Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
This goes out to my lovely Koko-kun who's been waiting on this particular fic for ages, and for the lovely Tetsi who said she would read it, so Tetsi! I'm expecting a review!!! And as always thanks to my sisters Lissa and Jesse for the beta, you guys are the bestest!!! Hope you enjoy this you guys and don't forget to review!!!
By C.K. Blake
He is at a crossroads, both literally and figuratively. He is loyal to his friends, but in spite of his usually cool and aloof exterior, he wants someone to care for him, love him. This is his catch twenty-two, he can either remain loyal to his friends and betray his heart, or he can actively pursue the girl he's fallen for at the expense of his lifelong friends who while they don't understand him are loyal to him without fault. He's gone over this time and time again in his mind; it's even plagued him during his long, languid hours of sleep. Now he's at a busy intersection and it's time to choose a path, should he go forward, left, right, or do a u-turn? He drums his fingers against the steering wheel and then a familiar face draws his attention to the outdoor café located on the left corner of the intersection.
He pulls forward, parallel parks, and then focuses his attention on one of his best friends sitting with a familiar girl at one of the tables. He watches as Nishikado Soujiro, playboy extraordinaire of the F4 starts in on one of his animated monologues, shifting and changing positions, using his elaborate gestures, and he notices the cracks in the girl's poorly constructed mask. From what he knows of Makino Tsukushi's best friend, he imagines that she's the type that would say she's fine when she's most likely dying emotionally inside. He wonders if Soujiro even realizes the devastation he's causing the poor girl, but knowing Soujiro, and not just from his reputation, he's too self involved to care.
Finally the girl's mask cracks and slips away completely. Even from this distance Hanazawa Rui can see the first of what promises to be a steady flow of tears. He takes in a breath as he watches Soujiro get to his feet in frustration, throw some bills down on the table, and storm off toward his limo. These are the times when Rui wonders why he even bothers with his friends. He gets out of his Ashton-Martin convertible, locks the door behind him, and quickly crosses the street. He reaches her table, but the girl is too busy trying to hold back her sobs while keeping her eyes fixed on the table to ignore the curious onlookers.
Rui reaches out, because he just can't help himself, and gently puts a hand on her shoulder. She startles and looks up at him, her eyes red, swollen, and brimming with tears. He pulls out a handkerchief with his free hand and holds it out to her. She takes it gratefully, and he doesn't even wince as she blows her nose, then again he's become used to it with hanging around Makino so much.
Looking at her falling apart and fully aware of the audience gathering he takes pity on her, "Hey, why don't you join me for dinner and we can talk about it? Hurry, I have reservations and the person I was supposed to meet has cancelled."
She doesn't answer him, simply pushes her chair back and shakily gets to her feet. He puts a protective arm across her shoulders and guides her across the street. Ever the gentleman he helps her into his car, sees that she's strapped in, and then he gets into the driver's seat and pulls into traffic.
Now that he has her in his car and they are away from spectators he really has no idea of what to do with the girl. From the corner of his eye he can see her carefully pulling herself together, the cracks in the mask mending, and the mask slipping back over her face. She roughly brushes the tear tracks on her cheeks with her fingers and lets out a shaky breath before she clasps her hands in her lap, and in a voice that isn't quite as steady as she probably wants it to be she asks, "So Hanazawa-san, where exactly are we going, because I don't think I'm dressed for the part. You can just take me home. Really, I'm fine."
He snorts at that. "You're hardly fine, Yuki-chan, and you don't have to worry. We aren't going out to eat. I'm going to take you home with me, we are going to have a small meal, and then we'll talk."
Her eyes widen at that, and he has to suppress a chuckle as she says in disbelief, "Talk?! I thought you were the quiet one."
"Obviously Tsukushi has misinformed you. I am often quiet, but when I feel the need I'm quite capable of talking. I'm also observant, very observant. Of course if you don't want to talk to me I can always take you to Tsukushi and you can talk to her. Whoever you choose, I don't really care, but you will talk."
He can't suppress the chuckle as he notices her shudder at the thought of facing Makino Tsukushi with whatever is going on in her life. He doesn't blame her. Not only would Tsukushi be loud, she would also over react and Soujiro's face would end up becoming very acquainted with either Tsukushi's fist or foot.
"Okay, we'll talk," Yuki says in a tone of defeat, and the rest of the drive to the Hanazawa estate is in silence.
The silence is heavy and she can't bring herself to look up, her gaze is steady on her fidgeting hands, and she wonders what she is doing here in Hanazawa Rui's car. She is just simple, commoner Matsuoka Yuki. She's not strong or special or stubborn like Makino Tsukushi. She doesn't even know why Hanazawa-san is bothering with her as he's only ever really expressed an interest in Tsukushi in the few times that Yuki has interacted with him.
She doesn't understand why he would want to talk after witnessing one of his close friends trampling her heart, but considering the alternative of facing Tsukushi she would much rather deal with this quiet man, or so she thinks. She manages to give him a passing glance from the corner of her eye, watching him shift gears, and that's when she notices that the car is slowing and finally pulls to a stop.
"We're here Yuki-chan," he says, his voice soft, and she looks up with a start, her eyes widening at the large, beautiful house before her.
He gets out of the car, walks around it and then opens the passenger door for her. She gets out, her gaze fixated on the house before her, white, full of windows, and airy. It still amazes her how wealthy the F4 are. She just can't wrap her mind around how much money they have at their disposal and how extravagantly they spend it.
He drops his hand on her shoulder and she startles, a faint blush rising to her cheeks, and then he tilts his head toward the house and she follows him as he leads her inside. Once inside Rui takes her coat from her, puts it in the closet near the door and then leads her through a maze of halls and rooms. Finally they stop before a swinging door. He holds it open for her, and she's stunned by the elegant kitchen beyond. It's almost like something she would expect to see in one of those fancy restaurants.
