Merry Christmas.

Chapter Seven: Anxiously, He Accepts Her Message.

"This place is kind of a dump Hikio."

Those were the first words thrown at me when I reached the table. The speakers eyes stayed firmly on the screen of her phone. My entrance had caused the already sitting group to grow quite and my walk towards them was watched with many different levels of interest. So it was like her refusing to do the same was an act of defiance. Lazily, Miura dragged her eyes away from the screen in her hand and looked at me. Presumably waiting for my response.

"Well...its not usually so crowded..."

With a shrug, she went back to her phone.

The seating was...strategic to say the least.

First, trying to keep her distance in a very compressed space, was Yukinoshita. Her hand was at her temple and her stance did everything in its power to show that she no longer wanted to be there. Our eyes meet and we briefly share our dismay, but at the same time, I thought I saw relief in them. Next to her was Isshiki who was in her 'I'm a fair maiden' mode. The slyness in her eyes was easy for me to see of course. Hayama was on her left and I suppose despite our mutual loathing I should feel a small amount of sympathy for the guy. With Isshiki on his left and Miura on his right he was in a pretty tough spot, but his fake smile made any sympathy I had fade away. Yuigahama was next and she squirmed when my eyes fell on her. Please don't be mad Hikki! Please don't be mad Hikki! her pleading look 'told me. If she had invited Totsuka I could find it in my heart to forgive her but since that's not the case I'll reserve the right to be at least a little upset. On Yuigahama's left was Ebina-san who seemed distant but entertained, and at least to some extent, interested in where I was going to sit. Kawasaki was next to her and the fragile girl I saw the night before seemed like a distant memory. With her elbow on the table and her chin resting in her palm, she looked very annoyed and on guard. I can't blame her. At the end of the line was Tobe after all and he looked up at me with such a stupid smile.

Deciding which end to sit at would likely be the easiest choice I'd make all day. Or possibly even the year.

I took a few steps towards Yukinoshita and without having to be told she knew my intention. The booth was cramped but there was still some room and she moved closer to Isshiki to give me a place to sit which set off a chain reaction of everyone moving over slightly. I gave her a nod of gratitude and did my best to not have our bodies touch when I sat down next to her. This resulted in half my body being in the walkway, but I didn't particularly care. With a sigh, my gaze went to Yuigahama.

"So...whats the occasion?"

Undoubtedly seeking an answer to that question as well, the whole group looked at her. She reacted expectedly.

"W-Well nothing special or anything! I...asked Yukinon if she wanted to get together and study, but then Yumiko asked if I wanted to go to that new place with her. I wasn't sure what to do, but then I thought it could be fun if we all got together! A-At least I thought we...would..." Yuigahama looked around at the group she had gathered hoping to find someone to advocate for her thrown together little plan. There wasn't much movement until Yukinoshita spoke up.

"You failed to mention all of that in your invitation" she said with a stern look of disapproval. "Deceit didn't seem like it was part of your character Yuigahama-san."

"You like, didn't tell me anything either Yui." Miura added, though she looked only at Yukinoshita as she said it. Almost like she had to confirm they were of equal status.

"Is misleading people a trend now or somethin'?" Kawasaki mumbled more to herself than the group. Ebina-san looked away from her and forced an uncomfortable laugh. Ah, so that's why you're here.

"Its just that...for most of us, our second year is almost over, so we'll be in different classes and next year we'll all be super busy studying for exams. I thought it would be nice if all of us got together before all that..." Yuigahama gave her rather sad sounding plea and the group went quiet.

She had been in a tough spot for a while now. When you're in two groups that don't exactly mesh well together its instinctive to try and bridge the gap between the two. That's something she's been trying to do for ages now. My natural instinct is to see past her words and try to understand what she's really after...but maybe this time I'll take her words at face value. Its for her benefit of course, but I did think she had good intentions as well. Unlike the outing to Destinyland, we didn't have an excuse to hang out with each other. Her only hope was to have someone back her up and try and convince the others. It needed to be someone with tact who could skillfully move things along. Someone that- please stop looking at me Yuigahama. I won't do it. You're puppy dog eyes don't work on me in the least...alright fine. If I have-

"Well, why not? Its not like everyone here hasn't gotten along before right? We could make the day of it and it'll super fun!" Isshiki announced happily and like most of the things she says, I felt an ulterior motive behind her words. If it wasn't for the table between them, I'm sure Yuigahama would have the younger girl in a death embrace of joy by now.

