FADE TOGETHER

xxx

Only for a moment, but it seemed like so much longer. Letting himself fall into a deep, although brief slumber. A small jab to his ribs as Mimi fidgeted beside him, stirred him to consciousness. As he began to regret their position on the couch, he vaguely tried to recall his short dream. Whatever it was, he couldn't remember it now. Or maybe he didn't dream of anything at all. But he really didn't care anyway...

"You know, Yamato…you're the reason I came back."

Still groggy from sleep, he barely registered her voice. He opened one eye and found her with a stack of photos in her hands. He tried to sound more alert. "What? You never told me that."

She fought a fidget, containing her movements. All of a sudden she was so restless. "Really?" She readjusted her head on his chest a bit and frowned. "Yamato-kun, you're a horrible pillow."

"So I was the reason, eh? Why didn't you tell me?"

"I thought I did."

"No."

She bit her bottom lip as she concentrated on the thought. "I should have."

"It's okay."

His words were a consolation. She decided to turn her attention back to the photographs in her hands. "This," she said, "Is my most favorite picture of you." She held it up for him to see. "You and Sora." A grin. "I love this one."

He wasn't sure quite what to think of the picture she flashed him just then. Upon seeing the redhead beside him in the photo, he almost winced at the sight of her. He couldn't believe she actually had one. He was sure he had gotten rid of them all. Without thinking, he snatched it from her fingertips and out of her view, studied it with a scowl.

"Why the heck is this one your favorite picture of me?"

"Because…the look on your face. Do you see it?"

"I see it…"

"I always knew it wasn't right between you two…and that picture…it proved me right."

He smiled at her blatant jealousy. "That was years ago."

"It gave me hope."

"At the time, I didn't think you needed any. You already had someone."

Her arrogant high faded with the turn of conversation. "That's not the point." She busied herself with the other photos, glancing at each before flicking them to the side, or over the couch aimlessly.

He didn't know what to say to that. To him, that was exactly the point. "Alright…" He gave up the subject altogether, settling for the destruction of her favorite photo. Split down the middle, one cheery redhead and one brooding blond, then torn again through both midsections. Then for good measure he crumpled it all into one ball and let it fall to the floor.

He sighed, his eyes falling back to the quick movements of her hands, discarding them left and right. He noticed none were of them both, separate ones but never together.

She finally stopped on one particular picture and Yamato recognized it immediately. He wished she would pass it by, but she held it up for him instead. "I lied…this one is my favorite of you. That first one was just a happy memory…"

He ignored her last words and plucked the photo from her fingers to examine it closer.

"Takeru…"

She smiled. "Now this look on your face. That has to be the best. I rarely see you like that…only sometimes."

He was incredulous. "Your favorite is of me and my brother?"

She nodded against his chest. "It's such a sweet moment. Can't you see it…"

He hated to look at it. He didn't have the same fondness when he saw it as she did, only guilt. "Yeah." He started to toss it aside, then handed it back to her.

She relished the photo in her hands for a moment longer before letting the rest fall in a messy pile to the floor. She kept the lone photo of the two boys to her chest. "Such a sweet photo…" She closed her eyes and enjoyed the comfortable warmth that enveloped the room. Everything was just right with him beside her at that moment. Just what she had wanted for today.

He reached for one limp hand, bringing it up to his lips for a kiss. He couldn't place what was different at first, intertwining his hand with hers as he thought.

"Your ring," he said.

"Hm?"

"Your ring…it's gone."

"Oh." She had a sudden alertness about her as her eyes shot open and darted to her hand.

Her prized ring…he knew she loved it. He expected a panic from her but somehow she remained nonchalant and slipped back into her subdued stated. "Oh…it must have fallen off on the walk here…when I took off my gloves to touch the snow."

He chuckled lightly, letting their hands fall back to his chest. "To touch the snow," he sang, "oh to touch the snow."

She ignored him. "All that snow around us. Yamato, you just don't get it."

He released her hand then, bending his arm back to support his head. "I guess not." His casual glance around the apartment finally settled on the far back wall. An abundance of her constant puerile fantasy in the dark of outside. "It's snowing."

