To my dear readers,

It is my sincerest wish that the final chapter of this story is one that will truly bring this circle to a close. You have been able to see these characters grow from the age of fifteen to the age of thirty, going from teenage years to the time of adulthood. This story is very close to my heart as I hope it was to yours. And now, without further delay, I present to you the final chapter of There's Not A Thing I Would Change.

Chapter Sixteen: A Love for All Lifetimes

She was nervous. Of course she was nervous. There was no reason not to be. The fact that she was pacing back and forth in front of the door told anyone around her that was so oh so very nervous. Taking a deep breath, she stopped the pacing, raised a hand and knocked on the large oak door, waiting for the signal to enter. When the man responded, she pushed open the door and walked in, immediately moving towards the chair opposite his desk. Wringing out her hands for a bit, she spoke while having her head down, "Why haven't you asked me yet?"

The man raised one eyebrow and turned away from his computer. "Asked you about what?"

Rolling her eyes, she shot up from the chair. "Come on, Van. We both know what I'm talking about."

Standing up as well, the raven haired man went over to the woman. "Calm down. What is this about, Maaya? I haven't seen you this worked up since… ever. What's wrong?"

Sighing, she silently counted to ten before looking him in the eye. "Why haven't you asked me how long I've known?"

A small smile broke onto his lips. "Is that all the fuss it about?"

"Don't just brush me aside, Van. Why haven't you asked?"

Shaking his head, Van leaned against his desk. "Maybe I just didn't want to know. You and I both know you wouldn't have told me even if you could go back and change things. It was not your place to tell me. Besides, I'm sure Hitomi told you not to say anything. It's alright, Maaya."

"Somehow I don't think it is." Sitting back in the chair, the older woman let out a sigh as she looked at the boy, no the man she had known for fifteen years.

"Well, now that you're in here…" Maaya knew that tone and let a soft smile play on her face. He would never seek her out and ask her what was on his mind. She simply looked at him, urging him to ask his question. "What do you think of him?"

She had been expecting this one. "Bryan's a good guy. He will treat her right, and make her happy. He truly loves my daughter and would do anything for her." She wasn't blind. Maaya could see how her words were hurting him, yet knew he would want the truth. "Van, there was no reason for me not to approve of him. He's like the exact kind of man I wanted for her." Taking a breath, she continued, "I heard you met him a while back. I imagine you came to the same conclusion I have?"

With a slight nod, he responded in a sad tone, "He's perfect for her."

Letting a heavy sigh escape her lips, Maaya rose up out of the chair and made her way to the door. Before exiting, she spoke, "I think everyone would understand if you weren't there, Van."

"You know I can't do that."

Nodding, Maaya turned to him with a sad look in her eyes. Opening her mouth, she slowly shut it and left the office.

There was a loud knock on the door. Why the heck was someone knocking on the door? Why was someone knocking on the door very loudly to the point where one had to see who it was they were about to kill for knocking on the door so very loudly? There was much grumbling as an obviously not awake creature came out of one of the back rooms, blanket still firmly connected with their head in an attempt to hide from the obnoxiously loud knocking. Why oh why was the knocking not stopping? Did whoever was on the other side of the door know just how evil that knocking was?

Finally, the blanket creature threw open the door and did their best to sound as angry as they would have been if they had been fully awake. "Do you have any idea what time is it? And yet you persist to beat down this simple wooden door with that knocking of Satan? I hope you burn and rot in hell."

There was only a brief pause. "And good morning to you too, sunshine. Or should I say good afternoon?"

"Say it to oak." With that and a good flick, the door was thus slammed in the visitor's face. Before the creature could get too far away, the voice on the other side spoke. "You do realize this means I get to continue with my obnoxious knocking until you open up again, right?"

Blanket thing stopped mid-walk, turned and flung open the door once again. "I hate you."

"So what else is new?"

"Get in here so I can kill you without any witnesses."

Clucking a bit, the person walked in as the door quickly closed. "You know, if I didn't know you better, I might find it odd that you are just getting up at three in the afternoon. Good thing I know better then."

Grumbling, the reply was, "if you knew me, why oh why are you waking me so early?"

"Because it's three in the afternoon and I have some time."

The walking blanket was silent briefly. "I really do hate you, Van."

The said man simply laughed. "Come on. You're the one that told me you wanted to talk. Get that thing off your head and wake up. What the heck were you doing all night anyway?"


"You? Probably not." With that, Van quickly grabbed part of the blanket and pulled hard, revealing very messy blonde hair and angry slash tired brown eyes. There was a sad attempt and retrieving the large warm cloth, but to no avail. "But… but… sleepy…"

Sighing, the maroon eyed man walked into the living room and sat down. "Now, come over here, sit down and tell me what you have to tell me so I can get back to sane people." When the person did not move, he continued, "I'll give back the blanket if you do." To emphasize his point, he dangled the comfort object a bit.

The blonde glared a bit, wobbled over and plopped onto the couch, bringing her legs underneath her. With an angry pout, she glared again and held up a curved finger. "Too sleepy to make good death threat. Do you know how valuable sleep is?"

As she made an attempt for the object of her desire, Van quickly pulled it away. "You talk, then blanket." When she began to pout, he pulled it away. "The quicker you talk, the quicker you go back to sleep."

The glare continued as the pout grew. "I really do hate you."

"You know, I do have to get back to work at some point. I could just walk out with this lovely blanket… unless you wake up a bit and tell me what you said was just so important for me to know. Make things easier for yourself, Danielle, and just talk."

Said female groaned a bit. "I didn't think you'd come so damn early."

"It's three in the afternoon!"

"Yeah, well if you didn't get to sleep until eleven this morning, you'd think three is early too!" Stretching a bit, she yawned and scratched an itch she had on her back. "I have some background info on Bryan you might want to know. That, and I'm supposed to beat you up for avoiding Hitomi. Why do you have to act like such a guy?"

Sighing and rolling his eyes, Van fell back into the couch. "I am not avoiding her."

"Liar." When he looked over at her, she shrugged. "At least I know why you're doing it. If anyone asks, tell them I hit you a few times, okay?"

A small smile stretched on his face. "Of course. By the way," at that, he looked around the apartment real quick, "where is that guy of yours?"

Danielle raised one eyebrow in confusion. "At work… you know, where you work…"

It was Van's turn to be confused. "What do you mean?"

"Don't tell me you forgot Gaddes works for you yet again!"

There was a slight pause as Van shifted slightly in his seat. "So, how bout them Yankees?"


Shaking her head, she sighed. "Why do you repeatedly have to prove how mentally not there you are?"

Clearing his throat, Van tried a different approach. "How do you know anything about this Bryan guy?"

"Let's just say I have my sources. Now do you want to know or not?"

Van sat there for a moment, debating with himself. Whatever she had to say probably would confirm how perfect Bryan was for Hitomi. The more he heard about this guy, the more physical pain he wanted to inflict. "All I need to know is if he's dangerous. Would he hurt her?"

Danielle released a tiny sigh. "Of course not. Bryan has always been a caring and devoted man."

"Then that's all I need to know." At that, Van stood up and made his way to the door, blanket in hand. "You know, you should try a phone call next time. Could of saved a ton on gas."

The blond immediately, or as quickly as she could in her tired state, got up and attempted to follow him. "So you don't want to know anything about him? Nothing at all?"

With his hand on the door, Van smiled softly, "The only thing I needed to know was if he loved her and if she loved him. Now, if you excuse me, I have some work I need to get back to."

There was but a brief pause. "I'm not gonna tell you what to do. You're a big boy. You can take care of yourself. But-"

She was cut off by her soft comfort object being tossed at her. "It will all be okay, once the wedding takes place." The maroon eyed man opened the door and made his way to leave.

"So you're really not going to tell her, are you?" With the slight shake of his head, she received her answer. "If a thing is not spoken of, even those closet to you, who you love, will assume that it doesn't exist."

He paused in his attempts of escape. "You write that?"

A smile grazed her lips. "I wish. It's from Joyce Carol Oates' Rape, A Love Story." (A/N: I do not own that)

"Isn't that an oxymoron?"

"I think it's just oddly worded. Still, the quote works."

The male smiled softly. "Some things just don't need to be said."

"Like I said, it's your life. You're the one that's going to have to live with the choices you make. I'm just asking that you think this through. Either way, you know where I live if you want to chat."

With a small nod, the maroon eyed man left the apartment, closing the door behind him. The woman sighed, then took her blanket into the back room and shut the door. A few moments past when… "CRAP! NOW I'M AWAKE!! DAMN YOU, FANEL!!!!"

A small bell sounded nearby, alerting all within that someone had at the very least opened the door. The person standing there began looking around the room in search of someone in particular. Suddenly seeing them, she walked over and smiled before taking a seat. "Sorry I'm late."

The other female simply returned the smile. "I took the liberty of ordering for you. I do hope that's alright."

"Of course. By now, you should know how I take my coffee. Now, should we begin with the polite conversation or just dive into what we're really here to chat about?"

A laugh broke forth from the woman with long raven hair, her ruby eyes twinkling in amusement. "You always like getting right down to business, Maaya."

Leaning back in her seat, the brown haired, emerald-eyed female shrugged. "I just have a very demanding boss who'll have my head if he ever finds out I've been talking with his mother for… how long has it been now, Varie?"

"Fifteen years now." Sighing, the matriarch of the Fanel line picked up the coffee cup that had magically appeared in front of her. "Can you believe how much time has flown by since they first met? I had hoped to have at least one grandchild by now."

"You and me both."

Smiling, Varie looked at her dear friend. "Ah, but you won't have to wait too much longer. Hitomi will be getting married soon. In a month and a half, right? I have it written down at home." With that, she took a sip of her hazelnut-flavored coffee.

A look of sadness crossed Maaya's features. "Yes, only so much time left."

Sensing the change in mood, her ruby eyes softened as she put the coffee down. "We haven't really talked about this guy, have we? What do you truly think?"

"Van hasn't said anything?"

"Since when does a son confide in his mother when he's older than ten?"

"Good point." Taking a sip of her raspberry flavored coffee, Maaya took her time answering. "To be honest, Bryan is a very good guy. He's almost everything she could hope for."


Emerald eyes glanced across the table to stare into her companion's orbs. "You know. I knew it when I first met Van, and you with Hitomi."

