Ranma Higurashi: Sorry, but I can't answer the questions without spoiling the ending, LOL. I hope you enjoy; although this might be the end of the story, NYA is still going to be updated, so don't worry!
Hema: This chapter's yours, Princess... sorry I haven't been talking to you as often these days! huggles Thank you as always for your kind reviews, your sophisticated commentary, and your validation of my writing talents; although I don't need it from anyone, I more than appreciate it from you. Thank you once again for being there for me, and I hope I can return the favor one day. huggles again
Cherry: LOL, I hear you; I wouldn't want to find Seto swinging from the light fixtures anytime soon! Of course, I could bring him back with my author power, but you know, there's the whole trauma factor... Thank you for being there through the course of this entire story, I love faithful reviewers like you! hugs Enjoy this chapter!
Ancient Angel: Aww, I'm so happy you think that my story rocks... thank your friends as well for their continued readership! I sincerely hope that you enjoy this chapter; it's the closest thing to fluff in the entire story, but don't worry, it's still relatively angsty! ^_^
Nuva: Hmm.. well, I'm very sad that D-Chan couldn't take it, although this chapter might actually be more her speed, with quasi-fluff. Glad you're enjoying it, though! ^_^ Tell D-Chan that I'm going to be starting NYA again tonight, and thank you for being so faithful a reader! Be sure to let me know how you like the ending!
Angel-Belle: FF.net definitely has problems... growls I know that last chapter was totally dark; like I said, dunno what possessed me to write it! Thank you for your continued feedback, means a lot! Enjoy the ending!
Firewing: I agree, it wasn't that emotional, but I had to have an event-driven chapter to get the story closer to its conclusion... don't worry, though, this one is chock-full of emotion! ^_^ Enjoy, and thank you for the dedication, the ideas, and the thoughtful reviews! I owe ya lots! ~_^
Candyland_gyal: Sorry for the delay! I'm sure Candyland is a great place; unfortunately, college starts in 10 days, so I don't have much time to travel! ~_^ Glad you love the fic, hope the ending meets with your satisfaction!
Saa Ra: Wow, that would have been a good idea! Unfortunately, I'm really stuck on this one... hope you enjoy it anyway, okay? ^_^ Thank you for letting me know I did a good job... it means so much to get nice reviews like yours. Looking forward to it this time around too, okay? ~_^ Laterz!
Lizzie: More reviews DO usually make me update that fast... unfortunately real life just got in the way! ^_^ I agree, the characterization is pretty decent, if I do say so myself, LOL... thank you for all your feedback, on both stories! Love ya lots, Lizzie!
keira maxwell: LOL... thank you for your feedback as well! If that one made you cry, then get the tissues out for this one, cause I've been told it's a tearjerker! Glad you're enjoying the story, anyway; laterz, and thank you so much for everything! ^_^
Blue-Kool-Aid: Don't worry, I have a sneaky feeling there's a lot more people than you not reviewing, but it doesn't matter. I love you all anyway! glomps Thank you for your encouragement, your feedback, and everything else! Enjoy this chapter, and I hope you can find the energy to review! ~_^
ssjmiraitrks: You're welcome for the comment on your name! I hope you love this as much as you loved the rest of the story... looking forward to the feedback! ^_^ Thanks once again, for everything!
Blue Lagoon Loon: That makes two of us that love Evil... snickering Thanks for your continued support; I enjoy reading your reviews, they always make me smile! ^_^ Enjoy the chapter!
Li: I know, just writing that gave me shudders... I hope that you like this chapter; it's not as dark, but just as tearjerking! ^_^ This is the end of the story... be sure to tell me what you think, okay? Laterz!
Bug-Chan: Hey, how are you? Hope your school/writing is going great; you know, I'd love to hear from you periodically, even if you don't have anymore of Morning Song written (although I look forward to that anxiously as well). Thanks for your uplifting comments about my writing/style, I appreciate it immensely, and you're not half bad yourself in that department! ^_^ Be sure to let me know what you think of this, okay? Ja ne!
