You should really mind your own business, but you can't help it.
If you were working anywhere else, you'd tell her no and that would be the end of it. But you aren't, so who really cares? You grumble to yourself and snatch a manila envelope from the file cabinet. Sighing, you dump the envelope onto the hands of your employee.
Rylee stares hard at the envelope. A bewildered noise escapes her lips, but you don't say a word until she can form coherent sentences. “U-Uh. What is this?”
“It's an envelope,” you reply, folding your arms impatiently.
With a low voice, she seethes, “I know that.”
“Then? We were talking about your pay. What else do you think is in this envelope? A sincere letter of apology?”
“I mean, yeah, but...” Rylee pauses, and in a quiet voice, she says, “can you even do that?”
“I don't mean to be rude, but I just fucking did.” You stare at her like she's the biggest idiot in the world. “You should feel lucky that I got a big heart and an inclination to break the rules.”
Rylee frowns – though she looks more puzzled than anything else. “Uh, thank you, Boss,” she huffs.
“What, no snappy comeback?” you ask. Rylee without her sharp tongue is... new, to say the least.
Clutching the envelope firmly, she exhales. “I really don't have it in me anymore.”
Didn't really expect that from her but whatever, you're okay with that. It spares you from the unnecessary banter. The sooner you're done with this, the better. “Well, you better earn that advance on your paycheck. I expect nothing but hard work for the week.”
“Don't worry, I will,” she responds solemnly. “I'll even get back to work now.”
You recline back on your chair. Man, you don't know how to deal with the girls when they're all serious. Maybe you're too easy on your employees – Momiji included. After this, you better get your act together. Don't want your employees walking all over you.
There is a soft knock on the door. Lily comes in hurriedly, a gleeful look on her face. “Boss, can I–”
“No.” You grab a set of documents sprawled over the table and shuffle them into a single pile. “Also, lunch break is over, so back to work with you.”
“Boss, you've been pretty mean to me lately,” frets Lily. She pouts, but only for a little while. Her usual smile returns as swift as it left. “But more importantly, I want to say... good job!”
You keep your eyes trained on the documents. “I didn't do anything.”
“Rylee begs to differ!” she giggles.
“...Get back to work already,” you groan.
“I was planning on it~” And without another word, Lily skips out, humming to herself.
...You know it's your fault but you're a little frustrated. Unable to concentrate on the documents on the table, you go back to the cabinet and review the report that you made. It's clear enough that the bar is in the red. You'll give it another month, at least.
The day was pretty exhausting, even if you barely made any progress at work. You finished the monthly report, but that's about it. You left the shipment orders for another day because you are apparently so incompetent that you can't do anything productive for more than a couple hours at a time. You almost wish that you weren't the manager. Almost.
You lock up the bar and stuff the keys in your pocket. Momiji comes tailing behind you.
She smiles at you when she catches up. “Going home, Gallagher?”
“Uh, isn't that obvious?” You give her a questioning look.
“Well, yeah, but I was hoping we could stop and take a detour.” Momiji points in the direction of the supermarket. “I need to stock up on groceries, since your fridge is running empty.”
“You think you can use my fridge as you please?”
“Hmmm.” She smiles sweetly. “Actually, I do!”
You jab a finger at the girl. “So you're paying for the groceries, right?”
Momiji pats your shoulder. “Don't be so lame. I'll cook and clean up. All you have to do is pay for it.”
“Fine. Let's head over. Also, make sure to pick up the shopping cart before we're inside.”
The supermarket is a dingy old place, but it has everything you need. Momiji takes her time, going through the place aisle by aisle. She meticulously checks every item for purchase before putting it in the cart.
“I'm actually impressed you're not fumbling around the supermarket,” you say.
“I'm not that dumb.” Momiji shrugs. She whisks the cart around the last aisle. “It's pretty straightforward, isn't it? You get the items at the designated price and you pay for it before you leave. It's like any other shop.”
“Well...” You didn't really consider that. “True. Also, why are you putting alcohol into the cart – wait, stop putting alcohol into the cart. We don't need alcohol.”
“But I want alcohol,” whines Momiji.
“You ingrate. Did you forget that I'm paying for this shit?” You stare her dead on.
She stares back. “Not at all.”
“Put all the alcohol back,” you firmly order her.
“Fine, I'll pay, I'll pay,” Momiji laughs.
“I'm guessing no alcohol isn't an option.”
“It's never been an option.” She starts wheeling the cart over to the registers. “So, party at your place?”
You frown. “I wouldn't call it a party when there's only two people.”
“It's an excuse to drink, yeah? Are you up for it?”
[ ] Yeah, why not. [ ] Nah. Maybe you should try and finally update your story for once. [ ] How about Momiji's place for once?
You shrug. “Sure. It's not like I had any plans for the night.”
“Alright, good!” Momiji smiles eagerly. “My place, or yours?”
“Maybe your place tonight,” you say, redirecting your attention to the shopping cart. Underneath the brandy and soju—and there is a fucking lot of soju—are ordinary groceries. Eggs, a five-kilo bag of rice, some milk, butter, and more shit you're not going to bother listing off.
“...You sure?” Momiji replies, eyebrow raised. She continues pushing the cart along idly. “I don't even have a real table, let alone anything fun to do while we drink.”
You pause. With a frown, you ask, “Are you insinuating that we drink to have fun, of all things?”
“No,” she says, shaking her head. The girl can barely contain her laughter. “That sounds terrible. Drinking for pleasure? No, not you, and definitely not me. I drink to contemplate the harsh truth of reality.”
“Is that right? So yesterday – was that you contemplating the 'harsh truth of reality'?”
“Yes.” Momiji adopts a stoic expression – her eyes are unflinching. Without dropping her gaze, she opens the refrigerated section and bats some frozen wings into the shopping cart. “That was me sharing some harsh truth with you.”
“Then the next time you do, could you please use less tongue?” Half a second passes before you realize the weight behind your words. “Wait, no, let me rephrase that–”
“Ahhhh,” she drawls, wearing the biggest fucking grin you've ever seen. “Next time, you say?”
You're sorely tempted to smack her. “You know what I meant,” you grumble. “And stop that.”
“Stop what?” she says, chuckling.
“Your shit-eating grin. Stop that.”
Momiji leans her arms on the handle of the shopping cart, resting her head on her fists. She's still grinning, but now it's more of a smirk than a smug-ass smile. “It's nice to confirm that you, in fact, did enjoy it.”
“Keep pushing the shopping cart,” you sigh. She's wrong, though. You definitely don't want any more of that. Never again do you want her to slam her face into yours – especially when she tastes like dollar-brand vodka.
But what if she were sober?
You almost laugh out loud. Not a chance. There's absolutely no way. Though, now that it's on your mind, it's all you can think about – all the way to the register. Oh, damn it all. You entertain that thought for way too long. Before you reach the cashier, you turn to Momiji and jut out your hand.
Mouth slightly agape, she just stares. There is a moment of mutual confusion. Finally, breaking the silence, Momiji asks, “...Uh, what?”
“Don't you 'what' me. Do you think you can get out of paying for the alcohol?”
“Oh.” The wolf just stands there. After a second, she rubs the back of her head and says, “I was hoping I could, yeah. Can I?”
“At least you're honest.”
Momiji perks up. “Does that mean–”
“No,” you reply firmly. “You want to drink? Then you have to pay for it.”
“It was worth a shot.” She digs into the pocket of her jeans, procuring a dingy brown wallet. With a weary smile, she slaps a couple of bills into your hand. “Damn me and my love of alcohol.”
The cashier rings you up, eyeing the alcohol. She doesn't bother carding you and instead asks whether you want cash or credit. You hand her bills as your answer. As soon as she returns your change, she's already ushering you away so that she can tend to the next customer. You grab a couple of paper bags and stuff your groceries inside. The lack of a bagger today only slightly annoys you.
Momiji places all the bags back into the cart and wheels it outside.
All is good.
That is, until Momiji starts pushing the cart straight onto the street.
Jesus Christ. She's wheeling away private property. “Now where the fuck do you think you're going?”
Momiji turns around and stares – her gaze pierces straight through you. No shame on her face, no anger, nothing. As if answering the most obvious question in the world, she says, “Home?”
You rub your chin in impatience. “Put the cart back before you get charged with theft.”
“Then are we calling a taxi?”
“We're carrying the groceries,” you respond firmly.
“Are you serious?” Momiji asks, a hitch in her voice.
“Yeah. Hand me the groceries. You get the privilege of handling the alcohol. Drop it and I'm gonna make you regret it.”
“But I paid for it! Why do you get to punish me for wasting my own alcohol?”
You sigh. “Because then I'd be incredibly bored tonight.”
A grin creeps up her face. “Looking forward to it?”
“Yeah, a little,” you admit.
“Whoa!” She hands you the large paper bags. “You're being honest for once!”
“Honesty is my best and worst trait. I'm so honest that I can come off as blunt sometimes.”
“Pfffthahaha,” she snorts. “Gally, you can't be serious right now. Of all people, you, honest? You can barely be honest with yourself!”
“Kindly go fuck yourself with a jackhammer.”
Maybe you expected the worst, but you're pleasantly surprised that you two made it to the apartments accident-free. The groceries—alcohol included—are safe. Momiji takes her free hand and opens the door. You're not going to remind her again about her keys; you head inside instead.
Her place is bare – only kitchen appliances decorate the apartment. The boxes that cluttered the rooms once before are now gone, replaced with... well, nothing. She doesn't have so much as a chair to her name. Her bedroom has the mattress and blanket, which is yours, by the way, while the living room has nothing but a sitting table. It's incredibly spartan.
“Hey Momiji,” you call out to the wolf tengu. “I'm going to borrow your fridge, alright?”
You open the refrigerator. There's nothing in it. Absolutely nothing. A lot of choice words go through your head. “Momiji,” you say, articulating your thoughts, “do you even live here?”
“Hmm.” She puts down the groceries to think about it earnestly. Chewing on her thumbnail, she says, “No?”
“Don't you pay rent here?” You throw the rest of the groceries inside the fridge – you'll pick them up another day, after you drink with this idiot.
“Oh, shit. I forgot about rent. Why does everything have to be some kind of expense?” She wraps her arm around your shoulder, invading what little personal space you had left. “Also, leave the alcohol and chicken wings out. We're gonna need them.”
