Author's Note:

My final thanks to my readers, silent and otherwise. My first story is now complete. Thank you for your wonderful reviews though I do not reply to all, I cherish each and every one of them. This story was a difficult to swallow for many people, took a turn into Crazyville and I applaud you for sticking it out this far.

It took me awhile to complete this chapter. I overshot my deadline as I had initially promised but this chapter was painful for me to write as I was reminded of all the emotions I had ever felt when I lost someone very dear to me. I had to stop writing every time thoughts of her invaded my mind. The fear of losing her, the desperation when she couldn't be saved, the anguish I had felt when her parents agreed to allow the hospital to take her off her life support machine.

A part of me died when she died. She was the only girl who had loved me for me, had never looked down on me, never took me for granted, the only girl I wished until today was alive, to be with me, share my life with me and share this story with me. I think unconsciously I based Raiu's character on her. I think it's my own way of keeping her alive.

I have never once visited her grave. I don't want to. To visit her would mean to confirm that she is really gone. I will however, toast to her life, her blinding light and her overwhelming spirit. This story, my love, is for you. Rest in peace, my beloved Rayna.

Chapter 40: Prayers for the Beloved

I felt like I was floating. Forever floating. I didn't want to wake up at all, the air I was lying on felt too comfortable and all I wanted to do was curl up listlessly in it and dream away… Dreaming about a white wedding, a wedding? Who's getting married? But that voice… there was a voice, when I concentrate hard enough, it felt as though it was calling to me, pleading that I wake up. Had I been asleep for far too long? Why was I asleep? Ah… that voice, so sweet and angelic, maybe it's time to wake up after all…

Violet amethyst eyes blinked opened slowly and roamed the room sleepily. Head turned to the left and the violets blinked some more at the bright light shining there. When the eyes came to focus, they realized they were in a room. Early morning it seemed, judging from the still cooling air from the remnants of dawn. The morning sun shone lightly through the open window. There was a slight breeze wafting through, teasing the curtains in such a way that it billowed gently against the walls and caressing the skin with gentle invisible fingers. No one else was there, as the eyes roamed around the room again, and the owner's realized the room only had one solitary occupant.

Violets closed again and their owner inhaled deeply. Crisp, sharp, fresh morning air filled their lungs like the air in the mountains when winter had come to an end, giving way to beautiful spring. Unable to stay away from the tantalizing freshness of the morning air, Violets' owner sat up gingerly, the stiffness in their muscles at the sudden movement pulling at their joints. A pair of house slippers was placed neatly with toes pointing out on the side of the bed. A pair of slim legs swung slowly over the side to curl their toes into the slippers, a small smile forming, reveling in the softness of the fabric of the slippers.

Ruffled, messy, silver white hair cascaded down the owner's back. Gingerly, the legs moved towards the French inspired windows, which had been opened wide, letting in the fresh morning air into the room. Small petite hands rested on the windowsill, low enough to sit on of which the owner did so soon after. Violets stared out into the expanse of the green in front of them, punctuated in the horizon by rows of Sakura trees in full white bloom. Ah… it looked like winter all over again. The breeze was slightly stronger by the window and silver strands blew across the owner's face, tickling and caressing it. Violets closed again, enjoying the morning breeze.

"Good morning, my love," A voice whispered sadly and violets snapped opened at once, caught by surprise, its owner's neck craning around to the sound of voice.

Leaning by the doorframe, dressed in a pair of casual black slacks and a short-sleeved, low V-neck tee, hair neatly and properly tied to the crown of her head, was a lone woman who had been through enough tragedy that would last her several lifetimes. There was a tentative smile on her lips and uncertainty in her eyes, as though those eyes had had enough of watching its share of sadness. Her lack of movement, not stirring from her spot by the closed door, as if fearing the illusion in front of her would burst into crystals of shattered hope, propelled the other woman to move towards her, hands outstretched and trembling.


So sweet and melodious was the calling of her name, so lost and forlorn at the same time that it tore through her heartstrings; the tears she had promised never to shed again fell against her cheeks, dotting her eyelashes with small diamonds. She blinked rapidly and reached out for the outstretched hand making its way to her, she reached and pulled the woman sharply, pulled her close to her heart, embracing her tightly as though afraid that if she let go, she would lose her forever. The floodgates had been ripped open and she could no longer hold her tears in as she sank to the floor on her knees, the other woman sinking down with her, clutching her tightly and drenching the fabric covering her chest with her salty tears.

