--

Woot. Probably not the ending everyone was hoping for, but the Ryuki-ness will continue in the next story. Sorry about the length of time between updates, and thanks for all the nice reviews!

-N

--

"And think not you can guide the course of love.

For love, if it finds you worthy, shall guide your course."

- Kahlil Gibran

--

Rika had stood outside the park for nearly ten minutes before she gathered the nerve to enter. It was just after 10:00, when Ryo said he'd meet her. He didn't specify an exact location on where in the park to meet her, but it was a guarantee he meant Guilmon's old hideout—it was the only place in the park that the Tamers ever went.

After reminding herself that she was just there to talk, she gathered her nerves and went inside.

What was she going to say? She was still mad at him for abandoning her, wasn't she? Rika really wasn't in the mood to evaluate the importance of Ryo to her life, but she couldn't help but. She had hated him when she'd first met him. But after she was forced to spend time with him in the digital world, she found his presence much more—tolerable.

She paused for a moment, reflecting. She recalled just before she had become Sakuyamon for the first time—she was climbing downwards into this enormous pit as pieces of D-Reaper moved up past her.

Ryo came for me.

It seemed like another lifetime, and in a way, it was. Rika obviously hadn't been thinking of relationships much way back then—that was almost three years ago. Ryo had been risking his neck for her since day one: Rika had just never thought much of it. Several months ago when that monster appeared and started hunting down the Tamers, Ryo had invited her to stay at his place, so they could keep an eye on each other. She was there for two weeks, and it took her even longer than that time to realize that she was really enjoying his company.

But how much did she owe him, really? Before he'd left, she had finally felt the way that she thought that he did. She still remembered the last conversation she'd had with him before he left, quite vividly. After Takato had escaped to the digital world, and everyone thought he died, Ryo had taken it harder than anyone, except maybe Jeri. And Rika accepted that—Takato was his best friend. But when Rika had tried to convince Ryo that it wasn't his fault, he had insisted that it was, and that he wasn't strong enough to protect her.

Rika had never really understood what Ryo had meant by it. Rika hadn't been in any more danger than anyone else had. But Ryo had seemed so adamant. Rika had tried to tell him that as long as they stuck together, things would be okay, but—

—but he didn't think so.

The red-headed girl sighed then. Ryo had been important to her—he really had. But she stood in the dark, then, mourning the fact that whenever she thought of him, her last conversation with him was all that came to her head.

But there was something else, too. After she'd left the coffee shop where he'd rejected her, Rika had been devastated and ran to Henry Wong's house. But she'd been careless, and had run right in front of a car. She remembered her body freezing up, but her mind had still been active—

—she remembered not caring whether or not it hit her. It was a shocking feeling for Rika. How could anyone have made her feel so vulnerable? Like such a victim?

She'd often wondered if they'd broken up that night, or if they had ever been together. They'd shared a kiss one night, but Ryo was abducted by Valn shortly after. It had meant a lot to Rika—she hadn't even thought about it as she'd leant in—Ryo had been injured when the monster had attacked—

injured protecting me

—and she had been so relieved to see that he was okay that she just—needed to be closer to him. Was that all it was to her? She knew it was hard to think clearly on things where one's attitudes had changed. Even if she wanted to, could she ever care about Ryo again? He was good with words, sure, but what could he possibly say that would change anything?

With a sudden resolve, she approached Guilmon's old hideout, in search of Ryo. Her reasoning was that they weren't her questions to answer; they were his.

She stepped up towards the small stone house.

"Ryo?" she called.

She jumped in place so she could see the structure's roof to see if Ryo was on top of it. He wasn't. She circled around it—maybe he was behind it. He wasn't.

Where is he? He said he'd be here…

She looked at her watch; it was 10:05. She was fairly confident that he hadn't left in the last five minutes—and besides, knowing Ryo, he would have waited for hours before giving up.

Rika suddenly thought she saw something white just inside the door to the stone house.

A sleeve?

"Ryo?"

She reached in and touched it, and recognized it as the strap of a backpack. Curious, she tugged at it, and felt from its weight that it was full.

She moved it underneath some light, and unzipped it. Inside, at the very top, she saw some sort of flashlight, which, after some fumbling, she managed to activate. It was a lantern-style one, and she set it on the ground while she snooped through the rest of the bag.

