Disclaimer:Hana Yori Dango belongs to Yoko Kamio. This fic is purely for entertainment reasons and not for profit.
A Million Reasons
"You stupid, stupid woman!" Tsukasa growled.
Tsukushi hung her head, busying herself with her apartment door instead of meeting his eyes. "Gomen ne, Doumyouji."
He winced at her sudden conciliatory tone. Usually she never gave in this easily, protesting her innocence firmly or proclaiming her views to the highest heavens. She must have been sicker than he thought. Tsukasa ran a hand through his hair. "Ahh, forget it. Not even someone as silly as you would want to get sick."
"Hey!" she protested feebly as he nudged the door open with his foot, then swept her up in his arms. "Put me down, Doumyouji! How many times do I have to tell you that I'm fine?"
He ignored her, crossing the room in two long strides before stopping to tuck her into her futon. "You should hear yourself talk. If you hadn't insisted on going to class and working at that dango shop today then your fever wouldn't have worsened." He stood at the edge of her futon, arms crossed over his chest, an angry god.
"But I'll miss school. When my family lived here, Mama never allowed me to miss class even when I got sick," Tsukushi explained, trying to get up. Doumyouji crouched and forced her to lie back down. "Besides, there's the dango shop."
"I'll take care of that," he declared, chest puffed with pride. "I'll buy them out tomorrow so you won't worry about a thing."
Tsukushi made a sound between a laugh and a snort. "That wasn't what I meant, idiot. I get paid by the hour. If I'm not there tomorrow, I still won't get paid, regardless of whether you buy out their month's worth of dumplings or not."
"But that's not fair," Tsukasa scowled.
"Life often isn't," she answered. She was about to say more when she was seized by a sneezing fit.
"Look at you, Makino!" Tsukasa scolded her, bussing about the room looking for a small towel. He found one on her drawer. "How can you take care of me when we're married if you can't even take care of yourself?"
Tsukushi nearly choked on her last sneeze at his words. She turned to face the wall to hide her blush from him. "Excuse me, but who would want to marry you?" she shot back, ignoring the image that came unbidden to her mind, one of her coming home to an older Tsukasa.
"Lots of women," he answered smoothly, rinsing the towel with warm water from a nearby kettle. Then he walked back to the guton and turned Tsukushi to face him. "Debutantes and models and even aging women who think that marrying into my family can save their businesses." He studied her carefully. "Most of them are even prettier and richer than you."
Tsukushi turned even redder in anger. "Then why don't you go to them, huh?" she demanded.
He placed the towel on her forehead. "Because they're not you, stupid." Then he leaned over and stole a quick kiss.
Tsukushi let out a small scream. "What did you do that for? If you catch my cold, you'll end up blaming me for your stupidity."
"Well, excuse me for wanting to make you feel better!" he countered.
"How can I feel better if you get sick because of me?"
"So you care about what happens to me?"
"That's not what I meant, Doumyouji! Stop putting words into my mouth!"
"Okay, maybe I'll put a kiss there instead."
"Get -- umph -- off -- mmmph -- me!"
As they went on, Tsukushi's neighbors two doors down thought that World War III had come to Japan.
The halls of Eitoku were abuzz with gossip when Nishikado Soujirou walked down to look for the rest of the F4. He found Akira and Rui lounging by the stairs. "Hey," he greeted.
Akira nodded. "Have you seen Tsukasa anywhere? He's supposed to give me a jacket I left at his house last week."
Soujirou shrugged. "Beats me. Probably waiting for Makino somewhere." He glanced around. "What's wrong with everyone today? Ever since I arrived, I've noticed they've been talking nonstop. You guys hear anything new."
"I was wondering about that myself," Akira replied. He turned to their silent friend. "What about you, Rui?"
He stared at them with impassive eyes.
"Forget I said anything," he sighed. He should have known better than to ask Rui any question before noon. The guy was still obviously lamenting his lost sleep.
"Hey, what are you guys doing at school so early?" Tsukasa's voice echoed behind them, his footsteps thundering up the stairs.
