Hiya. SakuraBubbles here.

Sorry this was delayed, but look how long this is!!! I promise you that this finale is worth it, and I don't like bragging, so hopefully I won't get bad karma for saying that.

Disclaimer: I own it now. I didn't tell you?


Chapter Fifteen: Nezumi Reprise

There was a bird singing softly nearby and the darkness melted away and a pale light replaced it. An outline—a window frame—became clearer and the branches outside of it shook slightly in the wind. The bird sang and sang a sweet song on its perch on the swaying branches as if it needed the world to hear its happiness. A cool breeze tickled the curtains and they reached into the room trying to grasp anything but failing. There was movement, but only a little.

"If it's chilly, I can get you another blanket."

A voice. Haru's voice. It couldn't be. I'm dead, aren't I? What was that sound? … Breathing. Breathing? My breathing?

"You okay there? Need me to get Hatori?"

Haru again. Hatori? Hatori couldn't help. I'm dead on the floor in the hall. I died. Akito killed me.

"Yuki? … Maybe you're still asleep after all."

Something escaped pale lips and came up hotly from a throat. It was another voice.

"No…"

My voice? Something moved beside the bed. A bed. I'm in a bed?

"Yuki…"

Haru's voice again. And then it was silent for a bit as the bird outside the window stopped singing as if it was trying to listen for more conversation. A hand covered another and there was warmth. Lots and lots of warmth.

Yuki's eyes had been half open, staring blankly, until then. He blinked once or twice, his eyes adjusting to the white walls and ceiling of the room, and turned his head. Haru was sitting in a chair at the side of the bed he was in and holding his right hand. Yuki felt hot pain in his left wrist and he looked over to it, quickly reliving the moment when Akito cut him on the wrist. There was an IV hookup and a monitor beeping softly at his side.

"Kyo donated his blood," Haru said when he saw that Yuki had his eyes toward the cords full of blood. "Only zodiac members can donate to other zodiac members and you needed blood. Kyo matched."

"Kyo… where is he?"

"Outside with Tohru."

"Honda-san…"

"… She's in horrible shape…" The pain seemed to linger on Haru's voice. "She blames herself for what happened."

Yuki looked almost bitterly to the window. "It wasn't her who took a razor to my wrist. … Where's Akito?"

"His room, where else? He confessed doing it."

Yuki snaked his hand out from Haru's grasp and rubbed his eyes. It felt odd to move the limb, as if he had been frozen in stone for days and days.

"How am I still alive?" he asked.

"Hatori heard you going through the hall. He said that you were screaming."

Yuki blinked. "I was?"

Haru nodded. "Yuki… um…" He looked uncomfortable. "I yelled at Tohru… when Hatori called to tell us, Tohru started to cry—we all thought you were going to die and she blamed herself. She still does, but that's besides the point… I went Black and yelled at her and had a fist fight with Kyo because he was angry enough at what had happened to you. We both took our anger out on each other and tussled our way out of the house. … We owe Shigure a new door."

Yuki tried to smile but it seemed as though his lips wouldn't work that way. Haru continued, "Hatori informed us that you needed blood and we came straight here. Kyo was a match, as I told you, and so he donated. I apologized to Tohru and made sure that she knew that it wasn't her doing at all. I felt so bad for the things I said…"

"… I'm sure she forgives you," Yuki said sadly. He couldn't think of much to talk about and apparently by the silence hanging in the room, neither could Haru. Yuki didn't like not knowing what Haru was thinking about, but even so, he could not bring himself to talk. So much had happened… he winced, imagining the sight that befell Hatori when he found him, covered in blood and semen in dark hallway.

The memory of it made him sick and he reached for the (bed pan). He didn't have much in his stomach but what little he did have, he coughed it up into the metal pan. As he did, he felt a warm hand rubbing his back, a soft voice coaxing him into calm. After Yuki was done, Haru took the pan over to a nearby sink and washed it out, trying hard not to get sick himself. Yuki slumped back onto the bed, feeling dizzy after his prior action. Where am I, anyway? He looked to Haru as if to ask him but stayed silent, realizing that he was still at the main house in Hatori's office. If he had been in a regular hospital, he doubted that Haru would have been able to use the facility so freely.

