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Trying to be Normal

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CHAPTER 00: NORMAL=JAVA LAVA

11:00 MONDAY. FINALLY FOUND RAN'S/KUDO'S APARTMENT BUILDING. KUDO CAN'T WRITE DIRECTIONS TO SAVE HIS LIFE. TAKE THAT ADVICE AND MARRY IT.

I toss the piece of paper with Kudo's crappy directions in the trash bin before walking toward the apartment building. I'm actually extremely excited. It's been a couple months since the three of us graduated college in America. When we all came back to Japan, Kudo and Ran decided to move closer to Osaka so we can see each other more often. Haha, I bet they finally got married. They've probably been dating since they were fetuses.

I dunno know about you, but things like this make THE REST OF MY LIFE. When I was a kid, not a lot of people really liked being around me since I have the worst temper in the world and I have an unhealthy joy for telling people's flaws and I like being egotistical and, well you get the point...but anyway, having friends that actually want to spend time with me is amazing! Whoo! Of course I'm sure you're wondering, 'Heiji what about Kazuha? She's like your best friend! What happened to her?' Well...I accidentally ruined our relationship...heh, but I'll tell that terrible story later. First I must address the fact that Kudo did not lead me to his apartment building but a FUCKING COFFEE SHOP. GOD DAMMIT KUDO. LET RAN WRITE DOWN DIRECTIONS.

I send a text to Ran, the smarter one between the two of them-direction wise at least, she's bad at Pictionary-and angrily wait for a response. I look up at the café sign. Cafe Bake. Fun name. Extremely literal, but fun. My phone vibrates and I read the text Ran sent me.

Shinichi told you the cafe entrance. sorry! XP The apartment entrance is on the other side of the building. You'll see us waiting.

Alright then. It's reassuring that I'm not too far away. I look back at the cafe. ...one cup wouldn't hurt. Shouldn't take too much time, and Kudo and Ran understand how much coffee means to me. Coffee is like the best thing that ever happened to the universe. Like if I could marry coffee, I would. Her name would be Java. Java Lava. She would have to live in like...a cup or something...MOVING ON.

The sign reads 'CAFEBAKE'. Wow what a literal title. No one couldn't think of anything clever? But I guess being this forward is helpful too. You wouldn't want to walk in a coffee shop that has the sign 'DEAD CHILDREN AND ALSO POSSIBLE COFFEE'. I walk inside and luckily enough there's no one in line. It's actually bigger than what I thought it would be. The color scheme of the place is white and blue and are those birds on some of the tables…? Maybe they're little figurines or something. Either way, the people inside seem to be enjoying themselves. Another good thing to take account of when you enter a coffee shop you don't know. Yes, I could write a 9000 page essay on the things to look for in coffee shops everywhere. Honestly I should get on that…

Currently there's two people working at the machines, a girl with pigtails, and a girl at the register. The cashier, who is kinda cute heheh, is cleaning her nametag. She mutters to herself and pushes her hair back behind her ear. I rather like her bob haircut, but I'm a long hair dude. She looks up as I reach the counter and gasps loudly. I look around in case there's Frankenstein's monster behind me. Nope. No one. I look at her again and she still looks like she's internally screaming at something. Woah, what if I'm so attractive, it scares people.

"I know I'm like the hottest guy ever, but I never got a reaction like that." I lean on the counter grinning. Oh yeah I'm turning the charm on 100%.

She rolls her eyes frowning. "God, you're still egotistical." WELL. WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS?

"You're the one reacting to my amazingness!" I get off the counter. Charm is totally down to -10000.

"I WASN'T FLAUNTING OVER YOUR LOOKS! I'M IRRITATED BECAUSE YOU OF ALL PEOPLE CAME IN HERE TO MAKE MY DAY EXTREMELY MISERABLE. THANKS." She angrily gets a plastic cup and glares at me. "What do you want," she snaps.

Wow, she's such an asshole I'm surprised she's not transforming into a donkey's ass as we speak.

I glare back. She's not cute anymore. I mean she is, but now is not the time for flattery. "Latte." I hand her my credit card. She snatches it from my hands and reads it carefully.

"OH GOD," She says loudly. She reaches over the counter and pinches my face. "OH GOD THIS ISN'T A DREAM!"

"WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?" I rub my cheek. "DO YOU NEED LIKE A THERAPIST? OR A STRAIGHT JACKET?" There are people staring at us now, and I'm regretting my love for coffee.

Her pigtailed coworker looks up from making my drink and walks over to her. "It could be the screaming, but something is telling me to see if you're alright," She says, pushing up her glasses with her free hand.

"Keiko, remember the guy I was telling you about when I first moved here?" Crazy cashier says before pointing at me. "HE'S FUCKING HERE."

Keiko gasps loudly. "No way!" She gives me a once over and hums in disapproval. "I'm a bit underwhelmed." EXCUSE ME?

OH FOR THE LOVE OF JAVA LAVA. "I'M NOT IN THE MOOD FOR COFFEE ANYMORE. GIVE ME BACK MY CARD." The crazy cashier happily gives it back to me. I'm sure she's happy to have me leave AND I AM SO READY TO GO. Suddenly, someone runs out from what I guess is a small kitchen. He has messy hair, and is covered in what I hope is flour. For all I know I could've walked into a meth lab.

"WAIT NO! YOU GOTTA BUY SOMETHING!" He rubs his hands together. "DOVES!" he opens his hands and several doves fly out of nowhere. I notice some of the doves from the tables fly toward him. Is that even sanitary? The customers clap, and I look around completely confused. WAS THAT A DISTRACTION!?

"What the fuck is with this place..." I mumble. NEVER GETTING COFFEE AGAIN. DAMN YOU JAVA LAVA.

"So it was a latte right?" He asks, reaching for my card. The crazy cashier watches me carefully. She seems a bit calmer now. Dare I say she looks even sad?

"Uh...yeah..." I say after a while. I guess they're going out of business or something since they want me to buy something this bad... Crazy cashier takes over on making my coffee and Dove guy rings me up. I make sure I get my credit card back cause THESE GUYS ARE TOO SHADY IF YOU ASK ME... "Sorry about that." He smiles.

"Yeah...sure..." I still have no idea what the hell just happened. LIKE REALLY. WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED.

"My name is Kaito!" He says.

I didn't ask.

"That's great." I say. He nods, waiting for me to introduce myself. "I'm Heiji."

I notice Crazy Cashier play with her hair behind him.

"Heiji?" He raises his eyebrows. "That name sounds familiar..." Crazy Cashier bites her lip as she continues working. What's with her? Have we met before? She used 'still' when she said I was egotistical.

"I'm sure," I say, looking around. I want to leave this place. I regret all of my life choices.

Crazy cashier hands me my coffee and our fingers brush against each other. She quickly moves her hand and looks at the floor. She better not turn this into a shoujo manga and fall in love with me. SHE BEST TO NOT. NOT DOWN WITH LOVING CRAZY FOLKS. I quickly walk out and go around the block to meet up with Ran and Kudo. They're standing in front of the apartment building like they said they would be. I feel the goofiest smile forming on my face. Man, it really has been too long since we last saw each other. They're laughing about something and as I get closer there's another person with them. Oh no is this one of those 'we want you to meet our new best friend/your replacement in our circle of friends' kinda meetups?

"You'll love being around Heiji then," I hear Ran say. GOD IT IS ONE OF THOSE MEETUPS. DAMMIT. TODAY IS NOT MY DAY. She looks over her shoulder and squeals in excitement. "HEIJI-KUN!" She runs over to me and gives me a big hug. "It's been forever! I'm so happy to see you again!"

"Watch out for his beloved cup of coffee, Ran," Kudo laughs walking over to us. "Is that why it took you so long to get over here?" When Ran lets go of me, Kudo gives me a HUG. WOAH. OKAY. SO. KUDO RARELY HUGS PEOPLE. AND HE HUGGED ME. WE'RE SUCH GOOD BESTIES. "Stop smiling like that," he says when he lets go.

"Awww, can't I be glad my darling Kudo finally showed me affection?" I ask, laughing. Kudo rolls his eyes, smiling. Ran giggles behind her hand. I quickly check for a ring. Darn...would've lost that bet. BUT NO MATTER-THE DREAM TRIO'S BACK!

"I feel awkward," A voice says. Oh yeah, the other person they brought along. Totally forgot he existed. I look past Kudo to see a teen who...creepily looks like Kudo. Oh my god. OH MY GOD.

"DUDE YOU GUYS HAD A KID WITHOUT ME KNOWING." I point at the third. Ran laughs loudly. The third flushes.

Kudo swiftly slaps my head. "IT'S ONLY BEEN TWO MONTHS, HATTORI. WE CAN'T RAISE A TEENAGER LET ALONE HAVE A KID IN THAT SMALL PERIOD OF TIME." He calms down and gestures to the third. "This is my younger cousin Conan."

"We're looking over him for the summer." Ran smiles.

"Oh..." I say. Kudo's family must have like amazing genes or something to look FREAKISHLY SIMILAR like that...I mean all genes help your family look similar, but you get what I mean. "Nice to meet you." I put out my hand.

"Same, I guess." He shakes it. Ugh, teens…

"C'mon, c'mon-I have cookies waiting for you that'll go well with your coffee!" Ran grabs my hand and leads me inside. Kudo and Conan follow, side by side with their hands in their pockets. They must be clones. THEY MUST BE. Ran presses the button for the elevator and we all wait.

I give Kudo a sly look. "Ran made me cookies. I'm special."

He doesn't miss a beat. "They were the ones I didn't eat last night."

"And the ones I didn't take this morning," Conan adds. Kudo gives him a weird look. "Was I not supposed to get them?" Conan says angrily. "Not everything she makes is for you, you know. EVERYONE LIKES COOKIES SO EVERYONE EATS THEM," he exclaims, waving his arms for emphasis. We all stare at him, and he flushes from embarrassment. "I'm going to the cafe..." he mutters, quickly walking away.

"Uhhhh...what-" I start, but Kudo cuts me off.

"It's nothing," he says, getting on the elevator.

I glance at Ran. She lets out a sigh and forces a smile. "Shinichi and Conan-kun are very similar. They like the same person." She whispers.

...oh…OH.

11:20 A.M. IN KUDO'S/RAN'S/CONAN'S APARTMENT. SO SPACIOUS. MAYBE I COULD LIVE HERE.

"You can't live here," Kudo says. He's sitting across from me in a chair, and I'm lying on the sofa. Ran's getting my cookies~

"Dammit." I look at the ceiling. "You know me too well." I look over to him and he's smiling. I'm proud to say that I'm one of the few people who can make Kudo laugh a lot. "I guess you're right though. Four people in an apartment is too much."

"You can stay in the building though." Ran walks over and puts the plate of cookies on my stomach. Heh, she also knows me too well. "Kaito-kun said that he wanted a roommate." She sits on Kudo's lap. Ran's more open with her affection now than she was in college. The thought of sitting on Kudo's lap would literally keep her frazzled for a day or so.

I almost drop the plate when I sit up. "I remember 'Kaito-kun'..." I mutter, remembering the terrible cafe experience. "...and the rest of his cafe circus..."

Ran claps her hands. "You met Kaito-kun already?" She smiles. "Isn't he nice?"

"In the random apparition of birds kinda way, sure." I pick up my coffee from the floor and take a sip. For some reason the feeling of touching crazy cashier's fingers come back to mind. It's kinda weird…I feel like I met her somewhere before, but that's crazy. Like 'vegetarians pigging out on pork' crazy.

"He lives below us." Kudo rubs his forehead in frustration. I guess Kudo thinks of him the same way I do, and I only talked to Kaito for like five minutes.

Someone knocks on the door. "Ran-chan~" a voice says on the other side. Kudo's face contorts into sheer horror.

Ran, however, is as happy as a peach. "Amuro-san!" She goes to the door and unlocks it. Kudo quickly gets out of his chair and sits next to me.

"What's with you? Who's 'Amuro-san'?" I ask.

He shushes me. "Amuro is our landlord and he's the creepiest person ever. Don't make eye contact with him-" He whispers, and stops when Amuro's hand pats his shoulder. I look up to see a tallish tan guy with dyed hair and all black clothes. Is he some kinda gangster or something?

"Shinichi-kun~" He smiles brightly, leaning down to see him eye to eye. "You shouldn't gossip." He turns to me and I kid you not I almost screamed. His eyes are like lightning bolts! ZAP YOU'RE DEAD. OR LIKE REALLY INJURED. Eyes cannot be that terrifying. "Who is this?"

Kudo shrugs Amuro's hand off. "An innocent bystander that should leave for safety." Kudo glances at me and jerks his head to the door. ROGER THAT. I start to get up, taking my cookies and coffee with me.

Ran laughs. "Shinichi, you're so shy when Amuro's here." DOES SHE NOT FEEL THE IMMENSE AXE-MURDERER VIBE FROM THIS GUY? "Heiji-kun, you can't leave without introducing yourself." I slowly sit back down and Kudo pats my shoulder apologetically. I'm sorry I couldn't leave either, buddy.

"Heiji-kun?" Amuro stands straight. "I like that name. Not as wonderful as Kogoro though," he tells this to Ran. She nods happily. Side note-Ran's dad name is Kogoro. I DON'T KNOW WHAT HE'S HINTING AT. "Anyway, since Kaito-kun is busy with the cafe downstairs, I was wondering if either of you knew how long Aoko-chan was going to be away."

Ran taps her chin, pondering. "I think until the end of this week." She looks at Kudo for confirmation.

He nods. "Yeah, she's coming back Sunday."

"Oh alright." Amuro pulls out a notebook and jots something down. Probably the perfect time to kidnap a small helpless animal or something. "Every time I ask Kaito-kun he gets really tense."

"Maybe it's because he thinks you're gonna murder him in an alleyway." I clap my hand over my mouth immediately after saying it. SHIT. I DIDN'T MEAN TO SAY THAT ALOUD. THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MY THOUGHTS. OH GOD, I'M THE NEXT VICTIM. Kudo gives me a small wave goodbye. I'M GONNA MISS YOU TOO KUDO.

Amuro gives me an odd look before laughing loudly. "YOU'RE FUNNY HEIJI-CHAN. SO FUNNY!" He walks to the door. "Anyway, that was all I needed. It was nice meeting you Heiji-chan!" And with that the devil is out of the room and hopefully out of my life.

"HATTORI." Kudo grabs my shoulders. "HE CHANGED YOUR HONORIFIC."

"I KNOW." I grab his shoulders. "I'M GONNA DIE!"

Ran scoffs at us. "You two are so mean! He's not going to kill anybody. Amuro's as harmless as a doll."

Kudo and I let go of each other. "They said that about Chucky," I say.

"And Furbies," Kudo says.

Ran rolls her eyes. "You're just not used to him, yet. He does seem to like you a lot Heiji-kun. Maybe it's because you both have tan skin?"

I knew my luxurious skin tone would be the end of me one day. FUCKING KNEW IT.

1:00 P.M. IN CAFEBAKE AGAIN. CELEBRATING MY VICTORY OF BEATING KUDO IN MARIO KART WITH MORE COFFEE.

And, believe it or not, I want to see crazy cashier girl again. There's something about her that seems oddly familiar, and I want to get to the bottom of it before leaving this building today. I might not visit Ran and Kudo all the time so this might be my only chance. I wait in line impatiently, and try to look over the people in front of me to see if she's still there. For some reason though, every tall person in the world decided to have their coffee at this time so I can't see a thing.

"HI! I MEAN UH—hi…hello…what would you like?" Another cashier, who is just as odd, greets me once I reach the counter.

I sigh. "Nothing. I wanted to see someone else." Oops. Didn't mean to say that aloud.

The cashier starts tearing up. "I'M SORRY. I KNOW IT'S ME. CAUSE I CAN GUESS WHAT KINDA DRINK YOU WANT AND IT'S REALLY CREEPY." She removes her glasses to wipe her eyes. "I'M SO TERRIBLE AT THESE THINGS!"

Oh geez. Ohhh geez. "Wait, wait! Don't cry!" I check her nametag. "Terumi! I'll buy something from you! Just don't cry!" I really hate seeing, much less being the cause of, a girl crying. Ugh, I'm remembering the day Kazuha and I stopped talking to each other…she was crying a lot then…ANYWAY back to Terumi here.

"Okay…I'm sorry to start crying…I'm just really emotional…all the time…" She gets out a hanky to wipe her glasses with before putting them back on. "I think it's the buildup of being afraid of everyone's thoughts, you know?"

"…I don't." I say after a while. "Is that what girls are calling the time of the month now?" I snicker at the thought.

"What? No. It's not that—I'm irregular anyway…" She tells me. TMI TERUMI. "But you know what I mean, right? Like people expect so much out of us coffee makers! IF I GET ONE THING WRONG THEY'LL HATE ME FOREVER."

"I think you're thinking too hard about it," I say. "I mean it's just coffee. What else can they do if you do something wrong?"

"…complain to my boss and get me fired…" she mumbles.

Hah, actually forgot that point. "Either way, you can always make another coffee. It's not that big of a deal."

She nods, more sure of herself. "Right! I can always try again!" She smiles. Awww she's adorable! Like the younger sister I never got! "What would you like today?"

"Mocha, tall, and a little whipped cream." Because I'm worth it.

Terumi grabs a cup and a sharpie and asks for my name.

"Heiji."

Her smile drops. "Oh no. OH NO. OHHHHH NOOOOO." She covers her mouth, shaking her head. "I'M SO SORRY. I DON'T THINK I'M SUPPOSED TO LIKE YOU—I MEAN TALK TO YOU." She quickly hands me a random cup of coffee. "It's on the house-I'm really sorry."

I walk to a seat in the corner of the cafe in complete shock. Is there some ax murderer that looks exactly like me walking around and everyone else knows he exists but me? WHY IS EVERYONE FREAKING OUT ABOUT MY EXISTENCE? Maybe I'm in a dream or something. Maybe Leonardo DiCaprio is sleeping next to me with one of those dream machines and just fucking around in my dream. I pinch my cheek and wince in pain. Damn.

"Oh is the inside of your mouth itching?" A voice says across from me. Ah, the wonderful Kaito is back. He happily sits across from me with a slice of cake.

"There aren't going to be anymore birds randomly flying out of one of your crevices are there?" I ask, protecting my cup of coffee.

He laughs. "No, no. They're away. Plus, the crowd can only be distracted a few times with that trick." He bites into his cake and hums to himself. I take a sip of my coffee "You're Heiji, right? I've seen or heard your name before…must have been in the Hell Hole," Kaito replies AS IF IT WAS THE MOST NORMAL SENTENCE TO SAY.

I spit out my drink. "WHAT!?" I quickly get a napkin and wipe the table. "Uh...sorry..."

Kuroba lets out a snort. "Nah, s'fine. I probably should've expected that. It always surprises people. Anyway, the kitchen is the Hell Hole. I'm one of the bakers." He wipes the remaining coffee off his shirt and face. "Anyway, what brings you here?"

"I was visiting my friends Kudo and Ran," I tell him.

"HEHEHEH..." is the first thing that comes from Kaito. I'm honestly not sure if I should even bother asking. "They're great fun." He grins. Nope. Not gonna ask.

"Yeah, they're nice. It's a great apartment too. I think I might move myself," I say.

Kuroba grabs my hand, excitedly. "No way! That's, like, the greatest thing I've heard all week!" What. "My girlfriend—" Someone's dating him!? "—is away at the moment—" I hate that I'm not surprised by this. "—and I'm kinda bored being by myself. You seem pretty cool and you seem to like it here, so it's perfect!" Wait…what? Whaaaaaaat? "Come on, I live upstairs. We'll take the elevator!" He pulls me toward the elevator near the back of the restaurant. Once the doors open he pushes me inside, not listening to my protests.

"Dude, I barely know…" I trail off when I see the crazy cashier again. She's serving coffee with Terumi and laughing at something. I said this before, but man she's much prettier when she's not being freakishly crazy. I let out a sigh when the elevator doors close.

Why does she seem so familiar though?

1:20 P.M. UPSTAIRS. KAITO'S LEADING ME TO HIS PLACE. I WONDER WHO'S IN THE HELL HOLE.

"Here we go," Kaito says, jogging toward his door. "The apartments here are super spacious for two people, and Aoko already knows I want another roommate so you're not gonna be in the way." He opens the door and lets me in.

"Why are there doves…everywhere?" I stand in the doorway, watching the flock of doves fly around the room. This guy has too many surprises. Next he's gonna say there's a dragon in the bedroom and it's my roommate.

"Oh, I'm a magician by trade," he says, lowering his voice to sound impressive, which makes me chuckle. "Aoko just asked me to bake for her while she's gone." Kaito walks inside, and doesn't flinch when the flock flies in his direction. "I was practicing a trick earlier and after releasing them downstairs I let them stay here for a bit." he replies turning to me with all of the doves on his shoulders.

Dare I say he looks kinda angelic like that?

"Huh," is the only thing I say as I look around the apartment. It's actually cleaner than I thought it would be. I guess you don't judge someone from their bushy hairstyle.

"If you move in, your room would be the one at the end of the little hallway." Kuroba points, giggling at his doves.

I walk through the main room to the little hallway and find the guest room. I sit on the bed and think about what I want to do. Moving out of my parents' place would be nice, especially since they've been dropping major hints lately. Yesterday Dad taped a piece of paper on my bike with GET OUT on it. Yeah.

And hey, I can talk to Ran and Kudo all the time and try to get on crazy cashier's good side. It's a win/win! No, it doesn't take much to convince me to do something crazy. I should probably take more caution with my actions but life wouldn't be as fun.

I walk back to the living room to see Kuroba putting the last of his doves in their cages. "Oi, I think I'll take you up on your offer after all." I say.

Kaito laughs, winking at me. I guess that's the most he can do without scaring his doves. "Sweet! New roommate!" His excitement slowly fades. "Drat…we gotta talk to Amuro…"

I know that feel Kaito. I know that feel.

5:50 P.M. IN MY NEW ROOM, ORGANIZING MY CDS. YEAH, MOVING IN WAS FAST FOR ME TOO.

Today is like convenience day or something because not only do I have a new room and roommate, moving in my things was a breeze! All I had to bring were my clothes and cds and other personal things since Kaito has this place completely furnished. Like really, where is all his money coming from? Being a magician for some nightclub shouldn't bring in THIS much money. HE HAS MAHOGANY TABLES. MAHOGANY.

"Why do you have a Power Rangers jacket?" Kaito asks, looking through my closet.

"Because it's amazing," I say, taking the last few cds out of a box.

"But it's the most random thing—"

"I DON'T TALK ABOUT YOUR ADULT PURCHASES." I turn to him dramatically.

He snickers. "Man, you're weird." Says the guy who prefers chunky peanut butter. "Oh! We should meet your new neighbors! I'm sure they would love to meet you."

"Just like a cat would love to meet a fast vehicle…" I mutter, following him out of my room.

"What?"

"Nothing~"

We walk out of the apartment and go to one across from us. Kaito rings a little jingle with the doorbell and you would never guess who opens the door.

CRAZY CASHIER GIRL AND HER EVER PRESENT GLARE.

"Hi-Hi!" Kaito waves. She smiles at him. Of course they're friends. OF COURSE. "I wanted you to meet my new roommate, Heiji!" She frowns again when Kaito gestures to me.

"I know who he is." She grimaces. "AND HE'S DUMBER THAN I THOUGHT HE WAS!"

"EH!?" WHAT THE HELL!? "WHAT'S THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN? YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW ME!" I step in front of Kaito. I'M SO PISSED OFF AT THIS GIRL. WHY DID I WANT TO GET ON HER GOOD SIDE?

She gets close to my face. "I DO KNOW YOU AHOU!"

AHOU!? HOW DARE SHE CALL ME-

wait.

She takes a small step back and crosses her arms.

But no...

wait...no...wait..NO...WAIT NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

"KAZUHA!?"

She rolls her eyes. "Took you long enough..."

Kaito gasps loudly. "THAT'S WHERE I HEARD YOUR NAME. YOU'RE THE HEIJI THAT RUINED KAZUHA'S LIFE!"

What?! That's my title!? "I didn't ruin your life!"

"You made me feel terrible for a couple of months that counts for ruining my life." She says, leaning against the doorframe. "Anyway, you should go since I actually need to ask Kaito something."

"I DIDN'T WANT TO TALK TO YOU EITHER!" I yell.

She points at me, extremely agitated. "I DIDN'T WANT YOU TO MOVE HERE!"

"I DIDN'T WANT YOU TO LIVE HERE EITHER!"

"Wait…what do you need to ask me…?" Kaito mumbles.

"FINE!" She goes inside her apartment.

"I'M FINER!"

"IM FINEST-I GOT BOOBS AND A VAGINA NOTHING CAN BEAT THAT!"

"IM THE FINEST OF THE FINE BECAUSE I GOT A PENIS!"

"WELL YOU CAN SUCK IT CAUSE NO ONE ELSE WILL!"

"IT'S PHYSICALLY," I flinch when she slams her door. "...impossible..."

Kaito and I silently walk back to our apartment, not really feeling up to meeting the rest of our neighbors.

"...I think she won that one," He replies.

I sigh loudly. "I know." I go back into our apartment, ruffling my hair.

"Uh...you wanna…talk about what happened?" He asks, closing the door.

"Nothing to talk about." I walk to my room and close the door. I plop on my bed, and groan loudly.

This is sucky and awesome at the same time—like a lollipop that's been on the floor too long—GEEZ.

I hear Kaito open the door to his room. I guess he's gonna hang out in there for a bit. A couple minutes later, I hear him knock.

"Guess who's the kinda roommate who likes checking to see if everyone is okay?" He laughs nervously on the other side of the door.

I sigh and get up to let him in.

He beams when I open the door. "Do you like magic?"

"Sure," I say, following him to my bed.

He waves his hands and makes a deck of cards appear. "Then allow me to show you a mind boggling trick." We sit across from each other and he begins shuffling the cards. "It's a trick that actually stumped me for a bit after one of my magician friends showed it to me, and now it's one of my favorites. It's called oil and water."

"Magic tricks have names?" I ask. "I thought they just existed…"

"Everything has a name! If it didn't things would get kinda hairy," he chuckles. "I will now pull out three red and three black cards. What I'm going to do is keep them separate just like oil and water, hence the name. I'm going to stack the cards, alternating between black and red."

I watch him carefully as he does this. I've seen magic tricks before, and I've been able to see the trick…

"Alrighty! Now all I will do is wave my finger around the stack and…" he picks the cards up and shows me that the red and black cards have separated again.

"No…" I gasp. "I was watching so carefully!"

Kaito laughs again. "I'll do it again." He repeats the trick and I watch his hands. I still don't see anything! How is he doing that? Once again the cards are separated. "Third time's a charm, right?" I nod and he does the trick AND IT WORKS AGAIN. WHAT IS HE DOING?

"I'm so mad that I can't figure this out…" I say. "There's something happening here…"

"You'll be more peeved then," Kaito says as he reaches for the rest of the deck. "You'll see that the rest of the deck is the same way." He shows me the cards and I'm almost speechless.

"That's crazy! How did you do that?" I give him a mini standing ovation. He bows and begins putting the cards away.

"Magicians never tell their secrets, Heiji." He winks at me. "But if you ever need to talk about anything, I'm close by."

Kaito leaves me alone again. It was nice of him to distract me for a little bit, even though I'm a bit more peeved that I couldn't figure it out, but it was still really nice. I let out a sigh. I know one things for sure—I'm really glad to see Kazuha again. Sure she hates me, but seeing her in person is like the best present ever.

I cover my face when I let out a groan. There's something else that's bothering me though.

"KAITO DO THE TRICK AGAIN. I SWEAR TO GOD I'M GONNA FIGURE IT OUT!" I yell as I run out of my room.

He did it three more times and I still couldn't figure it out. We both were cracking up by the end of it though, so I guess that's what really matters.

Chapter Text

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."

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 02: NORMAL= NUTTERBUTTER

9:35 A.M. SATURDAY. CAFÉ BAKE. SERVING PEOPLE WHO AREN'T ME COFFEE. NOTHING LIKE A JOB TO MAKE YOU HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT LIFE.

But hey, at least Kazuha and I aren't screaming at each other. We're now able to say one word in inside voices.

"Coffee." Kazuha hands me a customer's drink.

"Thanks," I say, handing it to the customer.

See? Kinda amazing what coffee can do to people. Java Lava is still supreme. Anyway, I kinda never realized how many annoying people come into cafés. Especially those people who have freakishly long orders. 'OMG I WANNA FRAPPACINONOLATTEFOAMFOAMFOAMCHOCOLATEPUMPKINSPICE'. NO. GET OUTTA HERE MAN. GET OUT. But I digress.

"Oh jeez, I'm seeing you in public now." I look up to see Conan on the other side of the counter. Ah, speaking of annoying people…

"It's wonderful to see you too Conan," I say, trying to be as cordial as I possibly can. Kaito already threatened me to spend the rest of my shift in the corner of the café if I wasn't nice to people. Hey but that first guy had it coming—when I accidentally gave him another customer's drink he insulted my amazing blue shirt so I told him 'Are you sure you hate the color blue because I'm sure you see your blue balls every time you shower', and Keiko laughed so hard that she fell on the floor. She's fine, and that dickwad isn't a regular anymore. Was it worth it? Hell yeah. I sigh in Conan's face. "What do you want?" I'll be nicer to the next person for sure.

"Wait—you don't know my order?"

I groan loudly. "Conan, I started TODAY. How the hell am I supposed to know your order?" I ask.

"I dunno, don't they tell you these things when you're in training or whatever?" He shrugs.

I roll my eyes. "Is this payback for messing you up in Zelda?"

"YES." He slams his hand on the counter. "I FREAKING FORGOT TO SAVE SO WHEN I DIED I HAD TO REDO ALL THE CRAP I DID BEFORE FIGHTING THE BOSS AGAIN. I COLLECTED ALL THE BUGS FOR POTIONS HEIJI. ALL OF THEM."

"And the best revenge scheme you could think of was being an annoying customer?" I ask, grabbing a cup for him.

"I mean I thought about ruining your social life, but you already did that." He grins.

My eye twitches. He thinks he's sooo clever. "…are you sure it's a good idea to annoy me while I make something that's going in your body?"

"Hahaha yeah—" He slowly stops laughing after he realizes what I said. He stares at me in sheer horror. "….you're going to kill me…"

"That's illegal, Conan. Also, Ran would kill me if I poisoned you." Just for shits and giggles, I pour the coffee in his cup suspiciously to freak him out.

He twitches and looks at his hands. "You're right…Ran would care. That's why she's awesome…" he mumbles, blushing. He mutters something else, but I couldn't hear it well.

I raise an eyebrow curiously. I know what he said was just his crush-feelings gushing everywhere, but something about it was kinda off.

"Shinichi doesn't like dead people either," I say. I figured using Kudo's first name would drive something home to him. I never had siblings and my parents are only children, so I don't know how to deal with relatives that weren't my grandparents. I guess that's why I liked having Kazuha around—she was the relative I never had. If only she was an old lady…then I can fix my problems. WHY COULDN'T SHE BE 90? I get out of my thoughts and notice Conan staring intently at his drink. "Your coffee is safe." I hand him his cup. "Next time, try to get me when I'm not handling things you want to consume." I grin when he hesitantly takes it. "Oi, there's a booger in your nose—I hope Ran didn't see that." There wasn't, but he doesn't have to know that.

He gasps loudly and covers his nose with his free hand. "SHUT UP YOU'RE MESSING WITH ME. I SPENT LIKE AN HOUR IN THE BATHROOM CLEANING MYSELF."

"Gross Conan I don't want to hear about you TOUCHING YOURSELF IN THE BATHROOM," I yell loudly for other people to hear.

Conan almost drops his drink, screaming. "SHUT UP. I DON'T DO THAT AND THERE'S NOTHING IN MY NOSE AND YOU'RE AN IDIOT!" He runs away to the elevator. Man that made my week. I hear a snicker behind me and I turn to see Kazuha trying to cover a smile.

"Did I make you laugh?" I ask. Maybe this whole working thing will help! Labor is actually useful!

She stops smiling. "NO. YOUR UNIFORM MADE ME LAUGH."

Or not. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN!? THE UNIFROM IS ON ME THEREFORE I MADE YOU LAUGH."

"NO YOU DIDN'T. THE UNIFORM IS NOT YOU. YOU CAN'T WEAR YOURSELF!"

"THE UNIFORM IS ON MY SKIN. I'M WEARING MY SKIN ERGO THE UNIFROM IS ME!"

"Uh…excuse me?" A voice says behind us.

"Heiji-san…there's a customer behind you…" Terumi tries to get in between us, but Kazuha's a few inches taller than her so it doesn't help.

"YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO SPELL ERGO WHY ARE YOU USING IT?" Kazuha yells.

"I KNOW THE DEFINITION AND HOW IT'S USED AND THAT THERE'S AT LEAST ONE VOWEL IN IT SO I CAN USE THE WORD. WHAT ARE YOU MERRIAM WEBSTER?" THE NERVE OF HER. JUST BECAUSE SHE WON THE SPELLING BEE EVERY YEAR DOESN'T MEAN SHE'S HOT SHIT. SHE'S NOT. SHE'S COLD…COLD SHIT.

"Uh, please stop…" The voice continues. I blindly swat at the person and my arm is immediately twisted behind my back. Terumi yelps at the sudden movement.

"WHAT THE HELL!" I glance behind me to see a guy in a delivery truck uniform. He looks slightly familiar, but I'm too agitated/freaked out that someone caught me off guard.

"Strike two Heiji~ You're almost in the corner." Kaito says from the kitchen window. He props Aoko-laptop on the sill and leans beside her. Isn't she supposed to be with her dad? How come she has all this free time to be on the computer? "Also you're being manhandled by Kyogoku Makoto, our lovely delivery guy."

"Makoto…?" I ask when my arm is finally released. "You mean…THE PRINCE OF KICKS?" I turn around excitedly.

Makoto lets out a breath and smiles as much as he can without being too emotional. "You're the only one who still calls me that Heiji."

"You two know each other?" Kaito asks, glancing backward to check on Keiko in the kitchen. At the moment, she's filling in for the other baker who had an emergency to attend to. From the two hours she's been back there, Keiko has successfully set three pans on fire without touching them. She's like the chef version of Gambit or something.

Makoto nods. "I know them both." He gestures to me and Kazuha. "We ran into each other a lot whenever there was a major martial arts tournament when we were younger."

"Hey Makoto. You want the usual?" Kazuha smiles, already filling out his order.

"Please." He nods.

"Makoto do you work here?" I ask eagerly. I'm practically jumping up and down. I love this guy. He's the cool older brother I never had. We met at a tournament in Osaka; I had a bunch of time to kill before the kendo competition started so I went to the karate matches and MAN IS MAKOTO AWESOME. In the crowd I was screaming for him to win and I found him after the match and gushed about how awesome he was. Makoto being the stoic person he is, can't take any compliments so he covered his face with a towel and thanked me. Later during my kendo match he was in the crowd silently cheering me on. And by silent I mean when I happened to make eye contact with him he quickly covered his face again. He met Kazuha shortly after that, and whenever there was a tournament the three of us would hang out in-between matches.

"No." He points at his uniform. Ah right, it's different than ours. "I just deliver their supplies every Tuesday and Saturday. In return, I get free coffee." Like me, Makoto lives for Java Lava.

"Do you always twist Heiji's arm when he's being an idiot?" Aoko asks, grinning. Why is she getting enjoyment from that?

"Yes." He happily takes his drink, nodding his thanks. "I trip up Kazuha when she's being too loud also." Makoto was basically my and Kazuha's mom back in those days.

"Thanks again for the delivery, Mako~" Kaito winks. Aoko snickers.

Makoto's eyebrow twitches. "You're welcome…"

"Aw look at him~ How cute!" Aoko gushes. Makoto forces himself to look at the ground as he forces another swig of coffee down. The tips of his ears slowly turn red.

"You let other people embarrass you now?" I ask, laughing. "I thought that was my job." The sad thing about Makoto is that everyone who knows him purposefully says things to get him flustered. I was the worst—there was one time he stopped talking to me for a week because I called him "my nutterbutter".

"It's gotten worse…" He mutters, letting out a sigh. "It was better with just you, but now…" he glances at Kaito, who started blowing kisses at him.

"MAKO YOU'RE SO HANDSOME I WISH YOU WERE HERE BESIDE ME!" Aoko reaches toward him.

"I'm leaving." He announces. Kaito and Aoko groan in dismay. "It was nice seeing you, Heiji," he sets down his drink, grabs a napkin and writes something on it. "There's my number if you want to talk." And with that he quickly leaves, his face reddening.

"COME BACK MAKO-CHAN! I LOVE TO LOOK AT YOU!" Kaito screams after him.

"ROMANCE ROMANCE ROMANCE!" Aoko twirls around in her chair.

Kazuha clicks her tongue at the napkin in my hands before turning away irritated. Is she angry that I get to talk to Makoto now? Wait…Makoto made sure I had his number before I left for America… so what did he write down?

Please call today at 1:00. Thank you.

Ah. Good ol' cryptic Makoto….Also look at how freaking polite he is. Who says thank you at the end of a note? If I had to guess from Kazuha's reaction, Makoto's probably going to tell me something about Kazuha and/or scold me for being stupid. Yaaaay a Mama-Makoto scolding…

"Damn it ALLLLL" Ah, a new customer. "How do I keep missing him?" She says, messing with her headband. She curses again, staring out the window.

"Stalking someone?" I ask, slipping Makoto's note in my back pocket.

She turns to me angrily. "OH SHUT IT—wait, who the heck are you?" She makes a big show of checking me out, which hehe can't blame her for that, before smirking. "I've never seen you before."

"He didn't exist until yesterday…" Kazuha mutters, refilling the coffee machines.

Terumi awkwardly shuffles to my side. "He just moved in…HE'S MY NEIGHBOR."

I lean close to Terumi and loudly whisper in her ear, "Wait, Terumi I don't really want a random stalker know where I live—"

"IT'S IMPORTANT HEIJI-SAN." Terumi turns to me extremely agitated. I didn't know she was even capable of an angry emotion…

"Heiji?" the girl ponders this. "I've heard that name before…"

I groan, bending down to put my head on the counter. "God not this again…YES, I RUINED KAZUHA'S LIFE." I stand back up and glare at Kazuha for like the umpteenth time today. "JESUS KAZUHA HOW MANY PEOPLE DID YOU TELL?"

"Sonoko,"She snaps, pointing at the girl behind the counter, "doesn't live here so she doesn't know. It's not like you're not used to people already knowing you're an idiot."

I ruffle my hair. "In America I didn't have to worry about anything…" I freeze. Shit.

Kazuha inhales sharply. FUCK—NO WAIT KAZUHA NO I DIDN'T MEAN IT THAT WAY. "Then why did you come back?" She goes to the kitchen, slamming the door.

Kazuha…I didn't mean it in that way…I don't really know how I meant that…

"Good gracious, how do we even sell coffee?" I hear Aoko say before Kaito reaches to close the kitchen window.

"Wow," Sonoko says after a while. I forgot she existed. Ugh not only did I really fuck up with Kazuha, I fucked up in public. UGH THIS IS SO FRUSTRATING, WHY CAN'T KAZUHA BE OLD SO I CAN KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH HER? ALL OLD PEOPLE NEED ARE THEIR TEETH AND CANDY AND THEY ARE SET FOR LIFE. YOUNGER PEOPLE NEED LIKE APOLOGIES OR SOME EMOTIONAL THING THAT I DON'T KNOW OF. "You're a real loser." She leans on the counter. Of course, she's the type that pours salt in the already salt filled wound. Offff course…

"He's a loser with words," Terumi replies giving me a friendly pat on the shoulder. I also forgot she existed and quickly check if there's anyone else I might need to take note of. I barely nod in agreement; I accept the support, but you could've phrased it better, Terumi.

"Well whatever you did to her is good for me!" Sonoko laughs loudly. "You won't be dating her anytime soon!"

This girl… "And then you'll have easy game on dating me?" I ask, leaning on the counter.

She nods happily. "You're like the only guy who works here that's single, which is totally unfair since Aoko has been gone for so long. It's like she wants me to make her boyfriend fall in love with me."

"Isn't she only on a week vacation?"

"IT'S A WEEK TOO LONG."

I laugh loudly. Wow, this girl is amazing. She's the girl I've always wanted to interact with—one who's always on the lookout for guys. The only female friends I had were Kazuha, who always hung around me so she never talked about dating guys, and Ran who's freaking Mother Theresa, so Sonoko is actually giving me a cool female experience…albeit it's extremely ill timed. But whatever she's actually making my mood a bit better, which is what I kinda need right now.

"Anyway all that matters is that you're going to be seeing me a lot more SO DON'T GET A GIRLFRIEND." Sonoko threatens.

"Yeah, yeah…" For some reason she reminds me of Conan…you know sort of a nuisance but entertaining at the same time? Man that would be so weird if Conan wanted to date me…I can only imagine the weirdness that Ran feels all the time.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Sonoko." Speak of the angel, here she comes. "Ah, Heiji! Hard at work?" She smiles.

I make a weird animal noise. She takes it in stride. That's why everyone should love Ran because she doesn't question weird answers because she knows we all end up telling her what's really wrong later.

Sonoko gasps, pointing at me. "NOW I REMEMBER! YOU'RE THE GUY THAT WAS IN AMERICA WITH RAN AND HER NERDY LIFELESS BOYFRIEND!"

"I'm right here," Kudo mutters. He gives me a short wave and rolls his eyes at Sonoko. Haha, I get that feel Kudo. "You look terrible." He tells me, making sure Ran is out of ear shot.

"I feel terrible. I fucked up." I notice Ran look in my direction after I say this because I'm crap at whispering. Mom always said I never knew how to be a quiet person—apparently I get that from Dad, but she's the one screaming when she wins a round of mahjong…

Kazuha comes back from the kitchen, and immediately goes to help Terumi with customers. Jeez, I'm a terrible worker—all I've been doing is getting angry with regulars and talking to other random people. But I have a weird feeling that Kaito and Aoko hired me with the intent of not giving me a paycheck… Kazuha pushes her hair back behind her ear, and I notice that her eyes are a bit puffy. SHIT I MADE HER CRY….AGAIN. WHY AM I GOOD AT THAT? JESUS I SHOULD WORK AT A FREAKING DMV OR SOMETHING SO I CAN MAKE BETTER USE OF THIS SKILL.

Kudo also sees this and shakes his head. "Welp, I'd love to help you but I have to go shopping with Ran and AN ANNOYING RAT." He directs the last part to Sonoko.

Sonoko wrinkles her nose. "Gross, he's coming with us Ran? This was supposed to be a girl's day out! Now he's gonna ruin it with his…everything."

"I can't believe you two can't get along after all the time we've spent together!" Ran frowns, crossing her arms. "You guys even teamed up to take care of me when I was sick one time!"

Sonoko shakes her head. "Ran, you don't understand—it takes too much energy to keep quiet about his manboner for Sherlock Holmes." I immediately crack up and give Sonoko a high five. EVEN RAN MADE A WEIRD HICCUPING GIGGLE AT THAT.

"He knows noisy people doesn't he?" I barely hear Kazuha mumble to Terumi.

11:35 A.M. CAFÉBAKE. BREAK TIME. EATING WITH KEIKO AND TERUMI IN THE HELL HOLE. TERUMI GUESSED THAT RAN MADE ME SOMETHING FOR LUNCH BUT I BET SHE CAN'T GUESS WHAT SHE MADE.

"Its meatballs," Terumi says. "They're leftovers, I think."

I stare at her. "How the hell do you do that?"

"I DON'T KNOW. I JUST HAVE REALLY GOOD INTUITION OR SOMETHING. I'M SORRY." Terumi exclaims already on the brink of tears.

"Wait wait! It's really cool!" I calm her down. "You're really…sensitive."

She wilts, nodding. "Well…people don't really like it when someone guesses everything about them…" She bites into her sandwich. "So I just go ahead and get the crying over with…" That's the saddest thing I've ever heard.

Keiko pats her back. "Don't worry about it too much Terumi. I mean a lot of people made fun of me because I was a fan of Sonic and I turned out okay because of Aoko and Kaito."

"And I love rabbits but my parents were okay with it," I say, popping meatballs in my mouth.

Keiko stares at me before quickly turning away covering a snort. OI I DIDN'T LAUGH AT YOU LIKING SONIC KEIKO. BETTER MAKE THAT GIGGLE GO AWAY AS FAST AS THAT STUPID HEDGEHOG.

"Either way…" I glare at Keiko before turning to Terumi, "I think you're cool so you don't have to cry anymore." I grin.

Terumi blushes and smiles brightly. "Thank you, Heiji." AWW SHE'S SO CUTE. SHE EVEN STOPPED ADDING THE HONORIFIC! WHY DIDN'T I GET A YOUNGER SISTER MOM AND DAD? TOO MUCH TO HANDLE" MY ASS. "Are you enjoying your first day?"

I shrug. "It could be better. I don't think I worked as hard as I should have."

Keiko smiles brightly. "You didn't." Thank you for your brutal honesty.

"Well, you're fresh from the grind," Terumi laughs. Why do I feel like she's been holding in that coffee pun for the longest? "You'll get brewed in eventually." She pushes up her glasses giggling. SHE WAS. Keiko flicks her forehead.

"This is what I live with 24/7." Keiko tells me as she gets up to throw her stuff away. "Speaking of 24/7, I can't wait till you get to live with both Kaito and Aoko."

"Well, if you're talking about the possible awkwardness that comes from living with a couple, I already experienced that from living with Ran and Kudo." I lean back in my chair. And by awkwardness I mean they were too awkward to be a couple even though I told them I was fine with it. Don't even get me started on their extreme precautions when they wanted to have sex. They literally wasted hours planning on the perfect day to get me out of the house for a long period of time instead of asking me to leave. HAHA I BET IT'S EVEN WORSE WITH CONAN AROUND. ONCE AGAIN THE NEED TO MAKE A SHOW ABOUT THEM ARISES.

Keiko gives me a cheeky grin. "You'll see what I mean."

Before I could ask what in the world that meant, the kitchen door slams open and an exasperated boy...or girl…an exasperated person walks in. "OH THANK GOD KEIKO DIDN'T BURN DOWN THE KITCHEN." They happily skip around hugging pots and pans. They must be the other baker…"I mean…thank you for subbing for me, Keiko." They smile sweetly to Keiko, giving her a hug.

Keiko doesn't return it. "What happened anyway? Kaito said you had a major emergency."

"My stupid brother accidentally burned himself cooking breakfast this morning," They reply. "He drank too much bourbon last night so I guess he was still out of it when he turned on the stove. Now he has this nasty scar on his face…he'll never get a girlfriend." They sigh. "It's so hard being a younger sister…" Ah, she's female.

"Oh, Sera," Terumi gestures to me, "this is Heiji, he's the new barista."

Sera sticks out her hand for me to shake. "Hi! Kazuha hates you!" She said that a bit too gleefully. "I'm the only one next to Kaito and Aoko who work full time so she spent a lot of time just ranting about how much—" Keiko coughs loudly and quickly shakes her head. "….you seem nice." Wow, nice cover up.

1:00 P.M. CAFÉBAKE. KAITO OWNED UP TO HIS SITTING IN THE CORNER THREAT. I'M LITERALLY SITTING ON A SMALL STOOL IN THE FAR CORNER OF THE CAFÉ, BUT THAT ASSWIPE DESERVED HAVING HIS DRINK POURED ON HIS HEAD.

No one complains about my ice tea not being cold enough. HEHEH I BET HE'S COLD NOW. But let me call Makoto before he gets angry about me being one minute late. After one ring he answers.

"I was worried you weren't going to call," He says.

"I always call you when you tell me to!" I huff, leaning on my knees.

"No you don't. You're afraid of talking about feelings, therefore you don't call me…because I'm better at handling things than you are."

"YOU GET FLUSTERED WHEN PEOPLE SAY 'LIKE-LIKE'!" There's a few seconds of silence. HAHA I WIN.

Makoto clears his throat. "Either way…we have to talk about Kazuha. She actually called me the day of your departure. I know you guys say stupid things in general, but what you said was…really stupid."

I sit back on the wall, groaning. "I know…"

"Probably the dumbest thing you've said since I've known you."

"Yeah…"

"It almost surpasses you calling me…that phrase."

I snort. "After all these years you still can't say nutterbutter?"

Makoto sighs loudly and I snicker.

"Anyway, when she called she said it would've felt better if you had told her that you didn't like her romantically instead of cutting all ties." Ah, right I did say that didn't I…? Jeez what a terrible thing to say to someone you've known basically your whole life. "While you were away, she was really lonely. I couldn't visit her much since I was also away at university." I'm not trying to take three steps back from the seriousness, but why did Makoto settle on being a delivery guy? But then again, why did I agree to be a barista? "On the other hand, whenever you had the chance to call me, which was rare," I can't tell if he's sad or not about that, "you were with Shinichi and Ran, which isn't bad, but it felt like you forgot about everything you had here." He politely waits for me to say something. Even when he's mad, and yes he is indeed kinda ticked at the moment, Mako's still polite.

"Well…I still thought about her all the time when I was gone…" I mumble. That sounds lame…that sounds like what your average douchebag would say when he's trying to get back with his ex or something. UGH I'M THAT GUY. "And Kudo and Ran never really knew about it until recently…"

"Ah, so there was mutual worrying?" He asks, I think more to himself than to me.

"…yes?"

He sighs again. "Why do you two always act like children?"

"Because you were our mom and put us in line."

"Leave the nest, Heiji."

I laugh, but that phrase hurt a bit more than it should have.

"If it makes you feel better, Kazuha's actually happy to see you again. Like you, she can't show it well. The other day when I called her she told me about moving in. It was the first time in a while she sounded like her old self."

Definitely not telling him I made her cry after he left. "Right…" I look toward the coffee machines. Kazuha and Terumi are there handling a large group of college students. "Do you know when Kazuha cut her hair?" I ask, watching Kazuha push some of her hair behind her ear.

"Hmmm…it was very soon after you left," he answers. "Are you still at work?"

"Oh yeah, but I'm in a timeout." I say offhandedly. I hate to say this is not the first time I've been in a timeout as an old person.

Makoto chuckles. Wow, Makoto only laughs like once a year since he's awkward about being happy. We're like complete opposites—I can laugh at anything and not be serious and he can be serious but can't smile for anything. "Even though you make poor decisions, I'm glad you didn't change Heiji."

2:00 P.M. MY APARTMENT. FINALLY DONE WITH MY SHIFT. I SPENT THE REST OF MY TIME SITTING IN THE CORNER TALKING TO MAKOTO.

I even got him to say the first syllable of nutterbutter before he hung up on me. Baby steps Makoto, baby steps.

"UGHH WORKING IS SO HARD…" I collapse on the couch.

"Says the person who only works part time." I hear Aoko say from the coffee table. Kaito asked me to bring her up to keep me company and all she's been doing is singing Disney songs. "You make a good Aladdin by the way." What can I say, Aladdin's my favorite movie.

"Thanks and you can't really say anything to me about work because you're not even here," I reply.

"Touche." She munches on cookies. "Sooooo we gonna talk about Kazuha orrrrrr….?"

I turn my back to her.

"HEIJI YOU MADE HER CRY THIS TIME!"

"I KNOW THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I ACTUALLY TRY TO TALK ABOUT THINGS! EVERYTHING GOES STUPID!"

Aoko sighs. "Heiji…you've only known me for what-48 hours? But I know what you're going through." She smiles when I face her again. "There's times when I make Kaito really angry or I hurt his feelings and I don't know what to do. I'll isolate myself from him because," she makes a flurry of hand movements trying to find the right word. "Well, you know what I mean. For emotionally stunted people like us the right thing to say comes out at the right time. I hope that makes sense."

"Yeah, I get it…I just wish the right thing would come sooner."

She laughs. "I know right? But when it does it goes by in a flash." She opens her arms. "Wanna hug it out?"

"We're skyping."

"I'll feel it in my heart."

"I'm not—"

"HUG THE LAPTOP."

I reluctantly hug the laptop and oddly enough I felt a bit better. I'm so glad Kaito didn't see me do it. He would never let me live it down.


I think this chapter has the least new scenes in it... Again XDD I don't have much to say since I'm binge updating. Thanks for reading and reviewing! I hope everyone enjoys the new scenes added to the chapters!

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 03: NORMAL= SHE'S ONE OF THOSE GIRLS

HIGH SCHOOL. IT'S LUNCH TIME AND I'M WAITING FOR KAZUHA BECAUSE SHE'S SO SLOW ALLL THE TIMMMMEEEE. THIS IS THE FIRST YEAR WE'RE IN SEPARATE CLASSES.

Kazuha and I ate on the roof because frankly, we watched too many animes and every anime ever made has at least one school scene where a group of people eat their lunch on the roof. ANYWAY. The wind started to pick up when Kazuha finally came up and when she tried to eat her hair got in her mouth. It was funny.

"GAH I HATE MY HAIR!" She said while getting a hair out of her mouth. "My mom has been urging me to cut it, and I think I will."

"What? No! Why?" I sit up frantically. I have a bad habit of eating while lying on my back. I don't remember when I started doing that, but I've had bad indigestion ever since.

"Cause I look childish with this ponytail all the time. Even my friends make fun of me sometimes." She blushed. "I didn't think you cared about my hair…"

"Yeah! Yeah, I do. Dad's hair looks weird and Mom's hair looks weird and I like looking at your hair." I lay back down. "Your hair looks prettiest that way Kazuha."

She didn't say anything for a while, and being the person that I am, I didn't really care to see what her expression was.

"Also, I think most of your friends are stupid." I smile when she giggles. "You have a bad way of choosing friends."

"You're my friend—are you a bad choice?" She asked.

"No, I'm the best friend." I grinned.

"Well okay best friend, I'm never cutting my hair." She smiled and another rush of wind came by and it blew her hair in the most beautiful way. I rarely used the word beautiful, and I'm sure as hell not telling Kazuha I described her hair that way. "You know I never knew how weird it is not being around you," she said suddenly, snapping me out of small zoning out session.

"Yeah," I said remembering how quiet I was in class earlier. "It's weird." I didn't think Kazuha was the reason I was so loud in class. I thought it was just my personality.

"Let's make a deal to always meet up here. That way things won't get too weird." Kazuha held out her pinky.

"Kazuha babies do this," I said, but I linked my pinky with hers anyway.

7:40 A.M. I JUST DREAMED ABOUT KAZUHA. NO NO NO NO

"NO KAZUHA GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" I exclaim, quickly sitting up. I hear a noise from beside me. Turning toward the noise, I see Kaito in a form fitting dress and a piece of toast in his mouth, reaching for a shirt in my closet. We share a moment of silence.

I don't even know what to do with my life anymore.

"Before you say anything, I just wanna let you know this will not be the weirdest thing you'll see me doing," Kaito says after removing the toast from his mouth.

I don't know if I should thank him for the warning or be frightened. I don't know if I should be okay with my weird dream about Kazuha or disturbed. WHAT ARE EMOTIONS? HELL IF I KNOW.

"This is fucked up," I finally say.

Kaito scoffs. "That's rude of you—I think pink is my color."

"No, not you—to be frank I'm not too surprised by this." I take another glance at the dress he's wearing. Frills…that suits him. This is the weirdest morning I've ever had in my life. "But it'll help me in the long run if you gave me a reason for the dress."

He winks. "Can't stop staring, eh?" I throw my pillow at him. "Okay, okay—I do a cool bit during my magic show where I disguise myself in the crowd and people have to find me. Real life 'Where's Waldo?', if you will." He finishes his toast and lets out a sigh. "Me in drag is a perk for the audience. It's a pain for me sometimes but hey, you gotta get tips somehow."

"Wait why are you stealing my shirt?" I ask.

He laughs sheepishly. "When I came back in, I realized I forgot to do my laundry. Can I take your 'LOVE DOCTOR' shirt?"

"Yeah, sure…I don't even know why I own that." I get out of bed and walk to my bathroom. I grab my toothbrush, dab some toothpaste on it and start brushing my teeth. "How long are your magic shows?" I ask out of curiosity. I remember him leaving last night around nine.

"Mmmm…today I got back around five." I hear him mess around with the hangers. I guess he's taking a pair of my pants too. Wait did he say he got home around five? I check the time again.

I poke my head out of the bathroom, and remove my toothbrush. "Dude, you only slept for two hours?!"

Kaito laughs as he pulls on a pair of my pants. "Yep. I usually get one hour in." He closes my closet door. "Depending on the night I go to three different venues."

"Jeez…" I say, going back to the bathroom to spit out the toothpaste.

"Mhm. Of course, if Bimboko wasn't away I would be asleep till later." He leans against the bathroom doorway. "Soooo gonna give me a reason for your weird Kazuha outburst?"

I slump. "She was in my dream." Kaito wiggles his eyebrows grinning. "Not that kinda dream. It was a weird memory about us in high school." I lean down to wash my face in the sink. "We weren't in the same class for once and we promised to meet on the roof whenever we had a break."

Kaito looks at me before chuckling. "Oh so that explains it…" He walks away before I can ask him what the heck that meant.

12: 06 P.M. CAFÉBAKE. KAZUHA AND I HAVE STOPPED SAYING ORDERS TO EACH OTHER. UGGGGH WHY DOES LIFE SUCK SO MUCH. I NEED SOMETHING TO DISTRACT ME FROM MY TERRIBLE LIFE.

"Like, hey!" Sonoko greets me as she walks in. THANK GOODNESS.

"I've never been happier to see you," I tell her when she reaches the counter. That's saying something since I just met her yesterday.

She bats her eyelashes. "You've been dreaming about me?"

My smile slightly lowers. Luckily she doesn't notice. "Eh, I've had dreams." I shrug. "How was shopping with Kudo yesterday?"

She groans loudly. "Don't get me started—he kept complaining about us taking too long in the clothing stores. Luckily Ran realized it was a mistake to bring him so today we're having an actual girl's day out!" She pulls out her credit card and points it at me. "Tall skinny latte." Please and thank you are magic words Sonoko.

