Second Beats

A Katawa Shoujo fanfic.

Disclaimer: 4 Leaf Studios made no money out of Katawa Shoujo. Neither do I.

Author's Notes:

This fanfic contains spoilers for Hanako's route.

I'm starting to like writing in present tense first person perspective. Imagine that.

/ Another Duck

Second Beats

My eyes slowly open to a bright room. It's too blurry to recognise anything, but I do recall that my room should have a wall next to the bed. This room has open spaces on both sides of the bed. Hmm... This smell... I'm in a hospital. That's right. That continuous beeping from the heart monitor. I've heard it so much I tune it out automatically.

Why am I here?

My head hurts when I try to recall what happened. What time is it? What date is it?

An unfamiliar smell reaches my nose. So it's not just the sterile hospital that smells. I look to the side, and spot a plate with some food on it. It's very simple. Rice, some vegetables, and a few strips of meat. It's not hospital food.

Nothing seems wrong when I sit up, carefully. I feel relatively fine, if a bit tired. My heart is beating as it should. I pick up the food and start eating. It's a little bland, but not bad at all.

So, why am I here again?

"Get out of here!"

Almost in panic, I look around, but I'm alone. The voice echoes in my head. I almost drop the fork as I remember.

"I know I need help! I know I'm broken! I don't need you to tell me that!"

Hanako. We... had a fight. Well, that would be to put it mildly.

"I hate you more than anyone...!"

That's right. She hates me. She said so herself. No, she screamed it as loudly as she could. It cut right to my heart. Was that why I had a heart attack? Somehow, that seems appropriate. I don't think anything could strike as deeply as...

I set the half-eaten plate back on the small table next to the bed. I don't think I can eat more.

Actually, I change my mind. I need to eat. I can't waste away at the hospital. Not again. Never again. It would be an affront to everything I've learned the past few weeks. To my teachers. To my friends. To Hanako.

I need to pull myself together and think about the future. What future do I have? What do I want?

My thoughts make the world fade away.


As soon as I hear the sound, my eyes turn towards the door. It's not who I expect. Hanako.

Wordlessly she moves closer. Physically, at least. Emotionally we might as well be on different planets.

It's only when she takes the now empty plate from me that I realise her left arm is in a sling. Did she hurt herself? I open my mouth to ask, but no sound comes out.

My chance is gone when she simply turns and walks out. There's something different about her. Well, it's only natural, considering what happened. I can't even imagine what she's thinking now.

Wait, she's the one who brought the food? How... why... why would she do that? After... Now I can imagine even less what she's thinking about. It just doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

I just sit and stare at the door. I don't know how much time passes, but my mind has just ground to a halt.


Again, the door brings me out of my daydream and into reality. This time it's the nurse. That brings up another realisation. I'm still at school.

"How are you feeling, Hisao?"

"I don't feel like there's anything wrong with me. I feel fine."

"You don't sound like it."

His words are probably true. However, physically, I am fine.

"I'm just trying to figure out what's happened. I don't remember my heart attack, and I don't know how I got here."

"Hmm... Well, you're well enough to remain here at the school. We didn't see the need to move you to a real hospital. While your attack did knock you out for a while, it wasn't as serious as your first one. I want to keep you under observation for a few days, though."

"So how did I get here, then?"

He takes some time to answer. Maybe he doesn't know if it's something he should tell me. Eventually, he speaks up.

"I wasn't there when it happened, but your friend Hanako brought you here."

"Hanako brought me here? How did she do that?"

"Well, I met her here outside in the corridor. She was carrying you."

"Carrying me? I didn't know she was that strong..."

He gave out a short laugh. "You're starting to sound like a parrot."

I just stared at him. He always had a knack for those ill-timed jokes.

"I think you should ask her about it. There are some details I'm not allowed to say."

"Patient confidentiality? Is that why she was injured?"

I don't get an answer, though I didn't expect one.

"You should get some rest now. Your classes end in a few hours, and you might get some visitors then."

I hear the faint sound of the school bells. It probably means classes ends now. I wonder if anyone will come. I don't have that many friends who would come and see me. Still, the ones I have have been good to me.

It doesn't take all that long until there's a knock on the door.

"Come in."

"Hello! How are you doing?"

That's Misha, speaking with a subdued voice, for once, which basically means her volume is normal. Seems she has some tact, after all.