"That sounds like an nice idea Iroha-chan." Hayama answered her cheerfully and like troops obeying the orders of their king, those of his clique seemed to perk up to the idea.

"Yeah! After this we can hit up the mall!" Tobe practically shrieked. I could feel Yukinoshita cringe in annoyance next to me. I feel your pain.

Most of the group erupted with noises of approval. Yuigahama looked at me hesitantly and I shrugged. I had already resolved to stay and I didn't feel like trying to put up a fight. Our eyes both went to Yukinoshita and she solemnly nodded. Once again this table saved another girl from the suffocating grip of Gahama-chan. Yukinoshita sighed and took a sip of her coffee. I'm sure not wanting to disappoint Yuigahama played a factor in her decision, but knowing her, leaving would have felt like turning her back to her enemies and her ego is simply to large to allow that.

Our waitress returned and took the newcomers orders and things became much like they are in the classroom. With those enjoying their youth being very boisterous about it and the rest of us finding solus in our silence. I spent my time sipping coffee and occasionally listening in on their routine conversations. Trying to keep myself from falling to the floor from my rather uncomfortable position was also something I did to pass the time. As this happens I can't help but notices small movement from my left side. Much like me, Yukinoshita hasn't contributed to the conversation much and occasionally I've noticed her make small jerky movement of discomfort. Its probably the result of her lacking much personal space at the moment. Given our close proximity, I couldn't help but also notice the scent of her perfume. Unlike most girls our age it was a subtle scent, most likely a mix of flowers whose names I wouldn't even want to guess. It was...for lack of a better word, pleasant. I couldn't help but remember that time in the nurses office. That memory started to cause a warm and nervous feeling to well up inside me. Of course as this happens, she turns slightly towards me and our eyes meet. For the millionth time I curse how beautiful she is. Her mouth opens slightly as if she was about to say something but I spoke first.

" you have enough space? I can move over if you want..." I whisper to her.

"N-No, I'm fine." she says back in an equally quiet voice.

"Are you sure?" I have a little space I could give you. Or I can just move to another table. I doubt anyone would even notice."

"That's not-"

"And just what are the two of you talking about over there huuuuuhhh?"

We were interrupted by a sickeningly sweet voice and a sharp jabbing to the side of my face. Isshiki had leaned over Yukinoshita and preceded to poke me with her finger. This pushed Yukinoshita into me and nearly caused us both to tumble to the floor. If it wasn't for my right hand holding onto the table I'm sure we would have. The sensation of her body heat, the increased presence of her scent, and the knowledge that the whole table's eyes were now on us, made my mind go blank with panic for a few seconds.

"I-Isshiki-san, please stop!"

"Oi, cut it out!"

"Well you two wouldn't join in our conversation so I decided to join in on yours!" Isshiki said in a way that was very reminiscent of an Onee-san I know.

"We'll talk more if that's what you want, just give us some space!" I gave into her demands. If it was another situation I may have stood my ground, but the smooth black hair in my face is blocking all thought.

Seemingly satisfied, she sat back down in her seat and folded her arms in triumph. A quick glance at the faces around the table showed various levels of amusement. The girl to my left however, was giving an icy glare to the girl on her left.

"Isshiki-san, I assumed such juvenile actions were below you. How wrong I was."

Isshiki's face went slightly pale and she looked everywhere except Yukinoshita's face.

"I-I was just...playing around you know...hehehe..."

Being the peacekeeping type of guy he is, Hayama tried to step in.

"She didn't mean anything by it..." he says towards Yukinoshita. To me that statement showed how little he actually knew Isshiki. The girl very rarely does things by accident, especially with such a large audience. Though with his good guy persona being so polished even I almost fell for it. Almost. I wasn't alone in that either. Yukinoshita moved her glare to Hayama. He hesitated, like he didn't know what to say. I wanted as peaceful a weekend as possible, and to that end, I'll speak up.

