Lost Fragments @teamcap
Stage 11: Acceptance and Hope

Haha, I said I will update this in March but I feel like updating now. Before all that stuff, I'm sorry. I'm definitely not yet better. I'm officially diagnosed with depression and got hospitalized and I'm taking therapy. Life's been pretty hard on me but ehhh. I'm fighting I have a new goal and some good news which I will announce in the last chapter (you guys probably know this and if you do, it's our little secret but we can discuss this on discord if you wanna :).

Also, hello to the guest reviewer, Sarah. Thank you for reading LF, and I hope you'll like what plans I have for this fic in the future. It won't be over. :)

Stage 11 – Acceptance and Hope

...

...

"It's okay, boy. I can take care of this." Richard said, his voice was gruff. His tone sounded dry and weary. His rough fingers gripped the tray, gently taking it away from Ruby, and placed it on the kitchen counter.

Ruby could only bit his lip and took a step back. He watched Richard do all the dishes by himself. He sighed. He told Sapphire that he would stay in the house to help Richard but it turned out he didn't need his help. Richard may have lost his ability to walk, but he could still do simple tasks like washing the dishes. It was quite impressive how his disability didn't stop him from doing stuff only normal people could do.

"It's... Ruby, isn't it?" Richard asked, turning his wheelchair around to face the young man.

Ruby bobbed his head, nodding as an answer. What else he could say? How should he start?

"You and Sapphire seemed to be good friends... quite possibly more than that judging by the way you look at her."

Ruby could feel his cheeks heat up. He swallowed hard in hopes to calm his fast heartbeat. Were he and Sapphire more than just friends? Honestly, he didn't know how to answer that question. It was true Sapphire was his best friend, but the moment she fell into depression, his actions towards her were changing.

He was never open to those certain feelings for her until he let his emotions took ahold of him the first time he tried helping her to conquer her grief. He couldn't stand seeing her depressive state back then, which explained his sudden confession. He let his heart control him that day and starting that, his affections towards her became more passionate and intimate.

He found inner peace every time he hugged or kissed her. He felt comfortable and safe whenever Sapphire was in his arms. Though it hurt seeing her cry because of her depression, at least she was safe from any physical harm. He would rather get hurt than to lose her. She was important to him even before her grief started taking over her.

"But that's not my business. I shouldn't bother." Richard continued. He let out a cough, grabbing Ruby's attention, hoping to remove the lad's tensed aura. If gambling were one of his hobbies, then he would definitely bet that there was something going on between Ruby and Sapphire. He had that weird parent intuition, and it was strange. He was not a parent. He never had children of his own. "Sapphire doesn't had her family, and it's my fault."

"S-Sir... Sapphire have... already forgiven you on that." Ruby intervened, his anxious gaze met his. "There's... There's no need to blame yourself for it."

Richard nodded slowly. Ruby may be younger than him, but he was right. Blaming himself would only make things worse. "The only ones left to support her are you and her friends..."

Ruby took a deep breath. He had a feeling Richard would make him promise something, and he knew what it was. He clenched his fists, bracing himself. He was born ready for it.

"I know I only met her in such a short while, but..." Richard closed his eyes, taking a glance at the window. He saw a vague image of Sapphire talking to a young police officer, who turned out to be the superintendent Lack-Two. They did say Sun wasn't able to take them here because of his job. Lack-Two was their second option.

It took a good amount of ten minutes for Richard's tears to die down. After cleaning his face with a handkerchief, he looked at the couple with a smile on his face. It felt like the weight of the world was removed from his shoulders. It felt like he was free from inhaling toxic air despite his place was far from the city's pollution. It felt great to be forgiven despite he still have second thoughts that he didn't deserve it. He couldn't help but to feel thankful and blessed to Sapphire and her compassionate nature.

At long last, his heart and his mind could finally live peacefully. He didn't need to wake up every night, thinking about the accident over and over again.

He was forgiven and that was what mattered most.

He manage to ask how they convinced Sun to take them here only to receive such worried looks from them. Sapphire said that Rakutsu, also known as the superintendent Lack-Two, took them to his place. Sun was their first choice, but it turned out the young courier had too many deliveries for today which lead them to ask Rakutsu in the first place.

Richard could only nod at their answer, for he had nothing else to say, really. He was neutral to the superintendent, but it still surprised him that a man at Lack-Two's age could have that rank. It usually took years for a police officer to earn that rank. Some get too old before they even reach it. He wanted them to stay in his place for a while and offering some snacks was his only option. He managed to convince them despite the young professionals' polite declines, nonetheless.

It was going to be a long trip from his place to the city, after all.

He told them to invite Lack-Two inside but the police officer was sleeping in his car at that time, leaving the three alone to enjoy the tea and biscuits Richard had prepared for them.

After a small chat, Sapphire decided to go outside to get some fresh air. She also told the two she would try to wake up Rakutsu just so he could eat.

Ruby could only nod at Sapphire and watched her go outside. He kept on staring at her until Richard started grabbing the dishes and taking it to the kitchen. After another glance at Sapphire, Ruby let out a sigh and decided to help Richard with the dishes. He did have something to say to him, and he was given the chance to. He shouldn't let it slip. He should start considering it as an opportunity instead.

