Tsukushi didn't go back on her word, much as she sometimes wished to over the next few days. The next time she saw Tsukasa, she bundled up her courage in her hands and asked him on a date. A real live date-date. And after the argument and the yelling over when and where and who was to pay, they went.

And of course, it was a disaster, as virtually every date they'd ever had, had been. An old familiar scenario to Tsukushi, a new, uncomfortable, yet somehow familiar scenario to Doumyouji. There was frustration, and fighting, and yelling, and the threat of violence, and nosy friends spying, and innuendo the next day, and embarrassment and flaming red cheeks and all the things that had made their old relationship what it was, but different. The old Tsukasa had moved beyond all these things, all the class disparities, all the jarring incongruities between them. The new Tsukasa had yet to work through them on his own.

To Tsukushi, it was a painful reminder of what she had lost with Tsukasa's memories. But also a hope for what could be. If she could get through this all, she would a have a Doumyouji again. Perhaps not quite the same as the man she'd lost—but maybe close enough? The old familiar mannerisms, the intonations, the mood swings, in this scarred and troubled man, she could see echoes of the man she loved. And perhaps it would be enough.

To Tsukasa, it was a trial. Constantly wondering if in each thing he said or did, Tsukushi was looking for hints of that other. The man he no longer was. He wanted her to want him, the way he was now, the way he wanted her. But he worried, as Tsukasa always had, about his competition. And in this case, his competition was someone he couldn't fight, couldn't pound into a bloody pulp or defeat by physical means. This competition was himself; Tsukushi's memories of him, all the time that he had lost.

But they went on. The first date followed by a second, a third. Their friends organizing outings, forcing them to spend time together. Outings plagued by Tsukushi's terrible luck and impulsivity, Tsukasa's worse temper and insecurities.

It was comforting in a way, Tsukushi supposed, that even though Tsukasa was different than before, in so many ways, their relationship was unchanged. Still, she sometimes found herself longing for him to be the way he had been before. . for him to look at her with the softness and acceptance and patience that this Tsukasa couldn't quite manage. And she knew it hurt him too, as if he could read her mind and know that she was still in love with his ghost. Sometimes Tsukasa wondered, if she would ever love him the way she loved that other him, or if all he'd ever be to her was an acceptable substitute.

But insecurities and doubts are the common coin of life. You couldn't be human and live without them. So they went on, and tried to make it work, for what else did they have to lose? And in truth, despite the fights, the shouting and the misunderstandings, it was all right. It wasn't quite like starting from scratch, and it wasn't quite the emotional rollercoaster that Tsukushi had feared. There were ups and downs as there are in all things, and good times and bad. But they got through it.

Sometimes they were happy. Sometimes Tsukushi could forget all that had brought her to this point. Sometimes she loved this Tsukasa for himself, for the things he did for her, and all the quirks of his character, without comparing him to how he could have been. And sometimes Tsukasa could sit back, and look at Tsukushi and know that she belonged to him and him alone, and not to his memory, or to another man.

Their friends helped of course, Akira and Soujiro, Sakurako and Shigeru, even Rui. Although, it's true the help was often more hindrance or embarrassment than use, but that was their way, and it showed they cared.

So life went on. And it was a good relationship while it lasted. As good as these things can be, at any rate. Tsukushi and Tsukasa had their faults, as even they might occasionally admit, and no couple is ever without friction.

Tsukasa never regained all the memories he'd lost, but he did cease to care. As he said once, "What does it matter? I'm a Doumyouji. I am who I am, even without all that." And for the most part he was right. Besides, even if he had remembered everything, by then he was already so changed by the experience of the amnesia that he still could not have gone back to being the man he'd been before. Nor could Tsukushi ever go back to being the girl she'd been before Tsukasa's injury, before she'd wounded herself with grief and betrayal. And all that is part of life, the changes and the growth.

And if one day, Tsukushi and Tsukasa looked at each other and realized that they'd grown beyond the other, that they needed someone more or someone different in their lives, that they were tired of the passion and the conflict, tired of the differences that bound them together, well that is a story for someone else to tell.

This tale is finished; it has run its course. A tale of two lovers separated by mortal injury, a gulf of memory gaping between them. A tale of two lovers looking for consolation in all the wrong places, a tale of jealousy, lust, and betrayal. A tale of true friends. A tale of reconciliation, of recognition, of salvation, and survival. A tale with a happy ending. And what more could you ask for than that?

-- "Well now that's done: and I'm glad it's over." --


-- I can't believe it. It's finally over and done. The fic I swore I'd never finish. The fic I still have with a fiery burning passion. So much hate. And if the ending's lame, so what the hell, at least it's over. 10-02 to 3-06 is too bloody long a time. How many hours of my life spent (wasted) on this? How many hours of yours? Ah well. Thanks you all for reading, and as ever, questions, comments and rants can be sent to curdled(dot)milk(at)gmail(dot)com. Now, I've just got to finish WW and oBaC and then I can be done with fanfic for fucking ever, and turn to a more respectable hobby. In other news, I'm back from vacation (duh) and it was good, even if I broke at least 3 of my rules for personal conduct (again). Interpersonal non-relationship, what? Flings with Friends? Oh shit. You mean I have to lie to everyone (again)? And they wonder where the source of eternal angst springs from. Damnit damnit damn. - - - cm - - -