Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I affiliated with anything having to do with Hana Yori Dango, I just like making Soujiro sweat and angst.
Dedicated once again to the wonderful KoKo-kun who whipped my muse back into some semblance of inspiration by requesting "In the Rough" which turned into a trilogy. And without further ado, enjoy this sequel.
By C.K. Blake
He can't take his eyes off of his friend. Things haven't been the same since he found Soujiro curled up in the master bedroom of the penthouse suite at the Hilton. While everything appears the same as usual on the outside, things are definitely different. Mimisaka Akira watches as Soujiro raises his hand to get a drink, and he notices immediately that the girls on either side of Soujiro are being neglected and they know it as well.
He never thought he would see the day that a woman broke the infamous playboy Nishikado Soujiro, yet that day arrive two months ago, and there seems to be no way to fix this. He doesn't want to blame Yuki, after all Soujiro put the girl through one hell of an emotional ringer. He doesn't want to blame Rui either. Neither of them expected her to break Soujiro and just leave. He's watched her working at the dango shop, and she's smiling and happy as she always was, chatting with Makino, and she's developed a strong friendship with Rui. Still there's something off with her too. He's noticed things.
Of course his main concern is for Soujiro. He gets up from his table, ignoring the protests of his latest companion, walks across the VIP lounge and looks down at Soujiro. "I think it's time we leave."
"But they haven't even brought me a drink yet," Soujiro lets out a protest, but there is no fire behind it.
"We'll get a drink in the limo. Let's go," Akira replies, and there is no further resistance as Soujiro gets to his feet and complies.
This isn't the Soujiro from two months ago with a brazen attitude and fierce temperament. This Soujiro is defeated, and Akira is haunted by the words he heard Soujiro speak during that phone call he received two months ago.
" I've played her game and lost. She won, and now she's gone. I've lost her."
Never has he heard his friend sound so broken and lost before.
At the smell of the fresh dango Yuki's stomach churns. She quickly brings a hand to her mouth and runs to the washroom in the back. She kneels before the toilet and empties the contents of her stomach. Her body quivers in the aftermath of the sickness and a moment later Okami-san is knocking on the door.
"Yuki-chan, are you all right?" she asks in concern.
Yuki groans unwilling to hear another story about the various men that Okami-san has loved in her life. She tries to call out that she's fine, but then another wave of nausea hits her, and through the door she hears something that chills her to the bone.
"This reminds me of the man I loved, after he left I was sick with the burden of carrying his child. I was all alone in the world and without any marriage prospects at the time. It was a difficult time for me. I met with a man who knew about some special teas, and then I carried the burden no more," Okami-san says from the other side of the door.
Tears rise to Yuki's eyes. As her stomach settles she flushes the toilet, rises to her knees, and she knows that she has something to do. As she steps out of the washroom she tells Okami-san about an errand she has to run. She hurriedly changes and then leaves the shop without another word. Okami-san watches the young girl leave her shop, and then her eyes widened in delight when the bell over her shop door jingles and she looks up to find that Makino and Hanazawa-san have arrived.
She sighs and then asks, "Is Mimisaka-san with you?"
They shake their heads and Makino heads toward the back to change for work, and then she calls out, "Okami-san, where is Yuki? Usually she's here before me."
"Oh, she had an errand to run. She should be back soon. Although if she isn't feeling better I may just send her home."
"Yuki-chan was ill?" Rui asks.
Okami-san gives him a curious look and then says, "Yes, she had just finished dressing for work, came out from the back and then ran for the washroom. After that she told me she had an errand to run and left."
"How very strange," Rui answers and then looks at Makino.
"I'm sure she's fine, Rui," Makino says, but he can detect the worry in her voice. She tries to change the subject, but only hits upon another sore spot. "So how is Soujiro?"
"He isn't the same," Rui replies and settles down into a chair with a book to read, because he wants to see Yuki when she returns.
Makino nods and then sets about working. An hour passes before the bell jingles over the door. Makino and Rui look up, and both are grateful that Okami-san is in the back as they take in the shell-shocked appearance of Matsuoka Yuki standing in the door. Her eyes are red-rimmed and her body trembles as she falls to her knees, a sob finally escaping her. They rush forward to console her. Makino reaches her first, and the girl wraps her arms tightly around Makino, holding on desperately as she trembles and sobs against Makino's shoulder. Rui is crouched down beside her and his eyes widen at Yuki's words in between the sobs.
"What am I going to do, Tsukushi? I was so stupid. I only wanted one night with him and then I said my goodbyes. Why won't it go away? Why?" Yuki says, her distress more than apparent.
Makino rubs her hand along the trembling girl's back trying to soothe her and then asks, "Yuki, what do you mean? What's wrong? Come on, tell us. You can tell us anything."
Yuki pulls back, most of the sobs diminished, and with a few hiccups and her tears still streaming she whispers, "How do I tell him? I did four tests and they all came out the same. How do I face my parents? How do I face him? How could I have been so stupid?"
"Tell who what?" Rui asks gently, though he has his suspicions, and they are well founded as Yuki responds, "I'm pregnant."
Rui doesn't need any further explanation. He gets to his feet and leaves the shop without a backwards glance. He knows that Yuki is in good hands with Makino.
Akira watches as Soujiro takes a sip from his glass of brandy, and when his phone rings he pulls it from his jacket pocket, flips it open, sees Rui's number and takes the call. "Moshi moshi."
"Akira, is Soujiro with you?" Rui asks.
Akira can tell something is up with the sound of Rui's tone. "Yes," he replies, and then asks, "What's wrong?"
"Meet me at my house now, and bring him with you. Tell him it's about Yuki. I don't care how you get him here, but just do it," Rui says and then he hangs up.
A chill rises up Akira's spine as he looks at Soujiro. Soujiro is looking at him curiously, and asks, "Who was that?"