She lifted up slightly, resting on her elbow, her cinnamon locks falling past her shoulders. She smiled at the sight. "Despite that ring…" Her voice trailed off into the silence of the room as she felt him sitting up beside her.

"It's going to be buried under inches of that mess if we don't get it."

He rose from their comfortable position on the couch, despite her hand tugging on his to stay. She watched him silently as he made his way to the window, casual strides, stopping a foot away.

Moments passed as he simply stared out the window, unmoving and uncaring. She frowned at his manner, settling back down into the couch. As much as she loved the simplicity of their evening, she wanted more. It was enough, but at the same time it wasn't. She wanted more from him. Just one word…maybe three. Or a smile One of those rare, charming smiles. Every touch from him was reverberating love, and she wanted to feel it.

The sound of his voice, that echoing honeyed hum warming her from the inside out. A lazy smile curled her lips as her eyes closed to that luxurious temptation of sleep. The apartment was too warm, and that low sound of his voice... She hardly realized his singing. That drifting song she couldn't remember. It was hard to remember anything at that blissful moment right before falling off the edge. She only wished he was lying beside her like he had been only minutes before.

His song ended once he noted the increasing fall of snow. Turning back to her sleeping form, he called out to her. Then louder when she didn't respond.

"Mimi."

She stirred only slightly at his tone, and he found himself smiling as he watched her lying there. The lush fall of her loose curls amiss on the burgundy pillow she rested on. And the look on her face was one of utter oblivion. She looked so at peace he hated to have to disturb her. But it was necessary.

He sat down beside her, expecting the simple pressure to wake her. Nothing. She remained in her seemingly unconscious state. He decided to have a little fun while attempting to wake his latent beauty. He started off by tracing a stray lock down to its curled end, then tucking it behind her ear. His attentive hand skimmed her cheek, then lower to rest at the nape of her neck before leaning over for a simple kiss on the cheek. Just one more before her golden eyes finally flickered open to meet his. But instead of a warm reception, she instead gave a smirk, rolling over on her side so as not to be bothered with his kisses. His mouth hovered over her ear as she tried her best to zone him out completely. But it was useless. Her resistance shattered with his words, it was just the way he said it. She let out a barely stifled laugh and squirmed against him.

He grinned at his victory, slipping one arm beneath her, and the other around her waist to haul her up with him. She gave a groggy moan of disagreement but let herself be guided towards the door where her boots lay waiting, and slipped on her coat even as she protested.

"It's so cold outside…can't we just wait? Look for it in the morning?"

He gave her a dismissive look a parent might give a silly child. One of a parent who knew better. "We might not be able to find it in the morning."

Her discontented sulk was short, and she gave him a dim smile. Behind the smile and the subtle look, was sincere gratitude and a distant thought of what she'd do without him. She looked away from him suddenly, busying herself with her the zipper of her black coat. "You make me feel…" she trailed off in a loss for words. "You keep me in my place." Her throat seemed to want to close up on the words, but she shook it off with a shake of her head.

"Mimi…"

A blush crept up her face after realizing her haphazard comment. The way it had come out, she felt completely silly. She wanted to apologize, but she couldn't find the words for that either. She tried for a better smile, taking his hand as she cupped it in both of hers. "I don't know what I'd do without you…that's how I meant it. It really…"

He had no response for her, couldn't think of a thing to say to her right then. Not what should have been said. His look was stern and she wished she had never admitted that to him. She felt like a child. She let his hand drop, stepping back as if she had gotten an electric shock. Her cheeks felt on fire as she stood away from him, staring down at her brown boots and wondering what to do next.

"It's almost midnight," he told her, adjusting his coat. "We should get out there."

She made it to the door first, a quick dash and she was out, already chilled slightly from the hallway. Yet she barely noticed the hairs standing up straight on her arms, and on the back of her neck, despite her bundled layers. Slow steps to the elevator, she wondered why exactly she was on the verge of tears. He hadn't done a thing to upset her. She had been the one to say it. But she had already known it all along, so why did it make her want to cry this time? Admitting it to him; her fatal mistake. He probably already knew how much she relied on him anyway, yet it still stung. Just to say those words out loud…

"You keep me in my place."

xxx

Dense silence as they waited for the elevator, both shamelessly lost in their own minds for a brief time as they focused on separate points of the wall. Yamato was following a lightning crack in the wall, leading down to the elevators up button enclosure, where his eyes finally stopped. His thoughts were of his brother, and how he hadn't seen him in so long. How they had planned to meet today finally, but Mimi called early that morning requesting a visit.

