Crossing Borders and Bridging Gaps

Author's Chapter Notes

Back to the Past team :D~!
“So who is she?” Aya asked for yet the thirtieth time this past evening. Jin had had to work late and Aya insisted on staying at the office with him because it couldn’t be safe for him to go home alone at night.

Jin had looked at her as if she was mad, which she absolutely 100 percent was! Stark raving mad!

But he was impressed with how she had managed to get him to let her stay…and now he’d have to walk her home instead because it was far more dangerous for her than it was for him. Still it was exactly this quality of Aya’s he found endearing. “What does it even matter Aya?”

“Duh,” She rolled her eyes making an effort, in vain might he add, to pull the pen from his hand. “Because you were crying like a little baby!” He stopped writing then and Aya managed to succeed pulling the pen away. “Come on, take a break. Talk to me.”

“And what is talking to you going to do?”

“I can listen. Sometimes that’s all you need.” She smiled brightly twirling in front of him, the curls at the base of her neck swinging around her face perfectly in time with her skirt. “I’m a great listener, you can just ask Junno. I’ve helped him get over many a man.” Jin’s eyebrows shot up into his hair as he looked up at that. “Oh oops…well…it’s just you.” He shook his head disapprovingly but despite himself, Jin felt himself crack a smile. He felt the strangest sense of calm come over him when Aya skipped over to him and pulled him up from the chair.

“Aya,” He sighed lengthening the last vowel in her name as she twirled him around with her. “What are you doing?”

“Dancing with you. Getting you to loosen up. I’m going to be honest you are no fun Akanishi Jin…and I want us to have fun. A lot of fun.” For a second, he was worried by what she meant with her words, but she immediately stopped dancing and flicked him in the head.

“OW! Aya!” He frowned rubbing his head as she protectively folded her arms over her chest.

“You deserved it, I saw that face you made…get your head out of the gutter.” He burst out laughing. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, this, you- how you think I think.” As soon as he said it though he regretted it, Aya’s fell faster than he thought possible and Jin had to bite his tongue to himself. “Aya…”

“No it’s okay, you’re right.” She stepped in front of him, all the dance in her step had disappeared as she leaned back on a table and slouched forward. Even in this extremely manly position, she looked like a picturesque image of strength. “Just explain yourself then. Why? Why not me?” What was he supposed to say? He was trying his best to forget since his conversation with Kame. Freedom from Erika still came easily, freedom from Mao…not as much.

From his last letter, he had gotten the smallest glimpse at his little daughter. She’d been giggling beside a slightly older boy pulling on his leg as he tried to run away from her and she laughed maniacally. Jin imagined that she would be mischievous, a regular rebel and he imagined putting her to sleep at night and how right everything in the world would feel if he could just hear her laugh every day before he went to bed.

Not for the first time since he sent those letters, did he wonder if he had done the right thing but he couldn’t take it back and he was sure Erika didn’t want him to so this was it. This was the life he had chosen, working late, and watching Ueto Aya try her best to break into his closed heart. He wasn’t being fair to her. “It’s not you, Aya.”

“No let’s stop pretending…it’s not that it’s not me…it’s that it’s someone else. Tell me about Meisa. Tell me about her. I need to know.”

Jin looked at her blankly…and then he remembered. He had been writing to Meisa that day. That was the name she had spied on. That was who she thought he loved.

Suddenly all he could do was laugh. Aya had much more of a chance of breaking into his heart than Meisa did. She was jealous of Meisa? “Why? Knowing will just hurt you more.”

“No that’s where you’re wrong. Knowing frees me, because you know the more you do this- this not talking thing - the more mysterious you become and you know how I feel about mysteries.”

“Yes, yes Agatha Christie is your favourite author.”

“If she asked for my first born in exchange for the script I would gladly give it up.” Aya laughed at her own joke but was left bewildered when she was the only one laughing. “Okay it wasn’t that bad a joke-“

“It’s funny that you want to know why when you just spat it out.” Aya furrowed her eyebrows and Jin wasn’t sure how much more he wanted to spell out that it was his first-born that was always on his mind. “What did you give up to come here Aya?”

“What did I give up?” She parroted back. “Nothing Jin, I’ve lived here practically my whole life.” She smiled and came over to sit beside him as he leaned against his desk.