"Kudo didn't leave for the bookstore?" I ask, swiping her card and handing it back to her. Whenever Ran and Kudo went to the mall, I would always find Kudo in the bookstore with his face literally in Sherlock novels inhaling their scent. Yes, Ran and I are trying to plan an intervention.

"Oh he did," Sonoko leans against the counter. "But Ran kept going on and on and on about him. 'Shinichi would love this don't you think?' 'Shinichi says blue looks better on me, but I dunno…'" She mimicks Ran, and dare I say it's pretty similar?

"I mean," I start as I begin making her drink, "they are dating. It would be weird if she didn't talk about him."

"Sure, but I've known her for all my life—she never talked about him this much even when he was right next to her!" Sonoko sighs again. "What if something happened in America…did Shinichi have an affair?" She leans on the counter grinning, "you two are pretty close…"

"I'm notorious for doing malicious things to people's drinks, Sonoko." What's terrible is that's not the first time people have thought Kudo and I had some sort of fling. LIKE REALLY. I THINK IT'S OBVIOUS HE'S OUT OF MY LEAGUE. "But to answer your question, nothing really happened besides them meeting me—"

Sonoko gasps loudly. "THAT'S IT!" She points at me. "YOU."

Before I could ask what the hell that meant, Ran comes out of the elevator and joins us.

"Hello Heiji-kun!" She smiles. "How are you today?"

I shrug. "I'm feeling kinda low. Had a weird flashback dream."

She gives me a pat on the shoulder. "I'm guessing it's about your troubles with Kazuha-san. I feel so bad that I can't help by talking to her. To be honest, I don't think she likes me very much." She laughs nervously at this. Poor Ran, she hates not having people like her. One time in college, one of our classmates had a huge grudge against Ran and it depressed her a lot. Turned out he had a crush on her, but this was found out after Kudo and I filled his bed with frogs. This is the reason the three of us lived in an apartment after the first semester of freshman year. Sadly this isn't the first time I've been kicked out of…anything.

"You guys met?" I ask, sliding Sonoko's drink toward her.

Ran nods. "It was the day after Shinichi and I moved in. We were in the elevator with the last few boxes and she met us going up to our floor. Sonoko was there also."

"I SURE WAS!" Sonoko announces between sips. I should've made hers decaf…there's no telling what she could do with a caffeine high. "She was all smiles and saying how great it was to meet us, and then SHE SNAPPED!" She exaggerates this with large arm movements and almost hits another customer. Yep…should've made it decaf…

"Did something happen? She doesn't just snap at people for no reason," I say.

"Shinichi mentioned you," Ran answers. "She asked if we knew you and after we told her we all graduated together she stopped talking to us…"

"Which was kinda dumb on her part since we were all still in the elevator," Sonoko adds. "Where's the little meanie anyway? She usually shuts us up with an intense glare at this point."

I let out a bitter laugh. "She's on break. Kaito made it so we're separated due to some complaints from customers." Of course there were some choice comments on my behavior but that is not the point. On the subject of taking a break—where did Kazuha wander off to? Keiko's scheduled to be with her but Kazuha didn't go to the Hell Hole… I guess she's in her room or something. I feel so terrible—I didn't want our problems to bother other people.

"We should probably go now. Remember to work hard Heiji-kun!" Ran's laughter snaps me out of my thoughts. Haha wow, thanks for believing in my work ethic Ran. The two of them leave the café animated with conversation. Heh, it must be nice still being friends with people you grew up with. Ugh, I'm such an idiot.

2:30 P.M. ON BREAK. USING THEIR ULTRA GOSSIP POWERS SERA, AOKO, AND SLEEP DEPRIVED KAITO HAVE DEDICATED THEIR LIVES TO GETTING INTO MY BUSINESS AND CRITICIZE MY LIFE CHOICES.

"Woah, Kazuha's like Hera whenever she catches Zeus cheating on her," Sera says. "Heiji, you have to stop this before someone ends up being a cow!" She says this as if this could actually happen. Wait does that make me Zeus? Zeus is a major asshole! Well…I guess the shoe fits considering my situation.

I bite into my sandwich. "Don't you guys have something better to talk about? Like your lives?"

Aoko shakes her head. "You don't understand Heiji. This is the first time extreme discord has entered our work place/apartment building. We want to fully indulge in this." She momentarily leaves the screen to pack the rest of her clothes. She's coming back tomorrow so her room is in complete disarray with clothes everywhere and I mean EVERYWHERE.

"Also we're nosy people," Kaito adds. "And it's good for our street cred." He puts his head on the table.

"Do you need another espresso?" Sera asks. Kaito makes a noise and she leaves the Hell Hole.

Aoko twirls around in her chair. "It might sound crazy but your life problems help business."

"HOW?!" I ask. WHAT SORT OF LEECH ESTABLISHMENT IS THIS?

"It's simple—every well-established business has comical workers and juicy gossip. You saw how long Cheers lasted. It even had a spinoff." Aoko explains. "Even though you're probably one of the worst people I've ever hired, you're increasing foot traffic. You see, you're the spinoff."

"Yer a spinoff, Heiji," Kaito tells me in Hagrid's voice. God, its creepy how good he is at that.

I let out a sigh. How come nothing in this café makes sense? "You're joking."

"No, you are the worst barista." Sera snorts loudly. That's not what I meant, but I'm still offended by this.

"I wish I was joking." Aoko almost mutters this. Wow does no one like that I'm working here? I'm doing the world a big favor. I could be ruining another business, but nooooo I decided to stay here for the sake of my own life and my roommates. "Hakuba gave me the numbers the other day and somehow more people are showing up to receive your terrible service and listen to you and Kazuha jibber jabber."

"For the sake of our sanity, you're separated." Kaito mumbles against the table.

Sera returns to the table, giving Kaito his much needed espresso. "Does that mean they have to keep hating each other for business?" She got herself a can of orange soda, and she opens it, quickly slurping the soda that fizzed out from the top of the can.

Aoko laughs. "It would be easy if we could," I don't know if I should be glad about this or not. "But it would get boring really quickly—it's probably already borderline stale as we speak since this has been going on for almost a week now. If nothing happens soon….WE'RE DONE FOR." She gives me a deadly look.

Oh sure, it's easy saying "Heiji fix your life" but it's hard doing it. And I bet she's saying all this just to give me a push to do something and you know what I say? I SAY IF KAZUHA DOESN'T WANT TO TALK TO ME THEN FINE. WHATEVER. I'LL DEAL. I MEAN I DEALT WITH IT BEFORE IN AMERICA, I CAN DEAL WITH IT NOW.

I let out a sigh. Of course it's a bit harder now with seeing her all the time and acting differently. Really, I never dealt with losing a friend ever. I never forced myself to not contact anyone again. Why did I say that to Kazuha? She's my best friend—why did I make a simple confession ruin everything?

I force these thoughts aside. "Who's Hakuba?" I ask.

"He's the numbers guy," Sera says. "Amongst…other things."

Kaito snorts. "He has an actual title. He's…" He pauses. "…tell him what he is Bimboko." Wow, nice one.

"He's the general manager." Aoko rolls her eyes. "But yes, he does all the number stuff like your paycheck."

"SO I AM GETTING PAID!" I let out a whoop. I WAS REALLY WORRIED. I REALLY DIDN'T THINK I WAS GETTING PAID.

Kaito and Aoko look downright offended. "You thought you weren't getting paid?" Aoko asks leaning close to her screen. "You thought this was just some ploy so you can talk to Kazuha? How could you? We are above that!"

Sera lets out a small burp. "But I thought that was the plan—" Kaito shushes her.

THOSE RUFFLED HAIRED MUNCHKINS WERE NOT GOING TO PAY ME.

4:00 P.M. AT THE MALL. I DECIDED THAT MAYBE I CAN BREAK THE ICE WITH KAZUHA WITH A GIFT. IT'S VERY HARD TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING SHE CAN'T USE AS A WEAPON.

Also I got side tracked and bought some ice cream. THERE'S COFFEE FLAVORED ICE CREAM. DID YOU GUYS KNOW THAT? I DON'T KNOW HOW I DIDN'T KNOW THAT. IT'S SOOOO GOOOOODDD

"Sir, you're holding up the line," the ice cream vendor tells me.

I shush her, "let me enjoy this moment…also add three more scoops to this."

After getting my extra ice cream and paying for it, I force myself away from the ice cream stand and walk around the mall. I've been to almost every store at this point and everything I picked up was something I know she would hate or would use to kill me. Maybe this is a sign to give up…

"Sir would you like to try this cologne?" I hear someone say. Ugh it's one of those people who give you samples. I ignore her and keep walking. As if I need cologne—I ALREADY LOOK LIKE A MOVIE STAR.

What store was she standing in front of anyway? I take a quick look behind me. Oh, an accessory shop…maybe I can find something in there. It's worth a shot. I walk back toward the shop. The cologne girl glares at me.

"Sir, you can't go in with food."

I eat another spoonful of my ice cream. "This is more than food. It's coffee ice cream." And with that I go inside. Anyone who disrespects coffee in any shape of form doesn't need my respect. AND ALSO I HATE COLOGNE SAMPLE PEOPLE. The stuff makes my head hurt. Ugh there was a time Kudo had this weird period of wearing cologne. It didn't even have a good name. Who the hell would happily buy and wear "Anything Goes"? THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT COULD SMELL LIKE DOG SHIT OR SOMETHING.

But I digress.

The accessory shop has tons of stuff in it and luckily (or unluckily depending on how you view the situation) everything is color coded. The clerks are staring me down as I walk around with my spoon in my mouth, touching random stuff. I guess they wish they also had coffee ice cream.

"Heiji-kun!" I hear a familiar voice. I turn to see Ran and Sonoko, arms full of bags, walking over to me. "Kind of funny seeing you here."

Sonoko laughs. "Yeah, you're like a dollar bill in a wad of hundreds." Who…who says that? No one says that.

"I'm buying a gift for Kazuha." I eat more ice cream. "But it's really hard."

They watch me eat for a few moments. "Maybe because you're stuffing your face?" Sonoko points at my ice cream.

"You're not supposed to bring in food Heiji-kun…" Ran sighs, looking for a trash can. "Throw it away over there." She points to a bin in the far corner of the store.

"But its coffee flavored—"

"Heiji." She narrows her eyes. NO. I'M GOING TO STAND UP TO THE RAN DEATH GLARE. I WILL NOT FALTER. "Now with that out of the way you can focus!" Ran smiles when I come back from the trashcan.

Sonoko tries to suppress a giggle. "Are you tearing up?"

"NO." I turn away. You were so delicious, coffee ice cream…"ARE YOU HELPING ME OR NOT?"

"What kind of jewelry does Kazuha like?" Ran asks, walking around the store.

I think about this for a moment. Kazuha actually doesn't talk about jewelry that much. "One time she said she likes practical stuff…"

Sonoko rolls her eyes muttering "she's one of those girls". She wanders off toward the red section. Ran and I go toward the orange section.

Ran picks up an orange bracelet with flowers on it. "What about bracelets? They don't take up too much space."

"Nah, she hates things on her wrists," I say. There was one time Kazuha tried on a bracelet and she took it off screaming 'IT FEELS LIKE ITS EATING ME'.

Sonoko picks up a pair of red earrings. "Does she like earrings? These are studs so they don't dangle."

I shake my head. "She doesn't have ear holes."

She stares at me as if I started making out with a killer whale. "IS SHE A CAVEMAN?" She screams almost throwing the earrings on the floor. The store clerks are now glaring at us.

Ran shushes Sonoko and gives a quick wave to the store clerks. "Maybe we should try her favorite color?" She elbows Sonoko when she mutters something. I'm getting a feeling that Sonoko hates shopping for people.

"Her favorite color is green," I say walking over to the green section. We probably should've started there in the first place. We split up and search, hoping that we could find something faster.

"Hmmm…" I hear Ran below me. She thought getting a bag would be a good idea, so she's looking on the lower shelves. "This is getting rather difficult considering her tastes Heiji-kun."

"I see why you were eating ice cream…" Sonoko says. She started searching for herself now. Way to be generous, Sonoko. So much good karma is headed your way later.

"Yeah, I guess I should give up at this point…" I trail off when I spot the perfect thing. It's a hairpin in the shape of a bow. This is perfect!

"A hair pin?" Sonoko scrunches up her nose. Oi, not everyone is a fan of earrings with furry cats on them Sonoko. Some of us like being basic.

"I think it's cute!" Ran claps her hands in excitement. "There's a story that goes with this—I can feel it."

I shrug. "It's not that major of a story, I guess. The first present I got for her was a hair ribbon because she started tying her hair in a ponytail."

Ran eagerly follows me to the cash register. "When was that?"

"We were around six," I say as I pay the clerk. "She wore it all the time—even in high school."

Ran sighs happily as we leave the store. "I love stories like that! I think Kazuha-san will enjoy your gift Heiji-kun. It's very thoughtful and that's what matters most."

"Thanks, Ran." I look at the hairpin and smile.

7:00 P.M. MY APARTMENT. KAITO AND AOKO THOUGHT ME GETTING A GIFT FOR KAZUHA WAS A JOKE AND STARTED LAUGHING. I ALMOST UNPLUGGED AOKO.

"It is pretty though," Aoko says. "He's away from me, right?" She asks Kaito.

"I'm holding you." Kaito pats Aoko-laptop. "We're sorry for laughing Heiji, but no one thought you were going to take initiative." I get a pillow from the sofa and throw it at him. He easily dodges it. I hate that he has really quick reflexes. He's like a cat or something.

"What made you get that anyway?" Aoko asks.

"Oh well, it reminds me of something I gave her when we were younger." I shrug. "Also, she keeps messing with her hair so I figured she would like it for practical reasons." They give me smug grins. "What now?"

Aoko snickers. "Ohhh nothing…just that you're the only one that noticed these little details about Kazuha…nothing major."

"Who knew Kazuha kept fiddling with her hair except the guy who keeps staring at her and wishing to make out with her?"

I throw another pillow at them. "NO. THAT'S NOT WHAT I AM. I'M THE GUY WHO WANTS TO BE FRIENDS AGAIN."

They don't say anything. All they do is smile. UGGH THEY THINK THEY KNOW EVERYTHING. I DON'T LIKE KAZUHA THAT WAY.

"Anyway," I change the topic because holy hell, I'm not gonna spend my night getting embarrassed. "I don't know when to give this to her. Do you have any ideas?"

Aoko's brow furrows. "Wait, you still didn't connect the dots?" Eh?

"What dots?" I ask. What is happening? Why do I feel like I missed something very obvious?

"Remember that whole little high school flashback you had? The roof thing?" Kaito says, putting Aoko-laptop on the table.

"Yeah, but what does that have to do with—" I cover my mouth in shock. "You're joking."

Kaito and Aoko both shake their heads.

"She still goes to the roof?"

"Yeah, she goes up there whenever she's on break," Aoko tells me. "Kaito and I went up there once to check up on her because we were afraid she'll jump or something."

"Now you have an opening." Kaito leans back in his chair. "The question is…will you take it?"

? KAZUHA'S SIXTH BIRTHDAY PARTY. DAD MADE ME WEAR A TIE FOR SOME REASON. TIES ARE STUPID. SO IS DAD.

"I think it looks okay," Kazuha tells me. Her mom made her wear a dress. It's pink and frilly and Kazuha looks weird. I feel weird looking at her. "Do you wanna play with everyone else? They're outside playing tag."

"No. I came here because it's your birthday, not theirs."

Kazuha laughs. "Did you get me a present? It's my birthday."

I give her the box I've been holding behind my back. "Mom thinks its lame, but it's not." I say as she opens it. "Mom's lame, though."

Kazuha picks up the green ribbon and stares at it. OH NO SHE THINKS ITS LAME TOO. MOM CAN'T BE RIGHT.

"I'M SORRY." I reach for the ribbon. Kazuha's taller than me (for some dumb reason) and she raises it out of reach. "STOP. YOU HATE IT."

"I NEVER SAID I HATED IT." She looks away. Her face is red. My face feels red. "I like it, Heiji. I'm gonna ask Mom to tie my hair with it." She unties her pink ribbon and shakes her hair around. I feel my face get redder. It's just hair…why am I getting weird over it? "Thank you Heiji. I really like it."

We don't say anything for a while.

"Thanks for coming to my party," Kazuha says, finally.

I also look at the ground. I wish my face would stop blushing. "Ahou, I had to come."

10: 30 A.M. BEHIND THE DOOR THAT LEADS TO ROOF. I'M REALLY NERVOUS. WHAT IF SHE DECIDED NOT TO BE UP HERE JUST TO SPITE ME? KAZUHA WOULD DO THAT.

I open the door a crack. SHE'S THERE. AAAAAH

OKAY.

OKAY.

I CAN DO THIS. YOU'RE A GROWN MAN HEIJI. YOU'RE FINALLY FIXING YOUR LIFE.

YOU GOT THE GIFT. YOU GOT YOURSELF. YOU GOT MARTIAL ARTS SKILLS IN CASE THINGS GET UGLY.

YOU'RE READY.

LET'S DO THIS.

When Kazuha sees me she looks unfazed. I guess she figured Kaito and Aoko would tell me sooner or later. This doesn't make things easier. If she was surprised I could at least say "Calm down!" or something. What do you say to unfazed people?

"…hi." I force out. That's a start.

"Hi," she says, looking back to the scenery.

I fall silent. I haven't been this nervous in my entire life.

"I hate you, Heiji." Kazuha smiles at the view. "I always wanted to say that in person."

My grip tightens on Kazuha's gift. I'm holding it behind me. "I always wanted to say I'm sorry."

We fall silent again.

"Why did you come up here?" She asks suddenly. "This is the only place where I don't have to think about you."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I say, slightly surprised that we're not nose to nose yelling about this. I guess when it really counts we know when to be serious. "You came up here because of me—because of us being separated before. We made a promise—"

Kazuha gives me a death inducing glare. "Don't say that."

"Say what? That we were friends once?" I ask. Kazuha starts walking away. "Kazuha—"

"It was my fault wasn't it?" she asks. I hear a sniff. Oh no she's crying again…god Heiji, stop messing this up.

"No! No, it's my fault! I'm the one who thought it was a smart idea to stop talking to the one person who knows me inside and out."

She lets out a small giggle. "I don't know your insides Heiji."

I smile. Good, I made her laugh for once. "You know all the organs inside me though."

"That's because everyone has them." Kazuha finally turns around. Her eyes are slightly pink, but she's not crying. Good. "I didn't feel right saying I hated you, you know. I can't really hate you…I've hated myself this whole time."

I walk closer to her. "If it helps, I never thought I was that great of a guy either. I'm still not. You didn't do anything wrong Kazuha. In fact you're the one that did the right thing."

She crosses her arms. "What was that?"

"Telling the truth," I answer simply. "And I feel bad that I didn't say what I should have when you confessed to me."

"What was that?" She asks again.

I hand her my present. "Can we still be friends?"

She's surprised by the gift, but takes it anyway. I wait as she slowly opens it and picks up the hair pin. As if suddenly realizing it, she pushes her hair behind her ear again. Kazuha turns around again and I'm freaking out.

"It's okay if you hate it," I say.

"Heiji—"

"It didn't cost that much—"

"Heiji—"

"LET'S THROW IT OFF THE ROOF—"

"HEIJI." Kazuha faces me. "I'm not throwing it off the roof. I didn't say I didn't like it." She smiles and places the pin on the right side of her hair. "I really like it Heiji." I'm shocked when she hugs me. "Thanks for coming back."

I return the hug, grinning from ear to ear. "Ahou, I had to come back."

YESSSSSSSSSSSS I DID IT. I DID IT. WE'RE FRIENDS AGAIN.

"WHOOO! NO ONE TURNED INTO A COW!"

"DAMMIT SERA NOW THEY KNOW WE'RE HERE!"

Kazuha and I almost fall over from the sudden yelling. We both turn around to see Kaito, Aoko, and even freaking Sera at the door. Aoko is busy pushing Kaito and Sera away from the door.

"HEIJI!" Aoko waves nervously when she turns toward us. "LOOK. I'M REAL!" She laughs before tripping over her luggage. SOMEONE WAS IN A HURRY TO BE NOSY.

Kazuha starts laughing at the whole scene. I smile. It's been a while since I heard that laugh. I forgot how happy it makes me.

Wait—my face feels warm…WHY AM I BLUSHING?

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 04: NORMAL= SOMEONE POURED WATER ON C-3PO

7:00 A.M. TUESDAY. MY APARTMENT. WAKING UP BECAUSE OF A FULL BLADDER. THAT'S WHAT I GET FOR HAVING TWO MILKSHAKES BEFORE BED.

To celebrate Aoko's homecoming, we bought coffee ice cream. Well, I forced my roommates to buy coffee ice cream, but that doesn't matter. After Kaito left to do his magic show, Aoko and I stayed up and made milkshakes which in retrospect was really dumb because we both have to work today.

I get out of bed and drag myself to the bathroom. While I'm doing my business I start hearing weird noises. NO. NOT TODAY SATAN. YOU'RE NOT COMING TODAY. THERE ARE MOVIES WITH THIS MESS HAPPENING AND I'M NOT ABOUT TO GET INTO A BATTLE WITH A DEMON WHILE I'M PEEING.

I quickly finish and get my wooden katana out of my room. I would get the real one, but that one is Mom's and I don't want that to break because she doesn't know that I took it. It's really awesome—it has a purple handle and at a certain angle the blade looks like a different color AH SO AMAZING. You see why it had to be in my possession. ANYWAY I'M WASTING TIME. GOTTA SLAY A DEMON.

I jog to the living room where the noises are coming from and I freeze. OH MY GOD.

OH MY GOD.

NO.

NO.

NOOOOO

YOU GUYS. THERE IS NO DEMON IN MY SHARED AREN'T DEMON NOISES.

I NEVER WISHED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE TO BE EATEN BY A DEMON.

"YOU GUYS HAVE A BEDROOM OH MY GOD I'M CLOSING MY EYES YOU GUYS ARE SO STUPID I HATE YOU" I scream as loud as I can. I CAN'T SEE THEM BUT I KNOW THAT'S AOKO AND KAITO.

"Heiji, we have clothes on." I hear Kaito say. "We're not that tacky."

"TACKY ENOUGH TO MAKEOUT REALLY LOUDLY IN PUBLIC." I KNOW THEY'RE STILL INSIDE THE APARTMENT BUT THE LIVING ROOM IS A PUBLIC SPACE. WE HAVE GUESTS.

Aoko laughs. "Who said we were making out?" I'M SCREAMING. "HEIJI I WAS JOKING. CALM DOWN. FUCKING OPEN YOUR EYES."

I stop screaming and hesitantly open my eyes. "YOU GUYS ARE STILL ON TOP OF EACH OTHER." Aoko, who is in her pajamas is happily cuddling against Kaito, who is once again in drag this time with a wig and make up on. "Keiko was so right…" I mumble walking over to the fridge.

"Ah, she told you about us." Aoko finally sits up. "What did she say? That we believe any chance to make out is the right time to make out?"

I pull out the orange juice and shake it. Good, it's low enough for me to drink out the carton. Yes, I'm that person. "No, but I realize that now…" I say before downing the orange juice. Ever since Aoko got back, which was only yesterday mind you, she and Kaito have been like…magnets. JUST. TOGETHER. WITH THEIR MOUTHS. MAGNET LIPS. "I thought it would be the same as living with Kudo and Ran…"

They both laugh at this. Oh yes, it's funny now that I've caught them LOUDLY making out ON THE COUCH. I LIKE SITTING ON THAT COUCH.

"They're like our opposites…but the same…" Kaito says, taking off his wig. "I was creeped out when I first met Ran. I thought Aoko went through plastic surgery of some kind."

Aoko nods. "I thought Shinichi was Kaito for a while until I forced them to stand next to each other to find their differences." She pats Kaito's head. "He's taller than you."

"A lot of guys are…" he mumbles. "But I rather be closer to your height than to them." He snuggles against her. STOP STOP I'M STILL HERE.

"GET A ROOM." They turn to me.

"You're jealous." Aoko says as if that's a fact. IT'S NOT.

"HOW COULD I BE JEALOUS? YOU WERE MAKING OUT WITH A GUY IN A CHEAP WIG!"

Kaito scoffs, putting the wig back on. "This is my best wig, mind you." He winks at me. "You sure sound like you wanna have a go with me~" He gets off the couch and walks toward me.

I can't even think of a response.

Aoko raises her hand. "Keiko turned me into a secret fujoshi so I would like to see this happen." Is it a secret now that I know about it? AND WHY WOULD YOU PROMOTE YOUR BOYFRIEND TO DO THIS?

Kaito shrugs. "Because of a drunk guy at one of my shows, I can say I've kissed a man before." Aoko claps her hands. "That's her favorite story." He tells me.

"You're not going to kiss me are you?" I ask after a while.

Kaito laughs. "No. I know you don't want it." He takes off the wig again. "But if you do, I'll be happy to oblige." He winks at me again. STOP.

I almost throw the empty orange juice carton at him. The doorbell rings and Aoko goes to answer the door. An extremely orderly guy looks up from a pack of papers. "Hello Aoko." He walks in.

"Hello Hakuba-kun!" She closes the door and hugs him from behind. Ah so this is Hakuba…he looks like he has his life in order. Everything about him screams "MATURE ADULT" and is that a pocket watch?

Kaito skips over and hugs Hakuba from the front. "SAGU-CHAN!"

Hakuba is unfazed. He must have known them for a while to not have any emotion toward this. Nerves of steel are needed to be around these two. "Hello, Kuroba." He tries to move but they're still hugging him. He sighs and glances over to me. "You're their new roommate." I'm not sure if he's asking or just saying that.

"Yeah, I'm Heiji."

"I know who are, Hattori Heiji." He raises his pack of papers. "I've got numbers on you. Somehow you're terrible work ethic makes Aoko's cafe more popular. It's terrible that hard work can't get you what you deserve." He mutters.

WOOOOOW HE'S A DOUCHEBAG.

Aoko lets go of him. "Oh Hakuba, you're sucha prickle. C'mon Kaito, we gave Hakuba enough love." She pats his back before grabbing the papers in Hakuba's hands. "Hmm…we have lower inventory than usual…"

Hakuba nods. "Someone on staff is taking more coffee than needed." He looks dead at me. THIS GUY. OOOH I WANNA PUNCH HIM.

"Or, there could be more coffee sold because of the new popularity that I've caused," I say. YEAH. I'M POPULAR. TAKE THAT MR. STUPID POCKET WATCH FACE.

"You do drink a lot while you work, Heiji…" Kaito yawns.

"Either way," Hakuba smiles to Aoko. "I made sure Kyogoku-san increased our usual delivery." Wow, what a brownnoser. Where was he when Aoko was gone?

"Oh!" Kaito starts laughing. "Hakuba came to the show last night, Aoko. When I was disguised, I tried to get him a date." Hakuba flushes at this and looks at the ground. Wow, when he gets vulnerable he acts more human. I guess it's nice knowing he does have a humane side.

"How did it go?" Aoko asks eagerly. Haha, I feel like their life goal is to get this guy a date. HAHA I ALSO FEEL LIKE THEY WON'T SUCCEED. HAHAHAHAHA I WISH TERRIBLE THINGS FOR HAKUBA.

Aoko tells me my evil grin is creepy.

Hakuba finally answers, "We only talked for a couple minutes before I decided to leave…I had to feed Watson." I'm guessing that's his pet…or some estranged relative. His Japanese sounds kinda odd…he must be from somewhere else…

"Watson's always slowing down your game!" Aoko folds her arms. "You should get a sitter."

"Or dispose of the Android 009 act…" I mumble.

Hakuba narrows his eyes at me. "Maybe if you were more tactful you wouldn't have to worry about Toyoma-san so much." Aoko and Kaito glance at each other. My mouth is way open. HOW. DARE. HE. THAT MOTHERFUCKER. "I'll take over your shift so you can rest properly, Kuroba. I knew you couldn't handle three shows and a morning shift."

"Yeah, I should've listened to you. You know me more than I know myself." Kaito laughs, even though he looks extremely awkward from the major diss Hakuba gave me. I'M SO MAD I CAN'T COUNTER WITH ANYTHING BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW HIM BY THE BY. And with a quick farewell, Hakuba's out the door.

UGH I GOTTA WORK KNOWING HE'S IN THE BACK. UGH. THE HELL HOLE WILL BE LIVING UP TO ITS NAME TODAY AND NO I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT THE HEAT.

Kaito shakes his head. "Are you always this amazing with your first impressions Heiji?" Aoko leans on the couch sighing loudly.

I roll my eyes. He started it.

9:30 A.M. CAFEBAKE. MORNING RUSH IS FINALLY GONE. I CAN FINALLY GET MYSELF A CUP OF COFFEE.

"You didn't get a cup before you came down?" Kazuha asks me. Oh you don't know how great it makes me feel knowing we're on speaking terms again. Plus her hairpin looks top notch.

"Nah," I take a small sip. "Got distracted."

I hear the most pompous chuckle slither out from the other side of the window. "That seems natural," Hakuba mumbles.

"Oh, hello Hakuba!" Kazuha calls toward the window, slightly surprised. Hakuba happily greets her, poking his head from the other side to flash a smile and then goes away, closing the window. "I didn't know he was working today…"

"He seems full of surprises…"I mutter.

"He is, actually." Kazuha decides to fix herself a cup of coffee. "He doesn't come down often, and when he does he only stays in the back with Aoko and Sera. I've never really talked to him—sometimes I think he's a ghost." Pfft, only Kazuha would think this. She has a thing with ghosts. She's scared of them, but she really wants to see if they'll get hurt if they get punched in the face. This is why she's banned from all haunted houses. Yes. She's the notorious ghost puncher.

"Hakuba's not really a people person," Keiko tells us. "He's always been like that though—even in high school."

"Gross, you went to school with him?" I ask.

Kazuha snorts. "Going to school with you was gross." She laughs again when I stick my tongue out at her.

"Yeah, he was an exchange student from England. He's half you know." Keiko takes off her glasses to clean them. Ah that explains the weird sounding Japanese… "Aoko was the first person to get him out of his shell and he's hung around her ever since. Of course he became friends with Kaito because you can't have one without the other." She grins at me. "By the way, how's it going in the apartment? I heard screams this morning."

I groan as loud as I possibly can. "They were making out on the couch. I thought it was a demon. I'm disappointed and disturbed." Kazuha and Keiko laugh at this.

"NO. YOU'RE HAPPY AGAIN." I look over to see Conan at the counter. I was wondering what I was missing today. "I THOUGHT YOU GUYS HATED EACH OTHER. NOW YOU'RE LAUGHING."

I walk over to the counter and lean on it. "My dear Conan, adults know how to handle their problems." I drink more of my coffee. "Plus I thought you would've gotten over the Zelda bit by now."

"Zelda pain is eternal Heiji. Eternal." He clutches his chest and looks away dramatically. Wow, major drama queen like his cousin…

"You're the boy who lives with Ran and Shinichi, right?" Kazuha joins me at the counter, getting something out of her apron pocket. "Will you give this to them?" It's a note attached to a plastic bag full of cookies. "Tell them I'm very sorry."

"Sure," Conan says. "You may have won this round Hattori, but I'll win the war."

"Whatever you say, Edogawa." I ruffle his hair. He leaves for the elevator already opening the bag. "Are those store-bought?" I ask when Conan's gone.

Kazuha sighs. "Yes, they are. Shut your face."

I crack up. Kazuha's shit at baking. One time I was visiting her house while her mom was teaching her how to bake a cake and I kid you not I heard screaming from the oven. Also there were egg shells inside.

"It's not like you're amazing." She huffs.

"Uh, who was the one who got an A on their soufflé in home ec?" I ask.

"You did…"

Keiko giggles. "You guys are so cute! I can't believe you were so mad at each other before."

"Well," Kazuha smirks. "The cuteness is all because of me. Heiji's ugly."

Before I can shoot down that jab, the elevator door opens and Ran steamrolls to the counter.

"YOU'RE SO SWEET KAZUHA-SAN!" She grabs Kazuha's hands and holds them. "Thank you for the apology and cookies. Conan and Shinichi ate them all before I could have one."

"It's fine. They were store-bought…" Kazuha reassures. HAHA I can see her pride of keeping that secret crumbling into nothing.

Ran laughs. "I'm so glad you wanted to talk to me! We should meet up today! I'll bring Shinichi too! Oh and I'll bring Sonoko too! A CIRCLE OF FRIENDS!"

"You don't have to go that far…" Kazuha laughs nervously.

"You're right. Sonoko's in a meeting right now anyway." Ran nods.

I almost choke on my coffee. "She actually has a job?"

"If you can get one, I think there's hope for a lot of people," Keiko replies. I'M NOT THAT BAD OF A WORKER. Sure, I'm not doing anything now…but I'm still worth hiring.

"She's one of the representatives for her father's company, Heiji-kun. You know Suzuki-Corp." Ran says as if this was obvious. Well, I guess this is what I get for judging a book by its cover. Apparently Sonoko is freaking Donald Trump. "Anyway, what time is your break? I'll meet you then!"

"It's in the next hour." Kazuha smiles. "Thank you for forgiving me."

Ran laughs again, clapping her hands. She's so giddy it's adorable. "There's no thanks needed—everyone deserves forgiveness."

Kazuha and I stare at Ran for a moment. I swear on my coffee that a bright light started shining down on her. She waves goodbye and heads back up to her apartment. Kazuha looks at her hand, still in shock.

"Was I just blessed?" She asks me.

"Ran would make a great Pope." I say. Kazuha nods.

Keiko rolls her eyes. "You guys are so stupid."

10:45 A.M. THE ROOF. I FORGOT HOW NICE IT IS UP HERE. KUDO AND RAN JUST LEFT. RAN WAS SO HAPPY TO TALK TO KAZUHA SHE ALMOST STARTED CRYING.

"They're nice people," Kazuha says. "Easily moved…but nice."

I nod.

"It's good you were in nice hands in America." She sighs. "I was worried you would do something stupid."

"Ahou," I say. "I never do anything stupid." She raises an eyebrow. "Not…all the time." I lean on the railing and fiddle with my ear. I have something to ask, but I'm afraid to ask it.

"You want to ask me something." Kazuha points to my ear. "You're doing the ear thing."

God, am I that easy to read? "I wanted to know what you did while I was gone," I say.

Kazuha is a bit surprised by this, but nods in understanding. "Aside from pretending my best friend didn't exist and purge all my love for him away?" She asks. Oi, I still feel bad… "I didn't do much. I mean, yeah, I went to college, but there was nothing else to do. Makoto left for university too so I was by myself. In the end the biggest thing that happened was getting a haircut and a degree that I'm not using."

I knew I would feel bad asking the question, but hearing her answer makes me feel worse. I can't imagine Kazuha being by herself. Between the two of us, she had more friends than I did. Sure there was the kendo team, but most of them were a bunch of assholes who kept making stupid innuendos about their shinai. Anyway, I was usually the one by myself and she was the one surrounded by people. So crazy how the script is flipped.

"I stopped talking to people. I enjoyed being myself too much. After graduating, I moved here where talking to people is the norm." She laughs at this. "If it weren't for Kaito and Aoko, I probably would've never come out of my apartment."

We share a small moment of silence.

"I'm sorry," I say.

She chuckles. "I know you are. So am I, so we're putting this behind us AHOU." She reaches up to ruffle my hair. She jogs toward the door laughing. "C'mon! Hakuba's gonna get Watson on us if we're late!"

Kazuha goes down the stairs and I'm by myself. I reach for the spot she touched and I feel my face heat up.

WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?!

WHAT'S GOING ON?

12:00 P.M. CAFEBAKE. FOR THE PAST TWO HOURS I'VE BEEN CONTEMPLATING MY WEIRD FACE BLUSH MOMENTS. MAYBE I'M SICK.

Keiko stares at me. "Heiji…you become dumber by the second." I asked her what was wrong with me and this is what I get: smart ass remarks.

"EH!?"

"Terumi, don't you think Heiji's stupid?" Keiko looks past me to Terumi. I also glance over to see her reaction. Terumi yawns and almost pours someone's drink on the floor. Poor kid, she's been out because of school. I knew after I finished college I could never do grad school. Noooo sir. Not for me. I barely got through the first four years. Terumi forces herself to stay awake.

"No, I don't think Heiji's stupid." She smiles. As the perfect younger sister, she supports her older brother. Shut up, I know we're not related. Let me dream. "I will say he's a little misguided."

"EHHH?" Younger sister what are you saying!

"I would say why, but it'll hurt me more than you." She sighs. Oh no my fake younger sister looks really sad!

"DON'T BE SAD." I grab Terumi's shoulders. "I DON'T LIKE IT WHEN YOU'RE SAD." I give her the brotherly-est hug I could give.

Terumi blushes but she laughs. "Thank you Heiji."

Keiko stares at us. "Someone save me from this."

"Hark, did I hear a request for my presence?" Aoko asks loudly as she walks out with a huge sheet pan of weird looking pastries. Kazuha comes out behind her carrying cupcakes.

"What are you guys talking about?" Kazuha asks, putting the cupcakes in the desert case.

Keiko looks devious. "Wouldn't you like to know?" She starts giggling manically.

"I asked for a reason, Keiko." Kazuha doesn't look up from the cupcakes. "All I heard in the back was Heiji saying there's something wrong with him."

Keiko starts talking but I scream over her.

"NOPE." I yell. "YOU HEARD WRONG. THERE'S NOTHING WRONG. I AM ONLY CURIOUS AS TO THE THINGS YOU ARE BRINGING OUT. TELL ME IN FULL DETAIL."

Aoko points at the cupcakes. "Those are our PB and J cupcakes." She points at the pastries in her pan. "These are Hakuba's Yorkshire puddings. There's strawberry filling inside them!"

"Gross," I say. No, I haven't tried one ever, but that doesn't mean I can't have an early opinion on it…and the person who made them.

"They're really good, Heiji." Aoko moves aside for people to get in line. Haha, nothing like fresh baked goods to get a line going…and me to working… "Hakuba's stuff always sells out really fast."

The annoyance himself walks out with another dessert. It's a cake that's has a checkerboard pattern on the inside. Hm. Looks like someone else made an A in home ec. "Well, when you work hard enough, you are correctly rewarded." Oi, I saw that side glance.

Aoko finishes putting up the Yorkshire puddings, letting out a relieved sigh. "If it weren't for you Hakuba, I would probably be broke." She pulls him down to peck his cheek.

Hakuba almost drops his sheet pan. His face is red as he mutters thanks. OH. MY. GOD. DOES ANYONE ELSE SEE THIS? I check everyone else's reactions. Aoko is surprisingly oblivious or ignoring it, Keiko rolls her eyes, Terumi is pouting, and Kazuha looks as shocked as I do.

One look and I knew she was thinking the same thing: WHY DOES HAKUBA LIKE AOKO WHEN HE ALREADY KNOWS SHE'S WITH KAITO?

1: 15 P.M. OUTSIDE. MAKOTO'S DELIVERING STUFF AND KAZUHA AND I SAID WE WOULD HELP, BUT WE'RE JUST TALKING ABOUT HAKUBA BECAUSE OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL.

"The first thing you two do as friends is gossip about someone else," Makoto says as he lifts another huge bag of sugar onto a small wagon. Wow, Hakuba wasn't kidding when he said the delivery increased. Kazuha and I should actually help. "How do you know Hakuba-san wasn't just embarrassed from the compliment?"

Kazuha shakes her head. "This was totally different than that! He literally stopped functioning."

"It was like someone poured water on C-3PO," I add. I've been making robot references this whole time. That is the only way to describe him.

"Okay, I'll humor the silly idea." Makoto momentarily stops hauling. "If Hakuba likes Aoko-san, why would he? He's known her and Kaito-san for years and knows they're intimate. Why would he torture himself?"

I shrug. "He's a masochist."

"Unrequited love…the worst kind…" Kazuha mumbles, looking at the ground. "As someone who was in his position, I can understand how it's hard to stop thinking of a person romantically."

I almost forgot that Kazuha confessed to me all those years ago. Hm…I feel kinda awkward now. Especially with my weird blushy moments. Hm…

I notice Makoto giving us weird looks. Oh. We have been silent for a long time.

"Kazuha, maybe you should talk to him. Maybe he'll tell you something since you understand his emotions," Makoto says as he pushes his wagon inside the Hell Hole.

Kazuha fiddles with her hair and continues looking at the ground.

"You're nervous," I say. "You're doing the hair thing."

"Ugh, I forget you know me." She sighs. "I mean, I don't mind talking to Hakuba about his possible love for Aoko, but I don't know him. It'll be really weird."

"Sure, but it's not like I can talk to him. I want to punch him in the face."

"Heiji, you should try being cordial for once," she says. "This is why none of my friends liked you."

"Makoto likes me. Right Brother-Mako?" I ask when he comes back.

"I would like you to help me."

"See?"

Makoto starts pulling something else out of his truck. "Another thing on this whole situation—wouldn't Hakuba-san understand that his feelings could never be returned? And that this would complicate his relationship with the people he knows the most?"

True, that's another thing. I wonder if Kaito knows. What if Aoko knows? "Tell you what, I'll ask Aoko about it and you'll ask Hakuba. That way we both get in awkward situations."

Kazuha agrees and we high five each other. This is so fun—it'll be like all of the times we expertly gossiped about everyone in high school. One thing that binds me and Kazuha together is our love to know what our friend's/coworker's business is. Makoto shakes his head at us.

"This is why I don't tell you two anything about my love life," he mutters.

"As if you actually have a love life—you get flustered at the tiniest…" I trail off when I see his face. It's like a combination of guilt and embarrassment and dare I say LOVE?

Kazuha gasps excitedly, skipping over to him. "YOU HAVE A CRUSH! AAAH YOU LIKE SOMEONE! I THOUGHT THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!"

Makoto covers his face and kneels down to the ground groaning. Did he say all that as an invitation for us to talk about it? Gah, Makoto is the greatest shy person I've ever met.

"You have to tell us, Mako." I walk over and sit next to him. We're literally in an alleyway by the by. Since the café is on a busy street, Makoto has to park his delivery truck here. "What's her naaammme~?"

"….I don't know…"

"That's a terrible start," I say. Kazuha hits my head.

"How'd you meet her?" Kazuha asks.

Makoto slowly uncovers his face. "It was before I first started delivering here…she happened to be outside of my family's restaurant and there was some guy bothering her. I could tell he was a creep, and I asked him to leave her alone and when he wouldn't…I…kicked him."

Kazuha and I cheer at this. Makoto's being modest, but whenever he says "he kicked" he puts someone in their place. Prince of Kicks is the man. Makoto should be a super hero.

"He ran off somewhere, and I asked if she needed someone to walk her home," He continues.

"A ploy to hang out more?" I ask. Makoto goes back into hiding. Kazuha giggles.

"She said she was fine, and I got her a taxi." Makoto sighs deeply. "I've only seen her once after that; she was walking to this building. I guess she lives here. Aoko and Kaito are regulars to the family restaurant, and when they asked me to help them I agreed…so I could possibly see her again…"

"AAAAAWWWWWWW" Kazuha and I hug Makoto. He covers his face.

Kazuha and I share a glance. I can tell she's thinking the same thing. OPERATION: FIND MAKOTO'S MYSTERY GIRL.

Makoto doesn't have to ask to know what we're doing. "Don't you dare."

"OH WE DARE." I jump up and strike a pose. "HEIJI AND KAZUHA—THE LOVE DOCTORS!" Ohhh…that's why I own that shirt… That was what we decided to call ourselves in high school when we were finding out other people's business.

"Love Doctors is kinda…weird sounding now, don't you think?" Kazuha fixes her hairpin. "Can we think of something more adult?"

I slump. I love The Love Doctors, but Kazuha looks as though she hates that she even agreed to the name. And yes, if you're going to dig up gossip, you need a name. That's one thing Kaito and Aoko didn't think about when they were trying to help me with Kazuha. "Fine. As long as it's not stupid."

2:00 P.M. CAFÉBAKE. I'M SO MAD AT KAZUHA. SHE THOUGHT OF THE STUPIDEST NAME FOR US.

"IT'S NOT STUPID. YOU'RE STUPID," Kazuha yells at me as she rings up a customer.

"I'M NOT GOING BY 'THE GOSSIP TWINS' KAZUHA."

"THE WONDER TWINS ARE THE BEST SUPERHEROES AHOU."

"THE BROTHER FUCKING TURNS INTO A DIFFERENT STATE OF WATER EACH TIME, AHOU."

"YOU'RE THE BIGGER AHOU BECAUSE THEY'RE ASIAN AND THAT SHOULD BE THE ONLY REASON TO SUPPORT THEM."

"UGGGGAAAH YOU'RE SUCHA AHOU! IF WE'RE GOING BY ASIAN RULES THEN WE COULD BE SO MANY BETTER PEOPLE LIKE THE NINJA TURTLES OR SOMETHING!"

"HEIJI THAT MAKES NO SENSE THEY ARE MUTANT TURTLES."

"BUT," I finally lower my voice. "Their sensei dad is Japanese—ergo they are also Japanese."

"We're not calling ourselves Teenage Gossip Turtles." Kazuha give me a look that ends our conversation on the matter. UGGGGHHH. I'm so mad. I wanted to call myself Raphael. Whatever, it doesn't matter what we're called. Our goal is the same. I can't wait to find the goods on Mr. Robato AND RUB IT IN HIS FACE. OH IT'S GOING TO BE SO GOOD.

...right?

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 05: GOD GAMBIT

6:00 P.M. MY ROOM. AFTER WORK. KAZUHA'S HANGING OUT AND WE'RE HAVING FUN DISCUSSING OUR PLANS TO FIGURE OUT EVERYTHING. WE'RE LIKE CHARLIE'S ANGELS.

"We're The Gossip Twins, Heiji," she reminds me.

"We should've been Charlie's Angels…" I grumble. I shut up from the death glare she gives me. "You have an idea on getting Megaman to spill the beans?"

She rolls her eyes at the reference. Hey, there are only so many robots I can remember. "I wish. He's an extreme shut in-more so than I was when I first moved here." She looks at me-dare I say she looks really nervous? "I did think about talking about my confession to you if that's fine."

Wow that's the billion dollar question. Sure she could do whatever she wants (and she knows that) but I can see why she's asking. Am I okay with that? I mean I know everyone in the cafe knows about it, but I'm not sure if I want Hakuba of all people to connect with it. Yes, I hate him that much. I don't want us to be similar.

"I guess its fine…" I finally answer. Yes, I'm lying and Kazuha is quick to call me out on it.

"If you don't want me to say anything then say so, ahou." She frowns.

I shake my head. "Nah, everyone else we work with knows about me being the major asshole that ruined your life-" I don't finish my sentence because she throws a pillow at me.

"AHOU! You're so egotistical! It's not about you ruining my life. You still don't get it." She sighs, messing with her hair. Her fingers brush against the hairpin and I mentally freak out. She's not gonna take it off is she? "Sure, you not returning my feelings and destroying our friendship was terrible, but keeping those feelings inside for all that time was just as bad." She looks away. "You'll probably never feel this, but unrequited love is the worst."

We sit in silence.

"How?" I finally ask. I figure the best thing is to understand the other side...you know...for Hakuba or whatever…

…I don't like Kazuha.

…nope…

"How?" She repeats, thinking about her answer. "Imagine having a really bad rash on a really embarrassing area, like your butt or something," I can think of worse places and no I'm not telling that story. "and you can't tell anyone about it because...people judge you for having the rash in that weird place. People will ask 'Why of all places would you have the rash there' or something, and you're like 'I didn't mean to have the rash there it just sorta happened,'" she explains.

God, that sounds terrible.

"You liked me since…?" I ask.

"Since first grade," she answers immediately. Jesus Christ, that's a helluva long time. How was she able to live with that all these years? ...Kazuha was a cute first grader...she had little pigtails.

"The best thing for me was finally telling you my feelings..." she smiles at the memory. I already touched on this but I guess I never said the specifics... Kazuha confessed after our high school graduation. We went to some fireworks show and right before the first firework she said she loved me. For me, I was shocked beyond belief. I didn't think that I was a lovable person. I don't have bad self-esteem or anything- I just didn't think that I was going to find anyone to love me if that makes sense. When you're an extremely dense person like me you kinda don't think of yourself as someone datable. You just sorta go with the flow. I just liked watching people get together. Anyway, a lot of me was scared when she confessed but there was another part that was really happy. Someone cared about me enough to actually love me.

Kazuha makes me happy. She always has.

I feel my face get hot again. Oh my god. It finally clicked in my head. I have the rash. I like Kazuha. Everyone freaking called it...am I that predictable? What the heck am I gonna do though? I feel like it's a bit too late to say something...

Kazuha's laughter breaks me out of my now very fearful thoughts. "Don't worry Heiji, I don't have any romantic feelings for you now," she says. Wow. That hurts. I get the feeling now. "Ah, it's later than I thought. I need to start cooking dinner." She gets up and leaves my room. "Seeya tomorrow!"

Man, I didn't want her to leave. Heh, didn't think I would be in Hakuba's shoes. I guess this is what I get for making all those robot jokes.

...I need to call Neechan.

6:45 P.M. MY APARTMENT. NEECHAN BROUGHT ME FOOD SINCE KAITO LEFT TO WORK AT THE CAFE. WE'RE SITTING ON THE FLOOR.

"Why can't we sit on the couch?" Ran asks.

"YOU WILL BECOME IMPURE." I say. I need to make a note of getting a covering for the couch since I'm living with sex demons.

"Whatever's fine with you I guess..." she smiles. "What can Neechan help you with?" Ran and I like to call each other Neechan and Niichan whenever we have a problem. Kudo isn't included in this because he's bad at talking out stuff...like worse than me.

I tell her my new feelings on Kazuha.

"Saying that she makes you happy doesn't necessarily mean you like her romantically." Neechan pats my head. "When did you get so sensitive? Usually you write off this sort of thing."

I shrug. "I dunno. I guess since I'm around Kazuha again I'm trying to be better with people's emotions."

"It's that you're becoming more caring, but maybe you should think about all this first. You could be embarrassed because you're not used to her affection. Don't tell Sonoko I told you this, but when we first came back she couldn't look Shinichi in the eye without stuttering." Ran giggles.

I guess she's right. This is my first time realizing you can actually like a person more than a friend and it's been a while since Kazuha has physically interacted with me. I sigh. Life is stupid. Feelings are even worse. Who invented them in the first place? Heh, I feel like a teenager or something. Speaking of teenagers...

"How's Conan?" I ask.

Ran scrunches up her nose. Geez, that awkward? I really need to get a video camera to record this. "It's taking a lot of willpower," she finally answers. Haha how modest can you get, Ran? "It's not that he forces himself on me, but knowing that Conan has feelings for me is hard to wrap my head around..." she trails off, deep in thought.

"Don't tell me you're getting low self-esteem."

She shakes her head. "No, it's not that. I'm worried that his crush is bigger than what it seems. He knows I've been with Shinichi for years-why would he still like me? I think it's a cry for attention."

Wow. Who would've thought Conan would be using mind tricks on his cousin?

Ran sighs. "But that's none of your business. Neither is the mess you and Kazuha-san are digging up on Saguru-kun."

HOW DID SHE EVEN KNOW-

"Makoto-kun told me to try and stop you," she laughs at my shocked expression. "You know we talk after we spar."

Right… Makoto actually knew Ran before I did because of watching each other's karate matches back in the day. Now that they're not actually part of a team they practice with each other and let me tell you it's frightening. Afterwards they spend like an hour apologizing to each other for any possible injuries.

"One thing you two can keep snooping is his crush." Ran giggles. "Makoto is so silly-I can't believe he hasn't found her yet."

"Wait, you know who it is?" I ask. Why and how does she know everything?

She nods. "Of course I do, but I'm not telling~" She opens the Tupperware she brought over. "Let's eat before you start asking any questions that are none of your business~" Her smile...is so cold…

10:00 P.M. MY APARTMENT. TOLD AOKO AND KAITO ABOUT MY KAZUHA EMOTIONS. THEY LOOK REALLY SHOCKED FOR SOME REASON?

"No, we're fine." Kaito grins. "Aoko give him advice, while I write up this important document." He leaves for their bedroom.

Aoko looks like she could punch a wall. "Heiji, I'm sure my face doesn't reflect that I'm happy that you're thinking about Kazuha. I'll agree with Ran though, it could be because you haven't been around her for a while." She sighs when Kaito skips toward us with a pen and paper. "Happiness isn't the only thing your loved one should bring. There should be anger and thoughts of homicide." She directs this toward Kaito.

I sigh. "I'll bite-what's with you two?"

"Heiji, you're gonna hate us, but we had a bet if you were going to realize you like Kazuha or not," Kaito explains as writes something down.

These two I swear. If it's not them sucking each other's brains out, it's gambling on people's lives.

"I'm guessing you lost?" I ask Aoko.

She glares at her boyfriend as he giggles to himself. "Yes. I didn't think you would be smart enough to think about your feelings." WOW. Thanks, a lot. I don't say how crazy it is that you own a cafe. Nope, keep my thoughts to myself. "I mean that in the nicest way possible because I'm dumb in that area, and Dickaito says we're similar so I thought you wouldn't think about it." Hah, notice the dramatic change in the nickname? She must call him that when she's truly pissed. So if she's also dense that must mean that she doesn't know that Hakuba likes her?

"My birthday already passed Heiji, so think of this as your gift to me." Kaito passes the piece of paper he was writing on to Aoko. "Since she lost, Bimboko can't curse for a week." Jeez he looks so excited...he must've wanted this for a while. Aoko angrily signs the handwritten contract for the bet. She reads over the contract and gasps.

"IT SAYS TWO WEEKS, YOU DICK," she screams.

Kaito eagerly takes the contract. "Same difference."

"DICKAITO." Aoko hits his arm. Look everyone, this is a relationship built on trust. She calms down and sighs. "How do I feel good about getting angry at people now? Ever since Dad gave me the okay, cursing has been my thing. There's no way to replace it." As someone who has been swearing for a while, I can understand the pain. There's nothing more satisfying than yelling FUCK IT. Go ahead, try it. You felt better didn't you?

ALSO CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT MY PROBLEM? How come whenever I talk to these two they always deviate from what I was originally talking about? Maybe they're making me feel better or something.

"Go and think of some replacements." Kaito pecks Aoko's cheek. His smiles lasts until Aoko is out of the room. Wait...was he doing that to get her to leave? "Thanks for that, I wasn't sure how to get Aoko out of the lovely convo we're going to have." Oh god, is he on to me and Kazuha? I'M REALLY NERVOUS. KAITO ISN'T SMILING AND IT'S WEIRD. "What at you and Kazuha planning with Hakuba?"

AAAAHHHHH OKAY CALM DOWN. SAY SOMETHING SMART. "FRIENDSHIP." YES. GOOD, HEIJI.

Kaito grins. "Is that all? That's fine." THAT'S FINE? HE'S SO ON TO US. "Hakuba's a really nice guy when he puts down his dukes. We've been friends for years." Yep...friendship...and a shared flame.

"I can't really see you two being friends," I say. They seem like complete opposites. How the heck could they stand to be around each for so long?

"Well, we didn't always get along. For the longest, I hated him 'cause he gets kinda pompous. But you know what they say: opposites attract." He's hiding something. I can feel it. The way that was phrased is weird. That opposites attract thing is bullshit by the way-not all opposites attract and I've seen it first hand. I'm sure you're wondering 'Heiji, aren't you and Kudo opposites? How come you're friends?' It was our rivalry to be the best that brought us together and our mutual love for Ran. Plus we're both only children so it was nice to have someone to compete with and think of as a brother. Anyway, I bet thousands of fake dollars that Aoko is one of the main reasons they stuck around for so long.

But I'm scared as shit to say anything because I don't think he wants me to delve deeper than that. Also when he's not grinning as usual its hella frightening.

Kaito is about to say something when a loud thump is heard. Aoko hops toward us clutching her left foot.

"GOD DAM-" Aoko struggles. "GOD GAMBIT!"

I take back whatever I said about the bet. God Gambit is the best thing I've ever heard. I swear to you that I will make a shirt with it on it. Also thank goodness for Aoko, if she didn't interrupt I feel like our conversation would have taken a dark turn.

1:30 A.M. MY APARTMENT. WALKING TOWARD THE KITCHEN. HUNGRY LIKE A LION THAT'S A PICKY EATER.

I snort at my comparison. That's really funny. Can you imagine a lion that goes "Ugh antelope again!? C'mon mom can we please have something I like? Looks like it's grass for me...AGAIN" I'm having a giggle fit now because I'm so hilarious and I'm so tired which makes me extra hilarious.

I make it to the kitchen still laughing. "Pfft, lion moms…" I see Kaito sitting on the couch in the living room area on his laptop. He's also giggling. "Are you also laughing at lion moms?" I ask, opening the fridge.

Kaito flinches. "Heiji!" He greets, clicking away from whatever was on his screen. "I was...I was laughing at myself."

I nod dumbly, paying more attention to the fridge. Ugh...there's nothing good here...one thing that's different from living with Ran and Kudo is the lack of food. Kaito and Aoko are both really bad at cooking (or they just choose not to actually make dinner) so there's just tons of takeout. 'Heiji, why don't you cook?' I would if they bought actual groceries. 'Heiji, why don't you go to the grocery store-' Stop talking.

"I wish you guys could actually cook something…" Sighing, I take some box of whatever old take out and close the fridge door.

He chuckles. "I guess I'll have to learn soon…" He slowly stops laughing and looks away.

"Are you sad or do you want me to ask you something?" I ask, getting some chopsticks. Mine are red and have HEIJI IS THE MAN on them. A gift from me to me, of course.

"Is your dad a good husband?" He asks.

That's a weird thing to ask. Especially at this time of night...or ever. "My dad's a prick," is my answer. No really. He is. Ask my mom she'll say the same thing. "But I guess a loveable one." Dad's an odd dude. He's stern, and mean, and believes the best way to learn a life lesson is by experiencing it. I learned not to climb too high on a tree from falling and breaking my arm. Thanks Dad.

"Oh…" he goes back to thinking.

I walk over to him. "That was probably the wrong answer because I'm worst person to ask about dads. One time, he punched me to motivate me to win one of my kendo matches."

