It has been so long since I've posted here, this feels a bit strange. Just so you know, I have hit a bit of a rocky patch and am not writing at present, though I am continuing to upload my stories at your fanfiction . com (take out the spaces) under the pennames DontPreach and CerberusRevised

I am still reading on FF though and found myself wondering the other day what had happened to all the excellent Egoist writers who had been populating this fandom? (There's no Terrorist these days either it seems.) I had about given up hope when the lovely Panda sent me this piece as a cheer up present.

Just so you know this piece is all Panda. My contribution to this lovely fic which is the sequel to "The Dark and the Sweet" was about three words.

Panda wanted me to mention a special thanks in this piece to Ego and Psyche for her amazing reviews and said that these have helped spur her on to write. Though if I may interject myself, I would like to thank Kristinxx for her insightful review of "On the Level" also.

I hope you enjoy this. I certainly did.

Miss you all and hope to get back to updating soon.


Sweet Recollections

"Adults... what is up with them?" A ten-year-old Kamijou Hiroki muttered under his breath.

The young Kamijou was walking home from another music lesson, recalling his encounters with the "adults" that day that had made him rather introspective.

That morning at school, his PE teacher, a bright-looking man in his forties, had emphasized the importance of a healthy life. "Smoking will kill you faster than any bullet train."

During lunch break, Hiroki had found the man smoking in the roof.

When Hiroki scolded the older man to practice his own words, the teacher looked at him with wry amusement. "The world is not that black or white, Kamijou-kun. You will understand when you grow up."

What's that supposed to mean?

Arriving home, Hiroki had found to his utter surprise that his mother, despite her constant preaching of the value of money and of how much hard work must be put to earn a penny, had gone and bought a grand piano.

"It's for you, Hiro-chan. So you can practice better," she had said smilingly while fondly wiping the piano off of an imaginary dust.

Somehow Hiroki had difficulty believing that his benefits were first priority.

"I can practice with the piano at school. What happened with 'we must spend our money wisely'?" Hiroki hadn't meant to sound petulant. True, the Kamijou family was well-off, but the lady Kamijou had been raised with a grandfather that had survived the World War. Because of this, he had always exercised careful expense of his allowance.

"Ah, Hiro-chan, sometimes we can let ourselves enjoy the privilege of self-indulgence. Life is hard as it is and we should grab happiness when we come across it. You might not understand this now, but you will. Also, this beauty makes great sounds. Would you like to hear?" The lady didn't wait for her son's response and sat gracefully in front of the piano.

Hiroki wanted to further argue. The day before he had accidentally heard his mother confiding to his father that her friend in the ikebana society had recently come into the possession of the most exclusive Stradivarius, disregarding the fact that it had been found a hoax not long after. Hiroki was sure this had everything to do with the majestic item in the living room.

However, once his mother started producing the sweetest and most delightful sounds he had ever heard (not even his piano tutor could produce sounds like that), the young Kamijou had been rendered speechless.

Engrossed as he was, Hiroki didn't realize his mother had stopped playing until he felt a gentle rub on his brown head.

"Hiro-chan is so adorable. Here, a present. For listening to me." The lady quickly offered her fair-skinned hand before Hiroki had the time to utter his usual "I'm not adorable" and "Don't call me –chan" retort.

Drawing himself back from the wondrous world of a heavenly-played Für Elise, Hiroki looked at what was on his mother's palm and frowned. "I don't like sweets."

The lady smiled, "Just because you don't like sweets doesn't mean you don't need it. A little sugar is good for your body. And heart." she winked.

"Huh?" The ten-year old further furrowed his brows.

Seeing Hiroki's incomprehension on the logic, the Lady smiled and continued, "you'll understand when you grow up. Now, just take it and off you go. You'll be late to your piano lesson if you don't hurry."

"And whose fault is that?" Hiroki muttered under his breath, picking up the blue-colored package from the extended hand. At the door, he turned and saw his mother smiling.

"Just for the record, I'm not adorable. I'm ten years old." Then he added, "and I don't like sweets. But thank you." Hiroki nodded as he ignored the broadening smile on his mother's face at his exclamation and softly closed the door.

