First of all, I am truly sorry for the VERY LONG delay in updates. I think it took me around 2 years or so. People are probably already tired of this story, but I will wrap it up neatly in the epilogue which will come after this chapter. Suffice to say, a LOT of things happened to me recently. And for a while, I lost my yearning to write anything (yes, I sometimes indulge in independent writing). I was just soooo stressed out. And burned a lot of things. (sigh)

So, for those still reading this, here's the latest update. As usual, if there are any typos, errors or what-not, you can inform me via comment. I'll be editing this a bit sleepy.


When You are Almost There

The sendaime took the ceramic cup from the low table, pressed it a moment against his dry lips contemplatively before taking one long sip. Despite his age, his movements have always been full of elegance and grace.

"What have you decided," he said authoritatively after some time. "Sawada Shin?"

The young redhead who sat opposite him gazed directly into him as he replied. "The ojou and I have talked it over—and I told her I decided to go to college after graduation."

Kuroda smiled. "A wise choice. I heard you got accepted into Tokyo University. I am impressed—though I knew you would do well."

Shin flushed with pleasure at this rare compliment. "Thank you, sir."

They sat in comfortable silence; the elder sipping tea peacefully while the younger traced the mouth of the teacup held so tightly in his hands. Finally, he took one careful sip of the tea before soundlessly replacing it back on the table. When Kuroda sensed the tension die from the Young Master's form, he smirked to himself. The time for waiting has ended.

Flattening both palms on the floor, Sawada Shin leaned forward and prostrated himself before the sendaime. "Kumichou, you and Yamaguchi-sensei has treated me as part of your family. You have always supported me, loved me and respected me for what I am even when my own family could not. This family has changed me so much. A simple thank you is not enough to show my gratitude."

"I see my granddaughter's sentimentality has finally rubbed into you, eh," chuckled the old man, quite touched by the sincere words. "You've done a lot for this family, too—you've taken care of our little ojou. It is I—in behalf of our clan—who has to thank you."

"Then please forgive me for the impudence of my next words—I would like to ask your permission to officially court Yamaguchi-sensei after graduation." The redhead heard only silence after his words—he immediately sensed that he had to go on, so he ploughed forward. "I know it is considered inappropriate by a lot of people—she is my teacher, and aside from that, I am younger than her by six years. I am the son of the Chief Inspector while she is Kuroda's ojou. But..." Shin looked up, boldly looking into Kuroda's perceptive gaze. "But I love your granddaughter. So please...I ask for your blessing!"

A beam of afternoon light entered through the gap in the sliding panels. In the brightness, it was impossible to discern the expression on Kuroda's face. But Shin did not look away. His heart seemed to ram painfully against his chest cage. He had said the words he had long wanted to say to the world. Nothing mattered now—there was only one thing he wanted to hear...

Kuroda laughed. Shin blinked. The light faded as clouds lazily passed overhead. Blinking several times, Shin stared at the man laughing so heartily in front of him he seemed ten years younger.

When his laughter passed, Ryuiichirou Kuroda shook his head and smirked. "Took you long enough."

Kumiko Yamaguchi sighed as she slid slowly into the bathtub. The water, gloriously hot, was a salve for her aching body. Of course it would ache, she growled to herself and dived her head under the soapy water. Any idiot who would challenge Ooshima Kyoutarou would not escape unscathed. After ten full seconds, she resurfaced and took a deep breath—the scented soaps Fujiyama gave for her last Christmas were pretty good—and nostalgically placed a hand on her tender cheekbones. The fact that she was thrashed didn't mean that she lost, though, and for that, she allowed herself to grin.

She knew however, that had she lost, Kyou would have been sorely disappointed in his pupil...

"Yes!" she grunted as she stretched her body. She had just finished checking the last of the documents regarding her students. For each one of her "babies", whether they chose to proceed to college or apply for jobs, she gave positive feedbacks and recommendations on their records. She smiled fondly. They were all grown up. And soon—next week, specifically—they would be leaving her.