“Well Aya I gave up a wife, and I gave up a daughter…and you saw me crying because I didn’t want to give them up but there’s nothing in this world-“ Without knowing what had happened he felt his eyes cast downwards. “I’m sorry. I should have told you earlier...but things didn’t end well, and I wasn’t sure where my life was-“

“And my family was making concessions for you because they liked you…for me.” She whistled low and stuck her lips out. “This sounds like something out of a movie. Love interest has a family on the side. Oh woe is me.”

“Is that really all you have to say?” He had to say he was surprised, he expected tears and yells. He almost wanted them because he’d never led her on but he had used her for her standing in this nation to get him opportunities with her family.

“I’m sorry, I could slap you…did you want a slap?” He gave her a look and she rolled her eyes. “Fineee…settle for a push on the shoulder?”

“I don’t understand why you’re not more upset.” He admitted after the silence between them grew too long and he saw Aya shrug.

“Are you still married?”

“Nope.”

“You’re still in love and you have a daughter?”

“Yup.”

“Then I can live with that.” Her shockingly confident proclamation did make his heart break a little bit for her.

“Aya-“

“No don’t say another word tonight Jin, just because I’m not overreacting doesn’t mean I’m not hurt…you could have told me all of this before and it would have saved the both of us a lot of trouble and you know it. So for now- just let it go. If I want to stay as we are is that really harming you? If I want to keep being beside you does it change anything?”

“But Aya….we aren’t anything.” Jin had to utter back. “And I’m not sure we ever will be…and you deserve better.”

“But I am sure.” She smiled brightly, “I’m nothing if not persistent, stubborn and a pain in the butt Akanishi Jin, so just wait.” She turned her head to his and pressed a quick chaste kiss on his cheek. “Just wait, and let it happen.”

“Let what happen?” He asked back dumbly but Aya simply smiled.

“I think it’s time I got home…good night Jin.”

“At least let me drop you home-“

“Ahh…don’t bother. I think it’d be good for you to worry about me a little.” She winked at him and walked away.

When the door shut behind her, he felt his heart jump into his throat and was surprised by the very defined knots he felt in his stomach. He tried to focus on the work at hand, he still had to confirm the employment terms of the Chinese facilities for tomorrow and so he had work to do now that Aya was finally gone-

Oh who was he kidding, less than five minutes later he had followed the Ueto daughter out screaming her name.

-------------------------

The sun was shining brilliantly, the lush palace gardens were truly in full splendor and Erika for the life of her could not understand what on earth she was doing here after two hours of inane chatter.

Currently the princess was asking her opinion on the state of the grass and Erika for the life of her couldn’t care. So she had to break when she saw Maki guide them over to the tennis courts, servants, nannies and body guards appropriately in tow with Mao, Jun and pitcher of lemonade. “Why am I here Maki? You’ve barely spoken two words to me and I can’t pretend to understand what I’ve done to upset you so much that you’d invite me here just to ignore me.”

Maki swung her hips around seductively but who the little princess was trying to seduce Erika couldn’t tell you. “I’m deciding how much I like you Erika, how much leash I’m willing to give you…and you, my dear friend, should take this time to decide how far you’d like to go. If this is really worth everything he thinks it is. If it’s worth everything he’s trying to convince you it is.”

“How far I’d like to go?” She echoed dumbly. The expression of pity crossing Maki’s face made Erika’s skin crawl. “I don’t understand what you’re talking about...”

“I can help you understand, but it depends…how honest would you like me to be? How clear does our relationship have to be Erika because we’re not going to be friends, much less acquaintances, you’ll become the dark side of my shadow and you need to tell me you’re okay with it. So I’m sorry, if I couldn’t find the words to say to you before.” She held a hand out to the girl as they reached the tennis courts.

In the distance, Erika could see Shota running around the courts with someone other than Ryuhei as the older prince appeared to be catching his breath on the side.

Despite her best efforts to not falter in front of Maki, she felt her eyes drawn to him. There was sweat running of his head as he dashed from side to side, his entire being absorbed in the game. Every hit back to the player on the other side echoed loudly with a restrained force and strength.

Erika felt her heart skip a beat as she gulped back the knot forming in her throat.

He’s married, his wife is literally right in front of you, stop looking at him her mind reminded her. His chest rose and fell as he got ready to serve again. The ball was bouncing on the court...off-handedly her hand ran to her own forehead. “Competitive, aggravating, so determined and focused on winning the one thing he can’t. I sure as hell can’t talk to him so I thought I’d reason with you.” Even though Maki tried her best to sound like she was inviting Erika into a conversation, Erika knew better than to speak up. This was not a conversation, this was an ambush. One that was carefully planned to ensure she would no longer be a thorn in the royal family’s side now that they’d finally chosen to acknowledge her…and she supposed consequently the threat she represented. “He’s been running around the court like this since well-” She paused tactically as she turned around to smile calculatingly at her. “I don’t need to tell you since when. You already know don’t you?”