"Waiting for--" Akira began, but when he faced Tsukasa, he lost all power of speech. His mouth hung open. From the corner of his eye, he sneaked a look at Rui and Soujirou, just to make sure that he wasn't hallucinating, but the rest of the guys had similar shell-shocked expressions on their faces.
Tsukasa grinned, as if nothing was out of the ordinary. "Yo."
Tsukasa tugged at his yellow blazer. It had been years since he had worn his Eitoku uniform. He thought it was lost in the piles of clothes that filled their house. In fact, if he hadn't thrown a fit back home, none of the maids would have found it. He shifted in his seat uncomfortably. The white shirt he wore inside was handwashed silk, but even the smooth fabric wasn't enough to soothe his nerves.
It had been so long since he attended class. He sat in Tsukushi's chair, furiously taking down notes for her. He had resolved to take down everything the teacher said, because he wasn't sure which of the information was new, and which of it had already been covered. For the nth time, he wondered what he was doing there. He wasn't even in the same class, for crying out loud!
In between the teacher's explanations of the theory of relativity, Tsukasa felt the need to take off the blazer and walk out of the room. He didn't need this. Besides, the only reason he wore his frigging uniform was because he thought it would make him blend in with the rest of Tsukushi's classmates. Too late, he realized -- a Doumyouji would always stand out. Plus, he was experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms from being cooped up in a classroom for nearly four straight hours, with an overload of information rushing through his brain.
Damn that woman. He gripped his pencil so tightly that it snapped angrily in the middle of the teacher's lecture.
The class stopped and looked at him. He could see Asai and her friends throwing disbelieving looks in his direction.
Thankfully, the bell rang and Doumyouji leapt from his seat in a flash. He headed out the door to see the F3 waiting there with big grins on their faces.
"So," Soujirou began, slinging an arm around Tsukasa's shoulders. "How's your first day of class?"
"Terrible," he groaned.
"What are you doing in that get-up? You've been out of the loop for so long, you've even forgotten where our classroom is," Akira teased.
Tsukasa glared at him. "Of course I know where it is. You don't think I'd know where my own classroom is? This is for Makino --"
"Ah, Ma-ki-no," the rest chorused knowingly. Even Rui.
"She's sick," he went ahead, pointedly ignoring them, "and she's worried about missing school." He threw Soujirou's arm off and took off his Eitoku jacket. "Remind me never to wear this thing again. Or better yet, hang me with my tie if you see me in it."
"Is she worth it? Face it, Tsukasa, that girl has got you wrapped around her finger," Akira joked. He took on a high-pitched voice, "Oh, Doumyouji, polish my shoes for me, will you?"
Soujirou took up the challenge, instantly appearing at Akira's side. " Anything for you, my chocolate riceball."
"Oh, you're so manly when you do that--"
"Awww, shut up," Tsukasa snapped. "I have the rest of the day to do this, you know."
"You could have just asked one of her classmates for the notes," Rui spoke up suddenly. "Besides, it's not like she'll be missing a lot."
Tsukasa frowned. "Gee, thanks for sharing the insight, Rui," he said sarcastically.
Rui gave one of his rare smiles. "You're welcome."
"But seriously," Tsukasa said, "I wouldn't want to entrust Makino's education to one of her second-rate classmates."
"You sound like her mother," Soujirou noted.
"I think he's even worse," Rui added.
Tsukasa groaned. Who needed these guys anyway?
Akira clung to his arm, still doing his Tsukushi imitation. "Oh, Doumyouji, please don't frown so. Your face might permanently end up that way."
"…and besides, Doumyouji-san, you're scaring the customers," Yuuki added hesitantly, fearing that Doumyouji might blow up at her suggestion that he stop scowling and start smiling more.
Tsukasa could feel a vein popping from his forehead, but he gritted his teeth in what he hoped was a passable smile. He was wearing a red apron, which was loud and obviously out of place in the quaint and delicate colors of the dango shop, just as he was. But it was the only one that fit him. Between him and Yuuki, they had managed to convince the owner to let him pinch hit for Tsukushi even for just one afternoon.