"Aki… I'm sorry… I'm so sorry…"

She was finally awake…

Raiu had prayed for this day to come. She had waited impatiently, staying close to her wife's quarters, talking to her as though she could hear her. She had watched as the bruises began to heal but the worst of them were still red, a bitter reminder of the ordeal Aki had to go through. These bruises were deeper and will leave a damnable scarring. She had changed her bandages herself, bathed her herself, changed her clothes herself. She refused entrance to any of the household servants; they should never see her wife in such state. I will never forgive myself for not being able to save you my love, Raiu whispered often to herself, I will carry this sin to my grave…

Nothing, save the muted sobbing, could be heard from behind the closed doors. Emeralds, glistening with unshed tears, turned away to the sound, a lump forming in its owner's throat. Slim hands turned the doorknob to another door, just a few feet away from the first one, closing it behind him quietly to let the occupant of that room sleep with the help of a life support machine. A sleep so deep that no matter how many books he had read out loud to him in the vain hopes that he stirred from his slumber at the recognition of his voice, he remained asleep. His prince, his knight in shining armor, who came to save him at his darkest hour. How romantic the thought… he mused sadly, a picture of his husband forming in his mind's eye riding a black stallion, galloping into the sunset. He smirked at the absurdity of the thought, for a moment his heart fluttered, but as the knight turned to smile at him in his mind, his lips began to tremble and tears flowed against his cheeks. Placing a right hand against the closed door, he sank to the floor, sobbing quietly.

"Masamune, please wake up…"

He begged in a small childish voice that broke between sobs. He shut his eyes tightly as he pulled his knees up and wrapped an arm around his legs and another to curl around the head he had now propped against his kneecaps. He didn't know how long he had been sitting there. He realized only too late; when a large warm hand ran through his hair, that someone was crouching in front of him at eye level. Jerking backwards and hitting his head accidentally against the oak door, he looked up – whilst rubbing the back of his head that suddenly exploded with pain and with fresh tears still brimming on his eyelashes – at the man crouched in front of him.

"Usami-sama…" Ritsu whispered, "I'm sorry, did I disturb you?"

"No, not at all Onodera-san," Usami Fuyuhiko replied, a small understanding smile on his lips as he gently helped Ritsu to his feet, "Are you feeling all right? I can call my physician over to have a look at that head of yours,"

"I am alright Usami-sama, simply caught by surprise. You're a very quiet man sir," Ritsu replied, a shadow of a smile plastered awkwardly on his face. He looked up at the aristocrat who was a good foot taller than he was.

"Onodera-san, if I may address something with you?" Fuyuhiko said and waited for Ritsu to nod his agreement before continuing, "You have been awake for three weeks now since the day you went into coma. Granted, you woke up first before the others, and I didn't want to trouble you… and now it seems my… daughter is awake as well,"

"What are you getting at, sir, if you don't mind me asking?" Ritsu asked, his curiosity perking up despite his condition. He found that keeping himself busy was the only way he could function or he will fall apart at every thought of Masamune that crossed his mind.

"She's awake, Onodera. Could you possibly tell your sister in law that she should probably stop skulking around in dark corners, scaring the bejesus out of the servants?" Fuyuhiko chided gently, a poor attempt at humor, to see that smile on the young man's face again.

"Who can blame her, Usami-sama? I am doing the very same thing," Ritsu replied in a hushed tone, a sad smile on his face, as he walked down the hallway with the elder Usami walking by his side.

"Ah… though in vain, you can smile at a joke as well," Fuyuhiko smiled as he escorted the troubled young man to another section of the house. Opening the door, Fuyuhiko went down to business, "Onodera-san, I would like you to take over Onodera Publishing,"

"But… but Usami-sama! I don't want to have anything to do with that company anymore! Didn't you absorb the company into your shareholder stocks?"

