Author's Note: You can thank Bunches and Summy for this, but I've finally finished it! Hope it doesn't seem rushed, but I wanted to close this story, so I can stop feeling so guilty about moving on to other projects. Thank you to everyone who has ever reviewed this story :) and I hope you enjoy the end.

Episode 8



Sage had forgotten how soft his sister could be when used as a pillow. It had been so long since she'd offered herself to him in that way. Yayoi wasn't the kindest or even the nicest sister he couldn't have asked for, but he wouldn't have traded her for all the world. He sighed softly, inhaling her clean scent and reveling in her soft fingers stroking his hair. She was warm and her presence radiated calm and safety. Nothing could hurt him as long as her arms were around him. Yayoi had always been there to protect him against boogie men and evil monsters in his closet, when he was smaller.

She should have gone with him to America, he realized. There had been two tickets, but something had come up with a school project and Sage had gone alone. If Yayoi had been there, would Shikaisen have gotten him? He frowned into his sister's shoulder. He didn't know. He might have... or he might have gotten Yayoi too. Both of them would have been dragged into hell together, and for trying to protect him, Yayoi might have...

He cringed and tightened his arms around her back.

"What's wrong now?" Yayoi asked him in her usual dry tone.

"N... nothing," he stammered.

"Sage..." she sounded irritated, and he titled his face up to see her staring down at him, her grey eyes searching his analytically.

"It's just..."

"Did something else happen that you need to tell me?" Yayoi pressed.

Sage shook his head, feeling the sting of tears threatening to build again. He tried blink them away, but to no avail. If his sister had gone with him to New York like she had planned to... she might have... She might not be... He shivered violently and felt her strengthening her hold on him. "Yayoi..." with water standing in his eyes, he murmured, "I love you."

Burying his head in her shoulder again, he felt her body give an odd shudder. Once, twice.... there it was again, now with a familiar noise. He raised his head to see that his older sister.... was laughing at him. Why? Tears of love turned to tears of anger. He was bearing his soul to her! What right did she have to... His anger quickly mutated into confusion as lips met his forehead.

"I love you too, little brother," Yayoi chuckled. "You're more trouble than you're worth at times, but for some odd reason I'm crazy about you."

Sage sighed deeply, breathing in what was Yayoi, blind love and acceptance and out... what he'd been holding in. His tears had washed away his inner guilt and self-hate, and he'd finally exhaled. He gasped softly as something inside him, something he'd been missing, was resurfacing. It stirred within him like a miniature storm, taking him by force. When she'd held him, when he cried, when he told her and she assured him it would be all right... something had reawakened.

The light, the omniscient, benevolent, life-giving and sustaining avatar of perfection was blossoming within him again. He could see it once more without having to shield his eyes; he could touch it without burning his fingers. It was inviting him back into its presence, or rather he was inviting it back in. He leaned into it, allowing it to strengthen him, to heal him...

Slowly he removed himself from Yayoi's embrace and wiped at his eyes roughly with the palms of his hands.

"You'll need a box of tissue too; even you can't make the aftermath of crying look pretty," Yayoi tousled his hair playfully.

Sage gave her a weak grin and rose stiffly from the floor, using the bed behind him as support. He offered a hand down to his sister after he was fully successful in righting himself. Yayoi accepted it. "Mom's downstairs. I suggest you change and comb that hair of yours too, before you go down to see her."

Sage nodded. His mother was waiting for him. Gods, what was he going to say to her? How would she react to his story? It wasn't the complete truth, but as long as it was expressed that a violation of his person had occurred, it was good. She wouldn't hate him; she wouldn't be disappointed in him. Yayoi had assured him of that. But... His mother had always been so sensitive when it came to him; it was going to break her heart...

But somehow it would be ok. He would be ok.

"Do you want me to pick something out for you, while you clean up?" Yayoi asked him gently. As if she knew what was on his mind and didn't want to disturb him.

Sage nodded again, slowly. "I..."

"Don't worry about it," Yayoi gave him a little shove towards the broken door. Sage began to walk slowly toward it, careful to avoid the long strips of splintered wood. Mia was not going to be happy. Sage would have to offer to pay for it. He stepped through the door frame and into the hall. He paused when he heard footsteps on the stairs and turned to meet whoever was approaching him.

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

"Sage!" Rowen saw his friend standing in the hallway apparently waiting for them. The sunlight streaming in from the picture windows bathed Sage its glory, endowing him with its ethereal qualities. His face was calm and collected, his eyes clear and free of the clouds that had haunted him ever since they had gotten him back. Rowen sped his climb and jumped up the last three stairs. He was to his friend in less than two strides. "You look... better."

Sage's lips turned up into a slight smile. "I am."

Rowen grinned and couldn't help but pull the other boy into a hug. "Who would have though that all you needed was Yayoi to knock some sense that pretty blond head of yours."

Sage was a little stiff in his embrace at first, but slowly leaned into it. "I'm sorry," he whispered lightly, his breath stirring Rowen's hair.

"You have nothing to be sorry for," Rowen patted his back. He released Sage as he heard the others clambering up the stairs behind him.

"Did you tell him already?" Kento asked, frowning at the interchange between the two.

"Tell me what?" Sage questioned. Rowen had to restrain himself from pummeling Kento, that dumbass.

Ryo and Cye slowly approached, both cocking their heads at the change they noticed in Sage's demeanor.

"Your mom wants you to go home with her," Rowen said softly. "You have to leave."

