Part Eight, Saturday, 12:00AM

Moments

Kaede cycled in the night. Cold, harsh winds whipped all around him but he didn't dare slow down. He wanted to talk to Hanamichi before he turned back into a boy.

Flashback

"Kaede?"

Kaede slowly rose from the bed when his brother's head emerged form his bedroom door.

"What is it?" he inquired.

Ken smiled at his brother as he entered the room. He slightly frowned when he noticed that the room's décor hadn't changed since Kaede moved in when he was only twelve. But he turned his attention back to his brother when Kaede shifted in his bed.

"I want to talk to you about your girlfriend," Ken said with a serious voice.

Kaede scowled. "What about her?"

Ken stood near the bed and looked down at his brother. "I researched a bit," he said. "And I discovered that no girl has the name Sakuragi Hanamichi." When Kaede didn't answer, he continued. "But a boy in your school has that name. Are they related? Or are they the same?" He looked straight in Kaede's eyes so he wouldn't lie.

But Kaede just stared back at him coldly.

Ken sighed. "What happened to the boy, Kaede?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"Because I'm concerned about you."

Kaede focused his eyes on his reflection in a nearby mirror. Silence fell in the room for a few minutes before he spoke. "He made a wish in the Fushigi carnival."

"I see." Ken studied his brother's profile then he began pacing around the room. "You know what that mean, don't you?"

Kaede's knuckles whitened as he fisted his hand. He nodded gravely.

Ken stopped his pacing and walked to his brother. He fondly placed his hand on Kaede's head. He didn't speak until Kaede stared up at him.

"Everything's going to be okay," he reassured the youth. "Just make sure he reverts back into being a boy."

End of flashback

When Kogure informed him that Hanamichi decided to revert the wish, he was relieved but apprehensive. He honestly loves Hana but he was confused if he loved Hanamichi. They say that gender didn't matter, but for Kaede it did.

His impression of Hanamichi was that the boy had a loud mouth and a bag of maggots for a brain, while Hana was a purebred lady with the soft, wondrous voice of an angel.

Gender may not change their personalities but it sure changed Kaede's.

Honestly, Kaede wanted Hana to stay. But he knew the price of the wishes from the Fushigi carnival. Many people thought that it was cool to have their wishes given to them easily; not knowing that nothing in life was free.

Kaede's grandfather was secretly practicing sorcery. He was trained by his great-grandfather and he, in turn, trained Kaede. But he died prematurely, so he only managed to teach the boy a few things. One of those was the forbidden magic associated with wishes.

The Fushigi carnival was built by a mage. This mage was young and naïve, and wishing only to lessen the cruelty of the world. But giving wishes for free was forbidden for it took a life as exchange for the wish (without the wisher's consent). The mage was seized by other sorcerers and hanged him for his crime. But the personal wish of the mage remained. The Fushigi carnival kept changing locations and only appeared every ten years because it's only a ghost. The other sorcerers couldn't counteract the mage's wish so they made the wish giver, the gypsy, appear in the seventh day of the wish and make the wisher reverse the wish so a life will be spared. The tale of the Fushigi carnival became a legend in the world but no mention of the exchange was ever told. Only a handful of people with a sorcerers' bloodline knew of the whole truth.

Rain started to fall in heavy downpour. It blinded Kaede as he bend in a corner.

Suddenly, twin lights appeared out of nowhere. And Kaede could only watch helplessly. The car's brakes squealed in an ear deafening sound but the car's momentum was too fast and Kaede was hit.

The driver of the car paled as he saw the cyclist fly in the middle of the road. He clambered out of his car to assist the young man. He dialed for help in his cell phone as he ran towards Kaede.

Kaede vaguely felt the rain beat on him as he lay in the road, blood pooling steadily out of him. His eyes dilated as he saw a shape of a girl hovered over him.

"Daijobu, kitsune," Hana whispered in a soft, gentle tone. A lone tear fell in the brown eyes. "You're going to be alright." The girl leaned closer and kissed Kaede on the lips. "Sayonara, Kaede," she said as they parted.

Darkness slowly consumed Kaede.

Hanamichi's tears combined with the rain as he watched the gypsy fade back into oblivion. His hair was now back in its original near-bald length, and his body was fully muscled once again.

