'Thine heart? What should I name it, but a hollow bullet filled with unquenchable wild fire?'
The Service Club.
Yukinoshita Yukino does not remember the day of the first Service Club meeting anymore. There have been too many days since then. Too many hours that have replaced that first hour, and too many sun beams or rain storms to replace whatever the weather had been, now only a chipped slab of coarse grey in her memory, and too many listless emotions that have bombarded it, undermined it, and for so long. Today, the meetings have all bled into one, like ink on litmus paper, black split apart until all its red, blue, and green is laid naked, its secrets, the most human of its colours.
And, looking at the Service Club laid naked, with all its naive ideals and equally naive disputes around those ideals emptied out, she can see what it has ultimately achieved. Not achieved. It has proven nothing, other than the truth that she is nowhere near the sum of the reflections that she thought she was or could be. The Service Club's purpose was to help people, or put more arrogantly, to enlighten them. To send them back off into the waters of Sobu High as changed, elegant young swans when all they'd been previously was an ugly inbetween, neither duckling nor swan, stone nor diamond, rock nor alabaster, because a person could only resemble her stainless, gorgeously carved bust of a what a person should be like.
A bust that, eerily enough, only really resembled the statuesque presumption of how Yukinoshita Yukino, the Ice Queen, the flawless student, wanted to appear. It was all and only what she'd carved out in her head.
And it was as soon as other people came to the Service Club, joined it and moulded it for themselves, that the carving ceased to be the truth that it never was in the first place.
She's willing to accept this. That the Service Club has not achieved. That its purpose is a misguided one, and Yukinoshita Yukino is not stubborn enough to pursue a misguided purpose. She would only be lying to herself if the Service Club was allowed to continue.
And so, she is waiting outside the door of Hiratsuka-sensei's office. It is not an unfamiliar waiting. After every Service Club session, it is customary that she should return the key to the clubroom, and she has been there simply because the guidance counsellor wanted to talk to her, and for the odd, half forgotten reasons that other hazy club sessions demanded. She's never waited this long to enter, though. In the past she has knocked swiftly and spoken to Hiratsuka-sensei briefly, leaving politely because she had some other urgency to attend to, a piece of homework that wasn't due for a couple of weeks but would ease her mind if completed early. A meeting with Haruno or her parents that simply couldn't wait.
She can see Hiratsuka-sensei through the window in the door, if she stands on the balls of her feet. There she is, labcoat as proud as a lioness, scrambling her pen's fluorescent green ink onto a student's essay. The guidance counsellor is nearly always late to hand them back.
Yukinoshita Yukino waits.
She hadn't waited when she came to ask if a new club could be formed. Something that she'd tentatively labelled the 'Volunteers Club', but that not five minutes later, she'd realise would be mroe appropriately labelled something else.
Yukinoshita Yukino waits.
Just when she's about to knock, Hiratsuka turns her head and sees her through the window. The Ice Queen almost backs away, but then she's beckoned in and now it's obligatory.
She open the door and steps inside.
"Good afternoon, Hiratsuka-sensei."
"Nice day so far?"
"It has been quiet."
She smiles tenderly, as if talking to someone much younger than a high school student. "And that constitutes a good day for you, does it?"
Yukinoshita considers this. "... Not necessarily."
"Really? I'd have thought a good kid like you would be a dead on yes."
Tenderly. None of her usual brashness. "Absolutely."
"... I've tried being a good kid before Hiratsuka-sensei."
"You don't need to try to be that, Yukinoshita. How long have I known you for... a year and a half, something like that? I've never thought differently all that time."
"... Of course."
"Well... pull up a chair if you want?"
"I would prefer to stand, thank you sensei."
"Sure. I'm guessing you have something to talk to me about?"
"Yes, though it's more of a request."
"Hm. You never do come on trivialities, do you?"
"You're my sensei. Not a friend."
"Yeah. I guess you have the Service Club for that."
"I... that was what I wanted to talk to you about. The Service Club."
Hiratsuka swivels a little more on her chair, angling herself until they're looking at each other directly.
"Okay. Go for it."
Hiratsuka blinks. "It's alright, Yukinoshita. Take your time."
The Service Club president glances back towards the door. It looks breathtakingly inviting.
"I... I sincerely apologise sensei, but it would appear that my thoughts are... it would appear that my resolve is nowhere near as concrete as I thought. I... perhaps it would be best if I returned at a later date."
"You can do that if you want."
"If I want?"
"Yeah. You can do whatever you want Yukinoshita."
"... With the greatest amount of respect, sensei, I can assure you that isn't true."
