Author's Note: I wrote this story over Christmas break when I had nothing to do and I thought of the whole plot line while I was curled up in ball ranting about how cold it was – it just came out like this so I hope you like it.
TITLE: The 12 Days Before Christmas
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Honey and Clover, and I'd be so lucky if I did though. I don't benefit from Honey and Clover in any way since personal satisfaction isn't included in that category.
The Narita airport was as busy as usual. You could hear children's laughter and adult chatter echoing throughout the building. Numerous people individuals were sitting idly either waiting for their plane to leave or waiting for someone to take them home. Among those seated waiting to be taken home was a dark-haired man who looked in his thirties. His unruly hair reached until the very lowest part of his nape. His face was drained and weary as he stared out the huge glass windows that covered one side of the building. The snow was falling lightly outside on the runway. The dark-haired man unconsciously fiddled with the zipper of his jacket.
"Shinobu." a familiar voice said clearly shaking him from his stupor. The dark-haired man looked up to the sound of his name. He regarded the tall man resembling him who had graying black hair similar to his own. He was poised and perfectly comfortable in the crisp black suit he wore.
Morita slowly stood up and slung his backpack over his shoulder. He smiled at his older brother.
"Kao-ru!" he shouted as he lunged at him, teary-eyed. Kaoru held him back by placing his hand over his younger brother's face.
"Good to see you too, Shinobu." He said as he pulled out his phone and dialed a number. Morita stood up straight and just gazed back at the falling snow, his brow creased.
"Yes. I have him. What should I do with him now?" Kaoru said into his phone. He watched Morita in the corner of his eye and saw his dazed expression from a moment ago. He listened to the reply on the phone.
"Got it" he answered then sighed as he snapped it shut. He pulled Morita's collar and said "Let's go" then he towed him towards the car. He shoved him into the front seat and got behind the wheel.
Kaoru started the engine, removed the brakes and began driving back to Tokyo. Morita's face was solemn as he stared out the windshield.
"Why?" he said audibly, his gaze still fixated on the snow filled scenery they passed.
Morita tore his gaze from the window as the snow stopped falling. "Why did you order me to come back to Japan?" he asked, his eyes looking at Kaoru directly.
"It's Christmas. Your work is to have a vacation. You haven't been back here in almost seven years. You're 35 years old now Shinobu and you don't even have a wife." Kaoru said bluntly. Morita cracked a smile. The image of a stunning blonde-haired girl glimmered in his mind for a second.
"Neither do you, Kaoru." Morita pointed out. He leaned forward and placed one side of his cheek on his hand so as to leave him half- facing Kaoru. "So tell me, what's the real reason you wanted me to come back here?" he asked, his scruffy long black hair covering one side of his face.
Kaoru sighed. "I should have known you'd see through it." Kaoru glanced at his brother. He paused, contemplating which information to reveal first. "It's not me who demanded you to come back. It was your friend." He said with emphasis on the last word. Morita leaned back into his seat; his stare was directly ahead now.
"Takemoto Yuuta." He finished easily. Morita's face was unchanged.
"Why?" he repeated in the same tone as before.
"He said someone needed you desperately. A girl – her name was Hanamoto Hagumi and if I remember correctly isn't she the very same girl who rejected you back then?" Kaoru said deliberately. Morita remained passive and said nothing in reply but Kaoru had seen something change in his eyes. he chuckled silently.
"So what did Takemoto-kun say she needed me for?" Morita asked trying to get back on topic. Kaoru's tone changed almost immediately.
"It probably has something to do with the fact that her Uncle died last month." He said in a grave voice. He looked at his younger brother and saw apprehension diffuse on his face.
"You mean Hanamoto Shuuhei?" Morita asked in a quiet voice.
"Yes. That's the name Takemoto-kun mentioned before." Morita remained silent in the few minutes that passed.
The two of them were nearing Tokyo now given how fast Kaoru usually drove. The car slowed to a stop as they were about to pass the checkpoint. Morita deliberately shook his head.
"Takemoto, you idiot." He said almost inaudibly.
"I beg your pardon?" Kaoru asked, not catching his words.
Morita unlocked the car door in got out in one swift movement. Just before he swung the door shut he told Kaoru; "I said I'll call you later." Then he dashed away at full speed leaving Kaoru cursing under his breath inside the car.