Her mother was gone for the day, and he knew how lonely she could get. His thoughts swayed in and out of the last time she had lost it, four months ago. Out of her mind in a way, but stuck in that empty apartment with only one thing on her mind. And that one thought circling round and round in her mind, evolving. At least, that's what she told him over the phone when she called him. He never asked what that thing was. Fear maybe. But he always had it in his mind that it was something else completely. Something dark she wouldn't even admit to herself.

She on the other hand, was staring fixedly at one particular scratch in the dingy beige painted wall. It was a very small, simple line, hinting at the white plaster beneath it. No thoughts ran wild in her head like Yamatos. Only the zzzz sound of some distant buzzing thing. A loud buzzing, almost like a vibration she could feel from the soles of her feet all the way up to her head, where it consumed her. That simple dull vibration, nothing else. Her mind seemed to be following this constant line, never ending.

On and on, and on…until the mechanical swoosh of the elevator doors made her snap to attention. Her eyes fell upon Yamato at her side. Only a glance, but she caught that look in his dark eyes. That lost, confused daze of a look. He seemed stuck. Just like her. He waited a moment for her to step in, but she didn't. He took a long stride, entered, and looked to her expectantly. She noted the new look in his eyes, his previous almost indiscernible now. She could still see it though. That dim light that told her something more, something he wasn't saying. Something he never would. She accepted it and focused on his new one. It was better. And it came with a smile.

"You coming?"

She stuck out her hand to him as she stepped in, almost as if needing guidance. Their hands firmly clasped together, they fell back into their established silence. Both staring ahead again, two separate spots. She stole a glance, thinking he would see and look back over at her. But he didn't, and all she saw was lost thought and forgotten reality. As the doors opened, she released his hand and took the lead on their walk through the lobby.

xxx

Stepping outside, they were blasted with a rush of cold wind. Overjoyed to be back in the falling snow, now falling thick, she turned back to Yamato with a grin. He didn't seem quite as happy as she did. Turning forward, she reached in her pockets for gloves as they started their walk. He followed after her slowly, already beginning their search.

"You think we'll be able to find it?" she asked.

He began shoving snow around with his shoes as he spoke. "Yeah."

She followed his same actions and brushed it along gently as they made their way down the empty snow covered sidewalk. Perpetual silence as they made their way down the dim street.

She hated the silence. "Can you keep a secret?"

"For you?"

She gave a nod.

He offered her a reassuring smile. "Of course."

"I wish I never had to move away, you know? Just stay here with her forever. I know that's silly but…I think I'm just scared."

He smirked. "Or lazy."

She shot him a threatening look. "Yamato…"

He shook his head, dismissing his bad behavior and promising a better thoughtful response. "I think you're right though."

"What?"

"About your fear."

She shrugged. "I should have moved out last year, but she wanted me to stay. Said she'd be so lonely with my dad gone. So I stayed."

"You two are just alike."

"Almost…loneliness does not agree with us."

"You each go a little out of your head."

"Exactly."

They both shared a brief laugh before continuing on in silence, kicking snow about wildly as they went. A subtle clink and a flash of silver shot a short, shivering thrill through her. She crouched low to the ground, reached and brought up a scrap of metal. Something she couldn't place. She sighed, tossing it away and standing straight. As she stood mourning the false alarm, Yamato eyed her curiously. He never quite understood why that ring had meant so much to her, and he couldn't care less about it. But it was important to her, and as always he felt compelled to make it up to her. Even if it wasn't his fault. Just a smile…and he knew just what to say.

"You don't always have to be alone Mimi. You know that, don't you?"

A broad grin swept her features at his silent offer. "Yamato…thank you."

"For what?"

"For coming here today…for everything else." She turned to him then, her cheeks only slightly pink. "Thanks."

He smiled in response, gesturing for her to turn back around and continue her search. "Come on, let's hurry up and find this ring. It's freezing."