"Isshiki, give people their personal space. You can manage that much right?"

The younger girl looked surprised at first but then her cheeks puffed out in frustration. She didn't like being lectured but she couldn't do anything to dispute me. She has a bad habit of trying to be liked by everyone and I knew what course she would take after that. Puffing out her cheeks more to maximize her cuteness, she dramatically crossed her arms and turned away from me.

"Fine, Senpai. I'll make sure to keep my distance from you!"

"Please do, I need a vacation."

A trifling amount of laughter trickles in from around the table and the mood becomes much less hostile. Isshiki understood that she had made a mistake. Whatever she was trying to accomplish earlier was rendered pointless by the tense atmosphere she created. So she played along and did a comedy bit with me to smooth things over. If we practiced we could be a decent comedy duo. She would of course eventually realize that she has all the talent and leave me behind to dream of what could have been. The point is, this little band of people enjoying their youth could continue to do so in relative peace.

I took a side glance at Yukinoshita and while she didn't look pleased, she seemed to understand and go along with it.

From their the typical chatter ensued. Nothing particularly meaningfully happened for a while. I did hear Isshiki lean over and whisper what sounded like a sincere apology to the raven haired girl on her right. Yukinoshiita said something in a soft voice as a response but I couldn't hear it over how loud the group had become. Damn you Tobe. I tried not to trouble myself with it though. It was their business after all. I suppose I was glad something genuine happened in this storm of superficiality.

We stayed like that about half an hour. Talking about meaningless things. Myself, Yukinoshita, and even Kawasaki joined the conversation at times. I wondered if this was a typical study session for high schoolers. Nobody really studies, and nothing gets done. I wouldn't really know. The few times the service club meet under these same conditions I ran into the other two members by accident and they tolerated my presences. I was invited this time and there wasn't a problem to solve other then Yuigahama's lack of knowledge. Wasting time like this...wasn't that terrible. Soon it became clear everybody wanted to leave and preparations were staring to be made.

"Hey, could you take a picture for us?" Miura asked our waitress as she returned to clear the table. Her question was meet with sounds of approval from those of her clique and a grimace from myself and the waitress. Reluctantly, she took Miura's phone and took a few steps back. Several people took time to make themselves presentable as a great shift happened towards the center seat of the table. I lazily leaned slightly inward.

"Ready?" the waitress asked.

"Ah! Yukinon, make sure Hikki doesn't lean out of frame. He did that in like all of the Destinyland pictures!" Yuigahama called out.

I looked at Yukinoshita who seemed to be in better spirits. With an attitude of if I must she took hold of my sleeve which had been resting on the table. She smiled and I looked forward with displeasure. I always take bad pictures. I saw no reason to try and change that at the moment. I heard a small laugh come from beside me.

"Perhaps we should purchase you a collar and leash?"

"Woof, woof."

Miura's pink phone snapped away.

About a fifteen minute walk away from L'amour Des Amis was the Marinpia shopping mall. We started our migration with me taking my natural place in the back of the group. Good old Hachiman, taking the rear guard. With it being the weekend, the sidewalk filled up the closer we got to our destination. The dense swarm of Riajuus slowed our advance but we were finally getting close to one of the main entrances. I found myself aimlessly looking at the display windows of the shops we passed along the way when I felt a firm tug at my wrist. I turn to look and see a hand with pink nails holding onto me. My peripheral vision caught glimpses of blonde hair. For some reason, Miura had slide to the back of the pack and seemed to want something from me. Just as I was about to ask what she was up to, she pulled me down so we were at eye level, her citrus like perfume punched me in the face.

"The humanities right? That's what you said right?" she asked with her eyes fixed ahead of us. No one was paying attention to us as Yuigahama was retelling an obnoxiously loud story. Miura's eyes were firmly on Hayama's back. She had started to do things like this recently. Namely acknowledging my existence more often then before. It started after the Marathon Incident. She would occasionally greet me in the morning or even openly call out to me in the classroom. It was almost like she thought we were friends now or something. I held back a sigh.

