How she never noticed it before would remain a mystery for all their days.
Leaning back into the cushion of her couch, Kaname smiled tenderly down at the pages of a scrapbook Kyouko had assembled for her. The photos were from the past three years of school at Jindai High. The girl had put together different books for herself and the closest friends. Kaname, of course, received one. Onodera did as well, and he had seemed quite embarrassed when she handed it to him, saying that it was such a girly thing. Well, it was a gift from a girl, so what did he expect? Sousuke got the fourth, and last, of the large, heavily decorated books. He had seemed flustered, not understanding. When he began flipping through the pages, though, it finally made sense to him, and he was deeply gratified for the gift. Memories he had plenty of, but momentos were sparse in his life. That book was one of the few things he would work to preserve, no matter where his life would take him.
The first pages of Kaname's book were photos from their first year at Jindai. Sousuke hadn't attended the school yet, and so he was abset from any of those pictures. There were some snapshots of the orientation ceremony, and she shook her head slightly at what she noticed as she worked through the book. That first year, there was sadness on her face throughout all of the pictures. Loneliness. That was the first year she had lived alone, her father and sister moving back to New York not long before her high school years had begun. When Kaname got to the second year photos, she noticed a change. After Sousuke had transferred to their school, her loneliness had subsided, and the further along she got, the happier she looked.
That wasn't the only thing she noticed, however. What she saw when she looked at Sousuke surprised her. In nearly every photo with the two of them present, his eyes were locked on her. When he had first transferred, he had been constantly watching her. She understood now, that it was because he was there to guard her. It had creeped her out in the beginning, to have a stranger so intently staring at her. After she learned the reason, she had started to tune it out. But when was it that his expression had changed? Those early photos, he watched her and their surroundings with that steady focus that had kept him alive all these years. As the months passed, though, he stopped paying as much attention to what went on around them. His eyes were locked onto her, more and more. That look on his face had evolved, from everything being a matter of duty, to watching her with genuine interest, and was that awe?
Closing the book, she tilted her head back, eyes closed, and let out a soft sigh. How had she never noticed the looks he gave her? It seemed so obvious, when faced with the obvious. What was even worse, there were plenty of photos where their gazes had caught one another, and the looks they shared between each other spoke volumes. So why was it so hard for either one of them to say the words their eyes tried to communicate?
He laid back on his cot, book on his lap, propped up by legs drawn up. The book given to him by Kyouko at their graduation ceremony was fascinating to him. That she had taken such time on the project for even him, he wasn't sure exactly how he felt about it. It was clear that she had personalized each of the books, as his contained mainly only photos from when he had transferred to Jindai. The few exceptions were photos of Kaname from her first year that Kyouko thought he might enjoy. A picture of Kaname in her first-year uniform, hair tied up in a high ponytail, so much life and fight in every aspect of her pose as she stood up at a podium, declaring why she should be voted in for the Student Council, was easily one of his favorites. It was on the very first page, taking center stage, and it captured the girl's spirit so perfectly that he couldn't help but to stare at it.
Smiling as his thoughts focused on the girl, he finally brought his hand up to flip the page. As he went through it, truly looking at the photos for the first time, he was amazed by what he saw. He had always thought Kaname hated him for much of their time together at first, but as he looked through and was able to compare, he found that wasn't the case. If anything, she looked to be enjoying herself, even when she was beating him. Oh, yes, there were a few pictures of him being abused. Rather than being miffed or sorrowful at their inclusion, he was amused. Kyouko had chosen well, taking care only to find pictures where Kaname looked to be having fun. Sousuke could take the abuse easier, seeing how much it had helped the girl dishing it out. She seemed forlorn in some of the pictures, but in every single picture that he, too, was in, she was happy.
He would wonder about that, wonder if it was his imagination, if not for the little notes Kyouko had written, and that Kaname's eyes always seemed focused on him when she seemed her brightest. Coming to the end of the book, he stared at the final picture featured for as long as he had stared at the first. He had actually forgotten about that moment. Their second-year athletic festival had gone extremely well for them. Onodera and Sousuke were the two most athletic boys in the school. Oh, there were plenty of others who were good at one thing or another, but they had the most range in their physical abilities. Kaname, Kyouko, and most the rest of the girl's softball team were in their class as well, and so they had just about completely dominated all of the competition.
The photograph was at the end of the day. They were celebrating their victories, and Kaname had given him one of the rare, cherished compliments. In the excitement, she had wrapped her arms around one of his, ducking her body so she could tilt her head back to look straight up at his face. Their cheeks were flushed from the events of the day, the enthusiasm running rampant, and he noticed for the first time just how close their faces were, as she told him how impressed she was with him, and he had returned the sentiment. He wondered when else he had ever felt such joy, and pride. Everything in his life, and an inconsequential competition between classmates was one of his greatest achievements.
Or was that it?
No, he smiled down at the photo, closing his eyes slowly as he thought about it with a slight shake of his head. Winning the competition wasn't the achievement. It was having those bright eyes, full of excitement, turned on him and only him, the pride and joy so clear on her face, and all of it directed at him.