She obeyed, turning back and continuing her meticulous search.

xxx

They were only a short ways from her apartment building, but the search had seemed to take forever. She remembered where she had stopped on their way here and stopped to look for it in that small area. Gently moving the snow around, inch by inch until finally the little sound she had been praying to hear. She had kicked it only a foot away, and she saw it. Gleaming under the streetlight, and nestled in an ivory heap.

She took off one glove and placed it in her pocket before bending down to pick it up. Unable to look away from the shimmering jewel, she stared fixedly at it. To finally have it in her grasp, after fearing its eternal loss, it wasn't what she had imagined. The feeling she was supposed to have. It just wasn't there.

She stood finally. "You know…you didn't even give me this."

Of course he knew that. Why was she telling him that? "Yeah…" He questioned her, already knowing the whole story. "Jyou, right?"

A slow nod. "Yeah."

He had given up his search a long time ago. Unnoticed by her, he stood rigidly to the side as he watched her. Nothing had seemed worse than simply being out in this weather, but now, now she had to mention the story behind the ring. That was the last thing he wanted to talk about.

All he could do was sigh in deep frustration, tipping his head skyward to the diminishing flurries. But he was feeling guilty for earlier, unbeknownst to whatever he did, or said. He was clueless, and everything seemed out of his control at that moment. Only her and her happiness, but lost in between.

His voice was strained, "Before we were together…you two were pretty serious."

"Right…but that was so long ago." She still couldn't look away, old memories floated by in a haze. "It's amazing."

"What is?"

"Everything. All those months we were together. It's all a blur to me. Everything is jumbled up and I can't place one event in front of the other. It's like I'm trying for the one, two, three, and all I'm getting is four, one, zero." She let out a short laugh at the thought."Do you know what I mean?"

He knew she couldn't see him, but he nodded anyway.

She didn't need a response, continued without it. "I keep thinking about all this random stuff, and it's all a blur. Like the whole time we were together everything was on fast-forward or something…and the only thing that really sticks out in my mind is that one day. It's so amazing…I can't put together the first date to the end. And it's only the end I can see straight. It's all on pause-- stuck in my head in vivid clarity."

At first he barely realized he was speaking out loud as he addressed her. Just a trivial passing thought, "If you can remember the whole day start to finish, how is it on pause in your head? That's only a single frame."

She paused, eyes unblinking and her breath held in unconsciously. "If I want to, I can think back to almost every minute. But it's this one specific scene. This look he gave me right before it all ended. He had his glasses off…and the look in his eyes just then…"

"The brutal crash of reality soaking in, I'd guess." His voice came out harsh and cynical and as soon as he said it he wished he hadn't.

Yamato's callous quip brought her clumsily out of her tangled thoughts. It shouldn't have hurt her like it did, and she couldn't understand it, but for some reason her eyes burned all of a sudden. She hated it. Their short lived romance was years ago and had been over for a long time. She slipped the ring back on as she thought of the right words. She wanted to say "Jyou doesn't deserve that" or "It wasn't like that." But then she realized just how right he really was.

She turned around to face him but she couldn't seem to look up from her snow covered boots. "Yamato…I hate to say it but you're right."

He willed his voice softer when he saw how she couldn't meet his eyes. Even though he knew he should feel guilty, he just couldn't do it this time. Not for this. "You didn't have to say that."

"I never should have brought it up. I can't even think straight and I…" As she spoke, her eyes drifted back to the ring and the sight of it shamed her. She slipped her gloved hand over her bare one that bore the ring and forced herself to smile as she met his gaze. All she wanted to say was "I'm sorry," but that was pointless.

He didn't understand her sudden smile, or how everything was just turned on its head, but he'd take it. He checked his watch. "Almost one in the morning and it feels like we've been out here for three hours."

She scowled at his tone, slipping her hands behind her back as she stepped closer. As she stood in front of him, with his steady gaze boring into her, she contemplated taking the ring off or just twisting the jewel back towards her palm. Those unwavering blue eyes. Suddenly it all seemed too much for her. Him, everything. A brief unsettling thought crossed her mind that she immediately tried to push back. She didn't want to think about it. But the thought was so persistent, her mind exploded with it.

