I think the world's gone nuts.
I'm walking down the street, and mostly no one's paying attention to me. Which is normal, right? I'm wearing normal clothes, my hair's blond and not dyed, and I'm not towering-tall, or fading-short.
Well… most people aren't looking at me. But there's a girl across the street who is just… staring. She's wearing this weird overcoat thing and I can hardly even tell she's a girl. Her eyes are covered up by sunglasses, and I can't tell what she even looks like, really. She's walking a little behind me, and it feels like her eyes are burning holes into my back.
"Good morning Hiroshi!"
I look up, and blink. "Oh… hi Satoshi." I manage a distracted smile for him. "What are you doing out here?"
He holds out a bag, grinning, and falls in beside me. "Gifts. See?"
"Christmas is over, Sato-kun," I remind him.
"Yeah, I know." He shrugs. "These are those after-Christmas, thank-you-for-the-great-gift gifts."
I frown a little. "Uh… I've never heard of those," I say politely. Satoshi is even weirder than that girl who keeps watching me, sometimes. Speaking of which… I steal a glance back. Huh. She's gone.
"My mom sends them out all the time," Satoshi says brightly. "She likes to give people things."
"Oh." I'm not really sure what to say to that. "Well, what did you get, and who did you get it for?" I ask, after a moment of thinking about it. The best thing with Satoshi is to treat him like he's normal.
He beams at me, holding the bag proudly. "Lots of people. Like Kasumi, Takeshi, Kenji, Ookido-hakase, Mama… You know, everyone important."
"Everyone who got you a present, right?" I guess. Knowing Satoshi, that's likely. "What about Shigeru and Imite?"
"Well… me and Imite just exchanged cards," he explains. "And I'm not talking to Shigeru right now. Besides, last year he gave me a set of old shoes that he outgrew."
I sigh. "Satoshi… you gave him that hideous sweater that Kasumi gave you as a gag present that same Christmas!"
"Why are you taking his side?" He scowls at me. "You like him better than me, don't you? Everyone likes Shigeru better!"
"What?" I yelp. "I've never even met Shigeru!"
"Oh yeah." Satoshi is abruptly all smiles again. "I forgot. Sorry."
Oh right. He forgot. And it's just so easy to forget - heck, sometimes I almost do too!
Okay, maybe the girl just put me on edge.
"What about me?" I ask, changing the subject again. "Was my present just not good enough for a thank-you present, or did you plan on getting me something too big for the bag?"
I'm just teasing him, so I don't actually expect it when his face suddenly goes completely beat-red and he starts stumbling over his own feet. "Hey," I say, concerned. "Are you okay? I was just kidding, Sato-kun, no need to get upset about it."
"Ah… it's not that." He waves a hand at me, and his face goes back to normal. "Kasumi said she'd help me to get you something, because she's got the perfect present in mind. Besides, I want to get all the others done with first."
Ooh, so mine's an important gift. That's interesting. I like to think that both Satoshi and Kasumi have known me long enough to know what kinds of things I'd like to get - Satoshi's original Christmas present was a really great jacket that I happened to be wearing at the moment. And that reminded me of another thing…
"How are you affording this, Satoshi?" I glance at him sideways, and pluck at the front of the jacket. "This cost you a fortune, from what I can tell. You shouldn't spend so much money on - "
"It's no big deal," he interrupts. "I like getting things for people. Besides, I got a job for Christmas."
"You?" I stare at him incredulously. "A job? Okay, I'm on to you. You can take off your Satoshi costume, whoever you are."
He laughs. "Cut it out! It was worth it. Now I can get everybody presents."
I shake my head. "Did you even spend any of that money on yourself?"
"No." Satoshi blinks at me. "But it's Christmas money! I'm not supposed to spend it on myself!"
I've think I'm right about the world going nuts. Or maybe it's just Satoshi.
"Where are you going?" he asks me, not noticing my reaction.
"I have to return this. I've been putting it off too long now." I hold out my own bag. "It's a nice sweater, but it's a little too small. I don't think my grandparents realize that as I get older, I grow."
"Yeah," he agrees, and stares at me for a while - long enough to make me uneasy.
"Satoshi?" Yeah, definitely uneasy.
