Both Shiawase Kissa Sanchoume and Number One DX are owned by Matsuzuki Kou. Standard disclaimers apply.
Taking The Lead
Chapter 2: Doubts
Aizawa Hajime was trying not to be overly conscious of the person beside him but was failing miserably. It didn't help that the person in question, one Arimoto Ichi, was a longtime crush that, just a few minutes ago, returned his feelings (after an accidental confession) and is now helping him walk home.
His house was just a few blocks away from school and he was probably still strong enough to get home even with the flu rapidly draining his strength. But she offered to help and he didn't want to argue.
Not that there was a reason for him to argue. If anything, he was overjoyed at the physical contact. The slightly wider than normal shoulders that he was leaning on wasn't as rigid or "manly" as he imagined; they were actually soft, albeit a bit toned. The hand that was holding her arm in place on her shoulders also wasn't rough and calloused as he expected from the basketball player; it was still as smooth and supple as the time they had the "hand size contest" years ago.
And the hair... having taken a post-practice shower, the scent of her shampoo still lingered.
To Aizawa, it was almost intoxicating.
But for all the giddiness and awkwardness that her companion was feeling, Arimoto didn't seem to notice. To her, he was just a sick guy (who just confessed his feelings and got his feelings reciprocated) who was leaning on her for support, speaking up once in a while to give her directions.
She was also struggling to not be overly conscious of him, though for slightly different reasons.
"Do I really deserve this?"
Arimoto began to doubt the situation after a couple of blocks of walking.
It didn't take long for her to realize (again) that she was practically hugging one of the most popular guys in school. Most of the girls in school would have probably fainted by now if they were placed in her position, physical contact and all.
And that's not counting a love confession.
Shaking that thought out of her head, Arimoto turned her attention back to their current position. She noted that while the student council president wasn't really heavy, he wasn't just skin and bones like his outside appearance would suggest. Through the arm supporting his back, she could feel the well toned muscles underneath his shirt. She also noted that she couldn't seem to feel his ribs on the shoulder where he's leaning on, hinting that his front was as well built as his back.
"He's probably sexier now compared to the last time I saw him half-naked for swimming class."
She groaned and scolded herself mentally for even thinking those thoughts.
She took a quick glance at him. Being sick and exhausted, his trademark grin was nowhere to be seen. But even with his disheveled look, it was not hard to see why a lot of girls swoon over him. While people could debate whether one should consider his soft features "handsome" or "girly", everyone seems to agree that the student council president was cute.
"And I'm not."
"I don't see why he'd settle for a tomboy like me."
She tried to her best, but she just can't seem to keep negative thoughts from popping into her head.
"Does he really like me? Or is this all just a joke, him getting back at me for all the times I made fun of him?"
Fortunately, Aizawa interrupted her from continuing that depressing line of thought.
Mrs. Aizawa, the matriarch of the Aizawa household, was chopping vegetables when a voice came out from the house's entrance.
It was obviously Hajime, her son, as it was too early for her husband to come home. Still, there was something in his voice that made her worry a bit.
"Um... sorry for the intrusion," another voice came from the entrance piqued her interest further.
A female voice. And it wasn't her daughter's.
Setting aside the vegetables for the moment, Mrs. Aizawa exited the kitchen to check the newcomers. Entering the living room she could see her son and a girl getting taking off their shoes. Her son's face was flushed and his movements were sluggish.
Next to him was a dark hared girl about his height. Mrs. Aizawa noted that she had Hajime's bag on her shoulder and there was a touch of worry on her face.
"Welcome home," she spoke up to get their attention.
"And you are?" she asked the dark haired girl, wondering why she was accompanying her son.
Aizawa's mom's appearance surprised the two, but somehow Aizawa found his voice.
"Ah.. she's Arimoto, an old classmate," he started to explain. "I fainted at school so she sort of helped me get here."
The name sounded familiar, but maternal instincts took over quickly and before she knew it, Mrs. Aizawa was in front of her son with a hand on his forehead to check feel his temperature.
"Uh... yeah.. I'm Arimoto Ichi. Pleased to meet you..." the girl started to introduce herself as the family matriarch was checking over her son.
"I think he's got the flu," she added. "There's a nasty bug going around in school right now..."
