Important A/N:

I know, I know I have a lot of explaining to do. I haven't updated WYSLMT?. To tell you honestly, I'm in big trouble with regard to this story since I kind of lost interest. I've been working in a call center these past months and that was stressful. After that came the release of the licensure exam results and I'm happy to announce that I passed and I finally got my license to practice as a professional nurse. So I'm on a fix right now with me still planning out my future. But here I am, trying to finish what I have started. Continue cheering for me ok?

Summary: It wasn't his fault. It never was but one wrong turn destroyed everything. Love was never his forte. As he shields himself from the world, he found someone to hold onto...but will he be able to fight for this person against them, against the memory, against the desire...?

Disclaimer: I don't own POT...though I wish I did so that Ryoma and I can live happily ever after!!!

PS: "" for dialogs, '' for thoughts, italics for flashbacks, dreams and memories and bold for foreign, wired or text conversations. And oh! just to make sure no one's suing me or anything, the plot is conceptualized through the aid of one of CJ Michalski's works, Kokoro no Kagi wo Mitsukete. Although not the entire story itself...only a few bits.

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Having said those things Ryoma immediately fled from the orchard, his heart breaking piece by piece with every step he took. It was too much...too much for him to bear.

"You had me at my best. He had me at my worst."

"And you also broke my heart."

He felt a solitary tear trickled down his cheek. He couldn't fathom the turmoil inside his chest. He had said those words and yet why the rebellious beating of his heart? 'It's just a fist-sized organ but why does it wreck havoc with my being?' Needing something to anchor him to reality, he took his phone and dialed the one number to his salvation.

"Hello?" Came an unexpected voice from the other line although not unfamiliar at all.

"Umm Richard why are you the one answering Xander's phone? Where is he?"

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"Umm Richard why are you the one answering Xander's phone? Where is he?"

Richard winced at the questions fired at him by Ryoma. He nervously glanced at Xander who was finally asleep. Ryoga was asleep as well, holding the redhead's hand through the plastic barrier as well.

"Umm Xander is currently in a meeting Ryoma." He bit his lips at the lie he just uttered. "Would you like to leave a message?"

"N-no, I mean I would just like to know w-what time will you be home? I-I want—I mean I need to tell him something important."

He could hear how Ryoma's voice broke. 'Is he crying?' Richard ran-sacked his brain for a plausible answer knowing that after the chemotherapy session, Xander needed to stay for the night for intense monitoring.

"R-Richard?"

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"R-Richard?" Ryoma bit his lips, suppressing the sob that threatened to escape from his throat. His mind was in a haze and he couldn't think straight. More tears threatened to escape from his eyes.

"I'm sorry Ryoma-kun."

Ryoma felt his chest tightened and he was unable to suppressed a gasp for the much needed air.

"Wu-what? You're meaning to say—"

"I'm sorry but Xander and I are not going home for the night. The Grand Duke, Xander's grandfather requested for an immediate audience—"

Ryoma mind went blank. It seemed that all his neurons shut down instantaneously. Without the higher functions of his magnificent brain, the tears broke free from the will that was restraining it. Ryoma choked back a sob.

"You're n-not c-coming home? But you just arrived!" He protested. He could feel his knees shaking. "This is insane. I-I mean Xander told he he'll be back in no time." He fought hard, with the last ounce of control to keep himself from wailing.

'I need him right now! Please!' He bit his lip hard, keeping the outraged cry in his chest.

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Richard felt like throwing his self into a cliff upon sensing Ryoma's obvious distress. The lie that he and Xander had spun together grew from a small yarn ball into a hundred-yard cloth.

"I am really sorry Ryoma-kun. But you and I know that Xander's place in their family is very fragile. All these years, he has been striving to gain the respect of the main family." He took a deep breath before releasing his last attack.

"This could be his chance. I'm sure you'll understand."

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Upon hearing that statement, Ryoma's knees buckled and so he collapsed on the ground, hopeless, defeated.

He hastily wiped away those treacherous tears. "Y-yes I understand." He wrapped his free arm around his body as if to ward off the chill.

"I wouldn't want to ruin his chance." And with that, the phone slowly slipped from his grip and into the ground but he doesn't care.

For the only thing he knew as of the moment is that he is alone...abandoned... and even the thought of the redhead seemed to become cold comfort for him.

"I wouldn't want to ruin his life like I ruined mine."

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The line was long dead before Richard could actually blink back to reality. It should be impossible but Ryoma sounded more morose than that day his parents died. He couldn't suppress the shudder that went down his spine at how pained the golden-eyed man's voice was. 'What happened was inevitable.'

'That couldn't be helped Richard. You agreed to this. Xander has his share of the lies and so do you.' He slumped back onto the chair, successfully waking Ryoga in the process.

