Goo's Note- The astrology stuff is MOSTLY true, considering the charts I made of the characters were made based on if the events of the anime and my first fic took place in end 1999-2000 (meaning this takes place in 2016. I am an astrologer, not a fortune teller, so I don't know what would show up in their charts in that year). Basically what I'm saying is don't take what I say in this as gospel, all right?

Heart's Façade

Chapter Eight: New and Old

Amai grinned as she put the dish in front of her twin brother. "Homemade macaroni and cheese, made with real cheese instead of the processed stuff you're allergic to, and baked. Your favorite."

Tokui picked up the fork and took a bite. It was one of his favorite dishes, but not his absolute favorite. "It's not my favorite," he said quietly. "But it's good."

"Too bad Eiri-ojisan and Shuichi aren't here. I made enough for them," Amai prattled on, scooping some onto her own plate. Like her father she was a great cook, but she only cooked if she was upset or excited. By the way she kept talking cheerfully about anything and seemed to be walking on air, Tokui had to guess it was the latter.

Ordinarily Amai didn't like to spend time at her uncle's apartment. Not only did she prefer to be near her father, but Tokui had a feeling Yuki and Shuichi's relationship made her feel uncomfortable. Despite her father being openly bisexual and most of his friends and acquaintances being gay or bisexual, Amai had never been the most understanding person on earth. Even if she never openly condemned alternative lifestyles (probably because of her father), she still did her best to avoid the people who practiced them or, failing that, the subject. The only reason she was here today was to baby-sit her brother while Yuki and Shuichi went somewhere to be alone ("keep him company" was the term Yuki had used, but Tokui knew better).

"I heard that you made a friend," Amai said between bites of food with a slight lilt in her voice, a sly grin spreading across her face. She took off her glasses she had used when reading the recipe long enough to see her brother start blushing, and continued. "So what's his sign?"

Tokui almost rolled his eyes. Only his sister would ask for someone's astrological sign before even finding out their name. "I don't know. I didn't ask for his birthdate," he answered softly.

"I hope he's a Gemini. Then the mystery would be solved," she continued. Tokui didn't ask what the mystery was, knowing she'd tell him anyway. And sure enough, she did. "When I did your chart this morning Gemini was in the eleventh house. That means you are going to cross paths with a Gemini soon, mostly likely for an extended period of time. Not in a romantic sense, of course. Also, Virgo and Scorpio happen to be in the same house this month. I discovered that when I did your chart, Tousan's chart, and Sakano-san's chart. That's rare, because Scorpio and Virgo are close to each other with only Libra between them so they seldom appear in the same place on a chart. When I saw it in your chart I didn't pay attention to it, since your charts have never come out very accurate, anyway. Comes from being born in the cusp. You keep coming out with more readings for Leo when you are clearly Virgo. But it's in Tousan and Sakano-san's, too. That means if you want to ask Tousan for anything right now is a good time, since it's the closest to him you'll ever get. It's also the closest he'll ever get to Sakano-san, so I think that's influencing why he chose this month to marry her. He'll regret it once Virgo and Scorpio move back to their usual positions. As a rule Virgos tend to lean on Scorpios too much and rely on them for too many things, and Scorpios are too hot-headed and independent to want to take that. Tousan would be much better served by a....hmm...Scorpio is a hard sign to find a match for. I'd have to say Pisces, since they are emotional but independent and calm, or with his opposite sign, Taurus. They might clash at first, but opposite signs usually work out well."

"Who would I work well with?" Tokui asked, though he wasn't sure he was really interested. Like most everyone else Amai tried to discuss astrology with, he didn't really believe in it. Only his father and Yuki had ever told her they didn't believe in it, and Yuki hadn't even wanted to give her his date, time, and place of birth (she'd still acquired them from her mother in the end).

"You would do well with....well, I can't be entirely sure. Like I said, your cusp birthdate makes it hard to pick a specific sign for you, but your Virgo traits make me want to take things as I would a full Virgo. You're also awfully needy, even by Virgo standards. I'd have to say....Pisces. Your opposite sign. Calm, cool, rational, but emotional and empathetic. Creative and poetic. Someone who would sympathize with you. Eiri-ojisan is a Pisces, which might explain why you're so close. And Gemini, if your friend is a Gemini, could be beneficial for you. Gemini, along with the other air signs, are very nice and sympathetic, but a bit on the dense side unless you tell them what's wrong. Geminis are also two-faced. It's the sign of the twins, after all, so they in essence have a split personality, and not in a good way. That means you have to watch out for them saying one thing and meaning another. Also, air signs tend to be really off the wall and strange, which makes them clash with Virgos and other earth-signs, which are more down-to-earth and studious, but usually they clash in a good way."

