Epilogue

Small hands were reaching up, fingers straining for the spoon that their owner could just see peeking out over the edge of the table. Determined to get the spoon, the little boy struggled a little harder, straining, straining, stretching his hand up and up and up towards the shining silver. Big blue eyes were focused solely on the target, the little mouth turning into a concentrated pout. That spoon was going to be his!

Stretching up onto his tiptoes, the child grabbed at the tablecloth, giving it a forceful tug down towards him. The tablecloth moved towards him, the spoon falling off, clattering to the floor. Squeaking happily, the child snatched it up and darted away, however, he paused at the dining room doorway when a plate fell from the table, looking over his shoulder. The plate landed on the hardwood floor, breaking into thirds, although it still retained its initial round shape.

The little boy whimpered slightly as footsteps sounded down the hall. A worried voice saying, "Hiroki? What happened?" resounded and the little one looked up sadly as his father stepped into the room. It wasn't his fault, honest! He only wanted a spoon for his yogurt.

"You're not hurt? Does anything hurt, Hiroki?"

Hiroki shook his head from side to side. A relieved sigh came from the older man as he was lifted up and carried off to the kitchen, set onto a toddler-proofed chair. A dish of yogurt was placed in front of him and his father ruffled his hair before vanishing to clean up the broken dish and right the table cloth.

Really… when your three-year old boy looks up at you with those watering blue eyes that simply screamed that he didn't mean to do it, how could you have the heart to punish them?

***

Two-year old Kunisuke woke up from his nap, yawning as he stretched his little self out on the futon. It had been placed against the wall in the living room, with a blanket pressed close to the wall for padding in case he rolled too much as he slept. Cerulean eyes stared curiously around him as the child rubbed his eyes.

Where was everyone?

Wiggling around, not exactly wanting to sit up and go explore his house for his missing family members, he tried to glance around, listening for footsteps. Then, bump went his little head against the wall, and even though it had been padded, it still wasn't nice to bump your head against the wall.

Moving his hands to his head, Kunisuke checked for any bumps. There were none, but the more he felt around the more worried he got. His eyes widened and started to water, a faint whimpering escaping him, very tiny ones that no one heard.

Whimpers evolved into sniffles. Sniffles turned into outright wails. Where was everyone when you needed them?

Hurried footsteps were heard and then he was being picked up, brought to lean on a strong shoulder while a warm hand rubbed his back and a soft voice cooed to him, trying to soothe him. "Let me see. Did you hit your head?" Wails subsided to sniffles as he looked tearfully at his father while said father did a thorough examination of the little boy. "Saa… it's just a bump; nothing serious. You're a big boy, aren't you, Suke? This is nothing."

Whimper.

"Do you want yogurt? Will yogurt make you feel better?"

Instantly, the whimpering stopped. The child understood 'yogurt.' Yogurt was sweet and yummy and he liked yogurt. Hearing no further whimpers that might say 'no, yogurt will not make me feel better,' he was transferred to the kitchen, set down in his highchair while his father got him some yogurt and a spoon. Not a trace of those sad little tears remained while the little one started to eat his treat.

Life lesson: when faced with your child threatening to pull the unstoppable waterworks, bribe them with yogurt. Yogurt, as a sweet dessert, is able to cater to all of the child's needs for up to fifteen minutes, where you will have nothing to deal with except for globs of yogurt flying off of the spoon because your child is just so happy to be eating it.

***

Hiroki, having finished his yogurt and was freed to play around the house (it was raining outside, quite heavily, too), chased after a ball that he had thrown just a tad farther than he had wanted. And lo and behold, the ball rolled.

Away from him.

Hiroki scrambled after the ball that was intent on escaping the clutches of the child who wanted to play with it, ran out of the living room into the hallway, charged down the hallway past his father's study, inside where his father was trying so very hard to get his work done and probably wouldn't appreciate the ruckus that the three-year old was making.

Of course, Hiroki didn't care as long as he was having fun. Play came first, after all.

He gave a squeak of surprise as he tripped over his own two feet, such was the haste he was using to catch the rolling ball, tumbling to the ground onto his hands and knees and then flopping down onto his belly. He wasn't hurt; nothing terrible or life-threatening would fall upon him… but…

Hiroki let out a tremendous half-scream, half-wail, one that clearly conveyed all of the wrongs that the world wrought upon his little self to all who could and would hear him. Almost instantly, the door to the study swung open and he was whisked up off of the floor as his father squatted down and sat him on his knee. Perched there, Hiroki sniffled while he was subjected to a quick examination for any hurts. But asides from his hands being a bit red from the impact of catching himself on the floor, his knees being a bit sore, and perhaps his stomach a tiny bit as well, Hiroki was fine.