"Hey," Haru said softly, returning to the side of the bed with a small cup full of water. "You think you can drink this on your own?"

"Mm," was all Yuki could give in response, reaching with a shaky hand. Haru shook his head and led Yuki's hand away. He put his hand to the back of Yuki's head carefully, bringing his cup wielding hand close. He pushed Yuki's head up and tilted the cup against Yuki's lips, willing his mouth open. At first, the liquid sat idly in his mouth, for he felt too weak even to swallow.

"Swallow, c'mon," coaxed Haru, rubbing the back of Yuki's head with his thumb. As he allowed the cool liquid to wash over his tongue and seep down his throat, Yuki determined that he was the best feeling he had felt in a while.

"There," Haru's voice brought him out of his haven and the cup was removed from his lips. He moistened them with his own tongue, looking at Haru's face before the ox boy turned away to refill the cup. He set down on the bedside table.

"I'll keep this here until you need it again."

"… Haru," the word almost choked him. "Akito… he broke your necklace."

"I noticed. It's all right."

"It's not all right," Yuki grunted angrily. "I wanted to protect that from being broken… I hate myself for letting him find out that it was you who had given it to me and not Shigure."

Haru leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. "You've got me now. You don't need a stupid old necklace."

"But…" Yuki tried to protest and almost didn't hear the door opening.

"Oh, Yuki-kun, you're awake."

It was a soft feminine voice and upon inspection of the speaker, both Yuki and Haru were surprised to see Kana walk in with a faint smile on her face. Haru retracted his arms to his sides, looking almost bashful.

"He threw up a little bit ago… upon waking up."

"Oh—you took care of it?"

"Yes, he didn't have much to vomit…"

Kana looked at Yuki's face. "Are you feeling particularly sick?"

"No…" answered Yuki. Kana ran her eyes over the IV hookup and fiddled with a few things.

"So you just needed to get it out of your system."

Yuki didn't respond and found himself staring off at nothing. Haru looked to Kana.

"I heard from Shigure that you just had a baby."

"Oh! Well, I didn't just have him!" Kana exclaimed, turning red in the face. She giggled nervously. "I actually just returned from maternity leave."

"Is he big?"

Yuki couldn't even half smile as he listened to their conversation about the child, even though he wanted to. He knew that Haru had always liked babies and toddlers and grew incredibly interested when they were around. Yuki recalled the time when Haru first met Kisa and how excited he was to hold her, even though his own hands were only so big.

As for his inability to smile, he couldn't explain it. Haru was around, so he should be dancing around the room in glee, or so he thought. Why was he feeling this strange way? Why was he looking at Haru with such malice in his eyes? He didn't even know.

There was a knock on the door before Hatori poked his head into the room.

"Kana, is he awake?"

Kana nodded to her mentor and he continued, "Do you think he would mind being visited by one very impatient red head accompanied by his very worried girlfriend?"

There was a shout following that but both Hatori and Yuki ignored it.

"Send them in," Yuki said, trying to sit up. Kana helped him by moving the bed up and readjusting his IV cords to allow more movement. It was then when Yuki first caught a glimpse of his bandaged wrist. He glanced at Haru before Tohru and Kyo came in, wondering if he had seen his cut.

"Souma-kun!" cried Tohru, coming to his side. He couldn't smile at her, either.

"Honda-san, how have you been?" he asked rather casually.

"Ah… worried about you!"

Kyo was behind her, looking away at nothing in particular. Yuki eyed him and he returned the gaze.

"Thanks, stupid cat," Yuki muttered. Kyo knew exactly what he was thanking him for.

"It was nothing, ya damn rat."

Kana hid her confusion on why they were referring to each other as animals and instead decided to let the teenagers talk. She walked to the door and smiled to Hatori.