Underneath the flashlight as a blanket, which she tugged out and set aside. She heard some plastic crinkling when she did, and she curiously unwrapped the fabric to uncover six individually-wrapped sandwich-halves. She picked one up, and stared through the plastic wrap.

Turkey, cheese, and a slice of dill pickle.

It was her favorite. Count on Ryo to remember mundane little details like that. She caught herself smiling a little, but didn't bother hiding it since there was nobody around.

Nobody.

She tossed the sandwich back into the blanket, wrapped it up, and put everything back in the bag where she'd found it.

Sure, Ryo had remembered what she liked. But it would have meant more if he actually showed up.

Rika sighed deeply, and left, silently cursing the fact that she'd been hoping to see him.

--

"Can I get you anything else?" Ryo asked, holding out his hang which held a glass of water which Will eventually accepted, though far from eagerly.

The younger blonde boy didn't make eye contact as he took the cup, nor did he actually drink from it. He eventually shook his head in response to Ryo's question, and Ryo stood up and turned to leave.

It had been four days since he'd found Miriam with her face against the floor of the living room. Ryo'd felt for her heartbeat, but there wasn't one. He'd tried CPR, and called for an ambulance, but she was already gone. The doctors told him that it was a brain hemorrhage, and that it was a rather painless way to go for however gruesome the reality of it was. However long she was out, she never did wake up.

Ryo had gone to Takato's house after the body had been removed, to tell Will. It had been Takato who answered the door. Ryo barely remembered getting to Takato's house, but he knew he had walked, and it had been very late at night, or perhaps very early in the morning when he arrived. He had called Takato's cell phone ahead of time and told him that he needed to see Will, and that he was on his way over. Will had been woken up from Takato answering the phone, and apparently, Takato had asked Will to wait downstairs with him while they waited for Ryo.

Ryo himself hadn't given himself any time to grieve. Sure, he did care about Miriam, and he cared that she was gone, but she wasn't in his life long enough to be his mother. He missed her and he loved her, but he knew it would be Will that would take it harder than anyone; and it was Ryo's responsibility to tell him.

As expected, the boy was devastated. He'd barely said anything since, and Ryo wouldn't know what to tell him if he did say anything.

Ryo looked back to him as he held the glass of water and stared into it absentmindedly. He frowned helplessly as he left the room. As he did, he passed Cronus, who had been waiting outside. Cronus pat Ryo on the arm as he passed, and Ryo gave him a weak smile.

Cronus had been keeping an eye on Will while Ryo dealt with the other responsibilities. Ryo was grateful, too. Will had always been so high-energy, and seeing him like that—

it's like he's dead too.

He sighed, a mixture of pity for Will, and guilt for not mourning more than he felt he ought to.

Ryo and Will were still at the Matsuda residence—neither he nor Will felt comfortable going back to their house, where Miriam had died.

Cronus seemed to mind the silence less than Ryo did, and seemed to be eager to help out any way he could. It was in Cronus's asking to help that Ryo thought he saw some of Guilmon's innocence in there. Will had been sleeping in Cronus's bed, while Cronus crashed on the floor. Ryo was staying in Takato's room, and despite Takato's insistence that he take the bed, Ryo was using a sleeping bag on the floor.

Will hadn't been eating much, and looked somewhat pale. He'd said his stomach was hurting.

He headed downstairs towards the living room, where he knew Takato was doing his homework. Will had been off school since it happened, and it was now the weekend. Ryo was hoping Will would be back at school on Monday, though he just wasn't sure. Ryo himself had been going to a few classes each day, but always wound up heading back to Takato's place early as he was worried about Will.

Takato's parents had been very supportive, and Ryo was grateful for their hospitality. They had taken as much of a liking to Will as they had to Ryo, and, like Cronus, they were wanting to do all they could to help.

Ryo counted himself lucky to have such people around him.

"Hey." Takato said with a nod as Ryo entered the room. "Any change?"

Takato was of course, referring to Will, who had been their primary topic of discussion since Miriam died. Ryo shook his head in response. This wasn't what Ryo had been planning. He didn't exactly have experience in consoling a traumatized fifteen year old.

"I'm burnt out, Takato." Ryo sighed, flopping onto the couch. "I just don't know what to do."