Tokui just nodded and stirred up his food before forcing himself to take another bite. He'd never been one to eat much, anyway.

"I did Eiri-ojisan's and Shuichi's this morning, too. Boy, do I not envy you. Pisces and Aries are two signs that don't get along, anyway, but this weird Scorpio-Virgo thing pushed Pisces and Aries away from each other. That means they'll be at each other's throats until the sign of Scorpio ends and the sign of Sagittarius begins- November 23. Us being under the sign of Scorpio right now also means Tousan will be more empowered, and Scorpios are scary enough without feeling more empowered. I might just be saying that because Tousan and I aren't on good terms right now, though. Not surprising. When I did my chart Scorpio was only 15 degrees in the fourth house. That means we won't get along for a while. However, Aquarius being 20 degrees in the fifth house proved handy, because my date to Tousan's engagement party is an Aquarius, and if things go well he's the man I want to marry. Aquarius is my opposite sign, so I should have been seeking one the entire time. It'll be shaky, of course, since Leos by nature aren't very tolerant people and Aquarians tend to be nuts, but I'm willing to try to make it work."

Tokui almost choked on his macaroni and cheese. "You have a date? With who?"

A wistful smile crossed Amai's face. "Alexander Sakuma-Winchester," she said in a dreamy voice, when she usually said it haughtily to mock him. She stared off into space (most likely literally) for a few moments before a look of realization crossed her face. "You should bring your friend! Not as a date, of course, because that would ruin your friendship. Don't pursue romance unless Gemini appears in your fifth house. If he's a Gemini at all. But as a guest. I mean, you hate parties and always end up hiding in the coat closet, anyway, so at least you won't be alone."

Tokui could feel his cheeks burning. "I don't think Tousan would want him there."

"It's not about what Tousan wants. He put on all the invitations that everyone on the guest list could bring one guest of their choice. It's your choice if you want him there. Who is he, anyway? And how did you meet?"

So now she asks, Tokui thought, but out loud he said "his name is Chen Quon Yue. He is a singer signed on to NG, and he saw me once when I was playing Tousan's piano and decided that he liked me, so earlier today he ran into me and we talked."

"I've heard of that guy. Nakano-san is managing him. He doesn't like him all that much."

"Nakano-san doesn't like Tousan or Eiri-ojisan, either."

"Touché."

"Besides, he was nice to me. And he's the only person who has ever actively searched for me without expecting a reward from Tousan for finding me." When Amai cleared his throat, he sighed and amended "Besides you. But he asked me if I wanted him around. You always just took for granted that I wanted you near me."

"And you don't want me around?"

"Of course I do! But the point is you just assume I do without me giving any indication that I want or need you by my side, and it makes me uncomfortable when you just barge into closets while I'm reading or try to take my writing before it's ready to show anyone!"

"Sorry," Amai muttered insincerely, taking another bite of macaroni and cheese. The corner of her mouth tugged upward slightly. "Should have known that Virgo appearing in the third house on my chart would mean we'd end up arguing by the end of the day. I just figured that one wouldn't happen because you're...well, you." She dropped her chopsticks into her bowl and pushed it away. "Well, that's why I'm an astrologer and not a fortune teller."

Tokui didn't force the issue. Though he wanted to, he was a non-confrontational person and besides that Amai was notorious for her skills at debate, and engaging her in an argument would get him no where fast. He picked at his food some more, giving every bit of their conversation deep thought before he spoke again (as he tended to to make sure he didn't have to apologize for anything he had said). "Why did you assume I wanted romance with Quon Yue?" he asked finally.

Amai shrugged. "You never talk to anyone unless you really like them. Any sighted person who has seen you in the same room with him knows you have a crush on Nakano-san. And the only other people you really talk to are me and Eiri-ojisan. Now you suddenly come home talking about a friend...well, you must want more than an innocent friendship. And how come you only get crushes on guys, anyway? You have to stop hanging around here so much. They're rubbing off on you."

Tokui suddenly felt a flash of anger. "My preferences have nothing to do with Eiri-ojisan and Shindou-san! They are wonderful people who love me and take care of me and would do anything for me! They are making a huge sacrifice, something I haven't seen you doing lately! And if I am not mistaken, that boy you like has grown up around two men who happen to be lovers! Perhaps you should question his preferences!"

And with that, Tokui stood and stomped off toward Yuki's office, walking into his closet and shutting the door. He slid the slide lock he'd put there himself into place so that Amai couldn't follow him in and threw himself onto his bed, crying until he went to sleep. His sister was one of the few allies he had in the world, and he had just pushed her away like everyone else...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Hiro sat down on the park bench, grateful for his warm coat and the steaming cup of coffee in his bare hands. Usually he didn't like to sit outdoors (especially in cold weather) but he had decided after visiting a coffee vendor that sitting on an empty park bench where there was less chance of him being bothered would be better than sitting in the coffee shop full of noisy people and waiters eager to please.