A small nod came from Varie. "It's different with us. We already found our soul mates, so it's easier for us to see the signs within our own children. I saw it with Folken and Naria as well. Merle has yet to find her soul's other half. I thought I saw it with Kenji, but they were not really together enough for that."

The brown haired woman chuckled. "I thought the same thing, but it was a bit… different. It was a bond, but I'm not so sure that it was meant to be. How is Merle doing, by the way? And Folken and Naria?"

"Merle will be home soon, actually. She wants to be around a bit before attending the wedding. Folken has told me he and Naria have been talking about having children. He assures me that I can spoil them all I want."

Pausing a moment, Maaya cautiously asked, "Have you noticed anything…similar with Naria and Merle?"

Varie nodded. "I think they might be related. From what I remember, Naria mentioned her uncle and his family had died a long time ago. The family had not been on speaking terms since she was little, so she didn't know them that well, only that she had had a female cousin."

"And of course they haven't figured it out yet, have they?"

"Of course. It seems those who have the family name Fanel lose all common sense and the ability to see the obvious." Both women laughed, knowing there was nothing to be said on that. "Still, it would have been nice."

Nodding slightly, Maaya looked at Varie, fully comprehending what those words truly meant. "It would."

The room was completely filled with smoke by the time he got there. Well, considering this was a pool hall, the idea of smoke was not too farfetched. Sighing, the raven-haired man made his way inside and sat down on the stool by the bar. After waiting a few moments, the bartender walked over and glanced at him. "Looks like you have a lot on your mind. Need help sorting through the mess in your head?"

"Only if you get me a drink first."

Smiling, the keeper of liquids moved to grab what he already knew the guy wanted. "You might be one of the few people I know that would rather have a coke than alcohol in a bar."

"What can I say? I prefer being odd." Waiting a bit, he took the drink and held it in his hand. "I don't know, Eddie. I think I'm surrounded by too much estrogen. I need a fellow guy's point of view."

The said man pulled up a stool from behind the counter and sat down. "Hit me. The office is still open for a little bit."

Taking a sip, the man thought for a minute. "Let's keep it simple, cause it's a bit complicated. This guy had a female best friend. He fell for her but she's engaged to someone else. He thinks she loves him too, but he doesn't say anything. Think he should keep his mouth shut or tell her how he feels?"

"Keep his mouth shut." When he saw his friend wished for him to elaborate, Eddie continued, "He missed his chance. All he can do now is screw up the relationship he has going. It would probably be too little too late and she's probably on too good of a connection with her fiancé…well, I would hope, so she would tell him and it would make things awkward when they were all in the same location."

"Would it make a difference if everyone around him keeps saying she does love him but is afraid?" When his response was a raised eyebrow, he added, "I'm trying to keep it simple, but it is, like I said, complicated."

"Well, obviously, the worse that the couple's relationship is, the obvious but not always correct thing would be to go out and say it, but its still a very fragile situation. I mean, it would completely depend on how trusting she is with him, cause if she's totally trusting with the best friend, she's probably already put him in 'gay guy' category and would once again just cause drama. She thinks of him way too much in a non-sexual way."

Shaking his head, the customer sighed. "I have been around girls too much. I actually thought of the girlie, romantic perspective."

At that, the bartender laughed, "The girlie/romantic perspective? What, that had the guy waiting for the fiancé to mess up and then coming in and saving the day and carrying her off on a white horse???"

Chuckling, he sipped his coke before replying, "No, the type in movies where the guy tells her how he feels before the wedding and she picks him instead of the fiancé. That's the general view the guy's getting at the moment."
"He definitely can't do that one though." At that, he took a swig of the beer he had with him. Being a bartender did have its perks after all.

"And why not?"

Sighing, he released he would have to explain things in detail. "Because she could want him, but could not want to disappoint people and waste everything that people set up for her already. She would say no even if she wanted to say yes."

"Even if she really did love the guy more than the fiancé?" This conversation was getting interesting, considering this was a totally outsider's perspective.
Thinking for a moment, Eddie replied, "it would add a reason to not do it. See, you never wanna set yourself up with anymore then the least amount of obstacles needed. Think about it. Would you rather drive down the parkway all alone or do that same stretch in traffic? This guy has to eliminate all the traffic he can if he does choose to, and as shitty and unromantic as it seems, but shouldn't tell her."
Nodding his head, he asked, "so he's better off finding someone else rather than take the risk?"

"Well, yes, but if he does decide to take it, he has to take all the angles that would make it more difficult for her then it has to be and get rid of as many as possible." Taking a break to have a taste of his beer, the barkeep went on, "if he wants to pursue this, he has to attempt to get the two of them into a vacuum, not an actual one but the kind where there is nothing but him and her involved, before he does."
The man with raven hair thought this over. "That makes sense." A few moments of silence passed between them before he spoke again. "What about the fiancé? What should he do if he suspects the guy loves, for lack of a better term, his girl?"

Waving his hand in dismissal, Eddie shook his head, "that just becomes situational and would be completely based upon assumptions because you'd have to actually have him do it and the woman's reaction."

"What about before it gets to that?"
He shook his head again. "There really is nothing preventative he can do other then threaten to kick his ass, and violence really doesn't go anywhere. He would actually help the guy's cause by beating him up. His reactions could be a thousand different things depending on how the girl reacts."

The customer sat back to think things over. It all made perfect sense. "Why take such a risk when it's easier to stay silent? I get it." Before the bartender could say anything, the man finished off his drink and reached into his pocket to extract a bill. "This should cover it, the drink as well as the conversation."

Surprised, Eddie looked at the money, then at his friend. "Leaving already?"

He received a slight nod. "There's someone who's waiting for me. Maybe next time I'll take you down in some pool." Standing up, he collected his things and gave a small smile. "Night and thanks."

As he was walking away, Eddie had once last thing to say. "You know, the only one who can decide whether she's worth the risk or not is the guy." Finishing off his drink, the bartender turned and looked at his friend again. "Tell her I said hey."

With a simple nod, the man turned and disappeared into the night.

Taking a deep breath, Van sat back in his chair and went through his mental checklist. The accounts he had been looking over were all practically done, at least for tonight. Maaya left early today due to some "outside work" that had to be attended to quickly. Noriko's account had been done since yesterday. Her and Izark's engagement party was next week, which of course he had to go to. After all, if it weren't for him hiring the innocent girl from far away, they never would have met.

Mentally congratulating himself on a rare find, Van removed his glasses and stared straight up to the ceiling. He tried to concentrate on a particular account so as to not let his mind drift to matters that he disliked dwelling about. However, a person's mind is sometimes stronger than his will, as was the case this night. Hitomi's face appeared in his mind's eye, causing him to contemplate on the situation once again. Was it wiser to keep silent, as he had already settled on? Or would his silence cause a massive amount of regret later in life? He dared not voice these thoughts to anyone, already knowing what they would say. No, this was decision he had to reach on his own, no matter what the outcome.

In order to stall from his mental questioning, Van turned back to his computer, deciding to break a small rule of his and sign onto his screen name. A thirty-year-old man still using his college screen name seemed a little odd, but who defines what is odd and what is normal in this world anymore? Besides, it would be interesting to see who also was online. A small smile spread on his face as his buddy list began to form. Apparently he wasn't the only one to still use their name. Clicking on one name, he immediately felt the need to chat…

AngelWings: Oooooooh, I'm telling on you!

A few moments went by before he saw the person was typing a response. This was going to be fun…

Snooptopian: I have no idea what youre talkin about… please at least tell me your home by now…

AngelWings: You know, for a writer, you aren't very up on your writing skills. There's a 'g' at the end of talking.

Snooptopian: and an ' between you and re. what's your point?

AngelWings: slacker

Snooptopian: let me guess, you''''''re bored out of your mind and feel the need to be verbally assaulted through the interent

Snooptopian: internet

AngelWings: close enough

Snooptopian: works for me. any specific topic or do i get to run with it?

AngelWings: I'm afraid to let you run with it…

Snooptopian: so that's a yes. okay, what can little old me use to torment you once again?

AngelWings: Please don't make me bleed this time.

Snooptopian: your fault for being stupid

Snooptopian: anyway… i have a quote from you.

Snooptopian: or for you… whatever sounds better or right in that statement

AngelWings: you're a been out of it tonight

Snooptopian: you try staying up till 6:30 in the am at the computer screen and see how 'in it' you are P

Snooptopian: also, smart ass, it's either "you're a bit out of it" or "you've been out of it"… pick one.

Snooptopian: anyway, it's from hamlet

AngelWings: cause you know I happen to carry a copy with me at all times. Why are you reading Hamlet anyway?

Snooptopian: cuz i can. you can find it at sparknotes. it's act three, scene one, end of line 114-122, then shift to 150-161

AngelWings: I don't think I can read so much.

Snooptopian: i feel sorry for you. now go read.

Sighing, the raven haired man pulled up the internet and did as he was told, finding the passages she spoke, or rather typed, of. When he found them, he simply rolled his eyes. "Between Hamlet and Ophelia, huh?" He turned back to the box he had been using.

AngelWings: very funny.

Snooptopian: prove to me you read them… copy paste dude

AngelWings: who says dude anymore?

Snooptopian: apparently i do.

AngelWings: point taken. Hang on…

AngelWings: it doesn't work so well… hang on. I'll type it out…

AngelWings: Hamlet: …I did love you once.
Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock, but we shall relish of it. I loved you not.

I was the more deceived.

Snooptopian: and the next part?

AngelWings: Ophelia
Oh, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!-
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword,
Th' expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
Th' observed of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That sucked the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;
That unmatched form and feature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstasy. Oh, woe is me,
T' have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

Snooptopian: what do you think?

AngelWings: that Shakespeare didn't know how to speak English.

Snooptopian: baka

AngelWings: what about the quotes?

Snooptopian: what about them? cant i send you something nice and pretty and not have an ulterior motive?

AngelWings: nope

Snooptopian: you know me too well

Snooptopian: just think on em. I have work to get back to…

Snooptopian: go home and sleep. you need it P

AngelWings: night

Snooptopian: see ya!

At that, she signed off, leaving him alone in his office with quotes from Shakespeare. 'Why did he never speak English? Let's see what this actually means then…'

A loud creak streamed into the room, being the only life for that one moment of time. Slowly, footsteps followed the noise before a door slammed shut. A groan was heard as a disheveled Van walked into his apartment and immediately headed for his bedroom. Sometimes, the day was just too draining and demanding. Thank whatever higher power there was that his bed was very comfortable. Quickly changing out of his work attire, he slipped on a white tank top and some plaid pajama pants, which then lead to flopping onto his bed and into a relaxing slumber.

