Chapter 9

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As soon as Kyouya shut the bedroom door behind him, he opened his cell phone and dialed a number he hoped he would only have to call this once.

"Hey." But the voice did not belong to the owner of the phone.

"Can you talk?" Kyouya asked, reluctantly suppressing his desire to instantly revert to German.

"Yeah, I'm in the bedroom," affirmed Kaoru, clear relief seeping into his tone at the sound of the other's voice. "Haninozuka's outside."

"And?"

The silence that followed was long, but expected. "You were right," the boy finally answered, sniffling. "They don't notice a thing."

"Kaoru…" On the other end of the line, Kyouya breathed a regretful sigh. "I wish I could be there right now to hold you."

"N-no, no – I'll be okay. Besides, I'm not supposed to show weakness in front of the enemy, right?" He laughed dryly; and although that was exactly what Kyouya had taught him in all his years of undercover work, somehow both of them felt a tug in their hearts that told them it didn't have to be immutably true.

"Right," Kyouya repeated without emotion. "Shall I arrange for the exchange?"

"Yeah."

"All right. Day after tomorrow, seven-thirty, Odaiba."

"Okay. See you then." Even though the response was trite, the tone thereof reflected his true satisfaction with a resolution of the situation.

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With the knowledge that he no long had to maintain the facade of his twin, Kaoru could let his meticulous attention to every detail of his words and actions fall. He would have liked to think it was that one modification of his semblance that crossed the necessary line, but then again it could have been the slight, German accent he no longer had to prevent from coating his speech.

"Hikaru, are you sure you're feeling okay?" Yuzuha asked him the next evening, no doubt in especial concern over the recent, hectic dealings. She placed a hand across his forehead to check for a fever. "Do you feel sick? You've seemed a bit off lately."

"Have I?" he started innocently, receiving an instant nod in reply. "Well, that would make sense, since I'm not Hikaru."

In a moment void of grace, her mouth fell open. "What...?"

A wide grin painted itself across his face. "I'm not Hikaru. I'm Kaoru."

It took a solid five seconds for her to stop staring unblinkingly and pull him into a possessive hug. "K-Kaoru? It's really you? My darling Kaoru—!" she sputtered inelegantly, not even noticing the lack of returned affection from the other. Kaoru waited patiently for the next realization to sink in. When it did, she pulled back and laid firm hands on his shoulders. "But, if you're Kaoru, then where's Hikaru?" She searched in his eyes for some emotion on his part, but he simply stared emptily back at her.

"He's with Shadow." The grip on his shoulders tightened; her eyes widened. "If you want him back, then we – just you, me, your husband, and Haninozuka – no one else, only that one guard – are to meet Shadow tomorrow afternoon for the exchange."

"'Exchange'?" she repeated. "But, Kaoru, darling, don't you want to stay here with your family?"

"Shadow's the only family I have." He hated to say it so coldly – because in essence he supposed it wasn't her fault – but the statement was entirely true. Still, he couldn't stop the wave of guilt he felt when that sadness and disappointmentwashed across her face.

Turning on his heels, Kaoru marched up to Hikaru's room. It wasn't long, however, after he lay down on the bed and wiped the developing tears from the corners of his eyes before a knock sounded at the door.

"Who is it?" he called, right hand automatically poised to reach the 45 hidden under the bed. When the door opened to reveal a pair of large, brown eyes staring at him with regret in their depths, Kaoru retracted his arm and sat up. "What do you want, Haninozuka?"

"I want to know if Kyou-chan is happy." All Kaoru could do in response was blink at the seemingly out-of-place request. Mitsukuni took the lack of a reply as allowance to come closer, and so did, claiming a seat beside the boy on the bed with fingers curled into tense fists. "Did he tell you? We went to school together – Takashi and I were a year ahead of him. Even though he was famous and number one in his class, he always looked so... empty." He frowned. "So, I want to know if he's happy now – if he's made the right decision."

