Summary: Just a boy and a girl; two teenagers living their rather fun, introverted lives. And yes, they had friends (each other), dammit.
Tags: friendship, gen, slice of life
Disclaimer: Characters are properties of Watari Wataru & Ponkan8, and Maruhito Fumiaki & Kurehito Misaki
"Why are you crying?"
"Yes you are."
"And why are you all alone? Oh, wow, is that Robert Frost? Wait, is that Shounen Jump?"
"I like to read, okay? Anything wrong with that?"
"No, but if you're gonna be reading alone, I'll read on my own, with you."
"... That doesn't even make any sense."
"Who cares? Budge over."
Haa, he sighed to himself, his body draped over his desk. A yawn broke out before he could stop it, and his eyes caught sight of the clock: half past ten, and it was a school night. He could feel the weariness settle in, and so begrudgingly dragged himself to the bathroom and brushed his teeth.
As he sat atop his bed, he glanced at the two textbooks at the side of his table. How he hated biology and chemistry, he thought to himself. He was okay with anatomy, as someone with someone of an interest in tennis, and certain chapters of chemistry (definitely not because of drugs, nope), but the majority of the subjects made him feel numb with boredom and distaste.
Overall, he could confidently say that, like most students, exams were things that he hated a lot; they consumed more time than he wanted them to. But more than just time, they committed the cardinal sin of consuming his effort and brain cells, instead charging him to fill those thoughts with knowledge that was not guaranteed to be useful.
But that was just the way the world worked. Or at least that's how it worked in Chiba, Japan.
He gave his desk one last, wanton look. How he desired to read his light novels; but if it got any later, he knew he would run the risk of not sleeping - a travesty in his books. He glanced out the window and closed the blinds and let the curtains fall.
Sorry, he apologized to his precious, I'll read you tomorrow.
"Hikigaya, what is this?" His math teacher had pulled him aside after class. It turned out that his professor demanded an interrogation as to why his results were so poor; he pointed to a rather low mark of forty-two. Said student winced as he saw the assessment. Yikes. It was much worse than his average of seventy.
Damn, he thought. He asked to see the exam, and he realized that he made the dumb mistake of forgetting two negative signs as well as applied the wrong formula later in a question because he misread the initial problem. The mistakes compounded harshly. Ironically, in one of the logic-based questions, he made an incorrect assumption and forgotten to check the givens for the proof.
Ugh, the hours of studying that went into this exam were beyond wasted, Hikigaya grumbled internally. But towards his teacher, he simply pointed out his reflections and earned himself a smile from his instructor. He was lucky, he supposed, that the maths teacher was not out for blood. In fact, this particular teacher was one of the best - he pressured people, but only enough so that they would focus, and he was blunt because he knew that was how his students liked it best.
At least his other subjects hadn't gone so poorly, he mused, as his teacher passed him his other exams. His eyes scanned the results. He probably was still within the top twenty-five of his graduating class, or top thirty at the worst, which was more than fine with him.
With a rather bored goodbye, he left the teacher's lounge, hellbent on spending the remainder of his lunchtime relaxing. And there were only two places he could do so.
The rooftop wasn't so lonely so much as it was free, he thought to himself. There was just the slightest breeze and the littlest hint of cigarettes. Kawasaki was here, probably sleeping at her usual spot. He moved to the side of the roof entrance and dug around in his pockets for change until he obtained his prize.
The taste of MAXX Coffee drizzled down his throat as he leaned against the firmness of the fencing. How he loved MAXX. The sweetness complemented the savoriness of his pork buns, and he closed his eyes in relaxation until he felt his phone buzz. Damn. Ten minutes left.
He flipped open his phone. Hmm? His lips curled themselves upwards. It never failed to amuse him, the amount of drama his best friend often found herself nestled in.
[Can you believe the audacity of these people? How dare they even imply that I…] He chuckled. She really was too amusing for his heart. His eyes drifted lower, [And someone had the gall to say I stole my material from someone else. Don't people know that theft is the highest form of flattery and that it's currently the twenty-first century? Originality itself is almost gone, if not entirely so already! Why, I should...]