He motions for her to take a seat at the counter and he busies himself with pulling vegetables and meat out of the refrigerator. She watches as he carefully cuts the beef strips, peppers, onions, and carrots with a familiar ease, and then she watches as he throws it all in a pan. He puts on some rice, adds a little soy sauce and rice wine to the pan, and stirs it with a large wooden spoon. He looks up at her with a smile, and she blushes again, wondering what he must think of her gawking at him, but she never thought any of the F4 would dirty their hands with something as common as cooking.
When he sets a plate down in front of her and goes to get her a glass of water she realizes that hardly a word has been said between them since the car ride. A small smile curves her lips, because the silence hasn't been awkward or unpleasant, and Hanazawa-san is a soothing presence all on his own without the use of words. He sets the glass of water down on the counter next to her plate, and hands her a pair of ornately carved chopsticks.
He joins her at the counter with his own plate and water, and with an encouraging smile from him she begins to dig in. She's pleasantly surprised as the flavors burst on her tongue. He's a good cook. Is there anything that the boys of the F4 can't do? She digs in with vigor, only just now realizing how hungry she is. The tears really took a lot out of her. She finishes before him, and then she takes her plate over to the sink and turns the water on. She makes quick work of washing the dish and chopsticks and sets them in the drying rack. He joins her by the sink a moment later and does the same, cleaning his own dishes.
She doesn't have anything to do with her hands now, and the silence is starting to become awkward because she knows the talk is coming. She anticipates and dreads it, and can't think of any further way to avoid it. She jolts when she feels his warm hand take hers and she looks up at him with wide eyes, and as she meets his gaze she finally understands why Tsukushi would describe them as marbles, they are so mysterious and she can see a vision of herself that she's not familiar with reflected in them. His eyes give nothing away about himself, and she's never seen such a watchful gaze before in her life.
He leads her through the house until finally they reach a comfortable set of rooms that contains plush furniture, a piano, music stand, several violins, a writing desk, window seat, and a very large bed. She blushes at the sight of the bed, and she's grateful when he stops by the large white sofa and guides her to sit on it. He takes a seat across from her in a plush white chair, and he lounges back, his legs crossed, and his left hand stroking his chin as he watches her, his eyes almost unnerving, and the silence ringing loudly around them.
She actually jumps at the sound of her name dropping from his mouth.
"Yes, Hanazawa-san?" she asks as she presses her right hand over her heart in an attempt to slow its erratic beat. She finds that she misses the silence from the drive and when he was cooking and they were eating.
"Tell me what happened this afternoon with Soujiro. Why were you crying?" he asks, his tone passive, but his interest written in his gaze.
"He's said similar things to me before," she whispers, and her breath hitches as the tears rise to her face once again as she remembers Nishikado-san's callous words.
Rui shifts, and leans forward; his legs spread wide, elbows on his knees, and his chin resting over his clasped hands, waiting for her to continue. She takes in a deep breath, and lets it out slowly. "We were having a nice time. He'd taken me out, we visited a few stores, a bookshop, an herbal shop, and a few boutiques, and then we stopped at a florist. He told me about some of the flowers, the bleeding heart, snapdragon, lilacs, lilies, roses, and all of the exotic flowers, and then he stopped by the daisies. He looked back at me and he smiled. I don't know what I was thinking as I asked him the meaning behind the daisy. He laughed a little and said the daisy was simple, plain, and common, like me. It hurt. Then he took me to the café and told me that our outing was just a friendly thing. He couldn't date me, I'm too common and Tsukushi's friend. He told me about our social circles, and then he said I lacked the necessary experience and frame of mind that he required of the women he played with. He said I wasn't a woman, but a girl trying to play a woman's game with him and it would never work. He said I wasn't worth the effort of playing that game, and he was really protecting me and being my friend and nothing more was for the best. But we're not even friends. Not really. Because friends would never do what he did, would never say what he said to me, right Hanazawa-san?"
She looks at him for reassurance, but all he does is blinks and continues to look at her like he's trying to see into her very heart and soul. She lets out a sob, and reaches up to wipe away the tears trailing down her face, and then she continues in her defense. "I don't always go looking for him. I'm not stupid. I know how much he can hurt me. I just like seeing him smile and knowing I made him happy for that one moment. I like spending time with him because when he's not the playboy he's a surprisingly kind and caring person. He's funny and interesting, but he won't ever change. Usually he's the one that finds me, Hanazawa-san. He'll go out of his way to find me only to take me somewhere and help him pick out a present for one of his conquests. Does he do that on purpose? Why is he so cruel to me? How can he say those things to me? Throw them in my face? How can he tell me how he treats them, the things he does with them? How could he pretend to care for me? How could he kiss me, ignore me for weeks, and then take me out on a perfect day only to tell me that I'm nothing to him, that I'm a simple, plain, common daisy?"
Yuki pulls her legs up to her chest and curls up against the plush white couch, seeming to become smaller in an attempt to disappear within the couch completely. Her body is trembling, tears flowing steadily down her cheeks, and Rui can't help himself as he watches the girl breaking down. He gets up, takes a seat next to her on the couch and gathers the distraught girl in his arms. His left shoulder is wet with her tears in minutes. He simply holds her, his arms draped loosely around her body as she shakes and sobs and curls her fists into his shirt, every now and then punctuating her sobs with a demand to know why she isn't good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, easy enough, and Rui hates that he doesn't have the answers she wants to hear. Soujiro is a fool, and it is several hours later before she's finally done, her body worn out, her tears dried out, and her breathing has grown steady.