Yukinoshita hadn't noticed the dramatic sunset burning its route through the sky, just behind Hiratsuka's head. She was far too preoccupied with her choice of words, her phrasing, to see it, and it's often the case in the Service Club too. Talking to someone is a task that commands a person's upmost attention, if her own experience can be relied upon- they must be of the right temperament to understand it properly. The potent blend of assured arrogance and assured empathy. Yukinoshita does not have the right temperament at all.
It truly is magnificent, she thinks. All pink infernos and pillars of orange ash, fizzing in the silhouette of Hiratsuka's long black hair. Imagine the whole sky breathing and crashing in a person's brain. A comet shower in a blazing mind.
"Like I said, you don't have to tell me if you want."
"Well, you seem unsur-"
"No. I'm not unsure."
"... I apologise. I spoke out of turn-"
"There's no need to apologise, Yukinoshita. Saying what's on your mind is an admirable trait."
"Not if it's something they don't want to hear."
"Yukinoshita..." She sighs. "People always want the easiest thing."
"You said I could have whatever I want."
"No, I didn't. I said you could do whatever you want."
"... But... but what if I want the easiest thing... regardless of... of need, and... and truth..."
Hiratsuka shakes her head. Tenderly. Tenderly.
"Then you could return at a later date? The Service Club doesn't run itself. And I'll be here to listen whenever you want."
"I want to dispand the Service Club."
"I... I strongly believe that it... that it has run its course. No... I believe that it had already run its course some time ago. I believe that it may have been a wrongful venture in the first place, and that thinking it necessary was a colossal miscalculation on my part. I... I strongly believe this, and so I want to dispand the Service Club."
"I'll dispand the Service Club for you. It may take a couple of days. Y'know, to run it through the people and stuff... actually, it probably won't take very long at all. The club budget is pretty stretched as it is."
"... Just like that."
Hiratsuka swivels back towards her desk.
"Yeah. I could probably sort it out for you by tomorrow, if you want?"
"... Of course, sensei. Thank you very much."
Yukinoshita Yukino waits. Unmoving. Silent.
"Do you have anything you want to ask?"
"... Are you sure?"
"... I... I suppose that... I suppose that I didn't expect..."
"Well, you can do whatever you want, Yukinosh-"
"Would you... would you tell my your opinion of my choice?"
She lifts an eyebrow.
"My opinion of what choice?"
"To disband the Service Club."
"... I can tell you if you want. But I'll tell you what you need to hear. Not anything else. You fine with that?"
"Of course, Hiratsuka-sensei."
She puts down the marker pen that she'd picked up again.
"My opinion is that you shouldn't be asking for my opinion."
"... Whose opinion are you referring to?"
"Your clubmate's. The people who made the Service Club possible-"
"They didn't make it possible, Hiratsuka-sensei."
Yukinoshita links her fingers together. Seeing them apart felt cold, somehow.
"If anything, they did the opposite."
"I'm not sure that's entirely true, Yukinoshi-"
"No, I... I think that it is."
"Then tell me something else. Have you even told them you were planning to do this?"
"Did you consider telling them?"
"Then it stands to reason that you thought you couldn't. That they would disapprove, I suppose?"
"If you dispand the Service Club, they will have to know, Yukinoshita. There's no way around that."
"... Well... that's my opinion. I can't give you anything more than that."
"... I'm right in believing that I am the president of the Service Club, yes?"
"Then it's my choice how I conduct it, is it not? Whether it continues or dispands..."
"I never quesioned that, Yukinoshita. I only gave you my opinion."
"... Yes. I thank you for that, sensei."
"Though... though... I knew that I shouldn't hear it..."
Her fingers are locked together. Yards of a chain. Link and link and link. Like strands of a rope, reaching down from the highest window of an apartment complex to the bedroom of a house not far from Sobu High, furious like the crash of a comet.
Yukinoshita Yukino pulls her fingers apart.
"I strongly believe that the Service Club should be dispanded, Hiratsuka-sensei. That is what I want."
She turns her back on the school guidance counsellor.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to lock up the clubroom early. Now that the decision's been made, I see no reason to delay. I'll retrieve the key and return it, if you deem it adequate?"
"Sure. As long as Yuigahama or Hikigaya aren't there...?"
"... I already informed you that Hikigaya hadn't been attending of late, and Yuigahama... Yuigah-"
She screws her eyes shut. Hiratsuka can't see her face, but she can probably guess.
"Yuigahama... could not attend today. She told me that she had missed some homework and didn't know how long it would take her to finish. It... not attending was just precautionary, I assume."
"Is dispanding the Service Club precautionary, too?"
Hiratsuka sighs. "Sorry Yukinoshita. That was unfair of me."
"... Of course."
"You can go and bring back the key if you want."
