Last Stop

AN: . . . So here we are, huh? The last chapter, the end of the road, the true last stop of this story. It's only eleven chapters, and yet it's taken me forever and a day to write it, and to be honest, I loved that forever and a day. But all good things must come to an end, you know? I mean, I don't want to be like Naruto and drag on for a million and one episodes! Sorry, bad joke. Seriously, though, I love this story, even though three years have passed since it fermented in my mind; but more of a reflection at the end, so I can say stuff freely :D.

As always, thanks to my readers/reviewers! You've made this story an overwhelming success, and I love you dearly! Hopefully you won't leave me after this story ends, haha.

Chapter Eleven: Ever After

I saw myself. Well, not myself, exactly. I saw what I used to be. Or perhaps what I still was, deep inside, somewhere. I saw a little boy with raven black hair and merciless maroon eyes, so cold, so sad as they bore into me. I couldn't make out where we were; a gray mist hung all around. I simply felt stifled, not simply because of the aura of the place, but because I couldn't get over how unhappy and hurt I looked.

"So you remember me," came my small child voice, so full of hate and loneliness at such a young age. My younger self stood mere feet away from me, and yet the voice sounded distant, faint, as though there were a chasm between us.

"What do you mean? I never forgot about you," I cried, or felt like I did, for my voice came out in a mere whisper.

"And yet you never learn anything!" my younger self snapped, anger burning in his eyes; or perhaps they burned with tears. His fists curled at his side, trembling, while his chin quivered, and even in this disparity, he looked ready to strike me.

"What do you mean?" I asked, frightened, frightened of myself, frightened of the darkness surrounding me.

"And you've forgotten them, too," the little boy cried, pointing to the right, at a place where I hadn't seen anything a moment before. But there was definitely something there as the mist parted, and it startled me, to see three grave stones, the headstones of my mother, father, and brother, in a row. The headstones looked weathered, cracked, utterly forsaken, left in the unkind hands of mother nature and no one else. No mortal soul took care of them after they had passed, just as no mortal soul had helped them when they walked the earth.

I stared at the encapsulation of my young self as I took a step backwards, took a step away from my dark past. "No, I haven't forgotten them. I would never forget them! Where are we? Where have you taken me?"

"I suppose you just want to go back to her," my younger self said scornfully, scuffing the ground with his foot as he pointed in the opposite direction. Hesitantly, I looked over, gasping, for there stood Hitomi, surrounded by the mist, a frown on her face and a faraway look in her eyes. She didn't appear to notice me while I watched her, noted how her skin simply blended in with the bleak background, how she wore nothing but a hospital gown.

"Hitomi!" I cried out; she didn't respond. "Hitomi!" I called again, running to her, reaching her side, reaching out to her, only to have her disappear as soon as my fingers brushed the apparition.

In her wake stood a headstone. Her headstone.

"I told you you never learn," my younger self hissed. "You can't go back to her now."

"What did you do to Hitomi!?" I asked furiously.

"She's dead. Just like everyone else. She's dead. You let her die!" my childish self screamed.

"You lie!" I screamed back. "You lie! You lie! You . . ."

"Calm down!" came a new voice. "Just calm down . . ."

I opened my eyes with a start, suddenly feeling the cold sweat that had swept over me. Confused, I glanced around the white room, full of machines and medical instruments, looking at the nurse who dabbed the sweat from my forehead and the doctor who stood in the corner solemnly scribbling on a medical chart. "Where am I?" I asked, unsure, my mind drawing a blank at first. Then the accident came flooding back to me, and the dream. "Hitomi . . . Where's Hitomi?! Is she okay?" I struggled to get out of the hospital bed, but was pushed back by the nurse; I was too weak to fight.

"You need to calm down," said the nurse. "I know this is hard for you."

"What are you talking about? Where's Hitomi!" I persisted.

"Shh," said the nurse, face downcast. "You fell unconscious after we told you . . ."

