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Digital Intimacy

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Naoya absently toyed with the tiny electronic in his hand. It was a simple thing – a cell phone. Nearly every person in Japan had one, though his was a more recent acquisition. He hadn't even picked it out. Reiji had just handed it to him one day and said it was his. Reiji had a bad habit of doing that with things Naoya really didn't need.

He'd gotten along fine for the first eighteen years of his live without a cell phone. He still didn't think he needed one, despite Aoe's and Kiichi's protests that it would come in handy in case he needed to get in contact with them. It was unnecessary, a wasted expense, but still, somehow, it was touching all the same.

Naoya had never really noticed how many good people he'd managed to surround himself with until Aoe had given him the phone. Flipping open the phone, Naoya scrolled to the address book. He still wasn't sure how to work half of the things on his phone. Izumi had tried explaining once but he'd talked so fast that it had all just flown straight through Naoya's head.

When Reiji had given him the phone he'd expected never to use it. He hadn't expected to have anyone's number in the phone except for Reiji and Kashima's – those had both been programmed in before he'd gotten it. Even now, months later, he was amazed at how often he used it. He wasn't on the phone nearly as much as his classmates – he'd seen girls who seemed to never close their phone. The fact that he used it at all was more than he'd originally expected.

It was strange counting the people he knew through his cell phone, but in a way the little device had become just that – a reminder of how many people unexpectedly cared for him. Izumi had grabbed Naoya's phone the minute Naoya mentioned it and plugged in both his and Takamiya's numbers. He also had Kiichi's various numbers, and even Haruomi's. For some reason even the most vague mention that he had a cell phone prompted people to snatch his phone away, as if they didn't trust him to enter in their numbers.

They were probably correct in that assumption. Naoya only vaguely remembered how to. As of yet he'd only had to enter one number, and that was with Izumi hovering over him telling him exactly what to do. He felt somewhat guilty at the thought of adding someone to his phone, as if he was initiating some new level of intimacy.

Naoya knew he was making a bigger deal out of it than he needed to, but he'd been alone so long that he expected people not to care. Thus it came as a surprise, even after he'd been living with Reiji for so long, when people actually did notice him and want to be around him.

It was something he was still, slowly, getting used to.

A cheerful tune interrupted his contemplation and Naoya stared at his phone as it started ringing. He wasn't sure what the song was – it was yet another thing Izumi had programmed in for him. Naoya kind of liked the song – he liked it more each time he heard it – so he'd never really bothered learning how to change it. The id on the screen showed Aoe's name. Naoya almost dropped the phone in his haste to answer it. What was the right button? Naoya pressed the green one and hoped he'd gotten it right.

"Naoya?" Aoe's voice came through clearly.

"Yes?" Naoya reflexively sat up straighter, even though he knew Aoe couldn't see him. "Good afternoon, Reiji-san."

In the back of his mind Naoya vaguely started to worry. Reiji didn't normally call him, at least not this early in the afternoon. Sometimes he called in the evening, to tell Naoya that he would be late coming home, or when he was really busy he'd have Kashima call.

"Where are you?"

Naoya glanced up. He'd been wandering a bit aimlessly after school had let out. He didn't have work today and he'd wanted to enjoy the sunshine.

"I'm at Nadesico Park." Naoya's nervousness increased. "Do you need me to come home? Is something wrong?"

"No, it's fine. Stay there. I'm coming to pick you up."

"But, I..."

"Stay there."

The line went dead. Naoya sighed and started to put his phone away. The ringer went off again. Naoya frowned at the phone. Why was Kashima calling him?

"Good afternoon, Kashima-san," Naoya answered formally.

"Good afternoon, Naoya-kun." Kashima sounded as calm as ever. "Aoe-san just called you, correct?"

Naoya instinctively nodded, feeling a little stupid as he did since Kashima couldn't see him. "Yes, he did. Is everything alright?"

"Aoe-san didn't tell you about his plans?"

Reiji had plans? He hadn't mentioned anything. He would have gone straight home if Reiji had.

"What day is today, Naoya-kun?" Kashima asked softly.

Naoya struggled to remember. He hadn't really been paying attention. "Wednesday?"

"Yes, Naoya-kun, it is Wednesday," Kashima answered slowly, as if he were talking to a young child. "What is the date?"

Naoya frowned. Was he forgetting a holiday? It wasn't his birthday, and he knew it wasn't Aoe's. Kiichi's maybe, or was it Izumi's?

Naoya quickly flipped his phone around and glanced at the date on the front screen. "February fourteenth," he answered carefully. He'd feel bad if he was forgetting someone's birthday but he was sure he wasn't. They were written down on his calendar at home and he knew he'd looked at it this morning.

"You are familiar with the tradition of Valentine's Day, correct?"

A blush spread like wildfire across Naoya's face. He knew about the holiday but he hadn't even paid attention to its approach. School had been so busy with the approach of graduation that no one in his class had bothered to give valentines, at least not in the classroom.

"Oh."

"Yes." He could tell Kashima was trying hard not to laugh at him. "I can assume then, that you are no longer worried?"

"Yes, Kashima-san. Thank you." Naoya was a little ashamed of himself for not noticing the holiday.

"That's good. I hope you both have a very pleasant evening."

"Thank you, Kashima-san."

Naoya couldn't help smiling as the line cut off again. It was nice having people who cared for him, even when he didn't expect it.