Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
I don't own Hana Yori Dango or anything recognized in this one-shot.
The man rose from his sleep, feeling a nagging sensation at the back of his head. He felt as if something was missing or forgotten but had no idea what. He looked to the spot next to him and found one of his many conquests sleeping peacefully. Her blond hair fanned out on the pillow and her foreign facial features were strikingly beautiful. Whenever he found a girl in a bed next to him, he would reach over and leave a trail of kisses along her neck and shoulder. Today, he didn't feel like that. In fact, he felt very unsatisfied. Her beauty did nothing to stir lust in him and he was disappointed. He realized he wasn't disappointed in himself, but rather his choices. He wondered if he had chosen the right person the bed the previous night.
He got out of the bed as quietly as he could and changed quickly. The girl was still sleeping so he took his chance to leave without making a sound. He crept out of the room and went down to the lobby where he paid for the room. He went back to his house, feeling empty and lost. Exactly why he was feeling that way, he had no idea. It was an emotion that never occurred whenever he engaged in a night like this. He went to his bedroom almost instantly, dragging his feet along the ground. He decided to check his phone for the first time that morning, wondering if there were any messages sent to him from someone. He saw nothing and shrugged it off.
Later that day, he practiced the art of tea in the room in his house, hoping to lift the mood he was in. But that didn't seem to make anything better. If anything, it made it worse. When he picked up the cup from the stand it was on, he was reminded of a particular girl like always, but instead of smirking in amusement as scenes ran through his mind, something tugged at his heart when the girl's face appeared square in his mind's eye. She wore an expression of sadness and pain.
He wondered as he inspected the cup. What was the image supposed to mean? As far as he knew, this never happened before. He pushed his troubles away and continued on the ceremony, placing the tea into the cup and whisking it briefly with the bamboo whisk. He drank the tea and reveled in the bitterness it had. Again, he was reminded of Yuki. He remembered the time he made her tea for the first time, where she scrunched her face in distaste and said the tea was bitter.
He downed the tea until no drops were left and once he cleaned up, he returned to his room. He decided to check his phone in a state of confusion and fear. Just picking up the phone seemed to raise more questions within him and he checked his inbox. He got a message from Akira but that was it. He pondered for a second and backtracked through the old messages. The scrolling paused at Yuki's name and he frowned when his heart skipped a beat. Something clicked inside of him and he pursed his lips.
There were no messages from her. Where were Yuki's messages? Usually she mailed him several messages per day but it was evening and his email inbox didn't contain anything new. He wondered what this could mean and thought of calling Yuki. However, he waited instead for a few more hours just in case she'd forgotten. At the end he shook his head and called Akira instead, asking his friend to email something to him to check whether his phone was working. It worked. His restlessness began to take over his being and out of impatience he called her.
He thought he'd be happy if she stopped pestering him with her messages but somehow he missed it. He didn't understand why he was feeling down because of a bunch of missing emails. He figured the emails enabled him to go through the day. Each email brought a smile to his lips and he would continue on with his day. He loved to tease her by going out with a new girl per night, and addressing her weaknesses, but in a sense, he was also pushing her away, torturing her with his actions all the same. This realization made him feel ashamed. He felt as if Yuki deserved better than someone who only cared about himself and no one else.
The phone rang and to his surprise no one picked up. It just said that the person he was reaching was not in service. Maybe she was busy. Yeah that was it. Was it? It didn't seem like Yuki to not contact him or answer his call.
Confusion plagued him, and he scratched his cheek again. He didn't have the appetite to go out that night as staying in seemed more fitting than going out. It didn't seem right to enjoy the nightlife wherever he ended up such as Roppongi, when a valuable friend could possibly be in danger.
Soujiroh settled in his bed, resolving in the end to sleep and do some investigating in the morning.
The next morning, soon after waking, Soujiroh grumbled after checking his phone. This was irritating him to no end. He dialed Tsukushi's number as a last resort.
"Moshi moshi?" Tsukushi asked brightly.
"Hey, I was wondering, have you heard from Yuki lately?"
"Heh? Sure I have, last night in fact. Why?" Tsukushi asked, tilting her head.
"She didn't answer her phone last night so naturally I got worried."
"You didn't know? She went on a holiday with her parents. She'll be coming back in a few weeks time. She called me via the landline, said her phone wouldn't work in Hawaii."
"Oh I see, do you happen to have her number where she's staying at?" What the hell was he saying? He wanted so much to crawl in bed and curse under the blankets.
"Unfortunately there isn't a number to reach her. Don't worry though, you'll hear from her soon."
"Ok, thanks very much. I'll see you sometime this week. Bye."
Soujiroh hung up. Tsukushi glared at the phone and flipped closed the phone.
"Yuki is by far one of the strongest people I've ever met." She muttered under her breath, laced with admiration.
