Chapter 3


"Shiina?"

The dark haired girl looked up slowly from where she was sitting in the cafeteria, a fork in one hand and a napkin in the other. Otonashi stared with one eyebrow raised. He looked bored, uncaring, and she wondered why he wasn't like the others. Why was he here? Why wasn't he with Yurippe, who was undoubtedly making plans to attack Angel again? Or, wait… was Angel even their enemy anymore? Shiina was confused now. The enemy was the enemy. That was what her father had always taught her. The enemy doesn't just become your friend after a couple of hours, so… ugh. This was getting her nowhere. Besides, it wasn't as if she herself hated Angel really. The Student Council President was just a nuisance and nuisances shouldn't be bothered with, in her opinion.

"…What?"

Otonashi looked almost surprised that she had answered him at all. But he smiled and sat down across from her, eying the plateful of… something… that she had managed to snag from the cafeteria line. It was gross, lumpy, and grey. And she obviously wasn't going to eat it but Yurippe had drilled it into them from the beginning to keep up appearances so…

"Nothing, really," he said, shrugging. "Just wondering if you were okay. I mean, you booked it pretty fast when Naoi started in on you."

"Are you asking if I'm fine?" She replied after a pause. He nodded. "No, then. I'm not."

"Well… honesty is the best policy I suppose," he said, looking a bit amused. "So what exactly isn't fine about you? You look about as gloomy as ever."

"I don't like interrogations."

"I'm hardly interrogating you."

"Then suffice it to say that I don't like it when people ask questions…" questions that I can't answer, was what Shiina didn't add. He obviously wasn't all that surprised this time and she found herself getting irritated. He was probably trying to comfort her out of some misguided sense of friendly loyalty, but she didn't need him or anyone else to come around and ask if something was wrong. The problem was, he wasn't asking, so she couldn't actually deck him for something he wasn't doing yet. She stood from her place at the table and slammed down the fork, turning her back on him and deciding that staying in the cafeteria might not be such a great idea if people could find her this easily. She didn't want company. Company was useless.

"Shiina," Otonashi stood too, his face grim. "Have you ever thought about… about moving on?"

"Moving on to where?" she snapped.

"Just moving on – you know, from here."

Her lips pursed and she balled her fists, her hair hiding her eyes. "No."

And that was very bluntly the end of the conversation. She didn't want to talk about moving on, nor did she want to discuss her social failings or what was going on in her life (or death). The constant avoidance of her problem (a certain teenage boy named Naoi who might or might not have been suffering from total idiocy syndrome – he had tried to continue interrogating her, after all. And that was grounds for mental evaluation in and of itself) was getting a little old. She didn't want to have to stay away from her companions forever. Otonashi was just the first wave – Shiina knew that Yurippe wouldn't let everything lie dormant forever. Their leader was nothing if not determined.

The girl contemplated quitting the 'team' for a while, but that would just be plain stupid. Quitting was not her thing and it never would be. Besides, she had almost become fond of the unchanging ritual of going after 'Angel' with the rest of her friends, if you could even really call them that. Maybe that was what was bugging her – the fact that everything was changing. And it was largely in part to Naoi joining Yurippe's Not-Dead-Yet Brigade (or whatever else she was calling it these days).

After about half an hour of this 'contemplation', Shiina decided it was time to leave. She jumped right out of the cafeteria window and landed smoothly on the grass outside. NPC students were already starting to filter out of the building and disappear off to who-knows-where to spend the rest of their day. Shiina wondered, as she often did, if any of them really had any other place to go or if they just walked about aimlessly until the next morning rolled around. It gave her a headache to think about it, so she shoved the muses out of her mind and turned her back on the crowds.

"Shiina, wait."

For the love of god, Shiina thought irritably, turning on her heel to face her leader. Is everyone after me today? Yurippe stood there, her arms crossed, staring in what could be called curiosity in Shiina's direction. How she had shown up without alerting the dark haired girl was a mystery (one that Shiina would probably never solve). Yuri just had this way about her – this commanding tone, stance, and look that made you want to please her. It hardly ever worked on the ninja herself, but Shiina had to admit that the girl was intimidating sometimes. Like now, when she obviously wanted answers.

"Did you need something?" she drawled.

"Yeah, I do," Yuri snapped. "I'd like to know why you missed the meeting."

"Sorry."

