Spoilers up to ch. 35.
The thing about Natsume is that she doesn't think about others, only herself. She hates change if it's not something she wants or expects. The only thing that concerns her is protecting herself and her little world. It doesn't matter if others get hurt in the process, as long as she leaves unscathed.
She tries so hard to prevent such changes, stall the inevitable for as long as possible.
He's still waiting.
But he's been waiting since the beginning.
When he first meets her, he doesn't like her very much.
A textbook falls to the ground. He bends down to pick it up and his fingers brush against hers. Immediately she snatches the book up and pulls away. "Mind your own business," she mutters, flashing him a brief glare before turning away.
He stares at her for a moment, stunned. Quickly composing himself, he frowns in return and mumbles a few words under his breath as he, too, turns around.
It's a shame that there's such a rotten personality behind such a cute face, he thinks.
It's completely awkward when they're alone together because he doesn't like her, she doesn't like him. But they're both willing to put up with it for Nagoya.
He takes one of the bags filled with supplies from her. "I can handle it myself," she states with a frown.
"Yeah, but I'm helping you," he says and he's not going to take no for an answer.
She grumbles something under her breath that he can't hear. They walk in silence towards where Yoshida and Mizutani are waiting, a distance of a couple of metres between them.
It's been bothering him for a while, so he finally asks, "Why do you act so differently around Yoshida and Mizutani?"
His voice sounds especially loud at that moment.
The Natsume around those two is so much different from the Natsume he knows—hardly knows. She's hyperactive, eager, smiling, a ball of sunshine, genuine, someone he could like. Unlike those cold eyes and cold cold cold words.
"B-Because they're my friends!" she blurts out and her tone is completely different from before. Anxious, doubtful, not cold at all.
"That's no reason to treat other people like. . . you know. I mean, I'm surprised they're even your friends," he observes.
She stops in her tracks. "I-It's not like that. Because I have to . . . Because, I – well, it's not like I don't – I still want. . .," she mumbles, her voice getting quieter and quieter until he can no longer hear her. Her gaze is focused on her fidgeting fingers.
He stops walking himself, before taking a couple of tentative steps towards her still figure. There is only a metre between them now.
He doesn't completely understand it. He doesn't completely understand her, but he thinks he'd kind of like to. What he does understand, though, are her unspoken words. He has lots of friends and he knows how to be a friend, so he says, "Then, let's be friends?"
Her fingers freeze for a moment.
Slowly, she raises her head and looks him in the eye. Her eyes are incredibly bright, he notices. Brighter than he's ever seen them before, brighter than anyone else's.
His heart beats fast.
At that moment, he decides, he'd like to see them sparkle like that again.
"Y-Yeah!" she exclaims, and for the first time, her smile is warm.
They share jokes, share snacks at lunch every so often and he occasionally helps her with her homework. He listens as she prattles on about the cutest skirt she's just gotten and sometimes he even leaves a comment or two on her blog. She shows up to his baseball games every now and then and actually pays attention as he talks about sports.
Sometimes, they agree wholeheartedly with each other; other times, their views clash so hard it's like two plates converging and a mountain range forms between them.
Every time, they are able to chip away at the rock until they can see each other again.
Never does he see her eyes like they were that day, though.
He can't pinpoint the exact moment, because it's not an exact moment. It's every smile, every pout, every giggle, every glare.
It's every moment.
It's everything about her.
Her eyes are bright, sparkling again and she's absolutely glowing. A girl in love really is the most beautiful, huh.
Being in love is fun, she says; it's heartache, he thinks.
Every single heartache, good and bad, is love.
Every time his heart sped up around her and now, now. It almost feels like his chest is too tight as he watches her beaming face. But it's warm. Not cold anymore, warm. Yet it still hurts because it's not for him and he wants it, wants it all to himself.
But to love is sacrifice, so he says with a smile, "I'll be cheering you on, then!"
"It's all okay now, it's fine between me and Micchan. I mean, I did my best, right?" she says, her voice cracking. Her eyes fill with tears, sparkling for all of the wrong reasons.
A metre separates them.
He takes firm steps towards her, taking her hand into his when he's close enough.
He wonders how much her heart is aching, if it's still love.
His is pounding out of his chest and he's absolutely certain that she can hear it, feel it in his fingers.
Liking someone because you've held their hand. He can give her part marks because the words are all right, the order is not.
He supposes Mount Handholding is a suitable name, because it's got them both so worked up.
How annoying it is that she assumes it's all because of that one moment. It's not like he wants to be mad at her or anything but she's ticked him off, and she probably feels the same.
But it's her and he knows it won't be long until they see eye to eye again.
Surprisingly, for the first time, she's dug further into the mountain than he has. "Sorry," she says softly, "can we be friends again?"
Her eyes are apologetic and he wants to see her smiling again.
To be loved is true happiness.
"Well, you weren't actually wrong; I do like you," he says simply in between words, like it's nothing out of the ordinary, as though it's just plain fact—because it is.
And he wants to give her true happiness.
The thing about Sasayan is that he's very good at saying what she doesn't want to hear, but needs to.
And no matter how much it pisses her off at that very moment, in the end, she appreciates it. He's not afraid to hold back, to tell her how it is. He doesn't treat her as an object to be admired, placed delicately on a pedestal, as other boys do. It's what she likes about him. With him, she grows. She matures. Just like what Micchan had—
No, that's not it. Because it's the same with Mitty and Haru too, right?
So when he says the words, "I like you," it's definitely something she doesn't want to hear.
She stares at him, speechless.
Was that a joke? No, no, what a bad joke, they just resolved the misunderstanding.
No, he's completely serious.
She sputters a few incoherent words in response.
He laughs. "Look, you don't need to say anything, Natsume. I mean, you already said it all, right?"
She opens her mouth, but she doesn't know what to say. What is there to say? That he's wrong? Because—because he's not. It is like she had said, that her answer would be no.
"Y-Yeah," she affirms, stumbling on her reply and she's not quite sure why.
He smiles at her like he knows something she doesn't.
That night she tells her chat room friends (friends, is that even the right word anymore?) that she's not feeling well, that she'll be logging off to sleep early. They all wish her good night and hope she feels better soon.
She doesn't get any sleep.
With Mitty and Haru, at least she can be a little more normal around him. Kind of. Her replies are still too thought-out, too formulated. Even Mitty gives her a strange look.
Still, it's better than being alone with him. It's so different now because—it's weird, isn't it? It's like she's actually seeing him now.
Has he always been this close to her? Or is she just realizing now? Or is it both? Or—
Why did he have to say those words? It's driving her crazy because they're words that every other guy says and he's not like every other guy. He gives her advice on how to get more people visiting her blog. He knows what her favourite movie is and what her actual favourite movie is (and he tries not to laugh and she tries not to hit him). He pays attention when he notices she doesn't like a certain food and never orders it again. He's just different because he actually knows what's beyond her pretty face.
She doesn't want to hurt him. He's her friend, after all. And she doesn't want to lose him. But, maybe she doesn't have to?—
She catches herself staring at him as he talks with a few other members of the baseball team.
He's a boy. Not like other boys. A friend. Her friend. Sasayan is—
She wonders why her chest is beginning to ache as her heart beats faster and faster.
I felt really crappy about the other oneshot I wrote so I decided to write another one that's not as bad, but then it came out like this and I don't even know why I'm trying anymore.
Crawling into my hole now ok.
Happy anime series end! Second season never! ;_;