"It's funny." Richard let out a soft chuckle. His lips curved into a small smile. "I'm not a psychic. I can't predict the future, but every time I look at the professor's daughter…" He gripped the handles of his wheelchair, sighing. What he saw was true. He felt it. He could see that the only thing stopping Sapphire was her emotional pain and depression. "I see… nothing but success heading straight towards Sapphire. She's young, but has potential. I hope she knows that."

Ruby's lips slowly curved into a smile. His eyes lit up passionately as its flames burnt intensely. Every positive talk about Sapphire never ceased to put a smile on his face. It couldn't help but to make his heart leap with joy. Sapphire was truly an amazing person. He could write a thousand speeches and a thousand poems about it and he wouldn't get tired of it, honestly. Her compassion was just the tip of the iceberg. She was more than just his best friend, after all.

"Sapphire has her insecurities." Ruby bluntly said, passion forming into his tone. "She got it after that incident..." He bit his lip, his gaze was slowly fixing on the ceramic, tiled floor. His right hand made its way onto his hat, touching the scar on his head and tracing his fingers around it. He didn't know Sapphire still blamed herself for causing it. He needed to reassure her that she got nothing to be guilty for. He did that to save her. He did that because he liked her. He did that because he couldn't bear to loose her. Sapphire was just too important to him as he liked to continuously state it.

"She thought she was too weak to protect herself, but the truth is… she is capable enough to protect and to take care of herself. I know she can do it, but sometimes... I just couldn't help but to remind her how amazing she is." Ruby sighed. "Sapphire is kind, smart, humble, considerate... Everything about her is beautiful..."

"I see..." Richard smiled. "Then... Take good care of her." He said, his considerate eyes darted around Ruby, observing the young man. The way Ruby talked about Sapphire was enough for him to conclude that the young man did have feelings for her. He didn't know anything about their relationship, but Ruby seemed to be a great man. Sapphire seemed to trust him. "She seemed like a strong woman and from what you said… she does, but as the person who's responsible for killing her family... take care of her. I believe she can be more successful than her father."

Ruby clenched his fists, nodding. He looked at Richard with a smile on his face. Determination struck into his eyes. "I plan to, don't worry. A-And... s-sir..." He swallowed hard, his gaze never left Richard's. He took a deep breath. His heart thumped wildly, anxious about his next actions. It was now his chance. He must do it. "I have to be honest with you..."

"What is it?" Richard asked, his eyebrows furrowed. He had absolutely no idea what would Ruby say. His mind was blank and all he could do was to wait. Wait until the young man say what his mind and his heart were trying to convey.

"I was mad..." Ruby mumbled, his tone deepened and became lifeless. "I was mad about what you did… It hurts seeing Sapphire's depressed condition every day. I feel useless... All I could do was to hug her and be her shoulder to cry on..."

Richard lowered his head. He sighed. He couldn't blame Ruby. It was his reckless act that made Sapphire miserable. And judging the lad's words and his actions towards Sapphire, he cared about her as if she was the most important person in his life.

"But..." Ruby unclenched his fists, taking another deep breath. "I see no reason for me to be mad anymore..."

Richard's mouth slowly hung open. He looked at the lad with confusion struck in his eyes. What did he mean?

"Sapphire has forgiven you despite that, and... I don't have the right to be mad at you anymore because of that... S-Sir, I forgive you... Despite it hurt seeing Sapphire depressed for weeks, I still forgive you..." Ruby finished, his lips curved into a weak smile. It did feel great to forgive someone. He felt like a bird who just got out from its cage. It felt like he could finally breathe properly after days of being consumed by his anger.

He never showed it to Sapphire, actually. He was just following Green's advice. He had to set his feelings aside and be there for Sapphire. She was just as mad as he was, after all, and being mad at Richard while she was having her emotional breakdown wouldn't solve anything. He was glad Sapphire got the courage to do so. Anger would still be present in his heart if Sapphire didn't initiate the act.

"Why?" Richard asked. His mind was jumbled, giving him a hard time processing everything the lad had said.

"Because..." Ruby said, his smile widening just by thinking about Sapphire. Why did he do this? Every fiber of his being never hesitated to reconsider why. "Like she said... It was the right thing to do..."

A minute of silence passed.

All Richard could hear was the faint chat between Sapphire and Lack-Two and the rustling leaves of the trees.

The clock's hands continued to move loudly. Its interchanging phase became faint in his ears. He could only recall Ruby's words. It replayed in his head over and over again, processing every detail, every word that he said just a moment ago.

Richard took a deep breath, sighing. A smile plastered across his lips.

He was happy.

He knew his act not only affected Sapphire, but also her friends. It felt great to be also forgiven by her friend. The world may be cruel, ruthless and close-minded, but he was glad that people like Sapphire and Ruby existed. He was glad that there were still some good people left in this world. "Thank you... Bless you, Ruby."

Ruby lowered his head and bent his body, bowing at Richard. The sincere smile on his face didn't fade. Just like Sapphire, he did the right thing, and it felt great. It felt like he was a free dog who was no longer chained from the intense anger that had been gripping his heart for days and was preventing him from breathing normally. The anger in his heart was gone and he was finally free from it.

