Disclaimer: I own nothing! Except the plot. :)

Author's note: This is a continuation fic with a difference (hopefully, lol); unlike most, it does not start at four years from the end of the series, but rather, right at the very end of the one-shot special (one year later).

And secondly, it's an RxT fic. To me, the special was screaming out RxT. So hither, I present...


Bittersweet Memories

By Onkiu

Chapter 1: Excess baggage


"Are you alright, Tsukushi?" Rui asked as he waved his hand in front of Tsukushi's blank face. She was staring out the window of the airplane - the window with its shutters down.

He tried to stifle his laughter; her poker face never ceased to amuse him.

"Huh -? What? Oh, Rui," said Tsukushi absentmindedly, snapping out of her trance.

She did not notice that her hair was now plaited in all sorts of weird thanks to a certain somebody sitting next to her.

It had only been yesterday that they had arrived in France, yet Tsukushi's trip felt like it was over before it had even begun. The time there flew by so quickly in that one day she was there; every minute with Domyouji felt so precious.

She had spent a few fleeting moments in his arms before it felt like she was cruelly wrenched from him; and before she knew it, she was back on the plane to Japan, and he on his way to New York.

"Did you want any drinks?" asked Rui, pointing at the smiling air hostess with her trolley of juice cartons and wine bottles.

"No... no thanks," declined Tsukushi, still a bit spaced out. She had been spending most of her flight relishing in the few moments that they had spent together; in fact, she had been so into her thoughts that she had not noticed Rui doing various things to her hair, and Akira laughing at the effect; nor did she notice Soujiro flirting shamelessly with the air hostesses.

But after much thinking about the current state of her relationship with Domyouji, she had gathered all her thoughts together and knew that she had to ask Rui the one question burning in her mind - one she knew that only he could answer.

Rui was smiling pleasantly at the in-flight entertainment screen in front of him, and had headphones over his ears. He looked very peaceful as Tsukushi considered whether to disturb him with her personal matters.

"Rui..." she began, tapping his shoulder.

"What's wrong?" he asked, looking slightly concerned. He pulled his headphones down with his long, delicate fingers. "Are you feeling airsick?"

"No," said Tsukushi, looking at him imploringly. "It's just that I have something to ask you. How did you -"

Tsukushi was about to finish the rest of her question when she noticed that Soujiro and Akira were leaning over their seats from behind her, eavesdropping shamelessly. Upon realising that Tsukushi did indeed notice their sneaky behaviour, the unabashed pair smiled charismatically at her even though they knew that it wasn't going to work on her.

"- never mind," she finished, turning around and giving them a dirty look while cracking her knuckles in a very meaningful way. Soujiro and Akira took the hint and disappeared back into their seats behind her (though not before Soujiro winked at her playfully, as if he knew what she wanted to ask).

She made a mental note to ask Rui later when they were far away from the two playboys. Knowing them, if they heard what she was about to ask Rui, it would be known all over Eitoku by tomorrow (even though they have all long since graduated).

By the time that they had landed in Japan, it was late in the afternoon. After they were cleared by customs, and had gathered their baggage, it was dusk. Having said goodbye to Soujiro and Akira, Rui and Tsukushi left the airport in his limousine. They fought their way through the peak hour traffic, and when they finally reached Tsukushi's home in the outskirts of the city, it was dinnertime.

Rui helped Tsukushi carry her luggage inside. It felt good to be home especially after being jet-lagged from a long haul flight, and as Rui dropped her luggage into a corner of the cluttered room, Tsukushi called out, "I'm home!"

"Sister! You're home!" cried Susumu brightly as he came out from the tiny kitchen, carrying the dishes that Mama had cooked for dinner. He set them down on the dinner table. "And brother Hanazawa too! Are you staying for dinner?"

"Yes, p-p-please," replied Rui, stifling a yawn. The flight and the subsequent drastic shift in time zones had taken its toll on Rui, a boy who needed more sleep than a twenty four hour day could afford him.

Upon hearing Susumu's announcement of their return from abroad, Papa pirouetted out of the toilet, holding his newspaper like a baton. It would have been very graceful had he not subsequently tripped over Tsukushi's baggage and landed flat on his face, which, in turn, caused Rui to double over in laughter.

