Author's Note: This story sort of burbled in my mind and refused to let me go, even though I should be studying Orgo at the moment. Ah wells. Perhaps I have been inspired by my daily commute by train to school. (And yes, I am taking summer classes. Not a good idea on my part.) Please do review and give me something cheery – I need something in my life other than the dreariness of cycloalkanes!


They have all grown up. It has been so many years and it was inevitable that they would stumble away from each other like blinded strangers, blinking away the remnants of nostalgia.

She is the first to break away and somehow, this is not surprising. She is good at playing tough, if only because she believes that indifference is a safer alternative to the unpredictability of real emotions. She is not courageous. When she is afraid, she will run and hide, for all her enthusiasm for battle.

Blood is easier to handle. She cannot abide tears.

So, when her mother announces that they are leaving Japan, she does not argue. She makes a packing list and starts packing, neatly crossing off every item on the list as she goes along. It is a methodical process which prevents her from thinking. And anyway, she is very good at crossing things out. She is almost proud of her organizational skills, in spite of her awful packing.

When she leaves, she does not leave a goodbye note or an address. She tells herself that they'd just be a pain and that international calls would be too expensive but really, all she wants is an excuse. She does not want to think about their expressions when they find out that she's gone.

She waits on the railway platform where she has often stood, many years ago. She has returned, ostensibly to visit. If she is nostalgic, she does not acknowledge it to herself. She is also very good at killing ghosts.

She is older now and lovely. It is a fact that she steadfastly dismisses, in spite of all of Rumiko's earnest moans about "wasted opportunities." She could not help her looks; her upturned chin and cool amethyst eyes do not endear her to many. She does not have the softness that redeems her mother's beauty; her own style of slim stateliness was quite easy to dislike.

She gazes pensively at the train which is approaching too-slowly and sighs softly, blinking hard.

She tells herself that it is only the train smoke that is making her eyes water.

It is quiet on the train. So early in the morning, it is unsurprising. She is grateful for this small blessing; she has always been fond of silences. She leans her head against the window, wishing only that the train would never stop.

As he steps onto the train, his cerulean eyes carelessly survey the emptiness and settle upon the lone girl with dark auburn hair. He only knows one girl with hair like that.

Joy, it suits his handsome face better than anything else. He is grinning now, although astonishment remains tucked into the corners of his lips.

Staring so intently out of the window, she has not noticed him. He takes advantage of this to maneuver his way quickly to her, all the while regretting that he was never very good at witty one-liners. It was always her forte. He slid in next to her, still smiling.

She feels his approach more than anything else. She is still prickly all over, even haughty now. She does not know it is him, only that there is a stranger who has inexplicably chosen a seat next to her, out of all the empty seats in the train. She grimaces, mentally preparing a scalding speech, and turns to face him with flashing eyes.

He realizes at this moment that he had never seen Makino Ruki surprised, not until now. It somehow does not fit with the cool curves of her face.

"Fancy seeing you here, Ruki dear." He slips into the comfort of first names with ease, blithely ignoring how her eyes muddle with confusion at this additional affront. He waits for her to recover; she is usually good at stoicism but she seems off today. He forgets that it has been years and that she might have changed.

"Akiyama," she acknowledges finally. If she is not calm, at least she is no longer overwhelmingly shocked. She decides that annoyance is the safest emotion to wear and she dons it quickly, lest he discover the vulnerability of her nakedness.

"It's been a while," he says. Traces of his smile still linger about his mouth but he is getting ready to be serious. She winces inwardly but does not bat an eye as he continues. "I expect you have a lot to tell me."

"No," she corrects him coolly, "I don't." She pauses as she turns away to look out the window. She cannot look him in the eye. "But I will say that I've missed everyone…I didn't want to leave. My mother wanted to." She does not give an explanation for the lack of goodbyes and he understands. He still understands after all these years. He stretches ostentatiously in the seat, brushing her shoulder carefully for a millisecond, jubilant when she does not knock him away.

"Even me, Ruki-chan?" He relishes the term of endearment even though he knows that it will enrage her. He has discerned enough to recognize that she has not changed. She quivers angrily and quickly turns back to him to reprimand him before she is startled by his face, suddenly too close to hers.

"I'll just assume yes," he cheerily murmurs. She can feel his warm breath, tickling her cheek. "So why are you here?"

She doesn't know herself so she stays resolutely silent. She had come with vague thoughts of redemption and forgiveness, aching with wistfulness. She misses them, who they were, and who she used to be when she was with them.

He smiles as if he knows before throwing a lazy arm around her unyielding shoulders. She does not protest although she grumbles inwardly about presumptuous Japanese lads. She does not admit to herself that it is an oddly pleasant feeling.

"I knew it then, you've come to confess your undying love for me at long last!"

She gives him a searing look, which only seems to amuse him.

"Don't kid yourself, Akiyama."

It is a long conversation, halting because she wants to seem reluctant and disinterested, but Ryou enthusiastically plunges into every topic he can think of. He wants her to know everything, to not feel as if she had not been gone for so-and-so years. Hirokazu and Kenta are the same as ever, Shiuchon has grown into quite a young lady – Jenrya has not quite come to terms with the realization…she is eventually pulled into the conversation in spite of herself.

She notices that she has missed her stop but does not say anything. He appears to have no destination, only ready to please her with gleaming teeth and meaningful cerulean eyes.

He has forgotten that he had somewhere to go.

They talk so long that the train finally reaches their last stop. The calm conductor's announcement is sobering. As they automatically get up together and exit the train, Ryou cocks a bright eye at her. "Well, is this your stop, miss? Rather far, have you even been here when you didlive in Japan?"

She raises a lazy eyebrow. "And what about you, Akiyama? Got a stupid girl to visit or something?" She sounds carefully bored.

He laughs brilliantly. "Don't be ridiculous, pumpkin. You know you're the only girl in my life. Now, be a good fellow and let's frolic to Juri's house. I'm sure we can call the gang together again." He grabs her arm with alacrity, just so that she cannot get away (again).

"Now, Ruki dear, let's catch the next train back home."