It's the first day back at school, and Natsuki has never been so eager to attend class! Still, things seem a bit off...
I struggle into the uniform, managing to stick my elbow into the sleeve of the blazer before the rest of my arm, nearly popping a few stitches in the process of correcting it. It's weird, I don't think I've ever been this eager to get to school. I mean, I've spent most of the last three years skipping classes during my vendetta against the First District. Then, when they were gone, I still avoided the place a lot. I meant what I said to Mai back then, about trying to enjoy school, but there was just one problem.
Or rather, my complete and utter reluctance to actually deal with Shizuru's feelings for me. If she wasn't there in front of me, I could ignore the subject, but then I'd start feeling bad about avoiding her. After all, she was my most precious person.
There, that's the cause of it all. 'She was,' not 'she is.' Now that I'm seriously thinking about this, it's actually somewhat curious how fast you managed to worm your way into my heart. At first I thought you were a brat. Then I thought you were actually really similar to me. Then I started getting to really know you, and saw how far apart we really were, the differences in how we struggled through our tragedies. Or rather, how we were helped through them. I had Shizuru, Sakomizu and Yamada, whilst you were all alone. I inherited money from my mother, enabling me to get by on my own, but you were thrown into an orphanage, out of sight, out of mind. I had a clear and defined purpose for carrying on, whilst you had to invent yours, twisted from all the impotent rage and fury you carried inside of you.
Circumstance, that's all that separated me from you. Now though? We're both stranded, divorced from all of those reassuring insecurities we clung to. We don't have any excuses left to keep running away from everything. And so I'm actually looking forward to getting to school. Not for the actual classes and stuff, just that I can spend time with you here.
God this is stupid, but I can't keep this ridiculous smile off my face. Am I just going to turn into some giant walking clichÃ© over this? I pause for a moment, at the door, before shrugging. I can imagine worse fates.
It's not all that long of a walk from the dorms to the school building, so I get there in just a few minutes, and suddenly I'm dawdling, taking my time and being hesitant about going inside. I try leaning against a wall coolly, but after a few seconds I'm all twitchy and pacing to and fro in front of the entranceway. It's like I can't keep still, all this energy just bubbling away inside of me in the form of this burning desire.
It's a few minutes before you turn up, by which time I'm practically going insane here, though I try to put a lid on it, maintaining a calm face. You smile as you see me, and then saunter on past, not even saying a word. I almost flip out, but as I watch you walk away from me, I find myself mesmerised by the swishing of your hips. You make to enter the toilets, but as you open the door, you look my way and give me that grin of yours, before stepping in and closing the door behind you. It's all I can do to keep from running after you, as I struggle to maintain a calm pace. I swear, you've got me wrapped right round your little finger.
As I enter, there's no sign of you, until a hand extends from one of the stalls, the one furthest from the door, finger curling as it beckons me to come closer. The door is pulled to, the hand emerging from the crack between it and the jamb, and when I'm close enough, it darts out to grab a handful of my shirt, pulling me into the quickly opening cubicle. I stagger, off-balance, and tumble into the stall, smacking my forehead against something, hard. Throwing out my arms to either side, stabilising myself against the cubicle walls, you're sat on the toilet seat, clutching your head where I just butted you.
"Ow!" I yell, making quite a show of rubbing my forehead
"Whoops?" you say, looking up at me with a smile. "Wasn't quite as smooth as I'd intended. Now, where was I? Oh yes..." You stand back up and with one arm reach behind me, pushing the door closed behind us, your other arm pressing gently on my stomach, easing me backwards as I feel my heart rate pick up. I don't turn to look when I hear the lock click into place, not even when I press up against the door, my eyes never leaving yours. I can see it, how badly you want me, how desperately you crave my touch, how hungry you are for me. And I feel guilty. Do I really love you? I know I enjoy being with you, I enjoy the feeling of your touch, I just don't know if it's enough. And then I'm not thinking at all as your mouth meets my own. I'm beyond caring as I mash your hair between my fists, as I feel your lips on my neck, as I smell your familiar scent. Your hands slip underneath my shirt, fingertips running across the skin of my back, sending shivers up my spine as I let out a moan.
I freeze, realising just what it is that we're doing. I take hold of your shoulders, pushing you away from me. "We can't do this," I whisper. The look on your face, I just... "I mean, not here." I rest my forehead against yours, my fingers running through your hair.
"We could go back to yours..." you say, a hopeful look in your eyes.
"Skipping on the first day of the year? As if I don't already have a bad enough reputation!" I laugh softly. "No, we need to get to classes. We're 'good students' now, remember?"
"Even you don't believe that, I hardly imagine anyone else will," you grouse, though I can see the glimmer of a smile on your face.
"Who cares what they think, it's what we know. That's all that matters, right?"
"Which is why we're hiding in the toilets to make out, since we're so big on the whole not caring thing."