"You're... I appreciate your guidance throughout my tenure as the Service Club's president."
"That's a very formal way of saying thank you... but yeah, it wasn't a problem at all. Like I said, you're a good kid, Yukinoshita."
She reaches for the door and opens it.
"I never saw you three happy before the Service Club."
"I don't think that it was a 'wrongful venture'. I think it was a brilliant idea, Yukinoshita. A nice one. And I'll always be here to listen to you. If you have another brilliant idea, or if you just need to tell me something. You can always tell me, Yukinoshita."
"... I don't have anything else to tell you, Hiratsuka-sensei. If I do, I will come to your office again."
"I'm just going to collect the key. I'll be back momentarily."
"... Thank you, Hiratsuka-sensei."
"... Wait, Yukin-"
She closes the door before she can hear the words. Immediately, she is turning around, moving, moving as fast as her feet can carry her without breaking into a sprint that would send her spiralling away, down the corridor, away from the office, back to the clubroom.
Yukinoshita Yukino's clubroom.
No. The Service Club's room.
The Service Club.
Yukinoshita reaches into her blazer pocket and removes a piece of paper. A note that she's written on. She had written on it before she came to Hiratsuka-sensei's office to tell her of the decision, when she was sat in the Service Club, alone but for the scent of the tea, the taste of it on her tongue.
She reads it frantically as she walks. There are inky wounds, splodges around the writing where tears had fallen as she wrote.
I have decided that the time is appropriate. The time is right to dispand the Service Club. There is no discernible reason why it should continue.
No reason that I can discern.
There is no one else with me in the clubroom. It is just as it was at the beginning, before anyone else joined. I would go so far to describe it as deja vu. I have a book on the table beside me, Pan-chan the Panda, but I am obviously not reading it, as I have decided to dispand the Service Club.
Hikigaya Hachiman is not here. Neither is Yuigahama Yui. I have no requests to answer, and we have not had a request for a number of weeks, and such consistent inactivity is precisely why the Service Club needs to be dispanded.
I have also decided that it would be wise to pen a note to the only other member of the Service Club, at least in spirit if not in writing. Hikigaya Hachiman has not attended for several weeks either, so I would consider myself alone in the Service Club except for Yuigahama Yui.
We are alone together, and I would assume this is markedly less miserable than being alone.
This note will obviously not suffice as a final draft, as many sections of the paper are either smudged or sloppily written, and I am not writing in kanji, which I have always been told is correct for a letter of formal address, and therefore this will only be an initial draft where I can write my thoughts as they arrive without fear of judgement.
I am writing to Yuigahama Yui alone, as Hikigaya Hachiman is now no longer a member of the Service Club.
Dear Yuigahama Yui,
Hikigaya-kun is not a person who should be
I am still afraid.
There is no shadow large enough for me to hide in. I feel as if the sun could eclipse, could rain down shadows on the earth in their hundreds of millions, and hundreds of millions of eyes would still find me.
You are my friend Yuigahama, and if that means that I
If it means the same for both of us, then I
I am so afraid. I was afraid then but I am more afraid now. I always feel afraid. I am never entirely certain what I am afraid of, but I am afraid of it, deeply afraid, and it doesn't matter where it is or what it is because all that matters is that I am afraid of it and that is all that matters.
I am deeply sorry, for I know how much is has meant and could mean to you, but the Service Club can no longer continue. As the president of the Service Club, that is my final request.
Your's sincerely, Yukinoshita Yukino
I intend to inform Hiratsuka-sensei of my decision shortly.
Her pace slows a little as she gets nearer and nearer to the clubroom. Though what's she written is hardly comforting, though the words are full of screaming echoes lost too deep in the ocean to be heard, she finds a sonorous note, a melodic clarity in the cries washed away, that she latches onto. She'll latch onto anything if it will freeze the dissonant screeches in her chest.
She decides what the best way to go forward is. She will do what she told Hiratsuka-sensei she would do. She will retrieve the key and close the door to the clubroom. Permanently. She will pack up her tea set as well and she won't look at its setting on the side table where it has waited and waited for months, at the seats where she and Hikigaya and Yuigahama had waited too, at the windows with the view of the school and the swarm of Chiba's tallest buildings in the background. Then, she will tell Yuigahama of her decision. Hikigaya does not deserve to know. It was naive of her to think that a note would be sufficient. She will tell Yuigahama in person.
Yukinoshita doesn't stop, arriving at the clubroom door, because she's never stopped before. There isn't a Hiratsuka-sensei sat inside, just sitting, with the tenderness and the opinions that she should never have asked for or wanted, circling, circling, a tornado of sharks in a panicked night sea, caught in the net of maddening scent of blood, a sailor's body sinking to the bottom. She rushes in. She'd left the key on the table, just in front of Yuigahama's chair-
The key is where she left it. Untouched. But there is someone waiting for her.
