Kaori awoke just as dawn was breaking. He reached out expecting to pull Shuichi closer to him, but instead all he felt was a cold, empty bed. Jumping out of bed and throwing his boxers on, he raced into the living room. No one was there. As he was rushing through the hall toward the bath room, he nearly ran into Yori. She walked quietly past him carrying her luggage.

"Do you know where Shuichi is," he frantically asked as he followed her down the hall.

"He is with Eiri Yuki," she answered him calmly setting her luggage down in the living room.

"You…let him go!" Kaori's face was so red from his rage that it was almost purple. "How could you let just him go like that? I thought you were going to help me win him over!"

"Don't talk to me about 'winning him over," she screamed. "You raped him! How could my beloved brother be so cruel? I've always admired and supported you – ALWAYS! No matter what you got yourself into, I've always been there to help you. But tonight for the first time in my life, I was ashamed that you are my brother!" Angry tears began to spill over her cheeks.

"I never…what…did he tell you?" All of the color had drained from his face leaving his pale complexion looking ghostly white.

"He didn't have to tell me anything. I could figure out what had happened from the bruises you left on his wrists!" Unable to look at his face anymore, Yori turned her back on him and called for a taxi to come pick her up. "I've already made arrangements to stay with Tara until I'm able to find a place of my own," she informed him after hanging up the phone. "And don't even think about bothering Shuichi anymore. If I find that you have, I will tell father all about your lifestyle!" Kaori's sharp intake of breath let her know that her threat had hit its mark. "Of course he probably won't disown you on my word alone. He'll have the matter thoroughly investigated which will undoubtedly be…inconvenient for all of your former lovers."

"Yori, you can't…it would destroy John's career, and…Kevin…he hasn't come out yet either! You wouldn't really do that to them, would you?"

"I'm not like you," she snapped at him angrily. "I don't want to hurt anyone. I just want to make sure that you leave Shuichi alone, and this is the only threat I know for sure that would guarantee your compliance." She looked at him challengingly. "Unlike you, this is not a bluff!" With that she picked up her luggage and headed out the door. "If I were you," she called over her shoulder in an afterthought, "I would stay at a friend's place for a few weeks. I doubt that Eiri Yuki is going to take the fact that you violated his lover very kindly."

Kaori stared at the door for several long seconds unable to fathom the fact that his twin sister, who he'd rarely been separated from, had just walked out of his life. The pain of losing Shuichi was nothing compared to the emptiness he felt at this moment. Then the reality of her last words finally reached his addled brain. She's right, he realized in a panic. Yuki is going to kill me!

He raced into his bedroom and hastily threw some clothes into his suitcase. Throwing his book bag over his shoulder, Kaori grabbed his things and bolted for the door. I hope I can get out of here before Yuki finds me! Kaori prayed as he headed to his best friend's apartment.

Two men approached Shuichi from the shadows. The larger of the two walked up to him. "Just look at this sweet, young thing walking all alone! He looks kinda lonely." He tried to stroke Shuichi's cheek.

Shuichi slapped his hand away. "Piss off and leave me alone!"

"You shouldn't act like that." The other one said. "It really turns him on!"

Suddenly, the big one grabbed a handful of Shuichi's hair and began kissing him hard. The scent of cigarettes and cheap wine made him want to gag. Shuichi pushed against him with all of his strength, but it was useless. The brute was much too strong for him. In a final act of desperation, Shuichi drove his knee into his attacker's groin. He abruptly released Shuichi, who grunted loudly as his body hit the ground. As he was getting to his feet to run away, the other one kicked Shuichi in the ribs. The sound of his bones cracking reverberated through his head while the wind was knocked out of his lungs. As he fell to the ground, it felt like his body was being kicked and punched from every direction. Shuichi tried to curl in a ball to protect himself, but his body wouldn't obey his commands. Rough hands drug him through the darkness while he struggled to regain his breath.

