Author's Notes: Because Saki Morimi is a girl, and a girl in love, she tends to be a bit naive, a bit hopeful, a bit of a worrywart-and yet, these are the qualities that so endear her to others, that make her one of the most powerful characters in the series. I didn't like her at first, but she deserves her happy end. What would it look like, realistically?

Summary: In which everyone tries to help, but Saki just needs time alone. Though, honestly, being alone is exactly the problem, you see.


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Seven Snapshots into the Waiting Period

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At the precipice, she hurls the phone.

Hard.

(Her wrist snaps.)

Down, down it goes, sailing through the air. Tauntingly slow in its descent.

The mean, black, sleek thing glints in the sun.

Saki watches it hit the surface of the water with a splash. She steps off the railing of the bridge, takes a deep, calming breath-

-and it's over.

Yes, all over.

She convinces herself of that.

Exactly twenty-seven second later, Saki is splashing her way through icy knee-deep water.

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"Where is Saki?" Sis asks.

Hirasawa only raises an eyebrow. Whatever it is, he doesn't want to get involved, because it can only get messy with a large dose of sniffling, red-faced girl rubbing fistfuls of tissue against her face.

Of course, Osugi whips his head around at the mere mention of her name (the poor bastard) and gives the whole office staff a play-by-play of his visit to Saki's new apartment the evening before to deliver hot soup. His rendition delves into florid details of Saki's cute pajamas and her clean, well-kept abode before someone (thank the stars) decides to put a metaphorical sock in his mouth.

Mitchon rolls her eyes. "You mean she's out sick."

"Yes… Saki-chan mentioned she was looking for something in the river near her house. Dropped a cell phone by accident or something."

No one in the room dares confirm their suspicions by asking, aloud, exactly which cell this was, but Sis' face lights up, and Osugi has the decency to look pissed off and not 100 percent, blunderingly oblivious.

Hirasawa only grunts, expressing his own frustration in the stoic boss-manner he's been working on.

He hopes no one sees him blog his dismay for his cute (no one can deny she's cute in a helpless puppy way), strung-along subordinate into cyberspace.

That Takizawa-bastard...

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"Him and him and him... oh, he's cute."

On odd weekends, the girls got together for coffee and reminiscence. But sometimes, the odd purple-haired beauty would start off on her new personal pet project.

Saki is single, not dense.

"I appreciate it, Shiratori-san, but this is a bit..."

"Hm?"

"Um, not my style… kinda."

"Ah, it's fine. You should have told me earlier, Saki-san. Theeen, how about that one? His face and fashion style is like Akira-kun's, right? But his johnny looks much better."

"E-eh?"

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For all its fancy gadgetry, it turned out to be a normal, functional cell phone afterwards. Sometimes, there's even a call to the number. Ninety-five percent of the time, it's a telemarketer. The other five-percent are miscellaneous wrong numbers. And yet, when an unknown caller calls, she'll still answer every time, if just for some sick bet against herself.

For example:

Brain, to Heart: "Haha, I told you so."

Saki can feel herself dying a little inside, with every call that's not him. Why would it be? So she decides to stop picking up unidentified numbers.

Easier said than done.

"Should I get that new caller ID system? The one with a tracker system…" she muses as she packs up after work, fingering the smooth keys of the Selecao phone.

It's still a small office, but EDEN the company is taking leaps and bounds, and they've started thinking about hiring new staff. She and Itazu Yutaka are the latest ones at work today, although pulling all nighters is normal occurrence for the former hacker known as Pantsu.

Itazu blinks, mid-carrot stick, courtesy of Mitchon's insistence that the ex-recluse start taking care of himself.

"I'll install it. So you can—ah, nevermind. Yeah, I'll do it as repayment for the sweatpants that one time." He tugs at his brown locks, a nervous habit from the new diet.

Saki blinks owlishly at her coworker—no, friend, she amends herself. Holding back tears as she thanks him, Saki slides the phone across the table.