He should be happy that he's a boy again. But knowing that he lost Kaede hurt him more than he thought. Memories of their time together, though short as it was, were cherished. A part of Hanamichi hoped that when he's back as a boy, he'd forget what he felt for the kitsune. Yet a bigger part held onto the feeling. This was the first time he truly fell in love, and he wanted to remember the feeling forever, it didn't matter if the memories were accompanied by pain.

When the gypsy appeared, Hanamichi was having second thoughts if he really wanted to reverse the wish. But as seconds ticked away, he suddenly saw Kaede being hit by a car. Kogure told him last night that every wish from the gypsy would be equivalent of a life of someone special to Hanamichi. Knowing that it was Kaede's life as payment, Hanamichi decided to rather lose the kitsune's love than lose the boy in death.

He sobbed as he touched his lips. He kissed the kitsune for the last time tonight, and he knew that the boy would kill him if he tried to kiss him as a boy. He chuckled mirthlessly as he looked up into the sky. He closed his eyes when lightning flashed overheard.

"Sayonara," he murmured broKenly. As another wave of pain assaulted him, Hanamichi fell to his knees and cried it all out without inhibition.

"HANAMICHI!"

Hanamichi turned his head to stare at a couple of dark-haired males that materialized in the pouring rain. He recognized Youhei and Sendoh. He gave a smile at the two as they neared.

Sendoh ran faster than Youhei and stopped right beside Hanamichi. "Daijubu desu ka, Hanamichi-kun?" he asked without his usual smile. He studied Hanamichi's limp form and sighed inwardly with relief. Hanamichi was once more a boy.

Youhei stopped on the other side of Hanamichi, and bent over as he panted to catch his breath. His lungs felt like it's going to burst. He looked at Hanamichi and frowned to find his friend a boy.

"You reversed the wish."

Hanamichi nodded. He bent his head and stared at the ground with a faraway look on his face.

Youhei's frown deepened. He briskly scanned the whole place with his eyes and noted that Rukawa was not around. He turned his head back to his best friend as Sendoh placed his jacket over the boy.

"Where is Rukawa?" Youhei asked Hanamichi when he stood up with the help of Sendoh.

Hanamichi gave Youhei a look of pure misery. His knees gave way and if not for Sendoh, he would have dropped to the cold, wet ground.

"Easy, Hanamichi-kun." Sendoh scowled at Youhei when the guy just stood there rooted to the ground. It was by sheer coincidence that he saw Youhei's scooter zoom past him and hit a nearby light post. Sendoh was curious of why the calm Youhei be in a hurry, so he walked over to the guy and asked casually what happened. Youhei immediately launched at him and shook him violently as he demanded to Sendoh to let him use his car. Sendoh agreed in the condition that Youhei would let him go with him. The smaller guy conceded. And along the way to the spot, Youhei narrated everything to Sendoh.

Youhei's frown disappeared. He smiled sadly at Hanamichi as he walked over to him. He gently cupped the face, and made the redhead look at him.

"Don't worry," he reassured. "I'm here." He nodded to Sendoh. "We're here."

Hanamichi nodded. His tears were still flowing, and he just didn't have the strength to stop them.

"Hai," he whispered.

Sendoh pasted his sunny smile for Hanamichi. He carefully moved Hanamichi so the redhead was facing his back. He patted his shoulders.

"Come on, Hanamichi-kun," he said. "I'll carry you."

Hanamichi wanted to refuse but Youhei pushed him to Sendoh. He sniffed as he wrapped his arms around the older guy's shoulders. Sendoh pulled both his legs so they curled around the lean hips. He let his head fell to the broad shoulder and instantly fell asleep.

Youhei nodded to Sendoh when Hanamichi became comfortable. As he walked beside Sendoh, the taller guy began walking to his car with his beloved load and Youhei beside him.

"I wonder what happened," Youhei thought out loud.

"Rukawa arrives, he sees Hanamichi as a boy, and made a ran for the hills," Sendoh concluded with sneer.

Youhei frowned. He knew Hanamichi. And he knew that the boy would never allow anyone to hurt him that way. But, as he glanced at his sleeping best friend, answers would wait.