The golden-eyed man rubbed his tired eyes. "Oh, you're awake Richard?" He asked as he gently released Xander's hand to stretch his stiff muscles.

The butler couldn't say a thing but stare miserably at the young man. He just rubbed his hands against his face hard, wanting to wake up from such a horrible ordeal.

Ryoga's eyes narrowed upon seeing how upset the older man looked. "Hey, are you ok?"

Richard swallowed hard at the lump in his throat. His eyes felt warm but he couldn't let himself shed tears...not now.

"I expect you to honor your friend's wish and keep this matter from your brother as of the moment Ryoga." His eyes implored to the young man. 'I know that we're adding another lie-weaver but I need to do this.'

Ryoga's mood suddenly became sober. 'Yeah...' He glanced back to his sleeping friend. 'It wasn't a dream. The sick Xander is reality.'

"I just don't get it. Ryoma knowing his condition might just help him get better." He couldn't help but pout. "I mean, if I were in his position, I would want my loved ones to be there for me to help me recover."

Richard tried to massage his aching temple. "That's what I've been trying to tell him but he refuses. He's afraid that his condition will cause Ryoma to leave him and I bloody see light in his premise knowing that Ryoma-kun's ex-lovers are currently residing in the very same castle that he owns and my god his very own cousin..."

Ryoga's eyes widened in surprise. Never did he suspect that Richard knew all along. Fear gripping his heart, his head snapped back to Xander and upon seeing that his friend was still safe in lala land, he let out the breath he didn't know he was holding back.

"You knew?!" Ryoga whispered in outrage. He stood up from the chair and no-so-gently tugged Richard out of the room. "You knew that Atobe Keigo is my brother's ex-lover?!" The door was safely shut behind them when he hissed. This was something he did not expect at all.

Richard gently eased from Ryoga's death grip. "Yes I knew up to that part...wherein Young Master Keigo and his lovers go way back with Ryoma-kun."

"I'm not as gullible as my adorable charge is."

"I don't know if they plan to take Ryoma-kun back and leave Xander in the dark nor I don't know if your brother will go back to them and leave poor Xander to his—" Richard bit back the rest of his statement as he realized that Ryoga's expression turned from sober to grim.

Ryoga was astounded. He couldn't even stop Richard at his tirade for he knew that half of what he was saying is true. He just collapsed on the chair behind him and buried his face in his hands.

Richard let out a sigh and studied the man for a while. "Well? Are you going to confirm what I said or—"

"Look...I am not going to confirm everything ok? I know for a fact that Atobe and the others are here to take Ryoma back because they have realized what assholes they have been for the past two years." He bit his lip, trying to compose his thoughts. "I do not know how they're going about it but I know for sure that it has been hell for all of us. I mean...come on! In the span of few weeks our parents died then he and Xander got together. In addition to that, they are on the quest to find their happiness and now Xander is sick."

He raked his hand through his head. "The only person I'm worried about right know, for honesty's sake, is my brother. No one could ever imagine how he must've been struggling through all this."

Richard felt for the young man and his family. 'Indeed a lot has happened to them. They have their own share of pain as well.' He couldn't suppress the pang of guilt that hit him like a bullet from a shotgun. It shook him to the core that he finally decided it was best for him to sit as well.

"I think it would be best if you go home for now." He muttered, his eyes cast on the floor.

Ryoga looked up, looking more distraught than before. "What in bloody hell are you talking about? Why would I want to go home? Xander needs me—"

Richard glared at him, his angry steel eyes almost cutting the life out of him. "Didn't you just mention earlier that the person whom you're worried the most is your brother? Go home. Ryoma-kun could use a pair of ears to listen to." He glared down at the floor. "After what I said to him, I'm more sure than ever that he needs someone to be there for him right now."

Now Ryoga looked more confused than ever. "What?! I don't understand—"

Richard wanted to claw out the young man's eyes in frustration but he stilled his self. "Ryoma called in earlier sounding very upset. He requested to talk to Xander." Richard gritted his teeth. At least he's being honest this time.

"Since Xander is indisposed to talk to him I told him that we're not coming home for the evening for the grand duke, Xander's grandfather had requested for our presence at the main castle."

For the first time since they started talking, he held Ryoga's gaze long enough to make the younger man see how sorry he was not just through his words but through his eyes as well.

"I did not mean to sound the way I sounded earlier but I may have implied to Ryoma that Xander is not to be deterred because this is his chance of a lifetime. I didn't have any choice but to stand by Xander in this...no matter how atrocious things would turn out of be."

He finally broke eye contact and stared at his shaking hands. "I know what I did will only add up to the pile of lies that Xander and I weaved together but if it's for his sake; I am more than willing to weave lies until my fingers bled."

