Wakaba fluttered around, cleaning up the mess that was left from my 'surprise' birthday party. I'd known she had been planning it for weeks by the way she hid party magazines or quit talking on the phone as soon as I entered a room, only to start back up the moment I left. "Sorry you have to help clean up after your own party, Hajime, but Tsuzuki had to take Hisoka home early. Poor little guy was completely drained."

"It's no problem," I said as I dragged a sweeping brush across the floor, "I'd rather clean it up all by myself than have to deal with that idiot one second longer." She didn't know it, but the empath had done it on purpose to get the older man out of my apartment. After the long night of small fights and a lot of drinking, it was a blessing.

Half an hour passed with small talk and comfortable silences. "Whew! I'm beat." Wakaba laughed, sitting down on my small loveseat.

"I'm making tea. Do you want some?" I asked, heading into the kitchen. She accepted. I let my mind wander to what I'd been thinking for years. Wakaba is the one person I care about more than anything in the world and I can't even touch her. I'd die if I told her how I felt and she rejected me because of this freaking parasite. Who wants to be in love with someone they can't truly love?

The water started to boil. When I walked back in, my partner was standing by the opposite wall, her back facing me.

She sighed, running her fingers lightly along a picture frame. The picture was the two of us at the beach. The devious girl had sneaked up behind me and wrapped her arms around my neck, her face pressed against my own. Of course, I had turned into Kuroshuki the moment after, but somehow Watari's reflexes were good enough to capture the second before the transformation. The very thought of her soft skin upon my own got me flustered and I fought the damn demon inside me.

Wakaba already had a fuda in hand. By the time I was calmed down, she was sitting again. I perched on the armrest to create a safe distance. For what seemed like hours, we reminisced about the case we had been on when we had the picture taken.

I was getting a headache from Kuroshuki yelling at me. Sitting within an arm's length of a girl was stupid of me, but I wanted to.

Wakaba must have felt my distress. She stood up. "It's getting really late, Hajime. I ought to be going." I followed beside her to the door.

"Thanks a lot for the party, Wakaba. I…I liked it." I opened the door, my back towards her.

I could sense the sad smile on her lips. "You're welcome. Goodnight."

Something inside me lurched. Before I knew what I was doing, I'd put a hand up on the open door, blocking her way. "D-don't leave just yet. Please." She looked up at me questioningly.

The words tumbled from my lips as I looked down at the floor. "I'm so sorry that I make you miserable, Wakaba. I'm sorry I can't wipe the tears from your cheeks when you're sad or pet your hair until you fall back to sleep after a nightmare. I'm sorry I can't carry you home when you fall asleep or dance with you to make you happy. And I'm sorry I can't show you how I appreciate everything you do for me. I hurt you no matter hard I try not to. Could you ever forgive me?" I slowly turned to look her in the eyes.

Her auburn bangs covered half her face and she trembled. It killed me to see her like this when I so wanted to comfort her. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Wakaba turned her face up towards me. Instead of tears of sorrow, joy made her countenance glow.

"Don't apologize. I should be the one doing that. I've made you feel like this without even knowing it. What kind of person does that to someone they love?" Her chin quivered and her eyes overflowed with tears.

I stared at her in shock. "You mean…you…feel the same way?" It had never occurred to me that my affection might be returned.

Wakaba nodded vigorously. "You don't know how long I've waited for you to say that Hajime. I've lived for those split seconds that I could feel you before you transformed. I spend every spare moment trying to find out a way to control Kuroshuki or get him out of your body. I thought that if I did that, you might care for me like I do you."

The two of us stood there like fools, grinning ear to ear. I was beyond words. If this had been a wonderful bedtime story, we would have kissed passionately and been together happily ever after. But Kuroshuki, the bane of my existence, prevented any ever afters. Instead, I asked idiotically, "So you'll stay?"

Her laugh was like the tinkling of silver bells. We walked back into the living room and she sat on the loveseat. For the sake of both of our sanities, I sat on the cushion beside her.

Wakaba's smile pulled at my heartstrings.

After an hour of television and conversation, I looked down to see her fast asleep. I went and grabbed a spare blanket, draping it over her form as best I could. Sitting back down beside her, I made a bold and dangerous move by putting my arm on the couch just inches behind her head. The pounding in my head was excruciating, but I endured. Instead I focused on Wakaba's breathing and the sound of her heartbeat.

Tomorrow, we'll deal with what comes at us. But tonight…

The last thing I saw before dozing off was a faint smile on her sleeping lips.