“Fine,” you say, shrugging off her hand, “but could you get off me? I can't open shit when you're in the wa–”
“Oh, for fuck's sake,” Momiji growls, cutting you off. Her sudden fit of rage catches you by surprise. Running a hand through her hair, she glares at all of the kitchen counter.
You blink. “Shit, what is it?”
“These are boneless,” she whines, tugging at your shirt collar. The wolf tengu crumples to the floor, her legs giving out in despair.
You throw a steely gaze her way. But with the softest of breaths, you murmur her name.
“Y-Yeah?” The girl looks up hesitantly. She has a troubled expression on her face, expectantly waiting for your reply.
You calmly help her up so that you can lean in and whisper into her ear: “Who fucking cares.”
She ended up preferring her chicken wings boneless.
The soju is the first to go. A bottle of soju shared is a bottle of soju gone in minutes. And, within an hour, which has many, many minutes, the night's worth of soju is finished. Well, at least you still have brandy.
Though, you might not need it because you can already feel the alcohol kicking in.
Momiji calls out, “Gallus.”
“Yeah, what's up?”
She spins her cup around her finger. “Is this what you wanted out of life?”
“Define 'this,'” you say, resting your arms on the sitting table.
“Y'know. Work, friends, all that stuff. Is this all that you wanted to do?”
“Yep. I'm living the dream. Working in a shitty place with shitty customers, shitty standards, and shitty benefits.”
“I mean, I know that.” Momiji pokes you underneath the table with her foot. “What I'm saying is, what do you want to do?”
“Not this,” you mutter.
She pokes you again, grinning. “You must have some kinda idea, right? I know you do. You can tell me!”
You keep silent for a while, but Momiji is persistent. And by that, you mean she keeps pouring you some more brandy until you talk.
...Her method proves to be persuasive.
“Well,” you start, finishing your glass of brandy. “I've always thought about being a teacher. Maybe even a school counselor.”
Momiji's ears twitch. She lowers her gaze, focusing all her attention on the edge of the table. Her shoulders shake; The wolf tengu can't control herself. “Hnffgh,” she snorts. As soon as she is forced to breathe, Momiji's stifled giggling turns into full-blown laughter, “Hnnfffphahaha!”
You don't even take offense to that. Nope. Not at all.
“Jump off a bridge, please,” you say, pouring yourself some more brandy.
“Gallagher, I cannot even begin to imagine you dealing with kids.” Still giggling, Momiji adds, “What are you going to tell them when they don't do their homework? 'Fuck off'?”
“Look, I'm going to be serious here.” You stare at her straight-on. “Maybe it's the alcohol talking but hear me out on this. I had a lot of trouble going through high school because I didn't know what the fuck I was doing. My mom even less so. You know what the teachers did? Jack shit. They didn't even give a rat's ass about me – or any other student, for that matter. So I got fucked, metaphorically speaking – and fuck you for giggling at that.”
“Of course you aren't. But yeah, maybe I would have ended up somewhere else if I got some help from a teacher or something. Maybe I wouldn't have been such a trainwreck of a person. But yeah, if I do become a teacher or whatever, I'll make sure that kids won't end up like me. We don't need any more of me in the world. The place is already bad enough as it is.”
“Well, I wouldn't mind if there were more of you around. You're a pretty swell guy, if you round to the nearest decent person.”
“Funny,” you laugh, monotone. Pouring the wolf tengu a cup, you direct the conversation to her. “But what about you though? What do you want to do?”
“Mmmh. I haven't thought about it.”
“Really now? Not even a little?”
“I was thinking that I'd get back to Gensokyo sooner or later.” Her ears droop; she goes for the brandy right after. “Is that too optimistic?”
“Yes, you idiot, it is.” You bring a hand to your face, rubbing the bridge of your nose in irritation. “What if you return to Gensokyo 'later' rather than 'sooner'?”
“Then that'd be unfortunate."
“Then what if you never return to Gensokyo at all?”
Momiji quiets down. After a pause, she responds with incoherent babble, which then makes her laugh at herself. “Then I'll drink myself silly.”
“Just wait a fucking second here. Aren't you already doing that? Like, every day?”
“Well...” she trails off, rubbing her cheek in discomfort. You expectantly wait for her to say something, but Momiji continues to sip her drink in silence.
Damn. You feel bad for mentioning it now. Obviously, Momiji's been thinking about it since she got here. It's not like she's taking a vacation. She must have been keeping her worries to herself and you just had to step all over her. It must be a sensitive topic, so you shouldn't really butt in.
But you will anyway.
“Miji,” you force out, “Is that—Gensokyo, I mean—is that still on your mind?”
“What? Oh. No, I'm over that already.” The wolf looks at herself in exasperation. “I was just thinking that I still can't believe that girl thought I was a dude.”
Why do you even bother with her? You'll humor her anyway. “Pardon?”
“That girl back at the bar!” She slaps the table with her palms, rising to her knees. “I sat on her lap. You would expect a girl, of all people, to realize how soft and squishy I am, right?”
You give her the most disappointed look you can muster. “Miji. First of all, you were wearing baggy jeans and the huge parka and you told her that we were mutual assfuckers. In any case, nobody can feel anything underneath all that clothing. And second of all, everyone working at the pub thought you were a dude. I'm pretty sure that they still do. Hell, even I thought you were a guy until that day, which made it painfully obvious what gender you are.” You stop yourself before you get sidetracked. “The point is, nobody's going to notice until you spell it out for them.”
"Oh yeah?" She grins mischievously. "We'll see about that!"
You know exactly where this is going and, unlike the time at the bar, you are going to stop her. “Oh, no you don't!” you yell, shoving her away.
She wriggles back into your personal space, trying to forcibly sit on you. “Just give up and let me sit on youuuu!”
“No, you fucking dipwad!” you snarl, using all your strength to fend her off. Nevertheless, she slides onto your lap. Let it be known that you didn't go down without a fight.
Settling into your lap, Momiji cranes her neck up to face you. “Well?”
"How is it?”
“...It's a little soft,” you reluctantly admit.
With a giggle, she shouts, “I kneeew it!”
“What are you even trying to prove here?”
“You said that nobody would notice, but you did, didn't you?” She leans in, a knowing smirk slapped right on her face.
“I already know you're a girl. Of course I would notice, fucker. But more importantly, do we have any wings left?”
“Nope. I finished the rest.”
“Son of a bitch,” you mutter.
“Want to finish the brandy instead?” She's already handing you the rest of the bottle. "It's good."
At some point, you wake up in the living room, neck sore from falling asleep sitting up. Last night, you apparently propped yourself up with a pillow and then promptly passed out soon after. You don't feel too sick today – your hangover isn't as nearly as bad as you thought it would. But why the fuck do your thumbs feel so sore? Never mind that, why did you pass out holding your phone?
Sweat lines your brow. What the fuck did you do last night? You remember everything up until Momiji assaulted your lap, but not much else. Curious, you unlock your phone and—
—and THP pops up on the browser. And not the front page, but your thread. Your story thread.
Oh, fucking Christ. You remember a little—not everything—but it was definitely you who did this.
Bit by bit, it's coming back. For some godawful reason, Momiji told you that typing out an entire update was a great idea. And, being drunk off your ass, you thought so too. At the time, you didn't even care whether you posted it or not. Now, when you're sober, it's... disgusting. You delete the update immediately out of shame.
But out of morbid curiosity, you decide to check what anon posted. It's only been a few hours, but holy shit they went fucking nuts. ________________________________________________________________________
>>63912 My fucking sides have left the stratosphere. This is the best update yet.See you guys next decade.
>>63912 hooooooooleeee shit. That was good. Had me entertained the entire time. Too bad about no choices I really wanted to touch that Hatate booty again.
>>63912 Gallus, you motherfucker. I'm following this story now and you can't stop me, faggot.
>>63912 hahhaha what the fuck ________________________________________________________________________
Why. Why does anon like it? It's shit and they should know it's shit. You wrote that when you were physically incapable of walking straight without falling over. They should feel bad for liking it. But now you're conflicted. On one hand, anon likes it, and they fucking hate everything. But on the other, it was arguably your worst piece of writing since you wrote that dungeon-crawler fan-fiction when you were like fourteen and you are taking that shit down to the grave.
“Gallagheeer,” a drowsy voice calls out to you. Momiji comes trudging in from the bedroom, wearing a loose shirt and some basketball shorts. At some point last night, she must have gotten changed.
“Momiji. What in the world happened yesterday?”
“Do you want the summary or the unabridged edition? If you pay extra, I can give you the unreleased e-book version.”
“I remember everything up until you fought me for my own fucking lap.” You keep your attention on the phone, still looking through the replies in disbelief.
“Oh, okay. Well, first things first, I went ahead and told you to write an update for THP on your phone. You actually finished it, by the way. I was impressed.. Then, we decided to try and make some food but were too drunk to do it safely, so we gave up on that. So you asked for a pillow, kissed me good night, and then passed out.”
[ ] That sounds about right— wait a fucking second. [ ] Ignore her and start brewing up some coffee. You need caffeine right now. [ ] Ask her what really happened last night.
“Yeah, that sounds about ri—wait a fucking second.” You close your phone, set it down on the table, and stare at the girl. You must have heard wrong. “Repeat that for me, please.”
Momiji tilts her head slightly. “You asked for a pillow, kissed me good night, and then—”
“I did what now?”
“What, you believed me?” She gives you a wobbly smile and chuckles softly. “You believed me.”
“What do you expect? I have a fuck-huge gap in memory and a vague recollection of you doing, well, something. I don't trust drunk-you and I really don't trust drunk-me. I got so wasted I typed out my comedic magnum opus, somehow, when I couldn't even vomit out a complete sentence. So what happened after could have been anything.”
“Even a kiss?”
“Even a drunken kiss,” you say, correcting her.
“Yeah, yeah,” Momiji waves your comment away. “A drunken kiss, right. I wouldn't expect that, though. Even when you have more alcohol than water in your system, you don't seem like the type to do anything crazy.”
“Never mind. You're a loonie.”
The wolf grabs a cup from her drawer and pours some water from the tap. After a swig, she grabs a second cup and pours another for you.
You accept it gratefully—your throat is dry as shit. It's definitely because of the hangover, but god damn, unfiltered water is fantastic right now.
“So,” Momiji jabs her empty mug at your face, “if you got drunk enough, you're saying that you would go ahead and do some formal osculation?”
