“Sure,” says Momiji, obediently raising her hand up. “What’s up?”
Wordlessly, you grab it. Momiji patiently awaits your next move, but you merely lower your head in embarrassment and interlock your fingers with hers.
“Gallagher,” Momiji says, a hitch of curbed delight in her voice. “Did you... did you want to hold hands?”
“I just thought that this was the most appropriate course of action to show you how I feel. And I didn’t want to leave any room for doubt. Obviously, if I had to say anything, knowing me, I’d just stumble over my words for five minutes straight because I’m no particular expert on articulating my emotions.”
“And you say that you aren’t affectionate?”
Then a lot of things. Many different things, though you’re unable to piece together the proper words for it. But screw proper, you have just enough to tell her what you mean. “You’re important to me. A whole lot.”
“Well.” Momiji lifts your hand up with hers and, with a gentle touch, she brings it to her cheek. The wolf prompts you to caress her—a request you easily comply with. She breathes out a contented sigh as you stroke her cheek. “If, for some odd reason you didn’t already know, you’re very important to me too.”
“We should go.”
“Yeah. We should.”
So you do, and so she does. The walk to the apartment takes about twice as long as it usually does, but you sure as hell don’t mind. It’s spring, and it’s the nasty kind of spring, but here you are, ambling along the streets hand-in-hand with a wolf tengu, wearing the stupidest fucking grin you could possibly make.
She squeezes your hand, does a little bashful smile, and all of a sudden, you’re about half a measure from kissing the dumb girl. But you restrain yourself. Just barely, but you do.
Momiji lingers by the entrance once you get your apartment door open, a moment of uncharacteristic indecision on her part.
“Momiji,” you say, waving her in. “Come in already. You don’t have to ask.”
“Ahaha, yeah, I guess not.” With a smile, she heads inside, clicking the door shut as she does.
At that moment you advance on her, pulling her in closer by the waist. Eyes locked onto hers, it’s pretty obvious what you’re doing.
“Need something?” she says, leaning her head closer to yours, perfectly aware of what you want.
“Take a guess.”
Momiji wraps her arms around your neck and kisses you. It’s shy, it’s brief, but it’s a kiss nonetheless. “Was that it?”
“We’re never going to get anything productive done when it’s just the two of us around.”
“It’s fine. I was never productive in the first place.”
Momiji is right though. It takes all of ten minutes to leave the doorstep. After you force yourself to break the embrace, you head to the bathroom to brush your teeth. You try to get your mind off the girl while you wash up, but she’s all you can think about—just the sound of her humming in your hallway gets you acting all stupid.
When you’re done, you sink into bed. Momiji, with a spare change of clothes, joins you. She’s wearing a loose black tank-top and shorts a half-size too large for her. Probably got them from her place while you were washing up.
“Gallagher,” Momiji says, throwing the covers over herself.
“...Gallagher,” she repeats.
“What is it?”
“About Lily. About... um, Lily. What if, y’know, Lily joined us?”
“What if she joined us? In this thing we’re having. Because I don’t hate her and I don’t think you hate her. And I can share. That way, everybody gets to be happy... or something close to that.”
Words are lost on you.
Momiji continues. “I mean, it might work out in the end since... well, if—if I have to leave, then—then...”
“Momiji,” you weakly say.
Under the covers, she moves closer to pull you in for a comforting hug. “...Sorry.”
Days pass and weeks happen. You wish you could say that everything is fine and dandy again, water under the bridge and all, but it’s not that easy. You’re still uncomfortable around Lily—especially when she occasionally sneaks you a glance. It’s not often, but it’s enough. Thankfully, work has been picking up. By some sick twist of fate, you now have work to do every day. At some point, you’re going to find a real bartender and get yourself, a cheap impostor at best, out the bar. And, also at some point, you’re going to have to track down the owner.
The day starts as per the usual. You wake up, stumble out of bed, and shower. Momiji wakes up soon after and starts her own shower once you’re done. You might as well make some toast while she’s busy. Slapping some bread into the toaster, you sit yourself down at the dining table.
“Hey Miji,” you say once she’s out of the shower, “you wanna do something tonight like, I dunno, watch a movie?”
Your words go unheard. Momiji’s busy staring at the ceiling fan.
The toaster blares, and that’s enough for Momiji to snap back to the real world, albeit with some limb-flailing involved. “What!? Huh? Oh.”
“Hey. Are you okay?”
“Uh. Yeah. I'm the pinnacle of okay.” She throws you a positively not-okay smile, her face flushing red at the cheeks. “I'm just peachy. Thriving, even.”
“I'll give you the benefit of the doubt on that. But anyway, do you want to watch a movie tonight?”
“I’ll, um.” She takes a raspy breath. “I’ll pass for today. Maybe tomorrow?”
“Yeah. That sounds good.” You do your best to quell your disappointment by giving her a shrug, but ultimately your discouraged gaze bleeds through. “Tomorrow, then.”
Momiji's crimson eyes meet yours, but only briefly, before she directs her gaze to the floor. “Tomorrow, or even maybe the day after tomorrow. No—wait, no. Tomorrow is fine. Tomorrow.” She nods furiously to reaffirm her decision. “Yeah. Let's do tomorrow. Just—not tonight.”
“Are you sick?”
You stick the back of your hand to her forehead. It’s warm, but it’s definitely within acceptable levels of warm. Well, she doesn’t have a fever, at least. “Are you okay to work?”
“Alright. I’m trusting you then.” You grab the toast from the toaster, spread some jam across the slices, and hand a plate over to Momiji. “Got an appetite?”
Momiji frowns, but grabs her breakfast from you anyway. “I’m not sick, I’m telling you.”
“If you say so." ____________________
Work is busy, but otherwise uneventful. The tables are almost full at some point. It’s a new record... probably. You can’t slack today either.
