Author's Note: its summer people! *wipes away sweat with sleeve* I wish I lived in Hokkaido so I could enjoy the cold weather but no, I had to be stuck in a tropical country, near the equator, more specifically in the Philippines in which I live in the hottest city throughout the country. God forbid I should explain how much of hassle that is. Let's just say that waking up in the morning to find it so freaking hot does not do well for my creative juices and so if this came out a little late I'm very sorry, you may blame our cursed weather here – not that I haven't done that very colorfully these past few days of scorching sunny-ness.

Ah, sorry sorry, now I'm ranting to you about the weather. I'm glad I was even able to cough this out of my practically half fried brain. Anyway, enjoy! :D hopefully you have better weather wherever you are.

Title: 12 Days of Christmas

Disclaimer: Saying that I own Honey and Clover would be like saying that it snows every year in the Philippines which is obviously – impossible, so there.

-OoO-

{Day 3}

Takemoto had woken up groggily to the repeated ringing of his mobile phone. He cocked open one eye and squinted at the dimness of the room. There was a small flickering light where the beeping noise came from and Takemoto reached out for his phone. When he felt it against his fingers he flipped it open and without looking at the caller ID – pressed the answer button and pulled it to his ear.

"Hello?" his voice sounded rough – anyone on the other line could tell that he had just woken up. A familiar voice spoke into his ear.

"Sorry, did I wake you?" Mayama's deep voice asked.

"Mayama?" Takemoto asked vaguely – still disoriented having just woken up. He stretched his free hand trying to get some feeling back into it. The cold had gotten through his thick blanket and his feet were freezing.

"Yeah. Sorry, I can tell by your voice you just got up. I called to tell you that Yamada was rushed to the hospital just now by Nomiya. I'm on my way there now. He says she had her first spasms just a little while ago when both of them were having breakfast." Mayama's words got his attention immediately.

He sat up very abruptly and was rewarded by his vision blurring slightly because of the blood that rushed to his head. He pressed his free hand against his temples.

"Got it. I'll be on my way there soon. Should I bring Hagu with me?" he inquired, very awake now as he glanced at the clock. It was 6:08 – Hagu usually woke up at 7:00. He didn't really like ruining her sleep but if it was an emergency – then it was a whole different story. He pushed away the blanket over torso and stood up with a bit of effort.

"Is she up?" Mayama asked.

Takemoto stood up to check.

"Hold on a bit." He muttered.

He walked swiftly to her art room, turned the knob discreetly and pushed the door open inaudibly – he had gotten quite skilled at being stealthy whenever he checked up on her. He took a small peek and found her leaning against the wall with her legs pulled up to her chest. She was breathing in a steady rhythm with her eyes closed shut and Takemoto could easily see that she was asleep.

She always slept in odd positions and once or twice he would always wonder how she could even sleep like that. At least that little bit of her didn't disappear, he thought with smile as he gently closed the door and silently moved away from it. When he was back at the kitchen he leaned against the counter and spoke to Mayama.

"She's still sleeping." He informed him, putting the phone back against his ear.

"Hmm, I suppose we should let her rest for now. You can pick her up and bring her later when she's awake." He said reasonably and Takemoto nodded – though he knew Mayama couldn't see it.

"Sure. I'll be over in about half an hour. I'll just prepare breakfast and get myself ready."

"Okay. See you later then, Takemoto. You know where to find me."

"Yeah." Takemoto replied before ending the call. He flipped the phone shut and set it on the dining table before deciding to prepare food for him and Hagu. At least if she woke up to find him gone she wouldn't have to be troubled to cook her food.

He pulled on an apron and started preparing the rice. He washed it and set it on the stove to cook. While the rice was cooking he prepared the ingredients for the main course and appetizer. He decided to do the main course first. He cracked a few eggs and whisked it then cut up some spring onion, garlic, tomatoes, and shrimp. He sautéed the ingredients he cut then poured in the egg. After letting the egg cook together with the other ingredients he turned off the flame and the clear smell of freshly cooked omelet filled the room. He scooped all of it into a bowl and set in on the dining table.

Next he started on the appetizer. The first thing he did was to peel some apples and dice them. He picked a cabbage and lettuce and placed all the leaves in the base of a bowl. He placed the diced apples on top of the leafy greens then he pulled out some cherry tomatoes and a lemon from the fridge. He dropped the cherry tomatoes over with the diced apples and added lemon zest to top it off.*

When he set the two dishes on the table Takemoto looked quite satisfied with himself. Ever since he started working he had to cook for himself every day. Whenever he cooked back then had always ended up looking and tasting like burnt charcoal so he usually ended ordering delivery at his apartment – that was until a certain someone decided to pay him a visit.

