Story: For the Love of Cats (chapter 1)

Authors: KaitonLocke

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Chapter 1

Title: Kami-sama Hates me!

[Author's notes: Well, this is the story that made me want to do an Azumanga Daioh series. It's the last in the timeline of this series, but not the finale of said timeline. Lookforward to the other five one shots and the mega-crossover epic that will fill the void that each seperate fic leaves.]

Morning was the time of the day where plans were made and people braced themselves to face the world, always believing that a new day brought new fortune. But not Kagura. She, on the other hand, had come to despise and detest mornings, they were becoming more trouble than they were worth. Recently, her mornings were becoming a battle of staying home and going to classes and enduring her torture that those held for her. Mind you, not all of her classes were torture, but a certain classmate, only present in three of those classes, was the reason for her torture. It was the embodiment of a living hell for Kagura. One she desperately hoped to escape.

Battling with herself again this morning, she opened her eyes and groaned in resignation. She hated being like this. All because of a simple crush, her life was completely miserable. Now, she was constantly questioning her actions, second guessing her decisions, and she felt far more insecure than she ever had before. She hated her growing insecurity and felt completely out of her depth all the time. She used to enjoy being confident in facing the day with vigor and now, mornings had become Kagura's most hated and unpleasant time of day. Each and every morning that passed made Kagura's depression grow.

'Another day of torture begins.' Kagura sighed to herself as she rose from her sofa-bed. 'Will I ever find the courage to face this fear? What am I going to do? Why can't I face this like I used to face everything else? What is holding me back? Damn, I can't stand being this depressed and afraid.' She stretched lazily, then busied herself gathering up clothes for class and her bathing supplies. 'Hopefully, a nice, hot bath will help me cheer up and prepare me for the day.'

Washing herself quickly, if only to escape the cold water, she began to drop all of her mental barriers. Sinking into the hot water, Kagura allowed her mind to wander freely as she reclined and relaxed in the furo of her apartment. They meandered through the schedule for the day; what classes she had to attend, the assignments she had to finish or needed to turn in, what to do for breakfast and lunch, and similar such ideas. Soon, her mind began to tread down a familiar and undesired path, one that would deepen her depression and add fuel the fire of her self-hatred. She pushed her thoughts from that particular area and sent it along another track. Recalling the red circle on her desk calender, she tried to remember why she had made that mark in the first place. She knew it wasn't a meet or any special sports event, so she tried holidays. Once she had gone through that list, coming up empty, she moved onto birthdays. That one sparked her memory. A sigh of defeat escaped her lips and she felt like breaking down and crying. She gave a shout of anger at her forgetfulness and climbed out of the furo, drying herself off quickly.

'Damn, I had forgotten that it was tomorrow!' She cursed mentally, 'I shouldn't have remembered what day it was. Damn, damn, damn! Now, I'm depressed again. I hate being depressed. Damn me and my cursed fears.' She wanted to scream, shout, pound her walls into debris, and just throw a massive hissy fit, but she restrained herself to angry noises at a controlled volume.

Kagura muttered curses to herself and all things that made her so depressed. Dressing in a pair of fitted blue jeans and dark-green sleeveless tee, she made herself a small and easy meal for breakfast, which she ate quickly. A half-eaten piece of toast in mouth, she grabbed her books and papers, shoving them into her bag. Finishing the last bit of toast, she slipped her shoes on and unlocked the front door. Grabbing her purse and keys, she left her apartment, locking the door behind her, just to feel safe. She slid down the stairwell's banister and jogged out the door of the complex she lived in. She walked down the street casually, headed for the metro station a few blocks away.
Sakaki had come to rather enjoy the morning, especially her daily walk to the metro station. Every morning, she had the pleasure of greeting an adorable calico kitten she had named Niko. It fit the little ball of fluff. She had grown quite fond of the kawaii little thing. It was a little bundle of complete cuteness. Then, her day was completed during the trip home when a precocious orange and white tabby she called Spots always wandered up to bask in her gentle petting and loving attention. Ever since Mayaa had come into her life, the stray cats had changed their attitude toward her completely. Life was perfect for Sakaki. Well, almost perfect. It still felt to her like something was missing.

'What is this feeling I have?' Sakaki asked herself every night as she drifted off into a dream-filled slumber. 'Why does it feel like I missing something? I have Mayaa, cats don't bite or attack me anymore, yet, I feel lonely, sort of empty. What is there left for me to gain? What am I missing?'

