Disclaimer: Characters are not mine.


Aftermath Part 1: Letting Go

"Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live."

He had never understood what she meant when she said it to him about three years ago…until now.

Hanabishi Recca smiled wryly at the thought as he sat beside the hospital bed where his best friend, Kirisawa Fuuko is lying.

You just have to go practical on me, don't you, Fuuko?

He thought sourly, reaching out to touch her hand and gently caressing it.

It was taken from one of her favorite books, not that she has a huge collection of books and in all honesty, she hardly reads. Recca was actually shocked when he found out that she has a favorite and that she actually remembered lines from it. Anyway, the line was from the book Tuesdays with Morrie, and she had lived as an embodiment of it ever since.

She had showed more passion for life, which drove her to seek challenges that seemed insurmountable for most people.

Fuuko knew she won't win all the time, but still she persevered to win most.

That's why it's so hard to see her like this, unmoving as if frozen by time, lying immobile on the hospital bed. He had gotten used to seeing her running carefree, dancing with the wind.

Accidents happen.

It's a fact.

But it's a fact that is hard to accept when it happens to someone you hold close at heart.

She's been in the hospital for a month already and hasn't woken up since.

And there's a possibility that she will never--

Recca immediately stopped his train of thought, not wanting to acknowledge it.

Besides, the doctor had assured them that there's a high probability that Fuuko will be able to recover because inspite of her severe injuries she's still alive.

She has that strong will to live.

So Recca forced a smile and gave Fuuko's hand a squeeze.

"Knowing you, Fuuko, you can do it." He murmured, offering a silent prayer to the gods that she can hear him. "So hurry up and wake up already."

He waited for a response, even a hitch from her breathing will do.

But all that met his ears are the sounds of the machines that are strapped all over Fuuko's body.

Recca sighed in disappointment, resting his forehead on the bed next to their joined hands.

Then the door opened, which made Recca look up.

A guy with pony-tailed silver black hair and icy blue eyes entered with a bouquet of flowers.

"Mikagami." Recca acknowledged with a nod.

Mikagami Tokiya nodded back as he approached the bed and placed the bouquet on the table beside the hospital bed.

"How is she?" He asked quietly.

"Still the same, but at least she's not having the occasional fevers anymore." Recca replied, watching Fuuko. Then he looked back up at Tokiya and noticed his weary expression. "Haven't gotten any sleep?"

Tokiya looked at him in mild surprise and snorted.

"Yes, been up all night studying for the entrance exam at Todai."

"When will it be?"

"A week from now."

"Maybe you should go home and take a nap first. I'll be here until Fuuko's father gets here anyway." Recca suggested.

"No, it's okay. I'd rather be here really." Tokiya answered quietly, looking rather distant.

Recca mentally shrugged and then stood up, letting go of Fuuko's hand. "I'll take a break then, if you don't mind, so could you please watch over her?"

"No need to ask." Tokiya assured, pulling up a chair for him to sit on.

Recca smiled his thanks and headed towards the door.

The whole gang has been taking turns watching over Fuuko.

They even had offered to stay for the night shift, but Fuuko's father and older brother kept insisting that they leave the night watch to both of them since the gang's always there when they're not around especially during mornings and afternoons.

But what really surprised Recca is the very presence of so-called ice prince, Tokiya.

He hardly showed concern to them except for Yanagi, which is why Recca hadn't expect that he'd be the first person he'd see in the hospital with Fuuko, not to mention, how distraught he had been that day when the accident had happen. To put it bluntly, Recca hadn't expected to see traces of tears on Tokiya's face.

But then again, the passed few months before the accident Yanagi had mentioned that there was something different with Tokiya, and even Fuuko.

He brushed the thought off since the chances were practically close to nothing since he was almost convinced that Tokiya was really a huge chunk of ice.

But when he saw Tokiya carrying a pint of Cookies 'n Cream ice cream, which suspiciously happens to be Fuuko's favorite flavor, and then going to the rooftop and giving it to Fuuko, he knew something was up.