Gingerly, she stood up and walked out of the thresholds, into the garden, savoring the fresh afternoon scent. She smiled happily. Next week, she would be watching her first batch of students walk out of the school and out into the world. They'd be sure to experience much more, to have both hardships and trials, and yet there would be great times, too. And whenever they meet up for reunions, they'd reminisce and talk about the old days, highschool days, when life was simpler and definitely fantastic.

Simpler? She smirked. Not really. Perhaps "different" was the right term. Because, certainly, things were not simple for one certain red-head and his group. Particularly, the red-head...

What could he be doing now?

Kumiko sighed, waving his thoughts away. She was thinking of him too much, much like a love-sick idiot. But how could she not when they were almost always together recently? She sighed again.

"Women, when they're in love, sigh a lot." came a gruff voice from behind her.

She raised her brows as she turned to see the Kyou's friendly face; it was contorted into a very amused grin. "Oh. So you're a woman-expert now, eh, Kyou-chan?"

Kyou glared at her and she grinned; she knew he hated being patronized and teased as "Kyou-chan" because it was not "good for his image."

"Well, of course I am," he said, pointedly ignoring the taunt. "Modesty aside (Yankumi stifled a giggle), I am pretty good with women—even young high schoolers fall for me." And he laughed robustly.

"Ha. High schoolers, or were you just patronizing cosplay bars?"

"Hey, there're lotsa high schoolers on cosplay bars—"

"Kyou-chan—" she growled in warning.

"Okay, okay. I know—you're a teacher now and you don't think its okay for you to hear me dating them high schoolers—but they sure know a good deal of pump—" Another glare from her shut him up.

They fell into comfortable silence.

"That's the third one," commented Kyou when Kumiko sighed again.

"Well, I can't help it," she admitted. "There are a lot of things going on in my mind."


"Hmph. You do know that my students're graduating. They a pretty tough buncha punks and I'm kinda worried and happy for them at the same time, you know?" She breathed deeply and looked up at the horizon with a small smile on her lips. "I guess, with you takin' care of me like I was your young 'un—you prol'y felt the same when I graduated from high school and college, huh?"

Kyou simply grunted. Both knew the answer.

"I guess...I haven't thanked you for everything." She felt her eyes stinging—gods, why did she have to be so damn emotional? Chin trembling, she murmured. "So, thank you, Kyou-san. For worrying for me, for teaching me how to be strong, for raising me alongside Grandpa and the others, for loving me as your own daughter. Thank you."

She was answered by a sniff. When she turned to him, Kyou was already sobbing his eyes out; she had to laugh. Of course, she'd be emotional—she had to be with Kyou-san taking care of her!

The man enveloped her in a tight hug. "You're so grown-up, ojou. I'm proud of yah, you know that, neh?"

"Ou," she pulled back and grinned. "You're such a baby, Kyou-san."

"Hmph. A man only becomes a real man when they learn to show their emotions."

She rolled her eyes at him and stretched her arms with a groan. "Oh, arms are kinda stiff. Been a while since I had some exercise. Maaaan." She rolled her jaw and rotated her head in his direction, eyes sparkling with mischief. "I need a good spar."

Ooshima Kyoutarou grinned wolfishly, an equal gleam in his eye. "That so, ojou?"

Her foot suddenly came from nowhere; on reflex, Kyou blocked it with his right arm before promptly jumping two, three steps back. Straightening, the Young Chief grinned again. "Heheh. Winner gets to boss the loser. Deal?"

Shaking back her locks, Kumiko Yamaguchi flexed her arms and positioned herself in the fighting stance. "Ou!"

Previously, she had been complaining of muscles stiff from lack of exersion; now her muscles were still stiff from too much of it. But it was a pleasing kind of pain, especially since she enjoyed sparring with Kyou; the reward was just a little bonus. She slid a little lower in the tub until her mouth was practically below the bubbly surface.

Now, what exactly should I ask Kyou-san to do for me?

