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With Marisa and Reimu gone, I escorted Alice home. She kept insisting that I stay home.
“I've experience with hangovers,” I told her firmly.
“That doesn't mean you can fix mine,” she snarled, blocking the door to her home.
“I'm practically fine now,” I insisted, lying through my teeth. Thank goodness she couldn't tell just how much the sun was turning every second outside into an agonizing ordeal. Nor could she hear the construction crew renovating my upper skull. With a very forced and polished smile, I added, “let me help you please.”
“Ugh, fine, whatever,” she relented, wincing. As much as I wanted to chalk that up to my charisma, the sun probably deserved the credit. “I'm kicking you out if you make my head feel worse.
It looked like her mom wasn't home. A shame. I wasted no time doing what little I could. “Make sure to drink a lot of water,” I told her. Alice grumbled something and ignored me. “Ok, go to your room and lay down, I'll be by shortly. I'm just going to help myself to a few things in your kitchen.”
I set a kettle on. Looked around her cupboards for a few key ingredients. Hair of dog, eye of new and all the other good stuff. Well, not really. Though it could have been by going the smell. The cloves gave it a strong, almost unnatural quality. Wasn't too pleasant to drink either. I chucked in the rest of the stuff and poured the hot, dark green liquid into a cup.
“I made something for you,” I opened up Alice's door carrying a tray with the homemade hangover medicine.
“Learn to knock, you idiot,” she grumbled. She was on her bed, finishing up the last button to her pajama top.
“We're like brother and sister,” I told her, “so what if I see you partially nude?”
“I really don't want to have this conversation right now,” she said, rubbing her temples with either hand.
“Here,” I brought her the tray, “drink this.”
She sniffed and wrinkled her nose in disgust. “I'm not going to drink that,” she pushed the tray away.
“It's a homemade hangover recipe. Suika swears by it. It'll clear your head right up and make your stomach settle down.”
“More like it'll make me puke outright.”
“Come on, I'm the bad boy who goes out drinking here, trust me on this one.”
“Okay, fine,” she relented, “if only to make the smell go away.” Alice pinched her nose and picked up the cup. Blowing on it a few times, she cooled it down before gulping down most of it in one go. As soon as she breathed again, she gagged. “It tastes like a sweaty sock!”
“Just give it a few minutes. You'll start feeling better almost right away.”
“I'm going to lie down,” she said.
I looked around. She was in a pile in a corner by Alice's schoolbag. “Here,” I said, handing her over, “have your doll to keep you company.”
“Thanks,” Alice smiled, taking Shanghai from me. She closed her eyes and lay an arm over her eyes to block out the little sunlight that filtered through the drawn curtains.
I took a seat at the chair near her desk and slouched back. I was pretty tired as well. Hangover cure or no, I hadn't slept much and my insides felt absolutely terrible. I closed my eyes for a bit. Either a few minutes passed or a few hours, I honestly couldn't tell.
“Still there Arc?” Alice asked from somewhere far away.
“Yeah. What is it?”
“You're a jerk.”
“Good that you know.”
“A little. I think your dishwater drink worked.”
“You shouldn't act all pissy when I tease you, you know. You tease me all the time.”
“I was just worried about you,” I said. I was afraid of dozing off again but I couldn't get my eyes open. My eyelids were just too heavy.
“Too nosy, that's what you are. I never press you on the things you do late at night.”
“You're a good girl and good girls don't disappear for a whole day,” I said.
“Is that how you see me? Someone good and boring?”
“Well, without you I would probably be a worse person. So a good girl by comparison to me, at least.”
“I don't know if that's a compliment or just really insulting,” Alice said. I could picture the frown on her face. The scrunched-up lips were the main highlight.
“Both maybe. But I mean well. I'd probably be off the deep end if you weren't there all these years,” I admitted.
“I was trying to help Marisa. When I was gone. I went to see her. You didn't seem to want to come with me so I went by myself. I thought she'd have told you.”
“She's pretty discrete when it comes to other people,” I said. I would have sighed but that seemed like almost too much effort. It was too much effort to shift position in the chair and I was uncomfortable.
“Hmm... she'd a nice but odd girl. And I'm a little jealous that she knew you when you were even younger. From what she's told me, you were her knight in shinning armor. Despite claiming to be your fiancee she's not really aggressive in trying to get you to talk to her. I don't know if it's a lot of confidence or a complete lack of it,” Alice said with a sigh.
“I met you only like a year after she left,” I told her. “You've known me for a longer continuous period of time.”
“Hooray,” she said sarcastically, “I got to meet the rebellious, moody and incorrigible Arc. Lucky me.”
“Yay, I love getting put down like that.”
“Eh, deal with it,” she said weakly. “You should go home, I think I'm just going to nap for a bit longer.”
“I couldn't move even if I wanted to. Too tired. Besides, I'm going to be here until you recover.”
“Hey Alice,” I asked her what was weighing heaviest on my mind.
 Did she really not mind Marisa living with me?
 What was the real reason she didn't want to join the student council? She'd be good there.
 Was she bothered by me spending so much time talking to all those other girls and not being the center of attention?
 Why was her mom the loveliest person ever?
I like you. You get to be alpha nerd for a while. None of the other losers got it.