(Minor reference to Himawari-related spoilers from around volume 10. Also, to a few people who were a little confused by young Doumeki in part 4, see the new note added to the start of that chapter - I forgot to warn for volume 9 spoilers for that part when it first went up.)


Getting to know Watanuki is one of the best things that has happened to her this year, Himawari reflects cheerfully as they walk down the hallway together. There's a meeting for candidates for the student council today, which wouldn't include Watanuki, but he's come along anyway, just so he can help her out by carrying her books for her while her hands are full with all the extra papers she was asked to bring along. That's what he's like, always so helpful and so nice to her – a little over excitable sometimes in ways she doesn't always understand, but even that's kind of cute. It really does make her happy that she's gotten to know him so well. What she can't understand is why no-one else at school has done the same.

It took her a while to notice, but Watanuki is different around people who aren't her. He's polite and friendly, but he's so quiet and restrained in the way he acts around them that it feels like he's decided they all belong to a different world; like there's a line between himself and them that he isn't allowed to cross. People try sometimes – a group of friends will be going to a movie and ask whether he wants to come along, say – but Watanuki will nearly always turn them down. He's so apologetic about how he can't make it that no-one could ever take offence, but it makes it very hard for other people to ever become more than the most casual friends with him. Why she should be the one exception Himawari can't begin to guess, and it seems wrong to question something she likes so very much. Even so, it weighs on her mind that the only real friend Watanuki has is her, and that's a fate so horrible she'd never wish it on anyone

"But definitely everyone would vote for Himawari-chan!" Watanuki gushes to her happily as they walk in through the doorway. It might be considered a little tactless, considering the whole room is full of her competitors, but it would be hard to take offence at such enthusiasm, it's so obvious he means well.

Hard to take offence, but not impossible – what Watanuki hadn't yet noticed was that one of the other candidates – a boy Himawari knows slightly as Doumeki Shizuka – is glaring at them.

"Oi, keep it down. Some of us are trying to hear ourselves think in here."

It was obvious to Himawari what was going to happen next – Watanuki would apologise and back down politely, just like he always did – so obvious that it was difficult to see how she could have gotten it so wrong. Maybe it was the look on Doumeki's face that did it. Maybe it was that Watanuki was too far into his ranting to change gears quickly enough. Maybe it really was just hitsuzen. But whatever the reason, she was not expecting Watanuki to take on a look of pure, righteous indignation and screech, "What?! Is that any kind of way to talk to a stranger!?"

"For someone as noisy as you it sounds fine," Doumeki replies, resolutely keeping his eyes facing in a direction that means he can't see the face Watanuki is making at him.

"Loud? All I was doing was giving a friend some encouragement! Why shouldn't I raise my voice a little?"

"A little? Can you even hear yourself?"

"I can hear myself just fine!"

"So can people half the school away."

"Well if they can it's your fault for making such a big deal out of this!"

"Have you still not shut up yet?"


There's no-one in the room who isn't staring now. Himawari herself watches them, first in amazement, and then with a feeling of rising warmth as it starts to dawn on her what she's seeing. Because they may be arguing, but it all feels so familiar that you'd think they'd known each other for years. She's never seen Watanuki click like that with anyone before. And that's when she realises she's not going to have to worry about being Watanuki's only friend anymore, because he's going to have Doumeki-kun as well, and she can already see just how well they're going to get along.

She really couldn't be happier.