He looks down at the sleeping girl in his arms. He's struck by her simple beauty. She isn't like the socialites he's used to, and she's much more delicate than Tsukushi. There is something about Matsuoka Yuki that draws him in, and he wonders if Soujiro has ever seen her like this. Even with the puffy closed eyes, and tear stained cheeks, she's attractive. Rui feels the need to protect her, to be there should she need him. It's similar to what drew him to Tsukushi, but he has learned that Tsukushi can fight her own battles, she has that weed strength of hers, but this girl, Yuki, is a delicate flower who needs careful care and cultivation to bloom.
Rui pushes her hair back from her face, his thumb stroking her moist cheek, and he tilts his head, a smile tugging at his lips. Soujiro is a fool not to realize what he's had for so long. He shakes his head, and then carefully gets to his feet with the girl in his arms. He carries her over to his bed, sets her down, and carefully removes her socks and pants. He chuckles a little at the sight of the Hello Kitty panties, and decides that he'll leave the rest. He lifts her up again, quickly draws the covers back, and then he sets her down once again, pulls the covers over her, and tucks her in.
He's fascinated as she turns herself onto her side, curling up, and nuzzling into his pillow. He pulls up a chair and takes a seat by her bedside. She reaches up, a hand curling into the edge of the pillow, her fingers twitching minutely for a moment, her breath hitching, and then he watches as she begins to settle and relax further into sleep. She's too good for their world, for Soujiro, she has a kind nature that would get her eaten alive in the world of the social elite, and Soujiro was fortunate to have found such a genuinely kind soul, and like the utter idiot that he is he simply rejected the girl and broke her. Soujiro's hungered for devotion and attention and sincerity his whole life, and here before Rui, lying curled up in his bed, is the answer to all of Soujiro's wants and needs. Soujiro doesn't deserve her.
Rui is startled as he feels his fingernails dig into his palms and realizes that his hands are curled into fists at the thought of Soujiro's treatment of the girl. He slowly relaxes and leans back in his chair, and as he looks at the girl sleeping peacefully in his bed his mind wanders to his own failings in love. His obsession with Shizuka, how she was his first love, that childhood love that he'd desperately wanted to be something more, how she first broke his heart, and how he realized all too late that he'd had someone else, someone special. Tsukasa was the one that realized just how special Makino Tsukushi was, and so it was his best friend who stole the girl before he ever realized the opportunity he was letting pass him by.
Looking at the girl in his bed, her hair fanning out around her head, he smiles at his foolishness. He reaches out and pushes the hair back from her face, and he wonders if he's only capable of unrequited love. Is he only meant to be a guardian angel watching from the sidelines and interfering when needed? He's tired of being the quiet one, the overlooked one, the supportive friend. He wants something for himself. He wants to feel the selfishness of love instead of only the selfless part of it. He's tired of giving. For once he wants to take and to keep. With a sigh he closes his eyes and drifts into sleep, his thoughts swirling into the welcoming dark abyss of sleep, at least in sleep he can find peace and escape if only for a little while.
Slowly she stretches as consciousness seeps through her bones. She shifts a little and snuggles against the soft, plush pillow, and then her nose catches an unfamiliar but comforting scent. Slowly she opens her eyes. She doesn't recognize anything at first, the large, comfortable bed, the spacious room. She shifts again and notices that her right hand is being held, their fingers entwined. She looks down and sees his light hair against the white covers of the bed.
She takes in a deep breath, and then her eyes widen as she feels the sensation of the rich sheets against her bare legs. She tries to tug her hand free from his grasp, and she wonders how she ended up so underdressed in what appears to be Hanazawa Rui's bed. She tries to be careful to keep from waking him up, but she can't pull her hand free without disturbing him, and then he lets out a small groan. She freezes, her eyes widen as she watches him give his shoulders a little roll, then he turns his head, his eyes meet hers as his mouth settles from a silent yawn and then pulls into a small smile.
He chuckles at her and this causes heat to flood her cheeks. He gives his head a little shake and reaches up, pushing some of her hair behind her right ear. "It's okay, Yuki-chan. I hardly looked I promise."
She watches him as he sits back, languidly stretching, and she can't help noticing how handsome he actually is. As she watches him she snuggles back into the luxurious bed, and then her eyes fly open as she realizes something. "My parents," she lets out in a squeak as she sits up in a rush.
"It's okay. I'll leave you to get dressed, and the bathroom is down the hall if you need it. We'll have breakfast and then I'll take you home and explain everything to your parents. I know the perfect place, the pancakes are delicious," he says as he gets to his feet and slips out of the room.
She looks around the room and notices her jeans folded on the couch and her socks rolled up. She smiles at the gesture, and slips out of the bed to dress, go out with Rui, and then face her parents. She absently wonders what he will tell them.
His limbs are heavy, his head aches, and there is an ungodly sour taste in his mouth. With a groan he slowly sits up and carefully opens his eyes taking in his surroundings. He lets out a relieved sigh at the familiar surroundings, realizing that his best friend, Mimisaka Akira, took pity on him and didn't let him do anything too stupid in his drunken stupor. With a ginger roll of his shoulders he stretches and slowly rolls out of the bed. His clothes are wrinkled, he needs to relieve himself, and he definitely could use a nice hot shower.
He crosses the room to the bathroom, and shakes his head when he closes the door and notices the fresh suit hanging on the hook on the back of the door. He shrugs and figures a suit is adequate enough and he can always go commando this once, it's not like he hasn't done it before. He also notices the packaged toothbrush on the white marble sink. He lets out a chuckle that turns into a groan. Akira is always so thoughtful of his guests. Soujiro heads to the toilet, does his business, and then proceeds to strip, dropping his clothes to the floor. He turns to the shower, slides the glass door open, twists the knobs until steamy water is flowing from the showerhead and then he steps into the shower. He lets out a moan as the rich heat and pressure of the water pounds against his skin, soothing his aching muscles.