The memory of a certain blondie jumped into her vision and she grinned. Yes, it should be very interesting how those two would turn out...

"Teo torriatte konomama iko—"

She was abruptly pulled out of her plot bunnies. It was her cellphone ringing; she had placed it above the bathroom counter beside the tub.

The ringing continued. She sighed knowing who it was calling her; after all, had not she assigned that particular tune to that certain someone? She reached for the phone, set it on loud speaker and leaned back comfortably in one corner of the tub.

"Hello, Sawada Shin."

"Hello, Yankumi." The smile that she had been trying to hold back reached its full length across her mouth. Gods, she was turning into such a mushy idiot.

"Hmmm," she reached out to lather her right leg, memories of him and their "activities" on the school rooftop wantonly flashing in her mind's eye. Not that they had sex. She flushed at the idea. No, they definitely won't be having least not until after graduation.

She was so lost in thought that she was unaware that she remained silent for a whole minute. But it was not an uncomfortable silence. Shin, on his part, seemed to be having his share of reminisces.

"You taking a bath, Yankumi?"

"Yea—how the heck did'ya know I'm taking a bath?" she shrieked, standing up wildly and peering at the windows for any sign of the redhead.

"Relax, fool. I wasn't peeping on you! Kyou-san told me...anyways, I can hear you splashing around."

"Ohh," she relaxed again. How foolish of her indeed...but then again, if it was Shin who saw her like this...

Get your thoughts out of the gutter, you hormonal teacher.

"I didn't know you were coming," she replied accusingly.

She could hear him grin on the other end. "It was supposed to be a surprise. Besides, I had a talk with your grandfather."

"Oh," she was suddenly nervous. "Did he—did he..."

"No," he answered as though reading her mind. Then, in a softer voice. "Your grandpa is a really good man."

"Yes, he is," Relief coated her voice and she continued lathering the rest of her body. "Anyways, why did you call me? I mean, you must be lurking around in our garden—couldn't you just ask them where I am and wait for me to finish?"

"'Lurking around'? You make me sound like a stalker…"

She rolled her eyes and said rather impatiently, "Well?"

Silence. Then, "Well, nothing. I just thought I wanted to hear you talk, 's all."

Her heartbeat sped a little and her cheeks warmed. "You...called because you missed my voice?"

"NO! Don't be silly," he rebutted sheepishly. And suddenly, she knew it was the truth, and laughed.

"Oh, c'mon, Shin," she teased. "You don't have to be embarrassed. It's natural for you to miss me...after all, aren't I your sweet and beloved teacher?"

Kumiko felt rather than heard him smirk. "Well, not for long."

The suddenly low intonation of his voice and its slightly rough tone made her shiver slightly; there was a shift in her belly and she closed her eyes, biting back a groan. How strange that, in a span of months, she had jumped from obviously repulsing her attraction for him to openly acknowledging it. At that very moment, Kumiko wanted so very much to have him in that same tub with him...

Gosh, I really have to control these urges. She took a deep breath to still the whirr of emotions (and hormones) that she was still yet to get used to. And that did manage to control it somehow. She smiled to herself, and started braiding her hair absently.

"So…you eating here tonight?"

"Is that an invitation?"

She snorted. "It's a question. Duh, you're family enough—you don't need an invitation." She could almost see him grin and warm at the implications of this. "Anyways, I'll be done soon enough. Why don't you help Tetsu prep up for dinner?"

"I'll see what I can do." With that, the call was dropped and Kumiko stood up, dripping water incessantly on the tiles as she stepped out. A towel was hastily wrapped around her body as she grinned happily in anticipation of the night. Should they play chess or watch more Wife of the Yakuza reruns? They could probably squeeze a sparring session before dinner, too, since she was up to it.

Abrupt knocking pulled her once again from her daydreams. "That you Kyou-san?" Her thoughts were full of fun things for the evening that she didn't think that it was curious that there was no reply at all. Shrugging, she pulled on her female briefs and a sports bra and resumed talking, taking the silence of an optimistic yes. "I still haven't thought of your penalty, if that's what you're worried of." Still no answer. Impatiently, she threw on the first things she could reach from her closet, which was a sleeveless shirt (with a Superman imprint) with a matching pair of shorts.

The person at her door was the last person she expected. An uncertain feeling grappled at her throat as she looked up apprehensively at the familiar face which beheld the mysterious set of eyes she once fell in love with.

She was, as always, a beauty to beheld. In the beginning, he had not felt this way; she was younger when they first met after all—a scrawny teenager with a loud mouth and a burning stare which spelled anything less than attractive. But through the years, he watched her, observed her during the brief business meetings with her family which eventually expanded into unexpected bonding sessions and dinners. He watched her grow and bloom from spirited and idealistic youth to the brave and strong woman she was now. And he never told her, not once, how wonderfully she had grown, how beautiful she was, not just physically but in every aspect. Sure there were prettier women. But beauty was always relative to the beholder and to him, she was everything he knew he ever wanted and needed. Still, in all these years, he never hinted what he felt was inappropriate to address, believing he would do her no good, believing that the revelation of such emotions would mean the breach of the precious trust the sendaime had entrusted him, thinking to his very depths that a man of uncertain connections was unworthy to be her partner.

Yes, Shinohara was indeed, in more ways than one, an idiot. And he knew that. He let his chances come and go, ignored the starry-eyed looks Kumiko was prone to give him, paid no heed to the hints Kyou gave him, failed to meet the analyzing yet approving gaze the boss gave him whenever the conversation swerved to his granddaughter. Maybe he was afraid. Maybe he was just conceited enough, thinking that perhaps her feelings would remain intact, until he was ready to face his. But it was too late, too late. For only when he was starting to be in terms with his own self, his own past, his own feelings, did he realize that her own feelings had already gone a hundred steps away from him, towards a certain redhead. It was then that he was forced to step in action—a proposal, hastily done which did not fully express his full emotions and intent but it was necessary, to ensure his place beside her forever and to keep that young boy in his place.

At least that's what he thought.

And now here he was, in front of her bedroom door. He did not really intend to talk to her; originally, he had intended to talk to the boss about some matters but he caught the sight of Shin talking with the old man and he could only guess about what. So he wandered for a while in the garden, until his thoughts returned to her and, without sparing himself another thought, he found himself standing there, knocking. Impulsiveness, a trait he did not own, described him as of the moment, but he no longer cared.

He could hear her talking, mistaking him for Kyou. He could have fled if he wanted to and yet he could not. Not anymore.

Shinohara came here for a purpose and he was determined to fulfil it. The door opened to reveal Kumiko, her cheerful grin slowly transforming into a surprised "o". Her hair, uncombed and prepped into a messy braid, was wet—she must've just come out from the shower. He breathed in her scent and suppressed a sigh which would give away what he was feeling. He has not spoken to her again since she that time she woke in the hospital. Back then, he had personally delivered her to the comatose Sawada and since then there was no communication. However, he did visit her when she was asleep and each time, he made sure to leave fresh roses and chocolates at her bedside. But those things weren't what she really wanted at all. From the flash he saw lingering in her eyes, he knew he had hurt her a lot by not visiting her again. And yet there was nothing else to be far, he knew that all he had done was hurt her by being inattentive and by not being there by her side. He remembered how she looked when he arrived at the hospital then—pale and cold to the touch; he thought she would die and he knew that whatever the result, it was his fault for not being there by her side when she needed him to be there. If only…but he could not turn back time. He was simply not there.

In the end, a boy who has proven himself to be a man usurped him from the place he never officially occupied. And took over.

All these passed quickly enough in Shinohara's head—hadn't he contemplated this enough? He watched her struggle before him and decided quickly.

