Big shout-out to my new friend SonicGirl2002, who helped me get back on my Tota feet. This one is for you.


Sin couldn't help but clench her toes under the white tablecloth as Sophie sat quietly in front of her. The morning air that blew in from the coast was chilly this early, and the breeze gave her unhelpful shivers. It simply made the knot in her stomach twist even more. She wanted to say something to the blond, but she was so frightened that their friendship was hanging by a thread. What did Sophie see in her now...a liar? A cheat? A thief or a greedy little girl?

The replica swallowed and stared at her untouched stack of puffy pancakes, lathered in so much syrup that they were getting soggy. She was sure she would never keep them down. Why had Sophie asked to see her?

The blond's eyes were gently narrowed in thought, but finally she began. "I...I'm sorry I overreacted," she said.

Sin blinked up to the girl's gaze. It was the first time that it connected since their morning meeting started. "Overreacted...?" Sin echoed in confusion. If Sophie's 'overreaction' was simply lowering her eyes and walking politely away, then she could only feel a little relieved.

"I'm sorry too..." Sin replied desperately, hands clenching against her knees. "But Sophie, what you saw...it wasn't...it's not—" she tried to explain, but even she wasn't sure what she wanted to say anymore. What was it that she felt for Vamos now? Friendship? A crush? Love? Infatuation? Or was it merely a hole that he had managed to fill somehow while she was feeling lonely, separated from Asch but too stubborn to admit it?

Sophie was shaking her head. "I know Sin, you're too hard on yourself sometimes."

The replica pressed a shaky knuckle to her forehead. "No, I'm not nearly hard enough..."

The blond's warm hand grasped hers and pulled it gently away from her face. Her fingers were sunburnt, but the heat felt nice against Sins's skin.

"Please, before you beat yourself up, I have more to say," she smiled slightly. Sin allowed herself silence, though she wanted to burst out at the girl with everything she felt, as if that would somehow clear up the mess and the damage she had done.

Sophie let out an accepting breath. "Vamos likes you. He likes you a lot, Sin."

Sin leaned back. Her insides lifted uncomfortably at the words. It didn't feel as good as she had imagined...but she didn't exactly see the hurt in Sophie's face either. It appeared as if the other girl was okay with it.

Her mouth worked uselessly for a moment. "You...how do you know...?" she asked quietly. Should she have even been asking that? She was – for all purposes – with Asch. Would this curiosity create more problems, expose her as a traitor in her false relationship?

"He told me so himself, just last night."

"Why would he do that..." Sin murmured. "I'm sorry if...if he hurt your feelings."

She shook her head dismissively, her buns wiggling back and forth. "It's fine. I'm okay with it. You two would make a great couple."

Sin gently pulled her hand away, surprised and unsure about where to hold herself within this conversation. "But I...I am with Asch..."

"But you do like Vam, don't you? I could see that you did." Sophie said, leaning lower to the table so that she could look up into her eyes with her big blue orbs.

The replica stared because didn't know what to say. Was she expecting some sort of reply? All the unspoken questions were starting to make her head hurt. Did she like Vam? How could she even tell what feelings were real anymore? Her kiss with Asch had been wonderful – addictive and fervent – and she pushed herself to believe it was practice so that Vam and Sophie would have no more suspicions about their relationship.

But if that was the case, why did they keep practising even when they returned to their room? The kissing, the touching. She liked it so much she didn't want it to stop but she kept her words contained the whole time, thinking quietly while her heart raced and thundered in her chest. If only she could tell him what strange feelings were beginning to flicker inside of her heart. Ask him if they meant something, if they were real, or if she really just still naive.

But she knew she couldn't.

And now, she was finally being offered the one thing she had initially set out to get – Vam's affection and Sophie's resignation.

And she was too damn scared to take it.

'But Asch...I can't hold on to him like this forever...it isn't fair to him...'

After all, the whole reason he had decided to help her in the first place was to get Vam to notice her. Apparently it had worked. Was it right of her to play along with this charade, perhaps risk hurting Asch all over again by continuing with it? He deserved so much more than that.

'I can't be selfish...'

Her heart twisted painfully at the small words that were escaping her lips. "Yes...I...I like Vam."

Sophie looked relieved, a small smile breaking onto her face. "I knew it."

