Bridging the Gap

Chapter Fourteen: Better Late Than Half-Assed

A/N:

[26 November 2010] The last chapter, voila! Given it's my first last chapter, I gave it a title from my personal academic motto re: deadlines. Even if Fate has been unkind in granting me the proper plot bunnies to wrap this fic up, It's been generous enough to make the last chapter apt for one of my fave statements ever. ::)

On a stranger note, our beloved Sawasaki Erisu has been selected by .com as the OC of the Month (for November 2010, I think). She's still in a sour mood – given everything that's been going on – so on behalf of the Ojousama, I thank all the readers of this fic, most especially the kind, anonymous reader who took the time to nominate Eri-chan for a title she no doubt feels she deserves. If you've time, please visit the group at .com. We're listed at the bottom of the right-hand bar; kindly look for "Erika". Thanks!

Disclaimer:

I do not own La Corda d'Oro; the whole concept belongs to Kure Yuki-sensei.

This fanfic is based on Primo Passo.

Previously:

Chapter Thirteen: Unsolicited Advice

He mumbled incoherently, and, with his eyes still closed in a mixture of gratitude and exhaustion, lightly pressed his lips to the top of her head. "Let's leave this discussion for another time," he requested. "There are too many things to talk about, too many things to consider…"

She tensed, the first tears falling from her eyes as she moved closer to him… as he pulled her closer.

Murmuring into her hair, he said, "All that matters is that we've finally arrived at this point. Together."

Chapter Fourteen: Better Late Than Half-Assed

April

In a blur of dust, the taxi skidded in front of an elegant, wrought-iron gate swamped with confetti, giving off the appearance of having been chased by a pack of drooling Rottweilers. A woman in a beautiful but wrinkled midnight blue dress, and haphazardly brushed, long red hair emerged from it, looking up at the majestic entrance decorated with roses of every possible color.

Hino Kahoko cringed as she flattened the folds on her dress, her taxi pulling away at a more leisurely speed. Though she had been to this place once before – and for God's sake, she actually knew the couple that was celebrating this day – she felt severely out-of-place and underdressed.

She blamed it on her body clock that woke her two hours late.

Walking past the entrance, Kahoko smiled at the decorations that had transformed the landscape into something beyond wonderful – almost ethereal. To take advantage of the glorious summer weather, tables laden with fruit and cake and all other kinds of dishes were strategically placed around a grassy lawn bordered with flowers, large, lace umbrellas positioned everywhere. To one side there was a makeshift stage, in front of which couples were swaying serenely – leaves dancing against a soft wind.

Limited by the ancient, Western – style house looming in the background, the area was rather cramped and packed, and Kahoko vaguely imagined what the scene would have looked like had they chosen to celebrate in Aozu. [1] Nevertheless, she approved of the old couple's choice – upon realizing they were to have a grand celebration, they changed everything from the music to the guests to the location – for Aozu had always been rather alien to her.

Unlike this place. His favorite place.

Kahoko blinked as she remembered she had to find him first. As her her head whipped in all directions, taking in all sensations, she sought to find that shiny blue head, those icy topaz eyes…

By this time, she was relatively accustomed to seeing celebrities in her midst. It was disturbing – Kahoko was beginning to get used to Chiaki Shinichi's presence, and she didn't even feel anything when she saw his wife standing beside him, clutching at his arm with an ear-to-ear grin. [2] Also standing nearby were Eiji-sama, whose assistant Hakuba Kenjirou gave Kahoko a small wave as she passed by, and Ishida Moe, the most gossip-hungry woman in all of Japan – Kahoko shivered when she remember that said woman and her boyfriend's mother were friends

And then there were the more familiar faces. Amou Nami, dressed to the nines, was straightening a little boy's tie as Takishima Makoto looked on with a smile; the boy was clutching at his collar, trying to loosen his buttons, but Nami was pinning him down… On either side of Takishima were Oribe Heiji and Kobayashi Nao, surreptitiously glancing at each other once every few seconds – Kahoko hoped they would just get over themselves and get back together-