It was Hagu. Just when he heard the news that she had finally gotten out of rehab she had suddenly appeared at his doorstep together with everybody else – well, everybody except Morita of course. It was then that they found out that he always ate takeout due to the numerous boxes he had forgotten to throw out and Hanamoto-sensei had admonished him for it. He got a really bad scolding but Hagu didn't say a word.

In the end they left late into the night with Mayama and Hanamoto-sensei taking turns at the wheel. The next day though he had received a package with his name labeled on it in that familiar clumsy scrawl he hadn't seen in a long time. Inside the package was a cook book with a note from Hagu.

It would be better if you ate homemade food, Takemoto-kun. You shouldn't be so careless with your health.I hope the cook book will help.

Those were the words – he had memorized them, engraved them into his mind. Ever since then he never ate takeout unless necessary and no matter how awful his cooking tasted he always finished everything off. He had gotten progressively better at it that he was used to cooking more complicated dishes and once in a while he would cook high class food just to treat himself for a job well done.

As always, Hagu could so easily affect him – it was probably the same way Morita affected her. He began to wonder about Morita as he prepared orange juice and sat down to eat.

"Itakimasu." He said politely as he bowed.

He dug in and let his thoughts wander as he chewed. Did Morita ever think about Hagu? He was in love with her seven years ago but was his feelings unchanged until now? Were they really the same? Both of them – were they really alike?

He finished his meal and finished off his juice before heading towards the bathroom. He would have a cold shower to wake him up a little more. After that he would go to the hospital, he wouldn't have time think about questions that wouldn't have answers.

The human mind really was so fickle.

-OoO-

Morita woke up feeling extremely feverish and hot. He pushed away the two layers of blankets he had over him. He blinked a few times as his eyes adjusted to the dim room. He always forgot that there was hardly any sun during the Yuletide season.

He sat up slowly and almost fell back from the sudden wave of dizziness that hit him. He leaned forward with his hand against his aching head. His whole body felt prickly and he felt the sudden urge to vomit even though he hadn't even eaten anything since yesterday.

He was sick.

It was pretty obvious seeing his condition.

Well, it was no wonder – given the fact that he stayed under the cold weather for who knows how long without a scarf or mitten on either hand. At the moment, he felt like the inside of his skull was being hit by a hammer repeatedly every second that passed. He pulled himself to his feet with a great deal of effort and tottered to the table where money was kept in a brown envelope. He pulled out a few dollars and messily pulled on a jacket and his beanie. He staggered as he put on his shoes and he used the wall as a support.

He needed to take medicine as soon as possible since he never liked it whenever he was sick. It was all too troublesome especially when you wanted some work done. He had made it a habit to keep himself in good health as much as possible but it seems coming back to Japan had shaken him up a little bit or maybe meeting a certain girl had messed up his bodily functions.

He swayed as he walked out of his door. Each step he took made the world spin around and he had to pause every now and then just to get his bearings right. Honestly he could have just asked Kaoru to bring him some medicine but he didn't want to trouble his older brother more than he already had – so he gritted his teeth and made his way to a drugstore.

He had made it quite a distance from the building when he felt himself about to collapse. His breathing was labored and he shuffled towards the park when his vision was already blurring. He hastily sat on the swing where he had sat the whole of last night and shuddered at the coldness of the metal. Though his body temperature was running high, he felt chilled to the bone out in streets.

He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the iron chains holding the swing up. The iciness of it didn't help him in the least. After a few deep breaths, he suddenly sneezed and gave another involuntary shudder. He felt his nose running as he slowly opened his eyes. Just as he was about to wipe his nose with the sleeve of his jacket, a fair hand offered him a clean white handkerchief with pink floral designs.

He stared at the hand for a second and saw a very familiar silver bracelet adorned on it. His breath caught and he slowly raised his eyes to a person he had never expected to appear just then.

Hagumi

She was looking down at him with a touch of concern gracing her delicate facial features. Her eyebrows slightly furrowed and her lips pursed together. They only stared at each other for a few more seconds before Morita suddenly grinned at her. He gently took the handkerchief from her palm and wiped his watering eyes before he cleaned his nose properly. He took another deep breath before facing her again – his pulse quickened in a different way from before, this time it wasn't his sickness that was making him tense.