"That's a bit...much." Kaito's shocked beyond belief. A lot of people are when they hear this story. Haha, I guess reasonably so. I've lived with him so long that I'm used to my dad's terrible parenting skills.

"Don't feel too bad-I actually needed the hit. I was being a whiny baby since my arch rival wasn't there. So he fired me back up again. Granted, that was the worst way to do it, but it did the job," I say. Ah, I didn't really answer the question. I don't really know how good of a husband he is. I think about this for a good minute or so. "He's not a lovey-dovey person, but he always remembers."

Kaito smiles. "You mean like anniversaries and stuff?"

"Yeah, but he remembers the little things like how Mom likes having the windows open when it rains and stuff like that." I finish off the rest of my snack. "Why are you asking?"

He blushes. "Noooo reason." He giggles. "Or rather...I'll tell you later."

Without much thought to the odd question, I head back to my room.

9:00 A.M. CAFEBAKE. A NEW DAY A NEW DOLLAR. HAKUBA ISN'T HERE TODAY THAT FUCKER.

Or as Aoko would say, that turtle.

Since Kaito didn't have any shows planned yesterday he can work this morning. Speaking of him, he's been giddy lately. He was on the phone this morning and he said 'This is so exciting I feel like I should wear a diaper in case I wet myself!' Some would say this is regular Kaito behavior, but he's planning something.

"CHEESE AND CRACKERS," Aoko screams. Today we have the window to the kitchen open for our customers. Why?

"Thank you, Nagisa for your submission!" Kaito calls out, trying not to laugh too hard. If you thought using her punishment as a way to get more business was out of the question, then you don't know Aoko. Today we're serving a new drink called Censored- 'it's so hot you'll beep yourself!'- and anyone who buys it gets to write something for Aoko to scream whenever she needs to curse. Poor Aoko is so off balanced without swearing that she's gotten freakishly clumsy. I think half the time Sera and Kaito are purposefully doing it, but either way she's been yelling since we opened. Somehow, we haven't driven any people away-if anything we have more people walking in here wondering what the heck is happening.

I sigh. Even though hearing Aoko yell random phrases is hilarious, I really wanted to deal with Hakuba. "I bet Data did this on purpose…" I'm kinda impressed that I've been able to think of so many robots to call Hakuba.

Kazuha snorts at my anger. "I don't know why you're so angry-I'm the one that's talking to him."

"About that," I pause and slide away from the window so Kaito can't hear us. Course, with Aoko screaming bloody murder every five seconds I don't see how he can. "I think Kaito's on to us. He questioned me yesterday."

"Really?" She ponders this. "Maybe we shouldn't do this. We're not in high school anymore; we're messing with adult lives."

"PORK BUTTS-I SWEAR SOMEONE MADE THIS BOWL SLIPPERY ON PURPOSE."

"You were saying?" I snicker.

"I'm worried. Like, I wanna know too, but I'm scared. This morning Ran came by my place and gave me a deathly warning. The reincarnation of Mother Teresa just THREATENED ME."

I think about this. Ran is probably the scariest human I've ever met. Against my better judgement, I still feel like we should follow through. "I'm not saying that's not scary...because it is, but for the sake of Kaito I feel like we should do this. Plus, he was the main one snooping in our business," I say. "No one gave him death threats."

"Touche." Kazuha sighs. "I'll try to see Hakuba today." I nod happily. "But you better talk to Aoko today too so I won't feel like the only one defying Ran." I nod again. "Also take all of the blame if we get in trouble." I nod-WAIT WHAT.

Kazuha grins, winking. "Glad we see eye to eye." She goes back to actually working. Sigh, maybe I am a bit uncomfortable around her. All the more reason to work together to figure out other people's lives!

While I have this little time to myself, let me think of a way to get Aoko to talk. She says she's as dense as I am, so she probably doesn't know that Hakuba has a thing for her...yet. Heh, maybe that's another reason why Astro Boy is upstairs-doesn't want to give himself away. But I can't just waltz up to her and say 'Yo, your homeboy wants to be your boy toy'. Ugh, if only I had some kind of pawn.

"Make sure Cousin-Shinichi's is as black as possible."

I stare at Conan. He bought our new drink and is happily writing down his submission for Aoko to yell out. This is perfect. Thank you gods and goddesses. You're really amazing.

"Hello, Pawn." I greet him happily. "How's life? Enjoying your summer?"

Conan gives me a shifty glance. Granted, I am acting a bit creepy but I need him for my plan. "What do you want?"

"Just an answer to my questions." I smile pleasantly.

"...I'm fine….and my summer's okay. I just finished Skyward Sword so I'm a bit bored." He flinches when I chuckle. Those are the words I needed to hear. "You're plotting something." He quickly grabs the two coffees he ordered and goes back upstairs.

HEH HEH HEH. I'M A GENIUS. Truth be told, I'm doing a bit extra for this to work, but it kills several birds with one stone. I get out my cellphone and text Kudo.

'Bring your mini-me down at my break. My plan is going to make you say 'I love you Heiji''

"Heiji, do you mind actually doing your job?" Kazuha calls. I happily get back to work, which shocks everyone.

Keiko fans herself. "I must be dreaming."

10:35 A.M. BREAK TIME. AOKO'S OFFICE. YEAH, APPARENTLY SHE HAS ONE. THIS IS HER THIRD TIME USING IT. THAT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING, DOESN'T IT?

Her office is next to the elevator. It's cleaner than I thought it would be.

"Hakuba organized everything," she admits. Ah that's why. "What can Aoko assist you with today?" ...is she using third person to sound more adult?

"Yes, Heiji," Kudo says. "Why are we here?"

"I thought it would be good for the business to have Conan work here." I grin. Yep. That's how I'm using Conan. How does that help me? I get to use Conan as a lead in for Hakuba since they both have crushes on people who are taken.

"EH!?" Conan freaks out. "Wait no, I don't want to work. He's just tricking you!"

"But you were complaining about being bored." I glance at Kudo. He's still trying to figure out what the heck I'm doing.

"THAT'S WHY YOU ASKED ME THAT WEIRD QUESTION." Conan turns to his cousin. "Cousin-Shinichi, you don't want me to work right?"

"Why is nothing normal here?" Aoko mumbles. Says the person who created a new drink based off her bet punishment.

Kudo still doesn't get it. "Just yesterday you were telling Ran you had nothing to do-" He pauses, eyes widening in realization. There's my college graduate. "Sign him up." When Conan's not looking he gives me a high five.

"Okie dokie. Aoko will get your application and whatever else you need…" She searches for some forms. In her search, she drops some other papers that look super important. Amazing. I hate the guy but thank goodness for Hakuba. I feel like he is the sole reason this place still exists.

Shinichi pulls me out of the office while Conan begrudgingly signs away his free summer. "I love you Heiji." He hugs me.

"I know." Yay a Kudo hug! You get one every blue moon if you're not Ran. "Also way to be stupid. How come you never signed him up to work so you can get him out of your hair?" Yes. That is the other part of the plan. Getting Conan out the way of Kudo and Ran. Hopefully this helps them a bit.

"I don't know." Kudo scratches his head. "I kinda figured it would work itself out."

That's Kudo's trademark: Don't do anything until something really bad happens.

Conan walks out of the office and tells Kudo to sign his application. When we're alone, Conan tries to punch my stomach but I easily block it.

"You could at least let me hit you," he sighs lowering his arm. "Why are you forcing me to work? I was having a wonderful time doing nothing."

"It's because you have no friends," I answer.

He's taken aback from my bluntness. "I talk to Hakuba a lot."

That explains everything. "You need friends your actual age, Conan. Most of us are, like, twenty five. That's a bajillion age difference."

"I'm only fifteen…" he mumbles.

"Either way, you need this more than you know." I ruffle his hair. "And if it'll make you feel better, Ran likes guys who can hold their own."

He blushes, trying to hold back a smile. This kid, I swear...is that all it takes to convince him? "Really? I guess she would be happy that I'm working now…" He clears his throat and tries to play it cool. How much you wanna bet he'll squee a whole bunch in his room? "Does that mean you support me and Ran?"

Did he not hear me say that he needed friends his own age? Ugh, he looks like he'll feel bad if I say something too harsh… "...I have thoughts about it..." is all I can muster.

Conan laughs. Apparently that's enough to satisfy him. "Thanks Heiji. I'm glad you believe in me." With that he goes back upstairs. Hm. That's an odd thing to say...I shouldn't think too hard on it, I guess.

Kudo comes back out and he's practically skipping for joy. "He starts this weekend. I'm so excited. I dunno what Ran and I should do first ALONE-watch Sherlock or play Clue?" Kudo Shinichi...the most unromantic person I've ever met.

"Maybe you should talk about getting a better boyfriend."

"OI."

I snicker and give his shoulder a friendly pat. "Do whatever you want. If you'll excuse me I have to snoop around. Also don't tattle on me like you always do." Whenever I defy Ran the person that usually rats me out is Kudo. He never covers for me! I cover for him whenever he sneaks out to some lame Holmes convention and I get nothing in return.

"It's not tattling-it's avoiding the problem of broken bones." He laughs. I shoo him off and go back in Aoko's office. She actually looks like an owner for once.

"Man there's so much paper on this desk…" she says in amazement. Scratch that. "Thanks for getting Conan to work here, Heiji. We really need the extra hands."

"Oh you know, anything to help," I say. "I know Ran and Kudo can't do any romantic Sherlock marathoning with him there. Wow so weird how he likes her even though she's taken. I think another person is experiencing the same thing." Oh my god, I'm too expert at this. Applaud me everyone, applaud me.

Aoko's eyes widen in shock. "You know too?"

Is...is she admitting it? "Yeah, I think everyone knows."

"Oh man," she sighs. "Well, I guess that's a good thing. It doesn't make work weird does it?"

"Not really? I mean, it can work itself out." Man she must feel terrible about all this.

She nods. "Yeah, I hope Terumi doesn't feel too bad about you liking Kazuha…"

EH.

"WHAT."

She stares at me. "What? You were talking about Terumi right? She's been crushing on you since day one practically!" She raises an eyebrow. "Who were you talking about?"

"NO ONE. STOP TALKING. GOODBYE." I sprint out of the office.

HOW COME NOTHING IS EASY FOR ME?

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 06: NORMAL = CURIOSITY DESTROYS CATS.

? HIGH SCHOOL. BREAK AFTER THIRD PERIOD. ON THE ROOF WAITING FOR MY COMPADRE.

I lean on the railing and let out a breath. Ahh it's so nice and sunny out here. I could skip if I wanted to, but Dad's already mad at me for taking my bike out without my helmet so I can't push his buttons more than I already have. It'll be a month until I see my bike again. I'll miss you Suzy... How come we can't have classes outside? That wouldn't be too hard and hell I might actually try harder if I wasn't holed up somewhere. Hmm, I've been here for a while and Kazuha isn't here yet. Where the heck is she? She promised to meet up here during our class breaks. THIS IS THE ONLY TIME I GET TO SEE HER. I mean sure there's lunch but, this is a special time for friends to hang out and stuff. Don't tell me she forgot…

I check my watch. Ugh only a few more minutes until classes start… Well better find out what's taking her a million years to get up here. I go downstairs and head to the third year floor. I swear if it's her stupid little friends holding her back I'm gonna go off. Kazuha's friends don't particularly like me for some unknown reason and on more than one occasion they keep her from coming to see me. Like who would do that? Don't they see I don't particularly like anyone else?

Huh, I feel kinda sappy saying all this. I guess this is what being away from your motorcycle does to you. Be strong for the both of us Suzy.

As I walk to Kazuha's classroom, people wave or make a joke or something. I humor them even though I don't remember their names. 'Heiji you should try harder to make friends-' I DON'T LIKE MOST PEOPLE. 'Heiji, c'mon a lot of people are nice.' I know, but I meet all the assholes.

I finally reach Kazuha's classroom and see her goddamn petty friends at her desk talking to her. Suzy give me strength.

"Oi, Ahou," I greet Kazuha.

She flinches and looks up from the scrap of paper she's holding. "Heiji! I'm sorry I was on my way, but…" she trails off, blushing.

Friend 1 giggles. No, I don't remember their names. "Oi Heiji, you'll have some competition now."

"Finally someone else to take Kazuha's attention," Friend 2 says.

I roll my eyes. I swear I'm going to go off on these girls one of these days. "What happened?" I ask Kazuha.

She can hardly bring herself to say it. Honestly she looks like she wants to be somewhere else.

"Did someone write something dirty on the paper or something? I mean I think I've said the worst things anyone could say like turd puppy-"

"IT'S A BOY'S NUMBER AHOU!" Kazuha cuts me off. She turns red when people look in her direction. "Konishi-kun confessed to me…"

My mind is blank. "Konishi? You mean the prick in class 3-A?" I ask. For those who are curious: I'm in 3-C and Kazuha is in 3-B.

"He's liked her for a while apparently." Friend 1 pats Kazuha on the back. "But he's afraid of you so he didn't say anything." He should be afraid for good reason.

Friend 2 sighs. "If only Heiji wasn't around, you could have tons of guys date you Kazuha."

"Hah? Are you saying I'm ruining her chances?" I ask. WHAT A LOAD OF BULL. "What if she's ruining mine?" It works both ways, right? We both hang around each other. It is a co-op friendship. We are both cooperating on this operational ship for friends.

Kazuha frowns. It's not an angry one, but kinda sad. I feel like I wasn't supposed to say what I just did.

The friends laugh. "The only one ruining your chances is you, Heiji," Friend 1 sneers.

Kazuha gets up to leave the classroom. I said the wrong thing didn't I?

12:00 P.M. CAFEBAKE. ZONING OUT. WHY THE HECK DID I REMEMBER THAT OF ALL THINGS?

If you're curious what happened after that, I guess I can tell you. Granted it's been like four years so it gets kinda fuzzy. There were tons of people saying Kazuha and Konishi were going on a date. I figured it was just rumors but that weekend Kazuha said she was busy and didn't hang out with me. Even though I was grounded from Suzy, I took her out for a ride and got even worse punishment. Ahh Suzy we shared some good times. I have a new bike now if you wanted to know. Its name is also Suzy because it's a beautiful name for a vehicle.

Out of nowhere, I get hit on the head. "You stopped listening, ahou." Ah right, Kazuha was talking to me. "You look weird, are you okay?"

Haha can't say I thought about a terrible high school memory because my pretend sister has a crush on me and I also have a weird emotion toward you now can I? HA. HA. CAN'T SAY THOSE THINGS CAN I? God, I'm so emotionally disturbed. I want a nap.

"...I was thinking for a new robot name for Hakuba," I force out

Kazuha rolls her eyes. "You're really keeping up with that?" She thinks for a moment. "Terminator."

Wow that's cackle worthy. As if Hakuba could even be compared to the overwhelmingness of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Speaking of robots, I hate to say that's a good way to describe Hakuba. His whole apartment was so...in place." She shudders at the memory. "He boiled water for tea and counted down for the kettle to go off and he was spot on."

I snort. "Does he have a medal for being a watch?"

"He does."

I don't know if I should laugh or be concerned. I was joking and it turned out to be true. What is with this guy? Also, who thought of a contest about time!? AND WHO JUDGED? HOW WOULD YOU JUDGE TIME? TIME JUST EXISTS. THAT'S LIKE JUDGING THE SUN RISING. IT WILL ALWAYS HAPPEN. I'm thinking too hard on this.

"Aside from that, he seems okay. It doesn't look like he gets visitors much though," Kazuha says, handing Keiko a customer's drink. Aoko passes by the window behind us singing. "I'll tell you the deets later," Kazuha whispers, glancing back toward the window.

"Deets about what I wonder?"

We both flinch at Kaito's voice. Jesus, when the hell did he get so sneaky? And why is he being so weird?

I'm able to think of something first. "Details about Kazuha's apartment, of course!" I force out a loud laugh. "I'm eating dinner over there because we're friends and friends do that. JUSTICE FRIENDS!"

"The Wonder Twins were in the Super Friends, ahou-" I push Kazuha away because NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE WONDER TWINS. WE SHOULD'VE BEEN THE GOSH DARN NINJA TURTLES.

Aoko pops up beside Kaito. "You're going to Kazuha's place?" She grins, lowering her voice to a whisper. "Should I bring some candles and rose petals and Elton John?"

Kaito raises an eyebrow, amused. "Elton John is your romance music?"

She answers by walking away singing Benny and the Jets

Kaito smiles sweetly at me. "If you talk about what I bet you're talking about, you better not because I didn't ask you to talk about it."

OH MY GOD HE KNOWS. ALSO HOW DARE HE!? YOU KNOW I'M KINDA PISSED NOW. HOW DOES HE GET AWAY WITH GETTING IN MY BUSINESS WHEN I CAN'T GET IN HIS? Kaito walks away before I could yell his ears off, but that's okay. WE ARE SO GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS.

Obviously this is like a cry for help or something. God he's like Kudo when he doesn't know what to do with his life. Kudo can't solve his own problems and apparently neither can Kaito.

"Like hey," I hear the oh so familiar greeting of someone I haven't seen in a while.

"Like hey," I say back.

Sonoko shakes her head. "Sounds better when I say it." Wouldn't it be funny if she has scientific proof to support that? "I see you two are something now." She points at me and Kazuha who is now fidgeting. Oh right, she never got a chance to properly apologize for being rude before. Also let's laugh at the fact that 'something' is the perfect way to describe me and Kazuha. At least in my mind.

"I'm sorry about before-" Kazuha starts.

Sonoko stops her with a quick motion as she hands me her credit card. Does she never have cash on hand or what? "Don't be sorry anymore. Ran told me everything. Grudges are bad for your face-causes wrinkles. Tall Skinny Latte."

Kazuha only nods because what response could you say to that?

I ring her up and give her card back. "Wow you sound nice," I say. I bet that was her actually trying to sound sensitive.

Sonoko glares at me. "I'm not happy with you. You ruined everything for me." Ah, there's the feisty business woman I make coffee for.

"What did I do? You've been gone for the past few days!" I make her drink quickly since she started tapping her nails on the counter. Pushy pushy...

"Ran and I had a nice outing planned this weekend at the new spa down the road and now it's canceled because she's watching Sherlock with that limp noodle!" Amazing. That's what Kudo decided to do with his alone time? Also I'm going to change Kudo's name to Limp Noodle on my phone. "SHERBLOCKED. I GOT SHERBLOCKED CAUSE OF YOU HEIJI!"

"If it helps I know that feel. Kudo Holmes me before he bros me." Anyone who knows Kudo has a name for being stood up to his obsession. Ran likes to say 'he's hanging out with his real girlfriend'. Which geez, considering they haven't been alone in a while makes me kinda sad that's her interpretation of it. I pass Sonoko her drink. "Believe it or not they need this marathon more than you know. I got Conan a job here so they could have more alone time."

She sips thoughtfully."I see...I'll let it slide for now. You owe me a day out though." She winks. Why do I get the feeling I would just be dragged around and used as a pack mule? "What am I gonna do with the spa reservations?" she asks herself. What, I'm not good enough for a spa? Hell I deserve a massage for all the stuff I go through every day.

"Um, I can go with you if you want," Kazuha suggests quietly. She looks at the ground, messing with her hair. Haha how cute. She's nervous. Wow is that what a crush is? Laughing at someone's emotions? I feel like a stalker or something…either way Kazuha's a cute nervous person.

Oh god I'm so sappy. SUZY SAVE ME.

Sonoko smiles and for once it's a real one. "Of course you can! If Ran trusts you, so do I. I'll come by around eleven Saturday." Sonoko waves before walking out. Kazuha giggles to herself.

"Giddy?" I ask.

"Extremely." She nods eagerly. "I probably shouldn't be, but I haven't had a "girl's day" in a while. Hell, I haven't had girls as friends for a long time."

"What about Aoko?"

"BENNY AND THE JETS~" Aoko sings loudly as she passes by the window.

"She doesn't count as human," Kazuha says.

Ain't that the truth.

6:09 P.M. DONE WITH WORK. MY APARTMENT. KAITO'S IN MY SPACE, PUTTING MAKE UP ON HIS FACE.

"Mom says you're a good rhymer," Kaito tells me after he hangs up his cell phone. If there's one thing that Kaito loves more than Aoko it's his mom. He calls her like every other day; Aoko calls her dad a lot too. They must really like their parents. "I can't believe you don't call your folks, Heiji," he says plucking his eyebrows. Kaito's getting ready for another show, and thought it necessary to have me hold his mirror as he fixes himself.

"I call them when I need to," I say. Honestly, the reason I don't call is because we talk better in person. Mom and Dad share a weird nervousness with phones. They think someone else is always listening. I get why Dad thinks this since he deals with so many different police cases, but I have no idea how Mom got this way. Granted the things they want to tell me is something no one wants to hear.

'Hei-chan, you won't believe how bad your father's stools have gotten. I swear I'm going to drive him out to a skunk den and leave him there'. Yo, Hei-chan didn't want to hear about this. Also why did you call Hei-chan at midnight? HEI-CHAN THOUGHT IT WAS AN EMERGENCY. NOT A 'HEI-CHAN DID YOU KNOW SHIT SMELLS BAD?' PHONE CALL.

'Heiji, your mom keeps asking if red underwear is okay and I don't know what to say'. AS IF I KNOW WHAT TO SAY. ALSO KEEP THAT IN YOUR BEDROOM. I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANYTHING ABOUT THAT. IT'S BAD ENOUGH THAT I AM A RESULT OF WHAT YOU TWO DO IN YOUR PRIVACY. I SEE WHY I DON'T HAVE A SIBLING. LOOK HOW WEIRD AM.

This is why I never call. 'But Heiji, how did you stay at home for so long before moving out?' Two things: No rent and a good meal every night.

"Whatever works for you," He hums. "Aoko told me to be more dramatic with my eyes so tonight we're gonna see if I can do a good smokey eye." That would continue the conversation if I knew what the heck that was.

I sit in silence as Kaito continues putting on his makeup. If I knew what he was doing I would be specific, but I don't so...yes. Makeup.

"Why does Aoko like you?" I ask suddenly.

Kaito looks away from the mirror. "Are you insulting me or...?" He looks a bit confused. Ah, that does sound like that could lead into an insult.

"I didn't mean it as a slight to you or your makeup stuff." Make up stuff doesn't seem like the right words either. God, smooth recoveries are hard. "I mean like what does she see in you? I want to know."

Kaito looks even more confused. "Do you have a crush on me too?"

I sigh loudly. "Terumi likes me and I'm kinda confused about what she could possibly think is attractive. So I wanted to see how you and Aoko exist so I could compare it or whatever." I grin. "Plus Kudo already has me as his rebound if Ran ever dumps him. I'm unavailable in that regard." It's a promise we made that if we both happen to be single when we hit thirty we would have an open marriage. Because Kudo likes being prepared, he even found a house for us. Sure it's just his parents' summer home but it's the thought that counts.

Kaito laughs loudly. "Shinichi is lucky to have you Heiji. You shouldn't be confused about people liking you, though. You should be flattered."

I shrug. "I get that, but I didn't grow up with people liking me. So it's confusing."

Kaito gets his phone and texts someone, probs Aoko. "Aoko was the same way. She had a couple of confessions but that was after we all graduated college. Of course it didn't matter since we were together then." He pulls out a pencil, the only the thing I can recognize from his makeup kit aside from some brushes, and draws a line near his eyelashes. "We didn't start dating until junior year of high school though. She was very self-conscious before then. She would ask me why no one thought she was pretty and say that she didn't like herself. It was hard to listen to." He opens up this huge palette and starts putting some on.

"Why didn't you ask her out then? You liked her, right?" I hate interrupting but this is a valid question. I'm sure you're thinking it.

Kaito pauses and doesn't look me in the eye. "I was going through some things." He goes back to putting on his makeup. "The thing is for people like me who have tons of people confess to them don't really know what it's like for others. Or rather we don't get that it hurts someone else's feelings. Aoko told me all the time that certain people deserve to be pretty while others were just lucky to exist. She was happy to see me be a popular person." He lets out another sigh. "It's not like I had it easy either. I got used to people liking me for dumb reasons like my hair being nice or having a nice body or," he gestures to himself, "being able to look like a girl fairly easily. You wanna know what Aoko likes most about me? She likes that I can't help but laugh at people who trip or stumble down the stairs." He chuckles.

I also laugh at this.

"She likes that throughout any situation, I can laugh." He chuckles again, trying to hide the blush on his face.

"You two are really something," I say. That was probably the best story ever. No wonder they make out with each other all the time. I totally would too if I was them.

"So are you Heiji." Kaito smiles. "If it makes you feel better, I like that you have a lot of empathy. It puts you in the worst situations, but you always have the best intentions." Huh, I've never heard that before, not even from Kudo. I guess I do have likeable traits.

"Thanks," I say.

"You're very welcome."

"Now kiss," a whisper slithers from the door.

The fuck is that. The door opens and Aoko walks in, laughing. Why is she holding a blue wig? How come nothing she does makes sense?

"Bimboko, your yaoi fantasy will never happen between us." Kaito reaches for her.

She gives him a hug and ruffles his hair. "But your bonds are so strong! I can always dream." Please don't. "I found your wig. I can't believe you left it in the freezer downstairs."

I bet so much money the wig was in there because of their stupid and unsafe making out in the freezer habits. Kids, no matter who tells you making out in a freezer sounds DUMB.

"Thanky much." Kaito leans up to peck her cheek.

"Muchy welcome." Aoko giggles as she leaves. Wow getting cavities from all the sweetness going on here. Don't you hate those times when you're faced with something so good or adorable that you feel like you have to see something terrible like someone vomiting or a brawl at a bar to feel balanced again? Right now, I feel like I should watch an hour of pro wrestling.

Kaito goes back to putting on his makeup. I guess he's right. I should be happy that someone likes something about me that I never considered. I am likeable! HELL YEAH!

About Aoko though...if Hakuba went to school with her, how come he didn't say anything if he saw how self-conscious she was?

Hmmm...the plot thickens...

"Jelly beans…" Kaito mutters. That's him cursing by the way. Apparently he really hates how swear words sound. "This isn't working…I'm going as a dude." He gets off the bed and heads to my bathroom. "It's easier you know?"

"Because you don't have to worry about a bra or whatever?" I ask.

"It's easier to scratch my junk! Lil' Kaito gets anxious around others." He comes back in, makeup removed. "I tried when I was in a dress and everyone found me out. I barely got any tips." I start cracking up because a) even though Kaito doesn't swear he makes up for it for being really open about his perverseness and b) this is an actual problem for him.

"What kinda man are you going to be?" I ask, still chuckling.

"I dunno…I was thinking an old man, but Aoko doesn't like kissing me with the mask on."

"That's fair."

He sighs. "I'll think about it. So what about you?"

"What about me?"

"You're going over to Kazuha's right? Aren't you gonna…dress up?" He asks, gesturing at me.

"Uhh, no. It's just dinner." I roll my eyes. "I think jeans and a shirt is just fine."

He gives me an incredulous look. "It's not just dinner. This is your first time going to Kazuha's place! You gotta look special! When I visited Aoko's house to officially announce our relationship, her dad made fun of me for not looking presentable." He slumps. "He still holds it over me…"

"What were you wearing?"

"It was around the time of our school festival and I was in a bunny costume."

Don't ask Heiji. You know nothing good happens when you ask. Also I like how he mentions his school festival as if that actually explains anything. "Kaito, anyone would laugh at you."

"THE POINT IS YOU NEED TO LOOK NICE FOR YOUR DATE." He takes out his phone. "Aoko is going to agree with me, and you'll see." He dials her number and puts it on speaker.

"Kaito, I literally just left," She answers. That's true love right there.

"Tell Heiji he needs to dress nicely for Kazuha tonight!" He says. "I'm trying to save him from my mistake."

"If he's going to over there in a bunny outfit we should be good friends and allow him to go." She snickers. "Heck, he should go over and declare his love for her to her dad too. I'm sure that would go over well." A loud laugh is heard before Kaito hangs up. His face is beet red.

"Old man it is…" he mutters as he leaves.

Poor Aoko. I hope she has pictures of Bunny-Kaito….

7:00 P.M. ACROSS THE HALL AT KAZUHA'S. SUPER PUMPED TO EAT SOME HOME COOKED FOOD AND NOT TAKEOUT.

"I didn't feel like cooking today so I ordered in!" Kazuha happily announces with jazz hands.

This...is sucha hard hitting disappointment. "I expected so much from you."

"This is my house, ahou." She happily helps herself. "You're supposed to be polite."

"The polite thing to do is cook for your guests, ahou." I begrudgingly begin serving myself. I don't even know if my stomach can handle any more grease. "So what did Magnemite say?"

She shakes her head, as she slurps her pasta. She got Italian takeout by the by. "No way. You start first. What did you learn from Aoko?"

I almost choke on my roll. I didn't really learn much, did I? I do feel like one thing is for sure, though. "I know she doesn't know about his feelings."

"That matches what I know," Kazuha says, practically inhaling her food. "Because apparently, he doesn't like her."

I roll my eyes. "Are you joking? That's what he said?" I ask. Ugh I think my stomach is hurting. Not only from the greasy food I've had for the past few weeks, but also Hakuba's blatant lies.

"Well, we only saw him react to one thing Aoko did." She shrugs. "Maybe Makoto was right-we might have jumped the gun."

"This is bull and you know it." I can't believe I'm actually a bit peeved at this whole thing. "If he doesn't like her why is Kaito keeping tabs on us?"

She shrugs again. "Yeah I don't trust him either, but what can we do? Neither of us hang around Hakuba."

I sigh. I would ask Conan since he talks to him more than I do, but Ran might catch me and the last thing I wanna do is get an angry Ran on my tail. Hmm, maybe I should actually talk to Aoko... Plus we might see Hakuba tomorrow since Kaito's working tonight. What a weird case. WHAT A WEIRD CASE.

We finish our meal in silence. Actually there's a question nagging in my mind.

"Remember when Konishi asked you out in senior year?" I ask. "Did you actually go out with him?" Sure this might be ill timed but ever since I remembered that, I kinda need to know. Why not ask now since we're friendly or whatever?

Kazuha laughs. "Wow, that's random. What sparked that?"

I try to make my shrug as nonchalant as possible. "Stuff."

"Well, I turned him down." Yesssssss. "I didn't want him to take my first date."

"First date?" I repeat, slightly confused. "You had a person you wanted to-oh." I focus on the table after realizing how much of an idiot I am. "Sorry…"

She shrugs, smiling. "It's cool. That was weirdly nice of you to apologize though." She snickers when I steal her food. Yes, this is my way of getting people back while eating. Insult me and your food is mine.

"I feel like I should apologize since I...declined." I feel weird saying that. Why did I even start this conversation? Curiosity does kill the cat…

"Heiji you make it sound like I still care." She pats my head before throwing the takeout away. WOW. THANKS. CURIOSITY DESTROYS CATS. I know she didn't mean it as an insult, but I think there could have been a better way to say that.

Wow...I'm like...really bothered by that. And apparently it shows because when she sits back down, Kazuha looks concerned.

"Someone's bothering you," she states. Ugh. I kinda hate that we have a weird mind link. That's what happens when you're friends with someone for a bajillion years kids: telepathy.

I tell her about Terumi and she starts laughing.

"I already guessed that," she says as she calms down. Are you joking!? Am I the only one that didn't know? "So are you confused on what to do about it?"

"No, I know what to do…" I mumble. To be honest I kinda don't want to say no to the one other person on the planet who has a crush on me...Man I hate that I see everyone as a sibling instead of anything more than that. How do people even deal with romance? Like really, I thought a lot of people did things for friendship? Am I wrong? "I'm confused on why she likes me."

Kazuha gives me the craziest look before laughing again. Thanks, old friend. I needed that. "It's been so long that I forgot how much I enjoy this side of you."

"I'm glad one of us is enjoying this…" I mutter.

"Oh come on Heiji," she ruffles my hair, "you're so busy being so full of yourself that it's nice to see you concerned about your personality. It might sound weird, but I like it when you're self-conscious. I dunno, it makes your ego stroking seem less dickish."

Huh, I guess that's one way of looking at it. "Thanks," is all I can muster. It's kinda embarrassing hearing her say that now with all of these emotions and whatever…

"Either way, don't get so down in the dumps. Despite what you think, a lot of people like you." She smiles warmly. "Like Sachiko and Ayama for example-"

"Who?"

She sighs. "Friend 1 and 2."

"So they did have names…"

"Heiji I swear…" She mumbles, sighing louder. "They were actually jealous of me because I was the only girl you would talk to."

"You're shitting me." Who knew Friend 1 and 2 had jealousy issues of their friend? That almost makes me want to remember their names. "Then why did they make fun of me when they could make fun of you?"

She shrugs. "You do dumb stuff when you like someone."

"Wow," I say after a while. "Romance is messed up."

"I'm tellin' ya," Kazuha laughs.

8:30 P.M. TERUMI'S/KEIKO'S APARTMENT. WAITING FOR SOMEONE TO OPEN THE DOOR. HAVEN'T BEEN THIS NERVOUS SINCE I WAS STANDING IN LINE FOR THE RE-SHOWING OF THE THREE UNDELIVERED LETTERS.

I was nervous then because I was in America at the time and I was afraid they would dub over the movie. Also Kudo decided to join me and you know how embarrassing he is in public. Every five seconds he kept going "Sherlock would've already known this" or "Sherlock wouldn't have wasted this much time". To make the story short, this was before we became friends and I ended up causing a massive food fight in the theater after I poured my soda on Kudo. The movie was still good though.

Keiko finally opens the door. Haha she's wearing a Sonic shirt. "You're finally here."

I guess EVERYONE knew Terumi liked me except me. Good.

"For someone who likes Sonic so much you were slow answering the door," I say.

"For someone who loves mysteries you're awfully slow at realizing someone likes you," she counters effortlessly.

I grumble.

"Come on in, Dunce McGee!" She pulls me inside laughing. Am I...am I supposed to happily go along with that terrible nickname? "Terumi's in her room. I'll walk you there."

I follow her silently. Their apartment is extremely neat in comparison to mine. I mean Kaito and Aoko aren't leaving stuff everywhere but there are more shelves in here… Man, I should get more shelves. They look actually useful.

"Terumi, Heiji's here," Keiko says as she walks in Terumi's room. Terumi is on her bed literally surrounded by books and notes.

"Heiji!" She almost falls over getting off of her bed. "Should I make you something to drink or anything?"

I quickly shake my head. "No, I just had dinner. Thanks."

"I'll go back to my dating sim now," Keiko says walking away. Was that why she took forever to let me in? "I'll tell you when there's a BL scene." She tells this to Terumi, who covers in her face in embarrassment.

"Ahhh, I didn't want you to hear that…" She mumbles moving her books to her desk.

I shrug as I sit down beside her. "It's okay if you're into BL games. Ran has her romance her novels." It's so cute how she's so secretive about reading them. One time I caught her covering a book called The Way You Touch Me with a dictionary. I laughed for a really long time until she started kicking at me.

She covers her face again. "I didn't mean for it to happen. I was using Keiko and Aoko as a research project and then…" she trails off.

I laugh. "I get it. That's how Kudo sucked me into tolerating the Sherlock movies." Key word there is tolerate. Sherlock is still a major asshole to me, but Robert Downey Jr. makes him an okay asshole. Hilariously enough Kudo hates those movies. "So you're having a test soon or something?" I look at all the books.

"Oh yeah. Its psychology," she sighs. "It's so tiresome that it should be called sigh-cology." She pushes up her glasses, smiling triumphantly.

I groan loudly. "My god Terumi, you're almost making me regret coming here." I smile when she laughs.

Terumi looks at her hands, still smiling. "I know why you're here…"

Ah, I forgot she practically can read people's minds. Plus, I haven't really had a reason to visit except for now. "I'm sorry I only see you as a younger sister." I really feel bad. I've said no to two people who liked me and I was just complaining about how confused I was about people finding me attractive. I feel like a jerk…

"Don't feel bad, Heiji. You can't help your emotions, just like I can't help mine," she says.

Kazuha's confession comes back to mind. Let's not make the same dastardly mistake I made last time… "We can still be friends right?" I ask.

Terumi gives me the warmest smile ever. "Of course we can! You're a special person to me, Heiji." That's nice to hear. Hehe, I'm kinda giddy about that.

"Well, I'm glad we got that over with. Waiting around was nerve wracking…" she grabs some of her notes.

"...you were...waiting?" I ask dumbly.

"Patiently," she answers.

"But why? That seems kinda terrible considering how long it takes me to notice these things. Aoko was the one that told me on accident." I'm so confused. I thought maybe I got romance, but now I'm even worse off than before.

She shrugs. "I don't know, but I liked waiting until my little fantasy was over." She taps her lip in thought. "I'm very observant, so I know that you don't think of lovey-dovey things all the time. I knew you would find out sooner or later and decided to wait it out."

"I feel even worse now…" I sigh. I should just make a living as the dude who always makes girls feel bad. I would make a killing.

She pats my shoulder. "Don't feel bad. It's just how it works. I am sad about it and I'll still get flustered over you sometimes, but I'm happy to think of you the same way you think of me. Being your friend is just as good." She smiles.

"Now hug," a whisper comes from the door. I see one of Keiko's pigtails peeking from the doorway. I see why she's been friends with Aoko so long…

Terumi and I hug it out and when I asked if it was okay to call her imouto-chan she happily agreed!

"I'm glad I cried over this already, or I would be even further behind on studying," Terumi says happily.

"Thank you for not making feel good at all," I say. I hate making people cry. That's like the number one sign you're an asshole... I'm fucking two for two at this point.

"Well it's true. I cried because not only did you not return my feelings, but you're a bit preoccupied with someone else," she says.

I gulp. I guess my weird feelings for Kazuha are obvious also. Terumi pushes up her glasses again, but this time she isn't smiling. I'm getting a bit nervous now. She looks really scary…

She looks me deep in the eyes and says, "I don't want to sound cryptic or anything, but Kazuha isn't telling you something very important." Way to sound extremely cryptic Terumi. How am I supposed to take that? What could she possibly be hiding? ALSO WHY ARE THERE SO MANY TWISTS IN MY LIFE AT THE MOMENT? THE ONLY CONSTANT THING I CAN THINK OF IS MY NAME FOR MY GODDAMN BIKE. HELP ME SUZY.

I swear if there's another turnabout I'm going to flip a table.

7:30. CAFEBAKE. IN THE HELL HOLE. WE HAVEN'T OPENED YET. KAITO CALLED FOR A RANDOM STAFF MEETING. HE IS THE ONLY ONE EXCITED ABOUT IT.

"Guess what?" is how he starts the meeting off. Amazing. Why did I think it could possibly deal with my job?

"I don't have to take my midterm later today?" Terumi yawns.

"Pokemon were the real dinosaurs!" Sera yells.

"I'm getting a raise," I say.

Kazuha grins. "I want Heiji's raise because I work harder than him."

"You've finally agreed to let me play my sim dates at work?" Keiko asks.

Kaito's smile gets even wider. "Something better than all of those things!" He claps his hands excitedly.

We all groan; Keiko is the loudest.

The door opens and Hakuba walks in. I fight the urge to start singing the Inspector Gadget theme. I'm getting too good at these robot references. I literally can't stop now.

"I'm sorry I'm late. I was making sure Watson had enough food for the day," He says. What is Watson? I still don't know if it's a pet or an old person…both of those things apply to that sentence. "I didn't miss anything important did I?"

Kaito shakes his head. "No, you're just in time." He makes sure to get eye contact with everyone before announcing, "I'M GONNA PROPOSE TO AOKO!" He magically releases doves and confetti everywhere. Yo Kaito, nice effects but who will be cleaning this up?

We all cheer for the announcement. I'm super excited for them even though this probably means I have to move out soon. They're practically married now so there's nothing standing in Kaito's way-

"No."

The cheering slowly stops. Kaito's grin is gone. All eyes are on Hakuba.

"I won't allow this to happen," He states before walking out the room.

I NEED A TABLE STAT.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 07: NORMAL= YOU DON'T NEED KNIVES TO CRACK EGGS

8:50 A.M. MY/KAITO'S/AOKO'S APARTMENT. YOU'LL NEVER GUESS WHERE KAITO IS SORTING OUT HIS EMOTIONS.

"I'm concerned that I feel both shocked and oddly relieved to find you under my bed," I say, getting on the floor. I hear low cooing. "YOU HAVE YOUR DOVES WITH YOU?" I'm NOT cleaning up after them. I had to clean up all the confetti and feathers he left earlier this morning. Bird shit is a whooole different ball game. WHOLE DIFFERENT BALL GAME. LIKE I WOULD AT LEAST LIKE TO BE PAID OR SOMETHING.

"Only one." Kaito sniffs loudly. "Aoko-chan likes dark places…" he mumbles. After Hakuba dropped his huge "I'm an asshole" bombshell on Kaito's wedding plans, Kaito left the Hell Hole without another word. I figure as his friend and roommate it would be good for me to make sure he's not considering anything dangerous.

"…you named one of your doves after your girlfriend?" I ask. I'm now on my belly to see him better. Sure enough, there's a bird walking beside his head near the foot of my bed. Haha, rhyming.

"I was visiting my mom in Las Vegas and I was lonely," he answers simply. "All of my birds are named after people I care about. My mom, my dad, Jii, Aoko, Keiko, and Sagu—Hakuba." He sighs loudly. That dramatic name change is very scary. Poor guy.

"Uh, sorry about what happened." Smooth, Heiji. I feel stupid not knowing how to comfort him. He always makes me feel better about whatever I'm going through and I can't think of anything for him. Honestly, this is the first time I've ever seen him truly depressed. He looks so lifeless under there… This really makes me sad…

"It's fine," he says. "I mean it's not, but you have to go to work soon. I don't want to be in the way of the little work ethic you possess." I TAKE IT BACK. I TAKE EVERYTHING BACK.

"Wow, for someone who's emotionally damaged, you're okay with insulting me." I roll my eyes. That one actually stings a bit.

"Heiji," he reaches for my head and pats it. "Being blunt is my outlet. I need this more than you know, just like Aoko needs more time off from mindlessly cursing every five seconds." Jesus, he's gunning for everyone.

I sigh. I guess that sorta makes sense. He has a right to be pissed off, and if it's making small annoying remarks to let off some steam then fine. It could be worse. "I'll be back on my break. I hope to see you done with your boogey man act."

I feel a bit relieved when he laughs at this. To make sure he gets out of my room, I set a tub of chocolate ice cream right by my door. Yes, we have a lot of ice cream here. Aoko likes Neapolitan, I like coffee of course, and Kaito's a chocolate lover. And yes, most of our grocery money is spent on ice cream. We're classy adults who really like milkshake parties.

9:00 A.M. CAFEBAKE. EVERYONE IS SO AWKWARD EXCEPT FOR ONE VERY HAPPY 5'3" LADY.

"GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROOOOOAD~ AAAAAAAH~" Aoko belts out. Wow, ignorance is bliss. Also if you haven't noticed, Aoko really likes Elton John. Just like Kaito is using insults to get over Hakuba being a dick, Aoko is coping with her cursing punishment by singing all of Elton John's greatest hits. She still says crazy stuff though; last night she burned herself and yelled, "SUNLIGHT YELLOW OVERDRIVE".

"I wish I could have your sunny attitude, Aoko," Hakuba (yes, he has the gall to work Kaito's shift for him. Amazing I know. LIKE WOW. HE HAS ALL THE GALL), smiles down at her as if he didn't stop a surprise wedding proposal and ruined a friendship two hours ago.

Sera huffs as she angrily mixes cupcake batter. "I hope Aoko becomes the sun and melts your skin off," she mutters. As you can see, Sera is ready to murder Hakuba. Not literally, but Keiko, Terumi and I hid all of the knives in the kitchen anyway. I can't believe this is the same person who believes Pokemon were real at some point.

Hakuba gives Sera a pointed look and since Aoko's so short and so busy singing her heart out, she doesn't notice anything. I'm so glad I work at the counter because I would have a nervous breakdown. Like good gracious I can barely deal with the problems I have!

Kazuha goes back to fixing a customer's drink, letting out a whistle. "I thought our little fight made things awkward but I was wrong by a ton."

"Yeah I know," I say. "I hope Kaito is somewhat okay. I don't like leaving people under my bed. I feel like a murderer…" Kazuha gives me a strange look at the comparison. "You should've seen him up there. He looks like a beat up puppy that doesn't have a home and got stuck in the rain..." I sigh. "If he wasn't spouting assholeish insults at me, I would've stayed up there."

I hear Keiko sigh beside me. "He was forcing you to go away, Heiji." For once, she isn't diligently working. Good thing the morning rush is gone or we would be fucked. "Kaito's a douche when he's sad because he thinks no one can help him. Luckily he's with Aoko who bothers him until he sort things out with her, but she can't know about the marriage proposal so this is all sorts of weird…"

"We need a new Aoko," Kazuha concludes. The two of us look at Keiko. She's the perfect person since she's known Kaito for years.

"No, I'm literally the worst person. He always distracts me," She says. "The last time I tried to get him out of his mood he said he would play a BL game with me if I didn't do anything."

"Keiko, I feel like you could've tried harder…" Kazuha says dryly.

Keiko shrugs at this. "Says the girl who bought herself new clothes instead of telling Kaito to stop borrowing from her closet for disguises…" she says, giving Kazuha a sly grin.

Kazuha pouts. "…he looked better in them…" There is a mighty need to hear this story…

"We can't ask Sera since she spoils surprises like no one's business…and Terumi has to take an exam later so she's a no show…" Keiko lists all of our options. "There's only one person left…" She and Kazuha look at me grinning.

"Ohhhh no," I shake my head, "I'm not going to be his new girlfriend. It's too soon—we just became friends."

"Heiji, you're the only one that actually enjoys being rude to people. You're a perfect fit!" Keiko says. "We believe in you MANAOKO!"

"MANAOKO?"

"Manko for short," Kazuha giggles. "You're going to check on him anyway during break, right? That's the perfect time to get him to talk." She leans close to my ear and whispers, "plus, we might get the full story on the whole Hakuba and Aoko situation." Ugh she's right…it's better to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. What has my life become?

"Toyama-san," the three of flinch at the voice. Hakuba is by the dessert case, holding a tray of cookies. Why does he look so embarrassed? "Would…would you…consider…" he mumbles.

"You're speaking too low!" Aoko whispers loudly. Wait, is she standing behind him? I walk over to the dessert case and sure enough she's standing there holding her tray of cookies. She sees me and winks. "Speak from your diaphragm," she coaches. What is this, public speaking class?

Hakuba fidgets under whatever pressure he seems to be under. "Would you consider…if you have time…possibly…"

"Possibly?" Kazuha raises an eyebrow. "Possibly doing a favor?" She tries.

He quickly shakes his head, his face quickly reddening. "N-no….possibly…considering…if possible…."

"OUT WITH IT!" Aoko screeches, causing almost all of the customers, and Hakuba, to flinch violently.

"DO YOU MIND JOINING ME FOR LUNCH TODAY?" He blurts out, closing his eyes. Wow you would think he was asking her to marry him the way that was built up…haha as if she would marry him. HAHA AS IF SHE WOULD BE ALONE WITH HIM AGAIN. HAHA I'M SUPER ANNOYED. HA. HA.

Kazuha looks as shocked as the rest of us. "No, I don't mind."

YAAAAAAAAAAAAY.

Hakuba opens his eyes, and lets out a small laugh. "Oh…well, thank you." He chuckles again, going back to his usual annoying self. "I'll see you then." Instead of filling up the dessert case, which is what I guess he was originally going to do, he quickly goes back to the kitchen. Keiko snickers at my annoyed expression.

Aoko turns to us giggling. "I'm so proud of him. He couldn't stop talking about you visiting the other day." She happily fills the dessert case.

"Really? I wouldn't have guessed." Kazuha glances back to the kitchen. "From how stiff he was, I thought I was intruding…"

"Oh don't let Hakuba bother you. He tries to keep a cool head most of the time, but on the inside he's a bundle of nerves. He was probably anxious having someone that wasn't me or Kaito in his apartment. The three of us were roommates for a long time."

"Oh wow," Keiko says. "I actually forgot about that."

"The three of you were roommates?" I ask. I wonder why he moved out…maybe his crush on Aoko put bad blood between him and Kaito. The other day they seemed fine with each other…I'm so ticked at how confusing everyone's actions are currently. Hopefully Manko can get Kaito to straighten some things out. I can't believe I just said that…WHAT IS MY LIFE?

"Yeah," Aoko answers. "He moved out fairly recently…I wanna say it was at least a month ago." Before I can get more info out of her she goes back to Kazuha saying, "if you see him checking his watch, he's trying to calm himself down by counting down to the next minute." She closes the dessert case.

I snort at this. "What are you his mom?" Aoko sticks her tongue out at me and heads back to the kitchen. "Kazuha, don't hesitate to call if he does something weird." Weird as in BEING HAKUBA. WHO COUNTS TIME TO CALM THEMSELVES? WHAT IS HE, GODDAMN TICKETY FROM FUCKING BLUES CLUES?

"What are you my dad?" She rolls her eyes.

I stop myself from saying something along the lines of "I don't like you being alone with guys unless that guy is me". UGH WHY DO I FEEL SO IRRITATED ABOUT IT? IT'S JUST HAKUBA. IT'S NOT LIKE HE'S GOING TO ASK HER OUT OR WHATEVER. I DON'T LIKE IT.

11:00 A.M. BREAK TIME. OUTSIDE OF MY APARTMENT. WAITING ON KAITO TO ANSWER THE DOOR SINCE I FORGOT MY KEY. TO BE FULLY INTO MY ROLE OF "MANKO", KEIKO FORCED ME TO WEAR A WIG.

Kaito finally opens the door and stares at me. "Oh my god," he says.

"THIS WAS NOT MY IDEA," I say quickly. THIS IS SO EMBARRASSING. I ONLY KEPT IT ON BECAUSE KEIKO STALKED ME ALL THE WAY UP HERE.

"Are you trying to seduce me?" He asks, grinning.

"I'M YOUR MANKO DAMMIT," I push past him, throwing the wig across the room. If you're wondering-the wig is actually Kaito's, but Keiko found it in Aoko's office. I DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHY THERE'S A WIG IN THERE AND I DON'T KNOW WHY KEIKO KNEW WHERE IT WAS. I'M SO BOTHERED BY THIS BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW WHERE THIS HAS BEEN OR WHAT IT WAS USED FOR AND IT WAS FORCED ON MY HEAD AND I DON'T LOOK GOOD WITH SHOULDER LENGTH HAIR. I RIDE A MOTORCYCLE AND I CAN NEVER HAVE MY HAIR BLOWING IN THE WIND. SUZY I CAN'T BE BEAUTIFUL FOR YOU.

Kaito closes the door, cracking up. "MANKO?"

"ManAoko," I mutter. I angrily sit on the couch. Oh hey, the chocolate ice cream I set out before is now opened and half empty on the coffee table. I'm glad that little idea worked.

"You're definitely trying to seduce me," he says sitting next to me.

"I swear to God, Kaito…" I cover my face with my hands. "There are too many emotions happening inside of me. I do not need your teasing on top of it." I let out a breath. At least he didn't take a picture of me like Kazuha and Keiko. I need to make sure those don't end up online…

"I'm joking!" He pats my shoulder. "Partially."

"What!?"

He laughs louder. He's right he can laugh in any situation…

I sigh. "At least you're in a good mood. I was actually worried you were just gonna sulk under my bed forever."

He shrugs. "I mean, there was chocolate ice cream sitting in the hallway. Can't let that go to waste."

"You know what else we can't go to waste?" I say. My god, I'm so good at segues. I'm so good at them I should own one. You don't need shoulder length hair for that. "Pent up emotions! How about this morning, huh? Preeetty crazy."

Kaito's smile drops immediately. "You're ugly as a woman."

My eyebrow twitches. Don't mind Heiji, don't mind. You weren't even that attached to the wig. It wasn't cut well, that's why you looked bad. "I'm aware, and I'm also aware that you're avoiding a huge ass problem."

"Aren't you the same way with Kazuha?" he easily replies. My eyebrow twitches again. Donnnn't miiiind Heiji…

"We're not getting married," I say. "Unlike you and Aoko…"

"None of this is your business…" he looks away from me.

"How come all of my problems couldn't be just my business? You were the main one that practically forced me to spill my life to you!"

Kaito looks surprised for a brief moment before forcing on a neutral expression. "I'm going to bed," he mutters as he gets off the couch.

"NO YOU'RE GOING TO STAY HERE!" I grab his arm and pull him back on the couch. He's partially sitting on my lap, and I grab his other arm so he won't try to get away. Hilariously enough, I had to do this with Kudo one time when he was being a bit childish, but that's another story for another day. "I'm not letting go until you talk to me."

He grimaces and sighs loudly. "Fine…"

We both freeze when the door opens.

"Honey, I'm home—" Aoko abruptly stops when she sees us. The three of us stare at each other. "Am I interrupting something?" She finally asks smugly.

Kaito and I look at the situation we're in. OH GOD. WE LOOK LIKE WE'RE ABOUT TO MAKE OUT OR SOMETHING.

"AOKO IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THINK!" I say. Oh man my face is burning with embarrassment.

"You say that," She says while getting her phone, "but you're still holding his wrists." She takes a picture. "Note to self, buy Heiji handcuffs…"

"NOOOO IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THINK!" I let go of Kaito. "TELL HER IT'S NOT THAT WAY!"

Kaito looks as composed as ever. "Bimboko…he came in and announced that he was my Man Aoko," he dramatically swoons. "I would let him do whatever he wanted…"

She squeals in delight.

"NO SHUT UP!" UGH HE'S SO LUCKY I CAN'T ACTUALLY EXPLAIN ANYTHING SINCE HE'S SURPRISING HER WITH A RING. UGH THAT ASSHOLE. "AOKO DELETE THAT PICTURE!"

She puts her phone away giggling. "Are you crazy? This is exactly what I needed!"

WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN!? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME? WHY CAN'T SHE BE A REGULAR GIRLFRIEND AND FIND THIS SITUATION WORRISOME?

"WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?" I ask.

"Oh yeah, I almost forgot," she laughs. "Keiko and I are about to go out for lunch and I wanted to check up on Kaito before I left. I see he's fully awake to tussle with you~"

Kaito gets up from the couch and stretches. "That pic isn't free, you know." He walks over to her and proceeds to give her the longest kiss ever. Aoko giggles at the affection.

…I wish I had a girlfriend. Wait…does that make me jealous of their overly affectionate relationship? DAMMIT I'M TURNING INTO HAKUBA. SOON I'LL BE WINNING AWARDS FOR COUNTING SECONDS.

"Heiji and I'll keep Sera company," Kaito says.

"That's actually a good idea. She's been kinda off today and she won't tell me why…" Aoko says. "Also, all of the knives are missing so if you can find one that would be helpful. Sera needed orange juice for the 'Orange You Glad These Exist?' cupcakes and she resorted to karate chopping them in half."

"So hiding the knives was pointless?!" I exclaim. The two of them look at me. Crap, I meant to say that in my head. "I mean….oh my god the knives…who hid them…"

11:10 A.M. HELL HOLE. SERA IS UNECCESSARILY SMASHING A CARTON OF EGGS. THERE ARE THREE DESTROYED TRAYS IN THE TRASH ALREADY.

"You don't need knives to crack eggs…" Kaito watches, flinching at each punch. "Also, you're wasting product…"

Sera continues mercilessly hitting the egg carton. "I ALREADY ASKED MAKOTO TO BRING US EXTRA FOR HIS NEXT DELIVERY," she growls. Poor Makoto. I don't know how much Aoko pays him, but I feel like it's not enough. After a couple more hits, she finally scrapes the mess into a trashcan. "Do you want a tray? I'm sure you feel like punching something and imagining Hakuba's face on it. On the phone Makoto asked me to punch one the flour bags, but it doesn't have the same satisfying crushing sound, you know?" He asked because he didn't want to get more eggs for us, not to hear your personal preference of punching bags…

"I feel sadder than anything else," He answers. "With the whole marriage thing, I've been on the fence about it. I'm not sure if I'll be a good husband…"

"NO. YOU WOULD BE THE BEST HUSBAND. OH MY GOD." She angrily washes her hands. "CAN I DESTROY HIM FOR YOU?"

On the way down here Kaito told me Sera knows Jeet Kune Do. Note to self: next time Sera's mad don't hide the knives—tie her hands behind her back instead.

"No, Sera," Kaito forces on a smile. "I appreciate your concern, but Hakuba may have a point. Maybe it's not time to think about marriage…"

Sera dries her hands on her apron, biting her lip.

Suddenly a bell rings. We have a bell on the counter on the other side for customers to use, just in case we're all back here. Kaito walks out of the kitchen to take care of the customer. Sera sighs.

"I hate him," she says. "Him as in Hakuba."

"I think the eggs prove that," I say.

She snorts at this. "It was therapeutic. I was so excited for Kaito finally proposing…he's been thinking about it for almost a year now and he keeps talking himself out of it."

"Why?" I ask, sitting at the break table. "He's practically married to Aoko now."

She joins me. "I know, but Kaito always thinks he's going to mess things up because…well…I'm not sure if it's my place to say. Let's just say it's for a very personal reason." I wonder what that could mean… Her finger starts tapping the table. "And that stupid bird brain ruined everything…"

"Yeah, dick move on his part," I say.

"He's always like that. It's nothing new. I feel like he only comes down here so he can get praise from Aoko." She crosses her arms and huffs. "When we really need another person to help us back here he's nowhere to be seen."

"So you think he likes Aoko too, huh?"

"Hell yeah I do! That's probably the most annoying thing about him aside from everything else. Like I get that he's close to them but getting in the way of their happiness is unforgivable…"

"Hello everyone…" Terumi mumbles as she walks in the kitchen. She lazily clocks herself in and grabs her name tag.

"You look as awful as Kaito feels," Sera says. I try really hard to cover up my laugh. It's funny because I would never think to say that. Oh my god someone is finally meaner than me. I never thought I would see the day. "You must've bombed your test." HAHA SHE'S TERRIBLE.

