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I read somewhere that falling in love was full of chocolates and rose petals (nevermind that it was from a shoujo manga). Well, whoever said that was an idiot. Or at least had no clue what they were talking about. In my experience, falling in love can be painful. It can be like razor knives across your skin one minute or the quiet kind of pain that hibernates beneath the surface. But falling in love can also be warm, like a big hug after being outside in the cold for so long, or drying yourself by a fire. It's really a rollercoaster of emotions. 

Naturally, I don't think I've experienced all love has to offer yet. I'm still young, after all. Still...I can't help but wonder how love must feel when two people share it. Maybe it's less painful, maybe it's more so. Maybe then, it truly is full of chocolate and rose petals (I highly doubt it). I don't really have a way of knowing. 

It was as I was having those thoughts, that some of the Irregulars came in: John, Bou-san, and Ayako. 

"Hey guys!" I greeted, my mood elevating by just the sight of them.

They each greeted me in various ways. Bou-san tried to ruffle my hair, John smiled my way, and Ayako waved. 

"Hello, Mai," John greeted nicely.

"How's it going, jou-chan?" Bou-san asked me.

I did my best to put on my winning smile. "Great!"

Er...judging by their facial expressions, I didn't do a good job.

"And how are you really feeling?" Ayako pushed.

Defeated, I said, "It's a long story."

After they each sat down and I convinced them to be quiet about everything (Naru and Lin-san were just next door), I explained to them.

"It doesn't happen often, but sometimes I feel so lost when it comes to... him. "

I decided to speak in vague-terms so as to be discreet.

"Hold on, hold on, which boy are you pining over again?" Bou-san asked, raising his hands.

How insensitive!

"...Just what are you implying, Bou-san?" I grumbled.

"All I want is to make sure that you're aware of your true feelings. It's pointless to get worked up unless you're certain."

That--that's fair. Hmm, my true feelings…

I sat there in silence for a moment. The truth is I've thought it over, time and time again. I was certain before, but with Bou-san's accusatory gaze he made me rethink everything. In the end, it didn't matter. I came to the same conclusion.

I tugged on my shirt. "Yes, I'm sure."

Bou-san nodded. "Fine, then I'll support you."

"What exactly are you struggling with?" Ayako asked.

I sighed. "Unrequited love."

My eyes scanned the three people in front if me. John was staring between us all, owlishly. Poor, John. This conversation probably makes him feel uncomfortable. But then again, he is a priest, so he should be used to confessions, right? In the grand scheme of things, my 'confession' is rather light.

Ayako pointed her polished finger in my face. "Yes, but there's more to it than that, isn't there?"

I shuffled my feet. "Sometimes I wonder if I were more...beautiful or psychically capable, if he would like me then."

My face heated up at my admission.

There was a hush that fell over us.

"If you were someone more like, say, Masako?" Bou-san asked gently, breaking the silence.

I hadn't thought of it like that. But, if the shoe fits…

"Masako is very accomplished and beautiful," I said, resignedly.

"But even Nar‐‐sorry, even he didn't fancy her."

"That's because she was pulling the strings."

Masako definitely was forcing Naru's hand. However, if things had been different… if Masako hadn't blackmailed him, would he be interested in her? Somehow I couldn't shake the thought.

"Jou-chan, Masako may be more accomplished but she doesn't have your smile," Bou-san cheered, sincerely.

"M-my smile?"

"It's your best feature," Ayako agreed.

"Each of us has unique features that make us different from one another,” John added with a smile. 

I blinked. My smile...I can't say I've heard that one before. If this smile was so spectacular, then where are all the people confessing to me? Despite their words, I couldn't help but sourly thinking that.

Ayako sighed as she put her arm on the back of the couch. "Besides, if you have to change yourself for a boy, you've already lost."

Where did these wise words come from all of a sudden, Ayako?

"Any other advice?" I asked. 

I could use all I could get.

