That Last Hurdle
PG; All the Things (drabble series)
Summary: Shizuka ponders the facets of Watanuki, thinking back on when he had seen Watanuki talk to himself about dying alone.
Warnings: References to a possible pairing.

It didn't take a genius to figure out why Watanuki got so defensive when anyone looked at him.

No matter what, even he couldn't be used to being stared at –and ignored—when he'd flail and curse on the street, attacked by things only he could see. It was easier for him to make a lot of noise all the time because then, despite how embarrassing it really all was, it was a heck of a lot better than people staring and wondering. Or worse, pitying. This way, they just shook their heads or rolled their eyes. And looked away.

It also didn't take a genius to figure out why Watanuki didn't like it when people stayed near him.

People usually avoided spending too much time with him. He was always polite; very well mannered. But the regular and seemingly over-spastic fits in such a quiet society like Japan stood out where most common people did their best to blend in and be accepted. Watanuki neither fit in nor seemed to desire to –or so they thought—and that kind of put a damper on things. Watanuki simply got accustomed to people staying away and far away… unless they wanted something.

Suspicion made Watanuki guarded.

But this and the lucky side-effect of being able to tell when people were lying to him, no black smoke whispering from their lips as they spoke, made him able to recognise when someone genuinely needed help. And his well-protected heart --too big to be contained, really-- would exercise its capacity.

Usually after a thank you and a puzzled look, the person Watanuki had extended his bottomless kindness to would eventually go back to distancing themselves from 'that strange boy.' There were two categories of these people: the ones who immediately and very conveniently forgot he existed and went right back to their superficial friends, or the ones who were moved by him and declared him their new-found best friend. The latter kind did Watanuki the most damage. They would appreciate the gesture Watanuki had made in their time of need when those they called friends had not… but eventually be convinced away either at the first hint of whispers behind their backs or Watanuki's first spazz. Whichever came first.

Now if all that didn't already add up to screwing with poor Watanuki's head, he had also grown up alone and was therefore painfully shy.

He didn't know how to approach his peers nor had he ever known how to make acceptable come backs or keep up with the latest gossip. He couldn't go out and couldn't give a reason as to why, and he didn't even own a TV. There was a radio in his kitchen to which he pretended not to hum along to while preparing food, but that was it. He had no practical peer-skills. Oh, he knew the theory. He did, after all, read mind-boggling volumes of books… but then all the other factors came into play.

At some point, Watanuki pretty much left the rest of humanity alone.

The problem was, they'd done the same to him.

Shizuka had been part of that great number of people who had abandoned Watanuki. He hadn't even realised he had until he'd been walking home one relentlessly rainy day, gaze drawn by a familiar uniform standing by the city's central canal. It wasn't until he'd stopped and stared, his brain automatically supplying what it was in the figure's arms and in what state it was, that recognition finally dawned. He had spoken to the lonesome teen a few times, very rare few times where the exchange had been very generic. Usually when Kunogi, herself rather lonesome and perhaps had recognised a similarity to herself, had mentioned that it was their responsibility as class representatives to make sure all the students integrated well into their educational community.

But then Watanuki, ignoring the cold rain and still holding that dead puppy, finally spoke and Shizuka rather thought words like that should never be spoken and that tone of voice shouldn't exist,

"I'll die like this too someday." The flat voice held no real inflection, no emotion. Just a statement of fact the speaker had emotionally realised the truth of long ago and now merely wanted to hear aloud since the old truth finally had coherent words to it. But then the voice shifted, a touch of desolate resignation colouring his tone when he finished, "Alone."

Suddenly, Watanuki had looked inexplicably sad.

Shizuka couldn't see his face. But the sadness had been visible in every line of Watanuki's body. A forlorn, inevitable quality reserved for the poor souls last left behind when everyone they knew and loved had passed on… yet even those old folks at least had a foundation of contentment to hold on to, of a life long lived and lived well.

This speaker now was only his own age, and that sadness was just a dark fact.

Not too long after that day, whenever he'd spy Kunogi chatting with the quiet teen, he'd wander over. In the weeks since The Day in the Rain, Shizuka had slowly noticed how easy it was to overlook Watanuki, how apart he was from the eye-catching crowd. It took him some practice to notice the boy himself.

And he almost immediately wondered how he could have missed Watanuki in the first place.

But then he realised the truths about the teen, one after another in rapid succession. After all, it didn't take a genius. And he spared Kunogi more attention; she obviously had known what she was talking about.

Eventually, Shizuka came to a conclusion –that while all the facts he'd realised did not take much brain power to achieve, there existed another fact: No one looked.

No one cared to look. Not beyond their starring roles in their drama soap opera lives. No one cared, period. Then Shizuka found that he did, in fact, care. After that surprising point came into recognition and he went about doing something about it, it was without surprise that this fact scared the living daylights out of poor Watanuki.

Well, Shizuka thought, Watanuki could be an idiot. But he rather thought this particular gentle soul of an idiot would care to look, see him, and maybe it wouldn't take any genius brain power for Watanuki to figure him out too.

Well, it didn't take long at all.

Now to just get past all that denial…