Rowen didn't know what he'd been expecting, but it certainly wasn't what he got. Sage went still at the statement and his eyes went through various stages of emotion, shifting from petrified, to worrisome, then to resolution. He nodded after a moment ad said, "I'm going to wash my face and change my clothes. Tell her I'll be down in a few moments."

Smiling strangely, Sage turned and walked away, light still hugging him like a new pair of leather pants that hadn't been broken in yet.

"Dude... is it just me, or..." Kento began, staring after Sage as he disappeared into the bathroom.

"It's not just you," Cye interrupted.

"He's ok," Rowen said softly. He had no idea how or when exactly it had happened, but his Dreamer was back. No words needed to have really been spoke for Rowen and the others to sense the change from within. The light said it all.

"All he needed was to cry," Ryo said. "All this time, he never really and truly cried; he never got it out, until today."

"So he's gonna be ok? We're not gonna have to worry about him at home?" Kento was questioning. He gazed at the group, his eyes still tinted with slight worry. "I'm not about to forget that he tried to do himself in and almost got away with it."

Kento's eyes bounced from Ryo to Cye and then finally locked onto Rowen's. Rowen would know...

Rowen blinked as he realized all of them were staring at him and he swallowed. How could he know what was going on inside of Sage's head. He was better; they all could see that. Hope shone from his eyes... but when he was alone in his family's home, in the darkness of his bedroom, would his light once again be enough to cut through it? That Rowen didn't know. His friend had fought a hard battle on his own, on the inside, with no allies that could reach him, but himself. He had to be the one to open the door, let the light back in, and accept help, hear the voices of those that loved him. He was weak, wounded, battle-weary and in need of care. Someone had to be there to nurse him back to full health...someone who knew the story.

Rowen shut his eyes for a brief moment, then opened them. "He'll be fine... because we're going to go with him."

He braced himself for impact.

"What?" Kento asked after a beat as Ryo and Cye continued to stare at him.

"We're going home with him," Rowen said with a shrug. "He needs us. After Tulpa, we stuck together and helped each other get better. Well, why should this be any different?"

"But... How do we explain to Dr. Date...?"

"Let me handle that," Rowen waved a hand in dismissal. "Right now, we need to pack."

Cye and Kento looked to Ryo, the leader, but Ryo was still staring at Rowen. "Are you sure we'll be welcome?"

Somehow Rowen knew Ryo wasn't asking if they would welcome at the Date's...

Rowen smirked, "We'll make ourselves welcome."

Ryo chuckled. "Well... I hope they have cable..."

"They don't," Rowen chimed, "but there's plenty of chores to do!"

"Damn."

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

As it turned out, there were too many of them to fit in Dr. Date's car, so Mia had let them borrow her jeep. She would rent another car from town until they brought it back. Ryo drove and Kento sat next to him in the passenger seat, while Rowen and Cye sat in back with Sage in the middle. The blond slept peacefully, leaning against Rowen's shoulder with a tiny smile on his lips.

Dr. Date had been reluctant to let go of him after Sage had told her his story and had been more than happy to grant Ryo, Rowen, Kento, and Cye admission to her house for the next 2 weeks. Sage would undoubtably stay on longer after they left, maybe even start school again in his hometown.

He seemed eager to get home. Ryo followed the black car in front of them carefully. No one had asked Sage just what Yayoi had said to him or what he had told her when they had been alone, but whatever it was, Ryo was glad that it had happened, that it had broken whatever was keeping Sage's feelings locked inside, only letting minuscule amounts of them escape through small cracks. He would have gone insane...

When they'd asked Sage if he wanted them to come with him, he'd been surprised, but had nodded his head vigorously. The floodgates had finally been opened and he had a lot he wanted to tell them too, it seemed. They had appeared in the living room, packed and ready to go, all together. Mia and Dr. Date had blinked; Yayoi was the only one who had been expecting it. She'd grumbled about them packing like girls and taking too damn long. Then she'd informed them that everyone wasn't going to fit into her mother's tiny car.

Plans were made then for them all to go and stay.

"Man, two weeks with no cable," Kento was groaning, unbuckling his seat belt and slouching in his chair. "What the hell are we gonna do for all that time?"

"Wake up before the sun and run sprints?" Rowen suggested with an evil grin, though he sounded a bit put out too.

"Work out in Sensei Date's dojo until our limbs fall off?" Cye suggested.

"Do chores for fun?" Ryo pitched in to their Ronin Warrior pity-fund.

They all sighed together. Their last, lazy days of summer would be spent slaving away. Geez...

The things you do....

For a friend.

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

And I never thought I'd feel this way
And as far as I'm concerned
I'm glad I got the chance to say
That I do believe I love you

And if I should ever go away
Well then close your eyes and try
To feel the way we do today
And then if you can remember

Keep smiling, keep shining
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure
That's what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I'll be on your side forever more
That's what friends are for

Well you came in loving me
And now there's so much more I see
And so by the way I thank you

Oh and then for the times when we're apart
Well then close your eyes and know
The words are coming from my heart
And then if you can remember




The End

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

Author's Note: He, he, he, sorry for the song insert, but when I wrote the last part of the chapter all I could do was hum this song. Well, that's it for "For A Friend." I hope you enjoyed it. Please review and let me know what you think. Sorry about the wait; I hope it was worth it. Until next time... Take care!

Song: "That's What Friends Are For" by: Bacharach

Performed by: Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Elton John, and Dionne Warwick