Sin swallowed. "Please...please don't tell him though. Not yet. I'm not..." she trailed off with a small choke and bit back the tears that threatened to puddle at the edges of her eyes. "I'm not ready..."

She wasn't ready to say goodbye to Asch.


Sin had found him on the beach only a short time later. For a while he didn't even notice her standing quietly on the board walk while he fiddled with a strange type of surfboard with a sail propped straight up from its center.

So she simply watched him as he worked, and her heart thrashed painfully in her chest. He moved carefully but with haste around the foam board, testing it here, pulling at it there, tying small knots, and securing the blue and white sale. His hair was so long she noticed, so long that it twisted in the air like a fire storm and burned her eyes from the glow. Magnificent.

Finally he seemed to sense someone was eyeing him and turned his head curiously. She actually jumped, so wrapped up in her thoughts that this sudden movement surprised her. He raised a hand and waved her over.

"I don't bite," he said when she approached, before kneeling down to the board. A small smirk slithered onto his face. "Well...not hard."

Sin's face erupted into a blush that she could not hide as thoughts and feelings buffeted her from the night before. She avoided shaking her head too noticeably and stumbled over her next words. "W-What are you doing?" she asked and crouched down beside him.

He looked up at the blue and white sail thoughtfully, his green gaze flicking from paint splatter to paint spatter. It appeared like nothing had escaped the festivals wrath. "I thought we could try something new."

She blinked up at the sail rippling in the soothing wind and couldn't suppress her forthcoming smile. "I'd like that."

"Will I have to tie you onto the board?" he teased lowly. "I can't have you falling off. I intend to sail properly."

Sin stood with an honest laugh. "I bet I could swim faster than you could sail anyway." She smiled.

"Not if you swam as well as you did in that channel."

"My arm was stuck..." she reminded him pointedly. The smile that came onto his face was so breathtaking that she didn't even hear his snarky reply. Recalling again that she couldn't hold onto him for much longer, her heart fell and she looked hurriedly away.

"Let's get this into the water," he said, turning to look back at her after a moment of pushing the board without her help. She had no doubt that he could do it easily alone, but for a moment he must have sensed her weakness. The replica quickly put on a brave smile and strode forward, pushing her black hair away from her face so that it didn't get caught in the snares of the sail.

Once the board was in the water, she realized it was much more buoyant than she initially thought. They laughed and struggled with the rebellious drifting board in the pure, blue shallows for a few minutes until they got a feel for the wind and the tilt of the board.

"Get on," Asch smiled slightly, reaching around her from behind and grasping the post that held up the sail. He extended his other hand to help her. It was wet but warm, and when his fingers curled around her hand she felt a jolt of dizzying adrenaline shoot through her spine that made her face prickle.

The replica stepped up onto the board quickly and grasped the post. Whether subconscious or not, her hand landed accidentally on Asch's and she hurriedly repositioned it, trying not to seem obvious.

The red-head began to push the board out into the deeper water, treading along the bottom until the waterline was up to his waist. Small silver fish cut through the water ahead of them like knives, darting just out of reach every time Asch took a step further.

Though it was trying to push forward because of the stronger breeze, the board remained upright as more air caught in the sail. Sin laughed at the rocky motion but managed to stay on.

Asch took a short breath, ducked under the water – though she could still see him perfectly as he let go of the post and swam under her – and manoeuvred himself to the other side of the board. Her eyebrows lifted as the board began to tip to her side under her weight, but before she was totally off balance Asch resurfaced and grabbed the post on the other side of the sail.

"Keep leaning," he said over the wind. "I'm going to climb up."

So she did, she extended her arms and leaned back a little more. This time the board didn't tip too much more though, as Asch pulled him onto the foam board on the other side of the sail. It was stretched tight from the more consistent breeze now.

"We did it," she grinned at him through the small gap between the material of the sail and the post it was attached to. He nodded back determinedly.

Then came the real entertainment, she realized soon after, when the wind turned their work into fun and all they really could do was hang on for dear life as it carried them out over the bay. Sin wasn't worried about the distance though, she had Asch with her, and every time she looked at him he was simply smirking at the blue horizon. It made her feel brave.

A couple times a rogue wave would throw them a foot or two in the air, and her stomach would lift upward in glee. Sometimes it was due to the momentary feeling of falling but the other half of the time it was Asch's hand that sent her head spinning. Even though each time a wave caught them his hand would quickly move overtop of hers, after a while she began to wonder if it was really helping her stay balanced at all. Every time he touched her, her vision would momentarily blur and her mind would reel with adrenaline. Her knees would feel weak.

