A/N: an attempt to get back into writing mood. I hope this is okay since my vocabulary is disappearing. Damn you, field practice!

Disclaimer: PoT belongs to Konomi who gets all the money.


He could see his companion in the many faces of his previous lovers. There was indeed a pattern there, something he was so fond of that he continued to seek but had yet to find. The same luck that brought him to his lovers brought the familiar face back into his life after over a decade of separation. Without thinking he had asked for a brief time over coffee in a nearby café for the sake of the past they had left behind, an innocent invitation that perfectly covered the wicked intentions behind it. The move was familiar, almost an automatic response to him, done smoothly after too many practices to count. The joy and excitement whenever he touched the ephemeral beauty was present, with it was a sense of familiarity but this time accompanied by nagging awareness. He was not ignorant of the ring on the left ring finger of his companion.

He saw the metal glimmer under the light, mocking him and his loneliness. The simplicity of the metal band seemed to overpass the jewelries he had on, their meaninglessness rendered them ugly and unsightly. He sipped coffee to escape his companion's keen eyes when his lips curled slightly at the bitter irony. They had thought he'd be the first to have the binding jewelry on but no, here he was, still searching for whatever it was that his companion had apparently found.

What was it he looked for anyway? He had spent so long searching for it. Perhaps he had strayed too far from the right path. Perhaps he was far too lost than he cared to admit. Who knew? There was no guide in this particular journey. He could only do what felt right; making choices and taking risks he might later regret. There was no point in complicated calculations. In the end nothing was fully predictable. Surprises were bound to happen. And his old friend here was never short of surprises.

He had long since given up on the idea of getting married. Maybe ever since he acknowledged the truth that later made him shunned by his family. A part of him longed to embrace the ideal of getting married to a younger woman who'd live with him in a quiet suburban neighborhood where they would raise their children into excellent scholars with futures brighter than his. That wasn't quite right, was it? For at some point it changed into a simpler dream of spending the rest of his life with a loving and caring partner, someone meant only for him, in a place where compassion was not a sin. A side of him called out for those dreams to return once more; the dream his companion had realized in a far away land, the risk his companion took but he hadn't made. But no, he didn't think he had missed anything. How could he miss something he never had?

"It is wonderful. He is wonderful. Sweet and caring and kind. A perfect specimen of a man. He is stubbornness, indeed, but too loveable to despise."

Of course he'd perfect. He's your husband. The man you chose. The man you love. The man you chose to love.

"We fight every other day. It's exhausting. Exasperating. But I wouldn't trade the his smiles and embraces for anything the world might offer."

Not even sex? Not even freedom? What does it feel like to be bound down?

"Happy. Like I've never been."

Like you've never been with me.

Perfection in his eyes. Happiness in his life. Contentment in his soul. In his heart was that ember that wouldn't die. Were they what he's looking for? Not the flame they shared so many years ago? Were they what he had missed?

He fixed his eyes on his cup of coffee, the soft music and the chatters in the back ground dimmed as he struggled to sort out the whirlwind of emotion in his heart. The bright smile, the shinning eyes, the gentle expression, the soft tone of the voice, everything set his heart aflame. Something about them was familiar, drawing a tug in his heart. He felt an echo from a distant memory he had left behind. He had seen those before, the beauty that he once had in his arms and never failed to draw him over and over and over again but never last long enough for him to capture for those with it always seemed too versatile to stay. So familiar yet so strange. Something was different, something else was there, something he had seen in others but never in his lovers.

Pleasure. Bliss. Ecstasy. Compassion. Devotion. Affection.

He tried to put himself in the husband's shoes, the lucky man he had never met but almost immediately envied. Waking up every morning and sleeping every night to the sight of that face, endless arguments that mounted to apologies and forgiveness, smiles and kisses and embraces not meant for anyone else, understanding and patience and comfort and affection reserved for only one. All those for the price of his heart, body, and soul. And then he would live the life many coveted, the dreams many strained to reach.

But something didn't feel right. At some point the walls between them became too obvious to ignore, patience ran out, possessiveness and hope could no longer keep them together, passion died down, cruelly killed by the realization that they had searched in the wrong place, that lust alone wasn't enough. The situation was familiar. He had been through it so many times in his search for that enticing light.

The pain that the memories brought back was dull. The memory had faded away with the time. There was no point to linger. The decision to move on was unquestionable. His next lovers provided him with the same passion, beauty, wit, and zest; everything that made him happy once until they could bear the differences no more. He was happy. Indeed, he was. But the happiness never seemed to stay, leaving him hurt and betrayed until it came back for a moment with another stranger to lift his pain away.

Had he missed the point? Was there any point at all? Had he been wasting his time? Had he met the person who'd make him happy as he'd ever been? Was it this person all along? Was it someone else he had met in the past? Had he missed his chance? Why couldn't he find the happiness many of his friends had? Why not him? Why couldn't they find it together?


"I don't know."


"… It just didn't feel right with you. I'm sorry, I have to go. My husband…"


The man once known to him as Fuji stood up with a quiet sigh. A passing car outside the café shone its light on his wedding ring. He smiled a compassionate smile, seasoned with newly acquired wisdom born from the discovery of the desired.

"Because when you said you wanted to know the real me, you wanted to see the person you wanted me to be. Because you refused to see me as who I am. Because he sees into me, through me, and love the imperfection he sees. Goodbye, Tezuka."

Tezuka watched Fuji leave the café and walked into the night, feeling cold, alone, bare, vulnerable. And still he didn't know what he was looking for.


A/N: Written and typed with the company of a mouse in my room. Kind of inspired by Marie Digby's Love with a Stranger but is mostly done in an attempt to show that you don't always end up with your first lover. R&R, please?