A/N: Well, here's the 3rd and final part of my fic. I hope all of you have enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it! ^_^

Part Three

He had gone to the river earlier in the day. Why he had gone so suddenly and unexpectedly, she couldn't figure out. She had been too busy with the long, intrepid nights to pay much attention to him lately during the day, even though her dreams were full of him.

He went because his mind longed for the soothing, melodious flow of the river. Its sound, its motion, its shape-they calmed him and pacified him like nothing else. And he had gone to think of her. How she haunted his nights, how she haunted his days as well, and how the silhouette of her body and the sound of her voice remained burned into his eyes and ears throughout all hours. He sat motionless by the riverbank, his face blank of any emotion, his mind a torrid mess of chaotic thoughts. He yearned to abandon his marvelous dreams of her and hold her in the world of reality. He desired to speak with her in his own voice, not the voice of his dreams that lay trapped inside his sleeping mind. But how? How could he ever have her when they were so different? Her so young and untainted. Him so aged and stained. So different, and yet with the same heart that longs for peace and contentment.

His dark lavender eyes gazed at the gentle flow of the water. What could he do? The dreams were driving him mad with desire. His soul had been pining for years, and now the dreams were finally making him realize his intense love for her. Everything about her enchanted him, made him wish to know her deeper and truer. But the memory of his past held him at bay.

She wanted nothing more than to rid her nights of him, and yet she wanted nothing more than to join him in his. If only she could find the courage to reach out to him in the day instead of wait for him to come once sleep fell upon her. If only she could just speak to him as she had wanted to for years, to tell him everything chained inside of her heart, to show him what she dared only show in her dreams. But something held her back from him day after day, something intangible and foreign to her. And she hated that she could not identify it, for if she could put a name to it she could perhaps defeat it. But it was as obscure as the blackness beyond the stars over her head.

She stared upwards into the night, her eyes gazing admiringly at the scintillating dots of light. The moon seemed to hang low, its full, sound face glowing brilliantly in the clear night. She sat silently on the veranda, her eyes fixed in the distance, searching for him. The darkness of the night unnerved her, reminded her of something from not so long ago. Her eyes narrowed and stared into the dimness beyond the dojo, to the doors of the gate.

His steps were slow and paced, relaxed from the long afternoon spent by the river. But the light of the moon was suddenly cut off, drenching him in the darkness of the surrounding night. A drifting cloud, he thought. A storm was possibly on its way. The unsettling density of the night was suddenly weighing upon him, torturing his memory with images of nights he had slept through not so long ago. His pace quickened immediately, his mind telling him to hurry back to her. His hand unconsciously gripped the hilt of his blade.

She could feel her heart speed up its pounding rhythm within her chest. Her breathing deepened, and her hands suddenly began to tremble. The sound of the gate opening startled her at first, then sent her into a spiral of relief-until she saw him framed in the darkness of the night.

Her saw her stand from her seated position on the veranda, her hands at her sides, her fists clenched. Blank nothingness surrounded her like a void. His memory came rushing back like floodwaters. The nightmare! The nightmare that had plagued him night after night before being replaced by the peaceful, intoxicating dreams of her. In these dreams she laid naked in his arms, her words soft and loving, but in the dream she had stood motionless in the midst of darkness as disembodied arms wrapped around her and carried her away to nowhere. He saw his nightmare coming alive in the land beyond sleep.

Any moment now, she expected to see the bloodied tip of a sword push through his chest and taunt her. She remembered now; she remembered it all so very excruciatingly vivid. Him standing among the blackness of the night, the sword hovering in the air at his back. Her eyes glazed over in horror. No. No, not after so many days of wanting to tell him, wanting to touch him. She would not see him killed right in front of her eyes. She would not watch him slip out of her grasp before she even had the chance to touch him with the heated caress of desire. No, she would die herself before she would watch him die.

His mind screamed furiously at him. No. He would not see her taken away from him as if he were powerless. He would not stand silently as she faded away into the blank void that surrounded her. No, he would not allow it.

Their breath suddenly left them as if their lungs had collapsed. Furious and sick with fear and apprehension, their bodies began to move forward toward each other. Her mind thought of nothing but pushing him out of the path of the blade; his mind thought of nothing more but grabbing her in his embrace before the bodiless arms could. They bolted across the distance that separated them, their hands balled into fists, their muscles tense, their faces reflecting the pure terror of losing each other buried inside their hearts. They would not lose each other to the nothingness. They would not watch it happen!

Breathlessly, they collided into each other in a blur of colors. Their bodies came together as if molded by a potter's hands to lock together perfectly. Their arms encircled the other in a blind attempt to hold them to the place of the living, away from the darkness. He crushed her to him; she grasped handfuls of his gi in her tiny fists. And suddenly their mouths found one another in their mad search for breath.

