Okay, I'm only assuming they had sex, yes, but the game seems to take a fade to black and a "you spent a long time with X" as a subtle, PG-13 nudge that, yes, you had sex with this person you've been romancing (it only ever occurs in your room or someone else's), which made me all kinds of giddy when I got that for Elizabeth, because she and Minako remain my OTP.

They hated themselves for succumbing to their desires, both for their own reasons. The fact that they enjoyed it, the fact that it was the best feeling in the world, only made it worse. It would have been better, somehow, if it had been bad. It would have been some kind of signal that they really weren't right for one another, that they could pull away and pretend it hadn't happened and maybe, finally stop hurting.

But their bodies fit together so perfectly, as though they'd been made with one another in mind. Ryoji seemed to know just where she wanted to be touched and how. Somehow, Minako found herself knowing the same. They would have been the picture of perfect lovers…if not for the fact that she found herself kissing his tears away as he entered her, and struggling to keep her own from falling.

It would have been better if they'd been crying for any other reason besides the fact that, when they were joined, when their bodies were fitted together like two pieces of a missing puzzle, it gave them both a feeling of purest pleasure.

They hated the fact that making love gave them both the same feeling of utter completeness and contentment, a feeling they hadn't known they'd been craving until they had it.

Because that meant, when it ended, and they pulled apart, they were left with only the memory of it to make the emptiness that followed all the more sharp and painful.

Minako's tears fell silently. She stroked Ryoji's hair as he laid in her bed with the sheets tangled around him, before forcing herself to stand and set to work getting dressed. As much as she would have liked to wrap her arms around him and listen to his heartbeat forever…no. It was better to get the painful parting over with. Life had to go on.

All the same, her heart broke into a million sharp pieces when she heard him sob. He hadn't sobbed before, not like that, not that sound of agonized misery spilling forth. As hard as he'd tried not to weep before, she could almost hear the seal on his emotions cracking to bits, and what was revealed beneath was clearly causing him pain beyond imagining.

She was still only half dressed, but Minako returned to his side immediately, wrapping her arms around him. To her shock and fear, he tried to push her away, shoving at her chest…but there was no force behind his efforts, not really, and after a few seconds he simply wrapped his arms around her, buried his face in her shoulder, and wept brokenly.

"Ryoji…" she whispered, her own voice sounding hollow in her ears. "…why? W-What…what have I done?"

For several long seconds, he said nothing. He tried, several times, but all that came out was a jumble: "You…I-I…why…why did I…?" Finally, he pulled away, staring up at her with pleading eyes. "Minako…I'm so sorry. I'm sorry I…took advantage of you, like that. You've been there for me. You've given so much of yourself to me…but that shouldn't have been an excuse for me to take it."

She was just opening her mouth to reassure him some more, to tell him that he was being silly and to please stop crying, when his next words caught her like a blow to the face.

"Especially when you already have someone…"

She didn't realize her nails were digging into his bare skin until he whimpered very softly in pain. When she did, Minako immediately released her grip, feeling guilty, and kissed him softly despite his attempts to turn his head away. But, with her mind reduced to a broken, helpless mess by his words, there was only one thing she could find it in herself to say.


That night she'd finally confessed her love, and forced her way past all of Shinji's defenses…it hadn't been like this. He hadn't been perfect. He'd admitted to her, shamefaced, that he'd only ever been with one girl before her. It was enough to guide her, but she wound up having to guide him just as much.

That hadn't made it bad. They'd been two teenagers, discovering one another's bodies and their own, lost in the heady pleasure of having sex and loving one another enough that it meant something. He'd been passionate, but he'd been careful, and she'd never felt safer in another person's arms and when it was over they'd smiled and kissed and lain in bed together until nearly sunrise.

Then he'd packed her lunch.

"Ryoji…how do you know about Shinji?"

Guilt twisted in her stomach – guilt for them both, because she did love them both. As much as she wished it were as simple as a romance novel, it wasn't. She wouldn't have undressed for Ryoji if she didn't love him, but she only knew what love felt like thanks to Shinji.

"I'm sorry…" He sounded as though he truly were. "It…it was when I first transferred. I was just…asking around. About you. I wanted to know more. You had so many friends, and your tennis captain…she mentioned that you go to the shrine, every week. To pray for him."

Every Saturday. Every Saturday since the fourth of October, she went to Naganaki Shrine and wrote her wish on a piece of paper and tied it to the branch of a tree. Always the same thing: Please bring Shinji back to me. And as she wrote, she reflected. She reflected on how she'd finally, truly opened her heart to someone, only for them to be taken beyond her reach.

This couldn't have been more different than when she'd been with Shinji. And that thought had struck her, more than once, over the last while. She'd read stories, of lovers who were unfaithful or unhappy and wound up saying another's name in bed, and had been briefly mortified that she might do the same thing to Ryoji.

But then she'd realized that, no, that would be impossible. Because Ryoji and Shinji were two very different people, as different as the sun and the moon, who made love to her in completely different ways. Her body knew that, as well as her heart.

And she missed him. God, she missed him. She missed the way his cap made his hair bunch up over his eyes. She missed the way he'd tilt his head up when he smiled, because he was taller than her and hoped it meant she wouldn't see. She missed walking Koromaru with him and the way he'd let her cuddle up to him under the pretext of warming up.

She missed the way he looked at her like she was both the most brilliant person he'd ever met and just a girl at the same time. She still had dreams of him cooking together in the kitchen with Fuuka that left her waking up with tears in her eyes.