Mrs. Aizawa glanced over to the dark haired girl. She furrowed her brow at the name "Arimoto Ichi". There was something familiar with it, but she couldn't put a finger on it...
She turned back to her son. His warm forehead told her that he was indeed very sick, but it wasn't the sign she was looking for. Taking her hand off his forehead, she leaned a bit closer and looked at her son in the eye.
"That Arimoto Ichi?"
She didn't have to voice it, and it seemed that he understood. He slightly turned away and on his tired face was slightly sheepish smile.
An "I've been caught" look.
Straightening up, she turned to regard Arimoto.
"Oh, where are my manners," she innocently started. "I'm Hajime's mother."
"Thanks for helping Hajime get home," she continued. "You know he can get stubborn sometimes."
"Uh, no problem." Arimoto answered, unconsciously scratching the back of her head in embarrassment.
"Aww.. how cute..."
Mrs. Aizawa silently gushed at the now awkwardly acting couple. It was only a few days ago that she saw her son wistfully daydreaming about the girl beside him now and from the looks of things, all it took for them to express their true feelings was for one of them to fall terribly sick and the other to take care of the former.
Cheesy romantic manga cliche or not, the whole thing was simply adorable.
Then she got an idea.
"Ichi-san, could you do me a favor?" she innocently asked, "We ran out of flu medicine recently and I have to run out to buy some for Hajime. Can you help him get to his room upstairs?"
"I think I can get to my room by myself, mom..."
"Ignore him, Ichi-san," the older Aizawa brushed her son's comments off, "He'll probably fall down the stairs if you leave him alone."
Arimoto turned to look at Aizawa's reaction to her mother's statements only to see the white haired teen sigh in defeat.
"This way," he motioned as he started to lead Arimoto to his room.
Arimoto blinked at his odd behavior but quickly recovered. Taking her leave, the dark haired girl gave a quick nod to the elder Aizawa before proceeding to follow the younger Aizawa.
Once the two teens were out of the room, Mrs. Aizawa broke into a giggle. The Aizawa household does, in fact, have enough flu medicine on hand.
"On second thought, I shouldn't take long to buy medicine," she mused while trying to suppress her giggles, "They won't do anything when they think I'm going to arrive any second."
"After he takes his medicine... now, that would be a perfect opportunity for those two to spend a bit of quality time."
To preserve the illusion of going out, she went back to her preparing dinner, all the while humming happily at the thought of her son finally having progress with the girl of his dreams.
"Hmm.. not bad," Arimoto mused as Aizawa ushered her into his room.
Apart from its tidiness, the room looked like an average student's room. There were the usual stuff like the bed, bookshelf, and dresser. Two posters lined the wall, one of a blockbuster action movie a couple years back and another of a popular international football team.
The only thing messy in the room was his desk. Various books and sheets of paper were scattered haphazardly around a closed laptop.
"Glad to see the president's working hard."
The dark haired her attention away from the desk and back to Aizawa, who had plopped down on his bed while she was scanning his room. Even through the dim light of the late afternoon sun, she could easily see how sick and exhausted her "old classmate" was.
"Where should I put your bag?" she asked after realizing that she was still carrying his.
"You could it there," he absentmindedly pointed to his desk. "The chair and the floor are both fine."
"Okay," she responded as she went over to the desk, pulling the chair to allow her to place his bag on it. She seemed to see something odd on his desk but brushed it off, noting that she had more important things to think about, namely the person lying on the bed.
"Need anything else?" she asked while laying down her own bag to the floor to free her arms.
Aizawa turned to look at her and just blinked.
"Uh.." she looked away and felt heat rising up her cheeks.
"Your mom won't be here for a while and I thought you might need something.." she rambled on trying to hide her embarrassment. Shared confessions or not, she still wasn't used to being nice to the guy.
The white haired teen considered her for a moment before sitting up smiling.
"Maybe you could help me change?"
Arimoto turned to him with a shocked look on her face, which quickly changed to an annoyed one.
"You can't even stand but you still do that."
He gave her the best "President Aizawa smile" he could give in his condition, forcing her to sigh in defeat.
