Love You A Latte

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That's how you ended up sitting on the library floor, side to side with Hinata. There was a lot of embarrassment on her part as well as a lot of readjustment on your part, but you finally got into a good position.

If you couldn't have emotional closeness with her, you would settle for physical closeness. You were practically cheek-to-cheek, your thighs firmly pressed together as you both peered into the small, shared book.

You read at a leisurely pace, still unused to reading a physical book and not a screen.

Chapters were much longer than you were used to. It felt like this book was taking forever. Hinata said there was romance in here, right? Couldn't they just skip to the good parts?

Feeling eyes boring into you, you glanced up to see Hinata watching you. Perhaps not all of her embarrassment had been unwarranted. Your faces were really close. Close enough to count her freckles, her eyelashes, the flecks of gold in her irises... Maybe too close.

Still, you stayed like that, just looking at one another, maybe a beat too long. Then you realized she was probably waiting on you to turn the page.

"Sorry, sorry!" You laughed awkwardly, peering into the book again to quickly skim the remainder of the page. "We can flip the page now."

She seemed to want to say something, mouthed it without a sound. Rather than back up, she leaned forward just a little, just enough for you to feel her breath on your cheek...

And then she jumped a foot when the bell rang, signaling the end of the period.

Suddenly, Hinata was on her feet, cramming the novel back into her bookbag. You had to look away to avoid looking up her skirt.

"Oh, that's okay! We can pick back up the book tomorrow! Now, I really have to go! Bye!"

With that, as quick as a rabbit, she was out of the library and down the hall, leaving you wondering what you did wrong.

...

There was a spring in your step as you walked home. Despite whatever weirdness came up at the end of Study Hall, you felt legitimately closer to Hinata.

So, you made a detour to the bookstore on your way home to grab a celebratory drink from the cafe inside! Your wallet was still hurting after last week's sushi celebration, but you could afford it now that you would be saving on lunch.

You wandered the aisles for a little bit, drink in hand, when you came across the Bridgerton books Hinata was talking about earlier. You idly stroked their spines, grateful their existence just might prolong yours.

A strange feeling followed you out of the bookstore, however.

Call it paranoia, but you couldn't shake the sneaking suspicion that you were being watched, being tailed.

"Hello?" You called over your shoulder, scanning the empty street behind you. Only a distant rattling sound, like a garbage can falling over or a pole being kicked, answered you. The threatening atmosphere did not dissipate.

This wasn't right. This wasn't fair! You weren't supposed to die until the player character made his way onto the scene.

Just when you were about to make a run for it, who other than Hinata peeked out from around the corner. "It's me! Sorry, sorry..." She squeaked and scurried over to you like a mouse.

"Hinata! Jesus, you scared the hell out of me!" You pressed a hand to your chest, where your heart was still frantically trying to beat its way out of your ribcage.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you! I just... I saw you at the bookstore and I thought... I wanted to... Here!" She leaned down into a deep bow and held something out to you with both hands.

It was a book. The same book they were reading in the library today during Study Hall. There went your excuse to get close to Hinata.

"Oh..." The disappointment must have registered in your voice, because suddenly she was backpedaling all the way up the block.

"You don't like it... Of course- of course you don't. I'm so sorry! I... I can return it! What would you like instead?" High-strung as she was, your implied rejection was enough to reduce her to tears.

"No, it's not that I don't like it. I love it. Thank you." You moved forward to take the book, but she snatched it away, held it out of reach like you two were playing a game of keep away.

"No, no, you hate it," she said, her voice high and manic. "You don't have to lie to me!"

"I'm not lying!" You tried to calm her down, suddenly wishing Minoru was here. She had a natural talent for this sort of thing. "I just... I wanted to read it with you. It's no fun reading alone. I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable today. That wasn't my intention."

At a loss for words, you reached out to hug her. You gave her ample time to move away, in case that wasn't what she wanted, but she just stood still and sniffled at you until your arms were locked around her.

She turned stiff as a board in your embrace, before absolutely melting. Her hands balled up the back of your blazer as she clung to you like a child to its stuffie. You shivered as she nuzzled her face into your chest, wiping away her tears on your blouse.

"No... I wasn't uncomfortable. Not at all. I'm just... I'm just not used to it is all."

"Used to what?" You asked, rubbing slow, soothing circles between her shoulder blades.

"Having... Having friends." That was just about the saddest thing you've ever heard.

"What about Minoru?" At the mention of the queen bee, Hinata flinched. An odd reaction to have to a friend's name. You decided not to push it right now. "Forget I said anything." Instead you just held her for as long as she needed.

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