Ayako, Bou-san, and John shared a glance.

Ayako shrugged. "Sorry, but you chose a very difficult person."

Ah, I remember I said something similar to Masako not too long ago. "We chose a difficult person, didn't we?" 

Masako had agreed with me. I'm not sure I mean those words anymore. Naru was still, and will probably always be, a very difficult person. At this point, I've come to accept it. But I don't know if I'd say I 'chose' him. Things would be a lot easier if I could choose someone else, that's for sure. Regretfully, Gene came to mind. I shook my head. Comparing two brothers side-by-side like that...I  really could be a heartless person sometimes. 

"Mai, tea."

I could hear the order through Naru's office door. I sighed, a little upset I'd have to leave the conversation. Naru was in a decent mood today, so I figured I'd make him some Earl Grey. I set the kettle to boil and did my best to listen in to the others' conversation. When the tea was done, I made sure to pour some for everyone, because as soon as they saw me bring Naru his, they would ask for a cup. I passed everyone their cup, to which they all thanked me. 

Then I knocked on Naru's door, waiting for permission. "Hey Naru, I've got your tea."

"Enter."

So I opened the door (very carefully balancing the tea cup in my other hand). Naru had his nose stuck in one of his very dense books. It was probably all written in English like the rest of them. He had his glasses on, which he rarely wore outside of this room. Personally, I thought his glasses suited him, they watered down his intense gaze. I sat Naru's tea far enough away from his book so that he wouldn't knock it over, but close enough to him so that he wouldn't need to stretch far to reach it. I do my best to be a very considerate person… not that it was appreciated. 

 I wanted to talk to him. It had been awhile since we had a decent conversation. I didn't know what I wanted to discuss with him, so I stood there silently for a few minutes. I knew a 'thank you' would never come, so I wasn't waiting for that. 

"What do you want, Mai?" He asked sharply. 

"What are you reading?" I asked lamely.

"Something you wouldn't understand."

He was probably right about that. He was very smart after all. Still this guy didn't need to rub it in my face! 

"I'm a lot smarter than you think, you know!"

Naru smiled wryly. "Really now…"

H-hey don't be so sarcastic like that. What would Madoka say about you treating your employee so harshly? 

"Yes! So, what are you reading?"

He didn't respond, instead he turned a page.

"Hey, Naru~ can you hear me?"

Naru sighed. "You're impossible to tune out."

"Because I'm so well-spoken?" I teased.

Naru's reply was as blunt as ever, "Because you're so loud."

Ah, I am, aren't I? Not like I can help it...

"But you ignore Ayako and Bou-san all the time!"

"Of course. They're pumpkin- people."

I titled my head and scrunched up my brow. " Pump-ukin ?" 

That must be English, so I have no idea what he was saying. And to say it with such disdain...

"Am I a pump-ukin person?" I asked, trepidatiously. 

I didn't know what it meant, but I knew for sure that I didn't want to be one. 

Naru lifted his eyes from his book to send me a glare. "Idiot, haven't you been listening?" 

Of course I have! I just wanted to make sure, geez. But if I wasn't a 'pumpkin' person then...

"Hey, Naru? What kind of person am I?"

He looked away, back to his book. "Different."

Hey hey, just what the heck is that supposed to mean?!

"What do you mean by that?" I cried.

Naru's body language shifted in such a way that clearly said this conversation is over. I could, if I was in a merciless mood, have poked him some more. He'd probably answer, given he just said he found it hard to ignore me. Which...that in of itself made my heart flutter. Ah, I'm so embarrassing. But, I didn't want to irritate him.  Besides all of that, the way Naru had said the word 'different' was unlike the way he said 'pumpkin ' people. I could be imagining it but it seemed...softer? If he were anyone else, I'd describe it as warmer. But...I'm over-thinking all this. I'm happy, I'll leave it at that. Maybe being 'different' isn't such a bad thing.