SUMMARY: Exactly one year has passed since Ayaka effectively ended her engagement to Yuki Eiri and she wants to celebrate it with Hiro. But it begins to look as though Hiro is commemorating a rather different anniversary…


DISCLAIMER: Ayaka is not my girlfriend; therefore I lay no claim to her or anyone in her world.

NOTES: She's not dead after all, she was only in a coma! Seriously, sorry it has taken me so long to post something new! Those who read my LJ are probably well aware of my recent stresses so I won't bother to rehash all that here. Just hope you all like this! If you're an Ayaka fan – tuck in! If you're not – bear with me, I'll be back to Pinky and Sourpuss in the blink of an eye! And if you just plain hate Ayaka and prefer to read Hiro /K… um… well… I'm sure someone else will write one presently. As for me? The words "snowball" and "hell" spring to mind…

It was a time to celebrate. A happy anniversary. A time to rejoice in happy endings. A time, perhaps, to make things clear, to leave those she cared for in no doubt. She had been looking forward to it, making plans for it. It should all be perfect.

Only, it wasn't.

Ayaka stole a resentful glance at her favourite kimono hanging on the bedroom door, unable to shake off the feeling it was mocking her. Then she looked with equal reluctance at the mobile phone sitting on her dressing table, plugged into it's charger just in case, and felt it was secretly sneering at her in its unshakeable silence. She had virtually used up all her credit calling Hiro's number, only to be greeted time after time by the dispassionate tones of his voicemail.

What had gone wrong? They had only made rough plans to meet on this day, though they had openly acknowledged what day it was. Then again, it had been Ayaka's idea – maybe Hiro didn't really like it. Did he see this anniversary differently from her? This was the day her engagement to Uesugi Eiri had ended. Was he avoiding her in case he saw regret in her eyes? She knew he sometimes still doubted her feelings for him, in spite of everything that had happened, in spite of the fact a year had passed.

But that had been the point of celebrating this date. That was what made it so important. She had thought about it over and over again and known what she felt was real and now she longed to tell Hiro the truth. She wanted him to know how much he meant to her – how he had made her feel attractive and desirable after Eiri had rejected her almost, it seemed to her, without a second glance. How Hiro's attention made her feel special, how his love for her had changed her life and brought to it new dimensions and new heights of happiness she had never imagined. She wanted to tell him that she…

Ayaka rose quickly and grabbed the kimono from its hook, slamming it decisively back into the wardrobe and drawing out an ordinary dress instead. Four days, now. Four days without a word. Usually she and Hiro did not go a day without a call or at least a text or an email. She had waited two years for Uesugi Eiri. Two years of her life wasted on wishing and hoping. She would not do that again.

For the second time in her life, she set out for Tokyo in search of answers. Answers… from a man. There was some irony in that, but at least this time she would not be quite so helpless…

Ayaka gazed pensively out of the taxi window as it turned the corner into an expensive residential street. Perhaps she should have called… but something told her that this time, as last time, she would get more answers when she could look someone in the eye.

It had been a while since she had been here. Of course she saw Hiro frequently and never resented it when Shuichi occasionally joined them for dinner or a night of clubbing, but thankfully they had never quite got to a stage of double-dating with Shuichi and Eiri. That, she felt, would be just a little too weird. The times she most often saw Eiri were backstage at Bad Luck's concerts, where she would usually find him skulking in a corner hiding behind a newspaper, trying his best not to be counted among Shuichi's groupies. He was at his most friendly on such occasions – probably relieved to have the company - and inevitably they sat together in the VIP seats.

Things, from what Hiro and Shuichi said, were good between Shuichi and Eiri. Ayaka had never managed to piece together the mystery of Eiri's sudden disappearance just before Bad Luck's first nationwide tour; Hiro had told her what he knew, but that wasn't much. Mika, her closest friend in the Uesugi family, had given little away during Eiri's absence, except to say that she and Tohma were adamant that he and Shuichi should stay apart. Ayaka had detected just a little lingering irritation in Mika's tones as she had said so, as if she still had not quite forgiven Ayaka for helping Shuichi scupper her own engagement. Tatsuha, the most accessible of the Uesugis, was sympathetic but clueless. But, at any rate, a week or so after the tour had got underway, Eiri was back, and he had even accompanied the group on the remainder of the tour.