"You told me?" I asked, trying to remember. "How is she? She's okay, right?" The nurse looked at the doctor, who had stopped examining the medical chart. "Right?" I asked him.

"Mr. Fanel . . ." he began slowly, and I felt my heart stop beating. It wasn't possible. "I know that this is hard, and I know you have no reason to be calm, but in your condition, try not to be so frantic . . . I'm sure . . ." he paused, obviously at least slightly pained by the outcome of all of this. "I'm sorry, Mr. Fanel, but Ms. Kanzaki is dead. Her injuries were too extensive. She lost too much blood. But I'm sure . . . I'm sure she wouldn't want you to be frantic."

I wasn't really listening to him, and even though I was looking in his direction, I didn't see him, either. In my mind, I saw some sort of hazy replica of the place in my unconscious dream, where Hitomi stood, just as before, only more mournful. Subconscious tears began to slide down my cheeks, and the nurse and doctor said something, but I didn't care, simply watching Hitomi's spirit slowly, steadily, walk towards me, as I mouthed Why did you leave me? She continued to draw closer, but I knew she wasn't real; I could see right through her. She looked almost like she had on the bus, before the crash-- pale, oh so pale, and as she stood right in front of me, I wanted to hug and kiss her. But I knew she wasn't real.

Why did you leave me?

The slightest smile crossed her face as she placed her hands on my cheeks; there was no substance, only a chill. She began to disappear.

Why did you leave me?

Ghostly lips hovering over mine, she mouthed It's not your fault.

She was gone.

"Mr. Fanel? Mr. Fanel?" the nurse repeated, wiping tears from my cheeks. "You ought to go to sleep, Mr. Fanel. I know it's hard, but you ought to go to sleep."

I wanted to scream at her, scream how would you know it's hard? How would you know?, but I couldn't. Emotions in turmoil and body failing, I simply couldn't. I knew I was falling in and out of consciousness.

"Mr. Fanel, is there any one we can call for you? We've managed to alert the Kanzaki's. They're coming."

"No," I croaked, crying steadily. "I don't have anybody anymore."


My dreams were torturous dreams, dreams full of tears, of blood, of death, of turmoil, of the crash, replaying over and over and over, only worse, so much worse, Hitomi, covered, drenched in blood, talking with a red stream flowing from her mouth, me desperately trying to halt the blood, tossing and turning, falling, falling in and out of conscious and unconsciousness, of haunted sleep and stifling reality. Between these fits, I was faintly aware that others were present in the room, and yet I couldn't will myself to care. Why should I? None of them were Hitomi. None of them would ever be Hitomi.

God, why did you take Hitomi away from me? Why did you take Hitomi away? Why didn't you take me instead? I've always wanted to die, don't you know? Why did you take her away? I'd have much rather died instead. Why does everyone around me have to die? Why haven't you killed me yet? What kind of God are you? What the hell, are you even real? No. Of course not. Because if you were, you wouldn't have taken Hitomi away! You would've taken me instead! Because I don't matter! But Hitomi does! And now she's dead. Because I didn't make her get off the bus. Because I didn't make her go to her dorm. Because I couldn't do anything. Because I can never do anything. Goddammit, why did she have to die? Why . . ?

"Hitomi . . ." I whimpered, opening my eyes slightly, as if hope existed that, when I awoke, she'd magically be beside me, perfectly fine, with a sympathetic smile, chiding me for getting myself foolishly hurt. Instead, I found Mrs. Kanzaki sitting in a chair by the bedside, looking at me with a faraway gaze, eyes red from crying. Mr. Kanzaki stood behind her, looking out the window, tired and bleary eyed. In the corner sat Mamoru, sitting, leaning against the wall, completely lost and shattered, arms resting lifelessly on his lap.

"Mrs. Kanzaki . . ?" I asked quietly, afraid and ashamed. I wanted to hide, beneath the covers of the hospital bed, hide from the gaze of his Hitomi's mother, and if I were lucky, maybe I'd be smothered to death.