After taking a deep breath, Akira replies, "That was Rui. He wants us to meet him at his house. He says something is wrong and it concerns Yuki."
"Why should that mean anything to me?" Soujiro says, but that little hitch in his voice gives him away and Akira tells the driver to head to the Hanazawa estate.
The feeling of dread only increases as they pull through the gates and up to the house and Akira sees that Rui is at the door waiting on them. They get out of the car, and head toward the door. Akira walks past Rui and into the house, but when Soujiro reaches Rui, Rui pulls back and punches him. Soujiro responds quickly, he grips Rui by his shirt and shoves him against the doorframe of the main entrance to the house. Akira is quick to come between them and separate them.
Soujiro spits blood onto the floor and wipes his mouth with his sleeve and glares at Rui as he demands to know what that was for, and Akira admits that he's curious as to why the usually calm and quiet Rui would hit Soujiro seemingly without any provocation.
"What happened that day between you and Yuki-chan? Don't lie to me Soujiro. What I tell you about her condition is going to be based on how you answer me," Rui says coolly.
Akira steps in and answers for Soujiro. "I found him in the suite. He was alone, half-dressed, and I've never seen him like that. Rui, she broke him."
"I am not broken!" Soujiro snaps, and then he spins around, "And if that is all then I'm leaving. I don't need to have her defender making wild accusations at me!"
Rui does the only thing he can think of to stop Soujiro, in a voice uncommonly loud for him, he calls after Soujiro, "She's pregnant. Don't you want to know that you're going to be a father?"
Soujiro stops dead, and slowly turns around, his eyes wide, and suddenly his legs give out beneath him as he collapses to his knees. His hands land on the brick walkway, his palms skinned, and he stares up in shock at Rui. "What?"
Akira is just as stunned as Rui takes a step toward Soujiro and looks down at him. "She's been sick at work lately. She's been hiding it well, but today for some reason she left the shop on an errand. When she came back she was in tears, and she told us without a doubt that she is pregnant. You are the only person I know who could be the father."
Soujiro doesn't wait for them to continue. He gets to his feet, runs toward the limo, and jumps in. He gives the driver directions and within half an hour he's standing outside of the Matsuoka residence. He raises a trembling hand to the door, takes in a deep breath and then raps his knuckle against the wood. A moment later a tired but kind looking woman answers the door. Her eyes widen at the sight of his appearance. He can imagine that he looks disheveled with a bloody lip and bloody palms. She hesitates, but once she recognizes that he is one of Hanazawa Rui's friends she quickly ushers him inside. She shows him the bathroom so that he can clean up, and once he's done she shows him to the main room where he resigns himself to sitting on the couch, his elbows on his knees and his hands in his hair as he leans forward to await Yuki's arrival.
Yuki is glad that Tsukushi takes her home. Tsukushi gives her one last hug and then leaves her standing in front of her door. She takes a deep breath and braces herself as she digs her keys out of her bag, unlocks the door, and steps inside. Her mother steps out of the kitchen and informs Yuki of their guest for dinner. Yuki tilts her head and thinks that maybe Rui is there to give her some support. She gives a nod and then heads toward her room, and as she passes the main room on her way to her bedroom she is stunned at the sight of Soujiro sitting on the couch. He looks up at the sound of her footsteps, and their eyes lock.
He quickly gets to his feet, crosses the room, and he's standing before her. He's still, almost like he's unable to move as he just stares down at her. She begins to tremble beneath his dark gaze, and suddenly her knees buckle. He catches her and they descend to the floor together. The sobs rise in her again and she wraps her arms around him like he's her lifeline, and buries her face against his chest. He can feel the burn of her tears, and as she falls apart in his arms he doesn't have it in him to be angry at her for this. He played his game, and she played hers, and now it appears that they've both lost.
Her mother steps out of the kitchen to see what's wrong, and she notices her daughter broken and sobbing, wrapped up in the arms of a boy she only knows through the association of her daughter's friend Hanazawa-san. At the sound of Matsuoka Yumi's throat clearing the pair look up. Yumi kneels down next to her daughter, still not quite sure about the young man whose arms are firmly wrapped around Yuki.
Yumi watches as the young man gets to his feet, her daughter still in his arms, and then he looks toward her and in a soft voice says, "Matsuoka-san, could you direct me to Yuki-chan's room, please?"
She leads the way, and notices how the young man handles her daughter. He's very careful with her, and Yuki seems to cling to him. This couldn't be the young man that came before Hanazawa-san, the one who inspired Yuki to take tea ceremony classes, could it? He eases Yuki down on the bed, but she won't let him go, and he kneels next to the bed, using his fingers to gently brush the hair back from her face, and suddenly Yumi feels like she's intruding. She steps out of the room, though she doesn't close the door all the way. She knows that something is wrong, but she feels that she isn't what her daughter needs at the moment and that is a very shocking conclusion for her.
He notices when Yuki's mother leaves them alone. He sighs looking at the trembling girl, her hand like a vice on his, and he watches as she curls up. He gently strokes her hair, and while she's not at her most appealing with a blotchy face and tear soaked cheeks, she still manages to look beautiful, and there is something different about her. Could it be the child growing inside of her, his child?
He leans in close to her, and softly he says, "Yuki, I know. That's why I'm here. We need to decide on what we're going to do."
"How could he tell you?" she replies with a sniffle.
Soujiro freezes, his blood runs cold and he's chilled to the bone. "Were you even planning on telling me?" he asks, careful to keep his voice even.
"I only just found out today. I don't know anything right now. Yes, I think I might have told you. I mean…"
He takes in a deep breath, squeezes his eyes shut, and lets the air out slowly before he resigns himself to the most difficult question he's ever asked in his life, "Do you want to keep it?"
