A Cherry Project Fanfiction
Chapter One
"A Basket Full of Regret"

by I.G.

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Yuni sat at the edge of her seat, watching the All-Japan Pairs competition. Though she wasn't a skater herself, she knew all of the technical aspects. She was amazed by the number of pairs that had made it to the finals, but she could already tell that Chieri and Tsuzuki was the best out there. They were Japan's sweetheart pair, and she was proud to have had a helping hand in bringing the two of them together. They were the happiest couple she knew, but despite being happy for her long time best friend, she couldn't help the pang of jealousy that clouded her thoughts from time to time.

She pushed it away momentarily as Chieri and Tsuzuki finally took to the ice. There was a roar of cheering from the crowd around her, the loudest coming from Kouichi, Hiroshi, and herself. With every jump, spin, and throw, Yuni held her breath. She knew that together, Chieri and Tsuzuki were perfect, but that didn't prevent her from worrying.

When their routine was over, Yuni was the first on her feet, giving them a standing ovation. Soon, the entire arena followed suit. People threw roses and stuffed animals onto the ice. Without fear, the pair skated off of the ice, picking up whatever was in their way. By the time they sat down, the scores were being announced. Perfect scores across the board. The crowd cheered again as it was announced that they were the winners.

Amongst the cheering, they skated back out to the center of the ice for the awarding ceremony. Once it was over, the top three pairs skated around the outer edges, signing autographs and talking to fans. Chieri and Tsuzuki had the largest crowd. Yuni waited patiently for the crowd to disperse.

"C'mon Yuni, let's go wait for them in the locker room." Yuni frowned up at Hiroshi, whose attention was focused on the pair. "They're going to be awhile." Kouichi, who was standing next to Hiroshi, nodded his agreement. They started heading that way as Yuni turned back to look at Chieri and Tsuzuki. When she realized that they were so absorbed by the crown to notice the three of them, she turned and followed the two boys.

They walked in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. She was already thinking of their next costume. She wanted to do something reminiscent of The Phantom of the Opera, but she wasn't sure if Tsuzuki would be open to wearing a partial mask, or if they had a routine that would fit. With a smile, Yuni came to the conclusion that she didn't care. She knew that it would look good and could sell the idea to Chieri without much effort.

Nodding to herself, Yuni ran right into a wall, or at least what felt like a wall. Taking a step back, she looked up and found herself staring up at someone who looked exactly like Tsuzuki. When she opened her mouth to ask him who he was, Hiroshi and Kouichi stepped in between them. Before she could do anything more than be annoyed, Hiroshi and Kouichi started in on him.

"What are you doing here?" Hiroshi all but growled that.

The Tsuzuki look-alike peered over their shoulders and smiled down at Yuni. "Aren't you going to introduce me to your little friend?"

"Bug off Tatsuo. You know you're not welcomed here." Kouichi glared up at him.

Tatsuo merely shrugged, smile still in place. "Tell Tsuzuki that I came by." He slipped a business card into Kouichi's pocket and patted it. "It's good to see the two of you again." Flashing them another smile, he turned and walked away.

Both boys were steaming with anger, but Hiroshi was the first to recover as he turned around. "Yuni, don't tell Tsuzuki about this."

Yuni frowned. "Why?" She glanced past Hiroshi in the direction the man named Tatsuo had gone. "Who was that?"

"Masanori Tatsuo." Yuni looked up at Hiroshi in shock. "Tsuzuki's older brother."

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~

Yuni sat by herself under the shade of a tree just outside of the arena. She thought back to what Hiroshi and Kouichi had explained to her. Masanori Tatsuo was Tsuzuki's older brother by five years. They used to be very close, with Tsuzuki as Tatsuo's constant shadow. There had been some sort of falling out between Tatsuo and their father. This had caused Tatsuo to be disowned by their father, and subsequently, never to be acknowledged as a member for the Masanori family or the rightful heir to the Masanori empire. That was also when their father had placed the limit on how long Tsuzuki could skate.

Resting her elbows on her knees, Yuni knit her fingers together and rested her chin on them. Deep in thought, she wondered about what could have caused Masanori-kun to disown his own child, and if Tatsuo knew that he would not be recognized as a member of the family, what he was doing here. There had been something cold and calculating in his eyes when he had looked at her, sizing her up. She didn't trust him, and she was afraid that he would somehow find a way to hurt not only Tsuzuki, but also Chieri. So she was going to personally find out what he wanted from Tsuzuki.

