Author's note: Aki's strange behavior on desserts, answered!

Chapter 3

"It's Thuuuuuuursday!" From behind Akihiko, a pair of small hands clamped on top of Akihiko's shoulders with a thwap.

Akihiko stood at his usual meeting place in one of the winding and many hallways at Gekkoukan High. He turned and chuckled at Minako's exuberant greeting which definitely signaled the end of the school day. "Why yes, I believe the students caught on to that this morning."

"But you know what today is, right?"

"Thursday." Akihiko spoke plainfaced.

"Your promise to go to the Sweet Shop. Whirly Heaven, Whirly Heaveeeen." Minako couldn't stop herself from bouncing on the spot.

"Right." The same enigmatic cloudy expression from Monday clouded his face.

"Look, I know you're not a big advocate of sweets, but you don't need to eat one. You can watch me eat." Minako hoped her joking broke Akihiko out of whatever funk he fell into. Maybe junk food was not the way to this guy's heart today. But that odd expression on his face was the same as on Monday.

Akihiko's eyes cleared of doubt and he really looked at her. "Then I'll go home if that's all I have to entertain me." He didn't grin, but his voice was filled with humorous intent.

Minako sighed, liking how he wandered back from his deep thoughts. "No way, Sanada." She grasped his arm.

He was surprised at the movement, glancing at their connection as she began to tug him to walk.

It took 10 minutes to reach the shop. As they approached the glass door, Akihiko stopped. Uncertainty reigned over his body as he stiffened. "Y'know, I'll wait out here."

Minako paused with him. The same preoccupied expression from before clouded his face. This strange laconic phase was starting to goad her patience.

"Is it me?" A brainstorm caused Minako to blurt out. She'd get him to talk.

"What?" Akihiko stared in confoundment.

"Do you not want to be seen here with me?" Minako turned around, as if angry. "If you hate coming here, you should have said so." She waited, expecting a backfire. Akihiko seriously worried her. In the spur of the moment, she silently prayed he wouldn't stalk off from her presumed annoyance.

"It's not you. I'm not bothered by you." Akihiko sounded as muddled as her thoughts. What was wrong with him?

"Did you want to come here with another girl? I'm sorry to interrupt your plans if that is the case." Use the sullen card. Good one.

Now Akihiko stayed completely silent. Now Minako was as puzzled as ever. There wasn't another girl, was there? Minako wasn't one to accuse him of cheating left and right, but his peculiar answers were stirring up those conclusions.

"I did."

Minako's blood chilled in her veins. Was this real? Was this Akihiko someone else? Her ruse wasn't intended to go in this kind of morbid direction.

She had to see him, to confirm if he told the truth or if he made up a sick joke. Minako sure had no idea by hearing his voice alone. She exhaled the breath she held and turned back. His reaction startled Minako.

Pain filled Akihiko from top to bottom, his eyes drawn and fists clenched.

A sinking feeling pulled at Minako's insides. Suddenly, coming here wasn't about buying confections anymore.

It took effort for Akihiko to form the name. It wasn't loud at all, barely a whisper, but Minako caught it.

Miki. His late sister.

The act of jealousy and insecure emotions dropped. Minako stepped forward and closed the space between them. Her forehead rested on his chest and her eyes closed. Her hands did not touch his, but hovered in reach. Akihiko's rapid heartbeat pulsed within his still body.

Minako wanted the right words to form, felt apology about to reach her lips, but backed down. Remorse for what? For her irrational fears? For bringing him here? For his hurt? Minako knew he had lost his sister, but she didn't pry about the circumstances so Minako's knowledge limited to just that.

Akihiko seemed to know the choice for he eventually found voice. "Sorry I didn't say anything. Coming to the shop didn't seem such a big deal at school. I do want to take you there."

"We can leave. I had no clue this place meant so much to you." Minako lifted her head, saw his soulful gaze looking right into her. She sensed his warmth for her and for a girl she would never meet. A girl who held a dear spot in Akihiko's life whom Minako could not deny by throwing a temper, faked or not.

"It's ok."

"No, I'll drop by another day. How about we go to the shopping district?" The thought of tearing open Akihiko's wound of the absent Miki caused her teeth to chatter.

Akihiko slipped his gloved hand on the back of her neck, staying her. A slight tremble radiated from those fingers but his quiet determination held fast. "We'll go in. I want to tell you more about her." His caressing thumb lightly squeezed. "Besides, I have a promise to fulfill."

Minako stared at the blinding red of his vest and concentrated on the gentle pressure on her skin and the breaths between them. Akihiko was going to introduce Miki to her. When at last she met his grey eyes and nodded, Akihiko smiled.

Taking her palm into his own, Akihiko became the guide towards the bakery. And he started a tale.

"Once, Miki bought a Whirly Heaven home for me..."