fandom: Antique Bakery
title: This is why.
pairing: Tachibana + Ono
rating: pg-13
description - Ono asks why Tachibana continues to keep him at Antique.

Disclaimer – Antique Bakery doesn't belong to me and this is dedicated to my love for Eiji.

This is why.

By miyamoto yui

"Ono. Ono. Oi, Ono~."

Ono hadn't noticed he'd been staring off to one side and holding onto the edge of the steel table until Tachibana poked him on the cheek. Prior to actual physical contact, Tachibana had called out to him several times from the front of the store. Met with zero responses, he resorted to coming to the back of the store and waving his right hand in front of Ono.

It was ONLY when all else failed, he grimaced and cautiously proceeded to his very last resort: Actually touching Ono.

"Ahahaha~!" Blinking back into reality, Ono instinctively laughed and put his right hand to the back of his head sheepishly. "Yes?"

"I've been calling to tell you that you could leave early because I just sold the last cake right now." Tachibana untied the perfect ribbon of his dark, sleek apron.

"Oh…is that right?"

Ono didn't lift his palms off the smooth surface.

Tachibana rubbed his stubbly chin and leaned over to look at Ono straight in the face. While giving an exasperated sigh, he averted his eyes away and patted Ono's head sympathetically. "He'll be back soon."

Then, he let go and completely unwrapped his black apron from his waist, hanging it next to the place where Chikage had left his. Without a second thought, out of habit, he patted the 'crooked' apron back into place though he'd done it once a day for…how many days was it already? He had lost the count of the days and purposely tried not to think about it.

"I envy them, you know that?"

Ono's weighted words suddenly made the draft of the kitchen freeze colder than ever. They resounded effortlessly off the spotless pots hanging on the wall and the flat pans stacked on the shelves.

That little bastard better come back before Ono has a breakdown. I don't think I've ever seen him that upset…

except that time and the airport…

"Hmm?" Pretending to be distracted, Tachibana let go of the black cotton material between his lingering fingers, but Ono hadn't noticed at all. His eyes stared straight at the empty oven. His still back was something Tachibana wasn't used to seeing.

Ono was an artist. Gracefully and naturally, his whole body was always in motion to its own gentle melody and brought out the most emotion out of his craft.

This suspended scene made Tachibana feel very uncomfortable.

Not paying attention to whether or not Tachibana was listening anymore to him, Ono's eyes reflected off the wavy window of the top oven. He continued in a slow and deliberate whisper as if in a trance, "I've forgotten that feeling and all that's left are bits and pieces stuck on me somewhere. I remember being in love with you to the point I cried very hard. I remember going to Paris after that one lover and not thinking about anything else." Ono let go the table and then walked over to the oven to reach out to put his palm on the cold, reflective glass. "It is like I am always looking for something to fall in love with."

He looked into his own questioning, hurt eyes.

It doesn't matter what it is as long as I can put my feelings into it.

Panicking from the inside, Tachibana looked from side to side guiltily and bit his lower lip. He was used to freaking out with everyone else under this roof, even scolding Eiji for his arrogance, Chikage…for, uh, everything, and Ono for his 'demonic charm', but this…

This was completely different.

This was almost too close to home. It made him instantly come to face how he himself felt about things in his own life and that fear alone made him want to cut off the conversation. Now was not the time he wanted to think about it or else he wouldn't be able to fall asleep alone without Chikage there. He wouldn't have been able to look at Ono the next morning and act 'normally' in front of the customers if Ono talked any further about what he was thinking.

Tachibana could no longer keep up a front when it involved those three people that had changed his entire world and, most of all, his stubborn self.

Taking a step forward, Tachibana interrupted Ono in a soothing tone. "Ono…I think a good rest will-"

Without hesitation, Ono turned around and Tachibana had his hands folded over one another, listening attentively. "Eiji could easily leave the next day and Chikage tried to make it without you."

But as soon as Ono's resolve came, it left in one breathe when his eyes met Tachibana's: "And you…you said you never forgot me since graduation."

Turning away again, his heart pounded for the answer.

