An Alternate Route for "Shuffle"

Kaede, after reading the postcard, became utterly horrified. She felt immeasurable guilt and disgust with herself for all the things she'd done to Rin. Rin, who she'd blamed for her mother's death wasn't guilty at all. It was…it was her fault.

"Kaede!" shouted Rin as he rushed inside and tore the postcard from her hands. The broken model ship wasn't the first thing on his mind. What was on his mind right now was Kaede who stood frozen.

Without a word, she ran out of the room and out the house. Rin tossed the postcard away and chased after her, calling out her name desperately.

Kaede just couldn't believe what she'd done but everything in that postcard was true. She remembered what'd happened. It was her fault, her fault, and Rin took the blame for her because…because…


She ran across the street but ended up frozen as the truck came. 'Maybe, it's better…if I die…' she thought to herself. 'Then I can be with mama…' She finished, closing her eyes, willing to embrace death, 'Rin-kun…I'm sorry.'

She felt a tug on her arm and was pulled to safety by none other than Rin. He held her against him protectively, both on the sidewalk with his back against the railing. "Kaede, are you alright?" he asked. She looked up at him, eyes filled with tears.

"I'm sorry," she apologized, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…" She repeated, over and over again, apologizing for the years of torment she'd put him through, crying into his school jacket. "I'm sorry…" The boy sighed and hugged his childhood friend, which was the only way he knew to comfort her, and just rubbed her back, accepting her apology.

He walked the guilt ridden girl home since she was in no mental or emotional condition to do so. So much had happened in so little time. Her perception of Rin had changed. When they both entered through the door, she finally spoke after a long silence.

"Why…?" she questioned. Rin looked to her. "Why didn't you tell me the truth? Why did you let me do all those things to you?" It just didn't make sense to her. She'd hated him and had tortured him and yet…yet he had done so much for her sake.

He didn't answer. He took her upstairs to her room and sat her on the bed. She was just staring down to her hands which were clasped on her knees. "Why?" she continued to ask. It would appear that she wouldn't be able to sleep until she got her answer he sat down next to her and leaned down to her ear. He whispered the answer which made her gasp and turn to him in shock. "What?"

He repeated, out loud this time, "Because, Kaede-chan, I love you."

She covered her mouth, the tears spilling out of her eyes once more. "You…you allowed me to do all that because…you love me?" How could he love her? How could he still love her?

"You were in pain, and needed a reason to live," he reasoned. "If hating me was a good enough reason, I gave it to you." He continued, "I didn't want to lose my best friend…"

"Baka," she muttered. Any normal man would've hated her or feared her for her actions but he didn't. "You're lying." She wanted him to say he hated her. At least that would that...would be justified. She'd done so much to him, harming him and his belongings. "I broke your model ship."

"It can be fixed or replace," he shrugged. "You, of course, are irreplaceable."

"You're crazy," she turned away from his gaze but he cupped her chin and turned her head to face him.

"Maybe," he said. "Maybe I'm a masochist," he joked. She giggled which made him smile.

"I just can't see how you can forgive me," she said, shutting her eyes. 'Hate me, please. Just hate me. Punish me…' He then pulled her into an embrace, stroking her orange hair gently.

"I guess you can say patience is my forte," he said with a smile. She gently pushed him off her. "Kaede-chan?"

"I'm sorry, Rin-kun," she apologized again. "For hating you. You were just trying to…trying to protect a wretched person like me. Someone who doesn't deserve your love."

Rin sighed. Looks like it was going to be his job to help her recover again. "I don't care what you say, or what you do to me, as long as I can see you smile and as long as I can love you." He wiped her tears away with his thumb. "My Kaede-chan."

They slept together that night, exhausted physically and emotionally. She would help clean his room tomorrow but for now…she just needed this, to be in his arms.

Rin and Kaede's relationship had improved since then. She even offered to become his 'servant' by doing all the housework instead of him. He couldn't refuse her, fearing that she may have a relapse, but he couldn't have her do ALL the housework. Instead he offered to do part of the chores. It took a lot of negotiating but they finally compromised on who would do what.

She would take care of the boy who loved her for eternity, to make up for all her sins. Of course, she wasn't sure of her own feelings and yet he was alright with it. It wasn't alright with her at all. She wanted to tell him, she really did, but she could never get the right words out. She couldn't tell him she loved him because she didn't have the right. She didn't even feel that she had the right to be loved either and yet he continued to love her, without even saying it.

How long had he loved her? Since they were children? Was that why he allowed her to hurt him? She realized that he cared more for others than himself. It was noble, but still foolish. She could've killed him one day in his sleep without any remorse and yet he wouldn't have minded…he would've allowed it.

Years later, they began high school at Verbena Academy. They both had their picture taken together at the entrance ceremony. He held her hand and she smiled happily with him.

It'd been too long already. Long overdue. She needed to tell him, now, before someone else snatched him away. He was her reason for living. She needed him and couldn't lose him.

One day, after school, when both of them ended up with cleanup duty, she told him.

"Rin-kun, I love you too."

ZK Chromedragozoid: I feel that Kaede and Rin are both tragic figures in "Shuffle!" She really was remorseful for all her actions and you gotta love someone THAT much to allow them to hurt you everyday for years. I just feel that they deserve one another. They need each other.