"No, I passed. I'm pretty sure I got the highest grade...again," Terumi answers. "It's just my class mates kinda get jealous and…" she sighs loudly. "I feel like I can practically hear what they're saying."

"Do you want to imagine those people on eggs and break them?" Sera asks giddily. I feel like she's using this as an excuse so she can break more.

Terumi is confused until her eyes rest on the three destroyed cartons in the trash. She braces herself before exclaiming, "BUT WE HID THE KNIVES."

"Hey Terumi, how do you feel about Hakuba?" I ask when she sits down with us. "Sera wants to murder him and I want to punch him in the face."

"I don't want to murder him. Maybe break a bone or two," Sera clarifies. "Specifically his humerus." She grins.

Terumi giggles, pushing up her glasses. "I hear it's a funny bone." They high five each other.

"Oh god, you're pun pals…" I groan. "I could break something myself from that…"

"Are all martial artists this testy?" Terumi laughs. The answer is yes. 'But Heiji, Makoto and Ran are saints!' Just you wait till you see when they actually get angry. It takes a while for them to reach that point, but when they do…ugh I'm getting chills thinking about it. "To answer your question, I don't think I have that big of an opinion on him. He doesn't speak to me much, and when he does it's usually on me being nervous." She pauses for a moment, thinking on the right words to say. "I think he's very observant though. One time he gave me an extra hanky to clean my glasses since I left mine in my room. When I asked him how he knew he said he noticed the streaks in my glasses from rubbing them on my shirt," she smiles as she takes them off to wipe them. "I'm very particular about it so it was nice of him to notice."

"Of course he's nice to glasses-they don't have emotions." Sera mutters. HAHAHAHA I FUCKING LOVE HER.

"Oh before I forget!" Terumi puts her glasses back on. "I actually saw Hakuba-san and Kazuha together."

"Really?" Kaito walks back in, slightly surprised. "Did Kazuha invite him?" He asks me this.

"No," I mutter.

He's even more surprised. "Really!? Terumi, where did you see them?" He's practically giddy now.

"They were sitting outside another café called The English Muffin," she answers. Wow, of course he would go there. Way to follow stereotypes, Hakuba.

Kaito looks extremely proud of this development.

"Oi," Sera frowns. "Why are you so happy? This is the same guy who ruined your wedding plans."

"Because he's my friend, Sera. An extremely closed off one at that." He gets his phone and starts texting. "That's probably why Aoko and Keiko actually went out to eat. They usually eat in." Amazing. They only treated themselves to spy on other people. Best friends till the end…

Sera huffs. "I'm going to punch more eggs…."

"I don't think that's an eggcellent idea," Terumi says. Amazingly enough, the pun was able to persuade Sera not to destroy harmless eggs. "Ah, Heiji….have you talked about Kazuha about what I said earlier?" She asks.

I shake my head. "With this whole Hakuba thing I haven't thought about it. Also I'm afraid to ask…" Even more, I'm afraid of whatever this big secret could be…

"Eh? Ask about what?" Sera asks, fully interested.

The bell rings again.

"Kazuha's lying, and it bothers me," Terumi says as she gets up to serve the customer. We silently watch her leave.

Sera leans back in her chair. "What is with today? Too much drama…"

"Well, to be fair Terumi's never been too fond of Kazuha," Kaito says. "She's like you with Hakuba, but less destructive." He grins at her.

Huh, I never knew that. "I thought they were on good terms."

"Well, they're cordial, but not 'friends'. I would even say that they've gotten even tenser around each other since you moved in." He checks his phone when it rings. "Aoko says that Hakuba made Kazuha laugh." He happily texts back.

"Kaito, you shouldn't even give this guy the time of day." Sera glares at his phone. "I know you've known him forever but now he's taking a step too far. It's not like he's your dad or anything."

This makes Kaito stop and think. He looks away from us, deep in thought. "I guess you're right…" he says.

"Exactly," she nods.

"I never really asked my dad about it…" he turns to us smiling. It looks really sad though, he must be forcing it. "I should probably go and visit him. Heiji, we'll talk later." He gets up to leave.

"Huh…his dad must be far away or something to leave this early…" I say. Sera doesn't answer.

12:30 P.M. BACK ON THE DAILY GRIND. KAZUHA'S TELLING ME ABOUT HER TIME WITH BIG O.

"I'm still not sure if I'm impressed that you've kept up with the robot references or not," she chuckles. "We talked about Aoko's love for Elton John and it turns out he translated the songs for her so she could understand what the songs mean."

"Did he say anything else about Aoko? Something that's like…important for us…us as in the The Gossip Twins not….us…" I focus on making a customer's mocha or as they're called here The Count Chocula.

Lucky for me, Kazuha doesn't think too hard on my trip up. "He talked about both her and Kaito, really. He really cares about them. I don't get why he did what he did this morning…" she thinks to herself. "We both have the same fear though," she says.

I pass the finished drink to Terumi to hand to the customer. "You're both afraid of the Joker's teeth?" I laugh.

"HEIJI THAT IS A LEGIT FEAR—HIS TEETH ARE UNNATURALLY YELLOW EVEN FOR A CARTOON." She exclaims. "But no that's not it, and because you're making fun of me, I'm not telling you what the real answer is."

"HA." We both look at Terumi, who let out probably the most snarky laugh I've ever heard. "Hiding things. Hilarious." Kazuha bites her lip. Ohhh dear.

"Terumi, can you pass the chocolate syrup?" Kazuha asks.

Terumi, who is working the register, looks at Kazuha and barely moves the syrup container. Kazuha stares, utterly bewildered. That's something would've done! Am I already a terrible influence to my pretend relative?

"Terumi, is the chocolate syrup close to you?" Keiko calls. Haha, she's the only one actually working. If anyone has an increased pay, it's her.

"Yes, it's over here!" Terumi happily walks over to hand over the syrup. She makes a point to smile at me before going back to the register.

Kazuha turns to me, highly agitated.

"Maybe she didn't hear you?" I shrug. She lets out a breath and goes over to help Keiko.

I scooch over to Terumi and whisper, "so what was that about?"

"Heiji, I'm sorry. I don't showing people my miffed side…" she gives me a nervous smile. If that was miffed I'm not sure if I want to know what her angry side is… "If I could, I would answer your question now, but she's glaring at us." She rudely points at Kazuha who is pretending to talk to Keiko but is obviously just using her as a shield to nosy in our business. Her eyebrow twitches in agitation and she forces herself to look away.

Terumi giggles. "Plus, you wanted to be a detective right? If I told you the answer, it wouldn't be as fun."

It would be a whoooooole bunch easier if you did Terumi….

3:00 P.M. OFF WORK. AT THE APARTMENT. I'M THE ONLY ONE HERE. HEHEHEHEHE…

Because I always wanted to do this ever since I moved in and no one is here to stop me….I'm going to enter Aoko and Kaito's bedroom~

God I hope there's no like…sex toys just lying about. They seem the type. Am I right or am I right?

Their bedroom is closer to the rest of the living space while my room is further down the hall. I'm using the term 'hall' loosely since it's not like a long corridor or something. I like the corner, but it does have that "guest room" feel if that makes sense. Their door is always closed which is the main reason why I'm so interested in snooping in there. If they had it open I could keep the urge to barge in by taking little peeks here and there, but noooo they're so secretive. I look down the hall to my open bedroom. Maybe I should be a little more private… Whatever.

I open the door, and I'm extremely surprised to find nothing dealing with their sexual lives out in the open. I am also surprised that it's extremely neat in here. The bed is made, the dresser doesn't have any dust, their clothes are neatly hung in the closet. Once again, you can't judge a person by their bushy hairstyles… There are photographs on the dresser, also free of dust, which shows Aoko and her dad and Kaito with his mom. Huh, I wonder why a picture of his dad isn't here. Aoko barely talks about her mom so I'm assuming she wouldn't really have a reason to keep a picture of her, but Kaito said he was visiting him…there should be something here.

For those who are wondering, Kaito's closet is not female clothes. It looks like he mostly steals from all of his female friends. However that's not the elephant in the room. That would be the 2 TALL STACK OF NOTEBOOKS ON WHAT I BELIEVE IS AOKO'S SIDE OF THE ROOM. THEY'RE ALL FIVE SUBJECT TOO. WHAT IS THIS FOR? I take one from the somewhat smaller stack which has CAFÉ IDEAS FOR CAFÉ FUN NOTEBOOK #45 written on it.

Never would've guessed that she actually keeps track of all her ideas…I flip to a random page.

October 2 nd —gotta think about Halloween specials…maybe something dealing with slime or mummies or something else scary…OOOH BLOOD!

I let out a chuckle. Of course she would write to herself. This is smart thinking though….I guess she does something with Dracula…

Yeah I like the blood idea. I GOT IT—THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE COFFEE

I immediately close the book and put it back on its stack. WHY DID I THINK SHE WOULD DO SOMETHING SANE? WHO WOULD BUY THAT?

I try not to give myself a headache. Let's see what the other stack is…I reach for the top one.

Aoko's Writing Notebook #101

Huh…wasn't expecting that. Never thought Aoko was the novelist type. I look at the first tab of the notebook that reads HEIJI AND KAITO.

I wonder what that could mean. Is this a diary? Is she writing about our friendship? DOES KAITO TELL HER THINGS AND SHE KEEPS TRACK OF THEM HERE? I begin turn to a page—

"AAAAH!"

I scream on impulse and turn around to see a flustered Aoko behind me.

"YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO SEE THOSE!" She storms over and takes the notebook out of my hands. "THESE ARE NOT FOR VIRGIN EYES!" She tries to put the notebook back but she's too short to reach it. "…if you could be so kind…" she mumbles handing it back to me.

"What's wrong? Is it your diary or something?" I ask, opening it up again. I begin reading something called The First Time= The Best Time. "Dumb title…"

She crosses her arms and pouts. "I wrote this at 12 in the morning…"

Kaito peeks his head into Heiji's room. It's midnight and his princess Aoko is asleep.

"Princess Aoko?"

"I'm a prize, Heiji."

"Heiji?" Kaito whispers. "Are you still awake? I have something important to ask you."

Heiji, the newcomer to the kingdom, turns over and lets out a small chuckle. "Can't it wait till the morning?"

Kaito shakes his head, tiptoeing to Heiji's bed. "It's really urgent. Aoko can't know about it yet."

The tanned one—

"THE TANNED ONE?" I exclaim. "YOU COULDN'T THINK OF A BETTER DESCRIPTION FOR ME?"

"I WROTE THIS AS I WAS GOING TO SLEEP!"

"Also when did this happen? I don't remember Kaito coming into my room in the middle of the night, or you being called princess…" I say.

Aoko smirks. "Keep reading, tanned one."

The tanned one sits up from his bed and waits for Kaito to speak.

"Even though my true love is Aoko, there has been something stirring inside me. Ever since you moved in to live with us…I've been feeling different…"

"What is that supposed to mean?" Heiji asks. "If you're gonna burp in my face I swear—"

"Heiji…" Kaito forces himself to not leave the room.

I laugh at this. "I would actually say that…"

Aoko beams. "Good, I wrote you right! I was worried when I looked over it."

"Anyway, the feeling inside me isn't anything like that," Kaito tries his hardest not to blush in front of his new roommate. "It's the same feeling I have toward Aoko…"

Heiji says nothing, still unsure of what Kaito means.

"I want….I want to love you too."

Eh?

"Eh?" Heiji cocks his head to the side in confusion.

Kaito smiles before leaning in to capture the other's lips in a chaste, playful kiss.

EH?

Heiji is extremely alarmed by this at first, but slowly melts into the affection, allowing the other to press himself close to him—

I clap the notebook closed. "YOU WROTE A SLASH ABOUT US!"

"I'M NOT ASHAMED!"

"I DIDN'T ASK THAT. WHY ARE YOU USING US FOR YOUR BL!?"

"THAT'S THE ONLY WAY I GET TO BE CREATIVE!" She huffs. "There's yuri too if you're interested. I like pairing myself with Ran-"

"NOPE." I promptly put the notebook back where it came from. "I'm happy you have an outlet, but I'm not comfortable with knowing you write me having sex with your boyfriend."

She shrugs. "Kaito liked that story. I usually pair him up with Hakuba or Shinichi. It was a change of pace.

I cover my face. "I swear you two are something I've never thought I would encounter." I take a peek at Aoko who looks really guilty. I guess she has several fanfictions about me and Kaito. I let out a sigh. It's not that big of a deal, since we all know its fiction. "If I'm going to be kissing Kaito, you should just use the word playful. I would prefer that over 'chaste'."

She gives me a hug. "Thank you Heiji!"

"You're welcome." I pat her head. "Out of curiosity, how does it end?"

She looks up at me, smiling. "The last line is Princess Aoko smiles in her sleep, excited for daybreak.'"

"You're joking—we don't even get the last line?"

"I thought this made you uncomfortable~" She laughs when I ruffle her hair. "Why are you in here anyway?" She's still latched on to me as I walk out the room.

"Well your door is always closed and I was curious." We both sit on the couch. Aoko's still hugging me.

"It's Kaito that likes keeping the door closed for some reason. I like having it open," she says. "Where is he by the way?"

"I guess he's still with his dad." I check the clock. It's been a while though…

Aoko releases me. She looks extremely worried now "He visited his dad…?" She asks, not looking at me.

"Yeah…are you okay?" I ask. She was so happy just a second ago! What's wrong with Kaito's dad?

Aoko doesn't answer. She takes out her cell phone and dials a number. Giving me a quick smile, she gets up and walks to her bedroom. "Kaito, is everything okay?" is all I hear before she closes the door.

I was joking before about flipping a table, but now I think I really need to.

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 08: I NEED TO BE CALLED MOTHER GOOSE

6:00 P.M. KEIKO'S AND TERUMI'S APARTMENT. IN KEIKO'S ROOM. THERE'S SO MUCH SONIC STUFF IN HERE.

"It's so weird that he has shoes, but no shirt," I mumble, staring at one of the posters.

Keiko is at her computer, clicking around on something. If I had to guess, it's probably another otome game. "He would have to go to a special place to get his clothes, Heiji. It's hard enough that he has to go to a special shoe maker to get shoes for his oversized mutant hedgehog feet." She dramatically turns to me. "He can't use all his rings for clothes. He needs those to live."

"Why have you put so much thought into this?"

"Why are you even here?" She counters. "Terumi's still working." She goes back to her computer.

"No, I wanted to talk to you. I was just distracted…" I try to ignore the…Sonic-ness of the room. Just to let you know, the only normal thing is her bed which I'm completely thankful for. I don't want to think about sitting on a cartoon character. "Aoko and Kaito are acting weird…more than usual. Kaito said he was going to visit his dad and now Aoko's acting as if he's seeing the grim reaper."

Keiko shifts in her chair. "That's an interesting way to put it."

"And with this whole Hakuba thing, I'm not even sure what to think about it anymore. At first I thought it was just a simple crush or whatever, but I feel like there's something I'm missing."

Keiko finally turns to me. "So you've come to me since I know them the most?"

I nod.

"Well Mr. Gossip Detective, you've come to the right person." She closes her laptop. Note to self: Tell Kazuha we should rename ourselves from the Gossip Twins to Gossip Detectives. "First things first—the reason Aoko's freaking out is because Kaito only sees his dad when he's feeling really bad about something. In a pinch, Kaito usually goes to him for advice. He should be back sooner or later, so don't worry too much."

"If he cares about his dad, how come there isn't a picture of him in their bedroom?" I ask.

"Let's just say there's a reason," She answers. That tells me nothing.

"So how come you're not trying to sort things out?" I ask.

"That brings me to my second point. Even though I've known Aoko, Kaito, and Hakuba for several years, I'll never be on the same level of familiarity they have." She reaches for a picture frame on her desk and hands it to me. "What do you see there?"

The picture shows Keiko with her parents. They're in front of a fountain and holding up peace signs. "You and your parents…" I answer, handing the frame back.

She nods. "If you compare this with Aoko and Kaito's photos, you'll see what I'm getting at."

I think back to the pictures…Aoko was only with her dad, and Kaito was with his mom. "You have both parents…" I answer.

"Exactly. Unfortunately both of them suffered from some family problems. The same is with Hakuba. His home life wasn't that fun to put it lightly." Keiko pushes up her glasses. "When he moved here, the three of them connected over that. It's really sweet when you see it in action. Kaito and Aoko are basically Hakuba's parents. They really got him out of a bad place."

Huh, that's interesting.

"Now with this marriage thing, I can't really tell you what's going on in his mind. Hakuba's a methodical guy. When he does something it's for a reason, usually for the benefit of Kaito and Aoko. Usually he tells me what he's thinking to see if I'm okay with it, but this time he didn't." she frowns at this.

"He doing something for himself," I say.

Keiko tilts her head to the side in confusion.

"If Hakuba's as selfless as you say, then that means he doesn't think about his own feelings much. He's in a bind now so he's finally being selfish."

"And he didn't tell me because I would definitely stop him," she says. "Holy cow, this is turning into a bigger pickle than I thought it would be…"

I sigh loudly. "You're telling me."

"But," Keiko pushes up her glasses, "I find it hard to believe he's trying to hurt anyone. That's not like him."

6:45 P.M. KAZUHA'S APARTMENT. RELAYING ALL THE INFO I GOT FROM KEIKO. ALSO I'M GETTING A REALLY WEIRD VIBE FROM HER.

But I can't tell what it is…maybe it's because I'm in her bedroom. Before we visited each other all the time so I was super comfortable being in her personal space, but now I'm kinda nervous. Hilariously enough her bedroom is the same as the one in her house. No posters on the walls and mostly everything in order except for her closet. Haha she still leaves the door open.

"Wow, I can't believe you figured all this out!" She says, holding her pillow. She's sitting on her bed. "I feel like I haven't been doing my fair share. Usually I'm the one actively snooping."

I shrug. I'm sitting on the floor. "I guess since Aoko and Kaito are my roommates I feel like I have to be involved, and I guess it's to repay them for helping me with our little…thing." I lean back on her bed, unsure of what to say next.

We're silent for a moment. I thought this whole Gossip Twins thing would bring us as close as we were before I left, but I feel even more distant.

"Hakuba's acting selfishly, huh?" Kazuha finally says. I hear her fall down on her bed. "I kinda see where he's coming from. I remember when you left, I kept thinking for the both of us. 'Heiji likes taking the 12:00 train cause there's less people so I'll take that one', 'I'll get the ice cream pop Heiji and I always share', and so on…" I look up to see her holding the hair pin high in the air. "I didn't realize that I would keep trying to live like you were here." She lowers her arm and sits up. "I'm not saying this to make you feel bad. I'm sure you went through the same thing."

I nod. "I kept asking Ran to make muffins for me."

She laughs at this.

Even though Kazuha's shit at baking, she's somehow able to make muffins. I guess since they're not the most complex thing in the world to make or something. Anyway, she would make tons of muffins for me and Makoto when we met up in a martial arts tournament. I really like her chocolate chip muffins. They pair well with coffee.

"Either way, I wouldn't necessary call it being selfish, maybe independent?" She repins her hair. "I know the first thing I did without thinking of you was cutting off my ponytail."

"I liked your hair," I say.

"I'll rephrase that—it was partially free will and partially out of spite. It was like a month after you left and I still hated everything." She easily shrugs this off. "But I did feel better because of it. I felt more like a singular person, you know? We were basically like a unit, and I finally felt like I broke away."

I stare up at the ceiling. "Is breaking away good though?" I ask. "When I left the country I thought I was doing the right thing. Now, I'm way happier than I was then."

"But you were in America doing all sorts of cool stuff! And you had Ran and Shinichi too," She says.

"Sure, but I was thinking about you the entire time and how you weren't there." I turn to her grinning. "Now we're together again."

"Heiji…" Kazuha is astounded, and considering it's me saying this I'm a bit shocked also. "Are you romancing me?" She laughs, ruffling my hair.

I blush at this. That was a bit romantic wasn't it? "Ahou," I mutter, shooing her hands away.

"Aw, you grew up." She gets off the bed and heads toward her closet. "Usually you're yelling 'AHOU NO ONE IS DOING THAT'." It's not a big surprise that Kazuha does the best impression of me.

"Eh, I'm tired."

She laughs harder at this. "Well, I missed you too, Heiji." She hums to herself as she looks through her closet. "Hmmm…it's cooler tonight so I guess I should wear a jacket…"

"You're going out?" I ask.

Another laugh, but this time it seems a bit forced. "Yep! Going out for a bit!" She quickly picks out a blue romper and places it on her bed. I look at the closet again and notice something odd. One of the jackets in her closet is a sports jacket. I stare at it trying to see which sport it could be for.

"Tennis?" I mumble.

Kazuha turns to me slightly confused. "What?"

"That's a tennis jacket." I point to the closet. "When did you start playing tennis?"

Kazuha practically turns pale. "I don't…It's someone else's…" She quickly takes it off the hanger.

"Oh, is it someone I know—"

"I'M GOING TO GET READY NOW, SO GOODBYE."

I stare at her completely confused. "What?"

Next thing I know I'm being pushed out of her apartment.

"WHAT." I turn around to see the door slamming shut. The door is quickly locked, and I hear Kazuha shuffle away.

"WHAT!?"

IF THAT'S NOT SHADY I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS! WHY WAS SHE SO UPSET OVER A JACKET—hold on a second….

I didn't say this before since I thought it didn't matter, but the way the jacket was hanging was different than her other clothes. It was a much bigger size…and Kazuha rarely wears anything baggy.

Was that a man's jacket? And if so…

WHO IS THE MAN? AND WHY DOES HE HAVE A JACKET IN HER APARTMENT? ALSO DO I KNOW HIM? YOU SAW HER REACTION WHEN I ASKED. SHE FUCKING FLIPPED OUT. WHAT THE HELL! APPARENTLY I MIGHT KNOW THIS RANDOM DUDE WHO HAS A JACKET IN HER CLOSET. WHY IS THIS SUCH A BIG DEAL? I SWEAR TO GOD IF THESE MYSTERIES DON'T STOP I'M GONNA FOR REAL FLIP A TABLE.

I angrily huff back to my apartment. Aoko is in the kitchen watching the microwave heat her food. She lets out a loud sigh when she sees me.

"Kaito said he would come home only to get ready for a magic show."

"Apparently I know someone that plays tennis."

She chooses not to comment on my statement. "Aside from leaving the country, have you and Kazuha pushed each other away when the other is trying to help?" The microwave beeps, and she gets her food. Its curry.

"I was literally pushed out of her place just a minute ago." I start channel surfing.

"That's hilarious. I like how your relationship goes from okay to fucked up in a matter of seconds." She sits next to me and begins eating. "Don't tell Kaito I swore just then."

"Tell me about Hakuba and we're even."

She gives me an odd look as she puts another spoonful in her mouth. "I thought you hated him."

"I do, but I'm curious about him."

"Note to self: make next fanfiction a Heiji and Hakuba hate/love relationship," she says.

I take her curry and begin eating.

"Nooooo! I'll tell you whatever you want!" She whines reaching toward me. "What do you want to know?"

"What's his relationship with you?" Hey, at this point I feel like beading around bush won't be helpful. I literally have more questions instead of answers to anything.

"Me?" She thinks about it for a second. "He's one of my best friends for one, and like the scholarly writer I am I'll use a metaphor—he's like a baby duck to me."

"That's a simile and you're saying he's like your pet?" I ask, passing her curry back.

"You know how in TV shows they show little ducks and how quickly they get attached to their moms? That's what I mean. I'm still a friend, but my maternal instincts flare up around him." She happily goes back to eating. "He kinda needs it though."

"His folks were too busy or something?"

"Yeah, and the worst thing was they couldn't agree on where to live. His dad wanted to keep his position here in the force, and his mom didn't want to leave her family in England; she's kinda well known in the upper class circles or whatever. So they stayed in their respective homes forcing Hakuba to fly back and forth to see them. Even then they didn't have time for him because they were too focused on their own lives."

No wonder he's so socially awkward. He didn't have time to actually hang out with anyone much less his family! I used to make fun of my mom for staying at home all the time when I was a kid. NowI feel bad… Hm…I should call my parents soon…

Aoko continues, "Lucky for him he had his nanny or he would've been batshit crazy. Unfortunately, she passed away due to old age." Oh no. "I remember at school a lot of girls liked him, but he was always alone…" She trails off for a moment, thinking about something. "One day he had a mini break down in class and I put it upon myself to have him open up to me. It wasn't that hard actually—he's an easy person to talk to. Afterward I gave him a big hug, because my parents weren't the best either."

At that moment, the most annoying laugh comes from the television. Ah, speaking of bad parents…

"Tonight on Sleeping Kogoro's Mysteries, Kogoro-sensei will solve the everyday mysteries plagued by his fans!" The host announces. Ran's dad, who I call Uncle out of politeness/dislike because everyone has that one uncle they hate in their family, prances around on the television screen before taking his seat on the set.

"That's Ran's dad right? Her parents are divorced too?" Aoko asks.

"Yeah…it's a dumb situation…" I mutter. The situation is Uncle being a drunk, bumbling idiot womanizer. The biggest miracle is that Ran didn't grow up to be the worst person on the planet.

Aoko laughs, setting her plate on the coffee table. "Sounds like my parents. Mom hates staying in one place and wanted to travel, and Dad didn't liked that. She planned to leave him and take me with her, but I guess toting a kid around weighed her down so I stayed with Dad."

I stare at her in complete shock.

"She used to own the café, you know," she says still watching TV. "Then she gave it to me as some sort of an apology for not staying around for twenty four years."

"Wow." Wasn't expecting that to be the reason she owns a café.

She laughs. "Was that all you needed about Hakuba? Talking about my mom's thought process is a conversation for a later day."

I nod, and we start watching Uncle's show. We hear a muffled cheer above us.

"That's Amuro," Aoko tells me. "He really loves this show." That explains why he loves Ran so much…and his weird fascination with her dad… "He watches it with Ran and Shinichi every week."

Oh GOD. Kudo I'm so sorry.

11:00 A.M. A NEW DAY. HANGING OUT WITH KUDO AND RAN IN THEIR APARTMENT. WOULD YOU BELIEVE I'M ACTUALLY OFF WORK?

"Either you're off work, or you got fired after three weeks," Kudo laughs.

"Oi," I kick at him. The three of us are on the sofa. I'm lying in the middle, and Kudo and Ran are at either end. My feet are in his lap, and my head is on hers. Haha, this is how it was in college all the time. After we moved out of the dorm we didn't have enough money to buy a television so we bought a couch for the three of us to sit on in the living room. I'm sure you're thinking, 'But Heiji isn't Kudo rich with his famous writer dad and famous movie star mom? And shouldn't Ran's family have a lot of money too since her mom's a lawyer and her dad is the Sleeping Kogoro?' Well the answer to that is the two of them wanted to be more independent from their parents so they only had a small amount of money in their bank accounts. Anyway, couches are important to us.

Ran giggles. "Give Heiji-kun some credit, Shinichi. He passed his record of two weeks."

"Wow, you're the best friends a guy could have." I roll my eyes. "I'm off since I have to be your cousin's chaperone this weekend."

"Oh that's right!" Kudo grins. "Conan finally goes to work! SHERLOCK MARATHON!" He eagerly starts babbling about it.

Ran and I sigh loudly.

"I can't believe you actually perform sexual acts with this guy." I look up at her.

"Unfortunately you're not the first person to tell me that." She smiles at her boyfriend ramble on about Holmes. "Also," she pinches my nose, "I told you to stop messing around with Kaito-kun and Hakuba-kun's business."

I yelp in pain and accidentally kick Kudo's shoulder. "HOW DID YOU FIND OUT?"

"Shinichi told me," she answers simply.

"You deserve that kick." I point at him.

"It was an accident this time!" He says. "Plus Ran already warned you, so it's your fault."

"I had to do something since Hakuba stopped Kaito's marriage proposal!" I blurt out. Ran and Shinichi stare at me.

"MARRIAGE!?" They exclaim.

I explain all that has happened. For some reason, they look a bit distracted. I guess they thought they would be the first married couple in the building or something.

"I feel weird that I didn't know all of this was happening..." Ran says. "Makoto-kun just told me you were being nosy…"

"Well, you don't work in the café, so it's understandable." I finally sit up.

"Hakuba's our neighbor," Kudo explains. "He comes over for Sherlock marathons—which won't be the case tomorrow." The last part was directed to Ran since she let out a sigh. Poor Ran, always bested by a fictional character. "Conan likes going over to his place a lot."

"I never thought Hakuba-kun was the jealous type…he's always saying something good about Kaito-kun. They're as close as you two." Ran points to me and Kudo.

I turn to him. "Are you jealous of me? I am pretty amazing."

He laughs. "If I was jealous your head would explode from your ego." We all know you want to be me, Kudo. Stop lying to yourself. "I bet everything's super awkward now."

"It is—well for the kitchen at least. We basically have to babysit Sera so she won't beat him up," I say.

"Ah that's right, Masumi-chan works there doesn't she? It's been a while, right Shinichi?" Ran asks him.

He nods. "At least five years or so."

"You guys know Sera?" I ask. This apartment building is like the meeting place for old friends. We should hold reunions every week or something.

"We went to high school together! I have pictures!" Ran eagerly jogs to their bedroom.

"It's kinda hilarious Sera wants to beat up Hakuba. Funny in the ironic way," Kudo tells me. "Apparently she had a crush on me, but I didn't notice."

"You don't notice most things," I say.

"Same to you." He flicks my forehead. "When it was time for us to go to college, Sera and I were originally given the scholarship to study abroad. She realized I wasn't as excited about going since I would be leaving Ran behind. I don't know how she did it, but Sera was somehow able to give her spot up for Ran. I got a text later with her confession."

Huh, so Kudo had a confession-like moment on his end too… He never told me this. I mean he doesn't have to tell me everything, but you would think he would've leveled with me when I was worrying about Kazuha. This is why he's not called Niichan. Neechan levels with you.

"Did you text back?" I ask. I bet he didn't.

"I didn't know what to say so I just avoided it," he answers. I KNOW HIM LIKE A FUCKING BOOK. HE NEVER KNOWS HOW TO HANDLE SITUATIONS. I mean I was no better with Kazuha, but at least I had a response. It was a terrible one, but I had one.

Ran giggles when she comes back to the couch. "We haven't changed at all! I'm not sure if that's worrisome or not." She sits down and shows me a picture of her, Kudo, Sonoko, and Sera in their uniforms standing in front of the school gate making funny faces. "Well, I hope Masumi-chan is the same. We haven't talked to her since we came back. Sonoko is the only one that keeps in contact with her…" She look at the picture, pouting.

Kudo taps my shoulder. Ah, got it. We switch places and he wraps an arm around her. Yeah, this is a pro three-person-friendship you guys. We have so many signals for so many different things. Kudo's signals are mostly him hitting me in some way and Ran's are baseball signals because she knows I love baseball. Again, Neechan levels with you.

"Don't worry about it too much, Ran," Kudo says, resting his head against hers. "She doesn't live in the building and when she is here she's working. It's expected for us to not see her a lot."

Ran is about to say something, but Kudo's cell phone rings. He checks it and sighs. "Nichituri TV?" She asks dryly.

"Sorry," he says giving her a peck on the cheek and going to their bedroom.

I scooch over to Ran. "Still busy as ever, huh?" I ask. She groans.

"If it's not Conan-kun, it's his phone…" she mumbles. "Don't get me wrong, I love having Conan-kun around and I'm happy Shinichi helps with Dad's show, but I feel like I don't get to have any time with him and we're around each other all the time! I've been trying different ways to get his attention—getting new clothes, having more interest in Holmes stuff, and I even asked Hakuba-kun to look after Conan IF WE EVER WENT OUT."

Ah, that explains why she kept bringing him up while shopping with Sonoko. Note to self: tell Sonoko all of this and laugh at Kudo's ability to be the dumbest boyfriend on the planet.

"But that's neither here or there," Ran quickly changes the topic. It's funny because she literally told me her true emotions. "Regarding Masumi-chan, I feel bad that I'm the one with the happy ending. I hate that about most romances, there's always one loser and one winner. I watched Pretty in Pink the other day and I felt so bad for Duckie! He loved Andie the whole time, but his happy ending was watching her be happy with someone else…"

"You're into 80's movies?"

"Heiji, I have too much free time on my hands." She lets out a chuckle. "Do you think Hakuba-kun is trying to find his happy ending?"

I shrug. "I guess. It's a shit way of doing it."

She laughs again. "True, but he's trying. I should try to talk to Masumi-chan since I'm so worried about it." She winks at me saying, "I've been doing like Shinichi and waiting around until it all blows up in my face."

I crack up at this. Everyone should love Ran because she likes making fun of Shinichi just as much as everyone else.

11:10 P.M. OUTSIDE THE APARTMENT BUILDING AT THE BUS STOP. AOKO AND KAITO ALSO HATE DRIVING CARS. SUCK IT MOM AND DAD.

"I don't think I could be on a motorcycle," Aoko says. "Kaito probably has more guts though."

"I've done it once." He nods.

Aoko invited both of us to lunch. Guess who has to pay the bill? DON'T PLAY ROCK-PAPER-SCISSORS WITH AOKO. SHE CHEATS.

The bus finally reaches us. "God, I hate the bus," I mutter. "I don't see how you two can stand it."

Aoko gets on first and pays for all of us. She and Kaito have those fancy bus fare card things. Haha, shows how much I know about bus riding.

Kaito quickly mutters, "I'm claustrophobic," as he follows her to the back.

Huh, that's my first time hearing it… Aoko is sitting between me and Kaito; she seems the type that likes that spot. Kaito has the window seat, and I have the wonderful aisle seat. That was sarcasm. I just…hate the bus…so much.

Aoko quickly explains, "He thinks cars are too cramped so we take the bus, or walk." She grins to lighten up the mood. "We also like getting lost."

"You guys are so weird," I say.

"I'm sure you and Kazuha have your weirdness," she laughs. We don't like getting lost that's for sure. One time we were on some camping trip for school, and to be super cool (haha rhyming!) I decided to drive there on Suzy. I didn't bring a map because Kazuha kept bragging about knowing the way to the campgrounds because one of her relatives lived close by. To make a long story short—we got lost, set up our own little tent in the woods, and in the morning all of our classmates thought we hooked up or something SO WE WERE SUSPENDED FOR NOT FOLLOWING THE RULES AND SKIPPING A SCHOOL TRIP. WE STILL HAD A CAMPING TRIP PRINCIPAL KUROSAKI. WE COMPLETED THE MAIN GOAL OF THE OUTING JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

Speaking of Kazuha, I hope she's fine with the Iron Giant. Ugh I don't want to get unreasonably riled up again. Yes, I know I get mad a bit too much, but uggh…why Hakuba? Yes, I hate him because he's a dick to his best friends at the moment, but also he's like the guy I always wanted to be. He practically sparkles with hotness. Like Hakuba's creepy, but he's got the princely charm to make you not think about it anymore. IT'S VERY HARD TO DESCRIBE. LIKE HOW CAN SOMEONE BE SO ROBOTIC BUT THEN HAVE NICELY QUAFFED HAIR? I know a lot of people don't find me charming or whatever. AND I know that Kazuha can have her life and hang out with dudes and blah blah blah-I DIDN'T EVEN FEEL LIKE THINKING ABOUT THIS.

"I guess we're really odd, huh?" Aoko breaks me out of my thoughts. "I've gotten used to it though," she glances at Kaito, who is finally asleep. "Being weird with him is nice."

"He told me how the two of you started dating," I say. I partially want to hear her side of the story and also use this as a distraction from whatever I'm feeling toward Kazuha and Hakuba. GOD EVEN THEIR NAMES RHYME.

She flushes, trying hard not to giggle too loud. Cute. "He did? Did he talk about the gifts he put in my locker?"

Gifts? He didn't say anything about that. "He said he was going through some stuff before asking you out…"

"He was. His dad passed away around that time."

My mouth drops open. THAT'S A MAJOR BOMBSHELL! HOW COME NO ONE TOLD ME THIS? HOW COME I DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THESE TWO?

"I'm sorry!" Aoko winces from my reaction. "I thought he might've told you before when he said he was visiting him…" So the visit was Kaito going to the cemetery. No wonder she was so worried…

"No, it's fine…" I force out. That's a tough pill to swallow though. "What was his dad like?"

Aoko looks at me as if I'm stupid. "Do you live in a hole?"

"I don't think that's the right words to use in a conversation about the deceased." I flinch when she flicks my forehead. Hey, I wouldn't reference any sort of underground environment while talking about dead people…its bad taste.

"His dad was Kuroba Toichi," she whispers.

"NO WAY!" The entire bus looks at me. Kaito's eyes flicker open but quickly goes back to sleeping. Aoko flicks my forehead again.

Kuroba Toichi was the magician here in Japan and probably around the world. He was so cool with the whole Kaitou Kid persona. I always wanted to meet him! Wow, I end up rooming with his son…small world.

"Hakuba opened up to me at that point also," she says. "Kaito and Hakuba grew closer then. Hakuba actually stayed at his house for a week."

I'm shocked at this. "I wouldn't think he would have it in him…" The guy could barely ask someone to lunch without a chaperone.

She nods. "I was surprised too when I found out, but I could tell Kaito needed it." She trails off and continues playing with her hands.

Another new tidbit I'm learning about my roommates. I never realized how quiet they are with their own lives until now. They practically know everything about me, and I can barely say anything about them. What a deep bus ride this is turning into…

I try to get the conversation back in good spirits. "What were the gifts Kaito got you back in the day?" I ask.

Aoko blushes again and giggles behind her hands. "They weren't anything too fancy—just little things. I cared more for the notes that came with them. I was super self-conscious at the time." She continues with a fond smile, "The notes said something like 'You're the prettiest girl I ever met' or 'You're a ray of sunshine". They made me really happy." She covers her face, letting out another laugh.

Aw that's adorable! Who knew Kaito was this romantic? I know for sure Kudo wouldn't do this. He would probably write Ran a note that says, 'You are my other Holmes' or 'If you were Holmes you would be great, but you're not but I still like you—wait let me start over'.

"Did Kaito tell you later that he was behind the whole thing?"

"Hakuba did," she answers. "I remember telling him about it because they randomly stopped."

Huh, that's interesting. "They stopped?" I notice Kaito waking up.

"Yeah, for a week," she says. "Then I got them again until Kaito and I started dating."

Kaito sighs and looks out the window.

Hmmmm…another piece of the puzzle…

11:45 A.M. MAKOTO'S FAMILY RESTAURANT. I JUST REMEMBERED I HAD TO PAY THE BILL. I'M SO MAD.

"Cheer up, Heiji. We're eating at Makoto's place!" Aoko smiles brightly. "They have the best food in town!" We're in a booth in the far corner of the restaurant. It's actually nice to be here. Last time I was in the Kyogoku Family Restaurant, I was a senior in high school. Kazuha and I visited so much we actually got a special card from Makoto's dad to give us a discount. If Aoko told me where the heck we were going I would have prepared for that...

"Oh yeah cause paying for someone else is always fun…" I mutter. I don't even want to order anything since I'm stuck with the tab, but my stomach is saying otherwise. "I guess I'll just get the cheapest thing, whatever that is…." I push the menu aside.

"You memorized the choices?" Kaito asks, looking up from his own menu.

I shrug. "I mean not completely, but most of it. The cheapest thing is like ramen or something."

Aoko snorts loudly at this, but doesn't say what she's laughing at. "Should I order steak or something else?" She ponders aloud as she looks at her options. Oi, don't purposefully take away all of my money. Also no one eats steak at this time of day. "What are you getting, Kaito?"

"I'm getting something that won't hurt Heiji's wallet too much…" He says. "I feel like I've been a huge burden to him already…" Thank you Kaito for being a wonderful person and recognizing that you have been one of the several pains in my behind.

I buzz for the waiter and hilariously enough the person who comes to our table is Makoto himself. How does he manage working here and delivering stuff? He greets us with his usual nod.

"Heiji, what are you having?" He asks. Haha! He asked me first cause we're bffs.

"The cheapest thing," I shrug.

"…that's the kid's meal, Heiji…"

"I WILL HAVE THE KID'S MEAL."

Aoko practically cackles. "I was going to tell you but I wanted to see your reaction!"

"I'll have onkonomiyaki please," Kaito orders. "We can share it," he tells me.

Aoko dramatically closes her menu and hands it to Makoto. "I will have the most expensive cut of steak you have in this establishment," She announces.

Makoto pushes up his glasses. "Aoko-san, we're a family restaurant. The point is to have everything at an inexpensive price."

"I WILL HAVE THE HIGHEST INEXPENISVELY PRICED CUT OF STEAK IN THIS ESTABLISHMENT!"

"Brother-Mako, she's forcing me to pay the tab because she cheated at rock-paper-scissors," I say.

"Heiji is an idiot who only uses rock!" She counters.

Makoto sighs loudly. "Aoko-san, you're also getting a kid's meal." He writes down the order, ignoring her whining. "Both of you are acting like children, therefore you'll eat like them." Mama-Makoto everyone! He's gonna be the best parent in the world. We tell him what drinks we want and he leaves.

Before Aoko can complain about her food, Kaito claps his hands and magically releases confetti over us. "This is the first time the three of us got to hang out outside of the apartment!" he announces.

"Oh hey it is!" Aoko says. "I guess we're too caught up in working to do more things together… Earlier, I was telling Heiji about Hakuba rooming with us," she tells him.

The corner of Kaito's mouth twitches.

"It seems like he's getting used to other people aside from us. He got the guts to ask Kazuha to have lunch with him today. Did he text you about it?" She asks.

"No…he didn't…" he answers.

I try to keep the conversation lively. "Is Iron Man that much of a recluse that he gossips about every person he comes into contact with?"

My reference is ignored. "Well like I said before he only moved out recently. He doesn't get visitors since he doesn't know many people. He barely knows the rest of the staff at the café." Aoko explains to me. "He's friends with Shinichi through their weird Sherlock crushes." Weird indeed…Kudo has a shrine you know.

"Conan goes in there too apparently," I say.

"Really?" Aoko laughs. "They're too much alike."

A small silence goes over us when Makoto comes back with our drinks. Aoko has tea, Kaito has water, and I have soda. "Anything else?"

"Makoto!" Aoko stands up. "I love you," she hugs him dramatically.

"I love you too Mako~" Kaito also gets up to hug him.

Makoto flinches at the sudden contact, his face slowly reddening. "We're in a public place…" he mutters, but doesn't push them away. He's awfully embarrassed for a hug though…

When their dramatic hug fest is over, Makoto collects himself.

"Minori sends her regards, Heiji," he says before walking to another table.

"Minori?" Aoko raises an eyebrow.

"That's his younger sister," I explain. "She works in the kitchen since she's bad with people." Like Makoto, Minori is into karate but has the quickest temper known to mankind. I remember one time she smashed a table because someone told her there wasn't enough salt in their food.

Another small silence. We all sip our drinks quietly. I have a question I want to ask, and I'm afraid it might not go over too well. But hey, it's been nagging me all day. Holy shit more awesome rhyming. I need to be called Mother Goose at this point. No wait, call me HEIJI GOOSE. No, that's stupid. Never mind.

"So," I start, "Hakuba seems super attached to you guys…why did he move out?"

Both Kaito and Aoko are a bit startled by this question. They glance at each other before facing me again.

"Honestly I don't know," Aoko answers first. "One day he just told us he was moving and that was that."

Kaito nods. "I even asked him when Bimboko wasn't around and he wouldn't tell me anything."

"Do you think he hated us or something?" Aoko asks Kaito. "I mean we are a couple, it might've been too awkward for him…"

He shrugs. "He might've had a problem with something…" he sighs. "I'm going to the restroom."

Aoko gets up for him to get out of the booth. She watches him walk away, concerned. "Heiji, what's up?" She asks when she sits back down.

"What's up with what?" I say.

She frowns. "Don't be a flat soda." That must be a curse word replacement. I guess since Kaito is still nearby she doesn't want to chance him hearing her cheat. "I'm not an idiot. Kaito doesn't visit his dad just for fun. He won't tell me anything and I have a nagging suspicion that you know a lot of stuff so tell me."

I look out the window and think about how to answer. Honestly, I'm at a crossroads. I could keep this all a big secret so then Kaito doesn't have to worry, but I don't want to worry Aoko either…

I let out a sigh. "I'll tell you when Kaito's working tonight." It's wrong to keep lying since she knows something is going on. I know Kaito's a sneaky guy when he wants to be, but surely he can't find a way to listen in when he's across town doing a show, right? ….right?

"Fine." She nods. "Also, you're not paying the full tab. When I hugged Makoto earlier, I slipped a little note and some money in his back pocket. Kaito had the same idea apparently—I felt his hand brush against mine."

That's why he was so flustered… "When did you get quick fingers?" I ask.

She shrugs. "When you date a magician, you learn how to slip things in and out of people's pockets." Note to self: always check your wallet around these two. She smiles when Kaito comes back to our table. Instead of having his girlfriend get out of the booth again, Kaito steps over Aoko to get back in his spot. He doesn't look sad, but he doesn't look happy either…

Makoto comes back with our food. The kid's meals are actual adult size portions. THIS GUY IS SUCHA SWELL DUDE. Before Aoko and I can gush over how nice he is, he quickly walks away from our table. Hehe, his ears are red.

1:30 P.M. MAKOTO'S FAMILY RESTAURANT. DONE WITH EATING. I'M SO PSYCHED I DIDN'T HAVE TO PAY ALL OF THE BILL.

Before we leave, I decide to pay Makoto a little visit. Aoko and Kaito wait for me outside as I search for him. At this time he usually sits by the back door of the building to take a break. I go through the kitchen to reach him. Usually Kazuha and I would just head through here with our food and eat with Makoto outside. I always had to hold her hand because she would always get caught up in letting the other servers go in front of her. It kinda feels weird being back here by myself…I'm like in this crazy limbo nostalgia zone where everything feels awkward and comforting at the same time. I catch Minori's attention and she smiles at me before going back to manning the stove. I open the back door and sure enough, Makoto's sitting on a little stool by the steps.

"I forgot how nice it is out here," I say as I close the door. I sit down on the steps beside him. The little space before us is an alleyway, you can only hear the busy street, but there's something really nice about it. Almost like a home away from home. "Felt weird eating on an actual table and not my lap." I grin when Makoto actually chuckles at this.

"It was confusing not to see you with Kazuha," he says.

"Ah, yeah…I was just thinking that," I say. "It feels a bit awkward without her doesn't it?"

"Where is she? Don't tell me you two are arguing again," he sighs.

"No, she's eating with Hakuba." I lean on the counter. "Not that she wants to—you know, we're still trying to get info on the whole shebang…" I quickly add. I realize my foot is tapping and quickly stop. After a couple of seconds I start tapping my foot again.

Makoto raises an eyebrow. "Why are you agitated over it?"

"Because she's with a dude and it's not me!" I hiss. Shit. "I MEAN ME OR YOU OR SOMEONE WE TRUST, YOU KNOW?"

He chuckles again. "Of course, Heiji. I also know that you're a bit too obvious with your emotions."

I groan. "Don't act all high and mighty Mr. 'I Get Embarrassed At Platonic Relationships'." Oh speaking of platonic…the thing Terumi warned me about with Kazuha…maybe Makoto knows something. "Hey, you kept in contact with Kazuha while I was gone right?"

He nods.

"Did anything…significant happen?"

"Significant? How do you mean?"

I try to make this sound as casual as possible. "Something that she would…purposefully hide from me?"

Makoto looks even more confused. "I still don't understand. Where is this coming from?"

I tell him about Terumi's cryptic warning. I also have to remind him who Terumi is. Apparently he knows her as 'the girl who has the glasses I always wanted to own'.

"I'm unsure of what she's referencing. From what I can remember, the only major thing that happened was her haircut and her unsociable nature," he says. Hm, I guess he wouldn't know about the random tennis jacket either… "That was a weird time…" He mumbles.

We sit in silence. I feel kinda bad now. I never really thought about how me leaving would affect anyone. I know my parents were a bit torn about it, and I know Kazuha was really messed up over our then destroyed friendship…but I dunno…I thought things would be mended since I wasn't there. Even though he's not saying it, I know Makoto was bothered with my trip. Just like Hakuba randomly announced he was moving out to Aoko and Kaito, I called Mako about my trip and that was that.

I stand up to leave, and Makoto stops me. He looks me dead in the eye before giving me probably the bro-iest hug I have ever gotten.

"I don't believe I said it properly, but I'm happy to see you back," he says when he lets go. I focus on the ground. For once, I'm the one embarrassed by our broship.

When I come back to the front entrance, Kaito's by himself. He now has a plastic cup in his hand—I guess he got himself something else to drink while waiting for me.

"Where's Aoko?" I ask. "Sorry if I was too long."

He shakes his head. "She left a few minutes after you did. Keiko called saying Sera and Hakuba were arguing in the kitchen." Oh god, I forgot about Sera. "Things should be fine with Aoko though. She knows how to settle people down."

We begin walking back toward the café. Kaito opens the lid of his cup and a flowery scent comes from it. Wait a second…

"Is that tea?" I ask. "I thought you hated tea."

"No, this stuff is disgusting," he chuckles. "I haven't gone to sleep yet, so I figured the caffeine would do me some good." He forces down another sip.

"Why not drink coffee or something?" I ask. Out of the two of them, Aoko is the tea drinker. She's like the tea version of me.

"I'm drinking it for another reason," he answers. "It's something I picked up from my dad. Whenever he was angry he would drink tea. He didn't like it much either." He shrugs. "It's his weird psychology but he told me, 'Kaito, if you focus all of your hate on the tea you can clear your head'. Hate-Tea is what we called it."

"Hate-Tea, huh?" I guess that makes sense.

We walk in silence for a moment. He continues forcing down the tea. It's kinda weird to watch. You can tell he hates it, but he keeps drinking. I dunno, it's like dogs that are trying to catch their tail. You wanna tell them to stop but you know they're gonna keep doing it.

Kaito lets out one of the most tired sighs I've ever heard. "I'm sorry for pushing you away. I'm ready to talk now." Another sip. "I kinda thought this was all over, but I guess I was wrong."

"So Hakuba does like Aoko?"

"I believe so." He grimaces. "Probably since high school," he says.

Ah, well...that's confirmed. Mini parade for me and Kazuha.

Wait wait wait-did he say since HIGH SCHOOL? That's like a lot of years! "You didn't nip this in the bud!?" I ask.

"I thought it was nipped it already!" He pouts. "I told him I was gonna ask Aoko out and he responded, 'I know she likes you'. Doesn't that sound nipped?"

Well...it does. Sorta. Reminds me of my "we shouldn't talk anymore because you confessed to me" statement I told Kazuha before going to America. It closes one door and opens up a bajillion more.

"Even if I wasn't proposing to Aoko I couldn't tell her. She hates it when we get in mess." He chugs the rest of the drink down. "You heard how she was on the bus."

"You were awake?" I ask dryly. No wonder Aoko waited until he was in the restroom to ask me anything. This guy is practically a ninja.

"I mean I was in and out…" he shrugs. "Aoko really likes Hakuba because she thinks he's a good influence on me. I mean it's true; he helped me face one of my biggest fears."

"Tight spaces?" I ask.

"I think I'll always have that phobia," he says, tossing his cup in the trashcan. We stop at the crosswalk and watch the cars go by. "Dad died during a test run of one of his shows. He was doing one of those "escape out of the tank" tricks. Ever since then, I've been afraid of fish." The walk sign comes up and we both cross.

"There were fish inside…" I mumble. I remember the news story clearly now. The last trick of Kuroba Toichi was to commemorate an aquarium opening. He was going to escape a small tank that was filled with clown fish, his personal favorite. Turns out he had a really bad allergy to the mucus clown fish secrete, and well…

"I'm also allergic to fish," Kaito says. "They're really creepy to me, you know? When Hakuba stayed over he forced me to go to the aquarium Dad performed for. When I first walked in I was completely overwhelmed and started sobbing," he shoves his hands in his pockets and says "after calming down, I saw all the fish swimming by and somehow I grew to not hate them as much…"

Well…I'll be damned. You wouldn't think such a happy guy would have such a sad story to tell, but then again the happiest people sometimes have the worst wounds. I would give an example, but that's another story for another day.

"Later that week Sagu-chan showed me his biggest fear: the airport," Kaito continues. "You wouldn't believe how much he hates it."

"Is it because of his parents tossing him back and forth?"

He nods. "When we reached the airport, he immediately start flipping out. His breathing got quicker and he suddenly became nervous. I thought he was scared of heights or something, but he told me that he was afraid of leaving the things he cared for behind." Looking upward, he says, "I told him that I wouldn't leave him and we've been together ever since." Kaito's smiling.

Fine, I take back most of my asshole comments on Hakuba. He does sound like an extremely caring person, and someone who probably needs friends like Aoko and Kaito to make his life seem less empty. I'm still confused on why he doesn't want his best friends to get married…If he cares so much this shouldn't be a big deal.

"Those gifts Aoko talked about…" Kaito gets me out of my thoughts. "I didn't do that."

"Oh god, don't tell me…"

Kaito nods. "Hakuba did. Remember when Aoko said there was a week when she didn't get anything? That was the week Hakuba was staying at my house. He was so worried about me that he didn't leave me alone."

"Then why did he lie!?" I ask. I'm going bonkers now. I thought maybe I could understand Hakuba but now he's even more confusing! WHY DOES HE DO THE THINGS HE DOES?

"I don't know, but I think it was to cover his crush on Aoko. He could've moved out for that reason also," he tells me. Well that makes sense considering…everything.

I sigh. "I swear this is the weirdest love triangle I've ever heard of…"

Kaito laughs. "The tea was terrible."

2:45 P.M. CAFEBAKE. KAZUHA SHOWED ME A VIDEO OF AOKO FORCING SERA AND HAKUBA SING THE 'I LOVE YOU' SONG FROM BARNEY. I DON'T KNOW IF SHE'S CRAZY OR A GENIUS BUT IT CALMED THEM DOWN.

"Ugh of course he has a good singing voice…" I mutter as Kazuha puts her phone away. What else can this guy do?

"Green's not a good color for you," She says.

I roll my eyes. "Did you get any more info out of him?" Everyone should be proud of me because I'm actually working. Not in the café, but on figuring out how to sort this out.

"Sorry, I forgot." Kazuha pours more coffee beans in the grinder. "I was having too much fun."

My eyebrow twitches. "What did you do? Go down the yellow brick road to find his heart?"

"Heiji…" She frowns.

"It's alright Kazuha," Hakuba's voice comes from the kitchen. ARE THEY ON A FIRST NAME BASIS? "If we were to follow the yellow brick road, we would be searching for his brain." He closes the window before I could think of a comeback. AAAAAAUUUGGGGH I HATE HIM SO MUCH.

"If it makes you feel better, my favorite character is the Scarecrow," Terumi tells me. She's running the register again. "Even though he didn't believe he was smart, he's the one with the bright ideas! He's like you in a way."

Haha that actually helped! Terumi's a good kid. If only we were actual brother and sister…

"I guess that's true. My favorite is the Lion. I think he's really cute!" Kazuha says, smiling brightly at Terumi. I see she's trying to build some sort of friendship.

Terumi doesn't say anything and continues ringing up customers. Kazuha bites her lip. She glances at me. I got it, I'll try to smooth things out.

"What do you think about the Lion, Terumi?" I ask.

She happily answers, "I hate the Lion!" JESUS TERUMI YOU CAN BE CUTTHROAT.

Kazuha pulls me down and whispers, "What the hell was that about? I didn't do anything to her!"

I let out a sigh. Might as well open the floodgates. "You told me all what happened while I was away right?" I ask.

She lets go of me, confused. "What does this have to do with Terumi?"

"She thinks...you didn't tell me everything…" I try to say this as nice as possible, but you can't really say "this person thinks you're lying" politely can you?

"I know she's not telling you everything," Terumi corrects me.

Kazuha's face reddens with anger. "WHAT DO YOU KNOW, TERUMI?" It cracks me up that people think I'm the only one with a bad temper. "YOU'VE SEEN MY LIFE STORY OR SOMETHING? READING MY DIARY, HUH?" Kazuha is waaaaaaay worse.

I hear Keiko sigh behind me. "Why?" I'm sorry Keiko.

Terumi doesn't say anything, but her face is also getting red. They glare at each other and I'm right in the middle of them. I notice some of the customers staring at us in the "this doesn't look like they're doing this for entertainment" sort of way.

"Kazuha-" I start.

Suddenly a phone goes off. I quickly check mine, Terumi checks hers, and Kazuha is completely still. She looks embarrassed for some reason?

"It's mine…" she mutters. Without another word, she walks away.

"WHY?" Keiko asks again.

8:30 P.M. IN HAKUBA'S EX APARTMENT. HAHA GET IT? IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE HE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE.

"That's a dumb joke," Aoko says, putting ice cream in her glass.

"Dumb as in extremely clever," I say, pouring milk into mine. Yes, we're making milkshakes. We're adults. "Should we spike them this time?" I didn't notice this before, but they have a huge bottle of Moscato in one of the cabinets and I want to have someeeee…Before you say anything, no I don't drink all the time. But just knowing that it's there makes me want to have some. Mom is the same. If she ever visits you'll know what I mean.

"Heiji, leave the alcohol alone. You're just like my dad. 'Aoko-chan, I see you got some extra beer. Lemme have it, I won't do the howling thing again'." she puts a finger below her nose as a pretend mustache. Don't ask, Heiji. Pretend that's normal.

"Why have it if you're not gonna drink it?" I ask, forcing myself away from the Moscato. One day, it'll be mine. One day…

"Kaito likes saving it for special occasions." She goes back to scooping out her ice cream. "Speaking of him, I cannot wait to hear what's going on. I swear it's like he loves keeping things from me…AND I'M NOT AN IDIOT." She angrily closes the ice cream tub. "YOU KNOW THAT, RIGHT?"

I nod. Could've warned someone about the quick mood change, Aoko.

"I KNOW HIM SO WELL. I'VE KNOWN HIM FOR YEARS, YOU KNOW?"

I nod again.

