Title: . You Can't Keep Me Down

Category: Air Gear

Rating: K+

Pairing: implied Ikki/OC, Kazu/OC

Written by: Juno Tartini

. \ \ S T A R T

"Kiku . . ."

I flipped my long, bleached hair over my shoulder to find Kazu leaning against the door frame with his arms crossed over his chest. He forwent his beanie cap, so his blond hair fell over his eyes and ears a bit. He should really cut it. He shook his head to get the hair away from his eyes.

"What is it, Kazu?"

I grabbed an orange rag and rubbed the grease and oil from my hands. In front of me was a Honda CBR 400cc RR that I had pieced together after a few years. I love to build things and challenge myself. This baby took me five years to be complete—all that was left was giving it a new paint job and a good polish.

I wiped my forehead with my wrist to rid of any sweat, but without a doubt, I smeared a small bit of oil over it. Probably my bangs now have a dark brown or black tinge. I would definitely be taking a shower from head to toe in a while.

I turned to face him and his eyes . . . I always lost myself in them. They were always so clear and so deep, no emotion could escape me. His cerulean eyes always told me more than he could with words. Now they're telling me that he is frightened, scared of something that is about to happen or already happened.

"Is something the matter?"

He stood silent for a few moments before pushing himself off the doorway. He started walking towards me in a somber pace. Once he got in front of me, he took my hands in his, oily rag and all, and gently squeezed my bony wrists. At that moment, I knew something was terribly wrong.

"Kazu, tell me what's going on. You're making me nervous," I told him, dropping the rag to hold onto his forearms. "Please, tell me!"

Without a word, he pulled me into a tight embrace. His arms were around my neck, pressing me into his chest. Taking in a deep breath, he whispered,

"Kiku . . . I-It's Yoshino. She, she got into an accident."

The world as I knew it came crumbling down, obliterating all my happiness into millions of pieces. How could this happen! My eyes widened to as far as they possibly can. My pupils shrank in fear—fear for myself, fear of Yoshino, and fear for Kogarasumaru.

My hands clutched at the back of Kazu's sweater, my nails digging into the fabric, into his skin. The soft cotton curled under my tense fist, while my nerves were shaking. My knees felt weak and I fell to my knees, bringing Kazu with me. As I clenched my eyes shut, the salty tears stung and escaped from the corners. They trailed down my cheeks, down to my chin where they dripped onto my overall-covered thighs.

I released my hold on his shirt and wrapped my arms around his neck while he moved his around my waist. He pulled me closer to him, his chin resting on my shoulder. His jaw is tight—he's biting his lower lip, trying not to cry. He's trying to be strong for me.

"How . . . how did this, how in the hell . . . ?" I couldn't even get my thoughts together. I was too distraught. I needed to see her, I needed to see Yoshino!

"Shh, it's going to be okay. I don't know the details, but that's what Ikki told me over the phone." He stroked my hair a few times before pulling himself away.

"You're not the only one who's upset over this. Ikki was ballistic over the phone—he sounded like he was pissed off, at himself."

Why would Ikki behave like that? Did he think that it was his fault? I voiced my thoughts to Kazu once I knew that I could speak coherently.

Kazu released a sigh before answering,

"I don't know." He scratched at his flaxen-colored hair, trying to figure out an answer.

The flow of my tears started to get lighter before they stopped completely. My cheeks felt hot and sticky. Kazu brought a hand up and rubbed his sleeve over my cheeks softly as to not irritate my skin, then he dabbed the corners of my eyes to catch the small bulbs of water clinging to my lashes.

"I know that this is tough on you; seeing you like this breaks my heart, Kiku, but I understand your pain."

Kazu tucked some of my hair behind my right hair before stroking my cheek with the back of his hand. I took his wrist in both of hands, pressing my face lightly. I sniffled a few times so I wouldn't sound like Rudolph when he had the nose cover on.

"Yoshi's a sister to me. There's nothing I wouldn't do for her, but . . . what's my crying going to do for her? Knowing her, she'll say that I'm wasting my time for something so stupid. Tears aren't going to help her, are they?"

"But the support and care you give her will. All of us are going to make her feel better even if it hurts us."

A small smile picked itself up on my lips as I nodded my head.

It's like what papa said to me, "It's easy to give up on someone or something when things fall apart. However, keeping faith is much harder in those difficult times." He was talking about mom when she left him. Even though she walked out on us, papa never gave up on love even if it did hurt him.

I'm not going to give up on Yoshino. We're all a family in Kogarasumaru. And in a family, you don't give up on each other.

"Anyone can give up; it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength."