Disclaimer: I still don't own Ronin Warriors. Darn it all! I WISH I did, if only for the fact that I wouldn't have to write these disclaimers. ^_~ Mine, mine, all mine . . . *sigh* if only.

Note: First-person view, Mia style. I hope the ending is surprising . . .

Inspiration! Mwa-Ha, Lighting stuck in my mind, and what do ya know, a story came out of it! ^___^ I'll give you till the end of the story to guess when and what gave me the idea . . . ^_^;; Until then--

Oh, Give Me a Break!

I couldn't believe it.

Well, maybe by that point I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, the guys had been growing more and more distant from me lately, now, so long after the war. Still, you'd think our friendship would have meant more then that. That it could have survived at least this long.

I guess I was wrong.

It was the year before the former Ronins would go off to college, finally. Rowen already had a great college way over in America lined up, while Kento still seemed stuck between two first choices. Cye still loved the sea and wanted to get a job that would tie him to it, while Sage was simply going to one of the local schools so that he could continue look after his family's dojo. And Ryo . . . well, Ryo was Ryo, as always, and for all I knew, he would never go to college. All he had said when I had asked him about it was that he didn't want to be stuck in another four years of school, not just yet. I couldn't talk him out of it, either. Not that I didn't try. I did, really-- But there was this distance lately, it seemed, like every time I talked to him his eyes would just wander away, as if I was no more then a casual acquaintance. A stranger discussing a minor topic.

Actually, the other guys were worse, these past few weeks. I barely ever saw Sage anymore, now that he had been working almost every spare minute out of school. Rowen was usually staying late at the high school, or helping Sage, so I barely saw him, either. And Kento . . . He was always busy; parties, girls, whatever-- so he always had an excuse whenever I tried to talk to him. Cye was the only one besides Ryo who even tried to make an effort, but even he had another life, now.

No one cared anymore. I felt alone, and the feeling was awful, because now I didn't even have my grandfather to talk to. The Ronins had always been there, it had seemed. Always been there when I needed them, because I had been a part of that small, tight circle of close friends. I could always talk to them if I needed to, and not worry about it. Lately, though--Namely, the past three weeks-- they just didn't seem to care. 'Goodbye, Mia, it's been fun, but we've got better thing to do then look after you.' And that hurt, maybe more then it should have.

But what really hurt was that they had forgotten about today.

Today, of all days. I had believed, foolishly, that our closeness hadn't degraded that much. So wrong. It was unbelievable, and it was really taking some getting used to. Not one word, not one smile from them. They really couldn't care enough to remember.

So I was in a bad mood. That whole week I had been feeling down, and the hollowness had slowly run its course down hill. Did the guys care enough to comment? No. Did they even notice? Of course not; they were much too busy with whatever that they didn't have time for me anymore.

I told myself that I had to accept it, that it had all been expected. We couldn't have stayed as close of friends all our lives. They would all leave, eventually, and we would all go on.

Just, what I hadn't been expecting was it all to end so soon. I had really, truly thought that it would have lasted longer. I mean, you don't just go through a war with five close people and not get anything out of it, you know?

You'd think, anyway.

Or hope.

I was a teacher at Shenshi U, the local college. I had work that day, but everyone seemed to simply keep their distance. I was betting that they had caught on to the dark aura that surrounded me.

And I was usually the optimistic one. It took a lot to get me down, so I guess you can see how much this was affecting me. I didn't even have my usually pep when teaching the class.

One, and only one sole person, a follow teacher named Nanami thought to ask me what was wrong. The conversation that followed did not help my attitude.

"Ms. Koji?" She had asked with a tilt of her head, while we were on our break. I didn't know Nanami that well. I had been staring out the window and felt irritated, for some reason. My mood kept switching from irritation to simply feeling down.

"Is something wrong?" She didn't sound concerned, really, just puzzled. I put my best face on--well, the best I could manage-- and said:

"No, not really." I forced a smile that was all-too fake. "Just . . . bad day." Bad week, my mind corrected.

She only raised a slight eyebrow. "Well, if you say so." And we left it at that.

