Timing by Larissa
He isn't sure why he is there.
What does he expect to get from this? Some sort of breaking point where she will see him standing there and suddenly realize that he is the one that is always there when she needs him? That there is some hidden meaning behind his actions and that she loves him for it?
He might not be all that smart, but he is rational enough to know that those things only happen in movies and stories for teenage girls.
Girls like her.
Sasayan brings his hand to his forehead, closing his eyes in frustration.
It didn't start like this. In the beginning, she was just another girl, with pretty eyes and a lot of different expressions. He hadn't gotten close to the others for her. Back then, he was interested in life stories and strange personalities, and making everyone happy.
Yoshida and Mizutani-san deserved to be happy.
However, things had changed.
Spending their time with a may-be-may-not-be couple meant ending up just the two of them, sometimes, and it hadn't been a problem. Sasayan liked people, even if he wasn't particularly interested in Natsume, for she seemed just like many girls he'd met before and a bit of too much trouble.
Well, he hadn't been wrong about that last part.
Through the year, he had learnt so much about her, so many things that altered almost every single one of his previous concepts of her, that the boy couldn't even say he had been surprised by the change in his feelings.
It was only natural that he fell in love with her, after realizing that the more time he spent with that little group of unlikely friends, the less he wanted to be with the other people he knew; simply because he didn't want to be away from them.
And, even though there was a part of him that truly wanted to be with Mizutani-san and Yoshida, it was mostly because he craved her presence.
His emotions are not as turbulent as the others', though.
He can almost feel as he falls harder and harder every day, to the point where he knows he can turn around and stop himself from going through a lot of heartache, but chooses to ignore the more logical part of his brain in favor of the one that dares to hope that things will turn out okay.
They don't, of course.
He finds her with the Manager in the middle of the Festival, and Sasayan is able to keep the grin on his face, giving her a playful lecture for disappearing, but he can't help but feel like he has already lost this – whatever it is –, because he should have gotten there earlier.
It feels like that a lot, after that. Like it should be him, but he is always just a little too late.
However, Sasahara Souhei is not the kind of person that scowls, so he just brushes away the sensation of defeat and keeps on being her friend, for that's what they are, above any other sentiment he might have for Natsume.
Most of the times, he doesn't understand why he likes her. She is childish and obnoxious, always meddling in the most conspicuous ways. She thinks very highly of herself, but never confronts things head on, cowardly hiding behind others' opinions in order to avoid responsibility for her actions.
It should bother him, it really should, but Sasayan finds it endearing, which might have been why this whole thing started, since, from endearing to interesting to essential, there are only a few steps.
More than anything, he worries, for she is still too innocent and too delicate for the society they live in. He can't bear the thought of Natsume getting hurt, so he becomes a coward himself, meddling with much more discretion and success than she ever could.
His situation makes him feel like a bit of a fraud, though, because he cheers for her and for Yano and for so many others who have dared to confess their love, but his heart aches and Sasayan has to remember himself that these are his friends, even if he can't actually tell them what's going through his mind, like he should.
Sometimes, the trust Haru, Natsume and the others put in him feels undeserved; he will never be that truthful with them. It makes him want to help them even more, because he needs to earn their faith.
Footsteps awake him from his thoughts, and he mutters out a response as the girl goes down the rest of the stairs towards him.
"Hm, yeah. Since I was concerned."
What she exclaims next is a mess of words that should sound annoyed or cheerful, but come out completely tangled. And, then, Natsume starts to cry, rubbing at her eyes in an attempt to keep the tears from falling.
"I've already done my best, haven't I…?"
He gets up so that he is directly in front of her, draping his cap over her head in order to protect her expression from prying eyes.
"Let's go back, Natsume-san…" He says after a moment, taking her hand. "It's going to be fine. Yoshida, Mizutani-san and I are here for you. It'll be fine, if all of us go together."
She is still crying under his cap, but there is no resistance as Sasayan pulls her through the empty, familiar streets, and her hand feels very small in his, as she tightens their grip.
For the first time since he has started feeling this way towards her, the boy thinks maybe he got there just in time.
Definitely a personal favorite. I hope others will like it as much as I did.