Kaoru leaned back against the door and waited for the two to leave before looking up and making eye contact with Ryota. "They're gone," he said lowly to the man. He couldn't hate Ryota any more than he could at that moment. He'd left Kaoru in the stairway to the basement for hours, almost a full day, and had only let Kaoru out just two hours before Hikaru and Haruhi showed up at his door.

"I'm sorry, Kaoru," the man had the guts to say.

"I will not forgive you," Kaoru spat at Ryota. "Not while you keep hurting Emi." Ryota had managed to swallow down his pills again today and it had left him somewhat sane. "You can't keep doing this," Kaoru growled at him. "I won't just stand around and wait for you to hurt us."

Ryota nodded and looked away. "I'm going to go check up on Emi," Ryota said, avoiding the subject.

Kaoru glared and shook his head. "Whatever. Do what you want. But just remember, I'll be ready." Then Kaoru turned and stalked off, headed to the kitchen, and out into the backyard for the first time. He needed some time to think.

Ryota stared off after his adoptive son and grimaced, internally scolding himself. How could he let this happen again? He was sorry, so sorry, sorry, sorry, sorrysorrysorrysorry… He really did not want to hurt Emi and Kaoru but… the medication, the doctors… it all reminded him of that time when he was young and he was wrongly diagnosed. He'd been wrongly put into a mental ward. And look at what it did to him now! He went through bouts of real craziness, all stemming off his trauma.

A flash of his own father came over him and could almost see the glint of the knife. NOnononono, NO! Ryota shook his head, fighting with his demons, tearing his fingers into his hair. No, his father was the abusive one, he wasn't crazy, HE WASN'T!

Ryota breathed hard and removed his shaky hands from his hair and glanced around warily. No, he couldn't become his father. He couldn't give into these shadows like he so often did. This was his son now, Kaoru. He had to protect him. No matter what!

He turned and stomped up the stairs and into the shared bathroom. He swung open the cabinet harshly and looked over the pill bottles with blurry eyes. "Come on, come on!" Ryota scolded himself, trying to focus in on the labels. Where was his medication?

You don't need it! They will only make you black out. They want to keep you in the quiet room. They want to keep you locked away. They don't want you to see your family ever again.

Ryota growled and swung his hand through the stacks of medications and a whole row tumbled into the sink, swirling and clinking together loudly. Damn it, damn it, damnitdamnitdamnit. He grabbed one at random and held it up to his blurry eyes, his hands still shook. It was the right bottle! He forced the cap open and took three out, two more than he needed, and threw them down his throat dry. He would ignore the voices. He did not want to be his father.

Haruhi watched Hikaru walk down the street dismally. She could tell that everything going on with his brother was eating away at Hikaru and she was determined to find out what was going on over at the house next door.

So when she heard the clatter of a screen door from the opposite house, Haruhi paced into her own yard, trying to look casual and followed her chain linked fence along their divided line and peaked over into the yard next door. Kaoru was kicking into the dirt with his hands in his pockets.

Haruhi moved closer and placed her arms across the top of the fence so that she was leaning over. "Okay over there?" she said softly.

Kaoru's head shot up. "Fine," he grumbled, kicking into the dirt some more.

"You're getting your shoes unbelievably dirty," she pointed out.

He looked at her weird. "What do you want?"

"Nothing," she said, looking down to run her fingers along the fence. "I'm just enjoying the outdoors, standing in my yard." She looked up and found Kaoru staring at her dubiously.

"You're trying to get information out of me to pass on to Hikaru aren't you? You're trying to get me to admit I'm depressed and I need help, and blah, blah, blah."

"So you are depressed?" Haruhi asked, tilting her head with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh you're good," Kaoru said, wagging his finger at her. "I see what you're doing here. But no thank you. I don't need your help."

"You're going to have to get help sometime," Haruhi said suddenly. She wanted to scream at him, to tell him to stop being so stubborn. She didn't know what was going on exactly in Kaoru's life, now or ever, but she knew that she needed someone to talk to. "You need it."

