Disclaimer: I do not own Honey and Clover, but I wonder how it would taste.

Brightdown

A year had come and gone again, like it always seemed to, stealing quietly from Shuu-chan's life.

That being said, the art professor on sabbatical sat pondering at his relative's side, out in the country, out on the green. She really liked this place. He wouldn't leave if she never did.

Hagu.

"Hagu," Shuuji said aloud, not stopping himself. The honey girl, dainty and refreshed by the air, was looking toward him, knees drawn up to her chest. He earned a slight smile.

"Hagu-chan, I love you." He'd said it so many other times before. This one—this one was special, though. More was meant, not to be taken with a grain of salt.

"Thank you. I love you, too," she said. There was no breeze today, nothing to stir up her loose locks. Today, she had set her hair in curls, a bit of a practice for her hand.

She had stopped saying it was painful long ago. It was true he didn't want to hear her say that. There was progress, much of it. So much of it that Shuuji could tear at the thought. He'd cried like a youth, like a baby, at times. When she wasn't looking, when she was. Surprisingly, she never made him feel guilty about it.

A man much older than her—weeping for her—must have been humbling.

Presently, he fingered that one hand, softly raking his own large fingers against the fragile skin. The fingers flinched, and he smiled at them. Then, he smiled at her face.

"I've never loved anyone more," he said.

She couldn't answer him, only taking a moment to soak up his verbal affection. He had to ask himself how much more he could love her.

HCHCHCHC

That afternoon she wanted a nap. The place they were renting, a very modest apartment, was enough to accommodate their feelings and belongings. Just the two of them, and they were happy with each other. Hopefully she was happy with just him. Practicing her paintings as well, but with him, it was easier to get along through the days.

A call from Morita, that bratty man, checking up on Hagu's "progress" and Shuuji's lecherous behavior.

"I love her," Shuu frowned into the phone.

"I know… We're both perverts, eh? I should knock you around some again."

"You can do that when you visit," Shuu prodded, bored.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll bring you a present. I'll be graduating again, ya know? Don't really wanna…"

"I'm going to hang up, Morita. Go graduate already."

"Yeah, yeah…" And Morita hung up on Shuu instead.

He sighed into his hand, rubbing his scalp. The faint sound of Hagu's breathing reached him, and he tiptoed to her pallet on the floor. Her hair had come undone and splayed out in rivers, meandering down her pillow. She was very bright.

Very bright and uncomplicated. In the hospital, she had been very complicated, complex, perplexed unto herself. Here, it was…it was terrifically…

Something. He'd figure it out. Then she'd paint it.

The woman he was watching noticed his eye's weight, and she opened hers, blinking up at him. He promptly got down onto his haunches to blink at her in turn. She grinned.

It was a remarkable thing, but she had grown over the year. From a girl into a lady, even in her self-hurt and contemplation over her arm. She had wanted to paint. So she was painting, albeit slowly and calculated. Had she wanted to grow, too? Was she getting her wish?

"Can I kiss you?" he blushed. For Shuu, boyhood was still close at hand. He was more fifteen than thirty-five.

"You can, you don't have to ask…" she whispered, barely audible, very reassuring.

"Okay." So he did. It was chaste; just what he thought he should be giving her. Somehow, he'd rather do this than tell her about his love. This ached less. Maybe it was because he had to articulate the connotations of his words. This…he could do with just linking their bodies, if only for a second.

When he pulled up, her right hand was on his shirt, yanking at a button.

"What's wrong, Hagu?" he asked, uneasy.

"Please sleep with me? Naps are good with you."

"Ah…" So he did. She fit against his chest, her back to him, very hot. He smiled to himself, but had to press himself to keep her from coming in contact with anything that would scare her away from their gradual love. Hagu seemed so young, like an innocent girl. He wasn't sure how to introduce her to anything like that.

HCHCHCHC

Their nap was soon over, but when night fell and ordered them to sleep for real, Hagu led Shuu by the hand from the bathroom sink, where he had been rinsing out his mouth. She sat upon the mat and patted the bed with her right hand, meanwhile the other tightening around his.

The semi-darkness shrouded her brightness, and he could feel that memory lacerating his heart. It was too heart-wrenching to see her hair almost dirty in the dark lighting. But as the moon's rays reflected off her, his heart calmed.

"Sleep with me?" she mused up at him before gently tugging him down. He met her gaze, eye-level. He liked being able to do this, meeting her eyes. Without her on the continent years back, it had depressed everything he was made of.

He quickly acquiesced, but he really wanted to sleep at her side. She probably knew that.

"Um…"

"Yeah?" he whispered into her hair.

"I meant…um… Shuu-chan?"

He pricked up his ears, gasping inside. The man felt she was about to say something that would definitely erase any depressing factors he might have dealt with throughout the day. He would stop smoking now. He would never need the nicotine again.

"Shuu-chan…I meant…" She blushed in the darkness and scooted closer, turning over to view him on her left side.

She was innocent, but she was asking him for this. The woman placed his hand on a handful of breast, over the cotton material, and said nothing else. They didn't say anything comprehensible. It wasn't fair to the boys.

Shuu had it all. She was unfathomably erotic, simply biting his thumb the way she had bit him in the hospital. This pain was different; it would go away. She cried; he let her. She bit harder; he let her. She wanted this, and he let her want this. All the same, it was quite difficult to keep himself from crying.

Shuu had her around him, gracing him with a consummated love, and he had to admit to himself that yeah, yes, he had been waiting for this.

As he softened inside of her, the condom from his wallet loosening from his anatomy, Heaven knew she would remain sweet and innocent to him. The moon told him so, reflecting off her hair. He petted the brightness, unmoving and simply being.