"Are you okay?" she asked him in a vague tone – like she didn't really know what to say to him. He had not heard her voice in such a long time and he almost didn't recognize that it was hers. He had forgotten how small and timid her voice always sounded. It seems not even time could change her way of speaking – this small fact made him smile.

"I should be the one asking you that." He said as he held the handkerchief in his hand that wasn't gripping the metal chain, he decided that he would return it to her when he had it washed. She was silent for a minute before she moved and sat down in the swing adjacent to him. He peeked at her though the corner of his eye and saw that she was staring blankly at the ground.

"What are you doing here?" he asked quietly, trying to ignore intense aching if his head that was eating away at him.

"I was walking around." She replied shortly, pushing the swing backward with a kick of her boots. The swing creaked as it swayed back and forth.

"Looking for something?" he asked curiously. Then he slowly added a follow up question, "or is it someone?" he asked deliberately. He knew he shouldn't have asked but he couldn't help himself.

He turned his head towards her and saw that she was gripping the metal chains as hard as he was. There was another moment of silence as she stopped the swing and moved her gaze to the sky before she replied.

"I don't know." She replied desolately. Her eyes looked empty from where Morita was. They were looking but they weren't really focusing on anything. He wondered when her eyes had begun to look like that. Back then whenever he looked into her violet orbs he would always see a strong emotion – whether it was anger, irritation or bliss – she always looked so alive and bright. That was her existence in his life after all. How could her light have dimmed this much?

Hanamoto Shuuhei. It was because of him. Probably how she was in his life was the same way he was in hers. She needed him – but he wasn't here anymore. It was only then that Morita really saw how broken she was. His heart ached, she didn't want to see her like this.

"Then – is there some place you want to go by any chance?" he asked without really meaning to.

She turned her head in his direction and their eyes met again. She contemplated before giving an answer – something flickering in her lavender eyes.

"Home." She replied quietly.

In a way, it was a very Hagumi like answer. She always had the simplest answer to any question – there was never anything complicated when it came to her. Being so close to her seemed to have made his condition a lot better somehow and Morita actually found the strength to stand up on his wobbly legs.

"Okay." He walked and stood in front of the swing she was seated on. He leaned forward and held out his hand. "Let's go then."

She gently took his hand then she looked up into his eyes. He saw the question in her violet orbs.

Where?

He smiled and replied, "Home…"

-OoO-

It was full of activity inside the hospital as Takemoto passed through the doors. There were nurses and doctors walking here and there with clipboards, medicine, machinery and such. He looked around and found the customer service counter. He walked towards it and spoke to the clerk who was busy talking on the phone. When she put down the down she turned her full attention to him immediately.

"Yes? How may I help you sir?" she asked in a cheery tone.

"Um, I'd like to ask for the room number of Mrs. Nomiya Ayumi." He replied in the most business like tone he could manage.

The clerk rapidly typed Ayumi's name in keyboard of the computer beside her with practiced ease. She looked at the screen for a moment before replying to his request, "Miss Nomiya Ayumi is currently present in room 102 of the maternity ward and according to her schedule – she will be brought to the delivery room exactly 45 minutes from now at 7:30."

"Thank you." He replied graciously with a bow.

"Is there anything else you'd like to know, sir?" she asked and he shook his head in reply.

"There's nothing else. Thank you again." He answered with a hand raised.

"You're welcome sir." She replied just as the phone rang once more. When she picked it up he decided that he should make his way to Ayumi-san's room as quickly as possible. He went on his way and soon enough he was standing in front of room 102 of the maternity ward – but he was hesitating to enter due to the fact that he could clearly hear Mayama and Nomiya's bickering voices on the other side of the door. Mayama's voice was full irritation and annoyance while Nomiya's was perfectly calm in giving witty replies.

He sighed and slowly opened the door which creaked to announce his arrival to the two men who were currently in a heated argument. Takemoto had heard snippets of the argument and had guessed that the two were actually arguing as to what gender the baby was. Ayumi, who was lying on the bed beside the two men looked quite weary, it seemed like the conversation had been going on forever.

"I'm telling you it's definitely a girl! I won't accept my first child to be a boy!" Nomiya said quite determinedly.

"And I'm saying that your child will definitely be a boy!" Mayama shot back stubbornly.

Just as Nomiya was about to give a reply he spotted Takemoto at the corner of his eye and turned his head away from Mayama towards his direction immediately.

"Takemoto!" he cried in surprise. Mayama followed his gaze and he grinned as he saw him standing by the door. Ayumi's head turned to him and their eyes met briefly. She gave a welcoming smile and he smiled back in return.

