Kaoru held still, breathing steadily but still terrified. His hands were pressed into the door in front of him and his face was smashed against the wood and turned slightly so that he was staring at Emi. She was staring at him in complete horror. Kaoru didn't blame her as he stared at the bandage on her head.

Ryota's fingers strained at the back of Kaoru's neck and across his mouth but Kaoru only winced, trying to stay calm. "Now listen," Ryota repeated. "I don't need these people coming to check up on you, me, or Emi. We are one big happy family, got that?" Kaoru hesitated but then nodded slowly against the man's hands.

Leaning forward so that he was in Kaoru's line of sight, Ryota continued, "You will go to school, give your classmates no reason to worry, and come straight home."

Kaoru mumbled into Ryota's hand.

He gasped as Ryota grabbed him by the hair and spun him to face him. "What did you say?"

Kaoru stared at him, trying to hide his fear, and said, "I have soccer practice." Ryota's face immediately darkened and Kaoru felt his heart stutter. "Can… Can I still play?"

Ryota's fingers tightened on Kaoru's shoulder before he released him. "Fine. But you must be home right after to do chores. Do you've got that?" But before Kaoru could reply, Ryota stalked away and up the stairs. Kaoru didn't unfreeze from his spot until he heard the slam of Ryota's bedroom door. Kaoru stood in shock for a second more. Did Ryota seriously give Kaoru permission to do something? In the three days he'd been with this family, Kaoru had thought of the man as a cruel person who would never let Kaoru do anything.

Kaoru frowned and glanced at Emi. She was smiling slightly at Kaoru. "He's taking his medication again," she said quietly. "He started this morning after you went to school."

"But that… What does that mean?"

She came forward and wrapped her arms around Kaoru gently. Emi said into his ear, "He really doesn't want to be like this, Kaoru. When he hurt you this morning," she began but she paused to let go of him and look into his eyes. Her eyes were watery as she continued, "He was horrified. He told me all about it. He apologized about hurting me and I know he's sorry about you too but he has a hard time of saying these things. Then he said that he would try for me. He took his anxiety medication this morning. I'm hoping he keeps up with it."

Kaoru shook his head, trying to process. "So you're saying that everything is going to be different from here on out?"

She nodded happily. "I have something for you." Quickly, she half-ran into the living room, disappearing from view. Kaoru stood dumbly, trying to wrap his mind around it all. It was all too sudden, this change in Ryota. And was Emi really going to believe he would change just like that? But then Emi was returning with something in her hands.

Kaoru gasped when he saw what it was. It was his phone, still in pieces, but there it was. Kaoru snatched it from her hands and cradled it in his hands. "Where did you—?"


Kaoru looked up at that. "You mean—?"

"He dug it out of the trash for you. Like I said he felt terrible and didn't want you being miserable living with us."

Glancing down at his phone briefly, Kaoru said, "Is he going to see a doctor about his mood swings?" When Kaoru looked up at Emi, her smile had faltered.

"I don't know," she said honestly. "He may be bipolar or something, I really don't know. But I'm not going to force it. Also, I'm afraid of what could happen if social services find out."

"You don't want them to take me away?" his voice came out a little more broken than he intended. He swallowed thickly. "You need me?"

"Of course! You don't think I do?" She placed a hand on his shoulder. "You are the only one I have right now. We're in this together, you know?"

Kaoru nodded, understanding. It must have been so terrible for Emi to have to go through all of this abuse without anyone to tell. "I don't have to play soccer," Kaoru said suddenly, looking at Emi. "I could be home more with you."

"You don't want to play soccer?" Emi asked, looking surprised.

"It's not that…"

"Then you are playing soccer! No son of mine is being deprived of sports!" she cried dramatically. She laughed.

This stole a smile out of Kaoru but he worked hard to force it back down as he said, "It's just that there is this fee…"

"No problem," Emi said and suddenly she was walking to the closet in the foyer. Kaoru followed slowly behind, watching as she opened it and pulled her purse off a hook and pulling out her wallet. "How much is it?"

"You don't have to, really," Kaoru said warily.

"But I want to! Now spit it out. How much?"

Kaoru fiddled with his phone pieces in his hand. "Eighty."

Immediately Emi began filling out the check and then she placed it into his hand with his phone. "Now get washed up. We're going eating dinner and then shopping."

"You were serious?" Kaoru asked, shocked again.

"I was serious!" she said as she walked away into the kitchen.

The shopping had gone smoothly, Kaoru supposed. He really didn't want Emi spending so much on him but she wanted nothing but the best for her son. Now Kaoru was staring at the blank walls in his room, feeling numb. That word, son, was eating away at him. The more he thought about his parents, the more it hurt. The more he tried to forget, the more he felt guilty. And this cloud over his head just wouldn't go away.

He should be happy right? He has new clothes for school and he was going to play soccer again. Mom and Dad would be happy for him, wouldn't they? Kaoru turned his head to look at his phone on his dresser. Maybe… Maybe if he could get some of the pictures off his phone, he wouldn't forget what they looked like. He heard that happens to people.

Slowly, he picked up the phone and stared at it. Was there a way to do it with his phone being obliterated?

"Knock, knock," Emi's soft voice said from behind him.

Kaoru dropped his phone in his surprise. Luckily it landed back onto the dresser. "Hey," he said.

"Sorry to barge in but I was just walking by and… Kaoru, are you doing okay?" she asked, leaning against the door.

"I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?" He turned to face her fully.

She pursed her lips, totally not believing him, but said, "The service for that phone, did it have cloud back up?"

"What?" Kaoru asked, looking over at his phone. Then it dawned on him. "Oh," he said, looking back at her.

She smiled. "The computer is downstairs in the living room. Feel free to use it. As for me," she said, pushing away from the door. "I'm going to brownies. You do like brownies, right?"

"Uh… yeah, actually." He rose slowly, grabbed his phone, and followed her downstairs. She went into the kitchen and he bee-lined for the computer.

It was old but it would do. At least they had one! Just a few minutes ago, he didn't even know they owned one. He immediately logged onto the internet and typed in the URL for his father's webpage. They did not have backup on their phones like Emi mentioned, but her words did remind him that his father had made his own webpage for his and Mom's business. Together they had started their own fashion line. That had been recently and they hadn't gotten too far before they'd died, but they had made a little money. Now all of their remaining finances were going to Hikaru and Kaoru on their eighteenth birthday as a college fund.

Kaoru found the page and clicked through to the About Us page. He stopped and smiled fondly at the screen. It was a picture of all four of them standing in front of the new shop Mom had downtown.

He pressed print, feeling happier than he had in days.