"So how do I do this again?" he asked her instead.
She breathed an audible sigh of relief. "First, you take the customer's orders and use the tongs to get the dumpling they want. Then you punch it in the cash register, ask for the money, and give them their order, change, and receipt with a smile."
"With. A. Smile," Tsukasa repeated, not quite believing what he heard. She really wanted him to pretend that everything was just peachy and smile at everyone who came into the shop? He was about to ask something else when the faint tinkling of the door chimes signalled that they had a new customer.
"Irasshaimase!" Yuuki greeted. She gave Tsukasa a small nudge.
"Irasshaimase," Tsukasa mumbled at the middle-aged salaryman who came walking inside.
"I'd like that one," the man announced in such a bossy voice that Tsukasa bristled. Who did he think he was talking to?
"Which one, sir?" Yuuki broke in. She gave Tsukasa a quick glance that seemed to say, Let me handle this.
"That one." The man pointed to a dumpling directly in front of Tsukasa, looking at him imperiously. "Two pieces, and make it quick. I haven't got all day."
Tsukasa bit back a remark and grabbed the dumpling with the tongs. Just as he was about to slide it out, the man waved his hand. "Uh, on second thought, I'd like something plainer. That one."
"Excellent choice, sir," Yuuki noted pleasantly. Tsukasa made a soft growling sound in his throat, and slid the first dumpling back in to get the second. But he must have grabbed it a little too forcefully because the man was all over him in an instant.
"No, no, no!" he yelled. "Look at what you did to the dumpling! Would you really serve such a mangled piece to your customers?"
"Excuse me, sir," Yuuki interjected. "But you see, he's new here and--"
But the man was livid. "I don't care if he's new. Your shop should know better than to hire incompetent personnel."
Tsukasa couldn't take it any more. "Who are you calling incompetent? I am Doumyouji Tsukasa! I can shut down whatever company you're working for. Hell, I probably OWN whatever company you're working for! Now get the hell out of--"
The door chimes tinkled again. Tsukasa broke off his tirade when he saw Rui, Soujirou, and Akira saunter in.
"Fighting on his first day," Soujirou sighed.
Akira placed a hand over his heart. "Tsk, tsk, tsk."
So maybe the day wasn't a complete disaster, Tsukasa reflected as he walked to Makino's apartment. He had discarded the blazer right after class was over. There was no way he was going to wear something so itchy ever again. What was Eitoku thinking when they had those uniforms made? He'd have to speak to the principal about it -- not as if he was going to wear the uniform again -- but it wouldn't hurt. In one hand, he clutched the notes he had made for all of Tsukushi's classes. In the other, he held a pair of dumplings that the dango shop's owner insisted that he take to her. Tsukushi was going to get her day's salary as if she had been there the whole time, even though technically, Doumyouji only spent fifteen minutes at the store. Yuuki and the shop owner didn't seem to mind.
The door opened before he could even knock. Tsukushi held it for him, a smirk on her face. "I could hear your footsteps a mile away."
"Is that any way to greet me?" Tsukasa grumbled. "No kiss, no welcome hug, no how-was-your-day-Tsukasa?" He had spent the entire day for her! Was she really worth all this?
But Tsukushi was already tugging on his hand. "You bought dumplings?" she asked, peering into the small paper bag. "Good, because we can eat that here. I made you dinner." She shot him a sly smile. "Ramen, your favorite."
Tsukasa felt a warm glow spread through him as he took in the carefully set table in front of them. She was sick, yet she had gone through all this trouble for him?
"Don't just stand there looking like an idiot," Tsukushi complained. "I know it's not much but it's still food, you know? You don't have to act like it's the last thing you'd want to eat!"
Tsukasa's arms went around a surprised Tsukushi, his chest pressing against her warm back. He placed a soft kiss on the top of her head. She stiffened for a second, but he felt her relax into his embrace. He would go to hell and back for this woman. He would willingly cut ties with his family for her. He would wear that Eitoku jacket again if she asked him to. He loved her for a million reasons, and he had a million ways to show her. "I'm home."
Worth every damn minute.