Slowly he opens his eyes and he sees her wide, dark eyes staring at him in fear, and then she nods and looks away, unable to meet his gaze.
He takes in another deep breath and then gives a decisive nod. "All right. Then when your father gets home we'll tell your parents that we are getting married, and then we'll tell mine."
"Why would you marry me?" she asks, a sob breaking up her words.
He looks down at her floor and then slowly he lifts his head, takes in the sight of the girl lying in the bed. He's broken her again, as much as she ever broke him. "I am going to take responsibility for my actions. You wish to keep this child and I respect your decision. That leaves us with only one option that I find acceptable. This child will have my name, and you will be my wife."
"And what will I tell this child when they ask me where their father is when you are out with Akira doing God knows what with God knows who? You couldn't really change me Nishikado-san, and I know that I can't change you. What kind of life will I have waiting for you to come home and wondering who's bed you're in when you aren't home?" she asks, more tears springing to her eyes.
He takes in a sharp breath. He should have expected such a response, and then she says something that floors him. "Then again I did ask you for that night. I guess this is the price I pay for it."
He watches as she slowly collects herself. She lets go of his hand, and he feels cut adrift, as she sits up in the bed. She gets up, walks out of her room, and a few moments later he can hear water running in the sink in the washroom next to her bedroom. When she steps back into her bedroom she looks better. Her eyes are still red-rimmed, but she's more composed and that is what matters.
They spend the next hour in awkward silence in her room until her mother comes and tells them that her father is home and dinner is ready. He joins them at the dinner table, and neither he nor Yuki have much of an appetite. Yuki's parents watch the pair with concern in their eyes, and finally Yuki's father, Shuichi, clears his throat and he looks from his daughter to the young man sitting at his table and says, "I think it's time you say what's on your mind."
Soujiro spares a glance at Yuki, reaches for her hand, and she complies. He then looks up and meets the gaze of Yuki's father head on as he says, "I wish to ask for your daughter's hand in marriage."
"And why do you think I would consent to her marrying you when I don't really know who you are? I only know that you're acquainted with one of my daughter's friends," her father replies.
"I am Nishikado Soujiro, and I am a friend of both Hanazawa Rui and Makino Tsukushi. As it stands I have a very keen interest in your daughter and find that it is to her benefit as well as my own that we should marry," Soujiro says, his voice is steady and cool, and Yuki squeezes his hand in warning as she glances up and notices the looks exchanged by her parents.
"And what benefit would that be?" Matsuoka Shuichi asks.
"Papa," Yuki says, and she can't lift her eyes from the table. "He wants his child to have his name."
She's never felt so alone in her life as she curls up in the seat of the limo as Soujiro carries down a suitcase and a garment bag and hands them to the driver to load in the trunk of the car. A moment later he joins her in the limo. She shrinks back from him and he sighs.
"We are in this together, Yuki-chan."
She blinks back tears and then looks up at him, that fire barely burning in her gaze. "You weren't the one who was just thrown out of her home. I've shamed my family. I no longer have a home and I'm dead to my parents."
"I'm sure my mother will be more accommodating. She won't like that she'll have to cancel her arrangements with the Narimiya family, but she'll be pleased to know that I'm at least continuing the Nishikado line and that I'm taking a wife. My father won't really care one way or the other. If you want we don't have to go to my home immediately, we can stay at a hotel for the night," he says, and she nods at the offer.
Soujiro quickly gives directions to the driver. The rest of the ride is in silence. When they reach the Hilton she watches as the bellhop takes her suitcase and garment bag. A moment later Soujiro is leading her to the elevator, and the bellhop joins with her luggage. They end up in the same suite they were in before. He tips the bellhop and then he turns to watch her. She looks around the room, biting her bottom lip nervously and then she turns to him.
"What now?" she asks.
"I'm sure you're tired and I think I could use a drink," he says, and then his eyes drift down to her stomach and he continues, "I noticed you didn't eat anything while we were at your parents. I could call room service for you. Anything you like."
She gives a nod and then asks for a rice omelet. He makes a call to room service, and then they are left alone, and the silence is heavy between them. She takes a seat on the sofa in the main room of the suite and watches as he makes himself a drink from the bar. He walks over to her, his drink in one hand and a bottle of water for her in the other. Rather than take a sip of his drink however, he just sets it down on the glass table of the coffee table as he takes a seat next to her on the sofa. He turns to face her, and pushes the hair back from her face as he offers her the water.
She takes the bottle, and then shifts further down the sofa and says, "You don't have to be so gentle with me, Nishikado-san. How can you stand to look at me?"
He lets out a small chuckle, reaches for the amber liquid in his glass and downs the entire tumbler. He then looks at her and says, "Actually I find you're rather pleasing to the eye Yuki-chan. Perhaps now would be a good time for you to start using my name. Why should you be so formal with your future husband?"
"You don't have to taunt me," she whispers.
He snorts. "You have no idea what happened to me after you left me to wake up alone do you? No one has ever left me like that, to just wake up alone. That was very cold of you, Yuki-chan."
"Better to leave than face you in the morning," she whispers, and he is saved from a reply at the sound of a knock on the door.
He goes to open the door and is presented with a service cart with two covered dishes. He tips the man and then brings the cart further into the room. He uncovers the dishes and brings them over to the coffee table. He set one before Yuki and the other next to hers. He then brings over silverware. They eat in silence, and he watches as she devours the omelet. He has to admit that he doesn't mind watching her. There is something graceful in her movements, in spite of her common upbringing, and he can't deny that he finds her fascinating.
When she is done she looks up at him and says, "I won't quit my job and I'll stay in school for as long as I can, until it becomes noticeable."
He shakes his head. "You'll be marrying into the Nishikado family. I can arrange for private tutors, and why would you need to work once we're married?"