Tears appeared in Papa's eyes upon seeing Tsukushi and Rui, alive and well, in front of him; though what they were tears of Tsukushi could not really tell. It could have been from the pain of landing on his face; or it could be from seeing Tsukushi and Rui together; or it could even be the fact that they were genuinely alive and well, for only the day before had Papa lamented over Tsukushi's one day trip to Paris as if she was going to be away for the year. He had even predicted that the plane would drop out of the sky like a fly, and had pleaded with Tsukushi to be constantly vigilant of in flight turbulence.

"Oh, Tsukushi," wailed Papa as he latched onto Tsukushi, much to her embarrassment as tears started streaming down Rui's face - in laughter, of course. "I'm so glad to see you, safe and sound! What would happen if we lost our golden egg laying goose?"

"Pa...pa..." mumbled Tsukushi darkly. So that was the reason he was so happy to see me...

She was about to pinch his cheeks - hard - when Mama bustled out of the kitchen with their last dish (luncheon meat), and Papa subsequently removed himself from Tsukushi's zone of control.

With the plates all set up, the five of them sat down for dinner, and naturally, the topic of conversation was Tsukushi and Rui's trip to France. Mama and Papa's main interest, as it turned out, was not the actual trip to France, but rather, how Domyouji was.

"Did you see him?" asked Mama eagerly.

"Yes," answered Tsukushi evasively, feeling a sudden pang of loneliness from being apart from him.

"Did he hold you romantically in his arms? Like this?" said Papa, demonstrating by wrapping his arms around himself and wiggling around in a suggestive way.

"Papa!" cried Tsukushi aghast.

"Was brother Domyouji well?" asked Susumu.

"Yeah, he was. A brute, as ever. He's still got his monstrous strength," said Tsukushi. "He saved me from a crazed murderer."

"Wow! Was it like a damsel in distress scene?" cried Papa excitedly, forgetting that the main point in Tsukushi's statement was that she was actually in danger. His imagination was taking him too far. He fell back, attempting to lie in a sexy pose. "Did you cry out to him, 'Oh, please, save me!'?"

Tsukushi was about to kick him for thinking up such a preposterous question when Susumu saved her from the need and asked the question that they should've first asked her.

"Oh yeah," said Susumu. "How was the trip? Did you enjoy it?"

"It was great!" answered Tsukushi, finally getting the cue to speak about her experience abroad. "It was the first time I've been there - and Shizuka looked so beautifu-"

Tsukushi stopped, and looked at Rui hesitantly.

"What's wrong?" asked Rui, looking back at her in surprise.

"N-nothing," muttered Tsukushi. "Paris was pretty cold, wasn't it, Rui?"

"Yes. It wasn't like this the last time I was there," he replied. He picked up a piece of fish and continued eating as if nothing had happened, leaving Tsukushi feeling stupidly awkward for bringing Shizuka up.

As dinner went by, Mama and Papa moved onto other topics for discussion, and Tsukushi found herself free to ask Rui what she had been meaning to ask him on the plane. Once she was sure Mama and Papa were not listening in (they were talking about how Susumu's day at school was, and Mama was simultaneously complaining about the rising price of eggs), Tsukushi asked, "Rui, I've been meaning to ask you this..."

She hesitated.

Was it a good idea to even bring this up?

But her desire for an answer to her question was much greater than her desire not to hurt Rui's feelings.

"Mmm?" replied Rui, his mouth full of rice. He indicated that he was listening to her.

"It's just that I was thinking," began Tsukushi, trying to sound nonchalant. "How did you manage to maintain a long distance relationship with Shizuka?"

"Huh?" said Rui, surprised. Tsukushi could tell that she had dropped it like a bolt from the blue, because Rui accidentally spat out some of his rice.

"Well, you know," continued Tsukushi hurriedly, whilst trying to maintain that casual tone of voice that she thought she was holding so well onto. "You're the only one I can think of that has had a long distance relationship, and I was wondering if you had any pointers for me. Yeah! That's all! Ha ha ha!"