"I'm fine, thank you. Maybe a little tired."

"Oh. Should we leave you alone, then?"

"Nah, come in. I've been lying here all day. A little company couldn't hurt."

It's first at that point she walks into the room, with the silent-as-usual Shizune following. Before turning to me, they sign a bit between each other, probably to let the deaf half of the pair catch up on the situation.

"Will you be all right?"

"Yeah, don't worry. A little heart attack isn't going to stop me." I smile at them, which has the reaction I wanted. They both visible relax, even before Misha manages to translate what I said.

"Do you want any notes from class?"

That's got to be Shizune talking.

"I can manage, thanks."

We chat for a while. Nothing heavy, just light hearted stuff. It's a little different for me to see Shizune this relaxed. She's always so competitive and on edge. Right now, she just seems genuinely concerned. Misha is much the same, but it's easier to imagine her as such. Even if she isn't as loud as usual.

Shizune signs something to Misha that makes her frown briefly, but she quickly goes back to her usual, perky self.

"We need to go now. Shicchan's hungry, so we're gonna get some dinner. You take care of yourself, you hear?"

That's more like the usual Misha.


"What is it, Hicchan?"

"Can you do me a favour?"

"Hmm." She glances over to Shizune and exchanges a few signs, then gives me a smirk. No doubt she learnt it from Shizune. "That might cost you..."

"Oh, well, I can always ask someone else instead."

She quickly holds up her hands in defence. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding! What do you need?"

"Could you ask Mutou for some brochures about further education? I want to see if I can find something interesting."

"Oh, okay!"

Shizune signs something.

"It's good that you're thinking of your future. We're also going to bring you homework"

"Aww, do you really have to?"

I get one of her trademark wide grins in response.

"We can't have the best student in class dropping out now, can we?"

Best student is a bit of an exaggeration. I think. Well, the science bits aren't that hard. History and English, on the other hand... Well, at least I have two good friends left. The world isn't going under, after all.

Almost as soon as they have left, the door opens again. In walks Hanako. Again, I just can't think of anything to say. I can only manage to watch her in silence as she approaches. She's avoiding my eyes.

It's only when she places a plate on my legs I notice she's brought dinner. Without waiting for me, she begins eating from her own plate.

After the fight we had, and she still wants to take care of me? I just can't believe it. That, and a few other things.

"You like taking care of me, don't you?"

There's a slight nod. After she's chewed and swallowed what she had in her mouth, she turns to me.

"It's... it's like revenge."

It takes me a while to notice the smile she has, and realise it was a joke. I begin to chuckle. That's a tension breaker if anything. Still, it's a very harsh joke, once I think about it. Nothing the old Hanako would make. Well, the old Hanako wouldn't joke much at all. It must have taken a lot of strength to use the feelings that broke us apart for a joke. Or maybe it's how she deals with it.

We eat in silence, as we usually do. It's some kind of curry mix. I think it's been reheated in a microwave, as it tastes like a day old curry. That's usually the best tasting curry.

I finish a little earlier than her. It does slow her down a bit since she's sitting a little awkwardly with the plate in her lap, rather than holding it with her left hand.

When she's finished, she takes both plates and places them on the table next to her.

We sit in silence for a while. It's a little tense, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

"So, um... I'm grateful." At least I managed to break the silence. I wasn't sure I had the strength to.

"You're welcome."

"Not just..." Now my mouth is going places before I can think about it. "...not just for the food. But for bringing me here. For being my friend. For... everything."

She's got a steeled expression on her face. It's like she's forcing herself not to react. I can understand that. I think.

"I don't understand why you would help me after... our fight."

"I... I didn't want you to die."

"I thought you hated me."

"No! I mean..."

She catches her outburst and tries to calm down. You don't need to be a mind-reader to understand that she's got some powerful conflicting emotions boiling behind those pretty eyes of hers.

"I... I hate the way you treated me."

That stings. Well, considering the alternative, I think I can't complain. The worst part of it is that I agree with her.

There are so many things I want to know. So many things I don't understand. I start with the easiest.

"What happened after my heart attack? I don't remember anything of it."

I can instantly tell it's not a pleasant memory for her. It must've looked very bad.

"I... I saw you fall down, clutching your heart. I thought... I thought you got a heart attack because of what I said."