He had asked Fuuko about it but she just laughed her head off, saying that she would be the last person Tokiya would confess feelings for.

But humor hardly reflected on Fuuko's face at that time.

Recca wasn't quite sure but it had seemed like she was in pain.

And although Fuuko is his best friend, it can be hard to decipher her thoughts sometimes because she's as good at hiding it as Tokiya, especially when she really doesn't want anyone to know. Plus she doesn't really like talking about emotional stuff like love.

Well, Tokiya, on the other hand, has always been difficult to talk to; much less figure out his thoughts so Recca decided that figuring out what's going on between them was a hopeless feat.

But now, he's almost sure that whatever friendship Tokiya and Fuuko have has somehow evolve into something else.

After Recca bought a cup of coffee at the vending machine, he headed back to Fuuko's hospital room and was surprised to see Tokiya sitting on one of the chairs outside.

"Why are you here? Did something happen?" Recca asked in panic.

"Calm down, Hanabishi." Tokiya replied calmly, without looking at Recca. "I just decided to sit here for a while. Fuuko's father and Yanagi are inside watching over her."

Recca absentmindedly nodded as he noticed that distant look on Tokiya's face again. He debated with himself whether he should ask Tokiya about it but then decided to just leave Tokiya alone to his thoughts and just sat down beside the ice prince.

Besides, he hardly thinks that Tokiya will tell him anything.

He offered the cup of coffee to Tokiya, but he politely declined.

Then, they sat there in silence.

After a while, Recca couldn't stand it anymore and finally spoke.

"Mikagami, do you like Fuuko?" He asked.

He watched from the corner of his eye as Tokiya slowly looked at him in surprise, which made him realize how direct his question had sounded.

"What do you mean?" Tokiya asked, looking away almost too quickly for his own liking.

"Don't pretend you didn't understand my question, Mikagami. But okay, I'll spell it out for you," Recca sighed in exasperation and staring intently at Tokiya, "Do you like her like I like Yanagi?"

Tokiya looked at Recca and narrowed his eyes as if gauging any hint of jest on his face. When he found none, he looked away without saying anything.

Recca wondered if he had offended the guy, but then again, he could be just being his usual antisocial self.

He was just about to shrug it off when he heard Tokiya mumble something.

"What?" He asked, leaning closer towards Tokiya. "Why are mumbling there like an idiot—"

"I said 'yes'—I like her." Tokiya repeated a little louder, shooting the flame caster with a glare. "Are you deaf?"

Recca was shocked at first at the unexpected confession, and then he smiled with satisfaction, throwing his empty cup in a nearby trash and placing his arms on the back of his head.

"Nope, heard you loud and clear." He beamed, quite smug that the ice block had confessed so easily. "Well, I'm glad. Better you than Domon."

Although Domon was also their friend and had been crushing over Fuuko for as long as he can remember, he knew from the start that he's not the one for Fuuko.

He's too weak, personality-wise, and would never be able to keep up with Fuuko's wit and strong stand.

Unlike Tokiya, who's also hardheaded most of the time, he knows how to handle Fuuko's temper.

But then Recca's protectiveness kicked in.

"Hey, look, Fuuko's my best friend, okay? If you ever hurt her—"

"I won't." At least, not anymore.

Recca saw something flashed on Tokiya's face for a second before he looked passive again. Was it regret? Guilt? Pain?

He wasn't sure.

Before he was even able to ask Tokiya about it, the door to Fuuko's hospital room opened and Yanagi stepped outside, looking a bit flustered.

Recca stood up and walked towards her.

He gave her a questioning look to which she answered by giving a brief glance at Tokiya before pulling Recca out of earshot.

They talked in hushed tones for a few moments and then Recca left all of a sudden.

Yanagi slowly approached Tokiya, who was looking at her expectantly, and sat down beside him.

"Is everything all right?" He asked, worry filling his face.

"Yes, of course." Yanagi answered with a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes, and then she changed the topic. "Tokiya-senpai, you'll be taking an entrance exam to Tokyo University, right?"

