A/N: This has been dumped in my hard drive and then in my Tumblr for quite a long while now. I loved Ano Hana - there's something about five old friends that fell apart as they grew up that made me tear up and made my heart melt because personally, I know the feeling of falling apart with childhood friends.
I specially can relate to Tsuruko. Because, ya know, best friend issues. ;)
She has probably been in love with him for more than ten years and that doesn't come without a reason. She has reasons. Aside from the expected and obvious ones: from the fact that he's handsome, quite talented, well-mannered, mature for his age and intelligent, to the fact that he's been her best friend for the longest time, she has other reasons for holding on to her feelings.
Tsurumi Chiriko is a wise young woman and she wouldn't wait in vain without proper reason. She'll give up if it was totally hopeless, and it was obvious that it wasn't the case.
She can name five more reasons to care about Yukiatsu.
First, he waits and he knows why. He waits - he always does. They weren't completely together at school every minute of every second. He has other peers and she prefers to be alone most of the time, but when it comes to dismissal time, he waits for her cleaning duty or other activities to finish.
In turn, she waits for him too as she's always done everytime.
He knows why he waits. When once she told him that she can go home alone, he promptly said "I want to go home with you, anyway."
Secondly, he appreciates her. It wasn't really "appreciate" in a way that he politely thanks her when she does favors for him, or he outright says 'I appreciate you' whenever she compliments him.
It was "appreciate" in a way that he's aware of her, he sees her as his constant companion, he's not afraid to say that he looks out for her, and he thinks of her enough to know her discreet preferences.
On her birthday, he took her to that girl-shop again, and she thought that he was inconsiderate enough to shop for his never-before-seen girlfriend again on her special day. But when they entered the establishment, he said outright that "I want to buy something for you."
"You don't have to do that-"
He simply shrugged that nonchalant shrug of his. "Come on, it's your birthday."
She fell silent and followed him as he walked past the keychains (typical) and scrunchies (really?) and settled on a stand of necklaces.
"Yukiatsu?" - she tentatively asked as she watched him eye the different necklaces and pendants.
"I figured you're not the kind of girl who'll like colored scrunchies or any hair accessory. You look pretty with your hair down." he said, looking briefly at her. She blinked at his straightforward comment (but really, he was always like this), but he continued, "And definitely not a bracelet. You need a watch and that's all you're willing to wear on your wrists, right?"
Tsuruko raised an eyebrow. When did he start knowing so much about her? "R-Right."
He picked a necklace with a plain black strap and a shiny blue teardrop-shaped pendant. "How about this?"
She stared at it for a moment and let out a small smile. "I like it."
Third reason: he thinks she's beautiful, and he's not afraid to admit it or to say it out loud. One thing about how he interacts with his other peers on issues about her is that he's honest about it. When he says that he doesn't know something about her, he really doesn't. When asked if they're going out, he will simply say, "No, we're not like that."
One thing that caught her off-guard, though, was his willingness to be with her even in front of everyone else. Maybe it was the fact that they've been together for long enough to be completely comfortable about close proximity, but still, he was honest everytime.
On a class celebration (she still doesn't know up to this day how she ended up going to the event), he was subjected to a 'dare' via their game of truth or dare.
"Take a picture of you and Tsurumi-san with your cell and set it as your wallpaper for one week!"
It was followed by laughter, and he laughed good-naturedly with their classmates, then simply said, "Why not? It's a dare, after all." He always tended to be the better sport.
"Tsurumi, is that fine with you?"
She was already in the event, and it will be too much trouble to refuse, so when he wrapped an arm around her shoulders, she simply leaned against him and let out a small smile in the camera. He did set it as his cellphone wallpaper and showed it to the rest of their companions.
A week later, when she caught a glimpse of his phone, weirdly enough, the wallpaper was still their photo.
"That childish dare is over, you know." she pointed out in her usual nonchalant-but-I-care way.
Yukiatsu shrugged. "I don't see anything really bad in it. It's a privilege to take a photo with a beautiful girl and set it as wallpaper..."
"Are you seriously saying that?" she asked.
He nodded. "I meant it."
She sighed and grabbed his phone, staring at his wallpaper image again: the two of them, his arm on her shoulder, his cheek resting against the top of her head, her hand on his chest and they both smiled reservedly at the camera.
If one didn't know better, one would have thought that they were dating.
But no, it was just a dare, and he thinks that she's beautiful.
When she started pressing keys, he raised an eyebrow. "Don't delete it."
"I'm not deleting it." she pointed out. "I'm sending it to me."
The fourth reason is quite common, but still this is a strong one. In fact, it was the sole reason why she's still with him.
He cares about her. He sincerely does.
It's gone past the point where he sends a message whenever she's not in class to ask how she is. Anyone could have also done that. He stands up to the other girls and tells them in his calm way that they should treat Tsurumi better because she's just being sensible. And she knows he cares about her more than that, because he's said it himself once: he didn't want her to be or feel alone.
He skipped school on that day. When she sent a message asking him about it, his reply was simple. He can't make it to classes that day because he's not feeling well. Checking her calendar, Tsuruko simply replied with the polite 'get well and see you tomorrow' - she knew why he didn't want to go to school. It was Menma's death anniversary.
That was the first time in a long time that she has to go home alone, so she took her time walking to the station.
When she got there that late afternoon, he was sitting on his usual seat in one of the benches. He wore casual clothing, but he had on a thick scarf that covered the lower half of his face, and beneath the white scarf, she saw that his cheeks were flushed. His arms were crossed in front his chest.