He takes his time in the shower as he washes his hair and body, savoring the simple pleasure of the amazing water pressure. Once he feels almost human he slips out of the shower, wraps a towel around his waist and then he opens up the package to retrieve the toothbrush. He makes quick work of brushing his teeth, spits, rinses his mouth and spits again. He looks at himself in the mirror, his wet hair falling around his face and in his eyes. He gives his reflection a wink, because he looks more like his usual handsome self rather than the hung over wraith he'd been when he first woke up. He dries himself off, finishes with his hair, and then he dresses in the suit. It's a little broader in the shoulders than what he's used to, and the arms are just a bit shorter than what he normally wears, but considering he's going commando in Akira's clothes, he can live with it for now. The silk shirt isn't that bad either, cool and smooth against his chest.
Now that he's feeling more like himself he heads to Akira's rooms. He gives a knock and then opens the door and steps inside. The first thing he sees when he enters the room is Akira lounging on one of the couches in his sitting room, his right leg drawn up, his ankle on his knee, nursing a bottle of water. The next thing Nishikado Soujiro notices is a bottle of water and a bottle of aspirin waiting on him. He walks toward the glass topped table, picks up the aspirin bottle, pops a couple of pills and then washes them down with the water. He drops back on the couch across the table from Akira's and rubs at his aching temple. He can't wait for the aspirin to kick in.
He also can't escape the inquiring gaze of his best friend.
"So, are you going to tell me about it?" Akira asks.
Soujiro winces. He doesn't remember much from the night before. He remembers spending most of the day with Yuki, and then the café. He takes in a sharp breath. He still can't believe he just left her there to cry alone. He's not exactly the best guy in the world, but he's never been so cruel before.
"Do you even remember any of it Soujiro?"
"I remember leaving Yuki at the café," Soujiro manages.
Akira rolls his eyes. "When I found you I couldn't believe my eyes. You were drunk out of your mind clinging to some poor girl, apologizing to her over and over again and calling her Yuki. I think you scared her. What the hell happened? What did you do to Yuki-chan?"
"I…" Soujiro begins, and then he lets out a huff of breath. "It was a good day, but then she started getting that hopeful look in her eyes again. I can't be what she wants Akira! She wants a boyfriend, someone who'll cherish her and love her, and do I look like I'm capable of that? Please. She deserves some nice, quiet, boring boy who will treat her like a queen."
"I take it she didn't handle it well?"
"I might have been a little more harsh than usual…" Soujiro trails, and he doesn't dare look up at Akira for fear of the disapproval he knows he'll find written on his friend's face. "She started crying and I couldn't take it anymore so I got up and left."
"You left her crying alone at a café?" Akira snaps. "She's our friend! How could you do that?"
Akira rolls his eyes. "Well it's done now. How about we go out for some breakfast, and then maybe later we'll stop by the dango shop and see if she's all right?"
"Coffee might be good right now," Soujiro groans.
"Wow, you're not dying for tea?" Akira asks with a knowing smirk.
Soujiro fixes him with a withering glance as he finishes his bottle of water and then gets to his feet to follow Akira out the door.
She looks around the restaurant, it's more upscale than she's used to, but she doesn't feel overwhelmed. She looks across the table and sees Rui looking at his menu, and then he's lifting his gaze and their eyes meet. Her cheeks redden, and she can't help wondering what's on his mind. He's so mysterious, but comforting.
"The pancakes here are delicious. Of course you can feel free to order whatever you like," he says, and then a mischievous smile tugs at his mouth. "I like it when you blush, Yuki-chan. Hello Kitty is very cute on you."
Her blush deepens dramatically as her eyes widen. Did he have to mention that? Now she knows he got a peek at her panties. A few moments later the waitress comes over. Rui orders a coffee and Yuki orders orange juice, and then Rui asks for more time before they order food. Yuki is staring at the menu, and she's dreading finding out how much this will cost since prices aren't listed. That's usually not a good sign in a restaurant.
Once their drinks arrive she's decided on her breakfast. "I'll have a small stack of pancakes topped with strawberries and whipped cream please."
Rui tilts his head, considering, and then orders the same.
"Ah, Yuki-chan," Rui says.
She looks up in confusion. "Yes, Hanazawa-san?" she asks.
He makes a tsking sound and then says, "We are better acquainted than that now. Call me Rui."
"Okay, Rui," she replies, and his given name isn't awkward in her mouth, as she imagines Soujiro's would be.
"You and I are a lot alike," he adds, and then lapses into silence.
Yuki is curious. "What do you mean?"
"We see what others do not, and we keep it to ourselves. We hide our true emotions when we can, our joys and our sorrows. Perhaps we should be more open in our expressions."
She is about to say something, but their plates are set down in front of them, so she gives a simple nod instead. She picks up her fork and begins to cut a bite from her pancakes. She closes her eyes and gives a sound of approval as the flavors burst on her tongue. When she opens her eyes she sees that he's watching her while chewing his own bite. He looks amused and as she goes for a second bite she can feel the heat coloring her cheeks. She's nearly finished with her pancakes when a shadow appears across the table.
A shiver runs up her spine and slowly she turns to look. Her eyes widen at the sight of Soujiro dressed up in Akira's clothes, with a pair of sunglasses pushed up onto his head, his cold, dark eyes locking with hers. She swallows thickly, the pancakes suddenly losing a little bit of their flavor as she sees his temper flaring. He gives her an appraising look up and down, and a sneer curves his mouth.
"You're wearing the same clothes that you had on at the café yesterday, Yuki-chan. Why would that be?" Soujiro asks, his tone sharp and dangerous.
"Because she stayed the night with me, Soujiro. I couldn't very well take her home in the condition that you left her in," Rui answers in her stead, and he notices Akira's look of interest from behind Soujiro.