He was free.

And it felt great.

"Mister Richard..."

Ruby opened his eyes, jerking his head to his right. The smile on his face faded once he noticed Sapphire's depressed and guilt-ridden eyes. He approached her, his heart was beating anxiously. He had a bad feeling about this.

What did Rakutsu and Sapphire talk about?

Why did she look depressed?

Did Rakutsu say something wrong?

"You alright." Ruby grabbed her hand, intertwining their fingers together, and gave it a soft squeeze.

Sapphire didn't respond nor looked at him. Her gaze was fixed on the floor and her fangs were popped out from her top lip, biting it. Earlier she felt great when she'd forgiven Richard, but after her talk with Rakutsu, she felt guilty. Richard seemed like a good man. He went through all that effort just to ask for her forgiveness despite expecting that she wouldn't forgive him. The incident may still had some sting left in her heart, but it was all an accident.

"Sapphire, are you okay?" Ruby called, still receiving no response from her. He couldn't take it anymore. He didn't understand her sudden shift in mood, but he must help her. He sighed, his right arm travelled on her cheek, affectionately stroking it. Please, tell me what's wrong... I'll listen.

"There's no need to feel bad, Sapphire." Richard approached them, smiling.

Sapphire removed her gaze onto the floor and looked at him. Her mind was starting to wonder at his sincere smile.

Why was he smiling?

Did he know?

"I couldn't just file a case on him after waking up from his comma." Rakutsu started, folding his arms across his chest. Despite the police officer's serious look, there was a tinge of guilt hidden in his eyes and Sapphire could see that.

Rakutsu told her that there was nothing he could do. What Richard did was against the law. She understood that he was just doing his job, but letting Richard possibly spend a few years in jail was not what she wanted. All she wanted was to forgive him and let the man live peacefully after the tragedy. This problem couldn't be solved through revenge. Revenge would only make things worse.

"I gave Richard a month. What he did was against the law."

Ruby took a deep breath, registering everything that was happening. Now he understood why Sapphire felt guilty. It made him feel guilty too, in fact. It was true Richard broke the law but taking him to jail and filing a case on him would make it worse. How could he live peacefully if he ever went to jail?

"I'm sorry, Richard, but you need to report to the police station next week." Rakutsu said, his tone sounded serious yet guilt-ridden. He bit his lip and fixed his gaze at the window. The leaves of the trees were still swaying with the wind as the birds landed on the moist grass, searching for something to eat. He sighed.

What else he could do? He was just doing his job. He knew Richard was a good man. He still couldn't believe that he was going to file a case on him, even arrest him. If only the accident didn't happen.

"I will, don't worry. I'll arrive there after lunch. Roughly at four in the afternoon." Richard responded. He placed his hand on his chin, his rough fingers massaging it. "Ruby... Sapphire..." He called, making the couple look at him. Their guilt-ridden eyes widened at his smile.

Why was he smiling?

Shouldn't he be sad about this?

"I expect this to happen, don't worry." Richard's smile widened, tears slowly started forming into his eyes. "Besides, I would rather rot in jail than to not be forgiven. And... thank you for forgiving me... both of you."

Sapphire swallowed hard, taking a deep breath. She felt her heart pound faster. She was an emotional mess. Despite the horrid consequence of his reckless act, Richard was still happy that he was forgiven. He accepted the consequences but still hoped for a peaceful life from their forgiveness. Both had happened and he didn't complain about it. He chose to accept and hope for the best. It was an inspiring act once she thought about it. A man like Richard deserved great things. If only the accident didn't happen, regardless...

"We'll see you there then." Rakutsu nodded, leaving the house as fast as he could. He leaned his back onto the car, his arms still crossed on his chest. He sighed, looking at the bright, blue sky. He was just doing his job. He had to act like a professional, with choices that were not biased and not affected by his emotions, when it comes to doing his job correctly and justly.

Sapphire told him she understood his intentions and that was enough.

...

...

...

...

Rakutsu let out a sigh, parking the car. He turned around to look at Ruby and Sapphire, his eyes were still guilty from what happened moments ago. "Listen… I… I-I'm sorry again, but it was my job. I have to—"

"Rakutsu, it's okay." Sapphire reassured, giving him a faint smile. "We know you're just doing your job."

"Still," Rakutsu lowered his head, biting his lip.

He didn't expect it would shock them that Richard could possibly stay in jail after this. Just by looking at them, he could tell that they were worried about Richard's condition. Not only Richard broke the law, making him arrest Richard in the first place, but also every bone in his legs, preventing him from walking and only to depend on a wheelchair. If the court ever let him stay in jail, it would be hard for him to stay in it in his condition.

After their bidding their farewell, the three went inside the car and left the place quietly.

The rest of their trip were quiet, just like earlier.

Sapphire's gaze was still fixed on the window while Ruby's gaze was fixed on hers, concern and anxiety were present in his eyes.

