Title : A mother's smile shines brighter than the moon.

Genre : Romance(?)

Characters : Sakuragi and Koike.

WARNING : UN-BETA and all this was typed down for an hour without revision! so if you spot any mistakes, I appologizeeee

Summary : Sakuragi once again narrated his life story. This time, about his mother.

Disclaimer : all characters belongs to George Abe-san. There was suppose to be Julius Jason, my OC, but I changed my mind.

Scene : This SHORT story takes place somewhere in end of book 4. I changed the content of their conversation (for obvious reason : I couldn't read Chinese =_= so don't sue me)

EDIT! : THANK YOU SO MUCH TO shizukanii-san for the Beta!

That night, the wind felt cool to the touch. When was the last time Sakuragi appreciated a night like this, enjoying the breeze and smoking his cancer stick with no steel walls around him?

"Sakuragi-kun?"

He blinked and looked back. Koike was staring at him with her concerned eyes again. For someone who only spoke when necessary, the older teen smiled at her. It was a small smile but it managed to ease her worry a little.

Feeling a bit bolder, Koike came closer to sit beside him, "How... how is your hand?"

Sakuragi blinked, unconsciously clenching and unclenching his bandaged hand. In order to protect Mario from being stabbed by Ishihara, Sakuragi blocked the knife with his palm. Literally. Now, not only did he have a hole in his palm (due to the knife) there might have been a possibility that the boxer couldn't use his dominant hand anymore. But, it was alright. Sakuragi wouldn't mind losing his whole arm, if it meant sparing his friends' lives.

"It's fine." He answered her.

The anesthetics died out, the familiar stinging pain flooded across his veins like waves. The youth had a hard time holding his chopsticks during dinner. But pain is a feeling that his body was well-acquainted with. Honestly speaking, the stab wound in his palm was nothing compared to the months of torture from Ishihara. That sadistic freak.

"Its fine," he repeated, "after all, you were the one who stitched and tended my wounds."

Koike blushed again because of his gentle smile.

"Oh... okay. That's good to hear," she nodded, "I'll try to bring back more bandages tomorrow. The Head Nurse was really strict with the equipment and supplies because this month's shipment was delayed."

Everything was quiet for a while except for the noisy crickets.

"We... um... we may be able to see... the fireflies," Koike spoke up, unable to bear the silence any longer. "the nice old woman who owned the supermarket store told me that we can view the pretty fireflies here...even though there are 3 more weeks before summer ..."

Sakuragi tilted his head to the side, "Is that so?"

"Ye-yeah. Speaking of summer, I've been really angry at my parents since last summer! I was so busy at the hospital last year that I didn't get to spend my summer holidays as well as visit my parents. To make up for it, I called them, but instead of giving me the chance to explain my situation, my mom scolded me about not quitting my job as a nurse!"

"Why?"

"Because she can't wait to start the marriage ceremony! Can you believe that? Marriage! It's always been about marriage ever since I turned 15! My parents have been pestering me to meet at least one of their selected bachelors since I turned 10!"

The young nurse calmed herself. She was embarrassed. Her whining and complaints must have made her look unladylike.

"I mean," she faked a cough. "I do understand why my mother urged me to get married soon. After all, I am an only child and they want a secure future for me. They're still horrified that the hospital will be bombarded by the soldiers... they're just... scared... ah! Why am I rambling on and on? Sorry, you must be bored to death hearing about my mundane life!"

Again, Sakuragi only smiled at her with a small chuckle... before silence returned again.

The smell of tobacco wafted into the air as Sakuragi lit one. It was one of the few 'treasures' that Suppon gave him before the brat left.

Koike wasn't sure if she should continue to sit next him. Sakuragi was a man who had a mature heart and loyalty that was deeper than the blue sea. From the tales that Mario narrated, she couldn't believe her ears. The unnecessary but harsh punishment administrated by Ishihara was horrific beyond common sense. Why? How can that man commit such heartless and cruel acts against this teenager?

