The first thing I noted when I opened the door to the club room, was the complete lack of noise and zaniness usually inherent to our daily gatherings.
No, that's a lie.
I noticed this when I got within ten feet of the room. No cries of cute little Mikuru-chan struggling against Haruhi's attempt to put her in the latest fetish costume she dug up. No hint of Haruhi's usual excited or angry shouting. It was the quietest I'd heard the club in a while.
Let me try again. The first thing I noticed was that the room was virtually empty. The Chief wasn't there to bark orders or get barking mad at my tardiness. No Koizumi, with his sycopanthic smile. No Mikuru-chan, with her cute little maid outfit and matching tray.
Nope, that's a lie too.
The first, first thing I noticed was Yuki. She was sitting near the window, reading a book intently; oblivious to the world around her. It was snowing outside, and somehow, the scene was just right. The sound of paper moving brings the rest of the details into my attention. It was just Nagato in the room. Well, just Nagato before I'd entered the room myself. She didn't look up from her book even as I shut the door behind me.
I walked over to the end of the table, hanging my coat on the rack before I took the chair closest to the window. Even with the heater on, it was a bit chilly. I contemplated asking Nagato where everyone went, but the silence was way too rare in a club meeting not to enjoy, even for a little bit. Besides, there's such a nice view...of the snow, I mean. Eventually, curiousity did get the better of me.
"Nagato," I tried to get her attention.
"Where is everyone?"
Inquiring minds needed to know; though right as I finished the sentence, I remembered what happens when you don't keep your mouth shut and leave well enough alone. You end up in a club run by a cosmically volatile teenager who can destroy the Universe on a whim.Well, it wasn't like it was all bad. Haruhi was cute, if a little wild; Mikuru was moe like no one's business. And Nagato--
"They are out shopping."
And Nagato was Nagato. Though sometimes, I wish she wasn't. I swear, have no clue why Nagato turned out so...Nagato when Asakura turned out to be perfectly normal. Aside from trying to turn me into sashimi. Maybe it was best she stayed the way she was, I had to admit; at times it was very endearing. With a sigh, I tried again.
"Why are they out shopping, and why did they leave us behind?"
"Suzumiya stated that she was tired of waiting for you and that when next you meet she will punish you to the full extent of the laws of the SOS-dan. She asked me to stay behind so that I may inform you of such."
She said all of that without so much as an intake of air or a look up from her book. I slumped back in my chair and put my hand to my forehead, it would seem that I was in trouble, or rather, I may have put the whole universe in danger just because I care for my grades.
"Do not worry, Suzumiya-san was more excited at the prospect of shopping with unlimited funds than angry at your tardiness," Yuki said, almost like she was responding to my worries.
It might've been the most she had said to me without any prompt. I looked at her once more. She was still reading her book, as if she had not spoken at all. The snowflakes still fell from the sky, lazily drifting in the air before eventually coming to the ground.
I sat there for some time until an idea hit me. For those sentenced to death (or an empty wallet), even a day's reprieve from execution was a blessing.
"Nagato, it seems like Haruhi won't be coming back for a while, why don't we get out of here for now? I mean it's not like we need to be around for every little thing, right?"
She nodded, almost imperceptibly before putting her book away and making for her coat. I stood up and made my way to the coat rack. Soon after, we were walking the halls in an amiable silence. We were out the door and in the snow before I knew it. We made our way down that Hellish hill and when we reached the bottom she started taking a different direction.
"Wait," I found myself saying. "Are you going home already?"
"Yes," she answered "I assume that is what you intended."
In truth, it was, but I didn't feel like going home just yet.
"It's a little early to go home, do you wanna maybe...get some coffee or something? It's pretty cold, after all."
Smooth. I had felt vaguely like a dork. Nonetheless, she nodded and fell in step with me. It started getting colder as we walked, and suddenly that coffee seemed a very good idea. If she was cold as well, Nagato didn't let on a hint. I, on the other hand, was shivering. 'I'll be fine, it's not that cold outside,' I said to my mother. Man I'm an idiot. I tried my best to remain stoic despite the chill, almost succeeded, too. Unfortunately, my gloves were most likely resting right next to my thicker coat. A man reaps what he sows, I guess.
I put my hands together and rubbed them briskly together. I turned my head to see how Nagato was holding up-- her jacket was pretty thin for this weather as well. I noticed that we stopped walking.
"Are you cold," she asked.
How observant of her.
"Yes, it seems I'm a little under-dressed for the weather."
"I will assist with warming you, then."
Before I could ask what she could possibly mean, she took one of my hands and cupped it in hers. She released her warm breath onto my hand before rubbing it briskly. I couldn't help that note that her expression deviated slightly from her neutrality, opting to adopt the look of one concentrating on a task. Granted, this was Yuki we're talking about. Slightly is not an exaggeration.
I was utterly speechless. I stayed as such even as she worked on my opposite hand. I was probably blushing like mad, but how could I not? It was a normal reaction from a normal teenager, recieving some abnormal attention from an attractive girl. That, and I was worried that any moment someone would see. Or worse, the Tyrant of the SOS-dan would burst into the scene. Alas, no such thing happened. I was thankful, though whether I was more thankful for the fact that no one had seen or for the tingling warmth of my hands, I couldn't say.
I guess I was still a little shaken from Yuki's sudden tenderness.
"You are welcome."
With that, she turned and started walking. I followed right behind Yuki, eventually falling in step beside her. It might be wishful thinking, but might her cheeks be tinged a bit red?