Not that it was all, as they said, plain sailing. There had been one time, after Bad Luck had started paying off and Hiro had moved from his studio into a two bedroom flat, when Ayaka arrived to spend the night (in the spare room, as she insisted repeatedly to her parents), and found Shuichi there. He was quietly apologetic, saying only that he was giving Eiri some "space." Once she and Hiro went out, her boyfriend – she did rather like thinking of him like that – explained that once or twice Eiri got into some sort of depression and Shuichi had learned not to take it too seriously, but just absent himself for a while. When they arrived back from dinner, Shuichi was gone, leaving a note that all was fine once more and Eiri had come for him.

"He's so chilled out about it, these days," Ayaka remembered Hiro remarking as he read the note, "about so many other things too… sometimes I think aliens have abducted the real Shuichi and replaced him with some sort of defective clone…"

Ayaka had giggled, but inwardly she felt a rush of… yes, she decided, of pride. Seguchi and Mika, the two people who had claimed to know Eiri best, had thought Shuichi bad for Eiri, but Shuichi hadn't listened to them and in the end it was he who had been right. That meant she had not sacrificed the longings of her own heart for nothing. She had done the right thing.

"This is the place," she said to the taxi driver, "stop here, please."

"Ayaka-san!" Shuichi blinked as he threw open the door. He glanced over her shoulder to the waiting taxi, then smiled expectantly. "What's up? Are you – " he broke off as Eiri's voice called impatiently from inside. "No, it's Ayaka! I won't be a minute! Sorry," he added, turning back to her, "it's really nice to see you, Ayaka-san, but we're in a bit of a hurry – Eiri's taking me to the seaside for a week! Isn't that great? I can't wait to dive into the sea! And… between you and me…" he leaned in close and whispered conspiratorially, "I'm planning to buy a beach-ball… and a bucket and spade…"

"Shindou-san…" Ayaka began hesitantly.

"I've told you, Ayaka, it's Shuichi!"

"Oh – yes – Shuichi-san… I…" Ayaka felt a blush suffuse her cheeks. Shuichi seemed so guileless. Surely if there was something wrong with Hiro, if he had changed his mind about her, or even – she felt her heart squeeze painfully – met someone else, surely Shuichi would know? "I was wondering if you'd seen Hiroshi-san? The fact is, I've been trying to call him for a – for a while now, and he isn't answering his phone…"

A shadow passed over Shuichi's face. He lowered his eyes, his smile fading. "I…"

"Please, Shin- Shuichi-san…" Ayaka breathed, "if there's anything wrong, if I've done something, please tell me…"

Shuichi looked up then, his eyes filled with sadness. "Go and see him, Ayaka-chan," he said softly. "I think he'd like that."

Ayaka could not help the pounding of her heart or the burning heat of her face or the stinging of her eyes as she rode in the taxi once more. So Shuichi and Eiri were celebrating too – with a trip to the seaside! How romantic! She hated the surge of resentment she felt, but she could not drive it away. What was worse, whatever was wrong with Hiro, Shuichi obviously knew about it before she did. Was that how little they all thought of her? Was Shuichi telling her to go and see Hiro because he already knew there was bad news waiting for her?

She was in half a mind to tell the driver to turn the taxi around and take her back to the station. But she refused to do it. She would confront Hiro. The last time she had made a reckless trip to Tokyo, Hiro and Shuichi had both kept the truth from her – so, as it turned out, had Mika and Tatsuha. Only Eiri had been honest, and that was for reasons of his own. Now she actually wished she'd seen him too, though his voice when he had called Shuichi had sounded irritable. She doubted he would be bothered to hide the truth from her this time either.

Surely there was a good reason for Hiro's silence? Surely he could not be about to reject her? Not after she had trusted him with her broken heart? Only now she realised just how much faith she had put in his affection for her. Well, whatever was going on, she would find out. She was not going to be made a fool of again!

TBC: So what's up with Hiro? Or have you already done the maths and worked that out for yourselves? All will be revealed in Part Two!