They must have been out on the bay, laughing and calling to each other over the wind for what was more than hour but didn't feel nearly long enough to Sin. She wished this could last an eternity.

"We should turn back," he said eventually, pointing to the beach in case she didn't hear. "Come to this side."

The replica nodded and waited for a lull in the warm wind before she swung around the post onto Asch's side. The blush returned to her face when he opened his arm so that she could stand in front of him. Carefully she slid over so that he was positioned on the outer edge of the board and she was closer to the sail. He grabbed the horizontal bar that ran partially across the width of the sale so that his arms enclosed her. Her face felt uncomfortably hot with him practically breathing down her neck, but all she could do was grab the bar as well and pray that her fingers weren't too numb to keep a hold of it.

"Lean now," he murmured. Together they tilted slowly backwards and cut into the wind. The wind and the water did nothing to distract her from the heat that was Asch's chest as she lightly leaned back against him. She was sure that even though they were turning, he was looking at her face. It felt hot. Even the sun didn't feel like a good enough excuse for the red that she was sure was staining her cheeks, so she kept her eyes safely away from him and stared hard at the beach.

The sail bulged with the amount of wind that pressed against it and they practically flew back towards the beach.

The replica smiled over her shoulder at Asch. "Thank you," she said as they floated lazily into the shallows. "That was..." she didn't know the word, but she didn't have long to consider what it might be because he was lowering his head down to her slightly. Her orange eyes widened in alarm, just as his were drifting closed.

'What is he doing?' she thought quietly, but quickly. Sophie and Vam weren't even around to see the kiss.

'This isn't part of the plan...!' she tried to rationalize, but it still made little sense. What was he thinking? Was she missing something? The only reason they were supposed to kiss was to convince the other two that they really were dating. They weren't even nearby.

Had she made a mistake kissing him the night before while they 'practiced', more than just once? Did he think it meant something, or did he think she was giving him permission?

His salty lips touched hers before her mind could fathom an answer...and suddenly...she had to choose.

Timidly, she kissed him back.

She didn't know if it was wrong or right, if it was fake or real, or if it was just pretend. For a single moment she decided not to care. It felt nice for her secret feelings to be quelled, for her mind to be a little clearer. Her heart ached under the unhealthy amount of longing and adrenaline.

But too quickly the moment was over and she pulled away, turning her eyes downward evasively.

'Shoot...' she quickly scolded herself. Why couldn't she control her feelings around him? Soon she would be letting him go. He had done so much to help her with Vam. He had helped her with everything really.

'I have to be fair...I have to be fair to him!' she yelled inwardly at herself. Oh god, how many times would she have to repeat it before she believed it? What were these heavy chains that were binding her to him? She didn't want to break them off, and she was beginning to understand her old self so clearly that she didn't seem so foreign anymore.

It wasn't just fire between them, it was wildfire. Untamed, red-hot, and consuming. This had been what her old self would have died for, before Asch had stripped her of all memory and feeling and her new self was born in the old's stead. How disgusting she must have seemed to him at first – all talk, with no true purpose or heart. Only anger towards those who had tried to insist that they knew her, and even that anger was shallow. It was quickly wiped away.

'I'm an idiot...' she thought sadly as she watched Asch hop into the waist-deep water. 'I should have trusted him from the start...'

Trusted him when he said he'd never hurt her, and trusted him when he wanted to renew their long, lost bond... trusting that he wouldn't throw her away like trash. Then he would have been hers for good. Not pretend.

He turned to look up at her with his sharp, green eyes. She couldn't tell what he was thinking in the slightest, but she wanted...more than anything in the world...to hear the words from him one more time. Just once more.

"Be mine."

But she knew he wouldn't say a thing.


'Say something!' he though desperately as he looked up at the orange eyed replica still standing on the board. 'Say anything Sin...!'

But her small lips were pinched tight together, as if she was trying to do anything but. It felt like torture to Asch. Was he simply imaging the reddening of her cheeks whenever he was close to her, or reading too much into it? And was he hoping too desperately that the small glances she sometimes shot at him were a sign? Maybe they weren't. Maybe he was just losing his head.