Ritsu watched as the eldest of the Usami household took his seat behind the mahogany desk that stood lone and proud in the center of the room. Fuyuhiko remained silent and gestured patiently to the seat across him. Reluctantly, Ritsu sat down, unconsciously rubbing his wrists where the skin around the blasted twin scars was healing, slightly raised and ridged. Inhaling deeply, Ritsu looked up and watched as Usami Fuyuhiko stared at him intently, a shadow of empathy glistening in his tired eyes.

Yes, it was the head of the Usami household who came to their rescue; absorbing the Onodera company into their stocks, paying the expensive medical bills, escorting them home on a private jet, paying the lawyers against his own father – Ritsu blushed in shame at the thought of his father and fresh tears came to his eyes at the thought of his mother who had vacated her mind when she found out what her husband had done to their son; - and giving them their own quarters in his vast countryside mansion as they heal from the emotional, mental and physical traumas. How will they ever repay him?

"Ritsu, I know this is a far-fetched idea at the moment, but Onodera Publishing is an inherited company from your great-grandfather to your grandfather to your… father… and now to you. It is a legacy you should carry on, you should erase the memories of what had happened by replacing those memories with new ones and make it an even better place to be. Yes, I have temporarily absorbed the company into my stocks but I have every intention of returning it to you once you are able. Didn't you once said you wanted to surpass your father?" Fuyuhiko carefully played out his cards.

"How did you know that…?" Ritsu was struck nearly speechless.

"Not much goes around the business world without me keeping a finger in the pie, Onodera-san. You are after all, a princeling, the heir to a great company made of old money with a brilliant future, " and when Ritsu began to protest, "Even though you refused to acknowledged it,"


"I shall give you time, Onodera-san, to think about it. When you are ready, the stocks are yours for the taking. If you do not wish to do it, then do it for the sake of your husband and your mother. You do need to care for them,"

"… Thank you Usami-sama. I will think it over,"

Ritsu stood up and bowed, turning on his heels to walk back out listlessly with shoulders slumped downwards. He didn't want to have anything to do with the company anymore if he could help it. It just reminded him of all the things his monster of a father had done. However, Usami-sama might just be right. By proving that he was able to carry on the company, it would be the right smack back into his father's face. A lifetime in State prison without the possibility of parole was not enough. He should've been given the death penalty for all the crimes and grievances he had committed but instead he had pleaded insanity, forced on him by cultural pressure and the need to conform to society and was sentenced to life under solitary confinement, with only four walls surrounding him, and the occasional psychiatric evaluation.

Life was not fair.

He should be dead. He deserved as much.

His mind reeled backwards towards his mother. She was driven insane by the news of her husband's atrocities and refused to come out and see anyone; not even Ritsu. She was here as well, in the west wing, recuperating on her own, with her own personal attendants. Ritsu watched as his mother's life was slipping by his very eyes and he had begged and prayed that his mother would one day look up and see him. See him. See me, Mama… Open your eyes and see me… Come back to the world of the living Mama… Please… but she never did, not once. Her eyes were always vacant, staring into space, her lips slightly parted and occasionally she would cry for no reason. She would sit there by the verandah from morning to late evening on a wheelchair, staring into the countryside. There was nothing Ritsu could do but pray and that was all he had been doing lately. He sighed in frustration, wringing his hands together.

What's this? Despair? Desperation? Desolation?

Am I this pathetic?

Disgust suddenly filled him and anger began clouding his vision and Ritsu berated himself viciously. He stopped in his tracks and leaned into the wall, a hand on his forehead. What better was he from what his father had assumed him to be? A sniveling, pathetic, little coward? Ready to raise the white flag in defeat at every sign of trouble? No. If anything this tragedy had taught him, it taught him to stand on his own two feet, to rise to the challenge, to slap away Fate's malicious hands on his destiny and to grab hold of every opportunity that came his way if it allowed his life to become better than before.

"You're a husband and a son, Ritsu," Ritsu had suddenly found himself chiding his own selfish thoughts, "You cannot depend on Usami-sama to foot everything, do you? Grow up and be responsible for your life for once,"

Inhaling deeply, Ritsu's steps sprang back to life with a new lease in determination towards Usami-sama's resident office. He would take Fate by the balls, twist it his own way and crush every obstacle thrown at him. He would do this; he would live, for his husband and his mother, he would live and show his father the kind of man he would become, the kind of man his father never thought he would ever become – independent, courageous and self sufficient. He would shame his own father to hell and back and show that old smarmy bastard what he can do. He would surpass him.