Hanamichi's nose twitched, as he smelt something delicious. His stomach growled as the wondrous scent moved closer. He blearily opened his eyes when he felt a hand shake him gently. He smiled brightly at Youhei as his vision cleared.

Youhei smiled back with relief. "Konnichi wa, Hanamichi," he greeted.

Hanamichi frowned. He turned his head a bit and was surprised to see the rosy glow of dusk.

"What time is it?" Hanamichi hastily sat up straight. He blinked when he noticed that he's naked. "What happened?"

"Didn't you remember?" Youhei asked.

Hanamichi thought for a minute then his eyes darkened prominently.

Youhei sighed. He shifted and carefully placed a tray on Hanamichi's lap. "Have some soup," he ordered softly. "You'll feel better in a full stomach."

Hanamichi nodded. He slowly spooned the soup and took a sip. He frowned. "Who cooked this?" he asked Youhei. He knew that Youhei could only cook egg meals.

Youhei grinned. "Sendoh."

Hanamichi raised an eyebrow. "He can cook?"

"Of course, I can, Hanamichi-kun," Sendoh said from the doorway. He pouted at Hanamichi for assuming he couldn't cook. But he cheered up and lecherously grinned at Hanamichi.

Hanamichi was confused at Sendoh's behavior then he saw Youhei pointing in his lap. He blushed deeply as Sendoh chuckled. He immediately tugged the blankets up to his chest.

"Oh, Hanamichi-kun," Sendoh drawled. "You don't have to be shy."

"Get out!" Hanamichi shouted with a glare to Sendoh.

Sendoh's smile wavered at the heartless order. His eyes watered dramatically. "You're so cruel," he said painfully.

Hanamichi felt guilty but refused to let Sendoh see it. "Please get out," he requested. "I'm not comfortable with you around."

"But I'm your friend." Sendoh's eyes filled up with real tears this time.

"Gomen," Hanamichi murmured, turning his head away from the tall boy at the door. "I'm still not used to you, I guess."

Youhei looked at Hanamichi to Sendoh. He cocked his head at the pathetic Sendoh. "Come on, Akira. Give Hanamichi some space," he spoke quietly.

Sendoh looked at him doubtfully then nodded. "I'll be just in the kitchen." He stared longingly at the silent redhead before leaving.

Hanamichi sighed when he heard the door close. He turned pained brown eyes at his best friend.

"I hurt him again."

"Yeah." Youhei nodded. "What's new?"

Hanamichi smiled mirthlessly.

Youhei inhaled deeply as he sat down on the bed. "What happened last night?"

Hanamichi bowed his head.

"It's okay if you don't want to talk about it yet." Youhei stood up and walked to the door. He turned to look back at Hanamichi as he opened the door. "You're clothes were wet last night so I took them off for you."

Hanamichi nod his head without looking at Youhei.

Youhei wanted to say something but decided against it. 'Maybe later,' he thought as he closed the door. He blinked in surprise when he saw the three guntais waiting patiently at the foot of the stairs.

"So?" Takamiya eyed him expectantly. "How is he?"

"We asked Sendoh but the guy was too depressed to talk coherently," Ookuso said.

"Hanamichi rejected him again, didn't he?" Sauichiro asked with a slight frown.

Youhei smiled blankly.

The three sighed.

"Where is he?" Youhei asked.

"You mean Sendoh?"

Youhei nodded.

"He's in the kitchen."

Youhei walked to the kitchen but was stopped when he was called again.

"How's Hanamichi?" Takamiya asked again. The question was simple but the message underlining it was much more complicated.

Youhei shook his head. "Not good."

The three scowled.

"Whose in favor of killing Rukawa, raise your right hand and say me!" Sauichiro exclaimed as he raised his right hand.

The other two raised their hands too and yelled, "ME!"

Youhei sweat-dropped.

"And me," Sendoh said calmly at the center of the room.

The Sakuragi guntai studied the passive face of the Ryonan captain.

"You okay?" Ookuso asked hesitantly.

A familiar grin appeared on the pale lips. "I'll survive," he reassured.

Takamiya elbowed Ookuso. "Don't worry about him. He's been rejected for more than a hundred times by Hanamichi, I'm sure he's used to it."