He felt guilt flooding through his heart just by looking at them. Richard was a good man, but it was his job to arrest anyone who broke the law with no hesitation. And sadly, Richard broke the law and there was nothing he could do. He sighed, mentally shaking his head, regaining his professional, stoic appearance.

If Sapphire said it was alright, then there was no reason for his guilt to spread. He was just doing his job. He just did what he think was right. "Will you feel better despite that?"

Sapphire bit her lip, her smile curved into a bitter-sweet one. His question was quite sudden, and she had no idea at how would answer it. She swallowed hard. "I…"

"It's alright. You don't need to answer." Rakutsu's eyes were fixed on the road again, his back leaning on the chair. He placed his hands on the steering wheel, gripping it. "I know these things take time."

Sapphire could only nod at his answer. She mentally thanked him for understanding and went outside, closing the door. She and Ruby watched the car drove north, driving its way back to the police station. "I'll be going inside."

Sapphire turned her heel to her left, walking her way to her apartment with Ruby quietly following her.

Ruby had one thing in his mind since this day started. He wanted to hug her and help her feel better. And judging her condition, she needed it. Taking a deep breath, Ruby approached her and wrapped his arms around her. He buried his head on her left shoulder blade, mumbling some words that Sapphire couldn't understand.

"Ruby, w-what…" Sapphire felt Ruby's arms around her tightened, gently lifting her from the floor by a few inches. She placed her left hand onto his left forearm, giving it a soft squeeze. Although his arms felt tight around her, she didn't feel breathless. In fact, she felt safe and was able to breathe properly and calmly. It felt like she was free from harm and not a single accident could harm her.

"It'll be fine. I'm here." Ruby said, gently lowering her, letting the heels of her rubber shoes touch the floor. He removed his face on her and pressed his soft lips against her left cheek.

Sapphire felt his concern and anxiety through his kiss, making her heart pound faster. Heat started spreading from her cheeks as depression, anxiety and guilt shrouded her eyes. She didn't need to ask and wonder why he was doing this, for he already told her about it. But she couldn't help but to feel guilty for all the efforts he had been putting through just so he could make her feel better. Ruby was a massive help, nevertheless, but when would she stop being a burden to him?

"How can I help?" He asked, concern and anxiety building up in his tone. He gently removed his arms around her, his fingers brushing the fabric of her shirt.

"I..."

Sapphire felt speechless. She swallowed hard, slowly turning around to face him. At long last, her ambiguous sapphire orbs met his concerned yet anxious ruby orbs. She could only think and wonder for how long was he keeping his emotions at bay. She had been depressed for a month, and every second, every time she felt like crying or having another emotional breakdown, he never hesitated to ask that question. He never hesitated to wrap his arms around her and give her a kiss at every one of her emotional breakdowns.

His kiss and his hug earlier felt like he was suppressing it for a day, waiting for the right moment, the right place to finally let it all out and ask her. She sighed, her feet moving forward to approach him. She had done everything to take herself away from this grief.

She went to her family's tombstones, read her mother's letter, had forgiven Richard and opened the door to let Ruby and everyone who cares about her inside. She did everything what her heart and her mind were seeking, but how come it was still not enough to conquer her grief? How come she still felt a small amount of grief in her heart? What was the answer? How could she fully conquer this grief now that she had done everything she could think of?

"I don't know..." Sapphire mumbled, sorrow and agony gripping her tone, as she placed her forehead on his chest, her left fist gripping the fabric of his shirt.

Ruby released a sigh, wrapping his left arm around her waist, pulling her closer. He placed his right arm under the bend of her knees, and carried her like a bride. He approached the couch and sat on it, letting Sapphire sit on his lap. He placed his head on her shoulder blade, his arms pulling her closer to him, indicating that she could tell him anything.

There were so many things.

So many things that had happened between them in just a month.

The accident. The confession. The emotional breakdown. The shocking and bitter truth. The forgiveness.

It all happened fast, yet there were always these fragmented pieces lost in there, still waiting to be solved and to discuss with, hoping it would be a whole despite the tragedy or the misunderstanding it had caused.

Maybe one day he and Sapphire could discuss it together and make it whole again. But for now, Sapphire needed to conquer her grief first. They were so close. So close to defeat it, and he wouldn't allow it to go to waste. She was that important to him. He would sacrifice himself just for her. And he knew Sapphire felt the same.

"You can start at any topic... I'm here to listen."

Sapphire took a deep breath, gritting her teeth. Her mind was jumbled and filled with intrusive thoughts. What topic? Which topic? How should she start? "I..."

"Is it about mister Richard being arrested?" Ruby asked, guessing the first possibility. He saw how depressed she was when Rakutsu told them about Richard being arrested. And after forgiving him too, another problem occurred into his life. Ruby felt pity for Richard. He may have been forgiven, but he didn't deserve it. It was all an accident, after all. Nobody saw it coming.

"I understand how it is, Ruby." Sapphire started, adjusting a bit to her right, making herself comfortable from their position. She sighed, her right hand tracing the stitches of his shirt. "I didn't want him to be in jail. Like what he desired... I wanna live peacefully too... free from this grief... He found inner peace from our forgiveness, but I can't seem to find mine..." she said, mumbling the last words. Grief still present in her tone.

