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Burnt Sienna: Four

Sora squatted in front of a cardboard box, squinting at the label, which was scrawled with black permanent marker in messy, bubbly Hangul.

It figures, Sora thought wryly, standing up and putting her fists on her hips, cocking her head to the side. The box that I really need is at the bottom of the stack.

She'd been in Japan for over a week now, and her only motivation for unpacking was the fact that she was running out of clothes. She had been living out of the two suitcases she had packed for the plane ride, and she was in no mood to do laundry. Shin had always been the one to do that. The one time he had tired to teach her, she had put detergent where the fabric softener belonged, and somehow, in the end they were covered in suds and the clothes hadn't been cleaned.

Sora sighed and reached up for the box crowning the stack, grunting and pulling it down, resting it on her head and slowly lowering it to the floor. Five minutes later, she had the box she needed open, and clothes were heaped on the floor as she rummaged through, looking for what she needed.

She came up with a bra that looked like it might be too big, underwear that she didn't ever remember wearing, a pair of jeans that she liked, and an old shirt of Shin's: a thick, fleecy dark blue hoodie.

Sora sighed. She didn't have a shirt to wear underneath it, but the sweatshirt smelled comfortingly of spicy cologne mixed with a whiff of soju and a bit of cigarette smoke. She buried her face in the soft cotton and inhaled deeply, sighing again when the zipper scratched her cheek.

She hated unpacking.

X

Shin had worn that sweatshirt on their first date, because, as he explained as they stood under the awning of an outdoor café, watching rain pour from the sky, it had looked like rain when he had left his house that morning, and he wanted to have something to cover her with. Sora could remember smiling and slipping her hand in his, and him grinning as water dripped from his shaggy hair and down the straight line of his nose.

He was sweet, shy, and outrageously flirtatious, all at the same time, and for the week after the incident in her apartment (her last week in Korea without a boyfriend and a horde of jealous girls watching and threatening her), Sora blushed more than she ever had in her lifetime. He sat behind her in class, and so he passed her notes complimenting everything from her handwriting to her socks, pulled on her hair, and smiled sweetly when she turned around to glare at him. Her easygoing best friend and seat partner, JiEun, laughed and told him off when the teacher wasn't looking, though they all knew that she was joking and both Sora and Shin were ridiculously infatuated with each other.

He finally asked her out while following her through the halls as she tried to find JiEun on a Friday afternoon. She'd been absentmindedly replying to his teasing when he grabbed her wrist and asked her if she was free on Saturday, because the amusement park was open, and if she didn't want to go there, there were plenty of restaurants that he could think of taking her to. She hadn't been paying attention the first time he asked her, and when he called her name with a loud "Yah!" she had snapped back to reality and his expectant grin, and looked at him wide eyes. He had brushed her bangs off her face, squeezed her hand in his, and asked her again, and she had nodded wordlessly as the people milling around them began to stop and whisper curiously. He had smiled, adjusted the strap of his messenger bag, and told her that he would pick her up at eleven, saying with a sly smile that he already knew where she lived.

If the girls around them hadn't been seething with anger and jealousy before, they were at that moment, and Shin had merely laughed, pulled a beanie over his hair, and asked her if she was coming, because JiEun had said to meet her at the front doors. She had nodded numbly and followed him, and somewhere along the short walk, he took her hand in his, lacing his fingers with hers, and smiled at her reassuringly.

He was waiting in the lobby of her apartment building at exactly eleven o'clock, wearing long, comfortably loose jeans whose frayed hems covered battered Converse, and the blue sweatshirt over a simple white T-shirt. His hands had been pushed into his pockets, his posture slightly slouched, and Sora had to pinch herself to keep from staring so obviously, because that had been her first time seeing him in something other than the school uniform, and he looked good. She had never realized that his hair was so black and longish and silky, or noticed the way his shaggy bangs fell into his somber eyes. She had never realized that his skin was so smooth and pale or that his lips were so soft and kissable, and she didn't know how she had missed the confidence and quiet power in his seemingly neutral stance. At school, he had always been smiling and laughing and joking, but here he was quiet and intense.

His face had changed the minute she stepped closer, however. His eyes lit up, his lips spread into a sweet grin, and his cheeks dimpled, and she didn't see that serious, brooding expression of his for the rest of the date.

Instead of taking her to the amusement park or one of the many restaurants, Shin took her all around Seoul, dragging her around with city with child-like enthusiasm, laughing and buying her mounds of food from street-side stalls, insisting that there was no way she would get sick from the food or from eating too much, because he had seen her and JiEun after school at the café, pigging out on ice cream and coffee and ramen noodles. Sora had laughed and followed him around as he bounded from place to place, holding her hand the whole time as they alternately walked and ran.

He took her to the bar that he and his friends went to over the weekends, yelling cheerfully to the bartender and introducing Sora to the room, grinning widely. He took her to the convenience store close to his house, introducing the owner as the nice woman that sold his cigarettes for cheaper and gave him bandages for free when he got into fights. The elderly woman had smiled at her and told her that "Shinnie" was a sweet kid that needed some guidance, and Sora had laughed as Shin blushed a bit and coughed while shuffling his feet. The shop owner told her to visit sometime and they would talk more about Shin, and he had yelped and hurriedly dragged her out of the shop as Sora waved goodbye.