It was all perfect. The air was at the perfect temperature. The blankets covered him perfectly and the pillows were as fluffy as they needed to be. The whole sleeping experience was absolutely perfect…. which just meant something had to ruin it. That came all too soon in the form of a knock on the door. It wasn't like one of those "knock knock" ones either, but rather one of those obnoxious ones that kept knocking until one just had to answer the door. A loud groan was heard as he forced himself away from his comfort area and made his way to the door, not even bothering with the light. Hopefully it was just a mistake and they were looking for the guy next door or something. Then sleepy time could come again.

After unlocking the large wooden object and pulling it back, Van woke up quickly when he saw who was at his door. "Hitomi?"

Sure enough, the said woman was standing there in a black tank top and jeans, looking as if she got dressed in a hurry. Without saying anything, she pushed forward and walked into his apartment to begin pacing back and forth. Van took that as a sign to close the door and kiss his good night sleep goodbye. "Should I even ask what's going on or are you just going to tell me?"

Finally, she stopped her pacing and turned to face him, a mixture of emotions on her face. She opened her mouth to speak, then closed it and began her pacing once more. After repeating this action three more times, Van had had enough. "Hitomi! Please, for the love of my beauty sleep, tell me what's up."

Stopping in place, Hitomi took a deep breath before beginning. "He was engaged before."

Blinking a few times, the maroon eyed male tried to compute this. "Come again?"

"Bryan. He was engaged before." At that, she sat down on the large brown chair with a tiny thump, eyes still a bit wide.

Wiping a hand over his face, he moved over to the couch and sat down, leaning his head on the back of it. "So?"

"What the hell do you mean 'so'?? The man I'm going to marry was nearly married before!" It looked like she would get up and start pacing again at any minute.

Sighing, Van looked over at her. "So what? He's not married now, so what does it matter?"

Now she got up. "Oh, I don't know. Possibly the fact that one of his ex-fiancée's is coming to the wedding!" Let the pacing begin.

Sitting up, the raven-haired man was completely confused. "Wait, one of?"

"Yeah. As in more than one. As in, actually, two. Meaning Bryan Caliburn was engaged two times, count em, twice before meeting me!" Back and forth she went, probably putting a hole in his floor. "So, if he had two others before me, what the hell happened with them? Did he dump them? Did they dump him? Did one of them die a horrible and gruesome death? Or was he engaged to both of them at the same time and one found out about the other? What if one of them was really his long lost cousin or something?!?"

Getting up, Van caught the emerald-eyed girl before she continued on her mental track. "First off, you have no idea how ridiculous you sound right now. It's not even amusing. Second, did you even ask him what happened or did you just run over here without the whole story? Third, why don't you just tell him having his ex at the wedding would be a bit uncomfortable?" Seeing her eyes widen in realization, he rolled his as he walked away from her and back to the couch. "Jeez, why did you have to wake me up for this crap? He's your fiancé, the guy you want to spend the rest of your life with, and you can't even talk to the guy? That's just sad." Grabbing a nearby pillow, he placed it behind his head and leaned back.

Hitomi walked over to stand in front of him, grabbing the pillow away to smack him with it. "You don't have to be a bastard about it! I have a month left before the wedding and he drops this on me? I thought I could come talk to my friend about it. I am oh so sorry to ruin your precious sleep!" With that, she threw the pillow at him and began to storm out.

Groaning, from beneath the fluffy object, Van spoke again, "Tomi, come back and sit down."

Grabbing the door handle, she called back. "Oh, far be it for me to keep you from slumber land."

"Don't make me have to get up and come after you."

"Don't bother!"

Just as she opened the door, a larger male hand closed it. Turning slightly, she was a bit shocked to see Van right behind her. Apparently he went to ninja school or something because she hadn't even heard him move. Sighing, maroon eyes bore into emerald ones as he asked, "please, go sit down." Reluctantly, and after a moment of thinking, she did as he requested, placing herself in the chair she had previously occupied, waiting for him to lock the door and take his seat again. "Now, what's the real issue?"

"Real issue?" All he had to do was cast that knowing look to make her spill her guts. "I'm very nervous, Van. I mean, it's not just the wedding. Why didn't he tell me sooner? I have enough on my plate as it is and really no one to talk to about it."

"What are you talking about? You have me."

Rolling her eyes, she leaned back. "Oh really? When? Every time I call, I get your voice mail."

"I have been a bit busy lately."

"Sure you have."

Raising one eyebrow, he cast a look her way. "What's that suppose to mean?"

Countering his look with a glare of her own, she faced him head on. "It means I know you've been avoiding me. You just use work as an excuse."

Stuttering a bit, Van tried to deny it. "T-that's not true."

"You're a horrible liar, Van Fanel, and I don't appreciate being lied to, so quit it." Both were silent for a moment before she spoke again. "If you have a problem with me, just tell me. It's pointless to simply pretend nothing happened."

That's when he got up and walked towards the kitchen. "I don't have a problem."

Oh, but she wasn't about to let him escape the confrontation that had to occur. Hopping up, she went after him. "Oh really? Then why do you refuse to talk with me? Why are you avoiding me, and why, when I'm right here to talk as friend, are you pushing me away?"

Spinning around, Van looked at her with anger in his eyes. "Hi-" He paused in order to gain some control over what he was about to say, casting his eyes to the floor. Hitomi had never seen this side of him before, and she definitely didn't like it. With his hand on the edge of the counter, he calmed himself before answering. "Hitomi, I have been busy lately. And, to be quite honest, I'm still not sure exactly how you want me to act around you."

"What do you-?"

"Just what I said. Tell me what you want."

Confused, she shook her head. "Van?"

With his head still lowered, he repeated, "tell me what you want." Hearing nothing but silence, he slammed his hand down on the counter and looked her square in the eye. "What do you want from me, Hitomi?!?"

It would be lying to say she wasn't slightly afraid of him at that moment, but she had been through too much to let his anger keep her away. "I want the truth."

An eerie and uncharacteristic chuckle came from him as Van shook his head. "No you don't."

"Yes, I do. What else would I be here for?"

"That's what I'm trying to understand."

Pausing a moment, she asked softly, "Van, what's wrong?"

"Damn it, Hitomi!" This time, she let him walk towards the couch to cool off. Once there, he turned around. "There's nothing wrong, okay? Why don't you just go talk to Bryan? He's probably worried sick about you."

"I'm not leaving until you talk to me."

Shaking his head, he replied, "That didn't stop you before."

Suddenly, it dawned on her. "Are you kidding me? You're the one that used me like some sick toy!"

"And I regretted that every single day, but I didn't run away from it!"

Coming forward, she went to him. "You betrayed everything between us for some cheap ass job. What was I suppose to do?"

"You could have at least heard what I had to say!" Try as he might, Van could not avoid this argument any longer. "Yes, I wronged you, but you could have at least listened to me!"

"What was there to say? Oh, sorry you pimped me out?"

"It wasn't like that."

"Then what was it??"

Both their tempers were flaring at this point, which was never a good idea. "He left me no choice. It was just suppose to be something innocent and simple."

"Right. Tell me, would you have gotten a bonus if I let him sleep with me, or did that go without saying?"

"I never would have allowed that and you know it!"

"I thought I knew you, but apparently I was sadly mistaken."

Stepping to get right in her face, he replied, "Do you honestly believe I would have let him go anywhere near you if I had known what he was capable of?"

"You knew his reputation, and yet you allowed it."

"I never thought he would try anything! I would have killed him if I knew!"

Throwing her hands up, Hitomi backed away and headed towards the door. "I can't do this right now."

Still in anger mode, Van went after her. "What? Can't handle the truth? I thought that was what you wanted."

With her hand on the doorknob, she turned, "I'm not the one that had secrets to begin with. I'm not the one that couldn't face what he had done."

"You're the one that ran away! You ran, not me! I stayed here and lived in pure torture for God knows how long. I faced what happened, but you just left! Don't you dare tell me I didn't live with what I had done! You don't know what I've gone through! You have no idea! You just ran off and left it behind! You left and found your stupid fairy tale prince to make it seem like none of this ever happened, which I had to live with it every single day!"

Taking a breath, he shook his head, trying to prevent himself from causing any more damage. "Go to your fiancé. He's the one you should be talking to right now." Seeing that she wasn't moving, he spoke a little more forcefully. "Go, before we say anything else we might later regret." Silently, Hitomi opened the door and left his apartment.

It hurt. To even blink caused a massive amount of pain. This had to be punishment for last night. He hadn't meant to say all those horrible things, but for some reason, for the very first time, he lost his temper in front of her. Now, he couldn't even move without that crippling pain.

After Hitomi left, Van tried to go back to sleep, but then the pain started up. At first, he thought it was only a little one, one everyone had coming out of a heated argument. He hadn't had one this bad since the very first one.


It had been one week since he started working at EscaFlowne. Every day was a struggle to get through, pushing himself for some sort of purpose. Building this company from basically scratch was a challenge, but he enjoyed it and couldn't wait until everything was up and running. Currently, he was in the room that would be his office, admiring the view of the city. Gaia was truly beautiful, especially at night.

A knock on the door broke his train of thought and caused him to turn away from the window. Folken smiled from the doorway. "Dinner?"

"Only if you pay."

"Don't I always? Come on." The silver haired man began walking down the hallway towards the stairs. The elevator would be functional by tomorrow and not a moment sooner, much to his dismay. Stairs were just evil. Before he could get there, however, a loud thud was heard. Alarmed, Folken turned around and saw his little brother on the ground, gripping his head with a very pained expression on his face. Wasting no time, he ran over to his junior. "Van? Van, what's going on?"

Gasps came from the said man's mouth as he curled up into a fetal position. "It… hurts!" A single tear came from his maroon eyes as he tried to make the pain go away.

"Hold on, Van. I'm calling for help." With that, Folken whipped out his cell and dialed the number he knew would offer the best help. "Dr. Hiragizawa! Van's in trouble."

Calmly, the doctor replied. "What's going on?"

"I think it's his head. He's in a lot of pain."

A sigh was heard. "I knew this would happen. Take him home immediately. I'll meet you there as soon as I can."