That may not be entirely untrue. The emotional shock could easily have triggered something. I can't tell her, that, though. She's got enough on her shoulders. For all my consideration, I don't stop her.

"So I thought you would die if I didn't do anything. I... I pulled you up on my shoulders and carried you to the infirmary."

"I didn't think you were that strong."

"I'm... not." There's a faint blush on her cheeks as she tells me this. "I'm kind of tall, so that helps. The nurse said... adrenaline made me stronger. But... but I wasn't strong enough. I... I tore up several muscles."

"Is that why your arm is in a sling?"

She nods.

I feel kind of bad for that. No, not kind of. Definitely. I'm still hesitant to make an apology for it. I don't think she would appreciate it.

"How is your arm?"

"I'm... I'll be fine."

Her slight correction is enough to make me smile. It doesn't seem much, but it makes all the difference in the world to me. Still. There's so much more I want to know... So much more I want.

"I want to know... why. How can you help me when... What I've done..."

I can't get the words out. They're all fighting amongst each other, fighting to see which words will come out first. But it all just ends in chaos. Nothing comes out.

Hanako rises and picks up the plates. She doesn't say anything. She just... leaves.

"Tomorrow... I'll come tomorrow."

Then she closes the door behind her.

I let out a sigh of relief. There's still a connection between us. I don't know what kind of connection. I don't know how distant we are now, but... there's a connection. Maybe we can't be friends anymore. Maybe we can. Whatever it may be, I'm glad it's something.

One, two days pass us by. Three times a day, Hanako comes to visit, to feed me. We don't talk much. We don't talk about us. It's not awkward. It's not happy. It just is.

I also got some homework from Shizune and Misha. While it's not the most fun way to spend the time, it keeps me from getting bored. The brochures were quite helpful as well. Maybe not so much to spend the time, but to give myself an aim for the future. Having that in my mind makes me a lot more reassured about my life.

I wonder how it will continue once I rejoin the class again. The nurse told me I can leave when I feel like it. He's satisfied with how my heart functions.

School's almost over for the day. I think this is a good time to leave.

I stand up for the first time in... I don't know exactly how long it is now. Too many days. I stretch, and I feel the blood rushing through my body. My head feel a little light, but it's nothing to worry about. I would be surprised if I didn't feel anything.

My clothes lie in a pile on the chair in the corner of the room. While I can get dressed rather quickly, which I got used to back in my old school, I take my time. I don't remember who it was I told, but I've never been on time as much as I am now, in this school.

Hanako usually comes over around this time, so I sit down on the bed and wait. She probably knows I've been officially released by now, but she might come anyway.

Even though I was waiting for it, the click from the door catches me off guard.


"Hello." Hanako's voice is quiet, as usual, and relaxed. "You're up."

I can't help but smile when I hear the very slight tinge of surprise in her voice. A positive kind of surprise. I think she smiles too, but it's hard to tell.

"I kind of want to eat outside today."

This makes her smile a little clearer. She pushes the door open for me, and stands in the hallway. When I reach for one of the plates of food she's holding, she starts to walk for the exit. I guess she wants to carry them herself.

When we pass by the nurse's office, the door is open. I look in to see him on the phone, deep into a conversation. Despite that, he notices me, and waves. I take that as a sign that he's okay with me leaving, and I wave back.

Hanako and I find a bench with a table just outside. I think she's glad to have a real table to eat at, since her arm is still in a sling.

The outdoors is wonderful. The smell of grass, leaves, and flowers makes my mind relax completely. There's a slight breeze, so it's a little cool, but not chilly.

"It... it will get cold."

"What do you... oh." The food. I sheepishly start to eat. I forgot all about it in the elation of being outside. "I need to pay you back for the food some day."

She shakes her head.

"But it must've costed you—"


Her voice isn't very strong. Yet it manages to be very firm and resolute. I can't find any room for negotiations in it. It surprises me. This was not something I expected her to feel so strongly about, but if she does...

"Okay. It makes me feel a little guilty, though."

"Too bad."

Wait, what? Did she just say what I think she said? A flash thought from a few days ago strikes me.

"Oh, I get it. Revenge, was it?"

She nods, clearly satisfied with the situation.

I really don't know what to say after that, but the following silence is far from awkward.

It's the first day of school for me in a while. With a little apprehension, I enter the classroom door.

"Hey!" Misha's the first to notice me. It makes sense, since she's often turned towards Shizune, which is in the same direction as the door.