"Seriously though, I need to change," he returned to his normal self, noting how damp his clothes are from sweat, "Can you get me a pair of pajamas from the middle drawer of my dresser?"
The tall girl hesitated for a moment, wondering if it's a sincere request or just a ploy to get her to see his underwear drawer. But then she realized the absurdity of that scenario and just went ahead and complied with his request.
"Here you go," Arimoto handed Aizawa the pajama set she got from the dresser.
"Thanks," he replied as he received the set from her.
"There's a basin and a washcloth in the bathroom at the far end of the hall," he continued, his voice a bit hoarse. "You could go get them while I change..."
He paused to give another mischievous smile at the dark haired girl.
"...but you're also free to watch me change."
Arimoto rolled her eyes.
"Just quit it, Aizawa" she berated him.
"And besides, it's not like I'm going to see anything new." she continued, dismissing his latest attempt at annoying her. "PE swimming classes remember?"
"So you're ok with me undressing in front of you?" he teased, slowly unbuttoning his uniform.
"Nope, no problem" she folded her arms and shrugged as if to tell him that it's no big deal.
Deep inside, however, Arimoto was starting to feel uneasy about the situation.
"Really?" he asked again while taking off his shirt, his wet undershirt sticking to his body leaving little to the imagination.
"Definitely different from the last time I saw him..." she mentally whistled as she admired his physique.
Aizawa was in the process of taking off his undershirt giving Arimoto a glimpse of his abs...
...before the she mentally slapped herself and turned around.
"Oh great, he just made me act like a perverted fangirl."
She groaned to herself, hearing his light chuckle behind her over her reaction.
"I'm not going to hear the end of this for weeks."
"I'm gonna get the washcloth..." she declared as she made her way out into the hallway.
But as she was going out, she saw something from the corner of her eye that made her heart sink...
Arimoto returned to Aizawa's room just in time to see him pop a couple of pills and wash it down with a glass of water. His mother was sitting beside him on the bed, carrying a tray with another glass.
"Ichi-san, you're here," the elder Aizawa noted her arrival, "and I see you've got something for Hajime..."
The dark haired girl looked down at the basin of water in her arms.
"Oh my, I think I forgot to turn off the stove," Mrs. Aizawa interrupted her before she could say anything. After setting the tray on the floor, she stood up and hurriedly went for the door, stopping briefly to bow at Arimoto.
"I leave my son to your care, Ichi-san."
She was out of the room before the Arimoto could respond. The dark haired girl turned to Aizawa, but he just shrugged at her mother's odd behavior before placing the now-empty glass of water on the tray and starting to slip under the sheets of his bed.
Seeing that she won't get any explanations from what just happened, Arimoto shrugged on her own.
Immerse cloth in water. Wring excess water. Wipe down the person's face and neck to cool them down. Immerse/wring the cloth again. Fold the damp cloth and place it on the person's forehead...
Arimoto knelt beside the bed as she went ahead with what Mrs. Aizawa expected her to do. The procedure itself was simple; anyone who had a fever would know how to do it.
The sick person on the bed, however, noticed something suspicious about her actions.
The way she used the cloth on him felt... blank. It didn't feel like he was being taken care of by a friend or even an enemy.
And she hasn't spoken a word yet. Something was definitely wrong.
"Is something bothering you?" the white haired teen broke the silence.
"Huh?" She was drying her hands on another hand towel and didn't expect him to talk for a while.
"You don't seem alright," Aizawa continued, "Is it because of how mom made you do this?"
"No, it's ok..."
While it did seem that she was fine with his mom's request, it was clear that she had a problem with something.
"Are you sure nothing's wrong?" he asked again, a bit gentler this time.
She didn't respond. Seeing her blank expression and how she clenched the towel before putting it down, he decided not to press her any further.
"Hey.." Arimoto spoke up after finishing her glass of water. She sat beside the bed, hands holding the glass on her lap and still with a blank expression on her face.
"Yes?" Aizawa sleepily responded. His body really wanted to sleep, but he kept himself awake in case the girl beside her finally told him what was bothering her.
"Am I the only girl in your life?"
That woke him up.
"I mean, aside from your mother and sister, of course."
Normally she would be a bit embarrassed for leaving such an obvious hole in her questioning, but instead her tone was cold.
