Junpei had never liked talking to people about his problems, but this was one that had stumped him for a while now. Even worse, it was a problem he couldn't really talk to anyone else about. Yukari would laugh at him, Kenji was a little too narrow minded on these issues, and Akihiko was completely oblivious to just about everything involving this. Mitsuru was too rich to have to deal with this, and Fuuka just too plain awkward. Ken was too young to be getting involved in these things, and Aigis too analytical. And Koromaru was a dog. So that left Minato.
He approached Minato in the hallway after class. "Hey, uh... you mind helping me with something? It's kind of important."
Minato tilted his head, but nodded. "What is it?"
Now there was the issue of approaching this. "You're good with girls... right? I mean, you've got like four girlfriends or something like that." Minato just nodded absently. Guy didn't even look like he was paying attention. "There's this... girl I know, and her birthday's coming up soon, but I don't know what to get her. And I'm kind of strapped for cash right now, so it's gotta be something cheap."
"It's for Chidori, right?"
"Sh-Shh! Not so loud!" Junpei looked over his shoulder before continuing. "I mean, yeah, it's Chidori."
"You could always go the traditional route. Cake and flowers."
"No, she wouldn't like that. Besides, I already got her flowers."
"Doesn't she draw? You could always get her another sketchbook, or some pencils."
"She's already got all of that stuff." Junpei shook his head. "I don't think presents would do it, anyways. She doesn't seem like the kind of girl who would like those things, y'know?"
"Then why not try a date?"
A date? It seemed so obvious now that Minato had mentioned it, yet the thought of that had never even crossed Junpei's mind. The thought was quickly cut down. "Dude, she's in the hospital! And Mitsuru-senpai will execute me if she finds out I took her out of there."
"Port Island's not that big."
"What the hell does the island have to do with thi-" Junpei grinned. "Ohhh. I getcha. If I take her somewhere close by... Right, thanks dude! I owe you one!" He ran off down the hallway to head to the hospital.
Junpei insisted that Chidori close her eyes as they walked to the place he'd picked out. He led her out of the hospital using just the sound of his voice, since she'd refused to let him hold her hand. So they talked as they walked. That was okay, though. Besides, he had everything perfectly planned out. Mitsuru wouldn't even notice that she'd been gone.
"Just make sure you bring your sketchbook, okay?" Junpei had said before leaving. Chidori didn't object; she didn't really object to a lot of things anyways.
They walked together down the road, still talking as they went. Junpei was leading the conversation for the most part, but he was used to that.
"Where are we going?" Chidori asked after a while.
"It's close by, okay? We're almost there." Junpei said. They were starting to attract a few stares. Well, not like anyone saw a guy like him leading a girl in a hospital gown around every day, after all. He stopped at a rail by the ocean and looked over it. "Yeah... this is good. Okay, open your eyes!"
Chidori opened her eyes, and was greeted by Junpei standing, arms outstretched, in front of the water at sunset.
"Happy birthday!" he said happily. Chidori stared at him, uncomprehending. "I heard that your birthday was coming up, and for a really long time I couldn't think of what to get you. You didn't seem like the kind of person who would like flowers, or anything fancy, so I thought I'd take you out somewhere... but I don't have a lot of money, so I couldn't take you to a restaurant… but I know you like to draw, so I thought I'd take you somewhere other than the station, since, y'know, you were always there. So I looked around and found a place with a good view and..." He sighed. "Look, I'll understand if you don't like it. It's cool. I just thought I'd..."
She took a seat on a bench facing the ocean and flipped to an empty page in her rather cluttered sketchbook. Junpei had never actually seen what she drew in that one; she always got defensive about it when he tried to sneak a peek. She began to draw in it, looking up every few moments to study Junpei, who remained standing in the same place.
"Uh, so do you..."
"I like it, Junpei."
"Oh, really? Er. I mean... cool." He walked over and sat down next to her. He leaned over to catch a peek at the sketchbook. "Can I see?"
"No." And to emphasize it, she moved the sketchbook away from him. Before she moved it, though, he caught a glimpse of the orange of the sunset and what looked like a baseball cap.
"Right, sorry..." He scooted a little bit away. "So, uh... you want me to go get a burger or something? I bet you're getting tired of hospital food."
"That would be nice. Thank you."
Junpei counted out bills as he walked to the nearest burger joint. When he came back with a paper bag in hand, Chidori was still sitting there. He sat down next to her again and held out a burger. "Here you go."
She closed her sketchbook and put it to the side before taking the food.
"Oh yeah, so you know that baseball team I was telling you about yesterday? Well, I heard that they managed to make it to nationals! Crazy, huh?"
"It must have been rather difficult."
"Oh yeah, but man, that last game? It was intense. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. One of these days I'll have to take you out to see them, because they're so good…"
And for the rest of the night, they sat together and talked.