You try and catch Momiji when work is over, but as soon as it’s closing time, she’s out the door—you don't even have time to catch her by the entrance. Forcing out a heavy breath, you have half a mind to chase after her, but instead you see the rest of your employees off.
“Good work, everyone. And I mean that for real. It’s been busy lately, so please keep doing what you’re doing.”
Cassie does a little golf-clap for herself. “Aww, thanks boss! I wouldn’t mind a pay raise while you’re at it, by the way.”
“Yeah. Thanks, boss.” Rylee, not much for words, acknowledges you before heading out with Cassie.
Lily waves. “Are you going to lock up?”
“Okay. Then I’ll see you tomorrow.” She smiles as she heads to the door. “Good night, Gallagher.”
“Take care,” you say.
Once she’s out the building, you do a quick sweep of the area to see if anything’s amiss. All clear. You turn off the lights before exiting the pub and locking the place up. Twirling the key chain around your index finger, you head home alone.
The night is peaceful, but with how you’re feeling right now, you almost wish that it wasn’t. At least the walk back home is quick. You sit yourself down at the computer, unsure what to do for the rest of the night.
Maybe you should do something. Maybe you should write.
YOU (Gallus) have joined #thp Topic for #thp is “Welcome to #THP – The Harem Pad | GAME STATUS: VIDEOS | ❤MAGICAL FAGS❤ | Archives: http://bit.ly/uwzY0Z | ROYAL RAINBOW! | ✿ SPRING CAME AND SO DID LILY ✿ | <Fletcher> roses are red violets are indigo shut the fuck up, you’re a faggot <Anon221> but is it a harem with lolis or a harem of lolis? <BDC> well, either way it’s fucking trash. <Buttlord> GALLUS <Valley> >1 hour played <Valley> yeah look at his profile he’s a cheater lol <Anon221> >reverse trap character <Anon221> garbage <Bram> 221 you’re garbage. <Rolan> gallus you magnificent bastard i’m busting up right now because of your update please write more of this shit <Bram> Reverse traps are a miracle of the universe. Aide (Aide@hypnotic.trance) has joined #THP <Ryn> Okay but picture this: what if you were gay and you were totally homo for a dude and it turns out that they’re a reverse trap? <Bram> I’d watch that anime. Go write it. <Valley> is it gay if they look like a dude? <Gallus> >is it gay if they look like a dude? <Gallus> No. definitely not. <Captain> It’s okay if they’re secretly a girl. <Valley> then what about traps? <BDC> only if you like slamming them in the butt and you don’t say no homo at the end <BDC> no homo <Rolan> tfw ignored by g-kun-senpai <Chireiden> … <Chireiden> GAAAAAAAAAY __________
So instead of writing, you decide to do literally everything else you can think of. You shitpost on IRC, browse stupid videos on the net, and even reorganize your fucking mess of a desktop. Anything to distract you. The usual “writing” routine. And then it’s 1 A.M. and shit where did the time go.
You recline back on your chair. Is Momiji still up? She can’t be sleeping, right? It’s still so early. You feel like checking up on her because you’re bored and you don’t want to write. Yeah, that’s it—you just have writer’s block. Yep. You’re not worried.
Actually. Why are you pretending not to worry again? You have plenty reason to. You like the damn girl, don’t you? So you give in to go bother her and head outside. Her door remains unlocked—no real surprise there. You inch it open gently—in case she’s actually sleeping, you don’t want to be a gigantic fucking nuisance. A muffled, but definitely audible, shuffling can be heard from the bedroom. You walk over and gingerly enter the room.
“...Miji?” you whisper. “You awake?”
“Oh ffffucking hell—Gallagher? I-Is that you?”
“Yeah. It’s me. Sorry to disturb you, but—uh... huh.” As your vision grows accustomed to the darkness, you can make out the outline of Momiji’s figure. Tangled in the blanket, she struggles to pull her shirt down and her panties up, blushing all the while. You stand there, dumbfounded for a second.
“Err, hey. What a coincidence. I was just thinking about you—wait shit, I mean, um.” Momiji sits up and covers herself with the blanket. “So whatcha up to?”
“I wanted to see how you were doing. You seemed a little weird today.”
“No, I’m fine. Really. I just... well.” She adopts a look of self-loathing. “Yeah.”
“I understand. Uh. Anyway. I’ll be heading back now. I’ll see you tomorrow, Miji. I won’t bother you any longer.”
“Wait,” she says. “Want to, um, bother me a little more?”
"Monoestrous species, such as bears, foxes, and wolves, have only one breeding season a year, typically in spring to allow growth of the offspring during the warm season to aid survival during the next winter." - Wikipedia
[x] Bother her. My first thought was you were initiating despair protocols and that earlier bit with Miji spacing out was her starting to be affected by this world's lack of belief in youaki, but no, she's just in heat.
When the morning comes, you rise to Momiji, her two scarlet eyes locked to your own. She inches forward, cuddling into your stray arm. You’re reluctant to leave the bed—so you don’t, mostly because Momiji has no intention of leaving either. You’ll respect her wishes.
“Good morning, Miji.”
“Do we need to get up soon?”
“It’s fine. We’re off work today, so I’m going to stay right here under the covers. Didn’t get much sleep last night.”
“I know,” Momiji says, her voice faint but sure. She smiles, embarrassed. “I was, um, there.”
“Uh. Yeah. Yes,” you cough. “I meant after that. I did some thinking.”
“About what?” she asks.
“About the pub, about what comes next, and, well, about us. But also, I thought about when I entered your room yesterday. I don’t mean to be all up-in-your-face about this, but what were you doing? Well, I know what you were doing but…”
Momiji relinquishes you so she can herself with her pillow. “I don’t know. What should I tell you? That I was imagining you forcing me to the ground and sexing me so hard that I couldn’t walk in a straight line the day after? That I couldn’t really focus on anything else? That I needed to have some me time really, really badly?”