You down the rest of your water. “Please,” you ask politely, “Don't call it that. Anyway, I'm saying it could have been a possibility. You have a knack for goading me with stupid ideas.”
“What.” The girl levels her gaze at you, frowning. “Kissing me is not a stupid idea, thanks.”
“Actually, it's right under 'updating while drunk' and 'spilling out my life story to you.'”
“But you did both,” she points out.
“Yes, I'm glad you finally realized that I am prone to stupid ideas when I'm drunk.”
“Oh.” Momiji goes out to the living room. A moment later, she returns with a bottle, a playful smile creeping up her face. Her tail swishes back and forth, visible from underneath her shorts. “Then in that case, wanna get drunk?” ”
You check your phone for the time. Silently, you praise yourself for waking up before work starts. “Miji, it's still morning. We have to get to work soon.”
“Morning?” Momiji mulls over your words, then gasps. “Oh, shit! Aren't we going to be late for work?”
Before she can sprint out the room, you grab her by the shoulder. “Chill. We still have some time. We've got an hour or so.”
“Oh. Well, in that case,” Momiji returns to dangling the remains of the brandy over your face. “Since we have an hour, drinks? You promised to finish the brandy yesterday.”
“I'm not a fucking alcoholic. I might have said yes if we didn't have work today. Besides, you just want to get me drunk so that you can make me do more stupid shit, don't you?”
“Weeell, I wouldn't mind another kiss.”
You squint. “Have you been drinking already?”
“Actually.” The wolf smiles coquettishly. “I'm very sober.”
“Okay, then here goes.”
“...What? Waaait, I don't have enough alcohol in me right now.”
You say no more, instead inching closer towards Momiji. Her eyes widen, but she keeps perfectly still. The girl keeps her hands close to her chest, bracing herself for something.
Just inches away from her face, you lean towards her ear and whisper, “Don't you ever learn? This is the second time you fell for this.”
And, rightly so, Momiji is a mix of glowering-at-you and extreme disappointment. The wolf, her ears flattened listlessly, slumps her shoulders and pouts, fiercely so. You'd laugh if she didn't look so offended.
“Lame,” she grumbles, folding her arms together.
“Don't look too disappointed, Miji. You knew you had it coming.”
“I didn't, actually.”
“Then did you honestly think I'd follow up on that?”
“Honestly?” Momiji leans back on the kitchen table. Rubbing the back of her head, she mutters, “I mean, I kinda thought that, yeah.”
“Well—” You're about to say something, but you stuff the words back in your throat.
She's joking, right?
You half-expect her to break out into a cheeky grin, but she doesn't.
Motherfuck, did she drop the bomb on you. But as much as you don't want to, you're putting this on the backburner for now. This isn't something that you can casually chat about on the way to work.
The entire way to the pub, not a word is spoken between the two of you. The only things exchanged are little glances here and there, Momiji turning the other way every time and you doing the same. Many back and forths later, you finally reach the bar.
She's on your mind the entire time at work. The shipment orders you put off yesterday aren't going to be finished today either, what a fucking surprise. Productivity is at an all time low—and that's really saying something. You're just lucky that, as the manager, you have don't have anything that you can't put off until later.
Still, this shit isn't good. Your mind's all messed up because of that damn wolf. God forbid something terrible happens and you need to be a real person of authority.
The door swings open. Rylee peeks in from the entrance. She's got a real frown there, baring her teeth in frustration. The girl, striding right up to you, puts a hand to the desk and says, “We have a problem, boss.”
“I only want to hear it if somebody got stabbed again. I'm not really in the mood right now.”
She ignores you. “Cook's getting all weird, boss. He's been burning food and only vaguely responds to us with a 'yeah, uh-huh, gotcha' before going back to... whatever he's doing in the kitchen. He also told a customer to 'go fuck himself sideways,' but that's not too big of a deal since it happens every day now. Anyway, the point is, Cook is not okay.”
“Just—ugh.” You pinch your nose in exasperation. “Just tell them to get their ass back in gear.”
“I would if I could. He's been drifting off in fucking la-la land the entire morning. I don't think anything I say will get through to him. Can't you fix him somehow?”
“No.” Then, weakly, you add, “Not yet.”
You sigh. “Give me until tomorrow. I'm... a little preoccupied right now.”
Rylee stares, but even harder. “Never mind Cook, you're getting all weird. What's wrong with you, boss?”
“A lot of things are wrong with me, Rylee.”
“You've been looking at—” she motions at the documents on top of your desk, “—these ever since we clocked in. And you've started on exactly none of them.”
“Yeah, well, that sounds like business as usual. Don't mind me though, because I am perfectly aware that I am a fucking mess today.”
Rylee exhales, running an idle hand through her hair. She adopts a more gentle look, and softly, she says, “Sorry, but maybe you should get your ass in gear too. You're going to worry the others.”
“I know that,” you say lowly. “I'll be fine.”
“I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.” Your employee heads to the door, almost shutting it closed behind her. “Also, I'm going to tell Cassie and Lily to not bother you today. You're welcome.”
“Yeah, yeah, thanks.”
She responds with a nod, and then shuts the door. ________________________________________
At the end of the day, zero progress has been made on that shipment file. You can't even pretend to be surprised. After all, you spent the entire day thinking about that dumb wolf. Thank god that work is finally over. It felt like a fucking eternity and a half.
You march straight to the entrance. Momiji's already there waiting for you, her head hung down.
“Miji, we're gonna talk as soon as we get home, alright?”
Lifting her head up, she nods fervently. “Oh. Yeah, okay.”
The two of you walk, and fast, to the apartment. There's no real hurry, but you make an effort to walk fast anyway. As you make it to your front door, you unlock it and lead Momiji inside.
There's an uncomfortable silence, but it's obvious that it's much more uncomfortable for her. She's festering in her own thoughts, squirming around incessantly.
“You're not having a stroke, are you?”
“No, I'm just dying a horribly slow death by embarrassment.” She blushes, then asks, “It's too late to say that it was a joke, right?”
“An entire day too late, yeah.”
“Weeell, I guess that's the end of me then. It was fun and you were fun but now it's time for me to go crawl under a rock and disappear forever.”
“Want me to facilitate this by making fun of you, or should I just kiss you instead?”
“Yeah, yeah, you can make fun of me all you—what?”
Momiji's gaze snaps to yours, her red eyes wide with shock.
[ ] “Well?” [ ] “This is the 'making fun of you' part, by the way.”
[¥] "You can take it, or you can leave it." -[€] "Mind, when I say 'take,' I mean it in the literal. Me, I'm embarrassed stiff by how stupid this whole conversation is." --[$] "By the way, this is a one-time offer. If you keep burning the pub's food, you're fired."
I don't vote as a rule, but I'll give you this one.
Momiji can only muster a couple syllables, staccato, before she becomes a crumbling mess of a wolf tengu. The girl puts a hand to her chest, the other to the hem of her shirt, and sucks in a rough breath through her teeth. Eyes downcast, she voices herself—this time without the word salad.
“You—you—could you repeat that?”
What you said was a spur of the moment thing. You're pretty fucking embarrassed now that she's asking you to say it again—which you won't, by the way. You're not even sure why those words came out of your mouth. It's weird, but it's not too weird. Well, yeah, you're embarrassed, and yeah, you don't have your head on straight, but you don't regret it as much as you thought you would.
It's a startling, if not scary thought.
Momiji is rapidly veering off into 'losing-her-shit' territory and fast. The girl paces around the living room, wracking her brain for an answer. She throws down her hood and cap and runs her hand through her white hair, tousling it in frustration.
“Please,” you sigh, taking a seat at the living room table, “grab a chair. All that walking around is getting me antsy.”
“Yep, yeah, just, uh—give me a moment.” Momiji finds her place across from you, though she scoots back an inch. Shoulders straight and legs firmly planted, she keeps her hands on her lap like a good girl. “I'm ready.”
“This isn't an interview, you know.”
You eye the girl. She has her gaze set on her lap as if she did something wrong. Well, not to say that she didn't, because her attempt to work today was piss poor at best. You also did absolutely nothing today, but you're the manager; that's status quo. But that wasn't the reason why.
“Miji,” you say, gently, “If you want, you can just forget it, alright? My mind's been all over the place, and I've been acting weird.”
Momiji goes bug-eyed. “No, it's okay! I've been acting a little weird too! Actually, I've been acting a lotta weird because I can't just forget it and I don't want to and in fact I actually do want to but I need to get my mind in order because—” She shuts herself up to take a slow breath. Then, composing herself, she rests her back fully on the chair. “Okay. I think I need to detach myself from the issue here.”
“What, do you want a debate?”
“I'm already compiling the list of pros and cons,” she says, more serious than not. “I'll start with the pros first. Pros: I want you to kiss me, it'll raise your self-esteem, I want you to kiss me, intimate contact with the opposite sex relieves stress, and I want you to kiss me.”
You break eye contact with her. This woman is outrageous. “And the cons?”
Momiji ponders. She thinks and thinks, but that's all she does. At a loss for words, she merely shakes her head, frowning. “...Weird. I can't seem to find any.”
“So, what's the problem here?”
“Well, I mean, nothing. So... ” The girl, keeping her eyes lowered, stands up and scoots over to your side of the table. She sneaks a glance at you with hesitant eyes, looking for a response. “Here I am,” she says, subdued.
You stand up to meet her gaze again, this time keeping your eyes on hers. You stroke her head, and then, her cheek. “Here you are.”
“What,” she says, laughing weakly. “Were you charmed?”
“Yeah. More or less.”
It doesn't seem like that was the answer she was expecting, because all she responds with is an, “Oh.” Then, in a quieter voice, Momiji says, “Do keep going.”
Gently, you pull her in by her waist. She squirms but otherwise remains docile, letting you lead her closer.
“Where should I put my hands?”
“Put them wherever you want to.”
“But I don't know where I want to put them. Shit. Do I just stay still and let you kiss me? Should I?”
“You're ruining the mood, Miji.”
“I can't help it! I don't know what I'm doing! Just—Just shut me up already.”
“If you say so.” You embrace the girl, holding her tightly in your arms. Immediately, she goes silent and leans her head on your shoulder, gingerly grabbing the back of your shirt. The two of you stay like that for a couple seconds. Once she settles down, you let go. “Are you still worried, or do I need to do that again?”