"He'll get through it." Takato said, slowly closing his textbook. "He just needs some time to—to see where he stands."

Ryo thought it over, but didn't give any sign of actually acknowledging him, which caused Takato to speak again.

"The poor kid…he must think he's so alone…"

Ryo had explicitly told Will that he wasn't alone, but he knew that he didn't believe him. Ryo still hadn't told Will what he learned from Miriam—he didn't know how to.

"The last conversation I'd had with her," Ryo suddenly started, recalling the event in his head. "She'd told me about why she left Japan in the first place."

Takato's eyebrows raised. "Why?"

Ryo lowered his gaze to the floor. "She was scared of my dad, and—and she didn't want him to take Will."

"I thought she adopted him in the States?" Takato said, confused.

Ryo brought his gaze from the floor to his friend. "Well, she did…it was this big scheme so my dad wouldn't find out she was ever pregnant."

"So—he's really your brother?"

Ryo nodded. "But I have no idea what to do now that I know that."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm still seventeen." Ryo stated. "I'm not technically an adult yet, and I don't think I can legally be his guardian."

"Did anyone explain to you what should be happening?" Takato asked.

Ryo shook his head. "I think all the paramedics and doctors and everyone assumed my dad still lived with us. It's gonna be a scene if anyone finds out that it's just the two of us there."

"Is there any way you can prove he's your brother?" Takato suddenly asked, perking up. "Just in case anyone does find out."

Ryo doubted it. "I don't think so." He admitted. "Mir—my mother went through a lot of effort to cover her tracks so it wouldn't get out that Will was hers. I mean, maybe there's papers somewhere, but I have no idea how to go about looking for them."

"Does he know?"

Ryo shook his head again. "I think it might be a little overwhelming for him right now."

"What about her Will?"

"Huh?"

"Er, her will—what goes to who, I mean."

Ryo shook his head a little, hoping he didn't look like an idiot for not understanding him the first time. But there was no mention of Will in the will, or any mention that they were related. The will had been updated rather lately, since everything had been left to Ryo. He knew that she wanted him to look after Will, and he would. She'd left a damn fortune, which Ryo wasn't too surprised to learn she had saved, seeing the size of the house she'd bought.

"This didn't have to happen." Ryo finally murmured. "If I'd come home sooner—if I'd stayed inside, maybe she'd—"

"Sometimes things just happen, Ryo." Takato said carefully, though slowly, as he was trying to be both comforting and realistic. "It's just—sometimes we don't have a choice."

Ryo felt filled with a sudden wave of helplessness. He was tough, sure, but he had no idea what he should be doing, and even though his best friend was sitting just a few feet away from him, and his brother was just upstairs, Ryo had never felt so alone.

"You're right." Ryo eventually admitted. "I know I don't have a choice in who people are, or the secrets they keep. I know that there's things I can't stop, and that I didn't have a choice in what happened in Rika's father's life—or in my mother's." Ryo turned and glanced to the ceiling, knowing Will was upstairs, before he flopped back onto the couch, the material making a ruffling noise under his weight. "But even if I don't have a say in any of that, I do have a choice about the life my brother can have."

"What are you gonna do?" Takato asked, still sitting in the chair across the room.

"I think I'm going to take him home."

Takato leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, and his chin resting on his hands. "Which home are we talking about here?"

"His home."

"You're going back to America, then?" Takato asked, obviously a little hurt.

Ryo nodded. "I think it'd be best for him."

"When?"

"I don't know yet." Ryo finally admitted after some silence. "I still need to talk to him about it, just—not right yet."

Takato nodded, looking back down to his books, but not opening them.

"Is this gonna be another bolt-in-the-night, or are you actually going to say goodbye to people this time?"

Ryo shrugged. "To whoever wants to hear it. I'm going to go get some air." Ryo decided, picking up Will's backpack. "I'll grab him more clothes from our house while I'm out."

Will only had the clothes he was wearing and the ones he'd brought with him. After they got dirty, he wore some of Ryo's extra clothes that he'd brought.

"Okay. Will you be gone long?"

"Probably just an hour or two."

"Alright, I'll see you in a bit."

--

Rika rubbed the leather strap of her watch as she passed Adam's house. She hadn't seen much of him over the last week, and she was quickly losing faith in their relationship. Things had been extremely awkward when Rika had questioned him on whether or not Ryo was telling the truth about Adam hurting that boy.