Releasing a sad sigh, Sakaki drank the last of her morning tea and ate the rest of her breakfast. She rinsed the dirty dishes, putting them into the dish washer for cleaning. She collected her book bag, and slipped her shoes on as she opened the door of her apartment. She gave Mayaa a farewell pat on the head and locked the door behind her. Not that Mayaa would let anything happen, she just couldn't break the habit. The walk to the station this morning was spent in silent contemplation.
Kagura's mental cursing grew as she entered the metro station, now fifteen minutes later than she had planned. She had nearly been cornered by a huge gang of alley cats when she remembered just how well she could outrun them. It seemed that she had siphoned off of some of Osaka's legendary forgetfulness after all. Of all the things to pick up from her high school friends, that had to be the worst thing she could possibly get. She continued her internal tirade of self-cursing as she purchased her ticket and walked up the flight of stairs to the platform. She cursed out loud once she caught sight of the massive crowd waiting for their trains on the platform.

'Damn, damn, damn, damn, and damn it all again!' Kagura's mind screamed. 'I can't believe how crappy this morning has been. I'm beginning to think that the Kami are out to get me. Or they get some kind of sick joy from making me suffer. Damn!'
Sakaki, slowed up by her contemplation, arrived at the station almost ten minutes behind schedule. Usually, she wasn't this late into the morning rush at the station, but because of her distractedness this morning, she was caught up in the peak of the morning hustle and bustle. She found herself trapped in a sea of people on the platform.

Sakaki sighed in resignation. 'There's no way to avoid it.' She thought morosely. 'I didn't even notice little Niko today. And I was looking forward to petting her. Guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow then.'

She glanced over at the tracks, hoping that her train was coming soon. She waited patiently, completely trapped where she stood. She waited for the university train, and sighed one more as the woman behind her was muttering very colorful curses and sneezing loudly. She had no desire to get sick this early in the term. Closing her eyes, Sakaki attempted to find her center and regain her normal balance.

'Some people are really rude.' She thought sadly. 'And I wish she'd watch her language.'
Kagura muttered another slew of very colorful curses as her sneezing fit died down. She glared angrily at the tall woman standing in front of her. The long, black mane of silky hair the woman wore loosely was tickling her nose, and she was becoming very irritated and her cursing grew in volume and vulgarity as her ire rose.

'Damn, this tree of a woman needs a haircut.' Kagura thought angrily. She shifted her book bag and gave the woman a harsh tap on the shoulder, prepared to give the woman a nice piece of her mind.
Sakaki released yet another sigh as she felt the woman behind her tap her shoulder rather harshly. She moved her book bag from her left hand over to her right and turned around slowly to face the rude woman. She prepared an apology, and it died on her lips as the woman's face came into view.
Kagura's growing anger and words flew out the window once she saw the face of the tall woman she had been ready to give an ear full. She froze in place and her arms fell limply to her side. She simply stood there like a statue.

Weakly, a very familiar name escaped her lips. “Sa... ka... ki?”

“Ka-Kagura-san!” Sakaki exclaimed. “Were you the one that was cursing like that?”

Kagura blushed a bright red, thoroughly embarrassed. “I... I ... Yes.” She said, almost inaudibly.

Sakaki was perplexed as she watched Kagura shuffle around nervously. “Kagura-san, is something troubling you?”

Kagura froze and eeped in embarrassment. “N-no! N-nothing's wrong! I'm okay, just dandy!” She squeaked, keeping her eyes focused on her feet, unable to meet Sakaki's gaze. She glanced around quickly, looking for a route for escape, but found none.

“Are you sure Kagura-san?” Sakaki asked again, her voice carrying hints of concern and worry for her friend. “You don't seem like your normal self. You're not sick are you?”

“Ye-yes!” Kagura replied quickly. “I've got a small cold, nothing to worry about, really.”

“If you're sure Kagura-san,” Sakaki nodded, somewhat placated. “That explains the loud sneezing.”

Kagura's blush darkened as she remembered what she had been thinking before she had discovered that it had been Sakaki's hair which had been tickling her nose, and the anger that had accompanied those thoughts. Quietly, almost as if she was thinking it and not saying it, Kagura whispered, “It was your hair that made me sneeze.” Kagura stiffened when she realized she had said it, instead of thinking it, and prayed that Sakaki hadn't heard her.