You pause. “Frankly, all of the above sounds good.”
“It was a little bit of the first and a little bit of the second.”
“And the third?”
“We ended up doing way more than some me time.”
“You okay with that?”
“I’m more than okay with it,” she sighs. “I just didn’t expect you to drop by in the middle of the night.”
“Then lock your doors, will ya?”
“What happened last night makes for a solid counterargument, though.”
“Well.” You have no real comeback for that one. “I guess.”
You settle down with Momiji for another hour. Maybe two—you don’t keep track.. Sure, maybe it’s a waste of an entire morning, but you’ll be damned if it wasn’t good.
Momiji’s up first. You decide to lounge on the bed for another thirty minutes, but as she saunters off to the washroom, your gaze falls to her behind. You’d berate yourself but you can’t help it—at least, not after last night.
Your thirty minutes of lounging turns into a full hour when you can’t quite shake the lazy out of your system. By the time you’re up, Momiji’s already in your kitchen, appropriating food from your fridge.
“Oh,” she says. “We can make pasta.”
“Sounds good.” At this point, you aren’t even aware of what is or isn’t in your fridge anymore. Momiji’s been doing what she pleases with your household appliances and frankly, you don’t really mind. “You know. I think you use my fridge more than I do.”
“For some reason, I end up putting all my groceries in here,” she says, a toothy grin slapped on her face.
“You cook here, you eat here, you sleep here. Why do you pay for a single room apartment again?”
“It is kind of a waste, isn’t it?"
“A little.” You fumble for the right words in your head. “What I’m saying is that maybe you should, uh, split rent with someone you know and trust. Maybe someone you live next to and hang out with every day. Someone you like, or something like that.”
“Where can I find one of these people?” Momiji giggles. “Three towns over, maybe?”
“Nah, they ran out of nice guys a few months ago and—Christ, you remember that joke?”
“I’m good at remembering useless shit,” she says, beaming.
“I don’t believe you.”
“You forget to lock your doors all the time, dummy.” You pause in an attempt to veer the conversation back to what you were saying. “Uh, right. So.”
“So,” she says.
You just heave the words straight out of your mouth. “By any chance, do you want to live together?”
“Nah, I’m good.”
And, for just a moment, your heart sinks. “You being serious?”
Momiji looks to her feet, but you see the corners of her mouth twitch. Her face quickly breaks apart into a wide grin as she trembles in stifled laughter.
“Oh,” you say. “Ohhhh, you fuck.”
“C’mon, you. Did you really think I’d say no, even for a second? Of course I want to live with you. And as far as I’m concerned,” she says, casually throwing on an apron, “we already do. I wake up next to you every day, I eat breakfast with you, I work with you, share the same bed with you—it’s the whole works.”
“Well,” you say. “Yeah. I guess you’re right.”
Momiji smiles. She snakes her way around you and drags you by the hand until you’re led straight into the couch. “Now give me some attention. I want you to spoil me right now.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be making pasta?”
“The pasta can wait,” she murmurs as she leans against you.
“And you can’t?”
“Well, I could, but I’m not going to.”
“I’m fine with that,” you say, reaching for her hand.
But you miss because, suddenly, Momiji isn’t there anymore. She’s scrambling off the couch and into the kitchen, frowning as she goes. You just sit and watch, puzzled—until she moves the bubbling pot off the stovetop and turns off the heat. Then, her face blessed with pink, she returns to your side at the couch. “Now, um, where were we?” she says.
“I don’t really know, but at least you had the right idea. Kitchen safety is important, after all.”
“Oh hush,” she says.
You can feel Momiji’s breathing as her chest rises and falls to a steady but slow rhythm. It’s a gentle beat, you think. Still, you should keep yourself vigilant. You've already tossed away several hours doing nothing in particular. Adding some more hours to that would be a record high, even for you.
[ ] It’s a worry you’ll rectify tomorrow. [ ] You should do something that involves more than sitting on your ass. [ ] You have all this free time today. Maybe you should update for once.
Hey guys, here comes the bi-annual "oh my god my life is so awful i take 5 minutes out of my day to write about magical girls in frilly dresses wahhhh" post.
Not gonna lie, I'm exhausted. Not of the story, mind you, because I still want to keep writing. I'm just on the work treadmill and haven't been in the best of condition the past few months. This is not to say that I was so busy that I haven't had the time to finish an update (or five) by now - because I have no real excuse for you guys other than "times are tough lol."
I'm going to have an update before the end of the year or at least I'm going to keep telling myself that.
You know what? You have all this free time on your hands. Maybe you should update for once. That is, as soon as Momiji gets off of you. You have grossly underestimated her tenacity and ability to draw your attention to less pressing matters—not that you mind, but at this rate, evening is going to come way before you can even think about touching your update.
You’d much rather touch Momiji, but today should be a day of restraint. Sad, unfulfilling, you want to do things to her so much restraint.
“Gallagher,” Momiji says. A second passes, but she doesn’t say anything else, pondering within your arms. Worry creases her brow and that alone makes you nervous. Of course, you’re overreacting, but ever since Momiji became fundamental to your immediate happiness, you can’t help but think that every moment like this is—and will be—fleeting.
She takes a slow, steady breath. Then, after a very deliberate pause, she speaks. “I can’t ignore dinner any longer. I’m going to have to do something about it before the pasta soaks too much.”
“Oh,” you say, as Momiji nestles closer to you. “I see.”
“And this isn’t ignoring dinner, how exactly?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m going.” Reluctantly, she pushes herself away from you. “Damn basic necessities—always getting in the way of the heart.”