He thought about how to reply to her when the sound of the bell knocked some sense into him. Crap, he realized. Two minutes to get to class.
She would just have to wait for his response.
"...Hikki, are you listening to me?" He blinked; he most certainly was not. But he nodded and hoped her frown would disappear. Instead, he was rewarded with a rather cute pout - not that he would ever admit that - and sent a small smile to mollify her.
She sighed exasperatedly and threw her hands in the air.
"Hmph," his other clubmate muttered. "How poor can your manners be, Hikigaya-kun?" Her eyes didn't even come off the pages of her book; a practiced habit at this point. Not that he minded the routine, he supposed.
"Well, I was distracted," he mused. "I'm sure at least you can share that trait with me; getting lost in one's thoughts." Yukinoshita couldn't help a snicker.
"Hey!" Oh? It looked like Yuigahama was getting better at picking up on slights and jokes.
"Relax, Yuigahama." Her cheeks were puffed, and he diffused the situation by poking them. She swatted his hands away. "I'm sorry, but I really was lost in my thoughts."
"Why?" It was nice to have someone who recovered quickly in the room at times; at least they wouldn't be perpetual pests.
"Remember how sensei pulled me aside? Well, I made some mistakes on one of my exams; the rest of them went fine, though." Ah, a face of sympathy. "In maths, I misread a problem and then made some mistakes in another, so my marks were… well, less than satisfactory. But even with that drop, I should still be in the top half, unless something else went really wrong."
The pink-haired girl's nose wrinkled, and the smallest hint of envy passed through her eyes. Not that she should envy him, he thought. Yuigahama wasn't the brightest bulb in the box, but she wasn't necessarily a slouch. She managed to get accepted into Soubu and consistently scored just into the top half of the graduating class for most of her exams thus far. However, he knew she put in a lot of work, even if she didn't show it - and grades were important to her, especially because she wanted to go to university and study education or counseling.
Any score reductions were things she understood perfectly, reflected in her look of puppy-faced pity.
His far colder clubmate sipped her tea silently before speaking, "What kind of mistakes? It's rather odd of you, even for maths as one of your poorer subjects, to let your marks fall so harshly."
He grimaced. Yukinoshita, on the other hand, rarely let any subject fall outside of the top five in the entire class, though she would admit that for some subjects she cared much less for, having them fall out of the top five (but still within the top ten or fifteen) was acceptable. Her parents, while strict, were not unreasonable with what was actually practical for a student: meaning that as long as she succeeded where it mattered, there would be little to no consequences.
Still, she cared about him enough to inquire. And at least she was a good conversationalist when it came to academics. He paused, thinking about how to explain his situation. "I was reviewing too much for other subjects, I guess, and got too exhausted over the weekend. When I was taking it, I remember rushing through the maths exam; that was probably the biggest issue. The problem wasn't that I didn't understand the questions, though.
"I missed two negative signs in an arithmetic question, and in a logic puzzle, I made an incorrect assumption with the givens. Because of that, I messed up large portions of both questions. Of course, I wouldn't have scored a perfect or anything even if I got those two correct, but those were the most glaring problems and the main reason my score was so low."
Yukinoshita "Hmm'd" for a while before breaking off with Yuigahama in another mundane conversation to entertain the most energetic member of their little club. The cold girl was getting better at recognizing when no more needed to be said, he thought with a small smile.
He let the two get on with themselves and pulled out his phone. To his total lack of surprise, he had received a number of texts: his best friend and his sister, of course (who else would bother?).
From his little sister: [Hey, gomii-chan, I'm going out today, so don't worry; you don't have to rush home, you know? Also, say hi to nee-san for me.]
From his friend: [Hello? How're you doing today?], [When are you getting free today?], and [Listen here, you s.o.b., you better have a good excuse for not texting back… Well, whatever. The usual, though, right?]
He figured he could save himself the trouble of acting like he was emotionally invested when he didn't need to be, and typed, [ok] to both of them.