Tokiya looked at Yanagi, unsure of how to react by her obvious intent to change the subject.

But then he decided to just give a curt nod and answered, "Yes."

"What are you planning to take up?"

"I'm still debating between philosophy and political science."

"Ah, planning to take up law in the future?"

"Yes."

"Hmm, that's great. I can't wait to get into college as well."

"Have you decided on your course?"

"Yes. I've always wanted to be a teacher so I plan to take up education."

"Ah."

A pregnant pause took over for a few moments.

Then Yanagi placed a gentle hand on Tokiya's arm to get his full attention.

Brown eyes met icy blue eyes tentatively.

Yanagi noted the deep lines under Tokiya's eyes, signs of weariness, worry, and something else—perhaps, tears? She felt her heart ached at the sight. He has always had that sense of confidence and stance about him that makes you think that there's nothing that could make him crumble. It used to be so hard to read his thoughts and emotions. But now he's like an open book and a completely different person who looks like he might break down at any wrong mention of Fuuko's condition.

"Tokiya-senpai," Yanagi said, her voice wavering a little. She opened her mouth to speak and then closed it before finally saying, "Good luck on the exam."

Tokiya had a feeling that she was about to say something else and the thought caused his heart to throb with uncertainty and worry.

"What's going on, Yanagi?" He asked, his eyebrows crossing. "Is Fuuko okay?"

Yanagi smiled, but he could tell it was forced.

"Well, she still hasn't woken up but..." She trailed off.

He gave her a hesitant look before standing up and walking towards the room.

But before he could open the door, Recca came back with a doctor and a nurse.

"Mikagami, visiting hours are over so we better get going now." He said as the doctor and nurse went inside the room.

"Aren't we going to wait for what they have to say about Fuuko's condition?" Tokiya asked. "And Fuuko's father—"

"The doctor said they will take quite some time. You know, since they have all these machines they used to check on Fuuko." Recca said with a shrug. "So we just have to come back tomorrow. And well, that's Fuuko's old man we're talking about. Of course, he has to be there for his daughter."

Recca can be good at convincing people when he wants to but Tokiya looked anything but convinced.

"Come on, Mikagami, have mercy on me. Fuuko's going to kill me if she ever finds out that I'm letting you run around looking like a living corpse." Recca said jokingly with an exasperated sigh and grabbed Tokiya's arm, pulling him away from the door gently. "Have you looked in the mirror lately? You look exactly like that. Man, do even know what sleep means?"

Tokiya shot him a glare, or at least he tried to, but he realized that he hasn't got much strength. He didn't really want to give in to the sea monkey's request because it's as good as saying that for once Recca's right but he couldn't betray the fact that he would very much like to take even a short nap just to regain some of his strength before he comes back to watch over Fuuko. So, finally, he relented.

With one last longing look on Fuuko's door, Tokiya pulled his arm from Recca's grasp and started to walk towards the exit with Recca and Yanagi trailing behind him.

"Do you think he'll be okay?" Yanagi murmured softly to Recca, her eyes shining with unshed tears.

Recca wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a gently squeeze.

"No." He answered with a sad smile. "But he has to be because if not, there's nothing much we can do."

Yanagi buried her face on Recca's shoulder as she cried silently while Recca tried to soothe her.

"Let's just pray that Fuuko will be okay."

"But is it right for us to agree to that?"

Recca grew quiet at Yanagi's question.

Then with a sigh, he whispered.

"It's for the best."


A/N: sigh Gee, that was hard. So what do you think guys? Leave me a review, 'k?

Anyway, I would like to thank the following people who have graciously left me reviews:

wija-chan, clotiheart, yanagi-chyan, shenhui, carmela, larsha, alf05, loujane14, fuujin94, munlytAngel101, and lady lyris

thank you so much for your reviews, guys. Your reviews are like the oil that fuels me, the machine--to write. lol

Hope you will like and support Aftermath as well. mwah!