Soujiro spares a glance at Rui and then his attention is focused once again on Yuki. "If I'd known in the beginning you were this sort of girl I would have played with you. Why pretend you are different Yuki-chan, when you go from pursuing me to bedding one of my friends? Still it couldn't have been good. He's too cold to know how to truly pleasure a woman. If you wanted to know about the warmth of a man's touch all you had to do was ask," Soujiro says with a snort, and he reaches down drawing a finger slowly along her jaw line in a soft caress.
Akira's eyes widen at Soujiro's cruel words, and he notices Rui shifting in his chair, not a good sign at all, but it is Yuki that surprises them all.
She slaps Soujiro's hand away, gets to her feet, reaches for her half-full glass of orange juice and throws it in Soujiro's face. Soujiro stiffens, his eyes stinging from the juice, and he reaches for her arm, which she snatches from his grasp.
"It is no longer your business who I choose to be with. In all honesty it never was. I don't even think I can call you a friend anymore! What do you think of me? I'm nothing like those women you play with, and I never will be! You talk about Rui being cold? He's shown more courtesy and comfort to me in one night than I've ever known from you. He was there as I cried, he held me, and when I fell asleep he watched over me. That is warmth, that is honesty, and that is caring for someone. I will never cry over you again, Nishikado-san. You have what you want. I see how much I'm worth to you, and now I know how much you're worth to me. I might be a plain, common daisy, but you're less than dirt. You're just a rich, pretty boy gigolo! Don't ever think you can touch me again!"
Akira can't help himself as he bursts out laughing. He never thought anyone would address Soujiro as a gigolo. He tries to cover it up, and he notices Rui chuckling as he gets to his feet, and then his chuckles die down as he watches Rui place a hand on Yuki's shoulder. She instantly calms down, her breathing slows, and the anger just flows out of her, as Rui leads her toward the counter where he pays, then they leave together.
Akira, now serious, turns to his friend. Soujiro looks worse for the wear as orange juice drips down his face and onto his shirt. He drops down into the chair that Yuki vacated, a dazed look on his face. Akira sighs and shakes his head as he takes the seat across from his friend.
"You've really messed up this time, haven't you?" Akira points out, and Soujiro just lets out a bitter groan in reply.
He keeps sparing a glance at her from the corner of his eyes. He can detect the fine trembling of her body, and he knows that what just happened at the restaurant has affected her gravely, even if she's determined to pretend that she isn't fighting back tears. Apparently anger works as a good defense mechanism, as he notices her fists clench and her body stiffen as she grits her teeth. She lets her breath out in a huff, her eyes narrowed and then she actually punches the dashboard.
"I can't believe him! How could he say those things? I'm not one of his women! I'll never be one of his conquests! How dare he even think I would…" her voice trails as she begins to run out of steam.
"Sleep with me? But Yuki-chan, you did. We did sleep together," Rui says gently, a small smile curving his mouth as he spares a sideways glance at her, hoping she gets his attempt at humor.
She lets out a small giggle and shakes her head. "No one would ever believe it was just sleeping."
"Especially since I can identify your Hello Kitty panties," Rui says with a smirk.
She narrows his eyes on him. "That's not funny. I thought you said you didn't look!"
"I said that I hardly looked," he points out.
She rolls her eyes at that and then it hits her where they are headed as he turns down a very familiar street. She takes in a sharp breath. "Oh no. My parents. What do I tell my parents?"
"I've already told you to let me handle it, Yuki-chan."
He pulls up to the building, parks on the side of the street, and then cuts the engine. He turns to the girl in his passenger's seat, her chest rising and falling rapidly, and he's afraid she might be on the verge of hyperventilating. He reaches for her hands, and raises a brow as she seems to calm down immediately at the contact.
"You will be all right Yuki, I promise," he says.
She gives him a nod in reply and then he gets out, crosses around the front of the car, opens her door for her and helps her out of the car. He then takes her hand, their fingers entwined and together they walk into the building. They take the lift to the third floor, and Rui follows her lead. He braces himself as Yuki slips her key in the lock, but the door opens before she has the chance to turn it.
A kindly looking woman with a stern expression looks from Yuki to Rui, and Rui guesses that this is Yuki's mother. The woman's eyes widen at the sight of their entwined hands.
"Have you eaten yet? We were just about to sit down for breakfast," she says.
Rui nods, "We have, but there are things that need to be said, so I would like to join you, if you don't mind."
A few minutes later he's kneeling at the table, staring at breakfast dishes, and missing the warmth of Yuki's hand in his. There are three sets of eyes on him. Yuki's mother, sister, and father are staring (glaring in the case of her father) at him, and Yuki's gaze is fixed firmly on the table. Her sister, Kaori is the only one even attempting to eat, while her parents Yumi and Shuichi are simply picking at their plates.
Finally her father can no longer stand it, and after clearing his throat he address Rui directly. "Who are you and why did you bring my daughter home so late?"
Rui shifts his gaze to Yuki for a moment, noticing her stiffen at the question, and then he reaches for her hand, and gently covers it with his own before meeting her father's gaze directly. "I apologize, Matsuoka-san for keeping your daughter out so late last night. It was still early when we reached my home last night, but we were watching some movies, it got late and she fell asleep. I hated to wake her so I took her to the guestroom. We just finished breakfast before we came here. I suppose she hasn't mentioned me to either of you yet. I actually hoped to introduce myself under more appropriate circumstances, but I'm Hanazawa Rui, your daughter's boyfriend. We've only been seeing each other a short time, but I must say I'm rather fond of your daughter, and I would be pleased if I had your approval to continue to see her. I'm also very good friends with your daughter's friends Makino Tsukushi and Domyouji Tsukasa."
Kaori drops her chopsticks, and that is the only sound in the apartment for several minutes as the Matsuokas process what's been said.
"Hanazawa Rui of the F4?" Kaori says, finally breaking the silence.
Rui gives a brisk nod. "Yes, I'm one of the F4. My other friends are Mimisaka Akira and Nishikado Soujiro."