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Movie-going experiences never fail to leave her in a terrible mood. Which is why blind dates to the movies never go well—for her, at least.

Since the movies and dinner is still standard, boring date protocol in Japan (plus, Saki's pretty conservative, push comes to shove), the young EDEN director finds herself stuck in another awkward encounter.

Franz, her date, is a sweetheart. He apparently frequents the same cafe as her circle of friends—this little establishment with outdoor tables right next the busy street.

The guy is dashing by anyone's standards, with long-fringed blue eyes, well-groomed chestnut locks, and a foreign college diploma. Saki thinks he's too good for her, really, but what the heck. It was only her circle of friends that shoved her to go on her fifty-something-eth blind date in thirteen months.

This one may be particularly awkward. Usually, her Japanese dates wait until the end, or never pluck up the courage on the first date (they all inevitably never got past that first date). However, Franz-san leans over from his theatre seat to brush his lips against Saki's gently.

Her knee-jerk reaction and the shower of popcorn that follows garner too much attention, even in a near-empty theatre. Her date snaps back immediately and doesn't so much as touch her all throughout their painfully awkward trek to dinner.

Over grilled flounder, he asks her in flawless, unaccented Japanese.

"So, who's the guy you're not over?"

Great. Just great. Saki struggles and fails to hide her look of mortification. So even random men from blind dates pitied her, now.

"Ah. Old school crush," she lies the best she can. "I'm over it."

Franz looks unconvinced, but says solemnly. "I could punch him if you'd like, Morimi-san."

Saki decides then and there that she should steer him to one of her good girl friends. This guy really is a good catch.

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Saki is three years out of college when the EDEN cohort decides to institute an annual "school uniform" party. A staff of fifty people all dress up, and go out clubbing in their high school guises. A few of the new recruits are in actuality plucked into the work force fresh out of high school, but everyone looks young enough, anyway.

For those who know, they figure it'll cheer Saki up. After all, it's the date of the anniversary of the disastrous graduation trip to New York. In other words, the single week every year that the usually cheerful Saki becomes deathly quiet at work, and shuffles out exactly at 5:30 pm without even a goodbye.

So at exactly 5:25 pm, Osugi and one of the younger college grads who Saki is pretty sure has a huge crush on Osugi-kun storm in with bottles of champagne and soda, yelling "paaaaarty" in a way that made Executive Hirasawa's oh-so-delicate nerves stand on end.

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Saki visits her sister two times a month, but it slowly becomes more than that. The sisters' relationship heals and repairs itself. All their extended relatives think it's because of time and the maturity that comes with age.

Saki, her sister, and probably Ryosuke-san know it for what it really is.

Still, it surprises Saki when she discovers her heart holds no old scars and she loves fully, deeply her relatives, one night, when she learns the news through her sister's husband, Ryosuke-san.

He's been kicked downstairs to sleep in the bakery area while Saki takes the couch downstairs (what used to be her room is now the nursery room) and muffled sobbing is heard from the upstairs floor.

Saki never really enjoys mediating in their marriage relationship. Heck, the little sister knows her own relationship inexperience, thanks. But Ryosuke-san is haggard-looking and can't stop kneading the bread dough with such force that the sheen of sweat becomes apparent under the electric lights, and Saki knows this is serious.

As it turns out, tragedy visits the Morimi sisters in the most ironic of ways. As the only survivors of their direct line, and with Ryosuke-san being an only child with the burden of carrying on his lineage, an age-old responsibility comes to haunt them.

"'Car… accident?" Saki repeats her brother-in-law's words dully.

She knows how just hard it was for her sister to conceive and deliver the first child, knows that the OB-GYN doctors advised against having another, for the toll it might take on her delicate sister's body. It takes all of Saki's willpower to storm up the stairs and slam open the door of the master bedroom. She flings her arms around her older sister, surprised to see her beautiful and calm idol tear-streaked and hysterical, mourning over her lost child.

