The next morning, Kaoru was woken by sunlight spilling across his face. He reached sleepily out to gather Megumi into his arms, but the bed was empty and her side was already cool. What the fuck? He rolled back over to check the time. 9:03. Maybe she's getting coffee.

After pulling on pants and a t-shirt, Kaoru made his way downstairs. The house was unusually quiet. "Honey?" he whispered as he opened the kitchen door, hoping not to wake up the others.

"Right here, darling," Kyoya answered from the table, his words punctuated by the rustle of his morning paper. "Coffee's hot. You know where the mugs are. Can't promise there's much left, since you're the last one up."

"Where's Megumi?"

"And people say I'm rude in the morning."

For fucks' sake. Kaoru glared at his friend. "Good morning, Kyoya. Where's Megumi?"

"Hikaru and Laney invited her on their run, but she declined. She's walking on the cliffs with Jen."

Shit. His stomach twisted up in knots. Surely it wasn't a good sign that after last night, instead of staying in bed with him for another round first thing in the morning, Megumi was out having a heart-to-heart with his brother's girlfriend? Shit. Fuck. He plopped down in the chair opposite Kyoya, who was still buried behind his paper. It was an affectation Kaoru had always found pretentious, considering the digital world they lived in. "Can we talk?"

"I thought that's what we were doing," he said, looking over the edge of his paper momentarily before returning to whatever article had piqued his interest.

Kaoru sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. "Kyoya, please. Can you take off the disinterested asshole hat for a minute and just be, like, my friend? Please?"

Kyoya folded up the paper and put it aside. "All right," he said quietly. "I'm listening."

"So, um, last night. After we came back from our walk? And everyone else had gone to bed already?"

"Yes, as is the typical convention when it gets late."

"Asshole hat."

"Sorry. It's off, I promise." Kyoya had the grace to look mildly ashamed.

"Yeah, well." He scratched the back of his neck. "So." This bit of eloquence was followed by a long silence.

"Kaoru, I'm going for supportive here, but it's difficult to have a conversation when you don't actually talk."

"I'm trying to be a gentleman."

"So?" Kyoya asked. Then the implication hit. "Oh. About damn time."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Kaoru growled.

Kyoya held his hands up in a placating gesture. "I'm not implying anything. I'm happy for you." When Kaoru didn't appear mollified, he clarified "For both of you."

"Yeah, well." Kaoru fell silent, and Kyoya waited patiently. "Neither of us were exactly 100% sober last night. And now, instead of being sleep-rumpled and adorable in my bed, she's out on a walk. With fucking Jen, of all people. Which cannot lead anywhere good. So I'm freaking out a little."

Kyoya leaned forward, steepling his fingers together. "First of all, Jen's not that bad. Yes, what she and your brother have is one of the most dysfunctional relationships I've ever seen—and I beg you to remember that my family certainly has more than its fair share of dysfunction—but their particular brand of fucked-uppedness is probably not contagious. And I'm in a position to know personally that she gives better advice than she takes."

"Wait, really?" This was news to Kaoru. "When did you go to Jen for advice?"

"That's neither here nor there," he said evasively. "But believe it or not, she has a bit of a soft spot for you, and I seriously doubt she's saying anything to Megumi to make her reconsider your relationship. In fact, they're probably not even talking about you."

That made Kaoru feel a bit better. He'd heard Jen on a tear before, and the idea of her delivering a lecture to Megumi on the inadequacies of the Hitachiin brothers when it came to relationships gave him the cold horrors. But that still left the other issue. "We had a lot to drink last night. What if she regrets it?"

Kyoya took a moment. "Well, what if she does?"

"Not helping, man. You're supposed to reassure me."

"Hope for the best, plan for the worst. What if she does regret last night? Do you see her breaking up with you over it? You didn't force her, did you?"

"What the fuck, Kyoya?" Kaoru's hand clenched into a fist, and he had to consciously relax each finger. "No! Of course I didn't. In fact, it was her suggestion that we sleep together."

"So even if she woke up this morning thinking what the hell did I do last night, she's probably not thinking of dumping you. Right?"

"I guess." Kaoru rose and looked out the window, hoping to see Jen and Megumi coming back, but all he saw were a couple of sea birds wheeling in the air. "But it shouldn't have happened like that."

"Why, because you'd been drinking?" Kyoya leaned back in his chair.

"Yeah, because we'd been drinking. I mean, fuck, I told her I loved her, that I wanted to get old and fat and have a million kids with her, and I think I said we should start a new organization called Teachers Without Borders."

"Perhaps I spoke too soon when I said she wasn't thinking of dumping your sorry ass." Kaoru looked at him, wild-eyed, and Kyoya chuckled. "You know, Laney was three sheets to the wind, maybe more, when I first told her I was in love with her."

"Shit, really?" Kaoru couldn't imagine it. He'd seen Laney tipsy a few times, but not straight out drunk.

"Graduation from med school," he smiled. "To this day, I'm not 100% sure she even remembers me saying it, although she swears she does. Of course I told her again in the morning."

"And?"

"She said Good, if you love me so much please bring me some aspirin and the largest fucking cup of coffee you can find."

"How the hell is this supposed to be making me feel better?" he asked plaintively.