Despite the frigid weather there were several children playing in the snow that had covered the park, some making snowmen or snowforts, and others (mostly boys) engaging in a snowball fight. Hiro had a feeling they were local children from the absence of adult supervision, but he couldn't help but feel he had to act as chaperone as long as he was sitting there doing nothing else.

A bump against his leg almost startled Hiro enough to drop his coffee. He looked down to see a small girl, about six years old, looking up at him with wide, dark blue eyes. She had a rather sweet face and would probably grow up to be a very beautiful woman, and held behind her pink headband with attached earmuffs that matched her bright pink coat was long, dark brown hair. Somehow, she looked quite familiar to Hiro, though he wasn't sure how. As he examined her, she seemed to freeze and return his gaze. Finally she shook her head and said "I'm sorry, mister, but the boys were chasing me."

Hiro smiled at the little girl. "It's all right," he said cheerfully. "And those boys probably think you're pretty. That's why they are chasing you."

She scrunched her face up and made a disgusted face. "Yuck! Boys are icky! They only like to chase me so they can see me fall down and cry and they can laugh. But I don't cry, so those yucky boys have nothing to laugh at!"

"Asako!" a woman's voice called out. "Asako, where are you?"

"Over here, Mama!" the little girl (obviously named Asako) called out in response. She began to walk in the direction of the voice, only to be met halfway by her mother.

"Asako, how many times have I told you not to talk....to...strangers...." the woman's voice trailed off when she saw Hiro, and Hiro blinked a few times to make sure he wasn't seeing things, for standing in front of him, still with beautiful long brown hair (though going gray), a face that men would kill over, and gorgeous deep blue eyes, though with her figure altered by being obviously pregnant, was the woman he knew as Usami Ayaka. Behind her Hiro could see a pair of dark eyes barely looking up at him through too-long black bangs though the rest of the child was carefully hidden behind it's mother, and against her hip she was holding a smaller child of about two with shoulder-length brown hair and dark eyes, obviously female from the lavender snowsuit she wore.

"Ayaka..." Hiro breathed out at last.

Ayaka nodded. "Hiro. It's been a while." She turned to the older girl and handed her the baby. "Asako, take Naoko to find your sisters and play. And stay where I can see you."

Asako nodded and put her little sister down, taking her hand and helping her wade through the semi-deep snow over to where more children were playing. Ayaka picked up the child hidden behind her and placed it on her lap as she sat on the bench next to Hiro. The child yawned and buried it's face in its mother's chest, and Hiro realized he couldn't tell if it was male or female. It had shoulder-length dark hair, large dark eyes, and wore all yellow.

"So...um...I can see you have quite the group," Hiro said conversationally, when in all actuality he wanted to demand how she could leave him so easily without even a second glance back in his direction.

Ayaka managed a small, nervous smile. "Yes. Five, with number six on the way. Another girl, sadly. My husband isn't too happy. Little Hiro here is our only boy, but he's sick and very shy and, as you can see, a bit of a mama's boy."

"Hiro?"

"Katsuhiro," Ayaka further clarified. "They are all two years apart, so it seems I will be changing diapers for the rest of my life. Kaori is ten, Kozue is eight, Asako is six, Hiro is four, and Naoko just turned two."

"Wow. That's...great," Hiro forced, though all he could feel was sadness that this wasn't his family. He actually loved kids and wouldn't mind having one of his own, but if he couldn't even find a date the prospect of children seemed quite unlikely, especially at his age. "I just heard recently you lived in this district."

Ayaka nodded. "Yes. When Father died my husband inherited his business and expanded it all through Japan and relocated the headquarters to Tokyo where most of the profit comes from. It's been a bit of an adjustment for the kids, but I think they are starting to enjoy it."

"That's great," Hiro repeated, hoping Ayaka thought he sounded more sincere than he thought he did.

"So what are you doing with yourself these days?" Ayaka asked after a few moments of uncomfortable silence.

Hiro pointedly looked down at his now nearly cold coffee as he spoke. "Retired from music, bought myself a new place, started working at NG as a manager. Been keeping myself busy, mostly."

"Have you found anyone else? I heard that you broke up with that keyboardist."

Hiro wanted to say "yes, I married a beautiful, rich woman and we have eight kids and a storybook romance", but he knew he couldn't lie. Not only would that be childish, but he knew he couldn't get away with it. Famous or not, what were the chances of meeting another beautiful, rich girl who loved him (or, at least, he thought loved him)? The first time had been nothing but dumb luck, and he wasn't going to hold his breath and pray for a miracle. So he opted for the truth...sort of.