Sendoh sweat-dropped. It was true though. Hanamichi had accepted him as a friend, but never more than that. He should have been used to the rejection, nevertheless each rejection still hurt like hell.

Youhei walked up to Sendoh and slung his arms on the taller guy's shoulders. Due to height difference, Sendoh had to bend slightly lower. The rest of the guntai did the same. Soon Sendoh was buried under a pile of squirming bodies.

Hanamichi stood on top of the stairs and watched his friends comfort a depressed Sendoh in their uniquely painful method. He smiled when laughter filled the whole house accompanied by Sendoh's cry of outrage.

He felt bad by the way he treated Sendoh and wanted to make amends. He often wished that he could return the feelings that the poor guy foolishly gave to him but, alas, not every wish would be given.

Sendoh finally managed to crawl out under the four boys, and sighed with relief when he noted that he still had functioning limbs. He looked up and froze when he saw Hanamichi.

"Hi," he greeted with a hesitant wave.

Hanamichi waved back. The guntai stopped their minor squabbling when they finally realized that Sendoh had eluded them.

Sendoh watched with fascination as Hanamichi walked down the stairs. He fidgeted like a nervous kid when Hanamichi stood in front of him.

"Smiley?" Hanamichi said softly.

Sendoh felt a shiver run down his back at the caring note he heard in Hanamichi's voice. "Please call me Akira," he requested without looking at Hanamichi in the eye.

Hanamichi was baffled at the odd behavior of his friend, however decided to ignore it. "Gomen nasai," he started. "I shouldn't have ordered you around. Err… the soup was delicious, by the way."

"Honto?" Sendoh stared at Hanamichi with too bright eyes.

Hanamichi sweat-dropped. He nodded.

Sendoh made a weird dance around the room, making his audience sweat-drop again.

"He is so weird," Sauichiro murmured.

"If that what happens when you fell in love," Takamiya said with worry. "Then I'd rather not fall."

Hanamichi didn't agree with Takamiya. He did enjoy those moments with kitsune, no matter that it ended abruptly and painfully.

Youhei and Ookuso glanced at Hanamichi.

"What happened last night?" Ookuso asked the redhead.

Hanamichi seemed startled at the sudden question. He closed his eyes when the four looked at him and were silently willing him to talk. He inhaled deeply and letting the air out with a whoosh. He opened his eyes with determination.

But before he could open his mouth to talk, the doorbell rang.

The five inside blinked at the door then simultaneously scowled.

"Who could that be?" Takamiya growled when another bell was heard.

Hanamichi sighed before shrugging his shoulders. He walked to the door and opened it wide. His eyes widened when he realized who was ringing his home so early in the morning.

"Konnichi-wa, Sakuragi-kun," Ken greeted with a formal bow. "Sumimasen for intruding so early."

Hanamichi nodded like a zombie. He was rattled at the appearance of one of the Rukawa family members. He remembered what happened before he reversed the wish and suddenly felt sick. Was he too late?

Ken noticed Hanamichi's pale complexion and shook his head rapidly. "Iei, he's fine."

Hanamichi visibly relaxed.

Ken smiled. He was sure now that the redhead reversed the wish for his brother. 'He truly cared after all,' he thought happily.

"The reason I'm here is because he asked for you."

Hanamichi paled again.

"Onegai," Ken asked with unaccustomed humility. "For my brother."

"Oi," Sendoh butted in and glared at Ken. He had been studying the man and easily figured out that he's related with Rukawa Kaede. "Who are you?"

Ken raised his eyebrow at the haughty question. "Who are you?" he asked back with emphasis that he didn't give a damn.

Sendoh developed a pounding vein. The guntai automatically blocked him. Long time with Hanamichi made them act like a well-oiled defensive machine.

"By your looks alone, we could easily see that your Rukawa's older brother, am I correct?" Youhei asked for the guntai's sake.

Ken nodded. He turned back to the redhead, the rest of the people were ignored. "He's at the community hospital."

Hanamichi looked away from Ken guiltily. "I don't know if I can face him."