Momiji looks to you for a reaction, or maybe an excuse for her to stay a minute longer, but you shoo her away. You have a rare chance to work on your update so, fate willing, you’ll seize it. ____________________
You’re almost certain that you’re going to get struck by a meteor because this is the fastest that you have ever written anything. You have words—hundreds of them—and it hasn’t even been an hour yet. Granted, all you’ve written so far is Momiji and her dialogue, but frankly, Momiji sounds like…
Well. She sounds like Momiji.
Then Momiji, the real one, comes barging straight into the room, holding a tray with two full plates of pasta triumphantly in the air.
You just stare at her.
“I know, I know. You’re speechless. It’s too great, too perfect to be just pasta. But believe me, I was there when it happened. It’s lightly seasoned with a little bit of garlic and basil—not enough for the flavor to overpower the pasta, but enough to give it some kick.”
“Miji,” you sigh. “You’re a doof.”
“I’m a doof with two bowls of pasta,” she says. “Now have some.”
“In a bit. I need to iron out this update a little more.”
“Sure.” Momiji leans over your shoulder, scanning the contents of the update. She gasps. “Whoa. That girl. Isn’t she a little too cool?”
“I meant me,” Momiji says, disgusted.
“You know it’s true.”
You meet her eyes. “She pales in comparison to you, though.”
“But she’s me.” Momiji grins, returning to reading the rest of your update. “Oh. I think I said this before! In real life, I mean.”
“You did. She’s kinda based off the real thing.”
“It’s nice to know you pay real close attention to me,” she says, laughing.
“I’ll do a lot more than just pay attention to you.”
“By that, you mean, uh—”
“Yeah.” You lightly push Momiji by the shoulders, coaxing her to the bed. She takes a nervous glance to the side but otherwise lets you do as you please. “I mean this.”
Hey guys. It's you-know-who here. I've been thinking a whole lot about site-related stuff. Updates (or lack of), in particular. On another thread, we were talking about how authors go radio-silent and how it isn't really cool that writefags can just disappear into the void without so much as a "hi guys i'm dropping this story!"
Well, big news: I'm not dropping this story, nor am I planning to. I'll always lather on the bullshit about why I'm not updating fast but don't worry - I'll tell you guys when I'm going to quit. In general, I don't really say much in between lulls (and they're biiiig lulls, I know, sorry) but if I'm not saying anything, usually that means that I'm working on it! Admittedly, the last few years have been less than kind to me but that's life, right? I'm now free from the shackles that bound me and that means I have no excuse to delay updates. Am I still going to update slow? I mean, yeah, but if I take any longer than two weeks, you have the all-access pass to bitch at me.
I don't know if you guys needed anything to reassure you but lo and behold: here it is. Thanks for your continued support. Have an unrelated Orin image I liked.
Moral, I now have more respect towards you. Dialogue is very, very precious when you have users to talk/relate with, every author should do this. A simple, 3 line post every once in a while - even every month or more, hell. Not too often - to update us about stuff. Easy, and really useful.
“The pasta’s gone cold, Gallagher,” Momiji says, taking a reluctant bite. You stare at her from the bed. She holds a defensive position at your desk with her back turned to you. Her ears flatten as she twirls her fork at the edge of her plate. Her clothes, by your fault, are disheveled—the thin shirt she’s barely wearing is crumpled and everything else she wore earlier is now at the side of the bed.
Momiji’s lack of attire makes you want to do things to her. Things that you just did a moment ago.
“Sorry,” you say. “I, uh, got distracted.”
Her shoulders drop from their anxious height. “By me?”
“By you,” you answer.
She turns to you. Though her voice remains calm, Momiji’s ears raise to their full height. “Why?”
“…Do I really have to explain?”
“You see—” A lot of answers come to mind, but of course you find yourself struggling to piece them together. You suck in some air for a sigh. “I find you really attractive and it gets hard to keep a level head when you’re, uh, leaning right over me. I might do things to you.”
She smiles. “Like what you did to me?”
“Yes. Like what I just did. Sorry.” You scratch an imaginary itch on your neck. “I might have gone overboard.”
“No, you’re fine. In fact, I was okay with it. Really, really okay with it too, if you didn’t notice.”
“I did—it’s just that… I don’t know. Maybe I’m too self-conscious because this is the one thing I’ve ever done that’s felt so right. Like, all the time I’m thinking about how much our relationship just fits. How we just fit. And I’ve never really thought about stuff like this until you came into my life and made me feel like I belong. Like I was supposed to fall in love with you. Now, I have something worth giving a shit about. It feels like… something. I—I can’t really put it into words, but what I’m getting at is that I don’t want to mess this up. I know it’s real sappy, but I feel like you’re the kind of person that’ll get me… or something. Yeah.”
You’re quiet. Momiji’s quiet. The whole room’s quiet. In that moment, you realize that you’ve fished out your raw emotions and, without thinking, laid them on top of your metaphorical table for her to see. You almost wish that she’d tease you about it already because her silence is killing you.
But without laughing, she holds her arms up and says, “C’mere.” She leans forward as you step forward to fill in the space between her hands. There, she pulls you in for an embrace.
“Hey, uh, Momiji—” you start to say, but you’re interrupted by a sharp clink of utensils hitting fine china behind your back. The wolf tengu, still holding you, is eating her pasta over your shoulder.
You pull away from her but otherwise say nothing and stare at her.
“What?” She covers her mouth, blushing. “I’m hungry, alright?”
Life goes on uneventfully. The most you have to say about the next few weeks is that business was as good as usual—and you mean it. You don’t know what made the Morning Spirits Pub suddenly thrive, and you have half a mind to find out why, but you’re not going to beat a dead gift horse with its own mouth. It’s popular enough to start hiring for a real bartender and not you, who’s only pretending at best. Unfortunately, that means real fiscal decisions. You’d feel more comfortable if the owner weren’t still missing, but there isn’t much of an alternative. Worst of all, since you’re the only one with any semblance of authority, you’re also the one that has to figure out how to hire people.