She hadn't talked to Ryo since the night he was supposed to meet her in the park. She was angry with him for not showing up, at least she was, until she heard from Jeri what had happened. Rika wanted to go offer her condolences, but didn't think it would be appropriate.

What had happened to Ryo's mother had been the talk of the school. Of course, the rumors flew, too, some saying that Ryo went crazy and did it, and even some saying that Adam did it. Rika hated the drama her peers felt compelled to create, and tried to avoid it, as it was none of her business.

What still rung in her mind, however, was whether or not Adam was involved in mugging the boy Ryo's mother had adopted. She wanted to believe him when he told her that he had nothing to do with it, but she couldn't picture Ryo making something like that up.

Well, it's time to find out the truth anyways.

Rika walked up the driveway, knowing that Adam wasn't in the house. It was 4:00, and he would be working until 7:00, so she had plenty of time. She knocked on the door three times, and in a moment, Adam's mother answered.

"Hi, Rika, Adam's at work right now."

"Hi," Rika said awkwardly, "I think I left one of my textbooks in Adam's room, may I go look for it?"

Adam's mother let her in, and Rika silently prayed that she'd leave her alone when she went into his room. She tried not to make idle-chat so that she wouldn't feel compelled to stay and talk to her, and it worked—she veered off towards the kitchen, leaving Rika alone.

Bonus.

Rika quietly closed the door over as much as she could. She went straight to his computer and moved the mouse, hoping that it was in stand-by and not off. The screen flicked on instantly without a sound.

Sitting down, she reached her left hand into her pocket and pulled out her USB jump-drive, which she quickly popped in. Navigating to his "Received Files" folder, she quickly made a copy, and ejected the drive, and put it back in her pocket.

After returning the computer to its original state, she headed towards the door.

"Did you find it?" Adam's mother called from the kitchen.

"No, but thank you for letting me look." Rika called back politely as she headed outside the house.

Maybe now I can actually get some answers.

Sure, what Rika was doing was immoral, and wrong on more than a few levels. But if nobody would give her any tiny bit of honestly, she really didn't feel like she had much choice. That was her justification, anyways.

Rika hopped in a cab so she could get home sooner, and she was home in no time. She eagerly went to her computer and opened up the folder she'd downloaded from Adam. It contained a few songs he'd been sent, as well as some pictures. But Rika soon found the sub-folder that she was looking for. Message History.

She opened it up, and frowned at the sheer number of documents that appeared, one for each contact on his instant messenger. She bit her lower lip, unsure of where to begin. She right-clicked, and arranged the icons by their size. After scrolling to the bottom, there were four files that were noticeably larger than the others. The first was his message history with Rika. The other three Rika recognized as some of Adam's friends that Rika didn't particularly care for, Sean, Andrew, and Patrick. She opened up Sean's message history.

Rika was trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, as she did feel guilty for invading Adam's privacy like that. The message history itself was enormous, and again, Rika had no idea where to begin looking. She instead did a CTRL+F, which opened up a search window. She entered "mug", and clicked. No entries. "steal" didn't bring up anything relevant either. Rika thought again. "Takato".

Bingo.

Sean: Did they see you?

Adam: I got away before Takato or that other guy saw me.

Rika stared at the screen, unsure of what she should be feeling. Sure, she'd found him out, but she almost wished she hadn't. It just made Adam another person who had let her down.

She turned off her computer, and went to the backyard. Her mother and her grandmother had both gone out, so Rika had the house to herself. She sat on the bench in her backyard, and she'd been thinking over everything—the friendships she let die, the relationships that she'd invested so much of her heart into, the—

"There you are." Takato declared from behind, approaching her. Rika had gotten over her little squabble with him the other day, and was willing to pretend it hadn't even happened.

"Hey." Rika said, turning back around. Takato circled around the bench before sitting on the grass in front of her, facing her.

"I was knocking for like five minutes."

Leave it to Takato to keep something like that up.

"Sorry, I didn't hear you."

"It's okay." Takato shrugged. "What's up?"

"Same old." She lied. "How's Ryo?" she suddenly asked. She knew that Ryo was staying with Takato.