"My mom's letter helped a lot... forgiving mister Richard made me feel a bit better... but how come I still have this shallow feeling left in my heart? How come it still hasn't filled up yet? Why is it still not yet full?" She bit her lip, burying her face on his chest. What else should she do?

Ruby could only hold her tighter, closing the ever so little gap between them. He had no words, no answers, at her questions. He felt useless for not providing any answer from it. He took a deep breath. "Sapphire... I may not have the answer just yet, but I'm here. I'm always here to help you. Cry all you want, vent out anything... I won't hesitate to listen to you. I know these things take time... and I'll wait with you."

"I don't even know where to start..." Sapphire confessed. "I felt like there was a huge wall blocking me from conquering this grief..."

"Hmm..." Ruby took a deep breath, his left hand trailed around his white beanie. Sapphire mentioned something earlier, and it wouldn't leave his head. There were too many circumstances going on lately, but maybe... Just maybe... He could fix one now, especially while she was still searching for a way to remove the blockade on her path. It might, and he hoped, this would help.

Sighing, Ruby slowly removed his hat, revealing the large twin size scars on his forehead. He placed his white beanie beside him and grabbed Sapphire's hand.

Sapphire looked at him, her eyes slowly widening at the sight. It had been a while since she saw those scars, and it hurt every time she looked at it. "Wait, Ruby... w-why would..."

"I got these scars when we were sixteen." Ruby said, his tone was concerned yet anxious. It was painful to reminiscence it, physically and emotionally. He placed Sapphire's hand on it, giving her the freedom to trace her fingers around it. "It's been eight years, and... I regret nothing..."

"Why?" Sapphire asked, her voice almost cracked from his words. She traced her left fingers on it, feeling every inch of the dry wound. "Why would you say that?" she continued, tears forming in her eyes. "I almost lost you..."

"I... I know... and I'm sorry..." Ruby mumbled softly, his voice perfectly matched the steady music of a piano. He placed his right hand on her cheek, affectionately stroking it. "But... I just realized why I did that when... when you told mister Richard about it..."

"I..." Sapphire felt a lump in her throat, her fingers massaging his scar.

"You don't need to feel guilty, because... I did that because... that's where my feelings for you started to develop further... It was... I-It was the time where my feelings for you grew stronger..."

She started at him. Her anxious eyes slowly turned ambiguous as her heart increased its pace, pounding itself out from her chest. How come she didn't notice? Now that she thought about it that was also the time where she started disregarding her feelings for him.

They first met when they were five years old at the National Park somewhere in Ruby's old region.

Meeting him was one of the best moments she had in her life. She had never felt so happy just by simply spending her time with him. He was kind, cute and super cool when she first met him. Their time together was memorable. She would never forget it for as long as she lives.

But it all ended when they got bullied.

They were playing at the bullies' territory. The leader of the so-called pack wanted to punish them, but Ruby volunteered, telling them that bullying a girl was a waste of time. He would rather get bullied than her.

Sapphire stood helpless, watching Ruby get bullied verbally and physically, as Ruby helplessly fought back. Ruby was able to punch one of them after saying how stupid she was in her pink dress. Ruby's punch at the leader shocked everyone, including Sapphire. She watched one of them punched Ruby's face, making her yell for help. She ended up crying as she watched the bullies run away, leaving her and Ruby emotionally unstable from the event.

After seven years, she met him again, only with a different personality. She changed since that event. She thought she destroyed Ruby's pride by yelling at the bullies, not giving him another chance to fight back. If she weren't that girly and useless, then she might have helped him. His twelve year old personality reminded her of that side of her when she was young.

It lead her to hate him, but her father's favor made them understand one another. She learned that Ruby may act like a selfless person at times, but he was actually a nice guy underneath. It took her awhile to understand him and to settle their differences, but in the end, it was worth it.

She learned to accept her old and current self, and it was all thanks to Ruby.

"It kept on growing stronger as the years passed, and I'm glad it did... I wouldn't have it any other way..."

Sapphire bit her lip, her fingers continue to trace around his scar, pouring every ounce of her emotions through every touch... through every massage.

She didn't know.

She was unaware.

Now that she thought about it, his treatment did become more intimate since that incident. She always thought it was the result his overprotective nature from that incident, but she failed to understand the real reason behind it. She was too focused at building her future back then.

"Sapphire..." Ruby's passionate gaze was fixed on hers, his heart kept on pounding faster. "I did that reckless act because... I was scared... I was scared to lose you again. I... I'm sorry for scaring you back then. I didn't mean for it to happen. I just wanna save you and Nana from it. You don't have to feel guilty for it."

Sapphire took a deep breath, sobbing. She placed her right arm around his nape, her lips slowly pressed and brushed against his scar, pouring every ounce of her emotions into it. Whether they were in a romantic relationship or not, she always wanted to touch and to kiss his scar. It was the least she could do from the trouble she had caused. "I'm... h-happy to know that you're alive and well..."