With that decided, she stood up. However, before she could take more than a couple steps, Hiroshi walked out the front door. "Not going to wait for Chieri and Tsuzuki?"

Yuni shook her head. "I just remembered that I had something I needed to do." She couldn't quite read his expression, which made her nervous. "Tell Chieri that I'll see her tomorrow in class."

"And should I tell Tsuzuki that you've gone to spy on his big brother?"

Yuni froze. She wondered if she was that transparent. Narrowing her eyes at him, she said, "I don't know what you're talking about. I have better things to do than to spy on anyone."

Suddenly, he tossed her something. Upon catching it, she realized that it was a cell phone. "Call me if you find out anything or if you're in trouble. Check the Katigari Hotel. If I remember correctly, he owns it." He hesitated a moment. "Be careful." Without so much as another word or glance, he disappeared back into the arena.

With a mischivious smile and a slight hop in her step, Yuni heads for the hotel.

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~

Chieri steps out onto the ice, doing simple jumps and spins to warm up. They didn't have any competitions to practice for, but she was under so much stress from the coming finals that she needed something to relax her. Ever since she started skating with Tsuzuki as a pair, it had become the most relaxing thing she could do. A smile spread across her face as she set herself up for a triple axel. She gave out a small yelp of surprise as a pair of strong arms caught her before her skates could touch the ice.

Expecting it to be Tsuzuki, she turned a smile towards him. However, she turned to face a stranger. Hey may have looked exactly like Tsuzuki, but she could tell the difference between the two. This guy was a lot taller than Tsuzuki and a little broader in the shoulder and chest. There was also an aire about him that was totally foreign to her. As soon as she could, she broke away from him and skated to the edge of the rink. With her back to the wall, she faced him again.

"Who are you?"

He merely smiled and skated off of the ice. Without a word, he walked out of the room. Chieri sat down heavily, feeling chills course through her. Drawing her knees up against her chest, she stares out at the center of the rink. She jumped slightly when something was draped over her shoulders. When she looked up, it was the face of the stranger. 'No, not the stranger. Tsuzuki.' With a shuddering sigh, she leans back against his legs, letting her eyes fall shut.

Tsuzuki frowned down at her. This was very much unlike the Chieri he had come to know and love. Kneeling down, he gathered her up in his arms. That more than anything else seemed exactly like what she needed as she turned her face into his neck and clung to him. He sat there holding her for a long moment, then he leaned back to look down at her. "Chieri, what's wrong?"

She blushed, feeling foolish asking her next question. "Tsuzuki..." She frowned slightly as the realization that the face of the stranger and the face of her beloved were one and the same. "Do you have a brother?" Tsuzuki didn't need to answer, she felt his response. He froze up and seemed to draw away even before he stood up.

"I need to get ready for school." Without another word, he left her by the side of the rink.

Chieri sat where she was for another moment, then stood up and started getting ready for school also. Life did not end when you've found the love of your life.

She didn't see Tsuzuki again before leaving for school. Per her usual, she strapped on her rollerblades and skated to school. It took her a little bit more time to get to school, but she welcomed it today. It gave her time to think. She was almost absolutely sure that Tsuzuki had an older brother, judging by his reaction to her question. What confused her was why he never talked about his brother, and why he had reacted so coldly to the mention of his brother. Had something happened between them before she ever met Tsuzuki?

As she skated through the school grounds, she made up her mind to enlist Yuni's help in finding out as much as possible about Tsuzuki's brother.

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Yuni jumped when she heard the ringing coming from her school bag. She fumbled a bit as she drew out the cell phone and answered it. "Hello?"

"What did you find out?"

She recognized the voice immediately. "Hello to you too Hiroshi." She grinned triumphantly when she heard him grumble a barely audible hello. "Tatsuo isn't at the Katigari Hotel. As far as I can tell, he's not staying anywhere."

Hiroshi was silent a moment at the other end. Then, "Maybe he was only here for the day."

Yuni nodded. When she spotted Chieri walking into their class room, she turned around and tried her best to somewhat hide from her best friend. Covering the bottome end of the cell phone and her mouth with her hand, she whispered, "Chieri just walked in. I gotta go." Without even waiting for him to answer her, she hung up on him.