"I'll agree to the tutors, but I will continue to work at the dango shop. This isn't something you'll talk me out of," she says with a tone of finality.
"But you don't need to," he says again.
She sighs. "The money I earn from the dango shop will serve as my dowry. I will not enter into a marriage without a dowry. I have my own savings account. It isn't much, but it is mine, and it's what I have to bring with me into our marriage."
He sees that it's a matter of pride, and so he decides to give in for the time being. "Fair enough, Yuki-chan. Now why don't we call it a night and get some rest. I'm more than certain that we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow."
She nods, goes to her suitcase, pulls a few things out and then heads to the bathroom. A few minutes later she steps out of the bathroom in pajamas and Soujiro raises a brow at the sight, trying to hide his amusement at the little pink pigs adorning the soft blue cotton of her sleeping shorts, and the single pig on her tank top. Appraising her from head to toe he can't help admiring her long legs. She looks toward him shyly, her cheeks flushing in embarrassment, and absently he wonders how she will look when the pregnancy becomes evident.
"Could you stay with me tonight? I promise I'll be here in the morning. I don't really have anywhere else to go."
He nods and gets to his feet. He spares a glance at the untouched bottle of water next to his empty tumbler on the table, and then he follows her to the master bedroom in the suite. He watches from the doorway as she flicks on the lamp, pulls the sheets and cover back, and then she slips beneath the covers and looks toward him expectantly. He shrugs out of his jacket, unbuttons his shirt and drops it unceremoniously to the floor, and then he unbuttons and unzips his pants. He sits down on the edge of the bed, pulling off his socks, and then he slips beneath the covers. She looks at him nervously, and he leans over her. He notices her breath catch as he reaches for the lamp and turns it off. He then settles down on the bed, and concentrates on the sound of her breathing next to him. She fidgets a lot, and it's distracting him from his thoughts. Finally he can't take it anymore; he shifts, takes her in his arms and holds her close. She grows still and it takes her a few moments to relax, but eventually she falls asleep.
He absently wonders if he held her like this when they slept together two months ago. He wonders if it felt this natural then.
She can feel warmth surrounding her, strong arms holding her close, a body curled against hers. She lets out a small moan of contentment, but as she really begins to wake up reality rears its ugly head. She stiffens as she wonders just how long this will last, what it will be like being married to him. He's only ever proven himself unreliable where her emotions are concerned. Her mind wanders to the baby on the way and she trembles because she can't imagine what kind of father Soujiro would be.
She stills when he shifts closer against her, a groan escaping him as his nose nuzzles against her neck and then she feels the warmth of his lips just below her ear. She squeezes her eyes shut, and her breath catches in her throat as she feels him move. He lifts himself up, his arms pulling away from her, and then his hand squeezes her shoulder as he leans down, his breath warm against her ear as he whispers, "Are you awake Yuki-chan?"
His voice is deep and lethargic. Slowly she lets out her breath, her eyes open and she meets his gaze and he's so close, his face hovering just over hers, his eyes intense, and she turns away. She can't fall for this. She's resigned to her fate, she'll be his wife and be the best mother she can be to her child, but he won't win. She will fight him every step of the way if she has to, but he will never get the opportunity to hurt her again if she can help it. She's tried changing herself and that didn't work, and she doubts that he's capable of changing.
He bends down his lips brushing her cheek, her pulse speeds up at the sensation, and then he begins to stretch, his movements catlike. She looks up at him, watching him with shadowed eyes. He's beautiful, everything she wanted, everything she still wants, and she hates that she still wants him. She hates that they are getting married for a mistake they both made, and she knows that marriage to him won't be easy, still she can't refuse him. She sees the logic in his proposal and she really has nowhere else to go. Her parents have disowned her and this is it.
He cocks his head at her, his eyes narrowed like he's trying to figure her out. She blindly brings a hand to her abdomen, her cheeks flushed, and his eyes widen at the gesture. There is still so much to take in with this. He takes in a sharp breath and then asks, "So how did you sleep?"
"Well for once I wasn't running for the bathroom all night," she replies with a shrug.
"Okay," he says with a nod, and then he asks, "So is there anything in particular you want for breakfast?"
"Fruit," she answers.
He makes a quick call to room service, and then his eyes wander to her. "Breakfast will be up in a little bit. Why don't you take a shower?"
She nods as she gets up from the bed. When she reaches the door she looks back, sees him lounging on the bed, the sheets pooled at his waist, his chest bare, and she wants him. She wants him, but she knows he couldn't ever want her the way she wants him, even when they are married, she'll just be his obligation, his responsibility. He raises a brow and his mouth curves in what he must think is an encouraging smile. She directs her gaze to the floor and then she slips from the room. She makes a stop at her suitcase and then heads to the bathroom.
The water beating against her back is soothing. She enjoys the shower, the steam rising around her as she washes, but the troubles remain and she brings a trembling hand to her stomach, nibbling at her bottom lip. She rubs her belly and then whispers, "Your papa won't spoil you, I promise. You'll be a better person than either your father or me."
Once she's relaxed she rinses off and then steps out of the shower. She dries off and dresses quickly, her under things, a pair of jeans and a simple light green blouse. She keeps the towel around her neck as she steps out of the room so that her hair doesn't drip on her clothes. She sees him sitting on the couch, several dishes of fruit on the table. He looks at her, a glass of orange juice raised to his lips, and then he takes a drink. She takes in a deep breath, bracing herself to endure him and get used to him. She crosses the room, sits down next to him on the couch, and looks at the various cut fruit on the plate in front of her, strawberries, grapes, and cantaloupe as well as a few apple slices. She reaches for a slice of the cantaloupe and brings it to her mouth. It's sweet and perfect and so fresh. She moans at the taste of the fruit.