I take a car pool to work. That morning, knowing that I didn't have to drive, Ryo had taken the jeep. I hadn't really minded it, just . . . been frustrated that he hadn't asked, only left a note telling me about it. He borrowed it often, just he usually remembered to ask first. Not this time.

Anyway, school was over and I was ready to go home, but because I had stayed late to grade some tests, I was unable to get a ride.

Just wonderful. One more thing to add up to a miserable day, Mia.

I decided to call Ryo. After all, he had my jeep, so hopefully he could come by and pick me up. He had a cell phone. All I had to do was call him . . .

I was strangely hesitant, lifting the receiver of the pay phone to my ear. What if he was angry? No, that was silly-- He might be busy, but I was sure that the former bearer of Wildfire would understand, at least. But. . . I was scared of the distance that was between us now. Scared that the hollowness inside me would amplify with any words I had with him. Slowly, I punched in the numbers I knew by heart.

So there I was, fidgeting nervously in the hallway as I heard ringing on the other end of the phone. I figured if worse came to worse, I could always take the bus. It rang once. Twice. I bit my lip, though unaware of the action.

This was ridiculous. I was a full-grown women, fidgeting over a phone call. This was--

Half a ring, then a click. I held my breath, then immediately berated myself for it.

"Hello?" Yep. It was him, and he sounded . . . distracted.

"H-" My voice caught, and I blushed, clearing my throat. "Hey Ryo. This is Mia."

Pause. Then, "Oh, hi Mia. What's up?"

I sighed, then tried to explain my situation. Ryo was silent throughout the whole thing, and though it was impossible--physically, anyway-- I could almost sense his eyes wandering into the distance.

When I finally finished, he only commented, "Okay, sure. I can pick you up. Actually, I'm in the area right now, so . . . be over in ten minutes?"

I told him that was fine, (as if I had a choice) hung up, and then went outside to wait.

I was pleasantly surprised--for the first time that day--when he did show up about ten minutes later. God knows that I was friends with the man--I hoped--but I had figured, that knowing Ryo, he'd show up late. I guess I did mean something to him, after all.

Nice to know.

I was still kinda irritated as I climbed into the passenger's side without a word. He smiled slightly, giving me a small wave that I sighed and ignored. He shrugged almost defensively and went back to staring at the steering wheel. I was angry--and beneath that, hurt-- that Ryo had forgotten what today was. I didn't bother to ask about his day, or what he had been doing before he was able to pick me up-- the kinds of things that close friends would say to each other--because, obviously, I just wasn't worth it to him. I didn't really want to talk, period, and at first Ryo seemed more then happy to let the silence roll on. But as I sat there brooding quietly, I suppose he caught onto some of my anger. Plus, Ryo tended to hate silence to begin with, and it was a long drive home to my house on the lake. Eventually, he spoke up.

"Mia, come on. What's up?" He sounded annoyed, his eyes on the road.

I frowned and didn't answer for a moment, carefully studying the scenery I'd seen hundreds of times before. "Ryo . . ." I began, then sighed. "It's nothing."

He hesitated, before saying bluntly, "No, it's not. It's definatly something. You've been in a mood all week." I bristled at that, sitting up and giving him a look. I had been in a mood? What about him? What about the guys? They were the ones that seemed too busy for their own friends!

"What do you care?" I burst out, then cringed directly after the words had left my mouth. I had not meant to say that. The anger and frustration of the day was finally catching up with me, and my hasty words were rewarded with a wince from Ryo. Did he acknowledge his actions? He didn't say anything for a few moments, and neither did I. Well, how could I? My mouth had snapped before I could stop it.

" . . . I'm sorry." I muttered finally, reluctantly. I was sorry about my attitude, at least. He didn't deserve cruelty, not him, not ever. But I felt that I was justified in my own feelings, at least. "It's not your fault. . ." Well, not entirely, anyway.

Ryo cut me off suddenly, shaking his head. "No. No, Mia, you're wrong-- it is my fault, and I'm sorry. I've just been so busy, with everything--"

"I know." I interrupted. My arms crossed over my chest, and my gaze went back out the window, a habit I'd picked up from Sage. "It's alright." I still hurt inside, though. The small apology didn't change the fact that--

"I know something that'll cheer you up," Ryo announced, a smile tugging at his lips. I blinked at him, then curiously asked what it was.