"Hello, doctor. He's doing well—his blood pressure is normal and his breathing is fine. He vomited upon waking, apparently, but the white-haired boy took care of it."

"All right, thank you. … How's…"

"The baby? He's a great big bundle of joy. He's so funny! He has the cutest little expressions on his face all the time!"

Hatori smiled. "That's good."

She nodded with a giggle and passed by, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. He shut the door behind him and wandered in to hear the delightful conversations of the four teenagers in the room.

"Honda-san," spoke Yuki, suddenly remembering the reason he went to stay with Akito in the first place, "were you able to keep smiling while I was gone?"

Tohru nodded and gave him a broad example, sliding her eyes shut. He nodded.

"Good to know."

"When are you coming home?" asked Haru. Yuki blinked, thinking that this was an odd question to ask.

"When Akito… you already know…"

"What?! You mean you still have to stay?!" yelled Kyo. Hatori took this time to busy himself with viewing Yuki's medical data, which was on a clipboard hanging from the end of his bed frame.

"Well I don't know! I only just woke up you stupid cat!" snapped Yuki. The effort it took him to raise his voice started to give him a migraine. He sighed, wondering how much blood he lost.

"I'm sure Hato—…" Tohru was weary of the fact that Hatori was in the room so she converted her sentence. "I'm sure that you can come home at least to recover…"

"Yeah, I mean, it's not… safe to leave you with Akito any longer," said Haru. "He's definitely capable of killing you. By now we'd both be dead."

No one saw Hatori flinch and almost cut his finger on the paper's edge. He looked to Haru yet said nothing.

Yuki thought about it, looking into Haru's worried eyes. All I want is to go home to you—

Akito's words pierced through his own thoughts. "Whimpering like a little slut…" and "You pathetic little whore!!" He then vaguely wondered if Haru would take him back and looked away sadly. I truly am tainted…

"Yuki."

All four teenagers looked over to Hatori, the speaker.

"No matter what Akito says, you are not to return to him until you have fully recovered, even if the recovery process lasts longer than Akito's remaining life."

Tohru's eyes brightened like the rest of the others, but it was her who seemed to shine with happiness. "Aaah!! So… so, Souma-kun can come home with us??"

"He needs to stay in the hospital for what's left of today in order for me to keep an eye on his blood flow," Hatori confirmed. "But I should have him back by tomorrow morning. I'll go speak with Akito."

And with that, he left the quartet behind.

/-/

Akito stroked the small head of the bird perched on his fingers, grinning cruelly. He was out half naked on the porch in the sunlight, basking in it like the god he wanted to be.

"It's only a matter of time…" he whispered, "… before Yuki realizes that I'm all he's got… it's quite sad really, that the first thing he'll think is that Hatsuharu is the one to turn to." He shook his head and made a noise with his tongue. "Tsk, tsk…" He looked up to the pale blue sky. "Yes, only a matter of time. I've broken him enough to see the truth, now."

He heard the main door to his room open and the bird on his finger fluttered off. He glared inside to see Hatori in the midst of getting to the floor to bow to him. He looked away again, pleasantly ignoring him by picking out dirt from underneath his nails. Hatori knelt in the middle of the room, his hands idly resting on his thigh.

"You should come inside before you make your sickness worse."

"What does it matter?" asked Akito.

"… At least do up your kimono properly," Hatori replied. Akito let out an aggravated sigh and pushed his arms into the sleeves of his kimono and tied it around his waist. He got up afterward and walked to him, reaching out to touch his face with a clammy hand as he slowly sunk to his knees. Hatori knew better than to flinch away.

"Imagine, Hatori… you came so close to being able to look a killer in the eye… though technically, the first of the two attempted murders would have been entirely your fault. If that had happened, we would both be killers, wouldn't we?"

He was trying to get under Hatori's skin and blame him for what could have been Haru's death. Although it was true that he would have had to share some of the blame if it had happened, he had been able to save Yuki and hopefully redeem himself in the teenagers' eyes. Hatori wouldn't let Akito sway him so easily.