Yuri rolled her eyes. It was almost amusing that Shiina thought she could trick the leader of the team into thinking she was repentant. The ninja was never, ever repentant about anything. That was just how it had always been and Yuri had never minded. She didn't mind now, she just minded when Shiina decided to miss a scheduled meeting (more than one, actually).

Disobeying orders was unacceptable.

"I bet. Look, I don't think I ask for much. We care, Shiina – all of us – even if you'd like to thank we don't. But hey, that's fine, I'm okay with giving you your personal space. Up to a point, that is. And you've reached the limit. No, let me rephrase that. You've crossed the limit of my patience. So why don't you tell me while the hell you've missed five meetings so far and managed to avoid every single entity on this godforsaken campus besides Otonashi?"

Shiina met Yuri's eyes levelly, blinking away her own annoyance. She supposed she was lucky that her leader hadn't tied her to Headquarters by now because she had gone missing in action. Honestly, this was the most restraint she'd ever seen Yurippe use before. It was surprising.

"I have a reason," the ninja finally answered. "A good one."

"Oh, really? I'm all ears."

"Unfortunately you have a bug in your midst. Say the word and I'll kill it. But I don't like cockroaches, so as long as it's there, I'm gone."

At first, Yuri seemed a bit confused, but she finally broke into a smirk. "Ah, you mean Naoi, huh? Sorry, Shiina, but he stays. He isn't really a bug… I mean, he's close to one, but sometimes you just gotta deal. This is one of those times."

"No."

"Don't be like that," the leader muttered, frowning. "You're the best at dealing, so deal. I don't have all day to put up with your silent temper tantrums."

Temper tantrums?! Shiina found herself slightly affronted by such a notion. She was not having a temper tantrum! Just because she had chosen to become somewhat of a recluse in the last few days didn't mean she was actually throwing a fit. It just meant she wanted to be alone, away from the 'team' for a while, and especially away from him – the cockroach in question.

"C'mon, Shiina. I'll buy you a key-chain or steal a stuffed animal from one of the NPCs, just get your butt back into action… and just try and get along with Naoi."

The offer for a cute souvenir was completely overpowering. Yuri really knew where to hit her troops where it hurt. Shiina sighed and nodded slightly, earning a grin and a pat on the shoulder from Yurippe.

"Good! I'm sending you on a mission with him tomorrow morning, by the way. Be ready."

Okay. It was official. Yuri definitely had to be a demon from hell. That's all there was too it.


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A/N: Okay, can I just start out by saying how sorry I am that this took so long? I feel terrible, seriously. After all the wonderful reviews you guys gave me and everything, I should have been able to pump this one out. I do have an excuse for why, though.

High School.

Yeah, two words. But I think some of you know what I mean. It's just stressful to balance a crap ton of homework while at the same time trying to get enough muses to post a chapter. I feel drained at the end of the day, usually.

As promised, this one was a lot longer than the last one! I hope you enjoy.

Alright, so here goes the review responses...

FadingSilverStar: Thanks! I thought it was interesting too, heh. I'm going to try my best with it, in any case. Shiina just really needs more love (she's such a depressed kid, poor thing).
Naoi390: Aw, so sweet! Arigato, my friend. I'm glad I granted your wish. :)
Justmoosic: Thank you for your review! It makes me feel warm and fuzzy when people like my stories. At least I know that I'm not the only one who likes slow stories and Naoi/Shiina pairings (there just isn't enough on them, *sigh*).
ColdGoldLazarus: I know, the fact that they were just like, 'Oh, you're sorry now? Okay, we forgive you!' totally made me facepalm. Still, it's not like they could kill him, so having him on their side was probably a relief if nothing else. And yes. Shiina is awesome. To the core. Thanks for the review!
Chaoscrazy: Your wish is my command ~
Windninja1000: Thank you! I'm glad you like the story.
Amakatsu: Oh, miss Ama. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's such a pleasure to know you read my stories! And keep me from being bored with your awesome PM's. A million hugs for you, my friend!
Shado Room of Souls: Here is your update ~ Sorry it took so long, I am trying my bestest, I promise. (And yes, this pairing rocks my socks as well). Cheers!

(I am not going to beg for more reviews. Just because I am currently on my knees with my hands clasped in front of me while giving you that oh-so-scrumptious puppy dog look does not mean I'm begging. Nope, not all)

Disclaimer: I think about Angel Beats a lot. Does that mean I own it? I wish.