I want to run away.

Well actually, maybe not. Not only would running not solve my current dilemma, it would also leave me pointlessly exhausted. A lose-lose solution to a difficult problem. Not that I'm entirely unfamiliar with those kind of solutions, or the "most despicable answer" as my clubmate so lovingly called it. However, I fear that in this scenario, the personal sacrifice would be more in vain than ever. If I ran, it would only exacerbate the problem at hand.

The problem being, this painfully awkward meeting of my clubmates, and this tag-along, whom has just obnoxiously and impermissibly introduced herself as my "friend".

A foreign concept, to be sure. Since entering highschool, I've given a lot of thought to the concept of 'friendship'. I'm not sure if I have any. Or at least, not in the traditional sense. After all, friends are people who you want to waste your valuable time with. Time you'll never get back. Friends are people you'd feel like sharing secrets with. Secrets which will soon become common knowledge. Friends are people who you'd foolishly entrust your valuables with. Valuables which you will never see again. You may as well just throw them into the river.

Source: My younger self.

In this sense, I have no friends. There is nobody in the world who meets all these criteria, not for me. Still there are people whose company I don't completely abhor. There are people whose trust I value. There are people whose happiness I occasionally consider. If those things were sufficient prerequisites for someone to be considered a friend, then I would say I have made friends over the past few months. Unfortunately, this isn't the case, as Yukinoshita has often reminded me whilst taking verbal jabs at my...well, everything about me.

Therefore, I have no friends. Therefore, this tag-along is mistaken in her introductory statement.

This puts me in a difficult position. If I agree with her, it could damage the trust that my two clubmates have in me. I have, after all, spent a good portion of my time with them rambling about my proud loner disposition. Confirming to Yuigahama and Yukinoshita that I have so easily made a friend when I still insist I am not friends with them is going to cause a rift that I fear I may be unable to fix. Illogical as it may be, I want to avoid this outcome by any means possible.

On the other hand, denying this girl's statement that we are friends is going to betray her trust in me. I have in fact, been spending an unusual amount of my precious free time with my new acquaintance lately. Even stranger than this is the fact that there hasn't been any reason for either of us to do so. I suppose a naive and awkward girl like her would jump to the conclusion that we had at some point become friends. Yet, I can't find it in me to correct her, because I know she has difficulty trusting people. Especially high schoolers. Much like me, she has been traumatized by previous social experiences. Much like me, she has tripped and stumbled all the way down to the bottom of the social hierarchy.

So now I am between a rock and a hard place. Either I shatter the trust in the two who I have spent many afternoons with, or I shatter the trust in this fragile girl who has only very recently opened to a person besides her family. Do you see, foolish girl, what your careless slip of the tongue has done to me? You have enforced a very difficult ultimatum unto me.

Ah, I want to run away.

But that wouldn't solve anything. Instead I have to find a solution through other means. Desperate and running out of time, I do the only thing I can think of; pretend I never heard her say it. Feign ignorance. Thinking about it, this particular moment revolves around how I respond to what she said. So if I don't respond, then the problem can be put aside until it's forgotten, right?

Wow, I remind myself of Hayama right now.

And just like Hayama, I fail to resolve anything because I lack the courage to say how I feel.

Or perhaps I just don't know how I feel. Before now, I hadn't really given any thought to whether I would consider her a friend. My interactions with her have been unlike anything I've ever experienced before. We spend time together for no reason and I am not entirely unhappy when we do. Regardless, I resolve to think hard about this later, so that this doesn't happen again.

Finally, I speak. "Uh, Yukinoshita, Yuigahama, this is Kuroki. She wanted to see what my club is like, though I already told her we don't do much."

Dimwit. Nincompoop. Hachiman. The first thing I say, and I've already stepped on another landmine. I know I have because of the faces of my clubmates. The same expressions they make whenever we encounter Orimoto. An expression of curiosity and discomfort. An expression that silently says "I don't know your relationship with this person and it makes me feel like I don't really know you." Actually, that's quite a mouthful for just one expression. Have the two of you been practicing communicating silently so that you can still share jokes while I'm in the room with my nose down in a book? How dare you! Now I'm the one whose been betrayed!