"Sorry." He shakes his head, turns red again, and grins weakly. "Well, I have more shopping to do, so I guess I'll see you later!" Without waiting for a response, he takes off into the crowd.
Weird. I watch him go, a little bemused. Satoshi's strange sometimes. Cute, though.
Cute? What the heck am I thinking?
"Satoshi is not cute," I say out loud. "Satoshi is a nice guy, and a good friend. Not cute. Not attractive in any way. At least not to me. I'm sure girls find him attractive. I'm sure some guys find him attractive as well. But not me. He does not have a cute butt, either. He does not have a cute anything. Agh, shut up, Hiroshi!"
All right, now more people are staring and I don’t blame them. Why was I saying everything that came into my head? I'm going nuts!
The world is effecting me.
"I do not find Satoshi attractive," I say again, firmly, as I walk into the store.
"Hello, sir," one of the sales clerks chirps. "How can I help you?"
"Right." I hold up the bag. "I want to exchange the sweater in this butt - bag - for a larger" - I stop there and make sure I say the right word - "size."
She gives me an odd look, but takes the shirt, gets the right size from me, and goes off somewhere in the store.
"Pssst." Someone tugs on my jacket.
I spin around. "Wha…? Oh my god!" At the sight of the trench-coat girl with thick sunglasses, I jump back, crash into a clothing stand and fall to the floor with plaid boxers scattered around me.
"So much for not attracting attention," my stalker says, in a familiar voice. "Oh well." She pushes back her hood and takes off her sunglasses.
"Not attract attention? You were trying not to?" I scramble up, with a little help from her - though grudgingly give - and start picking up the shelf and all the clothing I knocked down. "The only way you'd attract more attention is if you walked around in your underwear! What are you doing here, Kasumi?"
She crosses her arms, glaring at me. "I've been following you all day. I need some information about you, mister!" At that, she pokes a finger into my chest.
"Information? For what?"
"Don't pretend like you don't know, you - you playboy!" Kasumi glares some more, her lips pursing in a way that alarms me somehow. "Tell me right now - just who have you ever slept with, how many times have you taken someone out on a date and then dumped them, and what" - at this, her eyes narrow - "is your current marital statis."
I find myself wondering if Satoshi's insanity rubbed off on her. Or maybe it was the other way around… Humor her, the part of my mind that values my health screams. Just whatever you do, don’t enrage her further! "Uh… no one, never, and single, not looking," I manage to stammer out, really fast.
She looks thoughtful. "Okay," is her comment, after a moment. "You're clean. But if you ever" - and at this the dangerous psycho look is back - "do anything to hurt Satoshi, I will personally hunt you down like a wild animal and cut you into pieces so small they won't even find enough of you to bury!"
Part of me really does believe her, too. "Yes ma'am," I answer, even though I have absolutely no idea what she's talking about. Hurt Satoshi? Who would hurt Satoshi?
"Don't call me that!" Kasumi hisses. Then suddenly she lets out a happy squeal and hugs me hard. "Welcome to the group!" she says enthusiastically. "Ooh, it's going to be so cute! I just can't wait to get some pictures…"
"What?" I ask weakly, still not understanding. "Group?"
"Well, of course you'll be traveling with us!" she babbles, apparently past the anger stage. "I'll expect to see you on the road, then! Have a good day, Hiro-kun! See you in a few!" And she breezes out of the store, leaving me gaping.
The world really has gone nuts. This proves it.
"Argh!" I empty out my pockets, and shake my jacket upside down. "Stu…pid… ho…tel… key! Where is it?"
Today hasn't been a very good day. Kasumi stalks me, and threatens me, and the store doesn't have my size sweater, and now this! How could a hotel key get lost like that? I check my pockets. They don't have holes in them or anything.
It must've dropped out when I fell into that stand at the store. I groan. Great. Today is cursed. The only good thing that happened was meeting up with Satoshi and watching him act cute.
Not that I think he's cute. I don't.
At any rate, it doesn't take long to go back down to the front desk and get a replacement key. Then I get into my room and collapse on the bed. What a day!