"You're here – took you long enough." Mayama jabbed at him almost immediately. Takemoto knew he would pick on him as soon as he entered.

"I had to deal with a lot of things before I could leave the house with ease." He replied offhandedly.

"Sorry to trouble you Takemoto." Ayumi's voice said apologetically from the bed. She was in hospital clothes – the same type of clothes Hagu had worn before, he remembered and was gently rubbing her abdomen with her hand.

"No need to apologize, Ayumi-san. So what exactly is it? A boy or a girl?" he asked curiously as he came and stood beside the bed having both Mayama and Nomiya in his peripheral vision.

"Don't say it!" Mayama and Nomiya cried out at the same time, heads turning to Ayumi's direction.

"I bet you a thousand yen it's a boy girl!" Nomiya said challengingly as he faced Mayama smugly.

"You're on!" Mayama shot back in the same tone as Nomiya.

Takemoto could almost see the burning aura surrounding the two of them and he resisted the urge to laugh at loud. As he watched them with interest Ayumi lightly tugged the sleeve of his jacket and motioned him to come closer. He obliged and leaned closer. When he did, Ayumi whispered something in his ear.

"It's actually a boy." She whispered then she pulled back and gave a chuckle. "Keep it a secret okay?" she added and he nodded. Takemoto cracked a smile – Nomiya-san was going to be a thousand yen poorer by tomorrow. He wondered if Mayama would purposely rub it in Nomiya's face when he found out. Well, knowing Mayama he would probably discreetly rub it in Nomiya's face in a way that it was way more annoying than saying bragging aloud.

"Have you decided on a name?" he asked curiously, the question popping into his head. He assumed that since she knew the gender she would have a name already in mind.

"Oh dear, that's what got them arguing in the first place. Mayama asked me the very same question and Nomiya gave a girl's name. Then he asked me if I knew the gender I said I did but Nomiya asked me to keep it a secret so it would be a surprise. Then it came to the point they argued about which gender it really was." She said with a sigh. Takemoto couldn't help but laugh, the two of them always acted like kids whenever they were in each other's company. Sometimes it was refreshing but most of the time it was plain exhausting.

"So have you decided?"

"Yes, come closer I'll tell you." She whispered the name in his ear again and he couldn't help but smile at her answer.

"I don't think Nomiya-san would disagree with your choice." He replied easily. It really was a fitting name.

"What I'm worried about is that he won't be happy with the boy's gender." She replied with a slightly worried expression.

"He'll get over it." He said promptly and she laughed in reply.

"I suppose so," She said cheerfully. "I feel much better now that you're here Takemoto. You're always easier to deal with than these two." She said aloud as she gestured to the two idiots who were trying to erase each other's existence with their stares. It was obvious they had heard her because both of them abruptly them turned towards her at the same time.

"Hey!" both of them said in perfect unison.

"You guys are so alike." Takemoto commented with a teasing smile. He knew they didn't like being put together but he couldn't help himself.

"I agree." Ayumi replied promptly. The two of them laughed together. It seems like both of them were on the same page today – they usually were anyway.

"We are not!" both of them cried in outrage.

"Hmph, Ayumi how could you lump me together with someone like him?" Nomiya asked indignantly as he cleaned against his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

"That should be my line! Bakashi." Mayama said in annoyance, moving his gaze away from Nomiya.

"Tsk,tsk. Resorting to calling me names, Mayama. How childish." Nomiya replied pointedly.

"Oh shut up Nomiya. I don't want to hear that from you. Hopefully your son won't take after you." Mayama huffed in reply.

"I told you it's going to be a girl!" Nomiya said, fully irritated now. He turned at the same time Mayama turned and they openly glared at each other.

"And I'm saying-" Mayama began to say before Takemoto decided to finally cut in.

"You are aware that you're repeating the very same conversation you had a while ago right?" Takemoto interrupted before another fight could break out. Both of them were probably relieving their stress and anxiety by picking on each other purposely but it was getting a little out of hand. He was afraid they would start fighting for real and come on, how old were they anyway?

"You're right. I shouldn't be wasting precious seconds of my life on someone like him. I shouldn't have even told him about Ayumi." Nomiya said as he turned away again and stared at the wall. He looked like he was in a very foul mood. It seemed that the same mood infected Mayama with the reply he gave.

"I didn't come here for your sake anyway." Mayama said coldly as he turned away too.