I pull away from her, moving to lean against the stall's door. "Do you... I mean, I don't know... It's stupid, isn't it? The two of us, normally not giving a crap about anyone else's opinions of us, and now we're cowering and running away. I don't..." I hate this so much. "Why am I so scared?" I whisper, staring down at my feet, unwilling to show you this fear that grips me so.
"I'm no better," you mutter in that way of yours. A hand slips upwards to lift to my chin, making me look right at you. "I'm... just as scared. I mean, what would Yumi-san say? Or Tokiha? It's just... I don't want you to be my dirty little secret. I love you, and it hurts to be like this. But I'm just as scared as you."
"How are we supposed to know when the time's right to, well, tell everyone?"
"I have no idea. What am I, Buddha?" You grin at that bad joke of yours, and I know I can't keep a smile from my face. "We'll just do it when we're ready, I guess." The hand cupping my chin moves further upwards to tuck some hair behind my ear. You lean in close, your breath tickling my ear as you whisper, "Speaking of ready..." Your other hand slips around to press my hips into yours, before trailing down to palm one of my buttocks.
"O-oi!" I gasp, though I don't move to stop you.
"We really should be getting to homeroom." You pull me from the door, unlock and open it, grab your bag and then you're gone, all in the space of a few seconds, not a word spoken, leaving me standing there just staring after you. I don't know whether to laugh or curse, but the former eventually wins out.
I'm in a pretty good mood when I turn up for homeroom class, only just making it in time. I grab the first open seat I find, not too concerned about position. I shift a little in the seat, trying to get comfortable before I notice how silent the room has gotten. Turning around, I notice everyone is staring at me. "What?" I bark at them and they quickly pretend to pay attention to something else. I've no idea what's up with them, but I don't much care.
Sakomizu walks in through the door, and starts off the homeroom period. I get a nice spot by the window in the seating organisation, though I don't pay much attention during the rest of the period; I've no interest in who ends up as class president for the year, though it'll probably be Fukuzawa again, just like the last two years.
I'm staring out of the window when I notice the reflection of at least two different people staring at me. I turn and face them, but they quickly look away. What on earth is going on here? As annoying as it is, I don't much really care, so I ignore it during the morning lessons.
I can't find you at all during lunch, which is weird. I even checked the scene of our earlier rendezvous, but to no avail. Feeling somewhat grumpy (grumpier, I'm sure you'd say), I head out to the gazebo out by the floral gardens with the melon bread I got from the cafeteria. As I get close, I realise I'm not the only one out there, spying Yukino sat on the steps, eating from a bento.
"Oi," I say as a somewhat brusque greeting as she looks up at me. For half a second, she has a strange expression on her face, before giving me a tight smile. "Hello, Natsuki-san."
"You mind if I sit here?" I ask, sitting down anyway.
"Noticed you didn't come to the party a few days ago," I say
"Ah, I had plans with Haruka that night, so I couldn't make it."
"Huh, I always wondered about the two of you," I say, somewhat distracted by thoughts of what the hell has been going on today. The only response I get is the sound of Yukino choking, snapping me back to attention, as I watch her face go all red. "Oi, you alright?"
"Sorry, you just... caught me off guard with that," she replies after managing to swallow down the offending morsel.
For a few seconds, neither of us speak, the silence between us pretty awkward. "So... what's dating Haruka like then?" I ask, struggling for something to talk about with Yukino.
This time it's Calpis she sprays over one of the stone columns.
"We're not dating!" Yukino half-screams at me.
"Wait, you aren't? Even after all the Carnival and graduation stuff?"
"No, we... I..." she trails off.
"You just chickened out on it, didn't you?" I ask, not trying to conceal my contempt.
"Like you did any better!" she snaps back at me, and I'm quite impressed. I've never really had much to do with the current student council president, but she's always come across as rather meek. Apart from that awful confrontation during the Carnival, I've never seen her stand up for anything, let alone herself. It doesn't stop it from hurting though.
"I... sorry," she says, staring down at her half-finished bento.
"You're right of course." Her head snaps back up to look at me. "I chickened out of accepting Shizuru's feelings for me, and now she's gone, never coming back. There'll never be another chance with her. But it's not too late for you, is it? Haruka's going to the university in town right? Tell her before she's gone from your life, before your chance is gone. Love doesn't just land in your lap, you have to go out and win it."
Neither of us speaks for the rest of lunch, as we both think about what I said. I don't know if I could have ever loved Shizuru the way she wanted me to, but does that mean I shouldn't have tried? She gave me so much, always being there for me, and I just pushed her away. I won't do the same thing to you, I don't dare.
The bell rings out, announcing the start of afternoon classes, so Yukino and I go our separate ways. I head up to the top floor for the afternoon homeroom session. As I reach for the door to slide it open, I hear voices from inside. I don't now why, but I stop and listen.
"It's pretty hot, ain't it?" one voice says.
Another voice chimes in, "It's a waste, that's what it is. Two hotties like that."