"I've given the okay for Yuki to return home."

"If he does, Honda Tohru becomes the next mother."

"No, she won't," said Hatori firmly. "You've already chosen Kagura. Or perhaps I should say 're-chosen?'"

Akito said nothing to this and simply curled his mouth into a smirk and brought his hand away. For a moment, Hatori thought that Akito might have been planning something behind that smirk, but he ignored it and continued.

"It's me who places the curse upon the child anyway." He swallowed and wondered why he was only just now standing up for himself—and the rest of the family. "I placed the curse on you, after all." He had always hated bowing down to someone four years younger than him. At the time he was told to place the curse, he had no idea what he was truly doing, and wasn't sure whether or not he regretted his actions of his four-year-old self. "… It's you who should be bowing to me."

There was a loud smack that emphasized the hit Akito presented Hatori's face with. Hatori, with his head tilted and a bit turned from the slap, narrowed his eyes.

"Don't overexert yourself, Akito. Wouldn't want you getting sick."

This isn't going as I planned, thought Akito. He's getting too ahead of himself. Whatever. I'll go back to the original idea.

"Fine then. Take Yuki back to that house. I don't really care what you do with him."

Despite the fact that Hatori was suspicious of Akito giving up so easily, he bowed his head and got up to leave. Akito stayed still and watched him leave before curling up on the floor, trying to decide whether or not he felt pleased with himself.

As for Hatori, he stood against the doors to Akito's chambers and kept quiet. Shigure was sitting on a chair nearby, so Hatori eyed and walked over to him. Shigure stood up, closed the book he had been reading, and trailed his eyes to Akito's door.

"He… gave up a little too easily, didn't he?" Shigure pointed out.

"Don't remind me… I'm trying not to think about it. Maybe he's just withering away at last… along with his defiance."

Shigure shrugged. "One can only hope. Say, is Yuki-kun all right? When Tohru-kun and the rest of them came out of the room, I noticed that they didn't exactly look… well, happy."

"I'm going to have to look into Yuki's mental state. He was nearly killed by the man he fears most, and before that, sexually abused by him."

Shigure blew upwardly out of his mouth to puff some bangs out of his eyes. "As if anybody didn't already know that."

Hatori shrugged. "I have a feeling that Yuki wouldn't like for anyone to know just how deeply Akito has wounded him. I don't even know if he's realized how he's… I worry about his mental wellbeing. I think it would be wise to keep everyone away from him for a bit, even Hatsuharu."

"What? And I suppose you're going to place this responsibility on my shoulders? I don't think so, Haa-san. Yuki-kun and Haa-kun won't want to be separated, and I'm not about to be the one to make them do it."

And with that, Shigure stormed off angrily down the hall. Hatori shook his head and reached into his pocket for a cigarette.

"I don't think that Yuki will want to be around Hatsuharu for quite some time."

/-/

Tohru couldn't help but feel an immense tug on her heart for the remainder of the day. She kept looking at Haru and wondering if he felt the same sort of tug, but his blank face gave her no clues. So she kept to herself, even during dinner and also thereafter. Kyo sensed that something was wrong with her but knew it had something to do with Yuki, so he left her alone, deeming himself unworthy of talking to her about it.

Tohru closed her door behind her and began to undress when she looked over to her mother's photograph. In the middle of unbuttoning her shirt, she walked over to the photo, picked it up, and gazed at it. She felt a twist in her stomach as she looked at it.

She hated hospitals ever since that day she knelt beside her dead mother, sobbing uncontrollably. Her mother had been taken away from her without warning and there had been nothing she could have done about it. It had been a long time since Kyoko died, but nevertheless, Tohru felt depressed about it.

And to think… that both Haru and Yuki had come so close to dying… the fear had been settled deeply in her heart, but seeing Yuki today in Hatori's office brought it all the way up to her throat. Yuki… hadn't looked well. His eyes were scary—he scared her with the way he kept looking so angrily at Haru.

