Disclaimer: Hot Gimmick and its affiliated characters do not belong to me. This story however does.

Pairing: Hatsumi x Shinogu

A/N: Flashbacks are in italics

Shinogu stood against the dark red brick building and sighed, exhaling a cloud of vapor and smoke against the cold air. This neighborhood was a little too rough for his liking. At first glance it seemed okay, but if you took a closer look, you'd notice the telltale signs of decay. The sidewalks were cracked and damaged in a few places, the buildings looked worn, and even a little graffiti sprung out to catch the eye here and there. This shouldn't be where she lived. Didn't she belong in a nice home with maids to wait on her and expensive clothes and dinner parties and…? But that wasn't how it turned out.

Shinogu instinctively took another drag at his cigarette before letting it slip from his fingers where he snuffed it out with the toe of a shiny black dress shoe. If he had known where she was now… he wouldn't have spiffed up so much. Not that this was too much different from his average getup.

He knew he should leave the shelter of the overhanging roof and continue into her apartment building. She wasn't expecting him of course, but once he had discovered what had happened… well, there wasn't much that could keep him away. Ryoki… that bastard. A lot could happen in ten years. A whole lot could happen.

They both sat, kneeling before a statue of Buddha. A contemplative silence passed between them for a while before the old monk spoke.

"Shinogu…" he smiled kindly at him. "You are unhappy here. Why do you stay here if you cannot find the peace that you desire?" Shinogu didn't speak. He couldn't argue with the man who had been a confidant and mentor for the past three years. "Shinogu, you don't belong here. What you are searching for cannot be found in this place." Shinogu glanced up in mild shock.

"But master… I have nowhere else…"

"You only have nowhere else because that is what you choose. You once had a career that you wished to pursue. You wanted to help people. You still do. Shinogu… go with what peace you can, and leave this place."

Shinogu felt a little like Maria from the Sound of Music. Only he knew that the world out there didn't hold adventure or excitement. It didn't hold that here either… so what was the use anymore? He was fooling himself. He knew his master was right… he'd never find peace in this place, no matter how much he yearned for it.

"I'll… do as you say master."

From that day onward Shinogu could only move forward with the hope that his master's words had held. It was true… Shinogu had studied hard, and pushed his way almost entirely through med school before he had dropped everything to become a monk. He had worked brutally hard so that it wouldn't be a burden to the ones he had once called parents. He had wanted to be a doctor. He had wanted to help people… and so he took what tiny shreds of hope and light that he could cling to and did just that.

He finished his education and training in two years and got a job in Tokyo. He was later transferred to America as a specialist.


So much really could happen in ten years. He hadn't stepped foot in Japan in nearly four, but now here he was.

And he hadn't seen her since the day he joined the Monastery.

He'd heard she'd married the Tachibana bastard, and assumed that they were living happily ever after, entirely oblivious to his pain. In those years he'd grown cold. It was true that too many years of pain and regret had a way of wearing on a person… changing them… making them so much different than who they were before. It was only with the children he treated that he was able to retain a spark of who he used to be. It was only with them that he smiled or laughed.

But still… in all those years… he could never forget her. He had hoped as time wore on that he could forget her face, her voice, her laughter, her tears. But it was impossible. They clung to his memory like flies to sticky paper, struggling and pining to survive in his mind. He didn't know how long it would take for them to give up the ghost.

And then he heard what he had done. What Ryoki had being doing all this time. His blood boiled just thinking about it. God… he would have never treated Hatsumi like that. Never… she deserved better. She deserved better than a husband who couldn't hack it in the business world, no matter how brilliant he was, because he couldn't compromise. She deserved better than a husband who drank and gambled away his fortune. A husband who took all his financial problems out on her in the worst possible way.

God… when Akane had showed him the pictures… his most precious Hatsumi, with blackened eyes and bandages, in the hospital…. He'd just about lost it. He was so close to losing it even know that his skin turned white against his knuckles as clenched his fists.

He'd always knew the guy had a temper… had a penchant for violence when nothing else solved his problems… he could see it from the very beginning of Ryoki and Hatumi's relationship. But he was a weak man… that Ryoki was so weak. He needed Hatsumi. Wasn't that what she told him at their last meeting.

"Shinogu… Ryoki he..he needs me. I can't abandon him like everyone else. There's no one else to love him but me."

Didn't she know how much those words stung? Couldn't she understand that he had needed her? That he was lost in the abyss of his own misery and anguish and it was only she… only she could save him from it. But she had chosen Ryoki… and that bastard had nearly destroyed her.

Shinogu supposed he couldn't put this off much longer. In a way, he yearned so much to see her, but at the same time… he was terrified. Would she still be the same? He could hardly believe that was possible. After all, wasn't he so much different now as well? No… he couldn't expect that same clutzy, adorable, cheerful girl. The problem was, he didn't know what else there was.

Finally Shinogu stepped from the under the overhang and let the cold wind hit his face. The metal of the handle on the door was cold as he entered the shabby brick building. It was just as shabby on the inside as on the outside. The floor was scuffed and marked… the plants that decorated some of the corners were brown on the edges of the green and drooped slightly from neglect. The foyer only led to an elevator at one end and a set of stairs next to it. A few chairs lined the wall to his left, and a receptionist desk was at his right, encased by a glass shield. The woman sitting at the desk glanced up at him briefly from a novel she held in her hands and slid a clipboard and pen through an opening in the glass.

"Sign in please." And then she promptly forgot him.

Shinogu wondered if she was the only security in this building… probably. It didn't make him feel very comfortable about Hatsumi living here.

Shinogu quickly jotted his name and checked his watch to put down what time he had arrived. Quarter to six. She might be eating dinner. Was she alone? Would someone be visiting? No… he didn't think so. His name was the only one on the list. He slid the clipboard back through the opening and the receptionist took it without even glancing from her book.

He could have been a killer. He could have been Ryoki coming to hurt Hatsumi, and this woman would have just let him waltz right in and do it. Shinogu's eyes flashed with anger at the unfairness of this situation. She shouldn't be here!

Fists clenching once more, he headed for the stairs. He didn't take elevators if he could help it. But even the fact that he avoided them only served to remind him.

"Shinogu… did you just… kiss me?"

Shinogu shook his head and tried to rid himself of the thoughts. She didn't need some lovesick man to come and knock on her door. She needed someone strong and dependable. He was going to be that now, like he couldn't before. Even if she would never accept him as a man… he couldn't quite let himself abandon her like she had done to him.

Shinogu reached the landing of the third floor and headed down the hallway towards her room.

He fingered the small slip of paper in his pocket and unfolded it gingerly glancing again at the room number. He didn't know why. He'd already looked at it so many times. He had the number memorized.

306. Apartment number 306. And as he reached her door his hand shook. She was just behind this wall. So close to him he could hardly bear it. Taking a deep breath in an attempt to steady his nerves he lifted his hand and knocked.

He heard a faint scuffling sound and a voice called "coming!" He heard the locks click out of place and a chain smack against the door as it was released to dangle before the door inched open carefully..

"Ye….s?" He saw her eyes go wide. He heard the breath whoosh from between her lips. He saw her knees tremble slightly before she pulled the door open wider.

"Shi… Shino…gu?"

"Hey Hatsumi."

A/N: Yay for ShinoHatsu! Sorry... I hated the end of Hot Gimmick, and I won't be satisfied until Hatsumi and Shinogu are together. In Ryoki's defense... I don't think that he would truly become THIS abusive... but he was always violent, and never very nice. I could see it happening. Next chapter will be up, hopefully within a week. Please R&R! you will get a cookie!