notes: sakuragi had long confessed to haruko but she kindly rejected him because she loved rukawa too much. Sakuragi understood that and after a while, he was happy when haruko and rukawa became a couple. i got the idea from a true story my friend told me last night.

When I Say I Love You

[after class, friday]

She smiled. It sure was a nice day. "I'll be going to the gym! Wish me luck," she said to Matsui and Fuji.

"Ah yes! Go to your beloved prince charming!" Matsui whispered comically.

"Good luck Haruko!" Fuji said.

Haruko grinned at her friends.

*****************

[shohoku gym]

"Konnichiwa, Ayako-chan!" she greeted the team manager.

"Konnichiwa, Haruko! You seem pretty cheerful today," Ayako observed.

"Yes, well, it's a very wonderful day, don't you think so?" She smiled.

"Indeed," Ayako agreed.

Haruko took a seat and watched the practice. Naturally, her eyes were mostly focused on one figure. She had a surprise for him that night. They were going out for a movie and then they were going out for dinner afterwards. She had waited for so long and she thought that it was definitely time...

****************

[after practice]

"Let's go," Rukawa said to Haruko. Haruko nodded and smiled. She could hardly wait...

They watched one of the latest movies -- it was a romantic film, which made Haruko happy because they rarely went to romantic films. [Rukawa thought it was too mushy and unrealistic] All the while, Rukawa was holding her hand and she could hardly sit still.

Rukawa looked at her after they got out of the moviehouse. "You're very happy," he observed. Haruko merely smiled secretly.

She's so beautiful when she smiles. Rukawa flushed a shade of pink -- he still wasn't used to those kinds of thoughts and he often felt uncomfortable with those thoughts.

***************

[moonlit (ehem) park]

They had just eaten dinner and were sitting on a bench in the well-lit park. Haruko was seated leaning against Rukawa and they were just staring at the stars.

"Kae?" Haruko said. He looked at her and she sat up straight.

"I have something of utmost importance to say to you," Haruko said, almost losing her nerve. The situation was so nerve-wracking that her hands were slightly trembling. Rukawa noticed this and his eyebrows moved into an arch. He wondered what was making her so tense.

Rukawa stared at her expectantly.

"I..." Haruko blushed. She looked at his expression and it was unreadable, as was always the case. She looked down at his left hand that was holding her right hand. "I...I love you."

She waited for a reply. There was none so she bravely looked up at him...searching his face for any reaction.

"Thank you."

At first she couldn't believe what she had heard. But then the words slowly sank into her mind and she opened her mouth to speak but no sound came out.

"I think we should go home. It's late," Rukawa said, his voice unchanged by what she had said. He stood up, letting go of her hand in the process.

She smiled weakly and nodded. It was as if I didn't say anything at all! She blinked back her tears, not wanting to let him see how much he had hurt her by those two words.

**************

[next day; akagi residence; 9:28 am]

Haruko lay down on her bed, not sleeping, just staring at the ceiling. Last night's scenes kept on playing in her mind.

Maybe I shouldn't have said that.

But why not? If I really meant it...And I did.

Baka Haruko. I'm probably expecting too much of him. He isn't that kind of person who says "I love you" anyway.

And she didn't care that he didn't speak much. She loved everything about him, even the silence that was so much a part of him.

But it still hurt.

The doorbell rang but she stayed there on her bed, lying still.

"Haruko! Sakuragi's here!" her mom shouted.

Haruko groaned. She definitely wasn't in the mood for visitors. However, a friend was what she needed. So she changed clothes and fixed herself up, not combing her hair anymore but just putting it in a ponytail.

She went to the living room where Sakuragi was waiting. "Ohayo," she said cheerfully.

Sakuragi saw through the fake smile and was instantly worried. "Ohayo, Haruko-san...Is there a problem?"

Seeing Sakuragi's worried face, Haruko's tears fell. It was too much -- it was as if fate was saying to her, this is what you could have had. are you sure you made the right decision?

She shook her head. She wasn't sure she made the right decision - but she would've made the same decision if she had to go back in time. She loved Rukawa and that was that.

**************

[park bench; 9:43 am]

Sakuragi patted her hand. "Tell me what's bothering you."

"Rukawa..." She could hardly speak. It was as if she was turning into one big mass of pain.

Sakuragi immediately paled. "Did...did the kitsune do anything?" he asked, his hand closing into a fist.