"For one who lives the life of a criminal, there is no 'ever after.'"

With a deep sigh, Kaoru averted his gaze, though simultaneously keeping the corner of it focused on his guest out of habit. "If you want him to be happy, then you'll let me go back without issue," he chose to respond carefully.

"I will," the other promised, "but, as you should know, I want Yuzu-san and Hika-chan to be happy, too. Don't you?" Beyond the hope of his smile lay the indication that he already knew the answer.

"Yeah," Kaoru voiced it, but not without reserve, "but maybe we weren't all meant to be."

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The cool air grew tenser with every passing second. Regardless of how he had been taught to always prepare for the worst, Kaoru couldn't shake the excitement and anxiety bubbling in his stomach. Unfortunately for him, he also couldn't shake his biological mother's hand from his shoulder.

The grip abruptly tightened when a sleek, black car drove up across the way. The driver's side opened, and out stepped a figure in a black trench and equally dark hair. With only a barely noticeable glance at the other party, he walked over to the back of the vehicle. After smoothly yet swiftly wrenching the door open, he pulled the passenger out by the arm and practically dragged him to the scene of the exchange.

"Mom!" the boy called, struggling against the arm holding both of his behind his back. However, when the gun barrel pressed into his temple, he instantly shut his mouth and stiffened. His gaze drifted across the space that separated the two groups, spotting his mother steadfast but on the verge of tears. His eyes widened as they stopped on Kaoru. If Hikaru himself were as impossibly calm as the other teen, it could have been a mirror image.

"Kaoru makes an excellent undercover agent, don't you think?"

Could his parents really not have noticed? Was Kaoru that much like himself?

"You two have a lot of tastes in common."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Hitachiin Yuzuha-san," Kyouya sarcastically greeted with a matching smirk.

"Shadow, give me back my son," she returned, getting right down to business. Her eyes remained focused on the weapon too close for comfort to the older twin's forehead.

"Of course. So long as you return mine."

"He's not yours."

Shadow didn't reply to that, but Hikaru saw hurt flashing across Kaoru's face.

"It depends on your definition of 'father.'"

"On three," decided Kyouya, "we let them go." Hesitantly, Yuzuha nodded. Three seconds later, she just as reluctantly lifted her hand from her younger son's shoulder, allowing him to step forward into the interstice. At the same time, with the rough push he was given, Hikaru assumed he was supposed to do the same. With a wary eye behind him and a confused one in front, he stumbled forward to meet the mirror face-to-face.

"Kar—Kaoru..." he started, correcting himself just when the matching hazel eyes were about to.

"Hikaru," the other spoke softly with a regretful smile, "it's a shame it had to come to this. I'll miss you." With those three words, he wrapped his arms around Hikaru in a warm yet brief embrace. Taken aback by the gesture and his mixed feelings towards it, the older twin could not bring himself to return it. Unsure of what else to say, he let Kaoru walk away without another word as his own footsteps lead him to his anxiously awaiting parental figures.

"Kaoru," Yuzuha called suddenly, simultaneously grasping onto her other son, "think about what you're doing. You're always welcome to come back to us – to your family." Unfortunately for her, her pleading went unheeded as the boy continued on his way to Shadow's side. With a momentary hand on his shoulder, Kaoru was told that he didn't need to reply, and so disappeared into the back of the car. After ensuring that the situation was safe with a cautionary glance, Shadow turned to head back as well. However, a small, familiar voice caused him to stop halfway there.

"Kyou-chan," Mitsukuni spoke, "you don't have to do this." Kyouya turned his head back just enough for the other to see his wry smile.

"Neither do you, Haninozuka-senpai." Then, they were gone.

Hikaru faced his parents with solemnity hardened in his eyes. "Mom, dad; I think there's something very important you need to tell me."

Only a short distance away, in the back seat of a Jaguar, Kaoru pulled his legs up to his chest and cried.

The End