"Thank you, Doctor. Ja." Closing the phone, Folken carefully lifted his brother off the ground and practically ran down the stairs to his car. Thank whatever power there was that there were no police cars nearby as he drove like a mad man. All the while, Van was letting out little cries of pain and tried to find a position that caused it to subside. "Hold on, Van. We're almost there." Double parking right in front of the apartment building, the elder Fanel picked the younger up again and made his way to the apartment. Struggling with the key, he eventually gained access to the room and wasted no time putting Van on his bed, where the raven-haired male immediately curled up into a ball.

No more than ten minutes passed before Eriol was there to check on his patient. "Just as I thought. I warned him this would happen." Turning to Folken, the PhD holder gave him a small container with pills inside. "These will help get rid of the pain, but be careful. Don't let him become addicted to them. Have him classify his headaches as either tolerable or excruciating, such as this. One should do it." With that, he had Van swallow one of the caplets with a small glass of water. "Let me know if he runs out. We'll have to have a check up and see what we can do to reduce the number of attacks he has."

Nodding, Folken's eyes did not leave his brother's crippled form as it slowly calmed. "How much do I owe you, Doc?"

Shaking his head, Eriol collected his things. "Don't worry about it. I just wish I could tell you this is the last of them. Listen-" Eriol made sure he had Folken's attention with these instructions. "These drugs are very strong. Keep a close eye on them and him. Too many patients use them as a means of escape, if you know what I mean." Seeing the elder brother nod, he offered a small smile. "Well, I'd better be going. Give me a call if anything else happens."

Taking his hand, Folken shook it. "Thank you again. Let me see you out." And as the two males left the room, Van lay there trying to slip into a peacefully slumber.

-End Flashback-

Somehow, he was able to call Maaya to let her know he wasn't coming in today, leaving him alone in his pain. The pills were all gone since last year. He hadn't even thought to refill the damn thing. Van already knew from experience that Tylenol did nothing and Excedrin migraine only worked for a very short amount of time. Everything hurt him. Lights, sounds, touch… everything was slowly torturing him.

From what seemed like far away, a door opened and closed softly. Whether it was his door or someone else's, he wasn't sure. To be perfectly honest, he was a little busy trying to keep himself together. While curled up into his little ball, he felt the bed shift and was soon wrapped in familiar feminine arms. No, he didn't want this. He didn't want her to see him like this. Van struggled a bit, but her grip on him was stronger than he thought. "Shh. It's alright, Van." A cool washcloth was placed over his closed eyelids as her feather light fingertips stroked his hair, the way his mother use to when he was little.

Slowly, his body began to relax as he placed his head on her lap, allowing him to soak up her scent. Even his breathing, which had been labored, began to even out as he started to fall asleep. Before doing so, he breathed out quietly, "Hitomi, forgive me."

A small smile crept its way onto her face as she held him while he slept. Even though he could not hear her, she replied, "for everything."

Sunlight seeped into the room, falling directly onto the eyelids of a certain raven-haired male. Wincing slightly, he reluctantly opened his eyes, revealing to him the world of his bedroom. Blinking a few times, Van forced himself to sit up and look around him. 'Okay, I have no idea what day it is, what time it is, or what has happened since my attack. I need to call Maaya and see what's going on.' A small growl was heard, causing him to sigh. 'Or I can get some food first.'

Hearing the shifting of sheets, Van looked over and saw sandy brown hair peeking out of the top of the blanket while a smooth arm was falling over the edge of the bed. He didn't even have to look to know who it was. 'Even after everything, she came to help me?' A small smile pushed at the corners of his lips before a sigh burst forth. Reluctantly, he reached over and nudged her sleeping forth. When all he got was a groan, he tried again, pushing a little harder this time. 'I should have remembered she's nearly impossible to wake.' Van got off the bed and walked over to the side Hitomi was slumbering on, deciding on the best method to awaking her.

After thinking it over for quite a while, the maroon eyed man shook his head and went towards the phone. He could at least make some breakfast as a way to thank her for everything. Before that, however, he needed to make a few phone calls so no one thought they were dead. Picking it up and dialing the appropriate number, Van held the phone to his ear and waited for an answer. It was at this point when he walked out of the room and into the kitchen so as to not wake her with his conversation. Finally, a voice came through. "Thank you for calling EscaFlowne. This is Ayame speaking. How may I direct your call?"

This caught him off guard just a bit. "Ayame? What's your last name? And what happened to Millie?"

"Sir, Millie is on maternity leave at the moment. How may I direct your call?"

"I would like to remember your last name at the moment. This is Van Fanel."

There was a slight pause on the other end. "Sir, I find that hard to believe, considering Mr. Fanel would not need to call the front desk in order to speak with someone directly."

"I would if I didn't remember the number. After knowing your last name, I would like to be connected to Maaya Kanzaki's office in order to get an update." The silence told him she still wasn't convinced. "Look, I am the second son of Varie Fanel, my older brother being Folken, who now runs Fanelia, the company my father, Goau started. I am thirty years old, was born and raised in Gaia and went to Palas University."

"Sir, anyone with access to the Internet knows that."

Startled, he questioned, "Really? Wow. Let's see then…"

A sigh was heard in his ear. "Sir, how may I direct your call?"

Finally thinking up a clear way to prove he was himself, Van responded, "My very best friend was Maaya's daughter, Hitomi Kanzaki."

Another pause was heard before the woman's voice became more pleasant, "Good morning, Mr. Fanel. I apologize for my rude behavior, but you can never be too careful. How many I help you?"

A smile spread on his lips. "Well, first, you can tell me your last name, Ayame-san."

"Endoso. Ayame Endoso. I was a student of Miss Hitomi's my senior year of high school."

"That would mean you're still in college?" He was more than a bit confused at this. Since when did he hire people that young?

When a tiny giggle passed through the phone, he knew this would be a dumb moment for him. "Actually, I'm an intern. Today is my first day on the job. I'm an advertising major."

At this point, the raven-haired male decided to sit down on the couch for the remainder of his conversations. "And this would be your senior year, correct?"

"Yes sir."

"Well, come to my office on Monday and I'll see you shadow one of the group accounts. No sense interning without getting real experience."

"Thank you, sir!"

Chuckling at her enthusiasm, Van continued, "Now, if you don't mind, Endoso-san, could you please connect me to Maaya-san's office?"

"Right away, sir."

"Thank you." At that, the line went silent for a moment before the ringing began again. After a few seconds, a tired voice answered. "Kanzaki."

"You sound busy."

Another one of those wonderful pauses appeared again before the woman responded, "Boy, you better be dead and lying in a ditch somewhere!"

Van mentally applauded his ability to suppress his laughter. "Is it that chaotic?"

"Just a tad, but I'm trying to keep it under control. How are you feeling?"

"Like I've been beat up in an alley, but much better than before. What day is it?"

"Friday. You've been gone for three days now." Hearing his groan, Maaya chuckled. "Hey, you get as many sick days as you want, mister boss man. Just come in tomorrow for a half the day, rest up on Sunday and be at full strength Monday. Okay? Mom's orders."

Smiling, he ran a hand through his really messed up hair. "Thanks, mom. I do have one more phone call to make though. Do you know Bryan's number?"

There was that long pause again. "Why do you need it?"

"Like you don't know who has been here since Tuesday. I want him to know everything's alright and she'll be home tonight."

"I can tell him."

"Nah, I'll do it. You have enough to worry about. I'll take over tomorrow though."

"Oh alright." After giving him the number, having him promise to relax the rest of the day and to drink plenty of liquids, Maaya and Van ended the phone conversation with the simple "bye."

Stretching a bit, Van considered making breakfast before calling the fiancé. 'What's five more minutes anyway?' Getting up, he made his way over to the kitchen, debating with himself what he could possibly make for the morning meal. After digging through his cabinets, he surprised himself by finding all the ingredients that were required to make pancakes. As he was mixing up the batter, the phone began to scream its harmoniously annoying ring. Van picked it up as quickly as he could. "Hello?"

"Oh, finally! Someone answers their phone. This is Van, right?"

Raising one eyebrow, he answered cautiously, "depends who's asking."

"Oh, right. This is Bryan." Speak of the devil. "I was just wondering if Hitomi was still there with you?"

"Yes. She's sleeping in-" How could he say this without giving this guy the wrong idea? "Well, she's sleeping." Thinking it over, Van began again. "Sorry if she made you worry. I was about to call you to let you know everything was okay."

He could tell this guy wasn't very pleased. "Well, she did at least leave a note. How's your head?"

"Much better, thanks. Sadly, it's a side effect from the car wreck I was in four years ago. It's gets so bad to the point where I can't move. Hitomi was a big help, though I didn't know she was coming." Pausing a moment, he continued. "I didn't ask her to come, Bryan. Honest. I was going to make some breakfast and then send her back home. Give it about an hour or two. Promise."

Sighing, Bryan replied, "Alright. Sorry, I'm a bit paranoid I guess."

"If our roles were reversed, I would feel the same. Don't worry. She'll be back with you soon."

"Thanks. Glad you're feeling better, by the way."

"Me too. Bye."

"Bye." And with that, the conversation ended. It could have been worse, but it definitely could have been better. Shrugging it off, Van went back to the batter and began actually pouring it into the frying pan, making the traditional round like shapes.

After making quite a large stack of them, Van quickly set the table, then went off to do the most difficult task known to man: waking up Hitomi Kanzaki. Mentally preparing himself, he walked into his bedroom to see her now curled up on one side of the bed. Smiling softly, he moved over to the side closest to her and simply watched her sleep. Her breathing was even and calm, as if she had not a care in the world. A few strands of her sandy brown hair fell across her face, causing him to reach over and put them back into place. If he could, he would watch her sleep until forever, but that just wasn't possible anymore. Sighing, Van reached over and shook her shoulder. "Tomi, time to wake up."

A soft groan emerged from her pink lips as her face scrunched up. At the same time, she buried herself deeper into the covers. That did not stop him, however. Shaking her shoulder a bit harder, he leaned over to whisper into her ear. "Hitomi, come on. Time to get up."

She groaned once again before rasping, "five more minutes?"

"Your pancakes will be cold by then."

Whimpering while eyes still closed, she replied, "but I'm comfy and warm."