“It was my hair?” Sakaki inquired, trying to clarify what she heard. “My hair made you sneeze? I'm sorry Kagura-san. You have my most sincere apologies.”

Kagura eeped again, this time louder and her blush darkened even further. “I-it's alright Sakaki. No harm no foul right? I-I'll be fine. Don't worry about me.” Kagura placed her hand over her mouth, trying to stifle the urge to plow her way through the crowd in order to escape Sakaki and her embarrassment. Silently, into her hand, she whispered, “I hope I'll be alright. This has to be the most horrible morning ever!”

“Did you say something Kagura-san?” Sakaki asked, her voice again carried a note of concern.

Kagura breathed a small sigh of relief. “No. I didn't say anything Sakaki.” Desperate to change the subject, Kagura spent a moment racking her brain for something to talk about with her tall friend. “Say, I've never seen you here at the station before. I usually meet you in the lounge every day after first classes. Why are you here today?”

“Well... ” Sakaki trailed off, trying to find the words for her predicament. “Well, I'm not sure about something, and thinking about the... problem made me lose track of time, so I'm running a little behind schedule today.”

Kagura boggled at that. She had seen how much happier Sakaki had been once she had gotten her own place and could live with Mayaa without having to worry about her mother's allergies. “Really? I didn't think you had any problems. You seem happy and you've got Mayaa in your apartment, and the other cats don't bite or attack you anymore, so what's wrong?”

“That's the problem,” Sakaki sighed sadly. “I don't know. Something seems to be missing and I can't think of anything I need or would like to have. Living with Mayaa is wonderful, and it's blessing that the cats like me now, and I was lucky enough to get into a college with one of my friends, yet, for some reason, it doesn't seem like it's enough. Why is that?”

“Oh,” Kagura replied, frowning a bit. “I couldn't tell ya. It's something you'll need to find out for yourself I guess. You'll probably think of something. Don't let it bother you too much Sakaki.”

“Okay,” Sakaki replied, her spirits lifting a bit. “Now that you mentioned my lateness, why are you here at this time? Aren't you usually on the train by now?”

Kagura blushed again, the reason for her lateness replaying in her mind. “Hehehe... ” she laughed nervously. “I... overslept.”

Sakaki seemed to think about that for a moment before nodding and asking, “Stay up late last night?”

“Not terribly, but a little later than normal,” Kagura replied, slipping into the lie easily. “Nothing to worry about, I'll still be on time for class. Ah, there's our ride now.”

Indeed, as Kagura finished her sentence, the metro train stopped at it's expected position parallel to the platform, the doors whooshing open, allowing people to exit and board the massive, connected boxes of metal. The crowd of students heading for classes filed into the cars, filling them to the brim. Kagura and Sakaki get crushed against each other, Kagura pressed up against Sakaki's chest. Kagura squirms uncomfortably as she feels the taller girl's breasts pushing against her back gently. Her legs nearly buckling, she feels her mind turn to mush as the soft mounds press into her back.

“You're getting rather warm Kagura-san,” Sakaki said softly. “You aren't running a fever are you?”

Kagura moaned weakly in response. Lost in her haze, she was unable to form a coherent sentence. “Soft... oh so soft...” She murmured groggily.

“Oh no,” Sakaki exclaimed softly, “she's delirious. What am I going to do?”

Kagura's weakened legs finally gave out and she fell to the floor of the metro as it rumbled along the tracks, three stops short of the University station. She was mumbling several incoherent sentences and appeared to have a slight nosebleed. Sakaki knelt next to her friend and placed the back of her hand to Kagura's forehead. Kagura leaned into the touch slightly, purring somewhat, startling Sakaki for a few seconds. Sakaki withdrew her hand and gazed worriedly at her delirious classmate and friend.

'What am I going to do now?' Sakaki asked herself in worry. 'I don't have any medicine and we're still ten minutes from the University station. And that makes it a total of fifteen minutes till I can get her to the infirmary there.' Sakaki wrung her hands together fretfully. 'Why didn't she tell me that she was this sick?'

Kagura leaned forward, placing her head on Sakaki's shoulder, wrapping her arms around the taller girl's waist and fell asleep instantly. She nuzzled Sakaki's neck in contentment and her breathing evened out quickly. Sakaki was frozen as the tanned athlete made herself comfortable against her, even though a part of her welcomed the contact. She shifted her gaze upon Kagura's face, and she smiled softly at the peaceful smile that was painted on Kagura's sleeping face. Her heart melted, happy to see Kagura smiling that way. It had been so long since Kagura had smiled like this. She always seemed so tense and distant. Now, she was glad that her friend trusted her like this.