Damn it, he would live.

Wake up.

Glassy emeralds blinked opened from a harsh nightmare. A voice had called him but he couldn't see anyone. His body felt sore in all the wrong places, his joints felt out of place as though someone had rammed a bulldozer into him repeatedly. Somehow that metaphor sent a frisson of fear down his delicate spine. Turning his head to the right, he realized he was in a strange room, filled with mechanical toys and overstuffed bears. Somehow his fuzzy mind was able to decipher whom these belonged to; a particularly tall man with silver gray hair and shining amethyst orbs, smiling gently at him, beckoning to him…


He bolted upright as the menacingly vivid memories from that night rushed to the forefront of his raw mind. The glint of the knife caught in the corner of his eyes, the smell of the blood in his nostrils, the feel of the rough fingers digging into his skin, the vicious intrusion into the very core of his soul; thrusting deeply, painfully, violently, repeatedly into him as he was held down and restrained... Oh God… His fingers unconsciously clutched the sides of his head and without realizing it, he had screamed to the heavens, he had screamed his heart out, the despair and hopelessness he had felt came rushing back in and it wouldn't let him go. He let it all out, pouring out of him in agonizing torrents of anxiety and frustrations. He trashed on the bed, convulsing and juddering violently, kicking and clawing at an invisible entity only he could see. Three pairs of hands grabbed hold of his shoulders, arms and legs; and shook him, desperately trying to snap him out of the living nightmare, desperately trying to break through the invisible barrier between his conscious and subconscious. Even these hands he had fought against, struggled, clawed, screamed at, his eyes unseeing reality, only seeing what it tried so hard to bury in the depths of his mind.


Somehow by some divine intervention, Misaki heard the voices begging him to snap out of it. He resisted just a little more before he slowly blinked his eyes and three pairs of eyes were staring at him in worry. Emeralds mirrored him and a pair of liquid gold eyes stared at him wide and weary. When his eyes settled on the last pair, he had stopped trashing altogether and his eyes began to mist over. Tears of sorrow gathered in them and fell in narrow streams when his eyelashes couldn't contain them anymore. His lips trembled as he swallowed at his now drying throat. A sob escaped his lips. He looked deep into similarly sad amethyst orbs that reminded him of his beloved husband. He leaned forward and put his arms around them, pulling them all towards him in a tight embrace. He cried more now, releasing his pent up frustrations, his body wracked by tremors as relief and anguish washed over him in conflict.

"Usagi-san…" Misaki whispered forlornly, his childlike voice tearing at their heartstrings.

"He is still in coma, Misaki, we just have to be patient. Onii-chan will wake up soon," Aki whispered, rubbing Misaki's back in a comforting circular motion. There was a catch in her voice before she continued, "I promise,"

"Aki-chan… I'm sorry, I couldn't stop them from…" Misaki replied, his eyes bursting with fresh new tears as new memories resurfaced, "Raiu-san, please forgive me, I didn't protect her well,"

"Hush now, Misaki, don't strain yourself, you will worry yourself sick. I will do the worrying for Aki," Raiu reprimanded gently. She placed a warm, comforting hand on Aki's lower back when she noticed how rigid and tensed Aki had become at the sudden mention of that night.

Aki looked upon her gratefully. Her façade of bravery was thin and fragile and she didn't know how long it would be before it broke and splintered. Her instincts as a nurse kicked in first when they heard Misaki's anguish wails from the room furthest down their corridor. It had only been three days since Aki had woken up and one by one, her family was waking up as well. She would hold on to denial and fight the nightmare. She had Raiu by her side to hold her hand and wipe away her tears, to hold her tight and save her soul.

Forcing a smile on her face, she put a brave front for Misaki to see. She nodded and smiled at the younger man, encouraging him silently, hoping that her positive vibes were reaching his tattered soul and healing them. Instinctively she knew it wasn't just for him. It was for her as well. She needed the strength to be strong and by helping others cope, she was helping herself as well. Misaki's hold on reality was fragile. He needed his silver-haired muse, his own angel of life; he needed Akihiko. There was nothing they could do now for Misaki but hold on to him and pray against all hopes that Akihiko would soon wake up as well.