"…I wanted this, Ryoji. I wanted to be with you like this."

But her feelings for Ryoji had been growing in her heart, ever since he'd first introduced himself. He'd felt as familiar as a friend she'd lost long ago, right from the start, and despite his behavior towards other women, it had always been clear to her that he cherished her. And she cherished him, every phone call, every moment, from the riverbank to the rooftop to here in her room, holding him as he tried to wipe the tears from his eyes. If she were honest with herself…she'd been looking for an excuse. Maybe he had, too.

Maybe he'd been hoping, as he had, that when they finally broke down and had sex, it would be bad. Her punishment for loving another, and his punishment for making her love another, a message from the gods that what they were doing was wrong. But it hadn't been that simple. Instead, it seemed she'd found her other half…and it wasn't Shinjiro Aragaki.

"Because, when you asked me to touch you…I really was afraid you'd disappear. And if you did…I didn't know what I'd do. Ryoji, I…"

Those three small words were her true and honest feelings…but they stuck in her throat. Because, there and then, she understood Ryoji's fear. She understood why he hurt whenever he saw the world, or whenever he looked at her and loved her.

It was because, no matter how good or wonderful something was, no matter how dear the friend…everything ended.

"…I need you," was what she finally whispered. It was just as true, and she thought he understood.

He let her kiss him. It was a long, warm kiss full of love and desperation and fear and hope that this moment might never have to end. When it finally did, his tears had stopped falling, and so had hers', and Minako felt steady enough to finish getting dressed. After a few seconds more of laying in her bed and trembling like he was recovering from a long illness, Ryoji finally stood and did the same. All but his scarf – Minako snatched that up from the floor before he could, and fussily wrapped it around his shoulders so that it hung just perfectly. Ryoji looked startled, at first, but he let her fix him up, and even smiled the ghost of his old smile after a few seconds.

"How do I look?" he asked, spreading his arms wide and turning on the spot when she was done.

"Perfect," she said, standing on tiptoes to give him a peck on the cheek. He blushed just a little when she did, a fact that made her giggle in the face of what they'd just done. She'd kissed him to hard, aching readiness when they'd been in bed together, but one brief kiss on the cheek had him flustered.

Well, she couldn't say she didn't understand.

"I…I think I should go," he said. She must have frowned, then, or looked upset, because he laughed and stroked her cheek, brushing some stray strands of red hair back from her face. "I'm surprised one of your friends hasn't been to investigate already. If I stay much longer, well, the cat will almost certainly be out of the bag."

He leaned in very slightly to her, and Minako immediately felt bad about mentally mocking him for getting flustered over her kiss. Even that slight proximity was enough to make her blush and set her heart to racing. She loved it when he leaned in to whisper to her. It made her feel like she was the only person in the world.

"I'll always cherish this afternoon…so, if you don't mind, I'd like to keep it between us."

Minako nodded without hesitation.

She wouldn't have been ashamed of herself if any of them did find out, nor would she hide what she felt for him. But at the same time…if this afternoon could stay just between them, something to be kept in their hearts…she really wouldn't mind. In fact, Minako realized she'd like that very much. She suddenly wanted to share Ryoji even less than she had before, not least because Ryoji seemed to want to be shared even less.

"Can I at least walk you out?" she asked, adopting her most pleading expression. Yes, all good things had to end…but trying to keep them going a little longer was only human, right?

He agreed, after an instant of telling hesitation, and offered his arm. Even though Minako took it in both of hers', no one watching the two of them could have come to any conclusion except that Ryoji was on her arm, not the other way around. And she led him out into the hallway, closing the door to her room behind her. From there, it was just a short walk down the stairs to the lobby, where they chattered about meaningless little things. Only Koromaru saw them, and they weren't interesting enough to keep him from going right back to sleep.

It was a good and peaceful few moments, and Minako felt worlds better as they emerged together into the sunshine.

She might have kept walking with him right back to wherever Ryoji spent his night, but he stopped her at the intersection, and gently prized her hands from his arm. Then he wrapped his arms around her and drew her into an embrace for one last kiss, long and loving and warm as the bright sunshine.

"This isn't good-bye…"he murmured against her lips. "It's just 'see you later'. I'll see you at school…right?"

"Right," Minako whispered back. "See you later. At school. And on Sundays. Whenever you want."

In truth, it didn't feel like "see you later". That kiss, and everything about this moment, suddenly felt like "good-bye". From the look in his eyes, she knew Ryoji was feeling just the same. But there was no sensible reason for feeling that way…there was so little sensible reason behind all of this…and so maybe they were wrong.

She hoped they were wrong.

" 'Good day, good day. Parting is such sweet sorrow," he said, perhaps intending to gently remind her of school. Of her friends. Of her life. Of the Classic Literature homework she had to get done for Friday.

" 'Then I shall say good day, 'til it be morrow'," she finished, and he smiled like the sun.

Ryoji pulled away then, and she let him, smoothing her skirt to hide the fact that her hands were trembling and her palms tingling with the memory of him. He turned away, just as the crossing signal gave him the signal to go, and set off across the street. It was a stupid, silly, soppy thing to do, but Minako watched him go until he'd finished safely crossing.

"Good-bye," she whispered. "Ryoji…"

He turned at the corner and waved to her, and she waved to him. Then he turned his back, kept walking, and was gone.

"…my dearest."