Ken studied the redhead. When he researched on Sakuragi Hanamichi, he was not surprised to know that he was originally a boy. His brother's usual reaction to the female populace made him research if his hunch was true. After knowing that the boy had made a wish in the Fushigi carnival, he instantly talked to Kaede about it. His baby brother knew of the consequences but decided to ignore it for just a moment with his dream girl.

"Anou… Rukawa-san," Hanamichi asked, breaking Ken's thoughts. "How'd you know?" Ken smiled at Hanamichi. It was so similar with Kaede's that Hanamichi's eyes blurred. He looked down to hide the telltale moisture.

"Don't cry, Sakuragi-kun," Ken asked nervously. He fondly cupped the redhead's face, and made him look at him. "He's fine. He made it to the hospital in time. As a matter of fact, he's now awake and making hell in the hospital."

Hanamichi sniffed and laughed at the picture that Ken painted in his head. "Yeah, that's so much like Kaede."

Ken wiped a tear that escaped the brown eyes and caressed the smooth cheek in a brotherly manner. "Everything's fine, Hana. He just wished to talk to you. Will you do this for my brother? I know he's been a jerk to you before."

Hanamichi twisted his face out of the man's grasp and looked behind him. His friends' expressions were saying that he should refuse. He shook his head at the five then turned back to Ken.

"Take me to him," he said with finality.

Ken smiled. He turned to his heels and walked in front of Hanamichi towards his car.

"NO!" Sendoh cried and tried to run to Hanamichi but the four guntai blocked him. He watched helplessly as Hanamichi closed the door. He pushed the four away roughly and pulled the door open. But the car already zoomed out of the driveway. He ran to his car and cursed loudly when he realized that the keys were inside the house.

"Don't follow him, Akira," Youhei ordered gravely.

"WHY NOT?!" Sendoh glared at the calm Youhei and the rest of the gunati. "Why not? He hurt Hanamichi last night, Youhei. Are you just gonna give him the chance to hurt him again?"

Youhei stared at Sendoh sternly. "Hanamichi wanted to talk to him. Let him. We don't really know what happened last night anyway."

"You saw Hanamichi crying in the rain. That bastard hurt Hanamichi by rejecting him because he's a boy now. How could you be so calm about this?"

"All of what you're saying are assumptions, Akira," Youhei replied. He turned his head to stare at the direction of where the car ran. "Let's trust Hanamichi, okay?"

Sendoh looked at the four serious faces in front of him and cursed again. He slowly walked back into the house.

The guntai could only stare after him.

"Youhei?" Ookuso asked with lots of hesitation. "Is it wise?"

Youhei smiled bitterly. "I don't know. But I trust Hanamichi to make a wise decision."

"Now, that is stupid," Takamiya said. "Hanamichi was far from wise."

Youhei sweat-dropped. 'Yeah, Takamiya is right,' he thought. 'But… still… Hanamichi decided on this. I have to believe in him, at least.'

"I don't want that, 'kaa-san!" Kaede screamed at his mother when Kana arrived with a tray of food.

"Kaede," Kana crooned. "You have to eat something. It'll make your wounds heal faster."

Kaede glared at his mother for being so stubborn. His head pounded with pain as he gripped his bandaged head.

"You should eat."

"I'm not hungry," Kaede growled.

"You should," Kana insisted. She frowned with worry was her son massaged his head. "Kaede, darling. You should eat something. You'll feel better once you have food in your stomach."

Kaede groaned and lay back in his bed. He woke this morning with a headache. The events last night were clear and a little surprising. He knew that Hana was no more, and Hanamichi was back in his true form. He hated admitting it, but he's a little scared of what he would feel around the do'aho. For the first time in his life, he was not sure if he should face someone.

Kana sighed as she sat beside her baby. She knew what happened last night. Ken informed them right after the hospital called them that Kaede had been to an accident. They were worried but knew that the boy was safe from harm. Physically that is, but was not very sure if he's okay emotionally. Kaede might not look and act like it, but he's very emotional. Since his grandparents' death, Kaede had preferred to be alone, refusing to let anyone have the power to hurt him by leaving him again. Kana and Kiyomori tried to fill up the space that the two oldies had occupied but failed miserably.

"Ken had gone to fetch him," Kana told the youth softly. She tenderly ran her hand to her son's forehead. "You want to talk to him, don't you?"