"That was an educated guess based on the variables presented to me at the time. Take from that what you want." I answer. She said nothing for a few seconds before giving my wrist a squeeze and letting go.

"Alright...thanks." and with that she quickened her pace to pull ahead of me. She looked like a solider marching towards a fight she knew she couldn't win. I felt something like pity and respect for her at that moment.

"Does anyone want to go to a specific place?" Hayama's question brought the group to a stop. Miura's legs, which she deliberately kept bare despite the weather, moved swiftly and she caught up to the others.

"Well I wanted to get some new Winter boots." she answered and looked at Yuigahama. "Are you still alright with helping me look Yui?"

"Of course!" Yuigahama answered energetically before stopping abruptly to take a timid glance at Yukinoshita. The Service Club President hesitated before answering in a soft yet firm tone.

"I would like to look at the winter wear as well."

"Then you're with us!" Yuigahama happily took Yukinoshita's hand in hers and preceded to basically skip over to Miura's side. The Ice and Fire Queens shared a mutual look of disdain mixed with acceptance.

"Craft store?" Ebina-san asked Kawasaki with a smile.

"Uh...sure." the other girl agreed with a nod.

Oh no, were we suppose to partner up now? I was suddenly getting very depressing flashbacks of not being picked for sports teams and equally awkward moments of being forced to work with other people for school projects. I quickly suppressed my past traumas at record speed.I can always wander around by myself. That will probably be for the best anyway. I found comfort in that line of thought until I felt myself being forcibly dragged towards the entrance.

"Come on Senpai, you're with me!"

Isshiki yanked me along passed the others, much to the surprise of everyone except herself.

"Huh?" was all I could say. It felt pointless to ask for details until we were away from the others. Abruptly, she turned and called backwards.

"Lets all meet in the food court in like an hour okay?"

"A-Alright, sounds good!" Hayama shouted back.

I took a quick glance at the somewhat bewildered group we were leaving behind. Towards the end I saw Yuigahama and Yukinoshita give me looks of...concern? Yukinoshita in particular projected an aura of being upset. She was almost pouting in fact. Hey now Yukinoshita-san, looking at a guy whose being taken away from you like that could give him the wrong idea, you know? I thought humorously but then a feeling of nausea created by unanswered questions over took me. I welcomed whatever annoying task Isshiki required of me to escape.

The farther in we went, the denser the crowd got. The cold from outside was forgotten pretty quickly. Being indoors with a lot of moving bodies tended to do that. I took off my jacket and slung it over my shoulder. Isshiki looked like she wanted to do the same with her white and pink jacket but some idiotic inner pledge was keeping her from doing it. I have to wear it no matter what! It was on the expensive side and I look super cute in it! I imagined. She did unzip it to reveal the yellow dress like material underneath it though.

Having been released from her grasp once we were inside, I followed closely behind her.

"So what do you want?"

Stopping to take a thinking pose, she titled her head and looked up at me. The mischievous look she gave me told me she wouldn't give a straight forward answer.

"Hmmmm~ For you to carry my bags?"

"Seriously? Tobe was right there. I'd feel bad about taking the only thing his good for away from him." the position of pack mule was never one of my proudest titles. I'd gladly give it to whoever I could force it on. Seeing that I wasn't falling for it, she motioned for me to follow her. We made our way through the crowd until we were standing in front of a display window with a very winter like theme. It was a women's clothing store. The mannequins inside it wore fancy looking jackets as they stared back at us. I waited for her to speak and felt lucky that they weren't the type with faces. She started to speak in a low voice that only I could hear.

"Going over to Kawasaki-senpai's house and whispering sweet nothings to Yukino-senpai? When did you become so popular? Its kind of scary."

"How did you..." I started to ask but the answer was obvious. "...Yuigahama."

She snickered at my displeased expression.

"Don't be mad at her! She held out a lot longer then I thought she would." Isshiki said and fanned her hand at me to dismiss my annoyance. The mental image of Yuigahama being bombarded with text and trying to hold out did make me feel sympathetic though.