He was waiting. She hurried towards him and immediately asked, "Yukiatsu?"
That broke his trance and when he looked up at her, he instantly spoke up. "Tsuruko."
She paused. He hadn't called her that nickname in ages. While she stared at him, he had looked down on his watch and then back at her. "You're later than usual."
Usual was always with him. She raised an eyebrow. "What are you doing here?"
His answer was always simple. "I was waiting for you."
From the way his cheeks were flushed, she realized that he wasn't making up an excuse. He's not suffering from pathetic depression or pining over his lost puppy love. He was really sick.
"I... thought you were sick."
"I got better by after lunch." - then he coughed a bit.
She sat beside him - not on the far side of the bench but directly beside him, and pressed her palm on his forehead. His temperature was normal, but it doesn't help that he still looked like he should be in bed, resting. "You're still sick. Did you need something from me? I can bring notes by to your house or you could have dropped by my place, if you were worried about that. You're overexerting yourself."
He didn't draw away from her touch or when she adjusted his scarf so that it fit snuglier against him. "I just don't want you going home alone."
She couldn't argue with that. She stared at him for a moment. He was staring forward at nothing, then checking his watch again, then he leaned against the back of his seat.
"Thanks, then. Sorry for being late."
He was about to say something when the train station's intercom piped up, announcing their train arriving shortly.
When he stood up, he coughed again and she made a move to grab his arm in case he collapsed (for all she knew, he was badly sick). He walked forward to wait for their train, and she stared at his back.
He may be arrogant and flippant and still hung-over a dead girl for almost 10 years, but he can be protective and considerate when he wanted to.
He was back to that. Maybe the earlier nickname was just a slip of tongue.
She didn't even notice the train arriving. She brushed the stray thought from her mind and walked towards him. He waited until she was beside him before he draped an arm around her shoulders - maybe he's starting to feel dizzy again, so she rested her hand on his back - and they got in the train together.
Her fifth reason was odd enough, and pretty basic.
He knows that she cares about him too.
The day after his 'I-am-sick-but-I'll-fetch-you-anyway' stunt, she caught his cold and maybe got his not-fever. That early evening, he dropped by her house. Her parents were happy to let him in as he told them that he brought her the day's notes.
When he entered her room as if it was the most natural thing for him to do, she was still lying under the covers, dealing with cough and colds and fever. He may be the kind of person that 'gets better' by after lunch, but she was always the one in their group of friends to fall behind because she lacked stamina.
She was pretty weak when she gets sick, and that explains why she simply glared at him when he went in. He chuckled, a knowing smirk in his face. "Why? I came by to bring some notes and to check up on you."
"This is my room." - she pointed out. She didn't like him snooping around her room, and of course she didn't want him to see her in such a sorry state.
"Of course." he simply nodded. Of course he was in her room and he doesn't plan to snoop around, and of course he's seen her get sick before. How many years have they known each other? "Also, I came to get the notes on what I missed when I was the bedridden one."
She finally sighed and sat up slightly, then pointed at a stack of notebooks on her desk. "Find it in the yellow notebook."
He picked it up as per her instructions, browsed through the latest entries and nodded as he found his missed lessons. "May I bring it home with me?"
She nodded and didn't speak. She sniffed a little but simply watched as he observed his surroundings while slipping her notebook in his bag. On the windowsill, near her desk, was a framed photo of the Super Peace Busters. Beside it was a smaller frame with a print-out of the photo of the two of them, taken through his cellphone for a dare.
"I printed it out too."
"Where is it now?"
"In one of the photo albums at home."
Then he turned to her dresser where the teardrop necklace was resting along with some of her 'girl-things'. The brown-haired young man walked towards her and then sat on the floor of her room, his back resting against the side of the bed.
"What are you doing?" - because, really, sometimes she doesn't have any idea at all.
Yukiatsu shrugged, turning to look at her. "Watching over you, I guess."
She was about to say that he didn't need to do that. He responded by pointing out that her cheeks are red. Of course, she thought, her face is flushed. It can't be blue now, can it? She has fever, for heaven's sake.
"Pardon me, but you look the same yesterday." she told him bluntly, dignity not backing down just because she was stuffed under thick blankets.
He adjusted the blanket to tuck it neatly by her chin. "I know."
"Why are you looking over me? Don't you have lessons to catch up on?"
"I'm keeping you company."
He shrugged again. Sometimes she hated the way he can just put things so simply. How everything seems so built-in to him when he deals with her. Maybe it's the fact that he knows perfectly well who she is, and what she is to him.
Tsurumi Chiriko, his best friend.
"I guess I think that if I had still been bedridden around this time yesterday, you'll do the same. Am I right, or you don't like me as much now?"
She reached out to hit him weakly on the back of his head. He simply smiled lightly and she shifted her position to lie on her side and watch him. "You're right."
"I thought so."
"Stop being a know-it-all."
He insisted that he wasn't being one. She frowned and that started a discreet argument between them.
He didn't leave until she was fast asleep.
Five reasons. Those were enough for her to know that she shouldn't really hate him, no matter how creepy or unbearable he gets.
In his own way, he loves her as well. He's proven as much. She might love him in completely another way, but her unrequited feelings are not strong enough to break what they already have and will always have.
A/N: I seriously think Yukiatsu doesn't deserve all the hate, and Tsuruko doesn't deserve all the raised eyebrows.
Tell me what you think? :)
P.S.: I've updated my profile page! See that for details of some stuff to come.