Longing to be full, theirs lips wrestled, their mouths parted. They lost themselves and forgot the supposed dangers of the night that surrounded them. They were shocked by the outburst of lust that now flamed in their skin, the scent of their sweat, and the blind touch of their hands. They fought each other in a dazed battle, their hands gripping fabric, their lungs heaving for their lost breath, their mouths crushing and opening each other's wildly. Their chained, idle passion was erupting upon them, attacking them ardently like a caged beast suddenly set free. And they could not contain it, not after so many days and nights of feeding it and desiring it.

His palms pressed to her face, and her hands came up to grip his wrists to keep his touch planted firmly upon her. Now that they had each other, they would not let go. The startling shriek of lightening across the sky was what finally separated them, their lips bruised, their fingertips and palms numb, their eyes glazed and unfocused. They stood motionless below to the stars, enveloped in each other's embrace, their lungs heaving for breath, their minds searching for a reason as to why they collapsed into each other so passionately.

The reverberating rumble of thunder above their heads brought them to their senses again. Their eyes met in a fluid, graceful motion, causing them both to fall into each other's gaze. Their dreams had met in the world of wakefulness, brought to life by the terrifying nightmares that had come before them. When they had seen each other surrounded by the night, the dam had broken and they had rushed to each other out of terror. But the ripened longing for each other had shocked them awake once they had touched, and it had set itself loose upon them like a cascading waterfall.

With no words spoken, she took his hand in hers and walked slowly back to the dojo. The storm had arrived, and the rain would come soon. It heralded what was to come, for they were finally free to know each other as their souls, minds, and bodies had so desperately wished to for so long. The rain would wash away the nightmares of terror and the dreams of desire from the past, and they would finally touch and speak to each other truly. The storm was the mirror image of the turmoil their lives had gone through, and yet it was also the symbol of what lay buried in their future.

The halls of the dojo were dark, but they found their way to their bedroom by the lightning that illuminated their path. Their fingertips closed the sliding door behind them, and their bodies found each other once again. They fell into each other's arms as if they were the only way to live, as if they would die if they remained separated from each other.

In the darkness of the room, lit in intervals by the vivid flashes of lightning beyond the window, he touched her for the first time on the skin beneath her chin. She tilted her head back as his knuckles gently brushed across her throat and his hand opened to cup the nape of her neck in his palm. He brought her forward into a kiss as tumultuous as the storm coming to life outside. They broke away from each other, and her hands found the opening of his gi, the bared skin of his chest. Her hands ran upwards, traveling the length of his torso until they lingered on his collarbone, where they worked their way beneath his gi until her palms were cupping his shoulders. The gi fell in layers around his waist, and she pulled her hands away at the sight of his naked chest.

He reached out his hands to hers, curling his fingers around her nervous ones and placing them gently over his heart, allowing her to feel the rhythmic beating beneath her palm. Enchanted, she moved into him to be closer to the sensation. His hands moved around her back, to the ties of her obi, where they slowly went to work untying and uncurling the thick fabric.

As they undressed each other, their eyes remained locked together. They spoke to each other even though their mouths never opened. He heard her anxiety; she heard his hesitation. But their eyes spoke gently and cautiously, whispering and sighing as their garments fell from their shadowed bodies to their feet.

He turned away from her and sat upon the futon, where he reached out his hands to hers, asking that she take them. As their fingers twined together, her worry left her and his hesitation disappeared. There was no past here in this room; only now. And they knew, and their bodies responded to their touches as never before, awakening and singing as if brought to life.

She sat beside him, where he engulfed her in his arms and pulled her down with him upon the futon, the soft curves of her body nestled against his. Their touches became more fervent, more desperate, more lively, until they could not restrain themselves any longer.

Their joining was soft and gentle, like flowing water. Their movements were slow and lost to the world outside their door. They saw only each other's faces and heard only each other's voices, rising and falling in the darkness that surrounded them. The air lit up with the vivid sparks of lightning, bathing them in the white light before plunging them once again into blackness.

They cried out and called for each other, grasping each other holding each other as if they could float away into the torrid storm beyond their window. He buried his face in her hair, breathing her scent of life and womanhood, relishing the feel of her finally with him as he had so longed her to be. She pressed her hands to his naked back, studying the sensation of the taut, lean muscles straining beneath his skin. She felt him move within her, her eyes open and staring in wonder that such a feeling existed. He lost himself in her, his mind wandering beyond its boundaries.

All they knew was each other. And when their bodies peaked, clinging to the edge of nothingness, they forgot the nights that had tortured them for so long. He forgot the sight of her being carried away into the black void; she forgot the sight of the white steel piercing his chest. They forgot the nights that had followed when all they longed for was each other; the nights they first learned how much they desired to touch each other, to be together. As their voices mingled with the rolling baritones of the thunder and the sound of the rain beating upon the dojo roof, they forgot all that lay in their past.

And as they rested afterwards, their arms wrapped securely around each other, their faces close together, their breath heavy and labored, they saw their future in the darkness that surrounded them. And the light flooded their room, splitting the blackness in two, illuminating their faces. There they saw what waited for them, and they flowed away into sleep as if riding upon a river current, content in the vastness of each other's arms and glowing with a light that could only come from the depths of love.

The End