"BUT DOES HE TELL ME ANYTHING? NOOO—well," she calms herself down, "after Dad arrested him that one time he began opening up some…"

I almost drop my milkshake. "KAITO'S BEEN ARRESTED?"

"For shoplifting," she answers. "He started doing that kinda stuff after his dad passed away…"

Huh…what an interesting guy Kaito is turning out to be….

"That's why Hakuba stayed over. He really wanted to help him from going to a really dark place," she says as she puts the ice cream in the freezer. "But you already know about that. What is Bakaito afraid to tell me?" Aoko happily plops down next to me on the sofa, stirring her milkshake. I take a deep breath and fill her in on Kaito and Hakuba's…problems. Her smile slowly goes away. She's now utterly terrified.

"Hakuba has feelings for me? All this time?" she sets her milkshake on the coffee table and curls in a ball. "And those presents weren't from Kaito? Why would Hakuba go through all this?"

That's the million dollar question.

"I know Hakuba sometimes gets embarrassed when I compliment him, but I figured that was from shyness." She gasps. "Did he move out because of me?"

"Well, from you and Kaito," I rephrase. "Possibly." Hell he could've moved out because he wanted to have more space to keep tons of clocks and sit around and count them until he actually becomes a clock himself. If that were to happen, I believe he would be a grandfather clock. This is a weird train of thought…

Aoko shakes her head. "I don't like getting in between their friendship. They need each other, you know? The three of us have to stay together. Neapolitan ice cream."

"Your favorite ice cream flavor has nothing to do with this."

"Kaito likes chocolate, Hakuba likes strawberry, and I like vanilla. In college we bought it all the time so then we could share the tub together..." She trails off. Ah, their version of the couch Kudo, Ran, and I shared. It's kinda weird how a group of friends have something that connect them.

We stay quiet for a while. Aoko stays curled up and I'm unsure what to say. I've never really seen her not happy so I'm not sure how to comfort her. I give her head a small pat.

She raises it, letting out a small sigh. "I'm slightly conflicted…I'm worried that this could be the end of our friendship, but I'm happy that Hakuba finally let out some emotions. Am I a terrible person?"

"Nah, there's worse people," I say.

Aoko reaches for her milkshake. "It's just that Hakuba's so removed from everything that he doesn't emote well. Believe it or not, Hakuba was even worse with his emotions than he is now. He came off as a smug creep."

"That's still the impression I get from him…"

She laughs. "You two are just immature because you're so alike." UGH DON'T COMPARE ME TO HIM, AOKO.

We drink our milkshakes. I think about our next course of action. The only way anyone's going to get answers is to ask Hakuba himself. The thing is, when is the right time to confront him?

"Knowing Kaito, he'll try to fix everything without us knowing," Aoko says, putting her cup on the table. "Meaning he'll probably go up to Hakuba's place when he gets off work in the morning…"

"That sounds like him. He's oddly sneaky," I say.

Aoko giggles. "I know right? I remember one time he got in a spat with my dad and instead of going off to do his show like he said he was, he took a train back to Edoka to smooth things over. I was asleep….the whole…time…"

We stare at each other. He wouldn't.

Aoko practically falls off the couch grabbing her cell phone from the table. She nimbly texts a message. "I'm going to get him to video chat me. I don't think he can fake that," she says. One can hope. "Man, I can't believe Hakuba likes me. I'm always stuck in a love triangle…"

"There have been more situations like this?"

"Yeah! There's the Me-Kaito-Dad triangle, and now this one!"

"Aoko that's literally just two." And the first one barely counts.

"TWO TOO MANY." She huffs. Her phone goes off and she smiles. "Bakaito!" She waves when Kaito comes up on her phone. "Gross you're in the bathroom."

"Hey, Bimboko I'm in the middle of changing costumes," He says, unbuttoning his shirt.

"Where is the phone?" She asks.

"On the toilet paper roll."

Aoko and I make a disgusted noise. Note to self: burn off my hands if I ever touch Kaito's phone.

"So? What's the occasion? I had to force people to leave by pretending to jack off loudly," He says.

It takes all I have to not spit out the mouthful of milkshake I had. Of course that was his first solution to that problem. I'm so happy that Aoko also looks exasperated from that.

"Kaito, sometimes I wonder how I deal with you." She sighs. "I was just calling to check up on you."

He stands up to put on some jeans with tons of holes in them. "I'm fine. Usually you send a text—is there something wrong?"

"I just wanted to see your face is all, Bakaito." Aoko for once looks really bashful.

"Hehe, well here it is Bimboko~" He blows her a kiss. She giggles at this. "Oh, hey third wheel." Kaito finally recognizes my presence. He puts on a messy blonde wig, shades, and a leather jacket. I guess today's theme is 90s biker or something. Wait a second.

"That's my motorcycle jacket asshole," I say.

He laughs. "I love you too, good pal." He looks away from the camera when he hears a noise. "Ah, I better go, people are getting antsy. See you guys later!" He salutes before hanging up.

Aoko makes sure the video call is over. "Well, we know he's actually working which is good. Why don't we wake up early tomorrow and beat Kaito to Hakuba's place? He should be back around nine." Aoko says.

"Right, this way we'll get him at his own game." I say. Hilarious this is now turning into 'Stop Kaito from Doing Everything' plan when it was 'What is Hakuba Thinking' plan.

"YEAH!"

"YEAH!"

We toast each other. WHOO CLOSURE!

10:32 A.M. SHIT WE OVERSLEPT. FUCKFUCKFUCKFU—

Aoko and I run out of the elevator toward Hakuba's apartment. I almost fall over because of my socks. When we reach his door, Aoko begins ringing the doorbell and screaming like there's no tomorrow.

"Is there a reason for…this?" a voice asks behind us. I freeze. I hoped I would never see this man again. We both turn around to see Amuro leaning against the wall, smiling. "I hope you're aware you're still in your night clothes."

Aoko and I look at each other. I'm slowly getting red. OOOOOOOH MY GOD. I'M IN MY BOXERS AND SOCKS IN FRONT OF THE AXE MURDERER. I cover myself. Aoko is unfazed. She's in an oversized t-shirt.

"We are aware and proud Amuro," she says, putting her hands on her hips. I notice Conan opening the door and quickly closing it after seeing us. Take me with you. "We need to get inside Hakuba's place for love reasons. Can you unlock it for us?" As if that would actually convince him-

"Sure! It must be something important." He gets his key ring from his back pocket.

I'm done. This is Heiji signing off.

Amuro happily unlocks the door. "Are you sure you don't need clothes, Heiji-chan?" OH GOD A LITERAL CHILL WENT DOWN MY SPINE. "Was that a shiver? I can get you something from my closet." He points to the apartment next to Kudo and Ran's. Poor Kudo…you live right next to him.

"No, I'm perfectly fine," I answer quickly. "My high self-esteem will keep me warm."

"Wow, you're so cool Heiji-chan!" He pats my shoulder. "Or should I say you're so hot?" AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

I push his hand away and practically shove Aoko inside Hakuba's apartment. "GOODBYE." I slam the door. I feel like crying from fear. Why? Why me? I turn around to complain to Aoko but she's now destroying Hakuba's living room searching for her boyfriend.

She throws pillows off the couch. "COME ON OUT HERE YOU SNEAKY BUTTHEAD!" Well, that's one way to get someone's attention.

Hakuba hesitantly peeks from the kitchen with a frying pan and immediately flushes when he sees us. "I BEG YOUR PARDON," he yelps, covering his face with the frying pan. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? I THOUGHT YOU WERE ROBBERS!" Would robbers use the phrase 'sneaky butthead'? If so, crime has taken a comedic turn.

"IS KAITO IN HERE?" Aoko is still hysterical.

"NO! HOW DID YOU GET IN MY FLAT?"

She finally calms down. "Amuro unlocked it for us."

He looks even more frightened. "I beg your pardon?"

Before we can say anything else, the door opens.

"Hakuba, for some reason Amuro told me not to stare when I came in and I'm not sure how to take that…" Kaito trails off when he sees us. He takes off his shades and opens and closes his mouth several times, completely speechless.

"Kaito—" Aoko walks over to him.

He puts up a hand. "Because of you, I'm feeling a lot of different emotions right now and I'm unsure which one to act on."

She looks confused for a moment before something dawns on her. "Oh, haha. This resembles my fanfiction about the two of us finally acting on exhibitionism—" I cover her mouth. Not now Aoko. Also, why are all of your fanfictions pornographic?

Hakuba is so disturbed he looks like he can't even function. "In my apartment?" He asks.

"That's not the point," Kaito quickly interjects. "Seeing as you two are here, I'm guessing Heiji spilled the beans?" He asks Aoko.

She nods before turning to Hakuba. "We need to talk."

He sighs, looking around his living room. "I'll make refreshments," He says heading back to the kitchen.

"I would also like a blanket," I call after him. Kaito takes a picture of me.

10:40 A.M. THE FOUR OF US ARE NOW BASICALLY HAVING A PICNIC. ALSO THAT ASSHOLE THREW HIS BLANKET AT MY FACE.

"I thought you were paying attention." Hakuba sits down. "May I ask why you're not dressed?"

"We wanted to beat Kaito here so we can all talk things out. You know how he is," Aoko answers.

He nods. "I do. He's terrible with sorting problems out."

"Oi, this isn't about me…" Kaito grumbles.

"I like this tea, Hakuba." Aoko happily drinks out of her Yoshi cup. Did I mention Hakuba served us tea/orange juice in his Mario tea set? "Anyway we're all here to talk about you having a crush on me and how that makes me very anxious."

Hakuba almost spits out his drink. "Excuse me?"

"Which I'm flattered," she says quickly.

Kaito mumbles in his Luigi cup, "Right, but I dunno…you're making me sad." Wow. This is as bad as Kudo talking out his feelings. One time he told me, 'I'm mad for a reason,' AND DIDN'T EXPLAIN THE REASON. TO THIS DAY I STILL DON'T KNOW WHAT HE WAS MAD ABOUT.

Hakuba thinks to himself before saying, "Ah. You have it all wrong."

"But the presents you gave me back then! And you're awkwardness around me!" Aoko says.

"And what you said yesterday…" Kaito mutters.

He lets out a small chuckle. "I'm sorry, it seems like once again I'm not good at being a normal regular person…I didn't know my actions were seen that way."

"Well," I say, between sips of tea. "Time to explain yourself so then I can go back to my room, and get some pants."

"Excuse my rudeness but why are you here? This doesn't concern you." Hakuba narrows his eyes at me. "It's bad enough you got Kazuha in all this."

I slam my Princess Daisy cup on the table. "Because of you, your 'best friend' was moping under my bed and then spent half the day in a cemetery talking to a ghost. Sure, Kazuha and I were snooping in private affairs but only because you decided to be a dick in front of everyone the other day. If there's anything you don't have concern for it's your friends' feelings."

Hakuba is eerily silent. He stares at his Rosalina cup, swirling around the liquid inside it.

"Heiji apologize!" Aoko nudges me. "You went too far."

"It's fine Aoko. I'll tell you the truth." Hakuba sets his cup on the table. "When I befriended the two of you, it was the happiest moment of my life. I never met anyone that truly cared for me and I grew attached to the both of you. You helped me get over my burden, and in turn I sought to help you with yours. When Kuroba-san passed I knew Kaito needed someone by his side so I spent every waking moment around him."

"People thought we were dating," Kaito tells me.

Aoko laughs. "I thought you were dating."

Hakuba continues, "I knew Aoko thought negatively about herself. Whenever I complimented her, she never listened. I began leaving anonymous presents in her locker as a way to fix that. I didn't think it would actually work."

"I guess since I didn't know who it was, it made it easier to believe someone was telling the truth," Aoko says.

"I later said they were from Kaito to speed up your relationship. We were friends for only two months at the time, but I knew you two were meant to be together." Hakuba smiles at this. "So to answer your question, I never had romantic feelings for Aoko. If anything she reminds me of Baaya."

Aoko smiles. "Baby duck…"

"I'm not satisfied. What about what you said the other day? If you supported our relationship so much why did you do that?" Kaito asks, crossing his arms

Hakuba tenses.

"It deals with you moving out doesn't it?" I ask. That's why nothing made sense—he didn't have a problem with his friends, it's a personal problem.

He checks his watch. I guess this is something he wanted to keep deep down.

"I don't know if you all have ever felt this way, but my whole life I felt like I had to force myself to grow up so I could be like everyone else. I wanted to be distinguished like my mother, and a hard worker like Father. Whenever Baaya and I had to fly to one of my parents, I always kept track of the time. How long it takes to fly back to London or Edoka, what time Mother invites her friends over, how long Father's shift is…it was something to keep from being too lonely. When I got recognitions for it, my parents were happy. But this made me more distant from my classmates. When you're constantly keeping track of time people think you're creepy." He sighs. "Sure, I had a hand in getting you two together, but I hated myself for it. I knew sooner or later you wouldn't want me around anymore." He covers his watch. "I didn't want to be left behind again so I decided to leave. I thought if I beat you to the punch I would feel better. I realize now that I'm more alone than before."

Well I'll be damned. Poor guy needs a hug. Not from me, since you know…I'm barely clothed.

"I can't believe you didn't calculate the amount of time it would take for you to realize you brought your fear to reality," I say. DAMN, that's a good line. 10000 POINTS FOR ME.

Hakuba lets out a loud snort. He covers his mouth, but I can see that he's grinning.

Kaito starts laughing. "Thanks, Disney Channel."

"Seriously. I think I might be lactose-intolerant from that cheesy line you just said," Aoko says.

FUCK THESE GUYS. THAT WAS GOOD.

Hakuba clears his throat. "That's why I was against your wedding proposal, Kaito. It's silly isn't it?" He asks in English.

Kaito shakes his head. "You're such an idiot sometimes, Sagu-chan," he replies in Japanese. I guess he knows enough to understand it. That must mean—

"Did you say the phrase 'windy pro sports'?" Aoko asks, squinting at Hakuba's mouth. SHE'S SO BAD AT ENGLISH THAT SHE'S RELYING ON READING LIPS?

Hakuba laughs. "I'm sorry for the idiocy. Please forgive me for giving you the roundabout." He's still using English to Aoko's dismay.

"Round boats?" She mumbles. So close and yet so far.

"It wouldn't be you if you weren't straightforward," Kaito says. "I'm just glad that everything's out in the open. I'm sorry for not trusting you earlier."

"I was a bit shady so it's understandable. You're a special person to me, Kaito. I won't try to hurt you or Aoko again. You'll be a wonderful husband—don't stress out about it. The two of you are practically married so you don't have to change." Hakuba smiles. Kaito reaches for his sunglasses and puts them on; he's grinning.

"Heiji, translate for me." Aoko tugs at my blanket.

Hakuba's smile drops. "What?"

"I'm fluent," I reply in English. "Lived in America for four years."

He covers his face in embarrassment. "I didn't want to be vulnerable with you around…"

"Saguru!" Aoko stands up dramatically. He looks up, still trying to cover his face. "I don't know what you said, but I will say this—never think we'll forget you. No matter where we are we'll always be connected. You're our closest friend! Without you, Kaito and I wouldn't be who we are and without us you wouldn't be you." She goes around the coffee table to give him a big hug. Kaito laughs and joins in. They invite me to join the hug fest but both Hakuba and I declined the offer.

Welp, I guess my work here is done WITHOUT the help of Kazuha. I can see where Hakuba's coming from with trying to be mature. I know I thought I was making an adult decision by going out the country. In the end we're more similar than I want to admit. Ugh.

"Hattori," Hakuba says as I stand up to leave. He tries to stand up, but the weight of his friends keeps him on the couch. "You may act without thinking, but you were trying to help the people you care about. You have my thanks. " He smiles at me. Dare I say he looks like a happy little kid? It's like someone gave him a bucket full of candy. "However, I would like you to wash my blanket before returning it to me. I don't want your skin cells in my home more than they need to be."

I shove the blanket on his face.

12:00 P.M. CAFÉ BAKE. IN THE HELL HOLE. EVEN ON MY DAY OFF I'M IN HERE DOING NOTHING AND DRINKING COFFEE.

"Well a latte happened today so I guess you need a break," Terumi says.

Sera snorts as she opens her soda can. "Yeah you were able to get Hakuba to espresso his feelings." They high five.

"Stop this," I say. "I didn't come here to be tortured."

"Hakuba-san's a surprisingly self-sacrificing person," Terumi says, taking off her glasses to wipe them. "Do you regret hitting all those egg cartons?" She laughs at Sera's pout.

"I guess…but I wanna see him down here more often. He may be the numbers guy, but he should pull his own in the kitchen," Sera huffs.

"He reminds me of you, actually." I sip my cup of coffee. "Ms. 'I'll let my crush's girlfriend take my spot for four years in America'."

Sera almost chokes on her soda. "HOW?"

Terumi puts on her glasses again. "Hehe, Sera you're blushing."

Before I can continue, Keiko and Kazuha walk in. "We're apparently having another staff meeting," Keiko says. "Aoko literally just texted me, 'OMG GET THE PEEPS KEIKO I GOT NEWS'." Well the thought of having a regular staff meeting is already out the window.

"Amuro told me you were hot today," Kazuha tells me when she sits down.

"Get away from me with that. I was trying so hard to forget this morning…" I groan.

"Kaito sent everyone a picture." Keiko grins. I should've left him alone under my bed. But I guess I should be flattered. "Also, thank you for sorting everything out. Sometimes when the three of them have trouble I don't know what to do." She hugs me. Woah. A Keiko-hug!

We all tense up when we hear a loud scream coming towards us. That person is definitely Aoko.

"YOU GUYS HOLY SHIZNIT!" She yells when she runs in. The meeting must be starting now. "YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT JUST HAPPENED. SHUT UP. I'LL TELL YOU!"

"You didn't ask us to guess or give us time to answer anything," I say.

She ignores me. "KAITO JUST ASKED ME TO MARRY HIM AND THERE'S A RING ON MY FINGER RIGHT NOW."

I almost drop my coffee from everyone screaming at the announcement. I see her engagement ring and dang it's nice. It's a silver band with a bright blue stone in the middle. Oh that's clever Kaito, give her a blue stone because of her name. Aoko wipes some tears from her face as she tells us how Kaito asked the big question.

"I saw him digging in the trash for something and asked what he was doing. Before he knew it, he told me he was searching for the ring!" She explains. Of course it's not a regular proposal.

"Considering who we're dealing with, this is really sweet," Kazuha tells me. "It could be worse. She could've accidentally swallowed it."

It is nice seeing her this excited. I wonder if marriage will make her act differently? I hope not.

"I'M SO EXCITED THAT WE'RE FINANCES!" Aoko claps her hands excitedly.

"Aoko, you mean fiancé," Keiko corrects her.

"That's what I said, right?"

Thank God.

2:00 P.M. AOKO'S OFFICE. STILL DOING NOTHING. BOTHERING HAKUBA BECAUSE WE'RE FRENEMIES NOW OR SOME SHIT.

"We're not." He continues calculating something. Whenever I look over his shoulder to see what it is, he always pushes me away. I think I had too much caffeine cause messing with him is too hilarious. He'll put his hand on my face to push me away and then promptly sanitize his hands. "I swear you're worse than Kuroba…"

If you're curious what Kaito and Aoko are doing, they're already celebrating their engagement if you get my drift. I was hanging out with them to get the full story on the whole 'wedding ring in the trash' story. Apparently Kaito stopped by our place before going up to Hakuba's and accidentally dropped it. Apparently he's been carrying in his pockets for ages. Since we were gone he assumed no one would do anything until he sorted things out with his friend. Kaito's priorities are as questionable as his turn-ons. Jewelry is the easiest of ways for him to get in the mood apparently. As Kaito was telling me about the ring, Aoko was busying herself with putting on as many accessories she could find before prancing around him. He picked her up, told me to leave, and here we are.

"So do you usually do your math homework in Aoko's office?" I ask, rocking my chair back and forth. Mhm. Too much coffee. WHOO LET'S BREAK DOWN A BUILDING!

"I'm adding up our shipment for Kyoguku-san to give to his supplier," he explains. "It's fortunate that we have a personal connection with him or we would be using more money to stock the café." He continues adding up numbers. "And no, I prefer doing this in my room."

"We need more eggs," I tell him, still rocking.

"I've been told," he sighs. "I feel responsible since I was the cause of Sera-san's anger." He taps his pen in deep thought.

"And everyone else," I add.

Hakuba reaches for the air freshener and sprays in my general vicinity. "I do hate that she doesn't like me very much. I would like to have people think at least neutrally of me." He keeps tapping his pen, before letting out a sigh. "Aside from the whole marriage fiasco, why does she dislike me?" He asks hesitantly. Oho look who cares.

"She thinks you should come down more often. When I asked people about you that was the first thing they said," I answer.

"Really?"

"Well, you did just say you prefer doing this upstairs." I point to his paperwork.

"Sure, but that's because Wimbeldon's on," he says. "I'm only down here because Andy Murray is losing."

I stop rocking. "Are you joking?"

"Tennis is never a joke, Hattori." He crosses his arms. "Baaya was a tennis player before she taking care of me and ever since I've loved the sport. It's not my fault that it coincides with my work hours." He actually sounds offended that the sports station has does this to him. I can't believe this guy. How was I so intimidated by him before?

"Can't you record it and watch it later?" I ask.

He looks at me as if I'm stupid. "Hattori it's not the same."

Sera, I understand now. I should've destroyed eggs with you. "No wonder Kazuha believed you were a ghost. You literally hole yourself up for television."

"I still do the work!" He protests.

I can't believe this is the same man who makes our paychecks. He's as big of a nerd as Kudo.

"I miss the time when I thought you were pretentious," I sigh.

"Shut it." I dunno if it was real or not, but I believe he had a small smile on his face. He looks up to see me grinning. "WE'RE NOT FRIENDS."

WE'RE FRIENDS!

Chapter Text

PART 1: MY NAME IS CIS AND I CARE TOO MUCH ABOUT THIS STORY

Howdy! I'm Cis and because this is the end of the first major "season" of Trying to be Normal I thought it would be cool to show a lot of behind the scenes stuff! If you don't want to know you can gladly not read this. I felt like doing it because whenever I read a story whether its fanfiction or real books, I always wonder what was deleted and how the story changed and whatever. Plus I thought it would be a nice way to thank the lovely people who kept reading this story for two years! WOWIE WOW!

So yes! ONWARD

I guess we should start with how the idea of Trying to be Normal started. I thought of it during my freshman year of college (when my humor was shit! XD). It was going to be focused only on the Gosho Boys trying to keep stable relationships with their girlfriends. Unfortunately the computer with the first drafts is out of commission BUT I do remember it started along the lines of Shinichi having a hangover and Hakuba wailing about not having a girlfriend to him. I wanna say Heiji and Kaito were the ones that were too afraid of commitment or something. But yes! That was one version of the story.

Then I got the idea of doing the ever popular coffee shop AU, but I decided to have them live in the same building as the coffee shop like Friends. The second draft had this setting, with Kazuha being the one just hired by Aoko. Again this is on my old computer and I can't get the actual document. I remember at the time I was going to make it a 3rd person story that followed the different people who lived in the building. Because I was having so much fun writing ridiculous lines for Heiji I decided to make it come from his point of view and now we have the story we have today!

Since it was going to be from Heiji's pov I had to make a reason why he knew so many western things, since I was going to make him reference a lot of American pop culture (because I know nothing about Japanese pop culture haha) so I decided that he would go away to America for university! Then I wondered how would Kazuha feel about it and I thought of them severing their friendship over it and thus Heiji's plot line was born!

Since Detective Conan is a mystery show I wanted to bring in the snooping element somehow. One of my favorite games is Hotel Dusk where the main character Kyle Hyde finds out the secrets of a group of people in the hotel (and in the sequel in his apartment building) so I applied that to this story. So that's why some of the convos are so dramatic XDD As I type this I keep thinking, "wow people are gonna think I have no life because I put so much effort in this". I do this for all the stories I write, even the ones that aren't fanfiction! I just use this for practice! And an excuse to overuse caps lock XDDD

Lessee…what else is there…oh! Terumi wasn't originally going to be in the story. I wasn't sure how to write her since we only see her once in her own manga but I wanted to give someone a love rival for Heiji and I decided to add her in. I'm glad people are okay with her so far.

NOW FOR THE MAIN EVENT! DELETED SCENES!

One scene that I took out was with Sonoko. I wanted to have her and Heiji have a moment about getting used to their friends again. So this is try one for this scene and it's set before Kazuha and Heiji are friends again. Oh and also this was during the same scene where Sera says "HEIJI' SOMEONE'S GONNA TURN INTO A COW".


My cellphone rings and I almost jump out of my chair. Who's calling me? It's a number I don't recognize. It better not be a telemarketer…

"Hello, this is Heiji speaking." The others silently applaud my formality. Wow, do people think I'm rude all the time?

"HEIJI HELP ME." A small pause. "This is Heiji right?"

"Yes."

"Oh, okay that polite answer threw me off for a sec."

WHAT THE HELL-PEOPLE THINK I'M RUDE ALL THE TIME?

"WHO IS THIS!?" I'm completely fed up with the entire human race. YOU HEAR ME GODS? GO AHEAD AND START RAPTURE.

"Sonoko, duh," she says as if I'm the crazy one. Granted, I did mentally wish for the apocalypse, which by the way gods and goddesses…don't actually do that.

"Sonoko I never gave you my number."

She makes a huffing noise. "Ran gave it to me but whatever about them—freaking saving me. God, it's like I'm travelling with the Brady Bunch."

"That should be fun since you're Marsha." I snicker.

"YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND," Can we just take in the fact that she didn't deny my remark? "NOT ONLY DID BILBO BAGGINS RUIN MY DAY WITH RAN BUT HIS FUCKING WIDE EYED HOBBIT COUSIN SHOWED UP!"

HAHAHAHAHA OH MY GOD. THAT IS THE BEST DESCRIPTION OF KUDO AND CONAN I'VE EVER HEARD. I'M LITERALLY TEARING UP. OH MAN I'M GOING TO DIE FROM LAUGHING AT THIS OH MAN SONOKO, YOU'RE AMAZING.

"Are you coming over or not?" She repeats, laughing in spite of her anger.

I try to calm myself down. "After that, I think I'll do almost anything you say."

"Good," She giggles. "See you at the bookstore."

Ah, that's probably where the Lord of the Rings references are coming from…

"Who was that?" Aoko asks when I hang up. Oh right…I'm still at work.

I let out another sigh. I really am the worst person she ever hired. "Can I leave early?" Sera cracks up.

3: 45 P.M. AT THE MALL. IN THE BOOKSTORE. KUDO'S FUMING, RAN'S TRYING TO CALM KUDO DOWN BY FANNING HIM WITH SHERLOCK NOVELS, CONAN'S TRYING TO WOO RAN WITH HIS EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE ON ZELDA GAMES, AND SONOKO IS ANGRILY SPEED READING THE HOBBIT.

Before I got too close for them to notice me, I took a picture with my phone. My goodness I feel like I stepped into three different reality shows at once.

"HEIJI!" They chorus when they see me with varying degrees of relief.

"WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?!" Conan exclaims. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess that Conan isn't fond of my presence…ever.

"I called him! He's going to get me away from you guys because EVERYTHING IS RUINED." Sonoko puts down The Hobbit.

"What do you mean everything is ruined? I thought we were having fun." Ran stops fanning Kudo. Yeah, anything that ends in Kudo being fanned is fun Ran…

"Thought is the key word there, Ran. It's not fun having a girl's day out with your boyfriend and his minor." Sonoko glares at Kudo and Conan.

Conan pushes up his glasses. "Excuse you, I'm fifteen."

"Yeah, the legal age to get ice cream by yourself," She snaps. Woah someone call the fire department because Conan should be on fire from the burn Sonoko gave him! "Ran ever since you came back you became Shinichi's Siamese twin and I DON'T LIKE IT."

WOAH. I WASN'T EXPECTING THIS TO HAPPEN. OKAY SO AOKO AND THE REST WERE RIGHT APPARENTLY THINGS GET HEATED WHENEVER I'M INVOLVED.

I look around the store. Everyone's staring at us. I would feel embarrassed if this was my first time causing a scene in public. A worker comes up to us, rather skittish and gets Sonoko's attention.

"Uh ma'am, we're going to have to ask you to leave," he says. Poor kid, he's practically covering himself out of fear. Someone's afraid of women who speak their mind~

"You can go ahead and ban me from the store—it's not like I read books all the time." Sonoko glances at The Hobbit again. I wonder if she actually liked it? "C'mon Heiji." And with that the two of us are out the bookstore. I took a quick glance at the trio. Ran looks like she wants to disappear.

Ohhhhhh maaaaaaaannnn.

4:00 P.M. THE MALL. AT THE FOUNTAIN EATING ICE CREAM. WHILE SONOKO WAS AWAY I TEXTED KAITO WHAT HAPPENED. HE SENT ME THE SMILEY FACE WITH A HALO AND A COW EMOJI. I CONCUR.

Sonoko has been quiet ever since we left the bookstore. She's not even eating her ice cream. I feel bad since I really like my ice cream. Maybe I should use that as a conversation starter…

"Coffee ice cream is really good—"

"I'm sorry." She cuts me off.

I chuckle. "There's nothing to apologize for. You were just saying how you feel. If that was a major problem, I would be apologizing to a lot of people…" …like a lot…wow…I would have to make, like, a booth for apologies…

Sonoko finally eats a spoonful of ice cream. "It's always been the three of us; I should be used to it by now. I guess when they left, I didn't know how much I needed them around…especially Ran." She forces down more ice cream. "Besides my sister, Ran's the only girl that likes being around me. I was the rich girl in the class so everyone naturally thought I was a brat but she was the only one that wanted to get to know me."

"It must've been weird not having them around," I say, thinking about Kazuha. I never really thought about the other side of things. I'm sure Kazuha would feel lonely without seeing me all the time, and hearing me say we need to cut ties probably felt like the end for her.

"It was, but we still talked a lot so it wasn't that bad." She sighs. "Ever since they came back, Ran has been more attached to Shinichi than ever and I guess I'm not used to it…I feel stupid now."

"Why?" I ask.

"Cause I got you into this, and I made a scene in the store, and I probably made Ran cry." Sonoko laughs, even though she looks sad herself. "There's a thing we used to do when we got mad at each other. It's actually kinda lame but we would give the other a pink rose to apologize."

"Oh, I get it…" I say. "You did it based on your name?"

She nods. "Not necessarily. In Kindergarten, we took a trip to some gardens and we were asked to choose a flower and we both picked pink roses. That's how it all began." Sonoko's smiles at this.


OKAY! So here is try two of this scene! Looking on it again I feel like I need to bring back the Bilbo Baggins joke. I actually cackled at it.


"It's so nice to see you!" Ran smiles, the most relieved out of the group. "Sonoko called you to join us?" She turns to Sonoko hopefully. Poor Ran, I'm sure the weird love triangle she's in is so painful.

"No," Sonoko hooks her arm in mine. "I called him to save me because EVERYTHING IS TOTES RUINED NOW. So you and the Wonder Twins can have all of your fun and we'll shop on our own."

Kudo rolls his eyes. "Why would Hattori go with you? He literally just met you three hours ago." Conan nods in agreement. Why do I get the feeling that everyone needs me for like moral support? I'm not pushing the feeling away because this is one time that I don't need anyone else to complain about my life to.

Sonoko grins, turning to me. "He said he would do anything I want." I now realize what a terrible mistake I've made. Sonoko is the girl you can't make deals with because she'll hold you to it. Everyone turns their attention to me, and I feel like my life choices these past few minutes were the wrong ones, but then again that's my entire life.

I shrug, hoping that would make me feel less weird about this whole situation. "I did."

Kudo folds his arms and huffs, "Why?" I get the message Kudo, there's something you want to tell me and by the looks of it, Ran does too.

"Dude, she called you Bilbo Baggins."

Kudo's left eye twitches, a tale-tell sign that he's fed up with the world, grabs one of the Sherlock novels from Ran, and deeply inhales one of the pages.

"Bye-bye~" Sonoko waves.

5:15 P.M. SITTING IN THE FOOD COURT. WE BOUGHT ICE CREAM. I DIDN'T KNOW THERE WAS A COFFEE FLAVOR. I BOUGHT TWO CONES OF THAT AMAZINGNESS.

Ohhh it's so goooood….i have to buy some whenever its my turn to buy groceries. My life has changed in a whole new direction—also this is a good distraction from my sadness with Kazuha. I now understand why people eat ice cream when they're sad. I GET YOUR FEEL SAD PEOPLE. LET'S REJOYCE WITH OUR SPOONS.

Sonoko sighs, picking at her raspberry icecream.

My ice cream also distracts me from the extreme awkwardness that is sitting Sonoko who seems kinda sad.

"I know you're sad…" I push the bowl of ice cream toward her. "You should eat it out."

She looks the tiniest bit amused. "What kind of suggestion is that? You're not supposed to eat out your emotions." Says the girl who took a huge spoonful of her ice cream anyway.

"Hey, you're not supposed to jaywalk but we do it anyway." I inwardly let out a breath when she finally smiles. To me, people generally look better when they're smiling. "So after ice cream where are we going?"

The smile is gone immediately when she sighs again. "Nowhere. I think I'll just go home after this." She eats another huge spoonful of icecream. "Today's just ruined—I wanted to hang out with the only person who makes me happy and everyone just destroys it."

"Kudo's not that bad when he's not fangirling over Holmes and he's even calmed down on that over the years," I say and what I mean by calm down is him making a mini shrine in his closet and going in there whenever he needs "man space".

"He's okay, yeah…" Sonoko admits finishing her ice cream. "It's just…he's, like, always there." She fixes her headband, giving me a strained look. I guess that was a sign that she's about to become really vulnerable. "Even though the three of us grew up together I always felt like the third wheel."

Alright so…the main reason I didn't add this in the story was because I thought it was bit too dramatic. Plus I feel like I didn't get a good feel for Sonoko yet when I wrote this. Next deleted scene is from a chapter that I was going to as Aoko being the speaker. I thought about doing some special chapters that told some backstory for some the characters, but I later decided against it because it kinda ruined Heiji's storytelling.

10: 10 A.M. SUNDAY. MY AND KAITO'S APARTMENT. ABOUT TO LEAVE FOR THE TRAIN STATION TO SEE MY DAD. I LOVE FATHER-DAUGHTER VACATION WEEK.

"I hate Father-Daughter Vacation Week," Kaito mutters as he follows me out of our bedroom. He just got back from another late night magic show. I don't really know why he likes booking himself for night jobs, but he assures me that it's more fun for him that way so I try not to worry about it.

"Because you have to help Sera bake?" I ask.

"No, I don't mind helping…" he pauses to think of the right words. "It seems like whenever I need you the most your dad needs you." He hugs me from behind, sighing. "I'M GOING TO BE ALL ALOONNEE BIMBOKO"

"But my dad needs me…you heard him the other day." Oh my god I'm in a love triangle between my boyfriend and my dad. Is that even possible?


Also this was when I was going to explain Aoko's mom, but I decided to wait and put it somewhere else. It just sorta happened in chapter 8 XDD. The next scene is the old version of the "Manaoko" and "Hate-Tea" scenes.


9:00 A.M. CAFEBAKE. EVERYONE IS SO AWKWARD EXCEPT FOR ONE VERY HAPPY 5'3" LADY.

"ELDORADO! THE MAGNIFICENT AND GOLDEN ONE THOUSAND YEARS AGO!" Aoko belts out. Wow, ignorance is bliss. Also if you haven't noticed, Aoko really likes Elton John. Just like Kaito is coping with his insults, Aoko is coping by singing all of Elton John's greatest hits. She still says crazy stuff though, last night she burned herself and yelled, "SUNLIGHT YELLOW OVERDRIVE".

"I wish I could have your sunny attitude, Aoko," Hakuba (yes, he has the gall to work Kaito's shift for him. Amazing I know. LIKE WOW. HE HAS ALL THE GALL), smiles down at her as if he didn't stop a surprise wedding proposal and ruined a friendship two hours ago.

Sera huffs. "I hope Aoko becomes the sun and melts your skin off," she mutters. As you can see, Sera is ready to murder Hakuba. Not literally, but Keiko, Terumi and I hid all of the knives in the kitchen anyway. I can't believe this is the same person who believes pokemon were real at some point.

Hakuba gives Sera a pointed look and since Aoko's so short and so busy singing her heart out, she doesn't notice anything. I'm so glad I work at the counter because I would have a nervous breakdown dealing with everything. Like good gracious I can barely deal with the problems I have!

Kazuha goes back to fixing a customer's drink, letting out a whistle. "I thought our little fight made things awkward but I was so wrong by a ton."

"Yeah I know. We literally don't have any problems," I say. "I hope Kaito is somewhat okay. I don't like leaving people under my bed. I feel like a murderer…" Kazuha gives me a strange look, but decides not to say anything. "You should've seen him up there. He looks like a beat up puppy that doesn't have a home and got stuck in the rain..." I sigh. "If he wasn't spouting assholeish insults at me, I would've stayed up there."

I hear Keiko sigh beside me. "He was forcing you to go away, Heiji." For once, she isn't diligently working. Good thing the morning rush is gone or we would be fucked. "Kaito's a douche when he's sad because he thinks no one can help him. Lucky for him he's with Aoko who won't leave him alone until he sort things out with her, but she can't know about the proposal so this is all sorts of weird…"

"We need a new Aoko," Kazuha says. The two of us look at Keiko. She's the perfect person, she's known Kaito for years.

"No, I'm literally the worst person. He always distracts me," She says. "Last time when I tried to comfort him he said he would play a BL game with me if I didn't do anything."

Amazing. "Keiko, you're so useless!" I say, passing a customer's cup to her to fill out.

"Am I, Mr. Kettle?" She grins. Touche. "What about you, Kazuha?"

Kazuha shakes her head. "I dunno if I can annoy him enough to spill the beans."

"We can't ask Sera since she spoils surprises like no one's business…and Terumi has to take an exam later so she's a no show…" Keiko lists all of our options. "There's only one person left…" She and Kazuha look at me grinning.

"Are you joking?" I roll my eyes. "I'm going to be Aoko?"

"Heiji, you're the only one that actually enjoys being rude to people. You're a perfect fit!" Keiko says. "We believe in you MANAOKO!"

"MANAOKO?"

"Manko for short," Kazuha giggles.

"What are you guys talking about?" The three of us look over to see Aoko in front of us, filling up the desert case.

Keiko reacts first. "FOOD."

"PLANTS," Kazuha says after her.

"PHOTOSYNTHESIS!" I say. Kazuha and Keiko give me a weird look.

"…you're talking about plants?" Aoko stares at us. "Weird." She walks away.

"I think I'll check on him during break." Sad Kaito is weirder than shady Kaito.

"I was just about to ask you to do that," Keiko tells me. "He probably needs his space now, but he'll need someone later. Trust me." She looks as though she wants to tell me more, but doesn't. Note to self: talk to Keiko about the Aoko/Hakuba/Kaito biz.

"Terumi, can you pass the chocolate syrup?" Kazuha asks.

Terumi, who is working the register, looks at Kazuha and barely moves the syrup container. Kazuha stares, utterly bewildered. That's something would've done! Am I already a terrible influence to my pretend relative?

"Terumi, is the chocolate syrup close to you?" Keiko calls. Haha, she's the only one actually working. If anyone has an increased pay, it's her.

"Yes, it's over here!" Terumi happily walks over to hand over the syrup. She makes a point to smile at me before going back to the register.

Kazuha turns to me, highly agitated.

"Maybe she didn't hear you?" I shrug. She lets out a breath and goes over to help Keiko. I also let out a sigh. Well, Kaito shouldn't feel so bad-we're all out of sync now.

11:00 A.M. BREAK TIME. MY/KAITO'S/AOKO'S APARTMENT. KAITO'S DRINKING TEA. I THOUGHT HE HATED TEA.

"No, this stuff is disgusting," he chuckles. He's sitting on the sofa and he doesn't look he got any sleep. "I'm tired, but I don't feel like sleeping. So now I'm drinking tea."

"Why not drink coffee or something?" I sit next to him on the couch. Out of the two of them, Aoko is the tea drinker. She's like the tea version of me.

"I'm drinking it for a reason," he answers before forcing another sip. "It's something I picked up from my dad. Whenever he was angry he would drink tea. He didn't like it much either." He shrugs. "It's weird psychology but if you focus all of your hate on the tea you can clear your head. That's what he told me."

"Hate-Tea, huh?" I say. I guess that makes sense. Kaito never talks about his dad, or at least I never hear anything about him, so this is interesting. But he used past tense…hm.

We sit in silence for a moment. He continues forcing down the tea. It's kinda weird to watch. You can tell he hates it, but he keeps drinking it down. I dunno, it's like dogs that are trying to catch their tail. You wanna tell them to stop but you know they wanna do it.

"You okay?" I ask.

"I'm too tired to pretend, so no I'm not." Jesus, I didn't think hearing that would make me feel terrible. The fact that he was going to lie to me doesn't help either. "I kinda thought this was all over, but I was wrong."

"So Hakuba does like Aoko?"

He grimaces. "Since he transferred to our high school," he says.

Ah, well...that's confirmed. Mini parade for me and Kazuha.

Wait wait wait-did he say since HIGH SCHOOL? That's like a lot of years! "You didn't nip this in the bud!?" I ask.

"I thought it was nipped it already!" He crosses his arms. "Before Aoko and I went steady I told him I was gonna ask her out and he responded, 'I know she likes you'. Doesn't that sound nipped?"

Well...it does. Sorta. Reminds me of my "we shouldn't talk anymore because you confessed to me" statement I told Kazuha before going to America. It closes one door and opens up a bajillion more.

Kaito flinches when his phone goes off. He checks it. "Aoko's coming up. Don't say a word." He gets up to put his cup away.

"But she's in the middle of everything! That's like telling Luke Skywalker 'Hey dude stay at home. Obi-Wan is senile'." This is so crazy. Once again I would like to say my problems are nothing in comparison to this.

Kaito lets out one of the most tired sighs I've ever heard in my entire life. "Please, don't say anything. More than anything Aoko hates when Hakuba and I have a problem because she thinks it's her fault."

Oh god. "Wait, does that mean this happened before?" I ask.

He looks away, biting his lip. YOU'RE SHITTING ME. THIS GETS WORSE AND WORSE. HAKUBA. DUDE. WHY?

Before I can say anything else, Aoko comes in. She looks a bit confused when she sees me. I guess she wanted to speak to Kaito privately.

"Hey," Kaito greets her happily. Ah, he has enough energy to pretend for her apparently.

"Hey," Aoko says back, walking over to him. She ruffles my hair when she passes by. Just so you know a small group of people have the honor of touching my hair. Aoko forced herself into that zone. "Are you okay? You seemed out of it when you came in this morning."

He nods, smile still in place. "I'm fine."

"Did you get any rest?"

"Not really. I might not perform tonight," he says.

She raises an eyebrow. "I know you're not alright. You never miss a show unless you're sick, and even then I have to basically pin you down to keep you here."

"I just need a break is all-"

She cuts him off. "You used my teapot." Kaito's smile breaks.

Jeez...cannot handle this. Why can't Kaito tell her anything!? KAITO TELL HER THE TRUTH. SHE KNOWS SOMETHING'S UP.

Kaito is silent. Kaito, c'mon…

"I know you drink tea when you're messed up. What's the matter with you?" Aoko pleads to him. He still doesn't say anything.

"I MADE HIM DRINK IT," I say quickly getting up. "I dared him to drink a cup of tea and if he drank all of it I would treat the two of you to lunch!" I DON'T KNOW WHY I LIED. I DON'T LIKE LYING. BUT I FELT LIKE KAITO WAS ABOUT TO LOSE IT AND OH GOD…

Aoko looks at the two of us frowning. "Whatever's going on better sizzle down because if I have to heat up whatever's not sizzled down, you're going to have a house fire and I'm not dousing it." She let's that threat settle in our minds before smiling. "Treat me to steak, Heiji~" I'm sorry wallet. You were so full, so happy...

Kaito mouths me an apology. How about paying me back later, jerk. Or better yet TELL YOUR GIRLFRIEND WHAT'S HAPPENING.

11:10. OUTSIDE THE APARTMENT BUILDING AT THE BUS STOP. AOKO AND KAITO ALSO HATE DRIVING CARS. SUCK IT MOM AND DAD.

"I don't think I could be on a motorcycle," Aoko says. "Kaito probably has more guts though."

He nods at this, biting his lip. Aoko has been squeezing his hand while we've been waiting for the bus. He's trying not to wince, and every time he tries to speak a whine comes out.

"Ahh, the joys of not cursing~" Aoko beams at Kaito. "I should've done this before!"

Kaito reaches for my shoulder and pouts when I get out of his reach. Hey, you caused this yourself buddy. I mean, Hakuba fucked up everything, but you're being stupid by not saying anything.


Wow so different! It's been a while since I've seen these and I'm kinda happy with the changes I've made haha. Also I was going to show a scene of Aoko and Heiji trying to find Kaito in the cemetery but I changed it because at the time my uncle passed away and I wanted to steer clear from that. Hmmmm I believe that's of the deleted stuff for now. NO WAIT I FOUND SOME MORE OH WOW THIS A SHOCK EVEN FOR ME!

This scene is the old version of Heiji walking in the bakery and meeting Kaito!


"Oh is the inside of your mouth itching?" A voice says across from me. Ah, the wonderful Kaito is back. He happily sits across from me with a slice of cake.

"There aren't going to be anymore birds randomly flying out of one of your crevices are there?" I ask, protecting my cup of coffee.

He laughs. "No, no. They're away. Plus, the crowd can only be distracted a few times with that trick." He bites into his cake and hums to himself. I take a sip of my coffee.

"You're Heiji, right? I've seen or heard your name before…must have been in the hell hole," Kaito replies AS IF IT WAS THE MOST NORMAL SENTENCE TO SAY.

I spit out my drink. "WHAT!?" I get a napkin from the napkin holder on the table and wipe the table. "Uh...sorry..."

Kuroba lets out a snort. "Nah, s'fine. I probably should've expected that... Anyway, the kitchen is the hell hole. I'm one of the bakers." He wipes the remaining coffee off his shirt and face.

"Anyway, what brings you here?" "I was visiting my friends Kudo and Ran," I tell him.

"HEHEHEH..." is the first thing I hear from him. I'm honestly not sure if I should even bother asking. "They're great fun." He grins. I'm just...gonna ignore that.

"Yeah, they're nice. It's a great apartment too. I think I might move myself."

Kuroba grabs my hand, grinning. "No way! That's, like, the greatest thing I've heard all week!" What. "My girlfriend—" Someone's dating him!? "—is in Tokyo training to be a policewoman—" I hate that I'm not surprised by this. She's probably trying to get him arrested. "—and I need someone to help me pay rent for a couple of months. You seem pretty cool and you have nowhere else to go, so it's perfect!"

Wait…what? Whaaaaaaat? I'm not sure if I should be happy or terrified that this is so convenient. "Come on, I live upstairs. We'll take the elevator!" He pulls me toward the elevator near the back of the restaurant. Once the doors open he pushes me inside, not listening to my protests.

"Dude, I barely know…" I trail off when I glance back at the restaurant again. A girl with a bob cut is serving some people tea or some other liquid and as the doors close she looks in our direction and I get highly curious….in the ~time to get my flirt on~ kinda way. She looks oddly familiar though. Hm.


At that time I think I was going to have Heiji spend a lot of time flirting with Kazuha before finding out who she is, which I kinda hate I changed that cause that would be hilarious. Okay…this will be the last scene because I'm sure no one will actually find joy in this except for me XDD. The last scene is the old version of Heiji meeting up with Kazuha again and him meeting Aoko and Sera who used to live in the same building as everyone else.


"I'm sure I heard your name somewhere before though..." Kuroba says as he follows me to the door.

I open it and lo and behold CRAZY REGISTER GIRL IS THERE. She evolved into CRAZY REGISTER STALKER GIRL. Yaaay! Level up! But no seriously what the fuck is she doing here.

"Oh hey!" Kuroba waves."What do you need?" Of course he knows her. OF COURSE. "Also this is my new roommate, Heiji."

"I know." She mumbles. Gross. "AND HE'S DUMBER THAN I THOUGHT HE WAS!"

"EH!?" WHAT THE HELL!? "WHAT'S THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN? YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW ME!"

She gets close to my face. "I DO KNOW YOU AHOU!"

AHOU!? HOW DARE SHE CALL ME- wait.

She takes a small step back and crosses her arms. Kuroba stares at me intently. This is probably the most amazing thing he's ever seen. But no... wait...no...wait..NO...WAIT NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO

"KAZUHA!?"

She rolls her eyes. "Took you long enough..."

Kuroba gasps loudly. "THAT'S WHERE I HEARD YOUR NAME. YOU'RE THE HEIJI THAT RUINED KAZUHA'S LIFE!" What?! that's my title!? "I didn't ruin your life!"

"You made me feel terrible for a couple of months that counts for ruining my life." She says, walking inside.

"Anyway, I came over here to give Kaito back his deck of cards not to talk to you."

"I DIDN'T WANT TO TALK TO YOU EITHER!" I say.

"I DIDN'T WANT YOU TO MOVE HERE!"

"i DIDN'T WANT YOU TO LIVE HERE EITHER!"

"FINE!" She storms out.

"I'M FINER!"

"IM FINEST-I GOT BOOBS AND A VAGINA NOTHING CAN BEAT THAT!"

"IM THE FINEST OF THE FINE BECAUSE I GOT A PENIS!"

"WELL YOU CAN SUCK IT CAUSE NO ONE ELSE WILL!"

"IT'S PHYSICALLY," she slams the door. "...impossible..." HER ROOM IS ACROSS FROM US, and there is a muffled scream. I scream loudly and close our door.

"...I think she won that one."

"She...totally did..." I sigh, but i can't help but grin. "Reminds me of the good ol' days..."

Kuroba follows me to the couch. "You mean before moving to America?" I nod. "Oh. Hm, well, I can understand wanting things to go back the way they were." He looks oddly peaceful then-I guess he's remembering something pleasant. A ringing sound goes off and Kuroba beams happily. "Finally." He quickly goes to his bedroom and comes back out with his laptop. "I missed you so much!" He says. ...I like laptops as much as the next person but C'MON KUROBA GET YOUR LIFE TOGETHER.

A female voice giggles. "I missed you too." Oh god it talks back to him? Man Japan you're a cool island but you need to stop making crazy stuff that talks to people. Robot teacher? FUCK NO. THAT'S HOW I-ROBOT STARTS. I'M NOT ABOUT TO GO DOWN THAT WAY. Even though...being Will Smith might be kinda too amazing to handle... "Where's the third?" The voice asks. SHIT IT KNOWS I EXIST. FUCKING TERMINATOR. Kuroba turns the screen around and I see a girl with as messy hair as his. HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT TO BET HER NAME IS ROLL? Man, i think that's the end of my robot references...

"This is my girlfriend Aoko." ...girlfriend. ...GIRLFRIEND? HE HAS A GIRLFRIEND!?

"...you lie."

"Eh." He blinks.

"We've been dating since high school..." Aoko mumbles, looking away awkwardly.

"Yeah, our anniversary is coming soon." Kuroba says, kinda surprised. Looks like someone just remembered~

"Sorry..." I say. "But why are you guys skyping?"

Aoko smiles. "I'm at my dad's house. I'm training to be a policeman and he's looking over us new recruits this year." She reaches off screen and puts on her cadet hat. "I feel so official!"

"Aww you look adorable!" Kuroba gushes. "Anyway, this is Heiji."

"Mhm." Aoko nods.

"And do you remember the guy Kazuha ranted about for like a year when she first moved in?" Kuroba continues.

"Mhm." Aoko sips out of her mug.

"Woah wait a year? She said a couple of months." I interrupt.

Kazuha has a way with not telling the truth if it embarrasses her." Aoko informs me. Well I knew that already about her, but I didn't know her ranting about me is embarrassing. Unless she just doesn't want me to know about it or something...

"Anyway," Kuroba points at me. "This is him."

Aoko almost spits out her drink. She swallows and coughs loudly. "NO SHIT." She winces when Kuroba frowns at her. "No...way?" She fixes. He smiles. Odd. "I can't believe you got the guy who ruined our friend's life into our home! Good job-now we can finally have something to entertain us." NOW I'M ENTERTAINMENT. OH JOY. "Did they meet already?"

"Ohhh yeah.." Kuroba grins at me. I groan loudly. "It was Jerry Springer quality. I'll reenact it later. Anyway, I was going to show him our neighbors and bring you along with us."

She claps her hands. "Yaaaay!" And with that Kuroba opens the door and leads me to the end of the hall. "You'll see these guys a lot since most of them work downstairs." Oh joy.

"I'm your boss by the way," Aoko adds as Kuroba knocks on one of the doors. "EH!?" I turn to the computer in shock. "But since I'm away Kaito is your boss." She smiles.

"EH!?" I turn to Kuroba.

The door opens and a tomboyish girl swings a spatula at us. "EN GARDE!"

"ALLEZ!" Kuroba counters.

"They do this all the time. You'll get used to it." Aoko tells me.

The girl looks past kuroba to the screen. "Aoko! It's been too long. How's the academy?"

"Academyish." Aoko answers.

The tomboy laughs loudly. "That makes sense. So I heard some screaming from your room-was something happening?"


There's a plethora here, but I'm gonna stop for now! Thanks everyone for reading this story! It means a lot! Like a whoolee lot. Whenever I feel bad I always go back and read this story and your nice reviews! You are all wonderful people! Uh if you liked me rambling and showing the old scenes from the story you can say so! (Even though I might show some if I find them especially hilarious to read) I will say that I'm happy that I got funnier as I kept fixing drafts XDD some of the jokes are so bad to me. So yes! Thanks again! I hope you'll enjoy the part of Trying to be Normal! Yaaaaaay!

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 09: HIEARCHY OF HYENAS

3:30 P.M. PARKING DECK ACROSS FROM THE APARTMENT BUILDING. SETTING UP FOR A JOY RIDE. IT’S BEEN A WHILE SINCE I HAD TO USE THE SIDECAR ON MY BIKE.

“Did you guys figure who’s going where?” I call over my shoulder. Since it’s still my day off, and I can’t think of anything else to give my roommates for their engagement at the moment, I’m giving them a ride on Suzy. I begin screwing on the last bolt to connect the sidecar to her.

“WE’RE GONNA DIE EITHER WAY!” Aoko screams. I look over to see Kaito putting on her helmet. “I WANTED TO BE KILLED BY SOMEONE COOL LIKE JAMES BOND.” Wow. I’m not even cool enough to kill people? Wait doesn’t that make me trustworthy? What’s she trying to say here?

“She’s gonna ride on your side,” Kaito replies. Goody, I get to have Aoko yelling in my ear.

“I DIDN’T CALL MY DAD ABOUT OUR ENGAGEMENT YET. WHAT DO I DO? DO I CALL MY DAD NOW?” She starts walking circles around her fiancé.

“You didn’t call before you guys fooled around?” I ask, making sure everything’s tightened. Last time Suzy carried three people was…a while…hm. I get on my bike, and put on my helmet.

“I called Mom. She’ll tell him,” Kaito says, picking her up. He carries her over to the bike.

“I CAN’T BELIEVE WE’RE DOING THIS.” Aoko is now behind me quickly latching her arms around me. Oh god that’s a tight grip!! I hope don’t pass out in the middle of the street. “YOU COULDN’T THINK OF ANYTHING ELSE?” I barely cough out a response. She turns to Kaito, who’s getting in the sidecar. “HE COULDN’T THINK OF ANYTHING ELSE!”

I let in a breath when she loosens her grip. “You only live once,” I say, revving Suzy up.

“HECK YEAH!” Kaito cheers.

“HECK NO!” Aoko wails as we drive out of the parking deck.

??? HIGH SCHOOL. THE LAST DAY OF THE LAST MARTIAL ARTS TOURNAMENT I’LL BE IN. AFTER THIS I WON’T SEE MAKOTO FOR A WHILE.

“So to celebrate the last time we see each other here you’re going to endanger our lives?” Makoto asks when I toss him his helmet.

Kazuha laughs, putting her helmet on. “I thought that too when he asked me to ride with him the first time, but he’s actually really safe.”

“Exactly!” I say. “You’ll remember this for the rest of your life!”

“It’ll be the last moment I’ll remember, you mean.” He puts on the helmet anyway. “Hopefully we won’t get in trouble for coming back late.”

I get on Suzy and turn her on. “Who cares we’re third years. If we’re supposed to know what we want to do in life, we can come back late to a hotel.” I feel Kazuha get on behind me. Her arms wrap around my waist, and I feel oddly secure.

After Makoto gets in, we take off from the hotel parking lot. I’ve been planning this for a while; I took up two part time jobs to pay for the sidecar, and I studied several maps to find the perfect scenic route. It takes a few minutes to get reach the quieter side of town. We pass by a few stores and reach a forested road. I glance over to Makoto. He’s looking straight ahead.

“Scared?” I call to him. When he doesn’t answer, I let out a loud laugh.

My laughing stops when Kazuha’s head rests on my shoulder. “I’m not.”

“Heiji, you’re going faster,” I hear Makoto beside me.

Our destination is a cliff at the edge of the forest road. I grin when I put down the break and turn off my bike. We made it just in time. Kazuha gets off first, shaking her hair after taking off her helmet.

“Heiji…” she gasps at the sight. “I can’t believe you planned for this…”

I help Makoto out of the sidecar. “Well, I wanted to be sentimental.”

“I didn’t know that word was a part of your vocabulary,” he takes off his helmet, chuckling. He puts on his glasses and takes in the scenery.

The cliff has a perfect view of the city and the sun setting behind it. I learned about it from one of the ramen shop owners last year. I drove up while following a map, and I thought it was okay. Now, for some reason, the view is even better.

“Heiji…” Kazuha turns around with tears in her eyes. “Makoto…” she sniffs. “I don’t want to get older!”

“You can’t help that,” Makoto chuckles.  

“No, I mean,” another sniff. “I don’t want to leave you guys because of university and jobs and whatever! You two are my closest friends…” She wipes her nose.

