aoko nods. "We all know you want to work with her in my café earning minimum wage and regaining lost friendship! It's the middle class dream!"

I sigh and weigh my options. "Well…there is coffee."

Kaito and Aoko give me dry stares.

"I see we have to take even smaller baby steps than we thought…" Kaito mumbles. Aoko nods in agreement.

10:00 A.M. KUDO'S/RAN'S APARTMENT. EATING SECOND BREAKFAST AND STEALING CONAN'S SPOT AT THE DINING TABLE.

Technically its Kudo's spot since its next to Ran, but it doesn't matter since its miiiine~

"First Cousin-Shinichi…now you…" Conan mutters, walking to the couch.

"Enjoy the kids table!" I wave happily. "Should I put Disney Junior on the television for you?"

"I drink my coffee black Mr. 3 Cubes of Sugar and 3 Glugs of Cream." He changes the T.V. to the History Channel. He's Kudo's relative, alright. I don't know how the two of them can drink coffee or tea without anything added to it. I remember one time I put in a pinch of sugar in Kudo's coffee to see if he noticed, and HE DID. He said something like, 'Ew it's not bitter', and proceeded to pour out his coffee. NO ONE COMPLAINS ABOUT ANYTHING BEING BITTER.

Ran takes a sip of her orange juice. "I'm happy you were able to talk with Kaito-kun and get a job so quickly, Heiji-kun! You see what happens when you open up to people? It's just like I always say: 'emotions' is not a bad word."

"Of course not, because if it was Hattori would be using it to curse people out," Kudo says. He and Conan start cracking up at this and awkwardly stop when Ran hums in disapproval. "So are you having fun memorizing coffee recipes?"

I shrug. "I guess. I can't get over the names of some things," I answer before taking a bite out of my omelet. If you're getting a latte, you'll be getting a Coffee Cow. And for those college kids who need more caffeine to stay up in class, get the WIDE AWAKE to keep you up!

"I can get what you mean," Kudo says, in between chews. "When I have to write a case for the Sleeping Kogoro to solve, the staff gives me so many dumb one liners for him that I literally feel my IQ dropping when I add them in the script." Fun fact: Kudo, who majored in criminology with me, became the head writer for Uncle's detective show. This happened through a series of confusing events, and since I wasn't there I don't know how the full story.

"With you two so busy working, I feel like I should get a job too," Ran says, messing over her eggs. If you're curious, Ran got her degree in physical therapy. "Maybe I should take the job opening at the dojo I train in…"

"You should!" Kudo smiles. "You were telling me the other day that Tsukamoto-san probably needed some more help."

"True, Kazumi-chan did say that, but I always get so worried that I might not be good…" Ran finally eats some of her breakfast. "Plus, someone has to stay here…"

Kudo and I pout at this. Ran is the strongest person I've always known and for some reason she doesn't think that she's good enough for a job.

"Oh well," She shrugs. "Remember to work hard, Heiji-kun. The last time you had a job, you only stayed for two days."

"Ran if you were in that costume you would have stopped too," I mutter.

Kudo almost chokes from laughing. "I FORGOT ABOUT YOU WORKING AT THE ZOO IN THAT ELEPHANT COSUME!"

I groan loudly. "It was so terrible…and the pay was even worse!"

Conan turns to me grinning. "Were you paid in peanuts?"

"STAY AT THE KIDS TABLE, JUNIOR."

12:30 P.M. IN THE HELL HOLE. STILL GOING OVER COFFEE RECIPES. INSTEAD OF CALLING THE SIZES TALL, GRANDE AND VINTI, AOKO USES PIKACHU, HUMAN, AND GODZILLA.

"Pikachu is the mouse pokemon and mice are small, humans are average size, and Godzilla is huge. It makes perfect sense," Aoko explains. She, or rather Kaito's laptop, and I are at the little break area near the corner of the kitchen.

"No it doesn't, and neither does this plan of yours. How am I supposed to talk Kazuha when we're both working?" I ask.

"Oh Heiji," she flips her hair. "When you're in a workspace, magical things happen such as finding a new resolve to power through the morning rush or seeing how long you can make out in the freezer before you get too cold."

"Guilty!" Kaito calls over his shoulder.

"That's not sanitary," I say. "Or safe."

"We reached a new record and that's what counts." Aoko nods. "But back to the point, when you work with people, you gain a new sense of companionship, and that's what you and Kazuha need!"

Kaito walks over to us and sits down. "Believe it or not Heiji, she kinda misses having you around."

"Kinda?" I raise an eyebrow. That sounds doubtful.

At that moment, Kazuha comes in the kitchen. "I'm taking my break now," she pauses when she sees me. Aoko and Kaito glance at each other. I brace myself. "I won't hold your hand tomorrow." She says as she clocks herself out. I'm in complete shock.

Kaito grins. "Kinda."