When she spoke up she tried to keep her tone of voice as cold as possible. “I couldn’t tell you…I don’t spend my every waking moment by his side.”

“No, but you do keep his mind company every waking moment of his day whether you’re aware of it or not.” Erika blinked furiously as the words washed over her and she turned slowly to face Maki who was already looking at her. “Shocked?”

“Not really but I’ve never encouraged it.”

Maki smirked proudly, in the type of way that was smug, like if this wasn’t about her cheating husband then maybe Maki would have patted herself on the back for being correct yet again. “He just couldn’t wait for you, could he? Shota’s not a patient man, and he needs no encouragement. He just needs a participant and from what I understand you’ve been accommodating.”

She had to correct her. Yes it was true that now Shota and she had been almost repetitively pulled together more at Shota’s insistence than hers but she’d have been lying if she hadn’t said she enjoyed the attention he paid to her. Still, she couldn’t just let Maki think this was more than what it was.

Yes they’d kissed, three times. Once as what she assumed was a joke, once because he was trying to show her the depth of his emotions and once because she was using him “ that did not a relationship or an affair make.

As her mouth opened to form her defense, she was pulled away and faced with the young prince himself who had found his way to the pair of women who had been watching him but in their exchange testing each other had missed seeing him come up to them.

Erika couldn’t help but remark that on the courts he’d looked calculating, focused, frenzied but organized in the way he wanted to capture his win. Here, he looked furious, desperate and extremely apologetic…but not to Maki. His face was fully brought up close to her. “Erika,” Even his voice held every hint of the feelings that he held for her and Erika couldn’t help but feel very afraid. It was bad enough that Shota embraced her every chance he got, it was worse now that Maki knew, and worse yet that Erika could barely bring herself to care enough to stop herself from faltering and slipping into his arms as he held himself out to her like a treat on the end of a stick. “Why are you here?”

Erika didn’t answer, but Maki did on her behalf. “Because you’re acting like a lunatic, a spoilt brat and if you won’t address the issue, I will. Like I do everything around here for you, Shota…I’ll even get you Erika if you want. That’s my job isn’t it? To do the things you really can’t?”

The glare he threw his wife confirmed all the suspicions Erika had had about their marriage the first time she met them.

Not shockingly, she compared their marriage to her own. She had been so envious but now she saw there was nothing to envy between them. In her marriage, Erika had compromised and Jin had brought patience to their marriage, they had allowed love to thrive in their hostile environment.

But Shota and Maki never had...for them marriage was a perfect photograph and no matter what would come their way Shota and Maki would remain married to each other for all eternity. Come hell, high water, or Erika herself “ nothing would break them up.

“Do you want to open this door Maki? You should have kept her out of this, what happened last night was between you and me.”

“Would someone care to inform me what’s happening here or was I invited to watch my prince and princess fight and rip each other to shreds?” She bowed uncomfortably and shuffled away from them pulling away from Shota’s grasp. “I think I should be taking my leave, Rina can you hand me Mao please-“ She asked the maid who looked fearfully at Maki for permission.

The princess scoffed. “When you’re the cause I think you should stay and watch…it’s only fair you see the rift you’ve caused between us don’t you think Erika?”

“Keep her out of this.”

“WHY? You want me to give you permission right…well here it is Shota. Here, you go. Erika’s my best friend now. I’m out with her and you can join us, spend all the time you want with her because she can be my best fucking friend for the press. In fact, let’s have my best friend move into the palace with us- what about our bedroom?? She should stay there too!” Maki shrieked as Erika’s eyes widened when she saw Chiaki from the back cringe.

She had never been so embarrassed in her life.

“I’m taking her home.” Without another word, Erika found her hand in the prince’s hand and she succeeded in wrenching it free, very aware now of how everyone including the children, the servants, Ryuhei and Chiaki were watching them. She could only pray the safe distance they were away meant that they couldn’t hear every word blasting from Maki and Shota’s mouth.

Shota grabbed her hand again, despite her insistence to pull away. He went to the maid who passed him Mao in his other hand as he easily carried her daughter.

Erika wanted to be happy for a second. The image was very close to what she had always wanted with Jin. If she shut her eyes for a second she could imagine the hand in hers was his- and he was giggling and laughing as he made eyes at his daughter and she spent her time looking at him.

