As Mimasaka Akira walked into his home that he shared with his father, mother and two sisters he immediately knew that something was different than it had been when he left a month ago for Hong Kong. Even though his life could sometimes be unstable, with the being shot at, the Japanese government politics, and the underworld politics--things rarely changed at home. It was simply one of those things he could count on. If it was possible to call his mother and sisters stable--that's what they provided for him here.

Usually though, when he came home after being away from more than a few days--especially when they knew before hand of his arrival he could expect to be greeted energetically; usually with food and squeals accompanying the Mimasaka women. As the smell of chocolate wafted up to his nose he headed towards the scent without thinking, his feet carrying him down the path he had walked since he was a boy sneaking in the middle of the night to get midnight snacks—enjoying the thrill of disobeying the chef's authority even then.

The walk to the kitchen seemed longer than it ever had, as snatches of laughter—two he expected, and were easily identifiable. The fourth was surprising, though was almost as familiar as the other's. Leisurely, as if he wasn't surprised by what was going on, he leaned on the larger than average kitchen doorway he observed the scene before him curiously.

Yuki, the woman who had become a close friend of his in the last few years was laughing—her eyes lit up without restraint as she stood at their counter that was probably at least as long as the kitchen she had grown up in, his two ten year old sisters sitting not far from where she stood, looks of concentration on their faces as they both stirred odd looking concoctions in large bowls. Though ingredients were strung haphazardly across the kitchen, it still managed to look not quite as messy as when his mother tried to bake without a servant following her around cleaning up the messes she made.

His bet was that his mother wasn't anywhere near, because although his sister's had developed their own sense of self and style as they grew older, they were dressed far too mature for their still childlike mother's approval he was sure. Memu, being the more tomboy like of the two was dressed in a pair of long black pants that looked to be made of a stretchy, shiny material that flared at the ankles and a slightly too big for her black tank top that read, in camouflage—"I like bad boys: Soldier Type" and Emu, the girlie, sly, chic version of his mother wore a long blue black dress with pink ruffles on, her hair in pigtails to contrast her sister's—

Ahh, how interesting. That was when he noticed Memu seemed to be watching Yuki, who was watching both girls closely, offering small corrections a small intervals, just a little more than her sister. Their hairstyles were also the same, a long loose braid over one shoulder—with a large portion of her bangs hanging freely to frame her face. Yuki's hair of course, was a great deal longer, having by now reached the small of her back while his sister's was just past her shoulder blades.

Akira smiled, well, if he had to choose a role model for the more independent of his sisters, Yuki would have been one of his first choices. As he prepared to make his presence known, though he figured Yuki already knew he was there, she had a eerie talent of knowing when he was around, he finally started studying her. It had been a entire month since he had seen her and little had changed, but there was something subtly…Different. It wasn't her clothes, a pair of black leggings under a loose knee length, forest green skirt, and a tight but stretchy black top that dipped low enough to tempt and tease—but also enough to hide and still be classy that left her arms uncovered past her elbows. As she often did when it was just her family or him in his home she wore no make up and no jewelry. What was it?

That's when he realized what had been bugging him. It was in the way she smiled and patted the twins' heads, the way she encouraged them as they worked to blend the ingredients together in their respective bowls. They way she leaned over the counter, smiled and laughed as if this was her entire world and it was all this relaxing. She was relaxed. Granted, she was normally like that around him and his family, along with Tsukushi, Rui, and Tsukasa, but now it was if the strings that had seemed to hold her up, controlling her and the weights that had been holding her back from completely being Yuki were gone. He didn't know why, even he wasn't that good, but he was betting it had something to do with one of his closest friends.

"Konnichiwa. I see you three have been having fun since I've been gone." Their squeals had not changed much as they had gotten older, they still screamed at their brother's appearance and ran to hug him joyfully as he kneeled to hug them. Yuki came to hug him too of course, but she stood back, letting the girls get their time with their brother first.

"…This is our third cooking lesson because Mama can only cook sweets and this is our first actual baking session—" Memu and Emu had the bad habit of trying to talk to their brother at the same time, about two completely different topics, but by some miracle he could always follow them.

