Autumn Aya/Yohji. 15
Bara no Hana Aya/Yohji. Birthday sap. 15
Rain Aya/Yohji. Angst? 15

Dedication: this story is dedicated to the friends and family of the students injured and killed in a fire in a residence at Case Western and to the friends and family of Scott, a friend who left too soon.

"Kawaita hitomi de, dareka naite kure." (Someone, cry for me with dry eyes.)

        -Yoko Kanno, "The Real Folk Blues"

I hate rain. I hate the chill droplets of winter rain and the warm ones of spring rain. Summer's rainstorms I hate the most. I woke up this morning to a warm rainstorm, flooding my window with its mockery. I glared at the sky, daring it to continue laughing at me. Sighing, I shut the curtain. The rain may have been falling, mocking me, but I didn't have to look at it.

It was already 11. I was surprised no one had come banging on my door, yelling at me, "Get out of bed already." I pulled on pants and a shirt, perfunctorily combed my hair, and headed downstairs.

"Aya, I wasn't expecting you to come down today," Yohji said in greeting.

"Why's that?" I inquired.

"It's raining."

"That's never stopped me from working before."

"No, but... It's just that it's raining *today*." He looked at me sympathetically.

I didn't know he remembered. "Thanks for remembering, Yohji." I gathered some white flowers and started working on my arrangement. "Do you know if it's supposed to clear up today?"

"Not according to the last forecast I saw." He looked at me, again, with sympathy welling in green eyes.

I thanked him and continued working on the arrangement. "Where are the others?"

"Omi had a review session, and I think Ken went to make deliveries. Why do you ask?"

"No reason. So you've been here by yourself all morning? You could have woken me."

"Not all morning, Aya. Ken was here until about 10." He paused. "And I didn't want to wake you. Not today."

I closed my eyes, blinking back a pair of tears. "Thank you, Yohji." I finished my arrangement. The rain continued its mockery, falling in harder streams. I felt bad for Ken, who was out making deliveries in this weather. No one should be forced to go out in the rain.

I found my raincoat, picked up my flowers, and headed for the door. "I'm going out, Yohji."

"I know. I'll be here when you get back, no matter when that is."

"Thank you." I got into my car and drove, first to a quiet residential area. There was a new house there. The pile of rubble had been bulldozed and replaced with a nice, middle-class house, not unlike the one that had stood there previously. I wondered what that family was like: were they happy? Were there children? How many? Did the little sister admire the big brother?

I didn't want to arouse suspicion, so I drove on. The rain covered my windshield, daring me to continue my quest. I turned the wipers up and drove on.

I arrived at the cemetery, and the rain was determined to plague me. I carried the flowers to the place where my parents were buried and knelt there.

What would my life be like if Takatori hadn't destroyed our family? Dutiful son Fujimiya Ran would be a banker, just like his father. He would probably have a wife or fiancee. Fujimiya Aya, dear little sister, would be preparing for college entrance exams. I would never have taken up the sword in revenge. My sins and guilt would not be compounded hundredfold.

But I would never have met Yohji, Ken or Omi. They are the closest friends I've ever had. Ken and Omi are like brothers to me. Yohji ... is there waiting for me. He probably told the others not to bother me today. I am grateful to him. I am grateful for him.

The rain pounded on the helpless flowers. I wished for a shelter to put them in, so the rain wouldn't continue its mockery of my grief. I whispered prayers to whatever gods would listen. What god would hear the prayer of a cold, heartless killer?

I stood up and returned to my car. I took the long way back to the flowershop, where Yohji and my future were waiting.

But I still hate the rain.

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