“My worries got very trivial real fast.” Momiji tilts her head slightly up, her warm red eyes peering endearingly at you. In no more than a whisper, she says, “I really want you to kiss me now.”
You don't need to hear any more.
The moment you take her shoulders, Momiji raises her arms up to your chest in half-protest, but ultimately returns them to the back of your shirt, clutching it tightly. She shuts her eyes and tilts her head slightly upward, waiting.
You kiss the girl.
It's brief, yet it isn't. Thoughts you don't need to think—but you do—run through your head. Thoughts about how her lips are soft, how you want to pull her in closer, and how it feels nice when she leans her figure on yours. You also think about how feminine she looks and feels.
You part from Momiji, feeling even more confused than when you began.
The girl's cheeks are flushed, red creeping up her face. She touches her pursed lips with the tips of her fingers. You have half a mind to kiss her again because of that, but you restrain yourself. Momiji needs some time to process. You lax your grip on her.
But as you pull away, she mumbles something incoherent.
“Sorry, I didn't hear. Say that again?”
“...Another,” she enunciates. Looking at you with upturned eyes, the wolf tengu tugs at your shoulders to pull you closer to her. “I'd like another, please.”
At eleven, the two of you are on the couch, and absolutely nothing is getting done. Not that you would be doing anything productive anyway, but it's definitely more than usual. Momiji's leaning on your shoulder, her entire body resting on yours.
“So,” she says, her face flushed. “Now what?”
“Honestly, I don't know.” And you really don't. Everything that you did today up until now came from your festering emotions—and now you're paying for it because you don't have any clue how to proceed.
“Um. How about dinner?”
“It's almost midnight. It's a little late to have dinner, isn't it?”
“Oh. You're right.” Momiji smiles, and then starts chuckling to herself. “How about a drink or two?”
“You know, I think that's all we do every night.”
“Tonight is special. We're celebrating.”
“Momiji, we celebrate every night when it comes to the alcohol.”
“So, is that a no?”
You breathe in and lean back, letting your head rest on the couch's cushions. “Go get the alcohol.”
She grins. “With pleasure. Above the kitchen, second cabinet to the left?”
“I'm really sad that you know where the alcohol is.”
Momiji is back to her normal self. Well, almost normal, but you can't really blame her. You, on the other hand, are completely off-balance. It's hysterical, if also frustrating, that you can't keep your composure around Momiji anymore. You can't really be upset about it either because you did this to yourself.
The wolf tengu brings back the bottle of brandy from yesterday, though there isn't much left.
You point to it. “I thought we finished that.”
“No. We tried and we ended up passing out before any of that happened.”
“I see.” You pause and measure the remaining alcohol left. Eighty percent of the brandy is gone. It's enough to drink, but it sure as hell isn't enough to drink. “Is that enough?”
“I mean,” Momiji blushes, “I was thinking we could, y'know, take it slow and drink leisurely.”
You stare at her, dumbfounded. "Really?"
"Yeah. Surprise, I don't need an entire liter of alcohol every day. Want me to pour the first?”
“Yeah.” And gruffly, you add, “Thanks.”
After the first and second drink, Momiji sets her glass down and scoots right next to you, pressing her shoulder to yours again. “Gally.”
“What's up, Miji?”
“Can we, uh...” She rubs up against your side. “Can we cuddle?”
“I'm not a touchy-feely kind of person.”
The tengu looks up at you expectantly.
You sigh and place your own glass on the table. “Just this once, okay?”
Momiji beams and nuzzles your chest, putting her hand on your shoulder. She sighs happily, nestling up close. You wrap your arm around her, pulling her in for a loose embrace.
“You know,” murmurs Momiji, “I'm really glad.”
“Why is that?”
“I feel like I can be myself when I'm with you.”
“You can save that talk for later, when we're a little less sober.”
“I need to say it when you're sober, so you understand and remember. It's really important to me.” Momiji sets her gaze on yours, and gently, she caresses your cheek. “I don't have to be anybody but me around you. I don't have to be Cook. I don't have to be a captain. I don't even have to be a wolf tengu. I can be honest. So, like, you're the best... and stuff. Like, the super best. Thanks, Gallagher.”
You look aside. Man, she really knows how to get you. “You're a little more than okay too, I guess.”
“Yeah, probably the most okay person I know.”
Momiji has that wobbly smile again, and with a kiss on your cheek, she ends the conversation, the two of you settling for a comfortable silence. _____________________
Something stirs you from your half-sleep.
“Whaaaat,” you mumble.
Momiji softly shakes your shoulder again. “Wake up, I think it's about time we should head to sleep.”
“You woke me up to tell me to go to sleep?”
“Oh. Yeah, okay, in hindsight, that was very stupid of me to say. But since you're awake, I just wanted to let you know that I'm headed home for tonight.”
"Your home is five feet away.”
“Yeah. I need to think about stuff and being anywhere near you makes my brain turn into putty," Momiji says, smiling sheepishly. She heads to the door, then pauses, hesitating near the floor mat. She turns to you, an unsure look on her face.
“What's the matter?”
“Um, this isn't just a today thing, right? We're not just going to wake up tomorrow and go to work and pretend none of this happened... right?”
[ ] It'd be for the best if it stayed a “today thing.” [ ] It's a “today thing” but it'll also be a “tomorrow thing” too.
“It's a today thing, but it'll certainly also be a tomorrow thing too.”
Momiji doesn't really seem convinced. The girl's hesitant eyes meet yours, but only briefly. She retreats a little into her heavy parka, puffing up her cheeks. “And the day after?”
“And the day after.”
“And the day after that?”
“You're really pressing your luck now, Momiji.”
“I'd like this to be an every day thing, if you don't mind.”
“Well,” you sigh. “I don't mind, so...”
The wolf tengu beams, back to her usual toothy smile. She giggles and comes in for a hug. Before you can voice a complaint, she leans her head on your shoulder. “Then here's to today, tomorrow, and every day after that.”
“...Yeah.” You don't have much else to say, so instead you opt to stroke her head. Momiji gives a satisfied sigh, which prompts you to go further. You brush a hand against her cheek, tracing a finger along her face. This continues until you realize that it's an awful time to be awake, but Momiji doesn't intend to stop hugging you. “Um, wait. Miji. Didn't you say that you were leaving? Like, fifteen minutes ago?”
“I did say that.”
“And aren't you going to?”
“Yeah. But just a little more,” Momiji mumbles. You comply, petting her for a moment longer. She gives you a tight squeeze before reluctantly letting go. With a smile too energetic for three in the morning, she says, “Good night, Gallagher.”
“Yeah. See you tomorrow.”
As Momiji shuts the door behind her, you exhale, blowing air through your nose. You can still feel the warmth from her embrace. Her scent still lingers on you. Funny, it smells a little like your own shampoo. You're left feeling oddly giddy, but you stifle a chuckle and head to bed. ______________________________
Spring is in the air, and it is fucking nasty. The sky is overcast, the clouds hinting at the first sign of a spring shower. The weather went from zero to eighty humidity over the course of a day. Lovely. You resist the urge to skip work and instead walk over to knock on Momiji's door. When she doesn't answer, you creak the door open and give the apartment a once-over. The wolf tengu's sprawled out on the mattress, murmuring your name in your sleep.
You bite your lip to keep yourself from touching her. “Miji. Wake up, we're heading to work soon.”
Momiji stirs, creaking an eye open. “I'm up.”
“Had a nice dream?”
Her cheeks flushed red. “Not in particular.”
You keep your smile to yourself. “Be ready in ten, alright? I'll wait outside for you.”
Business proceeds as usual. The tables are filled with the regulars and the bar is empty like always. After a pointless thirty minute wait for customers, you retreat back to the office. As fucking crazy as it sounds, you actually feel like doing work today. You've put off those shipment orders for too long, so you get started on that. It takes you only until lunch break, which is actually pretty incredible for a lazy piece of shit like yourself. And now that you're done, you don't have much to do. Which is good, because the door swings open, Rylee looking absolutely disgusted.
“Need something, Rylee?”
“Something's always wrong.”
“I'm glad to see you're doing fine, boss, something's wrong with Cook again. He's been humming to himself nonstop. Like, all of today. He acts like he actually enjoys working here. And every few minutes, he starts giggling to himself. He's—he's...” she lingers, fumbling through her words, “Cook's smiling! I don't think he's allowed to do that. He's not supposed to smile. That's not part of the job.”
You raise an eyebrow at Rylee.
[ ] “Is this supposed to be concerning?” [ ] “Should I tell Cook to stop?” [ ] “As long as it doesn't interfere with their work.” [ ] Give her a shrug.
[x] Ponder aloud whether we should hang a sign reading "NO FUN ALLOWED. [x] Look: it's either this or her burning everything in the kitchen again. -[x] Unless you want to hook up with a beefy fireman, I'm going to count this as a win and ignore it as if it were an honest job
[x] Ponder aloud whether we should hang a sign reading "NO FUN ALLOWED". [x] Look: it's either this or him burning everything in the kitchen again. -[x] Unless you want to hook up with a beefy fireman, I'm going to count this as a win and ignore it as if it were an honest job.
I'm here for the snark, dammit. Don't you dare switch out on me now.
[x] Ponder aloud whether we should hang a sign reading "NO FUN ALLOWED". [x] Look: it's either this or him burning everything in the kitchen again. -[x] Unless you want to hook up with a beefy fireman, I'm going to count this as a win and ignore it as if it were an honest job.
Hey. I have a three day weekend, but I've been stuck inside my university's lab for 60+ hours the past week and a half. I hope you guys understand that no update will be coming for a while. I'm burnt out of life and need a breather.
“Should I care? Or rather, should I be concerned?”
“Well, I mean, no, but Cook's been acting... you know. To put it lightly, Cook's been acting fucking weird. He starts mumbling to himself, he gets these giggle fits, the whole works. Dude's got his head elsewhere—and not in the kitchen. At least today he can work without setting the kitchen on fire, but even so, I'm worried for that guy.”
“Yeah, you know what? You're right. I'll take care of it, and, while I'm at it, maybe I'll go hang a sign that reads 'No fun allowed' in front of my office. Better yet, I'll just slap it in front of the bar.”
She lowers her head, scowling. “I was just offering my thoughts, y'know.”