"You're awake," was all she said, in a weak voice. We were both on the brink of tears.

"I'm sorry," I said, barely audible, trying, trying to lose myself in the pillow, trying not to cry, trying not to feel ashamed.

But mother simply took my hand and squeezed it lightly, giving me the slightest of smiles even as she began crying again, too. "I know you are, honey," she whispered. "And we're sorry, too. But sorry . . . sorry won't . . . bring her back."

I felt myself losing control as my free hand covered my eyes and my body started to shake. We were talking about Hitomi's death. Other people acknowledged Hitomi's death. It only affirmed my nightmare. "These tears," I said quietly, "these tears . . ." I growled as my anger rose, "these tears . . . won't bring her back either! So why can I only cry?!" I yelled, wiping away the tears and the anger with my arm, jaw shaking. "Why . . ?" I sobbed.

"I don't know why, honey," mother said, moving closer to me, sobbing with me, running a comforting hand through my hair. "I don't know why."

"I told her . . . not to come with me," I rambled. "I told her . . . that I had . . . to go back. But she looked . . . sick. And I . . . I didn't want her to leave. And she didn't want to leave. And . . . I told her . . . not to come with me . . !"

Mother stared at me with red, compassionate eyes. "She wouldn't want you to blame yourself like this. It's not your fault."

"That's what she said," I whispered with a harsh laugh that merely turned into a sob.

Together with mother, I cried myself back to sleep.


Two days later they released me from the hospital, and the next day was to be Hitomi's funeral. How cruel, I thought, for them to release me, release my soul, while they had stolen Hitomi's, leaving only a shattered, cold body to be buried, just as my emotions were to eventually be buried, muffled by time. If only they had replaced her heart with mine, taken all my blood and put it in her body so she could live. If only. But I hated my heart. Would I want her to have it? Well, who cares about a heart-- a heart doesn't make a person, now does it? It's only the muscle that races, that flutters, upon seeing the one you love. So I guess they had taken my heart, because I couldn't even feel it beating anymore. Nor did I particularly care.

With hollow eyes, I stared at myself in the mirror, and thought I might as well be dead. I certainly looked like living death, if only we could know what living death looks like, except that would be paradoxical. Was this how we're supposed to respect the dead? By looking dead ourselves, dressed in black, with tears in our eyes and a smile waiting to adorn our lips, as relatives and old friends reminisce afterwards, at the reception, with food and drinks and all the merry elements of the living. Hypocrisy. That's what funerals were. Hypocrisy.

But I had to participate in this hypocrisy, didn't I? Because I was Hitomi's best friend, her lover, her fiancé, her soul mate, and it would be more than hypocritical if I didn't attend. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. That's life, eh? Or is it death? Maybe it's both. Maybe they're the same. Maybe it's all an illusion. Maybe we have no soul. Maybe there is no "after life." Maybe there is no heaven. Maybe there is no hell. Maybe there is no God. Maybe there's only fear, betrayal, hate. Maybe . . .

I sat in the church parking lot and stared at the remaining snow on the grass. Silly little snowflakes. Small and white and pretty and so full of deceit. Were you sent from heaven? Did God send you to mock the unruly humans? It's all just one big cruel joke, isn't it? Isn't it? Just one big cruel joke.

The solemn faces changed my bitterness. What did it matter the reasons? The fact was that Hitomi was dead, and the rest of us weren't. This was our time to mourn our loss. This was the time to show respect for the dead, regardless of the unknown. The aura of grief in the room was stifling. It was real. Even if it was hypocritical, the sadness of that moment, at that time, was real. It was all too real.

Hitomi's relatives and friends, they relented to me how sorry they were. The spark of bitter anger rumbled deep within, but I would not allow myself to succumb to it. Not now. No, I tried to remain impassive. I barely talked, and when I did, my voice was low and raspy. I just stared, and thought of how these people didn't know me at all. But it was a phenomenon, wasn't it, that our hearts ached for the same person, that we shared a connection through another? Yes. That was a lesson Hitomi had taught me. Why did she always have to be so right?