Rui squeezes Yuki's hand as he mentions Soujiro, and she looks up at him a faint blush coloring her cheeks. He smiles at her in return. Her parents watch the silent exchange between their youngest daughter and this strange young man, and they sense something there. He seems to be a decent young man, and it's obvious that he's wealthy. He's not an altogether bad match for their daughter. They continue their meal as they watch their youngest daughter blushing lightly under the young man's steady gaze, and with a silent exchange of their own, Yuki's parents decide to give the young man a chance.
Watching her friend for the last few days has been interesting for Makino Tsukushi. Yuki has been quiet lately, nervous, and at the mere mention of Nishikado Soujiro she gives a jolt, her nostrils flare, and she looks like she'll either fall apart or rip something to pieces. To say that Tsukushi is concerned in an understatement. She knew that Yuki's continued involvement and friendship with Soujiro was a bad idea in the making. Now she's seeing the consequences and she wants nothing more than to knock that pretty boy's teeth down his throat for what he's obviously done to her friend.
With a sigh she wipes down the counter, and at the sound of the bell over the door she looks up and a smile tugs at her mouth as she meets Rui's calming gaze.
"Rui," she greets warmly, and he smiles at her and gives her a nod, then she continues, "Nothing's wrong right?"
He ruefully shakes his head. "Everything's fine Tsukushi. I just thought I'd stop by for a minute."
She raises a brow at him. "You don't just stop by without a reason."
Yuki steps out of the back in her kimono, and Tsukushi's eyes widen as she watches Rui's gaze fix on her friend, and then he steps past her and reaches for Yuki's hand. Yuki flushes under the attention, and drops her gaze to the floor.
"I forgot to get your number before I left you the other day. I meant to ask you for it, but so many things were happening at once," he says.
"That's not necessary, Rui," she replies shyly.
He snorts and shakes his head. "Not necessary for your boyfriend to have your number?"
Both Tsukushi and Yuki look up at this, and once Tsukushi regains her senses she blurts out rather loudly, "WHAT?"
Rui turns to her with a chuckle and says, "It's a very recent development, but when I took Yuki home and spoke to her parents I was being sincere when I requested their approval to continue to see her. I realized after I left that I didn't have her number, and I've been trying to think of a way to get it. Also, Yuki I would like to invite you to dinner after work. I've check with Okami-san and she said your shift is over at eight."
"I… but I don't have anything to wear," Yuki stutters out, and a blush lights up her cheeks.
He smiles at her and reaches up to gently stroke her cheek. "You don't have to dress up for me to cook you dinner. Just say that you'll join me."
Tsukushi watches in stunned silence as Yuki agrees to the date, and she sees a look of warmth in Hanazawa Rui's eyes, and a small smile tugs at her mouth as she wonders what her knight in shining Armani is up to. And for the next few hours Rui sits on the bench against the far wall of the shop with a book in hand as he waits for the end of Yuki's shift.
"Makino's friend called him a what?" Domyouji Tsukasa says as he bursts into laughter, actually slapping his thigh in his mirth.
Akira rolls his eyes and lets out another chuckle. "Yuki called him a rich, pretty boy gigolo," Akira says, and then quickly collects himself as he remembers Soujiro's reaction afterward. "But this is serious Tsukasa. I've never seen Soujiro react that way, and the way Rui was touching her and how he calmed her."
"Wait! Rui was there?!" Tsukasa says.
"They were eating breakfast together, and Soujiro said something about her clothes being the same from the day before and Rui said she'd spent the night."
"Makino's friend spent the night with Rui?!" Tsukasa says incredulously and then a huge grin breaks out across his face.
Akira looks at his friend as though he's grown a second head. "I came here to tell you about Soujiro! He's crazy about the girl but he won't admit it, and he's really messed up this time!"
"Who cares about that?! She's just a girl. Knowing Soujiro he's already gotten under it! But Rui is taking an interest in Makino's friend? This is the best news never!" Tsukasa says with a burst of enthusiasm and Akira just drops his head in his hands not even bothering to correct his friend's semantics.
Before Akira can say anything in response to Tsukasa's joy Tsukasa breaks into his thoughts and says, "Maybe I should call Soujiro up to thank him for setting up Rui with Yuki! I never saw it coming, but at least now maybe he'll get under Makino and stop pine treeing over my woman!"
Akira snatches Tsukasa's phone out of his hand before he can do something foolish and says, "I don't think that's a good idea right now. I think Soujiro needs some time to get his head on straight. You didn't see him after they left, Tsukasa."
Akira closes his eyes briefly, recalling Soujiro slumping down in Yuki's recently vacated seat, orange juice dripping down his face and onto the silk shirt he'd borrowed earlier that morning, and his entire body's expression had shown a man utterly defeated.
He pulls up next to the dango shop, parks his bike, cuts the ignition, takes his helmet off and sets it on the left handle, then swings his leg over to get off of the bike. He runs a sophisticated, immaculate hand over his suit just to make sure its smooth, and then he fixes that killer smile in place as he heads into the dango shop. Surely it's been long enough for her to forgive him by now. In fact three weeks seems more than long enough.
He hears the bell jingle over his head as he steps inside, and then his eyes widen as they fix on Yuki sitting in a chair next to the bench that Rui is lounging on. There is a book in Rui's hand, though he's paying it little mind as he and Yuki are entangled in a seemingly deep conversation. Soujiro then looks toward the counter and that is when Makino looks away from Rui and Yuki and meets his stunned gaze.
The atmosphere grows incredibly tense when Rui looks up and Yuki follows his gaze and her eyes narrow on Soujiro. Soujiro takes in a sharp breath. He's never seen that look of raw hurt and anger on her face directed at him before. From the corner of his eye he notices Makino stiffen and he imagines that she's preparing to punch him like she did Tsukasa that one time. In all honesty he probably deserves it, though he really doesn't want to deal with the damage to his face.