Kaede didn't look at his mother's eyes. He exhaled sharply. "I don't know, 'kaa-san."

Kana smiled. "He's coming though. Are you going to turn him away?"

Kaede didn't answer.

Kana sighed again. She lovingly tousled Kaede's hair before standing up to exit the room. Kiyomori stared at her expectantly as she walked out the door. She could only smile weakly at her husband, and let him hug her close.

"Want me to talk to Kaede?" Kiyomori asked softly.

Kana shook her head. "I don't think that's wise. He's cranky as he is."

Kiyomori chuckled. "Yeah. Better wait for that boy."

Kana sighed as her husband's hands ran around her back in soothing motions.

Kiyomori carefully led his wife to sit on the plastic chair and sat beside her. Both remained silent as they contemplated their son's dilemma.

"Dad, how's Kaede?"

Kiyomori and Kana automatically straightened when Ken made his appearance. They looked at the nervous boy beside their eldest and smiled.

"Hello," Kana greeted with a watery smile. "We meet again."

"Hello," Hanamichi greeted with a hesitant smile. He feared that they'd hate him for what he did to Kaede. When he saw the two parents comfort each other, he immediately stopped in his tracks. Ken was right behind him though and pushed him forward forcibly when he refused to move.

Kana ran to hug the redhead. She knew what the boy was thinking. "We're not blaming you, Hana-kun." She pulled away and cupped the redhead's face gently. "Don't cry. He's okay."

Hanamichi shook his head. He tried to stop his tears but it was hopeless. He shook his head again as he sobbed.

"I'm so sorry," he hiccupped.

Kana hugged him again and patted the broad shoulders in motherly comfort. She didn't let go until the redhead's sobs had subsided.

"So you're the real Hanamichi Sakuragi," Naoko said as she entered the scene. She studied the tall boy with hawk-like eyes. She noted with a smirk the defiant set on the strong jaws. "I think I prefer you as a girl."

"Naoko!" Kana was shocked at her daughter's rudeness.

Naoko shrugged her shoulders though every member of her family glared at her. She turned her full attention on the redhead. "So what does it feels like turning into a girl?"

Hanamichi blushed.

Ken had enough and ushered his sister out of the redhead's sight. Kana immediately apologized to Hanamichi while Kiyomori returned to his seat. He frowned as he thought of his daughter's attitude.

"He's waiting for you inside," Kana said as she led Hanamichi into a door. She observed that Hanamichi paled and froze. "You don't have to face him now, you know."

Hanamichi took a deep breath and made an initiative to open the door. He smiled gratefully at the woman before entering the room. He looked around the room and was surprised when he didn't see the kitsune on the bed.

Rukawa was beside the window and was watching the do'aho enter. He studied his feelings. He didn't know if he should be happy or be disappointed when he didn't feel the rapid heartbeat, the clammy hands, and the undeniable feeling of arousal. He guessed that that means he's not into guys.

"Hello," Hanamichi said when he finally saw the kitsune near the window. The sun was setting and the room was dark. The kitsune was standing in the shadows and blended in the dark quite effectively.

Kaede nodded but didn't move away from his position. He was still studying the do'aho. The orange glow from the sun cast an ethereal light on the redhead. Kaede inhaled sharply when he saw Hana in Hanamichi.

"What are you doing here?" he asked after the lengthy silence.

"I came to apologize." Hanamichi remained standing near the door. He didn't dare step closer to Kaede. He fidgeted nervously as another silence consumed the room. "You know? About making the wish."

Kaede stared calmly at Hanamichi.

Hanamichi looked around the room as he searched in his head what to say next.

"What is it you really wanted?"

Hanamichi nearly jumped out of his skin when Kaede asked suddenly. He stared at the cold blue eyes and shivered. A cold hand gripped his heart brutally at that look. His eyes blurred but he blinked away the moisture.

"I … I just… I just came to apologize," he lied and then looked away at the cold eyes.

"Are you hoping that we'll continue what Hana and I had?"

"Hana?"

Kaede nodded. "Yes. Hana."

Hanamichi's fisted his hands. "We're the same, Kaede."

"Are you?" Kaede asked back coldly.

Hanamichi knuckles turned white as he tried to hold back his tears.