Since I feel like resting - and because I'm a little afraid to go outside after my meeting with Kasumi - I decide to stay in tonight. It's still pretty cold out, and the room is nice and warm. Well, warmer than outside.
If I had that damn sweater in my size, I could pull that on. But noooo… Today is Hiroshi vs the world day, and I think I lost. It's a good night to host a pity-party for me. And my pokemon are all at the Center since I just had a battle yesterday, so I can't even invite anyone to it.
Pity-party for one. How exciting.
Oh well. First thing to do is have a shower, right? Then I can watch TV or read a book and just relax. That way I can forget what a crappy day this was and try to figure out how I can make tomorrow a better one. Buy one of those presents for Satoshi, first of all. Damned if I'm going to let him get away with buying me a present to thank me for my present without buying him one to thank him for his present! Hah!
Yeah, the world is nuts. And it's dragging me along with it. Stupid world.
He'd better not get me another present to thank me for my thank you for his present. That'd be going just a little too far.
Only a little, though.
I start up the shower. The water is freezing.
It turns out to be just the way the shower seems to work, so in a few minutes, it's just short of scalding hot. I decide it's not going to get much better, so I take the opportunity to get in and clean myself off. Better get everything done before it shifts back to freezing mode. Knowing my luck today, that's probably what will happen.
I manage to get out before it does, and start drying myself off.
Funny… I could've sworn I just heard the door open.
Great. Now I'm hearing things on top of having a bad day.
I wrap a towel around my waist and walk out of the bathroom into the hall closet area, where I have dry clothes. I pull on a pair of pants, then reach for the second bag to see if there are any good -
Wait a sec.
Behind me, the toilet suddenly flushes.
I take a hasty glance around the corner, and realize that there's a coat that definitely isn't mine sprawled across the bed, and a pair of shoes - also not mine - strewn across the floor.
There's someone else in my hotel room!
Okay. I think fast. Well, whoever it is has to come out of the bathroom some time, right? So… I start fishing through the drawers, and come up with… a hard-bound bible! Well, it's better than nothing. When whoever it is who stole my key and invaded my room comes out… I grip the book firmly with both hands. I'll whack 'em over the head with this!
And if it was a hardened criminal with some kind of weapon on hand, I'd run like hell.
The tap turns off, and I can hear whoever it is drying off their hands on a towel. I hold the book up high and the door opens…
I blink. "Satoshi?"
He looks up from where he's now sitting on the floor, rubbing his head. "Hiroshi?"
"What are you doing here?" we both ask at the same time.
"This is my hotel room!" we both say, again at the same time.
I stare at him for a minute. He stares right back. "Where," I ask, with as much dignity as I can summon up given that I am shirtless and just knocked him over the head with a bible, "did you get the key for this room?"
He's started blushing, and isn't looking at me. "Uh… well… Kasumi gave it to me. She and Takeshi and Pikachu wanted to stay out a while longer, but I wanted to get inside and get my presents ready, so she gave me the key and told me we'd switched rooms so I should move my stuff."
Kasumi. So that's who swiped my hotel key! Damn… she's been responsible for most of the crappy stuff that happened today - excluding the bad shower and the fact that there were no sweaters in my size.
I won't completely take those off the list until I have some proof, though.
"Well," I say, out loud, putting down the book, "that explains it."
"Explains what?" he asks curiously.
I smile wryly. "Kasumi set us both up."
"Yeah." I nod. "She swiped my key when she knocked me into a pile of boxers. I had to go down to the front desk and get a new one before I could get in here."
"Uh…" He's looking at me funny. "Hiroshi, are you all right?"
"Of course not! The world's gone nuts!" I wave my hands in the air and flop back onto the bed. "Kasumi is out to get me. I should get a restraining order or something. She's stalking me, I swear it!"
"Kasumi is stalking you?"
"Yes!" I sit up and look at him. "You don't believe me? Well, she was following me around in a trench coat and sunglasses! She started interrogating me because she had this whacked-out insane notice that I was going to hurt you somehow!"
I wait for him to repeat what I just said in a tone of voice that tells me how much he doesn't believe me. But… nothing. I look up, and he's leaning against the wall, staring at the floor, and blushing.
"Satoshi, you okay?"