"Why did you need to know anyway?"

"I could tell something had happened and I just can't stand being in the dark, you know?" as she said that she swayed back and forth childishly which made her flaxen hair dance. I don't know how much Yuigahama told her and the whole thing is bothersome anyway, so I'll change the subject.

"Whatever, and thanks for that little display back there. I really needed extra drama to brighten my day, you know?" I make sure to mimic her over used phrase. "What was with that anyway? Do you just need to cause me trouble or something?"

Subtly, her eyes move away from me.

"It is fun to do that, but that was for...educational purposes as well." she snaps back towards me with an enthusiastic finger raised. "It was a social event, so both of you needed to socialize!"

I really can't win. Oh well, the best way to avoid losing is to not even play the game.

"Yeah, yeah, so what did you want? Out with it already."

Her posture grows a little slack and she shuffles her feet. This timed act of her's has always spelled trouble for me. Mostly because there was a decent chance that it wasn't an act. She takes a few steps to close the distance between us and takes a quick glance around us. Apparently finding the situation suitable, she finally spoke in a hushed voice.

"Have you...noticed anything of interest involving Hayama-senpai recently?"

Oh, so that's how it is...this time, I'll play dumb.

"Why do you ask?"

Catching on to my act immediately, she huffed in discomfort and anger. I stay composed even though a part of me wants to laugh. A few seconds later her shoulders sink and her usually large presence seems to fade away. I could feel a little guilt starting to well up, but before I could offer an apology, she speaks again. I can just barely make out her whispering voice.

"I'm...going to try confessing to Hayama-senpai again..."

"Oh man, here and now? At least let me leave first or something." I blurt out.

If the girl scowled any harder her face would get stuck.

"Not now! I'll wait to do it at the perfect time and perfect place!" she shrieked at me. Immediately, she tried to compose herself and her tone was lighter. "S-So...if you know of anything that could be useful to me...could you please let me know?"

Exhaling from the stress of such a troublesome conversation, I stared at her blankly.

"You know I don't stalk the guy right?"

"Well you do share a I was could give me something..." she muttered. With nothing else to say, we stood there in silence.

The noise from the afternoon crowd vanished as I stared at her sour and rather embarrassed expression. She actually looked her age for once, not that she wasn't always someone who projected a youthful vibe, but this time she seemed more like a child; lost and confused. I felt like her desires were mostly earnest and that there wasn't some kind of underhanded scheme behind her request. Still, my mind couldn't help but think of a girl on a train ride home after being rejected.

"I've started wanting something genuine, too..."

Does any of this really concern me? The correct and ambiguous answer is yes and no. I shouldn't press to hard or get to personal but...

"Are you can find what you're looking for with someone like him?"

My reluctant question hung in the air and I averted my eyes. Who the hell am I to give advice on something like this? Rubbing the back on my neck nervously, I looked at nothing in particular in the display window. A heavy sounding sigh made me turn back to her.

"Honestly...I don't know...but I can't help this feeling that if I don't try one more time with all I've got...I'll regret it." she said with a sad smile. Almost immediately she perked up and tried to seem more jovial. "Besides...even if things don't work out, its not the end of the know?"

With a more hopeful air about her now, she stared at me with a smirk. To bring this exchange to a close and in some small way, to reward her for her efforts, I relented.

"If anything worth mentioning happens I guess I can let you know."

A sly foxy grin was given to me.

"Thanks! Alright, with that out of the way, lets shop!"

Without waiting for me to reply, she simply turned on her heel and marched away. My kouhai is a manipulative fox, but she also puts effort into things, and she seems to be on a better path then when we first met. I instinctively feel the need to help her out sometimes. I doubt if that's a good thing though.

"Come on Senpai!"

"Yeah, yeah..."

In the end, she made me carry her bags.

Again we find ourselves at a table.

Like the hastily thrown together plan mandated, we met once again in the food court. This time at a large circular table which thankfully gave us all breathing room. The top of the table was littered with shopping bags, eight of which were Isshiki's. I had carried them for her until we had almost arrived her. She insisted on taking them all from me and explained that a girl struggling to carry something looks cute. It wasn't like the clothes she bought were heavy, but she sure made it seem that way. Although it made me seem like a bit of a jerk for not helping her, it wasn't like a had much of reputation to protect.