"Somebody help me!" Shuichi yelled as they threw him to the ground…

Shuichi's blood-curdling screams immediately jarred Yuki awake. With his eyes still blurry from slumber, he stumbled quickly to his hysterical lover's side.

"Hey! Come on…" Yuki spoke to him soothingly as he gingerly wrapped him in a comforting embrace. "You're alright. You're just having another nightmare." He pulled away just far enough to look into Shuichi's face. "Look! You're safe here with me. I won't let anyone hurt you."

Shuichi clung to him desperately. Why do I feel so safe in his arms? The sound of Yuki's voice as he spoke quietly in his ear calmed him down faster than he would have thought possible after that terrifying nightmare. There is something I simply don't understand. Shuichi wondered in confusion. "Why…why are you being so kind to me?"

"You're my lover. How could I just ignore you?" He shifted uncomfortably. It made Shuichi curious to see the look on Yuki's face. His eyes widened when he saw the empathy in Yuki's eyes.

"I know how disturbing nightmares can be," Yuki answered the question that Shuichi couldn't bring himself to ask.

"If you're really my lover, then tell me you love me." Shuichi couldn't believe he'd just blurted that out. His stomach churned as he looked into Yuki's tormented eyes. I shouldn't have said that. Is he going to get angry? What will he do to me if he gets angry? Shuichi was just about to take back what he'd said when Yuki's expression abruptly changed. He looked as if he'd just received an epiphany.

Looking deeply into his eyes, Yuki took a deep breath and haltingly whispered the words that Shuichi had always longed to hear. "I love you."

Memories of Yuki suddenly flooded into Shuichi's mind. "Yuki," he exclaimed before kissing him enthusiastically.

At first Yuki was taken aback by Shuichi's unexpected behavior, but the taste of the lips he'd been craving for the past few days began to override his senses. Moaning softly with desire he embraced his lover, and began running his fingers through his soft hair. Wait a minute, Yuki paused in surprise pulling back suddenly. "Shuichi…you…you remember me?"

Shuichi was positively ecstatic! "Say it again! Please Yuki; tell me you love me just one more time!"

"Idiot," Yuki laughed in relief. "I love you!"

Shuichi was amazed that those three little words spoken by the person he truly loved could make him feel so complete. Just seeing the smile on Yuki's face and hearing his laughter gave Shuichi more joy than he could possibly imagine. Then suddenly Yuki's smile faded away and was replaced with an expression that instantly caused dozens of butterflies to materialize in Shuichi's stomach.

"Yuki, I…" his comment was cut short as Yuki claimed his lips with a long, passionate kiss.

As they walked silently through the cemetery, Shuichi was acutely aware of Yuki's anxiety. Of all the places in New York, this was the one place he definitely did not want to visit. Yet he still found the courage to confront this ominous ghost from his past. Shuichi looked at Yuki's grim, determined face and found himself falling more deeply in love with him. They stopped suddenly, and he could tell by Yuki's demeanor that they'd arrived at their destination.

He looked so troubled it made Shuichi's heart ache. "Am I being a bother? I could have just waited by the gate while you did this."

"It's alright," Yuki answered in an uncharacteristically vulnerable voice. "I'll never leave you alone in this city again! Besides, this is something I want you to hear as well."

They knelt side by side at Yuki Kitazawa's grave. Slowly with trembling hands, Yuki retrieved the letter he'd written. He carefully unfolded it and began to hesitantly read its contents.

"Sensei, it has been nearly ten years since you betrayed me and I murdered you. Even though your predilection for sadism robbed me of my innocence and transformed me into a cold, mistrustful person, deep down I still held onto my love for you. You were my first love, and I didn't think I could ever fall in love with someone else. Partially because I could never get you out of my heart, but mostly because I was petrified of getting hurt again.

So I shut my heart off to everyone – my family, my friends, and especially to every potential lover. I thought that I could protect my heart by pushing everyone away, but in reality, I was punishing myself. I thought everything that happened on that awful day was my fault. I always felt that somehow I must have said or done something to drive you to those extremes. But now, with the help of Dr. Schlucter and Dr. Kinjo, I've been able to look back on that day with a new perspective. Now I know I'm not to blame for the unexpected change in your demeanor that drove you to hurt me so badly.

