A month had passed since Ryu went off to University. Even though she spent her days at Uncle's, In the hustle and bustle of the ramen shop, the weeks seemed to grow increasingly lonely with his absence. To top it off, she had been losing sleep. She didn't feel tired. But she didn't feel awake, either. Distracted, Chizu yelped as she ruined another bowl of ramen by letting the grease-cloth dip into the broth.

"Careful, Chizu-chan! That's the third bowl today!"

"I know, Uncle. I'm sorry. My head's just not here today."

"Are you tired?" He asked, concerned. He mopped the sweat off his brow with the corner of his apron. "Maybe you should turn in early and get some rest."

Chizu glanced uncertainly at the customers occupying the shop.

"I can take care of them," He assured her. "Not many people come after dinner, just the odd late worker here and there."

"Well, okay." Chizu sighed. "I guess I'm pretty tired." She wiped her forehead as well.

"In that case, why don't you stay the night? You can have Ryu's room. Feel free to use the bath, too. It's hotter than a forge in here."

Chizu smiled. "Thank you, Uncle. I think I will stay. You don't mind, do you?"

"Not at all!" The man grinned. "You're the daughter I never had."

Smiling wearily, Chizu nodded and thanked him, ascending into the house. She did use the bath, and boy did it feel good. Uncle was right, some days she felt more like a blacksmith's apprentice than a ramen chef's apprentice. Washing all traces of grease and sweat thoroughly from her body, she then faced a dilemma. All of her clothes were dirty, and she really didn't want to put them back on.

"Well...Ryu wouldn't mind if I borrowed something."

She tiptoed out of the bathroom in only a towel, carrying her dirty things at arm's length. Safely in Ryu's room, she pillaged his closet and drawers until a suitable ensemble was found. She settled on a huge thin acrylic sweater, well-worn, threadbare, and most importantly, soft. She snagged a pair of Ryu's basketball shorts as well (they reached her knees!) and wearily crawled into bed.

Wearing Ryu's clothes, and drawing his blankets about her body, she took comfort in the embrace of his scent, which still lingered in the disused room. Burying her head in his pillow, she fell into a deep, comfortable sleep.


Finally, Ryu thought, he was home. He hadn't called in advance because he wanted to surprise Chizuru, and he knew his father couldn't keep such a secret from her to save his life. He crept inside, extremely tired. University proved taxing, and though he missed Chizuru, all he really wanted at the moment was a good night's sleep. The house was dark and quiet.

He removed his shoes, ascended the stairs, approached his door, and stepped in something cold and damp. Glancing down, by the light of a streetlamp streaming through the hall window he could see water on the floor, just a few drips, strewn between the bathroom and...his bedroom. Curious.

Ryu reached out and opened the door. The silhouette on his bed emerged slowly as he waited for his eyes to adjust. First a shape, then the wrinkles of bedclothes, then the frame of a woman that he knew all too well. He approached the bed, wondering if this was another dream.

"Chizuru?"

She did not stir.

Ryu knelt by the mattress and gently stroked her hair. It was damp. That explained the water. He tucked some loose pieces behind her ear.

"Chizuru? What are you doing in my bed?"

She stirred a little.

Ryu rubbed her shoulder rhythmically, gently rocking her. She was a sound sleeper.

"Chizuru?"

This time, she opened her eyes.

"Wha...Ryu?" Her eyes opened fully and she sat up too quickly, making her head spin.

"What are you doing in my bed, Chizuru?"

She didn't answer his question. Her eyes watered. She smacked him on the shoulder.

"I missed you, darn you!"

Chizuru threw her arms around his neck. Ryu's mouth twitched as he returned the embrace. She felt thinner. bone-weary. He frowned, pressing his face to the crook of her neck, inhaling the scent of her skin.

"I missed you, too."

Chizu's face flushed when Ryu changed in front of her unabashedly, but she couldn't think of any outraged retorts.

Pulling back the covers, he stepped clean over her and slid in beside her on the narrow mattress.

"Why didn't you just get in on the other side?" She inquired, finding her voice.

"Because this is how we always sleep." He replied, as though the answer was obvious.

Chizu blanched as she remembered all the other times she'd shared a bed with Ryu. Sleeping with a boy all the time? Was she really that much of a slut?

Chizu smacked Ryu on the arm again.

"And what was that for?"

"For implying that I'm a loose woman."

Ryu was silent for a moment.

"Only if you sleep with more than one man."

"WHAT?! I'd never! ...!"

"Good."

Furious, she flopped back onto the bed and pressed as closely to his chest as possible. His muscles felt a bit firmer...his new coaches must be working him hard. She sighed and made herself comfortable, closing her eyes. As they drifted off to sleep she felt it necessary to interject one more time.

"You're infuriating, Ryu."

"I love you too, Chizuru."


Um...AHEM! Why aren't you reviewing? ;)