Had no one else noticed it? Weren't Yuki and Haru in love? Why did he look so hateful toward him? Tohru was sure that she felt an aura of darkness around the gray-haired boy and she wasn't sure if that scared her more than his eyes.

Because his eyes… they looked like Akito's.

Two rooms away, Haru was feeling a bit uneasy—sick, even. He was dizzy as he stared down at the bed that he and the stuffed rat "Yuki-chan" shared and suddenly crashed into it, clutching the sheets tightly in his hands. He curled up slightly on top of the mattress, panting slightly.

Hatori had taken him to visit the place where he had found Yuki on the floor. Haru had been absolutely terrified at the sight. It wasn't the trail of blood on the floor that got him, no… but the large smear of blood on the white wall from where Yuki fell to the ground. He had felt his blood leave his face, go no where in particular, and had to crouch down to the ground to prevent from fainting. Black had been screaming about murdering Akito in his head up until that point. Upon seeing that, Black was silent and stricken with fear.

Haru realized just what Akito was capable of. He had known what he could do with his bare hands… and now he knew what he was able to do with a weapon.

Haru's eyes were dilated as he lay in a ball on the bed, thinking about the wall covered in blood. He needed to hold something, someone—and he reached for Yuki-chan, which had been resting on the pillow with its back to him. But from Haru's position, he couldn't reach it and he felt too uneasy to move any closer. He stretched a little farther and when he finally was able to touch the toy with his fingers, it rolled a little further away with the pressure of his fingers. He looked a little confused and tried to reach for it again, but still to no avail. He felt very cold, so he brought his hand back and had to content himself with bunching up some of the covers and hugging that instead. Something felt terribly wrong and he couldn't place what.

/-/

It started to snow the morning of the day that Yuki came home, something both Haru and Tohru saw as very special. As for Kyo, the only thing he saw special about the snow was the fact that school had been closed for fear of the upcoming storm that the meteorologists had predicted. Around noon, the snow had already amounted to about three inches, so the prints that Yuki's boots made were deep and crisp. He looked to the house that he had not seen in nearly four months and sighed.

"I guess I'm home."

Hatori said nothing, save for asking Yuki if he wanted any help with his bags. He knew very well that Yuki didn't exactly want to be back at Shigure's house, but what he didn't know—and he was sure Yuki didn't either—was where Yuki actually wanted to be.

Haru was a bit uncomfortable as Yuki entered the house (which soon resulted in a small gray mouse and an apologizing Tohru). Shigure had warned him earlier to not be too intimate with Yuki for his first couple of days home and to not hug or kiss at all until Yuki was ready for contact. Haru wasn't incredibly happy with the idea of not being able to hold him at all, but he was willing to do so for Yuki's sake.

After Yuki was human (and dressed) again, Tohru set out lunch for him and the others and he and Kyo were already bickering with one another like old times. Haru, for once, simply listened to them as he stared at Yuki with soft eyes. He was sitting next to the older boy with one leg bent on the floor and the other bent so that he could rest his chin on his knee. Right after Kyo stood up to challenge Yuki to a fight, there were a few knocks at the door. Tohru rose to answer it.

Yuki sighed a bit irritably after she disappeared out of the room. He hoped desperately that it wasn't anybody who was worried about his condition. With a grimace, he imagined that Ayame was at the door and how much noise that would be. He just wanted some peace and quiet, if that was even possible. He looked around for something more pleasant to look at and found himself staring at Haru. Haru caught his eye and smiled warmly, however, Yuki's reaction was a bit strange. He flinched and looked away, his eyes narrowing. Haru's smile faded as he tried to think of Yuki's reason for looking away so harshly.

Yuki, on the other hand, was simply trying to escape from Haru's kind glance. I'm disgusting, don't look at me, he pleaded in his mind after Haru smiled at him and he had to look away and narrow his eyes.

Despite that, Haru misunderstood the action and was deeply hurt by it. …Did I… do something wrong?