At the music center where he was taking piano lessons, on his way out of the building Hiroki had overheard a young instructor profusely praising a junior high school girl who had been practicing violin. Even at ten, he could tell that the girl played horribly.

Hiroki was aware that positive reinforcement was necessary in the teaching-learning process (the girl looked so nervous she had tears in her eyes), and so had wanted to begrudgingly let it pass. But he snapped when the instructor said, "you are the most gifted student in this institution."

Without further ado, Hiroki knocked at the open door and in a measured tone politely suggested that the instructor should get his ears checked and the girl should get a new instructor. It was not until he heard a forced cough from his side that he realized the girl's father had been watching.

The commotion arising from his well-meant intervention had kept him from going back home at his usual hour. He had been called to the center manager's office and received some "adult talk".

"We appreciate your being honest, Kamijou-kun, but there are things that can be said differently to make the truths feel less painful. You will understand when you grow up." The manager's smile did not reach his eyes when he said this. "It's late now, so you'd better get going."

Again with the "You will understand when you grow up" crap!

Hiroki wanted to further argue, but there was something in the way the manager looked that had stopped him. The older man seemed so weary. His eyes reminded Hiroki of a scene he had witnessed out in the neighborhood the other day of a man whose restaurant had been closed by force. He recalled the man standing out on the sidewalk with his weeping wife and wide-eyed children, telling his family that everything would be alright. Remembering this, Hiroki then decided to hold his fiery tongue and politely excused himself.

Not that he hadn't been seething all the way home.

What is up with the adults these days... they say one thing and mean the other...

His recent discoveries only added to his quickly thinning trust of "adults." The rumors of ghosts haunting the school after dark had been spread by the teachers so the students wouldn't linger (he was not afraid of ghosts); when someone said "hate", they meant "love", (he had seen a senior high school girl shout this to a young man and, despite what she had said, the girl suddenly flung her arms around the man and they had kissed fervently... in public!); and that Santa Claus did not exist (Really? So why hang a huge red sock up at all?). Hiroki had no idea why the adults kept telling these so-called truths when they weren't the truth at all.

Will I be that kind of adult? No, of course not. When I grow up, I will be a good and responsible adult. I will not lie and always say the things I want to say. I will use this experience as a life lesson so I won't make the same mistake. Yosh, Hiroki, you are ten years old now. You are no longer a kid. And you are the heir of the Kamijou House. You will be a responsible adult, starting now!

Pleased with the resolution, Hiroki's pace picked up. He walked quickly down the quiet street until his eyes bumped into a bicycle with a flat tire leaning to the fence separating the street from the children's playground on the other side.

He frowned. That needs to be fixed, Hiroki thought to himself. Then he turned and saw a little boy with his head down sitting on the swing. Hiroki knew all children in the neighborhood and this one didn't seem to be any of them. His eyes went back to the bike. No one else here, so this bike must be his. Hiroki returned his gaze to the gloomy figure and frowned deeper.

He looked lost.

"Hey, why is a kid like you staying out this late at night?" Hiroki called out and walked towards the other boy before he even realized what he was doing.

Hiroki opened his eyes in an instant. Darkness not uncomforting immediately struck him, while a warmth so comforting still enveloped him. He breathed out slowly. It was a dream.

No, it wasn't exactly a dream. It was a piece of memory hidden deep deep down in his subconscious, under his growing pains, under his academic stress, under his happiness.

Hiroki grimaced at the significance of that particular memory resurfacing. He now recognized the sense of déjà vu when Director Kusama was telling him about Nowaki's childhood.

We have met before. I've met Nowaki before.

The stream of memories came flowing to Hiroki. He had been walking home from the piano lesson that day.

It hadn't been a particularly bright day for little Hiroki: school, kendo practice, home, piano lesson. His younger Kamijou self had been wondering about the true meaning of responsibility and maturity and what he was going to do in life. In other words, it had been a boring day.

When seeing "a lost puppy" at the playground, ten-year-old Hiroki had been intrigued that the boy, albeit smaller and seemingly younger, didn't show any sign of freaking out. Upon closer inspection, however, Hiroki's keen eyes noted the blank look and slump shoulders. At the boy's quietness, Hiroki did what he knew by experience on how to make a mute speak up. He started to talk.

