A/N: My first Kobato fic! I had a lot of ideas for this fandom but this was the one that happened to get itself completed first. And I'm kind of glad for that since there are so few stories about these two!

Wikipedia tells me that Okiura's first name is Kazuto so I went with that. The story is based on the manga but I think you'll understand it even if you have only seen the anime.

Alright, do enjoy!

The phone was ringing again.

Sayaka Okiura's hand hovered above the receiver, hesitating to touch it. Recently answering the phone had become like playing roulette – it could be good or bad.

There was no way of knowing if it was from them.

Third ring.

But she had to answer it. It could be important.

Fourth ring.

She wished the kindergarten could afford a newer phone so she could at least see the number of the caller.

Right before the fifth ring the woman's lithe hand flew to the receiver and brought it to her ear quickly, before she had the time to regret it.

"This is Yomogi kindergarten, Sayaka Okiura speaking," she said, trying to even out her voice. It could be just a wrong number.

It wasn't. Her heart clenched unpleasantly.

"…Yes, I am aware that – No, I haven't changed my mind."

The person on the other side talked impolitely and threw a couple of rude words at her together with the usual threats. Still, it was easier to deal with him than the one who usually called.

That person never showed an angry face, but his catlike smile was like a predator's grin. His poisonous words were coated with false sweetness and they always hit a sore spot. He knew her well enough to be able to do that. What he didn't know, however, was that it wasn't the threats and the insults that hurt his ex-wife the most.

It was the fact that she still remembered the way that smile looked when it was genuine and still could hear the sweet words from when they didn't hold any venom inside.

He had always been charming. She had fallen for him head over heels and, being young and innocent, she had wanted to get married quickly. She wanted to have the picture perfect family she had dreamt of; with a cozy house, a blooming garden and a lot of kids. She loved kids. He was handsome, considerate, and got well along with her father. He had sometimes stopped by the kindergarten for no other reason than bring her flowers and have a cup of tea while the kids were napping.

Even back then, Sayaka had known that his business wasn't always clean. She didn't like it, but she had always believed in the power of love and other things that might seem laughable to many people. It was probably the influence of her father – he had always been the one to believe that all people were good at heart.

She had thought that with her, Kazuto would be fine.

You can't change a person.

Many people had told her that along the years.

The ill-mannered man on the phone hung up and Sayaka felt like the beeping sound in her ear was mocking her. Slowly, she put down the receiver and noticed that she had been holding her breath for quite some time. She tried to let it go, but the air wouldn't leave her lungs. It was like that one breath would release to the flood of emotions she kept locked inside her.

"Was it that bastard again?"

She jumped at the sound of Fujimoto's voice. She wasn't sure how long he had been standing behind her but her position next to the phone combined to her most likely rather somber appearance made it obvious what she had been doing just a moment ago. She considered reminding the quick tempered man to watch his mouth but since none of the children were listening, she decided to let it slide for once.

"Not exactly…"

"But it's his doing, anyway," Fujimoto huffed. "If I got to see him face to face, I'd-"

"Don't even think about that," she interrupted him firmly. "You'd only get yourself in trouble."

Fujimoto looked the woman to the eye and held the gaze, as if he was about to argue, but finally chose not to. He sighed and started taking his blue apron off.

"Do you need some more help here? My boss asked me to take an earlier shift today, but I can stay if you want."

"No, it's alright. I'll be fine," Sayaka shook her head, which caused the few loose bangs of her tied up hair bounce lightly. She wanted to lighten up the mood, so she smiled while she looked up. "I have Kobato here with me."

Fujimoto scoffed dryly. "Like she's going to be of any help. She needs more looking after than any of the real kids."

The kindergarten's owner waved her employee and long-time friend goodbye and then glanced the table, sighing. There was another envelope, containing his hard-earned money. How she wished she could tell him to stop leaving them and go to college instead…but in reality, that wasn't an option. A single look at the account book was enough to tell that even without the debt weighing it down, Yomogi was crawling through each month.

'More time, you say? How long do you plan on asking that?'

'Don't you see that you're only making things more difficult by being so stubborn?'

The words echoed in her head and guilt stabbed her heart. Even though it was painful…would it be better if she closed the kindergarten down to make the lives of them all easier? Was Yomogi just another castle in the clouds, an impossible dream she clung to, unable to let go even when anyone could see it was for the best?

You can't change a person.

Watching the children play with Kobato outside, Sayaka couldn't help but smile despite her worries. The girl had appeared out of nowhere and insisted to help for reasons the other woman couldn't understand. She sometimes talked about wanting to "heal people's hearts"…

It sounded a lot like what Sayaka herself had been trying to do for her husband. To fill his heart with light and warmth so that he wouldn't have to build a cold, hard shell around it.

But that hadn't been enough.

Things had started to change when her father died. The lawyer had explained her that Yomogi was her inheritance – and the debt that came with it. Only then she had understood the grave situation that her father had lived in for the final times of his life. He had tried to pay the money off on his own, not wanting to worry his daughter any more…and that had been the death of him.

People said that her husband had known all along, even that he had been a part of the "charity" that convinced the kindergarten's late principal to buy the land. Sayaka only knew that soon after her father's death, her husband's smile had started to twist and his eyes darken.

'You're not going to make it. You should just close down the place and move on.'

When he'd first said those words, it had been like a slap on her face. She had expected his support, his love in her moment of loss and uncertainty. She had wanted to nestle in his warmth, only to find that he pushed her away to arm's length.

Far enough to feel like a stranger but close enough for her to never forget.

She had got the divorce papers. The forms lay in the farthest corner of a chest of drawers, unfilled. No matter how many times she cried because of him, no matter how many times he disappointed her…her hand refused to write a single letter on those papers.

You can't change a person.

You should let go.

It's not worth trying.

"Kazuto…" the name still felt good and familiar in her lips. She never uttered that name in the presence of others anymore. It was the name of the man she had fallen in love with.

"It's alright even if I can't change you. I just wish you could go back…to the way you were before."

A/N: So, do I pass for a decent Kobato writer? :D

Anyone who reviews will get 100 points and a konpeito! (or whatever you want to call them)