"Really you two, over the years your situation has gotten worse and worse." Ayumi said with a resigned sigh. It seemed like she had seen one too many arguments of these two over the years. Takemoto could sympathize with her. He knew two people at work who were the same as the two and he had always felt much older after watching them fight with each other repeatedly.

"I shouldn't have agreed to make you my child's godfather." Nomiya grumbled as he rested his chin on one of his hands.

"Wait, what? I'm his godfather?" Mayama asked, his eyes wide with shock. Takemoto blinked surprised too but it seemed like a pretty obvious choice, now that he thought about it.

"No you're not, I changed my mind." He said snappily.

"Takeshi," Ayumi said very firmly. "You agreed with me that it had to be Mayama. You even said that you couldn't think of anyone else worthy of the honor." She said pointedly. Nomiya flushed and grunted in reply.

Mayama looked utterly nonplussed for a few more seconds before a mischievous smile suddenly formed on his lips. He had an evil glint in his eyes just then and Takemoto felt that he should have stopped him then but thought better of it.

"I didn't know you thought so highly of me Nomiya. All this time – I'm flattered." He said deliberately. Nomiya harrumphed and refused to look at him, his face still dashed with a tinge of red.

"Don't let it make your head swell, Mayama. I only agreed because you're the only one I trust to treat my child like your own." He replied curtly.

It was only a little bit but even Takemoto had heard the embarrassment in Nomiya's tone. Mayama cracked a smile. Ayumi smiled fondly at both of them and Takemoto couldn't help but smile too. The ambience in the room had abruptly changed, Takemoto observed as he watched both Mayama and Nomiya with interest.

Despite the fact that they always argued whenever they were in each other's company – they were very good friends. Actually maybe it was because they argued a lot that they trusted each other like brothers. An image of Morita suddenly popped into his mind together with a question.

Were he and Morita good friends like them too?

Ah, but Mayama and Nomiya were never in love with the same girl, he remembered distinctly. Was that what made all the difference?

There was a sudden knock on the door just then.

"Come in." Ayumi said loud enough to be heard on the other side of the door. The door slowly opened and revealed a group two male nurses together with a female nurse holding a clipboard.

"Miss Nomiya Ayumi? We'll be accompanying you to the delivery room now." the nurse informed in a calm and business like tone.

"Oh my, it's already time?" Ayumi said aloud. "Okay, please come in." Maybe Takemoto had imagined it but he heard a hint of tension in her voice when she spoke. But he wouldn't be surprised if she was nervous – she was having her first child after all.

It was then that Nomiya stood up from his chair and went to stand beside her. He reached out and held her hand as the nurses surrounded her bed. Their gazes were locked onto each other completely.

"Will you be alright?" he asked.

"Of course. Don't worry, Takeshi. I'll come back to you, but it won't just be me. I'll come back together with our child." She replied with a smile.

"I'll be expecting two girls to come back." He said with a smile of his own in return. Ayumi laughed and reached out to softly touch his cheek.

"We'll just have to see." She said well naturedly. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead tenderly. He pulled back and gave a genuine smile. It was the sort of smile you gave to the person you loved the most in the world. Maybe he hadn't noticed before, but Takemoto couldn't help but think that the two of them suited each other extremely well. The air around them felt warm and fuzzy even to Takemoto. It was the same air Mayama and Rika had when he came to visit them every once in a while.

"I'll just be outside. I won't go anywhere." Nomiya said softly.

"Okay." Ayumi replied lovingly as she pulled his hand to her cheek. They stayed like that until the female nurse decided to speak.

"Sir, is it alright if we move her now?" she asked politely. She looked slightly regretful at having to break them apart.

"Yeah." He replied as he slowly let go of Ayumi's hand. Their gazes were still locked until the male nurses swiftly moved the bed out the door. Nomiya followed after them promptly. When he reached door he looked back at Mayama and Takemoto who had watched them in silence since the nurses arrived. "You coming?"

"Yeah." Mayama said as he nodded. He stood up and went to stand by Nomiya by the door. Both of them looked back at Takemoto who slowly stood up.

"I'll follow after I check up on Hagu." He said audibly. In truth, he was worried about Ayumi-san but what always worried him the most was Hagu. He had forgotten his anxiety while watching them but now that Ayumi-san was being brought to the delivery room, his apprehension had reappeared and was nagging at him repeatedly.

"Okay. We'll just be outside the delivery room. You do know where that is right?" Mayama asked deliberately. Takemoto scratched the back of his head and gave a loud sigh.