The rest of the club period seemed to drift abnormally slow; with no requests, all of them delved into studying at their little table.
Unfortunately, they were all at different places in their studying. Everytime Yukinoshita asked a question, it frustrated both him and Yuigahama. Not that she intended to do so; it was just that she was beyond them in a lot of cases. And everytime either Yuigahama or he asked a question, it seemed to be unanswerable by Yukinoshita more so because of her inability to explain, rather than her lack of knowledge.
The remainder of the hour passed quickly. With a yawn, Yuigahama broke the mundanity by announcing that they'd all better leave. Yukinoshita, as usual, nodded in agreement with her friend. Their goodbyes exchanged, he wandered off into the streets of Chiba, until he stumbled upon Saize.
He seated himself across from her, giving her an apologetic look. "Sorry."
She giggled. "It's not really a problem, you know," her voice softened and eased as she took in how tired his eyes looked. She reached across the table and tucked some locks behind his ears, her touch against his scalp a practiced routine.
He huffed, but didn't resist. His hair naturally draped itself downwards, a mess of morning sheets with no rest. "It's just, exams… and I'm going to have to crunch down even harder. Basically failed maths, and that was because I was being an idiot..." He sighed again at her stern look. "I know, I know; I'm stupid. But I really don't know what went wrong or what happened."
She poked his cheeks. "Silly. Don't kill yourself over these things; there's more to life than that. Besides, you're probably still in the top half of your entire class grade."
"Well, yeah. That's why I'm only stressed but not worried," he grinned cheekily, which prompted her to laugh again. "Anyway, what's been going on with you recently? You're more than upset; you're furious, but not devastated, though."
"Ah, yeah. So, you know about three months ago how I started working for this magazine?" He remembered her excited squeal as she choked his arm when they were hanging out and she received the email notification that confirmed her employment. She began to explain how it had been going smoothly within the office and how her senpai and colleagues had been taking good care of her, to which he joked that it was probably because of how adorable she was.
She stuck her tongue out and continued her storytelling, which drew him in. Megumi was rather animated when talking about her passions, journalism and photography, which contrasted the dull, wallflower-esque nature she wore demurely. "Someone claims I copied her; she's only been in the industry for two years, and I thought that, stylistically, she wrote well. I didn't think she'd care; none of my content was the same as hers, but…"
The anger in her face creased her flesh in ways that made her seem much more like a pouty, demanding child. Ironically, her text messaging speeches carried the flames of a stoked forge that would more than burn down the image she had built of herself. Or perhaps, he thought as he heard her mutter words that would make more than sailors flush, it was for the best.
He nodded as he reached for his glass of water. "Mm. I gotchu."
"Oh, and I got propositioned earlier this week." He choked on his water, daring not to spit it all over her. This bitch, he thought. The playful gleam in her eyes was ever present as her lips thinned into a smile that could have been construed as 'cute,' if one did not know her.
Hachiman waved his hand, as if to say, "Go on."
"Well," she dragged a finger to her chin and drummed away, "I was asked to join a doujin circle." His eyes widened. What? "Aaaand," her smirk darkened, taunting and cruel, "They think I should be their heroine. Or at least, what their heroine looks like."
His eyes widened; he couldn't help it. Then he started to laugh, slowly and loudly, which drew some unwanted attention from other customers. "Priceless," he said. The look on her face only spelt I know. Tch. So much deserved smugness that he couldn't even tell her off.
"I had to pretend like I didn't know anything; well, mostly because I thought I didn't really know much. But, it looks like those countless hours tagging along for your obsession with Pretty Cure have finally paid off."
Megumi started to open her mouth, but closed it. There were so many ways she could respond to that; both of them knew it. The mischievous gleam never left her eyes, nor did the lightheartedness leave his.
Instead, she moved on. "So what else has been going on with you," she asked as she scooted from her side of their booth to his. He comfortably adjusted to his lack of space; her head against his shoulder, she began to hum quietly as her feet kicked gently, an image childishness and innocence.