"I'm glad you like it," he says simply, and then she jumps as he reaches up and with the towel he begins to dry her hair as she eats. At the look she gives him, he shrugs and says, "You should take better care of yourself. How would getting sick be beneficial to your condition?"
She simply nods and continues to eat.
He notices Makino inside, and also notes a very important absence. He enters the dango shop, and Makino looks up. He smiles at her, and then runs a hand through his hair as he sighs and looks around, still Yuki doesn't appear to be here.
"Yuki hasn't shown up for work yet. This isn't like her, Akira," Makino says, the worry evident in her tone.
"Is it true? Is Yuki-chan really pregnant?" he asks.
Makino's eyes widen. "He told you didn't he? I thought Rui would be on her side."
"He is on her side, but don't you think Soujiro has the right to know? Rui wasn't exactly pleased with the news. He hit Soujiro and then told him. After that Soujiro took off in the limo and we haven't been able to find him."
"Someone should warn Yuki!" Makino says, and she's about to head to the back to tell Okami-san that she has to go, when the bell over the door jingles.
Akira and Makino look up at the sound and they are stunned as Soujiro and Yuki enter the shop. Soujiro leans down to Yuki, whispering something in her ear. The girl nods and then heads toward the back.
Soujiro looks up nervously at Makino, and from the corner of his eye he sees Akira shift, ready to prevent any attack Makino might be preparing herself to inflict.
"What is going on? Why are you here?" Makino asks, her tone accusing.
"I'm looking after my bride-to-be. She's taking the day off. I hope you don't mind. If you need help I can make arrangements. I realize that it is Sunday after all," he says coolly.
"Bride-to-be?" Akira asks.
"Of course. She is carrying the Nishikado heir, and my child will not be born illegitimate. She and I have discussed things, and she's agreed to marry me for the sake of the child."
Akira barely has time to grab Makino as she launches herself at his friend, her eyes are blazing fire and she's ready to pound Soujiro into the ground. "How dare you make this sound like some business arrangement?! Do you have any idea what you've put her through and now you make it sound like she doesn't have any kind of choice! She cared about you and all you ever did was hurt her over and over again and now this happens!"
Soujiro's hands clench into fists at his side, his nostrils flare, and suddenly Akira feels that Soujiro is the one he should be restraining; however, before another word is spoken Yuki returns from the back room and sensing the tension in the room she goes straight to Soujiro's side and places her hand on his shoulder. Akira stares in amazement as the tension seems to ease in Soujiro's body and his hands relax.
"She gave me the day off, so let's get this over with," Yuki says.
Soujiro gives a stiff nod and turns toward the door. Yuki begins to follow, but at the sound of Makino's voice calling her name Yuki turns. Makino looks at her friend in sympathy, and then says, "Yuki, are you sure about this? You know how he is. How can you possibly think he could be a decent father or husband?"
"I made the decision to be with him for one night, and this is the price I pay. It doesn't matter how this happened; only that he's willing to accept the child. This isn't about me or how I feel. This is about the baby being taken care of. I can't do this on my own, and my parents won't help. This is for the best. Really, Tsukushi. Besides I know how he is. I'm not blind, I just won't care anymore. I've already said my goodbyes to all of that. This is business, business involving the welfare of my child. It's no different than an arranged marriage, and at least we can tolerate each other right?" Yuki replies with a sad little smile.
Makino blinks back tears as she whispers her friend's name and watches Yuki walk out of the shop behind Soujiro.
Akira is just as shocked and perplexed as Makino. He remembers the bright, hopeful, smiling Yuki from before, back when he was friends with her before Soujiro broke the girl so completely that she avoided even him and their friendship. He can barely recognize the girl behind Yuki's face, and he saw the look on Soujiro's face at the girl's words. He's never seen anyone who can calm Soujiro down so quickly, nor has he seen anyone who could break his friend so thoroughly. He wonders when Yuki will realize the power she holds over Soujiro.
He gingerly reaches for his cup of tea, a smile on his face as he nods in response to something Soujiro's mother has said, and then he looks up when a servant arrives. He watches with interest as the servant says something to the Nishikado matriarch. Nishikado Nanako looks up at him with a smile and says, "It looks like my son has finally come home. I'll be pleased when all of these night time adventures of his are over. I thought he'd been changing in the past couple of months, but it seems that maybe I judged him prematurely."
He takes a sip from his tea, and replies, "Perhaps you judged him fairly, obasan."
She raises an inquiring brow in his direction, and then she looks up at the sound of her son entering the room. Her eyes widen a bit at the sight of the familiar girl following in his wake. She looks at her son's friend and then says, "Hanazawa-kun, why is your girlfriend keeping company with my son? Surely you must be worried at this turn of events."
Rui smiles at the expressions on Soujiro and Yuki's faces, and then he says, "I haven't said anything. It isn't my place. I was simply waiting to see what had become of you. I must admit I'm pleasantly surprised to see you Yuki-chan, and hope you can forgive me."
"I can understand your reasoning, Rui," Yuki replies, and Soujiro closes his eyes, his hands tightening into fists at the warmth in her voice as she addresses his friend.
Perhaps it is that warmth that Yuki uses toward Rui that causes Soujiro to speak before thinking.
"Mother, I am afraid that you will have to cancel any arrangements you've been negotiating with the Narimiya family, and Yuki-chan is not Rui's girlfriend. She's my fiancée," Soujiro states.
Rui shifts his gaze to Yuki, noticing how she fidgets under the gaze of Soujiro's mother, but then something happens and the girl stiffens, a fierce determination in her eyes as Nanako gets to her feet and begins to walk around her, appraising her. Finally Nanako stops and then asks, "Soujiro, what is the reasoning behind your intent to marry this girl?"
Soujiro plainly meets his mother's gaze and says, "My child will carry my name and I will bear the responsibility of my actions. Don't you think this is fitting?"