"That. That was because…well…how should I put it?"

"Yes?"

"Do we have to talk about that now? You said we were long past that."

"Does anyone ever forget their first love?"

Tachibana's eyes hunted for something in the kitchen to focus on. The spatulas, the brushes, the pans...

Circles, triangles, squares, rectangles, hearts.

Ah, that wooden spoon…oh, better yet, what's that crack in the floor? That idiot Chikage dropped too many plates on the floor! Or was it the time that I threw out that garcon with the green tie?

"Apparently, you had, but that's not the point." Acting as if a headache was starting, Tachibana put his right hand over his face with his palm covering his mouth so that Ono couldn't read his true feelings. His fingers semi-covered his eyes and looked at Ono through the spaces inbetween. "I think even if it's only temporarily, for it will be temporary with you, I will get a new garcon so that you won't go crazy-"

"Why do you keep me here even though you know I only do it for money and to train Eiji?!"

"Do I have to answer that?" Tachibana put his hand down and his eyes again rested on the jagged pattern on the white floor. "What good does it do to tell you? You're the best at what you do. Through and through, even if I searched for anyone like you, they'd pale in comparison to what you can do."

Suddenly, Tachibana's eyes pointedly met Ono's.

He put one hand into his pant pocket. "That's why I won't give you up to anyone if you still don't know what you're worth, always wandering from place to place and person to person. You let yourself get in trouble in each of those places because you couldn't decide what you wanted more. But here, you know exactly what you want and Eiji has the thing you lack. It isn't passion. It is confidence to accept your true worth."

With that Tachibana started to exit the kitchen with Ono holding his breath and his racing heart from bursting, but Ono reached out to touch his shoulder.

"But where do you fit in in all that?"

Tachibana smiled when he turned his head a bit and Ono stared into his handsome profile. "Wasn't all this my fault from the beginning?"

"So you say you're doing this out of guilt now?"

"No, I'm saying I'm repaying you back for something much greater than you'll ever understand at this point."

Finally, he left the door swept back and forth for a few moments after he had gone through it.

Outside the kitchen, Tachibana sighed as he placed his hands on his sanctuary: The counter made of smooth wood. He closed his eyes and tried to forget everything in the world at that moment. He didn't want to think or feel. He just wanted to exist and breathe.

He wanted everything to be quiet again inside of him.

What did I just say there back there?! What did it sound like?

Why do I feel this way though I know that it was he who-

But without warning, at that moment, Ono hugged him from behind and buried his face into his back.

Tachibana opened his eyes and didn't move. Maybe, before, he would have shouted and thrown him to the side. Maybe if there were other people, he would have gotten angry like he did years ago in high school.

But not now.

His eyes silently gazed at the long interlocked fingers of the hands that had helped him get over his fears and at the same time, he himself had not made a strong enough impression to be remembered until now.

"You…I don't know why you don't love cakes when all you do is make people happy out of that honesty even though I told you to go off and die."

Tachibana shyly turned his head to look off to one side.

A few minutes later, Tachibana closed his eyes shut for a few seconds and opened them again. "You can let go now~."

Even though he tried to wriggle himself out of Ono's lock, Ono didn't budge.

"Hey you, I'll give you more money for today if you let go," Tachibana coaxed.

There was a childish grunt from the back. "Uh-uh."

Tachibana pounded his palms loudly on the countertop. "I thought you said you were a businessman."

"But I don't think I need a garcon anymore if that offer still is good?" Shamelessly, Ono teased with that certain, persuasive voice.

"You'll never let that go, huh?" At his wit's end, Tachibana shook his head. "I want to forget the day I said it."

Ono started to laugh and it felt like the store itself was joining him when it echoed his delighted voice.

He stepped back and grinned, taking off his glasses to wipe the tears on his face.

Turning around, Tachibana turned around and cleared his throat with a slightly crimson face. "I'm only doing this once and I'll deny it afterwards."

Before Ono could open his mouth, he grabbed Ono and hugged him with one arm over his back, giving a brief, yet warm squeeze.

