A/N: Small Rukato one-shot based after 'Fated' but before 'Tortured Minds, Broken Souls.' If you haven't read them, that's fine. It won't really lessen your understanding of the story (at least, I hope not). Just a little snippet in the development of Takato and Rika's relationship. No real plot, sadly. I know it's not the best, but consider it practice, seeing as I haven't written anything in a while.

Dedication: GTAJake, who has often showed me what a true fan of fanfiction is, and who I swear is the epitome of patience.


"You'll never know how good life truly is until you can experience the simple moments with a smile." --Anonymous

"You can do it, Sakura! Come to me!"

Rika spread her arms wide, grin apparent on her tanned face, as she coached her baby sister in 'walking 101.' The child gurgled at the sound of her sister's voice and let go of coffee table she had been using to keep steady. She took a meek step forward, eyes wide and hands flexing; another step soon followed. By the third step, however, gravity seemed to get the better of the tot and she plopped on her butt. Instead of a wail of anger, however, her young face twisted into what onlookers could only describe as annoyance.

Takato laughed as he entered the room. "She's definitely got your attitude!" he mused, ignoring the icy stare coming from his girlfriend. Hand behind his head, he apologized quietly before taking a seat next to Rika. "So, she still isn't up and running yet?"

The redhead shook her head, taking a sip of her green tea. She and her grandma had made a pitcher of it today while her mom was off visiting old friends. Summer was just around the corner, and the weather was bound determined to prove just how hot it could be! Rika had hoped that Sakura would be tottering around before her mom came back--as a surprise, in a sense. With a sigh, she muttered: "Maybe it's just not her time…."

"I doubt that." Takato nodded toward the tiny child as she struggled to stand again. Her stubby arms flailed about as she rose. "If anything," he added, "she wants to walk more than you want her to." The boy patted Rika on the head and smiled lopsidedly; right afterwards, he stole a sip of her drink.

"Hey, Takato! You know how to get your own drink, darn it!" Though anger seeped from her words, she flicked the goggle head's nose affectionately.

Little Sakura watched this scene in awe. Her older sister always seemed to smile so much when she was around that person, and she never understood why. Maybe he was like her favorite blankie that she carried around everywhere, or perhaps like her favorite food. She just had to know--what was he? Filled with resolve, she once again stood. They weren't even watching her! Cheeks puffed out in irritation, she let out a ferocious cry that caused the two to look her way.

She put her foot out.

"Look," Rika murmured in shock, "she's trying to walk again…!" With a soft chuckle, the teen got on her knees and cheered the child on once more.

Takato couldn't help but smile. Rika was certainly an odd one, he had to admit. When he had first met her, she had built this shell that looked like her, talked like her, but ultimately… wasn't her. It took him a while to find the girl hiding deep inside. She really had opened up a lot since then, hadn't she?

After a moment of reminiscing, he felt something soft land on his knees. Looking down, there was Sakura, blue eyes as big as saucers as she gazed up at him. Crawling into his lap, she giggled to herself and clapped happily. Takato glanced at his girlfriend, whose face was currently unreadable, before nervously picking the bouncing child up and putting her back on the ground. "Th-That's great, Sakura! Now walk to Rika!"

The redhead's face twitched slightly. "She walked to you…," she muttered, eyes tossing anything sharp they could reach at him. When her sister was in her arms, she held her close and turned her back on Takato.

"W-wait! Rika, I didn't mean--! She, uh, must have--!"

Yet again he found his lap holding more than he had bargained for. Rika snuggly slid herself right up against his chest, leaning back to stare seriously into his eyes (poor Takato was taken aback for a moment). "It seems we have a problem," she stated with an exasperated sigh. When her only response was a rather confused look, she grinned and elaborated: "I think I might have to start fighting with my baby sister for your undivided attention. Of course, it'll be hard to compete with such a cutie. …maybe I'll just let her win."

Light laughter formed as he wrapped his arms around Rika's waist gently. "Well, I suppose I could try to make enough room for the both of you," he whispered. He planted a kiss on her head and held her closer.

Moments like these were rare to come by, so they tried to hold onto each one for as long as possible. The warmth of being in each other's arms was enough to strip away the layers of stress building up every day. A moment of peace they could share--just the two of them.

And Sakura, of course, who was quietly attempting to poke her elder sister's face with a slobbery hand.