The kiss. He didn't know it was possible to mean to do something and not to mean it at the same time. To be sure, he liked it but it had almost been as uncontrollable and subconscious as a reflex. Sophie and Vam hadn't even been around, and once he had already leaned he knew he was in trouble. Stopping would have alarmed her though, and would have been –ironically – a dead sign that his feelings for her had not subsided. It would have been obvious that what he was doing was a miss-step on his behalf because of his emotions. She was smart. She would have figured it out.

So he was brave and followed through to protect himself. He could explain himself out of it if she asked, say he thought the other two were watching or some garbage like that.

What he didn't expect was for her to kiss him back, without even a question as to why he was doing it when they didn't need more practice and Vam and Sophie weren't around. The fluttering in his stomach felt too good to be true. Did she actually feel something for him finally? True, clear, feelings?

But she pulled away a moment too soon for him to grasp an answer and he mentally cursed. Was she doing it just to be polite? Was he really that mislead? His instincts had never failed him before.

The former God-General felt abnormally weak after the unexpected return to his kiss, so he hopped into the water before his legs gave out.

When he turned back to look at her, he wanted so desperately to state what emotions he thought were on her face...but his opinion was biased. He had to remind himself almost coldly that what he was seeing was what he wanted to see, perhaps what had once been on her face before he destroyed her memories.

Asch reached up to her. "Come." He said quietly as he took her waist. She hesitantly placed her pale hands on his shoulders and jumped lightly down into the water. For a moment while she was in his grasp he wanted to actually shake her, like a rappig, and make her squeal, talk, admit! It was such a strange feeling that he actually felt like he didn't want to let her go. She hadn't satisfied him yet. She hadn't been dismissed.

The replica pinched an eye shut, wincing. "Asch, you're hurting me."

He pried his fingers lose from her waist with unbearable control. "Sorry," he said. It came out rather harsh to his ears, but she merely gave him a shake of her head and turned away.

There was a fine line between love and hate, Asch was realizing somewhat uncomfortably. Whether she had her memories or not, she continued to be the most frustrating person he ever knew. He wanted to lash out at her in passion and in violence combined. He didn't just want to push her down into the sand and kiss her, he wanted to hold her down. Demand that she submit entirely to him. Promise him no lies or hidden truths or tricks with jealousy.

But he couldn't. He couldn't do anything. He couldn't force his feelings onto her anymore. He had promised himself that he wouldn't. He had made the attempt one too many times now with rejection at every turn. It had to be her word. It had to be her voice that broke them from this scam of a relationship and into a real one. Into reality.

"Oh," he heard her say softly from a few feet in front. "It's Vam and Sophie."

The former God-General's anger surged so quickly that he had to clench his toes in the submerged sand in order to keep his fonons in check. Ironically he had gotten what he wanted – an excuse for the kiss. He had known they were watching – that's what she was probably thinking now – but he didn't want the excuse one bit. Just because he loved her, that was the real reason.

Sophie and Vam were approaching them now, so Asch grabbed the small rope that connected to the board and pulled in towards the beach. Sin was ascending from the water now with a tight smile aimed at the duo. The water dripping from her slender arms and muscled legs created a sheen on her pale skin that Asch wanted to shield from Vam's eyes so that he could not drink her in.

It irritated him to see that her eyes were on Vam too. She looked nervous and shrunk back a little, like some did on first dates.

"There you two are," Sophie said brightly as she ran up and placed her hands on her hips. "We've been looking all over!"

The replica flashed him a quick smile. "We went sailing."

"Oh, wow! That sounds like fun! I'm jealous!"

"I could show you if you want. I might not be a very good teacher though," Sin admitted sheepishly.

"Oh...I'm not...I'm not such a good swimmer yet..." the bubbly blond admitted, as if she had failed horribly somehow. "Next time?"

Sin nodded and smiled. "Okay."

Asch watched Vam cut into the conversation smoothly. "Show me."

The black haired replica turned to the boy in surprise. Asch noticed how slow the turn was, like she was trying to control her movement. If it was reluctance, or reluctance to seem eager, Asch didn't know.

"S-Sure," she smiled weakly.

Asch didn't want to see it, because he knew he couldn't control it. "I'm heading back to the inn," he said. "I need to dry off."

Sophie also spoke up. "I'll go with you. I need sunscreen. I think I'm starting to burn."

