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The Start Of A Beautiful Relationship

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Perhaps I should've been expecting it. Not since the beginning, really, because there was a lot I didn't know in the beginning. Besides, a lot has changed since then. But even before Shingu went away, there were comments about Nayuta-chan being my 'girlfriend.' I'd gotten good at ignoring them. So the whole thing caught me by surprise.

It was a nice day in late spring, and I was sitting outside with my friends, eating lunch (a home-made bento from my sister, nothing too fascinating) and talking about Toshio's ideas for a video game. Most of it was about programming, so I was really paying more attention to my bento. The first I noticed was Atsushi trailing off in the middle of a sentence, which wasn't like him, and Jirou making a squeaking sort of noise, and then saying quickly, "I didn't do it!"

I looked up in curiosity, only to find Nayuta looming over me, arms crossed and eyes narrowed. "Hajime."

I stared up at her, eyes wide and chopsticks frozen still in my hand as I tried to figure out what was going on. Had I done something? Had Muryou done something? (Which should've had her glaring at him, true, but sometimes she still blames me for Muryou.) I managed a wavery, "Uh?"

"If you want to ask me out, do it yourself, don't send Shun."

Well. Like I said, people have said things, but nothing I would've expected Nayuta-chan to take seriously. Which meant...actually, I wasn't sure what it meant. I hesitated for a second, before saying cautiously, "All right?"

She studied me for what felt like a really long time, as if she wasn't sure I wasn't joking around with her, then hmphed and turned away. "I'll be ready at 7," she said over her shoulder, and walked back to the school with her head high, as if she didn't have nearly everyone staring at her in fear, confusion, or both. (It wasn't everyone only because Muryou had looked up from his sandwich just long enough to see who it was, then returned his attention to eating, politely pretending he wasn't listening.)

Atsushi watched her go, then looked back and forth between me and the way she'd gone, as if he didn't quite believe what he just saw either. "Did she just ask him out?"

"She thinks he just asked her out," Toshio corrected absently, frowning down at his laptop as if annoyed that he'd let himself get distracted.

Atsushi shook his head as if he still didn't quite get it. Jirou shuddered dramatically, and clapped me on the back. "Better you than me."

Muryou and Toshio both looked up again at that, but it was Atsushi who pointed out, "I thought you were complaining that you didn't have a girlfriend."

"I don't want her," Jirou said, nose in the air as if he had his pick of girls. "I want some sweet girl who'll cook for me, and kiss me, and look at me with those eyes..." He practically had little hearts in his eyes, picturing this imaginary perfect girl.

Atsushi squashed the hearts with a thoughtful, "Nayuta looked at Hajime that way, doesn't she?"

There was a moment of general consideration -- by which I mean that Atsushi considered it, Jirou grimaced, Toshio tilted his head for a second as if calculating odds, and Muryou ate the last bite of his sandwich, looking at me as if waiting to see what I was going to say. I opened my mouth then shut it again. I did remember that look, but it was a very private sort of memory. Besides, the circumstances had been...well, let's just say that it really wasn't the same thing as Jirou's dream girl at all.

Before I could find the words to say that, or at least to say something like it, Jirou drew himself up, waved one hand regally, and said, "That time doesn't count. She wasn't all back yet."

Atsushi hummed something that sounded like agreement, without even looking at me. "It's going to be an interesting relationship," he said.

"He's already friends with her," Toshio said, raising his eyebrows at them and ignoring my sputtering attempts to object. "How is it different?"

"Once kissing is involved," Jirou said wisely, "Everything changes."

I couldn't be silent any more. "I'm not going to kiss her!"

"He hasn't kissed anyone," Jirou said gravely, as if he was translating for me.

"Perhaps you should practice," Atsushi suggested, and bit into his sandwich as if that would hide his grin.

I groaned. Then I felt a reassuring hand settle on my shoulder, and turned my head in time to see Muryou's quiet smile. "Don't worry. It'll be fine."

"How can you say that?" Jirou said, leaning forward to stare at Muryou. "You of all people -- don't you like Nayuta too?"

Muryou only smiled some more. For some reason, it actually was reassuring.

Then I remembered: I was going on a date with Nayuta. Tonight. At 7 PM. Which might involve kissing.

I tried not to shiver. Facing down aliens had been easier.