“I know,” you sigh. Then, adopting a softer tone, you tell her, “It's either this or Cook starts burning everything in the kitchen again. Anyway, it shouldn't be a problem. If it is, then I'm going to cut pay. So unless you wanted to hook up with a beefy fireman after the bar burns down, I'm going to count this as a win and leave it at that. In all honesty, any outcome where the bar isn't razed to the ground is a good one.”
“Then, could you at least tell him to be a little less, I dunno, distracting?”
Rylee stands around, hands in her pockets, waiting. You dismiss her with a wave of your hand, but she stays around.
“...What?” you ask.
“Um, could you do it right now?”
You stare at your employee. Rylee shifts to her side, shuffling her feet in impatience. She probably thinks you can't be assed to get up and do it. You're not against the idea, but you'd like to save some face. You don't want to seem too eager to meet Momiji.
With a curt nod, you say, “Alright. I'll go tell Cook to calm down.”
She blinks. “Really?”
“Yeah. Don't make me reconsider.”
You make your way to the kitchen with Rylee trailing behind you. Momiji's working on some stir-fry. You didn't even know that the bar served that. The menu must have changed since she came to work here—not that you would've known. After all, you're only the manager.
You give a wave to your cook, but she doesn't notice. Girl's too busy in her own world, humming to herself as she finishes the dish.
“Cook,” you say.
At just the sound of her name, Momiji perks up, back straight, set immediately on high alert. She does a quick one-eighty and stands at attention. “Uh, yeah, hey.”
“I'm going to be frank with you here. You're distracting everyone with whatever you're doing.”
“Oh, uh, alright.” She looks around. “What am I doing exactly?”
“Apparently, you're talking and laughing to yourself.”
She blushes. “Right.”
“I mean, I honestly don't care what you're doing, but show a little restraint. If it's bothering the other employees, then I have to step in. So what you're doing right now—just tone it down a little, alright?”
Momiji nods slowly. “Uh-huh, yeah. I can do that, Gallagher.”
“Great. Just keep that in mind and I won't bother you again.”
A smile just barely tugs at her lips before she returns to tending the stir-fry. “Gotcha.”
As you close the door to the kitchen, Rylee looks over to you in horror. Her eyes flicker to the kitchen, and then you. “What—What the fuck was that?”
“I don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about.”
You put a hand to your face, adopting your usual frown. “Am I now?”
“Yeah. You are. You definitely are.”
You stop to consider the implications behind that statement. You can't even make a civil gesture here without your employees thinking that something is going horribly wrong. “Is it really so terrible for people to smile at each other every once in a while?”
“Let me clarify: you smiled. You never smile. When Cook smiles, it's weird. When you smile... it's an emergency.”
“Well, I'm sorry for having emotions. Look, as your boss, I did what you requested of me. I'm not asking for a lot, but could you repay me by maybe not attacking my personal character at every opportunity you get? It's been a long week and I'd like some peace and quiet.”
“Alright, well,” she says gruffly, stuffing her hands in her pockets. “Um, sorry.”
“It's fine,” you sigh. “I'll be in my office. If you have any other problems, please let me know.”
Rylee scratches her head, staring down at the floor. “Okay. Thanks, boss.” ___________________________
You spend the rest of the workday counting inventory. The bar has enough to get through a couple more weeks, but that's only because you don't get enough customers to blow through all the alcohol the Morning Spirits Pub stockpiles. This is fine for now, but eventually you're going to have to track down the owner.
You're about to head out for the night, but a couple of soft knocks on the door stop you. Before you get the chance to say anything, Lily and Cassie come storming into the office, dragging Rylee and Momiji in tow.
Lily waves. “Boss, we're going drinking! Do you wanna come?”
“Wait, what?” Momiji blinks in confusion. “We are?”
“We are,” reaffirms Cassie.
“Well?” asks Lily, anxious for your response.
You glance over to Momiji, who gives you a shrug in return.
[ ] What the hell, why not? [ ] You'll pass. You have other things you want to do.
I apologize in advance. I've been so busy that I have to give up (precious) hours of sleep to write. I'd love to give more excuses, but I'll just post this update and see if I can't find more time to write next week. Midterms - a lot of them - are coming up.
>>64128 [Z] You'll pass. You have other things you want to do. [Z] Throw the wolf to the wolves! she'll have a great time with the girls. [z] Wait, if she starts talking you'll never hear the end of it, you better go as well.
One cute guy, a bar full of cute girls and booze? Time for an ORGANIZED PLOT TO REVEAL GALLAGHERS CAUSE FOR JOY ENDING IN GAY CONFESSIONS OF HOMOSEXUAL LOVE OR A REVEAL OF AWOOS TRUE FORM! DO IT NOW, DON'T ASK WHY!
File 147891217553.jpg - (168.42KB, 850x1066, it wasn't alcohol just embarrassment.jpg)
The fact remains that every single time you go drinking with your employees, something terrible always happens, but you are very good at disregarding the facts in favor of alcohol. What's the worst that could happen anyway?
...Well. A lot, actually. The question brews ill thought, so you dismiss it and instead shrug at Lily.
“Eh, what the hell, why not?”
“...Huh?” Lily turns—though it is more of a spin—to face you. The girl wears a quizzical frown that asks a lot of unanswered questions. “You're actually going?”
“Yeah. I mean, you asked me to come. What's wrong with saying yes?”
“Well,” Cassie says, “it just seems like you don't like drinking too much. Or us, for that matter!”
“I don't hate you all. I just don't like it here. Plus, I do enjoy alcohol—in moderation, of course. So let's not get too carried away today unlike every fucking time we drink. I think my liver is going to explode at any given moment. Also, I'd prefer not to carry everyone home again. I'm your boss, not your babysitter.”
Momiji puts a hand to her mouth in mock-surprise. “Wait, you're not?”
“You don't get to talk, Cook,” you snap. “You give the most trouble out of everyone here. Anyway, I'll go lock up.”
“Where are we headed?” asks Momiji.
“Angel Pub and Grill,” says Cassie. “It's the only place I really know. They're, um, not bad, per se, if you disregard the quality, the atmosphere, the service and—”
“Vetoed. And I'm not saying that as your boss, I'm saying that as a human with standards. If we're going anywhere, then we're going to Louise's. Despite how shitty it looks on the outside, the place is outstanding. Any objections?”
Momiji laughs at the mention of Louise's, but everybody else looks around and shrugs.
“Great. We're heading out in five.” _________________
The air outside reeks of forthcoming rain. It has a mustiness unique to springtime. But for once, nature is merciful enough to wait until everybody is inside the bar before unloading a full downpour onto the city.
Louise's is abuzz with customers—something you're not actually used to. You expect sullen and desolate, not bustling, not alive, and certainly not cheerful. Most of the time you come to the bar, it's well past busy hours. Today though, is the exception. Sam waves you over, so you bring your employees over and steal five seats in front of the bartender.
Sam takes a long look over the girls. “Free drinks for five is pushing it, Gallagher.”
“Relax, they're all paying. You should be happy that I got you customers for the night, by the way.”
“Oh, I'm ecstatic,” he says, rolling his eyes. “Now if only you could find some more customers for your own bar, right?”
“Customer turnout is none of my fault, thank you."
“So, do you need something to drink or are you just going to flirt with me all night?”
You shoot him a nasty look. “I'll pass on both. I'm taking it easy tonight.”
“Don't worry, I'll be drinking for him!” laughs Momiji. “Give me tequila neat!”
Rylee shakes her head in disgust. “You're insane, Cook.”
“I'd like a strawberry mojito!” says Lily, laughing alongside Momiji.
Their laughter must be straight infectious, because Cassie starts giggling with them too. “Give me the same, please!”
“So, in all seriousness,” Sam says, sliding the tequila over to Momiji. He starts working on the mojito next. “How goes business? I heard Mr. Hansen's been missing for a while.”
“Yeah, the owner's been MIA for so fucking long. It's driving me nuts because I need him to look over reports and some statements. I don't have the authority to do shit, so all I can do is twiddle my thumbs and wait until he shows up.”
Sam hands Lily and Cassie their drinks. “Tough shit. Maybe it's time to abandon ship and come work for us?”
You scoff. “Like I can. Who else is going to run Morning Spirits? Lily? Impossible, it'd never work out.”
At the mention of her name, Lily frowns. “Hey, that's rude! I could do it after some training. Maybe.”
“Funny you say that, Gallagher.” Sam smiles. “Jasmine said the same exact thing about you right before she left.”
Rylee blinks. “Jasmine?”
“Our old manager,” Lily explains. “Back when Boss was just a senior employee and not in charge of literally everything.”
“Well,” you sigh, “she was right. The whole bar is an even bigger mess now than when she was around and she was a royal fuckup.”
“Need a drink, dontcha? And I ain't saying that just because they aren't free tonight.”
“Fine. But just one for tonight, please.”
You manage to keep it at one. The temptations almost gets to the best of you, but you will it out. The rest of your employees, however, decidedly do not.
“Booooooooooss.” Lily grabs at your shoulder for an armrest. You politely shy away from the girl, but in her drunken stupor she leans too forward and almost tackles you to the ground. You reluctantly catch her and then nudge her off of you immediately
“What do you want, Lily?”
“I'm. Very drunknrgh. Prob'bly obnoxiously drunkgh. Am I drunk, boss? Gallagher?”
“Yes, you're really drunk. So you don't get to drink for the rest of the night, alright?”
“Fiiiiine. But only 'cause you're the boss and the boss gets to say stuff and boss people around and—wooow.” Lily frowns, then hiccups once. “I really am drunk. I cannot words.”
“At least you're aware, unlike Cassie.”
“I am nnnot drink—drunk. Not drunk,” slurs Cassie, gripping the table fiercely. She's trying her best—and failing—to keep her balance. “Not drunk and will neeveeeer be drunk. I'm just tipsy, like, really really really tipsy.”
“Sit down,” you command. “And keep a firm grip on the table. Don't fall off the chair now.”
“Okaaaay.” Cassie hesitantly lowers herself back onto the chair. She yelps as she almost slips off but somehow manages to catch herself and secure her butt on the seat. “I did it,” she says, with a triumphant grin.
“Thanks!” she says, beaming.
“Booooooss,” whines Lily, “heeeeeelp.”
“I'd rather not.”
“You're being awfully patient today,” says Rylee, finally chiming in. Amazingly, she's one of two who are still sober.
“Lily and Cassie are both drunk and I'm not,” you point out. “I have to be patient with them. That's my job.”