“We’ll still be friends, ahou!” I say. “Just because high school’s ending doesn’t mean we won’t talk anymore. Heck, you and I will probably be walking to our university classes together just like always.”

Makoto nods. “And I’ll still visit.”

“Right! Plus we got this memory to keep us together! If we’re apart we’ll think of the sunset and remember each other.” I grin.

Kazuha tackles us in a hug. “You’re the best people in the world!”

4:00 P.M. WE’RE SITTING BY A RIVERBANK. GUESS WHO’S HAVING FUN NOW?

“AND WE WERE LIKE ZOOOM AND EVERYTHING WAS PASSING BY AND I WASN’T SCARED AT ALL!” Aoko kicks her feet in the air. She’s still screaming though.

“That was fun, Heiji,” Kaito laughs. “You’re a better driver than I thought you would be.”

I roll my eyes. “I’ve heard that every time I give people a ride on Suzy…” I shouldn’t even offer since people always assume that.

“Do you give people rides often?” He asks, looking at the river. “It seems like it’s a rare thing.”

I nod. “Yeah, I’m kinda protective of Suzy since she’s my only means of transportation. Whenever I feel like showing someone I care, I drive them around.” Since I remembered the sunset at the cliff, I’m feeling kinda weird. The three of us didn’t keep in contact like we said we would…or rather I didn’t. How come I ruined everything for myself?

Aoko sits up. “You care about us?”

I force myself out of my thoughts. “Course I do. I live with you guys, and you helped me with my problems. You deserved a ride.” I grin.

She and Kaito grin at each other before tackling me with hugs and kisses.

“We care about you too Heiji!” Kaito laughs.

“We love you thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissss much!” Aoko pecks my forehead. I wonder where their touchy feely lovey doveyness comes from. If I had a coin for every time I was petted or hugged or kissed while living with these two I would be a millionaire. “You were one of the main people that got us engaged after all.”

I shrug. “It would’ve happened either way I think.”

Kaito shakes his head. “If I was able to talk myself out of it for a year, I’m pretty sure I could’ve kept doing it for a couple more.”

“Why were you so flaky about it anyway?” I ask. Aoko is still holding on to me, but is looking at Kaito intently. I guess she’s been wanting to ask this also.

He sighs. Aoko waits.

“After Dad passed I started feeling anxious. Even though I was able to be with him for a long time, in the end he wasn’t able to see anything anymore. I dunno, I was afraid of…not being able to see everything…” he mumbles.

Aoko climbs over me to her fiancé’s lap. “You know if you worry too much you’ll miss stuff anyway, right?” She pokes his face. “Remember what I always tell you when we’re in a crowded place? If you worry about where I am you’ll never realize I’m right under your nose!” She smiles.

He grins. “I only worry because you run off and you’re the tiniest person I know.”

I don’t usually say this….but that…was kinda super cute. Wouldn’t it be fun if Kazuha and I had cute conversations? Oh no…I’m getting way too deep in my weird emotions…I’M THINKING ABOUT BEING CUTE. AND USUALLY MY VERSION OF CUTE IS JUST SAYING “I’M THE CUTEST”.

Sigh. All of these weird feelings. I don’t like them.

7:00 P.M. THE SECOND FLOOR HALLWAY. I WAS LITERALLY JUST PUSHED OUT OF MY APARTMENT BECAUSE MY ROOMMATES ARE TOO EXCITED ABOUT BEING ENGAGED.  

And they literally just announced ‘we’re gonna have sex now and we don’t want you here unless you’re into that but even then we don’t really want you here’. Not only did I not get a chance to assure them I would be out their way, BUT I DIDN’T FINISH MY DINNER. CARE ABOUT ME MY ASS. COULD’VE LET ME TAKE MY PLATE OR SOMETHING.

I huff over to Kazuha’s door and ring the doorbell. I hope she actually cooked today. When Kazuha finally opens her door, my mouth drops open. She’s wearing a short black dress and heels. I’M KINDA FREAKING OUT. I’VE ONLY SEEN HER IN LIKE A SCHOOL UNIFORM AND LIKE CASUAL CLOTHES.

….

SHE HAS REALLY NICE LEGS.

FUCK.

She looks a bit embarrassed herself. “This is probably the first time you’ve seen me like this…” she smiles sheepishly.

I like this,” I blurt out. CRAP I DIDN’T WANT TO SAY THAT ALOUD. “I MEAN THE NECKLACE CAUSE IT MATCHES THE HAIRPIN I BOUGHT CAUSE I’M GOOD AT BUYING THINGS.” Yeah, that’s a good cover-up. Nice one Heiji.

She shakes her head, grinning. “Of course, of course. I might as well just wear the pin since it’s so amazing.” HAHA DON’T EVEN FUCKING JOKE LIKE THAT KAZUHA. THAT IMAGE IS NOT GOING TO HELP ME AT ALL. “So what’s up?” She reaches for her purse before stepping out to lock the door.

“You’re going out?” I finally ask. I’m trying really hard not to stare. These past few minutes have been an emotional roller coaster.

“Mhm.” She turns to me happily. “Sorry you can’t come over. Did you get kicked out?”

“My roommates are in heat,” I reply, following her down the hallway.

“Well, they did get engaged.” She presses for the elevator. “You’ll understand when you’re with someone.”

I raise an eyebrow at this. “Are you with someone?” I ask.

Kazuha’s smile quickly drops. When she sees who’s in the elevator, she’s bothered even more.

Terumi walks out, smiling. She’s carrying convenience store bags.  “You look nice, Kazuha-san.” Even though she’s complimenting her, there wasn’t anything nice in how she said it.

“Thanks,” is all Kazuha says as she quickly gets in the elevator. As the doors close, she gives me another sheepish smile.

“You two are scary together,” I tell Terumi after the elevator goes down.

She shrugs as she unlocks the door. “It’s because we think differently on your feelings…” she sighs. “But that’s for you to figure out, right?” she laughs. I have a strange feeling I’ll find out soon enough. “I just got back from 7-11 with some snacks for our movie night. Do you want to join us?”

I glance at the elevator doors. “Sure.”

I hate that I remembered that sunset. It really drives home that even though we’re friendly again, it’s been so long that my relationship with Kazuha has changed.      

8:00 A.M. SATURDAY. WAITING OUTSIDE KUDO’S AND RAN’S APARTMENT. CONAN’S FIRST DAY. THE FAMILY LOVE IS STRONG HERE.  

“Conan I swear I’m going to kick you out of this door.” Kudo clenches his teeth as he struggles to push his younger cousin into the hallway. “You have to know what a full day’s work is like.” Oh wow, I didn’t know being the son of a famous movie actress and a bestselling author was a full day’s work. I might as well quit my job if that’s what it takes.  

“COUSIN-SHINICHI NOOOO! I’LL FIND SOMETHING TO DO! DON’T MAKE ME DO THIS!” Conan wails as he clings onto Kudo for dear life.

“Hattori do something!” Kudo yells at me.

I take a picture of what’s happening.

HATTORI.”

I hear a door close behind me. “Conan-kun, when you sign up for a job, you’re signing up for responsibilities,” says the man who skipped work to watch sports. 

“Hakuba-san, please don’t make me go!” Conan says.

“Conan-kun, everyone hates going to work. If I have to miss today’s tennis match and go down stairs to deal with people who are addicted to caffeine and foam then you can muster up some courage to do the same,” he says. I’m slowly realizing that Hakuba’s probably the manager not just because he’s good with number but from being best friends with the owner.

“Conan-kun!” Ran happily calls from the apartment. She greets me and Hakuba before handing Conan a bento box. “I made you a bento for lunch. Work hard today!” She smiles.

Still holding onto his cousin, he takes it with a flushed face. I can already imagine the wedding bells he’s playing in his head. Conan lets go of Kudo, salutes him and Ran before saying, “Heiji, I’m ready.” He marches down the hallway.

“You’re not going to war,” I say, following him.

He turns to me dramatically. “When you’re dealing with teens it is.”

I roll my eyes. “Last time I checked Conan, you are a teen”.

“I can understand his nervousness,” Hakuba replies as we wait for the elevator. “When I was his age, I was terrified of my peers. I spent my lunch period with my pet, Watson.”

“You brought your dog to school? That alone should’ve gotten you tons of friends,” I say. Of course his pet is named Watson. Granted if I had a dog, I would probably name is Ellery.

He looks offended. “Watson’s not a dog. He’s a hawk.”

Wow. Let’s just get this straight. Hakuba was a teen who got awards for being a real life alarm clock and brought his pet hawk to school. “Are you an anime character or something?” I ask.   

He doesn’t answer my question. “Falconry is a gentlemanly sport, Heiji. I was born to an English socialite so I had to have upper crust hobbies,” He tells us as we walk in the elevator. “Ballroom lessons, French, flute—Mother wanted me to be the best. Luckily for me, Father came from a farming family so there wasn’t more pressure on me.”

Hm. Reminds me of how Mom and Dad wanted me to do Kendo. I love it, but sometimes my grandparents, who are also highly skilled, came to my matches and it was nerve wracking. If I did one wrong thing, I never heard the end of it.  

“My parents are similar,” Conan says, looking at his bento. “They’re good at business, and want me to take over their company when I’m older.” Now that he mentions it, Conan barely talks about his folks. He looks really sad now. Hm.

Hakuba pats Conan’s head. “You’re lucky Conan-kun, having your first job here.” Thanks for changing the mood, dude. I wasn’t sure what to say. “Aoko’s very easygoing.”

“In a way she’s like Ran,” I say.

We get out of the elevator and head toward the Hell Hole. Aoko and Sera are excitedly jumping around in the kitchen. When they notice our presence, they eagerly rush over with a baking sheet of cookies shaped as dogs.

“THE PUPPY COOKIE CUTTERS CAME IN TODAY!” Sera announces. 

Aoko gives each of us one. “I CAN’T BELIEVE THERE WAS A TIME WHEN WE WEREN’T EATING PUPPIES!”

Conan turns to me disturbed. “This isn’t Ran-neechan…” he mutters. I said ‘in a way’.

“Conan-kun! Let’s work hard today!” Aoko clasps his hands smiling. I roll my eyes when Conan blushes at the gesture. “Once everyone else is here, we’ll have a staff meeting.” Oh wow someone’s sounding like a boss. “There’s four other kids working on your shift along with Heiji and Hakuba so you’ll be in good hands.” She gestures to Sera. “This is Sera Masumi, she’s the head baker. If Kaito, Hakuba, or myself aren’t here, she’s in charge.”

“Nice to meet you!” Sera grins.

“Oh, I’ve heard about you. Ran-neechan and Cousin Shinichi talk about you a lot,” Conan says, eating his cookie. I’m already on my third one. Poodles never tasted so good…

Sera is a bit surprised by this. “They do?” She asks.

Conan nods. “You’re one of the nicest people they know, apparently.”

“Nice enough to make us pay more money for eggs…” Hakuba mutters.

“I hear the Queen is going to be watching the Wimbledon match today. She’s so busy this is the only match she can watch in person.” Sera counters. Hakuba’s eyebrow twitches.

Aoko quietly pulls me down to her level. “Wouldn’t it be cute if they dated?”

“Sera punched egg cartons when she was mad at him. She might blow up a town if she actually liked him,” I answer.

She laughs. “I guess you’re right. Also, I forgot to say this before Kaito and I got frisky last night, but his mom is coming over today because of finance stuff.” She tries to casually flash her engagement ring, but since she’s shorter than me she’s basically shoving it in my face.

“Fiancé.”

She shrugs. “Whatever’s clever.” They’re literally two different words with different meanings Aoko. It’s not a tomato/tomahto kinda thing.

“Good morning, Boss-Aoko!” Two voices greet behind us.

Aoko turns to them happily. “Good morning!” She greets the two teens. One is an extremely innocent looking girl and the other is a boy a bit taller than Conan and has a face full of freckles.

I raise my eyebrows at the title. “Boss-Aoko?”   

“I am the shortest person that works here. Let me have this,” she hisses back. “Conan-kun, Heiji, this is Ayumi-chan and Mitsuhiko-kun.” She introduces.

I wave and Conan barely utters a greeting.

“Oh!” The girl happily walks over to Conan. “Hello Conan-kun! You’re cuter than I thought you would be!” She smiles.  

Conan awkwardly laughs at this. Mitsuhiko walks over to shake his hand.

“It’s nice having another guy around here. I hope you’re sensible,” he says. Pfft, wow. What a thing to say. The other guy must be a train wreck.

“Morning.” Another girl comes in. Ayumi and Mitsuhiko greet her excitedly. Mistuhiko’s face is all red. Ah, the teen drama begins. “Oh, right.” She says in regards to me and Conan. Ah, the teen attitudes begin…

Aoko tells us that this girl is Haibara Ai. She waves at us with a bored expression.

“Oh that’s right!” Ayumi pulls out her phone. “Boss-Aoko, I don’t know if Genta-kun texted you or not, but he’ll be coming in later today. He has to help with his parents’ store.” She shows Aoko a text.

Aoko sighs. “Genta, I swear… Thanks for saving him again, Ayumi-chan.” She glances at the clock. “Well this is fine. Alrighty let’s begin!” She claps her hands. “Today is all about supporting Conan-kun since it’s his first day. Also since we have an abundance of them, we’ll give out these cookies for free when someone orders a drink. If they’re popular, it’ll be added to the menu. So PAW these off as best as you can!”

Sera and Ayumi are the only ones that laugh at this. I can tell Ayumi only did it out of politeness.

Aside from the terrible pun, Aoko sounds different as a boss. She sounds so pro, and I kinda love it. As someone who’s worked under terrible bosses, she’s been the best.

“Since I’ll be back here with Sera experimenting, Heiji’s supervising you all today.” Aoko pats my shoulder.

I take it back.

“Hakuba, because there might not be a lot of desserts, I’ll need you to be our secret weapon,” Aoko tells him.

He nods. “Understood. I’ll get Watson.” What is this, a James Bond mission?

9:45 A.M. CAFEBAKE. AT THE REGISTER. SUPERVISING IS SO FUN WHY DID I HATE THIS IDEA A FEW SECONDS AGO?

“You’re just playing on your phone,” Conan mutters, glaring at me.

I continue playing Bejeweled. “And we’re having a grand ol’ supervising time.” Who knew supervising was just doing nothing and watching your underlings work? I now understand every Disney villain ever. I understand why you needed all of your hyenas Scar. I get it—you were prepared. “My hyenas…” I mumble to myself.  

“I think this is Sensei’s way of showing his trust in our abilities!” Ayumi says. “Instead of watching over our shoulders to see if we’re doing everything right, he wants us to check ourselves!” Obviously Ayumi’s my favorite.

I raise my hand. “Someone deserves a Sensei-five!” Ayumi happily gives me one.

“Ayumi, I think you’re making his job easier for him…” Mitsuhiko sighs. He stares at me when I raise my hand toward him. “But I guess he’s doing his best….” He mutters, bashfully giving me a high five.

“SENSEI-FIVES!” I try to give Ai one. She ignores me. “YEAH SENSEI-FIVES!” I clap my own hand.

Conan angrily pouts. Someone wishes to give me a high five I bet. “What’s with the Sensei thing anyhow? You’re not even a manager.” HE SOOOO WANTS A HIGH FIVE.

I happily go back to my game. “You’re just mad that you’re the caboose in our hierarchy of hyenas—I mean leadership.” Oh god, the song is stuck in my head now. “Plus, shouldn’t you be getting to know your new pals?”  

Ayumi claps excitedly. “That’s right! We should get to know each other! What do you like Conan-kun? I like cats!” She leans close to him full of excitement.  

“Ayumi, I think you’re a bit too excited…” Mitsuhiko replies. “Right Ai-san?”

“I’m also interested,” Ai says, staring at Conan. Mitsuhiko pouts at this. “Why is the heir of the Edogawa company here of all places?”

Conan opens his mouth to say something, but closes it. Uh-oh.

“How did you guys start working here?” I quickly change the subject. Ai goes back to working. Conan lets out a breath.

Ayumi hums in thought. “I want to say it was last summer when we started working, right Mistuhiko-kun?”

He nods, turning on a kettle beside me. “Boss-Aoko happened to overhear us saying we were bored and used that to persuade us to apply,” he says. I cover my eyes with my phone to avoid Conan’s death glare.

Hakuba comes out of the elevator with Watson perched on his hand. The murmur of the guests goes quiet as he walks outside. He pets the bird before it flies up to perch on the sign. Is the secret weapon the hawk?

“This is so exciting, Conan-kun!” Ayumi says. “On your first day you get to meet us, be here with Sensei, and see Hakuba-san do his specialty!”

“He’s making my paycheck already?” Conan asks. Haha! That’s something I would say! Am I already a bad influence on him?

“No, silly! Hakuba-san is a true artist! We’ve only seen him do it twice since he rarely works on our shift.” I inwardly crack up at this. Hakuba please invest in a T.V. recorder.

The man of the hour comes inside, taking off his falconry glove. “Is the espresso machine on?” He asks. Please and thank you are your friends. Don’t leave your friends behind.

Mitsuhiko beams. “I turned it on! I made sure to put it at the temperature you use. I just started warming the milk.” Brown nosing or idolizing? Time will tell.

Hakuba puts on his apron and starts getting mugs from one of the lower cabinets. He checks the espresso brewer, nodding approvingly. “Thank you, Tsuburaya-kun.” Mitsuhiko tries not to get too giddy. Ah, idolizing it is then.

I notice a small crowd of people taking pictures of Watson outside. A couple of people eagerly walk in. Ayumi happily greets them.

“I would like a Prince Saguru, please!” The lady says, blushing. She blushes harder when Hakuba gives her a warm smile.

“EXCUSE ME?” I blurt out. A PRINCE SAGURU? WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? WHAT IS THE PRICE OF THAT? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS. THANK GOD CONAN’S HERE BECAUSE HE’S AS CONFUSED AS I AM.

Ayumi rings her up and the woman walks over to Hakuba’s side of the counter flushing. Is this a kissing booth or something? I’m actually surprised that’s not already here after hearing so many of Aoko’s crazy ideas…

“Do you have anything specific in mind?” Hakuba asks, as he pours espresso in a mug.

The lady shakes her head. “I’ll leave it up to you.”

He nods at this and giving the lady another smile. We all watch Hakuba get the milk kettle and begin pouring the steamed milk into the cup.

“Latte art?” I mumble. “He’s good at latte art?”

“Fucking righteous isn’t it?” I jump at Aoko’s voice. I dunno how I didn’t hear her come out of the kitchen, but whatever. Also, as a wedding present, Kaito took away her cursing punishment. She’s now using every possible bad word she can in one sentence. This morning she said breakfast was ‘the best goddamn fucking shit that she ever had’. Hilarious she didn’t curse at all in our staff meeting earlier. “He had to practice a lot, but he wanted to be more than the numbers guy. He can’t do it often though.”

“Why?” I ask.

Hakuba hands the woman her finished mug of espresso. “I decided on making a rose. Sadly it will never stand up to your natural beauty.” The lady goes into a fit of giggles. “Please humble me with your presence again.” He winks. OHHHHHH MY GOOOOOOD.

I cover my mouth to stop myself from cackling. Conan mouth is wide open in shock, Ai is indifferent, and Ayumi and Mitsuhiko look like they’re completely swept off their feet. When the woman walks away, Hakuba covers his face, groaning.

“He gets super embarrassed by the lines he says.” Aoko laughs. “Would you believe he came up with the host club act?” NOPE. “People know he’s serving by Watson outside. Somehow we got some sort of rep from this.” I like how she’s also confused how that happened.  

“I didn’t think cafes were that competitive…” Conan mumbles, watching Hakuba recover.

“You wouldn’t believe how crazy it gets! First we got the damn name brands against us and then there’s the other independent fuckers.” I’m internally cracking up at her insistence on over-swearing. This is almost funnier than God Gambit. “There’s the one filled with swimmers that serve in their swim trunks on Wednesdays, and there’s the other café that has this army gimmick where they’re fighting goddamn giants.” She sighs. “When I got the reins, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it. Thank goodness for Prince Saguru!”

“Have you tried a kissing booth?” I ask.

She gasps excitedly and turns to Hakuba. “SLEEPING PRINCE SAGURU KISSING BOOTH!”

Hakuba angrily pouts at me. Again, I can’t believe I thought he was intimidating before. He’s so easy to mess with.

The kitchen window dramatically opens. “AOKO LEMON LABRODORS ARE A GO. I REPEAT: LEMON LABS ARE A GO.” Sera exclaims, holding up a dog cookie decorated in yellow frosting.

“FUCK YEAH HALLELUJAH.” Aoko runs back into the kitchen. Note to self: add Fuck Yeah Hallelujah to the list of phrases to put on t-shirts. Also let’s laugh at the fact that she used hallelujah as if it’s a curse word.

I hear the elevator doors open. Kazuha comes out and I try reeeaaallly hard not to look weird or remember her outfit from last night. Thank goodness she’s back to super casual Kazuha. I would have a mental breakdown if she was glammed up again.

“Kazuha!” Ayumi and Mitsuhiko greet happily. Ai waves.

She walks over to us, laughing. “Hey, guys! It feels weird I’m not with you guys.” Oh right, she’s having a spa day with Sonoko today.

“You worked weekends?” I ask.

She nods. “Yeah, I’ve been with them since their first day.” She grins at them, asking, “How’s Heiji? I see he’s watching over his phone very carefully.” Hey, I’m about to beat my high score. Everyone’s lucky to be around me while this is happening.  

“Sensei’s fun!” Ayumi says.

Kazuha gives me a look. “Sensei?”

“I thought it was a better title than supervisor.” Hopefully I sound like my usual over confident self. Yes, I know I’m full of myself. It’s what makes me great.

She laughs. “Geez, your huge ego reminds me of,” she cuts herself off, “the friend I went out with last night.” Huh, looks like I’m not the only trying not to say the wrong thing.

“How was that?” I ask. “The place you went to was pretty fancy, right?”

“How’d you guess that?” Kazuha messes with her hair.

I try to act nonchalant. “Well, you were wearing heels for one. I remember you told me once that you only wear them for special occasions since you feel like you won’t get proper footing if you randomly fight someone.”

She chuckles. “I forgot you like remembering all these details to play detective all the time.”  

I focus on my phone as I continue, “He must’ve been pretty stoked to see you.”

She tenses.

All last night I’ve been thinking about it. The thing Kazuha’s hiding from me is a guy. It makes sense with her actions lately and her reaction just now. The real question is why she’s keeping it hidden. It must be someone I know or something…but I don’t know anyone that Kazuha would dress us for…. 

“LIKE HEY!”

The two of us flinch at the loud greeting. Sonoko pushes through the line to reach Hakuba’s side of the counter. “HAKUBA-SAN, IT’S BEEN SO LONG!”

He twitches. “It’s nice to see you again, Suzuki-san…” Of course she’s in love with this weird host club latte thing.

“It’s such a shame that I don’t have time to experience your craft and good looks. We can’t gaze into each other’s eyes and talk about the stars!” She dramatically clutches Hakuba’s hand. Conan rolls his eyes. “While the hopefully male masseuse gives me a back massage, I’ll think of you making your beautiful art! But I’ll be the art if you get what I mean~” HAHAHA WHAT IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN??

I am the loudest one laughing at this point. I love Sonoko and everything that she does. Everyone love Sonoko. Hakuba chooses to force out a laugh instead of actually responding. Mitsuhiko and Ai give him a pat on the back when he bends down to hide behind the counter. I’m almost in tears when she comes over to my side.

“Like hey,” she says. “I didn’t think you would be in today.” She hands me her credit card. It wouldn’t be her if she got someone else to make her coffee.

I ring up her usual order and begin making it. “Would you even buy coffee if I wasn’t here?”

“Actually now that you say it, probably not!” She laughs. “You’re one of the main reasons I come by now.” Huh, wasn’t prepared for an actual sincere answer. Kazuha also looks surprised by this.

“What’s the other reason?” I ask, reaching over Conan to grab the milk kettle.

“One is seeing Ran and Holmes’s boyfriend, and the other is a secret~” She winks. This girl I swear. She happily gets her drink when I pass it over to her. “Let’s go Kazuha! We don’t want all the hot guys to be taken!” She cackles as she hooks her arm in Kazuha’s and practically pulls her out. I thought she would wave goodbye, but she didn’t. I guess we’re even more awkward now that I know she’s seeing some guy. I know I would be bothered, but I’m unsure why she’s been so weird about it.

“Heiji! Makoto’s here. Help me bring the stuff in,” Sera calls from the kitchen.

10:00 A.M. OUTSIDE. I’M ACTUALLY HELPING MAKOTO THIS TIME AND NOW HE DOESN’T LIKE IT. MAN HE’S SO HARD TO PLEASE.

“You’re troubled,” he says, passing me another bag of sugar. “You always work when you’re troubled.”

I pass the sugar to Sera. “I’m not troubled. I’m concerned.”

She lets out a loud laugh as she heads inside. “Good word changing, Heiji.”

Makoto stops unloading the food to give me his attention. “I’m listening.”

“Well, it’s a lot of things…” I rub the back of my neck. “Do you remember the sunset?” I ask.

We both flinch at Sera’s muffled laugh. “I’m sorry! I wasn’t expecting to walk into a bromantic moment. Please continue.” She leans against the doorframe.

“You’re referencing our last martial arts tournament, right?” Makoto asks.

I nod. “I randomly thought of it and now I feel bad that I left again. I know it’s the past, but I dunno…I hate that we’re not the same…”

To my surprise, Makoto chuckles. “I forgot how you worry over the tiny things.” Yeah, because breaking off two of big relationships isn’t a big deal. “You should focus more on rebuilding friendships instead of focusing on the past. Of course we’ll never go back to how we were, but that’s how life is. You’re making room for something better.”

“YOU’RE RIGHT.” Sera makes her presence known again. “MAKOTO YOU’RE REALLY SMART. I SHOULD FOLLOW YOUR ADVICE.” She clenches her fists. “I’ve been too worried about the past memories I had with Shinichi and Ran, I just stopped talking to them out of fear for never getting that again…” She starts heading inside. “I’m gonna run up there now and--”

I quickly grab her arm. “NO DON’T GO IN YET I WANT THEM TO HAVE SEX.”

She stares at me. “Excuse me?”

“Or make out, whatever’s good with them,” I quickly add, letting go of Sera’s arm.

Makoto sighs. “There goes the heartwarming moment…”

“Seriously. Plus it’s 10 in the morning. Nothing’s happening.” She crosses her arms. “They’re not your roommates.” I feel like there’s a story with that but I’m gonna save that question for another day.

“You should go Sera-san.” Makoto goes back to working. “You don’t want to lose your confidence.”

She grins and jogs back inside. Who knew Makoto was the last push she needed? I feel a bit better too. He’s got a good way with words. He should be a poet.

“So beside the death ride on the cliff, what else is bothering you?” He asks. That’s poetry speak for ‘I love your bicycle Heiji. I’m so humbled to have been a passenger’.

Before I could answer, Mitsuhiko comes out. “Sensei, there’s a weird guy that wants to speak to you.”

“Sensei?” Makoto mumbles.

“He said you’re one of his friends. I didn’t know you were into tennis,” Mitsuhiko replies as we walk back to the front of the café.

“I’m not…” I trail off when I see the guy waiting on the other side of the counter. Tan and ugly bleached hair…I can’t forget a guy like him… “TERUAKI?”

He turns around all smiles, as usual. “Heiji! Bro it’s been too long, am I right?” I grimace at his voice.

I have never hated anyone more than Teruaki Kunisue. God he still says that dumb phrase too. I dunno if it’s because I hate him or not (probably), but the phrase ‘am I right’ gets on my nerves because of this guy. I HATE A PHRASE BECAUSE OF HIM.

I already feel myself heating up from anger. “Yeah it’s been so long, I forgot you existed.”

He laughs. I wasn’t joking. I’m never joking with him. I absolutely want to punch him in the face. BUT FOR SOME REASON HE THINKS WE’RE FRIENDS. I’M LITERALLY DISSING HIS EXISTENCE ON EARTH AND HE THINKS WE GAINED SOME FRIENDSHIP POINTS.

WE HAVE NO FRIENDSHIP POINTS. IF ANYTHING ITS NEGATIVE POINTS.

“Why are we having a conversation?” I mutter.

He looks confused. Granted that’s his face to begin with, but whatever. “Kazuha didn’t say anything? I know you guys had a rough patch before, but she said you were talking again…” Kazuha was the one who talked to him the most. They were neighbors back in Osaka. It’s probably the only upside of living in a different neighborhood than her.

“What are you talking about?” I groan loudly. I feel like my energy is draining. And him knowing about what happened between me and Kazuha makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. That’s saying something since literally all of my coworkers know basically my entire life.

“Last night on our date she told me you working here. She wanted to tell you about us, but since you’re too cool of a guy I decided to come over anyway and see you!” Teruaki grins at me. “Awesome surprise am I right?”

….

…….

………..

EXCUSE ME? 

“Ai-chan, what do you think of Kazuha’s boyfriend?” I hear Ayumi whisper behind me. “It’s been so long I forgot how good looking he is!” HE’S BEEN HERE BEFORE?

“He’s wearing a sports fashion label. He’s good enough,” Ai says.

Mitsuhiko shushes them. “You guys we shouldn’t talk about him…”

“Tsuburaya-kun’s right…” Hakuba whispers. “You can’t judge him off of his clothes. His back swing is terrible.” THAT’S WHAT YOU CARE ABOUT??

“Hakuba-san…” Mitsuhiko lets out a heavy sigh. I’m with you buddy.

“I knew you would be stoked to hear it from me!” Teruaki laughs again. “I’d love to stick around and chat, but I gotta run to morning practice. See you later, Heiji!” He waves and walks out the door. 

I’m completely speechless. Suddenly the image of Kazuha’s closet comes to mind. The strange jacket specifically….

“HE’S THE TENNIS JACKET IN HER CLOSET!” I yell out. I CANNOT BELIEVE ANYTHING. I STOPPED BELIEVING AND I’M HOLDING ON TO THIS FEELING OF EXTREME ANGER AND CONFUSION.

“I can’t believe this is a paying job…” Conan mumbles.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 10: MORE HEADACHES THAN A 3D MOVIE

??? MY BIRTHDAY. I’M SIX AND I’M AWESOME. I GOT A TRICYCLE VROOM VROOM.

HAHAHA THIS THING IS SO FUN. KAZUHA’S GONNA BE SO JEALOUS AND I’M GOING SO FAST.

“Slow down Heiji,” Dad calls behind me.

“UGGH DAD.”

“That’s not an insult son. You could try something worse.”

“Heizo, you want your son to curse you out or something?” Mom asks.

“No, but it’s a good point to make,” He says.

Mom and Dad wanted to come to Kazuha’s house too but whatever I’M GOING FASTER THAN THEM HAHAHA. I see a huge truck parked on the side of the road.

“MOM! TRUCK!” I point at it.

“Calm down Heiji. I see it,” she says. “Emi told me they were getting new neighbors.” Emi is what Mom calls Kazuha’s mom. She’s nicer than Mom because she lets me eat more than two cookies when I ask for them. LET ME HAVE MORE COOKIES MOM. I DON’T GET OVERLY EXCITED ABOUT COOKIES.

I start pedaling faster as I get closer to Kazuha’s house. I ALREADY HEAR HER LAUGHING. SHE’S SO EXCITED FOR MY BIKE.

“You’re pretty cool for a first grader,” a boy says.

“Then I should be in third grade too!” She giggles.

I stop in front of Kazuha’s house. She’s sitting on the steps with an older boy. What’s he doing here? Why’s he with Kazuha??

“Heiji!” Kazuha waves me over. “This is Teruaki Kunisue! He’s moving in next door. Kunisue, this is my friend Hattori Heiji.” She just met him! Why is she using his first name?

“Yo,” he waves.

“Yo yourself Teruaki…” I mutter.

Dad comes up behind me and ruffles my hair. “That’s better.”

“Heizo, stop.” Mom pulls Dad inside.

Kazuha gasps at my bike and comes over to get a closer look at it. It’s all black just like the fast ones some people ride! “That’s a cool bike Heiji! That’s your birthday present?” She asks.

I grin. “Mhm! I even named it a cool name! SUZY.”

“That’s a weird name for a bike,” Teruaki says.

“YOU’RE A WEIRD NAME FOR A BIKE TERUAKI!” I say.

Kazuha pouts. “Heiji! Don’t be mean to Kunisue He just moved here!” WHAT?? WHY IS SHE ON HIS SIDE? HE INSULTED SUZY!

“BUT I GOT MY BIKE TODAY. HER NAME IS SUZY AND SHE’S COOLER THAN YOU.” I start riding away. WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS? HOW COULD KAZUHA EVEN TALK TO HIM!!!

AAAAAUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!

??? FIRST DAY OF HIGH SCHOOL. FIRST BREAK. KAZUHA APPARENTLY ALREADY MADE NEW FRIENDS.

“Heiji, we’ve all gone to middle school together.” Kazuha flicks my forehead. She and her friends crowd around my desk. I’m sitting in the back of the first row, by the window. Kazuha sits near the front of the second row. I like my seat since I get to stare at the back of her head and toss notes over to her when the teacher isn’t looking.

“Sachiko,” says Friend 1.

“And Ayama,” says Friend 2. “We’ve been in the same class for like three years.”

The two of them fidget as I stare at them. “I honestly don’t remember…” I mumble. They let out a sigh. “Kazuha, do you wanna go the arcade after school? I heard the martial arts teams aren’t meeting until next week.” Friend 1 and Friend 2 sigh even louder. What’s their deal?

Kazuha grins. “You won’t beat my record on DDR, Heiji.”

“SHUT UP I WILL.”

The classroom door opens and people slowly stop talking. Ugh I guess the teacher’s back.

Friend 1 and 2 look at each other with gleeful smiles. “A third year!” They giggle quietly. Third year? What would a third year being doing here—wait.

“Finally I found your classroom!” Teruaki walks over to my desk happily. “I forgot that you guys weren’t on the same floor as me.” Knew it. He said on the walk here he was going to visit us. I thought he would’ve forgotten since Kazuha reminded him three different times what class we’re in.

“You’ve literally gone here for two years before us,” I mutter.

He laughs. “I know! But I hang out with you guys so much, I don’t think about it.” What!? That doesn’t make any sense! YOU LITERALLY GONE TO THIS SCHOOL FOR TWO YEARS WITHOUT US. “Either way, I wanted to see how Kazuchi was doing.” WHAT.

I’m glad Friend 1 and 2 are also surprised by this because WHAT THE FUCK DOES HE WANT TO DO WITH KAZUHA?? ALSO WHEN DID KAZUCHI HAPPEN? LAST TIME HE INTERRUPTED OUR HANGING OUT HE CALLED HER KAZUHA.

Kazuha blushes in embarrassment. “Kunichi, I’m not nervous anymore. All of my friends are here!” She beams.

Kunichi. They have matching nicknames? When the fuck did this happen?

Teruaki looks a bit shocked before letting out a laugh. “Yep, we’re all friends here, am I right?” God, what an idiot, am I right? It’s like he forgot what a friend was, am I right? “As a wonderful friend, I’ll treat you guys to croquettes after school.” He ruffles my hair.

“Thanks, but no thanks Kunichi.” I quickly fix it back. Speaking of hair, apparently Teruaki decided to set himself apart and dye it blonde. Kazuha thinks it’s cool, I think it looks like straw.

“Love triangle,” Friend 1 whispers. Friend 2 nods. I roll my eyes. It’s not a love triangle. It’s a getting an annoying person out of the way triangle, or line segment since without him it’ll be just me and Kazuha and you can only make a line with two points. GOD I’M EVEN USING MATH TO DESCRIBE HOW MUCH I HATE HIM. 2+2= FUCK OFF TERUAKI.

“Oh you mean that food stand you showed me before?” Kazuha asks. Teruaki happily nods. “That’s not in the same direction as the arcade…”

“You already had plans?” He asks, grinning at me. Why do I feel like he’s trying to tell me something?

“Yes, because we’re in the same age group.” I cross my arms. “We’re going to the arcade, right Kazuha?” My eyebrow twitches when I see her giving me pouting at me.

“Those croquettes are really good, Heiji,” she whines. “It’s worth the walk.” IS SHE JOKING? WHY DOES SHE ALWAYS SIDE WITH HIM??

Teruaki happily claps his hands. “I’ll meet you guys later then!” He winks at Kazuha and leaves our classroom. Kazuha’s friends bombard her with questions about Teruaki and I feel like throwing my desk out of the window.

I don’t know why she always does this! I wanted to hang out with Kazuha today too! Over the break I was away visiting my grandparents and I didn’t get to see her as much. SO I REALLY WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH THE PERSON I LIKE TALKING TO A LOT BUT NO I GOTTA DEAL WITH UGLY BLONDE TERUAKI I’M SO FUCKING MAD.

AUUUUUUGGGGH.

10:30 A.M. CAFEBAKE. AUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH GOOOOOOOOOOOOD DAMN.

Mitsuhiko kneels beside me, shaking my shoulders. “Sensei! Get a hold of yourself! You’ve been making that noise ever since Teruaki-san left.”

“Should I call the fire department!?” Ayumi asks. “It’s been a while since he took in a breath!”

“Sensei! This is the worst time to beat a really odd world record!” Mitsuhiko pleads still shaking my shoulders.

GGGGGOOOOOOD. EVERYTHING SUCKS. I’m currently curled up on the floor, groaning loudly. Like Mitsuhiko said, I’ve been in this state since Teruaki came in and destroyed everything in my life LIKE THE GODDAMN TORNADO THAT HE IS.

I finally stop groaning and take in a breath. I hear someone click their tongue. “I thought for sure you would beat your last one…” Hakuba mutters. I look up to see him putting away his pocket watch. Was…was he timing how long it took for me to take in a breath? Hakuba Saguru—the ever lovable and caring manager, everyone.

Mitsuhiko tells Ayumi to stop calling the fire department.

“Getting free coffee and having a front row seat to Heiji’s painful life—I can’t believe I didn’t start working here sooner!” Conan laughs. If I had the energy I would pull down his pants in front of everyone.

I sigh loudly. “I’m fine. My life is great.”

“The life of an adult: delusion,” Ai replies before taking a sip of her tea. God, don’t make me have a midlife crisis. She notices me staring at her cup. “Your racket drove people away. I figured I would relax in the meantime,” she easily explains.

Ayumi hands me a cup of tea asking, “Did you not know that Kazuha had a boyfriend?” She joins me on the floor.

I shake my head. Sure, it’s not something I need to know, but with my weird crush thing or whatever I feel like I have to know. Which brings up a question: “When did you guys meet him?”

“He came by a couple times last year. I think Mitsuhiko-kun was away at the time, so that’s why he didn’t recognize him,” She answers. “I didn’t know you were friends with a famous athlete, Sensei!”

I shrug. “It’s unfortunate,” I say, chugging the rest of the tea. I realize the lack of loud singing from the kitchen. “Where’s Aoko?”

“She’s upstairs with Kaito and his mother.” Hakuba fills up the espresso machine again. “I think Kyogoku-san is still outside if you wish to speak to him. I’ll keep track of things here.”

I crawl over to him and hug his legs. “You’re so nice to us commoners, Prince Saguru.”

“I’m going to kick you.”

10:45 A.M. OUTSIDE. MAKOTO’S JUST HANGING OUT SITTING ON THE BACK OF HIS TRUCK, EATING LEFT OVER DOG COOKIES.

“Aoko-san gave them to me,” He replies. “Also, you left me to do all the work again.”

“IT WAS BECAUSE OF TERUAKI AND HE’S THE JACKET IN KAZUHA’S CLOSET AND APPARENTLY THEY’RE TOGETHER AND I’M FREAKING OUT BECAUSE I NOW REALIZE SHE ALWAYS FAVORED HIM.” I blurt out.

Makoto eats another cookie before asking, “Kazuha’s dating someone?”

“YEAH.”

“Who’s Teruaki?” He asks.

“The ‘Am I right?’ guy.”

“…oooh…” He nods. Luckily Makoto has never met Teruaki, and just knows him through my long rants. “You’re upset because he’s with Kazuha and not you?”

I sit next to him, sighing. “I’m upset over a lot of things...That’s what I gonna tell you before. I kinda figured Kazuha was dating someone else which is kinda upsetting for me. Now that I know it’s that dipshit Teruaki I feel even worse…” I mutter.

“Why is that?”

“I dunno…I feel like they make more sense or whatever…” I shrug. “They’ve always been friends…and he’s nice…”

Makoto chuckles. “That’s funny.” I’m glad one of us can laugh at this. “Either way, I’m more surprised I didn’t know about this.” Huh that’s interesting. I thought he kept in touch with Kazuha during university. “But, I’m happy to hear this.”

“WHY!?” I reach to take one of his cookies, but he easily gets out of my reach.

“Kazuha wasn’t alone.”

What Kazuha told me before comes back to mind; she said she and Hakuba shared the same fear. Hakuba hated being alone so I guess she does too.

Oh…

Ugh now I feel like a complete ass. I got so carried away with hating Teruaki that I forgot about what Kazuha was going through at the time. Not only was I forcibly out of the picture, but Makoto was gone as well. She had no one else to talk to except Teruaki. He always seemed to know a bit more about her than I did. Maybe they are a good match for each other.

“However,” Makoto’s voice gets me out of my thoughts, “things could’ve changed.”

I shrug. “I guess…”

“Plus, you have more time on your hands…” He continues.

“What do you mean?” I ask, taking his last cookie and eating it.

His face reddens. “You can help me….with my girl problems…”

Well crap, I did forget about that. I’ve been so tied up in marriage proposals and now this Teruaki business, I left poor Brother-Mako behind.

I grin. “I thought you didn’t want us to meddle in your business?”

“You sounded so earnest, so I didn’t mind!” He covers his face. “Ran-san said she visits here so I’ve been staying here longer…”

Aw!! I don’t have the heart to tell him that whoever this girl is, she won’t be walking in the truck unloading area anytime soon. Kyogoku Makoto, the man who can actually break through a wall with his fist, is too scared to walk inside the café his crush visits. How can you not love this guy?

Makoto regains his composure. “I do wonder why Kazuha hid that information from us, especially me. I was worried for her…”

And things get even weirder…

12:15 P.M. CAFEBAKE. BREAK TIME. IN THE HELL HOLE. THE TEENS ARE CONSOLING ME THE BEST WAY THEY CAN.

“Sooo are you gonna wallow on the floor again? I didn’t get a good shot last time and I don’t want a blurry picture as my wallpaper.” Conan aims his phone at me. Who would be laughed at in this situation? Me or the teenager who has a picture of a grown man on his phone?

“In comparison to Teruaki-san, you’re not as stylish. Maybe you should get an earring,” Ai replies. My parents would have a heart attack. Also, I thought about that already since I like looking as cool as Suzy and it looks just as bad as having shoulder length hair. I’m such a failure to you Suzy. You’re the cooler one in our relationship.

“Wait, Ai-san you like guys with earrings?” Mitsuhiko turns to her. Buddy, don’t hold your breath. You’re like me, someone who can never look cool ever.

“I can’t believe you didn’t check her Facebook or something. You can’t stay in the dark ages forever, Sensei.” Ayumi opens up her lunchbox. I hate all of those social media things and it’s not like the 90s was a bad time. Hell, it was worse for my dad--he had a pet rock as a kid.

…that explains everything about him actually…

“You’re all very bad this, so I’m going to depend on my good friends, the cookies, to make me feel better.” I get up to get the full platter of dud puppy cookies from one of the counters. Now that Makoto’s gone, I only have sweets to make the pain go away.

Aoko walks in the kitchen, all smiles. “I’m glad to see that the cookies are a hit with somebody.” She puts on her apron with a sigh. “Kaito’s mom is fun, but she’s a bit of a handful.” Pot meet kettle. “I had to leave when she announced a handstand contest. I may be good at sports, but I’m no stage performer.” Why do I have the nagging feeling that the whole apartment is destroyed? “So! What’s happening down here?”

“Sensei was on the floor crying because a beautiful tennis player took Kazuha away from him!” Ayumi replies. She pulls out her phone and begins searching for something.

Aoko laughs. “That’s silly. As if Heiji cries.” SO THE REST OF THE STORY IS BELIEVABLE? Even though she does have a point--I rarely cry.

“Did you know that Kazuha’s dating someone?” I ask before putting several cookies in my mouth. I feel like I’m going to be saying this all day.

“I’m guessing this is where the beautiful tennis player comes in.” She walks to the refrigerator and pulls out more cookie dough. Jesus, how many cookies is she planning to make today? I should probably go ahead and stop eating my emotions before I gain too much weight.

“I FOUND IT!” Ayumi jumps up from her chair and skips over to me. She hands me her phone. “I follow Kazuha on Twitter. She posts pictures of the two of them all the time!”

I grimace at how happy they look. I take it back. I’m gonna be eating cookies for a long, long time. Aoko glances at the phone and lets out a gasp.

“Am I right…” she mumbles. We stare at each other. “AM I RIGHT!” She points at the phone.

“YOU KNOW HIM!” I point at her. ALSO OTHER PEOPLE NOTICE THE CATCHPHRASE THING. IT’S NOT JUST ME.

“IT SUDDENLY CAME BACK TO ME!” She says. “I keep forgetting about him since he’s always away for tennis stuff. I guess he’s back now, huh? Do you think Kazuha knows you know about them?”

I shrug. Ayumi gets her phone back, pressing some more stuff. I guess she’s checking for us. Hold on—how much time does Kazuha spend online?? She’s at the spa too; how can you tweet and spa at the same time?

Ayumi hands me her phone again and I check the posts.

12:15--I was so nervous about the massage I accidentally told the masseuse I’M READY TO BE TOUCHED.

I try to hold back a snicker. That’s Kazuha. She’s so hilariously awkward sometimes. I feel a bit better knowing that’s she’s in the dark about everything still. I rather wait and think about how to casually bring it up—

12:16—Spa Day is almost complete! I feel so relaxed and—THE BF DESTROYED MY LIFE WITH A TEXT JUST NOW

Shit.

12:16—WELL IT’S FINALLY HAPPENED. AT LEAST I CAN FREAK OUT HERE. IT’S NOT LIKE HE’S READING THIS. HE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A TWITTER…

Well, I am, but she doesn’t need to know that. It’s not as if she knows I have someone else’s phone.

12:17—But if Kunisue told him…and the teens are still there…then they know the situation…that means…you’re reading this aren’t you

OH MY GOD.

12:17—YOU’RE USING AYUMI’S PHONE. AYUMI LIVES ON TWITTER AND SHE HASN’T TWEETED IN SECONDS.GDI I KNOW YOU LIKE A BOOK.

HOW WAS SHE ABLE TO FIGURE THAT OUT? YOU ALSO LIVE ON TWITTER KAZUHA!! WHO MAKES FOUR TWEETS IN TWO MINUTES WHILE SPA-ING? I KNOW THAT’S NOT A WORD. CUT ME SOME SLACK AT THIS MOMENT.

AUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGHHH

“Sensei’s on the floor again!” Ayumi screeches.

“Woah, who knew you could make such a weird noise?” Aoko bends down and reads Kazuha’s posts. “Well, at least this can be handled quickly.”

This is the last thing I wanted to handle. But what is life without its hardships? I just have…more than the average guy…

Conan lets out a loud cackle. “I got the perfect picture!”

Today sucks.

1:30 P.M. TO AVOID TALKING TO KAZUHA I DECIDED TO WORK LONGER. HAKUBA HAPPILY TOOK OFF TO “REST FROM SERVING HIS FANS”.

For someone who seems to hate flirting with the patrons, he’s quick to call them fans. Also what complete bullshit, we all know he’s going to finish watching his tennis match. Hakuba Saguru—the most questionable choice for manager.

“Well, I guess with me here it would be a lot of people behind the counter,” Terumi says. She just got out of class. God school on the weekend succcckks. Again, I don’t know how she can do this and go to school at the same time.

I’m currently running the register and Terumi’s working beside me. The teens are in their own conversation so I guess it’s safe enough to have a serious talk with Terumi. Heh, as serious as I can be while being in public getting people’s orders at least. As usual, Terumi looks as if she already knows what I want to tell her.

“Teruaki Kunisue,” I say as I wait for the customer to order. “I grew up with him.”

“So that’s his name. I didn’t think you would actually know him…small world.”

I give her a quick glance when I reach over to grab a cup. She’s smiling, but her tone sounds really sad. She’s doing the thing Ran does when she’s trying to cover up her true emotions. I write down the customer’s order on the cup and hand it to Terumi. She slowly takes it, reads the order, and begins making the drink, keeping her head down.

“How long did you know about it?” I ask.

“A while. I happened to see her bring him up to her room one day when I got back from work. He didn’t leave until that morning,” She answers. Gross. “I only know that since I happened to catch him in the elevator on my way to school.”

We’re silent when another customer tells me their order. Hm…you know what’s really bugging me about this whole Kazuha dating situation? How did this put such a huge wedge in Kazuha Terumi’s “friendship”? I’m using quotes since I’m not sure they were friends to begin with, but jeez they’re like cats and dogs now. Terumi’s hiding something, and it must be super personal since she’s barely looking at my face now. I wonder what’s going on…

“AH!” A voice startles the two of us. “HEIJI!”

“WORKING-MAN HEIJI SPOTTED!”

I know those two voices…their names, however, escape me.

“Friend 1 and 2?” I point at the two of them. They both let out a deep sigh.

“Because it’s been a while, I’ll let it slide for now,” Friend 1 laughs.

Friend 2 grins. “It’s nice to see you again!”

“Did Kazuha tell you I worked here?” I ask them.

“Yep! We ran into her today while we were out shopping. She said your shift would be over by the time we got here, but we made it in time!” Friend 1 throws up a peace sign. What nice people…I haven’t remembered their names in years and yet they’re so excited to see me.

“Kazuha was hanging out with a snobby girl with a huge forehead.” Friend 2 says. Oh right, they met Sonoko too. “She said that our coats we pretty well made for the ‘obviously not designer’ price we paid for them.” HAHAHA SONOKO NO. I GET WHAT YOU WERE TRYING TO SAY BUT THAT’S NOT HOW YOU SAY IT.

“Sonoko doesn’t know how to do small talk. She didn’t mean it in a bad way, I promise.” I reassure them. Plus knowing her, she probably already knows she has a huge forehead since she wears those headbands. I bet she would say, “I’m showing off my best asset dummy: MY MONEY MAKING BRAIN”.

“It’s nice seeing Kazuha still so popular after all these years. When the three of us split up I was worried for her,” Friend 1 tells me.

Huh that’s new. “You guys didn’t go to the same school?” I ask.

Friend 2 rolls her eyes. “He forgets our names and everything we tell him…” She mutters. Hey! It’s not my fault—well actually it is…never mind.

“Well if I was leaving the country I probably wouldn’t think about what other people told me either.” Friend 1 grins at me. I get it, I’m a jerk. Let’s move on. “I went to school in Hokkaido.”

“I went to Bunka.” Woah I didn’t know Friend 2 was into fashion…that explains the multicolored hair… “Kazuha likes being around people, you know? We kept in touch with her as much as we could.”

Ah…I see…I’m beginning to understand everything…with Kazuha at least. Terumi’s been listening in on this conversation, and she’s been biting her lip all the while. She quickly turns away when she notices me staring. I wonder if Friend 1 and 2 are reminding her of something…she’s been staring at them really hard.

“Oh you know what would be fun? We should all hang out tonight! Karaoke and DRINKS!” Friend 1 cheers.

“We should drink to our hearts content! And sing!” Friend 2 claps excitedly. Guys, just ask to go drinking. You don’t need to use karaoke as a cover.

“I can’t. I have something to do,” I answer. Like have three fucking heart to heart conversations later…

They sigh again.

“Do you have room for one more ladies?” A voice says behind them. They turn around to see a teen boy wearing ONE OF THE MOST ANNOYING SHIRTS. IT’S THE ONE THAT LOOKS LIKE IT’S A TUXEDO BUT IT’S NOT. YOU KNOW THE ONES. OH I HATE IT. OH GOD.

“Gross…” Friend 2 mutters, glaring at said shirt. Right on, Friend 2. Use that fashion degree.

“Aren’t you like 10?” Friend 1 asks.

The boy gasps. “Ladies I’m almost 18!” So 17. Either way there’s an age difference buddy. “I think we can have some fun together!” Wooow I haven’t been around this type of high schooler in so long….the nostalgia hurts. I begin to shoo him away when our small boss kicks open the kitchen door, glaring at the teen.

“GENTA!” Aoko points at him. “GET YOUR ASS CLOCKED IN HERE OR SO HELP ME…”

I turn to Terumi. “He works here!?”

“Kojima Genta. He’s friends with the others,” she answers.

Aoko walks over to him, reaches up, and pulls his ear. “I’m terribly sorry for this disturbance. Please try a puppy cookie and tell your friends about us!” She gives Friend 1 and 2 a pleasant smile before pulling Genta to the kitchen.

“OW BOSS-AOKO THAT HELLA HURTS!” He screeches, stumbling after her. Hella? This is what I have to work with? That’s the dumbest word I’ve ever heard…

“I guess we overstayed our welcome. We should probably go now.” Friend 1 smiles.

“It was nice seeing you again, Heiji!” Friend 2 waves.

I wave. “Same here Sachiko and Ayama!” I slowly stop waving when they stare at me blankly.

“He did it…” Sachiko mumbles.

“He…remembered our names…” Ayama sniffs loudly.

“HEEEIIJIIIII!” They rush back over to the counter sobbing. I’m now being bombarded with hugs. I guess if someone constantly forgot my name this would be my reaction. In the midst of all this, I notice Terumi smiling at us but she still looks a little off.

3:00 P.M. FINALLY OFF WORK. TERUMI AND I ARE WALKING TO MY APARTMENT. I HOPE NOTHING CRAZY IS GOING ON IN THERE.

And speaking of crazy, Genta….

I thought I was a terrible worker, but he slacks off more than I do AND THAT’S SAYING SOMETHING. Not only does he flirts with every female customer HE WEARS BAD T-SHIRTS.

“I swear that kid is gonna give me more headaches than a 3D movie,” I mutter opening the door.

Terumi giggles. “Both are equally entertaining.” If you say so… “I thought Kaito and his mom were here?” She looks around the living room.

“That’s what Aoko said…” I quickly check their bedroom. For once the door is open, but there’s no one there. “I guess they’re out or something.” I lead her to my bedroom, trying hard not to start skipping out of joy. With no one to spy on us it’s now 100 times easier to have a serious conversation!

I plop on my bed and Terumi sits in my desk chair. She sighs, pulling off her glasses to clean them.

“This is the opposite of last time…” She says, wiping off her glasses. Yeah, we were in her room before. “I feel bad that I bring so much trouble.”

I shake my head. “It’s fine. I think I’m the one that brings problems.” The doorbell rings and Terumi freezes.

“They’re back?” She quickly puts on her glasses and stands up.

“Nah, it’s not Kaito.” I get off the bed. “I told you on the way up here I wanted to deal with all of our problems, right?” Terumi’s currently on break so I figured this would be the best time to do this.

She nods.

“Well, we need someone else.” I walk out of my room and jog over to the door. “For someone who was at the spa, you don’t look relaxed.” Kazuha pouts as she walks inside.

“For someone who was at work all day, you’re oddly at ease,” she counters. Ahaha, we should probably kick our habit of making dumb arguments when we’re about to have big conversation…

Terumi looks up from her lap when I come back, and grimaces when she sees Kazuha. Kazuha bites her lip. She tries to leave, but I quickly grab her arm and pull her back in my room. I sit on the floor and Kazuha awkwardly sits on my bed. Terumi fiddles her fingers; Kazuha plays with her hair.

“Do you guys want anything to drink—” I start.

“No.” They answer. Wow, they’re in sync now…

I sigh. “Well I guess I should go ahead and ask—what’s the deal with you two?” They flinch at this question, but say nothing. “Sure it’s cool if you’re not best friends but it’s kinda obvious you two have something against each other.”

“Heiji, we have something more important to talk about. Terumi and I just don’t get along.” Kazuha folds her arms.

Terumi stops moving her fingers.

“We’re talking about this because I know it involves me,” I say. “Well, at least now it does. Before, it was the way Terumi perceived your actions, Kazuha.”

Kazuha glances over at Terumi. “My actions?”

Terumi sighs. “I wondered when I would have to say this…” she continues looking at her hands. “I moved here after I graduated high school. Actually Kazuha and I came in at the same time. The two of us moved away from our homes and close friends. I thought I was lucky finding someone in the same situation as me.”

Kazuha looks away.

“I’m not good at talking to people for the first time,” she continues. I suddenly remember her screaming at me when we first met. “And I don’t have much confidence in myself, but I forced myself to talk to Kazuha since we were also working together. That was when I saw her with Teruaki-san.” Terumi looks up at the two us. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I heard you tell him to keep your relationship a secret…”

I’m trying it a bit hard to swallow that down.

“At first it didn’t bother me since it wasn’t my business, but hearing you tell Makoto-san and Heiji that nothing has changed…” Terumi turns to Kazuha. “How could you lie to the people you care the most like that?”

Kazuha is stunned. “Terumi…”

“Moving on isn’t putting on a façade. It doesn’t do anyone any good.” Terumi lets out another sigh. “I say that, but I wasn’t able to move on either…my friends and I weren’t as close as I thought we were.” Ah…that’s why she was so weird around Sachiko and Ayama. I guess they reminded her of her friends. Plus not only that, but I didn’t return her feelings either… Euuuggh I feel bad…

“I’m sorry…” Kazuha mumbles. “I wasn’t trying to lie…I just wanted to be more adult like…” She looks at Terumi. “I’m sorry I made you think bad of me…you were the first friend I made when I moved in and I was so worried about myself that I pushed you and everyone else away…”

Terumi smiles. “I’m just as bad. I never realized that you were probably just as scared about moving on like I was.”

“I think this calls for an embrace of friendship,” I say pointing at the two of them. They both giggle at me, and give each other a hug. YAY!

Terumi smiles. “Well, I better head back to work. I’m sure the two of you have some more things to straighten out.” She says goodbye and leaves. She looks happier with all of this out in the open now. Who knew she and Kazuha were so similar?