"That's how much I love my son Ryoga. Now how far are you willing to go for you brother?"

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Tired and weary, Ryoma could only turn to one thing he knew could numb him even just for a little while. Taking a bottle of whiskey, he locked his self inside Xander's room.

He has been staring at the ceiling for quite a while now, trying desperately to sort out his thoughts and his feelings as well.

'What the hells is wrong with me? Why am I feeling this way?' He closed his eyes and chewed on his lower lip hard. 'One moment I am promising Xander forever...then next my heart would go all giddy when I'm with the others.' He could feel his eyes warming up with tears once more.

'I'm so stupid.' He huffed out. 'I'm only running away from everything and there will come a time that there will be no more place left for me to run to.'

'What should I do when that time comes?'

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Ryoga reluctantly stepped out of his car and stared at the enormous building before him. He let out a deep sigh. The Hawthorne Castle isn't a place of dread but for now, he is most uncertain if he really wants to go inside and find his brother.

"Echizen Ryoga." A deep voice came to his ears, making him jolt.

He turned around and became worried of the solemn expression Yosuke has. 'Does he know something?' He couldn't help but ask his self. Despite the initial shock, he composed him self and gave the Japanese butler a small smile.

"Hello there Yosuke, my good man. How is everything in the castle?" He tried to sound natural. He didn't want to give away his unease with the situation they are all in.

"Well, pardon me for my language but everything seemed fucked up as of the moment Ryoga-san." Yosuke smirked, watching the younger man flinch.

"Wha-why would you say that Yosuke?" Ryoga replied, turning slightly to start walking towards the castle. He did this to hide his anxiety from Yosuke but the relentless butler seemed to want to continue the conversation as he walked side by side with him.

"Well the young master of the castle is AGAIN missing in action as well as his butler. Isn't that interesting? Both of them disappearing at the same time without word for the guests as to when they will be returning?" Yosuke knew he was pushing hard at the buttons he knew would tick Ryoga off but he has to try. There's so much going on in the castle's shadow for him to ignore.

"Isn't that a bit rude? I mean talk about improper etiquette."

Ryoga suddenly stopped dead on his tracks, his eyes seeing nothing but red. 'How dare he—!'

"Welcome Ryoga-san. May I take your coat?"

Ryoga's nose was flaring and if not for Mimi greeting him, he would've punched the older man. He slowly let out the air that was trapped inside his lungs before he turned the Yosuke. He did it so with utmost calm in his body but with death in his eyes.

"Aren't you the one being rude for talking bad about your host, Butler-san? Isn't that improper etiquette too?" With this he shook his coat off and handed it to the maid.

"Is my brother here?" He asked through greeted teeth as he let Mimi lead him upstairs.

"Yes Ryoga-san. He's in Master Xander's quarters. Would you care for some refreshment or wine perhaps?" The girl replied.

Ryoga cast only last loathing look at the butler who remained by the foot of the stairs before he turned to Xander's chambermaid.

"No." He almost snapped. "I mean no thank you. I'll be taking my brother home with me." With this, he strode purposely towards his best friend's room, hoping not to run into more annoying house guests.

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It wasn't long when Yukimura and Kirihara found them and joined their efforts in building the green house. Despite Ryoma's abrupt departure earlier, they somehow found the strength to continue working.

"So is this your form of penance? Hard labor?" Kirihara leaned against the upright spade he was using. "I mean I can understand if this is indeed penance for Atobe-senpai but you guys?" He cast a teasing look on the three.

Atobe glared at the brat with much vehemence he would muster. "Shut it brat or I'll impale you with these nails."

"Keigo." Sanada gave his lover a warning glance before turning to his kohai. "You better control your tongue Akaya. You are addressing my lover."

Kirihara sighed. "Fine, fine but tell me. What the real deal?"

Tezuka, who was busy strengthening the concrete foundations with Yukimura, paused to answer his question.

"We just felt like doing it."

"Oh come on!"

"Seriously...we saw Ryoma doing this on his own so we decided to help him a bit."

Kirihara shook his head in disbelief.

"Akaya, please let it go." Yukimura gave him a knowing glance.

"Let what go? I mean I just want to know whether this is an act of pure kindness or this is one way to make Ryoma remember how they were in the past." Kirihara muttered, not realizing that everybody else stood frozen at the middle of his tirade.

"I mean if he remembers..." He trailed off, feeling the shivers ran down his spine. He turned to see that everyone, especially Fuji, was giving him THE LOOK...

Fuji tried hard to pull his lips up to a bitter smile. Even with his eyes closed, he knew that Kirihara would sense the message.

"I do hate it when somebody other than me gets the upper-hand."