"Van . . ." said Yukari, as she placed her hand upon my shoulder. "Are you okay?"

I just looked at her.

"There's someone here for you . . ." She nodded to her side and looked down. My eyes followed her gaze.

"Hana!" I exclaimed, and as I dropped to one knee, she hurriedly hugged me tightly.

"Dryden told me to leave her with you," Yukari said, and walked away.

"Van . . . are you okay?" Hana echoed Yukari's question, looking at me with her cloudy gray eyes.

"I don't know."

"You don't look okay."

"Then I guess I'm not okay," I whispered.

"Hitomi died . . . just like mommy and daddy . . . and I couldn't even say goodbye," she sniffled. Her small body trembled against mine.

"This is our goodbye," I said, and nearly choked on the words. "This is our goodbye . . . and it's not your fault."

She didn't say anything.

"Van, it's time for the ceremony to start," came father's voice.

I held Hana's hand as we walked in together.


I knew I was a basket case. I think I knew it as soon as she died-- but I knew it for sure when I returned to work, or tried to, and couldn't even enter the bus. What exactly kept me from the bus I was unsure; whether it made me think of Hitomi's death or just crashing in general. But it didn't matter. My bus driving days were over. To make up some of the income, I became a full time journalist. I got some crap pay, and I didn't care. What did I have to pay for? Rent and internet and food-- providing I ate anything.

It was hard for me to do anything silly, though, like, commit suicide, for Hitomi's friends and family checked up on me a few times a day. Her friends would just pop up at my apartment and have a little chat about nothing with me, tell me to eat more, and then leave. Mother and father always tried to console me. But the one I liked to talk to the most was Mamoru; I felt our pain was the closest.

I knew the wheel of my life was spinning, but I didn't go anywhere, nor have any desire to. Where could I go? I had no immediate family, and the love of my life was dead; and I hadn't even reached thirty. I didn't have a degree in anything. Nobody really cared about what I wrote. And frankly, neither did I. So what to do? It hurt too much to think about. So I didn't.

Then one day I received a package. A package. Who the hell would send me a package? A letter or card would be surprise enough, but a package? It wasn't big, just an envelope, although it felt a bit weighty in my hands. There was no return address. Maybe it was anthrax. What a way to die-- an anonymous package full of anthrax. Well . . . it had to be better than suicide.

Despite the anthrax risk, I opened the package as I sat down on the couch, and discovered a pile of photographs. Photographs of Hitomi and I. For a long while, all I could do was stare at the very first photo. It was nothing special-- just Hitomi and I sitting on my couch, cuddling, not even paying attention to the camera-- yet I couldn't stop staring. Naturally, my eyes were drawn to Hitomi, the content expression she wore as she leaned against my chest, looking elsewhere, probably at whoever had been talking, a smile lingering on her lips. She looked very much alive. But slowly my eyes wandered to myself. It'd been a long times—years and years-- since I'd seen myself in a picture. Of course, I looked very different from my early teenage years, as far as physical features go. But I didn't care about that. What I noticed the most was my smile. I'd never seen myself smiling before. And, I thought bitterly, I may never again.

I started sifting through the photos slowly, painstakingly slowly. I absorbed this new viewpoint of Hitomi and I, the way the two of us looked to others. Something in me was glad that I now had these physical remnants to remember Hitomi by, because it would have been naïve of me to believe that my memories would remain in tact forever, that the movies in my head would keep going long after the ink of a photograph faded. And yet part of me hated these pictures, for they were yet again a reminder that Hitomi was merely a memory to those who knew her. Still, I went through the pictures as though transfixed, intaking Hitomi's different facial expressions, different postures, different clothes. Eventually the pictures changed to those at Hitomi's house, during Christmas; two hours passed until I finally reached the last one.

Tears pooled at the bottom of my eyes, and I knew I would cherish the picture for as long as I lived.