"No. I've been too busy for something serious, really," he explained, hoping he didn't sound like sixteen years, a marriage, and six kids later he still hoped Ayaka would come to her senses and return to him.

Ayaka just nodded. "It's good you've been busy, anyway." Awkward silence. Then she asked him a question that almost made him stand and leave: "How is Eiri-san?"

Hiro would have left, but he looked down at the small child who coincidentally had the same nickname as him and changed his mind. For some reason he didn't want to seem rude in front of him. "He's fine, I suppose. He's still with Shindou Shuichi. They're taking care of his nephew right now." Well, if he had to feel lousy he might as well take her down with him.

Ayaka nodded before finally standing up. "It was nice seeing you again, Hiro. Maybe we'll run into each other some time."

"Yeah, maybe," he all but muttered as she walked away, still holding her son against her. He fought down the urge to chase her down and force her to apologize for stringing him along for nearly a year before just abandoning him and leaving him to pick up the pieces of his life. It might not have fixed anything, but it would have at least offered him some kind of closure.

But Hiro didn't even see Ayaka disappear with her daughters, let alone return to apologize. Sighing, he threw his nearly frozen cup of coffee into the nearby trashcan and stood, walking toward his car.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Touma put his signature on the document before him and placed it in his outbox, sighing deeply as he gazed at the dauntingly large stack of folders and papers awaiting his valuable name still resting in his inbox. It seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, deciding which records would be made had to be easier and just as profitable as actually making them, right?

Unfortunately, this was a bad judgement error on his part. Not only did he walk into his chosen career blindly with no idea of what his job entailed and a gross misinterpretation of his job load, he had underestimated just how many people would turn to him with just about everything, and was surprised to find that's exactly what they were supposed to do and it was his job as president to give them either the approval they sought or put them on the right track.

Of course, more than twenty years had offered him the valuable experience he needed to run his company like a well-oiled machine, and he hoped to one day pass this wealth of experience- along with the entire company- on to his daughter. But that didn't lighten his workload any in the present.

Suddenly, the intercom on the phone on the corner of his desk buzzed. Surprised, Touma set down his folder and pushed the button to open the line of communication. "Sako, whoever it is tell them I'm very busy and not taking any calls at the moment," he said sternly before his receptionist could speak, hoping he didn't sound as annoyed as he was.

"I'm sorry, sachou, but she wouldn't leave unless I at least tried to get a hold of you," a nervous female voice explained.

Touma quirked an eyebrow. Few people could intimidate his receptionist enough to make her go back on an order from her boss. And even fewer people would have the nerve to insist he be bothered while he was working. Whoever this person was must have been damn certain he wouldn't do anything to them.

"Send them in," Touma said after taking a moment to try to figure out who it could be.

It didn't take long for the large oak doors of his office to burst open. Even Touma was startled enough to drop his pen and see who this whirlwind of fury was, every hair raising on the back of his neck as he fought to keep his outward cool. He half-expected a gun-toting psychopath to try to take him hostage, but upon realizing who it was he found he wasn't the least bit consoled.

Standing in the now wide open doors was his very angry looking ex-wife. Her hair was streaked with gray, and there were small wrinkles around her eyes from age and stress, but she was still a frightening sight. While there were a handful of people who knew that Yuki Eiri and his daughter could engage him in an argument and win, almost no one knew that the only person he had ever truly feared in his life was his strong-willed ex-wife, who, though unable to match him in a war of words, could probably easily take him in a war of fists. Not that she had done it before....

"Mika-san," he said coolly, willing his heart to return to it's normal speed and failing. In fact, when she shut the doors behind her he only got more nervous, expecting her to lash out at him for something he had done. Or she thought he had done. Or she thought he was going to do. The few traits Amai had inherited from her mother were her swiftness in jumping to conclusions and her very short and potentially deadly temper.

"Where's our son?" she asked at last, her voice chilly and even though her eyes were blazing. For a moment Touma could see the family resemblance between her and her brother, but didn't have time to dwell on that thought.

"He's at Eiri-san's and Shindou-san's," Touma answered, wondering why she was asking that question. Unless he was at the NG building or going to therapy, Tokui could always be found at his uncle's apartment.

"Then why did I see Eiri and Shindou-san at a restaurant arguing with each other less than ten minutes ago?"

Touma relaxed. Mika might be quick to jump to conclusions, but she was a very rational person once she got satisfactory answers to her questions and accusations.

"They haven't been alone since they took in Tokui, so they went out to dinner."