She twisted the ring back and forth around her slim finger. All the while going over that same agonizing comparison in her head. She and Yamato's relationship versus her old one with Jyou. She wondered if Yamato would lead her down that same fast track to no where. A million stops all blurred together and leading to one inevitably abrupt end.

"Mimi-san…"

His tranquil voice broke her maddened thoughts with a jerk, a sudden still to the ring on her finger. She knew he was addressing her, but she still couldn't will herself to raise her gaze from the shimmering white space between them. The way he said her name, she didn't want to see the look accompanying that voice. She expected him to continue, but he didn't. As the silence grew, she stumbled to get out her desperate words. A question she didn't even want to know the answer to. But there it was.

"Will we…are we doomed, Yamato?"

His look was puzzled. "Doomed?"

"Just like me and Jyou two years ago. Just two but…" She trailed off, her words lost.

"No." He paused for a reply, but she only stood there vacantly. "Lets go back upstairs."

He offered his hand out to her in invitation.

She stared at his outstretched hand. Back and forth, back and forth… On the last twist of the ring, she slid it off quickly and placed it in her gloved hand. Balling it up in her fist before grasping his hand with her bare one. He gave it a soft squeeze as he guided her back to the apartment.

xxx

Back inside, they both stood in front of her door, relieved from the warmth. She watched him with bright eyes, full of hope. He hadn't given her a real kiss all night, and she'd had something else completely worked out in her head for the evening. Everything had changed, but she still had a few more moments with him.

She stepped closer, placing both hands to his chest and tugging at his coat gently. "I won't be able to sleep all night…" She offered up a smile. "I wish you could sing me another song. Restless and wide awake until you sing me my song."

She began to hum a song, very low in her throat, barely making it up to the top but he caught it and continued on with the words. Whispered lyrics to one of her favorite songs. He placed his hands on her shoulders, one slipping up to her neck and stopping. A gentle caress as it paused there, fingers sliding into her hair lightly.

"…let me make you mine…" he sung with a kiss to her forehead, then cheeks.

Uncaring, forgetting why he couldn't stay the night with her, she pushed just a little closer. "What are you waiting for, make me yours."

A mere murmur of his smooth voice, "You already are."

She tiptoed up, a smile against his mouth as she kissed him. Just what she'd wanted, that same kiss and that same passion. She let herself pull away, remembering the time. "My mom will be home soon," she told him.

He smiled, tipping her chin up with a finger for another kiss. "Right…" He released her finally, stepping back. But he didn't leave. "That look you said I had in that picture…"

"Yeah?"

"You said you only see it sometimes…I can't think of any time I ever have that look."

"You never realize it. But it's when you look at me. Sometimes you have that same look."

She closed the distance between them he'd created, stood on her tiptoes to lay a light and final kiss to his lips. "It's that certain kind of love."

Before he could say anything, she turned him around with a slight push in the direction of the elevator. Listening to his laugh and departing steps down the hall, she turned to unlock her door.

"Mimi."

Her hands stilled immediately and she turned to face him. "What is it?"

He paused, watching her watching him and trying to find the right words to say. "…Everything. I think we both know it means nothing. Sora, Jyou, everything. Right?"

That desperate look on his face, she loved it. And she realized then that he was just as lost as she, and that was just what she had hoped. Hopeless love, and lost sense. Where it's just the other and you can't seem to see past that feeling. But that doesn't matter as long as you know. And now she knew. She gave a nod, turned back to her door and twisted the knob. She stopped there for a moment. Savoring how he was still there, waiting. She didn't bother to face him for her reply.

"Of course," she said. "Me and you, Yamato. That's all I care about, and I'm all you care about." She looked over her shoulder to meet his eyes. "And that's all that matters."

He returned the smile, gave a short wave, and continued down the hall. Before she disappeared into her apartment, his low voice caught her ear. Barely audible with the distance between them.

"Good night Mimi-san…"

She stuck her head out the door to respond, but he was already gone. She closed the door behind her with a slow turn of the first lock, then the second. A regretful sigh blending in with the loud ticking of a nearby clock as she reached for a light switch.

"Yamato, I wish you could have stayed the night…"

xxx