It’s honestly not that bad, but you love to complain. Who you hire isn’t critically important because there are only two requirements. The first is to be a better bartender than you are. Admittedly, you’re not too shabby for a guy without formal training, but that’s beside the point. The second is to be better with people than you are. Not the highest bar to climb, that’s for sure.
You’re in the middle of stealing sample interview questions off the internet when a knock on the door interrupts you. You look up and you don’t fucking believe it.
It’s a guy. Brown hair, brown eyes, big scraggly beard that’s screaming to be shaved. Either you’re going delusional or it’s Mark, that son of a bitch. Allegedly, he was your co-manager but he did fuck-all after you got promoted.
“Mark. What the—what the fuck? Where the hell have you been?” You’d be more reserved with your expletives, but the guy went full rogue on you while you were already understaffed. Now he's back again like he only ever left for a quick smoke break.
“Um.” He inches back, though you can’t blame him. Your eyes are laser-beaming him with exasperation. “I’ve been working.”
“Working? You haven’t shown up in over a year!”
“I, uh, what?” He mulls over your words for a bit. Then he gets it—which is good because you sure don’t. “Oh. My uncle left you out to dry, didn’t he?”
“The owner of Morning Spirits.” Mark lifts a finger over to a chair adjacent to your desk. “May I?”
“Thanks,” Mark says, planting himself down. He tilts his chair back and sways as he bobs his leg restlessly up and down. “Do you want the short explanation or the long one?”
“The short one, please. I’d rather not hear the excuses you have. Just give me the necessary details and not the bullshit.”
“I didn’t like the job, and I wasn’t cut out for it anyway, so I left. I told my uncle that I was leaving the Morning Spirits a long time ago, and I figured that he’d relay that over to you.”
“Couldn’t you have told, I dunno, your co-manager? The guy you pushed all your work onto?”
“I didn’t figure that you’d stay. And… that was my bad. But I wanted out. When I started working for the Morning Spirits, I told my uncle that I’d only work under him until I found a real job—no offense, by the way—and I’d leave as soon as I did. So I did, and I left. I had a wife and a kid to take care of, and I didn’t see a future here. I thought that the place wouldn’t last, so I jumped ship. And I thought that you’d do the same.”
“But I didn’t.”
“Sorry,” he says, face swarming with guilt. “Really, I am. I didn’t mean to disappear on you like that and leave you to do all the work. But I left the city for another job because I didn’t think that the pub would last another month.”
“I thought the same, to be honest.”
“My uncle practically let this whole place fall apart. I’m honestly surprised it’s still running.”
“You can thank me for that. But it really feels like it’ll close down any day now. I’m no business expert, but doesn’t the owner have to do, I dunno, heavy paperwork to keep the thing going?”
“Yes he does. And I’ll be frank: I haven’t talked to my uncle in a while so I don’t know what’s happening on his end.”
“That’s not very reassuring, you know.”
“Look,” he says, adopting a softer tone, “You don’t deserve working in this hellhole. If you want, I could help you out. I could get you an interview with my company, maybe.”
“Thanks, but I’m good. Despite all the shit that happens, I like being here. And I’m not saying that just because we’re finally on the cusp of breaking even. It helps that everybody else on staff is… reasonable, more or less. So, as their boss, I can’t just ditch them like the pub owner did.”
“What happened to the Gallagher that didn’t give a damn about employee loyalty? The one that said, ‘I’m gonna leave this sorry place as soon as I can’?”
“That Gallagher’s dead, Mark.”
“Well I’ll be. Never thought I’d say this to you, but you’re a good guy.”
“I’d love to echo the sentiment, but I’m still a little peeved at you for going completely AWOL on me.”
“That’s fair.” He unpockets a pack of cigarettes and thumbs it open, letting a single one peek out from its cover. “Want one?”
“There’s no smoking here,” you say.
“I figured as much,” he says, tucking the carton back into his pants.
“Now, pleasantries aside—and I don’t want to be rude but—why are you here?”
“I don’t really know.” Mark sinks a little further into his chair and adopts a more weary look. “I just saw the Morning Spirits still open and I was in the area, so I thought, ‘Hey, what the heck, I’ll go inside and see who’s around.’ Turns out, I don’t know any of the staff anymore—except you, that is. Funny how that happens. I didn’t really expect to see you still here. And here we are. It’s loony how fast a place can change.”
There was some point, which you must have obviously missed, where the Morning Spirits Pub stopped being a flaming pile of shit and became a regular pile of shit. The customers are less seedy nowadays. They’re not awful—just a bunch of alcoholics. When compared to the wife-beaters, the public dick-lickers, and the runaway whoevers, you’d take the miserable dudes who can’t keep their mouths shut over the dudes who try and fight your cook.
>“I’ve never really thought about stuff like this until you came into my life and made me feel like I belong. Like I was supposed to fall in love with you.” You’re in a fanfiction story, Gal. >“The truth was a burning pink blush working across my face. Sappy moments glimpsed around the edges of inexplicable time-skips. Constant omissions of everyday occurrence to focus on the few moments spent with my love interest. The paranoid feel of someone controlling my every move.” >“All of my past was fragmented still shots, words grouped into infrequent updates like chapters in a book.” >“I was in a fanfiction story. Funny as hell, it was the most horrible thing I could think of.”
“How have the customers been treating you?” says Mark.
“Enough to tip me,” you reply back. Surprisingly, it’s been a while since you’ve been treated like complete shit. You still get a “fuck off, cunt” every once in a while, but people actually come to the bar to get a drink instead of making a beeline to the waitresses.