Nanako raises a brow and then turns to Yuki. "I suppose a small ceremony would be preferred. Do your parents know?"
Yuki's cheeks flush with color, and this piques Rui's interest as Soujiro speaks for her. "Yes, her parents know and they want nothing to do with this. We want a small ceremony as soon as possible, something simple. Only close friends and immediate family."
"The Mimisaka gardens would make a nice venue," Rui suggests, and then with a smile he says, "I will make arrangements to get Tsukasa to come for the occasion."
Soujiro gives a stiff nod, and then his mother speaks, "I think I can have everything ready in two weeks. It shouldn't take too long to get rings and a wedding dress, and the guest list would be very limited as you requested."
Yuki takes in a sharp breath and then speaks up, "I have a dress, and I have a dowry. It isn't much, but it's all I have. I won't come into this family without something. I am also going to continue working at the dango shop and I want to continue school. I want you to know that I'm not here because you're a wealthy family. I'm here because my own family has turned me out and I'm thinking about what's best for the child. I can take care of myself, but I want the baby taken care of, and I want to be a responsible mother."
Rui lets out a small chuckle as he notices the small smile pulling at the corners of Nanako's mouth. He watches as Soujiro's mother slowly approaches the young woman and places a hand on Yuki's shoulder. He also notices how Soujiro shifts nervously, ready to come between them and protect Yuki if he needs to. Soujiro has come a long way in the past couple of months.
Rui isn't a bit surprised at Nanako's words as she says, "Dear girl, didn't I tell you that it would be my pleasure when my son finally brought you home to introduce you to me formally? I'll admit the circumstances do speed things up a bit, but you're more than welcomed into our home. Now Soujiro would you please introduce me to your lovely young bride?"
Soujiro looks a little shell shocked as he reaches for Yuki's hand and then facing his mother he bows, and Yuki bows as well, as Soujiro says, "Mother, I would like you to meet Matsuoka Yuki, the woman I intend to marry."
Rui watches as Soujiro's mother invites them to sit down, and immediately she begins talking about the wedding. Both Soujiro and Yuki look overwhelmed, but he knows that Yuki will be all right, she's managed to make quite an impression on Soujiro's mother. Seeing that Yuki is in good hands he politely takes his leave, after all he has a phone call to make. He absently wonders what the time is in New York as he makes his way through the Nishikado home and heads toward his car.
He has to admit that he was curious when Soujiro finally called him to talk, and he really wants to observe his friend to get an idea of what is going through his mind. This isn't an easy situation by any means, and he never thought he'd see the day come where Soujiro would seemingly be so resigned to propriety and society's demands on him. That is why Akira is quietly sitting on the sofa in his set of rooms, patiently watching as Soujiro paces the length of his sitting room. He knows that Soujiro is working things out in his mind before he speaks, and he can only imagine how overwhelmed Soujiro must be.
Finally Soujiro seems to have worn his nerves down as he takes a seat in one of the chairs near the sofa, his elbows come to rest on his knees as he leans forward, and his hands immediately go to run through his hair. He lets out a sigh and slowly he looks up, a look of restlessness in his eyes, restlessness and fear. Honestly Akira can't fault him for that look. He doesn't know what he would do if he ever found himself in this kind of situation, especially considering his taste runs along mature, married women.
Absently Akira's mind wanders to Yuki, and he can't help himself as he asks, "So how is Yuki-chan handling things?"
Soujiro stills at the mention of the girl's name and then takes in a deep breath before letting it out in a rush. "I don't know. She's putting on a good act. She is friendly enough with my mother, and she's as nervous as any bride would be I imagine, but she hardly says anything to me, and she still won't call me by my name. It's always Nishikado-san. Is she going to address me like that even after we're married?"
"She's probably worried. She only has us and your family to support her now. Her parents turned her out, and she knows your reputation, has seen it on more than one occasion," Akira replies gently.
Soujiro's eyes narrow. "But she calls Rui by his name, and she used to call you by your name. I'm the one she claims to have loved and she's always been so formal toward me!"
"How did it come to this Soujiro? What is your investment in this girl? Is it purely the child, because if it is you'll only continue to hurt her," Akira says, his curious gaze locked on his best friend.
Soujiro looks down at the floor in defeat. He's quiet for a long time, and slowly he looks up, and there is a look in his eyes that Akira has never seen before. "It's more than the child. This is the second chance I never got with Sara-chan. I can't let this chance go. I know she doesn't trust me. She's probably more afraid than I am, and what do either of us know about raising a child? But this is the one thing that ties her to me. This is the one thing that brought her back to me after she just left me that night. How can she leave me now with this between us?"
"What about your nightly habits?"
Soujiro snorts. "You know how long it's been since I've left with a girl. Every time I think about wandering off with another girl on my arm I see her face that day when she told me she didn't care what I had to say. When she willingly became one of those other girls, but she's not one of them. She's Yuki."
Akira nods, and he wonders if Soujiro has figured out the depth of his affection towards Yuki. Soujiro has always been a little dense in the way of actual emotions, but he hopes for Yuki's sake that Soujiro realizes the truth for himself before hurting her again. He doesn't envy Soujiro the time it will take to regain the trust and hope that Yuki once had in him. Soujiro was a fool to ignore what he had in front of him for so long. They all had seen it, everyone except him, and now they find themselves in a situation like this.
Akira is shaken from his thoughts when Soujiro suddenly asks, "Would you be best man at my wedding?"
Akira looks up, startled by the question. That one question and the look in Soujiro's eyes makes this all seem real somehow. Up until this point it just seemed like a script they were acting out, but now it's real, and finally hits Akira. His best friend is getting married, it might not be under the best of circumstances, but it's real, and he doesn't hesitate when he accepts Soujiro's request. He'll support his best friend, and if Yuki needs him for anything then he will be there for her as well. Akira has always been a loyal and devoted friend, and he thinks in the coming months a friend is just what the both of them may need, even if it's to shake them up and make them see how they really feel for each other. Akira runs a hand through his hair and lets out a deep breath, mentally preparing himself for the frustrations he's bound to face in the next few months.