Silver: Hehe... don't worry, you're not the only one with the voices in your head. (shifty eyes) I'm not sayin' a word! (curls up paranoid-like) ^_^ I hope you like the ending, and that it inspires you to write another chapter of your S/J fic!!! I mean, that last one was so short... (cries) Okay, I'm good... well, thanks for everything, Silver, and I'm so sorry again that I can't be part of your author notes... hope you forgive me! (huggles) Looking forward to another great review, laterz!
r*a*d*i*a*n*y: Thank you for your well thought out and substantiated comments. While I think you're way off base, I appreciate the energy you put into trying to tell me that I bastardized both characters. First of all, character interpretation is a subjective thing. Who's to say that Joey wouldn't fall right into Seto's arms at the first chance, especially if he had feelings for him to begin with. Who's to say that he wouldn't be "sweet, charming, and lovely" with Kaiba if he thought that he really loved him? While we're on the subject of Joey's character, BTW, I really don't think I made him an idiot. Picture yourself; handsome billionaire, who you just happen to have feelings for already but always thought was a jerk, suddenly tells you he's had feelings for you too for a while, and everything he's ever done to you was because he was too afraid to admit it. I really don't think many "intelligent" people would put up very much of a fight in that case, although they would be on their guard for a little while, and that's exactly what Joey did; he was on his guard, but Seto played his part so well that the poor guy never saw him coming.
By the same token, it's not really fair to say that Kaiba hanging himself "doesn't meet with his original personality". As I said above, character interpretation is a subjective thing. While I respect your opinions on the subject, I don't appreciate your trying to force them on me. If I think that Anzu is a bit friendship-ranty, and that Joey would have a fight with his friends over his relationship with Kaiba, and that Kaiba would in fact kill himself, that's my prerogative, and that's how I'm going to write them. I would never tell someone in a review that they got the characters wrong because I didn't wholeheartedly agree with their interpretation, and I'd really appreciate the same courtesy being extended to me. Don't like it? Don't read it!
I would like to make it clear that, although I don't agree with your opinion, I'm not attacking it. Your viewpoint has its place, and just as much merit as mine. However, whether in fanfics or real life, it might be nice if you made an effort to learn how to communicate your opinions without refuting those that don't share them. Thank you once again for your interest in my fic, and I do hope you aren't too offended by my reply. That was never my intention, I can assure you.
Kaneda-Shotaro and Yami Tetsuo: LOL, don't kill the star of my fic! (thinks for a minute) Whoops, already did... ^_^ Thanks for the cute reviews; love ya for it, and hope you enjoy this chapter.
Shadowy Fluffball: I wouldn't have described it as rude, LOL, but you couldn't be more right! As you can see, there is more, so R/R, please! ^_^ Laterz!
Wind Walker: Thank you! Although I don't know what FW thinks he's going to do, since Seto's already dead... well, he's welcome to try! ~_^ I love your names, BTW, very very cool! I hope to hear from you again after this chapter, okay? Laterz!
shinomorikrazd: Yeah, Evil Seto's entertaining, to say the least, LOL. Don't get me wrong, I love Joey, but my dark side just screams out to torture him once in a while, so I gotta let it run free, right? ~_^ Thanks for taking the time to review, ja ne!
Sakura Li: Okay, as long as the writing was good! (sigh of relief) ^_^ Sorry it affected you so deeply, hope this chapter's more your style! When the reviewers aren't traumatized, the reviews are longer! ^_^ Laterz!
suppi- chan: I always try to update as fast as I can, but with college just around the corner... (sigh) that doesn't seem like it's going to be very often. It could be worse, though; I've seen authors that don't update for like, forever! ^_^ Thanks for your time and energy in reviewing, it means a lot to authors, so keep on doing it, LOL. Later!
Lady Geuna: Well, if you liked Seto's POV, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but this final chapter's from Joey's perspective, not his. Sorry, but I hope you enjoy it anyway! I agree that it's creepy... (I wrote it and it gives me chills) but I think that makes it all the more interesting, right? ^_^ Thanks for your review; ja ne!
Jantra: Aww... kawaii! (pets Jantra-San) Don't worry, this might not be a happy ending, but it's not totally sad either... it could have been A LOT worse, and almost was! You can thank my beta-reader, babygurl/Hema, for that save, LOL. Glad you enjoyed it, hope this chapter lives up to expectations! Laterz!