"Who is with him? Dammit, I thought the only reason we let them take him in was they promised to help him!"

"Amai is. Don't worry. They aren't so stupid they'll leave him in that apartment alone. And they are helping him. He's in therapy now, and he has a diagnosis and the psychiatrist is treating him. He's already made enough progress that he can be trusted not to leave NG if Shindou-san brings him here. He's even made a friend."

"So you gave our daughter to them hoping they could work the same miracle on her?! Is that it?! Are you giving up on both our children?!" Mika cried out. Touma wasn't sure what was bringing on this sudden attack of maternal rage, and was further surprised when Mika threw herself onto the nearest couch and began sobbing.

Touma had never been good with emotions, having trained himself to hide behind a winning smile and keep a chilly distance at all times many years ago. All he could do was take the box of tissues from his desk drawer and bring them over to Mika, handing them to her. She gladly too the box and pulled out a handful, blowing her nose and wiping her eyes.

"Mika-san, Amai is just watching Tokui. I haven't given up on her. She still lives with me. And I didn't give up on Tokui, either. In fact, that's why I let Eiri-san take him. Because I was afraid if I had to sit around helpless much longer I would give up on him, and Eiri-san was his last hope."

"Where did I go wrong as a mother, Touma?" Mika sobbed. Touma flinched. She hadn't called him by his given name since they were married, and even then she had kept the same formality he used when he spoke her given name or her brother's. But once again he didn't have time to process her odd behavior before she continued her hysterics. "What did I ever do wrong? Amai has always chosen to be with you rather than me, and Tokui....he was just too damn sick, Touma! I wanted to help him but I didn't know how! And the more people told me he needed psychiatric help the angrier I got and the more I vowed I would never take him to see a psychiatrist until my younger brother had to take him away from me to help him! Am I really that bad of a mother, Touma? Am I really so horrible that my own daughter can't love me and my brother had to take my son away?"

"Mika-san, you're not a bad mother. Amai only likes to be around me because she is more like me. But she still loves you. And Tokui...not even I wanted to admit he had a problem. It's natural for parents to deny their children have problems because they don't want to think it could happen to them or their children. If someone failed him, it was me. I saw him every day, and I still didn't do anything for him. But we can undo the past. Eiri-san is taking care of him now. Even if we had gotten him help, he probably never would have been close to us. He hardly got close to his sister, and only because she practically forced herself on him and never gave up."

Mika sniffled and seemed to regain her composure, though she still didn't look pleased. Finally, she looked down at her lap and let out a slight, nervous laugh. "I just hope I do it right this time."

Touma raised an eyebrow. "'This time'?" he repeated.

Mika nodded. "My hormones were going haywire, so I went to the gynecologist to see if I was going through menopause and needed hormone replacement therapy, and she ran a pregnancy test just to make sure it was menopause and not something else and the test was positive."

Touma actually found himself speechless, moreso than he had been when he had found out she was pregnant with his baby, and even moreso than when he found out she was having twins and planned to leave him. Mika was strangely quiet until he fought to get his voice back. Then he continued to speak, as calmly as he could (and mentally cursing the shake in his voice).

"You're 46 years old, Mika-san. When it's the twins' age, you'll be 62. You'll be 64 when it graduates high school. It could conceivably grow up alongside your grandchildren."

"I already thought about all that," Mika sighed. "I don't know if I have the strength to go it alone. Most of the time Amai was with you and Tokui was in the hospital or with Eiri, even when they were little babies. But this one...I can't ask you to help me. It's not even yours. And it wouldn't be right to make Eiri help me when he is already raising one of my children for me. But I can't do it. I just can't."

"What about the father?" Touma asked, his heart suddenly aching for his ex-wife. "Does he know?"

Mika shook her head. "He went back to Britain. When I called him he said it wasn't his and hung up. But it could only be his, Touma. I haven't been with anyone else."

Touma sighed and looked down at beige carpet. If it was one thing he hated more than being beaten in an argument, it was being caught not knowing something. Not only did it show weakness, but it frustrated him to no end. "So why are you telling me?" he asked at last.

Mika also averted her gaze to the floor. "I couldn't think of anyone else to tell. And I thought you might know a solution."

Touma stood up and walked over to his large window. It had started to snow again, if only lightly. When he was younger he had loved snow. Now he was fairly indifferent toward it, as he now was toward things that had once made him happy. In order to keep a tight lid on the "bad" emotions, he had also had to sacrifice the "good", something he knew saddened Ryuuichi.