Ruby's heart skipped a beat. Although it was weird his fast heartbeat felt comfortable. Her soft lips being pressed against his scar was truly a great feeling. That scar was a sign of his recklessness and his selflessness. It often reminded him of how much he had hurt her, but at the same time, it was a memento at how far he would go despite the lengths just for her safety. He would never hesitate to put his life on the line just so he could protect her.

They sat there for another moment, their arms still around each other. All they could hear were their synchronized heartbeats and breathings as it engulfed with the clock's faint ticking in the hallway.

Thumping.

Breathing.

The clock's faint ticking sound fainter, making them feel like they were in a different place where time was endless. A place where sorrow, suffering and all negativity do not exist.

"I'm happy that..." Ruby rested his forehead and his nose on hers, almost closing the gap between their faces, almost letting his lips press against hers. "...you're alive and well too..." He took a deep breath, closing his eyes, savoring this intimate moment with her. Being this close to her often made him feel safe, but most importantly, he didn't need to worry because she was just beside him with her arms wrapped around him. He could make her feel safe from any harm and negativity.

Sapphire bit her lip, gently pushing herself away from him, making Ruby look at her with wonder. She stood up, her hands placed under her elbows. Her face darkened. However, it was not the result of anger, but rather from her guilt and sadness. "I have to get back to work."

Ruby let out a sigh, looking at her. He could tell that she was still searching for the answer on how to fill the shallowness left in her heart. He wished he knew the answer. He couldn't bear to see her like this. She deserved happiness. "Sapphire..." He stood up, his eyes softened, full of concern and worry. "It's late. You need to rest."

Sapphire slowly shook her head, her brunette hair swaying beautifully with it, making Ruby stare at her, as if she was the only beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life. Well, she was always beautiful in his perspective. "I promised Moon I'll visit her place at seven. We need to work on that anticancer medicine. Mom wanted it, and I must do it for her."

"Then... I'll take you there." Ruby suggested, placing his hand on her forearm, giving it a soft squeeze.

"No," Sapphire breathed in, her hand entangled with his. "You should rest. I can take care of this. Besides..." Her guilt-ridden eyes met his concerned ones.

It had been a month.

She'd been battling grief and depression for a month and yet, she still felt guilty every time she looked at Ruby.

Out of all her friends, he was the only one who often stayed at her place for almost twenty four hours, seven days a week. There was not a day he would visit her. Sometimes, he'd stay in her apartment and go back to his own on the next day. But after three hours, he would return and be there for her. He said he didn't care about his job at the moment. He said he didn't enjoy his current job. But...

He had a dream.

She knew every one of his dreams and aspirations.

She knew that because he often said that to her every time they stargaze during their free time in their college days.

One of them was Ruby's desire to travel around the world, and to explore the vast cities and the provinces of every country. In order to achieve that goal, however, he needed money.

And he couldn't save a lot of money if he didn't have a job.

She would never forgive herself if he didn't achieve it all. He deserved happiness. "...you need to get back to work, Ruby. Don't think about me… Think about working, collecting money and achieving your dreams..."

Ruby bit his lip, slowly shaking his head. "I can't." He said, passion slowly forming into his tone as he gave her hand a soft squeeze.

Sapphire's eyes widened a bit, confusion shrouding it. Her eyebrows furrowed. What did he mean by that?

Ruby was a passionate person. He couldn't just abandon his goals after all of this. She knew that because she'd known him for almost her entire life. They were each other's childhood friends. They got separated yet reunited under an unexpected circumstance. But most importantly, they were each other's reasons as the person whom they were now.

"I know I kept on telling you about my goals since we were twelve, but most of them..." Ruby took a deep breath, his free hand traveled its way to her cheek, affectionately holding it. "...most of them involved you... I wanna be with you... My dreams... My goals... They're nothing without you..."

Sapphire held her breath and felt her chest tightened. She bit her lip, controlling her muffled sobs from coming out.

She didn't know.

She knew he would never give up on her because of those certain feelings, but she didn't know and never expected that she was a part of his goals.

He kept on telling her she was important to him since their college days. She only considered it because she was his best friend. But she didn't know it was more than that. She bit her lip, holding back her tears.

The pieces of the lost, fragmented puzzle were slowly crafting together, forming a clearer image and a clearer understanding. His answer was the missing piece to complete her curiosity as to why he was never giving up on her in spite of those certain feelings.

No matter how many times she pushed him away to deal with life's negativity on her own, he would always find a way and reassure her that she was never alone to deal it and to fix it. He had been with her, struggling with her, with this grief, and he was not about to let it end now.

She completely understood him now. If that was what his mind and his heart desired, then who was she to stop him? Ruby made a lot of reckless decisions in his life, but she could perfectly see it in his eyes, tell from his words and his actions, that he was more than a hundred percent certain that this decision was never a reckless one. He decided it because he wanted to. His heart and his mind made this decision unanimously.

And she was proud of him. She was happy for him, and it was enough for her to decide that she would never push him away despite how terrible the road could be.

"If I lose this job, then it doesn't matter. I'll find another one... I'll even work at my dad's company if I had to..." Ruby continued, his lips curved into an affectionate smile. She looked happy. She looked contented, and it was enough for him to feel happiness as well. "...because... my goals... my dream cannot be completed... without you in it..."