“With that being said…” Kazuha faces me. “Kunisue and I have been dating for three years now.”

I know the whole point of this was to hear that, but jeez it’s still kinda mind-blowing.

“I kept it hidden because…I thought it was the right thing to do. I knew you disliked him, and we just started talking again so I thought keeping you two separated was the best option.” She laughs. “I forgot how much he likes talking to you.” I’m glad she also finds this odd. “I really didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“I get it. I mean at least we’re even now.” I grin. Avoiding your friend for four years and hiding your boyfriend for three seems pretty equal to me.

“Ahou,” She laughs. “I have one question though: what did you mean that you were a reason Terumi and I didn’t like each other?”

Well…it’s now or never at this point. “Well, when I declined her confession…she knew I…” I think for the right words. “…I was thinking about you.”

“Thinking about me?”

I try to look as casual as I can while saying this. “Recently I’ve had a funny feeling around you, and it’s because I forgot how much I liked being around you.”

She nods. “I see. Since she knew I was with Kunisue, she didn’t like that I was taking advantage of you.” She pauses for a moment, playing with her hair. “By funny feeling do you mean…romantic feeling?”

I grin. “Nah, I just miss our friendship is all. I know now that through our time apart we’ve changed and we have to sorta start all over again.”

“Oh…” She nods again. “I really am sorry. I wanted everything to be the same too…” she gets on the floor and gives me a hug. “I won’t lie to you ever again. You really are my best friend Heiji.”

I give her a pat on the back. “Same here.”

“I should probably call Makoto and tell him everything too.” She sighs. “He’s gonna scold me for sure.”

“You deserve it.” I shrug.

She playfully hits my shoulder. “I know, but I don’t want to hear it from you.” She laughs, getting up. “We may have changed, but you always liked fixing people’s problems, Heiji. I’m glad you didn’t lose that.” She waves and walks out the room.

When I hear the door close, I finally let out a long, heavy sigh. That was not as painful as I thought it would be.

“Maybe Kaito and Aoko should be gone more often…” I mumble, standing up.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

I let out a shriek and fall on my bed. “KAITO?” My roommate is happily leaning against the doorframe with his phone in hand.

“In the flesh.” He grins, turning his phone around to reveal Aoko.

“AND ME THE FINANCE!” She waves happily. I’m too shocked to correct her. She’s still in the Hell Hole. Behind her I see Sera making faces at the camera. “We heard everything! We’re honestly too good at spying.”

“BUT WHAT ABOUT YOUR MOM!? WHERE IS SHE!?” I scream. “SHE WOULD NOT BE DOWN WITH THIS BEHAVIOR.”

“Actually,” a voice says FROM MY CLOSET. “I would say he still has a lot to learn.” WH…WHAT. WHAT’S HAPPENING? My closet door opens and out steps a middle aged woman. She fixes her sunhat and her clothes.

“Darn it, you were in his room the whole time?” Kaito pouts. “You’re too good, Mom.”

“WHY WAS SHE IN MY CLOSET?”

Kaito’s mom walks over to me and sticks out her hand. “Kuroba Chikage, at your service! Kai-chan and I were playing hide and seek.”

“He’s 25.” I barely give her a handshake.

“Hey, you’re never too old to play hide and seek,” Kaito says, walking in my room. “But you are too old to keep lying about your feelings Mr. I Miss Our Friendship!”

“Yeah! What the shit!?” Aoko eloquently asks. That’s what I’m thinking about the three of you.

“I’m not in love with Kazuha,” I say. “Not this one.”

My roommates look confused. Kuroba-san ruffles my hair.

“You’re more mature than you look, Heiji-chan!” She laughs. “You picked the right guy to live with Kai-chan. He’s smart.”

He shrugs. “I guess.” I WAS THE ONE THAT GOT YOU ENGAGED ASSHOLE.

“What I’m saying is that I realized I’m in love with the Kazuha I grew up with, not the one that lives across me now. Like I said before, or rather like you heard, we’ve haven’t talked for a long time. We’re two different people and I have to be her friend again.”

Phone-Aoko and Kaito glance at each other. “But you’re in the friendzone again. Don’t you feel bad?” Aoko asks.

“Yeah, especially with this tennis guy back in the picture,” Kaito adds. Hilarious that literally everyone forgot about Teruaki until now.

“I feel fine.” I grin. “Now please, all of you leave my room.” I need to check if they were looking through my things…

Kuroba-san lets out another loud laugh. “Let’s go Kai-chan! We need to tell your father the good news.” She pushes her son out the room. Before closing my door, she gives me another warm smile and whispers, “You don’t feel much like an adult, do you?”

Now that I’m fully alone, I let out another sigh. Yes, I lied. ‘But Heiji! You freaking had this whole shindig about lying to your friends and hiding shit what the fuck!?’ Yeah I know, and I didn’t lie completely. It’s just that well, it still kinda pains me knowing that I don’t know Kazuha well enough to date her. And that I wasted so much time away from her and…I was stupidly pushing my own feelings away uggh…

I dunno…I feel as though I kinda deserve this situation I’m in now. It’s okay, voice in my head, I am fine.

But I’m not at the same time.

Heh, rhyming.

Chapter Text

BONUS 2: YOUR DAD’S FUCKING SCARY

MY APARTMENT. KAITO AND I ARE HANGING OUT WITH HIS MOM. SHE’S LIKE A ROMANCE NOVEL AUDIOBOOK.

“I don’t know how he did it, but Toichi was able to convince me to marry him while we were skydiving on our third date!” Kuroba-san, or Chikage as she is now urging me to call her, swoons. “He almost dropped the ring in the air, but he was able to slip it on my finger before we opened our parachutes.” THIS HAS TO BE FROM A STORY. THIS CAN’T BE REAL.

“There’s pictures,” Kaito tells me, rolling his eyes. Once Chikage started telling this story he immediately started groaning. He must have heard this story several times before. “Parachutes and all…”

“Either way, your proposal sounds even worse in comparison,” I say.

He blushes. “I didn’t think Aoko would come back while I was looking for it in the trash bin!” One would say you would immediately get your ENGAGEMENT RING from the trash when it accidentally falls in there.

Chikage giggles. “My little Kai-chan’s getting married!” She reaches over and pinches his cheek. “It feels like it was just yesterday when you were saying kissing girls was gross.” Now he’s doing God knows what in his bedroom. “Aoko-chan is going to look so cute in her wedding dress! I can’t wait to go shopping for it!”

“Speaking of her, where is she?” I ask. The café’s been closed for a while now and she’s still not back…

“Picking up Father Ginzo from the train station,” Kaito answers. …A priest?

“That’s his nickname for Aoko’s father.” Chikage explains. “Aoko-chan calls me Future Mom.” Wow, Future Mom and Father Ginzo sounds like a really awful band from the 80s. Also how long did Aoko use that nickname? I guess she always knew that she was marrying Kaito but didn’t know when.

We hear the door unlock. “We’re here!” Aoko calls when she enters. A middle aged man walks in, kicking off his shoes.

“Aoko, I can smoke in here, right?” He asks, already getting his pipe from his pocket.

“Unfortunately…” She mutters. She leads him over to the living room and sits next to Kaito.

“Hey Gin-chan!” Chikage waves. “The day’s finally upon us.”

He nods in her direction and plops into the chair across from her. “Took long enough.” He stuffs the tobacco in the pipe and lights a match. Wow he’s great at parties.

“Father Ginzo!” Kaito greets.

“Kaito you make me sounds like a priest with that name. I clearly can’t be one…” Nakamori-san happily takes a drag from his pipe.

“Clearly,” I mumble. Aoko bursts into giggles. Whoops! Meant to keep that inside.

Nakamori-san stares at me. “You’re not Chief Hakuba’s kid…” It took him this long to realize I existed.

“Dad, Hakuba moved out last month. He’s upstairs,” Aoko explains through a yawn.

Nakamori-san continues staring at me. “Shit you’re Heizo’s son.” You wouldn’t believe how many policemen have told me this. Also what took him so long? My skin gives it away.

“Heiji,” I tell him. I rather not be called Heizo’s son for the rest of this visit.

“Your dad’s fucking scary.”

“DAD.” Aoko reaches over and hits his head. “I’m sorry Heiji. I’ll hit him again for your dad.” I don’t want to be the cause of your dad’s brain damage.

“No it’s fine. He would actually be happy to hear this,” I say. I remember the last time I called home Dad told me he was worried that people weren’t afraid of him anymore. Fun facts about my dad: he’s self-conscious on how much fear he can instill in a person. “Tomoya’s daughter is across from us,” I tell him.

“Goddammit, I’m surrounded by the demon’s children…” He groans loudly. Tomoya-san would also love to hear that people are still afraid of him. I’m personally terrified especially since I haven’t talked to him since I left the country….that guy holds grudges…

“Well, I’ll leave you guys to family time or whatever,” I say getting off the couch.

Chikage waves goodbye.

“Don’t you dare gossip to your dad about what I said,” Nakamori-san orders. Dude, do I, or Dad for that matter, look like gossips? Okay, recently sure I’ve been nosy-ing through people’s business, but that’s a new thing.

Aoko sighs. “Dad this is why no one takes you seriously at work…”

“You’re coming back, right?” Kaito calls after me. “We’re finally opening the alcohol to celebrate.”

I tell him I’m coming back. This is will be the first time we drink something other than milkshakes. First things first though, I wanna check up on my lady friends. I head out the door and look between Kazuha’s and Terumi’s doors. Makoto is probably still scolding Kazuha at the moment so I’ll head to Terumi’s first. And yes, when Makoto starts he just can’t stop.

TERUMI’S/KEIKO’S APARTMENT. SERA AND TERUMI ARE WATCHING KEIKO PLAY SONIC ‘06.

“I was laying around in bed before and this is her way of cheering me up,” Terumi says as she leads me to the kitchen. “Do you want anything to drink?”

“Juice is fine,” I say. Since I’m gonna have wine later, I figure I should settle my stomach first. “So…you’re doing okay?”

She shrugs. “I’m fine. Having everything out in the open is nice, and for a while I was feeling kinda weird cause I kept thinking about my old friends.” She pours me a cup of juice and hands it to me. “I thought having friends meant being supported, not be as expendable as a stranger…” she sighs, leaning against the fridge. “The three of us knew each other since middle school, and suddenly they didn’t want anything to do with me…”

Huh, that rings a bell…

“Well, if it makes you feel better, for some people it’s not so easy to drop someone they care about,” I say.

Terumi chuckles at this. “But I should thank them, I guess. I wouldn’t have met the people that truly like me.” She glances over to the living room area.

“Omg Amy stop hugging Sonic…” Keiko groans loudly. Why does she sound jealous??

Sera snickers. “Keiko, your taste in hedgehogs is kinda terrible.” I’m glad someone agrees with me. “Shadow is clearly the best one. He gets to ride all the motorbikes.” I take it back. Why did I expect her to say something right?

Terumi laughs at the two of them. “My support is right here.” She smiles at me. “You too, Heiji.” I would just like to say I’m clearly the best support because I literally could give two fucks about these hedgehog…children.

“Terumi!” Keiko calls over her shoulder. “Sonic or Shadow, which one would you go for?” Why is this even a serious question?

Terumi laughs again, walking over to the couch. “I like Silver the best, but I like that Sonic and Shadow help him out.”

“Figures,” Keiko grins.

“That’s a Terumi answer,” Sera replies, reaching over to ruffle her hair. I chuckle at this. Sure, I know Terumi’s not my younger sister, but I really feel like a happy big brother right now.

“Heiji which hedgehog is your favorite?” Keiko asks when I sit down next to her. It’s a good thing that I already know her or this would be the worst icebreaker ever.

I chug the rest of my juice. “The whole franchise is shit,” I answer.

Keiko pauses her game.

RUNNING TO KAZUHA’S APARTMENT. KEIKO ACTUALLY JUMPED ON ME. NO ONE SHOULD BE THAT SERIOUS ABOUT SONIC THE HEDGEHOG.

“KAZUHA OPEN THE DOOR!” I yell, banging on the door. I look over my shoulder to see Sera pulling Keiko back into the apartment.

“What the hell, Heiji!?” Kazuha exclaims when she lets me in. “What happened to ringing the doorbell?”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t think of manners when I being chased by a grown ass woman in love with a fictional animal.” I go over and plop on the couch.

“Jeez, you scared the life out of me.” She sighs, raising her phone back to her ear. “It was Heiji, and he’s being stupid as usual.” She says.

“Who are you talking to?” I ask.

“Makoto,” she answers with another sigh. I’m guessing Mama-Makoto’s been lecturing her for a while. “He wants to talk to you,” she tells me as she hands me the phone. “Finally I can pee…” She mutters as she walks away.

“Hello. Is Kazuha still in the room?” Makoto asks.

“She’s in the toilet,” I answer.

“You didn’t confess to her?” He asks.

“No. We’re two different people now, so we have to get used to each other again,” I say. “I realized that today.”

I hear a sniff from the other side of the phone.

“Are you crying?” I ask. Was this epiphany that amazing???

“Allergies, but if I were the type to cry I would shed at least one tear.” He blows his nose. Also ‘at least one tear’?? I’m only worth a possible singular tear? My moment deserves like at least seven. “By the way, how do you feel about this whole Teruaki-san business?”

“It’s a business alright…” I mutter.

“What is?” Kazuha voice makes me flinch. I try to think of something.

“Uhhh life.” Yeah way to go! Sounds deep and casual.

Kazuha scrunches up her nose. “Lame line.” Kazuha work with me. I’m trying not to make you hate me for talking shit about your boyfriend. “Put Mako on speaker, I wanna tell you guys the whole Kunisue Kazuha Kool Kouple story.”

“How long did it take for you to make that up?” I ask, putting her phone on speaker.

“Shut up.” Her eyebrow twitches. “As you know, I was by myself at university. It was a big shock for me…kinda like when you go to preschool for the first time and you’re just stuck in this weird strange place and you have no one to turn to,” she starts. “I became really introverted to the point that it was really unhealthy. I actively avoided people on campus and in the apartment building. Of course Aoko forced me to work with her downstairs back when her mom owned the café.” Oh yeah, Aoko told me a snippet about that. “I powered through work since I had to pay rent, and it took a lot of energy to even try a conversation with Terumi back then.” She fiddles with her fingers.

I glance down to Mako-phone. I know I can’t see him, but I have a good bet he’s feeling mighty low about this. But we’re moving on from that! No more thinking of the past! Well…until the rest of this story.

“On the day I was feeling my worst, Kunisue ran up to me on campus. He was a senior then and he happened to see me on his morning run.” Kazuha smiles. “He was what I needed.”

“Good things come to those who wait,” Makoto says.

“How come I haven’t gotten anything good?” I ask. “I’ve been waiting since I’ve been born practically.”

“Maybe if you let me finish my story something good will happen,” Kazuha reaches over and pinches my nose. “Anyway, I didn’t even know we were dating.” Knowing Teruaki, he didn’t either. “I just hung around him like old times. After about two months we randomly started holding hands and…so on…” she looks down at her hands with a flustered face. “He’s my first for many things…” She mumbles.

I almost break Mako-phone.

“I kept our relationship secret partially for that reason. I wasn’t sure how you were going to react Makoto and I didn’t even think I would see you again Heiji. Either way, it’s nice being around so many friends again. I didn’t know that I was one of those people who needs a lot of support. Anyway…that’s it,” she lets out a long breath. “I feel better now.”

“As do I,” says Makoto. “I’m glad you still trust us. I know I ranted for a long time already, but please don’t forget that we’ll always be there for you Kazuha.”

“Yeah, same,” I reply.

Kazuha rolls her eyes. “Really? That’s it?”

“I mean I told you before…” I trail off. “I mean I care, but I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that you slept with him.”

“HEIJI.” Kazuha frowns. “Are you serious?”

“No! I’m not trying to be a dick! I’m still a virgin among the people that we know! That’s really weird for me!”

She sighs loudly. “Are you serious, Heiji…”

“I’m still a virgin,” Makoto says.

“Yeah, but you’re like a Christian motherly figure,” I tell him.

Are you calling me the Virgin Mary?

Kazuha chuckles. “Heiji, it’s not a contest.”

“You’re saying that since you’ve already won said contest!” I cross my arms. No, I’m not trying to make this about me, but I can’t help it. If you were the only virgin in the group of people you know you would be a bit self-conscious too. “I haven’t had a first kiss yet…” I mutter.

Kazuha stares at me with her mouth open wide. “For once you look really cute and innocent and I don’t know what to say,” she tells me. I feel my face burn. “I didn’t know you cared about relationships.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m human too, Kazuha.”

“I know. You have to admit it’s kinda funny though. You’re acting like a teen girl in a shoujo manga. I can practically see the sparkles around you.” She laughs. “Like Mako said, good things comes to those who wait. You’ll find your girl soon enough.” She gives me a pat on the shoulder.

Mako-phone makes a noise. I know friend, I know. I’m kinda crumbling from that statement too. A part of me kinda wishes that I should’ve come clean, but a bigger part of me is saying it was good to keep it to myself.

“Speaking of waiting, I hope you find the girl I’m looking for soon,” Makoto replies. Thanks for the convo switch, dude. Didn’t know what else to say in response to that except immediately fall on the floor groaning.

“Oh yeah! Mako’s mystery girl!” Kazuha gasps. “I hate that I forgot about that. It would be hilarious if she was right under our noses.”

“Knowing how crazy things are she probably is,” I shrug. Oh god, what if it’s like Sera or something. But then again she knows Jeet Kune Do so she wouldn’t need Makoto’s help if a guy approached her.

“Don’t say that…that makes me more nervous…” Makoto mumbles.

BACK IN MY APARTMENT. READY TO DRINK DOWN MY SADNESS ON MY VIRGINITY.

“Poppin’ bottles~” I sing as I open the door.

“THANK GOODNESS YOU’RE BACK!” Kaito yells from the kitchen. I see him pour wine into a thermos.

“Dude, I know you’re happy about the engagement, but a thermos? Really?” I ask, walking over to him.

Chikage, who’s still in her seat, swirls her wine glass. “Kaito and I have the terrible habit of drinking when we’re nervous.” She takes a sip. That sounds like a terrible habit. “I’m not sure how I’m going to walk to the train station…” she mumbles. I see why they hide their alcohol now…

“What happened?” I ask looking around. “Where’s Aoko and her dad?”

Kaito pours me a glass. “Father Ginzo brought up Aoko working at the café and her mom and all that.” He hands it to me and we walk back to the sofa. “Then he said that it would be a good idea to bring her to the wedding.” He takes a long swig from his bottle.

“The two of them had an ugly spat. Gin-chan’s smoking outside and Aoko-chan holed herself up in the bedroom,” Chikage tells me.

I take a small sip from my glass. “She must really hate her mom…” I mumble.

“Well Kyoko is an interesting woman,” Chikage says setting down her wine glass. “Always very…sporadic?” she taps her chin in thought. “Either way, she’s not a big part of her daughter’s life even though she gave her the café.”

“What did you say about it?” I ask Kaito.

“I might be bunking with you tonight…” He mumbles. Ah, so he wanted her mom there too.

Chikage chuckles. “Don’t get too upset Kaito. We don’t need to run to the hospital to pump out all the wine from your stomach.” She stands up and balances herself. Lady, we don’t need you in the hospital either… “Well, I better get going. There’s a hotel bed with my name on it.”

“Hate you can’t stay, Mom.” Kaito gets up to walk over to the door. “Especially since Father Ginzo’s staying the night…”

Gross he’s staying here!? Ugh…no midnight snacking then.

“I know, but I have a special magic show to do tomorrow.” She gives him a hug. “Can’t pretend to cut people’s hands off with two hours of sleep and a bad hangover!” She laughs, heading out the door.

I’m tired of questioning the zaniness of this family…

Kaito snorts at my grim expression. “She’s the Phantom Lady.” Ah right, I forgot how major of a power couple Kaitou Kid and The Phantom Lady were back in the day. Wow, can’t believe that Chikage would be the horror loving type. She acts so different than her stage persona…

I finish my glass and let out a sigh. “So I’m a virgin, Aoko’s mad about her mom, and her dad is going to staying the night…this is terrible.”

“Heiji, none of those things connect…” Kaito replies. “Also Father Ginzo snores.”

I groan louder. This is even worse…

5:00 A.M. MY BEDROOM. I WILL NEVER RECOVER FROM THE LACK OF SLEEP BECAUSE OF FATHER GINZO’S SNORING.

That man’s snoring is gonna haunt me. It’s not just a snore…he’s like moaning also? It’s like hearing a freaking lioness going through childbirth in the living room. AND HEAVEN FORBID YOU WISH TO DRINK A GLASS OF WATER TO WET YOUR THROAT FROM THE WINE BECAUSE HE WILL BE READY TO ATTACK IF YOU HAPPEN TO STEP ON THE LOUDEST GODDAMN FLOORBOARD.

I have never been afraid of a middle aged man holding a pillow in my entire life. Never powerwalked to my bed either.

“Kaito you owe me like a dollar for getting you a glass of water. Your future father in law almost killed me with a goddamn accent pillow and I’ll be damned if I’m getting suffocated by something covered in an unfortunate argyle pattern!” I hiss when I walk in.

“Hey purple and orange is an interesting combo for argyle and you know it,” he says, eagerly stretching out his hands toward the glass. And for those of you wondering, yes he is sleeping in my bed with me. It’s not a big deal. Kudo and I shared a bed before.

“Argyle should only be on sweaters,” I mutter. “Also this snoring is worse than hearing like…anything.”

“I know. Aoko wonders why I never wanted to sleep over again and this is the reason.” He tries to cover his mouth so he won’t laugh too loud.

We flinch when we hear footsteps coming toward us.

“He better not be a sleepwalker…” I whisper glaring at Kaito.

“Dude it’s been years since I’ve stayed over. He could be a lot of stuff,” He whispers back. “Would he still allow me to marry his daughter if I throw something at him?”

“What do you think?”

He’s silent for a moment and then proceeds to arm himself with one of my pillows. Anything goes with Father Ginzo apparently. Kaito, still holding his glass of water in his left hand, gets in position to throw the pillow. The footsteps get closer. He winds up his swing. Where’s my phone when I need it?

“Guys, are you still awake?”

Kaito lets out a squeaking noise after he accidentally lets go of the pillow. Aoko peeks from behind the doorway just in time for it to hit her square in the face.

Complete silence. Kaito stares in complete horror. Aoko looks blankly at the pillow on the floor. I let out a really weird giggle-cackle and quickly cover my mouth.

She lets out a small giggle and picks up the pillow. “I guess I deserved that for being mad earlier.” She walks over to us hugging it.

“We thought it was your dad,” I answer, finishing my glass of water. “It was Kaito’s idea.” He elbows my side.

“I know. I’m sorry about him.” She hesitantly glances at Kaito. “I’m sorry for getting upset earlier…I’ll call Chikage later and apologize to her too…” She mumbles into the pillow.

Kaito laughs, pulling her over to him. “You’re cute when you apologize Bimboko. And it’s fine. I know your mom’s a tough pill to swallow.”

She hugs him back and gives him a quick peck on the mouth. Hm. “Since I can’t go to sleep either, I’ve been thinking over what Dad said…and I understand what he means about Mom.”

“You’re going to invite her to the wedding?” He asks.

“I’m still on the fence about it, but I should at least call her to say I’m engaged and the café’s doing alright,” She answers.

Kaito smiles at this and ruffles her hair.

I sit my glass on the nightstand and fluff up my pillow. “I guess that means you’re back in your room now, Kaito.”

“Aw, I liked fun being here. It was like a sleep over.” He pouts. “Plus your bed is ridiculously comfy.”

Aoko bounces on it. “It is actually! What kinda brand do you have?”

“Three of us can’t sleep in the same bed.” I’m trying to use my stern voice. These two are like kids I swear.

“That’s no fair! Kaito got to sleep with you so why I can’t I?” She folds her arms and lets out a huff. Wow, really? Does she write so much smut fiction that she naturally speaks in innuendos?

Kaito also realizes the double entendre and immediately claps a hand over his mouth to suppress his laughter. “Just wanna let you know that Heiji’s worried about his virginity, Bimboko.”

“Really?” She crawls under the covers. “We have to sleep together then. I hear three ways are pretty fun.” She giggles.

“I hate you two,” I mutter.

Kaito gets on the side of me. “Don’t worry Heiji, we’ll be good!”

“GET OUT OF MY BED!” I scream.

A loud thump is heard in the living room. “AH WHO’S THERE!?” Father Ginzo bellows. Aoko and Kaito start cracking up.

Goodbye sleep…you were such a good friend…

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 11: HAPPY TO HATE MY BROTHER’S GIFT

HAVEN’T CHECKED THE CLOCK BUT I KNOW IT’S ASS-CRACK IN THE MORNING. MOM IS FACETIME-ING ME GODDAMIT THIS BETTER NOT BE ANYTHING STUPID OR I’LL—

“Goood Morning Hei-chan!” Mom waves at me. “You look terrible. Haha, you never looked peaceful while sleeping.”

What could you possibly want.

She laughs. “Why would you ask your mother sucha thing? It’s been a month since you moved out and you barely called! I wanted to make sure my little Hei-chan is alright.”

“Couldn’t this wait until it’s not the ass crack of the morning?” I ask. Yes, this my new favorite phrase. I’m gonna say it forever. No one will stop me.  

“Heiji, you make it sound like the sun is next door frying your eyes open.” She rolls her eyes. For those wondering, yes, my snappy attitude comes from her. “It’s only eight o’clock. Why are you so tired anyway?”

A policeman…” I mutter. Father Ginzo is now sound asleep, that asshole. But whatever maybe I can persuade Aoko to let me clock in later. She stayed up too so she might want the rest.  

I feel something move in the covers. An arm finds its way to my chest. I’m fully awake now. “We had a fun night, eh Hei-chan~” I don’t even need to look to know who that is.

“Aoko, not now. Also we stayed up till the ass crack of the morning talking about our favorite Mario Kart racers and defending Daisy is harder than it looks,” I reply. Yep, they didn’t get out of my bed and then insisted on chatting for another hour before going to sleep. Also Daisy/Baby Daisy rules. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

“Heiji, I swear I’m hanging up if you say that again.” Mom sighs loudly. Just letting you know, she’s using her “mom voice” so I know she’s irritated. Mom was never a fan of my love for swearing in front of everyone. She leans close to the screen. “Aoko? Isn’t that the name of one of your roommates?”  

“Yeah,” I yawn. “Her dad stayed the night so she and her fiancé stayed in my room…”

“Your bed fits three people?” She asks.

“Oh boy does it!” Aoko says beside me. “I tell ya if this bed could speak, the stories it would tell about the three of us in here.”

“Whips and handcuffs and uh…,” Kaito mumbles on the other side of me. “…and…I dunno I’m too tired to continue this joke…”

Aoko yawns. “Yeah, the punchline is that Heiji doesn’t know what sex is.” She rolls over to her side. I know what it is, I just never experienced it. Also that’s just BDSM. I’ve been handcuffed without the sexual tension once thank you.

Mom chuckles. “You have odd roommates, Hei-chan.” Tell me about it. “I can tell you’re tired so I’ll get off the phone for now.” I wonder what tipped her off. The fact that I’m falling asleep or the fact that I literally told her I’m tired. Hopefully you’ll be more awake when we come by later.” She waves and hangs up.

I turn off my phone and close my eyes again. Yeah I’ll show them around when they come by…

WAIT WHAT!?

“Aoko!” Father Ginzo calls. “Wake up! I made breakfast for everyone.”

She groans loudly. “How can he be a grouch and a morning person at the same time?”  

Kaito sighs. “I guess it’s good to just get up…that way we can have a good night’s rest tonight…” He sits up yawning.

“Your dad is never allowed here again,” I grumble.

“Tell me about it…”Aoko says as she rolls over again. This time though she rolls off the bed.

Kaito and I don’t say anything or get out of bed. A low snore is heard from the floor.

“Till death do us part, huh?” I shake my head at Kaito.

“Shut up! You didn’t check on her either!” He quickly gets out of bed to pick up his fiancé.

10:30 A.M. CAFEBAKE. I JUST FINISHED DRINKING THE GODZILLA SIZED WIDE AWAKE DRINK. MY EYES FEEL LIKE THEY’RE GONNA POP OUT OF MY SKULL.

“You look like one of those nocturnal monkeys,” Keiko tells me. “You know the ones with the huge eyes.” When I came in this morning she hit me on the head for ‘disgracing the Sonic brand’. I know you’re sensitive to the things you grew up with, but c’mon Keiko open your eyes! SONIC HAD A HUMAN PRINCESS IN ONE OF HIS GAMES FOR SOME REASON! THAT’S NEVER EXPLAINED. ALSO WHAT THE FUCK IS HE? A HEDGEHOG? A TEEN? THERE’S A BAT WITH BOOBS! BATS DON’T HAVE THAT IN REAL LIFE!

“I don’t feel prepared for today…” I mumble. Those darn imps I live with went back to sleep after saying goodbye to Father Ginzo and here I am working. Whatever, I get to be off tomorrow. I look over to see Genta’s shirt. It says, ‘Every day is a Bro Day’. “I’m not prepared for that.” I glare at it and make a cross with my fingers.

“Sensei, what are you doing?” Genta asks when he looks at me.

“I’m blessing the shirt away.”

Hakuba chuckles at this. He’s much happier now that he doesn’t have to be Prince Charming today but most importantly a British guy won Wimbeldon. I wonder who he roots for at the Olympics… “As someone who grew up in a Christian household, I’m afraid to say that’s not how it works.”

“Yeah, Sensei,” Genta elbows me. “You should take a chill pill.” Oh my god. I’m getting war flashbacks of the college dorms. For some reason Kudo and I were on the floor with all of the bros and…god…it was awful… “This is one of my favorite shirts!”

“Just because it’s your favorite doesn’t mean it’s a cool looking shirt,” I say.

“Knowing that makes it even less attractive…” Ai replies, crinkling her nose.  

“But you wear t-shirts all the time Sensei!” Genta points at my Ellery Queen t-shirt. “Yours has a stupid name on it!”

I let out a loud gasp. “ELLERY IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL NAME THAT HAS GRACED THIS EARTH BESIDES MY OWN. DON’T YOU DARE COMPARE IT TO BRO-DAY.” YOU SHOULD BE HAPPY YOU GET TO SEE THIS NAME GENTA.

“Don’t worry Genta. I like what you wear.” Ayumi smiles. “If you wore something different, it wouldn’t be like you!”

He blushes at this. “You see, Sensei? Ayumi likes ‘em, and her opinion is all that matters.” Buddy, if you’re trying to score relationship points with her maybe stop flirting with any female that comes in to buy coffee.

“If you read between the lines she’s saying, ‘Genta, if you wore something different, it wouldn’t be you because you don’t have a sense of style’,” I tell him.  

Ai raises her hand for a high five. YEAH AI-HIGH FIVE!  

“I wasn’t thinking that at all!” Ayumi pouts. “You’re crabby when you’re sleepy, Sensei.” She passes me a customer’s drink to add in the syrups. Fun Working Fact: I don’t know who did this but for some reason someone, probs Aoko, labeled the chocolate syrup bottle it as ‘cococococoa. Whenever I have to make a mocha (like for this customer) I have a stupid grin on my face.

“I’m sorry. It’s the caffeine,” I say, putting in said cococococoa syrup in the drink.

“Is that what we’re calling a severe lack of physical relations?” Sera whispers behind me. I turn around to see her leaning against the kitchen window. She grins and says, “Aoko spilled the beans.”

“WHY!” I screech, almost dropping the drink.     

“I wonder what the beans are…” Ayumi whispers loudly. “Do you think Sensei got into a fight?”

Genta makes a humming noise. “Would Sensei win a fight?” You bet your ass I would/can/have.

“She sent a text earlier about giving you gifts so you wouldn’t think about how lonely you are,” Sera answers. Of course she did. “I have mine back here if you wanna see it.”

I grumble as I head to the kitchen. Even though I hate the reason, I can’t turn down a free gift. “What is it?” How was she able to get it so fast after just receiving the text?

She opens one of the top cabinets, takes out a small bag, and hands it to me with a grin. I open it and gasp.

“A CAMERA!” I exclaim, pulling out the box. I CAN FINALLY DOCUMENT THE HILARIOUS SHIN-RAN-CO LOVE TRIANGLE. “How did you get this?” I ask her, already opening the box. Why is there no tape on here…?

“My brother,” she says. “He gave it to me for my birthday and I didn’t want it. It’s been up there for a couple weeks.”

“That explains the ‘Dear Sister’ card I just found…” I mumble taking out a birthday card. “Wow thanks Sera for re-gifting something to me and not trying to hide it.” I roll my eyes.  

She laughs. “Hey you were genuinely happy for like a second—I think that counts for something.” She pats my back. “If it helps, Hakuba’s is as alone as you.”

I turn on the camera as I head back out to the coffee bar. “But that makes sense! He makes out with his hawk or whatever,” I say, holding the camera up toward Hakuba.

“WHAT WAS THAT?” He snaps, whipping his head toward me. Sera cackles. I quickly take a picture of him, snickering.

“Those are some intense frown lines, buddy,” I say snickering at the picture of his extremely aggravated face. “Sera, I take it back. I love this thing.”

“Happy to hate my brother’s gift!” She calls from the kitchen. Ah man this is the best thing ever. I’m gonna take pictures of everything. Oh god I’m gonna be like a tourist…at my place of work… Huh that metaphor is not as good as I thought.

He rolls his eyes. “Thank you Sera for giving him a new way to bother me. He finally stopped with the robot references.” I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT THAT. He grimaces when he sees my surprised expression. “You just remembered that shtick didn’t you?” He mutters.

“Domo Artigato Mr. Roboto.”

Hakuba groans. He knows he loves our friendship. His extreme anger toward me is his form of friendly affection. I understand Hakuba. I’m the best friend you’ve ever had.

“You know I have to Hakuba,” I say, taking a picture of Sera making a silly face.

“You don’t…” he mutters. “Plus what is there to take pictures of aside from other annoyances?”

“I would be mad, but he also took a picture of you Hakuba,” Sera laughs. Is this their friendship thing? Making fun of each other? I’m glad that their relationship turned around since the whole marriage debacle. We don’t need all of our eggs to be punched to oblivion.

“Well there’s your angry face, Conan’s angry face,” I take a picture of Conan who sticks out his tongue at me. “Ayumi being cute,” Ayumi laughs when I take her picture, “I would take a picture of Genta’s ugly ass shirt, but I don’t want to break the lens.”

“IT’S A GOOD SHIRT BRO,” Genta stresses, folding his arms. UGH THAT IS THE ONE WORD I HATE. I JUST HATE THAT WORD SO MUCH. GOD I JUST—I’M SO ANNOYED.

“What about me?” I turn my camera to a grinning Sonoko. “Like hey!” She winks when I take her picture. She hands me her card as I ring up her order. “What’s the camera for?”

“It’s a gift for not having…” I pause when I try to think of a polite way of saying sex. Sure the teens are teens, but I can’t help but see them as little kids. “Er…not knocking boots,” I finish my sentence. God do people even know what that phrase means anymore. I feel like my dad.

“Physical relations,” Hakuba rephrases.

“HORIZONTAL TANGO!” Sera screams from the kitchen. “HEIJI CALL IT THAT!”

Sonoko snorts. “Wait you’re still a virgin?” She asks as she gets her drink. “AND YOU GOT A CAMERA FOR IT??”

The teens sans Ai gasp collectively and turn to me. Grrrrreeeeeat.

“Hilarious,” is all Ai says before the others start bombarding me with comments.

“SENSEI YOU HAVEN’T DONE THE DO?” Genta screams at me. Wow and the phrase ‘knocking boots’ sounds a million times better.

“Yeah, scream that louder…” I mutter. Let’s just tell the whole world. LET’S HAVE A PARADE. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THE ANNUAL VIRGIN PARADE IS COMING TO TOWN. YOU’LL SEE ME MARCHING IN FRONT AND HAKUBA BEHIND ME WITH HIS HAWK FLYING AROUND. Sonoko snickers at me. I’m glad someone is getting entertainment from this.  

Mitsuhiko blushes and looks at the floor. “…I want a prize too…”

“Heiji, buy me the new Legend of Zelda game—it’s not out yet, but I deserve the best,” Conan tells me. Ask your cousin he has waaay more money than I do.

Ayumi’s face is also red; she quickly covers it with her hands. “Sensei, we shouldn’t talk about these personal matters!!” She squeaks out. “But I would like a pony or something…” she mumbles. Ayumi…never change. Stay innocent. Get that pony—not for the same reason I got a camera but you know what I mean.

“You’re correct in that regard, young lady.” We flinch at the cold sounding voice. At the counter is a lady completely dressed in red--red sundress, red shoes, even a red sunhat. What’s crazier is that it all matches. Like it’s the same shade of red! Did she go to the primary color store or something? “This type conversation shouldn’t take place in this establishment.” Her hat is angled so we can’t see her eyes. She smirks.

Hakuba’s eyes widen when he sees her. What’s his deal? I guess he suddenly has a crush on her or something? I mean I’m not gonna lie, she has they kinda super sexy vibe coming off her despite not see seeing all of her face. She flips her long black hair. Wow, she knows she’s hot.

“I can’t believe you stopped stealing landmarks for a coffee break Carmen Sandiego,” I say. Hakuba smacks his forehead with a loud groan. I’m sorry but I had to. Literally she’s in red and that was the first thing I thought of.

The lady in red frowns. “…adult conversation with minors…and rude service…” She replies. Hey that was a solid reference. Sonoko scrunches her nose at her. Yeah I agree. What’s with this lady?

“I like her,” Ai says. Of course. You two have that same ‘I hate everyone on this planet’ vibe.

“She is really pretty!” Ayumi gushes.

Genta stares at the woman. “Do you think if I flirted with her—”

Hakuba shushes all of us. “NO. YOU WILL DO NO SUCH THING. DON’T EVEN THINK LOUDLY. DON’T EVEN BREATHE.”

“Why?” I ask.

Sonoko pulls out her phone and starts typing something. Of course, she decides to be a regular costumer in this situation. I mean she is, but with her personality I thought she would’ve told this lady off already.

The lady in red tilts her hat upwards, finally showing her face. Her smirk is still there and geez I can’t help but be pulled into whatever charm she has. “I do apologize. I never introduced myself.” She pulls out a business card from her coin purse. “I am Koizumi Akako—café critic.” She hands it to Hakuba who eagerly takes it. He bites his lip as he looks at the card.

“There are critics for cafés?” I ask, looking over Hakuba’s shoulder to read the business card.

“Why of course. There’s only one thing better than a good cup of coffee, and that’s the business that it serves,” Koizumi replies. She flips her long hair over her shoulder. “I’ve been in this business for years and my articles make or break businesses. Unfortunately, more have shut down than excelled from my words.”

“You sound proud of that,” I tell her. Ugh there’s nothing worse than people who have power and don’t necessarily need it. I’ve never been so annoyed so quickly in my entire life. It’s like Genta’s shirt times 1000 right now.

Koizumi shrugs. “Being a critic is a cruel mistress. So is owning a business,” she says. “Cafebake has been getting buzz on social media lately and I figured I would come see why. However with what I’ve seen already I’m unsure why people would come here.”

“OH MY GOD GUYS I MADE THE BEST THING!” Sera bellows from the kitchen. “GINGERBREAD GERMAN SHEPHARDS!” She busts out of the kitchen with a sheet pan full of dog cookies. When Koizumi looks in her direction, Sera almost drops her sheet pan. “Oh no…” She mutters. I guess she also knows of this critic.

“I’ve heard that you write your reviews after your surprise visits,” Hakuba says. He puts the card in his back pocket before asking, “This wouldn’t be one of those times would it?”

Koizumi grins, showing all of her white teeth. “Possibly. There’s no truer experience than one where the owners don’t know I’m visiting.”

“But the owner isn’t here!” Sera replies. “That’s not fair!”

“The owner isn’t here?” Koizumi repeats, raising a well-trimmed eyebrow. “No wonder there’s a supreme lack of management.” She sighs. Hakuba bites his lip at this.

“Hey,” I say shocking myself and Hakuba. “We’re doing bad because I’m supervising and it’s my first time being in control of something aside from a coffee machine. So if you’re wondering what’s the cause of the problem, it’s me.” While we had our differences before, Hakuba is our manager and despite him always being upstairs watching sports he does a good job keeping things afloat. And he’s not even doing it for money or whatever—he’s working here just because his friends need help! Huh…there’s some irony here that I kinda want to ignore right now.

“I agree with Heiji and a prize for my honesty should be leaving the job for the day and going back to my cousin’s apartment to play Zelda,” Conan chimes in.

“And face Ran’s wrath alone apparently,” I add.

Conan immediately blanches. “My talents are needed here…” He mumbles. That’s what I thought. 

I glance over to Hakuba and he raises an eyebrow at me. “Your sincerity comes at the most surprising times…” he tells me in English.

I shrug. “Better late than never I guess,” I say back, turning to Koizumi again. I hear Hakuba chuckle behind me.

Koizumi hums in thought as she mulls over my response. “While I find your plea satisfactory in explaining the lack of structure, my modus operandi is well known.” Her wicked smile slips back on her face. “A surprise visit is exactly that, no matter what the circumstances are. I’ve seen enough to write my thoughts. Please look forward to my post later this evening on my website.” She tips her hat. Ugh she sucks…

“Sensei…is the review going to be good?” Ayumi asks me.

I sigh. “I don’t think so.” And if her record is as sound as she says it is that means this place is going to go down fast. I don’t think that’s an option for Aoko. This place is her life. In more ways than one.

“I should’ve flirted with her…” Genta mumbles. Dude that would’ve made everything worse.

Ai frowns. “I’m not liking her as much anymore,” she says.

“Hold on!” Sonoko of all people stops Koizumi from walking away. I can only imagine what she’s going to say. Please don’t ask where she gets her clothes from. “Don’t you think you’re being slightly unfair?” She asks. Wow I hate to say I’m slightly surprised?

Koizumi narrows her eyes at Sonoko. “How so?”

“As Masumi-chan said, the owner isn’t here currently. She recently got engaged so everyone is still celebrating,” Sonoko explains. “This is the only place I get coffee. It has the Suzuki stamp of approval!” She says with a huff.

Koizumi’s eyes widen at this. “So you are Suzuki Sonoko…” she mumbles. Sonoko nods happily. “Well, I certainly can’t ignore the people who publish some of my work…” Koizumi replies.

“Magazine?” I ask Sonoko.

“Suzukicorp makes money from several things, Heiji,” she tells me with a wink. “We have a publication company that prints out more than sixty journals,” she holds up her cell phone to show the cover of Foodie Foodie. Huh, Mom reads that one. “I thought you were familiar, Koizumi-san! I had to double check since I’m not in charge of the little departments. I make the big boardroom deals!” She flips her hair.

“Why is she trying to impress us?” Conan whispers loudly.

I snicker. “Let her have this, Conan. She’s helping us out,” I say.   

Sonoko points at Koizumi with a huge grin. “If you were to make an article slandering the café the CEO of your publishing house frequents, I’m not sure your credibility will last.”

Koizumi’s eyebrow twitches. Holy shit Sonoko you’re working your boardroom magic. “So you’re using your power to make me write a favorable critique?” Koizumi mutters.

“No, I just want you to be fair this time.” Sonoko shrugs. “If they suck, they suck.”

“WHAT THE HELL SONOKO?” I blurt out. “YOU HAD HER IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND!”

“YEAH I THOUGHT YOU WERE HELLA GONNA JUST FORCE HER TO WRITE NICE STUFF!” Genta joins in. “I’M NOT ASKING YOU OUT AFTER THIS.” Genta she would’ve fucking said no in the first place.

Hakuba crosses his arms with a sigh. “Suzuki-san has already stepped in enough…putting the ball in our court is the fairest option,” he says.

“…you really wanted to use that tennis ref, didn’t you?” I ask. He clears his throat loudly. HE SO DID.

“And to make the deal sweeter,” Sonoko says. “If you give them a second chance, I’ll make sure to spread your name to our other publishing partners. Just like I’m playing favorites with these guys, I’ll do the same for you.”

Koizumi hums at the offer. “You are correct…it is a quite an offer,” she replies smoothly. She closes her eyes and taps her chin in thought. “Alright, you have a deal.” She shakes Sonoko’s hand before facing us. “I will be back next week. I won’t say when, so stay on your toes.” She narrows her eyes. “You’ve been given a gift. I advise you to use it wisely.” She gives us one last evil smirk before saunter to the door.

The second the flash of red is out of the café, everyone including the customers let out a sigh of relief. Koizumi Akako is a force to be reckoned with that’s for sure. I don’t even know how the hell we’re gonna go from a ragtag group of peeps to a semi okay group of workers. It’s not like we’re not bad, but we’re probably not model workers.

Sera pouts, balancing her sheet pan in one hand. “One week doesn’t sound like enough time…”

Hakuba nods. “I agree. We’ll have to have a meeting about this later,” he tells her.

“Wow, we haven’t had a meeting since FOREVER,” She says, going back to the kitchen. MAYBE THAT’S WHY WE FEEL SO UNPREPARED MANAGERS.

Sonoko laughs. “Oh please guys! You sound sad for no reason!” She says. “I know you guys are great. You have that…thing.”

“Descriptive,” I say.

“Nono, you know what I mean,” She says, leaning on the counter. “Even before I made you my personal barista,” I’m glad that’s my new title, “I came by because I liked the vibe here. According to Aoko, the place was really close to shutting down before she took over. I believe she can do anything.”

“Wow that’s genuinely nice, Sonoko,” I say. I hate to say I’m surprised, but I am kinda. Well I shouldn’t be surprised—she did just help us out with Koizumi. “Dare I say this ‘going out of your way to do and say nice things’ business is rather cute?”

She snickers. “I would say the same for you and your ‘standing up for your coworkers’ business,” She says. “Along with that whole ‘you’re a virgin so here’s a camera’ situation you have going on.”

“Gross they’re flirting at work…” Conan mutters beside me.

Ayumi giggles. “I think it’s cute.”

Ai shrugs.

“I guess that’s why he’s Sensei…” Genta replies.

I roll my eyes. We’re not flirting. It’s called friendship, but hey teens sometimes find it hard to process actual friendships. Granted, I’m not gonna say I would hate a date with Sonoko. BUT I’M NOT SAYING I WOULD ASK OR WHATEVER. I’M JUST SAYING.

12:30 P.M. WALKING BACK TO THE APARTMENT FOR FOOD. AOKO AND KAITO NEVER CAME DOWN TO THE CAFÉ SO THEY BETTER NOT BE SLEEPING. I MEAN THAT LITERALLY AND FIGURATIVELY.

“IF I HAVE TO BE AWAKE SO DO YOU!” I shout as I open the door. My eyes widen at the scene before me. I would be so much happier seeing my roommates in the middle of going at it than this.

My parents, Heizo and Shizuka, are sitting in the living room drinking tea and eating finger foods with Kaito and Aoko.

“Hei-chan!” Mom smiles at me. She’s in one of her more casual kimonos. It’s purple and there’s only a flower design along the sleeves.  

Dad nods his head in my direction. “Son.” He’s in his usual suit that he wears for work. Dad was never the fashionable type like yours truly.

“Son,” Kaito replies gruffly.

“Hei-chan!” Aoko waves.

I awkwardly close the door. “Hiiii Mom and Dad…you’re actually here…” I sit down in the chair across from them, glaring at my roommates. “Gremlins…”

“We apologized already Heiji. They know we’re not lovers, but they do know of my threesome fiction!” Aoko happily shows her notebook. EXCUSE ME? “I figure they should know in fiction we make a good team.”

“YOU READ THAT TO THEM?”

“They even made suggestions,” Kaito add, also slightly confused by the situation.

WHY!?” I AM ALREADY AT MY WITS END.  

Mom shrugs, taking a sip of her tea. “It was wrong, but only because you’re not the dominant type.”

Dad nods. “Aoko-kun wrote your character completely wrong.” He reaches over to get another cookie from the small platter on the table. “If you were going to be in an adult story, it’s only fair that we as your parents make sure it makes sense,” he says as if I’m the crazy one in this situation.

“EVERYONE STOP TALKING ABOUT MY SEX LIFE!” I exclaim. I’M UP TO HERE WITH THIS. God, I don’t know if my embarrassment quotient can get any higher.

Aoko points at the camera hanging around my neck. “But you got a gift!”

“That’s besides the point!” I stress, trying to cover up my new favorite item.

“Heiji, we didn’t bring a gift because we’re happy not having grandkids at this moment,” my dad replies.

“UGGGH DAD!”

“Still not good with comebacks, huh?”

Mom swats his arm. “Heizo, he already swears like a sailor stop making him into a rebel!”

Kaito leans over to Aoko whispering, “And I thought our parents were hilarious.” I’M GLAD SOMEONE IS HAVING A GOOD TIME.

I point at my parents. “PARENTALS. WHY ARE YOU HERE?”

“We wanted to see where you were living of course!” Mom smiles, setting her teacup on the table. “I also wanted to see Kazuha since it’s been so long. She rarely visited when you were in America for some reason.” She’s acting as if she doesn’t know, but with the huge grin she’s giving me I know otherwise. Mom is the queen of gossip and because I am her darling Hei-chan, she makes sure to keep up with everything I do.

“Tomoya’s here too,” Dad says. “The four of us decided to make a trip out of it.”

I groan, leaning back in my chair. “Son of a bi—” My dad does his signature ‘unsquints one eye to glare menacingly’ thing. “…birthday. Son of a birthday.” Aoko and Kaito snicker.

Aoko stands up and starts cleaning up the table. “Well, Bakaito and I will get out of your hair so you can have family fun,” She says.

“It was nice meeting you!” Kaito smiles brightly. “Hearing about five year old Heiji was a blast.” Oh god please don’t tell me she told the story where I pretended to be a samurai super hero. “Can’t wait till Super SwordMan becomes a comic book classic.” GODDAMMIT.

“MOM ARE YOU SHI—”

Dad clears his throat.

“SHI…SHINING ME. ARE YOU SHINING ME MOM?” I force out.

Mom laughs, covering her mouth with her sleeve. “Hei-chan you were so cute then! How could I not tell them that story?” BY NOT TELLING THEM OBVIOUSLY.

“As much as I would love to see all of this unfold, I need to head to the café,” Aoko sighs. “Hakuba has been sending messages like mad.” Little does she know that her business is on the line because of a Carmen Sandiego cosplayer. With a courteous bow to my parents, my roommates leave the three of us.

“They’re nice people, Heiji,” Mom says, fixing her sleeves. “You always had a knack for befriending truly nice people.”

“And a knack for throwing them out of his life…” Dad mutters.

“OKAY so you know about what happened between me and Kazuha!” I sigh loudly. “But it’s fine now because we’re friends again! I’m learning to be nice to people!”

“You’re learning to be honest with yourself, you mean,” Dad says. “You were never good with that.”

I cross my arms muttering, “Says the other emotionally stunted man who had a pet rock…”

Dad grins. “That’s a good one.”

“Heizo…” Mom rolls her eyes. “Anyway Heiji, it’s nice seeing you mature! Your roommates were so happy to say that you helped them with their engagement!” She says. “You’re always the helpful type though.” She smiles.

“I can feel the ABC family-esque line you’re about to say…” I mumble, crossing my arms. I know my folks. While I’m sure they actually wanted to visit me, they’re the type to kill several birds with one stone. They wanted to see me, meet my roommates, see Kazuha, and most importantly…

Mom chuckles. “Astute as ever, my little detective of a child,” she says. “While you’re helpful to others, don’t forget to help yourself.”

“She means stop being an asshole,” Dad says eloquently.

My eyebrow twitches. I know he means this as lovingly as he can possibly allow, but it’s still annoying to hear. “And yet you’re still the way you are,” I mutter. Plus it doesn’t mean I can’t give him what he dishes out.

Dad grins again. “Keep up the good work, son.”

Mom sighs, shaking her head. “Heizo, you’re the reason why Hei-chan is the way he is,” she says getting up from the couch. Yes, 100% of my strangeness came from dad. I don’t even know how I wasn’t banished from the world from my terrible love of telling people off. It’s just so fun. “Granted, I fell in love with you for your odd attitude. Maybe there’s hope for Heiji.” She walks out of the living room. “Your room is the last one, correct?” She asks from the hallway.

“Yeah, why?” I ask, turning my head in her general direction. I gasp when I realize what she’s doing. “NO MOM LET ME KEEP YOUR KATANA! I FEEL LIKE A COOL SAMURAI WITH ITTTTTT”

“The key phrase is ‘my katana’, Hei-chan,” I hear her laugh from my room.

Dad gets up from his seat and stretches. “It’s either that or you face Tomoya by yourself,” he replies.

I immediately stop whining. “You’re awful people,” I mutter.  

Mom shuffles back into the living room, “You had to get from somewhere,” she says with a smirk. I glare at the katana in her hands.

“Can I at least use it for self-defense when Tomoya tries to kill me for breaking his daughter’s heart?” I ask.

“Oh please Heiji, as if it’ll go that far,” Mom laughs as she heads toward the door. She uses the door to balance herself as she slides on her shoes.

“She’s right,” Dad tells me. “Tomoya will probably just make one tiny comment about it.”

12:45 P.M. AT KAZUHA’S DOOR. THE DOOR OPENED BEFORE I EVEN RANG THE DOORBELL. FUCK THIS IS HOW I DIE, ISN’T IT?

I am immediately faced with the pleasant smile of Kazuha’s dad, who I call Uncle Tomoya. “Ah there you are! I was wondering when you all would come over.” Huh, he’s not mad. Maybe I was freaking out too much? “Heiji it’s been so long!” Uncle Tomoya leans against the door frame. “How was America?”

I put on my biggest smile. This is gonna be a nice calm conversation! “It was super cool! Learned a lot there,” I answer.

“That’s good…good to hear,” he nods, still smiling. “How was breaking my daughter’s heart?” He asks just as pleasantly.

My stomach immediately turns inside out. I FUCKING KNEW THIS OLD MAN WAS GOING TO HOLD A GRUDGE AND I WILL DIE HERE BY HIS HAND! Uncle Tomoya’s smile widens into a smirk as he pats my shoulder.  

“You and I are gonna have a little chat…” he tells me gruffly. “I’ve been waiting to say that since Kazuha cried about you all those years ago.”

I force out a laugh. “BUT IT’S COOL TO TALK AMONGST OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY, RIGHT?”

“My wife and Kazuha are downstairs at the café,” Tomoya tells me. “Shizuka, you’ll want to go down there too—apparently there’s dog cookies or something,” he says to Mom with a happier smile.

“Ooh I do love novelty sweets!” Mom happily takes her leave to the elevator leaving me with the man who wants to murder me for breaking his daughter’s heart and my dad who will luckily help me out of this situation. 

“Heizo, permission to use my favorite interrogation tactic with your son?” Uncle Tomoya asks.

Dad shrugs as he closes the door behind us. “Sure, sure.”

WHY DO I EXPECT ANYTHING FROM HIM. “UUUUGGGGH DAAAAD!”

“Still a bad comeback son.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: YOU SHOULD EAT FRUIT WITH YOUR WIVES

??? OSAKA. HIGH SCHOOL. PACKING UP FOR AMERICA. POST BREAKING UP WITH KAZUHA.

BUT I MEAN THAT IN THE FRIENDSHIP WAY. WE’RE NOT TOGETHER. I JUST...DON’T THINK WE’RE GOOD TOGETHER. I MEAN I DIDN’T THINK ABOUT IT OR ANYTHING SHUT UP.

I blindly throw my clothes into my suitcase. My plane takes off early tomorrow and I can’t wait to get out of here. I’ll be in a new place where there’s no one I know and new people to meet and no love confessions.

…no love confessions from the one person I feel the best with…

…and no more being that person’s best friend.

I slump and stop throwing my clothes. I’ll be alone in America. Now that I’ve effectively ruined my one friendship I have a clean slate. I guess that’s fine. I mean not really. I feel like punching a wall and breaking things but whatever I’m used to being on my own. Plus I’m growing up and adults make these kind of decisions, right?

Someone knocks on my door. “Hei-chan, I’m coming in,” Mom calls before opening the door. “Good gracious Heiji! I know you’re messy but this is ridiculous.” She shuffles in and immediately starts picking up some of the clothes that missed my suitcase.

I grumble something.

“Alright, tell me what’s wrong. You’ve been acting weird ever since your graduation ceremony.” She sits on my bed. “Plus Emi-san told me that Kazuha’s acting differently also.”

I stiffen. I keep my back toward Mom. I know my face can’t hide my emotions.

“So it’s something dealing with Kazuha?” She asks.

I go back to throwing clothes in my suitcase.

Mom sighs. “Fine, don’t tell me and stew in your problems. I swear you and your father are too alike.” She begins folding some of the clothes I’m packing. “I can’t believe you’re finally leaving. I told my mahjong friends that you were going to America and they were so impressed.”

I stop for a moment. “Were they?” I ask, turning around.

“Oh now you want to talk when someone’s complimenting you?” Mom laughs. “Yes they were. ‘Wow, Heiji-kun is making some adult decisions!’, they said.”

“Well, I am an adult now, right?” I ask.

“I guess, but you’re only eighteen. I’m still helping you pack.” She smiles, gesturing to my suitcase.

I walk over and give her a hug. “You don’t have to help anymore,” I say.

Mom lets out another sigh. “Whatever you say, Mr. Man, but remember you’re my Hei-chan!”

“You’re my old hag.” I laugh when she ruffles my hair angrily. “Night, Mom,” I say as she leaves.

“Goodnight, Heiji.” She closes the door.

Right, that’s why I’m leaving. I’m a grown up now. Everyone else is doing amazing stuff, why can’t I? Even Kazuha’s mature… I mean she said she loved me. Love is an adult thing, right? Right? 

I finish packing and set my suitcase by the foot of my bed. I check my desk to see if there’s anything I forgot. On the back corner of my desk there’s a small picture of me and Kazuha as kids. We’re at a theme park and we’re both wearing ball caps that have ears on them. The hats were two big for our heads. I stare at it. We’re grinning at the camera hugging each other.