"Ahh!! What the hell are you doing here?!" yelled Kyo as Tohru brought Momiji into the dining room. Momiji crossed his arms over his chest.

"I came to play in the snow with Tohru-kun and to see how Yuki-kun was doing."

Yuki held his head. "I'm fine, Momiji…"

Haru's eyes widened. For the first time, he had caught a glance at Yuki's wrist. The long sleeve of his shirt had risen up enough thanks to Yuki moving his arm to hold his head. The slash across his wrist had closed up but was still a deep red line that was somewhat hard to miss. The memory of the blood on the wall racked Haru's mind harshly but he couldn't bring himself to look away from the mark just yet. He wanted to take Yuki's arm in his hands and kiss the wound lightly but there were a few reasons why he couldn't. First on all, Shigure told him not to make any physical contact. Then there was the fact that the action was rather silly and he feared that Kyo would laugh at him, or worse, Yuki.

Lastly, he was worried that Yuki would get angry at him for either touching or acknowledging the wound. In the end, he had to look away.

He realized that he was looking at Momiji and blinked owlishly. Momiji looked a bit taller than he had looked just a few days before. His face looked a little thinner, too. Perhaps he was finally maturing, or perhaps it was just Haru's imagination.

"So can we play in the snow, Tohru-kun?" asked Momiji curiously. Haru shrugged lightly so no one could see him do it. Well, if he's maturing on the outside, he's not maturing on the inside…

"You're not worried about Yuki at all, you damn rabbit!" Kyo growled. "You just wanna play in the friggin' snow!"

Momiji put his hands to his hips, harrumphing. "Whatever Kyo-kun! You just don't want me to play with Tohru-kun! You can't hog her!"

Kyo turned crimson and glared at Momiji as though he had accused him of committing adultery. However, nothing more was said on the matter and the group found themselves outside in the snow, Shigure included.

"Ah… snow… I remember once when Aaya and I were locked out of the main house, it was snowing and the air was crisp, and we only had each other to keep warm… and what better way to make body heat than—"

"That's enough!" snapped Kyo, raising his arm to punch the novelist in the face. Yuki had his hand over his grimacing face.

"Yes, really, Shigure. We just ate."

"Kyoooo-kun!! Yuki-kun! Haru-kun! Shii-chan! Come on out and play!" yelled Momiji at the top of his lungs. He was gathering snowballs in a small mound, preparing to fire them at Tohru, who also making snowballs. Kyo grinned and looked to Yuki.

"C'mon you damn rat! It's a challenge! I'll be with Tohru and you can be with Momiji."

"I'd rather just stay here, thanks," said Yuki with a sigh. Haru glared at Kyo.

"Idiot. He's trying to recover, and all you can think about is beating him?"

"… N-no! I was… kidding around. I didn't actually mean it as a competition," mumbled Kyo. Shigure guessed that he was mumbling due to the metaphorical foot in his mouth.

"I'll play, Momitchi," Shigure called to the blonde as he walked out to them. "But I wanna be with Tohru-kun on her team!"

"NO WAY!" yelled Kyo as he ran over and stood in front of Tohru as if to protect her. He was soon pelted in the head with a snowball from Momiji.

"Haha! So much for catlike reflexes! And I told you that you can't hog Tohru!"

So, reluctantly, Kyo wandered over to Momiji's side of the "playing field" and began to gather snowballs. He promised himself not to hit Tohru as the game begun and hoped she would do the same, but as he was hit in the arm with a snowball, he looked over for his attacker.

"Tohru!" he whined, emitting a giggling from the girl.

"Sorry Kyo! But a game's a game, right?"

And with that, it was truly on! … as Kyo put it.

But for Haru and Yuki, things weren't as exciting. Yuki sighed and absently watched the vapor rise from his mouth and disappear into the air. He eyed Haru.

"Don't you want to join them?"

"Not really. I'm too slow," Haru replied, also watching the vapor release from his mouth as he spoke. "Plus, it'd be uneven teams."

