Beta-read by: thatguywhowrote
Don't Own Oregairu
Chapter 7: Fools are Awkward (Remastered)
Hiratsuka Shizuka opened her eyes with a start and blinked away the last granules of sleep from her drooping pair of eyelids. After taking a moment to compose herself, she sat upright on her own bed and took a sweeping glance of her present surroundings. She seemed to be in her own empty apartment and inside her own single bedroom.
A slow realization came to dawn upon her foggy little mind like another swiftly approaching morning. She shook her head to clear herself from the last remnants of a fragmented dream, something which should have been better left forgotten.
Hiratsuka Shizuka already knew this compassionate reverie. It was destined to plague her throughout a large portion of this seemingly pleasant day, which would always involve more than a handful of interactions with one of her students, a certain rotten dead fish eyed namely Hikigaya Hachiman.
"I will bring some flowers next time Sensei."
A miniscule bead of sweat rolled down her forehead, landing on one of her clenched fists which was resting stoically on top of her lap. It clutched onto a handful of her blanket with an excessive amount of strength, keeping her firmly grounded onto this cold, cruel world of reality.
Hiratsuka Shizuka was beginning to cross her legs and starting to switch into a more meditative position, but her elevated heartbeat was making her incredibly aware of her own apparent need to focus on anything other than her own erratic breathing pattern. It made her extremely flustered without even acknowledging the rather alarming shade of red currently coloring both of her cheeks. A crimson hue of embarrassment made itself known to her through her reflection from a vanity mirror situated within close proximity to her comfortable and recently dream riddled spot of slumber.
"I will come to your house tonight Sensei"
Hiratsuka Shizuka raised one of her hands and placed it over her swirling heart. She felt every beat against her breast and kept listening to this steady rhythm, never paying any attention to her clothes that were already sticking to her body in an uncomfortable manner from profuse sweating.
After she had woken up this morning, she had a rather troubling epiphany which would never cease to fade away from her lonely mindscape. It would return whenever she made another painful mistake, dared to dream of a reality where a woman like her could simply be happy with herself. Her choices that might consist of another individual willing to accept her for herself, neither nothing else nor nothing more.
"Thanks Sensei, love ya."
Alas, such a plane of existence simply did not exist in the modern society of today. Nonetheless, Shizuka considered herself a woman of fortitude, capable of keeping her hope alive even against numerous amounts of insurmountable odds. A girl could only wish, couldn't she?
Unfortunately for her, there was never an answer floating around whenever she spoke aloud to these four walls of her own secluded bedroom. However, today was Christmas and maybe, just maybe a miracle was right around the corner.
She made a personal vow to herself to never believe in any kind of miracle ever again after having such a disastrous start to this seemingly pleasant day. Mired by occasional glimpses at a weak sun, followed by a cold rush of freezing wind in every street corner. She treaded down the path towards the school, arriving at an hour exceedingly early for most teachers and students' tastes.
However, Hiratsuka Shizuka was tired of being cooped up in her own home where she would be constantly bombarded with figments of an insignificant dream, one that she should rather not remember even before considering to carry out her duties as a remarkable teacher.
Whenever she went outside the confines of her own home for work and into a morally acceptable and a blatantly judgmental society, there will always be certain rules and regulations kept in place to discourage behaviors of reckless and careless nature. Such went without any kind of consequences in a world of dreams, but would always be brought to book in her current world of harsh realities.
"Fancy meeting you here, Hikigaya."
She was already beginning to feel awful for today and unsurprisingly enough, she had not even taken a single step inside her place of work. She was far away from reaching Soubu High and was waiting patiently at an unsurprisingly vacant bus stop except for her own miserable self and a certain creepy, dead fish-eyed student of hers. She was disappointed at him, whom failed to display his rumored stalking tendencies by already letting his presence be known to her by halting his bicycle more than a couple of feet away from her present location.
"We keep meeting a lot nowadays, don't you think, Hikigaya?"