She’s better without me, right?

Right.

12:50 P.M. KAZUHA’S APARTMENT. SITTING AT THE DINING TABLE WITH A LAMP POINTED AT MY FACE. UNCLE TOMOYA WASN’T KIDDING ABOUT INTERROGATING ME.

One would say that Uncle Tomoya and my dad love their jobs too much, but that person isn’t me because I’m already in enough trouble as it is. I would like a quick and painless death, thank you very much.

Uncle Tomoya sits across from me once again smiling as if we’re at a goddamn picnic social or something. “Comfortable?” he asks.

“Is there an answer that will get me out of this?” I ask. There’s no harm in trying right? “I am very comfortable if that helps me get out of this.”

He just laughs, turning to my dad who is standing behind him. “He’s hilarious,” he tells Dad.

“I know. I have no idea where he gets it from,” Dad responds. While I’m happy that my dad is self aware that he has no funny bone in his body, I would be MUUUUCH happier if he stopped this from happening.

Uncle Tomoya turns back to me. “Heiji, Heiji, Heiji...” he says with a deep sigh. “I never thought I would see you in a place like this.”

“…in your daughter’s apartment…that you allowed me to enter…?” I ask slowly.

“His mouth is something he got from you,” Uncle Tomoya tells Dad.

Dad grins. “A Hattori isn’t a Hattori if he’s not a smart ass,” he says. Well I’m glad my terrible attitude toward the world is genetic.

“What I mean is,” Uncle Tomoya starts again, “that I never thought you wouldn’t be dating my daughter.”

“Oh…” is all I can say because what else can I say to that?

“I mean, we were all thinking it would happen,” he continues. “If I were a betting man, I would’ve put a million yen for your and Kazu-chan’s relationship. I would be in serious debt right now!” Way to sound like a James Bond villain, Uncle Tomoya. I’m starting not to feel as scared for my life as I did before. It’s sorta setting in that I’m just in my best friend’s apartment with her and my dad who are off work and wanted to play Good Cop/Bad Cop over my relationship problems.

God…I don’t know if this makes my life look weird or theirs.

“Even my subordinates would ask if you two got together!” Uncle Tomoya tells me as if this is not the weirdest thing for policemen to talk about. Yeeeaaah definitely weirder for them more than it is for me.

“I’m glad crime is at an all time low that policeman can talk about two young adults,” I say.

“We’re good at our jobs, son,” Dad replies, now sitting at the table.

Uncle Tomoya nods. “Damn straight,” he agrees.

THAT DOESN’T EXPLAIN WHY KAZUHA AND I ARE THE TALK OF THE POLICE STATION. DO YOU GUYS NOT HAVE LIVES OF YOUR OWN TO FIGURE OUT?

“And yeah you two can be friends, but I just never thought you’d be the one that hurt her the most,” Uncle Tomoya sighs.

Oh god. I knew this was gonna be like the boss battle of this topic but damn I’m feeling even worse about everything.

“But that’s beating a dead horse,” Uncle Tomoya chuckles. “Just like your dad, you know how to fix your mistakes.” He leans back in his chair. “Somehow I can’t stay mad at you two.”

Dad shrugs. “It’s the Hattori charm.”

“Our charm is ruining the good things we have in life and being accepted for ruining said good things?” I ask him.

“Exactly,” he says.

“How has our bloodline survived this long?” I ask, moving the lamp out of my face. I feel like the interrogation is over now. Thankfully this Hattori charm still works.

“No one knows, son,” Dad answers. “No one knows.”

Uncle Tomoya laughs. “It’s great seeing you though, kid. You look healthy and happy,” he says before dramatically swinging the lamp to shine in my face again. “Now tell me everything you know about this tennis boy,” he mutters as he leans over the desk with a grimace.

“WHY ARE YOU MARRIED TO THE JOB?” I exclaim.

“Kid, c’mon doing interrogation stuff is hilarious outside of work,” Uncle Tomoya turns to Dad. “Right, Heizo?”

“Damn straight,” Dad nods.

I groan. “Why can’t you guys be normal middle aged people and like…eat fruit or something?” I sigh in my hands. “Please eat fruit with your wives.”

I’m literally begging them to eat fruit. What has my life become in this moment? Also why the hell would Uncle Tomoya ask me about Teruaki? Doesn’t Kazuha tell him about her…boyfriend?

I ask him this. It’s not like this situation can’t get any weirder. “Also he was your next door neighbor. You should know him,” I add.

“True, but all I remember is the phrase ‘am I right’ for some reason…” Uncle Tomoya says.

I’m surprised I find this more saddening than hilarious. I mean it is hilarious that literally people only remember Teruaki’s catch phrase more than his personality. But geez I didn’t think he was that forgettable.

“With that being said,” Uncle Tomoya moves the lamp out of my face, “Got a mission for ya, kid.” He grins at me.

I have a feeling it’s something awful.

“I want you to get to know the guy for me. You two were friends before so you can be friends again!” He laughs.

I fucking knew it. “Can’t you literally ask your daughter to talk to you about her boyfriend? It’s not like I’m dating him. I already have Kudo as my rebound and possibly Kaito if I’m wearing a wig.”

Dad sits up at this. “Choose the Kurobas—the story Aoko-kun wrote was really entertaining,” he says.

I sigh loudly. “Dad I’m going to take you reading erotic fanfiction about me and my roommates written by said ‘Aoko-kun’ as being a supportive father to stop myself from having a migraine.” I rub my temples.

“Now I wanna hear it,” Uncle Tomoya says.

“YOU SHOULD EAT FRUIT WITH YOUR WIVES!!” I exclaim, covering my face. My life is just a train wreck. This is my destiny.

“And to be clear this isn’t about me being a helicopter parent,” Uncle Tomoya says. “It’s more like reminding you what’s important. It’s been years since Kazuha spoke about what she’s doing, you know? She’s happy.”

For a brief moment, the intimating cold shield Uncle Tomoya has lowers and he actually looks like a dad that’s relieved over his only daughter. This sorta puts things in perspective. The Kazuha I knew growing up is gone. That makes sense since I’m not the same person I was when I was eighteen. In doing so we have to recognize what makes each of us happy. And even though he pisses me off, Teruaki is someone that is a part of her happiness.

Ugh…now I have this weird feeling to like…know what he’s like. I mean I know I’d be annoyed as hell but I want to be a better friend.

Before I could say anything, there’s the sound of talking by the door. It unlocks and Kazuha walks in with our moms in tow.

The three of them stare at us. Mom sighs and shakes her head at Dad. I agree Mom. Kazuha’s mom smiles at me.

“Long time no see Hei-chan!” She happily waves.

I wave back. “Hey, Aunt Emi,” I say. “Your husband interrogated me.”

Kazuha narrows her eyes at her dad. “Are you kidding me, Dad?”

“It’s my life’s work, Kazuha,” Uncle Tomoya replies, turning off the lamp.

Aunt Emi walks over to her husband and pinches his cheek. “You said you were going to be nice to Hei-chan, Mr. My Life’s Work,” she snaps before giving me another smile. “Hei-chan, you can ignore my idiot husband.”

“Seriously,” Kazuha sighs. She sits next to me and hands me a small bag filled with dog cookies. They’re spotted dogs with iced fireman hats on their heads. “Chocolate chip Dalmatians,” she tells me when I eat one.

“I’m going to lose my abs,” I tell her in the middle of my chewing. These are ridiculously good. I’m trying so hard not to eat them in three seconds.

She laughs. “When we left Sera said they’re planning to make triple fudge brownie poodles.”

“Kazuha,” I tilt my head back as I imagine the deliciousness of those brownie poodles, “my summer bod can’t handle this.”

“Hey, when I first started working at the café I had to increase my gym hours. You can do it too.”

Ugh but I hate the ggggyyyymmmmmm…..

“Do I get cookies?” Uncle Tomoya asks.

Kazuha crosses her arms and narrows her eyes at her dad. “It depends on what weird stuff you were telling Heiji.”

“I didn’t say anything…weird per se…” Uncle Tomoya begins.

I point my half-eaten cookie at him. “Not only did he mention ‘The Confession’ but he also talked about how he and my dad apparently had bets if we would date or not.”

Kazuha flushes, scowling at her dad. “Dad! Are you kidding!?” She starts scolding Uncle Tomoya and between you and me her face is really cute right now. Like seeing her…angrily embarrassed is really funny to me but in the ‘haha she’s making a cute face way’. God I feel like I’m so out of touch with romance that I don’t know if I can actually describe anything I’m feeling.

IS THIS WHAT A CRUSH IS? FUCK IT’S AWFUL.

Dad reaches over to grab a cookie from Mom who raises them out of his reach.

“No cookies for you either, Mr. Gossip-At-The-Water-Cooler,” Mom says.

“Technically we gossip in the break room—” Dad gets interrupted by Mom’s scolding.

I hear a small chuckle next to me. I look up to see Aunt Emi giving me a warm smile. She has a couple of gray hairs in her bob haircut but other than that she doesn’t look like she aged since I left.

“To think she chews him out more than I do…” she says, gesturing to Kazuha. “But it’s good to see vitality in her again.”

“Yeah,” I say softly.

Aunt Emi ruffles my hair. “I missed having you around Hei-chan. I’m glad you’re back! Did you find what you were looking for?”

I blink in confusion at the question. “I wasn’t really looking for anything, Aunt Emi. Just doing the ol’ college thing, you know?”

She shrugs. “Everyone’s looking for something. The annoying thing is we don’t know we were until we find what we needed,” she says. “When your mom first told me you were leaving for America, I thought, ‘Ah, Hei-chan is figuring out what he wants’.”

I chew on the rest of my cookie, thinking about the night I was packing for my flight to America. “I was defintitely trying to figure out stuff…” I finally answer.

Aunt Emi nods. “Mhm! And a change in scenery always helps you ‘figure out stuff’, as you say. You find out you missed something you had or want something completely different than what you first thought.” She grins and ruffles my hair again. “But don’t let this old lady make you worry. You and Kazu-chan are still young! You need to do fun stuff while you can!”

Something I missed, huh?

I look back at Kazuha who is still fuming at her dad. Haha there is a sense of de ja vu as I’ve seen her fuss at Uncle Tomoya for years. Is it weird to say that I’m reminded of how she was before I left? Kazuha has always been energetic and while she still has that now, she’s quieter than usual. Of course, everyone’s been telling me that haven’t they? Kaito and Aoko said she spent her times alone on the roof, she snapped at Ran just for mentioning me, and now she’s dating Teruaki. Hell, he even said that she’s acting different now that I’m back.

Is Kazuha searching for something? I wonder what it could be…but she may have found it with Teruaki. Ugh I feel myself pouting now. Crushes fucking suck.

“Kazu-chan, Shizuka-chan, I think you chewed out those old coots of policemen long enough,” Aunt Emi laughs.

“You make a fair point, Emi-san,” Mom says. “They’ll do something else stupid on the way back home.”

“Exactly!” Aunt Emi nods. “Kazu-chan, I meant to say this earlier, but your hairpin looks really nice!”

Mom clasps her hands together with a big smile of her own. “I noticed it too! It’s very a pretty green.”

“Did Teruaki-kun buy that?” Aunt Emi asks. 

It takes every fiber of my being not to let out the loudest and smuggiest laugh ever. As if Teruaki would have enough taste in his body to find a gift like that. I have all the taste!! I’M TASTY—no that doesn’t sound right.

Kazuha smiles brightly, bringing her hand up to play with the hairpin. “Actually, Heiji bought this for me.”

I gulp when her bright smile turns toward me. Ohh man I feel my face heating up again. I ignore Mom’s mischievous grin.

“Huh I’m surprised you actually have an eye for nice things,” Dad says, completely ruining the moment.

“You say this as if you don’t ask for my help every time you need to buy something for Mom,” I reply. “See? If you ate fruit with your wife, you’d have good taste also.”

Kazuha snickers at me. “What the hell—heck—kinda phrase is that, Heiji?” Ah I see she has to curb the swears too.

“A good one,” I say.

Aunt Emi lets out a small sigh. “I suppose we’ll get out of your hair now.”

“You guys can stay the night. I don’t mind,” Kazuha tells her mom.

“That’s very sweet of you, Kazuha--” Mom says.

“She wasn’t going to let you and Dad stay over,” I interrupt.

Mom talks over me. “THAT’S VERY SWEET OF YOU, KAZUHA. However, we already made some plans. We’re all staying at a hotsprings outside of Tokyo.”

“The bus we have to take is late. So we decided to find you kids,” Dad says, taking a cookie from my bag and eating it.

“Only you would make visiting sound like a waste of time.” I roll my eyes.

Kazuha chuckles. “Either way, it was nice seeing you Uncle Heizo.”

Dad opens one of his eyes to peer at Kazuha. She smiles at him. He goes back to his usual ‘eyes-practically-closed’ squint. “…it’s nice to be seen,” he says.

“Gross, is this how you would be if I had a sister?” I ask him. I immediately start laughing when he starts glaring at me. One of my greatest joys is calling my dad out whenever he’s actually feeling emotions. We’re lovable jerks to each other.

Uncle Tomoya checks his watch. “Well we better get going—the bus will be coming in about twenty minutes.”

“Kazuha and I can walk you guys to the station,” I say, getting up.

Kazuha gasps, clapping her hands. “Before you go let’s take a picture!” She gets her cell phone out of her back pocket. “It’s been a while since we’ve all been together.”

We all position ourselves in a group as Kazuha raises her phone to get the perfect shot.

She beams. “Alright! Say cheese!”

She takes three different pictures before she’s satisfied. After scrolling through them she shows us the best one. The six of us are all crowded together—Dad and Uncle Tomoya in the back, Mom and Aunt Emi in the middle, and Kazuha and I are in the front. Everyone’s smiling except for the two old guys, but that’s because they’re old guys who don’t eat fruit with their wives.

Yes, I love that phrase now.

Looking at the six of us, it does make feel all nostalgic. You know how sometimes nostalgia just feels like you ate a big ol’ bowl of soup and your belly is warm and you feel like sleeping? That’s how I feel right now.

America was cool, but I’m happy to be back home.

Also…now I really want soup.

1:30 P.M. AT THE BUS STATION. SAYING OUR LAST GOODBYES. WHEN I ASKED ABOUT THEIR, MOM SAID, “HEI-CHAN, WE CAN SHIP OUR BAGS BEFORE WE ARRIVE PLACES. THE FUTURE IS SCARY—OUR BAGS CAN VACATION BEFORE US.”

“I know you’re joking, but I kinda wish the people at the hot springs dress your suitcases in yukata as if they were vacationing just to scare you,” I laugh.

Mom swats at me. “Heiji, you’re not easing my worries.”

“Is that why you took your sword back?” Also I can’t wait to hear how people react to her just having a sword casually while riding the bus.

“I’m taking it back because you stole it, not because I’m wary of ghosts,” she says. “I live with two mystery lovers; I know that they don’t exist.” Says the lady holding her sword close.

Dad shrugs. “We’ve been arguing over whether ghosts can feel pain the entire train ride over here.”

I start cracking up. Of course they did. Mom isn’t afraid of most things since she knows how to fight, but anything supernatural is terrifying for her. I guess because it’s not based in reality. Heh, this should also explain why she’s nervous about the idea of her luggage vacationing. Anything personified isn’t good for Mom’s health.

“Heizo!” Mom flushes. “You’re supposed to be on my side!”

Dad shrugs again. “I knew Heiji would find it funny.”

“I do,” I say with a grin.

Mom lets out a sigh. “What am I supposed to do with you two?” she says with a smile of her own. “Well, we should be on our way. It was nice seeing you, Heiji.”

“Yeah, same here,” I say. “Hope you enjoy your trip.”

“Work hard,” she says.

“I will.”

“Clean your room.”

“Got it.”

“Wash behind your ears.”

“Done and done.”

“Don’t spend too much,” Dad adds.

“I’ll pretend my debit and credit cards don’t even exist,” I say. 

“Fill your fridge with food,” Mom says, crossing her arms. “I didn’t teach you how to shop and cook for nothing.”

“I’ll shop this weekend for the bulk sales.”

“Good boy,” she nods before smiling. “And keep being romantic,” she says.

I nod. “Yep, yep—wait what?” I stop nodding. “WHAT?” I repeat louder, causing the Tomoyas to glance in our direction. They’ve been having a long goodbye too a couple feet away from us.

Oh god, my face is so red.

“You heard me, Mr. Buying-Gifts,” Mom says. Her smile is now a teasing grin. She tries to be polite and cover it behind her hand.

“Ugh, please leave so the embarrassment can stop,” I groan, pushing them toward the bus.

Mom laughs at me and gives me a quick peck on the cheek before she gets on the bus. Dad ruffles my hair and give me a couple pats on the back.

“Did you know phones are used to call people?” He asks me.

“I’ll call more, Dad,” I say. Yes, it’s very easy to understand Heizo-Japanese. “Did you know I like souveniers?”

He chuckles. “I’ll buy something for you.” He ruffles my hair hair again and gets on the bus.

Kazuha gives her parents one last hug. Aunt Emi and Uncle Tomoya give me a wave before heading on the bus. Uncle Tomoya uncharacteristically winks and gives me a thumbs up and I let out a noise of disgust. I don’t even want to know what that was supposed to mean. Knowing him it’s about me getting to know Kunisue or whatever. I walk over to Kazuha as the bus drives off.

She smiles at me. “We got some crazy folks, huh?”

“Tell me about it. My mom wants to stab ghosts,” I say.

“That explains why Mom asked if ghosts could feel.” Aunt Emi, don’t get involved with my mom’s superstitions. “Hey, you wanna go to Mako’s place?”

“Rad,” I say. Nothing better to round out this nostalgia day with the best pretend brother in the world. “What about work?” I clocked out when I met up with my folks, but I never said if I was going to come back or not.

“Never fear, I got our backs. We both have a half day today, but we’ll be working full days the next two days,” Kazuha tells me.

“Double rad.”

Kazuha glances at one of the shop windows we pass by. She quickly fixes her hair. “Ah, I’ll have to get a trim soon…” she mumbles.

“You look good with short hair,” I say. Whoops. I meant to just think that, but hey a compliment is worth saying aloud.

Kazuha turns to me a bit surprised before chuckling and playing with the ends of her hair. “Really? Thanks, Heiji. When I first got it cut, a lot of people didn’t recognize me,” she says. “Sachiko and Ayama were completely floored.”

“I bet, but change is good.”

“Says the guy that has the same haircut since he was five.”

“Kazuha, I can’t help this hairstyle makes me a 35 on a 1 to 10 scale.”

She grins at me. “Does 10 signify really vintage?”

I playfully elbow her which makes her laugh. Hearing the sound makes me smile too. “You saw me in that wig when I was forced to be Manko. I look unfortunate with long hair.”

“I heard Kaito thought otherwise,” she says.

I groan. “Kaito and his fiancé are gonna be the death of me one way or another.”

She laughs again and we fall into comfortable silence. Despite walking to Makoto’s restaurant a few times, I feel like I’ve been going there forever with Kazuha. Man this nostalgia-soup feeling is not going away soon.

“It was nice seeing your folks again Heiji,” Kazuha tells me as we round another corner. She looks down at the ground as she walks beside me. There’s a small smile on her face. “Felt like home.”

“Yeah,” I say. I’m glad she also had the nostalgia-soup.

She snickers. “I hope Dad wasn’t too hard on you.”

I sigh loudly.

“Oh god he was wasn’t he?” She asks, pulling out her phone. “I have a right mind to call him right now and—”

“No, spare him,” I tell her. And by him I mean me more than Uncle Tomoya.

“What did you guys talk about?” She asks.

“Nothing much,” I say. One can’t say, ‘Hey your dad wants me to be a good pal and get to know your boyfriend’ after all. Granted he didn’t need to threaten me. I want Kazuha to be happy just like anyone else. “Nothing I don’t already know,” I rephrase, a little bit softer than before.

She gasps loudly over what I just said. WOW WHAT’S THE POINT OF GIVING OUT SUBTLE HINTS? “THEY HAVE THE NEW ALPACA PLUSHIE IN HERE! THAT’S SO UNFAIR!” She exclaims as she makes a beeline to the arcade we’re walking by.

I follow her inside and the ringing of several game jingles blares in my ears. Boy, it’s been a while since I’ve heard this. There are mostly teens playing the games at moment with some couples walking around here and there. The crane game is near the entrance and Kazuha is practically hugging the machine.

I can’t help but laugh at her pressing her face in the glass of the crane game. I look over her shoulder and see the damn thing is filled wither several alpaca plushies. “Do you want me to try and get it?” I ask.

My eyes widen.

WAIT. SHOULD I ASK THAT? ISN’T THAT A BOYFRIEND OR A BEST FRIEND THING TO DO? WOULD A BEST FRIEND GET THEIR OTHER BEST FRIEND THAT THEY HAVE A WEIRD CRUSH ON AN ALPACA PLUSHIE? WHY IS LIFE SO MUCH HARDER NOW. THIS CRUSH CAN GO STRAIGHT TO HELL.

“No need, Heiji,” Kazuha gets change from her purse and puts them in the game, “I get all of my plushies myself so I can feel the rush of winning.” She leans close to the game with her brow furrowed.

I let out a small breath of relief. Thanks Kazuha for unknowingly saving me from my personal hell and making me worry about how many alpaca plushies you own.

The first time she just missed the new plushie she’s aiming for. It’s a rainbow colored alpaca that has a polka dot bow around it’s neck. Kazuha grumbles as she gets more change and puts it in the game. She sighs when she has to pull out a small ziplock bag filled with yen coins. KAZUHA HOW FREQUENTLY DO YOU PLAY THIS GAME. HOW MANY ALPACAS ARE IN YOUR ROOM?

The big question is…where did she hide them when I wasn’t in there? I’ve been in her apartment twice and I didn’t see any of them.

“Did you go to the arcade in the US?” she asks before sticking her tongue out in concentration.

“Yeah sometimes I did. I mostly went with Ran and Kudo,” I answer. “Luckily where we were in California there were a lot of arcades. Apparently, there’s not many in America.”

“That sucks,” she says before pressing the button to launch the crane. We both watch with bated breath as it reaches down toward the rainbow alpaca.

“You sure you got it?” I ask.

“Heiji, I’m as sure as your love for coffee,” she says. Damn, that’s pretty sure.

We gasp when it grabs the rainbow alpaca. The crane slowly rises back up and begins moving over to drop the prize in the slot.

“Come on, you piece of shit do the right thing,” she mutters under her breath.

I snicker. “Does cursing out the machine help?”

The crane drops the alpaca in the prize slot.

“HELL YEAH IT DOES!” Kazuha jumps up and down letting out a whoop before reaching to get her prize from the slot. “COME HERE YOU RAINBOW CUTIE!” She cheers as hugs the plush tightly.

Some people glance in her direction as she continues gushing about her new prize. Kazuha pulls out her phone and takes a selfie with it. She looks over to me with a big smile.

“Get in the picture too, Heiji,” she says.

“You sure?” I ask as I get in the shot. “I honestly didn’t think you’d get it.” I fix my hair some as I look at the phone.

“Yeah,” she grins, “Gotta document the dummy who didn’t believe I’m superior to him in every way.”

Wow.” I quickly flick off the camera just as she takes the picture.

Kazuha bursts out laughing. “I knew you’d react to that,” she says looking at the photo. “I’ll post this to Twitter later.”

“Go ahead,” I shrug. “But now that I think about it, I guess you’re right.” I start walking out of the arcade. “You do surpass me as an ahou after all.”

“Ahou!” She says behind me. I look over my shoulder and see her grinning. She gestures to the DDR machine at the back of the arcade. “You’re an even bigger ahou if you’re going to leave the arcade without playing DDR.”

I’m not telling her this, but she’s right. I can’t believe I was about to leave without playing the greatest dance game in existence. Kazuha follows me as I practically push people out of the way to reach the DDR machine. I haven’t played it in so long.

“It’s been so long, old friend,” I tell the DDR machine.

“Should I leave you two alone?” Kazuha asks.

“No, because we’re playing this game and I’m destroying you.” I get in my spot.

Kazuha gets in hers. “Wow, what a big game you’re talking for someone who always lost.”

“QUOTE THE RAVEN, ‘NEVERMORE KAZUHA’!” I shout, already selecting what song we’re dancing to.  

She laughs loudly and honestly it made me so excited that I wasn’t paying attention when the game started. I don’t remember which one of us got the other into playing DDR but it’s something we always did after school or during school breaks. When I say we spent too much time at the arcade, I mean the owner of the arcade had to tell us that he was closing one time. We literally stayed at the arcade for like five hours playing DDR.

Of course when I left for America, I made sure to visit the arcade to keep up my skills. Ran and Kudo would come along with me, but they preferred watching. Ran liked recording me play and Kudo enjoyed yelling ‘NERD’ behind me. I liked flipping him off as I made my 300 combos. Makoto would join us whenever we had a martial arts meet, but the crowd always made him nervous.

Right now, Kazuha and I are in sync as we dance to Kimono Princess, one of Kazuha’s favorites. She’s still holding her alpaca plushie. While it was fun to play with Ran and Kudo, it is much more fun to play with Kazuha since we’re complete addicts to this game. What’s annoying about playing with Kazuha is that since she’s also addicted to this game, she rarely misses or has bad timing. At the end of the of the round we’re both heaving for air.

“God, it’s so crazy that’s only like a minute…” I say between breaths.

Kazuha leans on the back rail, fanning herself. “I know, right?” she says.

Our scores are tallied: Kazuha has 215 and I have 214.

“WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL!” I scream as Kazuha victory dances. “WHAT WAS THE ONE POINT OFF FOR!?” I check the screen to see what fuckery is happening here. I WAS ACTUALLY PERFECT.

“Ohh,” Kazuha points at my side of the screen. “You got an OK and I didn’t. You always had weird timing.”

“This is actual bullshit,” I mutter.

Kazuha pats my back. “I know what will make you feel better, Heiji,” she says. “Sunkiss Drop.”

“YES,” I blurt out.

One day after school Sachiko and Ayama joined us at the arcade. They were watching me and Kazuha and one of them said we should join a couples competition. Hey, I remembered their names! I’m getting better!

“I hope I still remember everything,” I say as Kazuha chooses the song.

“I’m sure you do, Heiji,” she tells me as we wait for the song to start.

So Kazuha and I spent a lot of time practicing one of the hardest and one of our favorite songs, Sunkiss Drop. We didn’t just perfect the routine on one side of the screen. No we decided to be extreme and memorize both sides so we could easily move across the whole board. We even had like cool jumps and stuff planned! But the competition was after a martial arts tournament and Kazuha and I were so tired that we slept through the DDR competition. What was worse is that Sachiko and Ayama actually went to the competition and were really upset we didn’t show.

Just to let you guys know, we still remember it. I guess you can get a man away from DDR, but not DDR away from the man.

…that sounded cooler in my head.

Some of the people in the arcade are looking in our direction. I can’t tell how many as I’m too focused on the screen, but from the sound of things, there’s a small handful of people. There’s something about hearing all of the music of the other arcade games and general buzz of people talking that’s so great about arcades. Like you’d think you’d get a headache from it, but it’s just a room full of people having fun.

And speaking of fun, this is probably the best fun I’ve had in a looooong time. I hear Kazuha laugh beside me and it makes me laugh too. I can’t help but remember us playing after our club meetings and then walking home even more tired than we were before. It sounds weird, but it was a good kinda tired.

When we finish the song our scores are identical—303. We hear some clapping and a whistle. Kazuha turns around and beams at the person behind us. There’s only a couple of people that can make her react like that. I know Makoto’s at work today so that means it’s…

“Kunichi,” Kazuha hops down and walks over to her boyfriend. “How long were you watching us?”

Teruaki greets Kazuha with a hug and a peck on her forehead. Restrain from feeling anything, Heiji. This is a test of endurance.

“I was actually on my way to your place, and then I heard Heiji swearing as I passed by,” he says giving me a wave. “I remember I had to walk you home a couple times because you guys stayed here for hours. You guys are crazy for this game, am I right?”

Oh yeah…he did come by sometimes didn’t he? I suppose I blocked it out LIKE I BLOCKED OUT HIS ENTIRE EXISTENCE. But alas, he’s here…dating Kazuha. And she’s happy.

Neat.

“Yo, Teruaki,” I finally decide to greet him. “We were going to Mako’s place to eat. You can join us if you want,” I say.

Both Kazuha and Teruaki look at me as if my head suddenly turned into a snake’s. A part of me wants to say I know how to be a nice person, but I don’t feel like it.

Kazuha smiles. Ugh, it’s one of those ‘I’m proud of you’ smiles. “Wanna join us? You had tennis practice earlier, right? I’m sure you’re hungry. Plus you can hang out with Mako too.”

“Sure. I never met him yet, am I right?” He tells Kazuha before turning to me with a grin. “You’re okay with me coming along?”

I roll my eyes. “I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t,” I say, getting off the DDR machine and start heading out of the arcade.

I take out my phone and start texting Makoto.

Me: BROTHER MAKO KAZUHA AND I ARE HEADING TO YOUR RESTAURANT AND AM I RIGHT IS WITH US AND I’M USING YOU AS A FUNNEL TO SCREAM.

His response is a simple one.

BroMako: …well at least you’re honest.

“Aw man, this is a real treat, am I right?” Teruaki says as we wait to cross the street. “It’s like the old days when we walked home from school.”

Gross of all the memories to bring up why that? I remember feeling highly irritated each time he hung out with us. “No nostalgia soup for you,” I tell him.

“What’s that, Heiji?” he asks as we cross the street.

“Nothing,” I grumble.

He laughs. “You’re always hip with the new thing, am I right?”

Oh my god I’m about to have a migraine.

Kazuha is in between the two of us. “Never mind Heiji,” she says. “I’m just glad that we can hang out like we used to. It’s like nothing changed!”

“Well some things have changed,” Teruaki replies, taking Kazuha’s hand in his.

I take out my phone as we start crossing the street.

Me: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

BroMako: You know, I’m glad you warned me beforehand.

“How’s tennis?” Kazuha asks her boyfriend.

“Today was the final practice before a break,” the boyfriend says. “I know I’ve been out of the picture for a bit, but we can finally chillax, am I right?”

Of course he uses the word ‘chillax’. Who is he, Genta?

The boyfriend leans down to peck Kazuha’s cheek. “Thanks for being patient with me,” he says.

Boyfriend. What a phrase. Remember when I was annoyed about Kazuha getting too chummy with Hakuba? Man how time flies. I decide to reminiscence with the Tin Man.

Me: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss when you were my main problem.

RobotHawkPrince: Well, that’s one less paycheck to process this week.    

Me: You’re my friend too, buddy.

RobotHawkPrince: WE ARE NOT FRIENDS.

Kazuha blushes. “You don’t have to thank me…” she mumbles.

“’Course I do!” Teruaki says. “I was gone longer than usual thanks to weather delays at the tournament.”

“Yeah, but you called so it wasn’t like you weren’t there,” she says. “But I’m glad you’re here now.” She smiles at him.

My eyebrow twitches. Did they forget that I’m here? HAVE I, THE GREATEST PERSON ALIVE, BEEN FORGOTTEN?

Me: I’m gonna do something stupid.

BroMako: While I think it’s commendable you’re telling me this, I know you’re not going to read my message fully to stop you and are already doing whatever the ‘stupid’ thing is.

“ON NO YOUR ROOTS ARE SHOWING,” I yell loudly.

Teruaki immediately reaches up to touch his hair. “Wait, really!?” he whips his head to me. Huh, I didn’t think he was self conscious about that kinda thing. I was just trying to get his attention.

HAHA GO ME!

“Are they?” He bends his head down for Kazuha to see.

“I mean, they are, but I don’t think it’s nothing to fuss over,” Kazuha says with a shrug. “Your hair kind reminds me of a pudding cup whenever it’s like this. I think it’s kinda cute.”

Teruaki immediately brightens, his cheeks reddening. “Oh! Well, I’ll push off redying it a little while longer,” he chuckles before grinning at me. “Nice one, am I right?”

NO IT’S NOT. HOW THE HELL DID THAT BACKFIRE?

2:00 P.M. KYOGOKU FAMILY RESTAURANT. MAKOTO, MY SAVING GRACE, DECIDED TO SIT WITH US BECAUSE HE KNEW I NEEDED THE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT.

“The lunch rush is over,” Makoto replies. “And I haven’t sat down in a couple of hours.”

THAT’S CODE FOR HE KNEW HE NEEDED TO BE HERE.

But he’s right, aside from our table, there’s only two other tables full at the moment. I can only imagine the lunch rush is like here. Ours is crazy and we only make drinks. I can’t even being how crazy it can be serving actual food.

“Oh geez,” Kazuha says between bites of her fries. “I feel kinda bad for having you serve us…”

Makoto shakes his head as he leans back in the booth. “It’s alright Kazuha,” he says. “It’s my job. Plus seeing you here makes me happy.”

“Mako, please warn someone when you’re going to be really honest,” she says covering her face. “I had the urge to sob happy tears, but I don’t want to cry over my fries.”

“I can’t believe you just ordered a plate of fries, ahou,” I say as I eat my food.

Kazuha points a fry at me. “Don’t make me the weird one, ahou! Who eats soup in the middle of the day?

I purposefully slurp my soup loudly before answering, “Nostalgia soup.”

Teruaki gasps and turns to Makoto. “Is that what you serve here? That’s a cool name, am I right?”

“It’s not called that here. Heiji makes up so many strange phrases, I choose not to keep up with them,” Makoto replies.

“That’s because you can’t say nutterbutter,” I say.

He clears his throat loudly when he flushes. “Pardon my rudeness for not introducing myself earlier,” he bows his head. “I am Kyogoku Makoto—”

“The prince of kicks,” I say.

Kazuha grins. “The prince of every girl’s heart.”

“The hottest thing since a piece of toast.”

“There’s a line of tickets to see his gun show.”

“STOP PLEASE,” Makoto shushes me and Kazuha with a red face.

“Brother Mako, it’s because you react this way that we keep doing it,” I say, happily going back to eating my soup.

Kazuha snickers as she dips her fries in mayo. “…hottest thing since piece of toast…” she mumbles to herself.

“Either way, it’s nice to finally meet you,” Makoto tells Teruaki. “You may use my first name if you wish.”

Teruaki bites on the end of his chopsticks. He ordered gyoza. “I know I’m the oldest one at the table, but you have a big bro vibe to ya, Makoto,” he says.

I start eyeing Kazuha’s fries. I kinda hate I didn’t order them. Instead of actually asking for some, I wait until she’s distracted by her phone to take some. I force them in my mouth just before she turns to me. She narrows her eyes at me and I just shrug.

“I’ve been told,” Makoto replies, taking off his glasses. “I do have a younger sister, Minori. She works in the kitchen.”

I start reaching for more fries when Kazuha starts scrolling on her phone again.

Makoto slaps my hand away. “I’m also friends with these two.”

Our conversation drifts from Mako getting to know Teruaki, Kazuha showing off her new alpaca plushie to Mako, and Teruaki being Teruaki. No that last one we didn’t talk about, but he was just so happy to be here. It was weird.

Like he’s still grinning like an idiot now.

“What’s with you?” I ask. Hey, I’ve always been someone to call things out. I assume it’s a part of the Hattori ‘We’re Born Assholes’ Bloodline. “You’ve been like so happy this whole time.”

“Ahou,” Kazuha rolls her eyes. “People can be happy.”

Teruaki laughs. “It’s fine, Kazuchi. I was just thinking how I always wanted to just hang out with you guys,” he says. “Kazuha always told me how much fun she had with her best friends and I always wanted to be a part of those memories. Sounds cheesy, am I right?”

WOW.

WOW.

FUCK HIM. FUCK HIM FOR TUGGING AT THE FEW HEARTSTRINGS I HAVE.

God, he service aced my reasons for being a jerk to him. Kazhua gasps excitedly.

“OSAKA NIGHTS!” She proclaims.

“That sounds…like a cheap love hotel,” I say.

Kazuha turns to me still excited, “I’m too excited to care! We can have sleepovers at my apartment whenever we’re free! Osaka Nights!”

“I’m not from Osaka,” Makoto replies.

“Haido is close!” she says.

“…it’s not,” he says with a chuckle.

“What about HaidOsaka Nights?” I suggest. “That way Brother-Mako feels more included.”

Kazuha lets out a whoop. “HAIDOSAKA NIGHTS!”

Teruaki laughs at her enthusiasm. “Sounds fun to me.”

And honestly…it sounds fun to me too. Hey, I know I got weird crush feelings but I’m still a friend. Like I can’t drop being a friend just because I occasionally think Kazuha is cute.

Wow. I was able to think that without getting frazzled. Maybe I’m growing up?

I ask Makoto to let me out of the booth so I can go to the toilet. At the same time Minori comes out of the kitchen to call her brother to help bring out more food to customers. While I’m in the bathroom, I get a text. Or rather, several.

*THREE’S COMPANY APARTMENT*

Former-Laptop: I NEED SOMETHING FUNNY IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW.

DOVES: I WAS THINKING ABOUT BANANA FLAVORED SODA DOES THAT HELP?

DOVES: WAIT WHY?

I stare at my phone. Well at least I just finished washing my hands.

Me: Kaito banana sodas sound really gross.

Former-Laptop: It kinda does Jerkaito.

DOVES: But grape soda sounds okay???

Former-Laptop : It makes more sense!

Me: Well to be fair, American grape soda tastes like straight sugar.  

DOVES: AHA!

Former-Laptop: Out of curiosity what is your favorite soda, Heiji?

Me: Peach.

DOVES: THAT’S OUR FAVORITE!!!!

Former-Laptop: FUCK YEAH IT IS!!! Aw I’m so happy now!!

DOVES: Why did you need a joke/happiness Bimboko?

Me: Great question for a fiancé to ask—why do you need happiness, lady I’m about to marry?

DOVES: THAT’S NOT HOW I MEANT IT.

Me:  First you leave her snoring on the floor and now this.

DOVES:   OMG SHUT UP. YOU DIDN'T PICK HER UP EITHER. 

Me:  Wow and now you want another man touching your fiance.

DOVES:  AOKO SAY SOMETHING. 

Former-Laptop:  LOOOOOL THIS IS HILARIOUS. 

DOVES:  OMG AOKO ARE YOU SERIOUS.

Me: LMAFO SHE DOESN'T EVEN HELP YOU.  

Former-Laptop:  Now Kaito it's not every day you're the teaser.

Me: Also I like how you're forgetting you tease me all the time also. 

DOVES: BUT YOU WERE IN A WIG THAT HAD TO BE DONE. 

Me: WOW. 

Former-Laptop: Heiji is literally doing what you do to Shinichi all the time.

Me: Teasing Shinichi is like breathing. 

DOVES: It really is. 

DOVES: Seriously though what's up? I know you want a laugh when you're nervous about something. 

Me: Nice rephrasing. 

DOVES: shut it. 

Former-Laptop: I have to make a call that I really don’t want to make.

DOVES: To help with the café? I thought you liked all of your café friends?

Former-Laptop: It’s not a friend. At least on my side. Any other jokes before I dial this phone number?

Me: I’m currently hanging out with Makoto, Kazuha, and her boyfriend.

DOVES: HAHAHA!

Former-Laptop: LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL THAT SOUNDS AMAZING.

Former-Laptop: Ah, there’s nothing more hilarious than your life Heiji.

Me: Remember when you two weren’t engaged and you were worried Hakuba wanted to break you up?

DOVES: AW PIGEONS! MY PHONE IS BLACKING OUT ALL OF A SUDDEN!

Former-Laptop: Whoops seems like there’s a glitch in your phone Heiji. All I’m reading is I love you Aoko omg you’re the best boss I ever had.

Me: I GOT YOU TWO ENGAGED. I EXPECT A WEDDING PRESENT.

I stuff my phone back in my pocket. I’m super serious—I expect a beautifull wrapped box on their wedding day. I head out of the bathroom and almost run into Makoto’s back.

“Oh sorry, Heiji,” he says. “Come over this way, they won’t see us here.”

“Who?” I ask, following him toward the kitchen doorway. It is hard to see from the booths. I gasp. “Is my dream of us being in an action flick finally happening?” I eagerly look for bad guys to beat up. “I can think of one liners like a motherfucker, Brother Mako.”

Makoto chuckles. “No, I was watching Kazuha and Teruaki-san,” he replies.

“Note to self: Makoto likes stalking.”

“I don’t!” He hisses, his face reddening. “It’s just after I finished serving other guests, I noticed the two of them talking.” He glances over to our booth. “They seem nice.”

I decide to see what he means by that. At our booth Kazuha and Teruaki are chatting while she feeds him fries. Kazuha grins at something Teruaki says before nodding and responding. I feel the nostalgia-soup feeling drain out of my body. I’m bothered that you can tell they’re in their own world and they’re not bothered by anyone else.

AND I’M SUPER BOTHERED THAT THEY LOOK SO HAPPY!

I look away with a sigh. “They look like a nice couple…” I say.

“I agree,” he says. “Sorry, that’s probably something you don’t want to hear.”

I shrug. “I mean as her friend I do want to know she’s happy with Teruaki, but it is kinda…” I trail off.

Makoto nods. “I understand. If it helps, we have another problem now.” His face is even redder than usual.

“What’s that?”

“…look for yourself…” Makoto mumbles, glancing down at his hands.

I look back at the booth and almost choke on air.

Kazuha and Teruaki are now…currently…making out…THEY ARE CURRENTLY MOUTHING EACH OTHER IN A PUBLIC SPACE BECAUSE FUCK OTHER PEOPLE APPARENTLY. SURE THE BOOTH SORTA BLOCKS THEM FROM OTHER PEOPLE BUT WE SEE EVERYTHING IN OUR POSITION.

“What the hell how are we supposed to go back?” I whisper to Makoto.

He covers his face. “I don’t know! I don’t even know what to think!”

For some reason we both have the urge to hide behind something but there’s nothing to hide behind. Instead we go into the kitchen. Minori gives us a weird look before heading out the back door.

“Maybe it’ll stop shortly?” Makoto says as he reaches up to push up his glasses.

“You don’t have your glasses on,” I tell him.

He pauses and checks his shirt pocket for them. I watch him check all of his pockets for his glasses.

“Did you leave them somewhere?” I ask.

His eyes widen. “I left my glasses on the table.”

“What.”

“My glasses are watching them….” He says, covering his face.

“HOLY SHIT. THEY’RE MAKING OUT IN FRONT OF YOUR BLESSED FRAMES!” I try to whisper this but it’s very hard.

Makoto groans. “Do I give them that pair and use another pair?” he asks. “Is that how it’s supposed to work? It’s like if I workout in one of your shirts, it’s better if I keep it right? Isn’t this situation similar?”

“Dude, I don’t even know!” I say, now pacing. “HOW THE HELL ARE WE SUPPOSED TO GO BACK!?”

“I DON’T KNOW!” Makoto also starts pacing. So now in this kitchen there’s two grown men nervously walking back and forth. Minori comes back in from the backdoor, sees the two of us frantically pacing, and goes back outside. “Did they believe we left for good?”

“I don’t think so,” I say. “I think Teruaki just wanted to be handsy while they had a chance.” I can’t help but tease Makoto. “You’ll be doing that soon with your dream girl.”

Makoto almost trips. “Heiji, I am already at the height of embarrassment. I don’t think I can take much more.”

“Alright, alright…okay, alright…” I say trying to think of something to stop everything from happening. “Well let’s not freak out—they probably stopped since they’re in public.”

Makoto nods. “Maybe they’re also embarrassed,” he adds.

“I’ll check,” I say as I edge to the door. I slowly open it, and peek behind to scope the situation.

OH GOD IT’S STILL HAPPENING. ALSO WHAT THE HELL THEY DIDN’T EVEN FINISH THE PLATE OF FRIES I COULD’VE EATEN THOSE DAMMIT.

“WHY DIDN’T YOU LET ME EAT HER FRIES!?” I hiss at Makoto when I’m fully back in the kitchen.

“What does that have to do with anything?” He asks. “Is the deed…done?”

“It shifted into high gear."

“BUT HEIJI MY GLASSES!”

“I KNOW AND THOSE UNEATEN FRIES!”

“HEIJI YOU CAN GET MORE FRIES!”

“WELL YOU CAN GET MORE GLASSES!”

Makoto lets out a breath before ruffling his hair. “Let’s calm down. We won’t get anywhere by flying off the handle,” he says.

“Right.” I nod. “What’s the plan?” I ask as he checks one of the fryers.

“I’m giving you more fries,” he says. “You’re going to think of a way to stop them.”

“WHAT THE HELL WHY DO I HAVE TO DO IT?”

“Because I’m now busy making you more fries as a reward.” He smiles at me. “Heiji, you’re the only one ridiculous enough to think of an equally ridiculous plan to save my glasses.”

I glare at his peaceful smile. The amazing smell of fries wafts to my nose. “I’m doing this for the fries, not your now-defiled glasses.”

He laughs. “Two servings of fries for my best friend.”

UGGHHH….

I begrudgingly thank him and begin thinking of what to do. Knowing Teruaki he’s gonna be extra handsy since he hasn’t seen Kazuha in a while. Which ugh that ahou should know we’re trying to come back but she’s probably caught up in her lovey-dovey emotions. UGH! THIS IS FUCKING DUMB.

And I guess…I have to do something equally as stupid. My eyes land on a napkin dispenser on the counter. Makoto watches me grab several napkins and walk out of the kitchen. My eyebrow twitches when I see those two are still kissing as if it’s going out of style. I glance down at my crumpled napkin balls.

This must be done.

I slowly rear back my right hand and lift up my left leg as I imagine myself on the pitcher’s mound. I played a lot of baseball growing up and watched tons of Koshien. If I wasn’t so in love with kendo I’d probably be a baseball star. Of course my favorite pitch is a fast ball. Not only was I good at speed, but my control is amazing too. Yeah I’m tooting my own horn, but I need to pump myself up as I continue doing this incredibly stupid thing.

I throw the napkin at full speed. “AHOU HIS GLASSES ARE WATCHING!” I shout as it hits Teruaki square on the forehead. 

THOSE FRIES ARE GONNA TASTE AMAZING AFTER THIS.

3:00 P.M. AT THE APARTMENT BUILDING. GETTING OUT OF THE ELEVATOR. I FINISHED OFF MY FRIES ON THE WALK BACK.

AND THEY TASTED LIKE FUCKING VICTORY.

My phone goes off from another text message.

*WE’RE MAKO’S FANGIRLS*

Ahou: I’VE KNOWN YOU FOR YEARS.

Ahou: LITERALLY ALL OF MY LIFE.

Ahou: AND I STILL CANNOT BELIEVE YOU FUCKING PELTED US  WITH GODDAMN NAPKINS AHOU.

Me: THE HELL WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO AHOU? SIT BACK DOWN AND POLITELY SAY HEY STOP SUCKING HIS FACE PRETTY PLEASE?

Ahou: ONE WAS ENOUGH. YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO THROW LIKE THIRTY AT US.

BroMako: Who changed the name of this group chat? I thought it was HaidOsaka.

Ahou: I DID BECAUSE YOU TOLD HIM TO DO SOMETHING STUPID MAKOTO. NOW PREPARE TO BE EMBARRASSED MR. HOT-STUFF.

BroMako: No……

Ahou: ALSO MR. HANDSOME-AS-HELL WHY WERE YOU LIKE ‘PLEASE TAKE RESPONSIBILITY’ ABOUT YOUR GLASSES??? YOU MAKE IT SOUND LIKE KUNISUE AND I HAD AN AFFAIR WITH THEM.

BroMako: ….but they witnessed your…uh passion….

Me: Mako…of all the words to choose why that one.

Ahou: I AM LIVID WITH YOU TWO. WHAT HAPPENED TO POLITENESS???

BroMako: I would like to be informed when public displays of affection are polite.

AmIRight: Now now Kazuchi. I thought it was kinda hilarious.

*AmIRight changed group name to HaidOsaka*

AmIRight: That was a great throw, Heiji! You should’ve been a baseball star, am I right?

Me: For once, you’re extremely correct, Teruaki.

AmIRight: Kazuchi, it was an awkward situation for them. A couple napkins tossed at us is nothing, am I right?

Ahou: …fine. 

I let out a sigh as I dig in my jacket pocket for my keys. Of course she’d cool out when her boyfriend politely asks her to. Uggggh I hate whatever this feeling is.

When I open the door, I see Kaito sitting on the couch scrolling on his phone. We look at each other for a brief moment.

“I feel weird,” we say at the same time.

“You also hung out with your best friend’s boyfriend and thought they were a better match than you thought?” I ask, heading to my room. He follows me with a small laugh.

“Oh yeah, you said that was happening,” He says, sitting on my bed.

“Yeah,” I answer. “After dropping our parents off to the train station, Kazuha and I decided to hit up Mako’s place to eat and we ran into Teruaki on the way there.”

“I like that you call him Mako.” Kaito smiles.

I shrug. “He’s like a brother to me,” I say. “Anyway, Mako left to do something in the kitchen and then I left to go pee and when we both came back we saw Kazuha and Teruaki making out as if they didn’t need to breathe air for the rest of their goddamn lives.”

Kaito winces. “Ouch.”

“TELL ME ABOUT IT!” I say, waving my arms. “ALSO HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO APPROACH A MAKING OUT COUPLE?”

“Keiko usually starts tapping our heads when she catches me and Bimboko going at it,” Kaito replies. “Hakuba usually stays out of the room and times us—he times our freezer makeouts too.”

“Of course he does.”

Kaito laughs. “It’s more like he’s making sure we don’t get hurt.”

“He’s too good for you,” I tell him.

“Bimboko and I buy him a lot of gifts for that reason alone,” he says. “So did you and Makoto leave Kazuha alone or…?”

“Oh I started throwing balled up napkins at her,” I answer easily. Kaito laughs loudly, hitting the side of the bed.

“OF COURSE YOU DID!”  

“But I got fries out of it.”

He grins. “As one should in this situation.”

I sigh as I start changing. No, I don’t care. I suppose changing in the locker rooms back in high school does that to you. I roll my eyes when Kaito blows a wolf’s whistle at me once I take off my shirt.

“Yes, it was rough and I am now forever sad and will eat ten pounds of coffee ice cream,” I say.

He laughs, now hugging one my pillows. “Mind if I join you? Today we had a meeting about the café and this critic Koizumi-san. Turns out Sagu-chan and I met her before at one of my shows.”

Huh, that explains why Hakuba was kinda awkward when she came by.

“She seems the type who would enjoy drinking wine and staring at paint drying with like Mozart playing in the background,” I say putting on my sleeping shirt.

“Boo!” Kaito snickers. “I was enjoying the view.”

“I know you’re joking, but today my dad suggested I should change my rebound from Kudo to you and Aoko. So there’s that,” I tell him.

Kaito almost falls off my bed laughing. “YES BECOME A KUROBA! BIMBOKO WOULD HAVE A FIELD DAY!” He says. “Oh man she’s gonna be inspired for future fics for years now.”

At least someone will benefit from the strangeness that is this entire day. And honestly Aoko deserves it since there’s a target on her café now.

“But back to Koizumi-san—she was at one of my shows. Remember when you and Hakuba first met? It was that night,” Kaito says, sparing me the fake flirting when I change pants.

I pause for a moment to think back to that. With all the craziness in my life, I’m surprised some stuff feels like a looong time ago. But I do remember what he’s talking about.

“Woah wait Hakuba knows how to flirt with people?”

“Heiji, I’m his best friend. Of course he knows how to flirt with people,” Kaito says this like I personally offended him. “Who do you think he asked to help create ‘Prince Saguru’?” Of course he did. It all makes sense now. “They happened to see each other from across the bar and with a little pushing from me he went over to make his move.”

“Wow, that sound so unlike him,” I say. I can’t even imagine Hakuba in a bar in the first place. I can easily picture him in the watching paint dry scenario I made up for Koizumi.  

“Well after like ten minutes he got too embarrassed and left.”

I snicker at this as I put my clothes in my hamper. “That sounds like R2-D2.” I turn back to Kaito and see him hugging my pillow tightly and biting his lip. He gives me a nervous laugh. “What did you do?” I ask.

“Soooo…” He starts slowly. “After Sagu-chan left, I thought I should help him out and be a stellar wingman.” I love how he’s so confident in his wingman skills when he’s only dated his high school sweetheart. Oh god does that mean he’s been wingman-ing for Hakuba since high school?? “So I changed my disguise to him—”

“You have a…Hakuba disguise?” I interrupt. “That you keep on hand?

He shrugs as if this is a normal thing. I hate that I wouldn’t be surprised if he told me that he’s actually a spy for the government. “I have tons of disguises. You’re one of the few people I can’t do because of your skin tone.”

Thank god for my amazing tan skin.

“So I disguised as him and decided to talk to Koizumi-san some more. She actually started warming up to me, er to me as Sagu-chan,” he continues. “Of course I had to take off the disguise since I had a show to continue doing. I didn’t think about changing out of Sagu-chan—”

“That is the creepiest phrase,” I say.

“And I took off my disguise on stage…” he trails off, now playing with his fingers.

I gasp when it all clicks in my head. “Oh my god are you saying that she thought you were flirting with her that entire time?”

“Well she came up to me afterward asking that same thing and I told her that Sagu-chan was real at first but then I took over,” he answers. “Then she asked why.”

“A correct response,” I say, crossing my arms.

“And I said I wanted to get to know her some more which is true because I thought I could tell Sagu-chan some more info on her later, but uh…” Kaito is looking anywhere except my face. “…she uh…may have…a small…crush on me? Maybe?”

I sigh loudly. “Didn’t you say you were engaged?”

“Well at that point I didn’t pop the question to Aoko, yet,” Kaito says. He plays with his fingers again, this time he’s making cards appear in the palm of his hand.  

I roll my eyes. “You know what I mean, Kaito.”

“...I didn’t think it would matter. Tons of my fans have crushes on me, it’s no big deal…” he mumbles into the pillow.

“BUT YOU DON’T FLIRT WITH THEM AS SOMEONE ELSE!” I exclaim. “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY YOU’RE NOT SINGLE?”

“I DIDN’T THINK SHE WOULD COME BACK INTO MY LIFE!” He counters.

“Are you serious?” I sigh. “Did you tell Hakuba and Aoko this?”

Kaito looks up at me with the biggest pout I’ve ever seen. “They don’t even know that I disguised as Saguru that night.”

“ARE YOU SERIOUS, KAITO!?”

“I JUST WANTED TO BE A WINGMAN FOR ONCE!” He wails before covering his face in the pillow.

I KNEW HE WASN’T A GOOD WINGMAN!!! I FUCKING CALLED IT! OH MY GOD.

“Hate to say it, Wingman, but when she came by today Scarlet Witch wasn’t chummy with Astro Boy,” I tell him.

“…what’s with you and nicknames?” he asks.

“No distracting questions!” I say. “How come you didn’t bring this up? I think Hakuba would love to know Koizumi was rude as hell to him this morning.” 

“Oh no, she was? She really liked him! I could totally tell!” Kaito sits up and curls up with my pillow. “And it’s not like I could bring this up when Aoko is now super worried about impressing Koizumi-san. After the meeting she started calling all of her café friends to help her out with suggestions and stuff and was like actually doing her job!” Hilarious how he also knows we goof off more than actually work.

I walk over and sit on my bed across from him. “Do you have some sort of plan to straighten this out at least? Such as telling the truth?”

He immediately brightens. “So I gave this a whole bunch of thought because I knew you would ask!”

Literally anyone would, but I’m glad he knows he needs to fix this. God, I can imagine how Kudo would be in this situation. He would literally just do nothing with the belief everything will work itself out.

“When Koizumi-san comes to the café, I’ll be in the back baking with Sera. The only people she’ll see are the people making coffee and Aoko and Hakuba! So if I just do nothing and stay back there verything’s all good in the hood!” He explains happily, eagerly waiting for my response.

“How are you the same person?” I ask flatly, covering my face. “You’re literally the same…”

“Anyone here?” Aoko calls from the door. “Please let there be other people…” Woah she sounds distressed.

“We’re back here in Heiji’s room!” Kaito calls. “I’m on his bed so imagine what you will! He even changed in front of me that rascal!”

I roll my eyes. Wait, there’s more footsteps. It’s not just Aoko in here. I guess its Hakuba? But he would’ve said hello already I feel.

Aoko finally pokes her head in our room with her phone ready to take pictures. “Damn, you were fujoshi-baiting me.”

“You make a cute face whenever I do,” Kaito grins. Dare I say it’s almost anger inducing how secure their relationship is? “What’s up, Bimboko? You look like you need a hug.”

“Yeah,” I say. “Also, is Hakuba here or something? It sounded like someone else came in with you.”

Aoko forces on the angriest looking smile I’ve ever seen. “…Kyoko’s here…” she says through clenched teeth.

Kaito’s eyes widen. “Woah wait really?”

“Kyoko?” I ask. Why does that name sound kinda familiar?

A woman pokes her head in the doorway, all smiles. Her hair is in a long braid that’s slung over her shoulder. She gasps excitedly.

“Kaito, is that you?” Kyoko skips past Aoko and gives Kaito a hug. Aoko leans against the doorframe with a frown. “It’s been so long!”

“Imagine that,” Aoko says flatly.

Kaito stiffens when Kyoko hugs and awkwardly pats her back.  His eyes dart over to Aoko’s in confusion.“Yeah, it’s been a long time…” he avoids looking at the woman’s face when she releases him as he mumbles, “uh, I’m not sure how to address you…did you change your surname?”

Kyoko laughs behind her hand. “Nah, it’s too much trouble!” Behind her, Aoko rolls her eyes. Kyoko looks at me still smiling. This is one happy lady. “You’re the new roommate! Aoko was telling me about you while we were in the elevator!” she says.

Aoko sighs. She looks almost sick at the idea of introducing Kyoko to me. “Heiji, this is Nakamori Kyoko…Kyoko this is my roommate Heiji.” she mumbles, lazily gesturing between the two of us.

Nakamori…? Wait a second.

“I’m Aoko’s mom!” Kyoko cheers.

Aoko scoffs and rolls her eyes.

And the hits keep on coming…