I like to mope: Hehe... I hope all those questions are answered in this chapter... if they aren't, I didn't do a very good job! ~_^ Hope the story didn't send you into too big a depression... I never wanted to do that, although it does speak wonders for my writing skills, LOL. Thanks for your reviews, look forward to reading another one for this chapter!
Lady Akuen: (eating pocky) Thanks! It's great! Sad, angsty ending... hmm, I wonder if this one fits the bill? Tell me if it does or not, okay? ^_^ Thank you for your encouragement, your boosters, and your review, it's much appreciated! Love ya!
Starfly: Really, my best? Wow... thank you very much! (bows) I worked so hard on their characters, so it means more than usual that I got that aspect right. I'm glad we've reached an agreement about Tea; I really hate unresolved issues, LOL! ^_^ Thanks for your faithful reviews, your killer personality, and being an all-around cool person! (huggles) Hope you enjoy this chapter!
DJ Moves: LOL, the temptation to get them together was really strong, but I held back. Didn't really want a cliché story, after all... LOL, sorry I made you ill, but thanks for the compliment on my writing talents! This might be the last chapter, but I hope I don't disappoint! ^_^ Laterz!
Spazishness: What a cute name! This chapter's the end, but to say any more other than what I wrote above in the author notes would probably be a spoiler. Just gotta read it, I guess! ^_^ Be sure to tell me whether you still love the story after this, and thanks again for the review!
Joeysgirl: Wow, my story had an impact on you, I can see... thanks, that really makes it worthwhile! ^_^ LOL, your review was cute/funny, laughed my head off, but hasn't Joey gone through enough? LOL... thanks for all the funny reviews/encouragement, love ya for it! ^_^ Please keep it up!
Warnings: Nothing like the last chapter... actually, I don't think anything, period. Oh, mention of suicide/death, if that qualifies! ^_^ Oh, and remember, this is Joey's POV, okay?
Disclaimer: Don't own them!
Chapter 8: Shooting Stars and Razorblades
The first thing I notice as I walk into the funeral parlor, apart from the totally insane temperature, is the complete and utter silence. Almost reverently, I brush the snow from my jacket, leaning forward to peer into a few of the rooms closer to the entrance. Those that aren't closed up are empty, and I find myself wondering whether I screwed up the date or something. Can't be. I checked the paper fifty times before I left. It's gotta be today.
I make my way down the oak-paneled halls, a somber painting catching my eye every so often as I pass. Finally, just as I'm about to give up, I catch a glimmer of light spilling out from the room at the end of the hall. Steeling myself, I take a deep breath and enter.
Despite the raging blizzard outside, I had expected to find someone else here. Work-related acquaintances, Kaiba Corp executives, maybe even one of our teachers. Instead, what meets my gaze is row upon row of empty seats, extending from where I stand to the other end of the elegant and quite obviously expensive hall.
Before I have time to convince myself that I don't really want to go through with this, I stride down the aisle, a confidence in my step that is by no means reflected in my heart. The empty seats send chills down my spine as I pass them, feeling like a too-curious horror movie protagonist in a haunted house. And I thought funerals were creepy when they were packed...
You're lying in a beautifully finished oak casket on a slightly upraised platform, and I'm tempted to delude myself into thinking you're simply asleep. Maybe this is some warped cosmic joke, and if I only have enough faith in the possibility, you'll wake up, apologize for everything, and we'll ride off happily into the sunset. Yeah, and I think I see a pig taking off over there.
As I clear the last row, I hear the muted creak of a chair shifting against the linoleum. To my right, a vaguely human shape is lying in the front row, wrapped in an overlarge coat, his raven hair spilling out onto the adjoining seat. Mokuba. I kneel next to him, stroking his head softly, and he burrows deeper into the coat, which had obviously belonged to you at some point in time. Poor kid hasn't been taking this well, I'm sure. Last I heard, you guys weren't on the best of terms, and now... it must be just as hard on him as it is on me. Perhaps even worse, although just thinking about what that would be like could probably make me lose what little control I've thus far been able to exercise over my grief and, to a lesser extent, my hatred.