His father blew out a sigh of relief as he switched gears, going into soothing mode where he was set busily to work wiping away tears. "Hush, Hiroki, hush," he crooned, letting the little boy cling to him and whimper. "Do you want to look at some new pictures that Papa took?" It would probably be better off for everyone if Hiroki was within immediate sight of the adult in charge.

He seemed to consider this for a moment, crossing his arms over his small chest before nodding, allowing himself to be put onto the floor where he followed at his father's heels. Inside the study, he was lifted up and sat on the small sofa that his father had moved there, amidst the cushions which he snuggled happily into. A set of pictures was given to him and Hiroki passed the rest of the hour flipping through the pictures of French scenery, over and over and over again.

Life's second lesson: if bribing with yogurt can not be efficiently pulled off (such as the fact that your child has already eaten yogurt that day and you do not wish to have a sugar-high child on your hands), employ the use of colorful, professional photographs of majestic landscapes from exotic lands. Your child will be quiet and you will have peace for approximately thirty minutes until the little one gets bored with the pictures or some other crisis demands your immediate attention.

***

Kunisuke (Suke for short, since it was a hassle to say such a long name when referring to such a little boy) lived with his mother, his father, his older brother, and their two cats in a house in a nice neighborhood near the outskirts of Tokyo. One of the cats was an older white one, who preferred to spend much of her day sitting on the windowsill in his parents' room, soaking up the warmth of the sun. When she wasn't doing that, she was usually curled into a fluffy white ball on the living room sofa with twitching ears as she listened to the cartoons that Hiroki and Suke watched, stalking the kitchen for imaginary mice, escaping from little Suke's mother when she wanted to give her a bath, or teaching the other cat of the house important survival skills amidst humans.

That, or… napping next to Suke on the futon, tail curled over the little one's stomach as she dreamed of… whatever cats dreamed of.

The other cat was a kitten, one who his parents had adopted into the household a few months ago. She was a tortoiseshell tabby, with bright green eyes, and probably the softest fur Suke had ever stroked in the entirety of his life. Her name was Cinnamon.

Suke loved her dearly.

Cinnamon didn't love him half as much.

Currently, Cinnamon was sitting on the floor, stock-still as little Suke petted her and stroked her fur and fondled with her ears, occasionally letting out a faint mew of protest. She didn't get up and walk away; doing so would result in waterworks and then scoldings from the bigger humans and a cuff in the head from a white paw by the older cat, whose name was Seika. Cinnamon might not have been in a human household for a long time but she was smart and adapted well.

She put up well with little children who were overly fond of kittens, too.

When Suke wandered off to do whatever it was that caught his attention, Cinnamon got up, shook out her coat, and strode out of the room, intent on staking herself an area that was peaceful and child-free. Eventually, she found it, in the seat of the big, comfy chair that was in the downstairs study.

It was already occupied by Seika, but the white cat was persuaded to move over to give the smaller Cinnamon a little room by a few persuading licks to her ear. So now there was a fluffy cushion that had two pairs of eyes on the chair.

When Suke came back and couldn't find his cat, his response was to cry, and it wasn't long before he was persuaded into the study, where he was set down next to his brother. Both cats had dozed off by that time, and the children's father occupied their attention by sitting down in between them and pulling a few photo albums towards them.

"Let Seika-chan and Cinnamon-chan sleep," he told his youngsters. "We can look through some pictures." He spread the albums out on the floor in front of the sofa. "Which one do you two want to look at?"

Both boys pointed to the one on the far left, the one that was a pretty shade of blue with a simple white ribbon glued to one corner as decoration. In a few minutes, all three were poring over pictures, with Hiroki happily chirping, "It's Daddy!" or "It's Mommy!" whenever he saw his parents in the pictures, Suke echoing him.

Suffice it to say that when one is busy entertaining two small children, whatever other work that should be done does not get done.