She was pleasantly surprised to see Kaji Aoi unobtrusively standing under a tree with Hinata, one of the nurses who had helped Kahoko in Mizuide. Although they had never seemed to be particularly informal before, Kahoko noted with satisfaction that they seemed awfully close now, as Kaji casually brushed a leaf off Hinata's head, and she smiled at him in gratitude, cheeks flushed…

Sitting around a table shaded by a particularly distracting pink umbrella were Fujioka Rumi, Sato Satoshi and Takato Mio, who were engaged in animated conversation. Rumi was daintily holding aloft a cup, gesturing toward Sato and Mio with a look of disbelief on her face. The two exchanged a swift glance, erupting into giggles and, in his case, an apologetic smile, as both nodded, and Rumi's eyes went as wide as propriety would allow her…

On the dance floor, Len's father and grandmother were dancing happily, dazedly, as Hamai Misa and her father-in-law looked on from the sidelines, grinning and, apparently, catcalling. Hihara Kazuki was playing a lively, spunky tune on a saxophone, and Kahoko blinked – she didn't know her sempai could play that instrument…?

And on her near right, standing by one of the banquet tables was Tsuchiura Ryoutaro, surrounded by other distinguished musicians who were engaged in serious conversation. Kahoko flushed, embarrassed to see him observing her silently, a glass of orange juice in one hand.

Had he been staring at her since she walked in?

Catching her gaze, Tsuchiura gave her a faint smile, lifting his finger to point toward the clump of sakura trees on the side of the old house. She considered the woods, knowing what lay beyond. As she looked back at Tsuchiura, she saw that he had been pulled back into the conversation, his colleagues listening attentively to whatever he was saying. Smiling slightly, she slowly turned on her heel and began to walk away. Perhaps they would talk some other time…

The walk to the woods was short but nostalgic. Watching the light filtering through the thick canopy of trees, Kahoko remembered the last time she had been here, years and years ago. She had been taking pictures of everything then – the flowers, the rocks, the ground – that she completely neglected really looking at anything.

Kahoko sighed, quickening her pace. It was worthless to regret now, not when she had been given an opportunity to visit this place again…

As she came to a clearing, she found who she was looking for. Tsukimori Len was bending over a familiar low wooden bridge, which looked freshly painted, its rails shining in the sun. As he sensed her impending arrival, he straightened up and gave her a faint smile; Kahoko walked up to him, greeting him with a light kiss. Slowly reaching for her hand, his smile deepened as he softly placed his other arm around her, steadying her as she leaned her against his shoulder…

They said nothing, preferring to watch the sakura trees in silence. She noted that the pond had gotten wider and wilder, and the koi had multiplied to maximum capacity. Yet other than that, the ripples on the water, the muted sunlight, the sakura petals dancing… They all seemed unchanged.

She broke their silence first.

"We're five years too late."

"Hmmm…" He considered her words. "Better late than never."

Abruptly, she extricated herself from his embrace, and leaned against the bridge instead, challenging him, expression serious. "You're sure about this then?" she confirmed, wrapping her arms around the wood. "It's not too late to change your mind-"

"You're coming with me to Vienna – that's final," he told her, adamant, fervor building in his eyes. It was an expression she was growing accustomed to, with it coming up every time she verbalize her doubts about their relationship. "I'm not leaving you behind, not again."

Sighing, still unsure, Kahoko turned around, letting her gaze wander over the expanse forest. They both seemed surreal – this discussion, this place. Had she made… the right decision?

"It's strange," she whispered, just as an unexpected breeze flowed through the trees, tickling her cheek with errant strands. "I can't see the future – it's so weird. I've always been able to see what lies ahead. Graduate, get job, work. But now… I don't know what's supposed to come next."

"Get married, make music," Tsukimori added lightly, playfully tucking her messy hair behind an ear. "See the world, meet people, have kids…"

She shook her hair free, turning to stare at him with odd eyes. "But we-"

Pensive, he looked away, slipping his pale hands into deep pockets. "What does it matter?" he asked her softly. "Frankly, I'm contented with the way things are now."

He sighed, and briefly closed his eyes.