Smiling, Van stood up and left the room, somewhat confusing the sleepy woman who was debating whether or not to open her eyes. After a few moments, the male returned with a tray full of fluffy circular-ish food, syrup, jelly, and of course the plates and forks. Smelling the food, Hitomi peeked open one emerald eye to see what he had done. Smiling, she sat up, stretched and held out her hands. "Breakfast in bed? My hero."

"Think of it as a thank you, m'lady." Placing the food in front of her, he sat down on the mattress and waited until she had taken what she required. After filling up his own plate, they both dug in, enjoying the nourishment and sugar that always came with one of their meals. What was unusual about this meal, however, was the lack of conversation. Now and then, Van thought of saying something, but he was still a bit uncomfortable, considering the last time they talked ended up in an argument. Thankful, after about five grueling minutes of silence, Hitomi looked up at him. "You were on the phone before?"

Shifting his eyes away from his plate and at his friend, he nodded. "I called in to see how everything was and to update your mom."

"Let me guess, hectic and chaotic as always?"

"But of course."

Pausing a bit, Hitomi questioned further. "Anyone else call?"

Suddenly, his good morning dimmed. "Yeah. Bryan called." Seeing her sit up a bit only made him a bit sadder. "He wanted to see if everything was alright. I assured him you'd be home soon, so he won't have to worry any longer."

"Oh," was all the reply Van received. At that point, she continued to nibble on her food. A few moments later, he heard some kind of mumbling noise protruding from her lips. "Come again?"

Rolling her eyes, she repeated, "I don't see why he has to worry. I mean, I wrote him a note explaining what was going on."

"Why didn't you just tell him?" For some reason, he was getting the idea that she didn't really like having a conversation with this man she was about to chain herself to for all eternity. Not that he was suggesting anything negative…

"When I heard what was going on with you, he wasn't around. I figured I would explain it to him when I got back."

"Three days later? What did the note say anyway?"

Lowering her gaze, Hitomi began to bite her bottom lip. "Just that I was here with you and that I might be gone for awhile."

Smacking his head, Van groaned. "Your poor use of the English language never ceases to amaze me."

"I left him a number to call," she protested.

"And he used it today. He probably tried calling your cell many times, plus my home phone. I haven't even looked at the answering machine yet." Sliding his hand off his face, the raven-haired man gazed over at her and sighed. "Hitomi, Hitomi, Hitomi… what am I to do with you?"

Pretending to think for a moment, the said woman replied, "You can let me have the last pancake?" Smiling, he lifted the plate and gave it to her, thus ending the glorious meal. Without a word, he careful piled everything back onto the tray, picked it up and headed into the kitchen, the sounds of tiny feet following him in the process. "So, what time must I leave?"

Placing the dishes in the sink, he began running the water. "You're a big girl, Tomi. I think you can figure that one out on your own. I told him in about an hour or so, but it is up to you."

A sigh was heard from her general direction as another plate entered the sanctuary of the sink. "Knowing you, you gave him your word. Let me change first, and then I'll go."

"Good girl."

Hitomi soon disappeared into the bedroom while he finished washing the dishes. Different thoughts swam through his mind, all surrounding a certain female in the other room. What was he going to do? The proper thing would be to cut things off forever as soon as she said "I do." He had an opportunity and lost it. The only thing he could do for her now was to disappear from her life. That was the plan, but she was making things harder and harder as time went on. No, he had to do the right thing. Van had to let her go.

"Van?" Taking his focus away from his thoughts, maroon eyes clashed with emerald. To show that he was listening, he silently nodded his head. "Do you want me to talk to Eriol about refilling your prescription? He's coming by today to discuss what he's suppose to do for the wedding. He's Bryan's best man."

Shaking his head, Van began to place the dishes back in the cabinets. "Nah. I'll take care of it. I need a checkup anyway." Turning to face her, he leaned back on the counter and crossed his arms in front of him. "So, three more weeks, huh? You excited?"

It took her a moment to realize what he was referring to. "Bryan will make me happy." Releasing a sigh, Hitomi reached down and picked up a duffle bag he hadn't realized she had. With a small smile, Hitomi walked over and gave him an awkward embrace. "Do call, for any reason. Don't make me find out anything bad through my mom, or I'll beat you myself."

Offering a smile, Van nodded and walked with her to the door. "Of course. I'd like to see thirty-one after all." Unlocking it and swinging the wooden rectangular object, he hugged her one last time. "Thank you."

"I'll see you around, okay?"

"Yes ma'am." Backing out of his arms, Hitomi gave another small smile, waved, and left the apartment. Van closed the door behind her. With a sigh, he locked it and went into the spare bedroom that he used as an office. Immediately walking over to the laptop on his desk, the raven haired man sat in the chair and started up the machine. While the computer loaded, Van grabbed his briefcase and pulled out one of his account folders, deciding on finishing something before tomorrow. As he glanced over the contents, a sentence floated through his mind, one he swore he had heard before. 'If a thing is not spoken of, even those closet to you, who you love, will assume that it doesn't exist.'


"The girl is in love with this guy, but he doesn't notice her at all. In order to gain his attention and possibly his heart, she changes her appearance, her hair and clothes. He's too busy playing silly games to see who she really is, so she changes herself for him."

"How does the girl know if he truly doesn't see her or not? I mean, what if he's the one trying to change for her?"

"Oh please. He's a guy! Guys are so dense."

-End Flashback-

Shaking his head, Van reached over and picked up his glasses, choosing to avoid another head attack. Placing them on, he glanced at the small picture sitting on his desk. With a small smile on his face, the maroon eyed man sighed. 'I did change for and because of her. Sadly, I never realized until too late.' Finally, he tore his gaze away and paid attention to his work. As he did so, the image of him and his best friend smiled back from behind a glass frame.

Why was it when the sun was shining so brightly, the weather was comfortable and it was generally a great day that she was in her "I hate the world" mood? Probably had something to do with the fact that she was almost completely nocturnal at this point. With a sigh, the woman walked quickly down the street, mentally cursing her alarm clock that decided to go on strike. Oh yeah, she was late. Not only that, but her vehicle of chose was in the repair shop. Times like these reminded her of the phrase "when it rains, it pours."

Seeing her destination in view, the female quickened her pace, determined to cross the street before the light changed. But of course, this was not possible. "Well damn it!" Waiting a few moments, she was allowed to cross without the threat of the fate of most squirrels during traffic. Finally, she reached the café she was supposed to be at about fifteen minutes ago. Taking a deep breath and throwing open the door, the blond looked around the place and soon found the table she desired.

Flopping down into one of the empty chairs, she smiled. "Sorry about that."

Brown eyes looked back at her from across the table. "Don't worry. I haven't been here long. Besides, the other two aren't here yet."

That caused her to pause. "Other two?"

Chuckling, the man got up and sat down beside her, placing a kiss on her cheek. "I had hoped you wouldn't mind. Hitomi called me. She wanted to know how you were holding up, and I informed her that we would be having lunch today."

The blonde's eyes went wide. "Who is she coming with?"

"Her fiancé, of course. Why?"

Standing up quickly, she tried to grab her things. "I have to go."

"What? Why?"

"It's just that, uh, I, umm…"

"Hey Danielle!" Pausing mid motion, the said woman turned to see Hitomi walking over to the table, Bryan close behind her. Apparently he had recognized and remembered her just like she remembered him. This was going to be… interesting….

Putting on a smile, the brown-eyed female greeted her friend. "Hey Tomi. How goes it?"

The sandy brunette hugged the other female before speaking, "it's insane right now. I had hoped we could all sit and chat. Did I come too late?"


Chuckling, the brown-eyed man stood. "She means why you have your stuff in hand. And no, you aren't late. Danielle just got here herself."

Hitomi immediately came over and hugged him. "It's been awhile, hasn't it Gaddess?"

"Hey now. You keep this up, we'll be in trouble with both your fiancé and the love of my life here. They just might get jealous and run off together."

Laughing, she broke away from him and went over to the other male. "Bryan, this is Danielle and Gaddess, two of my good friends. Danielle's one of my bride's maids."

Looking at him, the blond silently thought over what to say. However, Bryan extended his hand towards her. "It's a pleasure to meet you." Seeing that he was trying to make things simpler, she shook his hand without saying anything. Knowing her luck, she'd say something that would give away their situation.

Once the greetings were finished, they all sat in their seats and scanned over the menu. Hitomi glanced over at her female friend. "You are nearly impossible to get on the phone. Where do you hide yourself?"

Before she could answer, Gaddess spoke up, "Well, she works at night now. Having her up and about before two in the afternoon is a miracle nowadays."

"Work? Where do you work?"

Danielle replied, "at a bookstore not too far from Esca. Actually, I own the place."

The emerald-eyed woman sat up a bit. "Seriously? That's awesome! I wish you had told me earlier. I would come by to look around."

"Well, you had a lot of work to do before the big day. It's no big deal." Silently, she was begging for the waiter to come quickly as to keep them all occupied on something else.

Apparently, someone listened to her prayers and chose to be nice. A girl with short brown hair soon came over with a pad of paper in hand. "Welcome! My name is Yumi and I'll be your server today. Do you know what you'd like or do you need a few more minutes?" Each of them placed their order while Yumi scribed it all down. "Alright, that will be a few minutes. I'll be right back with your drinks."

When the woman left, the table fell silent. Finally having enough of it, Gaddess turned to Bryan. "So, what is it you do again?"

"I'm a history teacher at the middle school in Basram." A small smile formed on Danielle's lips. In high school, she had told him to pursue just that due to his freakish way of remembering dates and names. Funny how things turn out just as you thought they would.

Suddenly, a strange Latin beat burst forth, causing Gaddess to search his pockets. Grabbing his cell phone, he sighed and looked at his girlfriend. "I have to take this." Seeing her nod, he turned to his guests. "Sorry about this. I'll be right back." At that, he got up and went outside to talk with whoever had called, leaving the blond alone with the couple. It was at that moment the drink miraculously appeared in front of them.

Hitomi smiled. "I have a feeling you're used to him leaving in the middle of lunch."

Shrugging, she replied, "Stuff comes up. Nothing we can do about that."

The sandy brunette leaned in a bit, looking a bit devious, "so, you two have been together, what, four years now?"

"On and off again, but yeah."

Her smile got bigger. "So, when are you two getting married?"