Like always Hikigaya Hachiman kept his words to a minimum and Hiratsuka Shizuka simply chalked his lack of communication skills to one of his "less than endearing" personality traits. However after a moment lapsed between them in a rather companionable silence, a morbid sense of playfulness seeped through her voice. Her beautiful amethyst eyes twinkled with a juvenile kind of fascination akin to one of her former students, a certain mischievous elder sister of one of her current pupils. Although she already knew that Haruno would have made a killing, wounding him up so tight by asking him, Hikigaya Hachiman, such a scandalous question, for Hiratsuka Shizuka, his homeroom teacher, there would never be a more fortunate opportunity available in their near distant future.
"Are you stalking me Hikigaya?"
"I really am not. You would not know if I did, Sensei."
Once again he gave an ample amount of evidence in regards to his terrible sense of humour. Hachiman simply couldn't tell a proper joke to save his life. Shizuka always appreciated his lack of effort towards this particular form of communication to break the ice before commencing a long round of conversation, but unfortunately for her today was simply not her day. Hence even this rotten embodiment of gloom and doom was making a lame attempt at a comedic endeavor to further worsen her foreboding mood. He should have just spluttered and stumbled all over himself at her half-hearted yet completely false accusation, which would have made her feel much better about herself than make her feel far worse at her obvious attempt to rattle the cage of one of her more troubled and problematic students.
"You should probably leave the joking to me, Hikigaya. You would definitely get arrested if you said that stuff to anybody else."
"Maybe you're right, Sensei. Even I thought that sounded extremely creepy."
"Well, now you know. Do better next time or better yet stop trying."
"A sound bit of advice. You are certainly brimming with all kinds of wisdom today."
Hiratsuka Shizuka would have definitely smiled at this self-depreciating admission of his at any other day, but today she simply chose to press her lips into a thin line and just look away from his general direction, convincing herself to take away a rudimentary note of offense from his latest remark dripping with disdain like usual.
"Sarcasm suits you."
"You think so?"
"Yeah, especially if you're going for that whole 'broken jaw' look today. Just keep on going and if you are lucky I will help you out a little, you know."
"...I'll shut up now"
"What a shame. Punching you always makes me feel a lot better."
"Who would have guessed?"
Shizuka exhaled a small breath of air and started cracking each of her knuckles in an ominous manner and after realising his fatal mistake Hikigaya Hachiman raised both of his hands upwards in a placating manner. His voice sounded small and his throat was only a tad constricted.
"Sorry Sensei. Please don't hit me, it won't happen again."
"I believe you."
Normalcy was ensured in a comically violent manner and although it led to both of them refraining from speaking altogether in a rather abrupt manner, their reckless actions would never be a cause of concern between them for much longer. They were usually unable to hold onto a trifling grudge against each other over most matters regarding mainly to their witty interactions.
"You said you believe me."
"I was being sarcastic."
As it was already established, she was his sensei and he was her student, and a few punches and a couple of clever remarks would never come in between them from relating to one another in a seemingly innocent manner. Hiratsuka Shizuka allowed a small smile to grace her lips and Hikigaya Hachiman was forced to grimace while rubbing his stomach to ease away the pain caused by one of her unblockable punches.
"Ow! That really hurt!"
"What else do you expect?"
"I don't know sensei. Maybe a little more compassion?"
Hachiman looked a little confused after hearing his sensei mumble those words in a voice nothing more than a mere squeak. She normally told him to shut up using a much louder voice, but perhaps he was over thinking everything like usual.
Maybe today her voice came out different because of the chilling cold permeating their present surrounding. Hence he thought nothing about the matter and stopped paying attention to her strange behavior before choosing to simply follow her order and remain silent. It had proven effective, saving him from a lot of trouble on the next handful of minutes.
Thankfully for him, Shizuka was quick enough to turn her face away from his direction before he could even catch a glimpse of the warm blush spreading across her cheeks. Like always Hachiman had said something which was quickly taken out of proportions by her overactive mindscape and peppered her crazy imagination with glimpses of a rather embarrassing dream.
Unluckily enough, "compassionate" was one of the words she had thought about while addressing her vivacious dream back in the privacy of her own apartment, and as expected the same word was thrown back at her face by none other than Hikigaya Hachiman.
"Are you alright, Sensei?"
"Y-Yeah! Of course! Why wouldn't I be? Why are you asking?"
"Nothing. It's just your voice sounds a bit different."