"For the first time in my life," he admitted, voice rising slightly in a suppressed burst of passion, "I also can't see what happens next. But for the first time – ever – I'm actually looking forward to experiencing the unknown. I'm actually excited to see what's about to happen. Because it feels right. It feels like this is what we should be doing." He turned a thoughtful face to Kahoko. "Isn't that enough?"

In reply, Kahoko merely smiled, gaze low, as she turned away. With the way she was now, perhaps she would always have to hear that…

But he would never tire of reminding her.

Smiling softly as well, Tsukimori shifted his gaze forward, eyes on the trees. Although anything but religious, for the first time, he found himself praying to the high heaven - to Whoever was out there, watching, listening – that the future would hold something happy for both of them…

Silence. The woods were still. Only the faint sound of birds chirping in the distance, the wind singing, could be heard. Yet another breeze flowed by, colder than the first, making the cherry blossoms danced as they used to five years ago…

Kahoko smiled at the memory. We will always be like this-

"Have I ever told you," she began, interrupting her own thoughts in a sudden wave of inspiration, "how much you mean to me?"

She flushed, and realized how awkward the words sounded. Would he think she had rehearsed them, that they were insincere? "I mean, you know, just in case I've never told you before – which I don't think I ever have-"

But Tsukimori was grinning; there was genuine mirth dancing in his eyes. Kahoko flushed deeper as she saw a change in his expression, a relaxed falling of his shoulders, telltale signs of an impending barb. Perhaps it was wrong to inflate his ego even more…

Surprisingly, he merely looked away, trying to suppress his manic grin with a sharp breath. He seemed severely amused about something – Kahoko had a good idea what. Eyes glowing, looking in all directions, a faint tinge creeping up his pale face, Tsukimori's expression softened.

"You don't have to," he told her in a voice that matched his eyes in sincerity. "I don't need to hear any of that. All I ask… is that you let me prove to you that I feel the same way."

It seemed to Kahoko that a time bomb had exploded in her chest. She had told herself time and again that words were nothing, words were empty promises. But Tsukimori Len. Making a comeback in a self-styled pseudo-pick-up line!

She averted her face, fearing the overwhelming emotion would show. But of course, he had already noticed.

"Hey." Tsukimori sounded annoyed; she could tell by his voice, not even bothering to confirm it in his expression. She determinedly ignored the light poking at her side. "Get over it. I was only trying to save you from embarrassment. Cheese begets cheese. Hey. Kahoko-"

He froze with his lips parted, shocked to have her suddenly fling her arms around him, burying her face in his jacket. The words died in his throat as his arms lay floating in mid-air.

She had taken him by surprise again.

Grinning at himself, Tsukimori let his hands fall, let them move involuntarily to hold the woman before him, the woman whose own arms were wrapped tightly around his waist as though unwilling to let go. He strongly suspected she had burst into tears – judging by her intermittent sniffling – for whatever fresh reason he didn't bother to think about.

And he smiled, not at all bothered by the thought that she was astoundingly incomprehensible to him. Kahoko would always be weird; whatever else would change, there was just no changing that

There was absolutely no changing that he loved her for that.

A/N:

OH MY GOD. I feel the sudden urge to puke at my own imagination. But anyway.

In case it's confusing – the scene having been uploaded months ago – the party venue is Tsukimori's grandparents' first house, where he and Kahoko spent their last day together before he went to Vienna. The bridge is where the two talked about their future as a couple. It's featured in the third flashback in Chapter 3: Konbini Confessions. ::D

This chapter is dedicated to all the reviewers of this fic. Thank you so much – you make me so happy! ;;( Thank you for reading BTG! ::D [28 November 2010]

Revenge of the Footnotes:

[1] Aozu Villa. The Tsukimoris' villa-for-rent where some scenes of Shattered Symphony were taken. Featured in Chapters 5, 6 and 8 of this fanfic.

[2] Chiaki Shinichi and his wife. Chiaki Shinichi and Noda Megumi are characters from Nodame Cantabile by Ninomiya Tomoko, a comedic genius.