Naturally, her less-than-subtle greeting causes everyone else to notice me. In a way, it's more embarrassing than the first time I entered the room. Back then, I didn't know anyone. Now, when I do, it feels a little more... intimate? No, but something in that direction. They're not complete strangers.

Hanako's here too. I think she looks in my direction, but it's hard to tell. Her bangs cover most of her face from this direction. She's also holding a book in front of her face. She might be trying to hide behind it, but she kind of looks like she's actually reading it.

I smile and nod to her, and I receive a nod back. So she was watching me. When I get to my desk I notice she has gone back to her book, and she's not paying me any attention.

"I've missed you!"

The cheerful-as-ever Misha grabs my arm in an energetic hug. It's actually a little more affectionate than her usual antics, but hardly out of place for her. For anyone else, perhaps, but not for her.

"You've seen me every day, haven't you?"

She grins at me. "True, but you haven't been in class. Welcome back!"

"If some people could extract themselves from others, I would like to start the class."

It's not often you see Misha blush, but this is one such occasion. She's so cute I can't help but smile at her, although the situation is still embarrassing to me as well. Naturally, the rest of the class laughs at her, or at least, trying not to. Aside from Hanako, who I've realised is far better at hiding her emotions than I've given her credit for. And Shizune doesn't look too happy either.

Mutou is good at getting people's attention when he wants to. I guess that's another reason he's actually a fairly good teacher. Despite being somewhat dull in his language while actually teaching.

I quickly find out that I haven't missed as much as I feared. The homework the Student Council members brought me covered almost everything. Mutou's kind enough to let me off the hook as far as the exercises go, and that's what I haven't been doing in bed.

Another thing I notice is that Hanako is much more active in the lesson than she used to be. It's not that she talks a lot, or answers a lot of questions, because she does neither, but she's really focused on the task. It's very much like when she's playing a game.

I find that it's not so much something I'm surprised about, but something I expected. I really have changed my perception of her.

When the lunchtime bell rings, Misha has apparently forgotten all about the scalding comment she got this morning. She grabs my arm and starts pulling me, just as enthusiastically as she did before.

"Come on, Hicchan! We're having lunch together!"

There's really little I can do about it. First, she's stronger than she appears, and second, I don't think I actually mind it.

I'm not going to say that I miss the school lunch. I mean, the food Hanako provided me during my absence was by a few degrees better than in the cafeteria. However, eating here again is sort of nostalgic. It makes me feel as if I'm back for real. It's weird how even a brief hospital stay affects me this much.

Misha blabbers constantly, sometimes with food in her mouth, sometimes while signing furiously to let Shizune into the conversation, and sometimes she actually lets us be a part of said conversation.

It's funny, really, how much effort she puts into it. I mean, it's Misha, and she's always energetic, but this is beyond that. I don't know whether it's because she actually missed me, or if she's just trying to make me feel better. Probably both, knowing her. She's always been one to wear her heart on her sleeves.

Shizune's a lot harder to analyse. She does seem to be a little down. Maybe Misha's doing this for her sake as well? However, Shizune is still trying to keep up. I think it's only the fact that Misha has to hold two conversations at once that slows her down enough for the rest of us to catch up.

Now that I think about it, most of the time, I get the feeling that Shizune is overshadowing Misha, despite the bubbly and loud personality she's got. Today, it's been the other way around. Actually, ever since I ended up in the hospital section of the school, Misha has been the one who has been forcefully forward and ecstatically energetic.

The bell eventually signals the end of lunch, and we, with some regret, make our way back to the classroom.

Friday. The day before a three-day weekend, which is always nice. Yesterday was in a lot of way a repetition of the day before, which was the first after my heart attack.

I'd like to say nothing unusual happened, but that's only because I've been getting used to how Hanako acts these days. She worked with Shizune, Misha, and myself on an assignment with almost the same dedication as the Student Council President herself, which is saying a lot. She's more active in class as well.

Yet, it bothers me. It's only for personal reasons, but she's kind of distant. Sure, it's what I expected after all I've done against her, but it still bothers me. Despite everything, I still want to be close to her. I don't want to protect her as much as I used to. I just... I don't know.

I wonder if I can ever have it back, what we used to have. Probably not, and probably for the better. As much as it bothers me.

I must have phased out completely, because Misha is shaking my shoulder.