“They tip you?” He laughs. “This is seriously a different place now, isn’t it?”
“Tell me about it. And get this—our cook? Hasn’t left yet.”
“But to be fair, our cook can kick anybody’s ass. First day of the job, right? There’s this real belligerent customer, and he demands to see the cook. She comes out, and he complains. The usual, but he gets ready to do something funny, and she grabs him by the shoulder and just nelson slams the guy.”
“I told you that we’d keep a cook around if they knew self-defense.”
“No, I said that. You just agreed.”
“Yeah, but it wasn’t often that we agreed on something. So, it must have been a sound decision.”
“Don’t spin it as if you actually did something.”
“Alright, alright,” he says, chuckling. “You’re right. I didn’t. I’ll admit that. But it’s fun messing with you. Just watching your reactions makes me remember the good old days.”
“You mean back when this place was a complete shithole?”
“Yeah, but it was a complete shithole with you, me, and Jasmine. Us three—I miss the times we were all together.”
“Maybe you do. Nowadays, I rather like my staff. Sure, all of them are a complete mess, but you know what? I appreciate that. At least they’re honest about themselves.”
“So you didn’t like me and Jasmine?” Mark wipes a fake tear off his eye. “Really stings, it does.”
“You left without a word. And our ex-boss? Yeah, she’s self-explanatory.”
“Fair point.” Mark leans up from his chair, looking around. “Come to think of it, where did Jasmine go? Did she split like me?”
“Who knows? I don’t really care.”
“Didn’t you two have a thing together?”
“No,” you say. “We didn’t.”
“Hey, Gallagher.” Mark adopts a softer look on his face. It’s a bit unsettling. “You’re more well spoken nowadays. I thought that you’d be the same since the last time we talked, but you’ve grown—good on you.”
“You were always the one who needed to grow up a bit,” you say, shaking your head.
You part with Mark amicably, which must have been a first in your lifetime. You’re still thrown off about it—he was about the last person you thought you’d see today. You spent most of your time hating the guy when the two of you were co-managers, but now you’re assailed with a strange feeling of indifference. And here you thought you’d never settle that grudge with him. Funny how that works. But, if you’re being honest, you can’t say that you suddenly love the guy now.
Your conversation with him makes you think about Momiji. No surprise there, since she’s apparently all you think about. But when was the last time she had to deal with a shitty customer? Aside from her first week here, you don’t actually remember. Is this what it’s like to be successful? Relatively speaking, business is booming. But if you want to keep it relative, then the Morning Spirits isn’t quite in the clear yet. If you had to compare to anywhere else, it isn’t exactly the most thriving place out there.
You see Mark out of your office with a wave, and hopefully, that’s the last you see of him. You associate him with too many bad memories, so it’s probably better off that way. Of course, as Mark leaves, nobody bats an eye except Lily, who does a quick double take before rushing up to you, rattling on with unfinished “who’s” and “what’s.”
“Was that Mark?” Lily finally completes her thought. “He was here?”
Cassie, noticing the commotion, decides to join you and Lily. “What’s happening?”
“Former co-manager,” you interject.
“Former co-manager—he just passed by!”
“And?” Cassie asks.
“And nothing,” you say. “We just talked.”
“What? That’s it?” Cassie pouts. A customer motions to her, an obvious frown on his face. “Uh. I should get back.”
Lily looks back to make sure that she isn’t needed before turning to you. “So what did Mark want?”
“I don’t really know. We just talked about the past, and how the bar’s been holding up nowadays.”
“Really?” She’s got this look like she doesn’t believe you. But honestly, you’re not sure if you’d believe yourself either. “I thought you always hated him? I remember one day—it was a really slow day, I think—you spent an entire day telling me how you were going to kill him.”
‘Yeah, but that was then, and this is now. It was a complete shitshow back when we were working together, and I get that he wanted to bail, but really? Guy just goes running and I have to do twice the work.” You heave a deep sigh—one that you’ve been saving since you became co-manager. “I just don’t care enough to hate him anymore. Well, actually, I still do—just a lot less now. And I’d love to say that he’s a good guy, but I just can’t. Anyway, today isn’t a slow day, and I know you want any excuse to get out of work, so I’m going to shut up and not give you that satisfaction.”
“Got it.” Lily winks. “Let me know whenever you need to vent again.”
“No thanks. And I’m not venting,” you say, though it feels more like a self-affirmation because you don’t know if Lily heard that last bit.
As you mindlessly take care of the bar and its customers, you spend the rest of the day mentally figuring out where you should look for extra staff. You know a couple of people who are great bartenders, but that’s also the problem: They’re great bartenders. In a dumpster town like this, bartenders are never without a job—and great ones more so. Once closing time hits, you decide that you should stop thinking about it so much and just slap a “Help Wanted” sign near the entrance. Apparently, taking an entire day to figure out something you should’ve done in seconds is why you’re manager.
After your obligatory goodbyes, you’re in the middle of locking up outside when you see Momiji come up and place a casual hand on the door, leaning on it slightly.
“Come here often?” she says, winking.
You unlock the door she’s leaning on, and she leans straight into the entrance, almost toppling over. Got her good, didn’t you? You watch her smugly as she walks out the door, a gigantic pout on her face.
“So, come here often?” you repeat back as you lock the door.
“Very funny. You only get a free pass because I find you the most tolerable out of anyone.”
“Same to you. You’re very tolerable.”
“You can’t get me with cheap flattery.” But despite what she says, Momiji laughs and takes your hand in hers. “Come on. Let’s go home already.”