He nodded indifferently and flicked his gaze back to the replica. Her mouth was open the slightest bit like she was lost for words, and when he looked into her eyes he saw something that resembled worry. Almost as quick as the kiss, however, the look disappeared. Instead, a small accepting smile took its place.

"Alright. I'll uh...see you later," she said to him. "Thank you for...for everything."

Asch nodded and turned away with Sophie on his heels.

'I haven't given you everything,' he thought. 'There must still be something missing.'

But at this point, he was lost for what it was.


Sin pulled on the short white robe and tied the red sash around her waist with furrowed eyebrows. The room she shared with Asch was empty except for her. His swimming shorts were on the chair next to the fireplace and were already dry, so they had to have been hanging for a while, she reasoned.

Reasoning that out did not make her any less worried. Asch had to be with Sophie. Neither of them had come back to the beach once they left. She had stayed there longer than she wanted to with Vam to make sure of it.

It hadn't been easy. What Sophie had said at the table about Vam's feelings was definitely true now that Sin watched it with fresh eyes. He was kind to her when Asch wasn't around, talkative and eager. Sometimes he tried to touch her or pick an exceptionally tiny piece of seaweed off her shoulder or out of her hair every once in a while. Every time he got away with it her heart lurched back a step, and she inwardly begged that he would restrain himself. With this realization came an admission.

She didn't like Vam.

She liked Asch.

Her head fell into her hands. Admitting it would gain her nothing but heart ache, but it was too late. The deed was done. She had made her bed, and now she was forced to lie in it.

"C'mon Sin!" Vamos called impatiently from the other side of the door. "The party started like an hour ago!"

The replica gave a long, slow sigh into the room. She felt tired, but the thought of seeing Asch pushed her into motion and she went to the door.

'If he's even there...'

It was dark outside when they exited the building, but there were lights strung up on the rooftops so that people could see. Sin kept her eyes away from Vam, casting them instead out over the black water, where many more replicated lights danced in the water's reflection.

"How are things with lover-boy?" Vam asked bluntly, and in the water's reflection, Sin could see a small smirk come on to his face as if the term was humorous. She narrowed her eyes gently, trying to recall what it was about him that she was initially drawn to.

"Why do you ask?" she asked quietly, hoping that her voice didn't seem sad.

He shrugged that annoying shrug. "I thought that maybe something happened after he saw us hugging."

"Was that a hug?" she asked without care for the answer, as if she had just suddenly been informed.

The boy with the blue-grey cut in front of her sharply and tried to cut her off. Impatient to get to the celebration, she dodged around him and kept walking.

"Wait," he protested. "What did you think it was?"

Sin shook her head. "I don't know." And she didn't care either.

"Well I thought it was a hug," he stated.

Why was he persisting with this?

"Friends hug all the time," she agreed.

"Sin..!" he said sharply, and his calloused had actually came to grab her wrist. She tried to pull it away but he held it fast. Something rose inside of her, a kind of anger and impatience that made her clench her hands so hard her nails dug into her palms.

"Just wait..." he said. "I have something I want to tell you."

'I already know...'

"I thought you wanted to get to the party. We're almost there."

"No, I have to tell you."

Sin swallowed and stared ahead desperately. She didn't want to hear this, not with Asch and her fake relationship so close by to protect her from it. But Vam continued on mercilessly.

"Sin...I...I like you."

'Child's play...'

The replica closed her orange eyes, defeated. What was she supposed to do? Cast Asch off now that their goal for the relationship had been reached? It seemed like the proper thing to do. The justified thing for Asch. But...not so very deep down, she knew she didn't want to.

Slowly the replica turned to Vam. He met her gaze steadily, but his grip on her wrist was still tight like he was afraid she might dart away like those tiny silver fish she had seen in the ocean.

"Vam...you're right," she admitted. "Things with Asch...they aren't normal...but...I have to tell him. I have to be faithful to him until the end."

The boy furrowed his eyebrows. "The end," he repeated, testing the word. "How far away is the end?"

Sin didn't like that question. "Soon," she said quietly. "So please...let go of me until then."

The release of her wrist wasn't delicate like it was with Asch. Vam let go quickly, almost sloppily, like winning was all that mattered to him. Sin wondered if she really would give him a chance after Asch was gone. Would the hole in her heart open up like an old wound once more, and force her into anyone's arms just to fill it?