He can't suppress the smirk on his face at the growl that comes across the line as one of his best friends snarls, "Do you have ANY idea what time it is?"
"Not really, Tsukasa. I wasn't thinking of the time when I called," Rui says flippantly, a little bit of his mirth at Tsukasa's ire slipping out in his tone.
"Well what is it? What flood is running through the trees?" Tsukasa snaps.
Rui rolls his eyes and thinks maybe he meant to say, "What fire is blazing through the forest?" Of course with Tsukasa it's difficult to tell.
"I made a promise to invite you to a wedding."
"IS THAT ALL?" Tsukasa roars, and Rui smiles, and plays his trump card before Tsukasa can hang up on him.
"Soujiro could really use you there. What is a wedding to one of the F4 without all of us there?"
"WHAT?!" Tsukasa shouts, and Rui chuckles.
"Soujiro is getting married. It's all kind of sudden, but I'm sure he wants you there."
"Who did he knock down?" Tsukasa asks in awe, and Rui is too amused to try to correct his friend.
"Yuki-chan is his bride-to-be."
He can hear the sputtering on the other end of the line and shakes his head, imagining the look on Tsukasa's face, as finally Tsukasa manages to shout, "Makino's friend?!"
"That would be her," Rui affirms.
"I'll be there with bells on!" Tsukasa says. "There's no way I'm missing the opportunity to hit fun at him."
Tsukasa promptly hangs up after that and Rui shakes his head and hopes that Tsukasa doesn't literally mean the "with bells on" part.
Nishikado Nanako has a smile on her face as she waits on the girl to come out. Finally the girl comes out, a frown on her face as she fidgets and runs her hands along the silky fabric of the light, golden champagne colored gown, the same dress she wore the first night Nanako met her. She sighs and looks down at the floor in defeat.
Nanako chuckles and says, "I can call a seamstress to make adjustments. You must be aware of the changes in your body. The dress couldn't possibly fit you now the way it did."
Yuki flushes in embarrassment. Nanako gets up and directs the girl to the mirror, standing behind her, her hands giving the girls shoulders a supportive squeeze as their eyes meet in the mirror. "Yuki-chan, you are a brave girl in deciding to marry my Soujiro. While you may not believe this, he is quite taken with you. I know these aren't the best of circumstances for you, but I'm glad to know that he was sensible enough to find you. You aren't like the other girls he's known. You're fiercely independent, and I admire that in a daughter-in-law. Look at you, how lovely you look. You're glowing. I'll admit the dress is a little tight in the bust and could be let out some around the waist, but with a few adjustments it will be perfect, and my son will have a beautiful bride on his wedding day. He will realize just how lucky he truly is when he lays his eyes on you."
"How can you be so kind to me?" Yuki asks, the shame evident in her voice.
Soujiro's mother chuckles and says, "Because you are exactly what my son needs. I thought he would become like his father, and then I saw how he looked at you. A mother knows these things. You'll understand in time."
Yuki nods and after a moment she says, "Thank you, haha."
"No need to thank me. We are family after all. Now about this decision of yours to continue working and going to school. Do you think that's wise in your current condition?"
"I will not change who I am. I want to continue working, and Okami-san has already agreed to make accommodations for me. As I've said, I won't come into this family with nothing. I'm capable of earning my own money and caring for myself," the girl states, and Nanako can detect a stubborn streak in the girl, her smile only widens and she is amused at the thought of Soujiro finding such a capable young woman.
"If that is your wish then I'll support your decision to the best of my abilities. Soujiro's father won't approve, but he's hardly around to care. About your education, you won't be allowed to attend school once your condition is discovered. Have you considered a private tutor?"
"Nishi…" Yuki begins, and then she blushes in embarrassment before continuing, "Soujiro did make that suggestion."
"I have the perfect person in mind. I hope you don't mind if I make the arrangements for you? You'll have the best, of course you'll begin your studies after getting settled from the wedding."
Yuki nods in acceptance, and Nanako knows the perfect tutor for Yuki, and knowing this particular young man, she doubts he would charge for his services. Their banter eventually turns to the more mundane things concerning a wedding, and Nanako is pleased to hear Yuki's laughter as the girl grows more comfortable around her. She really is a pleasant and sweet young girl. She wonders what Soujiro did to be deserving of such a rare girl.
She can't help the smile on her face as she looks at her friend in her simple gown. Yuki is beautiful with her hair swept up in a soft French twist, light make-up, and a pearl necklace around her neck with matching pearl earrings. Tsukushi watches her friend take a deep breath, almost as if to brace herself for what's to come. Yuki is a lovely bride, but Tsukushi can't help but wonder about her friend's hasty decision.
She wants to protest, say something, do something to make this better for her friend, but what can she do? In the past couple of weeks she's learned about Yuki's parents' reaction, and Yuki seems so resigned to this all for the sake of the child. She recalls the smile of wonder on Yuki's face when she came into the dango shop after her doctor's appointment. While Tsukushi hadn't been able to make heads or tails of the little ultra sound picture her friend showed her, she could easily read the excitement and happiness on Yuki's face.
She's shaken from her thoughts as she realizes that it's time. She steps out of the back door of Akira's home and into the gardens filled with brilliant flowers, pink and yellow and purple tulips, pink, yellow, and white roses, jasmines, lilies. It's like a fairytale setting, perfect for a wedding. Still Tsukushi can't help but be hesitant about the circumstances of this particular wedding day. She looks back, sees Yuki nibbling on her bottom lip nervously as she looks down at her bouquet of primrose and baby's breath, and then a soft melody begins to play and it is time.