In the end, he had to hurt her again to make her truly happy…

Tetsu lifted the hotpot and placed it in the middle of the wide kotatsu with not so much as a grunt. For a moment, Shin envied the man's bulky muscles and mused whether he could someday transform his own lithe ones into such.

Or maybe not exactly as buff…not exactly fitting, he pondered silently. But Yankumi…I wonder what she would think of that? A sudden image of Kumiko's blushing and drooling face popped into his mind's vision; it was really hard to forget her expression when she saw him wear a fundoshi. Maybe I'll see that again if I buff up…or something, he thought wryly whilst flexing his arm absently.

"Eh, Young Master…?" Shin looked up into Wakamatsu's confused face and suddenly realized that he had been smiling toothily to himself. Must've seemed creepy. God, Yankumi's weird quirks are getting to me. He coughed awkwardly and tried to look as poker-faced as possible.

"Sorry bout that. I just remembered something…funny."

"Oh…okay, then. Why dontcha go tell ojou dinner's ready, eh?" said Tetsu.

Shin assented and sighed, glad that Tetsu bought his futile excuses. Now all he had to do was locate ojou, eat dinner with them...of course she might insist over a few Wife of the Yakuza reruns, and then he could tell her about his conversation with his grandpa, perhaps over a bottle of sake and a game of chess. The place was pretty big though and it took a while before he managed to find her room—he's never been there before after all and he had never asked where it was. He knew though that it was on the second floor…

Kumiko coughed once and forced her mouth and her vocal muscles to form the name which used to send warm sensations all over her body.

"Shinohara-sensei…What are you—I mean, is there something you need from me?" her voice unexpectedly came out as a squeak and she cursed herself.

"I just…wanted to see if you're all right."

"I am. Well," she hesitated before muttering with slight bitterness she didn't know she felt. "If you had visited more—but of course, you had a schedule to keep and I was probably not included." Kumiko saw him wince lightly and she shook her head in self-disgust. Such a childish outburst was not characteristic of her at all. She had always known that he had work, he had priorities. And had she not always given way? She would always invite him and he would always decline; she always understood. So why was she still getting hurt over something so simple?

I guess, she thought sadly, the people you care for will always be the ones with the power to hurt you more.

She looked up into his eyes and was surprised to see a small flicker of anguish there. Kumiko blinked twice and when she looked again, it was no longer there; disappointment rushed over her. Before she could speak again, Shinohara cupped her face with both hands and soundlessly, and thoroughly, kissed her.

The bold move stunned her to the point of incoherence. But there was no rush of emotion and feeling…nothing but apathy. When her mind returned to a functional state she slowly pulled away from the kiss, gently took the hands cupping her face pulled both away from her.

When she could finally control her breathing she whispered. "Shinohara-sensei, I'm sorry."

He smiled wryly, "No, you're not." And at that, Kumiko lifted her gaze to meet his. "And you really don't need to be, at all. This is my farewell."

"What!" she spluttered immediately. "Wh-where are you going?"

"That's no longer important. You should not concern yourself with me anymore."

"B-but—Shinohara-sensei!" She grabbed the hands that she had pushed away earlier, squeezing them in a vice grip. "Don't, please! No matter what—you're family. You're one of us. You—"

Shinohara shook his head. "I am family…but I'm not one of you." His words sucker-punched her, whooshing the air out of her lungs. He went on, eyes suddenly hard. "I am a lawyer. What I am always is on the side of the law and of the client. I have…already paid my debts to your grandfather and to your family. I need to finally do what I really want to do."

When she spoke, the words struggled out of her. "So—so you never…never really—"

Shinohara sighed and turned his back on her. His eyes widened and the name he murmured jolted Kumiko from her haze of sorrow. "Sawada Shin…"

She edged and saw that Shin was indeed standing there, his fists clenched deeply into his pockets. For a moment, she fidgeted. Had he seen Shinohara kiss her?

Without warning, Shin slugged the older man's jaw, causing him to fall abruptly to the ground.