"I don't know what to do, Mika-san," he confessed. "And really, I'm not sure why I am so concerned. *You* left *me*, not the other way around. True, our relationship was falling apart, but you waited until just before our children were born to tell me that. I know we agreed to at least be civil, if for the sake of the twins, but what you are asking is more than I am prepared to give. Financially you have everything you need. All I can tell you is to hire a nanny and figure it out from there."

Mika gasped, then rose from the couch with an indignant air. "I'm sorry for wasting your time," she said angrily, before turning and leaving the room, the oak doors closing behind her with a resounding "thud". Touma sighed and walked back over toward his paperwork, but changed his mind and walked over to the minibar built next to one of the couch, making himself a scotch on the rocks. While his mind was telling him he had done the right thing, something else was nagging him about his harshness. A part of him he thought he had stifled years ago.

"A damn good time to find out I still have a conscience," he muttered, as if talking to the nagging voice within him. He then tossed back his drink in a single swallow.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Amai was sitting on the couch, reading a book she had found on a shelf in Yuki's office when she had sat in there waiting for her brother to leave his "room", when Yuki and Shuichi came home. And neither looked very pleased.

"How did it go?" Amai asked half-heatedly, too engrossed in the book to notice the less-than-amused expressions on the faces of her uncle and his lover.

Yuki didn't say a word as he retreated to his office. Shuichi sighed and threw himself into Yuki's chair. "Don't ask," he muttered.

Amai looked up from the book and raised an eyebrow over her reading glasses. "Not well, I take it?"

"That's an understatement," Shuichi confirmed, kicking off his shoes (though he should have removed them when he entered the house) and putting the chair in a reclining position.

Amai sat the book aside, making sure she didn't lose her page, and removed her reading glasses. "What happened?"

Shuichi sighed deeply. "Well, we WERE having a pleasant dinner. Then your mother- no disrespect intended- came over and demanded to know why we weren't taking care of her son since we took him from her. I told her that we needed a break and he was being watched, and then she started arguing with Yuki over Tokui and when I tried to step in Yuki started in on ME, saying I couldn't talk to his sister that way. And then she left and we left and we haven't spoken to each other since."

Amai shrugged. "Kaasan is acting weird lately, anyway. At first I thought it was about Tokui, but I think it's something else. When I did her chart this morning, Venus was in the twelfth house. Venus symbolizes love and fertility, and the position means she's keeping a secret. So I think someone broke up with her and she's taking it out on everyone else. It wouldn't be the first time."

Shuichi shook his head. "Did any of your charts happen to say how I can make Yuki talk to me again?"

Amai almost started glowing at the invitation to talk about astrology. "Actually, when I did your chart and Eiri-ojisan's chart, both said that while you're under the sign of Scorpio you won't get along at all. However, at the end of this month when Scorpio ends and Sagittarius begins, then things should return to normal. You see, there's a weird and rare pattern going on right now. Virgo and Scorpio are appearing in the same houses, which is highly unusual for two signs that are so close to each other. But this weird thing is driving Aries and Pisces- which are next to each other- further apart. But after this thing ends then you should be back together."

"Thanks, but how does that help me NOW? By the end of the month he could have me kicked out of the apartment and living with Hiro."

Amai sighed and seemed to give this deep thought. "All right. Speaking as someone who knows you two and not just an astrologer, I must say that it is VERY rare for two signs as incompatible as yours' are to stay together for as long as you two have. If it was going to fall apart, logically it should have fallen apart long ago. That also means that you've weathered some pretty tough situations in the past, probably worse than this one. So while the astrologer and cynic in me both say you two won't last, deep down in my heart I know you two love each other far too much for a little argument or even the stars to break you up."

Shuichi smiled brightly. "You really think so?"

Amai nodded. "Yeah, I do. But don't tell Tousan that I have a case of incompatible signs working. I'm still trying to get him and Sakano-san to realize it'll never work."

Shuichi laughed a little. "On the off chance I see your father, I doubt astrology will be what we discuss. So how was Tokui today?"

It was Amai's turn to wear a "don't ask" expression, but she answered him anyway. "The stars weren't on my side today. I accidentally hurt his feelings and we had a fight. He hasn't left his room since. I heard him crying to a while, but after it stopped I couldn't get the door open to check on him. I was hoping Eiri-ojisan could coax him out, since he trusts him."

Shuichi shrugged. "You told me that Leo and Virgo weren't compatible. But you and your brother have been together almost as long as Yuki and me." He chuckled a little at that remark, but noticing Amai wasn't amused he stopped. "Well, you've always gotten along great. So I think this will eventually blow over. You already know you hurt his feelings. Apologize to him. And don't EVER tell Hiro I've started talking and thinking like him, all right?"

Amai did laugh at that. "All right. It's a deal."

