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11 Hours

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The first time Usagi noticed him that day, she almost fell over her own feet.


He was easily the most beautiful person she’d ever seen in her life, and she was sweaty and huffing and puffing from her marathon sprint. Late, again. A two day, full-day class, and she'd been already late yesterday... she hated that. She'd gotten better at it over the years, but this week...


She blinked, her eyes straying back over the rows of heads, here in the imposing main part of the library of oh so fancy Keio, overlooking the grand reading room. She slowed to a walk, cursing her heels for every click on the shiny marble floors, as she tried to control her erratic breathing. She could already see the door to the seminar room, off right there to the side, and yet…


He stood at the side of the main hall, scanning a pile of books across a clunky grey machine, and ran his hand back through his hair. Usagi shook her head at herself, because her mouth opened involuntarily, and it felt like slow-motion, as his hand moved along his forehead and scalp, bushing deep black hair back from shamelessly pretty eyes, falling soft and silky like black, shiny ink.


Her breath hitched. She almost groaned out loud, when she realized she wasn’t only staring, she’d stopped in the bloody hallway to stare. And that alone wouldn't be so bad if he hadn't caught her at it, glancing up and catching her eye and blinking, first, then... pursed lips turning into a smug cocky half smile. It looked practiced, and she blinked, blushing, and looked away, resuming her clinky, loud walk of embarrassment, a throwback to her school years.


She slipped into the seminar room with a ducked pose and sheepish smile, and the instructor halted in her speech and rolled her eyes, while Usagi sat in the same seat she’d sat in yesterday, at the round congress table that felt much more adult than she would probably ever be used to.


At lunch she was one of the few people from her class that had to leave the building to pop into the conbini down the street for some onigiri. Because she'd been so late she had no time to do it before class - and she'd long since given up on attempting to prepare bentos for her lunches beforehand.


Her breath hitched again, this time accompanied by a very irritating thumping of her heart, as if she were twelve and he were the coolest senpai in the school, when she passed the main reading hall, again, and she saw his head bent over a textbook, with his lip slightly tucked beneath his teeth as he concentrated.


The way he sat, endlessly long and lean legs folded over another, the dark shirt he wore hugging all the right spots, hair falling in his eyes, those reading glasses...


He lifted his head and caught her again, and this time she didn't wait to see his reaction but blushed bright red and looked away immediately, her cheeks burning, and ran for the stairs, instead of waiting for the elevator in direct view of him.


She ran a little too fast, and didn’t slow down at all until she reached her Family Mart of choice completely out of breath, and could finally think again.


Usagi scowled, absolutely irritated by herself. She ended up buying half the store in sweets and snacks, and some other things she was positive she wouldn’t need today but bought them anyway, along with the handful of onigiri she actually came for, and devoured some of them back on her way to the red cobbled, beautiful main library of that posh, posh university that intimidated her so.


He probably was a student there. A ridiculously beautiful man who studied at bloody fancy Keio and had the smile of a playboy.


Right. No way. No chance in hell.


She took the stairs again on her way back up, and this way avoided passing the main reading hall on her way back to her seminar room.


By the time her seminar was done and she, as well as all the other participants that felt as misplaced in this choice of fancy venue as her, were expelled into freedom, it was dark outside, and the reading hall was empty.


She told herself that the sigh that escaped her lips was relief, but she knew to recognize the good portion of denial and regret too well to ignore it.


And of course, the prospect of passing him again had occupied her mind so much she’d forgotten her bag upstairs.


Her instructor, this calmest and most patient of all people she’d ever met, was almost near tears in frustration at Usagi when she told her, and she really couldn’t blame her. Usagi would have been frustrated with herself, too, in her place.


It was a two day seminar, in which Usagi had managed to be late twice, spilled her chai latte all over her instructor’s blouse on the first day, and then fell over the cord of the beamer, today, ripping it from the wall so forcefully that the power gave out, and the library’s technician had to come – which forced them all into an extended break and the seminar to go into significant over-time.


It should have ended by 7 pm. Now, at 9, thanks to her, they were done, and seemingly  the last people exiting the imposing building.


“Right, Tsukino-san,” her instructor, a middle-aged woman in a prim skirt and collar, said with a frustrated sigh in a voice. “Here’s the thing,” she said, smudged lip-sticked lips trembling in agitation. “I’ll be honest here. I’m dead on my feet. Is there any way you can collect your bag tomorrow?”


Usagi flinched apologetically. “Um… my house keys are in it. I’m so sorry, but… my roommate is gone for the week and I…”


The poor woman sighed deeply, running her hands across her face, her mascara smearing a little.


She did look so tired, and Usagi was half prepared to just go and sleep at her parents’ house instead, when she spoke again, rummaging in her chic, little hand bag.


“Ok, wait,” she said, handing Usagi a little chip card, who looked back at her confusedly. “The security men are already off shift, so the doors are already locked. But staff and students can still get out with this,” she said, pointing at the card in Usagi’s hand. A member card.