The Service Club president straightens herself. She flattens her skirt, heartbeat punching into the bones of her ribcage like a byaonet that backfired. She was far too hurried as she entered her clubroom.
No. The Service Club's room. Her, Yuigahama and the boy currently sitting at one of the chairs. Not his chair, though. He's sat with the window behind him, the sunset behind him as it was for Hiratsuka-sensei, in the chair where she is supposed to sit, not opposite her, not where he is supposed to be. Hikigaya's features are only hardened, settled, by the soft, breathing colours about him; the vibrant truths of the ebbing sun only running alongside the vibrant truths of his face, instead of falling upon it, changing it. The carving of his jawline seems fierce, as it were brandishing a knife at her, and his dead fish eyes are just that. Dead. A lifeless glare.
This is the Hikigaya-kun that she saw opposite her at all of the Service Club sessions.
Who was the Yukinoshita Yukino that he saw opposite him?
Her pants emerge like fences of smoke from a factory.
"Why what, Yukinoshita-san?"
She screws her eyes tightly shut.
"Why are you here, Hikigaya-kun?"
Yukinoshita is not looking. She doesn't notice as the lifelessness is purposely forced from his glare.
"... I'm not entirely sure."
"Were you... yo- you seemed sure that you shouldn't come."
"I was sure. A... a part of me is still sure of that."
"But you're here."
Her fingers are itching. She feels the urge to lock them together again.
"... Is Yuigahama here as well?"
"She isn't. She's... she informed me that she couldn't attend. There was some schoolwork."
"... That's alright. You're the one I need to talk to most."
"Is that okay? If we talk?"
"It's strange... I seem to be reliving the conversation I just had. With Hiratsuka-sensei."
"Sorry if I'm boring you."
"... Hikigaya-kun, you... you are everything but boring."
"And you're everything but the person I thought you were."
"... I apologise if I disappointed you."
"There's no reason I should be disappointed."
"But yo- you are?"
"... I... This is... this is my final request, Yukinoshita-san. To the Service Club."
"Your final request?"
Her everything is itching. The sunset isn't magnificent, and the tea set is old and the table looks dusty in the light. Hikigaya looks sad. Is he sad?
"It will also be the Service Club's last request, Hikigaya-kun."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm... I intend to dispand the Service Club. After you've finished, I'm shall take the key back to Hiratsuka-sensei."
"... You're dispanding it?"
"What are you thinki-"
"Nothing. But... you have... you have the time for one more request?"
"I... probably wouldn't."
"What do you mean?"
"... If it were not a club member making the request, I would see no reason to respond."
"I'm hardly a member anymore."
"No. That is... that is the truth."
"The truth is... the truth is that is my request, Yukinoshita-san."
Their eyes meet.
"I still want to be a club member, Yukinoshita-san."
"I don't want the Service Club to be dispanded. That is my request."
Yukinoshita takes a step back, but it leads her directly into another gaze. The sun blinds her, so she has to step forward again. Her shadow is resting on the door. She can't hide in it.
"... There is... your request is impossible to grant."
"Why is it impossible?"
"... I... I just told you that it was my intention to dispand the Service Club."
"Shouldn't you have asked its members before making that decision?"
"I... you are not a member anymore, and I- I am the president of the Service Clu-"
"Then you can still choose not to dispand it. You can grant my request."
His voice turns hoarse. His head droops. His fist is clenched on the table.
"Yukinoshita-san, I... I don't care anymore. I don't care about anything anymore. I just don't care. I shouldn't care enough to make this request either, but... about the Service Club... I do care. I care about... I care about you. I care about Yuigahama, and I care about the Service Club."
He tries to meet her gaze but she avoids it. Her fingers are trembling.
"I... I don't understand."
"What don't you understa-"
"How... how can't you care?"
"How can you... how can you leave, and... how can you not come to the Service Club for weeks and never once speak to us and... and tell Yuigahama what you told her and... how can you say you care about... about the 'truth' or about the... how can you say this whe-"
"Because of you, Yukinoshita-san."
She draws her hand to her chest. She can feel bullets. She can. She pushes her teeth violently against her lips. She tries to focus on the sunset, not on Hikigaya, not on him.
He stands up. The chair legs screech on the floor like glass over skin.
"I want to care about you, Yukinoshita-san."
"I don't want to care about truth if it means that I can't care about you, Yukinoshita-san."
He begins to pace. Up and down the length of the table. She stays exactly where she is.