"Oh that! Um, it's probably because of the cold weather. I think I'm getting a sore throat."
"Oh, um, is it bad, Sensei?"
"...it's probably the worst."
Unbeknownst to him, Shizuka meant something completely different by her ambiguous choice of words and like she expected, Hachiman fell for her trick and took away another meaning altogether from her carefully crafted phrase. She should have been proud at herself and her own resourcefulness as a great language teacher, but there was a rather chilling sensation settling around her present surrounding which had nothing to do with the cold weather.
Both of them were way too early to participate in a meeting of such volatile nature. It would be termed completely bizarre by most that they had stumbled upon each other though coincidentally on a fine winter morning. All these should have led to greetings being exchanged in the name of Christmas, yet both had stowed themselves away in a secluded moment of privacy, relatively distanced from playing their respective roles at a school setting. The four walls of firm discipline and rigid decorum instilled a very self-conscious approach to broaching a more candid and open-minded subject of conversation.
At this present moment they could speak rather frankly with one another, and if either of them came forward and chose to take a chance they could have made a positive headway into comprehending a significant portion of their puzzling dilemma. And like many previous occasions, Shizuka took the bold initiative while Hachiman held himself back.
"It's a perfect day, isn't it?"
"It's a little too cold."
"Well, it's the end of December, Hikigaya. What else do you expect?"
"You're probably right."
"I'm always right! You should get this through that rotten brain of yours by now. It's you who are in the wrong more often than not, you know."
"I never said otherwise."
She sighed to herself in defeat and he shifted uneasily on his bicycle in despair. She could never imagine him making small talk with anyone without having an adequate amount of coffee in his system and likewise he should have expected her to at least have smoked a couple of cigarettes in a relatively relaxing atmosphere before attempting to engage anyone in a polite conversation especially someone as tasking as him.
However, as she had mentioned earlier both of them were taking into account their lack of patience with the general populace into their respective strides and were being a little rigid. It was completely understandable and equally reciprocated by both parties, involved in their allegedly pleasant morning conversations.
"Well, you don't seem to be learning anything from your past mistakes. Sometimes I seriously doubt whether you have changed even a single bit from that day I forced you to join the service club."
"...I think of that too."
"Really? You think about it?"
"More often than you think, Sensei."
She was taken aback by his seemingly honest admission. According to her past knowledge of his obnoxious character, he would have never admitted to such piece of information without being threatened either with physical harm or mental torture of a more dubious nature.
Yet at the moment he was disclosing to her a rather secretive strain of one of his own private thoughts without even being placed under either any kind of duress or exigent circumstances. Asking him for a small confirmation on her part was a rather futile effort, but that would never dissuade her from enquiring him yet again.
"Are you really telling the truth, Hikigaya?"
"Of course. What would I gain in lying?"
"I don't know. Why does anyone lie?"
"...now that's a terrible question."
"Only you would call it terrible."
"Huh, maybe you're right."
She knew she was trying to sound more annoying by the minute, but her prolonged interaction with him was making her a little more self-conscious of their own closeness. She was having trouble keeping herself focused on the flow of their conversation without drawing certain parallels to a fragmented piece of a damnable dream. Much to her chagrin she was unable to make him even a bit infuriated with her present behavior. Perhaps even he was also attempting to be a little more considerate of their situation and was trying to be more socially flexible than his usual self.
"If you say so. I would never have guessed."
"I know what you mean. I surprise myself sometimes."
"I would hardly call it surprising."
Any other person would have even considered getting a little offended by her lack of acknowledgement at his effort to appear amicable. They would have rebuffed any of her future endeavors to hold a civilized conversation, but unlike any of those simple-minded individuals her rotten dead fish-eyed student simply chose to shrug his shoulders in a lackluster display of nonchalance, balancing one of his legs on top of a revolving pedal of his resting bicycle.
For once Hikigaya Hachiman chose to voice his thoughts about their entire conversation and Hiratsuka Shizuka found it in herself to listen to his plaintive words, never making a single move to strangle him with her bare hands.
"Don't you normally take your car to school, Sensei?"
"...Yes Hikigaya. Like you said, normally I drive to school."
"Then what happened today?"