"Shinohara-sensei!" She was immediately at the fallen man's side; his jaw was clearly bruised, spreading over the lower lip into an unpleasant split. "Sawada—what did you think you were—"

"It's back to 'Sawada'…again." Alarm bells seemed to ring around her as the dark, furious expression on the redhead's face brought about crude realization.

"No—no! It's not what you think…" And without sparing her another glance, he left. "Shin!" she shouted frantically. Her mind debated whether to leave the man who used to be her knight in shining armor or to run after Shin.

"Follow him." Shinohara said as he wiped his bleeding lip on his sleeve, blemishing his immaculate shirt.

She immediately protested. "But you're—"

"I can handle this. We can still continue this conversation later, or some other time. Go after him and explain. And no 'but's'," he added when she mouthed another protest.

Kumiko squeezed his arm and hesitated. She didn't want to leave him in this state at all, not when nothing was resolved yet. He saw the battling emotions on her face and asked. "You love him?"

"I—" she met his eyes earnestly. "I think I do. Shinohara-sensei—do you think badly of it?" She couldn't resist it. Somehow, she needed this—his approval, his blessing. Because no matter what he said or how he hurt her, he was still family.

"The young ones love foolishly." Was his only answer; he refused to be swayed by the guilt her eyes burned in him but he had to do this.

Kumiko Yamaguchi's heart broke once again, but it finally had enough of him. Her hand lifted and connected to his jaw in a slap so powerful it was almost a punch. And with that, she exited.

Shinohara sighed, rubbed his new sore, and adjusted his position slightly on the floor. "I guess I deserved that."

"Fuckin' A, you did," came a husky voice from the adjacent corridor. Ooshima Kyoutaro treaded the wooden floors slowly until he stood right in front of the fallen man. "If I were Shin, I'dve given you more 'an a slug."

"Hmph. So you planning to beat me to pulp, too? Sorry, but I don't regret I word I said to ojou." Kyou-san gave him no answer; instead he took the guy's arm and helped him to his feet. With that, the scar-faced man went down the stairwell and proceeded to sit down by the porch; Shinohara followed suite.

In the still of the night, he muttered. "I don' have to beat an already fallen man." Kyou-san took out a cigarette, lighted it, and took a long drag which he released in a sigh. "Ya fool. The only person who's dyin' from any of this is you. Why'd ya do it?"

It was Shinohara's turn to have no answer. Kyou-san silently offered him a cigarette and the lawyer took it without a word and mimicked Kyou-san's earlier motions.

"You didn't try." There was still no answer, and he added whilst flicking ash onto the grounf. "You don't deserve her."

The lawyer quickly finished the cigarette in a few drags before chuckling. "I know."

The older man grunted. "O well. Guess we better go join them for dinner now."

"I don't think it's—"

"Listen. You're one of us, pure n' simple, and you can't escape that no more. So stop all that bullshit crap that you know ain't true. You're family, as ojou said. Or don't you agree?" With that, Kyou threw the cigarette butt on the ground, stepped on it, and went inside. Shinohara smiled wryly and, after a while, followed the man inside.

Sawada Shin arrived fairly quickly at his apartment; he hardly even remembered how he really got back. All he knew was that he was angry, very angry. The lawyer bastard kissed her. Yes, he did listen to the succeeding conversation and understood that he wanted to settle things and leave her. But why in that manner? Why kiss her before doing all that, too?

His reaction was too late. Rather, he simply did not know what to do. Even though it has been [somewhat] established that they had feelings for each other, there was no declaration of exclusivity. So he waited, to see what she would do. And he was pleased, in a way, that she pulled away from him. And yet why, when he finally did step in, did she still go to the bastard? Shinohara's words was surely aimed to hurt her. Yet she still went back to him—and he was suddenly back to 'Sawada'…

"Like a damn stranger," he fumed. He knew it was childish of him. But he couldn't help it. His chest was hurting. His mind replayed the kiss again and again to torture him.