"My point, Kaoru," he said, "is that life rarely happens as neatly as it does in the movies. It's messy, and complicated, and sometimes the most amazing things happen to you at exactly the wrong moments. But when you look back, you realize—it was never the wrong moment, because when you tear your heart out of your own chest and offer it up to someone else, there's no right moment for that. It just happens when it happens, and you have two choices; full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes, or crawl back into your foxhole."

"Damn, Kyoya. That's gross. Tear your heart out of your chest?"

"Who's wearing the asshole hat now?" He picked his paper back up. "For what it's worth, Megumi didn't seem particularly upset when I saw her this morning. Quite the reverse, in fact."

"But what if—"

"Do yourself a favor and drink a cup of coffee." Kyoya cut him off. "If you're going to embarrass yourself by second-guessing everything you said last night, you should at least be firing on all cylinders when you do so."

Feeling thoroughly disgruntled, Kaoru took his advice. The two sat in silence as he sipped at the hot coffee. He was on his second cup before he heard women's voices coming up the path. He was out of his chair like a shot. "Kaoru," Kyoya called, not looking up from his paper. "Not knowing autumn has begun—a child Buddha," he recited.

"Huh?"

"Don't overthink it."

"That is fantastically easy to say when you are already married and everything is settled." He left his friend sitting at the table.

Blinking in the bright morning sunlight, he found Megumi and Jen lingering outside the house. "Can we talk?" he asked Megumi, ignoring Jen.

"Good morning to you too, Kaoru," Jen said.

"Why is everyone so punctilious about manners this morning?" he muttered.

Megumi laughed and slipped her hand into his. "Thanks for the walk and the conversation, Shapiro-san."

"Yeah, see you later, Jen," Kaoru said meaningfully. She just rolled her eyes at him and went into the house.

"Want to walk down to the beach again?" Megumi asked.

He looked down at her, trying to figure out what she was thinking. A child Buddha, right? Don't overthink. Just ask. "Why didn't you wait for me to get up?"

"You looked so peaceful, and I know you've been working so hard lately. I wanted to let you get some extra rest, but I couldn't fall back asleep." She tugged at his hand. "Come on. I want to get my feet wet again." She moved down the path that lead to the beach, Kaoru following behind her.

"Why couldn't you sleep?"

She smiled back at him over her shoulder. "Maybe I was just too happy. Any other questions?"

"Um, yeah. What were you and Jen talking about?"

Megumi stopped, turning to face him. "What's going on, Kaoru?"

"I guess I got a little worried when I woke up alone that you were having second thoughts about last night."

"We were actually talking about Hikaru, not you." She sat down on a small bench set slightly off the path. "I was tipsy last night but hardly incapacitated." She stopped suddenly. "Unless you're having second thoughts?"

The beach grass waved back and forth in the morning breeze, and Kaoru watched it, not looking at Megumi. "Look, I don't want 10 kids," he said in a rush. "Maybe two, or three, but not anytime even remotely soon. And I don't want to get married tomorrow. "

Megumi's face fell. "Oh. I thought—"

"Fuck, I am doing this all wrong." Kaoru cut her off, desperate to clarify before the conversation got away from him completely. "I mean, I don't want to make these decisions, I want us to make these decisions. Because I don't know what I want my future to look like, but I know I want to share it with you. I need to share it with you. I love you."

"I'm confused, Kaoru. Are you proposing to me, or not?"

"I'd really like to meet your family first. It seems kind of rude to ask a girl to marry you without even having met her parents. And I don't have a ring. So I guess … no?" He plucked a piece of grass and started stripping the seeds off the stalk. "But maybe I'm proposing that I propose to you sometime in the near future? When I've thought this all out a little better and have an actual plan so we can tell our kids about our romantic engagement story, rather than having to tell them I pretty much proposed while we were drunk and making out on the beach."

"You're proposing to propose."

"Yeah. That's not the lamest thing you've ever heard, right?"

"That is 100% the lamest thing I've ever heard. We're not 16," she said, but the warmth in her voice took the sting out of the words. "I accept."

His head came up. "What? Really?"

"You're an idiot, Kaoru, but I guess I like idiots." She crossed to him, nestling in between his legs. "You're also kind, and funny, and sexy as hell, and reliable."

"No one has ever called me reliable before," he said, bringing his hands up to her waist.

"Then they haven't been paying attention. Now kiss me, and then we'll call my parents and tell them we're having a family brunch next week."

He did as she told him, with the sun beating down on the two of them and the sea beyond, stretching away to the horizon.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Oh man, y'all. Literally a day after I posted that last update, my flipping MOTHERBOARD died, and I had to send my computer off for fixing, which meant not only a delay in posting this, but I also missed out on a rush editing job. What's that old saw about life being what happens while you're making other plans? Anywho, here we are. This story is basically done. I may post an epilogue set a few years in the future, but don't hold your breath. This flipping story came much harder than I thought it was going to at the beginning. It saw me through a miscarriage, an interstate move, a new baby, and buying a home. I think a lot of it got away from me at times, but I also learned a lot about writing through it. There will be a story about Hikaru and Jen-she was actually supposed to play a much larger part in the end of this story, but I realized I was really shoe-horning that in, and it had to get cut. I'm also thinking of rewriting You Know the Night, my story about Kyoya and Laney. It needs some pretty serious clean-up.

Thank you so much to everyone who supported me, followed, favorited, and reviewed this story. You guys are awesome.

One more thing-the haiku Kyoya recites is by Issa, who is pretty much one of my top 3 poets ever. He'll make you laugh the first time you read him, but break your heart every time after.