Disclaimer: I do not own The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya or any of its characters.
Note: This was written for a challenge I gave myself to write, edit and upload a story in one day, having written little over the last year or so and edited and uploaded only a fraction of it. I think it turned out rather well, but feedback is, of course, appreciated.
Taniguchi's Patented Girl-Ranking System Does Not Apply To Boys
Taniguchi had always been a proud member of the 'Going Home Club', happily ignoring all the clubs that offered him membership to bolt out the door as soon as his last class was over. He already had to spend most of his day at school; why would he stay there any longer if he didn't have to? Thus he was somewhat annoyed when Koizumi Itsuki interrupted his flight to freedom just before he reached the school gate.
"May I have a word with you for a moment?"
Taniguchi was rather mystified as well as annoyed. They were in different classes and aside from being occasionally dragged into SOS Brigade activities, such as when he was an extra in the Asahina Mikuru movie, he and Itsuki had nothing to do with each other.
"Is this about Kyon? Because if he needs to talk to me, he can do it himself."
"No, Kyon knows nothing about this."
"Is it about your club, then? Because I'm not going to join it. I'm not going to join ANY club, and especially not Suzumiya's band of weirdos. Anyway, shouldn't you be at your club right now?"
"I decided to take some time out from the club meeting in order to have this conversation with you. And I do not wish to discuss the SOS Brigade at all. This is something of a more private matter. Would you mind following me?"
Taniguchi looked longingly towards the gate and the other happy students strolling through it, out of the oppressive confines of the school walls. But Itsuki had been polite, and it would be too rude to ignore him. With a sigh, Taniguchi reluctantly followed Itsuki to a wooden table in the yard, hoping that this wouldn't take too long.
"So what's this all about?" Taniguchi asked, impatiently, as Itsuki sat down opposite him with a cup of coffee.
"A girl from my class confessed to you this morning that she liked you. Is that correct?"
"What, you mean Honda?" Taniguchi was baffled. This wasn't what he had expected.
"Yes, Tsubaki Honda-san. She happens to be a relative of mine, as well as a good friend. She was rather upset by your rejection."
Taniguchi shifted uncomfortably on the wooden seat. "Well, that's just the way it goes, isn't it? That's the risk you take when you confess to someone. If she can't deal with rejection then she shouldn't have asked me."
"This is true," Itsuki agreed, to Taniguchi's relief. "However, I think that the recipient of unwanted affections has a certain responsibility to be gracious as well, don't you?"
Taniguchi said nothing.
"I don't think Honda-san would have been nearly as upset if you had told her nicely that you weren't interested in her. I think she could handle that kind of rejection. She may be shy, but she's not weak. However, I think that any girl would be upset if you told her that she was only worthy of a 'D ' and you wouldn't even bother to remember her name."
"Well…" It was extremely difficult for Taniguchi to defend himself when Itsuki was being so calm about the fact that he'd insulted his friend. He wasn't even frowning, just smiling pleasantly and waiting for a reaction. What could you say to that?
"Isn't that what you said to her?"
"I don't know if I'd put it like that…"
"Didn't you tell her that you'd graded all the girls in our year and that she was in the lowest rank? That you were only interested in 'A-grade' girls? That's a bit unnecessary, isn't it?"
"I was just explaining," Taniguchi muttered, defensively.
"It would have helped if you hadn't told her that she'd never make A-grade unless she grew some tits."
"I didn't say that!" Taniguchi jumped off his seat and leaned over the table, fed up with Itsuki's calm demeanour. "I said… well… she asked… and it's true!"
"You could have been nicer. Are girls really just sex objects to you? Are they not even worth common courtesy if they're not 'sexy' enough?"
"Oh, and I suppose you –"
Itsuki cut off his next protest with a wave of his hand and Taniguchi dropped back onto the wooden seat, seething with resentment.
"I think it would be nice to apologise to her, don't you?"