Rising from the floor, I move up to your coffin hesitantly. The entire platform is covered in flower arrangements that I know for a fact you would have despised. "It's so easy to hate you," I whisper, not wanting to wake Mokuba up. He can use whatever sleep he can get at this point. "You're such an asshole, even in death, leaving us like that. A coward, and a vicious monster..." I break off suddenly, fighting back tears. I've cried enough; the least I can do is be strong now, if only for a little while.
"But you weren't totally bad either, were you?" I continue, half expecting an answer. "I know you loved Mokuba... at least as well as you could love anything." I stop again, taking a deep breath. "Did you ever love me, Seto Kaiba? I know what you said that day, after we..." Don't go down that road, Joey. "...but, still... you seemed so sincere the rest of the time, I can't believe it was all a lie. You must have felt something for me, something other than hatred, or that perverse satisfaction you knew so well. I..." Another deep breath. "...I can't believe I gave all that I had to someone who was more a machine than anything human. I just can't. I can't have been duped so easily, not into giving up something that important. It's not possible."
Of course, I don't really expect you to answer, do I? Still, I stare at your face for a long time, praying for another glimpse of those midnight eyes, so cruel and enticing at once. I trace the poorly covered lines around your throat, where the rope cut into your flesh. Did it hurt, or were you beyond the pain by then?
I flex my wrist against the gauze strips that bind it. I know I was that day. It's so amazing, how you can let yourself believe you have it all, only realizing how hollow and fragile it all is when it's shattered in a pile at your feet. Amazing, and devastating.
Seren' found me a little while after I got the nerve to do it. Apparently, I cut too shallowly, or so the doctor said. It certainly looked deep enough to me, but it's not like I had any experience with that sort of thing.
I probably would have tried it again, and succeeded this time, but watching Serenity cry at my bedside for nearly three straight days, until I was released, made me realize that I wasn't the only one that my suicide would affect, and I can't do that to her. I can't leave her alone, like you did to me. I'm not like you, Seto Kaiba, although whether I should feel proud or relieved by that fact still escapes me.
For all that you did to me, no matter how evil you were, I still miss you, more than I can say. I gave you my heart, unconditionally, and that kind of love doesn't evaporate like morning dew on your perfectly tended lawn for anything, even the knowledge that it's not reciprocated. I still love you, Seto, just as much as I ever did. Perhaps you were right in calling me a puppy dog; no matter how many times I get kicked, I'm not going to stop coming back to you.
God, I would give everything I had left just to see you one last time, to have the chance to tell you this face to face. Why did you leave me, and Mokuba too? Where are you, Seto, when we really need you?
I know you're none of those things I called you before, not at your heart. When you let your guard down, let me see you for who you are, the darkness was overwhelming; still, in the very center of it, there was a ray of light, like Pandora's Box. It had been crushed under the tide of responsibilities, the weight of a thousand evils pressing down upon it, a million sins, but it was there all the same. It takes real strength to combat that kind of darkness as you did for so long, and I admire you for that.
You're such a puzzle to me, Seto. You always were. I hate you, yet I love you more than life itself. On one hand, you're weak for not allowing yourself to love, and on the other you're strong for continuing to exist against such overwhelming odds. Hotter than Hell, but cold as ice. You're a swirling mass of complexities, and I wish that I had had more time to decipher them.
Leaning down, I kiss you for the last time, softly and fleetingly. You might not have done much else to merit Heaven, or even Purgatory, but you gave me something to base my life around; my love for you, unchanging and stable. Should you lose your way in whatever plane you wind up on, my heart will be the path that will bring you where you wish to go. It's the very least I can do for the love of my life.
I sit down beside Mokuba, resting his head in my lap and comforting him as best I can. Don't worry about him, Seto. He's in good hands. Again, it is the very least I can do.
I may have been powerless to make your life any better, but I'll be damned if I allow your legacy to fade away without a fight.
* * *
This is it, guys, the end of the fic! What'd you all think? Please R/R, and I hope that Joey's POV wasn't too confusing for anyone! Love you all, and I look forward to reading your feedback! ^_^ Laterz!