"Geez, Mayama-san. How old do you think I am?" he cocked a brow at him. He wanted to point out who was the kid who was arguing about petty things just a little while ago but he thought better of it – he might receive death glares from both of them if he did and he never liked to be on the receiving end of it.

"You're 30 years old but you're still such a kid." He said teasingly as he reached out and ruffled his hair.

"Hey!" he exclaimed with a pout. Mayama always treated him like a child, maybe he was older than him but that didn't make it okay to jab at him frequently whenever they were together.

"We'll be in the delivery room okay? You might forget." Mayama repeated well naturedly.

"Now you're treating me like an old man?" Takemoto shot back. Nomiya and Mayama laughed at his reply.

"Nope, it's our job to be the elderly ones." Mayama said, still chuckling. "Anyway, I was just kidding. Go check up on her. She might be wondering where you are." He said as he waved his hand in way that said just go already. He nodded, getting the wordless message in his words.

"Really, Mayama-san. I'm going then."

He walked past them into the hallway and was about to make his way to the first floor when he suddenly turned back to ask them a question.

"There's a payphone on the first floor right?" He inquired sheepishly.

"Yeah. Why – oh yeah, I forgot Hagu doesn't use her phone anymore." Mayama said thoughtfully.

"Thanks. I'll see you in a bit then." He turned on his heel and made his way to the first floor.

As he made his way to the first floor he thought about the substance of their conversation just then. He was sure Mayama had said all of those things to encourage him. He was probably trying to say that he didn't have to worry so much all the time. Mayama was a good friend that way, he thought with a smile.

When he reached the pay phone he dropped in a coin and dialed Hagu's home number. For a while the only thing he could hear was the monotonous ringing then there was a click. The phone had changed to voicemail.

He didn't worry the first time he called since she could've just not heard it – but the next five times was what made him lose his composure. She wouldn't answer – it was either she was still asleep or she wasn't at home. After the sixth time the phone switched to voice mail, he fished out his phone from his pocket and scrolled down his phonebook for the number he needed.

The phone rang once and Mayama's voice filtered into the receiver.

"What are you doing calling me when we're in the same building?" his voice asked curiously.

"She's not picking up. I've called six times and she still didn't pick up." He gushed out suddenly, the worry marked in his voice. "I – I have to go back." He added decisively.

"Alright," He replied easily. "I'll inform Nomiya. When you reach her house call me again and tell me what you find." There was no hesitation whatsoever in his tone. Trust Mayama to be calm in any situation, any situation that didn't involve Rika-san, to be specific.

"Tell Nomiya-san I'm sorry." He said apologetically as he began to walk towards the entrance of the hospital hurriedly.

"I'm sure he'll understand." Mayama replied reassuringly.

"I'm going then."

"Wait, if by any chance she isn't there, don't hesitate to ask for my help." Mayama said before he could end the call.

"Alright." Takemoto answered and ended the call. He pocketed his phone as he rushed out the hospital doors and got into his car. He started the engine and drove as fast as Kaoru-san – that was already saying something.

When he reached Hagu's house he didn't bother to park the car in the driveway; he didn't even bother to turn off the engine. He hastily got out of the car and barged into the house. The door was unlocked – it was a bad sign but he resolved to look thoroughly before concluding anything.

So he searched every corner of the house – but she wasn't there. Her jacket, mittens and scarf was gone – Morita's scarf had strangely disappeared too. Her shoes weren't by the door and he could only conclude that she had left – left without leaving a note or anything that gave him a clue as to where she went.

He was breathing heavily by the time he got back out onto the road and jumped back into the car. He released the brakes and drove to god knows where. Ever since he left the hospital the only thing on his mind was Hagu. If anyone saw him at the moment they would think he was an obsessed stalker – and the worst thing was that maybe he was.

-OoO-

The sound of the automatic door signaled people to come forward. There were countless people boarding and getting off the train. Among the boarding lane was a tall stooping dark-haired man with a beautiful lady with him. Nobody around them spared them a second glance nor would they think that the dark-haired man was kidnapping someone – kidnapping with the victim's consent that is but it was close enough to a real kidnapping because nobody knew where they were going and nobody knew they were together.

From afar one would think they were lovers by the way their hands were intertwined – if anyone who knew them did by chance see them, they would probably assume both of them were eloping but neither was the truth.

She watched as Morita dropped in some coins from his pocket into the machine and got out two tickets. Just as he took out the tickets from the machine, a female voice made an announcement in the speakers that rang out loud and clear throughout the train station.