An attractive blonde haired young girl was kneeling amidst piles of unused art materials. Her face was vacant as she stared at the blank canvass in front of her. Her lilac colored eyes were unfocused and an unused paintbrush lay carelessly in her hands.
There was a sharp rap on the door behind her but she didn't seem to notice. A stocky ash haired man entered the room with a cup of tea in hand.
"Hagu-chan, I brought you tea." He announced as he knelt beside her and set the tea somewhere in her reach. She didn't turn to acknowledge him. She remained immobile, like a doll - just as pretty but just as lifeless.
The ash haired man stood up slowly and looked at her, sorrow evident in his eyes. "If you ever get hungry, don't hesitate to ask me okay?"
She remained silent- as was her usual response. He exited the room and headed towards the kitchen.
When he entered the kitchen he found his cell phone ringing on top of the counter. He flipped it open and flashing on the screen was a name he knew well – Morita Kaoru.
He pressed the answer button and heard his familiar voice through the phone.
"Is my idiotic brother by any chance there with you?" Takemoto felt his heart falter in his chest.
"Morita-san? He's back?" Takemoto could hear the shock in his voice.
"Why so surprised? Weren't you the one who pleaded me to bring him back?" Kaoru asked pointedly like he did once before. Kaoru's words back then resonated in Takemoto's head. Do you want him to come back? Or do you not want him to? And just like before he somehow felt torn.
"Yes…" He knew Kaoru could hear the whole sentence he left unsaid. "So he's seriously back in Japan?" Takemoto asked despite his thoughts.
"Tokyo to be exact." He corrected. Takemoto's eyes widened a fraction.
"Since when?" He reflexively glanced back at Hagu's room.
"Well, I just hauled him from the airport about an hour ago but he ran away when we were about to arrive at Tokyo." His voice sounded annoyed. "I assume he's somewhere in Tokyo, he's probably prowling around. I was thinking he might've gone to meet with you," he paused "-but seeing as how you weren't even aware he was in Tokyo I guess I was wrong." He added as an afterthought.
"I'm actually at Hanamoto's house now. Maybe he's gone to the old apartment but it's already -" he began to say but Kaoru's voice interrupted him.
"I've got another call waiting. I'll email you when I get in contact with him. Thanks anyway Takemoto-kun." Before Takemoto could reply Kaoru hung up. Takemoto flipped his phone shut and glanced at the door that lay ajar across the hall.
It was Hagu's artroom. The artroom she and Hanamoto-sensei had put up together when he bought the house with her. It was her refuge, her paradise. And when Hanamoto-sensei passed away… it was probably the only place where she wouldn't crumble away into nothing - the only place that still held meaning for her.
He glimpsed a part of her back from afar. She hadn't moved a centimeter, he thought sadly. She's still stuck in that place far off from where her body was. That place he could never reach no matter how hard he tried, he thought cynically.
Involuntarily, he flipped his phone open and suddenly found himself dialing a number.
For a minute he could only hear ringing then the phone clicked and a nostalgic deep voice answered.
"Ah, Takemoto-kun. It's been a while since you last called. What's wrong?" Mayama asked concernedly.
"Morita's older brother just called a while ago." Mayama took a deep breath.
"And-?" Takemoto could hear the concealed anxiety in his voice.
"He said that Morita-san is back in Japan. Tokyo to be exact." He added, recalling how Kaoru-san had corrected him.
"You sound nervous." Mayama commented. "Takemoto, you were the one who pleaded with Kaoru-san to bring him back." He continued.
"I know but –" he broke off, trying to figure how to phrase what he felt. The words he couldn't say aloud to Kaoru suddenly flooded out of his mouth. "I was desperate Mayama-san. I couldn't reach her no matter what I tried. The only thing left was Morita-san. I was nervous as it is but now that he really is back in Tokyo I feel even more apprehensive. I'm frightened of what he might do to her. He could save her…or he could break her completely, it's one or the other." Takemoto's voice was full of tension. He had been holding back everything these past few weeks. He'd been so stressed out that Takemoto found himself taking everything out on Mayama.
Mayama was mute as he listened to Takemoto. Once he was done he spoke gently.