Onii-chan, Misaki needs you, do you hear me? Please wake up… Aki whispered to herself.

"Usami Fuyuhiko-sama, Usami Haruhiko-sama," Ritsu addressed both his liberators and both men turned to greet him as well, "How is Usami Akihiko-sama doing?"

"There's no need for pleasantries, Onodera-san, you are as much a family member to our household as the others," Fuyuhiko reproached gently, a small smile on his weathered face. He inhaled deeply and exhaled with an even deeper sigh, "Akihiko is not responding very well to treatment. Given his delicate heritage, being albino because of his mother's lineage, his blood had refused the lung transplants. Aristocratic to the end that son of mine…"

"What are his chances, Usami-sama?" Ritsu asked quietly, "Will he survived? It has been four weeks now and I fear I cannot withhold information from Misaki-kun much longer,"

"Very slim, Onodera-san," Fuyuhiko replied as quietly, his voice held in them a twinge of sadness that he had tried to suppressed in his monotone reply. He was a father after all, and to bury a son, before his own timely passing was unimaginable. The thought itself had laid grief and plenty of regrets on his old age.

"Akihiko is scheduled for another blood transfusion later this afternoon. Allow Misaki to be with him. Maybe his presence can encourage Akihiko's recovery," Haruhiko interrupted the silence that ensued after his father's reply. His words pierced Ritsu's heart. How he wished the same could be said of his husband.

"Of course, Usami-sama," Ritsu nodded and turned to walk towards the door, masking his dejection just beneath the surface of his smiling façade.

"Onodera-san," Fuyuhiko called, causing Ritsu to stop and turn around curiously at the Usami household head, "How is Takano-san doing at the moment?"

"The same as yesterday, Usami-sama. Unstable and barely hanging on to life," Ritsu whispered, his voice laden with unshed tears. He lowered his eyes and bowed politely, turning away before either man could see the tears that had sprung to the rims of his eyes.

He began making his way to Misaki's chambers to tell him the news. He composed himself before entering the room, allowing a mask to fall over his face, replacing his sadness with a much more cheery disposition; a happiness he didn't feel at all. How did one keep this up? This charade was so exhausting it had begun to feel ridiculous and take its toll. Just hold on, Ritsu, hold on, he begged himself silently as he turned the doorknob and stepped into the bedroom.

Misaki was wheeled into Akihiko's resting chambers. The room was thick with the overwhelming scent of antiseptic. Trust the Usami household to have enough money to set up their own surgery room. A doctor was standing over a silent form covered up to his chest in a warm white blanket. At the sound of the door being opened, the doctor straightened and smiled sympathetically at the young man being wheeled into the room by one of the house's attendants. Putting away his stethoscope after checking on Akihiko's vitals, the elderly man and the attendant left the two lovers alone with each other.

Gingerly standing up and leaving the confines of his wheelchair, Misaki climbed the bed and curled himself onto Akihiko's side. He pulled the blanket above both of them and pulled Akihiko's unhindered arm around him. Mindful of the many wires, the fresh surgical wounds and the blood transfusion tubes, Misaki made himself comfortable, curling an arm under his cheek as a smaller pillow. He traced the outlines of Akihiko's torso with a delicate finger and smiled as he watched Akihiko's chest moving up and down slightly, a sure sign he was breathing, though with much difficulty.