'I think that I'll take her to the infirmary, just so she can sleep like this for a while.' Sakaki thought to herself. She was about to sit down when the operator called out their stop, the train's brakes squealing as they slowed the momentum of the train cars, bringing them to a slow stop at the station. Sakaki lifted Kagura from the floor as the students filed off the train, and held her in her arms as she followed them off. She walked at a even pace, carrying Kagura onto the campus and into the infirmary, only releasing the sleeping girl once she had her placed onto one of the beds there.

“It is alright for her to rest here isn't it nurse?” Sakaki asked the on duty RN there.

The woman in rosy pink and white nodded affirmatively and smiled gently at the tall girl as she gazed warmly at Kagura's sleeping form. “You may stay if you like,” She said gently. “I can tell your professor as well as hers.”

Sakaki looked at Kagura for a second, contemplating both the situation and her own feelings on the matter. She smiled at the RN and thanked her for allowing her to watch over her friend. She pulled a small padded chair over to the side of the bed and made herself comfortable. She brushed a few locks of Kagura's black hair from her face, pushing them behind her ear. Kagura stirred a bit, her smile returning to her face. Sakaki smiled gently in kind, her heart warming again at the sight of the peaceful smile on Kagura's lips. She folded her arms and lay her head upon them, carefully studying her slumbering friend's features as she slept on.
Kagura opened her eyes slowly, lifting her hands to rub the sleep from them. After blinking a few times to finish waking herself up; she yawned and stretched feeling rested and content, more so than she had in a few months. She looked at the ceiling, recognizing it after a moment or two of internal deliberation. She was in the infirmary at the University, and that puzzled her. She thought for a minute, trying to recall how she got here. She remembered being chased by cats on her way to the station, and running into Sakaki, her secret crush. She remembered being angry at first, then total embarrassment in the presence of the woman she had fallen for so long ago. She then recalled almost being crushed against Sakaki's breasts in the train, and finally how she had crumpled into a heap, a victim of her repressed desires. She paled immensely as she recalled wrapping her arms around Sakaki in her fit of desire and falling asleep on her shoulder. Her head fell in shame, and she brought her knees to her chest and began rocking herself back and forth. This roused Sakaki from her nap and alerted her to Kagura's state of awareness.

“Kagura-san!” Sakaki exclaimed with relief. “You've awakened. You had me worried for a while. I was afraid you were seriously ill. Are you okay?”

Kagura lifted her head and gazed balefully at the girl who was looking at her, her features wearing an expression of relief and concern. She paled further and pressed herself against the wall in an attempt to put distance between her and Sakaki.

“Kagura-san?” Sakaki intoned. “What's wrong?”

Kagura shucked the sheet covering her body, leapt off the bed and bolted for the door. Yanking the large and heavy door open, Kagura charged out into the hallway and dashed away at a frantic pace. She had to get away, and had to do it as fast as her feet would carry her. She ran at a pace far beyond her normal limit, adrenaline and horror fueling her muscles. She had to flee, she had just crossed the only line she vowed NEVER to cross. It was all over, and her heart was shattering more every time her foot hit the ground.

Back in the University's infirmary, Sakaki stood next to the now empty bed, frozen in complete shock and dismay. The instant Kagura fled, Sakaki felt her chest constrict and ache dully. The sting of tears prodded in her eyes, and she walked out of the infirmary numbly. Had she done something to make Kagura hate her? Something new had awakened in her, and that was somewhat confusing for her, then Kagura flees the instant Sakaki said something to her. The pain she felt was new and even more confusing than the first feeling she had felt. Why had Kagura fleeing hurt her so? None of the day had made sense. She left the campus and walked aimlessly, allowing her subconscious guide her feet.
Kagura came to a stop at a large and somewhat new apartment complex. She had slid down the outer wall, and into a sitting position soon after leaning against it to catch her breath. As she regained her wits, she quickly recognized it as her home.

'At least I didn't get lost running around like that.' She mused morosely. 'I can't believe I actually latched onto Sakaki like that! She hates me for sure now. Probably thinks of me as some sort of freak or something.' This thought caused Kagura to break down and weep openly. She sat there crying for a good few minutes. Her body calmed and she wiped the tears from her face. She rose to her feet and dragged herself up to her apartment, opening the door slowly, and flopped onto her old, ragged sofa.