"He's okay, I think." Takato nodded, not looking at her. "He's more worried about Will than anything."

Will? The brother.

Rika nodded too, unsure of what to say to something like that.

"Rika, I'm sorry for what I said the other day."

Rika hadn't really thought about it—because when she did think about it, it made her sad. "It's alright."

Takato shook his head. "No, I shouldn't have attacked you like that."

Rika sighed, reflecting. She had avoided the other Tamers over the last several months because they pitied her. Then Takato confronts her about avoiding them, and the two wound up yelling at each other. It was frustrating, and it made Rika feel guilty.

"I deserved it." Rika murmured. "After everything, I—I shouldn't have taken it out on all of you." It was the first apology Rika had made in as long as she could remember.

Rika could feel her eyes start to dry up, and when she squeezed them shut they started to water; and in an instant, she was in Takato's arms, and he hugged her tightly.

The two just held each other for a moment, and Takato rubbed her back.

"I really missed you." Takato said quietly.

"You baby." Rika teased through teary eyes, pushing him playfully.

They chatted for a few minutes before Takato suddenly looked very glum.

"So why'd you come here today?" Rika asked. Not that she wasn't grateful to have some cleared air, she was just curious.

He didn't come to clear things up.

"There's something you need to know…" Takato started slowly, still looking at the ground.

"About what?" Rika was getting worried.

Takato finally brought his gaze to hers. "Months ago, that thing—the monster…you need to know why it was that Ryo left."

--

Ryo put his key into the doorknob, turned, and pushed. The door swung open quietly, before groaning a dull thud as it hit the bumper on the wall. He reached to flick on the light, but realized it was already on.

That's gonna be just great on the power bill.

He sighed, knowing he had to worry about these things. He wasn't even eighteen yet; at least not for another couple of months—but he was scared to report it to any officials that he was the 'adult' of the house for fear that they'd take Will away.

Ryo stepped forward, knowing that he wasn't there to whine about his new responsibilities—he was there to pack some more clothes for Will. He didn't bother taking his shoes off; they were clean, and besides—it wasn't like anybody lived there anymore.

The house looked somehow even emptier than it had before. Ryo took special care not to actually step into the living room where he'd found Miriam, but couldn't stop himself from looking in and around. He soon entered the kitchen, and scavenged around for anything that Will might want. A thorough raiding of the pantry rewarded his efforts with an unopened can of Pringles. The backpack that Ryo was wearing was Will's, as Ryo had left his own in Guilmon's old hideout in the park. He stuffed it into the backpack, and continued looking around. After he found some cookies that had gone stale, he gave up. He eventually found his way to the stairs, and he slowly walked up them, the dull thumping of his shoes against the hardwood echoing loudly.

He hurried into Will's room and tossed the backpack on Will's bed without looking as he switched on the light. But the sound that came wasn't just the bag landing on the bed, but also glass breaking. Ryo spun around and saw that an empty glass bottle of orange juice had fallen and hit the floor hard, shattering.

Damnit.

Ryo stared at it for a moment before picking up the largest of the pieces off the floor and tossed them into the plastic garbage bucket. He used his shoe to sweep the remaining pieces under Will's bed, then redirected his attention to his original purpose.

He bit his lower lip as he noticed the textbooks on Will's bed. Will'd been off school for a week. Which really wasn't a big deal for him, since the kid was a damn genius.

Ryo bit his tongue, looking at all the boxes that still hadn't been unpacked. Will was planning on buying a new dresser, and didn't want his clothes all over the floor, so most of them remained in boxes around the room. Ryo dug around, and found a few changes of clothes—he made sure to take stuff he actually could remember Will wearing, so as not to bring something he didn't like. He folded the clothes and put them in the backpack.

Next on the list was Ryo's own room. He grabbed a few more t-shirts and put them in the bag, which was getting full. He decided to check his e-mail, since it was something he hadn't done since he found his mother.

There were several new messages in his inbox—most of them were junk, but there were a few from students from the school. One of them was from Kazu:

I'm so sorry for what happened to your mother.

Let me know if I can do anything to help.

- Kazu

Ryo smiled lightly, and saw that there was also one from Mala that said something similar, only it said 'Henry and I were sorry…' Ryo wanted to write everyone back, but knew he didn't have the time. He frowned not seeing anything from Rika at all, though he wasn't expecting anything from her. He hoped she hadn't waited for him long if she had gone to the park that night.