Sapphire felt a lump in her throat, preventing her to respond. She could only depend on her eyes to tell and to thank him how much his words meant everything to her. She had no idea what she did, but she felt blessed and thankful, nonetheless. She swallowed hard, burying her head in his chest.

Ruby wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her closer for a warm and protective hug. A sincere smile slowly plastered across his lips.

She didn't feel guilty anymore. He defeated her insecurities, and it felt great. Sapphire deserved all the good things that this world had to offer, and he would be more than happy to provide her those. He wanted to give her the happiness that she deserved.

"We have to go." Sapphire finally gathered her voice, removing her arms around him. "I don't wanna keep Moon waiting."

Ruby nodded slowly, happiness and contentment still lingered in his eyes. "Let's go, but you'll be getting a good night sleep after this."

"I'm not the only one." Sapphire responded, only to feel his soft squeeze on her hand. She smiled, wiping her tears. She could never feel guilt flood in her heart anymore. His words were enough to defeat it. He wanted to help her. He chose to help her, just like she did in his worst times.

All she ever needed to do was to accept it.

It was the act of acceptance.

Despite the guilt that'd been gripping her heart for a month, the pain of seeing his efforts gone to waste and her desire to push him away, Ruby didn't hesitate to stay with her. They were close. So close in conquering her grief, and there was no point in pushing him away, making him hesitate from his decisions. Ruby decided this. He planned to do this. He would never leave her in spite of the circumstances, just like she did in their younger days. His actions and his dedication gave her the desire to continue to be there for him as well.

It was not that she owed him, really.

She was doing this because... It could be, but she wasn't certain. All she knew that she treated Ruby like her family. He was her family, not bounded by blood, but they were bounded by mutual trust, love and respect.

Love.

She didn't know if that love was exactly the same as his feeling of love for her. She didn't know when she would realize it, but she was certain she would be able to know at the right time. Although her heart still had that shallow feeling, she knew her acceptance at Ruby's efforts and everything he had done for her, filled some of the missing gap.

It may still be shallow, but she could feel there were only a few things left for her to do in order to fill it. With her friends' help, and mostly Ruby's, she would be able to conquer this grief. It could take another month or two, or maybe more, for her to fully heal her heart from this grief, but she knew it would be worth it.

Her friends never gave up on her, and she shouldn't give up as well.

They were close, maybe not a step closer, maybe several steps closer, but this rough road of grief and depression would soon end.

Several months passed, Sapphire was able to slowly do the stuff she enjoyed doing. She didn't wake up at two or three in the morning every night from those recurring memories. The shallow gap in her heart were slowly filling, helping her to take a small step away from this rough road of grief and depression.

Ruby was always the same. He would always accompany her at almost every place, hug her, lift up her spirits whenever she felt down, and his actions were becoming more intimate and sincere. Her feelings for him somewhat grew stronger and she didn't know why. She knew it would only make her situation worst or confusing. Having this positive feeling whenever she was with him and this negative, shallow feeling left in her heart were too much to handle. She didn't know when this negative feeling would leave. She just wanted focus more on the positive ones, for it felt so well.

It was always strong enough to defeat her grief, depression and insecurities. She never knew these feelings would help her conquer those negative emotions. Maybe not permanently, but it was enough to get her through the day.

Every time she felt these negative emotions were consuming her, Ruby would let her cry onto his chest and hug her, sometimes planting a kiss on her cheek or on her forehead in hopes to make her feel better. He would advise her to read her mother's letter over and over again, hoping to regain her strength to live, to which it did every time she read it.

It felt strange, though.

Whenever she and Ruby talk about their past, their parents, every one of their memorable times together, she didn't feel sadness grip her heart. The feeling of 'saudade' were no longer present, but instead, she was sensing the good part of nostalgia. Remembering her times with Ruby and with her friends were always nostalgic. But remembering her family after their deaths truly hurt her. It was the feeling of saudade that she felt in her heart every time she reminiscence her time with her family.

However, it was not recently. What she felt whenever she reminiscence her good and fun times with her friends and Ruby were the same with her family.

It was nostalgia, the good part of it.

She never ended up crying in sorrow, thinking those times would never happen again now that her family was gone. Instead, she would only smile faintly as a faint laughter escaped from her lips. She would cherish those memories she had shared with her family for as long as she lives. It was true they were gone, but they would always live on with her, guiding her, protecting her from harm and influencing her with the choices that she would make in the future.

Just like her friends said, maybe there was a reason why she was still alive.

Maybe this world still needed her knowledge and her help, giving her more reasons to live.

It was true Sapphire had not found her reason to live yet. She was still living because of her family and her friends, especially Ruby. Just by seeing them happy was always enough to make her happy.

As happiness surrounded their aura, she felt a tinge of hope gripping her heart, adding another reason for her to hold on to what was left in her life.

Hope.

As long as she and her friends were alive, there would always be hope for a better future, for a better life. Life would always be an unexpected ride. There would always be bumps, ahead, narrow or wide roads, but as long as one would always hope for the best, the positive surprises life had in store for one, then happiness would happen. It may still be faint and blurry to see with the struggles one was going through on their own, respective roads, but they would get there.