After an awkward pause, Yuigahama responds. "A-ah, so Tomo-chan is it?"

Wow, Yuigahama. not even 2 minutes and you're already on a first name basis.

"It's nice to meet you! My name is Yui, you can call me Yui-chan!" Seriously, your speech level is already too high. You could buy something from a blacksmith and sell it right back to him for a profit! [1]

It's Yukinoshita's turn, and I am filled with dread. This is where it could all go to hell.

"It's nice to meet you. My name is Yukinoshita Yukino."

Just then, Yuigahama obnoxiously interrupts her greeting. "Ah, but you can call her Yukinon, right Yukinon?"

Yui-chan, could you please shut up for a second? Not everyone here is on the level of social expertise that you are. It seems Yukinoshita agrees, because she falters a little and makes a small, feminine groaning sound.

"K-Kuroki-san, p-perhaps if you don't want to, you could simply refer to me as 'Yukinoshita-san'. Ah, but that's only if..."

Yukinoshita awkwardly stumbles around what she is trying to say, because she doesn't want to offend Kuroki. Luckily, she doesn't have to, because Kuroki shares the sentiment.

She speaks up, "A-ah, yeah. I think, for now, 'Yukinoshita-san' will do."

She speaks shyly with a faint smile and a blush. Yukinoshita seems to relax a little too, relieved that she made her point without being rude.

Unfortunately, this makes Yuigahama seem like the idiot here. Well, 'seem like' is unnecessary, she is clearly the idiot here. And probably most other places she goes, too. Still, she has to say something to protect her dignity, or it's going to get even more awkward.

"Ahaha. Yeah, I guess that's a little to comfy to start with..." Serves you right Yui-chan. Trying to flaunt your high speech levels but you still chose the wrong option so you failed to persuade the NPCs [2].

And now we're back to uncomfortable silence. I refuse to allow it to linger this time, though. I step up and tackle the issue head on.

"Say, Kuroki, is there something you wanted from me?"

After saying that, I realize it might come off as an attempted dismissal. I panicked, hoping I didn't offend her But luckily she understands my abrasive personality enough to understand my real intentions.

Funny, when I met her she had absolutely no social skills at all, she couldn't even make eye contact with strangers, let alone hold a conversation. Yet now, only a week later, she's already able to decode my intentions through my words. Is she actually some sort of social prodigy? Or perhaps she's been powerlevelling recently.

Or maybe not, as her reply serves to revive both the tension and my difficult ultimatum from earlier.

"U-uh, actually I...was wondering...if you're busy afterwards?"

You suck Kuroki. You're even worse at this than I am. How in the world am I going to salvage this now?

Yuigahama gasps, and turns to look at me with a face you would make if you saw someone bust through a window. That is, surprise and shock. Yukinoshita, being as stoic as she is, manages to hide her expression a little better, but if I know her like I do, she probably wants to make the same expression Yuigahama is making without looking quite as dumb.

She's asking me to spend my free time with her. Yuigahama and Yukinoshita know very well how I feel about free time. Still, it sounds like she has something planned, and I can't help but be interested.

"Well, I was just gonna go home after club. Did you need me for something?"

Hey, I think I found a solution. By making it seem like Kuroki's the one dragging me around, my ideals are not compromised in the eyes of my clubmates. And I still get to see what Kuroki has to offer. Win-win!

"O-oh, um...no th-that's okay. Sorry for asking." Kuroki mutters in a defeated tone.

Oops. I feel terrible. In my desperation to maintain the status quo, I forgot how shy and timid Kuroki really was. I made it sound like I had no interest in spending time with her and that she was a burden. It probably took all of her courage to ask for my company in front of other people. In fact, it's amazing in itself that she came here of her own volition to introduce herself and come talk to me. She's definitely changed in the time I've known her. Could I be the cause of this? Is it possible that I've changed too?