He shut the computer down and headed back to Takato's house.

It was 6:00 by the time Ryo arrived back there; he was later than he'd expected. The backpack was bulky but light, fortunately. He knocked twice then opened the door, as he was instructed to.

Takato was in the living room watching some TV, and Ryo gave him a nod, and then went upstairs to talk to Will.

He gently pushed the door open, and saw that Will was sitting on the bed, twisting a Rubik's cube, though not looking at it.

Cronus was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, reading a novel Ryo'd seen Takato with a few years back. Cronus stood up at Ryo's arrival, and walked towards the door.

"Thanks." Ryo said to him.

"It's no problem." Cronus replied and continued downstairs.

"Hey." Ryo said as he sat on the bed next to Will.

"Hi." Will said quietly with a little nod.

"How's the puzzle?" Ryo looked to the cube, which didn't appear to be going very well.

"I'm not trying."

Right.

Ryo chewed at the inside of his lip. "Are you feeling any better today?"

Will didn't answer for a moment as he stared at the cube. "My stomach does."

Ryo just didn't know what to say to him. He felt so sorry for the boy, but was worried that he couldn't do anything to help.

"I'm gonna stick with you, you know." Ryo told him. Will stopped turning the cube, and looked at him.

"No you won't." Will responded quietly.

"I am." Ryo retorted.

"You're just—" Will started, sadly. "You're just trying to make me feel better. And I appreciate it. But I know you don't mean it."

All that Ryo wanted to do right then was to tell Will what Miriam had told him—that Ryo really was his brother. But he understood what Miriam meant when she said it was hard to do. But maybe he didn't need to tell him. Maybe he didn't have to tell him that Miriam had been lying to him his entire life. Maybe not.

"Hey." Ryo said firmly, looking the boy square in the eye. "I'm going to stay with you."

Will didn't answer out loud, but he just lowered his gaze, and sadly shook his head, doubtfully.

"And I'll prove it to you." Ryo said, perking up. He stepped over to Cronus's desk, and swiped the miniature globe embedded in a block of glass. He dropped it on Will's lap.

"Anywhere you want to go." Ryo told him.

"Huh?" Will picked up the block, and stared at it.

"We can go anywhere you want." Ryo explained. "Back to the States, the UK, Australia, anywhere you want to go, we'll go there."

"Why?" Will asked slowly, looking at the small globe carefully, and probably reading the tiny writing on it.

"'Cause there's nothing holding us here."

Will looked from the globe, to Ryo, then back to the globe, then back to Ryo.

"I like it here." Will said nervously.

Ryo hadn't been expecting it, and therefore, it took him by surprise. Of course Will liked it there. He was so excited to have Ryo show him the city, and to meet his friends.

"That's okay too." Ryo finally said, smiling.

But Will didn't smile back. "Isn't there anything here for you, though?"

--

"You came." Rika said. She was sitting on top of Guilmon's hideout, her legs hanging over the edge of the front. She was wearing a beige short-sleeved blouse, and a dark denim skirt that stopped a few inches before her knees. Her hair was down, and she'd obviously had something done to it, as it was crinkled and wavy in all the right spots. She'd never looked more gorgeous.

Ryo had been taken by surprise when he'd gotten her message from Takato. Ryo was hesitant to leave Will again, but Takato insisted that it was important, and that Cronus and he would keep Will company.

Ryo himself was dressed in a pair of jeans and a blue sweater with a white tribal pattern going up one side of the sleeve, across the chest, and back down the other sleeve.

"Yeah, I'm here." Ryo approached the structure, and circled behind it, where it was lower, and easier to climb up. He did, and soon perched himself on top as she did, though he made sure to stay enough of a distance away so as to not make her uncomfortable. "Didn't expect to be hearing from you anytime soon." Ryo admitted

"Yeah, I, uh," Rika said awkwardly, before sighing with a little nervous laugh. "I didn't expect to be calling."

"Is everything okay?" was Ryo's first question.

She frowned, and stared at the city. It was dark, and the lights of all the buildings were on.

"Well, I talked to Takato today…" Rika started. "And he told me about what really happened with the monster—with my dad."