"No," Haruko replied. "It's just..."

She quickly recounted last night's incident while the tears fell. Again. She was surprised that she was still able to cry, after she had spent the remainder of last night crying on her pillow, trying to muffle her sobs so that her oniichan wouldn't hear.

"...and he just said...thank you."

Sakuragi gazed at his friend with sympathy. He also felt anger -- anger at Rukawa. He was so lucky to have Haruko's love but he was...throwing it away. And that was unforgiveable to him.

[flashback]

"She chose you Rukawa." Sakuragi looked at him with envy.

"It's okay with me. If that's what Haruko wants and if that's what makes her happy. But don't you hurt her. Ever," he warned.

Rukawa stared at him for a long time, then nodded.

[end of flashback]

"But I think I understand, Sakuragi. The more I think about it, I realize that he isn't really the type of person who says those three words."

She's defending him. She must really love the kitsune.

"I'm probably just overreacting. Thanks for the shoulder, Sakuragi."

**************

[lunch; canteen]

"Where's Haruko?" Matsui asked Rukawa. He shrugged.

Fuji frowned. "She disappeared after class."

Rukawa grimaced and left the two. He was immediately confronted by an angry Sakuragi. Everybody in the canteen looked at the two of them.

"I thought you said you wouldn't hurt her, dammit!" he yelled. He suddenly punched Rukawa on the face. Rukawa staggered backwards, but didn't fight back.

Rukawa ignored him and walked out of the canteen. Sakuragi followed him.

"Why are you ignoring me?" Sakuragi shouted at him.

"There are two sides to every story do'ahou."

"Tell me yours then!" Sakuragi bellowed.

"Stop making a scene, first."

They glared at each other [with sparks and electricity of course].

**************

That afternoon, two people were absent from practice. Haruko and Sakuragi. Rukawa noticed that and he was worried. But it didn't show; his face was as impassive as ever.

He remembered his conversation with Sakuragi...

[flashback]

"I'm not throwing her love away. I accepted it."

"Don't you love her?"

"I do."

"Then why didn't you say so?"

"Because I don't want to say it just because it's expected of me. I'll say it when I feel like it...that way she knows that I really mean it."

[end of flashback]

************

Sakuragi grinned to himself. The kitsune rarely spoke, but when he did, his words were surprisingly full of wisdom. "Haruko," he started.

"Don't worry Sakuragi. I've already forgotten about it." Have I really? "I love him even though he doesn't love me back. I know he likes me and that's more than what's actually natural of him."

"You know, Haruko...I think you're going to have a very successful and wonderful relationship with him." He grinned at her and then excused himself, saying he had to go home.

Haruko stared at the whistling tensai in confusion.

************

[after 2 weeks]

Haruko tried to forget about the incident. Soon, things were back to normal between Rukawa and her. Except for one thing: before she entered her house, she would say those three words to Rukawa.

One night, when they reached her house, she said to him, "Kaede, you might be wondering why I keep on saying I love you. I...I just wanted to tell you that I'm saying it because it's true and not because I want you to do the same. okay?"

He just gazed at her with those blue eyes and nodded.

************

[Saturday]

Haruko screamed in horror when the killer plunged his knife down the throat of the girl. Rukawa tightened his hold on her hand.

"Shouldn't this be an R-18 movie?" she complained to him good-naturedly.

After a few minutes, the killer was then stalking another victim. He raised his axe and Haruko stifled a scream and covered her eyes with both hands. She was surprised when Rukawa took hold of her hands and stared into her eyes.

"Uh, Kae? What're you--"

"I love you."

"What?"

Rukawa smiled and kissed her on the forehead, then proceeded to watch the film. Haruko stared numbly at the screen until the end of the film.

They exited the dimly lit theater and started to walk home. They didn't speak. For Rukawa it was normal, but Haruko was too shocked to speak. What happened back there?

They finally arrived at Haruko's house and before Haruko could enter, Rukawa grabbed her arm gently.

"Haru-chan. I don't speak very often."

Haruko looked at him, surprised. Where was the conversation going?

"So when I say 'I love you', I mean it."

He kissed her sweetly on the lips and started to walk home.

Haruko stared at him until he was engulfed by the darkness of the night. She smiled.

**************

author's notes: so what'd you think? give me a review and tell me what you think!

--mskitsune--

www.livejournal.com/users/mskitsune