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'God my head hurts.' It was the first thought which was able to pass through the haze in his mind. He stirred slowly, not wanting to aggravate the headache even further.

"I should've stayed away from the whiskey."

"I couldn't agree with you more."

Ryoma jolted from the bed to gape at the gloomy figure by the dresser. It took him a couple of seconds, blinking his eyes a few times, to make out Ryoga's face. With a groan, he slumped back on the bed, hands covering his eyes.

"Great...if you're going to lecture me, please do it later."

Ryoga shifted from his seat to face his younger brother. "Why are you drinking again?" His query was answered by another groan. He sighed and massaged his temples. 'This is going to be hard.'

"Did they approach you again for reconciliation?"

Ryoma swallowed hard for somehow, along the way, his dear brother learned mind-reading.

Ryoga took his silence as a yes. "Well? How are you taking it?"

"Take what?"

"Their advances. Are you fending them off or are you softening up to them?"

Ryoma, migraine forgotten, sat up abruptly to glare at him. "Are you trying to implicate something?"

Ryoga, already immune to Ryoma's eyes, just met his gaze with a calm one. "You tell me. What do you think I'm implicating?"

"Argh!!" Ryoma screamed into his hands.

"Stop!"

"Stop twisting up the words! Damn it! Can't you see I'm suffering enough as it is?!" Without warning the tears just came and he couldn't stop it.

"S-stop confusing me! God!" He sobbed.

Ryoga did not hesitate to ran to him and draw him into his arms. "I'm sorry Ryoma...I did not mean to confuse you. I'm sorry."

The younger one just held on for his dear life. "I'm trying t-to do the right thing here Ryoga. I'm trying my hardest to stay true to the promises I made."

Ryoga frowned. This is not what he wanted to hear. He certainly did not want to hear Ryoma's weakening resolve against the past. "Damn those bastards."

"You can't possibly understand how hard this is for me now. I loved them! I loved them with all my heart but they broke it." Ryoma thumped his brother's chest with his tightly clenched fist. "They ripped my heart into pieces!"

"But now that I'm just starting to sew it back, they returned only to pull on the seams. It hurts Ryoga…it hurts so much."

Ryoga just allowed his little brother to have his way with him. He couldn't move, let alone retaliate. This is Ryoma pouring out all those pent up emotions kept inside for two years…and the force of it is taking him for one hell of a ride.

"But the person I couldn't forgive is my self because I can't seem to forget how much they meant to me even though I already allowed someone else in my makeshift shack of a heart."

"I love Xander, Ryoga. I want to cherish him…but I couldn't deny the fact that I love them as well."

Ryoga closed his eyes, his brain going a mile a second. He couldn't seem to process a proper response so he just held Ryoma tighter.

"It's going to be okay Ryoma…just you wait. Everything's going to be alright."

They stayed like that for a few minutes...just clinging to each other and him muttering reassuring nonsense. It is as if by doing that, they're appeasing the turmoil inside their own respective hearts.

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The sun was already low on the horizon when the four of them decided to go back to the castle. After doing significant justice to their project, they decided that it was time to retire. What they didn't expect though was the identical pair of Echizen brothers that came across them by the door.

Fuji tried to smile at both of them, still very much aware of the incident earlier. "We didn't know you were here Ryoma."

The said man just shrugged and averted his gaze.

Ryoga noticed the rather soft rebuke of his brother towards the tensai. "Dillydallying aside, we really need to depart." He held Ryoma's hand and ushered him on. "Come now Ryoma."

The younger man allowed his brother to gently drag him away. "Ja."

Sanada couldn't help but smile, truthfully this time, knowing that no matter how things became cruel to them, Ryoma's starting to treat them better.

"We'll see you tomorrow Ryoma."

A fleeting "'kay" still rang in their ears as the man they love was whisked away by his older brother.

Fuji couldn't contain his self as he flung his body at Tezuka.

"Thank God Mitsu." He muttered against his neck. "Whatever you did earlier, it worked. God it worked!"

Atobe couldn't but agree to the tensai. However, despite his urge to rejoice with his lovers, he couldn't quite quell the guilt that started to resurface once more.

'I am happy...but my happiness will mean pain for Xander.' He closed his eyes, not wanting any of his lovers to see the gloom in his eyes.

'But for honesty's worth, I'll give you everything Xander, anything you want...just give Ryoma back to us.'

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A/N: Don't punish me! Please don't punish me! Wahahahahahahhaha! The idea for this story totally vanished in my mind. If it wasn't for nostalgia, I wouldn't be able to write this chapter but I'll work hard, given that I'm still unemployed. Wahahahah! Do watch out for the updates...I'm close towards the end.

Love lots,

Ria Sakazaki