He told her what

Ryo was shocked—that was something both he and Takato agreed that Rika could never know. Why would Takato tell Rika that?

Suddenly it clicked.

So she'd forgive me.

"Rika, I—" Ryo murmured, searching for words he couldn't find.

"Please." She interrupted him, holding her hand up as if to ask he wait to speak. "And I—I was okay. I mean, I was pretty shaken up about it when he told me, but…I'm alright. I didn't need to be protected from knowing that. Or protected at all. And I still don't. So I really need some honesty—for once."

Her eyes met his. "That's why you left, isn't it?"

Ryo stared at her guiltily before nodding. "Whenever I was around you, I—I thought about how close I came to being—"

"You don't have to explain." Rika interrupted him, which he was thankful for. "I get what you did."

They stared at the city for a moment in silence.

"Ryo…" Rika started.

"Do you ever wonder?" Ryo asked, glancing from the stars to Rika's eyes, even if it was just for a second.

"About what?" Rika asked back, not avoiding his gaze, but remaining trained on the sky.

"About if we'd been more honest with each other from the beginning." He continued quietly. "About if I hadn't left…about if we'd—" he trailed off, at a loss for words, as much as he was at a loss for everything else in his life at the time.

Ryo inwardly prepped himself for her rejection—however she was going to sugarcoat it, it was still going to hurt like hell.

"Yeah, I do."

Ryo looked to her, and she stared back in his eyes. She brought her hand up to the side of his face, and it was all the indication he needed.

He leaned in and put his mouth on hers softly. He pulled away when her body stiffened, and he was ready to apologize, when Rika kissed him back. He pulled her closer, and kissed her harder, until Rika really did pull back.

"I'm sorry—" Ryo felt terrible.

"No…That was—I mean, I'm glad…" Rika sighed. "Ryo…to be honest, I really have missed your friendship—"

"I want more than that." Ryo said flatly. "I know we've grown apart, but—you've never been far from my thoughts."

Not a day had gone by where Ryo hadn't thought about her. Her face, her voice, her laugh, her lips, the look she'd give him when he said something funny, the warmth of her face on his hand, the—

"I just need a little time." Rika said guiltily.

"Adam…?" Ryo suddenly remembered.

"He's a jerk." Rika shook her head, disappointed. "Have something for you, though."

Rika shifted as she reached into her pocket, before presenting a flat leather wallet.

"I got him to reimburse whatever money he took out of it. And all the cards should still be there."

Ryo smiled weakly. He stared down at the object, truly grateful for what she'd done—what she'd given up. He looked to her.

"I love you."

She looked upset. "I know."

Ow.

"But you and me—" Rika began. "I'm not ready for—I mean…"

Ryo returned his gaze to the cityscape, disappointed.

"I was thinking earlier." Rika told him. "About how hard it is to remember feelings clearly. Without—bias."

Ryo didn't answer, but waited for her to continue.

"We were friends." She declared softly. "I know that much."

"I want more than that." Ryo admitted. Sure, he was pushing his luck. Sure it was selfish, and sure it was inappropriate. But it was honesty. For once.

"Maybe if we give it enough time." She answered eventually.

She shifted in place, obviously preparing to hop off of the roof, before she turned to Ryo. Ryo didn't expect it, but she gave him a gentle kiss on his lips. She was off of the roof and was a few steps away before he could respond.

"Good night, Ryo."

"Good night." He said softly, but she was already out of sight.

Ryo raised his hand behind his head, and lay back, staring at the sky. It was too cloudy to see the stars, so there was absolutely nothing worth looking up at, but he did it anyways.

"Isn't there anything here for you, though?"

Will had asked him that earlier. Ryo had plenty. He had good friends. He had his brother. He had history, and memories. That was enough for that time. If he had to wait to get any more…it'd be well worth it—and Ryo was okay with that.

--

Darn, I was hoping that they'd really get together.

So, I was expecting that chapter to be shorter than any of the others. Well, that shows just how meaningless my planning is. Oh well…please review!

Oh, and as a sign of good faith to everyone who put up with my writing-ADD and said all those nice things in the reviews, the first two chapters of the sequel are up! It's called Code Carter, and it's listed under Rika and Ryo as the main characters if you're doing a search, or you can get to it from my profile.

-N