And talk. And talk.

Until the boy's stomach gave a loud growl. Hiroki would have never guessed that a candy his mother had insisted he take before leaving home would come handy.

You'll understand when you grow up. His mother had been right. They all had been right. He now understood. Everything about that day had led him to that park. Just like everything in his life had led him to today. To Nowaki.

The silent revelation hung quietly in the air. Hiroki breathed in slowly, absorbing the bubbles of joy that rose in him.

It was funny.

Nowaki had fallen in love with him at the sight of his miserable despair. While he as a child had approached the boy at the playground at the sight of his sad head. Adult Nowaki had met a rejected Hiroki. Little Hiroki had met a dejected Nowaki. They both had been drawn to each other when each was in the most vulnerable state.

With this realization the joy bubbles popped, flooding his chest with a pleasant warmth.

Hiroki moved his head a little. Nowaki's warm lips immediately made contact with the skin on his neck. So close, Hiroki mused, hints of blush creeping up his cheeks.

Hiroki breathed in slowly again to try to control himself. He didn't want Nowaki to wake up. The fact that Nowaki remained asleep when he had woken with a start earlier bespoke of the doctor's tiredness. It had been a long day for both of them.

On their way home from the Kusama orphanage that afternoon, the couple had been quiet. While Nowaki had had his "fun" with his "family", Hiroki had had his "private meeting" with Nowaki's "father".

However, Hiroki knew that more than anything else, the thing that had made Nowaki particularly quiet was the fact that Hiroki had read the poem. Despite the fact the younger man had played it off at the time, knowing full well of his professor's superb ability to read between the lines, Nowaki must have felt terribly exposed.

Hiroki found this so endearing.

He had wanted to shrug off the issue, acted as if nothing had happened. But the moment Nowaki had quietly closed the door of the apartment behind him, Hiroki had turned to look at his lover and to his surprise saw the swirl of storm in the eyes he loved so much.

They'd locked gazes yet again.

Hiroki couldn't remember who moved first. The next thing he known, he and Nowaki were exchanging kisses of comfort, touches of assurance, embraces of love.

I haven't even put away that Shakespeare book in the library, Hiroki grimaced.

Nowaki stirred.

Hiroki quickly controlled his breathing... and his body. He didn't want more excitement.

Nowaki tightened his hold on him, as if sensing that Hiroki was no longer in dream land and wanting to drag him back. Then he stilled, body relaxed.

Hiroki let out the breath he had been holding. He moved his head down to see his Nowaki. Even in the dark, Hiroki was sure that the eyes were closed, the eyelashes lightly brushed his tender skin.

Those eyes.

Nowaki's eyes are different now. Hiroki recalled the Director's words. Even in his perpetual insecurities, Hiroki had to admit it was true. Nowaki's eyes in that photograph bore only endurance and weariness. Simply dark and almost lifeless.

Hiroki had been surprised to see it. That day at the park seven years ago (though now he knew it wasn't their first meeting), Nowaki's eyes had already glittered with warmth and determination. Later on, once they became lovers, those two orbs often (if not always) sparkled with love and vitality, making the dark eyes seem blue under the light.

There were times when those eyes would show confusion and hide disappointment, like when he rfused to take a bath together. But one word from him, or one gesture, however feeble, would immediately return the sparkle.

Hiroki's heart, just like the earlier rising encapsulations of joy he'd experienced, felt like bursting with all it contained. Nowaki is not a little sugar. He's so big he'll be the only sugar I'll ever need for the rest of my life. Hiroki slowly ran his free hand down Nowaki's gently rising and falling side. Nowaki stirred again, then stilled when Hiroki stopped his movement. The sleeping giant's warm breaths puffed to Hiroki's neck, his lips still lightly kissing Hiroki's skin. Hiroki looked at the dark head tenderly.

So, what now? Should I tell him that I knew him before?

Even the thought of him admitting to Nowaki of such an embarrassing thing was enough to spread his blush down to his toes.

Not in a million years!

A slow smile broke Hiroki's lips. He hugged his giant closer, drowning his nose on the silky black hair, drawing in the lovely scent of his Nowaki.

Nowaki, nice to meet you again.

Thanks for reading. Please review.