She stares down at the floor, and dejectedly begins to turn toward the door. Just then, something comes over me. Something not entirely unlike the fight or flight reflex. I can't let it end like this. If she leaves now, that might be the last I see of her. I don't know if I'll ever find another person I'm as natural with as her.

In a moment of weakness, I completely disregard the status quo that I've been shakily balancing this entire encounter.

I quickly speak up, "Ah, actually if you want to do something, I guess I might want to tag along."

The consequences were instantaneously apparent. Yuigahama, though her mouth hangs open, is unable to say anything. She doesn't have to, though. I recognize the expression. It's the same expression she made when I suggested my social suicide in dealing with Isshiki's request. It makes me feel sick. Yukinoshita makes a similar expression, but only for the briefest of moments. She looks away, and so do I. Instead, I look back at Kuroki.

She's not exactly smiling, but her expression lights up in a way that makes me feel like the damage I've done was somehow worth it. Although it's probably not. In fact I'm sure I'll regret this later.

Kuroki speaks again, this time with a little more volume and a higher tone of voice. "O-okay. Then, I'll see you later?"

Well, I've made my decision now. I might as well commit to it. "Mm. I'll probably message you or something after club finishes."

Kuroki nods and gives a little smile. without anything else to say, she turns to leave. Not in an 'escape the uncomfortable situation' sort of way, but more of a 'I've finished my business' sort of way. She quietly closes the door as she exits the clubroom. You could at least say bye to my clubmates you awkward little girl.

That leaves me to pick up the pieces of Yuigahama and Yukinoshita's trust which I so blatantly smashed on the floor and crushed beneath my heel. I don't even know what I'm going to say. I want to say 'sorry', but that would not only be inappropriate, it would also directly address the issue we have been trying to ignore for a while now. Still, I have to say something.

Or maybe I don't. Because Yuigahama speaks up first.

"Hikki, she said she was a friend of yours?"

Screw it. Since it's come to this, I'll be as forthcoming as I can, and hopefully my honesty will go towards rebuilding the relationship we three have. At this point I don't even know how much damage I've done. It's not in my nature to be optimistic either, so I'm worried this could be the beginning of the end for me and them.

"Um...maybe." I said Lamely. "She's the new transfer student in 2-E. I've been um..." What's the term? "Hanging out...with her lately. I don't know if that automatically means we're like...friends...or whatever." I make a note of how unusually shy I'm being. It probably sounds like a half-hearted excuse to them. But it's all I've got.

Yukinoshita, after being quite for a while now, finally chimes in, and by 'chime' I mean she begins to verbally assault me like she always does.

"My, my, Hikiloser-kun. Aren't you jumping to conclusions? Perhaps your desperation for companionship has come across as tragic to the new student, and she has taken it upon herself to play the role of your only friend out of pity."

Yikes, Yukinoshita. That was harsher than usual. As messed up as it sounds, I think this is a good sign. It means she's only mildly annoyed at me. When she's seriously hurt, she treats me like a stranger. That's what I'm really afraid of.

"Yukinon! Isn't that a bit much? I thought she was nice." Yuigahama seems to be doing okay too. Maybe their trust in me is strong enough that a slight compromise in ideals is forgivable.

...Or maybe they never trusted me at all! Dammit!

Either way, I can't let that personal attack slide.

"Oi, oi. I think you're the one jumping to conclusions here. I'll have you know that even though I was unable to make friends before, I am now very comfortable with my disposition and in fact, choose not to have any friends."

We're playing verbal hockey again, and I feel like all is right with the world.

Yukinoshita begins her retort "Such a-"

Yuigahama rudely cuts her off. "But she said she was your friend, didn't she?"

Well that was unusually blunt of you. But I guess it's best that we stop pussyfooting around the issue, or it could cause problems later. Thinking about it, I don't want any of my current relationships to deteriorate. Except maybe my one with Tobe. It's okay for you to be a little more distant. In fact, please do. For my sake.

"I suppose she would be, if you had to label it. Though I haven't given it much thought myself."

I wonder if this was the right thing to say. Before I can determine the answer, Yuigahama asks another uncharacteristically abrupt question.

"...Then, are we your friends, Hikki?"

