Susumu was late for work again. His sister had threatened him with dire bodily harm if he didn't get a job and help earn money for the family, but he was no better than she at actually putting in regular hours. And while Tsukushi often had good excuses for her lateness, Susumu had merely overslept. Partly, he thought grumpily, due to that early morning awakening by Doumyouji-not that he minded of course-if Tsukushi ended up marrying Doumyouji, Susumu would never have to work again! - but still, 5 am? It was a bit excessive. And so, as he rushed out the door desperately trying to beat the clock, he completely failed to notice Tsukasa, still leaning against the cold wall outside the apartment building.

Tsukushi, on the other hand, could not possibly be so unobservant, as she made her way home that afternoon. She'd just turned the corner onto her street, when she caught sight of the tall figure slouching balefully next to her door. Her breath caught in her throat, and her sunny mood shattered like crystal.

"What is he doing here? What can he want now?" Her heart skipped a beat, as she pondered in dread all the cruel things he could have come to say this time. His head was down, perhaps he'd not yet seen her? If she turned now and fled before his cold words could wound her, perhaps he'd leave eventually-all she'd have to do is stay away long enough. But no, Tsukushi slowed, but could not turn back. The only way through was forward.

Watching hawk-like from beneath half-closed eyes, Tsukasa saw Tsukushi's hesitation, and it pierced his heart like a knife.

Slowly Tsukushi walked the length of the street, until she stood facing Tsukasa.

"What are you doing here?" She asked. Her voice came out cold and flat, as she tried to hide her inner turmoil.

Tsukasa wanted to reach out and grab her. He wanted to shake her and ask where had she been all this time, who had she been with, and what had his friends done with her? He wanted to pull her to him and never let her go. He wanted to yell at her and make her listen. He did none of these things. He wrapped his arms tighter around himself instead, as if by sheer physical strength, he could restrain his inner demons. He could stop his words, but still he could not prevent his nostrils from flaring-trying to catch Tsukushi's scent, and to see if there was any of Rui's, or Akira's, or Soujiro's mingling with hers.

Tsukushi only saw the clenching of his muscles. She did not know the cause, but his tenseness only increased her dread of what might come.

"Why did you come here now?" She spoke again; this time it sounded almost like a plea.

"Tsukushi." Tsukasa whispered. With great deliberation he forced his next words out, "I. .. came here. . . to apologize. . . . I've been acting like a total fool. . . . I want you back, if you'll have me.. . . I believe in you."

Tsukushi was thunderstruck. This she had not expected. Especially from him. She stared up at him as conflicting emotions tore at her heart. Her gaze was drawn to his face; to his eyes; she stared up at them as if they held the answers to her needs. Deep in the depths of Tsukasa's eyes she saw his silent plea, and the fears that he would not let himself express verbally.

"Why did you do it?" She wanted to answer his plea, wanted to let him feel her love. But he'd hurt her and she had to know Why.

Tsukasa sighed; a low groan of remorse. Grinding the heel of his hand into his forehead as if it could help clear his head, he answered, "I was an idiot." He was not willing to tell Tsukushi the role that Umi had played in this fiasco, "I . . ." he started over again, "Tsukushi. I'm an 18 year old guy. I love you like I've never loved anyone else, Sometimes I want you so bad it hurts. But you never seem to want me the same way. I got so frustrated, so Angry. I thought you didn't love me. So I pushed you away." He hung his head and stared at the ground for long seconds before meeting Tsukushi's gaze again, "but I was wrong. . ."

Tsukushi almost could not believe her ears, Tsukasa was apologizing to her, and he hadn't even yelled at her once. And he said he still loved her. But she could not so easily forget her anger and her hurt. She pondered her reply before she slowly answered.

"Tsukasa, you know I love you. But I'm still angry. . . and I don't think I can forgive you so soon. Things can't just go back to the way they were so easily."

Tsukasa looked at her pleadingly, but seeing the implacability in her gaze, nodded slowly as his hopes faded. Hunching his shoulders as if wounded, her turned to leave.

"Wait," at the last, Tsukushi stretched out her hand to rest it lightly on his arm. "I didn't say you can't hang around me if you want. I'll try to forgive you, but it will take time. I just don't think I can go back to being your girlfriend yet."

Tsukasa turned back around. At least this was something. But an idea hit him, and with an effort, he asked, "What about Rui?" The words, forced hoarsely from his throat, hung ragged in the air between them.

Since she was still angry, Tsukushi gave Doumyouji just a little more to squirm about. "He's my closest friend, and he's always been there for me.. . We'll just have see how things go .."

At this, Doumyouji could take no more. He seized Tsukushi's wrist and pulled her to him

"Well then, in that case, I know I'll win you back eventually." He suddenly grinned confidently down at Tsukushi, (though he really didn't feel that confident, merely desperate) "for I have something he could never give you."

"And just what might that be, you jerk?" Tsukushi flared up; angry at Tsukasa's unwanted liberty with her person.

"Me!" Tsukasa said, almost gleefully, as he pulled Tsukushi closer. And then, wrapping his other arm around her, he bent down to kiss her.

Tsukushi angrily beat at him with her fists. To think that just because she'd been willing to allow the possibility of giving him another chance, he thought he could just do what he wanted, and right here in the middle of the street at that!

When at last he came up for air, she glared at him, "What do you think you're doing, asshole?"

"This." And he kissed her again. He could sense that she was starting to waver. This had always been a good strategy, to take her by surprise- perhaps it might work again this time? One could only hope.

Despite her anger, Tsukushi could not help but weaken at this proof of Tsukasa's love. Nevertheless, she had every intention of making him earn her trust again, before she'd consent to date him again. And she still did not know what to do about Rui. (And, she didn't even want to think about that strange escapade with Soujiro, and what might happen in Doumyouji found out). But right now things were starting to feel better. Right now she could forget all her reasons why this should not happen. Right now. . . .

. . . Tsukushi leaned in closer, wrapped her arms around Tsukasa's neck, and kissed him back.

Tsukasa felt Tsukushi's sudden heat flow in to warm his body, chilled as it had been by the hours of waiting. Her warmth penetrated deep into his heart and began to thaw the block of ice that had formed there: a cold shell of distrust, frustration, and longing frozen together in cold anger. It now turned to ephemeral vapor that dissipated in the blink of an eye as Tsukushi responded to him

In this moment, he could forget everything he'd done wrong; every stupid word he'd said. He could even forget the threat of Rui, competing with him for Tsukushi's love. It didn't matter that Tsukushi hadn't yet forgiven him, or that about her there clung the scent of . . . Soujiro (What?! He must be mistaken! He would Not think of that now!)... Nothing mattered at this moment. He knew everything would work out, because right now he was holding Tsukushi again.. .

. . . And she was kissing him.



No true ending in the end. Just one day at a time, ad infinitum.. . .



Ok. That's all. I was bored, so I had to end it. Sorry Rui fans. Couldn't think of a plausible way to get them together given the premises in This fic. Maybe next time? But not in the sequel, if there is one. If you have questions, comments, bored ramblings or Inspiration for what I should write next, feel free to email me at curdled_milk@attbi.com . yeah.