Tsukushi is the first to walk down the path, and she has to force herself to remain calm lest she run straight up to Soujiro and sock him in the jaw. She reaches the altar, and then she looks up at the groom. He's fidgeting, and not even Akira at his side can seem to calm his nerves. He looks like he wants to be anywhere else but here, and then she watches as he finally looks up and goes still. She follows his gaze and her eyes widen as she realizes that he's staring at Yuki. She takes in the expression on his face and she's surprised. His full attention is fixed on his bride, and with a little shock she realizes that maybe Yuki is right, maybe this will turn out all right, especially if Soujiro is looking at Yuki with such a rapt expression on his face.
Tsukushi is torn from her observations at the sound of a whistle and a familiar, "Oi!"
She looks out at the small audience and she can barely keep herself from doing a face palm as she sees Tsukasa waving at her vigorously, dressed in a leopard print suit with a ruffled shirt of all things. Rui manages to quiet him down at a fierce glare from Nishikado Nanako, and Tsukasa appears to sulk for a moment and then Tsukushi notices his attention focus on Soujiro with a calculating look before he follows Soujiro's line of sight and his eyes widen, like he only just now believes that this is really happening, that Soujiro is actually getting married, and to a commoner girl at that.
The rest of the ceremony passes without incident, and then the priest says, "You may now kiss the bride."
Tsukushi watches as Yuki stiffens, and then Soujiro brings his hand to Yuki's waist and leans down, his head tilted at just the right angle, and he brushes his lips against the bride's. Tsukushi's eyes widen as she sees the color rise to Yuki's cheeks as Yuki's eyes flutter shut at the kiss. Soujiro pulls back and Yuki's eyes slowly open, and then Tsukasa lets out a cheer, a wolf whistle, and the next thing Tsukushi knows is she is the only thing between Tsukasa and a very annoyed looking Soujiro, and at Tsukasa's words, she's tempted to just step out of the way and let Soujiro at him.
"So is it time for cake now?" Tsukasa says plainly for all of the wedding party to hear.
She blushes as they reach the door of the penthouse suite of the Hilton, and she fears that she's become far too familiar with this particular set of rooms. He quickly swipes the keycard, and then sweeps her up into his arms as they step over the threshold. Once inside he sets her down on her feet and then closes the door behind them. He's quick to remove his tie and unbutton the first button on his shirt.
He shrugs out of his jacket and tosses it on the chair next to the sofa, and then he raises a brow at her. She flushes under his gaze, and the dress offsets the color rising to her face. He slowly approaches her, backs her against the wall and she feels trapped. His hands are on either side of her head, his arms blocking any escape. Her breathing grows heavy and she stares at his chest, her words barely audible in her nervousness, "Nishikado-san…"
He pulls back from her like he's been struck and then he begins to pace, running a hand through his hair, and finally he stops, heads back toward her, and she expects a show of temper, aware that he has a formidable temper, but instead he just stares down at her and in a voice that seems too calm for his current expression he says, "You don't have to be so formal with me Yuki. I'm your husband now. Just say my name."
She slowly looks up at him, their eyes meeting, and something flutters in her stomach. She pushes him away and rushes to the bathroom. What a strange time for nausea to hit her. As she flushes the toilet she turns to look and sees him standing in the doorway. He cautiously approaches her and she slowly gets to her feet, goes to the sink, quickly brushes her teeth and rinses her mouth out.
"Are you okay?" he asks.
She nods. "It's common in the early stages of pregnancy. That's what the doctor said anyway," she replies.
"Oh," he says.
He's about to step out of the room when Yuki calls out to him. "Wait, Soujiro," and she only stumbles a little over his name. He turns to look at her, curiosity in his gaze. She flushes under his attention and then continues, "Could you please unzip me? I'm tired and I want to change."
He gives a stiff nod and as she turns around he presses his hand against her back and using his other hand he drags the zipper down. He notices the hitch in her breath, and when the zipper is finally undone she is quick to pull away from him and slip by him out of the room. He hears her rummaging through their luggage, and then everything grows quiet. Curiosity gets the better of him and he opens the door to the master bedroom to see what she's doing. She's sitting on the bed, still in the gown though it's loose around her shoulders and bust, and in her hand is a framed picture. She brushes her fingers along the glass, a small smile on her face, and he's curious to see what she's looking at.
He steps into the room, and quietly approaches her, but she doesn't seem to notice him as she's so caught up in the picture and her own little world. She startles when he sits down next to her on the bed and his brow furrows as he looks at the framed picture in her hand. It's grainy and black and white like static. He looks up at her curiously and then takes the frame from her, asking, "What is this?"
She flushes, and then points to a strange blob-like shape in the middle of all of the static. "That's our baby," she softly whispers.
He's stunned as he turns his attention back to the photograph from the ultrasound. "Maybe next time you can join me at the doctor's office and hear the heartbeat?" she asks, and he can detect a little bit of the old hopefulness in her voice, and he can't stop himself as he answers, "I think I just might."
And for the first time this feels real. He's staring at a picture of a life he helped to create, and she's sitting next to him on the bed. He lifts his gaze from the picture and looks at the woman beside him. Her hair is starting to come undone from the pins holding it in place and her expression is so gentle and warm as she continues to look at the picture now in his hands. He reaches up with his free hand, sliding it into her hair, the pins coming loose and her hair falling down her back and around her shoulders, and she turns to him in surprise. He takes advantage of the opportunity and captures her mouth in a kiss, caught up in the moment on his wedding night, like any other young groom.
Author's Note: The third and final installment is with my beta as we speak! So look for the sequel "Scared of Love" coming soon! Hope you've enjoyed this and please don't forget to review!