The train heading for Nagano will be leaving shortly. I repeat, the train heading for Nagano will be leaving shortly. All passengers going to Nagano please board the train now.

After the female voice finished the announcement Morita tugged at Hagu's hand and stirred her towards the train. Both of them hopped on the train and Morita eagerly looked for a place for both of them to sit. When they found an available spot, Morita quickly propped himself onto the seat; Hagu followed wordlessly and sat beside him.

Morita closed his eyes and leaned against the window. He let out a deep breath as Hagu sat down.

"Are you okay?" she asked cautiously. "You can use my shoulder if you want." She offered. Without a word he leaned his head against her warm shoulder. Even with a jacket on she felt the intense heat coming off him.

"You're burning up!" she exclaimed when she placed her cool hand on his blisteringly hot forehead. "We need to get you some medicine immediately." She began to stand up but something yanked at her jacket. She looked back at saw Morita's hand gripping her jacket tightly with his eyes still closed. It was the first time she noticed that he looked extremely tired. His face was red and he looked really sick.

"Don't…go. Just…stay here…for now. We can…get medicine…when we get there." He murmured hazily with labored breaths. Hagu sat back down reluctantly with her brows furrowed.

"Are you sure?" she asked carefully, placing her hand against his neck. It was really scorching hot.

"Yeah. Just lend me your shoulder for a bit Nezumi…" he replied in the same hazy tone as before. As she stared at him it was only then that she realized that he had never really said her name to her personally. It was always Nezumi – but it was never Hagu. Everybody else called her Hagu or Hanamoto, but he was the only one who never called her by her name. Was there a reason behind that? She couldn't help but wonder as she stared at him.

"Okay." She sat back down and pulled his head against her shoulder gently. Her hand stayed in his silky hair and it hair felt tickly against her neck. She could smell his hair – it had a mild smell of citrus. She discreetly leaned her head against his and she could feel him shivering. Having him this close to her, she could hear how labored his breathing was. She gently uncoiled her scarf from her neck and delicately placed it over his shoulders.

"Thanks…" he mumbled. She was surprised to find that he was still conscious. She felt slightly embarrassed at him knowing that she had touched him so freely but she didn't pull away from him – she didn't want to.

She cast her eyes down and stared at his empty hand that had held hers firmly just a little while ago. In truth, the moment he held out his hand to her – she knew she wouldn't be able to resist taking it. And when he said that they were going home she had the feeling that he would be able to take her there, the one place she'd been searching for all this while.

She peeked at him and saw that his eyes were half open, staring as the scenery outside changed from grey tunnel wall to beautiful snowy scenery. The roof tops of the buildings were covered with snow and the city of Tokyo looked like it was covered by a layer of snow. You could only see a few grey spots here and there – the simplicity of the scene itself was breathtaking.

"Why Nagano?" she asked out of the blue without realizing she had spoken.

"I wanted apples." He replied unexpectedly, his voice a little indistinct.

"Apples?" she asked with confusion marked in her voice. She hadn't expected such an answer – but in a way, it was also a typical reply from him. He always had the strangest answers to all questions.

"That –" he started then after a short pause he continued. "And also since it was the place where both of you always went home to, right?" he asked knowingly. There it was… his second face – the side of him he rarely showed to anyone.

Most of the time, he would be an eccentric idiot, but there were occasional instances where he would give you a very serious reply. It was both sides of him that made most people think he was unreasonable and unpredictable – but she had always thought that it was his way being Morita.

She remained silent at his unexpected reply. She didn't need to ask who he was referring to. So he remembered her hometown, she had thought he would have forgotten such an insignificant detail. She didn't know why but suddenly a feeling of guilt settled over her then.

"Why? Why are you doing all this? Don't – don't you resent me?" she asked honestly. The question had burst out from her lips.

"Resent you? For what?" he drawled, his voice slightly muffled by the scarf she had lent him.

"For – for breaking my promise." She whispered uncertainly.

Where have you been looking all this while? His question resounded in her head. She didn't have answer for him back then – she didn't have an answer even now.

"Oh. That. Were you worried about that?" he asked with a hint of interest. She stayed silent at his question. She knew he was going to say something more and she chose to listen – or rather it was more like she wanted to listen to what he was going to say. She felt tension seize her as she waited for him to speak.

"I don't resent you." He said unwaveringly, his voice much clearer than it had been before. Her heart skipped a beat at his answer. She felt relieved – but she felt troubled too? What was she feeling right now? Honestly, she didn't understand what was happening to her anymore.