"Are you going to sit here all day? Classes ended a minute ago."


"You have a note."


I look down at the desk. There's a neatly folded piece of paper in front of me. For obvious reasons, I have no idea how it got there. I carefully fold it up and read it.

"Meet me at the gates."

That's it.

"What's it say?"

"Nothing." I don't feel like explaining to Misha and Shizune, who're both hovering around me.

"So, do you want to hang out with us, then?"

"Sorry, I have something I need to do."

"So it did say something."

The wide grin on the pink-haired girl and the calculating glare from the bespectacled girl tells me they probably knew what it was saying even before I read it.

I can only sigh in response.

"Don't worry. We have work to do anyway. Have fun!"

I'm the last to leave the classroom.

I somehow think I'm not supposed to go to the gates directly from class. Or at least, that I have time enough to swing by my dorm room. I briefly consider changing into something else, but the school's dress code has been good to me so far. I ditch the tie, though.

When I get to the gate, I reconsider if I shouldn't have changed clothes, after all. Hanako stands there with her casual clothes, including her hat and jacket. I think it's a little hot for that, but it's her choice.

"Hey, there."

She jumps slightly, surprised at my presence.


Even if she's improved a lot mentally, she's still the skittish girl I've come to know. Or thought I knew, at any rate.

"What's the plan?"

"I thought we... could take a walk."

Nothing wrong with that suggestion. "Whereto?"

"Maybe... the woods? Somewhere with... few people."

"Sounds good."

We start walking away from the school, on a path I don't think I've used before. I don't know if Hanako has been here much before either.

If she wanted to go somewhere where we could be alone, and not one of our rooms, she must have something to talk about.

"So, what did you want to talk about?"


"You know, when you say it like that, it usually means something."

"No, I mean it. I thought... I thought you had something you wanted to talk about."

I almost stop as I look at her. Did I want to talk about something? Well... "Oh." I finally realise why. During class I've been casting glances her direction several times. She must've noticed that and thought there was something I wanted to talk about.

Well, she's right about that. I just need to find the words. It didn't go so well last time.

"Also... you've kind of ignored me the last few days."

"I have? I think it's just Misha who's been a little clingy lately, that's all."

Anyway. There are lots of things I have to talk about. "I don't know where to begin." At least it's an honest start.

"You don't have to... force yourself on my behalf."

I let out a chuckle, halfway amused, halfway in exasperation. As I realise why I react like that, I make a mental note to address that later.

"I want to know why you didn't just stop interacting with me. After what I did, it's kind of what I deserved."

There's silence between us as she ponders how to answer that. I think, anyway. She might just not want to answer at all.

"I wanted... I didn't want you to be right."

"Be right about what?" I honestly have no clue at what she's getting at here.

"You always... treated me as someone who needed protection. I didn't want that to be true."

"Is that why you were so insistent on helping me? To show you was someone who could do that too? Is that why you're starting to sound like I did?"


She doesn't usually think out loud like that. It's not an easy discussion, but I think we both need it.

"No, that's not... true. That was... curiosity, I guess."

Now she's making me curious. I don't hear any hesitation in her voice any more. Well, like me, she's searching for the right words to use, but she's not hesitant about telling me what she does.

"That was me wanting to see... to experience how it made you feel, when you were helping me. I thought I could maybe... understand you better that way."

"Did it help?"

"A little." She says that almost happily. "It's a good feeling."

Her smile can bring anyone up and out of depression. Rare as it is, it's just as precious. For someone who's always felt inadequate, the feeling of being of use to someone is wonderful. That's something I can empathise with.

"So, back to the first question."


Seems I caught her off guard. It is a harder question to answer, so I give her time. We walk in silence for a while, and I'm not entirely sure where we are. The path has been going upwards for quite some time, but that's about all I can say about it.

"If I just ran away, I... I would be someone who couldn't deal with hardships. I would be someone who needed protection. If I faced my fears... if I faced this... situation... I would prove to myself, and to you, that I was strong. That I didn't need protection."

I can tell she's forcefully composing herself. It looks like it must have been hard for her to say that. Still, it's all positive. Is that hard to speak about? What goes on behind those dark eyes of hers?

We arrive at a clearing. Or a meadow, really, high up on a hill. It feels like there's not a soul nearby. It's so peaceful here. I wish I had found this place earlier. Though, thinking about it, I'm not sure how to get here anyway. I hope we don't get lost on the way back.