“It’s mine,” she said, rummaging again and holding out another card; this time her business card, “my office is around the corner from here, address is on the back. Go get your bag, and bring me the card back tomorrow.”


“Uh…ok” Usagi said, humiliated.


The woman nodded, took her by the elbow, and showed her how to slide it through the machine. With a click, the entrance opened, and she hurried through, waving back while repeating her instructions with a concerned frown.


This was how Usagi found herself utterly alone at Keio university library, moonlight shining through the headlights of the tall entrance doors.


It was an utterly uncomfortable feeling for her, as she hurried back to the elevators, as fast as she could. Libraries were the stuff of nightmares for her, especially at a university as prestigious and stuck-up as Keio.


Usagi hated school. Always had. Every single minute of academia had been torture for her, and had she had the possibility to go back in time and tell her 14 year old self she’d go and do her Bachelors degree after all, poor, teenie Usagi would have bawled her eyes out for weeks at the prospect.


Though a school like this one, Keio, was very far beyond her head, either way. She felt out of place in surroundings like this. They made her feel as inadequate and more as she’d felt those times when she’d attended her make-up exams at her tiny, remote, Tokyo School for Social Welfare.


The elevator dinged, as it arrived at the sixth floor.


Her bag was, of course, waiting for her where she’d left it. Open and non-missable on top of what was her desk for the day, and she sighed again at herself. Only she would walk out without anything to her person and not notice it was missing.


She grabbed it and rushed back out. By the time she made it back, the doors to the elevator hadn’t even closed, yet, even when she’d been out a while.


Though the cause for that became apparent, when her heels made that comical screeching sound, as her heart clenched up and she froze in her rush, nearly doubling over, blonde streamers of hair flowing forward about her, surrounding her.


Someone’s foot was blocking the elevator doors for her.


His foot.


She tried not to. She tried, but she couldn’t help it. Her gaze travelled up in the way she hated it when people did it to her. That slow checking out as her eyes lifted from his foot up his black skinny jeans and across that dark button-up that hugged him like a glove…


He smiled that irritating, smirky half-smile again, eyes entirely and way too blue, and she blinked when she realized she was staring again and not doing anything as if she were mentally deranged.


She blinked and jerked into movement, and into the suddenly surprisingly small cubicle beside him.


“Uh, thanks,” she mumbled, to which he shrugged at her.


Eyes at her head, she felt them burning into her, even when she didn’t dare look up.


Her cheeks burned, again.


They stood like that for a little moment, saying nothing, until he leaned over and she very nearly screeched but caught herself just in time, as she realized that the console was right next to her, and she hadn’t pressed a button yet.


She frowned hard, as he pressed the button to the ground floor wordlessly, embarrassed that she hadn’t thought of doing that herself, and hating herself for blushing even further, when she couldn’t but stare at his toned arm, his shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows as it barely just barely didn't brush against her while doing so.


A thought shot through her head. Every shoujo manga and fanfic and doujin trope ever. Locked together in an elevator... and shook her head. Oh come on, Usagi, she berated her mind


You're not 14.


The elevator trembled a little, as it came to life, and the doors closed via automated magic.


The light above made the kind of electric noise you only notice when everything else was entirely still and silent. The kind of silence that could not possibly get any more uncomfortable, as Usagi pretty much held her breath, his proximity overwhelming her like nothing she had ever felt before.


As if her whole body was electrocuted, every nerve of her aware that he was standing so very close.


She would have loved to growl. She felt like she was going crazy, as if she were  a cat in heat, refraining from bloody sniffing the air to see if she could make out his scent. She didn’t know this feeling, had never had it before, and it was impossibly irritating, but she felt that if she didn't turn around now, and at least try to flirt with this guy who looked like someone took a peek into her teenage dreams and molded him straight from the vague image of that prince she used to dream about, she'd regret it and think about this all her life.


C'mon, go and collect your rejection, girl, she argued with her mind. It won't hurt as much, now, as it will one day, when you'll be asking yourself what would have happened, if you’d just had the guts to talk to that hunk in the library elevator 48 years ago.


Just turn around and say ‘Hi’. Ask him what he's studying for on a Friday night. If his girlfriend won't mind, and oh you DON'T have one?


...Right. Um.


But who was she kidding. Guy like this, practiced flirt like that, probably has a new girl on his arm every weekend... Except it was the weekend, now, and he's hanging out at the library.


But by the time she schooled her smile to the brightest setting and turned to just say 'Hi'… the cubicle shook a little, making her shriek slightly, after all, and all the lights flared up a little at first…


Before going out completely.


Her breath trembled, and they were both left in darkness so thick, she couldn't see a difference between eyes closed and eyes opened.


It was completely and utterly black.


Oh no.


"Fuck" she heard him cuss. Voice low and thick and sexy and like velvet, and how could she think about that even now?


And despite herself, she had to giggle. It bubbled from her, and she felt him shift in the darkness. Not that she didn't think about that exact thing right there, but... funny that that would be the first thing she heard him say, voice all low and sexy silk.


Well, good thing she couldn't be caught staring anymore.