Kaoru looked down, rubbing the back of his head. "Yeah, well, I am kind of being forced to get help anyway," Kaoru said lowly with a look of utter distaste. "Hikaru and I have to start our meetings with a guidance counselor this week. I'm not sure if Hikaru told you…?"

Haruhi shook her head, eyes wide. "No…"

Kaoru smiled briefly and fondly. "Hikaru always forgets the small details. Sessions with the school counselor was part of the deal with our social worker when we moved up here. Since it's been almost two weeks, I'm guessing we've gotta get started soon." He sighed then.

"Well, it's a good thing," Haruhi said. "When my mom died…" She paused, gulping down the dreadful feeling of loss. Kaoru was staring at her suddenly, interested. "You never really get over losing them. But it gets better," she assured Kaoru. "I went to the counselors and it sucked but it helped."

"I didn't know your mom was…"

Haruhi nodded and looked down at her hands. "I don't talk about it. But I will tell you about it, if you tell me about your parents."

Kaoru turned away then. "Maybe some other time," he said shakily. And suddenly Kaoru was walking away, fast, heading back towards her house.

Haruhi wasn't disappointed. In fact, she felt that this was step one in reaching Kaoru.

Hikaru slammed the front door behind him, threw off his shoes at the front along with his bag, and stomped all the way up the stairs to his room. He slammed that door and collapsed into his bed face down. He even ignored Sparky's barks and scratches at the door.

But soon enough, the door sprang open to a wildly barking dog and a baffled Rika, followed by his adoptive father, Yasushi. "What is going on?" Yasushi said. "We heard you stomping around from all the way in the kitchen."

Hikaru turned his face into the blankets and moaned. "I don't want to talk about it," he said, muffled.

"Are you sure?" Rika asked, scooping Sparky into arms and came to sit on the edge of his bed.

"Fine, I'll tell you!" Hikaru said, sitting up. "But only because you insisted."

"I'm guessing this is about Kaoru?" Rika asked, stroking the light brown pup.

"How did you know?"

"Because it is every time." Rika sighed and turned her eyes up at the ceiling. "I keep questioning why I didn't adopt both of you. But Emi was so excited…" She turned her eyes back on Hikaru and shrugged with a crooked smile.

Hikaru nodded. "That's okay, or at least it would be okay if Kaoru would talk to me. We used to be so close and we used to tell each other everything! But ever since our parents… Ever since then, Kaoru has been brooding and depressed or something, I don't know. It's like our personalities switched." Hikaru picked up his pillow and scrunched his fingers into it with a frown. "Maybe I don't want to be happy all the time. Maybe I want to have a bad day or be who I used to be. I want the old Kaoru back, I want…" he trailed off, realizing his eyes were watering. He wiped at his eyes, angry at himself. "I shouldn't even be saying these things. I…"

Yasushi reached out and touched Hikaru's shoulder softly. "It's okay to be a little angry at your brother. But you have to remember that he is suffering as much as you. Who knows, maybe he's trying to protect you in his own way? Maybe he's keeping some this back because he wants you to be happy just like you want him to be happy."

Hikaru ground his teeth. "I'd rather have him back, depressed or not."

Emi was lying sideways on the bed, staring dully at the open doorway, listening to the scrambling of her husband in the bathroom. She heard the movement of pills and desperation in Ryota after he choked them down as he panted from the bathroom. Emi smiled weakly. He was so brave, her husband. She could see he was trying his hardest to get better. He was taking his pills and that was good enough for her!

She remembered falling in love with the troubled young man at university. He'd had a nervous tick back then that she'd found endearing. And even though he still fought with his hard past, Emi still loved. She didn't care if he hurt her in his quest to get better. He just couldn't hurt their new son.

I'm glad that everyone is enjoying this story so far! All of your reviews help!