I realise I should probably say something. This time, it's easier to find the words. I turn to look at her.

"You know something?"

She stops and turns towards me as well.

"I think that's probably the one area I'm ahead of you in. I've known for some time now that you don't need to be protected. You're not that fragile. No one who can get that angry fits that image. I'm actually glad that you got angry because that's the first time you told me your feelings. Your true feelings, and not just what you thought I wanted to hear. You told me so clearly even someone as dense as I could understand it."

Her wide open eyes shine in the evening sun, and she's got her hands clasped in front of her. I never realised she was this beautiful.

"I realised something else as well. You said you were broken, but you were wrong. You're not broken. You're not the one who's broken. I am. You always tried your best to open up. I always just shut you down. You tried so hard, and all I ever could was to pretend I was protecting you. It was all just an excuse. An excuse for me to forget about my past and my future. An excuse to forget about my own problems."

By now, I can see tears dripping down her cheek. I can see that, through my own, blurry eyes. But right now, I don't care.

"I'm just... I'm sorry for how I treated you, for everything."

"I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have..."

"Don't apologise for getting mad. Please don't."

"No! I'm sorry I... I led you on. It was just so nice to have someone who cared, even if it was hurting. I got used to feeling useless. I messed it all up by not saying anything. It's... my fault."

I can't do anything but take a step forward and wrap my arms around her. I can feel her return the gesture. She fits so well in my arms, being just a little bit shorter.

"I think we've both been idiots."

"Mm. Hisao? I think... no, I know... I'm in love with you. I don't... want to remain just friends."

"I love you too. More than anything."

I don't know how long we remain there. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we're interrupted by a sound.

"I'm sorry, it's my cellphone."

I can only laugh. Well, the timing could have been worse.

"Lilly! Oh, I'm so sorry! I-I forgot."

I try not to eavesdrop, but it's a little hard. She puts down the phone in short time, though. Hanako looks at me with a very uncertain expression.

"Did I... did I tell you Lilly was coming back today?"

"No. That's today?"

"Yes... I... I forgot all about it. I was supposed to tell you, but..."

I interrupt her. "Well, a lot of things happened. I think she will forgive you."

"You think so?"

"Definitely. Otherwise you can just yell at her."

That comment makes her blush, but she hides a smile as well.

"We're going to meet her at the gates. It's going to be a while, so... so we don't have to hurry."

"That's good. I'm not good at hurrying anyway."

"I also... I want to give you something."

"What's that?"

She smiles, and before I can react, she plants a kiss on my lips.

Hanako and I see a cab driving past us when we approach the school gates. It seems that we're just on time for Lilly's arrival. It's a good thing we weren't... delayed... for too long.

Lilly is the only one in the cab, so Akira must've went home to her place. The driver is getting her luggage while she's getting out of the car.

"Welcome back, Lilly."

"Welcome back!"

Hanako goes to give the taller girl a warm hug. "I missed you."

"I missed you too. Both of you. But you know, I am a little cross with you."

Lilly's tone isn't angry at all. It's a little overbearing, but mostly just playful.

"I... I know. I'm a little cross with you too."

Lilly releases Hanako from the hug and holds her at an arms length. Confusion is clearly written on her face. I suppose it's natural. She's not seen how Hanako has changed. Or heard, anyway.

"Did I do something? Was that why you sounded a little upset on the phone?"

I decide to cut in. "We can talk about it once we get to your room. I have your luggage, so don't worry about that."

"Oh. Okay."

"And Lilly? Relax."

We're silent as we make our way to the girls' building of the dorms. Lilly still looks worried, but tries not to show it.

Once we get in, she sits down, rather stiffly.

"So, I assume you have something important to tell me?"

"Yes." During the short walk, Hanako has worked up a decent amount of resolution for what she's about to say. "I want you to stop treating me like a child."

I can see a range of emotions pass by Lilly's face. She's obviously surprised, and then she looks as if she wants to deny what was just said. However, she settles down with a soft sigh.

"You've grown up, haven't you?" The way she says it, it's really not a question. She follows it up with a true question, though. "Are you mad at me?"

Hanako notices my expression and raises an eyebrow. She's perceptive, all right. There was something I just wanted to say.

"Oh, believe me, she's not mad. You'd know if she was. She's scary when she's mad."