It was alright to cry and experience a breakdown in the middle of the road, but one must remember to stand and face the rest of it in spite of the fear consuming in their hearts. They would get there. Maybe not now, but soon, in an unexpected time, in an unexpected place.

"Sapphire, take a look at this."

Sapphire snapped out from her thoughts, blinking her eyes. She stood up from her seat and approached Moon, putting her lab coat on the way.

She and Moon were working on this anticancer medicine for years. Every research and experiment they'd go through would either give them a negative or a questionable result. Sapphire was the one who kept on pushing further about this research, determined that it would be a success despite the trials along the way. Her mother was the first person Sapphire could think of this research.

Her mother died from cancer and she couldn't bear to see any children with their family struggling with that disease. She didn't want them to suffer like her and her father did. It was painful. Making an anticancer medicine may seemed impossible, but she knew it would help a lot of people. If this research would become a success, then a second life for people struggling with cancer could happen. They would no longer die from it. Their respective families wouldn't lose them because of it.

Professor Birch, her father, was the one who guided them in this research before his death. Moon understood Sapphire's condition and told her they would shelve this research for a while until she was alright to continue it. It took a month for Sapphire to call Moon and tell her she was ready to complete the research. Several months later, they were still working on it.

Sapphire didn't feel hopeless, however. Despite it had been two and a half years since this research started, she was still determined it would be nothing but a success. It may take time, but it would be worth it. It had to be worth it. She was not doing this for herself, but for her mother.

Her mother would want this.

Her mother wanted this, and there was no reason for her to cancel the research.

Sapphire stood beside Moon with a laptop placed in front of them. There were many medical applications opened in the laptop as their research papers were neatly scattered beside it. Moon showed her a virtual video at how their medicine would work once a person with any types of cancer disease would intake the medicine.

Sapphire looked at it as she listened to Moon's technical explanation on how it would work. She continued to watch the virtual video, her eyes widening in shock.

They did it.

It may not be able to fully defeat cancer, but it could decrease it. And there was a possibility that this research could go further and more than just destroying the cancer cells. There were so many possibilities. They could take this research to the next level.

"Moon," Sapphire called, making Moon look at her older friend. She swallowed hard, facing the pharmacist-in-training, her eyebrows furrowed. "We could take this research into the next level."

"We can, but..." Moon closed her notebook, sighing. It was not that she was tired of this research, really. But she was worried about Sapphire's condition. Ruby told her that Sapphire was still recovering from her grief despite it had been twenty months since the accident. She didn't want Sapphire to overwork herself. She was already emotionally exhausted for months and Moon's conscience couldn't bear to see her friend be mentally and physically exhausted along with the development of the research. "...are you certain that you wanna continue this and make it perfect? I don't doubt you, but you see..."

"It's alright." Sapphire reassured, placing her hand on Moon's shoulder. A small smile plastered across her lips with her fangs poking out. Moon knew what that smile meant and no words were needed for her to confirm that Sapphire was determined for this research's development. "Ruby may have told you about my condition, so I guess that's the reason why you're worried."

Moon could only nod her head slowly. What else could she say, really? Ruby and Sapphire just knew each other very well. And it amazed her. She thought it was cute that these two childhood soulmates would do anything for the sake of each other's happiness. Platinum was right about Ruby and Sapphire being the perfect examples of selfless people.

"But this... We can't let this possibility go to waste." Sapphire took a glance at the laptop and their research papers as her smile widened. "There is still hope to make this research complete... just like what we intended in the first place. I am up for it. There are many people out there who are suffering from that disease like my mom, and... I couldn't just ignore them. We have to help them."

Moon smiled, determination slowly struck in her eyes, and nodded. There was still hope for this research to be a hundred percent success, and quite possibly more than that. She would help her friend with it. She couldn't let all their hard work go to waste, after all. "I'm with you. Let's develop this research further."

I'm excited to tell you guys that good news but I have to keep my mouth shut. XD

I'll try to update this next month. Thank you for staying. Have a great day/night. ^^

Anonymous reviews have been disabled. Login to review. 1. Stage 1: Shock and Denial 6416 0 0 2. Stage 2: Isolation 4543 0 0 3. Stage 3: Pain and Guilt 4296 0 0 4. Stage 4: Depressive Times, Part I 5553 0 0 5. Stage 5: Depressive Times, Part II 7713 0 0 6. Stage 6: Intrusive, Recurring Thoughts 4457 0 0 7. Stage 7: Shock and Anger 6116 0 0 8. Stage 8: The Upward Turn 5097 0 0 9. Stage 9: Reconstruction& Working Through 4825 0 0 10. Stage 10: Forgiveness 5862 0 0 11. Stage 11: Acceptance and Hope 8661 0 0 12. Stage 12: A New Path Awaits 9791 0 0 13. Stage 13: Helping Hand, Part I 4510 0 0 14. Stage 14: Helping Hand, Part II 4397 0 0 15. Stage 15: Helping Hand, Part III 10126 0 0 16. Stage 16: Embracing Life, Part I 6633 0 0 17. Stage 17: Embracing Life, Part II 11065 0 0