He went to the refrigerator, pulled out a can of beer, tore of the lid and finished it in a single drought. He did the same to another. Then he sat down hard on the mattress. A loud rap on his door pulled him from his angry musings, and then there was her voice. "Shin—open up. It's me."

He debated telling her to go away and decided that it would be the lamer choice so he chose to remain silent.

"I know you're in there. I swear, if you don't grow up and open this damn door, I will break it off the hinges."

At that, the redhead winced; she would surely live up to the threat if he didn't comply. For a moment, he considered jumping out his window and escape through the fire escape. But her next words reached him:

"Please. Shin. Don't go."

He sighed. How did she know? With that, he lifted himself off the bed and opened the door. Her appearance surprised him; her hair was still a tangled mess of slightly wet braids, and the fact that she was packaged in a Superman shirt matching teeny shorts certainly did not merit public appreciation. His anger mellowed somewhat at the expression on her face and yet he couldn't without the blistering tone. "What?"

With that, the worried expression on her face became hard; she side-stepped him, went inside the apartment and slammed the door shut behind him. Perhaps it was the slight alcohol, or the fury still welling in him, but he didn't step back from her.

"Look—don't act like some injured kid," she began. "If you've been there long enough, you'd have known that he was withdrawing the proposal."

"Really, huh? Didn't know that kissing was part of the deal," he said.

"So…so you were there long enough," she murmured to herself, confirming what she already realized. Her face and tone softened again. "Then you must understand what happened! But why didn't you confront him while he was kissing me?"

"Oh, I dunno," said Shin, trying to sound offhand and unconcerned. Dammit. He was losing it. He could feel his soul shaking, little green-eyed monsters teasing, as he muttered and gave in. "You seemed like you were happy 'bout it."

That stung. And yet she knew that he regretted saying it, knew as his face transformed from deep anger to remorse. And yet it still stung, that he didn't believe in her, in them.

Did she deserve this? Part of her answered yes. Had not she always been inconsistent with him? Her fickleness had lead to this after all. But is he still afraid that after all that they've been through she would still choose Shinohara? Hadn't she clarified her feelings enough for him already?

Unwanted tears threatened to spill from her eyes. God, I'm such a cry baby! But it hurts. First Shinohara leaving literally…I don't want Shin to act like this, too—

Shin sighed. He knew what she was thinking now and he couldn't blame her for the direction her thoughts were running. He didn't really doubt her, not really but…

Slowly, he reached out and pulled her securely into his arms. She didn't resist but remained stiff. Shin rubbed that sensitive part of her back and felt her shiver and relax against him. "I was jealous." His words came out without warning. Yankumi, his precious Yankumi, looked up at him in surprise.

"He's a lawyer graduated from Tokyo U, smart, respected. He's been with your family for more than five years already. And you loved him that long, too. Idolized him more like. Still. Best of all, he's older than you…basically, he's the perfect guy you've been moping over." Shin shook his head, ashamed of admitting his insecurities even to this one person—especially this one person. "I wouldn't be surprised if you return to him."

Kumiko pressed her forehead against his shoulder the whole time, understanding what he meant. She understood just how much it cost him to say these things to her. But it's time she made him really understand how things stood in her mind now, and who she really wanted. "Shin. Kiss me."

His eyes burrowed the top of her head until she looked up to meet his heated gaze. "See, there's only one person I want to kiss me. And it isn't Shinohara."

When he still didn't move, Kumiko did a bold thing: she placed her hand on the nape of his neck and pulled him down to meet her. Her lips met his, lightly, like wings flapping gently, and then resting. And nipped his lower lip, to get his attention. And whispered. "It's you that I want."

The spark of response was almost immediate as he fully reciprocated her kiss. His hand, previously rubbing the center of her back, pressed her to him earnestly, the other riding up through her tangled mess of hair. Her body was a mess of sensations, each movement shell-shocking her brain in unorganized waves of pleasure; so she held on to him, her legs weak and buttery in consistency. She fiercely held onto a handful of red hair, as his mouth fluttered from her mouth to her forehead, to her cheeks, lingering back to her mouth, leaving a trail of electric sensations each better than the last. And his mouth travelled downwards—to her chin, to her throat, and to the crook of her neck where he grazed his teeth onto that healthy patch of skin. And sank his teeth gently to nip and suck the area.