Soujiro refocuses his attention on Yuki and is surprised to find that Rui has gotten to his feet, left his book on the bench, and is approaching him. When they are toe to toe Rui tilts his head, and the angle can only be natural for Rui, as he says, "Soujiro, unless you are here to buy some dango then you need to leave."
"I came on personal matters Rui," Soujiro replies and directs his gaze past his friend and on to Yuki.
"Everything that was needed to be said has been said. She's not yours to play with anymore," Rui curtly informs him.
Soujiro's eyes darken in his anger. "Then why not let her speak for herself? What? Just because you've slept with her you now think you're her keeper?"
Not even Makino's startled gasp deters the confrontation between the two friends. "I won't justify that with an answer, but I will tell you that she is far too good for you. Yuki-chan is beautiful, kind, gentle, intelligent, compassionate, and she was everything you've always longed for and you turned your back on that. You've rejected her countless times, made her feel like she wasn't good enough for you. Why? Is her family background the cause? Her social status? Or is it because you were afraid? You're a boy playing at man's sport, and you are nowhere near worthy of her. I will do everything in my power to make sure she knows her worth and to keep her as far away from you as possible, Soujiro. You have lost her."
Soujiro is dumbfounded by this little speech, because honestly in all the years that he's known Rui he doesn't think he's ever heard the usually quiet and stoic member of the F4 say so much at one time. Then both he and Makino are shocked as Rui crosses the shop to Yuki, gently reaches up, grasps her chin, and lowers his face until their lips meet. Soujiro watches as his friend kisses the girl he's only just beginning to realize he likes, and he feels his stomach plunge and his throat tighten as her eyes flutter shut and she returns Rui's gentle kiss, allows him to deepen it for a moment before they pull apart and she struggles to catch her breath.
There is no question that there is something between Yuki and Rui as he Rui smiles down at her, his hands grasping her shoulders as he rests his forehead against hers, his expression comfortable and lazy as he says, "Yuki-chan, your shift is almost over. Why don't you go in the back and change? I can help Tsukushi finish sweeping if it will get you out of here faster so we can make our reservations."
Soujiro watches as a very flushed Yuki gives a nod, a smile tugging at her mouth as she slips in the back of the shop. Rui takes up a broom and Soujiro spares a glance at Makino just to see how she's taking this turn in events. She's still staring at Rui, her mouth hanging open, and her eyes steadily blinking, like she's only just realized that whatever is between Yuki and Rui is real. Soujiro can't take it anymore. He turns on his heel and storms out of the shop. He swings his leg over his bike, and as he's putting his helmet on and adjusting it he looks back in the shop.
Tsukushi seems to have regained some of her senses as she's now sweeping, and then he slips the key into the ignition and gives it a turn. He spares one last glance at the shop, his breath catching in his throat as he sees Yuki step out of the back. She's wearing a nice dark blue cocktail dress in a modest but elegant cut, her hair is swept up with an ivory comb holding it loosely in place. She's beautiful, and his heart beat quickens as he closes his eyes against her beauty and quickly revs the engine of his bike. He takes in a sharp gasp of air and then pulls into traffic. The bike growling as he puts as much distance between himself and the heartbreak he's brought on himself.
He can't get the image of her dressed up for Rui out of his mind, try as he might. He pulls his bike off to the side of the road, takes out his phone, hits a familiar number on speed dial and when Akira picks up he smiles bitterly to himself and says, "How about we make a night of it? I think I could use a good drink. What about you?"
He listens as Akira suggests a place and then he slips his phone back into his pocket, revs his engine once more, and tears off into traffic again, going as fast as he can, the wind whipping over his clothes as he runs for the only sanctuary he's ever known, women and damn expensive alcohol.
It's been a couple of hours since he received a call from Soujiro about a boy's night out, and he's only just located his friend. He enters the club; it's one that they rarely frequent. He looks over the crowd, the dance floor, the dimly lit tables and then his eyes widen at the slumped figure at the bar. He pushes his way through the crowd ignoring the interest of several female patrons, and he drops a hand on Soujiro's shoulder. Soujiro tilts back, his eyes glassy and his smile bitter.
"Finally came to join me for a drink?" Soujiro slurs, and Akira shakes his head at his friend.
"I think you've had enough," he replies.
Soujiro snorts and taps the bar to get the bartender to refill his glass, but the bartender has cut him off. Soujiro narrows his eyes, but Akira doesn't give him a chance to start anything as he grabs Soujiro's arm, pulls it across his shoulders and leads his very intoxicated friend out of the club. Once they are safely in the back of Akira's car and the car is moving Akira looks at his friend and asks, "So, what happened?"
Soujiro lets out a bitter laugh. "He told me she was too good for me, then he told me that I had lost, and then he kissed her."
Akira's eyes widen, he's got a pretty good idea, but he has to be sure. "Who?"
"Rui! He's over Makino and he's taken Yuki from me! I never realized… He's supposed to be my friend! How could he take her from me?"
Akira sighs. "Was she ever really yours, Soujiro?"
Soujiro blinks at the question, his eyes becoming a little more focused as he quietly whispers, "She could have been."
And really, what can Akira say to that? Instead he gives Soujiro a firm, comforting pat on the shoulder and instructs his driver to take them to his home where he'll put Soujiro up in his usual room at the Mimisaka home. There's no way he's leaving Soujiro to his own devices in his current state. Who knows what could go wrong?
She watches with rapt attention how his long fingers lovingly caresses the strings of the violin as his right hand elegantly guides the bow. The music is slightly melancholy with a tinge of hopefulness, and each note seems to surround and encompass her.