He watched Akihiko's serene face and smiled a little bit more at the memories making their way to the surface of his mind. There were little things he never took much notice of when Akihiko was around; the way Akihiko usually smells of smoke and autumn, the way his lips curled upwards revealing straight white pearls with a slightly pointed canine, the way his eyes often sparkled with childish enthusiasm befitting a prodigy royalty deprived of a proper childhood; the way he would looked thoughtfully into the distance when he was thinking of a plot for his latest novel; all these little things he missed most. He wished he had not left Akihiko, he wished he had trusted Akihiko more and not give in to his insecurities, he wished he had more time with the man he loved…

That sudden realization hit Misaki like a slap to his face. He was in love, he was madly, deeply and truly in love with Akihiko and the thought of losing him, the thought of never being able to see all he had missed about Akihiko ever again; never to open his eyes to the sleeping form often curled up behind him, providing him warmth a blanket couldn't give, never to cook for Akihiko, never to see Akihiko smile again… the very thought of… Misaki bit his lower lip to stop the tears threatening to spill if he did not curb where his memories were taking him to but he wished… he wished he had told the man he loved him too

"Usagi-san… baka Usagi-san, you're such an idiot for being careless and putting your life in danger for me, getting a knife stuck in you and all," Misaki whispered, his voice hitching, "Usagi-san, please wake up… I… I need you Usagi-san, I… I love you, please, please… please wake up, Usagi-san. I love you. I love you. I love you."

Without realizing it, Misaki had curled his hands into the tail of Akihiko's pajamas, tugging childishly at him and begging him silently to wake up and release them from this waiting game. He thought he had no more tears left to offer but he succumbed anyway, drenching the pillow he was lying his head on, his eyes shut tightly and his teeth clenched tight against the sobs he tried to keep down. He repeated his vow of love over and over again, his regrets for leaving Akihiko, his fears if Akihiko should leave him; he repeated them in the vain hopes of Akihiko hearing him.

"Please Usagi-san, please wake up…"

"You know I can't stand it if you cried… Misaki,"


A jolt of lightning arced through Misaki at that familiar voice. He sat upright, staring disbelievingly at the owner of that deep baritone voice. Tired, pained but surely awake amethyst orbs stared at him half opened, drifting in and out of consciousness. A familiar coldness slipped itself into Misaki's hands and he looked down. Tears brimmed again into his eyes and he held the hand tightly.

"Baka Usagi-san…" he whispered and smiled, lifting the hand to his lips, closed his eyes and pressed his trembling lips against it, letting his sobs escape now and letting fresh tears drop on to the hand he was holding on to dear life.

"Raiu, is Ritsu going to be okay? It's nearly two months now… Takano-Niichan hasn't woken up yet," Aki whispered to her wife.

Raiu looked up from the newspaper she was reading and followed Aki's gaze. She sighed inwardly. It had taken a lot of persuasion to get Ritsu to leave Masamune's chambers and get some fresh air. Everyone was overjoyed when Akihiko had taken a turn for the better and left the worst and was slowly but surely recuperating. The joy was short-lived and as much as everyone's hopes were up, they could not deny the fact that every day Masamune refuses to wake up, hope of his full recovery was slimming down. Ritsu had kept an upbeat face all the while but Raiu had discovered him a few nights ago, in the rose garden, crying earnestly into his own arms when she had looked for him to call him down for dinner.

"I don't think Masamune will ever wake up, Raiu-Neechan, I've called and called but he won't wake up. He's not showing any physical or mental responses… even his REM state is quiet. He is not even dreaming of anything… and… and this afternoon the doctor said if he doesn't wake up soon he would be pronounced… he would be pronounced brain-dead… Why won't he wake up?! Why?!" Ritsu had cried bitterly into Raiu's arms, "He can't leave me, he can't die and leave me,"

He had let it all out, he had cried his fears and his grief and his guilt and Raiu took it all in, holding on to him and pulling him tightly to her chest, her own tears spilling. She had feared the worst for her brother, she had known for a while now. She knew the doctors, the best Usami-sama could find, had tried their best to save Masamune. They said he had lost too much blood and his brain had been deprived of oxygen for much too long when the rescue team had found them. Even if he did survive, it would be a miracle if he were able to function at all. At most he would be in a vegetative state, paralyzed, unable to do anything for himself, and in the worse case scenario, he would've died within days of waking up because he would not be physically, mentally or emotionally stable to sustain life. It would be too cruel and too selfish to let him live…

"The doctors said they would give him another week Raiu-Neechan… another week…" Ritsu whispered between hiccups and tears, desperation and frustration thick in the belly of his voice.