By now she felt embarrassed! Sakuragi must have thought she was an immature child, throwing tantrums over a trivial matter such as marriage. Compared to what torturous punishments Sakuragi had gone through the past 2 years, her 'suffering' was laughable. Feeling embarrassed and ashamed, Koike was about to make up an excuse to leave.

"My mother... never pestered us about marriage." Sakuragi suddenly spoke up.

Koike blinked and sat down after dusting off her skirt, "that's nice. I wish your mother could meet up with my mom. That way she would see that not all parents have to force their kids to get married. Does your mother like Chinese Red Tea? My mom recently bought a variety of tea leaves. If your mom DOES decide to visit us, let me inform her beforehand about what to expect from my mother. For one thing, my mom loves to show off her expensive collection of Western teapots to our guests and then she... "

She trailed off, face beet red from embarrassment. There she goes again! Chattered like a noisy bird, Sakuragi must have thought she was the type of girl who loves to gossip!

"Sorry again, you must be annoyed at me now…" she covered her face in shame.

The other teen chuckled again, "It's nice to be lively."

"Ah... no... I actually just said what came to my mind. I kept on rambling and sometimes it annoys people. My late grandmother used to scold me about not being more graceful and ladylike. Like mom, my late grandma always talked about marriage and how to become the perfect wife! While all I wanted to do was help save people's lives! That's why I became a nurse! Marriage is not everything, I can support myself. "

Sakuragi stared at her for a moment before looking away. Maybe it was her imagination but she thought she saw sadness from those piercing silver eyes.

"My mother...never pestered us about marriage. She simply allowed us to do whatever we wanted to do with a warm smile on her face. Even when my first brother declared he wanted to join the Axis forces...and then my second brother... and then my third and fourth brother... and lastly my old man. As long as I could remember, my mother would send each of them off with a smile at the doorway..."

"Sakuragi-kun..." After what Sakuragi told her of his past in the hospital room, she knew how painful it must have been to lose your brothers to the atrocities of War. Even his father, who survived the war... was no longer the father that Sakuragi remembered...

"Mother... prayed for them every morning. I used to stare at her frail back as she bowed before the altar. Sometimes I wonder what she was thinking... I never saw her cry..."

"Even when I was sent to the Shōnan Special Reform School, without fail, my mother would visit me once a month. Asking about my health and laughed when I told her about the 6 monkey boys I recently made friends with. She thought Suppon and Joe were adorable and she pitied Mario and Baremoto... As if she was talking to me on the phone rather than at that damp room where the guard stared at us like hawks... I still remember that day, two years ago, when she first visited me. Her gentle smile didn't make me feel relief at all. Instead I felt very guilty. She never stared at me with disappointment. She never raised her voice with contempt or blamed me for what I did. She never even questioned why I was sent to that Special Reform School... that hell hole."

"Sakuragi-kun..."

"I just... don't get it... she has every right... to be angry! To be disappointed! Anything! So, why? Why didn't she beat me? Why did she force herself to smile and pretend nothing happened? Her gentle voice and her caring words... racked me with guilt... I'm so angry at myself... I knew, after my old man passed away, mother has had a difficult life. It's not about financial problems but about the attitude of our neighbours. There wasn't a more enjoyable past time than to ridicule someone unfortunate, only to please each other about their luck. My only regret for being locked up in that hell hole... I couldn't protect her... the last words my father told me was to take care and protect her... and yet... and yet I... I was..."

The young nurse suddenly stood up and stretched her arms wide. To his surprise, she smile warmly at him, "Sakuragi-kun, do you know the story about the Rabbit in the Moon?"

The youth was a bit startled. When was the last time he heard a folktale?

The girl giggled at his baffled expression, "Next time when my mom invites your mom for tea, I'll tell you the story."