He kissed for the first time on that date, and Sora was surprised—but not, not really—that she had let him. Of the three previous boys that she had agreed to see past the first date, she hadn't allowed two to hold her hand until the second date, and only one had kissed her (on the fifth date, no less). Shin, on the other hand, had simply been walking down the street, swinging their clasped hands back and forth when he stopped abruptly and asked her if she wanted to know how much he liked her.

It had started drizzling around that moment, and Sora had been in Korea long enough to know that at any second, the sky would open up and soak them to the bone. He had kept her hand in his and looked at her with warm brown eyes as water droplets beaded on his long eyelashes and his cheeks dimpled softly as a small smile played on his full lips. She had nodded wordlessly as the rain began to fall harder and faster, and her hair began to stick to her neck and her shirt began to soak through and cling to her skin.

He had smiled fully, cupping her cheek in his hand and brushing her wet bangs from her eyes, and he had kissed her softly, keeping his lips on hers for a few seconds before pulling away, draping his slightly damp sweatshirt over her shoulders, and pulling her under the awning of the nearby café and grinning again.

He refused to take his sweatshirt back later, citing the fact that he was wearing long sleeves and wouldn't be cold, while she was wearing a white, short-sleeved T-shirt (with a purple bra underneath, he noted with a slightly lecherous grin).

After her first encounter with him (the time that he walked her from school to her apartment), she had expected him to be stereotypically dark and sexy, yet he was also cute, playful, and enthusiastic, laughing readily at jokes and coming up with different, ridiculous games to play with his and her friends. She felt like a mother sometimes, watching him play, but most of the time he made her either laugh or shiver.

The second time he seriously kissed her had been around a week later at one in the morning, outside a pounding, teeming club in a not-so-reputable district of Seoul. He had been half-drunk and very lucid and she had been completely inebriated and incoherent. She was an angry drunk, and she had yelled something at him, and he had glared and left her at the bar, walking out the door with his hands in his pockets. She had followed him outside, stumbling and tripping, and she had yelled his name, following him into a dark alley, and he had lifted her up by her elbows, pushed her back against the rough brick wall, and kissed her, hard.

She woke up the next morning in his bed, wearing soft, clean clothing that obviously wasn't hers, and after she finished fielding a frantic call from her mother, he walked into the room with two cups of coffee, looking sleepy and rumpled. The soft kiss that he pressed to her cheek somehow turned into another round of rough, sweaty sex, and as he rolled off of her and pulled the covers over their close, trembling forms, he asked her to be his girlfriend.

She said yes, of course.

X

Sora found herself sitting across from Yamato on the subway; she was going shopping, and he told her he had another meeting with his manager in a (seemingly characteristic) quiet, mellow tones. His voice was a low, soothing, chocolate-swirled baritone that seemed to wrap around her and pull her into something quite like serenity, and Sora appreciated this, though she would rather talk to him in the comfort of Mimi's apartment or in a restaurant, rather than on the subway, surrounded by lecherous, middle-aged businessmen and uppity housewives.

He got off at the same stop as her, followed up her up the stairs, and turned in the same direction that she did, and she was about to tell him to stop stalking her when he laughed out loud.

"I'm not following you," Yamato said calmly. His hands were in his pockets and his shoulders slouched. Sora shrugged and adjusted the strap of her bag, momentarily wondering why she had bothered bringing a purse with her this time when she normally just stuffed money into her pockets and hoped it was enough.

"I didn't think you were," she said, allowing herself a small smile.

"It's just…" he trailed off.

"Shibuya is a good place to shop and have an office, I know," Sora replied. "My offices are here, too, remember?"

He nodded wordlessly, and Sora found it funny that his hair didn't move, even as his head bobbed and the wind rustled through the streets, carding through her hair and ruffling her bangs.

"I'll see you later, then," Sora said, fingering a zipper on her purse and shifting her feet. "I don't want to make you late for your meeting."

"Do you want to meet up later?" he asked quietly, and Sora looked up, surprised.

"That's fine. What time?"

He gave her a time and she scribbled it on her palm with a pen that she found at the bottom of her bag. He smiled slightly and she waited for him to walk away before turning and heading toward the nearest café.

She was surprised when he called half an hour later to tell her that he was finished with whatever business he had. She told him to come to the store she was in, and he walked in five minutes later with a paper coffee cup and a somber look on his handsome face.

"Hi," Sora offered, mildly surprised.

He nodded to acknowledge her, and Sora looked down at the pair of jeans in her hand, running her fingers over the stitching and rivets and the rough creases of the pockets.

"Do you want to do something?"

"Don't rush," he replied, finishing whatever had been in cup and throwing it into a trashcan by the cashier's station. "I don't have anything else to do today."