"Your doubts are rational but we'll just have to wait and see Takemoto. I know it's hard for you to admit this but Morita – is the only one who's able to mess with Hagu-chan's heart even back then. They haven't seen each other in seven years, who knows what he might be able to do now? Also Takemoto, Morita would never purposely hurt anybody unless there was a good reason for it. He's always been like that, doing things for that no one could ever understand but understanding everybody else better than themselves." Mayama's voice was barely a whisper but Takemoto had heard each word.
Takemoto knew what Mayama was saying was true but it didn't lessen the unease he felt. He replied in the two simple words that seemed to hold too much meaning even for him. "I know."
He heard Mayama sigh over the line. "Listen. Yamada and I decided we'd visit Hanamoto-sensei tomorrow afternoon at 3. Since it's the first time in seven years that we're all back in Tokyo we should go together. The old gang - me, you, Yamada, Hagu… and Morita." His voice trailed off as he was no doubt reminiscing of the days back in college.
"I'll ask Hagu-chan if she wants to come." Takemoto reassured him with a small smile.
"Okay. Anyway, I need to go now Takemoto. Rika-san needs my help with business as usual."
"Okay." Just as Takemoto was about to hang up Mayama's voice came from the phone.
"Yeah?" Takemoto asked curiously.
"Hang in there. Hagu will get better someday soon and she'll need you more than ever." He said encouragingly. "Later then." He bid goodbye then he hung up. Takemoto snapped his phone shut then pocketed it.
He was left with a heavy feeling in his chest. Somehow the weight threatened to break him as he leaned against the counter. He stared out the window and watched as the snow continued to fall lightly – almost as if it wanted to erase everything…even his misery.
When he had first heard about Hanamoto-sensei's death, he rushed back to Tokyo immediately. He had been pretty bad when he had last visited him in the hospital but he never expected him to just go like that. And when he had seen how messed up Hagu-chan had become, his heart ached – even now, whenever he looked at her but never really found her.
Over the years he had realized that his feelings for her hadn't diminished in the least. It was still as strong as before and despite the fact that he had tried to hide it, Mayama had seen right through him as always. He had dropped everything and just rushed to her side.
Out of the blue an image from long ago sparked alive in his head. It was Hagu and Morita walking side by side – away from him.
He gritted his teeth and pulled on his coat as he left the house in a hurry- into the clear white snow so contrasting to how messed up his emotions were at the moment.
Morita stood facing the location of their old apartment building that he had lived in for so long. He gazed at the rubble of the demolished building. There was nothing left except the sign that read FOR SALE in large bold letters. Nothing. There was nothing left here but wreckage and ice cold air.
Images from the past flooded Morita's mind. Images of the warm apartment they had all shared before. The countless parties and hangovers, the food, the laughter…it was all so vivid in his mind that it was as if it only happened yesterday. Morita smiled to himself and tightened his blue scarf around his neck, the cold biting into him.
He was about to take his leave when a voice suddenly cried out.
"Wait!" Morita paused in mid-step and turned to look at the stranger. He was bent down trying to catch his breath and Morita could see the puffs of smoke whenever he exhaled.
The bent man stood up still huffing. The snow in his ash colored hair turned it almost white and when their eyes met Morita faintly recognized him. He scrutinized him more closely then he saw it. It was the older version of the boy he once messed with so long ago.
He grinned broadly and charged at him.
"Ta-ke-mo-to!" Morita shouted as he wrestled him to the cold pavement. He was executing 'the Choker' on him when Takemoto spoke again.
"M-Mori…ta-san… I…cant…breathe!" he managed to say and Morita let him go, still laughing.
Takemoto gaped at Morita as he stood up. It seemed like nothing had changed much about him in seven years. He just looked older. He had longer hair which he didn't bother to fix or cut. Other than that it was still the same Morita-san. If he was still the same then maybe… maybe he really could save Hagu, Takemoto thought wistfully.
"What's up?" Morita asked, seeing Takemoto gawk at him. Color rushed into Takemoto's cheeks.
"It's nothing." He replied as he stood up from the cold hard cement. "Anyway, Morita-san. Can you come with me? I need you to see someone." Takemoto said bluntly, avoiding Morita's eyes.
"I can't." Takemoto raised his head at the tone of his voice. He found Morita looking directly at him. "I can't." he repeated in the same resolute tone. Morita turned to leave and Takemoto didn't bother to stop him, he knew he couldn't even if he tried. Instead he said, "Morita-san! Tomorrow all of us are going to visit Hanamoto-sensei. You should come if you can – and Morita-san?" he called out.