"I cared so much, and I... I thought about it so much. I wrote about it as well. I did all of those things so fucking much. But it didn't change anything, Yukinoshita. Everytime I tried to think about that night, or you or anybody, I just... I just couldn't. I kept on seeing the Service Club-"
"-and I kept on seeing us, sat in our seats with a sunset like this one. All of three of us together. We didn't have to be answering a request. I'd just... I'd just see us, Yukinoshita-"
"Hikigaya, I can't grant you-"
"-seeing you sat there, looking so beautiful. I can't believe I've nearly told you how beautiful you are, Yukinoshita-san. And I want to care about you. If you could care about me too, I'd make it so you never had to think about the party or Haruno or your parents ever again-"
"-I can't gr- grant your reques-"
"-even though there's so many things that I still think about. Even now. There's so many things that still don't make sense, like what Tobe told me or how Kawasaki ran away or why Yuigahama left the kitchen or why Miura smashed that bottle or why Hayama had to... why he..."
His pacing has brought him close. Close. Too close. He's only about a foot away from her, staring at her with eyes full of everything, everything but lifelessness. His frame is blocking out the sun from the window and his shadow is stood beside her own.
His words are closer. What he'd said. What he's thought about.
They are closer. Tighter.
"But I don't care anymore."
"I can't care, if it means that I can't... if we can't have-"
She lifts her head.
Yukinoshita still doesn't know what he looks like. How can someone spend so long watching, looking, thinking, breathing, and still not know the slightest thing about the person who is watching, looking, thinking and breathing in return? He looks neither menacing nor inviting, and he speaks roughly tender, and he breathes like each breath is full of diamonds. He isn't handsome, but he isn't ugly. He just isn't.
Isn't what? Isn't enough?
But she knows what is enough.
She knows precisely what she needs to say.
"Hikigaya-kun... I... I cannot say whether I can grant your request or not."
"All I can say is that... is that I want to."
She steps forward, still not quite looking, not quite assured. He's taller than her. Her eyeline almost reaches his collar. She looks at the buttons, at the smooth of his neck, the beginning of his lips.
"If it is at all in my power, then... then I want to care. I want to care about you. I want you, and I want the Service Club."
She doesn't think about it twice. She leans forward, and Yukinoshita and Hikigaya's lips meet. She instigates it. Carefully and with as much grace as she can offer. The slightest of contacts- a breeze blown up by the wings of a bird, taking flight.
Her fingers are itching. A rope is trembling.
Yukinoshita Yukino waits. She waits for him to move too. To move himself closer, and deepen the kiss.
He doesn't move.
She draws away slightly and looks up at his face.
Hikigaya Hachiman's dead fish eyes are no longer wanting. They are no longer lifeless, either.
Instead, they are full of a raging fire. They are full of anger and release.
He looks wild, like a lion released from its cage.
"Got you," he hisses.
She steps back.
"You can't hide from me anymore, Yukinoshita. I know it was Yuigahama."
His voice is being cut to ribbons, exploding on the air, ragged with an anger coming from every part of his body. The gritted teeth. The burnt eyes. The shake in his hands.
"It was Yuigahama. I know I'm right. She killed him."
She doesn't move, barely breathing, barely thinking.
How... how can he...
Her expression is all that he needs. Something else begins to explode on his face. A grin. The grin of a teenager whose been told their homework has been cancelled.
"I... knew it. I knew it. I knew I was right. A- and I am. I'm right. I was fucking right."
He turns the grin on her, wildly, and she feels nothing inside.
"I fucking knew it. You can't lie to me anymore. No one can. I was fucking right."
Suddenly, he has to steady his hands. Wild. Grinning. Ecstatic.
"You know, I thought you would play along, Yukinoshita. I really thought you would. I wouldn't have planned it like that otherwise, but... I... I didn't think you'd go that far to protect her. You'd pretend to care about me, just for her? Ebina was right. People really will do anything for friendship."
"Although maybe I should've just expected it. It's not like you've hesitated to lie since the party. Or not tell the truth, or however you'd prefer it. You're not very good at it though, are you? You make it easy. It was impossible to grant my request, but as soon as I mention Yuigahama leaving the kitchen. As soon as I mention it, you change your mind-"
"What's the excuse now? That something's are better left forgotten? That I'm a cruel person? That was what Yuigahama told me."
"... I... I think you need to leave."
Her voice is a whisper, and its empty and weightless. She can't see him anymore. The boy sat across from her in a Service Club chair, as their latest hour together ambled to a close. All she sees is something huge and terrifying, standing far above her.
"And why should I do that, Yukinoshita?"
"Please don't tell me you're scared of the tru-"
She chokes. Something wet burns at the edge of her eyelids.
"J- just, just go."