Shuichi stood up and walked by Amai. "That's good. If Yuki won't talk to me about us, maybe he'll talk to me about Tokui. I'll tell him and see if he can get him to come out so you can apologize."

Amai sighed and prepared to swallow her pride. Her fault or not, she hated to apologize...

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"I was starting to think you weren't going to show up," Quon Yue confessed, looking for a place to put out his cigarette. He finally opened the window of the empty rehearsal room a crack and threw the still-smoldering cigarette out. He tried to wave the smoke out of the room as well, but it was too late: Tokui had reached for his inhaler and was taking in deep breaths of medicine between coughs.

When Tokui finally managed to quell what had threatened to become an athsma attack, he put his inhaler away and looked shyly at his feet. Though he felt he could trust Quon Yue, the older boy still intimidated him with his aura of confidence and defiance. "I have to meet with my uncle's psychiatrist on Tuesdays and Wednesdays," he explained. "The only reason I came here today was Eiri-ojisan had to meet with his publisher and Shindou-san was working late."

"You're lucky," Quon Yue announced. "Shindou-san is the most wonderful man alive, and Yuki Eiri is hot as hell. And you look like him to boot. You don't find coloring like that around here much. Not that I'm one to talk..."

Tokui had expected a comment about him seeing a psychiatrist, but as if the expected comments never being spoken weren't enough of a shock, the fact that he had actually been called "lucky" for the first time in his life did. His first reaction was to argue with Quon Yue, but something told him that Quon Yue knew the difference between good luck and bad luck quite well and was a good judge of the two.

Sensing that Tokui had been taken off-guard by his remark, Quon Yue muttered a swear in Chinese under his breath and decided to change to topic. Hiro's words had made him feel he should tread lightly with this boy, lest he run off screaming into the night. "You know, when I was a kid I saw a shrink a few times," he said conversationally, observing his blue-painted fingernails.

Not only was this the first day he had actually engaged Tokui in a real conversation, it had been the first day the blonde boy had seen him in drag. His hair was perfectly separated into two different colored braids, and he was wearing a loose black tank-top and black leather mini-skirt, as well as black high-heeled ankleboots. His lipstick was the same icy blue shade as his fingernails, though his eyes were dark with the nonchalant expression he currently wore.

Tokui didn't comment on Quon Yue's revelation, but since he didn't act angry or leave the room the latter assumed it was all right to proceed. "The shrinks all said the same thing: extremely bright. Hiding something. Gender identity issues. Imagine, me, with issues identifying my gender!" Quon Yue laughed at the last remark, but the laughter was bordering on hysterical, and caused Tokui to back up a step. Noticing this, the elder cleared his throat and continued. "Fact of the matter is I'm not a boy who wants to be a girl. I am neither male nor female, and I happened to be born as one. But if society expects me to act like either one or the other, they have another thing coming."

Tokui nodded and stared at the floor. He wasn't used to talking very much, and he really had nothing to contribute to this line of conversation.

"So, something eating you?" Quon Yue asked as offhandedly as possible.

Tokui's large gold eyes shot up to face his friend. Without meaning to (or, perhaps, knowing exactly what he was doing) Quon Yue had read him like a book. "I...uh...um...when's your birthday?" he finally choked out. He felt a blush climbing into his cheeks, and he turned around to hide it from the other.

"That's what's been eating you?" Quon Yue asked skeptically, though his voice had a good natured tone that softened his words. "That, or you are trying to completely avoid my question. Or maybe, perhaps, the two things are somehow connected but you have a way of making really complex connections. Either way you don't have to worry about my birthday for a while. It's June 6."

Tokui tried desperately to recall all of his sister's ramblings about astrology to place the date with a sign, but came up with nothing. "Do-do you know your sign?"

"Isn't it obvious? I turned it into my image," Quon Yue said, gesturing to himself. When he noticed Tokui's blank look, he further clarified. "Gemini. I am supposed to be a physical representation of Gemini."

Tokui gasped, then blushed again and turned away. Quon Yue raised an eyebrow, his eyes turning sky blue.

"Did I say something wrong?" he asked, genuine concern tingeing his voice.

Tokui shook his head furiously. "My sister told me yesterday that I would become friends with a Gemini. She said that without knowing your sign."

"Your sister likes astrology?" Quon Yue asked. Then he shrugged. "So do I. I'm more into astronomy, though."

This intrigued Tokui. He never would have pictured Quon Yue as the kind who enjoyed any sciences, let alone a form that required much patience. "But how can you see the stars in Tokyo?"