"Yeah… no." He shrugs, awkward. "Um… I don't know how to say this, Hiro-kun, but…" He scratches the back of his head nervously, and finally looks up at me, still red-faced and looking completely terrified.
Terrified of what? Me?
"Say what?" I crack, hoping to get things back to normal.
"Well… it might be my fault that Kasumi was stalking you."
I blink. "Your fault? What do you mean?"
"Uh… well… you see…" Satoshi pauses, frustrated. "I don't… it's just… argh. Why does this stuff have to be so hard, anyway?" He stares at me, looking perplexed.
Okay, so he's confused? Seems a little backward to me…
Then again, I'm confused, too.
"Maybe I could tell you if I knew what you were talking about," I tell him, helpfully.
"Right." Satoshi straightens up a little and faces me, a strange look in his eyes. "Oh well, if words won't do it…" He shrugs, briefly. That's all the warning I get.
Without another word, the energetic brunette suddenly pounces me, pins me to the bed, and mashes his lips against mine in a very un-romantic and completely impetuous way.
He pulls back. I gasp for air. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to do this," Satoshi breathes in a way that is probably supposed to be seductive. His gaze is… smoldering is the only word I can think of. I can feel chills going down my spine.
"Um, Satoshi, maybe this - isn'ttherightMPH!" He kisses me again, enthusiastically.
And then abruptly pulls back. "Well?"
"Gah!" is all I can say.
He grins. "That good, huh? Well, then…" He leans down again.
"Wait!" I break out of his hold and propel myself back, out from under him. "Talk!" I gulp out, still gasping for breath. I think one of my lungs popped during that interesting session.
Yeah, interesting. That's the word for it.
"Oh, right." Satoshi flushes. "Um… I guess I should explain. I… like you."
No kidding! I manage not to say that out loud. "I… uh… I gathered that much." He lowers his eyes, suddenly appearing deflated. "How long?"
"About… a year." He slumps a little, and doesn't look at me. "I thought… you know… if we were in the same room, alone, just the two of us, like we are now, then I'd tell you. Then you'd know. Then I could find out… what you think."
"What I think." Oh, right… "Yeah, about that…"
"It's okay," Satoshi tells me, still not looking at me. He licks his lips, and bites the bottom one. I can see he's uncomfortable - it couldn't have been easy to tell me. By his flushed cheeks, he's embarrassed about the way he told me, and by the way he's blinking so fast, he's sure about what my answer's going to be. "You don't have to give me the speech. If you don't, you don't, right?"
"Right…" I stare at him for a while, his fine ebony hair in its usual disarray, brushing his face… His skin is porcelain. Or something very like it. How come I never noticed before? It looks soft…
Huh. I didn't know I'd actually reached out to touch it. "Sorry." I draw back my hand. "You surprised me. I didn't know you felt that way. Heck, if I had I probably wouldn't have suppressed the cute butt thought!"
Satoshi looks baffled. "Cute butt thought?" His eyes are meeting mine now - they're shades of soft, glazed brown. It's gorgeous. There's another thing I didn't notice. Or hadn't I? It seemed awfully familiar…
"Uh… never mind." I smile at him. "I just… guess that something finally went right for my day, huh?" I reach out and touch his cheek again. I was right - soft, like porcelain. It's… exquisite, almost.
Satoshi beams at me, looking like he'd been told that Christmas came once a month instead of once a year. "Hiroshi!" he yelps happily, and jumps on top of me again. I get the wind knocked out of me, but don't mind much. "Do you mean it?" he asks when I stop gasping, leaning over me again.
I grin. "I wouldn't have said it if I didn't."
He kisses me. It's sweeter than the other times. First real kiss, I tell myself, relaxing into it. Although I'm probably going to remember those others forever…
"Thanks for the great Christmas gift, Hiroshi," Satoshi whispers, against my lips.
"Back at you," I reply, a touch breathlessly, and kiss him again.
Kasumi and her stupid set-ups. I guess I'll have to forgive her for knocking me into those boxers. I mean, she's probably just helped me get into a more exciting set… I'll have to get her a present to show her how much I appreciate her present.
You know, I think that when the world goes nuts, you go a little crazy yourself.
Not that that's a bad thing.