Bryan suddenly choked on his drink and began to cough violently, causing his fiancée to pat his back in order to help. When he was finally settled, Hitomi turned her attention back on the female, who simply smiled. "We're fine where we are right now. We haven't really talked about it, but who knows?"

"As long as you're happy, I guess."

"Exactly." With that, she took a sip of her drink, still refusing to look over at Bryan. What could possibly be going through his mind?

Suddenly, the waitress came over to the table. "Excuse me. Is one of you Hitomi Kanzaki?"

Nodding her head, the said woman spoke up. "That's me."

"You have a phone call, ma'am. Apparently your cell phone is not working, so they called here."

Standing up, emerald eyes looked at the other two. "I'll just be a minute. Sorry." With that, she left her fiancé alone with the woman from his past.

They sat in silence for a few moments before Bryan braved a conversation. "It's been awhile, hasn't it?"

"About thirteen or so years since we last saw each other. Maybe ten since we spoke. Something like that."

Shifting in his seat, the man leaned forward a bit in order to speak a bit quieter. "You look good, Dani."

Smiling, she leaned back in her seat. "You know I hate that name. I just gave up trying to correct people." Shaking her head, she directed her eyes toward the window. Gaddess was still on that phone, talking to someone intently.

"He seems like a nice guy." Turning to him, her eyes were a bit wide, telling him she hadn't heard him. "Gaddess, he seems like a good guy."

Her smile grew soft as she nodded. "He's wonderful."

"I'm glad." Looking away, he continued, "I would have had to kill him if he wasn't."

Rolling her eyes, Danielle had had enough. "Don't go pretending there was more between us than there was."

Sitting up, his brown eyes met hers equally. "I had thought we were more than friends. If I remember correctly, it was you who stopped the communication when you started dating some guy."

"You want to know why I did that? Because I was tired of waiting for you to tell me how you felt. A girl can only go so long before she needs to hear how the guy feels. Besides, he's a great guy. In fact, you should know. You met him not too long ago."

Raising an eyebrow, Bryan questioned, "What? Who are you talking about?"

Smirking, she answered. "Van Fanel."

Anger creped into his eyes at that. It took him a moment to respond. "Are you kidding me?"

"Of course not. I'm not five."

Shaking his head, he looked away for a brief second. "What the hell is with this guy? First you, then Hitomi…"

"Actually, it was Hitomi all along. But, it's not my place to say. He was very good to me. I even brought him home during Thanksgiving break one year. You happen to be too busy to even visit that year."

"Hey, that wasn't my fault."


Leaning back in his chair, Bryan took a deep breath before sighing. "You want to know what I was doing? I was looking for an engagement ring for you. I was going to ask you when you were home for Christmas break, but then I heard about your boyfriend."

Confusion was written all over her face. "What?" Clearly, something did not work in her head.

Nodding, he continued. "Yeah, I was gonna ask you to marry me."

"Oh please. You had already met Hitomi and became fascinated with her at that time. Don't even try lying to me."

"She was my best friend's girlfriend. Yes, I was attracted to her, but that was nothing compared to what I felt for you. You were the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. That's why I didn't try anything with her, not because of Eriol, but because of you." At that, he reached over and took a sip of his drink once again, giving them time to think.

Her head was spinning with this information. This was the man she had known way back in high school, her first love. This was the man that had broken her heart when they only conversed as friends. To hear that he had actually loved her as much as she did him was mind blowing.

Seeing her compute all that he had said, Bryan looked towards the door to make sure no one overheard them. When he decided the coast was clear, he turned to her and looked her straight in the eye. "I did love you, Danielle, and I did want to marry you. If things could be different…"

"Stop." A soft smile appeared on her face as she gazed at him. "There's no use thinking that way. We could sit here all day going over every little thing in our past and wonder what would happen if things had been different." She reached over and took his hand, causing him to pay close attention. "You were my first love, Bryan, but you see that man out there?" Looking over, he saw the dark haired, brown-eyed man outside, laughing as he seemed to be finishing his phone conversation. Turning to back to her, the history teacher nodded. "He is my last love."

The impact of that statement hit him harder than he thought it would. This was the woman he compared all over women to. She was the one he had thought about for a long time, wondering what could have been. Her sincerity and conviction shook him to the core of his being. How could she be so certain?

Eventually, Danielle released his hand and sat back in her seat. The two sat in a comfortable silence, looking at each other, when Gaddess reappeared. "Sorry about that." He leaned over and kissed the blond softly on the lips as an apology before taking his seat. "What did I miss?"

Smiling, the female took her boyfriend's hand. "Nothing much. Bryan and I were just chatting."

Chuckling, Gaddess turned to the other man. "You poor thing. I hope she didn't hurt you too badly."

As she playfully slapped his arm, Bryan sighed. Thankful, his fiancée returned before he could answer. "Apparently, my cell phone was turned off without my knowledge. My mom says hi, by the way."

Yumi came soon after with their meals, allowing the atmosphere to return to a comfortable and friendly feel. Half way through her food, Hitomi looked up and asked, "So, what did you two talk about?"

Bryan was the one to answer, "How fate can bring two people together, if only for a brief moment, in order to help shape them into the person they will become."

Feeling no need to say anything, Danielle simply squeezed Gaddess' hand and continued with her meal.

It was two in the morning and Van was wide awake. Tomorrow was the day of Hitomi's wedding. On that day, she would become Hitomi Caliburn until the day she died, loving him until forever. Van sighed as he remembered what he was going to do after the wedding – tell her goodbye for good. He had it all planned. When they took off for their honeymoon, he would go to America for a while and run his business from there. It would be like a mini vacation. While there, he could even start a new branch and possibly stay there for good. It would be a fresh new beginning. That was what he needed.

A loud knock on the door took him away from his last minute preparations, such as actually buying the ticket. Getting up, he walked over to the door and opened it. Blinking a few times, he was a bit shocked. "Hitomi? What the…?"

Grabbing his hand, she began dragging him out into the hallway. "Come with me."

Planting his feet into the floor, he somehow stopped her. "What's going on?"

"Van, just come?"

Looking at her for a few, he reluctantly grabbed his jacket and headed out the door. As he locked the door behind him, Van turned to her. "Where to?"

Taking his hand, Hitomi guided him down the stairs and towards the street, heading in a particular direction. He knew it would be in vain to ask if she wanted to take the car. She needed to walk and sort out her thoughts. As they walked, silence fell between them, telling him she wanted to talk only at the destination she had in mind.

Finally, after maybe a half hour or so, they entered the park and slowly their pace a bit. Hitomi was still not saying anything and Van was not about to rush her. That was just how she was. He had to let her just walk until she was ready.

A small hill came into view and he just knew that was where she was heading. When they reached the top of it, she sat down and looked out over the park, remaining quiet. After a few moments, Van sat down next to her and waited patiently.

"I'm scared."

Nodding, he replied, "That's natural. You're about to commit yourself to one person for the rest of your life. It's a big deal."

Pulling her knees up to her chest, she encircled them with her arms and rested her chin on them. "What do you think of him?"

This was the exact question he had hoped she would never ask him. How could he tell her his real opinion? Sighing, he fell back and lay on the grass, his gaze to the stars and full moon above. "It doesn't matter what I think."

"It does to me."

Thinking this over, Van knew he had to tell her. "No, it doesn't. All I care about is if you will be happy." Pausing, he continued, "Do you love him?"

Silence stretch on for a moment. "Bryan's a good man. He will make me happy."

"That's not what I asked. Anyone has the ability to make anyone else happy. That's not something to base a marriage on. The two should be so desperately and hopelessly in love." He had to stop himself. "Wait, that's not true." When she looked over at him in confusion, he continued. "Being in love is just the start of things. Anyone can do that. Loving someone is much more than that. Being in love is a madness, similar to lust, in a way. Loving someone is something that will last when in love fades." Gazing over at her, Van said, "Being in love is easy, but loving someone is very special. It cannot die, no matter what trials come between them."

He let her think that over for a moment before he asked, "Do you love him?" She stayed quiet for a very long time, as if she was unsure of how to answer. "If you love him, marry him. If you love him, I will be there and watch as you become his wife."

Sitting up, he watched as she seemed troubled. Sighing, he stood up and reached out a hand to her. "Come here." Without hesitation, she gave him her hand and allowed him to pull her up. Van held her close and whispered into her ear, "A long time ago, you promised me a dance." Her eyes went wide as she gazed at him, trying to remember such a promise. Thinking back, she smiled lightly as she recalled the event. He held her close, took her hand and began to dance with her on the top of the hill in the park.

Hitomi giggled a bit. "I feel weird doing this without music." No sooner than the words passed her lips than Van began to hum a familiar tune in her ear. She smiled a bit. "I remember this one."

His humming stopped a moment as he replied. "It should. I practiced this thing a long time before playing it under your balcony." At that, he changed from humming to singing it softly for only the two of them to hear as they danced.

"The strands in your eyes
that color them wonderful
Stop me and steal my breath
And emeralds from mountains
thrust towards the sky
Never revealing their depth

"And tell me that we belong together
Dress it up with the trappings of love
I'll be captivated
I'll hang from your lips
Instead of the gallows of heartache
that hang from above

"And I'll be your crying shoulder
I'll be love suicide
And I'll be better when I'm older
I'll be the greatest fan of your life

"And rain falls angry on the tin roof
As we lie awake in my bed
And you're my survival, you're my living proof
My love is alive and not dead

"And tell me that we belong together
Dress it up with the trappings of love
I'll be captivated
I'll hang from your lips
Instead of the gallows of heartache
that hang from above.

"And I'll be your crying shoulder
I'll be love suicide
And I'll be better when I'm older
I'll be the greatest fan of your life.

"And I've dropped out, I burned up,
I fought my way back from the dead
Tuned in, turned on,
Remembered the thing that you, you said

"I'll be your crying shoulder
I'll be love suicide
And I'll be better when I'm older
I'll be the greatest fan of your…

"I'll be your crying shoulder
I'll be love suicide
And I'll be better when I'm older
I'll be the greatest fan of your life

"The greatest fan of your life
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
Greatest fan of your life."

As he finished singing, the two of them slowly ceased their movements, but did not move away from each other. Breathing slightly, Van looked down at her, "if you love him, Hitomi, he is the luckiest man alive." A tear slid down her face as she hugged him, him returning the gesture. Looking out around him, Van smiled. "You were right you know. This is beautiful."