It was the picture mother had taken after I had danced with Hitomi that Christmas night, the one that mother swore Hitomi would thank her for later. Although the picture had been unexpected, Hitomi and I almost looked as though we were posing, only it was better than that, because our reaction had been authentic. Our lips were curved in smiles, the romance of our dance still lingering in the air like a sweet fragrance. My arms remained around her waist, keeping her close to me, as her arms rested on my shoulders, her fingers playing with my hair. As I stared at the photo, these gestures seemed real to me, so real that I thought I felt my hair move and my body grow warmer. Both our eyes had locked with the camera as mother had called out to Hitomi, although my eyes, I noticed, lingered slightly on Hitomi.

I held the picture to my heart, allowing the tears to flow silently down my cheek. With shaking hands, I picked up the original envelope, to make sure nothing was left inside. I pulled out a note.

She would want you to be happy. Love, Yukari and Mother

Getting up from the couch, I picked up the phone and dialed the Kanzaki residence. To my relief, mother picked up on the other line. "Hello?" she asked tentatively.

"Thank you," I whispered into the phone.


I talked to Hitomi's spirit (aka, myself) everyday, to come to terms with reality, and also full of some ridiculous hope that Hitomi's spirit might help me find direction in my life. Of course, no such vision ever came. It comes with the "maybe we don't have a soul" thing, right? Or maybe she was already in heaven, for surely if heaven exists and we have souls, then Hitomi's soul would be there. I smiled bitterly.

I tried to think where would I be now, if Hitomi were still here? Definitely not sitting on my bed, by myself, talking to the darkness. No, I'd probably be working, but happily, or hanging out with Hitomi, or visiting the orphanage. I hadn't been back to the orphanage since her death. What would I be able to do there besides cry, looking at sad young faces wondering what had happened to Hitomi?

But what about Hana?

The question always floated into my thoughts. What about Hana? There was nothing I could do for her. I was a mess. A poor mess, at that. I had no idea how to raise a child. Nor did I have the time and resources to do so. So that was that.

And yet . . .

Hana was the only one left in the world that I loved dearly, and her feelings for me were reciprocal. If Hitomi were alive, we would've adopted her. The way we'd stuck by each other at the funeral was as though we were already father and daughter. But these thoughts, they were selfish. I'd already convinced myself that I didn't possess any parental qualities; I was very young and had no experience with children, had a severely warped pysche, had no money, would probably forever be single, had nobody to rely on . . .

And yet . . .

"It's what you'd want me to do, isn't it?" I whispered into the still air.

There was no reply.


To complement my journalism salary, I took up waitering. Between the two, I was making out okay. But I needed something more. I needed more money, more stability, more something. So I began writing a book. Yeah, like that's more stable, right? But I felt I had to. I had been planning to, anyway, if Hitomi were still here. I had no idea where my words would get me. But I had to try.

Work and sleep, sleep and work-- that was my life. The Kanzaki's and Hitomi's friends (or I suppose I should say my friends) became concerned once again with my condition; they thought I might work myself to death to escape my pain, although they knew my intentions. Maybe I did work excessively to escape my pain, to fill the gigantic black void left in my life. Maybe that's what I wanted to do. It's not like I had anything better to do.

But mother eventually convinced me to just go through with the adoption only four months after I'd begun waitering. In my mind, there was so much more I had to do; yet, if anything, I saw that there were others I could rely on. Which, as I drove to the orphanage, was little comfort. The route to the orphanage haunted me, moreso than I'd thought. Along the way, my hands began to shake as images of Hitomi came flooding back to me. As I approached the intersection where the accident had occurred, my entire body was shaking, and I thought about turning around. Yet, somehow, I ended up in the orphanage parking lot. Just sitting there. Letting my fears drift away.

I walked across the parking lot. The same old cold, cracked parking lot. It's scary, how some things never seem to change, while others may change in an instant. Sort of like a person's mood, for as I reached the door and walked down the hall, the moment I spotted Hana, some of the sadness lifted from my heart, and as we hugged, I knew what I was doing would bring us happiness. And that Hitomi would have wanted it that way.