We were the last group to arrive and so we were left with the last two spots. Yukinoshita was on my left. Her group seemed to be getting along decently well. Yuigahama likely had it rough playing peace keeper, so I wouldn't bring up the fact that she pretty much ratted me out to Isshiki. Though she gave Isshiki and myself plenty of worried glances.

From there things became very similar to a typical day in the classroom again. Hayama's clique chatted away in their usual youthful manner and everyone else sat there in near perfect silence. More pictures were taken. Some of which I was asked to take and others I was forced to be in. It was as if they had to prove I was actually there.

Then came that awkward time that I had mostly only read about. Just how long are we suppose to continue hanging out? At this point I was basically there by force, so my opinion didn't matter. The more active members of the group shared questioning glances and dropped some subtle hints. In the end of course, it came down to the prince.

"I'm sorry, but I actually have somewhere to be in a short while. Is it alright if we call it a day?" Hayama asked.

"Ohhhhh Hayato~ Can't it wait a little longer?" Mirua protested.

"Well it is getting a little late" Ebina-san countered.

Her statement got me curious and I pulled out my phone to check the time. It was nearly six in the evening...seriously?! What happened to my Saturday?! Its nearly dead! They've killed it! I'm usually good at measuring the passing of time without looking at a clock, so I was pretty shocked that it had gotten so late without me noticing. Miura continued to poke and prod at Hayama in an attempt to change his mind in various ways with no degree of success.

"Could you like, walk me to the station at least" Miura cooed. Begrudgingly, or at least as much as he was willing to show, Hayama nodded in agreement.

"Ahh! Me too! We're heading the same direction anyway." Isshiki scurried to his other side. Again he nodded. With our ruler's approval we began to disperse. Tobe joined them and with a wave from Hayama the group started to leave. My Kouhai gave an energetic wave to those that remained and her eyes lingered on me for a few seconds before she smirked. It was the kind of look that would set most mortal men's heart ablaze, but it was weakened by Tobe's stupidly loud shout of "See Ya!" as he followed behind them.

"We'll be leaving too. See you at school" Ebina-san held up her hand to call our attention. Yukinoshita and myself nodded in acknowledgement. Kawasaki gave us both a serious but somewhat relieved look before nodding as well. The two of them started to walk down the side-walk as well.

"Today was fun huh Yukinon?" Yuigahama said as she gave Yukinoshita some kind of side hug thing. The dark haired girl grimaced in discomfort. "And I...I'm sorry I kind of both of you." Yuigahama looked at the both of us as she pulled her arms away.

"Not 'Kind of' lied..." I sneered to which Yuigahama's expression turned sour. She stuck her tongue out at me and turned to Yukinoshita. "I'll see you on Monday, both of you." She turned to me. "I want to hear all about how things went yesterday!"

"Yeah, yeah..." I sighed. Her eyes lingered on us for a second or two before she turned and hurried to catch up to the others. Yukinoshita waved as they slipped into the growing crowd. That left her and I alone obviously. I had a feeling it would come to this. We both have to go in the same direction, and although her directional skills are sometimes questionable, I'm pretty sure she knew this scenario might happen as well.

"Well...I guess its a good idea for me to walk with you to the station at least. There is a pervert on the lose after all." I say dryly.

"Ahh, speaking of yourself?"

I clicked my tongue. "Oh please, if I wanted what you had to offer I'd go the nearest appliance store and play with the cutting boards."

With a blush she turned away and tightened her grip on the strap of her bag. "Of course your mind can only go to vulgar places." she said with a huff. "We have to travel in the same direction anyway. Not to mention, it seems I'll have to keep a close eye on a degenerate like you." She started walking briskly the other direction and I followed. I took the position closest to the street and she gave a nod of acknowledgment.

A shared silence between people only becomes awkward because someone wants to say something but either can't or is unsure of how to say it. Yukinoshita was emitting that vibe ten fold. Leaving that stone unturned was an option but...I didn't feel like it to be blunt.