"Yes... you might even say you're my 'number one'."
He thought the overly cheesy pun/reference to their earlier conversation would lighten up the mood.
But it didn't. If anything, it only made her tone even more colder.
"...and you don't have anyone else? A 'number two', perhaps?"
Aizawa frowned at the question.
"Well, I did have some crushes in grade school," he admitted. "But come middle school, I never looked at anyone like that other than you."
"So you're telling me that I'm the only one you like?"
A simple answer delivered with total conviction. Gone was his happy-go-lucky persona – he was serious and he wanted the person in front of him to believe it.
But Arimoto didn't buy it.
Instead, she put her glass down and stood up to walk to his table. There, partially hidden behind a stack of paper was a small picture frame.
With a picture of an elegant-looking girl in a yukata.
Arimoto hastily grabbed the frame off the desk and went back to Aizawa, holding the object in front of him in an accusing manner.
"Who the hell is this girl then?"
She expected him to be shocked, sweating bullets from being caught. Or at least put on his poker face and brush off her accusation with a well-thought out excuse.
But even with the evidence less than a mere foot away from his face, the only thing he did was blink.
Aizawa blinked, and between blinks he alternated from looking at the picture to looking at the furious girl holding the picture.
"Aren't you gonna say something about this?" she asked, her tone filled with anger and frustration. She didn't want to doubt the things he said moments ago, but his odd response to her "evidence" only served to worsen the situation.
Instead of answering, the sick teen rolled to face the other direction, hastily putting a hand to cover his mouth.
It was futile, though, as it was obvious that he was trying to hold back a laugh.
"Dammit, what's so funny?"
The dark haired girl couldn't take it anymore. From his reaction, it was clear that everything was just a joke. He was sick so there was nothing to stop him from playing with her heart. Had he failed in getting a reaction from her with his fake confession, he could just blame his action later on the flu.
But he did get a reaction. He got an awkward confession. He got her to help him walk home. He got her to stare at his half-naked body and got her to put a damp washcloth on his head.
Aizawa won this round.
"If only it didn't hurt like this..."
Before she could do anything rash, however, the white haired teen rolled to face her again.
In a moment, the hand covering his mouth was now pointing at her direction.
It was now her turn to blink.
Then she realized something: she never got a good look at the picture she was holding. Though there was enough late afternoon sun trickling through Aizawa's room's windows to get around, it was getting hard to see the details of the things around the room, like the titles of the books on his shelf. The stack of paper where she had dug out the frame also covered a good portion of the picture.
Then it hit her.
"Wait, didn't he point to me like that back at the shoe lockers..."
She turned the picture over.
What she saw drained her of all her anger and made her sink to the floor.
It was a picture of herself in a yukata, laughing softly.
It was so easy to mistake the person in the picture for another girl. From afar, it really didn't look like she was the one in the picture; the way the picture was taken practically made her look like a different person. The angle it was taken and the lack of other people in the picture made her look a bit shorter. And her smiling face plus her relaxed posture made her also look a lot more feminine than usual.
If it wasn't for the yukata's familiar design and the scene in the background, she wouldn't know that it was a picture of her in last year's summer festival.
"I can't believe I can be this... beautiful?"
Suddenly noticing her position, kneeling against Aizawa's bed, Arimoto buried her head on the sheets.
"That was embarrassing."
Aizawa finally let out the chuckle he was holding back.
"Not as bad blurting out a love confession in front of your shoe locker," He noted with soft amusement.
She unburied her head from the sheets went back to looking at the picture.
"Nice pic of me you have here..." she noted some of the finer details of the picture which she held in her hands.
"I still can't believe that I look this good. Was this photo-shopped?" she asked with a bit of disbelief in her tone. She didn't want to accuse him of doing anything weird, but she was really curious about the picture.
"Nope, you really look that cute," he replied. "I couldn't believe it myself, but your vice representative also provided the negatives so I'm sure.."
Aizawa stopped himself when he realized his mistake.
"..I shouldn't have said that."
"She what?" Arimoto wondered how the vice representative got into the picture.
"I got it from your vice representative," he admitted, sighing audibly in the process. "I don't blame you if you think I'm creepy for buying that picture."
Arimoto considered him for a moment before chuckling.