“I shouldn't have gotten up today,” She cried. “I just lost the one person that meant the most to me. Kami-sama, I'm so stupid!”
Sakaki walked on, lost in thought, for nearly an hour. She had passed her home and gone around a park, not through it like she normally did. She replayed the morning from the moment she had turned to see Kagura standing behind her on the metro platform, all the way through the second the door shut after Kagura's flight from the infirmary. She analyzed every sentence, every gesture, and every instant of contact between the two. During the analysis, she came to realize that with each touch, her skin was left tingling in the wake of the contact. She also realized that when Kagura smiled, her own smiles were that much wider. What all of this meant escaped Sakaki's understanding, but she resolved to figure it all out. Looking at her surroundings, she noticed that her feet had guided her to the one person that she wanted to see. She was now standing next to Kagura's apartment complex. She ascended the stairs and walked down the path to the apartment Kagura lived in. It was time to figure out what she had done to make Kagura flee. She had to know, it was eating her up inside.
Kagura's weeping was interrupted by a loud, and insistent knock at her door. She glared at the large hunk of wood and paint, willing the person on the other side to leave. Her luck proved that her will wasn't the will of the person intruding upon her weeping.

“Go away!” She shouted angrily. “I'm not in the mood to talk with anyone. Just leave me be!”

“Kagura-san!” Sakaki shouted through the door in reply. “I want to talk. It's important. Please, let me in!”

Kagura's mind wailed in protest. 'No! I can't deal with her now!' “Sa-Sakaki!?”

“Yes Kagura-san,” Sakaki replied softly, “it's me. I need to talk with you, and I don't think I can wait very long.”

“I... I can't. It's... it's too soon.” Kagura answered softly. “I'm sorry Sakaki, but I can't talk with you now. It's too soon.” Her eyes welled up with more tears.

“Kagura-san,” Sakaki said, her own tears falling, “please... I need to know. Why? What did I do to make you hate me?”

Kagura choked at Sakaki's words. “Hate you?” She asked incredulously. “Why in the world would you think I hate you?”

“You... you ran away from me.” Sakaki answered weakly. “I must have done something for you to not wish to be in my company. I just want to know what I have done to make you feel that way. I have to know why. I couldn't stand it otherwise.”

Kagura dashed to the door, unlocking and pulling it open in a single motion. Her heart shattered seeing Sakaki's face. The red rings around her eyes, the lack of luster in them, and the tear stained cheeks made her heart ache to comfort the taller girl. She placed her hands on Sakaki's cheeks and wiped the tears away with a careful tenderness.

“I could never hate you,” Kagura said vehemently. “Please forgive me for ever hurting you and making you think that way. Seeing you cry hurts me more that anything ever could. Don't ever cry because of me. I'm not worth your tears.”

Sakaki closed her eyes and reveled in the warmth and softness of Kagura's calloused hands. She returned the touch and smiled sadly. “You're my friend, you'll always be forgiven. And please don't ever say you're not worth my tears. You're worth a river of tears to me.”

Kagura returns the smile, even though hers was far sadder and insincere. “Thank you Sakaki, your words are worth more to me than you could ever know. I'm sorry I ran, but I've done something I vowed to myself I'd never do, and it's not your fault at all. The blame is entirely my own. Thank you for your friendship, and I'll see you around okay?” She withdraws her hands from Sakaki's face and takes a step back.

Sakaki's smile fades and she feels saddened by the loss of contact. She tries vainly to get Kagura to let her stay, but in the end, the door is shut softly in Kagura's wake. Tears threaten to fall yet again from Sakaki's melancholic eyes. She trudges away from her friend's apartment and down the stairs. She walks slowly through the park nearby and straight to her apartment. She enters her darkened home and drags herself into the bedroom, and drops onto the bed in a depressed heap. She feels Mayaa jump onto the bed with her, but does nothing to welcome the large Iromote wildcat. She begins weeping once more, Mayaa consoling her by licking away the tears as they fall.

Both Kagura and Sakaki spend hours crying themselves into a restless and nightmare plagued sleep. The duo share similar nightmares, both affected by the day's events.
Kagura tossed and turned on the bed that folded out of her sofa. She mumbled constantly as her nightmares plagued her restless slumber. She whimpered softly and curled herself tightly into a ball under the blanket. She had this nightmare before, it was her most familiar one as of late.