Oh, come on. That's totally not fair. Yukinoshita has already rejected my offers of friendship twice, and if I went and said we were friends now, she would totally throw it in my face. On the other hand, I can't give them the cold shoulder here. In my mind, I am sighing. I have no choice but to bear my heart out.

"well..." I begin "Yukinoshita says it's impossible for us to be friends."

As I say this, Yukinoshita makes a face as if to object. I don't let her. "But, even if it's not called friendship...I um...I value what we have."

When I go home today I'm going to put my face in a pillow and flail around on the couch, screaming about how much I want to die.

Still, it was worth it because this response seemed to satisfy Yuigahama completely. After a moment, she blushes, and her face seems to light up in a way that I can't help but find beautiful. I always forget that these two are some of the most beautiful girls in the school. After all, it's a minor detail once you really get to know a person. Kuroki has an average-looking and actually somewhat glum face, but it doesn't affect my opinion of her in the least.

Yuigahama smiles and does this girlish "Un!" sound, signalling her approval at my response. Yukinoshita is a little harder to read because she doesn't easily show expression, but somehow I think I made right by her too.

After that, the conversation died, but in a way that I appreciate. I spent the afternoon reading some trashy and immemorable light novel, and Yukinoshita went back to reading her nerd books. Yuigahama was fiddling with her phone and occasionally bothering Yukinoshita. This is just the way I like it.

Eventually, I decide it's time to leave. Another day without any requests, although I wouldn't say it was uneventful. Or maybe it was. I talk for the first time in a little while. "I'll see you guys tomorrow, I guess."

"Yeah, bye Hikki."

"See you tomorrow, Hikigaya-kun."

And then I leave the clubroom. It's not until I'm out the front door of the old school building that I remember Kuroki had intended for us to do something. I pull out my phone, and tap and swipe on the screen until I find her number.

Okay guys, I first want to say this is not only my first fanfiction ever, but also my first time I've ever written a story for no reason other than to share it. Before this, I only ever wrote for assignments and stuff like that. I don't know what kind of flaws in my writing I have, but I am willing to take any sort of criticism.

I have read most of the the Oregairu fics on this site, and some of them I have even read twice. I am drawing inspiration from some authors here, but hopefully it's not coming off as plagiaristic.

The idea has been floating around in my head for a long time now. What if Hachiman met somebody who, despite both of them being antisocial, was able to connect with them in a way neither of them have experienced before? Basically, he finds something which might possibly be something genuine. For this I needed a character which Oregairu cannot provide, but I didn't want to create an OC. The only choice left was to borrow a character from another series, and after a bit of pondering I decided on Tomoko Kuroki from Watamote.

Now, I know Tomoko is super OOC in this chapter, but I wanted to portray the changes that a genuine relationship can have on someone. Even someone with Social Anxiety Disorder like Tomoko. Now that's not to say I'm trying to undermine SAD, or that Tomoko has easily conquered it. Maybe next chapter I'll rewind back to Hachiman and Tomoko's first encounter, and tell the story from there on.

I also know it's weird for a student to transfer so late in the year. It's part of the story, not an oversight.

I didn't want their relationship to come off as romantic in this chapter. I am honestly trying not to imply that at this point, but I suppose my inexperience makes me unable to do so. I just feel like true friendship connects deeper than romance. That's not to say this won't be a romance fic, but it is entirely possible that the main pairing won't be HachimanXTomoko. The important thing is that Hachiman and Tomoko develop a level of trust that can be considered genuine. Maybe they'll fall in love after that idk.

Finally, I know this chapter is filled with what seems like serious drama, but it's probably because it's told from the POV of one of the greatest pessimists in anime history. If this chapter seemed too dark, it's not what I was going for. I was going for awkward first meetings, in fact I wanted to have some comedy. Don't worry schlubs, the girls of the service club don't hate or distrust poor old Hikki.

[1] Skyrim reference. When your speech skill is high enough, you can actually sell things for more than you buy them, and from the same person too.
[2] Another Skyrim reference. IDK why, I haven't played Skyrim in like a year.