Fifteen years later, and I still haven't forgotten the details, even though so much has changed. I'd be lying to you if I told you raising Hana-- especially in the beginning-- was easy, but together, we made our way through life-- without Hitomi-- the best we could. As I continued to wait tables, be a journalist, and write a novel, I felt like a horrible guardian, for half the time I had to find someone to watch Hana. But Hana seemed fine with this, for, I think, using that sixth sense children have, she knew I was doing it not only for her, but for me.

But even when I was with her, I didn't always pay attention. I was still a bit mentally unstable, and sometimes would just . . . cry, or talk to myself. But Hana was so good about it. Most of the time she would just continue with whatever she was doing, as though ignoring me, but I knew she was consciously aware of every move I made. Other times she would crawl into my lap, and just sit there, waiting for my fit to pass, her presence comforting. She never complained of being hungry if I started cooking dinner late, or of being tired or hurt when I forgot to tuck her in at night. Sometimes I wonder who was taking care of whom.

I moved closer to the Kanzaki's, for I relied on them, and thought that Hana should be close to the only other family she had besides me. Of course, I couldn't afford much-- just a two bed room apartment-- but it worked for the first few years. It brought not only Hana closer to the Kanzaki's, but me as well; and Hana especially liked being with Mamoru, whenever he was around. Not only was he the super-cool-idolized uncle, but he introduced her to music, now her passion, as well.

I think it's . . . weird and amazing how the three of us ended up going where we wanted to go in life. Maybe we aren't the best at what we do-- hell, I know I'm not the best author in the world-- but we all got there. Mamoru's band had a couple of hits. Hana's musical career (as a violinist, of all things) looks rather promising as she is finishing her last year of college. And me . . . well, I've written the significant part of my life story to you, haven't I? So I finally did go somewhere.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have written this story first; after all, the best stories come from your life. But I don't think I could've written it then. No, I couldn't have written it fifteen years ago. It would have been so . . . so . . . so heart-wrenchingly difficult, so full of bitterness. It wouldn't have been right. So I wrote fictional stories, mostly, where all the main characters had a touch of the past and present me. They were all rather sad, I'll have to admit; but I did have some happy endings. I've come to see that life really isn't all sadness.

I obviously never married anyone, or even dated anyone, after Hitomi died. How could I? Maybe I'm wrong, but I believe that nobody could make me feel the way Hitomi had. Isn't that the point of true and eternal love? I like to think so (provided we have souls, of course). I remember, the first book I wrote, when I found out it would be published, I printed a copy and left it by Hitomi's grave, as though by doing so she could read it in heaven. I attached part of a poem I'd written, too, that I felt went along with it:

I'm finding my own words, my own little stage

My own epic drama, my own scripted page

Send you the rough draft, I'll seal it with tears

Maybe you'll read it, and I'll reappear

To this day, with every story I've ever had published, I've done the same thing, and attached the same bit of poetry. Maybe it's just a waste of paper, maybe I'm just senselessly killing trees and promoting global warming, but it gives me a bit of solace. Because when I stare at the picture from the Christmas of fifteen years passed, the only photo I have framed of the two of us, I believe that somehow, by placing those pieces of paper by her deceased side, she can read what I have to say. And hopefully, she approves.

I visit my parents and brother often, too. After I'd adopted Hana and we'd moved, I'd felt compelled to find out where they had been buried. But once I had, I couldn't muster up the courage to go for a while. The dream haunted me. When I did go, all I remember doing is staring at the headstones, a bit disturbed that did seem as though they were out of my dream, yet reading the same words over and over and over again, conjuring what little memories I had of those that were of my own flesh and blood. It made me wonder what really made a family; was blood enough? I think it is. Then I simply cried silently for a bit before walking away.