"We shouldn't be talking about this," a third voice says, this time female, possibly Fukuzawa.
"Why not? It's not our fault she couldn't be a bit more discreet," says the first voice
"We don't even know if it's true or not! It's just hurtful gossip," the third voice replies.
"Then you go and ask her about it then!" the first voice says, a derisive tone in his voice.
"Hah, I wouldn't wish that on anyone, she's harsh," the second voice laughs.
I have a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach as I yank the door open. Everyone stops talking and turns to look at me.
"What is it?" I snarl.
They all look somewhat sheepish, before Fukuzawa steps up to me. "Is it true, Kuga-san?" she asks.
"Is what true?" a bitter tone in my voice.
"You know, uh..." she trails off, somewhat embarrassed.
I take in a big breath, trying to calm myself, before speaking again. "No, I don't know. If I did, I wouldn't be asking."
"That you are dating Yuuki-san from the first year."
"And this is something a lot of people have heard?"
"I heard about it today, but I think some people heard about it yesterday."
"I see. Thank you, Fukuzawa-san." I turn and walk from the classroom, trying to keep my pace calm as I make my way downstairs, intending to go to your homeroom, but I hear raised voices as I reach the second floor, drawing my attention towards a crowd gathering in the corridor. Some stupid argument over something trivial, no doubt, though it's surprising that it's managed to flare up on the first day back. And then I see a flash of red amongst the sea of bodies.
I shoulder people out of the way until I break into the centre of the crowd. It takes a few seconds for the scene in front of me to actually make any sense, and then I'm quickly moving, catching the wrist pulled back ready to lash out. Green eyes bright with anger turn to face me, but they quickly lose their venom as they realise who it is that stopped them.
"What's going on here?" I ask softly in the silence that suddenly fills the corridor. You don't say anything, instead falling to your knees in front of me, arms looping around my back as you sob into my stomach.
I turn my head to look at Chie where she was cowering against the window, before looking down at you. I rest my hand on your head, gently rubbing. "She's didn't do it," I whisper, before joining you down on my knees on the floor. Your head rests upon my shoulder as you cling to me, but I ease you away, tucking your hair behind your ears. "What do we care anyway? Fuck 'em if they look down on us." I lay a soft kiss upon your lips, before helping you up to your feet. "Let's just get out of here for today," I say, as I scoop you up into my arms. The crowd parts as I walk through them and make my way downstairs.
The walk to the dormitories seems to take forever, but I don't mind at all, just enjoying the feeling of your arms wrapped around my neck as you rest against my upper body. As we reach your apartment, I help you into bed, doing my best to ignore the sight of bare flesh as you change into that ratty t-shirt you sleep in. I sit on the mattress beside you, stroking your hair as you look up at me with big eyes. "Go to sleep Nao, I'll be here when you wake up," I say softly, leaning in to plant a soft kiss upon your forehead.
When you finally fall asleep, I head into the bathroom, giving my face a wash, before staring into the mirror. I can't keep my shoulders from shaking, having to look away, slamming a fist against the wall. Drying my face off, I make to go back to the bedroom, but I see Mizunashi sat on the sofa, just staring at the wall opposite her. She looks up at me as I draw near, but shrinks away from the thunderous expression I know I'm wearing upon my face.
"It was you who told everyone," I say in a matter-of-fact voice.
She doesn't respond, instead looking away from me.
"I realise you didn't do it to hurt her, you were just surprised. You had a piece of juicy gossip and you wanted to tell everyone. You just didn't think through the consequences, did you?" And then I'm by her side, grabbing her arm and dragging her to her feet. "Or did you just think you'd get away with it? Did you think I wouldn't know it was you?"
I pull her into the bedroom; I know I'm hurting her, but she doesn't make a sound. "Look at her!" I hiss into Mizunashi's ear. "She nearly attacked Yamada-san today. She broke down crying in front of a crowd of students. She hasn't spoken a word to me since then. And all of this is because you couldn't keep your mouth shut."
She's crying now, but I don't care. "You have no conception of how much you hurt her today. When she wakes up tomorrow, you're going to take responsibility for your actions and tell her what you did, and you're going to take whatever punishment she dishes out. And I'll tell you this right here and now, whatever she does will be tame compared to what I would do in her place. Do you understand?"
I let go of her arm, grabbing your keys as I stalk from the apartment, heading back to my own. It pisses me off how irresponsible people can be with others emotions, not thinking about how silly little things can have terrible repercussions. Too many times I hurt Shizuru with my carelessness, insensitive towards her feelings. Changing quickly, I return to your apartment, and Mizunashi's nowhere to be seen, probably a good thing. I was too harsh on her, I know that, but I was just so damn frustrated. Returning to the bedroom, I pause in the doorway, watching you sleep, curled up into a ball on the bed. I pull in a chair and set it next to your bed; I sit in it, taking your outstretched hand in mine and just wait. Waiting is all I can do.