She came closer and cupped his face in her hands, "Now listen to me, Sakuragi-kun." When his sad eyes stared at her brown orbs, she shortened the gap between their faces. Eyes to eyes, nose to nose.

"Your mother... was really concerned about you, Sakuragi-kun. That's why she came to visit you. To her, you always will be her beloved child. No matter what you do, she knew in her heart that there's a very concrete reason as to why you were jailed. Your mother kept smiling because it's her way of saying 'everything is okay. I'm fine'. She knows how much you deeply care about her and how protective you are about her state of being. Which is why she smiled when she saw you in that damp room; she laughed when you told her about your friends and she made you promise to take care of yourself."

Koike may have looked serious then, but deep inside, her heart beat like a drum! What the hell was she thinking? Suddenly touching Sakuragi's face and talking to him like she was the older one. Well, she'd panic later. Now, she needed to drill into this boy's mind that not every mother is a sadist.

"Sakuragi-kun, I believe that what your mother wished to tell you back then was to stop blaming yourself. She wished that you weren't so harsh on yourself. You didn't do anything wrong. Even the death of your own father was NOT your fault..."

Those exquisite sharp eyes gleamed like silver under the moonlight.

Koike blushed, she felt like she was falling in love with Sakuragi all over again.

She smiled and moved her hands to grasp his trembling shoulders, and injected warmth to them, "In the past, I tried my best to treat the wounds of our patients. But there are always some wounds that can never heal, no matter how much medicine and bandages are wasted."

Her right palm caressed down to the left side of his broad chest. "The only wounds that doctors couldn't heal are the wounds of the heart and soul. Those boys I met, even though they were physically healthy and strong... I could see that their spirits are no better than the soldiers who returned from war. They resembled dolls rather than humans. The reason why those boys seemed so lifeless was because they told me about their parents. These parents disowned those boys because they couldn't bear the shame. While in fact those boys committed petty crimes out of desperation, but the parents don't understand. After our humiliating defeat from the war and the bombings... nobody is sane anymore. Desperate mothers who lost their husbands to the war, lost their homes to the war, lost their sanity... everything... "

Koike bit her lower lip, remembering all the sad tales that her former patients told her.

"But your mother, Sakuragi-kun, she didn't lose her sanity."

Feeling bold, she came closer and hugged him, letting his head rest on her chest. "The PROOF that she didn't lose her sanity to the grief of losing her husband and sons... is her smile. YOU, off all people should... should know better than anyone when your mother is pretending or not pretending to smile. You thought she was forcing herself to smile, are you sure about that?"

The boy looked up at her with astonishment.

"Are you sure she was just putting on a mask of pretense?"

Sakuragi's downcast eyes answered her question.

"I'm definitely sure that your mother cherishes and loves you more than any woman can in this whole world. Her smile is her strength. She's trying her best, trying her hardest not to break down and be haunted by grief. I'm sure she did cry, but she's a strong woman. I can't really explain how I know this... Maybe because I am a woman too, I know your mother... no matter what you've done, will welcome you with open arms, no apologies needed..."

Sakuragi bowed his head, clenching his bandaged fist.

The young nurse felt like crying too. But she wouldn't, there was still something that she needed to tell him.

Caressing his soft raven hair, she whispered to him, "Will you... allow me to love you too?"

Sakuragi widened his eyes in surprise.

"I actually... love you... Rokurouta..."

Sakuragi stared at this girl who smiled sweetly at him (even though her cheeks were painted pink like cherries). Nobody had called him his first name other than his parents... Now his father had passed away and only his mother would called him that way...

Sakuragi smiled and caressed her pink cheeks, "Thank you..."

Koike felt like she was about to faint! Their eyes met for a long time, mesmerized by each others presence. It was Sakuragi who moved first by gently pushing her down.

Her arms wrapped around his neck, "I love you..."

Rokurouta smiled and answered his mutual feelings to her by sealing their lips together.

Up in the sky, the moon shone brightly.

Like a mother's smile.

The End.