"…Mama is with Papa on a trip for the entire weekend and Yuki-chan volunteered to stay with us so the servants wouldn't have too much trouble with us! Can you imagine, us trouble~?" The last sentence was said by both girls at the same time, their heads tilted to the side and a sly smile on both their faces and he figured they had something planned—and must've planned that bit for several days. Behind the girls Yuki was trying to hold back laughter, but soon failed, her shoulders shaking as her head tilted downward, a joy filled laugh falling from her lips.

"Hey Troublesome Twosome, will you share your brother?" The question was asked playfully as she leaned over them, the man in question standing up so he could give a hug to the girl—no, woman who had earned a special place in his heart.

Memu and Emu shared a look that only siblings could decipher before high-fiving and suddenly taking off down the hallway with no warning, leaving only a trail of echoing giggles behind them—as they often did. Neither of the adults were particularly surprised though, and there was only a beat of time that passed before Akira led Yuki back down the hallway to sit down on one of the large plush sofas so that they could catch up.

"So what happened to you while I was gone?" Akira had the gift of being nosy, but casual so he was not as quick to offend as the other F4 counterparts. He and Rui were normally known as the least offensive and smoothest of the four of them. He didn't always avoid small talk when he wanted to know something, but it was nagging at him—and the only thing Akira was better at than charming women was being nosy.

Yuki and Akira, like most good friends could read each other very well without words and even with one of them trying to hide something or at least trying to not make it obvious. So it was not very surprising that Yuki knew exactly what Akira was inquiring about; "Sojirou and I are done. For good this time." She didn't sound resigned, or sad, just stating it as a fact—there was even a bit of relief that leaked into her voice. Though no regret. Akira, could honestly say that he was surprised. While Yuki had stopped following Sojirou around like a lost puppy several years ago and his friend had mostly stopped running from her she had always seemed to have very deep running feelings for her, and they were not completely unrequited—much to Sojirou's chagrin of course. They had been dating off and on for the past five years, sometimes Yuki would break up with Sojirou and sometimes it would be the other way around, but within three months they would be back together. There wasn't a lot of fighting,

"Remember how he went on that six month 'Bringing Tea Ceremony To The World' trip or whatever? Well we hardly talked while he was gone, and at first I was a little surprised that it didn't alarm or upset me more but—" At this point Yuki shrugged, "My world kept on turning, and I was still happy with life even though I wasn't seeing or talking to him every day, or even every week. You know that. Life just moved on." At this, she paused again and stared at the couch for a moment; seeing something Akira couldn't with a far off look in her eyes. With a sudden movement and alertness in her eyes she was back, "Well when he returned we went out for lunch as we often do when he comes back from a trip, and afterwards we walked around town a bit, taking the long way back to my apartment…Before I went inside he kissed me, and it was nothing like the first few times he kissed me. I felt nothing. Don't get me wrong, it was a nice kiss. But it was just a kiss. Not to be cliché, but there was no fire ignited in my soul, no torrent of passion that left me breathless. I felt nothing." She smiled at him, and he knew then that the last of the chains holding Yuki to the old her and the new, more independent, stronger Yuki were broken completely in the moment that Sojirou kissed her, "So I looked at him and told him 'Sojirou I think that should be our last kiss. I care about you deeply, as a friend, but that is it. Oyasumi Nasai.'" Smiling at her friend that was casually undoing her long braid; as if she wouldn't notice, and his eyes just as serene and peaceful as hers when she watched his sisters, "So there is no awkwardness between the two of you as you interact as just friends?" Her head leaned to the side, resting on the back of the sofa as she sighed, relaxing more in the familiar position she often found herself in these days with the slightly older man, "No, in fact I think we are more comfortable now. I think we are different people now than we were when we first developed feelings for one another. We both have different tastes. You know?" At this, Akira looked up at her, watching her face and eyes as his fingers continued to gently undo her hair while she watched the wall, her mind elsewhere. If his thoughts strayed somewhere not completely platonic, like how her clothes outlined the shape of her body nicely…Tauntingly. Or how he was surely a better pillow than the one she currently reclined on, he said nothing and his expression gave nothing away.