Morita glanced back, his expression unreadable. "Welcome back!" he finished then he scampered away, not bothering to wait for a reply.
Morita was left gazing at Takemoto's receding form. He turned on his heel and began walking, not really knowing where he wanted to go.
Within an hour Morita found himself in his and Kaoru's 'secret base'. He was covered in snow and freezing like hell. He looked around the apartment and was surprised to find his backpack on the desk with a note labeled with his name.
He picked up the piece of paper and unfolded it. A water droplet fell from his hair onto the paper making a big blotch. He pushed back his hair with his clammy hand and proceeded to read those simple words in his brother's neat handwriting.
If you need anything, just call.
Morita smiled to himself and refolded the piece of paper. He set it back on the table and began to undress himself. He stepped into the bathroom and turned the knob for hot water. The warm water slapped back some life into him and got his blood circulating in his semi-numb body.
His brother's words in the car repeated in his head. It blocked out the sound of the falling water.
Her uncle just died…
The image of a smiling Hanamoto-sensei flitted in his head followed by the memory of being slugged by him so long ago. He seemed so strong back then…so how could he have died so easily? Morita clenched his fist and turned off the water. He wrapped a towel around and stepped out to dry himself.
He put on a clean shirt and warm pants. He exited the bathroom and brought out a bed onto the floor with a pillow and a blanket. He propped himself onto the bed and lied still.
A memory began replaying in his mind. It was of the time he had slept here in certain blond girl's arms. He still remembered how fragile she felt wrapped in his arms, her silky and fragrant hair surrounding him, the warmth she emitted and the sound of her breathing that lulled him to sleep.
Morita hastily got up and took his backpack back to the mattress. He knelt at the edge of the bed as he pulled a zipper on his bag. Dozens of letters fell onto the mattress; all of them open except for one. All of them were labeled with the same clumsy scrawl. All were from the same person, all from Tokyo, all – from Hanamoto Hagumi.
Morita picked up the latest and the only letter that was left unopened. He tore it open carefully and her scent – pure and strong wafted out form the envelope it was sealed in. He inhaled it for a moment then he began to read her words who's every stroke of every letter was engraved into his brain since long ago.
I have bad news. It's about Shuu-chan. He got hospitalized and the doctors say his condition could possibly get worse. I've finished rehabilitation a long time ago but I'm still as scared as ever whenever I go to the hospital. I'm scared – but Shuu-chan laughs it off and says its old age. Takemoto-kun comes to visit with me everyday even though he's so busy. Mayama-san came back when he first heard about Shuu-chan's hospitalization and he scolded him for being careless with his health. Sadly though, he had to go back soon after but he promised he's come back when he could. Ayu-chan frequently comes to visit with Nomiya-san. The baby is coming along nicely; Nomiya-san says the baby is due this December. I can't wait! By the way, where are you now? I hear you've been doing some amazing things lately; just wait for me, I'll do my best to catch up to you and maybe someday soon we'll be able to show each other our works again. I know you're working hard and I wish you the best of luck. I'll send you a letter when Shuu-chan gets better. Until the next time we meet…stay safe.
Morita could picture her writing the letter but he knew the image was always wrong. It was always the young Hagu writing, not the 29 year old she currently was. He hadn't seen her in so long and he felt an ache in his chest.
He realized the sudden yearning that was building up in his chest. There was a desire to see her, to touch her, to smell her, to…kiss her? He immediately stood up, banged his head against the hard concrete wall and screamed.
After a few moments he sighed and pulled away from the wall touching the reddening part of his forehead which made contact with the wall. He glimpsed the letter in his hand and all the letters he had accumulated in the past five years. All of them which – he had had left unreplied.
He sighed again. She had continued to send him letters even though he never replied to any of them. He had stopped giving a reply five years ago. And yet even though he left them unanswered… he still kept them – every single one of them.
In the letter he currently held, she'd written, I'll send you a letter when Shuu-chan gets better. It's been two months since he received this letter; there was no follow-up letter… Hanamoto-sensei didn't get better.
He lied down on the letters strewn across the bed. He placed his arm over his face and his other hand crumpled the letter.
Endnote: and that is the first chapter! Please review! I just couldn't help myself when I watched honey and clover all over from the start so I hope you enjoyed it! Hagu and Morita all the way!