A strange half-smile crossed Quon Yue's face as his expression softened and looked almost sad. "In my neighborhood the lights don't always work, so I can stand in my special spot. It's perfect for stargazing." His eyes took on their wistful dark blue color. "When I was younger, the stars were all mine. They were the only thing I had, and the only place in Tokyo you could see them was in my district, and the people there didn't take advantage of that. Only I did. So I used to turn to the stars for everything. For comfort. For protection. With astrology I could make them tell me whatever I wanted to know."

Tokui swallowed. He hadn't expected to get such intimate details of the young man's past from such a simple question. And not he wondered if he was obligated to talk about himself.

Tokui swallowed hard. "Closets," he said, slowly, simply, the one word speaking volumes. "They are small, but warm and safe. And always empty, overlooked. When I was five I was in the hospital, and I spent a lot of time out in the open. Sick kids would bug me, nurses and doctors were always coming in to poke me and prod me and I just wanted to be alone. So I found a supply closet. And..."

He looked up to see Quon Yue's eyes the pleasant sky blue that reminded him of the summer sky, coaxing him to continue. So he swallowed hard and resumed the story. "There was already a kid in there. He had cancer, and he was my first friend ever. He was a little older than me, but he told me that when you find a place where no one will ever find you, where no one can see you or touch you, then it's like being alone in your own little world, where nothing is real except what you want to be real." Tears were sliding down Tokui's cheeks, and Quon Yue handed him a box of tissues that was resting in the center of the table. He hesitantly took one and wiped his eyes. "He died," he announced finally. "Three days before I checked out. If he had waited...if I'd gotten better sooner...I could have left with him being alive, and in my world he'd always be alive. But in the real world and in my world he was gone forever. So I stopped making real world friends. I made up friends in my world, in the dark where the real world couldn't touch me. Then I started to write what my friends said and did down into stories. But my sister...she means well, but she belongs in this world. In the real world. In the center of it. She doesn't belong in my world yet she keeps forcing herself in. She's a trespasser! She doesn't belong in my world!"

Quon Yue's eyes had widened, though they were still the pleasant color that made Tokui want to bare his soul to him. Hesitantly, Quon Yue reached out and wrapped his arms around the smaller boy's slight frame, trying to quell his sobbing.

"No one else understands," Tokui whispered. "No one understands that I have my world, just like the stars are yours. They think we're crazy. But the stars...they ARE yours. And I DO have my own world, and the closets are the doorways to them. But only we can understand that. The stars are YOURS, and the Closet World is MINE...."

Quon Yue held Tokui silently for a long time. He'd never given or received comfort before, but something told him silence was the best thing at the moment while the boy finished crying. Finally the sobbing ceased, and Tokui looked up at Quon Yue with tear-rimmed eyes. "You belong in the Closet World," he whispered. "Just like he did. Just like I do. In the Closet World no one judges you based on how you dress or act or think, or cares if you are healthy or sick or plagued by nightmares that you don't understand because they don't belong to you. No one thinks you are crazy. In the Closet World, when you say the stars are yours, then they are and everyone respects that. The stars are yours."

Quon Yue wanted to tell him that didn't like closets and never would, but the revelation was so utterly profound that he couldn't bring himself to tell him that. Tokui had taken darkness, overlooked by everyone else, and turned it into a Utopia for the outcasts of the "real world", and had only been punished and shunned for doing so.

Somehow, when he saw Tokui and his Closet World, all he could think of was an eleven year old boy standing on a roof, trying to count the stars, and when people asked him why he would answer "to make sure they were all there". People had called him crazy, too. Called that poor, lonely boy crazy for wanting to make sure all of his friends were present and accounted for. For wanting to make sure his prized possessions were all in order people at shunned him and scolded him and told him he needed help.

"If you can share Closet World," Quon Yue whispered hoarsely, "then I can share the stars."

End of Chapter Eight

Notes About the Houses-

(Note: This is according to Astrology for Dummies by Rae Orion. Great book for learning to bare essentials of astrology. I have the pocket edition. ^_^ I would just paraphrase, but you can't get simpler or more concise than this, hence I am using these descriptions.)

First House- Your appearance and apparent disposition.

Second House- Money, possessions, values.

Third House- Communication, short journeys, brothers and sisters.

Fourth House- Home, roots, one parent, circumstances at the end of life.

Fifth House- Romance, children, creativity.

Sixth House- Work and health.

Seventh House- Marriage and other partnerships.

Eighth House- Sex, death, regeneration, other people's money.

Ninth House- Higher education, long journeys, religion, philosophy.

Tenth House- Career, status, reputation, the other parent.

Eleventh House- Friends and aspirations.

Twelfth House- Seclusion and secrets.

Also, sorry this took so long, but I've been unbelievably busy as of late. Hopefully I can get on a roll again, and this long chapter makes up for it. It's the longest chapter of this fic that I've written so far.