Today I am forty years old. It may not seem old, but I've been through more in those forty years than most people have been through in a lifetime. But now I have nothing to do and nobody to spend my time with. Sure, I've made friends, but . . . My parents and brother are gone, I have no wife, and Hana is all grown up and fending for herself in the world. I must admit, I feel a bit lonely. When I look in the mirror, I can see the gray beginning to show in my hair, and how my eyes seem more tired than usual. Maybe that's why I'm writing all this now. In my heart I always knew I'd write it, someday.

How can I end this with some semblance of happiness except to say that I'm actually happy with my life? I'd love it if Hitomi were with me now, if we'd always been together, of course; but the time I spent with Hitomi, and the lessons I learned, and the people I met are what allow me to be happy now. And thus I will print this out, along with my poem, and set it upon Hitomi's grave, and with all my heart wish that, somehow, from heaven, she can read the tiny, insignificant words I have written.

And remember that I will always love her.


AN: First, a disclaimer: Van's little poem thing is part of Yellowcard's Rough Draft.

It's 12:48 AM on Wednesday, August 1st, 2007, just 12 days shy of being three full years since I first posted this. I'm sure I won't post this until later in the day (you know . . . after I sleep on it), but I feel like I should do my reflection now.

I wrote most of this story knowing Hitomi was going to die; the only chapter in which I was ignorant of this fact was chapter one. I'd always intended to have the accident, but my original intentions were for Hitomi to live. Then I thought, "well, what's the point in that? Van won't learn anything from that." And thus the story progressed. It's obvious that some things along the way were unplanned (Hitomi's rape, for instance), but I always thought that was part of the charm of fanfiction: crazy stuff just happens as you go along.

Looking back, I don't like passages of the story, or the way things unfolded, but I suppose that's only natural. I wasn't even in high school when I posted the first chapter of this story. Seriously, what the hell did I know (hm . . . what the hell do I know now)? And my first year was a joke. And I guess this fanfic rolled with that joke. Not until sophomore year-- when I was finally in a class level that I belonged in, taking courses that I wanted, and had teachers who could actually teach-- did I learn anything. And then my writing style started to change. But it never really affected this story. I think I was in too deep by then.

If I were to rewrite this story-- as a fanfiction or in some form of an original story-- I would do it a lot differently. I don't think that much would stay the same. But I'm being rather negative, aren't I? That's not fair. There are a lot of great points to this story (otherwise, I don't think so many people would have read it). I think one of the things I definitely would NOT change would be the tone, the way I chose to portray Van's character. Maybe he was really emo or whatever at times, and maybe he was a bit overly fluffy, but I always loved how I managed to make him angry or sad or happy, but with a hint of amused sarcasm, with a perspective that was as though he were currently living the story, yet he was somewhat extracted, writing from his older, more mature, perspective. You know what I mean? I just made it sound really confusing x.X (or maybe that's just because it's really late . . . or early . . . whatever!)

Although I have other fanfics to work on, I must honestly say that I don't get around to them as much anymore. I'm more into writing my own thing these days, stuff that portrays a message I want to convey. I no longer have trouble creating characters, or coming up with names, or creating my own fictional worlds. Of course, this is a great thing for me, but it also makes me sad. I always loved the interactivity of this fanfiction community. I've made a few friends here over the years, and met a handful of great authors that I hope someday can put their talent to good use (or are already doing so). But now I feel I'm overly-critical of most people's works. Like nobody can write anymore. (I'm overly-critical of everything . . . especially movies.)

Hm . . . this is starting to sound like a farewell, which it's not. It's more of a . . . catch you later. I still intend to work on my other fics (especially Something I Missed; it will now assume LS' spot). And I honestly must say, this fic holds a place dear to my heart, as do all of you readers/reviewers. You gave me confidence (and criticisms) these past three years that I've tried to put to good use. Writing is something I definitely want to do when I'm older-- whether I'm some big success or not. So, I just want to thank all of those who've been there along the way, whether you've been there from the beginning, or hopped on along the way (or even dropped off along the way).

And I hope you all don't hate me too much for the ending and will read my other fanfics when I update them. Until then . . .