It’s still a strange feeling to come back home exhausted. Ever since business’s been gaining traction, you’ve been coming back with sleep on your mind. It’s definitely the work catching up to you—all these years of doing nothing behind the counter has made you awful at doing your job. Go figure, right? Of course, now that you have standards to uphold, you’re doing your god damn best to give your all—that being about eighty-five percent—but it’s been taking a toll on your energy. You remedy that by doing the worst possible thing: Napping right after work to throw off your circadian rhythm.
Momiji’s been doing the same, but you think she only does it so that she can cuddle next to you while you’re sleeping. You appreciate how cute that is, but at the same time, you’d prefer her to keep her hands to herself because she emits heat like a fucking radiator. It’s nice to wake up to Momiji next to you, but every time you do so, you feel like you’ve woken up in the middle of the desert. A soft, wolfy desert, but a desert nonetheless.
Today, though, you feel good—thoughts of fixing your erratic sleeping schedule come to mind, but you seriously doubt that you can get back to sleeping at one A.M. on the regular. Guess you’ll have to just live with it.
Momiji’s sprawled out on the couch, resting her head on your lap as you stroke her hair idly.
“Hey, Miji. Want to do anything tonight?”
“Yeah.” She plays with one of the buttons on your shirt. “Oh, I got something. How about, today, we do nothing and laze around on the couch?”
You stifle a yawn. “Sounds good. Keep me awake, though. I want to stop feeling like dogshit in the morning.”
“I don’t think that fixing your sleep schedule will do you any better. You’re definitely not a morning person. Or an afternoon person. Or an evening person too, for that matter.”
“I’m a one-to-four-AM person, how about that?” You rest your head on one of the couch cushions, and, little by little, you let your eyes close. But a sharp jab to your side jolts you alert. You look down to see Momiji snickering.
“Took you about all of thirty seconds to start falling asleep, hun.”
“...Who are you calling a ‘Hun’?”
“What? You don’t like it?”
“I can’t say that I do. The only people who say ‘hun’ are pro-Attila or lanky old waitresses at a ten dollar diner.”
“Okay.” Momiji purses her lips as she looks to the ceiling in thought. “Then how about ‘babe’?”
“Saying ‘babe’ makes me feel like I’m being hit on.”
“Darling?” As soon as the word leaves her mouth, Momiji’s vehemently shaking her head, almost falling in between the couch cushions as she does so. “Nope, never mind. Sounded as cheesy as I thought it did in my head.”
“I’m already embarrassed for you.” You rub your neck. “Maybe we should just stick with ‘Gally’ and ‘Miji.’”
“Yeah. Let’s do that.” She laughs out her awkwardness. “Studman.”
“Two can play at that game, baby-doll.”
The two of you stare at each other until it becomes uncomfortable. You’d say that it’s a problematic moment, but her eyes wander away and peer into the bedroom. Then she’s red-faced, probably thinking the same thing you’re thinking about.
You prompt her. “Want to, um…”
“Yeah,” she says quickly, lifting her head out of your lap. “That. Let’s, uh, yeah—that.”
You smile and take her hand to lead her out of the living room. ____________________
You regret everything. Now you’re twice as tired, and all motivation to do anything is now long gone. Still, given the chance, you’d do it again, so maybe you’re not as remorseful as you thought you were going to be.
“Miji, want to do something tomorrow?”
“Hmm?” She’s busy putting a shirt back on. “I actually can’t. Lily invited me to go drink with a couple of her friends, so I decided to go along. Is the day after good?”
“Yeah,” you reply back automatically. Then you process what she said. “Wait, you said Lily invited you?”
“Yep. She said that she’ll be bringing Rylee along, too.”
“I see.” Momiji’s acting all nonchalant about it, but you can’t do the same. Maybe you’re just being an overly-sensitive twat, but you’re still not fully at ease around Lily. Sure, it happened a while ago, but it’s not something you can readily forget. But to think that she invited Momiji to drink with her friends—you don’t get women. “Have fun.”
“Don’t worry.” Momiji plops back down next to you when she’s done covering herself up. “We can do something the day after!”
But that begs the question: What are you going to do tomorrow? Maybe you could get Momiji something—you are never good at picking a present for somebody that isn't yourself, but it can’t hurt to find something nice for her. Now all you need to do is find an excuse to give Momiji a gift.
[ ] Convenience. Something like a phone would make life easier for the both of you. [ ] Sales. You know that it's around the time that university students start spring semester, and laptops for college-bound students are relatively cheap. Therefore, you “had to buy it.” [ ] You don't need an excuse to give her something that would look nice on her, right?
You haven’t really thought about it, but it’s surprisingly difficult to get in contact with Momiji. Of course, you’ve never noticed because you’re in her constant company—not that you mind—but you worry that there will be a time where physical distance is a given. And if she disappears, then at the very least, she’d always have a way to contact you, granted she isn’t whisked away to another world. It’s a ridiculous notion to an even more ridiculous premise, but Momiji isn’t from a place where things are impossible simply because they are “ridiculous.”
In any case, your incessant brooding aside, you decide on a phone. You think she’d appreciate it, since just having one would make life easier for the both of you. It’s convenient, so you have every reason to get her one.
“Hey, Miji,” you say once you get into bed.
She glances over. “I thought you were going to try and fix that sleeping schedule of yours?”
“It’s late enough. Plus, after all that, I’m ready to pass out for the night.”
“In that case,” Momiji says, turning off the lights and sneaking into the covers, “good night?”
“Before that. I was thinking about getting you a phone tomorrow. Y’know, just in case. Do you have any preferences, or should I just pick one out for you?“
“Ooh.” She rolls closer to you. “What’s the occasion?”
“There’s no particular occasion,” you reply back gruffly.
“Oh yeah? You can pick one out for me then.” Momiji says. Even in the darkness, you can still make out a grin creeping up her face. “I think your money is better spent elsewhere, but who am I to complain?”
