A/N: After reading the manga and watching the anime a few times, this story just started writing itself. Maybe it was with the depressing songs I've been listening to these past few days, but regardless, I hope it's okay!

"So, you did become a lawyer!"

He paused and looked at her, confused by her sudden statement.

Did I know you? Did you know me? There's something dear and so, so precious that I've been searching for all this time and I don't know where or who it is. Is it you?

Ever since that day—that day when everything had passed by with an eerie sense of calm, and something innate had told him that this was not natural—there had been something missing in him, as if a piece of his soul had broken apart. Desperately, he searched for the missing part of himself. At times, he imagined himself as a puzzle with a missing piece, forever doomed to be incomplete.

The feeling had lasted for sixteen years. He had given up countless times throughout that time. He had tried to appease himself: this feeling, he had explained to himself time and time again, was a byproduct of his stress. A monster of his own, created by his own disenchantment. Being a lawyer was not as fulfilling as he had imagined during his youth, after all, and there was usually more bad than good that came up with the job: clients that wouldn't listen to him, paperwork that seemed to soar through the roof, utter idiocy on a daily basis, and far too much stress than one should go through.

No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't find anything wrong with his past: his parents were not a problem (because of his apparent lack of it), his upbringing was not at all horrible, and there was nothing for him to regret or feel that horrible about. There was nothing that was even the slightest bit strange. There was nothing in his memories that haunted him, no specific regrets—everything had gone its course, and God knows how much he had hoped it would occur. What else could he possibly wish for?

But there it was, that feeling that left him feeling hollow and utterly desolate: that nagging feeling at the back of his head, a feeling that told him that he had lost something utterly precious and so, so beautiful to him.

Oh, he wouldn't kid himself. He had dated plenty of women during the while, hoping that physical contact would lessen the ache in his heart when he was in his study, all by himself. Kiyokazu had never been a pure soul, and he didn't deny the fact that physical pleasure was something he craved. It curbed the feeling of emptiness in his heart, and if it was coupled with alcohol, the feeling dulled completely and disappeared for at least a few hours. The only feeling that came up in the mornings after was a mix of regret and abject self-loathing.

But he wasn't in his twenties any longer. For heaven's sake, he was thirty-six. He couldn't drown himself in alcohol—he had spent too much time earning money for his education to do that—and he wasn't going to throw himself down the drain by indulging himself in momentary pleasures.

She spoke again. His heart thumped painfully in his chest.

"I'm sorry—I don't know what I was saying."

He smiled wanly and watched her. "If I may ask, what business do you have at the Nursery?"

She smiled. His breath hitched in his throat.

"I heard that the nursery is looking for helpers, and I was wondering if I could apply for the position," she explained. A distant look in her eyes appeared for a short while, and he felt something tighten in his heart.

This was wrong. He examined her, eying the high school uniform that she was wearing. She was a high school student. Seventeen at the oldest, and he was far too old for this bullshit. This girl in front of him had too much—vivacity, happiness, things that he wished for, but could only see from afar—and he wasn't going to do anything to her. He couldn't: she was so pure, and here he was, old and so tainted, and...

"That uniform—you're a high school student," he stated blankly. What else was there to say? He tipped his head slightly and turned. There was nothing more to say, or do.

Taking a step, his breath—

You were the one I was looking for, these past sixteen years. Where were you? Why did you appear, why are you here now you're here, you're here you're here you're here in front of me, you're real and tangible and here and you're here, you're here


—hitched in his throat.

For a second, he forgot how to breathe.

Then he turned, looking at her for the first time in sixteen years.

He was absolutely entranced by her pale pink hair that tumbled in the wind, those brilliant glassy eyes that were so innocent and inquisitive that it felt like he was committing a sin just by thinking of them, even that damn dog plushie that she had carried with her everywhere.

"Kobato," he whispered out loud. The name felt so right on his tongue.

Suddenly, panic surged through his mind. Did she forget? What if he was the only one left with those memories, those idyllic days with her and the children and the soothing heat of the sun?

Instantly, he berated himself. He had forgotten as well—who was he to hope for her remembrance? He felt something bitter course through his veins.

He needed her. He had needed her, these sixteen years. She had stolen his heart and had never given it back.

"You're late." She was sixteen years too late, but it was never too late for her to come to him. He would wait a hundred years, a thousand years, but these last sixteen years had hurt so, so much. He would wait forever, but now that he knew what he was searching for...

"I'm not late! I just—Fujimoto-san, you meanie!"

Would she say the same thing? Or was she innately different?


A pause.

Please, please let her remember. Please, please—

"The one I've loved all this time is finally here."

Her doe-like eyes widened with in recognition. He felt his heart stutter in his chest. He grabbed her arm and pulled her towards himself, scared that this was all an illusion and she was going to disappear any second. He rested his chin on her soft, pale pink hair and inhaled, persuading himself that this was all real. The small, frail form of the girl he loved was pressed against his body, and she was real, he could feel her inhale and exhale, softly but steadily against his chest.

"I love you, Kobato." So, so much. I love you so much, I'm sorry, I'm sorry I couldn't say that all those years ago. Forgive me, please, stay here, with me, don't go, you'll be here right? I love you, I love you I love you I love you I love you.

He finally said it.

It had taken 5840 days of hopeless searching to reach this point. He had given up too many times to count during the while, and he was not going to let this chance slide by.

Five thousand, eight hundred and forty days. One hundred forty thousand, one hundred and sixty hours. Eight million, four hundred and nine thousand, six hundred seconds.

"I love you."

It was a rather poorly written story on my part, but I hope it was okay! Please read and review!