"Nothing happened. I just decided to take the bus for a change."
Needless to say she was lying through her teeth and bitterly cursing herself upon remembering a lame joke made by a womanizing bastard back from her university days. Back then, she had heard that most women were terrible drivers because they kept getting distracted by well-defined phallic object sticking out from the gear box of their vehicles, drawing their eyes away from the road, leading to them causing a lot of road accidents and killing many innocent bystanders in the process.
Now it was important to note that Shizuka was a terrific driver and she had an awesome car back at her home, but today she just felt like taking a long walk to the nearest stop and catching a bus to work instead of checking the credibility of that horrible joke.
She blamed her perverted imagination into forcing her to take this decision, prolonging her own suffering by further embarrassing herself before one of her students. Although she knew Hachiman would never hold any kind of judgment against her, there would always be a small lingering doubt present at the forefront of her mind over his lack of insight upon her recent disclosure. Surely, he would have spotted her blatant attempt at lying to save some face.
"Oh. Okay then. But you might have to wait for a while, you know. Buses run a little irregularly this early in the morning."
"I-I knew that! This isn't the first time I had to take the bus to work."
"Alright then. I better get going, see you at school."
"Y-Yeah! S-See you at school then."
Without further ado Hachiman corrected his posture on the seat and place his feet on the pedals, giving them a gentle nudge and setting him into motion. Meanwhile Shizuka was busy watching his departure, to be left behind impatient at the arrival of the bus while he had begun on his way.
"Wait a second, Hikigaya!"
"Hmm? What is it?"
Now she was perfectly capable of waiting entirely by her lonesome in this vacant bus stop but at least one of her students was unlucky enough to stumble upon her location. And according to her, he had immediately gotten burdened with a misplaced responsibility to accommodate her loneliness and despite being his rotten, miserable self, Hachiman should have the common decency of giving her company until her means of public transport arrived.
However, considering this was him and she was her, they needed to establish a distinct line of correspondence in between them to avoid any kind of irksome miscommunication and any ensuing awkward misunderstandings.
"Why are you in such a hurry to reach school today, Hikigaya?"
"...because I don't want to be late today, and I know what happens if I am."
Shizuka clenched her jaw tightly and gritted her teeth together until she was absolutely certain that she wouldn't end up punching him again within such a short time. Violence resolved nothing and today was Christmas. She should be making more of an effort to remain calm. After all he had logic on his side, and although his answer to her question gave nothing to her in the form of a proper comeback, she could always improvise by taking a leaf out of a book which belonged to one of her more brilliant students, namely Yukinoshita Yukino.
Well you're right about that Hikigaya. If you are this early then you won't be late. But on the other hand, chances are that some kid from school might mistake you for a creepy looking trespasser and call security on you. You'd be arrested even before you could explain yourself or say your name. Now that would be really tragic, don't you think?"
"...so you're saying that I should be late for school for my own well-being, is that it?"
"What? That's not what I'm saying, you idiot!"
"Oh, umm... Then I don't understand."
She sighed to herself and decided to simply give up on her meaningless endeavor to make him wait with her just to kill some time.
However she could not ask this directly to him and he didn't have to listen to her. This was not who they were and this was not how they worked. He was her student. She was his sensei. Nothing more, nothing less. But despite her best of efforts a small weak voice resurfaced regardless of their mutual circumstances in life.
She was not being brave.
And he was not being a coward.
Thus, another moment was created over their lack of understanding of their present situation. Neither of them would ever waste a single minute of even wondering about discussing the ramifications of their interesting capabilities to comprehend one another without even voicing their inner thoughts into words.
A simple look was enough.
Hiratsuka Shizuka had not asked him to wait and Hikigaya Hachiman had not agreed to stay. Nevertheless both these individuals found themselves enamored by a cold wintery breeze wafting through their frosty surroundings.
There was only her.
'This is so damn awkward', Shizuka whined to herself.
A/N: Again a huge thanks to the beta-reading God "thatguywhowrote". You are a miracle maker, my man (alliteration! Yay!)
Hope everyone enjoyed this remastered version of the chapter
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Won't betray your dreams
P.S. Next Chapter - Fools and Cigarettes.