Sitting up straight and facing forward once more, she smiled at Chieri as she took her seat. "Good morning, Chieri." Chieri gave her a wane smile, something Yuni picked up on immediately. "What's wrong? Did you have a fight with Tsuzuki?"

Chieri sighed. "Sort of." She had wanted to ease into the topic, but she should have known that her best friend would have picked up on her mood. "The strangest thing happened to me this morning during my morning warm up." Yuni tried to pull off the clueless, interrested look, but failed miserably. Fortunately for her, Chieri failed to notice. "I think I just met Tsuzuki's brother."

Yuni went still, but again, Chieri failed to notice her best friend's reaction. "How do you know it was Tsuzuki's brother?"

"Because he looked exactly like Tsuzuki, but wasn't Tsuzuki." Suddenly, Chieri noticed how Yuni was reacting to all of this. "You already know."

"No. I-"

"Class, take your seats please." Yuni and Chieri snapped to attention as their teacher walked in. The time for personal worries was over. Finals were fast approaching and their teachers were beginning to make them cram. When they finally broke for lunch, Chieri and Yuni in silent agreement, walked to somewhere they could talk.

Once they were alone, sitting down, Chieri turne to Yuni. "Tell me. What do you know about Tsuzuki's brother?"

Yuni debated a moment on how much to tell Chieri and finally settled on telling her everything. Once she was done, they sat in silence. When Chieri didn't say anything for another moment, Yuni said, "That's all I know. I'm sure Hiroshi and Kouichi know more, but I think it's not by much. At least that's what Hiroshi said to me."

Chieri nodded. "I'll ask Tsuzuki again tonight."

Yuni picked up on that. "Tonight?" Chieri blushed. "Are you guys going out tonight?"

Chieri's blush deepened. "Not exactly." Yuni raised her eye brows. "His father is in town for business and the three of us are going out to dinner."

"Hmmm..." Yuni tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I wonder if Tatsuo will crash your little dinner." Chieri's expression darkened almost immediately, making Yuni wave her hands back and forth in nervousness. "Just kidding!"

The bell rang for classes to begin again and they returned to their class room. The rest of the day passed by without much activity. They went through their lessons, took down notes, and accepted their daily homework with silent groans. At the end of the day, Chieri and Yuni was too mentally exhausted to do anything more than just head home.

When they reached the corner where they went their separate ways, they both jumped at the ringing coming from Yuni's school bag, causing her to drop it. Laughing at each other, Yuni stooped down to pick up her school bag and dig the cell phone out of it. Answering it, she held it so that both she and Chieri could hear what Hiroshi had to say. "Hello?"

"Yuni, is Chieri with you?" Both girls leaned back to frown at each other. Neither one of them liked Hiroshi's tone of voice. "Hello? Yuni? Are you still there?"

"Yes. Yeah. Chieri's here with me. What's wrong?" Yuni could feel her hands begin to shake. She held it still with a sheer force of will.

"Get over here to the Sakada Hospital by our school as soon as possible."

With fear clutching her heart, Chieri snatched the phone from Yuni. "Hiroshi? What's wrong? What's happened? Is Tsuzuki alright?"

"Chieri...?" Her hands tightened on the cell phone she held. "There's been an accident, Chieri. Tsuzuki asked for you as they took him into the emergency room." All color drained from Chieri's face. As her hands went numb, the phone slipped from her fingers.

Yuni managed to catch it before it fell to far. "Hiroshi, what did you say to her?"

"Just get to the hospital." In the background, Yuni heard a nurse page a doctor into the emergency room. "I gotta go. Get Chieri here. I'll tell you what happened when you get here." With that, the phone went dead in her hands.

When Yuni managed to slip the phone back into her school bag, she turned to Chieri to find her in tears, sobbing hysterically. Throwing her arms around her best friend, she tried to calm her down as best she could. Subsiding into hiccupping sobs, Chieri allowed herself to be led to a bench. "Chieri, do you want me to call your father?"

Chieri shook her head. "Let's just get to the hospital." Standing, she wiped away at the tears that were still falling. "I want to be there when Tsuzuki comes out."

Yuni nodded, and together, they rushed as fast as their legs could carry them down the few blocks to the hospital.