She spins around herself, towards the door, away from him. But fingers like vices clamp onto her arm. He pulls her back, back into the clubroom, pushes her over to the table until he's standing between her and the door. She feels like her veins are about to crack.
"Please, jus- just stop-"
"No. You stop."
"You have no right to tell me to do anything-"
"What? Will will you do? Tell Hiratsuka-sensei? Tell Haruno? I don't care Yukinoshita. You could lie to everybody all over again and I wouldn't care. All I want is for you to listen to me."
"I'm going to tell you everything. Everything that happened that night, and why it fucking happened and you're going to listen because it's the fucking truth, and there's nothing anyone can do to change that."
"... I don't unders-"
"I was fucking right, Yukinoshita! What don't you understand about that?"
Hikigaya doesn't move closer. He just stands there, watching her, expression distorted. A radio that's lost its tuning.
"You were arranged to be married to him, weren't you?"
"I... I should've guessed. Not about the engagement, but that you'd told Yuigahama. You were always... always close. I always thought you looked more at home around her than with anyone else. I... she probably realised something was wrong. Maybe she had to force it out of you. It doesn't matter. It just matters that she knew."
"And Miura wouldn't have had to tell about how Hayama was treating her. She'd known he was stringing her along, like any other student with an ounce of fucking common sense. And then on the night of Miura's birthday party, when there's so much that could already go wrong, she finds out that your drink is going to be spiked."
"You didn't know that, did you? Miura was planning to spike your drink. Nothing malicious, of course. Just a little fucking joke. But obviously, they argue about it. And even after she's dissuaded her, they both just forget to clear away the drink. You didn't know about that either, did you? Her first big mistake. Y'know who ends up taking that drink? Who ends up being virtually blind for the rest of the night?"
"Yes. And she has a part to play herself. That you do know."
He breathes out.
"They start drinking after that. I... was so stupid, Yukinoshita. Not to take that into account. They were all drunk. I was so obsessed with who was lying that it never once occured to me that these people just didn't know. Or... or that they might be telling the truth.
"He arrives soon after. Hayama, with all of his friends. And Yuigahama has already been drinking. No one is really looking. They're out in the back garden, or somewhere else or not paying attention, and suddenly, she sees a chance to tell Hayama what she's been thinking for a long time. Ebina was wrong about that. It wasn't Miura who confronted him in the downstairs bathroom."
For the last part, he seems to forget Yukinoshita is in the room at all.
"Hayama's words... 'I'm sorry. I was going to say eventually'. That could've been an answer to both of you. You and Miura. But they make her angry. Perhaps she can see he isn't really sorry. That he has no intention of changing things for either of her friends. He just wants everything to stay the same- and when his parents force his life to change, Sobu High will be long gone. And that makes her angry-"
"You don't know, Hikigaya-kun."
"You don't know what she was feeling. Even if you... you think you know everything else, you... you don't kno-"
"I don't care about what she was feeling. I care about what she did. What you did."
"... The party only really begins after that. When all of the guests have arrived. We all drink and concern ourselves with how we look and how everyone else looks, and Yuigahama has more time to be angry about Hayama, and Miura has more time to indulge her stupid dream of a romantic comedy. I honestly don't think I've ever met a person more transparent than Miura Yumiko. For awhile, I really thought she might've done it. What do you think about that, Yukinoshita? I don't know about her feelings, after all.
"Playing spin in the bottle... have you ever wondered what might've happened if Miura hadn't insisted on that game? That was when things went wrong, wasn't I? You all got hit with a bit of reality. Forgetting there wasn't a chance Hayama would feel the same can't be easy when he's about to kiss someone else. I'm sure you were forgetting about him too. And Yuigahama can see it. Her two friends, not forgetting. And if I'm right, you already know who picked up the glass. Just after the bottle was smashed."
"Are you really not going to say anything?"
"... It was Kawasaki. I know it was. In the confusion, she was the one fell down to the floor, a- and she picked it up. Probably not even thinking about it. She couldn't have been thinking at that point, from what she'd drank. And yeah, I took her upstairs. I was the one who took her upstairs with that fucking glass and just left her in Miura's bedroom. I didn't even see she was holding it, or how, but... but that's the only time it could've got upstairs.
"And this... this was what confused me for so long, Yukinoshita. This is why I realised it was Yuigahama."
He moves closer to her again. Her legs are already pressed up against the table, as far as she can get away from him, the feeling of cold on her skin.