Tsukushi forced out a jovial laugh, though, obviously, the intuitive Rui did not buy it. For a moment, he stared at her, sizing her up, before he asked bluntly, "Are you having relationship problems with Tsukasa?"

It was Tsukushi's turn to choke on her food. He had almost hit bullseye with that one.

"Well, no," began Tsukushi truthfully, wiping the food from the side of her mouth in an effort to maintain dignity. She knew that Domyouji still loved her as much as she loved him. "It's just that ... I get the feeling that we are growing apart because we barely have time to talk to each other. The busy schedules that we have, the differences in time zone, and even the distance between us - I thought our love would be strong enough to completely overcome these barriers, but I can see I was wrong. And without communication, any relationship between two people is bound to break down, no matter how strong..."

Rui paused thoughtfully for a moment as he chewed on his food. After he had swallowed it and cleared his voice, he replied, "I think you're asking the wrong person for advice, Makino."

"Why? But you and Shizuka -"

Rui smiled wanly at her. "To begin with, it wasn't really long distance, nor was it much of a relationship. It was just my one sided infatuation with Shizuka; it would've been a relationship if she had reciprocated my feelings. Secondly, it was only long distance for the shortest period of time before you encouraged me and I moved over to Paris to be with her."

"Oh," said Tsukushi, downcast. She couldn't hide her disappointment; she had expected the level-headed Rui to be able to give her sound advice.

"I wish I could use my experience to help you," said Rui ruefully. "But as you encouraged me to go after Shizuka back then, I can only give you back your own advice. You can't be content just sitting here and waiting for him to come back. Go after Tsukasa."

"I can't move to New York," sighed Tsukushi. "You know that. Who's going to support the family if I go? We'll be one source of income short, and on top of that, my family will have to support my living in a foreign country, which will make us further poorer than we need to be."

"I'm sure Tsukasa can support you," teased Rui, his eyes twinkling. "He'll be over the moon if you were there with him."

"Domyouji's my boyfriend, not my bank account," Tsukushi said flatly.

"I almost forgot how stubborn you were, after not going to school with you for a year," said Rui, smiling mischievously at her. "Perhaps its because, with Tsukasa gone, you have no one to argue with and no one to be stubborn against."

"Ha ha ha. I still have the cronies at Eitoku to vent my anger against."

The dinner went on without incidence until Rui picked up a piece of luncheon meat. Staring in fascination at the piece of meat held delicately between his pair of chopsticks, Rui asked, "Is this edible?"

Tsukushi sprayed her rice all over Papa's face.

Once she had recovered from the sheer absurdity of Rui's question, she answered, "Well, it is. It's just different bits of meat from different parts of different animals that's been processed in a factory and flavoured."

As an afterthought, she added, "It's also highly nutritious and good value for a family on a budget."

"Wow," said Rui, placing it gently on top of his rice as he stared at it in wide eyed wonderment. "I never knew such things existed!"

Rich people have probably never eaten anything processed in a factory, thought Tsukushi.

After looking at it for a little bit longer, Rui took a bite of it. He chewed it for a while before commenting, "You have many exotic foods here."

"Yes, yes," said Mama looking very pleased. She seemed to have taken Rui's judgment of luncheon meat a bit too personally. "And you're more than welcome to come anytime for dinner and try as many exotic dishes as you want!"

"I'd be honoured to," answered Rui politely.

"Mama, stop deceiving Rui into thinking that what we eat is exotic!" scowled Tsukushi.

Dinner was soon over, and before Rui could leave to catch up on his beauty sleep, Papa had stopped him to play more card games. It was revenge for winning him last time, Papa had said. But deep down, Tsukushi knew that Papa and Susumu enjoyed Rui's company very much.

When Rui first came over to Tsukushi's house because he had been worried about how she was coping after Tsukasa left for New York, Mama and Papa had treated him as if he were a second Domyouji; a bank account of sorts, some kind of financial backup just in case Tsukushi's relationship with Domyouji failed. They wined and dined him, much to Rui's amusement and Tsukushi's annoyance.