"Hey… hey, look at me," Raiu had replied. She placed both her hands on Ritsu's cheeks, wiped the tears that stained them while her own tears flowed freely down her own, and looked deep into his eyes, "Masamune loves you, no matter what happens, Ritsu, you have to keep on living. You have to keep on living for him. It would be an insult to him if you had gone this far, just to give up. You have me, you have Aki and Misaki as well as Akihiko. You have us, we're your family and no matter what decision you wished to finally commit yourself to, we will see you through it. Masamune would want it,"

"But it's not fair…" Ritsu whined, fresh new tears flooded his eyes, "It's not fair…"

"I know Ritsu,"

Raiu was knocked out of her reverie when she noticed Ritsu getting up and leaving the verandah. It was still cold outside and spring was late to bloom this year. She watched, the same way as Aki watched him, when he walked away towards Masamune's room. The aura of dejection and resignation was all around him. Raiu took a breather and put the newspaper down. Reaching for her wife's hands, she held on to them and put her head down on the table. Aki sensing the change in mood; turned around to her wife and squeezed her fingers tight.

The week's up.

"Masamune… how are you today?" Ritsu began, as he closed the doors behind him. He couldn't contain the hitch in his voice. "Today's the day right?"

He was greeted by silence, punctuated by the beeping of the life support machine. Unable to restrain his tears anymore, Ritsu walked slowly towards his husband, and watched his peaceful expression in slumber. He sat down on the side of the bed, his weight causing the bed to slightly creak in protest. He held on to Masamune's hands and squeezed tightly. Lifting his ringed hand to his lips, Ritsu kissed their wedding bands together. He laced his fingers with Masamune's and took a deep breath, all the while letting the tears leave the confines of his lashes. Bending down, he kissed Masamune's lips, nose, cheeks, eyes and forehead. As his lips lingered on Masamune's brow, he whispered how much he loved him and how much he cherished their precious time together.

"I love you, Takano Masamune, you're my husband, my bestfriend and my one true love even if you're such a pain in the ass for doing this to me. I know I don't say it often, I know I deny it every time you corner me, but I love you, I love you, you damn bastard, with all my heart and my soul, and I love you, for everything you are and everything you stood for. I love you, for loving me all these years, Masamune… " Ritsu whispered, his eyes shutting tightly as he wept quietly, his tears falling in tiny crystal droplets onto Masamune's closed eyes, "I love you and I'll be okay. I'll be fine. I won't… I won't keep you bound to me any longer,"

The funeral was a solemn one. Many attendees came to attend and show their respect to the deceased with mixed feelings. How does one keep a straight face in all that family drama? After the ordeal everyone went through, the shock everyone had to swallow, it all ended so suddenly, so abruptly. People were at lost for words, and as the final farewells were said, the attendees stood up to shake hands with the Onodera heir, giving them their condolences and respect.

"He was… a great man, Onodera-san, despite everything he had done, he was a great man, and I'm sorry for your lost," Isaka Ryuichiro commented, shaking Ritsu's hand, "Onodera-san, Takano-san, I take my leave,"

"Thank you, Isaka-san," Ritsu replied, his hands were aching, he just wanted this funeral done and over with and leave the old bastard to rot in his grave.

Who would've known, Onodera-sama had taken his own life while he was under holding. When Ritsu received the news six months after his father was apprehended and imprisoned, he was unfazed. What love he had felt for his old man had died the day he tried to kill him and his husband. The last of the guests had left the funeral grounds and Ritsu took a deep sigh. He plucked his car keys out of his coat pocket and turned to his right and looked up into the loving eyes of the only man who mattered to him. Takano Masamune.

"I love you and I'll be okay. I'll be fine. I won't… I won't keep you bound to me any longer," Ritsu whispered, a sense of resignation and quiet calm enveloping him, "I'll let you go…"

"So easily? You're so noisy. I was awake earlier, I was just resting but that was one hell of a confession…"

Ritsu's eyes snapped open wide in a bone-jarring shock. Staring right back at him was his unbelievable miracle. Liquid gold eyes, shining with tears looked back at him, a small but tired smile grazed his pale, cracked lips. The hold on Ritsu's hands grew tighter and without a word, Ritsu bent down to gently kiss the parting lips, new tears of gratefulness spilled forth, reveling in the taste of the forbidden apple of life…

"I love you, Ritsu..."