Kaede calmly straightened and started walking towards Hanamichi. He stopped right in front of the redhead. Hanamichi gazed at Kaede in eyes filled with shattered hope.

"I love her, I hate you," Kaede stated.

It served as the ax that totally broke Hanamichi's heart. Tears flowed but Hanamichi was not conscious of this. The words were just repeating in his head like a broKen record.

"I see," Hanamichi said. It surprised him that his voice didn't crack. He sniffed loudly then wiped away his tears. After wiping the tears, he straightened and stared at the cold blue eyes once again.

Kaede stared back calmly at the redhead. He raised his eyebrow quizzically when Hanamichi suddenly burst out laughing.

Hanamichi laughed as the absurdity of the whole situation jammed into him. Looks like he'd been dumped again, for the 52nd time. Since his friends were not here to laugh at him, he'd do what they would have done.

"Well! I'd better be going now," Hanamichi said after he sobered. He slowly turned to the door. He had his hand to the doorknob but he halted and faced Kaede again, who didn't move at all.

"This is stupid, but I got to say it or else I'll never have peace of mind." Hanamichi breathed deeply as he gazed at his first true love. He hated himself for being so weak. And he knew that Kaede would probably be laughing at his back after this. But he had always been extroverted; he didn't like keeping his feelings untold.

"When I wished to be a girl, I didn't expect to fall for you," Hanamichi began quietly. "But when you said you loved me, Hana I mean, since you were twelve, I was filled with hope that maybe…that maybe this is why I wanted to be a girl. To finally met someone who'll loved me wholly." The redhead sniffed and wiped his tears away again.

"I thought that you loved me because of me, and not because I was a girl. I had hoped that this beautiful dream wouldn't end for both of us. Unfortunately, I love you too much to sacrifice your life for my happiness. I'm not saying this to make you feel guilty or anything." Hanamichi shook his head as he sniffed again. "I just want you to know that…

"There was never any difference between Hana and me, Kaede. But Hana was a dream and I'm real. But you just can't see that, can you?" Hanamichi silently begged Kaede to reconsider, but was disappointed when all he saw was indifference. He expelled a long breath.

"God! I'm such a masochist," he muttered under his breath.

Kaede turned on his heel and walked back to his place near the window.

Hanamichi wordlessly stared after him. He squared his shoulders and followed the kitsune with sure, angry strides. When he reached Kaede, he grabbed his shoulders and turned him around forcibly. Without second thoughts, he kissed Kaede deeply.

Kaede was shocked at the sudden contact. But he allowed the do'aho to kiss him.

Hanamichi was pleased when he wasn't beaten into a pulp. He didn't know though of what he could make of Kaede's reaction. The baka kitsune was neither responding nor resisting. He gave up after a minute of trying to coax the kitsune into kissing him back.

"I guess that that's that," Hanamichi said as he moved away. "Sayonara, kitsune."

With that, Hanamichi made his way quietly out of the door.

"Are you okay?"

Hanamichi was startled when Sendoh suddenly appeared beside him as he walked out of the hospital. He smiled tightly at his friend.

Sendoh Akira narrowed his eyes as he studied the redhead closely. Tear streaks were visible and the brown eyes clearly showed pain. Anger built up, and he walked past Hanamichi towards the hospital. He didn't get very far though for Hanamichi grabbed his shirt.

"Matte! He was just being honest with me, smiley," Hanamichi explained.

Sendoh turned sharply back to Hanamichi. "How could you defend that jerk? He hurt you twice, Hana!"

SLAP!

Sendoh blinked in surprised when a hand made a painful contact with his face. He stared at Hanamichi, eyes wide with shock.

"Don't ever call me that!" Hanamichi trembled with suppressed anger at the name. He sobbed as he remembered Kaede's exact words. 'I love her, I hate you.'

Sendoh lovingly gathered the crying mass in his arms. He comforted Hanamichi as much as he can.

"Don't cry, Hanamichi," he whispered. He made Hanamichi look up at him, and smiled brightly. "You know what? I escaped from the guntai through the back window of your house. They were adamant about me staying and waiting for you. Look at my shoes, they are all tattered now because I had to walk from your house to here." He showed Hanamichi his shoes that had a hole in front due to over use. He wiggled his toes comically making Hanamichi laugh like a kid.