But as her family grew to know him better, Rui was treated more like a person that a stash of wealth. Although Mama still looked at him as if he were a walking money tree, Papa had grown to be particularly fond of Rui; Rui played the games with Papa that Tsukushi and even Susumu refused to. Tsukushi had told Rui that he could decline playing those childish games with Papa if he wanted to, but soon, she realised that Rui enjoyed playing games with Papa too - he had said it made him feel warm in a way that he didn't feel at his own home.

"I wish I could play games with my father just like how I play games with Papa," Rui had once told her. "I guess that's why I like coming here. Your family is full of warmth."

Tsukushi had never realised how much his home environment had shaped Rui into who he was today. As she came to think about it, she had never caught a glimpse of his parents before in his cold, silent home.

"Plus," Rui had added mischievously. "Mama and Papa are funny. I wish my parents were as rolly-polly."

Looking at Rui's lithe figure as he played snap with Papa and Susumu, Tsukushi chuckled. She had to admit it was probably true; his parents were probably not rolly-polly, considering how tall and thin Rui was. She resumed checking her email, which she had commenced straight after dinner. There was, as she had expected, no new emails from Domyouji, despite her click the refresh button continuously.

He's probably not back yet, she thought. Or he's probably too busy.

Closing her laptop shut, she joined the three of them in their game of snap. Time flew by quickly as they were having fun; and at the end of the night, Rui, had, of course, won most games. Papa complained that it was because Rui had longer arms and so he could stretch further; Tsukushi told Papa he lost because he had slow reflexes.

"I should be going now," said Rui, getting up and grabbing his jacket. "Thank you for letting me stay over."

"It was our pleasure," chorused the adoring Makino family, much to Tsukushi's disgust.

"I'll walk you out," said Tsukushi, pulling her shoes on and shooing Rui out before her family could set Rui up on a pedestal to be worshipped. Together, they stepped out into the cool night breeze. Because Tsukushi lived on the outskirts of the city, it was much quieter here at night. They walked slowly, side by side, in a comfortable silence only broken by the sound of insects humming.

"How'd you feel when you saw Shizuka getting married to another man?" asked Tsukushi. This question had been irking her, but she wasn't sure if it had been right to ask him when they were in France in front of the F3, or in front of her family. Now seemed to be a good opportunity when they were both alone and had no other topic of conversation.

Rui paused for a moment. "Akira and Soujiro asked exactly the same thing, so I'll tell you what I told them. The truth is, I didn't feel anything."

"Oh," said Tsukushi, relieved, though not entirely convinced. She didn't want to see him spiralling into the strange defensive mechanism of trying to find comfort in other girls as he had the last time he found that Shizuka had no interest in him, yet she had the feeling that he had long forgotten Shizuka.

"In fact," continued Rui slowly. "I was actually very happy to see Shizuka marry someone she loved very much. Because she was happy, I was happy. But do you want to know what the strangest thing is?"

"What?" asked Tsukushi, curious.

Rui didn't answer her immediately. It was then that they reached his car. His back was towards her, and Tsukushi noticed that Rui's hand was shaking as he grasped the handle of the door.

"I didn't feel anything when I saw Shizuka looking her very best, about to marry another man."

He paused.

"But when I saw you and Tsukasa kissing..."

He turned around to her; Tsukushi noticed that there was a twinge of melancholy marring his usually impassive face as he averted his gaze from her.

"...I felt ... jealous."

Tsukushi felt her heart racing and her cheeks heating up, though Rui's face had once again become impassive. The two of them just stood there, staring at each other as if the flow of time had stopped. Despite being outside in the cool of the night, the atmosphere felt strangely heavy.

A look of enlightenment dawned on Rui's face; it looked as if he had just realised something.

"Perhaps... I am still in love with you."


To be continued...

Any feedback is appreciated, whether it be I made some sort of grammatical boo boo or if the spaces between my words were eaten by the hungry delete key.

I need a beta reader who will slap me if my characters go OOC. Please:)

Notes:

1. Tsukushi was hesitant to discuss any subject matter relating to Shizuka because she, unlike the F3, was not there when they heard that Rui had no hard feelings about Shizuka marrying.