"Do you want to say something?" I ask as we stand at a cross walk waiting for the light to change.

" it that obvious?" her voice calm but a little irritated. Its not me she's frustrated with.

"A little" I answer.

She sighs. "I...wanted to ask how you are. Are you dealing with things well?"

Her question hangs in the air for a few seconds The light on the cross walk changes and I take a step forward. I stop when she doesn't move. I look down at her. Her eyes scanning my face for an answer. My first instinct is to say that I was fine. To sweep it under the rug. To not burden her with it, but...I want to tell her.

"Well...honestly the whole thing was really bothersome. But I managed to have a talk with Hiratsuka-sensei about it and my views of it all seem to have improved..."

She looks at me, smiles, and nods a bit before she starts walking. "Good to hear"

I follow her, taking my place at her side. Nothing else needed to be said, we walked in silence in this sea of people. A feeling of content came to me. My quick glances to the left told me that she seemed to feel the same. We arrived at the station and waited for her train.

"I expect your story on Monday will be entertaining" she said with a smile as we stood there waiting for her train.

"Its not really, don't get your hopes up..."

She seemed to brush my dismissive response off. "Sometimes the story teller is the best part of the story."

I stare at her slightly mischievous face and my chest feels warm. Just then her train rolls up. A decently sized group of people get off and then she starts to walk towards it.

"Take care." she said and I nodded. Once she entered the train she looked back at me. She raised her glove covered hand and waved. I did the same in return. Her lips moved as if she was saying something but I couldn't make it out from that distance. What a bad habit you have Yukinoshita-san...

I took off my shoes with a bit of satisfaction as I sat at the entrance to the Hikigaya household. At least I still had Sunday. Thoughts of sleeping in and then spending the day with Vita-chan were rapidly developing in my mind. Remembering the new rules of this castle I reach for my phone and send my Mom a quick text telling her i'm home. After placing my shoes in their proper place I started walking to my room. Before I can even get there I receive a response. Thinking its kind of strange I check my phone. The message had a photo attached.

(From: Mom Time: 6:47:28 PM)

"I didn't know you had so many friends! They look like the type of kids that would be popular! Whose the girl that's hanging on to you?! She's so pretty!"

The picture she sent me was a group photo taken at a café. Mostly happy and youthful faces started back at me. Except for the two at the end of the table. An annoyed looking boy stared aimlessly to his right and the girl who was holding onto his sleeve smiled sweetly at him. My face started to heat up. My inexperienced texting fingers struggled with a response.

"Its not what it seems. I was kind of ambushed. She's just a clubmate"

The gears in my head went to work tying to figure out how the picture got to her. Miura likely posted it online and Yuigahama shared it. Komachi follows Yuigahama which means it had to have been Komachi. I know shes home because her shoes are here. No wonder she wasn't there to greet me or being lazy in the living room. I guess she wanted to illustrate that I was making 'progress'. Komachi-chan, that is so low in Komachi Points...

I went to my room, wanting to get ride of the heavy clothes that were starting to make me feel hot. The picture still on my phone when I check the time. Yukinoshita's expression drawing my attention. I still feel warm, even with my jacket on the ground. I collapse on my bed. I stare at the picture, I debate and struggle with myself, my thumb pressing it and then letting go again and again. Finally I press it and press save.

My Saturday is gone and the school week is looming. I wonder if she'll end up seeing it as well. Will she be embarrassed? Will things be awkward on Monday? Either way, I find myself looking forward to and also dreading it. I mindlessly pull up a video to watch as a distraction.

"I'll look forward to the tea at least."

The End.

I live.

I want to thank everybody for sticking with this story. The positive feedback was amazing. I'm sorry if the long wait didn't seem worth it. I really love Oregairu but I've been disconnected with it for a while and only recently got back into it enough where I felt I could put out something decent. There will be an epilogue sometime and hopefully that will be a more satisfying conclusion. There are some amazing Oregairu writers on this site so go out and read their stories and support them.

Again, thank you and leave a review if you feel like it. :)