They walked the rest of the way in near silence, until they came to the gates of the palace that were opened wide to the public. Lights were hung all the way around the courtyard, throwing shades of blue and red and purple at the dancers and changing occasionally with the music. People were laughing and eating and cheering but Sin barely concentrated on any of it. Her eyes scanned for Asch or even Sophie.

It was only when a red light hit Asch's hair that she spotted him. Her heart couldn't decide which way to go when she took him in. Happy to see him yes, but dancing slowly with Sophie, no.

'It's a slow song.' She thought. She didn't mind if they danced.

But Sophie's arms were around his neck and she had her hands slid under his red hair comfortably. Her face was nestled close to his chest. His hands rested lightly on her waist, but he was staring at the ground somewhere over her head.

"That looks suspicious..." she barely heard Vam say over the blood pumping in her ears.

The replica watched quietly from her position on the edge of the dancing crowd and saw Sophie look up at Asch and mouth words that she could not hear. The man Sin loved blinked and looked down at the blond for a moment before he leaned closer to her.

And the replica watched as their lips touched.

Instantly her body felt like it was on fire. And like she was going to be sick. And that she was drowning. And that she might faint.

And that it would be best if her memories were erased all over again.

She couldn't look away, but everything was so blurred that she didn't even know how long it lasted. Simply knowing that the kiss just existed was enough to turn her around and make her run.

"Sin!" Vam hissed, grabbing her by her upper arms as she tried to pass and shaking her slightly when she wouldn't look at him. "Don't run! Choose me, choose me!"

Her wide eyes ignored him and flicked back to Asch and Sophie. They weren't kissing now, but Asch was murmuring something down to her.

"Sin!" Vam shook her again, jarring her heavy breathing and succeeding in getting her attention for a moment. "I'm right here!"

The replica couldn't think, couldn't decide. She still felt too close to them. Their presence seemed to burn her. "I...I cant!" she whimpered, but when she tried to get free he just dug his fingers into her arms even tighter.

"Yes you can! I'm here!"

"Let go, please let go!"

"No!"

Finally she could handle no more and shoved him away so hard that he clipped one heel against the other and stumbled backward in shock, nearly ploughing into a nearby couple.

"Don't touch me!" she hissed at him when he attempted to recover. "I respect and care for you, but I don't desire you!"

Without caring what expression he put on his face in response to that, the replica whirled and ran from the courtyard. To her horror, she thought she heard a shout behind her that sounded terrifyingly like Asch. She convinced herself that it wasn't, but at the same time she pushed her legs harder than she ever had before, so that the burning in her muscles matched the burning of her heart.

Feeling tears beginning to rapidly well up, she turned and ran down a side street so that no one would see her and ask her if she was okay. That was the worst question she could be asked at a time like this, she was sure. When she finally stopped running her legs were shaking and the stitches in her sides seemed to pierce her lungs like a needle with every breath.

Without momentum, the tears easily caught up to her and within moments, overflowed. She sunk down, defeated, onto a bench that faced a city-made river and cried.

"How did this happen...?" she asked herself weakly, and just stared at the teardrops as they fell onto her shaking hands. One minute she hated him and in what seemed like a blink of an eye she was in love with him? What had happened to her strong self that had survived – somehow – without him? She wanted that person back. That person that knew very little of heartache and true reality.

Sophie had kissed him. Why? Why would she do that?

But Asch. Asch had kissed her too.

Sin clenched her bangs in her hands and wanted to scream. Was she the one he really wanted?

Had she read too much into that kiss he had given her on the beach? She had thought it was something special, something just for her. A return to her feelings perhaps.

'But Sophie showed up...' the replica thought, opening her orange eyes just slightly. Was Asch playing some sort of funny jealousy game too? Was the kiss on the beach a kiss to make Sophie jealous? Had he known all along that she was in the distance somewhere?

It made sense. It made a frightening amount of sense, but it hurt almost too much to comprehend.

Sniffing, she punched the bench beside her thigh in frustration.

'Damn it Asch...why! Why!'

Suddenly fingers were digging evasively into her hair at the back of her neck and she gasped and jumped, while attempting to dodge away from the bench.

Managing to slip away, she turned around as she stood. Her heart nearly stopped.

"A-Asch...!" she choked. How was it possible that he had kept up with her?

"You never could outrun me," he said lowly, mirroring her thoughts.