"Look in the glove compartment," was all he said, faint grin still there. I blinked again and obeyed, opening it. A small package peered back up at me, with wrapping paper that had different colored balloons printed all over it, as well as a small red bow. With a gasp, I slowly lifted it out, gazing at the small treasure in wonder. It fit in the palm of my hand . . .

I glanced at Ryo again, to see him studying me with a wide smile.

"Happy birthday, Mia." He said quietly. I bit my lip and looked back at the present. "Well," He prodded, "Open it!"

I felt a sudden urge to laugh. Nearly every bad feeling I had had was suddenly evaporated.

"Oh, Ryo . . ." I began, throwing my head back with a heartfelt smile, "you did remember!"

"Of course I did," He chuckled, shaking his head. "Like I could ever forget?"

So I opened the gift with a surprisingly light heart. Eyes widening as I lifted a small golden bracelet out of the small white box, I studied it carefully. It was beautiful. In woven gold vines twisted around the main bit of metal, and it sparkled prettily in the setting sun.

"It's . . . Beautiful," I murmured, speechless.

"I take it that you like it, then," he replied, grinning in a pleased way.

I pursed my lips and sat up straighter, closing the bracelet around my wrist. "I do." I was smiling, a true, heartfelt smile for the first time in what seemed like a long time. Who had I been kidding? There was no distance between us. There had probably never had been.

Then I sighed, remembering something that dampened my mood again. If only it were this way with all the guys . . . I wonder if Ryo told them? Or maybe they still don't know?

"There's more," Ryo said suddenly, mysteriously. I stared at him.

"More?" I asked.

"Yep. Not here, though."

"What is it?"

"It's at the house." He said simply. "I'll get it when we get there, kay?"

I nodded, puzzled. Alright . . .

We were able to talk a little easier after that.

When we finally got to the house, I was surprised when Ryo climbed out at the same time as I did. I had half-expected him to simply drop me off and drive away. Then I really got suspicious when he came around and grabbed my hand, his own palm tense with . . . something. He was tense, but I wasn't sure why . . .

We got to the door, Ryo moving in front of me to turn the handle. The door swung wide and we walked inside to near-complete darkness. Then . . .


Lights flew on and I threw my hands up to protects my eyes, and Ryo's hand came up to steady me. Once I could actually see without the light blinding me, I brought down my arms, and blinked. My mouth fell open. Strewn throughout the living room were . . . my friends. Cye, Kento, Rowen, Sage, even others from work and former school. They all had smiles-- Sure, Sage looked almost smug, and Kento's was kinda goofy-- but they were all generally happy, and I was simply . . . shocked. I believe I stood there for a full moment out of disbelief. Then, everyone was moving forward and hugging me, 'happy birthdays' and such coming out of every mouth, and I hugged back fiercely and was completely moved.

In the midst of all this, Ryo's own arms came around my shoulders and he whispered, "Like the surprise?"

I could only nod, laughing.

"You didn't think that we all had just forgotten about your birthday, did you?" Kento asked, and winked.

I laughed back half-heartedly, still in a sort of shock, and answered with the first thing that came to mind.

"Oh, come on, Kento . . ." I said teasingly, "Give me a break!"


Well well, did ya guess? No? Kay, I'll tell you where: Shower. Yep, that's right-- Inspiration for this short story came from the shower. Actually, at this point I can't quite remember how, or why . . . -_-;; But that's what happened!

I've been wanting to write another Ronin story then The New Game for a while now, so I wrote this-- An SS. Simple and Sweet.

It's super ironic that today is my birthday, too. And that this is KINDA what happened to me . . . all month I had thought I wasn't getting a birthday party . . . ant then, well, I did.

So how'd you like it? ^_~ Comments appreciated, of course.

Wow. This took a lot longer to write then I had thought it would. O.o

Er, this story dedicated to anyone who's ever reviewed one of my stories, ff.net or no. Thank a lot, I mean it. It's those people that help me to keep writing, and at my best.