That elicited a strange sound from her throat which Shin liked. Very much. He went slightly south, mouth meeting with the cotton of her shirt. But he could still taste her. He nipped gently again, and she made that throaty sound again. At the back of Shin's head, he knew they should stop now. But he didn't want to. He felt possessed. She was grinding her body against now, and he wondered if she knew just what she was doing to him—

But he knew he had to be the voice of reason, soon. After all, he promised to wait until after graduation. He promised he would always wait.

Now or never.

With one last kiss over the mouth, he slowly peeled himself from her and breathed deeply and slowly to normalize his thudding heartbeat. What he saw in her eyes—clouded with passion and want—made him want to sink back against her. So gripped her in his arms and closed his eyes to murmur. "I don't want you to make any rash decisions tonight. I respect you, so I go by your decisions, always. So, it won't be tonight."

Yankumi sighed and rested her sweaty brow against his neck. She was disappointed, but she knew she'll be far more disappointed in herself later if she went against her own principles due to hormones and rash decisions. It simply wouldn't be right to both of them. So she whispered, earnestly. "Thanks."

"Yankumi—earlier, I'm—"

"Shut up. Don't ruin this moment, okay? We almost made love."

A warm feeling rose in his chest. "Is that what you really feel—making love?"

Realizing what she just said, she plucked embarrassedly at the front of his shirt. "Yeah. Because…there should always be love."

He smirked. "So this means that was a preview."

A little shrug was her answer but he could see the smile lingering at the corners of her mouth. He grinned and pulled her down with him on his bed eliciting a squeal. "Shin!"

"What? I won't do anything, I promise. I'll comb your hair, or something." To keep my hands busy. He added silently. She nodded and she put his back against him. Luckily, the comb was within comfortable reach from his bed and he need not move off to get it. He fondly and gently pulled the sticky rubber ties from her tangled hair and ran his hands through several times.

They were comfortably silent as he tended to her hair. And yet Kumiko knew it had to be addressed. "Shin, I need you to listen to me, okay? No, don't stop what you're doing. Just listen." She felt him nod behind her and she sighed. "I don't want you to conflict with Shinohara-sensei…he's practically family. Just like you. I don't want him gone from my life, nor you. I need you both, and love you both. But I no longer love him the way I used to. I love him as part of my family…but you're both my family and my partner. Do you…do you get me?"

"Go on."

She breathed. "What I'm trying to say it…you should not feel this way. Not anymore. I don't want you to feel jealous because I already made my choice. And it's not him…it's you."

His gentle movements on her hair stopped and, just when she was about to complain, his arms wound around her waist and he rested his chin on her shoulder. "You're so corny, Yankumi."

"But you like it." She retorted.

"Nope. Not originally. But I guess I couldn't help liking it." He smiled and she couldn't help but smile, too.

"I'm glad."

They stayed like that for a while, thinking that nothing could disturb their peace, until…

Her stomach grumbled.

Shin couldn't help it; he laughed and Kumiko glared at him pointedly. "I guess even bears get hungry, too."

"Really, who's the bear?"

"You must be a fan of the rhetorical," he smirked and droned noisily albeit intentionally over her unheard response. "Pizza's on me. Go on, order."

She pulled out his phone from his pocket and began calling for pizza delivery. Shin smirked at her; for now there were no worries. And he learned one vital thing:

Making-up and making-out have wonderful results.

Okay, was [the ending] too abrupt?


Or did you wish they did just ended that tension and made the leap?

Haha, sorry, not happening in this story. See the "T" rating up there? I still haven't the guts to make a lemon, and I doubt I'll make an effective one anyways. Tell me what you think? (That is, if anyone is still reading.)