Lily snakes a hand around your shoulder, leaning straight into you. “Heeey,” she starts, but before she can do anything else, Momiji wriggles in-between, draping a loose arm over the both of you.
“Hey friends, just thought I'd pop in.” The wolf tengu takes a deep breath. “By the way, Lily, did you know that we're getting gay married? Because we're both super gay. Dick lovers, even.”
“Oh, not this shit again.” You scowl at the wolf but she ignores your glares. You can faintly hear Cassie laugh in the background.
“You think I'm joking?” Momiji says, shouting over to your other employee. She turns to you and inches a little closer. “Well—”
“Hold it right there, Cook. You should stop before you do anything stupid. Again.” This time, you have both the sobriety and peace of mind to prevent her from drunkenly forcing herself onto you.
“Yeaaaah, I know, I know. Don't worry. This time it was actually just a joke. I'm not that drunk. Promise. It's just that.. y'know. Um.” Momiji blinks and looks around. You, plus all the rest of your employees, are looking at her. “Fuck, I'll, uh, talk about it later.”
Rylee turns her head to Momiji. “Wait, so the dude who tried to make out with you was—?”
You sigh. “It's a long story.” _________________
The drinking winds down just before midnight. Cassie is sleeping—but not competely passed out—using her arms as a cushion. Lily has more or less sobered up mentally. Only the slightly unsteady waddling gives away that she's been drinking. You throw Momiji an anxious look her way, but she returns a reassuring smile. Rylee, thankfully, did not drink at all tonight.
“Boss, I'll go take Cassie and Lily back to their homes. You can manage taking care of Cook, right?”
“Yeah, easily. Nobody's too drunk anymore, so I think we'll all be fine. Thanks for your help, Rylee.”
“Mmhm.” A rare smile is planted across her lips. Rylee leaves to go round up the rest of the girls.
“Alright.” You wave Momiji on over. “Come on, Cook. Let's head out.”
The wolf follows, eager to get outside. Though, once she's out, all the two of you do is glance at each other uneasily for about a block, when Momiji, head hung low, bashfully reaches for you. You extend your arm out to her. She takes it immediately.
“Hey,” she says.
“Hey,” you say.
“Did I, um, go a little overboard earlier tonight?”
“No. I didn't really mind. It's just that—well.” You fumble across your words, struggling to get your mouth working the way you want it to. “It's just that I'd like to do that kinda stuff privately and not, y'know, there. 'There' being in front of everyone. So... you don't have to do the gay act. I'm not looking anywhere else because you're... uh. You're special to me and stuff. Or something like that. Fuck man, this is fucking embarrassing to say.”
You half-expect her to laugh and ask you to repeat it again, to which you'll scowl and tell her to go eat a dick. Instead, she leans close into your shoulder and squeezes your hand. All you can muster is a blush, hidden away in the night.
Sweet Kanako, I have not binge read a story like that in quite a while. Two evenings. That's how long it takes to win me. You have won me, my dude. I should have been reading this story long ago, and now I'm kicking myself for getting on this late. That's how much I like it.
I will cry like the biggest little bitch if this story dies.
>>64173 Hey anon. I want to post to say thank you. This year has been pretty rough on me and I don't have as enough time as I would like to spend on writing, but posts like yours really make me think that it's worth the effort. So, uh, yeah. Updates will be coming along but, like always, I can make no promises on the when.
Your embarrassment extends far into the night. Momiji sits you firmly on the couch, grinning while she takes the space adjacent. Gentle rain taps on the windows and it's probably your imagination but holy fuck it's loud—you can't hear yourself think at all. Momiji, however, is unfazed, leading you to think that maybe you're overreacting and looking for any reason to take your mind off the wolf tengu, who's sitting precariously closer by the second. Man, you really wish you weren't sober right now.
“So what do we do now?” says Momiji.
“Sleep like reasonable people and get a full nine hours of sleep?”
“No, I mean. Really.”
“Same as always,” you say. “Absolutely nothing until about two in the morning.”
“Sounds good to me.” Momiji flings her cap off and smooths down her ears, rubbing them gingerly with her hands. You watch her until she notices you staring, to which she smiles, dives into your chest, and nuzzles you affectionately.
You stroke Momiji's cheek, drawing out a satisfied sigh of relief from her. Then, you lean down, mere inches from her face. The wolf inches forward, closing her eyes—but then she snaps her eyes open and jerks back hastily.
“I need to brush my teeth.”
“Yeah,” you say, rubbing the back of your neck. “I do too.”
So she does; so do you. You both reconvene back at the couch minutes later, Momiji returning with a change of attire: a gray short-sleeved shirt, complete with unassuming black shorts. Her tail, a clashing sharp white, sticks out from behind her. “Well.” Her lips curl up. “Where were we?”
“I was about to kiss you, but then you ruined the mood completely.”
“I did not,” she huffs. “Now the kiss will be all minty fresh and—”
“Oh, just shut up and close your eyes.”
Momiji faithfully complies, sitting straight up. Though she keeps a level face, her tail wags enthusiastically from side to side. You take Momiji's chin and tilt it slightly to the side before you kiss her. She eagerly reciprocates, parting only when you open your eyes. Tail still wagging, the wolf beams toothily.
Pointing over to her tail, you ask, “Is that a conscious decision or what?”
“It's like smiling.” Momiji tugs at the edge of her cheeks to demonstrate. “You know, it's like how you can make yourself smile, but sometimes you can't stop yourself from doing it.”
“So, was that the former or the latter?”
Blushing, she returns a wobbly smile. _________________
Your entire body is being used as a pillow. Not that it feels bad, but that's how it is. Momiji's seated comfortably in front, leaning back on your chest.
The wolf cranes her neck up to speak to you. “You know. I was thinking, maybe, when—” She pauses. “—if I go home, I might go and take care of the kids back in the village after I retire as Captain.”
“...Kids?” You laugh. “Whose? Yours?”
“Heeeell no,” Momiji snorts. “I'm talking about all the little wolf tykes running around the tengu village.”
“Don't they, I dunno, have their parents for that?”
“You expect them to keep an eye on their kids the entire day?” She shakes her head. “The pups are always outside together. I figure they need someone to keep an eye on all of 'em.”
“And that's why you want to be a babysitter?”
“It's not being a babysitter! I'll be a mentor or something like that. That is, if I get to go back.” Momiji squirms around in your lap until she finds a more comfortable position. “But if that never happens, I might go get a real job here. Maybe I'll go to school and get a proper education.”
You dangle two fingers over her face. “There are two glaring problems in your plan. The first is that you have no ID. The second, which is probably even worse than the first, is the deal with your ears. What are you going to do about that? I don't know how long you can hide them before someone sees.”
“Forever, if I have to. I mean, I'll manage when people find out. If I pass off as a weeb cosplayer, they'll probably just think I'm another freak instead of, y'know, a tengu.” Momiji lets loose an anxious sigh. “I dunno, man. I don't want to think about it too hard. I'm just scared that I'll settle down here and then all of a sudden I'll get whisked back to Gensokyo—one way ticket and all that.”
“Well, what are you going to do if you can go back?” Shit, that isn't what you meant to ask.
“Babysitting. Wait, shit, I meant 'mentoring.' It's not babysitting, dammit.”
What you really wanted to ask was something slightly different. You wanted to ask her what she'd do, if she had the choice. Whether she would stay here, or whether she would go back to Gensokyo and stay there—forever.
[ ] Just ask her. [ ] You'd prefer not to know. For now, at least.
It should be really fucking easy to say what's on your mind and just ask the girl. But now, of all times, your brain decides that it's time for you to turn into a goddamn mess. And you're not just uneasy—you're outright nervous. Really, it's weird. You haven't felt this anxious since your first day on the job.
Two ruby eyes meet yours. You see them soften briefly before Momiji averts her gaze. She lifts one arm over your shoulder, another behind your back, and pulls you to her.
“Gallagher,” she says, a certain quiet in her voice, “something on your mind?”
You let your hand wander around her hair for a while before you settle with stroking the back of her head. “Well... you know. A wolf tengu. Cook. Momiji. My neighbor. A whole lot of people.”
“Hey, I know all those people.” Momiji grins. “They're all great.”
“Yeah. I like them all. A lot, actually.”
“They, um, must be real happy then,” Momiji says. Her unconcerned smile is deliberate; the red creeping up her ears betrays her real emotions. “They probably like you a lot too.”
“That'd be nice.” You linger in her arms, enjoying the warm embrace. Staying silent for just a little longer, you gather yourself together. “Momiji. Um, hypothetically, if you could choose, what would you do if you had the option to go back to Gensokyo?”
There is no hesitation when she closes her eyes, rubs your back, and says:
“I'd go back.”
“That's just a hypothetical though. Right now, the longer I stay here, the more I think about doing the opposite.” A pause, long and heavy, divides the conversation. Then a dry sigh escapes her lips, and her wolfish ears wilt. “So like, also hypothetically, if I went back, would you miss me?”
Mumbling, she says, “You don't have to lie, you know.”
The both of you take comfort in each other's arms until the clock ticks past one, and Momiji finally breaks the embrace.
“It's getting late,” she says.
“So it is.”
“We should get some sleep.” And though she says that, the wolf stares longingly, looking for something more. Hell of a mixed signal she's giving you. “It's late, after all.”
“W-Well, um.” Momiji nibbles on her lower lip, sinking into the depth of the couch. “I don't suppose your bed has space for another.”
Gruffly, you say, “It does.”
“I don't want to be alone. So just—just for tonight, maybe, could I stay over?”
You stare at her. You stare at her for maybe too long of a time. And it is at that point when you kick yourself for even thinking that Momiji was a dude. Sure, she might have hidden her features behind a heavy jacket and sure, she might not have a chest that sticks out—but Momiji is most definitely womanly, soft, and, god, she's adorable.
“...Yeah. I don't mind.”
So she follows. You find an extra pillow for her before taking the right side of the bed. She crawls under the covers and faces you. You can barely make out her eyes in the dark.
“Every day,” you say in no more than a whisper, “I hope that you won't get sent back to Gensokyo.”
Momiji puts a hand over yours. “That's cruel, y'know. I have to go back.”
“Yeah,” you sigh, closing your eyes. "Sorry."
“You don't have to be,” she says. Sleep starts to take you. But before you drift away completely, you hear, “Because every day, even if it's selfish, I hope so too.”