"I promise. My first child, I'll let you and Ryosuke-san raise it… promise, 'Nee-chan," Saki whispers fiercely, her own tears soaking into her sister's nightshirt. "So make up with Ryosuke-san, please. He needs you, loves only you, so much, and you belong together."

Her promise is one she doesn't know if she'll be able to keep. After all, practically no one in the world knew that Saki's prince charming had even existed.

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Time passes.

The good and bad, confrontation and reconciliation come with the ebb and flow of life.

People she loves. People who love her.

But there's only one she wants and loves in that way, in a way that scares her—for all the unfulfilled promises of tomorrow could just pass her by.

They don't.

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He sits down at her table, unassuming, in a worn-looking grey suit, with wild ink-black hair that still doesn't suit his clothes.

Mostly, Saki just feels like she's done this before. Indeed she has, but this is the last time.

"Where did you go?"

"A lot of places." Takizawa's eyes shine, and Saki—no longer the quiet, shy girl from four years ago—is not afraid of the mysteries and untold adventures in that gaze. She's not scared that he'll leave her, or that she'll break under his whims.

Saki the woman stares back at him and knows, understands finally, the full warmth and promise held in her man's eyes. Promises meant for her this time. It takes her breath away.

"You came back. What should I call you?" she smiles into her coffee. It's almost like an old joke between them, only between them.

His incredulous laughter is rich and inviting, and the not-Takizawa looks—really looks—at her and at the changes in her with a hungry curiosity. Saki invites his scrutiny.

"Call me anything you like," he grins approvingly at the calm in her eye. He settles back in his chair in that languid way of his that let's on the fact that, really, he's barely changed at all.

Then he leans closer, voice muted.

"But… I want to be Takizawa. Your Takizawa, if you'll let me."

Her breath catches. Something does a somersault inside.

"Why?" she breathes.

"I've been a lot of things, assumed a ton of roles, these past three, no… five" he counts them on his fingers "no, four years." He nods conclusively, his inky bangs falling into his eyes. "And, I've met a lot of great people, some who mentored me, many more who needed my help."

Takizawa, the saint. Saki's heart clenches, and she suppresses the old insecurities that whisper that she's not good enough for him. That decision belonged to the man in front of her now.

"And?"

"And I figured out that I like being Takizawa Akira, better than anyone else. People don't forget emotions. I was always happiest then."

"I see." She does, a little.

His voice is sincere, but there's one final question in her heart. For four years, she's posed it to herself nightly.

"You were Takizawa Akira twice. Which one do you mean to be?"

The raven-haired, suited young man across from her drops her gaze for a split second, and Saki's heart drops.

But he recovers, and his eyes are shining with truth as he states, as honestly as when the old Takizawa Akira promised her he'd come back to her against all odds—which he did.

His eyes are locked on hers, mouth smiling a little crookedly.

"I'm whoever I am whenever I'm with you, Saki. That person always has been and always will be the real me."

Slender, manicured fingers fly to shield her face as the floodgates threaten to open.

As calmly as she can manage, Saki locks her facial features and puts down enough money to cover the bill, before rising from the table and stepping into the crowded street. He follows her, for once, moving at a brisk pace to match hers, though he is careful to give Saki her space as she suddenly stops to exclaim in a tremulous voice.

"I don't know what to say. I-it's so sudden, and... you're actually... I don't know what I should do."

"Why don't you pretend this is a movie, then?" Takizawa grins at her, dark eyes dancing.

Saki opens her arms with more courage than she feels. "No. Prove it's not, please."

He surrounds her, and she is gathered up against him—his scent, his strong arms, his warm and decidedly solid chest.

"With pleasure," he chuckles, and his breath tickles her forehead.

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Suzu: all reviews go towards feeding the defiantly youthful soul of a poor, unemployed student.