She's surprised when the last note fills the room, and a flush lights her cheeks as he sets the instrument back into the velvet lined confines of its case, and then he focuses all of his attention on her. He tilts his head to the side as he approaches her, and then he takes a seat next to her on the couch and takes her hands in his, his gaze intense. She feels something flutter in her stomach, and she nervously draws her bottom lip between her teeth.
He reaches up, gently traces along her left cheek, so light she can barely feel his touch, as he says, "Something has been on your mind the entire evening. Tell me."
"I…" she begins, and then she turns away from the intensity in his eyes and lets out a small sigh. "I don't know what to think. You came to my defense. The things you said, how you told him you would do everything in your power to keep me away from him. And you kissed me in front of him and Tsukushi. You've told my parents you are my boyfriend, and even mentioned it in front of Tsukushi. Why?"
He chuckles at this, and then reaches up to gently guide her chin with his forefinger until their gaze meets. "Our problem is that we are addicted to a love we cannot have, Yuki-chan. I plan to remedy that. I can't have Tsukushi and you can't have Soujiro. That doesn't mean we can't find happiness elsewhere. I wasn't the only that felt it. I know you felt something when we kissed as well."
"I can't be a substitute for Tsukushi," she says, a hitch in her voice.
A smile tugs at his mouth. "I know. I don't expect you to be. You're so different from her," he says, and pauses, tracing along her delicate jaw line with the music worn pads of his fingers. "You're strong, but delicate enough to allow me to rescue you. She won't let anyone rescue her without a fight. I'm tired of fighting and wanting something that I can never have. I think a daisy is a bright, kind, friendly, beautiful, happy little flower, Yuki-chan."
She tries to turn away, to break away from the power of his intense gaze. He doesn't let her. Instead he leans toward her, their breath mingling for a moment before Rui's lips brush against hers, careful, gentle, curious, and with a slight edge of experience as he begins to deepen the kiss. She opens her mouth to his requesting tongue and he explores her mouth, making a pleased sound, and she begins to kiss him back. His calloused fingers brush up along her arms until they reach her shoulders, and as they pull back from the kiss, both of them breathing heavily, something changes between them.
They both need to forget and begin to rebuild if they are ever to start over. He bends forward, tracing his lips up along the curve of her neck, his breath warm against her ear as his fingers find the zipper at the back of her blue cocktail dress.
"Let me rescue you, Yuki-chan. Let me become the one constant in your life," he whispers, and she feels something swell in her chest as her breath catches in her throat. He pulls back and she's startled when he reaches up and brushes away the warm tears trailing her cheeks as she lets go of that first great feeling of love she felt for his friend, and she wonders if his own shining eyes are a sign of him letting go as well.
As he leans down and their lips meet again in a collision of need for comfort and renewal, she focuses on the gentle warmth of his touch as he lowers the zipper of her dress. He then pulls the ivory comb from her hair and her hair falls down her now bare back, as she gets lost in his warm, welcoming touch she lets go of the memories of Soujiro's one icy burning kiss and the grazes of his cold burning fingers, and it's with a feeling of relief that she realizes that her first time will be with someone warm, gentle and soothing.
She lets out a gasp as he begins to push the thin straps of the dress down her arms, his lips following in the wake of those straps, and she can hear him mumbling words, "Finally, someone just for me..."
Restlessness seeps into the very marrow of his bones and drags him out of a fitful sleep of intoxication. There is a foul taste in his mouth, and his head is swimming, but he's more alert after getting some sleep. He looks around the room and recognizes it immediately, his usual room at the Mimisaka estate. He sits up, gets out of bed and then begins to pace the length of the room.
The restlessness that has taken hold of him only grows more acute. He can't fight this, and he only has one destination, her, Yuki.
How he manages to escape the confines of Akira's home without being caught is beyond him at the moment. He just knows that he's very lucky. He's also pleased to find that Akira didn't empty his pockets as he wonders around and notices a cab.
Nearly half an hour or so later he's paying the fair and finds himself standing outside of the gates of the Hanazawa estate. He doesn't know what drew him to Rui's home instead of hers, but he's going on gut instinct, and that has never failed him before.
With a little effort he manages to climb the gate only to stumble on his landing. There's a twinge in his ankle and his palms are scraped from the paved driveway. He's quiet and as careful as he can be in his current state as he stealthily approaches the main house. He walks around to the back gardens, and soon he finds himself standing at the large bay window of Rui's room, the window where Rui often lounges while reading, every now and then looking up to take in the view of the amazing gardens, and with a small smile Soujiro recalls how the Hanazawa gardens are rivaled only by the Mimisaka gardens.
The smile quickly drops from his face as he looks into Rui's bedroom, the light of the waxing moon, so close to full, brightening the airy room. He notices clothes scattered on the floor, Rui's cream colored suit and a dark blue cocktail dress crumpled next to it, along with a woman's white lacy under things, and a pair of Dolce and Gabana boxers. With a sense of dread he raises his gaze to look at the king size bed against the far wall of the room.
His heart stills in his chest as he sees them. She's turned on her side, her hair flowing behind her and down her bare shoulders, the covers pulled up around her for warmth and modesty. She looks so beautiful, small, and delicate, especially with the strong arms that are wrapped around her. Rui is curled around her, holding her securely, possessively to him, his face buried in the soft silk of her hair, and Soujiro hates that they look so good together, that they look so content.
He hates that it's one of his best friends in that bed with HER, and not him. He hates that he isn't a better or stronger person. He hates that Rui was right and he's really lost her. Most of all he hates that he isn't good enough for her and never will be.
He feels his knees give beneath him and all he can do is kneel next to the bay window of Rui's bedroom, his fingers pressed against the glass as he stares longingly at the picture of what might have been and what never will be. The chance has escaped him, and it is at this very moment that he realizes that she's had his heart from the beginning, that she's the one woman he's grown addicted to, and never would he have thought that he, the great womanizer Nishikado Soujiro, would fall into the trap of being a love addict, especially now that it is too late.