She stood in the empty classroom with her closest friend and secret crush Sakaki. She had finally worked up the courage to tell the taller girl exactly how she felt about her. Gulping, she tapped Sakaki on the shoulder to get her attention. Sakaki smiled widely at seeing Kagura, her friend and classmate. Kagura's heart fluttered and her stomach did a flip-flop once she saw Sakaki's warm smile. She felt like making up some kind of excuse for bothering Sakaki then flee without saying anything that she had planned. She quickly banished those thoughts and took a deep breath to steady her resolve once more.

'I have to do this' She reminded herself. 'It's time to stop running away.'

“Sakaki,” Kagura says, smiling weakly at the girl she's loved since that first sports fest that Sakaki had bested her in. “There's something I gotta tell you.”

“Kagura-san?” Sakaki replies questioningly.

“I'm going to say this without reserve.” Kagura continues. “It's something that's eaten at me for a long time. Ai- aishiteru Sakaki-chan. I've loved you since that first sports fest you beat me in.”

Sakaki stands there in silence, her features hidden behind her hair as it falls into her face once she lowered her head. Kagura wrings her hands together, anxiety and fear overwhelming her. Several moments of silence pass with Kagura's fear and anxiety growing. Sakaki's head rises to reveal her expressionless face. Sakaki meets Kagura's eyes, the message not at all clear to the tanned athlete. Without saying a word, Sakaki brushes past Kagura and walks out of the room, leaving Kagura to fall to her knees. Tears well up and spill from Kagura's wide and empty eyes. She's heartbroken and her despair swallows her completely. Darkness fills the room, slowly enveloping Kagura in it's cold grasp.

Kagura jerks awake, rising into a sitting position as tears begin spill from her eyes again. She pulls her legs even tighter against herself as her body is racked with her silent sobs. After her sobs subside, she lifts her head and stares balefully at the white wall on the other side of the room.

“Sakaki!” She wails, her voice shattering the night air.
Not far away, during Kagura's nightmare, Sakaki's own nightmare plagues her sleep. This nightmare varies from the norm for her. Usually, her worst nightmares are filled with large and hostile cats. Tonight, the events of the day haunt her dreams.

Sakaki finds herself at Kagura's apartment door. She knocks waiting for her friend to open it and let her in. To her horror, once the door opens, she sees Kagura with all her things packed up and several men preparing to pack her furniture and such. She looks at Kagura's face to find one of the emotions she had never seen directed at her. Anger. She took a step back in her shock. She had never seen Kagura mad at her. Maybe at Osaka or Tomo, but never her. And what was worse, Kagura's eyes were filled with hatred and disgust. It was enough to make Sakaki's eyes well up with tears.

“What's going on Kagura-san?” Sakaki asked, her voice cracking slightly. “Who are these men? Have I done something to make you angry?”

Kagura's face contorted further, her anger deepening. “They are here to take my furniture to my new apartment. I have transferred to another University. I can no longer stand being around you. Your obsession with animals and obliviousness to things around you have irritated me to no end. I hope you're happy Sakaki-san! Farewell, and I hope you're alone for the rest of your days.”

With that, Kagura gestured the four men to remove the last of her belongings out of the now empty apartment. She followed them, hefting two suitcases as she locked the door and left Sakaki standing there in shock. Kagura put her suitcases in to the trunk of a cab and gave one last hateful glare at the prone Sakaki.

Watching Kagura close the cab's trunk and glare at her shook Sakaki from her daze. Her heart seized at the thought of losing Kagura forever. She dashed toward the stairs at top speed, her heart racing as she saw Kagura open the door and climb into the cab. She pushed herself as she ran down the stairs two and three at a time. Tears flow from her eyes as she closes in on the cab as is pulls to the exit and starts into the empty street. As the cab drives away she falls onto her knees weeping in despair. Wailing her grief to the sky, she realizes why Kagura's anger, hatred, and departure tore her heart out.

“KAGURA!!!!!!!!” Sakaki wailed to the heavens. “Come back! I love you!!!!”