Sighing, Van paced back and forth in front of the church, waiting until the ceremony was going to start. At this point, he was still wondering if he could make himself sit there and watch her marry him. Bryan was a good guy and all, but that didn't stop Van from disliking him. After all, because of him, Hitomi was lost to him forever.

As he continued his pacing, a female snuck into the room where the groom was getting ready. Closing the door behind her, she smiled as she walked up to him. "You always did look good in a tux. That much I remember."

Startled, Bryan turned around to see who it was. Sighing, he rubbed a hand over his face. "What are you doing here? The ceremony is going to start soon. You're supposed to be helping Hitomi get ready. That is the job of the maid of honor, right?"

Chuckling, she nodded. "At this point, there's nothing left for me to do." Taking a moment, she asked, "She doesn't know about us, does she?"

Getting a bit angry, he replied, "No and she doesn't need to, especially not today."

Try as she might, she just could not contain her giggle. "Lighten up. I think it's funny, in an ironic sort of way. I mean, could this world get any smaller?"

"Of course you would." Shaking his head, he took a seat in front of the mirror. Why oh why did this have to happen today?

Slipping in front of him, she smiled. "Relax. I'm not going to cause a scene. I was the one to give the ring back, remember? Don't worry. I'll be on my best behavior."

Bryan let out a loud sigh as he placed his head in his hands. "I had no idea you were his sister and that you were friends with her."

"Oh please. Like that would have changed anything." Giving him a hug, which he eventually accepted, she whispered, "I won't say a thing. What kind of friend would I be if I did that?" Gaining a small smile from him, she hugged him even harder. "I knew I wasn't the one for you. I just want you to be happy." With a small kiss on the cheek, she stood up and left the groom to himself.

Smiling, the woman walked across the hallway towards the other room, which held the bride. There was no denying that she loved Bryan, but she also knew she was not the one for him. Sadly, it was after he proposed that she realized the truth. After giving back the ring, she disappeared from his life, only appearing again that night in his hotel room. They had simply talked about the past when it came out how she knew the bride. Life's funny that way.

Smiling, she made her way towards the door a few feet in front of her. While she agreed this wasn't right, she would still do what she could for the woman she knew since high school. Suddenly, Danielle opened the door and came out of Hitomi's room. Smiling at her, she inquired, "You know where your idiot brother is, Merle?"

The said female tucked some of her pink hair behind her ear before thinking. "I think he was outside putting a hole in the ground."

"Thanks." With that, the blond took off for the entrance, leaving her friend behind. Chuckling, the youngest Fanel turned and entered the bride's chamber to help with the last minute preparations. She was the maid of honor, after all…

Meanwhile, Danielle walked down the stairs to interrupt the raven-haired man in his little thinking spree. Sighing, she came up beside him and tapped his shoulder. "Van, Hitomi wants to see you for a minute."

Maroon eyes focused on her before processing what she said. "Is something wrong?"

"Last minute jitters or something. We're going to start soon and she would love to talk to her best friend first." Seeing as he wasn't moving, she took him by the arm. "Come on, Van. Best not keep her waiting."

Shaking her off, Van replied, "I got it. Thanks." With that, he took a deep breath and went over to her room, preparing himself for anything. Knocking on the door lightly, he waited for a reply.

The voice that answered was timid and shy. "Who is it?"

"It's me. You decent?"

After a few seconds, the door creaked open as an emerald-eyed girl stuck her head through the crack. "Come on in." She parted the door more so that he could fit through.

Once he was in the room, Van turned to the woman. "What's going on, Tomi?"

Glancing at the other girls there, Hitomi silently told them to leave so she could talk to him in private. Getting the idea, Merle and Robin left quickly, Danielle having chosen to stay outside. Once the door was closed, she looked at him nervously. Before saying anything, she closed her mouth and began pacing. "You're gonna say no."

"You won't know until you ask."

Taking a deep breath, she stopped pacing and bit her bottom lip. "Umm, I know this is a lot to ask, but there's no one else."

Curiosity got the better of him. "For what?"

"Umm, to, umm… well… to walk me down the aisle?" Her white dress swept the floor in a flowing manner in a somewhat bell-like shape, her curves accented by the waist line and her shoulders bare as the fabric came below them. Her thin veil came down to her knees in the back. On her face was that deep red lipstick as her eyes were highlighted white, her eyelashes done with mascara. She was breathtaking.

Van took a moment to collect himself before he processed what she had asked of him. His heart was racing and in pain at the same time. Lowering his head, Van replied, "No. I won't do it. I can't."

Her voice sounded so small and fragile. "Why?"

Sighing, he knew what he had to do. Shaking his head, he threw reason out the window and just did what had to be done. "It's the one thing I cannot do. To be the one that gives you to Bryan… I have done so much for you, but I just can't give you to some else." Waiting a moment, he continued. "Hitomi, I can't hide it any longer. I tried to, but I cannot deny the truth any longer."

Confused, the bride shook her head slightly. "Van?"

Taking a breath, he finally confessed, "Hitomi, ever since I was fifteen years old, I felt whole when I was with you. It was like a part of me was missing until you appeared. You came into my world by chance and I thank whatever higher power there is for that. But I didn't know what I had until I lost you. You're the one my soul cries out for, longs for. I… I love you, with all my heart and soul."

Her beautiful emerald eyes grew wide as tears began to form. He so desperately wanted to rid her of them, never wanting her to be sad. Before he thought it over, Van walked over, lowered his head, and pressed his lips against hers, sending all he felt for her into that moment. He had no idea that her lips would be so soft, or how complete he would feel holding her this way.

At some point, he pulled away from her and reached up to wipe away her tears. "I am so sorry, Tomi. I just couldn't hide it any longer." Sighing, he stepped away from her and turned toward the door. "I'm so sorry, but I don't think I can be at your wedding. Don't worry. I won't interfere anymore. I won't cause you any more pain. Have a wonderful life, Hitomi. You deserve only the best." With that, he took a small metal circle out of his pocket and placed it on the table by the door. "I think this belongs to you." At that point, he walked out of the door and left the church entirely.

Mentally cursing himself, Van headed toward the parking lot, ready to head back to his apartment and try to find an earlier flight to America. Why did he have to kiss her? It was just so wonderful and… he shouldn't have done it. Now he would be haunted by her taste for life. Sighing, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his car keys. He just couldn't go to her wedding now. It would be just too painful. In the distance, he could hear the music begin to play, knowing she was now gone for good. She would soon be Mrs. Hitomi Caliburn, a married woman he would never know from this moment on. No matter how much he didn't want to, he knew he could not stay here.

Before he reached his car, however, a voice stopped him. "VAN!" Turning around, he saw Hitomi running after him as quickly as she could, her gown flowing all around with each movement she made. "Hitomi, what are you doing? You're going to-"

He didn't have time to respond as her fist connected with his nose, sending him back quite a bit. He had forgotten just how strong she was. Blinking in pain, he looked over at the infuriated woman before him. She was still coming at him as well, which was just terrifying. "What the HELL is your problem, Fanel?!? What?? You tell me now?!? You're a friggin moron! Oh goodness!!!" She began pacing back and forth to release some steam. "Out of all the times!! What are you trying to do to me?!? I mean, do you have any idea what it's like to have loved someone for fifteen years and then they do that to you on your wedding day?!? My wedding day!! I have the friggin dress on and everything!! I'm about to bind my life forever with-"

Van stopped backing up on that. Running up and taking her shoulders to hold her steady, he took a breath. "What did you just say?"

Struggling against his hold, she said, "You're a moron!"

"No, after that…"

"I said do you know what it's like to have loved someone for eleven…"

"That's not what you said."

"Yes it was!"

"You said fifteen."

Perplexed and still angry, she cried, "what?!?"

"You said fifteen years…" Seeing her eyes grow wide as realization hit her, Van took a moment before questioning what he knew she said. "You still love me?"

A moment passed in silence as they stared at each other. Finally, after what seemed like forever, Hitomi gave up fighting him. A tear slid down her face as she replied, "I thought I was over you…"

Taking a few seconds, Van's eyes grew wide. "Do you love Bryan?" A slow shake of her head was her answer. Now came the moment of truth. "Do you love me?" Biting her lip, she slowly nodded and tried to get out of his arms. He would have none of that. "Hitomi." With that, she stopped struggling as his lips pressed against hers once again. This time, she returned the kiss, letting herself express all she had felt for this man the past fifteen years of her life. It was the most complete they had ever been.

Once they released each other, Van gazed into her emerald eyes, never wishing to look away. Something had to be brought up, though. "What do you want to do, Hitomi?" When she seemed confused, he reminded her. "It's your wedding day."

The sound of someone clearing their throat was heard, causing them to look. Hitomi's eyes went wide as she breathed, "Bryan."

The said man stood there, watching his bride to be in the arms of her best friend, confessing her love to him. A pained expression took over his features as he tried to back away. The sandy brunette moved closer, trying to do something to comfort him. As soon as she placed her hand on his arm, however, he snatched it away. In a low voice, he asked, "you didn't love me, did you?"

She thought over how to word her response. "I…I cared deeply for you. I thought I did, or at least could love you. I would have been honored to become your wife, but…" Seeing him that way devastated her. "Bryan, I'm so sorry. I didn't-"

"No, but I did." Looking over at Van, the groom did his best to keep calm. "I knew I'd end up standing alone at the alter." Shaking his head, he began to walk away.

"Bryan, wait." The man stopped as Van walked over to him. After a few moments of uneasy silence, the maroon eyed man stood before him at ease. "I know any kind of apology I try to give you will be lacking. I know how much you love Hitomi, and if I were in your shoes, I would be so unbelievable angry. I…" He didn't know what he could do to make amends to this poor man whose once mistake was falling for the wrong woman.

Instead, Bryan placed a hand on his shoulder. "Don't. Somehow, I knew this would happen." He began walking away once again, but stopped and called over his shoulder. "Take care of her this time, Van. There are no third chances in life." Not waiting for an answer, he went back into the church to inform everyone that there would be no wedding.

As soon as he disappeared, Hitomi let her tears fall. "He's such a great man… he didn't deserve this. Not at all."

Van held her close and tried to stop her tears. "Bryan will be blessed with his true soul mate some day. Believe that and pray that he does." Holding her like this, knowing how she truly felt, he knew what to do now. He would not make the same mistakes again. From now on, Van would not let her go.