"You have to buy new shoes," Hanamichi suggested. He was thankful at Sendoh for taking his mind off the rejection. He didn't protest when Sendoh slung his arm over his shoulders and led him out of the hospital compound.

"Since you contributed in ruining my shoes, you better help me buy a new pair," Sendoh drawled at Hanamichi's ear.

Hanamichi nodded. "Okay! But you gotta take me to dinner."

"Is that a date?" Sendoh exclaimed happily. "Ooof!" Hanamichi elbowed him painfully.

"No it's not!" Hanamichi yelled as he twisted away from Sendoh.

Sendoh's eyes turned into puppy eyes. "Gomen nasai. It's not a date, just dinner." He slung his arm around the redhead's shoulders again. He grinned happily when it was allowed to stay there.

Hanamichi grinned back at Sendoh as they walked out of the compound.

Sendoh felt a pair of eyes staring at them and looked up at a window. He was not surprised to see Kaede looking at them from his room. He tightened his hold on Hanamichi and turned away.

Ken watched his brother stare after the redhead from the window. The rest of the Rukawa family could only stare after Hanamichi as the redhead ran away as soon as he got out of the room. It was pretty clear what happened.

"What were you thinking?" Ken asked as he walked quietly to stand beside Kaede and saw the redhead walked away with a tall boy. "Who's that guy?"

"A suitor," Kaede answered calmly.

"I see." Ken faced his brother. "So what were you thinking?"

Kaede ignored his onii-chan. He watched as Sendoh turned and saw him staring at them. He didn't know why he suddenly felt such hate for Sendoh.

"Shit, Kaede!" Ken combed his fingers through his hair. "You love him."

"I love Hana, not Hanamichi," Kaede replied coldly. His knuckled turned white as he gripped the windowsill when he saw Sendoh turn back to Hanamichi and led him away. Pain clawed at his chest making it hard to breath.

Ken chuckled mirthlessly. He saw his brother's reaction. "Are you scared that people will ridicule for being gay?"

"I'm not gay."

"Yeah right," Ken said exasperatedly. "If you had met Hana before you meet Hanamichi, do you honestly believe you'd be interested in her? I bet you won't even know she's alive."

Kaede remained quiet as he watched the pair disappear in the sunset.

Ken took pity on his brother and left him to ponder in his own. "I'll tell okaa-san that you have fallen asleep," he told his brother before exiting the room.

Kaede closed his eyes when he heard his brother left him. He wanted to get away from the window but was unable to move.

"And I thought that you'll be the one who'll have a happy ending among the three of us," Naoko said as she sat on a chair beside the bed.

"Onee-chan," Kaede greeted calmly.

Naoko grinned maddeningly. "What were you thinking?"

Kaede faced his sister and gave her an annoyed look. "Ken-niichan asked me the same question."

"Because we all wanted to know," Naoko pointed out. "He was nice. I liked him."

"I thought you like girls."

"I do like girls. He was interesting. He was naïve and totally clueless about everything."

Kaede raised his eyebrow at the vocal observation.

Naoko stared straight into Kaede's eyes. "You're stupid."

"That's what you really wanted to say."

"Yeah, it is." Naoko studied his brother closely. "It's okay to be different, you know. Especially if you're honest with yourself."

Kaede turned back to the window.

"You won't see him anymore, Kae-chan." Naoko gracefully walked up to her brother and gave him a comforting hug. "You let him go."

Kaede bent his head. His bangs hid his tears as he sobbed in his sister's arms. Naoko hugged him tighter and ran her hand in his back in comforting motions.

"Baka," Naoko whispered lovingly. She kissed Kaede's forehead. "Go to bed now, Kaede. Or else I'm calling okaa-san," she threatened as she led her baby brother to his bed.

Kaede nodded and lay down wordlessly. He closed his eyes when his sister kissed his forehead again.

"Oyasumi nasai," Naoko whispered as she watched her brother go to a dreamless sleep. "Everything will be okay, Kaede. He loves you still."

End

There's a sequel to this entitled "After Seven Days". Thanks to Mrs. Greenleaf for editing the sequel.