"Hm… well, aside from the whole classes crap, I guess Yuigahama and Yukinoshita still confuse me on whether or not they're in an actual relationship yet. Sometimes, I debate going to club just so that I can give them space. I really don't need to be in the middle of their tension.
"But more than that… nothing much, I guess? I think I'm sort of friends with them now. Friendly, at the very least," he corrected himself, "because Yukinoshita and I can snip at each other without any real venom whatsoever. Like, none of the subtle cruelty that was directed at me before even comes out. And sometimes, lately, we even go out and do stuff. Like, actively hang out."
Her eyes widened as he opened up about his school life. She smiled knowingly. The I'm happy for you didn't need to be worded. They spent the rest of their time at Saize mindlessly chatting until the conversation drew itself into a blank lull.
It was night before they decided they had to go; he had to make sure she got home before the dark became a strangled hold unsafe for her. They said their goodbyes to the owners who only smiled at the high school students. Her fingers slipped between his as they stepped outside, a comfort and warmth to both of them.
But none of that kept him from noticing that the walk to the station seemed to get longer each time.
When the door clicked behind him, his ears were assaulted with a playful "Hello!"
He sniffed the air. She was probably fixing up a snack. He took off his jacket and asked, "How was your day, Komachi? Where did you go?"
"Ah! I had to say hi to some friends I haven't seen in a few weeks. We were in the same class last year, but ever since we've moved up, we haven't seen each other much…" Her voice drifted until it slowly grew softed until it became inaudible. He physically felt the sadness wilt into her tone, a sucker punch to his gut. That wouldn't do, he frowned, and walked into the kitchen.
This must have been bothering her for quite some time; his sister was resilient, he knew, but she was still just a girl - a child - coming to terms with her realities and the mazes they posed.
"Don't be sad," he said quietly, an arm wrapped around Komachi. He knew that, deep down, she was as much a loner as he was, even if she was surrounded by friends. His little sister wasn't stupid, even if she wasn't nearly as smart as him.
She was smart where it counted, and unfortunately, that meant that she understood some key things about life. Namely, that nothing is permanent and people come and go. With some exceptions of course; his bond with Megumi, for example. Unlike him, however, she did not have a single friendship that seemed to be longstanding, nor did she have his apathy for watching people exit the stage.
No matter how small, as long as something was a little more than superficial, it was genuine to her - and she hated letting things go. Something, he mused, that she would have to learn to accept.
But right now, he had no idea what to tell her. He tried, though. "What Megumi and I have is different."
She glared at him, offended. He winced. It sounded empty, even to his ears.
He decided that the best route was the direct one. "I love her." His sister's eyes widened. "Not in the way you think, silly sister. Well, not entirely. She's attractive," he'd be an idiot if he said otherwise, "but, what I mean is… sometimes, things are just… well, they're - we're - not normal.
"She and I have known each other since the fourth grade. The fourth grade, Komachi. It's been so long. But it's not just the amount of time that both of us have invested; it's that we just click." Komachi understood. Still, it didn't do much to ease her heart. He imagined her voice cracking as the words It's not fair painted themselves on her face.
"Megumi's been a part of my life in so many ways that I have no idea who I am without her, you know?" That confession made Komachi's mouth drop. He guessed that, despite calling her 'onee-san,' her lack of her own 'Megumi' prevented her from really understanding how much she meant to him.
"It would be like… well, if I never met her, I have no idea how much more rotten I would have been, but if she were to leave now, then the rot would grow exponentially worse." He shivered at the very thought. A cold sweat he hadn't noticed haunted his skin as he placed his free hand at the back of his neck.
"Even though I don't see her as often as I used to, we've still maintained the semblance of our days of yore because the fruits they bore made it possible. It's not the same though, Komachi," he tenderly explained.
"We aren't what we used to be. But that's just how things are. What we are now, though," his thoughts broke themselves. How could he explain it? "She's like a disease that's festered," his sister wrinkled her nose at that, but at least her crying had stopped, "but in a good way. She's like a superbug that made me stronger, and now we have symbiosis."
Slowly, Komachi nodded. "I… I think I get it. It's like what you and I have, but a little different, right?"