As her sobs subsided, the raven-haired man gazed down at her, wondering how fate had brought her back to him. Something caught his eye, however, causing him to bring her left hair up so he could see it better. A smile broke onto his face. "Before slugging me, you put the ring on?"

Looking up at him, she smiled as well. "You did give it back to me. When I saw it, I knew I had to come after you. It was like instinct."

Kissing her forehead, he held her to him once again. That was how Danielle found them later on, choosing to hold her cheering at bay until she went to inform the others. Finally, the two of them would be together, just like everyone knew they should be. And to think, it only took them fifteen years to do so…

It was two in the morning and Van Fanel could not sleep. Try as he may, he just could not get himself to fall into dreamland. With a sight, he began the long cycle of tossing and turning, trying to find the position that would send him into a deep slumber. Sighing, the raven-haired man was just about to give up when the phone rang, which would require him to get up anyway. Pushing himself off the bed, he walked into the kitchen and grabbed the communication device. "Hello?"

"You can't sleep either, huh Sparky?"

A smile instantly danced on his lips. "You know me too well. What's your excuse for being up?"

"See, I would be, but I'm outside this guy's apartment and he just refuses to get up to answer the door. I can't very well go to sleep in the hallway, now can I?"

Laughing, he walked over to the door and swung it open, seeing the woman of his dreams standing there with the cell phone in hand. Smiling, she asked, "May I come in, good sir?"

"But of course. Just let me finish this phone call."

At that, she closed the phone, walked in and kissed him softly on the lips. Without even looking, Van hung up the phone, tossed it somewhere and closed the door, all the while continuing to kiss her. Chuckling, she pulled away from him a bit. "Someone learned to multitask."

"What can I say? It's a gift."

"I feel blessed."

"You should. Now come on." Without another word, he picked her up bridal style and brought her into his room, placing her softly on the bed. Instantly, Hitomi crawled to what was to be dubbed her side of the bed, while he went to his. Sliding under the covers, Van held her close to him as they began the lovely descent into the dream world. "I love it when you crash here. I actually get to sleep."

"Glad to be useful." Kissing him softly on the nose, she made herself comfortable. After a few seconds of silence, she asked him, "Hey Van? If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?"

Chuckling, he held her closer. "You mean besides running into you all those years ago?"

"Yeah, besides that."

Pretending to think for a moment, he leaned down and kissed her neck. "Sweetheart, there's not a thing I would change. If it weren't for everything we've been through, we would not be here right now."

Smiling, she closed her eyes. "I'm glad. That's the same answer I had."

Pleased with her answer, he closed his eyelids as well. "I love you, Hitomi Kanzaki. Sweet dreams, my love." And with one last kiss goodnight, the two fell into a peaceful sleep, engulfed in each other's arms.


Epilogue: There's Not A Thing I Would Change

Smiling to herself, she printed off the final page and placed it with the others. Stretching her arms over her head, she got up from her seat and ran into the next room. "It's finally done!"

The dark raven-haired man got up from the couch and took her into a big hug. "I knew you could do it! I'm so proud of you." To prove his point, he kissed her fully on the lips, making her a bit dizzy at the same time.

Laughing after he pulled away, she hit him lightly on the arm. "It only took me three years and a day. Do you realize how much coke that is?"

"Oh, don't make me think about that. There were too many emergency run to the store to refill the stock."

Raising one eyebrow, she gave him an interesting look. "Are you implying you did not enjoy doing a few favors for me at random times of night?"

Chuckling, he smiled. "For you, sweetheart, I'd do anything."

"Okay, you're being very nice. What did you do?"

Turning on his heel, he moved toward the bedroom. "Oh, nothing." As she was about to follow him, he turned around and paused. "You wait here."

"Is that a request or demand?"

"That's a request in the most sincerest way possible."

"Well, in that case… I'll be a good girl." He laughed a bit before disappearing in the back room. Smiling, the blond walked around her living room to look at each picture that was displayed. There were very few of them, but the ones that were out always managed to touch her heart.

The first one was one that everyone had waited for for such a long time. Her white dress and his tux were fantastic, but it was their faces that showed everything. They loved each other so much and had to go through so much just to be together. She smiled again as she remembered their wedding day. They weren't nervous at all, just so happy to finally give themselves to each other forever. Mr. and Mrs. Van Fanel. It had a very pleasant sound to it. And to think, in about seven months or so, there would be another little Fanel running around in the world. Her godchild, which she would be able to spoil rotten. Oh, and Chid! Such a delight he was! Van had taken him in with no reservations. After all, Millerna and Dryden had twins to worry about at the moment.

Pink hair shouted out of the second photo, which always brought out a laugh. Merle had finally found the man of her dreams…in Hitomi's little brother. As it turned out, they had dated off and on since high school, but kept it a secret due to how closely everyone watched their siblings. They would soon celebrate their second anniversary as boyfriend and girlfriend, which was huge considering it was Merle. According to Hitomi, Kenji had a huge surprise for Merle in the form of a particular kind of jewelry…

Finally, the one of her and him. This one was taken last year when they went to America at last. It was the first time she was able to introduce him to her parents, which meant the world to her. She had been so worried the entire time, but they loved him immediately.

"Having fun going down memory lane?"

Her brown eyes focused on him as a smile appeared on her face once again. "They're great memories. Of course I'd have fun." Waiting a moment, she asked, "Can I come over now?"

Chuckling, he nodded, holding a hand out to her to grab. "Let's go out to celebrate." Seeing her hesitate, he kissed her forehead. "It's a huge success. We need to do something."

Thinking it over, she relented. "Oh alright. Let me get my jacket." After she had done so, he took her hand and headed for the door. "Where are we going?"

Smiling, he answered, "It's a surprise."

Shrugging, she simply let him lead her, which is exactly what he wanted.

Coming up the elevator, she leaned against him with his arms around her. This day could not get any better. She had finally finished her book, There's Not A Thing I Would Change, after so long. It had been her baby and it was finally done. Then dinner tonight was just awesome, of course. Being able to spend time with him was always something she treasured. And soon, she would be able to actually get to sleep before four in the morning. Miracles could happen.

Suddenly, she noticed that the elevator did not stop at their floor. Confused, she looked over at the panel. "Why are we going to the top floor?"

"I thought we could go to the roof and watch the stars for awhile."

"You're making this night simply fabulous, you know."

She felt his chest move as he laughed. "That's the plan." Before she could question him, the doors opened, allowing him to lead her off the vertically moving box and over to the staircase. Before opening the door to go up, he turned and pulled her jacket around her a bit tighter. "It's a bit cold. Can't have you getting sick now." Smiling, she said nothing as they went up the stairs to visit the night sky.

When they got up there, however, he stopped. "Oh shoot. I think I dropped my cell downstairs." After checking his pockets, he turned to the blond. "Go on up and I'll be right back. It's probably just on the elevator."

"You sure you don't want me to help look?"

"Nah. I'll just be a few minutes, probably. You go on ahead." With that, he went back down the stairs before she could say anything more.

Shrugging, she turned her brown eyes towards the door and pushed it open, making sure to watch her step on the way out. The door closed behind her as she stared out onto the roof. Everywhere she turned, there were candles lit and rose petals covering the ground. With mouth hanging open, she walked out into the scene, mesmerized. Suddenly, the sound of violins playing caught her attention as she recognized the tune as "Affections Touching Across Time" from InuYasha, the anime she was addicted to in college. If she had any doubt in her mind before, the music blasted them all away. This rooftop setting was for her.

Covering her mouth with her hand, she felt like she was about to cry at any moment. The door suddenly opened and there he stood, the man she loved with all her heart. He slowly came over to her, kissing her softly on the forehead. Before she knew what was happening, he got down on one knee while holding a small box in his hand. That was when she started to cry.

Looking up at her, he smiled softly. "Sweetie, don't cry. I haven't even gotten through my speech yet." She laughed slightly, but the tears still fell. "From the moment I saw you, I knew I had to do whatever it took to win your heart, for you had mine before I even knew it. It has been such an adventure being part of your life these past six years. Though we've had our disagreements, we always came back together in the end. You are the only woman I ever want to love, because the love you share is the most precious thing I could ever have. You, my love, are the one, my soul mate and my last love. If you'll have me, I would be the luckiest man alive. Danielle, will you marry me?"

At this point, her tears fell even harder. Nodding her head, she immediately answered, "Yes. Yes, Gaddess. A thousand times, yes!"

He stood up quickly and captured her lips with his own, holding her tightly. When they finally parted, he opened the box and slipped the diamond ring onto her ring finger. They kissed again before the clapping and cheering was heard. Danielle looked around and was shocked to see all of them there. Hitomi stood by Van as she practically jumped up and down for joy. "I'm so happy for you!!!"

Van waited while his wife hugged the blond very tightly, congratulating Gaddess in the mean time. "Took you long enough."

"Not at long as you." Hitomi then launched herself at him, giving Van a turn at his good friend.

Without a word, he pulled her into a big hug. "I'm so happy for you, Danielle."

"Thank you so much." She was trying to wipe away her tears, but she knew it was in vain. "How did you guys get over here anyway?"

Smiling, he replied, "Gaddess called us. He said he'd distract you with dinner while we set everything up."

Oh, she could have started crying again, but Robin and John were next to tackle her. Soon, everyone was coming over to congratulate the happy couple including Varie, Maaya, Kenji, Merle, Millerna and Dryden. Apparently Chid was home babysitting all the little ones.

As the evening went on, Danielle finally found Gaddess, her fiancé, and grabbed onto him for dear life. Laughing, he looked down at her, a large smile on his face. "Are you happy?"

Pressing her lips against his, she held him even closer. When she pulled away, she realized she had actually made him a bit dizzy with that one. Laughing, she kissed softly this time before answering, "I couldn't ask for more. Everything is just perfect." They shared one more kiss before being torn apart by the guests that wished to speak with them.

Eventually, the visitors slowly drifted away, soon leaving the newly engaged couple alone in their apartment. Exhausted, they both crawled into bed and held each other close. "I love you, my last love."

With a smile on her face, Danielle began to drift into the dream world she craved. Before that could be done, however, Gaddess had one more thing to add, which was the final thing to make the night perfect. "Sweetie, it's only 3:30am."

And with that, the land of slumber engulfed her fully, completing her dream come true.

With love,
Sakura Onto Hitomi