Learn By Heart

Characters and plot belong to their rightful owners.

Seventeen years down the road, when they have been happily married for eight years, the youngest that Naoki would let them—"Never! Never is too soon to marry away my precious daughter!"—the topic finally comes up.

The story is famous. All of their friends know it. They all like to look back on how it turned out.

Still, they look at each other will secret eyes, smile indulgently and recount the tale one more time. They like to make a spectacle of it. That is, after all, what they're famous for. At the same time, it's a sad story—for what almost didn't happen, and for what did happen.

It's always hard to share, but without fail, they do.

When the company is gone and all the dishes are put away, he finds Uru in the kitchen.

He slides up behind her; wraps her in his arms tight.

This is where he becomes fully hers. This is where his emotions melt and he becomes the man that only she knows.

Neither of them say anything. Just embrace and think about what's been done.

It's always a bit painful after, even when years have soothed away the outermost burns of the pain that rages in her heart, the part that will always belong to the "what if"s and the memories.

The part that will always belong to Shindou.

They visit his grave the next day. It rains. The grey damper of the day seems infectious and follows them home.

Ichirou is reading when Uru finds him.

She comes with hot chocolate, and Ichirou remembers all—every single one—of the reasons why Uru is the cutest, most amazing person in the world (and he's not being biased).

"I love you," Uru smiles.

Ichirou remembers everything in explicit detail. He remembers the first time he met Uru, the first time he thought she was cute. Remembers saying "I do" and meaning it with every atom of his being. But most of all, he remembers stealing Uru from Shindou: remembers the promise he swore to uphold.

To take care of, protect, to never let down.

And he thinks of Shindou, unable to say it in his grave.

So he smiles; pulls her down.

But mostly, he's thinking of himself when he says,

"I love you."

And a kiss seals the deal.

(I've always rooted for Ichirou. I don't believe in Shindou/Uru, but I can't see Ichirou and Uru getting together without Shindou dying, which is a horrible thought, because I really like Shindou-but not as a love interest. So this is a slap-dash, happy-but-sad production. Enjoy?)