"Why not?" she asked, question materialized in her head one by one. Maybe she simply wanted to hear his voice, the voice she hadn't heard in such a long time. It felt nostalgic listening to him talk, his deep voice filled that always held a hint of some hidden emotion – she never told anyone, but she always wanted to decipher his mood simply from his voice. To notice that he was sad, regretful, happy… she wanted to be able to do such a thing naturally.

"Do you want me to hate you?" he asked pointedly. She was glad he couldn't see her face at that moment, because she was sure he would be able to see the confusion in them. Why were all these emotions suddenly raging inside her? Was it all because of him that she felt more messed up than before?

"I…don't know." She replied honestly. She couldn't think of any other answer to the question.

"I don't hate you or resent you for anything," he said in the same resolute tone. "The one I hate is myself." He added quietly with a mild snort.

"Why?" she asked candidly. She looked at him through the corner of her eye and saw that he was smiling – smiling with a little bit of sorrow. He had another mixed expression, he always had. One time he would laugh with misery, the next he would smile with self-loathing – always expressions that were so contrasting.

"Can I tell you later? I'm feeling a little drowsy now." he drawled. She looked back at him finally and saw that his breathing had slowed into a steady rhythm. He was already asleep, he didn't even bother to wait for a reply. She gently patted his hair and gave a sigh.

Why did he always ask her questions that she couldn't answer?

Do you want me to hate you?

She honestly didn't know the answer to that question. She didn't know why but she felt like she wanted to push Morita away – she wanted to see him walk away like usual in his headstrong manner, but…but whenever he did – she always found herself running after him. Just like back then, he was walking in front of her and she was struggling to keep up with his pace but when she tripped… he was there to catch her – then he would walk ahead like usual, leaving her to stare at his back.

Over the past years she had always kept her eyes on him – not just because of her promise, but because she wanted to. She watched him on TV as he received countless awards and she read every article about him that was written in various magazines. He was always going higher and she always persevered to reach is level. She always wanted to have him in her peripheral vision; she wanted to see him be as stubborn and as unreasonable as ever. Over the years she had settled to simply watching him on TV and sending him letters – but she couldn't deny the fact that once or twice she wanted to see him in person.

She worked to reach where she was now – but recently none of it mattered anymore. When Shuu-chan had died everything that used to shine brightly had gone grey. But Morita – Morita was clear as ever. He didn't change, in her eyes he never changed. Even if his appearance changed you could still tell it was him. He was still unreadable, still stubborn, still complicated – he was still him. And she didn't want to lose that, she realized with start.

Back then at the cemetery, what she was actually afraid of… was losing Morita? Was that why she wanted to push him away?

And as the train moved forward to Nagano, Hagu was left brooding about the dark-haired man who was right beside her but felt an eternity away from her.

-OoO-

Endnote: OMG! I felt so happy writing about Hagu and Morita! I almost drowned myself in fluff for crying out loud – but still… I'm soooo happy. *grinning like an idiot* Oh yeah, I'm sorry if the scene in the hospital isn't so clear. I'm not really sure how someone is supposed to give birth so, um, if it lacks details forgive my ignorance! There's only so much a 15 year old would know about childbirth! 6.6 Oh yeah, I'm deciding to call 'Yamada', 'Ayumi' now so don't get confused. But anyway, I hope you liked the chapter. Putting that aside, I want you to review! Any comment whatsoever is welcome, if there are some flaws in my facts, like say in the hospital scene, please tell me about it so I can edit it. Oh yeah, if you want a faster update be sure to review so I can get some drive to type the next! ^.^ See yah!

*-That cooking scene was all my made up gibberish which includes the stuff I just hear from the lifestyle network on T.V. if the details are flawed please forgive me, I just thought the scene really needed a cooking description so I just typed in some stuff. Also I'm not sure there are cherry tomatoes in Japan but I like my salad with them and the diced apples – well I made that up. Whatever you read in the coking scene may be erroneous in a lot of areas so forgive me! I don't really cook that much. Now that that's out of the way, don't forget to review or if you want you could correct my cooking scene. I'd appreciate either! *smiley smile*

PS these next few weeks I will be out of commission due to certain reasons I can't be bothered to explain anymore. I won't be able to update as quickly but when I do update I'll do my best to be able to provide you with at least two or three chapters. So please don't hate me or curse me in my sleep if the update is going to take a while (I prefer to have my sleep full of meaningless gibberish, thank you). Anyway, I just thought I needed to say it so later then!