For a moment Taniguchi considered retorting that it wasn't his fault that Honda couldn't take a joke, but he thought better of it as he realised that that was an argument he was unlikely to win. Instead he sighed and looked meek, and his only response was a plaintive "I don't have to go on a date with her, do I?"
"Would that be so bad?" Itsuki asked. He tilted his head sideways and regarded Taniguchi thoughtfully, with a smile that was subtly different from the one he was wearing earlier. In a way, that look was making Taniguchi almost as uncomfortable as the rest of the conversation had – but in an entirely different way. "Why did you start this 'ranking' system for the girls in our school?"
Taniguchi snorted. "Obviously it's because dating can require a great deal of energy and money – it's not something you can just muck around with, so I had to approach it strategically. I identified the girls that would be worth dating and concentrated my efforts on them instead of wasting it on anyone else."
"Interesting. Aren't you worried that other boys in the school might catch onto your ingenious system, though?"
"Well, if there are a limited number of 'A-rank' girls, all the boys will be vying for them, which creates considerable competition. If everyone knew about your system and used it, wouldn't that make things more difficult for them?"
"Are you saying I shouldn't have told you?"
"Oh, I already knew," Itsuki said, breezily. "I think you've mentioned it in my presence before, and you've definitely told Kyon and Kunikida about it, as well as many other boys and anyone else who happens to be around when you're talking."
"Maybe I just want everyone to know about my genius," Taniguchi said, huffily, "And besides, what is there to talk about except girls?"
"And despite all that, you've never asked any of those girls out." Itsuki leaned over the table, forcing his innocently smiling face closer to Taniguchi's. "Why make such extensive plans and then take no action?"
Fifty responses whirred into Taniguchi's head at once, but he didn't utter any of them. He just blinked back at Itsuki's face, only a few inches away from his own.
"I'm sorry if I'm asking questions that are too personal," Itsuki said at last, as he finally stood up to leave. Taniguchi felt a strange mix of relief and disappointment. "It just seems odd to me that you talk so much about girls and then say such brutal things to the first girl who asks you out. It's almost as though you just want people to think you're crazy about girls."
Despite his eagerness to get home, Taniguchi stayed frozen in his seat for several moments, trying to think up some kind of rebuttal to Itsuki's suggestion, but he could think of nothing that sounded believable. As he'd been finding throughout this conversation, it was difficult to disagree with somebody if you knew that they were right.
"So, shall we go?" Itsuki asked, pleasantly, and Taniguchi finally stood up and walked with him, back towards the school gates. "I'm glad we could sort this out. If you'll just apologise to Honda-san tomorrow I'm sure that everything will be fine."
"You seem very understanding about this," Taniguchi said, finally. "I would have thought that if someone made my friend cry, I'd be angry."
"Well, if I thought someone were just being mean, I probably would be angry. But you see, I understand why you said those things, and I sympathise. I just want Honda-san to stop feeling sad, that's all."
They stopped as the approached the school gates once again.
"I suppose we must part ways now," said Itsuki, cheerfully. "I must go and accept any punishment from Suzumiya for being late to a club meeting, and I'm sure you're eager to get home. But it was nice talking to you."
And then, to Taniguchi's utter surprise, Itsuki leaned over quickly and kissed him as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Then he gave a perfectly casual 'See you tomorrow!' and strolled off towards the club house as though nothing unusual had happened.
After Itsuki was out of sight, Taniguchi finally shook himself out of his stunned trance and looked around frantically to see if anyone else had seen them. Not that it really mattered because everyone knew that Koizumi Itsuki was a weirdo and that Taniguchi liked girls, but to his relief the school yard was empty; everyone was either at their clubs or had already left for home. He turned and stared after Itsuki for a moment longer, and for the first time since he had entered high school, he wondered whether he should have joined a club. The afternoon ahead of him suddenly seemed like it would be far too long, and far too empty. He never thought he would say it, but suddenly joining the SOS Brigade seemed like a good idea.
Yet soon Taniguchi found himself turning away and walking through the school gates once more. The last thing he needed right now was to become one of Suzumiya's freaks.