"Nah, it's ok. I think I understand."
She looked back at the picture and continued studying it, her doubts to Aizawa's sincerity slipping by with every odd detail in her attractive self that caught her eye. She also recalled the vice rep carrying an old-style camera that day, lending credibility to his claim that negatives were involved.
"How much?" she couldn't help but ask.
It was his turn again to chuckle.
"You don't want to know."
"Really?" she raised an eyebrow to the vague answer. "Am I that cheap?"
"Let's just say your friends take joy in knowing they can charge me a lot for things like that."
"That's nice to hear."
"Things like that, huh..." she smirked as a good comeback popped into her head. "I hope those things are just pictures..."
The sick teen gave her an odd look, wondering what she was talking about. From her mischievous smirk, he quickly figured it out.
"I wouldn't...!" he cried out, aghast that she even considered him to be perverted enough to buy certain articles of her clothing.
The dark haired girl couldn't help but laugh at his reaction.
Aizawa was not amused.
"Tell you what," she tried to speak between laughs. "I won't call you a pervert for buying whatever..."
She looked away a bit, a hint of a blush forming on her cheeks.
"...if you don't call me a pervert for staring at you while you were changing."
Noting her unusual shift in behavior, Aizawa lightened up.
"Deal." he answered.
Finally finding the whole situation funny, if not totally weird, he broke into a chuckle of his own. Arimoto resumed her laughter too, and soon both were laughing at how crazy things have become since the accident at school about an hour ago.
By the time they finished laughing, they found themselves looking at each other. No words were spoken, and a comfortable silence hung in the air.
Arimoto studied Aizawa's features again for the second time today. Even though he was tucked in his bed, all tired and disheveled with a washcloth on his forehead, there was something strangely appealing about him.
Maybe it was because he wasn't being his annoying self right now. Maybe it was because he was really smiling and not just giving her his stupid trademark grin. Maybe it was because the way he was looking at her made her feel like he really cares.
Whatever it was, Arimoto found it tempting to just reach out and...
"It's getting late," she tore herself away from him the second time today.
"Mom's probably worried about me by now." she hastily made an excuse, cheeks burning from embarrassment. From the corner of her eye, she could see the white haired boy blink at her sudden movement. He was surprised but he nodded in agreement.
The dark haired girl stood up. Seeing the washcloth on his forehead as she took quick a look at him, she absentmindedly checked the damp cloth with her free hand. It was warm, but not hot enough to require a fresh soak. She turned the cloth over to let the cooler side rest on his forehead. The boy watched silently, and gave her a quick thanks once she was done.
Picture frame still on hand, she went over to his desk. Stopping for a moment to think of a good place to set the picture, she eventually decided to let the frame stand next to his laptop. After admiring her handiwork, she got her bag off the floor and walked towards the door.
Before opening the door, she turned to wave farewell at the boy on the bed.
"See you around, President Aizawa"
Seeing him smile and nod in response, she turned to leave.
She was almost out of the door when she heard him bidding her farewell.
"Take care, Ichi-san."
Aizawa started to panic when he saw the dark haired girl stop in her tracks and turn to him with a surprised look upon hearing her first name.
But before he could apologize for going out of line, blaming his fever, the drugs, and his mother's constant use of her first name, he saw her features relax. With a soft smile on her face, she walked back to his bedside.
"Uh..." was all Aizawa could get out. Even though their gazes were locked at each other, he couldn't figure anything out from the look in her eyes.
Was she angry that he had the audacity to call her at first name basis this early in their relationship? Or was this a sign that she was fine with him calling her like that?
Aizawa was still wondering what was happening when Arimoto made her move.
She leaned in close, her nose almost touching his.
As if enjoying his panicked reaction, Arimoto widened her smile to a grin.
And then closed her eyes as she softly placed her lips on his.
It wasn't really a kiss, as the two would argue about it in their countless conversations later.
It was more like an extended peck, and somehow he was able to close his eyes and return it for a few moments before she pulled away.
Opening his eyes, he could see her still leaning close but with a much goofier grin than she had before. The same goofy grin that he was probably having right now.
Ichi reached over to pat him on the chest to break the silence between them.
"Get well soon, Hajime-kun."