Sakaki wakes up screaming in despair. Her vision is blurred and her face is soaked with sweat and tears. She wipes her eyes, sniffling and whimpering Kagura's name. She sees the walls of her room, and looks out the window to see the sun rising over the horizon. She releases a strangled cry of joy once she realized it was a dream. Leaping from her bed and shedding her pajamas, she grabbed the top shirt in the drawer, and the first pair of khakis hanging the closet. Hopping to the door and pulling on her socks, she grabs her running shoes and slides them on grabbing her keys from the small table next to the door, opening it as fast as she could, locking it hastily. She pockets her keys and breaks into a dead run down the stairs and across the street. Pushing herself harder and pulling everything she has to run faster than she ever has before. She finds every shortcut, and does everything to make the trip as fast as possible. Arriving in less than half the time it normally takes, Sakaki pushes herself until she stands at Kagura's apartment door.

Trepidation and fear fills Sakaki as she stares at the door that still haunts her memories, catching her breath. Raising her hand to the door, she knocks tentatively. Pacing fretfully, Sakaki waits for Kagura to answer the door. After a couple minutes of waiting, she knocks again, this time harder and more urgently. She resumes pacing, fear filling her body. She stops pacing and stares at the door, her fear being replaced by an overwhelming sadness. Tears fill her eyes, blurring her vision.

'No!' She wails mentally. 'I can't be too late! She has to be here. I can't... no I won't let her get away!'

Sakaki pounds on the door. Her vision almost completely gone by now. “Kagura!” She shouts, not caring who hears her. “Let me in! I must talk to you.” Pounding continuously on the door, she slide to the ground in her dispair. Each time she strikes the wooden obstacle, the force and speed of each blow decreases as her sorrow consumes her. Finally, her arms give out and all she's left with is a phantom of her voice. “Please,” She cries softly, mournfully. “Please.”
Kagura, her mind hazed over in sorrow, drifts out of her trance as the shouts and continuous pounding on her door cuts through the fog of depression clouding her mind. Gathering her wits, Kagura listens intently to the sounds emanating from the other side of the door.

“Please,” Sakaki cries softly, mournfully. “Please.”

The sound of Sakaki's broken and pleading voice nearly broke Kagura's heart. Leaping out of the couch-bed, she dashed to the door flinging it open, her eyes darting around to find Sakaki. After searching frantically, her eyes fall to th floor, only to see Sakaki curled in a ball bawling her eyes out on the walkway. She glanced around to see several of the other tenants of the complex watching them piteously. Kagura glared at them and knelt down at Sakaki's side to coax her into the apartment.

Sakaki slowly uncurls herself, responding to Kagura's soothing words and gentle stroking. Dolefully, she looks at Kagura, her eyes brightening upon seeing her eyes. The hatred and disgust from her dream isn't present in the eyes she looks into. Wailing in joy, she latches onto Kagura, allowing the smaller athlete to carry her into the apartment and close the door behind them. Carrying the weeping Sakaki into the bedroom, Kagura gently lays her on the couch-bed. Unalbe to free herself from Sakaki's grasp, she joins the taller girl on the bed. Sakaki continues to weep openly into Kagura's pajama covered chest.

“Sakaki,” Kagura says softly. “Sakaki, it's alright. It's going to be okay. You don't have to cry anymore.”

“Don't leave,” Sakaki chokes out thorough her sobs. “Please, don't leave. I can't... I can't bear it if you leave.”

“Shh,” Kagura replies, rocking Sakaki gently. “I won't leave. I can't leave. I have something that will keep me here for a long, long time.”

“You promise you won't leave me?” Sakaki asks, her cries dying down.

“I couldn't even if you asked me to,” Kagura said honestly. “So yes, I do promise.”

“Good,” Sakaki replied, nuzzling her face into Kagura's neck.

Kagura shuddered slightly at the feel of Sakaki's face and breath on her neck. It was getting harder to keep her mind coherent. “Why are you here Sakaki?”

Sakaki stopped nuzzling Kagura's neck and lifted her head to meet Kagura's eyes. “I had a nightmare.” She replied softly. “And it made me realize something.”

Kagura arched a brow in interest. “Oh? What was this?” She inquired.

“Just this.” Sakaki whispered, grabbing Kagura's face and pressing lips to Kagura's, kissing her with all the passion she could muster. Breaking the kiss, Sakaki opened her eyes and gazed deeply into Kagura's. “Aishiteru, Kagura-chan.”

Kagura's heart soars at hearing Sakaki say the thing she had been dreaming of hearing from her. “Aishiteru Sakaki-chan. And happy birthay m'love.”

“Thank you,” Sakaki murmurs, falling asleep in Kagura's embrace. “This is my best birthday yet.”

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