The replica let her eyes fall slightly simply because she didn't know where to place them. She didn't want to see him, not like this. But there was nowhere to run.

"I..." she sniffed and brought her sleeve up to hastily wipe away the fresh tears. "I just needed some space."

Apparently this request fell on deaf ears because he swung around the bench quickly, raising his hand and coming forward to cup the back of her neck. She panicked a little and took a step away but he didn't even flinch.

"No..." he whispered, placing his hand behind her head. She felt her lips quiver as she lifted her eyes away from him, attempting to blink back the tears with no success.

His other hand came up slowly to run along her cheek, catching the wetness on his fingertips. Sin let out a shaky breath but kept her eyes safely away.

When he spoke it was soft, yet commanding. "Look at me."

The replica blinked repeatedly to keep back the tears and her breathing quivered dangerously. She didn't want to listen. She didn't want to look at him.

"Sin..." he said again. "Look at me."

It took many moments of her eyes flicking halfway to his face and away again before her gaze finally landed on his. If possible it felt worse than seeing the kiss. Up close she was reminded so clearly of all the reasons she had come to love this man. Her heart felt like it was being tortured.

Asch pushed her bangs briefly away from her face. "Why are you crying?" he asked. "Tell me."

The replica knew there would be no chance of that. "No. Nothing. I'm fine," she lied and attempted to pull away.

Just as she was doing this though, he spoke. "Stop...!" he told her while holding fast to the back of her neck so that she couldn't escape. He reeled her in a little closer than before. "Just stop."

Realizing that her plans to escape were pointless, she let her arms fall to her sides and let the tears fall freely. She couldn't tell him...she couldn't!

"Please just let m-me leave," Sin begged in a whisper. "I promise you, I'm fine...!"

"You're not fine!" he scolded gently. "And no, you're not leaving. Not until you tell me why you're this upset."

She pressed her hands against his chest to stop the distance that was closing between them. "I can't...!"

Suddenly his strength overpowered hers tenfold as he pulled her in so close that her lips were barely two inches away from his. His green eyes were alive and attached to hers. She struggled momentarily before his hand twisted the hair near the nape of her neck and his other hand wrapped around the small of her back.

"L-Let go...!" she whimpered because he was far too strong to try to fight out of it.

He ignored her and tilted her head to look up at him. "Repeat that. Now."

"W-What?" she winced, not understanding.

His grip tightened all over. "You can't tell me why you're upset? Is that how you phrased it?"

The replica didn't understand but was beginning to feel even more anxious anyway. "Y-Yes..." she stuttered. His eyes narrowed slightly, like he had just thought of something.

"Tell me why you ran."

The replica stared at him, frightened, but this time said nothing. She knew how good he was at puzzling things out. She wasn't about to help him.

After he realized she wasn't going to speak, he took the initiative. "You can't tell me that either, can you?"

Sin went still as a statue, understanding that not speaking had been a huge mistake. 'Oh no, he's figuring it out...!' she realized in horror.

Asch's forehead came to rest gently on hers, his voice coming out quiet but excited. "And on the beach...that kiss..."

Now Sin struggled. Common sense left her completely. She thrashed and twisted and pushed him as hard as she could. After a minute of fighting she actually broke free from him somehow, but she didn't even make it five steps before his lunge pinned her to the uneven stone wall of an abandoned house.

The replica struggled again, but even as she did this with pinned wrists, he spoke. "I can't believe it," he laughed gently as he watched her twist and wrestle against his grip. "You do have feelings for me."

"I don't!" she shouted at him angrily.

He leaned in close, close enough to kiss her, close enough to brush his lips along hers. "You pretty little liar," he mused darkly. "You had me fooled."

Instead, his lips went to her neck and she gasped and tensed as he lightly trailed kisses downward. Her mind exploded with anger and passion and adrenaline and too many other things that made the world spin and common sense history. Her eyes closed under the weight of emotions and the heat that coursed through her.

"S-Stop...!" she said as he kissed he collar bone, but he completely ignored her words and sent a chill up her spine in the process.

"Finally," he breathed out across her skin. "Finally, you're mine."

And then suddenly, as if to prove it, his lips crushed into hers so hard she thought they might bruise.

She froze up in denial. How had this spun so out of control so fast? It was her intention to call off the relationship with him once Vam admitted how he felt. But now...this. Asch wanted her. Really wanted her, just like she had not hoped but wished for. If possible she felt strong and weak all at once. Was that what love felt like?