You wake, hours later. Your back is stiff, no thanks to your sleeping posture. You creak an eye open and run a hand through your sweat-laden hair. And in that instant, you suddenly realize that it's a fucking sauna in here. As you throw off the covers, you're met with a particularly soft obstacle, which makes you come to several conclusions: Momiji's still here, the room must be thirty degrees hotter than before, and Momiji's still here.
She's still here.
You let yourself breathe because, for some awful reason, you were holding your breath. You recount yesterday to yourself. It isn't a happy moment—you'd prefer to forget your weakness and vulnerability.
You air your shirt, its back covered in sweat. Man, fuck the spring and what it stands for. It should be against the laws of nature to be fifty degrees one day and eighty degrees the next. Humidity is probably at an all time high, too, because you feel disgusting.
Momiji slowly rouses, blinking away her drowsiness. She does a lazy turn of her head and attempts a half-smile, which is cut off by her own yawn.
“Good morning, Gally,” she says, brushing aside a stray strand of hair.
“Morning.” You get up and stumble through your room in an act of recovering your motor skills. “I'm going to make some cereal.”
“I'd love to join you right now, but I can't move at the moment. The bed feels so nice that it'd be a waste if I didn't lie in it some more, so give me five minutes.”
“Sure. Want me to make you some while you're getting up?”
“I'd like you a thousand times more if you did.”
“I suddenly don't want to anymore.”
You end up making a bowl of cereal for her too. You start on yours first—no matter what anybody says, soggy cereal is terrible and anybody who likes it is also terrible. You're three spoons in when Momiji hugs you from behind and rests her head on your shoulder.
“Miji,” you say.
“Cuddle with me.”
“No. It feels like it's eighty degrees outside. Too hot for that right now.”
Momiji frowns, if only slightly. “Well, alright then. But do you, by any chance, have a fan?”
“Yeah. Check the living room closet and it should be in there somewhere.”
Momiji lets go of you and heads over to search for the fan, giving you the chance to resume eating. She returns with the aforementioned fan, plugs it in, sets it right next to you, and turns it on at full blast before sitting down and making quick work of her own cereal. Then she sets her hands on her lap and waits patiently.
“Miji,” you say, finishing up your bowl, “what are you doing?”
Pouting a little, Momiji replies with the same answer as before. “Is it still too hot?”
“Well, no, not anymore.” Then, in a consciously level voice, you add, “Fine. Get over here before I change my mind.”
Momiji smiles and slides her chair right next to you. She turns, sideways—then rests her head on your chest. “How long can we stay like this?”
“Forever, hopefully,” you murmur.
Momiji blinks, a disarray of emotions on her face. Ahh, shit, right, she has good hearing. The wolf remains conflicted, wracking her brain until she remembers how to speak. “Uh. I'd love to, but don't we have work?”
“Ah.” Your gasp comes out faster than you can stop yourself. By that time, Momiji is giving you an awful smirk. “Five minutes,” you say. “I meant five minutes.”
“Five minutes it is.” She wears a relaxed smile, though it wanes at the edge of her lips. “If we had the time, forever would be nice, too.”
You don't have a response to that. _________________
Momiji fans herself with her hand as you open up the pub. It's not really hoodie season anymore, but she keeps wearing one anyway. By the time the pub is ready, the rest of your employees have filed in for work. There isn't much to say, so you plant yourself at the open bar. Momiji wipes the sweat off her brow. As she heads for the kitchen, she calls Cassie over to her.
“Mind doing me a favor, Cassie? Could you hold my apron for me? The kitchen temperature's gonna be awful today, so I'm gonna hang my hoodie on the coat rack.”
And then, casually, Momiji takes off her hoodie. She hangs it and takes the apron out of Cassie's hands.
Cassie goes through the motion of nodding but stops—something is amiss. She does her routine smile, one reserved for dealing with impossible customers, then turns to you.
You stare back at her blankly before you figure out what's wrong. Momiji was hidden behind her hoodie before. Now, it's pretty obvious who—and what—Cook is.
Cassie sucks in a long breath of air before screaming her head off.
“COOK IS A GIIIIIIIIIIIRL.”
“Oh, he knew.” Momiji, in the middle of tying the apron behind her back. “It wasn't much of a secret.”
Rylee squints real hard, as if she were taking an eye exam and failing. It looks like a lot of words are stuck in her throat, but the only thing that comes out is a dumb, “Huh.”
You expect Lily to be in hysterics too, but she's actually okay. She isn't yelling at the top of her lungs, which is a plus, but her face goes from a slight frown to a full scowl and then to a pained smile.
“Yeah. Well, this is a nightmare. Um, sorry, but I need some air outside.”
And just like that, Lily leaves the pub.
...Maybe okay was not the right word to describe her.
“...Ah, fuck.” Momiji voices your thoughts out loud. “I'll go get her.”
[ ] Tell her to wait. You'll get Lily yourself. [ ] Let her go. You can run the pub with Cassie and Rylee. [ ]
In all likelihood, Lilly is attracted to Gallagher because he's a kind guy under all the faggotry. If he goes to talk to/comfort her now, he'll be at his most attractive while also saying he isn't interested in her. Add in Lilly's surprise and the casual cruelty of past teasing... it's a recipe for pain. They still need to talk, but now is not the time.
I also see the "girl runs away sad -> guy chases after her" story pattern as something for love interests. The whole point is that Lilly never was one in our eyes.
[X] Let her go. You can run the pub with Cassie and Rylee.
Letting her cool off is probably for the best. She can sort out her feelings properly when she's less of a wreck, and if we go in there right now there'll be trouble. Don't forget that we aren't interested in her. We're not running the harem route. Giving her false hope by running to her side would just be cruel.
Hey yall, Moral here. It's been a rough year, but here's to the next twelve months. Let it be known that I appreciate you all for putting the effort to follow An Excuse for A-Who (it took me 3 entire threads to figure out what the title was!) and sticking with me. Despite the sporadic updates and floundering author, ya guys stuck around.
“No need. You stay here and get the kitchen running. I’ll get her myself. If you run after her, it’s a personal issue. If I run after her, then it’s an administrative problem.”
“Man the kitchen, Cook,” you say, staring her down.
“Fine,” she says, sulking, “Tell Lily that I’m sorry.”
“I would, but no.”
Momiji takes a moment to process. “No?”
“No,” you affirm. “You can do that when she gets back, alright?”
“Um.” Rylee cuts in. Oh, right. Other employees. Work. “I’m a little lost. I got everything up to ‘Cook is a girl too’ but then Lily walked out and now I have no idea what just happened.”
“Lady troubles,” offers Cassie.
You ignore Cassie. “I’m going to go get Lily. Do try and keep the pub alive in the meantime.”
“That’s funny,” scoffs Rylee. “Morning Spirits is dead around the clock.”
You head outside and immediately regret it. You almost forgot that the weather is set to absolutely disgusting. Fucking humidity is a piece of shit. The sooner you return to the Morning Spirits Pub with Lily, the better. Luckily, your employee didn’t wander off too far. You can see her on the bridge to South Street, which is only about half a block away from the bar.
Lily leans a hand on the railing, her eyes set on the streets below. What’s underneath is quiet—nothing but empty highway, save for the occasional early morning car.
“Lily. We need you back at the bar.”
She raises her lips up to a wounded smile. “Boss. Can I have some time?”
“...I don’t mean to be rude, but we can’t afford that with how understaffed we are.”
“Spare me five minutes?” Lily’s gaze leaves the streets—and then fixates on you. Her eyes plead. “Please?”
“...Yeah.” Damn yourself. Damn yourself for being so weak to shit like this.
Quiet retakes the bridge. It’s been all of ten seconds and already you’re at a loss for what to do. Good job, you.
“So,” you say, piecing together your words, “why’d you run?”
“I just... well, I don’t know. I don’t understand. Whenever I saw you and Cook together, I just couldn’t process it. At the time, I just thought to myself, ‘Well, Gallagher is just helping Cook out. No big deal.’ And then, when I saw you two get real friendly, I came to the conclusion that you two were both gay, so I got really confused.”
“...I’m not, by the way.”
“I know that,” Lily says, smiling weakly. “Which is why Cook being a girl confirmed a lot of bad things at once. It’s really obvious how she feels about you. Even when I thought Cook was a guy, she had me second-guessing myself. And now, everything makes sense. She’s always around you. She wants to be around you. She likes you! And, from the way you’ve been acting around her, I can guess that you like her too. But—and I’m sorry for even asking—but what does it take for you to look my way?”
You don’t have an answer to that, so instead you decide to stare like a fucking moron.
“It’s like I never had a chance. What does Cook have that I don’t? Why does she get to have you? I don’t get it! I really don’t.” Lily shields her eyes with a stray hand. The sleeve of her shirt meets her eyes, wiping away the start of her tears. “It’s just not fair at all. I’ve liked you before she did. I liked you before she was even here! And I know it’s not like I’m special because I was first! I just—I just thought that you and I were close and maybe, we would have gotten closer.” A hot stream of tears begins to run down her face, and she pauses to rub them away. Then, quietly, she says, “I’ve liked you for so long now. Boss—no, Gallagher. Do you remember New Year’s? The very first one I spent at Morning Spirits when you took over my shift?”
“I do,” you reply carefully.
“It was maybe a month after that.”
“A month after?”
“That I realized I liked you. And I was thinking—no, I’ve been thinking—that maybe you’d consider me in the future. That you’d look over here. But you didn’t. And I just want to know something.”
“I can do my best to answer, if that’s what you’re looking for.”
Lily crooks her head down. A weary look rests on her face. “Is it me? Am I not good enough?”
“I’m sorry,” you say, though you really have to heave it out of your mouth. “I really am. Just so you know, it’s not you, and it’s definitely not because you’re not good enough. If you want to know anything about the why or how, I don’t have an answer for you. But please, don’t beat yourself up about it.”
“So... then you really do like Cook.”
“I mean... if weren’t obvious enough, yeah. Guess I do.”
“Then...” Lily struggles to find her words. “What about me?”
You think of several responses in your head and every one of them is terrible. Still, any response is better than nothing, so you tell her, “You should find somebody better.”
Lily’s pained expression blossoms into frustration. Several wrinkles start to line her forehead as her discontent becomes unquestionably apparent. “But I don’t want to be with someone better. I want to be with you.”