"I'm your amusement?"

"Yes." He quirked an eyebrow and lifted the right corner of his mouth. Sora wondered if he ever fully smiled, with his heart beating and bleeding in his lips and his teeth gleaming through the red.

"Taichi said you were damaged," he said abruptly, and Sora could honestly say that it was the most effective damper to throw on a conversation possible.

"Taichi's a douchebag," she muttered, throwing the jeans back onto the shelf and picking up another pair, a darker one with bleach spots splattered across the legs.

"He wouldn't say why," Yamato continued.

"Good."

"Takenouchi Sora, why are you damaged?"

Sora balled the pair of jeans up and threw it back onto the shelf, gathered her purse and coat, and stalked out of the shop, muttering an apology to the salesclerk as she passed. She could hear him following after her, his footsteps long and light on the concrete.

"Stop following me."

"You didn't answer my question."

"Are you always this inconsiderate?"

He was silent.

"You didn't answer my question," Sora said, mimicking his previous response in a high, irritated voice. He remained silent, and she scoffed. "That's what I thought."

"Takenouchi, wait!"

So they were back to surnames. Sora hiked her purse up on her shoulder and zipped her puffy winter coat up to her chin, pushing her hands into her pockets, and turning around. "I'll see you around, maybe, Ishida."

"Come off it, Takenouchi Sora. There's nothing in this world that—"

"Why do you sleep?"

"Eh?"

"Why do you sleep?" Sora repeated irritably, brushing her hair from her face and looking at him fiercely.

"I wasn't good at science, at least biology," he said, scratching his head. "Something to do with synapses, right?"

"No," she replied. "I don't mean physically or biologically or neurologically. Simply. Why do we sleep? Why do we need sleep?"

"To rest," he replied, drawing his pale blond eyebrows together. "At least, I do."

"I sleep to dream," Sora said quietly, tugging her fingers through her hair and crossing her arms.

"What does this have to do with…?"

"Ishida, why do people dream?"

"REM cycle?"

"I'm not interested in the science behind it, and you're not—fuck it, I'm going." Sora turned on her heel and stepped forward once before his hand landed on her shoulder, effectively grounding her. She shrugged him off.

"To remember," he said quietly, grabbing her wrist in her hand and keeping her there. "Dreams are better than reality, aren't they?"

Sora shook herself free once more and looked at him, hoping for something that would tell her that he was really only guessing and that he had no idea what he was talking about. She hadn't been looking for someone to relate to; she had been hoping that he would be confused and leave her alone.

"My mother died two months ago," he said.

Sora nodded, not exactly sure how to react.

"What about you? Why do you run to dreamscapes?"

Sora had read his lyrics once, when she was still in Korea. She'd been going to the hospital regularly by then, and the ride there, whether by taxi or subway, was long and boring. She bought magazines from a newsstand owned by a middle-aged Japanese man from Osaka, and though her Japanese had deteriorated to the point that she couldn't understand his heavily accented speech, they had long conversations and he sold her his old Japanese magazines. She remembered reading an interview one of the magazines had conducted with Bible Kiss Bible, with Yamato reciting some lyrics and explaining the deeper meaning. She couldn't remember that contrived deeper meaning, but she did remember the lyrics and the fact that they had been as raw as she had felt at that time. Two months ago, roughly.

Sora unzipped her coat and ran her fingers around her neck, clutching at the thin silver chain that was hidden away under her shirt, and pulling it out. A white-gold ring, set with a multi-faceted diamond, hung from the chain, catching the light and glimmering almost ethereally as it swayed in the cold winter wind, and Sora smiled sadly as Yamato squinted at it and reached forward to touch it. She snatched it away before he could and looked up at him, hoping her eyes were opened as wide as they felt or that the tip her nose wasn't turning red, like it did when she was on the verge of some extreme emotion.

"I was married," she said hesitantly, breaking eye contact and looking at the ring cupped in her palm, then at the ground.

He was quiet, and Sora took it as her cue to continue.

"I was married for five years, in Korea."

"To who?"

"I told you about Lee Shin, didn't I?"

"You walked away right after you did, yes."

"Him." Sora tucked the chain away underneath her shirt.

"What happened to him? He's not here in Shibuya with you, is he?" Yamato looked nonchalant as he pushed his hands into his pockets. Sora would normally say that she appreciated nonchalance, but not to the point where it robbed a person of his or her personality, the way it did with Yamato.

Sora sighed and zipped her coat again.

"He died, a month ago."

A/N: Is this a legitimate cliffhanger? Is this even a cliffhanger? ToT Iunno.

So! How do you like it? Does it seem like it has a plot? Main characters? Am I dwelling far too much on the past? Should I stick some Sorato action in? Do you guys like the characterization? Writing?

I should probably shoot myself or something violent and life-ending like that. I'm supposed to be studying for finals. Calculus is going to fuck me over completely. But alas, I had to write; that story-bug thing kept biting me.

Thank you to all the people that I couldn't reply to with nifty review reply thing. :)

And…tell me what you think. :D