A/N: Back in the contest! (and almost missed the first deadline...) Concept that I wasn't able to execute properly due to time... eh. But at least I was able to turn it in. EDIT: Line breaks now fixed so it actually looks like 12 things.
He picked up the phone. And dialed. And deleted the numbers. And dialed again.
After repeating this a half dozen times, he finally just hit the call button and forced himself to let it ring.
Every ring was torture. Honda gripped the phone hard enough to break it, and really thought he would when she actually answered.
"Shizuka? Ah... that is... How are you? I mean-it's Honda. Hiroto Honda. Your brother's friend."
She giggled. "You think I could forget you that fast?"
Well. That sounded promising. Several minutes of increasing-less-awkward small talk later, Honda had not worked up the nerve to ask her out, but he felt a lot better about himself.
A lot better about himself when Otogi called Shizuka the next day after school and got her voice mail. Honda was too busy texting her to notice if Otogi bothered leaving a message or not.
Several months, many hundreds of text messages, and a classroom change later, the three of them spoke in person again. Still aware of their unspoken rivalry, Honda and Otogi scoured the school grounds together. Text messages and phone calls were all well and good, but they were unbinding, at least those that had been exchanged up to this point. It would be all future contact with Shizuka that would decide the true victor.
"There she is!" Otogi pointed through a shower of cherry blossoms and a hoarde of new students to a figure clear on the other side of the school grounds. He took of, with Honda right behind. While something as small as a massive crowd of students could not damper their spirits, it did slow their progress. For every one Honda pushed aside or excused himself for, three more would take their place. By the time they reached Shizuka, Otogi and Honda felt they had shoved their way through all of Domino.
"Honda! Otogi!" Shizuka exclaimed when she saw them, trying to hide the effort they just exerted to get to her.
"Hey," Otogi grinned, sneaking his way forward. Honda, not to be outdone, matched him step for step.
"How are you?" Honda beamed, trying to slide in past Otogi.
"I'm so glad you moved to Domino!" Otogi cut just the tiniest bit in front of Honda. Now they were too close to keep jockying for position without looking really weird. Honda had to do something drastic.
"Hey, let's show you around campus!" He started leading Shizuka away and Otogi had to jump after them not to get left behind.
The classroom was empty. A breeze drifted in through the open window, taking away some of the early summer heat. They were in summer uniforms now: short sleeves and no jackets. Which, of course, she looked beautiful wearing.
The sitation was perfect. No witnesses in case things went badly-she was going to say no-but things were NOT going to go badly. Things were going to go exactly as he planned-he would stutter. He would be cool, calm-forget every single thing he had to say-and collected. He would walk over to her-and trip and fall and knock over a desk and maybe break a limb-and he would say...
"Shizuka... would you... go out with me?"
Only before he could finish thinking up all the ways it could go wrong, he went up to her and got all the words out and she said yes, and he just stared for a second while he tried to figure out what exactly just happened?
They had gone out more than once by this point, but it still wasn't enough to stop Otogi.
Granted, Honda might have been reading too much into it. It's not like they could help being project partners. Right? Honda watched them from the back of the classroom. Otogi's every calculated move, Shizuka's innocent reactions, Otogi's pointed glance back to Honda-
What. Honda blinked at the sudden challenge.
Otogi kept glancing at Honda, but he kept his composure, at least outwardly. Inside, he was dying to take Otogi's goad. But he wasn't tied to Shizuka, nor she to him. If she wanted to talk to Otogi, that was her business.
And then Otogi looked again. Honda restrained himself for the moment, but oh, it was ON.
A date with Shizuka. Honda ought to have been happy. He was not. The cause of that was not the date. It was the lack of date. And the abundance of cleaning duties. Just days seperated them from summer break, and while Honda could have just waited, Otogi was going to make his move before break, while he still could. This was the critical dating time.
Now Otogi had the perfect opportunity to strike! Shizuka was waiting patiently. Otogi, posing as gallant, would swoop in and try to woo her. And she wouldn't want to give in, but with his devilsh charms and girly good looks, he would be too much to resist, and-!
The door opened and Honda slapped the mop on the ground and tried to look busy.
"I wanted to wait with you." Shizuka closed the door behind her, not quite looking at him, faintly blushing. Behind her, Otogi peeked in the window. Honda glared at him.