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Hiroshi paced nervously as Kouichi paged through a magazine disinterrestedly. They were trying to take their minds off of what had happened, but it kept replaying in their minds. As they waited, they both played the what-if game. What if they had seen it first? What if they had been with Tsuzuki when it happened? What if...

Feeling the frustration setting in, Hiroshi threw himself into the chair next to Kouichi. Taking off his baseball cap, he ran his fingers through his hair. "What are we going to tell the girls?"

Kouichi's hands stilled as he turned his head to look at Hiroshi. "Nothing." When he saw Hiroshi begin to argue, he held up his hand. "We weren't actually there, so we don't know exactly what happened. It might be best to let either Masanori-san or Tsuzuki himself to tell them."

Hiroshi leaned back and let his head rest against the wall. Closing his eyes momentarily, he said, "What if there are complications?" He opened his eyes and looked at Kouichi. "What if Tsuzuki can't tell them himself?"

Kouichi sat in silence, having already had that thought. "We'll deal with that if it comes."

Just then, Chieri and Yuni walked into the waiting room. "How is he?"

Hiroshi was the first to answer. "We don't know. The doctor is still in there with him." He gestured negligently at the chairs around them. "You might as well sit down. I expect it to be awhile before we hear anything."

Chieri and Yuni sat down together. Chieri never let go of Yuni's supportive hand. They watched the clock, even though they didn't mean to. Hiroshi began pacing again and Kouichi kept popping in and out of the waiting room, trying to keep Canty from coming over unnecessarily. The sun had already set, but still no word about Tsuzuki's condition. So they waited and worried. All other concerns had been pushed aside. None of them thought of their final exams. The mystery of Tsuzuki's brother was pushed to the back of their minds. Their everyday problems faded in comparison to what was happening now.

When the doctor finally walked out of the emergency operating room and into the waiting room, Chieri and Yuni stood up as Hiroshi stopped pacing and Kouichi walked back into the room. The doctor looked at the assembled group and wondered about the father of the child on the operating table. Pushing that aside, he focused on the four children. "There were no complications with the surgery. The nurses are finishing up as I speak. However, Tsuzuki will not wake tonight." At the disappointed looks he received, he nodded grimly. "I suggest you children go home and rest. He should be awake and lucid enough to receive visitors tomorrow afternoon. After school."

Chieri's attention shifted just past the doctor as a gurney wheeled by with Tsuzuki. "If it's alright, may I stay here with him?" She looked back up at the doctor imploringly.

The doctor's expression softened. "Normally we wouldn't. However, I think it would be alright if you did. But only for tonight."

She smiled and nodded. "Yes sensei." With a quick hug to Yuni, she walked past the doctor and followed the nurses as they pushed Tsuzuki into a private room.

When the doctor took his leave, Yuni confronted the two boys. "I know you guys didn't want to say anything in front of Chieri, but she's not here any more." She looked from one to the other. When it became evident that neither one of them was going to volunteer any information, she pressed on. "What happened to Tsuzuki? How did he end up in the emergency room?"

"It was my fault." Yuni and Kouichi turned to Hiroshi. "I was the one who gave him the note from Tatsuo."

Kouichi shook his head. "No, it was my fault." Both Yuni and Hiroshi turned their attentions to Kouichi. "I knew he was going to meet up with Tatsuo after school and I didn't stop him."

Yuni looked from one guilty face to another, realizing that both of them were holding something back from her. "What does Tatsuo have to do with this?"

Hiroshi and Kouichi exchanged a look, then said in turn, "Tatsuo is a dangerous man."

"This isn't the first time he's tried to kill Tsuzuki."

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~


This is the end of Chapter One. The only character in here that belongs to my creative thinking is Tatsuo, Tsuzuki's older brother. Here are some basic stats for him:

NAME: Tsuzuki Tatsuo
AGE: 5 years older than Tsuzuki
D.O.B.: October 13 ((Scorpio))

Please tell me what you think of my story!

So I just did a bit of research and found out that Masanori is Tsuzuki's real name!!!! Grr... I hate it when I get confused!!!! ^.^
Anyways, so I know now. For those of you reading, I'll start referring to Tsuzuki as Masanori from now on, except when Chieri, Yuni, Hiroshi, or Kouichi refers to him ((since they've ALWAYS called him Tsuzuki!))