“I swear if you tell me that you think that your phone looks ugly after I get it, I’m going to throw a fit.”
“I won’t. Even if I think that it is. So,” she says, stroking your cheek. “Thanks.”
“Yeah,” you say, stuffing your embarrassment. “Good night.”
Much of your day is blurry, as if you were a shitty cameraman to your own life. Everything you did today has been on full autopilot, and it’s scary to think that you can operate on that level of habit. As always, you’ve gotten complaints from the customers, but that too is routine. Maybe you’re not the best bartender around, but you’re pretty sure you can do this shit in your sleep. You won’t ever be in the realm of “excellent service,” but “consistently mediocre service” sounds good in its own way, too.
This extends all the way until closing time when you’re finally relinquished of your bar duty. You see your employees off, Momiji included, and lock up. The mobile store is on the way back, but you forgot to check when it closes. You walk hurriedly until you pull up the store’s hours on your phone. Thankfully, it’s still open for another two hours, so you slow your pace. You have some time to kill before Momiji gets home, so you figure that you should take your time.
The storefront isn’t all that glamorous, but really, what is in this godforsaken city? At least they had automatic doors, and that’s good enough for you. You immediately head over to the section that displays all the smartphones. There’s a lot of words that you don’t give a rat’s ass about—biometric scanner, megapixels, polarizing glass filters and OLED screen displays. To you, they were all nothing but buzzwords that tacked on additional dollars to the final cost.
Still, you didn’t want to give Momiji something that’s complete shit so, disregarding all the unnecessarily convoluted features, you look at the pure hardware specifications. If you think about it, they’re all homogeneous anyway—you can call, text, browse the internet, and take pictures on any of them, so all you’re doing is paying for the slightly varying features and better hardware.
“Finding everything alright?” asks a miserable-faced man with a scraggly brown beard. “James,” reads his nametag.
“Yeah, actually. I’d like to get one of these,” you say, pointing to some nondescript phone.
“Oh, really?” His eyes, previously two dull orbs staring at nothing in particular, lights up. “That one’s great—totally better than any of the flagship models. If you don’t care about the twelve megapixel standard nowadays, it’s an affordable alternative to all the other overpriced brands!”
There’s a whole lot of yadda yadda, but the guy seems genuinely enthused about the subject in particular, so you let him pitch the phone to you. Every once in a while, you nod whenever he’s looking for your input. Eventually, a man from the back office squawks, “Jaaaames! Get on with it!” and the poor guy shuts up and leads you to the sales desk.
“It’ll come out to two-hundred five dollars and fifty-four cents,” he says mechanically, eyes briefly flicking back to the back office. “We do have a special promotion where you can get the phone for free, but it’ll only be a family plan deal.”
“Family plan?” you ask.
“Yeah. If you have family that isn’t currently registered under your current mobile plan, like your parents, your brother or sister, child, wife, legal partner, etcetera. Do you have eligible family?”
[ ] You might as well try and weasel your way into a free phone. [ ] Ask him if he’s going to verify if you do. [ ] You’ll save yourself the hassle and just buy the phone.
It’s a free phone, minus the fine print hidden away behind a contract, so you might as well try and weasel your way into one.
“I do,” you say. “A legal partner, and we’re sharing households.”
It’s a lie through your damn teeth, but that was the closest label you can find for Momiji, minus her being your wife. But she doesn’t exactly have any paperwork tied to her name and face, so that’s the best you can fib out.
“Got any proof?”
“I don’t exactly keep our files on us.” You sigh, pulling out your phone. “I can at least show a photo of her. Is that good enough?”
Of course, that means exactly nothing, but you’re not exactly in a place where they’d waste their time—or yours—to verify squat.
“Not really,” the man says, shaking his head. But he draws a weary eye over to the back office and frowns. “But I don’t get paid enough to double check. Let me see, and we’ll both be on our way.”
You scroll over to your phone’s gallery. The only good one you can find—if you can even call it good—is a drunken photo taken by Miji herself. It’s very unflattering: She has a dopey grin on her face while you’re busy being a corpse on the floor. You crop her wolf ears out and present the evidence to your unenthused audience.
“It’s the only one I have of her.” For some reason, you have to blab out an excuse for her. “She’s, um, very camera-shy when sober, you see, and doesn’t like other people taking her picture. You know how it is.”
“Yeah, I totally get it,” says the guy, who doesn’t understand at all. But at least he’s nice enough to humor you and move on.
It’s cheap enough to get Momiji under your existing contract. You don’t have to deal with additional paperwork, and all that you have to account for every month is the extra fee for phone service.
“Is that everything you need?” James asks, ready to get this over with.
That makes the two of you.
“Yeah. Thanks. Have a nice day,” you say, exchanging your final courtesy to the man.
“You too,” he says, slouching over at the counter, probably ready to get his shift over with.
You make it back to your apartment and drop the contents of your shame on the living room table. The phone by itself was innocuous enough, but tying it to your phone contract meant that you’re treating Momiji’s presence as a given in your life. Obviously, you don’t mind that one bit, but you definitely feel like you’re getting dumber by the minute, by Momiji’s indirect fault. Why else would you impulsively buy a phone for her?
Other than the fact that Momiji is an elusive creature and might disappear at any moment, you reason to yourself. But if that ever happens, you’re not sure if a phone would even save her. Nevertheless, what’s bought is bought, and you’ll face the repercussions. And, the funny thing is, if Momiji were here with you, you wouldn’t even waste your time brooding about all this. Maybe this calls for a distraction—you move over to the computer and sit yourself down at your chair.
For now, you’ll just wait for Momiji to come back.
Sorry for dying and staying dead, but have a merry Christmas. Lest I get hit by a meteor, I'll continue updating throughout next year, too. I won't promise anything too fast because I'm juggling several stories at once but know that I'm still here.