When she opened them though once again, she found herself marching out of the palace hands intertwined with the prince as he kept her close, weaving through smaller halls now, ones she didn’t recognize but offered the illusion of privacy.

Then she was slowly put into a car, he was in the car beside her after he nodded and sent the driver off. “You shouldn’t have come.” He barked as they exited the gates and she saw whatever had had him in that posture worm his way out of his body. He seemed to relax reflexively like there was a lot more than his wife stifling him in the palace.

“I can’t very well deny the princess of my nation.”

Shota scoffed. “Why not? I’m the prince and we’ve both seen you have no trouble denying me.” She laughed a bit at that and Mao in her lap snickered as well, though the baby had no clue why she was laughing. That fact itself made Erika laugh harder. “Do you think this is funny?”

“Oh come on, it’s a little funny that every one thinks we’re having an affair.” She rubbed her eyes. “We’re a mess of two people who have no idea what we’re doing to each other but we’re certainly not having an affair.”

“Maki has a history of over reacting and she blew what I told her last night out of proportion, hilarious considering her own personal interests.” A tone of bitterness was in his voice that Erika had never heard before.

“Did you ever love each other?”

“I thought I could…for a long time.” Shota’s response sounded like a consolation prize. “She’s always going to be there. She’s the face of our marriage now, and a considerable force in the family but- no I don’t love her. I respect her, admire her “ but I don’t love her.”

The silence played with her heart the same way Mao was playing with her hair. She looked at the personification of the commitment she’d made with Jin as she jostled in the seat, trying to eat her hair. Erika moved it away from her hands as she slowly spoke out. “Do you love me?”

“Do you need an answer?” He teased as they drove. She didn’t respond but regardless he answered her. “Yes.”

“How do you know?”

Shota paused at the red light and turned to look at her. “Honestly? You’re difficult and I’m still here.”

“How romantic.”

“I don’t need difficult in my life Erika, in fact- everything’s been easy. Whatever I’d wanted- I’ve been the prized son of my mother. I’m her pride and joy. I’m her success story.” He left the innuendo behind his words silent as Erika nodded understanding what he meant. “I was allowed the world at my feet and suddenly you came.”

“And I wasn’t allowed?” She responded and he shook his head smiling.

“We both knew when I met you if I’d whisked you away that night-“ She blushed. “Well needless to say you would have held little resistance to me.”

“You doubt me.”

“No I don’t doubt you. I just know what I felt…and I’d like to think I know how you’d felt. But when you did get married to Jin and I saw you in that store “ yeah you weren’t allowed but that’s okay. There’s a lot of married women around me and you don’t see me mauling my brother’s wife do you?”

“I think I should really ask Maki.” She cracked up seeing his shocked expression. “Oh- oh come on Shota “ it was a joke!”

“Rude. I’m not going to talk anymore.” He shook his head but despite that, the fact they were joking around with each other was lightening the heaviness in his heart. Even if it was at the expense of his capricious past.

“So it was because I said no?”

“No, you were difficult because “ well I guess I couldn’t look away.” He finished smiling as he stopped the car a little bit away from her house. The daylight filtered through the car and Erika felt her heart skip a beat as he looked at her. “You clapped for me, you believed in me, and I couldn’t look away.” He bowed his head apologetically. “I truly am sorry about today, you didn’t deserve that.”

Looking back, it didn’t bother her all that much that she’d been embarrassed for the man before her. How could it when he said the most lovely and honest things about her like this? “I’m sorry about last week, at the theater. I didn’t meant to use you like that but-“

“I can understand.” He reached for Mao and tickled her slightly. The little girl giggled and reached upwards for him and Shota was only too happy to acquiesce until she drooled on him and burst out laughing and clapping wildly. “She’s funny. Way funnier than you.”

“Way to make a girl feel jealous.”

“Anytime I can make you feel anything, I think my day’s work is done.” He laughed.

Erika laughed back because he had absolutely no idea the depth of feelings she was exploring because of him. With Jin it was easy, it was hate and it was love. With Shota it was complicated, it was trust and then distrust, it was longing and then guilt. “You might have to get used to that feeling.” Shota laughed for a second and then he stopped as she grabbed Mao from his hands. “Thanks for the ride.”

Author's Chapter End Notes

And now I'm done :) Thanks Team. No previews but you got a whole new chapter so hope everyone enjoyed it :D!

To Be Continued.
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Anna Clair is the author of 52 other stories.
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