"You're amazing, Ono. Then, or now. That's all I can say. I hope you're not disappointed by such a simple answer when you're used to me to saying long-winded speeches."

The shocked Ono closed his eyes and put his arms around Tachibana, who'd already let go. He started to shake violently.

"Hey, you. You're wetting my shirt. This isn't some counseling session that you can cry on me whenever you feel like it. I'm not a free rag! Do you know how much this shirt cost?! *sighs*"

But even with Tachibana's feigned scolding, Ono continued to cry harder and harder.

This is why I loved you so much then.

This is why I remember you more now.

In defeat, Tachibana lifted his arms and put them down. Looking down at Ono's hair, his eyes wandered over the fingers on the countertop and the tears under the sunglasses of the one and only Chikage!

"Geh! How long have you been there?!"

"I don't know…since you hugged him?"

Ono continued to cry as Tachibana tried to pull himself away with all his might. Chikage hummed too gleefully to himself and walked to the kitchen to get his apron to start the night cleaning.

"You better not mess up anything back-"

CRASH CLINK CLINK…CLINKCLINKCLINK!

"…there." Tachibana sighed and hit his palm to his forehead. "Chikage!"

Finally, Ono pulled away and wiped his tears with his white, flour spotted apron.

"Thank you."

Tachibana gave him a smile. "Thank me by making even better cakes."

Clearing his throat again, he rushed to the kitchen to scold Chikage in between his relief that Chikage had lasted so long without him. It was a record.

Maybe for him, it was harder not being able to always rely on Chikage…

That night, Chikage left after picking up what he'd dropped and promised three times to come the next day during opening time. Ono picked up the mail from the mailbox and found a postcard saying Eiji (who mysteriously had gotten a tan) would be back in three days. But in a happy scribble, he added, "Sensei! I learned to make the dream image in my mind into something real like you!! I cannot wait to show you! And old man, be prepared to be defeated!"

Ono's eyes again became red but he had cried so hard earlier that there were no more tears left. Tachibana looked down as his tear-strained, wrinkled Armano blouse.

With jeans, a navy blue t-shirt, and nothing flashy, but still looking hot in casual clothes, Ono patted Tachibana's right cheek with his hand on his way out of the door. Without looking up while doing the accounting, Tachibana nodded his head and bit the end of the pen he held.

Ono's eyes wandered over Tachibana's calm figure.

I am sorry I lied when I said I forgot you.

After all, you are still the same person I remember, but…

I like 'you' much better now.

"Good night."

The bell clicked after him and Tachibana looked up at the door and then pulled out the one opera cake he'd saved for himself from the shelf. He picked up the little box after he turned off the lights with the front door letting some of the street light inside the shop.

He wanted to learn to love cake again. He wanted to learn its true power.

He wanted to learn to understand those three much better.

The light from the outside shined on the opera cake's glazed and scrumptious, yet noble chocolate surface. For the first time in his life, Tachibana couldn't wait to eat it.

Look at how perfect your cakes are. Until you realize your worth Ono, I can't let you go just yet.

Wrapping the cakebox in a plain plastic bag, he took it firmly in his hand and locked the front door.

The bell clinked again merrily and he decided to walk home through the crispy air and the peaceful streets of sleeping Musashino City, wondering if there would ever be a time when the neighborhood would change to become busier like downtown Tokyo and he wouldn't have this time in the night to be alone,

but not be lonely.

Owari./The End.

Author's note: This is dedicated to my friend and mentor Seshat-sama because it is her birthday. I had thought of this fic for almost three weeks because there was a strong message I wanted to bring out but couldn't think of what exactly to say. It became clearer as the weeks went by and this was what came out.

I think there are so many people I admire out in this world and they do amazing things, but unlike childhood, no one really tells you that you did a good job when you grow up. But with this, I wanted to tell those people, "You're awesome because you are who you are."

At this moment, this is what I wanted most to tell you, Seshat-sama. (Rage your dream!)

I hope you enjoyed my first fanfic for 2010.

Love always,

Yui

1/31/2010 9:41:22 PM