It felt too good to be true. How could he see through her so easily? His guess had been dead on. She did have feeling for him. Saying she couldn't talk about it had somehow given him all the proof he needed in exposing her. Now she had lost her plans for ending the fake relationship and letting him go. Now he was simply taking her.

Her guard fell away piece by piece. She slowly, slowly kissed him back. She hoped this wasn't all just a dream, about to slip away the next time she blinked. His sharp intake of breath when she kissed him gave her strange tingling in her stomach. Was he still surprised, even after he had called her out on her lie?

Somehow he managed to pull away a little, though his lips were close enough to capture hers again at any moment. He simply stared at her, releasing her wrists but catching her face with his hands and using his thumbs to wipe away the last of her leaking tears. Every minute she felt braver, safer, but it still didn't feel real. Her body trembled with doubt, screamed at her to pull away before this shattered in her hands.

Asch shook his head ever so slightly, like he was having a realization. "I love you," he said after a moment, and her heart jolted like she was struck by lightning. The strike paralyzed her fears, lit up her heart. He nodded at her perplexed face. "I always have. I always will."

Her words barely started to come out. "I...I..." Did she love him? Was this what love was?

"Shh..." he hushed her with gently narrowed eyes. "You don't have to say it now. I don't want you to. I want to show you what you've been running from, what its like for us to be together. For real."

The replica couldn't help herself. "B-But...Sophie..." was all she could get out. How would he explain that?

Asch's face darkened. "That was a mistake. I should have been more careful."

Sin's heart fell a little, hurt, and she stepped slightly away from him. "So...you thought you had feelings for her?"

The red-haired man leaned back in surprise and Sin immediately got the feeling that she was way off.

"What are you talking about?" he asked slowly. .

"Y-You kissed..."

He placed his hands on the wall on either side of her head, taking her space for himself. "Yes, but not intentionally," he said, but after a second corrected himself. "Well, it wasn't intentional for me."

The replica eyed him wearily, unsure if she believed him.

Asch sighed. "I have a secret to tell you," he admitted suddenly. "Come closer."

Sin furrowed her eyebrows and leaned in towards him. Just as quickly though, he leaned down and their lips touched. Sin raised her eyebrows in realization. The words she couldn't hear Sophie whispering to Asch had been just that, telling him that she had a secret and making him lean closer.

So...Sophie had new found feelings for Asch. Was that why she had been so unaffected by Vam's feelings for her?

The replica didn't have too long to dwell on this thought though before Asch pulled her into a hug and rested his chin on the top of her head. "Why didn't you say anything?"

She felt the tears begin to stir, realizing that she wasn't going to snap out of this reality. "I...I couldn't...!" she choked. "I've hurt you...I might still hurt you. You deserve better..."

"You can hurt me, kill me. I don't care. As long as you're mine."

A hot tear rolled down her cheek. "I'm sorry...I was s-scared of what it might do to you. I'm glad...I-I'm grateful that you still want me," she said through clenched teeth as she buried her face in his chest. "I felt like I was dying."

He tilted her head up and kissed her again. "I'd do anything for you, Love."

The replica's heart fluttered rapidly and she thought she might faint. Love. He had never called her that before, and yet, it ran so easily over his tongue like he was used to it. Perhaps he had called her it before, somewhere in the hidden recesses of her mind she was sure she had once known that.

Sin smiled into his chest. "Why didn't you say something...?"

"I couldn't force myself onto you anymore. I saw how it tore you apart."

She grasped him, feeling guilty. It was all her fault. She should have just trusted him, so they wouldn't have had to go through hell and back. But she had to learn to trust, she realized, and he had earned it.

"That's how I figured you out," Asch said. Sin pulled away questioningly to look up at him. He stared down at her seriously. "When you said that you couldn't say what made you upset. I knew you had made a deal with yourself...I knew because I had done the same. It wasn't that you didn't want to say it, was it?" he hinted slightly. Sin closed her eyes and shook her head, admitting that he was right.

The red-haired man gently cupped her face and leaned down to place a gentle kiss on her forehead. "We can defeat anything," he told her lowly. "If you lose your memories a thousand times more, please, at least, remember that."


5am. I think it's time for bed. Thanks so much for reading, to all my encouraging reviewers, and silent readers too.

Inky