***

Asa let herself into the house, looking left and right, wondering how on earth her house could be so… quiet. There were no kids bouncing around, no cats mewing and trying to get her attention by twining around her ankles and tripping her as a result, no husband pouncing on her and stealing a kiss or vice versa…

Enjoying this newfound peace at returning home but at the same time feeling wary, she stepped fully into the house, shutting the door behind her and taking off her shoes, making a beeline for the kitchen. It was quiet; no preparations for dinner had been made (although she could tell from the shoes by the door that everyone was home). Heaving a soft sigh, she set down the two bags of groceries that she carried onto the counter, heading to the closet to hang up her coat and purse. Leaving dinner for later, she strode down the hall to find the members of her family.

They were all in the study, humans and felines. The two cats were fast asleep on the chair by the desk; the little ones were napping on the sofa, snuggled amidst the cushions and pressing against their father's side. Their father was half sprawled on the sofa, his head leaning back, eyes closed like he was asleep.

She knew better than that, stealing lightly over to the sofa, careful not to make any sound lest her little ones wake up. "What are you doing, feigning sleep?" she teased lightly, eyes sparkling.

The corners of his lips twitched upwards. "Saa… I can't fool you any more, can I?" he asked, though he did not open his eyes or turn them into their usual smile. He was very clear with what he wanted; Asa could only shake her head slightly from side to side before kissing him gently on the lips.

"Happy now?"

"Quite." Those eyes opened, revealing a stunning cerulean that could capture and hold anyone who looked into them, even if that person had been looking at them for five or so years. "I didn't make dinner."

"I know," she answered, brushing aside a few stray locks of his honey-brown hair from his forehead, eyes roving to the little ones who were snoozing peacefully. "They'll be up all night… Hiroki just woke up from a nap when I left and Suke was still napping. You must not want any sleep tonight."

He chuckled, amused although she could not find anything amusing with having to entertain toddlers into the wee hours of the night. "I'm used to waking up early. If you think I'm going to be late to pick him up I'd like to kindly ask you to reconsider." He sat up, nudging the little ones gently to the side as he stood. "We haven't seen him in person in years, haven't we?" he asked, stretching his arms leisurely above his head.

"We only ever see Kawamura-kun, Oshitari-kun, Shishido-kun, Choutarou-kun, and Eiji-kun in person on a semi-regular basis," she mused, looking torn between waking her children up now or doing so when she had finished making dinner. "Eiji-kun we see because he and his family live right down the street from us. We go Kawamura's sushi shop quite regularly. Oshitari-kun we see occasionally because he's Kurumi's business partner. Shishido-kun and Choutarou-kun because they're teachers at the local kindergarten where Hiroki will be going next year." She sighed lightly; growing up really was a hassle. While she was happy for everyone's careers she wished they could get together to see each other more often.

"Tezuka-kun is a tennis pro that we only get to see on TV. You'd better get to the airport with at least fifteen minutes to spare or else he'll get mauled by fans; he has quite a big fan club in Japan, you know. Don't make it be a repeat of what you did to your brother last year. You were an hour late and made poor Yuuta-kun ride a taxi all over Tokyo because you conveniently failed to give him our address."

He held up his hands in surrender. "I sent him a message! How was I supposed to know that his Internet broke down and he couldn't read it? I'm not physic, Aa-chan." She didn't believe him.

"Just make sure that doesn't happen again, Fuji Syusuke! Tezuka-kun will probably make you run laps around the neighborhood."

"It'll be nice though… I haven't heard anyone tell me to run laps in years," he chirped as she left the study to go prepare dinner.

He turned to his desk, stroking both cats on the head lightly. They woke up, blinking up at him, before stretching and leaping down, striding out the door with their tails held high in the air. No doubt they would be taking positions in the kitchen, just waiting for the sound of the can opener or the sound of milk pouring into a dish. Sitting in his now vacated chair, he pulled his laptop towards him, powering it up and opening a folder, pulling up his work from that afternoon, a new photo album that he hoped he would be able to finish by the end of the week. 'Reunion,' it was titled, with a subtitle, 'Did we change much?'

He hoped they didn't, personality-wise at least.

Oishi was now a doctor, living and working in Kyoto. According to the last email that he had sent he had gotten engaged to a nurse that worked with him. Fuji had set aside an entire page for photos that he was going to take of the couple when he saw them at tomorrow night's Seigaku-exclusive reunion.

Kaidoh worked in a sports center where he helped with athletes in the rehabilitation program by designing and carrying through training menus.

Momoshiro was a physical education teacher at Seigaku as well as the new boy's tennis coach since Ryuuzaki-sensei had retired a few years back.