I've lived most of the past ten years in a self-imposed emotional isolation. I've been cold and cruel to everyone in order to keep anyone from getting too close to my heart. For the most part, this strategy has worked, but three years ago I met someone, who wouldn't leave me alone. It didn't matter how cruelly I treated him. He just kept coming back for more. I'm not entirely sure when it happened, but eventually this person wormed his way into my heart. I never thought it would ever happen, but sensei, that someone has replaced you in my heart. He's loud, annoying, and most of the time he's a royal pain in my ass, but I love him. With him by my side, I finally have a reason to let you go, and allow the wounds you inflicted upon me to heal. Therefore, in order to protect my sanity, I must bury what belongs in the past and leave it behind.

I forgive you sensei. In time I hope I will eventually be able to forgive myself."

Yuki carefully folded up the letter and dug a small hole.

"I'm leaving this with you so I can live the rest of my life free from this burden," he said as he placed the letter in the hole. Then he pushed some dirt on top of it and replaced the clump of grass fixing it back together so perfectly, one would have to look very closely to notice it had ever been disturbed.

Yuki looked over at Shuichi, who had been sitting uncharacteristically still and silent. Large tears were spilling over his cheeks. "Yuki…" He wanted to tell Yuki how much he loved him, but he was so overcome with emotion the words just wouldn't come out.

An understanding smile brightened Yuki's face as he tenderly wiped the tears from Shuichi's cheeks. "It's finished," he said decisively. "Let's go home."

The morning sun illuminated the buildings against the pale blue sky. Yuki watched the city fly by as the taxi made its way through the morning traffic toward the airport. To his immense relief, he could once again look at New York as just another city. Although there were still a few lingering moments of unease, Yuki was confident that they would eventually fade away. Dr. Kinjo was right! This trip was helpful. But it had its drawbacks as well…

"Yuki," Shuichi began in what he'd hoped was a seductive voice. "I love you!" Yuki glared at him momentarily then continued to look out the window. "Hey! Didn't you hear me! I said I love you."

"I heard you," he answered irritably.

"When your lover says 'I love you,' you're supposed to say 'I love you' in return!"

He sighed with forced patience. "Look, just because I've finally said it to you, don't get any ideas in your head about me saying it all the time!"

"But I like to hear you say it," Shuichi pouted slightly trying his best to look alluring.

"You know how I feel about you." He avoided looking at Shuichi. Yuki could picture the cute expression on his face, and he knew if he looked at Shuichi now, his resolve would crumble.

"Come on Yuki, just one more time," Shuichi begged gently wrapping his arms around Yuki's neck.

"No," he replied pulling Shuichi's hands away. "Cut that out! We're in public."

"You didn't have a problem with it yesterday," Shuichi reminded him.

"That was in the heat of the moment," he explained with forced patience. "I'm completely composed today."

Making a last ditch effort, Shuichi leaned close to Yuki and whispered in his ear. "Please, tell me you love me!"

A shiver surged down Yuki's spine when Shuichi's breath ghosted over his ear. He looked into Shuichi's eyes and cursed silently at himself for doing so. Yuki's resolve waivered slightly, and he instantly became irritated by his momentary weakness. "I said no, and if you don't quit bothering me about it, I won't ever say it again!"

"Yuki…that's so mean…" Shuichi sulked for several long minutes looking absentmindedly out the window. Finally after glancing surreptitiously at Yuki, Shuichi scooted closer to his bad tempered lover and gently leaned against him.

Yuki sighed long-sufferingly and flashed Shuichi a small, reluctant grin as he wrapped his arm around his lover's shoulder and pulled him closer. I love you too! Shuichi thought as he rested his head on Yuki's chest and sighed in contentment. It didn't really matter whether Yuki said it again or not. Shuichi knew Yuki loved him and that they would be together forever!