One of these days, they were going to have it out.
Honda ran into the classroom with a minute to spare. Otogi was at Shizuka's desk, chatting about something seemingly innocent. Seemingly. Honda caught his eye, and Otogi finished his conversation. Honda cut him off before he could get to his desk.
"Hey man," Otogi greeted, intending to keep walking. Honda blocked his path.
"Quit it," he hissed.
"Excuse me?" Otogi wondered.
"Leave her alone. You've been flirting all year. I'm not stupid."
"We're just talking." Otogi looked genuinely offened. Good actor, Honda thought.
"Yeah, right." Honda made to walk back to his desk.
"Hey!" Otogi grabbed his shoulder. "What the heck! Don't give me that!
"Get off!" Honda yelled, throwing his hand off. Both of them froze. The whole room was looking at them. Most importantly Shizuka... and Jounouchi.
Jounouchi had a loud voice to begin with, but when he was mad... well, this is why Honda wanted to tell him earlier.
"WHAT THE HELL."
Though it wasn't like they had kept it a secret from Jounouchi.
"WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME?"
Well, they sort of... Shizuka had told him a little bit anyway...
"I'M YOUR BEST FRIEND!"
That was the problem... "Look, I'm sorry for not telling you more about it-"
"YOU BETTER BE-"
"But," Honda cut him off. "We haven't done anything wrong! We haven't... erm... that is... I mean, I've been a gentleman..."
Jounouchi snorted. "Dude."
"Come on, I really have!" Honda protested. "I wouldn't be anything less! Not for your sister. Not if she wasn't your sister."
Jounouchi just stared at Honda for the longest time.
"You better mean that," he growled, finally.
"I do," Honda swore.
"Fine. I guess I'm okay with it, then," Jounouchi grumbled. Honda restrained himself from shouting. Before he could get too happy, though, Jounouchi added,
"And what about Otogi?"
"What about him?" Honda shot back.
"You don't trust Shizuka with him?"
"No-yes!" Honda quickly fixed. "I... uh..."
But he didn't trust her with Otogi. At all.
Yes, he did. He did, he did, he DID!
But his reassurances made little difference to her. He didn't blame her, really. He was a stupid, selfish prick. How could he think that she'd succumb to Otogi? How could he get that freaking jealous? It was all his fault, and he knew it.
And he didn't blame her for hanging up on him that night. Or standing him up the next day.
But it still sucked.
Honda wasn't watching where he was going and knocked right into someone.
"Sorry," he muttered without looking up.
"Hey," Otogi said. That made Honda pick his head up and they stared at each other for a few seconds.
Sorry I yelled at you.
Sorry I kept inadvertantly flirting with your girlfriend.
Sorry I was jealous.
Sorry I yelled at you too.
Conveyed with a few seconds worth of staring.
"My bad," Otogi finished. "We cool?" He stuck his hand out. Honda grabbed it.
She didn't say anything.
"I was jealous.
She didn't look at him.
"It was stupid."
"But I learned from it, and-and I made up with Otogi and now I'm here apologizing."
She looked at him. "Okay."
"What..." He knew he was on shaky ground, but he asked anyway. "What does that mean?"
"It means it's okay."
"'It's okay, you can leave' or 'it's okay, I forgive you...?'"
"'It's okay you were jealous and acted like a total jerk in front of our friend and took me for granted.'" But she was smiling when she said it. "And... it's okay you came back to apologize after I shut you out for a week or so."
He knew the present might be too much. But he was willing to take that chance.
Especially since he had the perfect present. Jounouchi was both extremely pleased and disgruntled the whole time they were out looking for it.
"How did you know?" she laughed, picking it up.
"Jounouchi helped me out," Honda admitted. "You like it?"
"Ohmigosh, it's the best present ever! Thank you so much!" Shizuka scooped up the puppy and held it close to her. "He looks just like the one we had when we were kids!"
"Yeah, he said you really hated leaving it, so I thought... you might like another now that you've moved back to Domino."
"Honda..." Shizuka put the puppy down and took his hand. "Really. Thank you." And she leaned forward and kissed him. The dog barked at them, but neither heard.
At least the last task kind of matches up. It was a dog on purpose, anyway.