Soujiroh placed the phone next to him as he downed a glass of water. Still, he felt troubled. Why was it important to receive something from Yuki so that he could go through the day feeling good? Why were Yuki's words like a lifeline that supported him daily? Come on, just last week he was about to smash his phone against asphalt in a moment of irritation. Why the sudden change of heart he didn't know.
Two weeks passed, without so much a word from Yuki, not even through Tsukushi. It puzzled him greatly. During that time he had not gone out picking fine ladies from crowds. He didn't have the heart to do so, somehow finding it wrong to date when Yuki wasn't around. It wasn't like that before, right?
He decided to visit Akira, out of boredom. Akira was possibly the wisest in their group, and knew lots of things, especially when it came to dealing with people. Perhaps Akira could help explain his period of celibacy, and why he missed Yuki sorely.
Soujiroh scratched his cheek as he approached his friend's large mansion. He pressed the buzzer at the gate and was allowed in. He walked across the tiles, watching a maid scurry to find her master and tell him of Soujiroh's arrival. He settled into one of the couches in the living area, staring at the tiles in checkered black and white, suddenly reminded of a large chessboard.
"Yo, what're you doing here?" a familiar voice called out, waking Soujiroh from his stupor.
"Can't a man visit a friend and play a game of..." Soujiroh sat up and turned to face his long time friend descending from the stairway. "...chess?"
Akira chuckled. "Of course, but you usually let me know if you're coming around." Akira neared his friend and greeted Soujiroh with a handshake and a pat on the back.
Several minutes later they were sitting in the parlor, setting up a crystal chessboard with marble pieces. Soujiroh was placing the black knight into his spot when Akira piped up.
"Alright, I've had enough. What's been bothering you the last two weeks?"
"I... I don't know exactly."
"What do you mean?"
"Did you know Yuki's holidaying with her parents in Hawaii?"
"Yeah, what about her?"
"Well, she hasn't contacted me since. Tsukushi says Yuki calls her up almost every two days, but not me."
"Shouldn't you be glad she's backing off?"
"I should, right? But somehow I feel like something's missing. I don't know why but it seems like she's always on my mind."
"Has this got something to do with you not joining me at nightclubs these days?"
"I think so, why?"
"Are you missing her?"
"I dunno. All I know is I can't do anything without thinking about her. I just feel like drowning myself in alcohol everyday when she doesn't call me. I feel so depressed for no reason." Soujiroh groaned as he placed his hands behind his head and tilted his chair backwards. "It's all her fault."
"God, you're so slow. Why don't you just call her?"
"Tsukushi says a number isn't available since it's a phone box she calls from."
"Well then visit her. Jeez, you're annoying me here." Akira rolled his eyes as he moved a white pawn two places. "Check."
Soujiroh moved a black pawn one place and says the same thing. "I don't know where she's staying, besides she will think I'm in love with her or something."
"Well aren't you?" Akira questioned, raising an eyebrow in speculation.
"Huh?" Soujiroh looked into his friend's face, searching for an answer.
"God, you're slow!" Akira threw his hands up in exasperation.
"I'm... in love with her?" Soujiroh asked, adding emphasis onto the last word.
"You tell me, I can't read your mind, Dumbo."
Soujiroh looked at the chessboard, thinking. He shook his head. "That's impossible. Nah, that's just utter bullshit."
"If you say so." Akira shrugged and moves another pawn. "Check."
Soujiroh scratched his cheek again. He realized he'd probably claw his cheek open anytime soon, scarring his face forever. Somehow this didn't seem to bother him.
How was it possible that Yuki affected his daily life this much? He was now at a night club but he ignored all attempts by the other females. In a way, they seemed dull, ugly and uninteresting. He wondered if there was something wrong with him or if he hurt too many pretty ones that went after him that only the dull ones remained.
He took a look around the club and could spot several girls he associated with once or twice. They still looked the same, but he found them unsightly. He gulped down the rest of his lone glass of alcohol and left the club. There was no point in being there without a purpose. He decided to walk home, as it was still early in the evening and he wanted to clear his mind. He pulled out his phone and rang Tsukushi again.
"Moshi, moshi?" Tsukushi asked. She seemed to be eating something as he could hear some crunching and crinkling of plastic. He could hear some music and additional voice. He assumed she was watching a movie.
"Hey, have you heard from Yuki lately?" He asked. The sounds stopped and his stomach flipped over.
"What is it with you? Yuki this, Yuki that. If I thought any better, you're treating me like a messenger. If you're so concerned about Yuki, contact her yourself!" Tsukushi snapped. She hung up abruptly and furiously. She growled to the person next to her.
"He drives me nuts!" Tsukushi complained to the girl next to her. The girl smiled softly as she continued watching the movie and munched on some popcorn. Tsukushi ate another handful of popcorn, rolling her eyes as she laid back into the couch next to her friend.
Soujiroh gaped at the phone with astonishment. Something was seriously wrong with him if he was so eager to get in touch with Yuki. Akira's words rang through his mind as he stuffed his hands in his coat pocket, placing one foot ahead of the other. After some time he ended up at the intersection where he found the crying Yuki after she broke up with her boyfriend a long time ago. His heart ached as he remembered her tear stained face.