"Of all the people at the party... of all the people who I thought would be important, it was Tobe that actually changed things. It never clicked with me. On the night of the party, I remembered him telling me something... that it was so dark in the back garden that no one could've been seen out there. Not from the kitchen, or any window in the housem, and he was right. But when I spoke to him, Yamato and Ooka, on the way back from the cafe, they told me that they'd seen Hayama outside. That he'd needed to be alone, and that they'd seen him outside when tidying up the rest of the glass. And I just assumed. I was outside in the front drive at that time, so it could only have been the back garden that they meant."
Hikigaya scrunches his eyes shut, as if in pain.
"But even that isn't possible. It isn't possible that they could've seen him in the back garden because of the light, and it isn't possible that they could've seen someone on the front drive, because it was me who was on the front drive. But they're only either telling the truth or lying. Not just mistaken. They have to be one of the two."
They flicker open.
"They did see someone. Of that I have no doubt, Yukinoshita. But Miura... Miura was another person I just didn't fucking listen to. Just when I was leaving her house, when I thought I hadn't learnt anything, I stopped paying attention. She saw me walking away from the house, and the porchlights... they blinded her. She couldn't see me properly, but in that kind of light, I was just a silhouette. A silhouette of a boy with long hair and a shadow stretching to the back of the drive. And she said it. She told me. That because the porch lights were so bright, I looked exactly like Hayama. Tobe, Ooka and Yamato... they did see someone, in the front drive. But it wasn't Hayama. They saw me, and assumed that it was him."
He clicks his fingers.
"And just like that, it all makes sense. Miura and Ebina weren't lying to me either. They told me that they thought it was you who was in the back garden, and it was. You didn't need to tell me that. I figured it out. And Hayama... after the game of spin the bottle. He was already upstairs. Waiting for that piece of glass without knowing that he was waiting.
"You can tell me the rest from then on, can't you Yukinoshita."
She's hardly noticed, but her teeth have been locked into her bottom lip. She can taste something metallic in her mouth.
"You're still not going to say it? What happened?"
"... Yuigahama... she left the kitchen between 9:45 and 10 past. Ebina did too, bu- but it was her that meant something. She leaves the kitchen to get something to dry Miura's eyes. Perhaps she starts going towards the downstairs bathroom, but then, she hears something. A commotion upstairs, that Ebina also heard. But she? She decides to go upstairs and chec-"
"Please, do... don-"
"Please don't say it? Was that what you were going to say? Why not?"
"I... I'll probably never know what exactly happened after she'd gone upstairs. But I know that you do. Exactly. I can... I can only guess, but... I think that what... that Kawasaki had stumbled across the landing. To the bathroom. Hayama is upstairs, maybe in the spare bedroom. Maybe he doesn't realise at first, but once he hears her, he goes to the bathroom too. She's still holding the piece of glass, and can barely stand, and... so he goes to help her. Or tries... tries to... and... and what does Yuigahama see, when she gets upstairs? She sees Hayama, the person who in that moment she hates more than anyone, and he's got his hands all over a girl who can't stand up, and she's... she's drunk. She doesn't truly realise what's going on. She misinterprets, and she runs over to them, and she's pushing them away or together or... and... and they do come together. Kawasaki, while she's holding the glass, and Hayama. I.. it goes straight into his...
"And now... now somebody's lying on the floor. A boy she can almost recognise, but... but different somehow. Deep red around the edges. And Kawasaki is still holding the glass which had... and suddenly, her half blurred and cloudy mind is clearer than it's ever been before. Wouldn't it be so much easier if if this... if this person who's hurt a- and hurting so much would just... just disappear? Just disappear and never... never come back again? And so... she works quietly. She takes the glass and she drags it across his wrists. She uses the towels to clear up, and she washes the glass and her... her hands, or... and she takes him into the spare bedroom because people could still use the bathroom, and... and she takes Kawasaki back to Miura's bedroom and lays her down, and... I think that... she puts the glass and the towel she used with the rest of her things so when she picks them up, later that evening, nobo- nobody... nobody will know. And then... she goes back downstairs because she needs to comfort her friend who is crying, and... and now, neither of her friends might hurt so much."
"I always thought it was strange that nobody once saw Hayama downstairs after the party started again, and... and it was because he was already dead. Everyone went back to drinking and partying without knowing. That there was... that there was a corpse in the room above..."
"... You saw it all, didn't you? Yukinoshita? From... you saw it, looking through the window from the back garden. You see it all... and you're shocked and afraid and... and you don't know what to say or do. You stand there, looking up through the window and... and nobody else knows about when you come back inside and they're acting normal but this... this is Yuigahama. This is your closest friend. This is the one person that you'll lie for. Truly lie for. Not just avoid the truth or walk away... you'll lie for her. And you... you do."