Echizen had gone pro with Tezuka, both of them sweeping the tournaments until they were the two players that every magazine focused on, that every tennis fan wanted to be like, that any girl wished she could have as a boyfriend (they were quite charming when they weren't so focused on smashing their opponents on the other side of the net).

Inui had started his own juice company and now sold health drinks internationally (he had sent a sample to Fuji, who thought it had tasted quite delicious. It was safe to drink, too, which was a big improvement).

Eiji had gotten married after dating on and off with Miho and other girls, and now he and Miho had twins, a boy and girl named Sora and Aya respectively. Both were three years old and Hiroki's partners-in-crime (or playmates, whichever suited the situation). Eiji ran a pet shop and Fuji could usually get cat supplies for a discount from him, which he greatly appreciated.

Taka's sushi business was doing well. Even though his prices weren't as high as the prices that other, bigger stores were offering, he was getting a lot of costumers who preferred his place to others. Kawamura's sushi had an air of warmth and friendliness that was sometimes lacking in the bigger stores, and Taka-san was one of the best sushi chefs in Japan (having been mentioned in the top five once. Fuji had cut out the news clipping and wrote, 'That's our Taka-san!' on it and had given it to the former power player. It now hung in a place of honor on the wall of Kawamura's Sushi, next to a framed picture of the tennis team from junior high).

Fuji himself was doing well. He was now a professional photographer, ranked in the top three internationally, specializing in landscapes with dabblings of portraits to amuse himself when he didn't feel like travelling. He was the father of two children, Fuji Hiroki and Fuji Kunisuke, the latter named by combining Tezuka's and his own name, since when he was born he looked a bit like Tezuka, the way his little forehead was all scrunched up and his mouth was puckered into a frown (when he had told Tezuka that in a phone call a few days later Tezuka had not been able to say anything more than, 'Oh.' Fuji considered it a personal victory). He and Asa had broken up their third year in high school, studies and going to different colleges making it difficult for them to get together inconvenient for them both. Fuji had dated sporadically in the years later on before he had managed to bump into her again while at a business convention. They caught up with each other as best as they could, tried dating again, and eventually had gotten married and formed a family. Asa had ceded her position as a CEO of the Ijuuin-Oshitari electronic company to her little sister Kurumi when caring for two little ones and a constantly travelling husband had proved to be a bit too much to handle (apparently, taking toddlers to important business meetings was frowned upon). So, business-wise, she only worked when Kurumi ran to her and begged for help on contracts and the like. She was a mentor, of sorts, or perhaps something to help keep Oshitari sane when he could no longer deal with spunky Kurumi.

"Saa… we've all changed so much," Fuji mused to himself. It was nostalgic, a bit saddening, but it was nice… this feeling of change. Life would be boring without change, and even if they were afraid of change, it still had to happen. Waking up his little ones, he herded them into the kitchen and sat them in their chairs while Asa set the table.

He hadn't seen some of his old friends in years. Some he had only communicated with through emails and the rare phone call. There was also some that he only got to know about their ventures and whereabouts through tabloids in the paper and magazine. What would they be like in person? Could he still see some of their junior high selves in them? Or would they be like new people that he would have to get to know all over again.

"Friends are friends, you know." He looked up and was met with Asa's smile as she set down the last plate. "Even if they've changed, they're still your friends."

He smiled softly. "I know," he said. "But I can still be nervous, can't I?" She chuckled and nodded while the two little boys squeaked for their dinner.

The next day, Fuji stepped into Kawamura's Sushi, herding Kunisuke in front of him while Hiroki skipped after him, followed closely by Asa and Tezuka, who was spending the days of his visit away from the pro circuits at the Fujis' home. There were cries of 'Fuji!', 'Fujiko-chan!', 'Tezuka!', and 'Buchou!' as Fuji turned his little ones loose in the safety of the shop and dragged himself and Tezuka into the happy faces and cheerful greetings of his old teammates.

He had been silly, worrying so much over how people had changed. Sure there were changes, but they were still the people that he knew underneath those new changes. Off to the side Asa flashed him a See? smile before getting glomped by Miho and dragged over to a table.

Smiling widely, he turned to his friends. "It's been a while. How is everyone doing?"


A/N: I've finished! I feel so accomplished! :)

This ends my Shine/Sugar Sweet arc, although I might make a Miho-centric side story if I ever get the time and feel inspired. it's been fun writing this, even if it took forever (at least, it feels like that).

Reviews would be nice, like always. Thank you all who read and reviewed and to everyone who will (hopefully) read this. ^_^