Perhaps Akira was right.
He tried to deny it, to avoid himself from being hurt again. But he already knew that Yuki had feelings for him so what was he afraid of? It was amazing how it took this long for him to realize it, though he was certain he found Yuki annoying, like a starving mosquito.
The following day, Soujiroh decided to pay a visit at the dango shop, to apologize to Tsukushi for constantly bothering her about Yuki.
He got off his motorbike, and pulled off his helmet. He set it down onto the rear of the bike and walked to the doors of the shop, running a series of apologies through his mind. He looked into the shop and his jaw fell open. There, in the shop, busily stocking shelves, was Yuki. Happiness welled up inside of him and he wanted no more than to barrel into the store and kidnap her.
But, what the hell was she doing in there? Wasn't she holidaying in Hawaii?
He walked into the shop, plagued with confusion. Yuki looked up to face what she thought was a customer, so her smile faltered slightly when she saw Soujiroh. Tsukushi stood guiltily by the doorway to the back room.
"Nishikado-san," Yuki added as if she was speaking to a business associate. He glowered.
"Yuki." The girl looked taken aback when he said her name sharply. He turned to Tsukushi. "What the hell is going on?"
"Um..." Tsukushi opened and closed her mouth repeatedly.
"You told me she was holidaying in Hawaii. Did you lie to me?" He asked Tsukushi incredulously.
"No." Yuki looked down. "I told her to do it."
"What?" Soujiroh was standing stiffly, apparently angry and hurt.
"I'm sorry, I just-" Soujiroh grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her outside. Yuki pleaded helplessly at Tsukushi with her eyes."What are you doing?"
Soujiroh stopped at his motorcycle and handed Yuki a helmet. He pulled on his own helmet and swung onto the bike. Yuki's eyes widened. "Eh?"
"Get on." He barked. Yuki nodded weakly and with trembling fingers, slid the helmet onto her head. She climbed onto the bike slowly and clutched at his sides for dear life. She realized that after so much time of wanting to ride on the back of his bike, he was allowing her to ride with him.
"Where are you taking me?" Yuki asked, her voice quavering. Soujiroh didn't reply, and started the bike. In some moments, they stopped at a park, which was almost empty. He cut the engine. "Nishikado-san?"
"Why did you lie?" He asked sadly. Yuki was shocked at the tone of his voice that she wanted to comfort him, but due to her resolution to forget him, she held back.
"I wanted to forget about you. I thought it'd be better if I wasn't around. I was tired of getting hurt, so I cancelled my phone contract and told Tsukushi to cover for me."
Soujiroh lowered his head, feeling his heart squeeze tighter every second.
"Please get off the bike." Soujiroh murmured. Yuki did as he asked and watched him with apprehension. She felt a sense of loneliness, thinking he was going to leave her there. She took off the helmet and held it out, expecting Soujiroh to take it from her. Soujiroh took off his helmet and too the one Yuki was holding onto, then placed them onto the back of the bike. He clambered off the bike and stood in front of her. He then kneeled on the ground.
"I missed you so much..." He breathed. He placed his head in his hands.
"Nishikado-san." Yuki said softly. She started forward, wanting to touch him and his small figure.
"It's like I can't function without you. I only realized it last night. Yuki..."
"Hmm?" She went down to his level and watched him.
"I'm sorry for hurting you so many times. You don't have to forgive me, but I just want you to know, I love you..." He peered into her eyes. Yuki blinked, and swallowed some air.
"I..." She could tell he was being serious, but she wasn't sure if she could trust him. She smiled softly. "I don't know why I'm allowing myself to say this, but I love you too. I always have."
Soujiroh gave her a warm smile and took hold of her left hand. He pulled her in closer and wrapped his arms around her, breathing in the scents of the dango shop. He squeezed her tightly and she put her arms around him.
"Don't leave me ever again..." He murmured, voice cracking. A tear slid from his eyes, and trickled down his cheek. He hastily wiped it away.
"I won't," Yuki whispered as she nestled her chin into the crook of his neck. She heard him sniff, "Nishikado-san?"
"Call me Sou-chan," He released his hold on her and gazed at her face. Yuki nodded in reply. Soujiroh placed a smooth hand below her jaw, and leaned in. He brushed his lips onto hers, smiling at the contact. She stiffened for a fraction of a second and relaxed almost instantly. She kissed him back though gently and frowned when he pulled away.
He stood up and held out a hand for her to take hold of. He pulled her up a bit too quickly, making her collide into him. He wrapped his arms around her again, smirking happily.
"Absence makes the heart grow fonder." His grandmother's voice resounded in his mind, and he accepted it warmly. He felt as if he has a true meaning in life. He knew know his future contained Yuki, and only her, no one else. Well, there were his friends, but that was on a different level. It was just him and her, now and forever.