He smiled. "Yeah."
Life was good sometimes.
He thought back to how, when Megumi came to visit him at his school for the first time, she shocked the entire ensemble. Not because she was Hikigaya Hachiman's apparent 'friend,' his best friend, he added indignantly; no, it was because she had the sheer audacity to walk up to Hiratsuka Shizuka and declare that the teacher was going to be hers. All with the gentlest expression she could muster, eyes closed and smile thick with warmth.
"Hello," she said, a hand stretched out and waving to a woman a decade her senior. Said woman blinked and was about to respond, until the girl opened her mouth again. "You're just as pretty as he told me," Hiratsuka's face flushed as she eyed a whistling Hikigaya, but her body froze as a hand cupped her cheek and forced her gaze, and attention, back onto the girl in front of her.
"I think you and I are going need to get along well; we'll be seeing a lot more of each other." Megumi practically purred with deviousness, not unlike that of Yukinoshita Haruno. Her voice dropped, a sashay of vice and invitation, "Don't be afraid."
His shit-eating-grin couldn't be held in and he laughed the entire time the Service Club held its meeting that day. Yuigahama had a hand over her mouth and Yukinoshita, the both of them, were lost for words. The younger sister sputtered incoherently and the elder choked with laughter as she clutched her sides. Iroha giggled as Hiratsuka-sensei burned a fervent red and dizzied.
Of course, when she introduced herself to everyone else, she was courteous and delicate, careful not to prod people the wrong way. Well, mostly.
She ran her eyes over everyone else, but her gaze stayed on two of them in particular: a girl who looked slightly younger than her, and one that was clearly several years older. She addressed the first of her interests, "So you're Iroha?"
Another smirk littered her skin as her eyes danced with playfulness. No one mistook how she addressed the other girl by her given name. Eyebrows rose, and heads whipped towards Hachiman, who only shrugged as he stepped closer to stand beside the younger girl.
"H-Hikki!" The pink panda pouted. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"There's nothing to tell," he said firmly, his hand tightly clutching the brunette's. "After all, I don't ask what you and Yukinoshita do; but if kissing and telling is going to be part of the club, I'm afraid things are going to get a bit awkward."
Said girlfriend became brighter than the tomato that was Megumi's primary target, though Hachiman's clubmates were not far behind. He didn't glare, but the force of his statements held like Roman pillars. They'd never heard him so brisk and commanding.
The laughter of the last person in the room was complemented by her fanning herself. She seemed to be having the most fun of them all, Megumi believed.
She sauntered over to Megumi. "I might just have to take you away from Shizuka-chan," her voice breathy, "I'm a bit mad that Hikigaya-kun over there kept you to himself all this time."
Not intimidated in the least, Megumi winked at the older girl and made sure her voice was as low as possible. "Well, he never kept me waiting, if you know what I mean… you guys are the ones who are late to the party."
Yukinoshita paused; but not out of shock. She smiled at her and debated on how to respond. What felt like minutes passed before she strode past Megumi with her last thoughts: "We're the ones late, but we're here now. So where's the starting line, and when should I show up?"
That had been so much fun, he thought to himself. Of course, Megumi told him about her exchange with the elder Yukinoshita - luckily, Iroha knew better than to intrude on their time together - and he couldn't help but fall off her bed when she had painted the picture. He hissed in pain as he chuckled.
It was so typical of her. Megumi Katou was a woman beyond words, he often said. Mostly to the girl herself.
There were some things that didn't need to be shared with others, but when Megumi made up her mind about anything, there was no stopping her. Not that he minded Haruno knowing. He just liked his past where it was: the pages of yesterday were not books for today or any day after.
He glanced at her from his peripheral as they walked down the open streets. Not that his history of Megumi was anything to put behind him or ignore, or for him not to care about; rather, he just wanted to look forward to the kind of future they had together. Regardless of what it was.
The two of them engaged in a contest of wills and physics, the swingset of the nearby park croaked with remembered weight - it bore the brunt of their entire childhood until he moved away during middle school. It continued to do so even now.