“Well—uh.” You shut yourself up. ‘That won’t happen’ almost comes out of your mouth, but you catch yourself before blurting out the stupidest fucking thing of all time. Funny how you have a knack for saying the dumbest shit imaginable. “Sorry.”
>instead of going for his cute coworker, Gallus the Fuckup goes for a 2hu that'll eventually go back to gensokyo >after she will, he'll spend the rest of his days alone and in misery, shitposting on imageboards knowing that nobody will take him seriously if he decides to tell someone about this
Nah, doesn't sound right. It'd probably go something like this:
>Momiji goes back to Gensokyo >Gallus goes full alcoholic >Lily shows up at his apartment to try to cheer him up >Out of loneliness, Gallus crosses the line >Out of desperation and poor self-esteem, Lily accepts him >Lily knows he doesn't love her but hopes he will come around >Heart-of-gold Gallus is gone >Lily hopes time will bring him back >It doesn't >Lily continues the relationship >She knows she'll always be second to a girl who's name she never knew >But she's with Gallus >This is what she wanted, right? >She's happy, right? >pic related
Five minutes turned into thirty minutes because you had no quick and easy way to approach the issue. But honestly, just the fact that you managed to convince Lily to come back to work is a victory in itself. It's just too bad that you now feel like you had the shit kicked out of you. At least you don't have to deal with your employees for the rest of the day. Looks like it’s busy at the tables. Hopefully, that’ll keep Lily from thinking too hard about... well, you.
As to be expected, Lily makes no attempt to enter the kitchen, and Momiji keeps herself locked inside. Cassie plays the messenger girl, in which she delivers all orders in and out. You'd love to keep an eye on the girls, but you're met with an unfortunate consequence of a busy day: people are actually showing up to your bar.
A flat-nosed man seats himself, smoothing down the collar of his suit. The guy's not really wearing it—the poor thing doesn't fit him at all. He pulls at his cuffs uncomfortably, his wear being somewhere in between I found this at a discount and this was my brother's hand-me-down.
You practice your smile. Admittedly, it's not great. You haven't used your work-smile ever since you got promoted. “Welcome. What would you like?”
“I don't know. Surprise me. I'm not really picky at nine in the morning.”
“Don't suppose you're here for a cup of coffee, huh?”
The man scowls, sinking deeper into his suit too large for him. “You know why I'm here. If I really wanted to get ripped off for some caffeine, I'd go to Starbucks.”
And it is at this point where you almost forget every cocktail known to man. Damn it, you’re out of practice. You stare underneath the counter at your assorted spirits before mangling together something hackneyed. Vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer. The name eludes you but it's been ingrained in your brain as the go-to when you forget how to do anything right. You garnish it with a slice of lime before handing it off.
“One 'the most expensive cocktail on the menu' cocktail for you.”
He glares at the cocktail first, and then at you. “Oh, piss off. I know this is a Moscow—even if you did forget the mug that comes with it. If you're making me pay anything more than fifteen, I'm going straight to the manager.”
“I am the manager,” you say.
“Good.” He lets loose a wide smile, allowing himself some energy. “That cuts out the middleman. Your employee sucks. Consider hiring a new bartender.”
“I'll put it on the to-do list. Anything else before I leave you with the check?”
“I'm good. I just needed something before I go fuck everything up at work.”
“At the Morning Spirits, you're only preaching to the choir, buddy.” ________________________________________
It was the first time in a long while where you actually had to do things at the bar. Days like these make you wonder why it’s not successful all the time. You had to work until an hour before closing—usually, you would have been done as soon as you opened up shop. Hopefully, the girls—and by the girls, you mean Lily—have been busy as well.
Lily seems to have cheered up by closing time, but after today, you’re in no position to judge how she’s feeling. You tend to your bar because for once, you actually have to clean up. While you scrub down the place, you watch over your employees. At the front of the pub, you spot Momiji and Lily, catching the tail end of their conversation.
“The forgiving’s the easy part,” Lily says. “The forgetting... well, I’m still working on that.”
“The forgiving is more than enough. And, uh, you know.” Momiji hangs her head in shame. “Thanks for that.”
You decide to excuse yourself out of the bar. You’d rather not eavesdrop, or worse, get involved in the conversation. You don’t have any words left. But before you can sneak away, Lily stops you.
“About what happened today... I’m sorry.”
You stare at her incredulously. “What?”
“I put you in a weird spot. Asked a lot of questions I already knew the answers to. I left work, blew up in your face, and had you drag me back. I really, really inconvenienced you. So... I’m sorry. For everything.”
“It’s fine,” you gruffly say. “Just don’t push yourself.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not.”
“But if you were, I’d doubt you’d tell me, right?”
“I’ll be okay. Honest. I’m a lot tougher than when I first joined.”
“I won’t deny that. You couldn’t do squat before.”
“Well, gee, thanks,” Lily says, smiling flatly. Her smile wilts as she stares off to the side. “Anyway. I’ll be heading out now. Good night, boss.”
You step out of her way. “Take care.”
As soon as Lily leaves the pub, you sink yourself into the nearest chair. A guttural sigh escapes you.
“That went about as well as it could have.” Momiji, having been waiting patiently, moves to your side. As soon as you look to her, she smiles and wraps her arms around your shoulders. She leans her head next to yours, lifting a hand up to stroke your cheek.
“Do you think? I honestly thought it went pretty terribly.”
“Lily came back, didn’t she?”
“...She really liked you, y’know.”
“Yeah, unfortunately. Which is why I fucked up big time.”
Momiji sighs. “Well, don’t worry, I fucked up real hard too. It was a while back, but I went drinking with Lily once. I kinda... went ahead and told her that she should just go and ask you out. Obviously, that was before I figured out I kinda liked you too. And then things got dicey. At the time, I thought it was a great idea to keep pretending I was a dude. I was being retarded because, sooner or later, I was going to have to tell her, ‘Hey guess what I don’t have a penis oh also, by the way, I like the guy you like too.’ So today I ripped off that metaphorical bandage. I let you deal with the brunt of it.” She gives you a light squeeze. “Sorry for that, by the way.”
“You don’t have to be.”
“I feel like I should be. For reasons. Fuck, man. I have no clue what I’m doing because... uh. I’ve never really liked anybody before you.”
“Yeah. Never. I dunno, call me a late bloomer.”
“Late bloomer?” You chuckle a little. “That’s precious.”
“Very funny,” Momiji says, rolling her eyes.
“So. Just curious, but—uh. When, um, exactly did you start liking me?”
“Like, for real, or do you mean when did I realize it?” Momiji tilts her head back, staring off into the ceiling. “For real, I probably started liking you a while back. Y’know, around the time when I started hanging out at your place. But it was a while until I realized what the fuck was wrong with me. Guess when I did.”
“Way after that. Remember when we went to that bar and I was piss drunk?”
“Yeaaaaah. That.” Momiji snorts. “Ridiculous. I’m still embarrassed by that shit.”
“So it took the magic of alcohol to figure out your feelings?”
“You know. I wonder why I like you. You’re probably the biggest dork imaginable, and your life is a mess.”
“Whoa. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, you nerd.”
“Wanna fight?” she laughs.
“Man, you’re just asking for it now.” You pull her down while she’s still laughing and tickle her sides.
Momiji squeals, slapping her arms down to her sides to protect herself. “You little shit,” she says, giggling. “Stop—hnnrrghahaha—tickling me!”
“Make me.” You stop anyway, letting the red-faced mess of a wolf tengu fall into your arms. “I can’t believe you. You’re not even my type at all. Still, here we are.”
“For your information,” she says, sticking her head high up, “you’re not my type either. And here we are.”
“Mmm.” Momiji squirms in your embrace. She turns to face you, her lips pursed into a puzzling frown. Momiji tries to say something, but her voice cracks at the very beginning. Blushing, she takes a deep breath, clears her throat, and starts again. “Yo. Gallagher. Listen to me real quick.”
“I like, love you and stuff.” With that said, she sinks deeper into your arms and buries her face in your chest. Momiji keeps talking, but she’s speaking directly into your shirt, so all you hear is muffled garbage. She pauses to breathe, pushing herself away from you. Her gaze is fixed directly on the floor. “I love you lots.”
And there, you realize that you probably love this girl too. This dumb and adorable girl. This very ephemeral girl. This girl who shouldn’t be here but is anyway but it’s okay because shouldn’t doesn’t mean isn’t. You enjoy the time you spend with her—and you probably shouldn’t but you do, so very much, regardless.
“Momiji,” you say.
[ ] “Let’s get going and it’s late and I guess I love you a lot, too, maybe.” [ ] “Let me see your hand for a second.” [ ] “No matter what happens..." [ ] Though you don't tell her, you're sorry.
[x] “Let me see your hand for a second.” If it was anyone but you writing this Moral, I'd choose this without a second thought. But I'm paranoid this is going to explode in some straight outta left field kind of manner.
“Sure,” says Momiji, obediently raising her hand up. “What’s up?”
Wordlessly, you grab it.
THEN, WITH THE SPEED OF A THOUSAND SUNS, YOU TAKE YOUR YOUKAI-BANISHING KATANA, WHICH WAS FOLDED OVER TEN-THOUSAND FOLDS OF FOLDS, AND SLASH THE FOUL BEAST AT THE WRIST.
“ZOUNDS,” THE CREATURE BELLOWS, “MY RADIAL NERVE, A NERVE IN THE HUMAN BODY THAT SUPPLIES THE POSTERIOR PORTION OF THE UPPER LIMB. IT INNERVATES THE MEDIAL AND LATERAL HEADS OF THE TRICEPS BRACHII MUSCLE OF THE ARM, AS WELL AS ALL 12 MUSCLES IN THE POSTERIOR OSTEOFASCIAL COMPARTMENT OF THE FOREARM AND THE ASSOCIATED JOINTS AND OVERLYING SKIN.”
“HWAHAHA, YOU FOOL, HOW COULD YOU FORGET THAT YOUR GREATEST NEMESIS, GALLAZAN, WAS WAITING FOR YOU ALL ALONG.”
“I should have known,” says the fiend, “that you would have been amidst the shadows, lurking until my guard was down.”
“HOHOHO,” you chortled, “HOW SHALL YOU BEST ME NOW, WITHOUT THE USE OF YOUR DOMINANT HAND?”
“I can regenerate,” says Momiji, licking the blood clean from her old wound. “It’s as good as new now.”