I say it with enough humour to relay that I'm just teasing Hanako, as well as making Lilly feel a little better.

Hanako blushes, but doesn't look offended. "We had a... fight. And we made out. Up! We made up!"

I don't know whether to laugh or to feel embarrassed. I do a little of both. So does Lilly. Aside from the small detail that she's not embarrassed.

"Are you two dating?"

I look at Hanako, who's making a fair imitation of a tomato. She ducks hear head and covers her face with her hands when she notices me looking at her. I guess it's up to me to answer that.

"We haven't started yet, if you want to be specific. I suppose that's why Hanako forgot when you were coming."

"If that's the reason, I don't think I should be cross with you. I'm happy for you."

She really does look happy. So does Hanako, now that she looks up. She rises up, walks over to Lilly, and gives her a hug to show her feelings. I don't think she trusts her own voice at the moment.

"And Hanako? I'll try to treat you better. Fussing over people I care about is in my nature, but you're right. You deserve more than that. I don't know what I did to deserve your forgiveness, though."

I can barely hear Hanako's response, muffled as it is against Lilly's shoulder. I have no doubt she can hear it clearly.

"Hmm... nothing. Nothing at all. Forgiveness... isn't earned, or deserved. It's given."

"I hate to break you two up, so I'm going to head back to my room. I'm rather tired."

"Sleep well!"

I close the door quietly, and let them bond for a little more. They have a lot to catch up on that I would probably only get in the way of.

I barely manage to get out of the door before I see a pink hairdo at a bench. I wonder what she's up to? I sit down next to her.

"Hey, there, Misha. What's up?"

She does look a little tired, but otherwise quite normal.

"Nothing much. I just wanted to catch some fresh air before going to my room. Shicchan's still working."

"You're not helping her? That's unusual."

"Not really." She stretches her arms up and looks at the skies. It's dark now, and you can see some faint stars. "She told me she could handle it by herself. It wasn't that much."

"So she says. She's a workaholic, so she's going to be there until curfew, I think."

Misha giggles at that.

"I saw you and Hanako are on good terms again."

"You've been keeping track of that?"

"Of course! I'm only looking out for my good friend here. But now I can stop..." she trails off.

"Stop what?"

"Nothing?" She puts on a confused face and stands up, turned towards me.

A thought strikes me. "Nothing, huh?"

"That's right! Nothing at all!"

"So you haven't been trying to make Hanako jealous? The way you've been clinging to me more than you usually do?"

"No? I've just been... happy you didn't die back then!"

Her smile isn't convincing me one bit. I guess I'll have to drag the truth out of her.

"Did Shizune put you up to this? Is she forcing you to go along with one of her plans again? Because if she is, I'm going to have a word with her..."

"No, no! It's all my..."

This time, I pick up where she trailed off. "...your plan?"

She swallows and picks up something from her skirt pocket. It's a white handkerchief, and she starts to wave it weakly in front of her face as a sign of surrender.

"Please don't be mad!"

She looks kind of funny like that. She has her eyes tightly closed as if I'm going to hurt her. I decide to go along with her expectations, so I use two fingers to bop her over her nose. It causes her to jump back in surprise.

"Ow?" Neither of us believe it actually hurt, especially as her verbal response was delayed quite a bit. She's just confused.

"Misha, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm not going to yell at you either."

"Oh. Okay." She sounds almost dejected. Does she want to get scolded or something?

"I'm not mad at you. You were just trying to help, and you cheered me up at the same time. What's to be mad at there?"

"You're so nice. That's why I think you deserve to be happy."

"I wouldn't be so hasty. I'm still getting revenge for you going behind my back with this. You might want to sleep with one eye open." I wink at her.

"You're mean!" She sticks her tongue out. "But I forgive you." Then she gives me a brief hug. "Good night."

"Good night."

She walks away, and strangely, the last look I caught from her shows a much more mature girl than she normally appears to be. For someone who seems so simple, I really don't understand her. Well, I have a lot of understanding to do tomorrow. Starting with Hanako.

Life here at Yamaku is looking up.

Author's Notes:

Thus ends this story. I had a great time writing this. I'm a firm believer in second chances and forgiveness. Some people don't understand what I mean with true forgiveness, and I wanted to incorporate that in a fanfic. I always write with that outlook, but this story is based on it.

Thanks for reading.

/ Another Duck