"But you can't just leave it alone. You can't carry on, because... because he's up there. No one knows it, but you've seen it, and you know that he's bled and he's rotting and you feel like your mind will rot too if you don't at least look. Maybe everything will be fine, and... and he's not really dead and nothing that you saw happened. So at the first opportunity, you run upstairs. You go to both sides of the landing because... because Hayama is to the right a- and Kawasaki is to the right and you need to know they're both alright but... but neither of them are. And neither of them, nobody, will ever be alright again."
"... And then... it makes sense. The truth. Yukinoshita. The truth is... the truth is what always makes sense... even when it doesn't..."
His voice has ground down to a rasp. A breath, or not a breath at all, just the movement of dust in the sunset.
"... You don't know."
She lifts her head. Her eyes.
It's the only time they've ever looked more lifeless than Hikigaya's.
"You... you don't know any of that. It's... you're just saying nothing. There's no..."
"... I know I can't prove it. The closest I can come to proving is... is is the towel. There aren't any towels in the downstairs bathroom, Yukinoshita. Just the tissues. The only place that you can find towels in the house is the upstairs bathroom, and it was a towel that she came back into the kitchen with. So she must've been upstairs. That's... the only thing I can pro-"
Suddenly, Hikigaya's head snaps backwards. Yukinoshita's hand had flashed forward, tearing at his cheek, and she pushes him away from her, back towards the door of the Service Club and away from her, from the table and the seats where they're supposed to be happy.
He looks at her, not knowing. Not knowing why he can't see the anger which she should be feeling, which she should've pushed him away with, for. But her eyes. Her blue eyes. They aren't angry. Still not angry. Just lifeless.
"Then... then what... Hikigaya-kun... why... why are you here if you can't prove..."
Fingers find their way to mark across his cheek.
"I didn't come to... I didn't come to prove that I was right. I knew that it was. I... I needed to make sure, but... but I didn't come here to prove. I came because I was right. Because I... because this is the tru-"
"You keep saying that... truth..."
"Your truth is..."
She locks her fingers together, pulls them to her chest.
"Your... your truth isn't the truth that I want."
"... The truth isn't what you want to hear-"
"It was better when the truth was a lie."
"... I can't believe that... I can't believe that I ever cared about you, Hikigaya-kun."
"Do... do you hear me. I... I hate you."
"Do you hear me, Hikigaya-kun? I hate you. If the truth is all you care about, then you can have mine."
"I... I never wanted to care about you, Yukinoshita."
The mark on his cheek feels hotter now. Hotter than when it had been made.
"I'm dispanding the Service Club, Hikigaya-kun."
Yukinoshita turns her back on him, looking straight down at the table. A table that should have three faces looking at her from where she's stood.
"... When will you tell Yuigahama-"
Hikigaya Hachiman does. After awhile. Both of them are no strangers to silence, be it lonely or lonely together, and that silence persists as the next chunk of the sunset vanishes beneath the horizon, and the next cloud turns blacker in the window.
But he does leave. After awhile.
Yukinoshita Yukino stays.
Yukinoshita Yukino waits.
The key to the clubroom still hasn't budged from where she left it.
I am dispanding the Service Club.
I still remember
I remember the Service Club's first ever request. It was Yuigahama Yui's. She requested that we assist her in baking cookies for a boy who had captured her affections.
I never asked who the boy was.
There are many things that I asked Yuigahama Yui. I asked her many pointless things. I asked pointless questions and I received pointless answers. I asked her for pointless favours that I didn't need to ask for and she didn't deserve to respond to them.
That pointlessness disgusts me. It disgusts me, the futility of the time we spent together compared to the possibility, the shadow of the time that we could've spent together, if we were mature enough, or old enough, or good enough. We deserve each other. The Service Club deserves itself. A stupid club deserves stupid members and stupid requests.
We are idiots. Yukinoshita Yukino, Yuigahama Yui and Hikigaya Hachiman.
I am imagining the time that we could've spent together.
Why is the truth different from the could've?
There are so many shadows that could've been the truth. Shadows never look right because people never look right. Why do people never look right? Think right?
I don't want the truth. I want the could've.
A Service Club session could've been a perfect hour. We could be having a perfect hour. Yukinoshita Yukino, Yuigahama Yui and Hikigaya Hachiman could be perfect. We could be talking about our feelings. We could say when we wanted something. We could be like that sunset. I like the sunsets that you see out of the clubroom window. This sunset is magnificent. This sunset is a could've. You could see it in an artist's exhibition and it would make sense.
You would never find the Service Club in an artist's exhibition.
I still remember the first request that the Service Club answered. It was Yuigahama Yui's. She asked whether we could help her bake cookies.
I remember lots of things about the Service Club. I should probably know about the Service Club.
I don't know anything about the Service Club.