"Oh," was all Yuki said in reply. Haru smiled awkwardly and leaned against the side of the house, contenting his vision with the back of Yuki's head. People had always said that Hatori was as cold as snow, but sometimes Yuki surpassed Hatori's coldness greatly. Up until that point in time, Haru wasn't shivering. After Yuki's cold, sideways glance, however, his teeth were chattering.

I must have done something to upset him, Haru determined. I just don't know what. I wish I could hold him… this is like the perfect romantic type of setting, and I can't even hold his hand.

Yuki stared out at the fight, oblivious to both Haru's dismay and how much he was hurting. He was focusing more on his own pain. Why… isn't he holding me? He's obviously cold… so why doesn't he do something about it? He looked down at his hands. Can he really see the filth I have on me? Akito was right? One hand went up to grasp where he used to wear Haru's necklace, but of course, his fingers found nothing. Is he mad that the necklace broke? … He doesn't want me back after I promised to protect it and broke it anyway. Haru, you bastard, it wasn't my fault…

His ears caught the shuffling of Haru's feet and he turned his head to look at him. Haru saw him gazing and tried to think of something to say. … Should I tell him that Shigure told me not to touch him? … No, I can't do that. Shigure said that it might be dangerous to his mental state if I were to hold him right away and if I told him that, he'd deny it and I'd give in and… he might actually get sick…

And what if he asks? What are you gonna do then, huh? asked Black from the back of his mind. Haru shook his head—which Yuki saw.

"W… What's wrong?" he asked. Tell me… tell me why you won't—

"Oh… oh, nothing," Haru replied. He bit his lower lip. Shitshitshitshitfuck.

If they only knew what they were doing to each other.

/-/

The six of them sat around the table some hours later, drinking hot tea and sharing stories until Momiji suddenly stood, as it was time for him to go. Tohru cleaned up the dishes, bade goodnight to her housemates, and finally climbed her way up the stairs. Shigure was teasing Kyo about getting his "ass whooped by Tohru-kun" in the snowball fight, so he soon retired to bed, too, to sulk. Yuki was slowly nodding off on the couch in the living room until Haru woke him up.

"Hey," he said softly. Yuki's head lifted and his eyes were half-lidded and soft looking. Haru blushed, as he looked quite kissable, what with his mouth partially open and all, but could do nothing, for Shigure had entered the room.

"Ah, Yuki-kun, get to bed," he said sternly. "Looks like the storm blew over and school isn't going to be canceled tomorrow, so you have no excuse to stay up late."

Yuki blinked a few times as he tried to register what Shigure said before he finally got up. Haru stood from his crouched position next to the couch and followed Yuki halfway up the stairs when he heard Shigure's voice.

"Haa-kun, shouldn't you be down here?"

He halted and looked up to Yuki. Yuki had also frozen in place, wondering what Haru was going to do. He heard a sigh behind him and a small, "Good night, Yuki," before hearing the sound of the stairs creaking away from him. Yuki clenched his fist and turned to say something to Haru, but he had already disappeared into the living room again. Yuki shook his head, blinking back moisture from his eyes, and went into his room.

He gazed at his bed and saw the small stuffed animal rat that sat on his pillow like it alone owned the room. He stepped over to it and took it in his hand, lightly squeezing it. The toy was filled with beads from his head to its oversized flat bottom and the tail was long and lacked beads altogether. The tag had been cut off.

"Ah!!" he heard someone almost choke behind him. He turned around and saw Haru at the door, looking pale.

"Um… ignore that…" he murmured and stared elsewhere. He walked into the room and trailed his eyes up slowly to the stuffed animal in Yuki's hand. "… His name is Yuki-chan. I've had it for a really long time… looks really worn out, doesn't it?"

"Yes… it does," answered Yuki. "… Matches the real thing."

Haru looked up to him, startled, but their eyes met. Haru couldn't keep Shigure's promise up for much longer—Yuki had been taken away from him for a long, long time and even then, when he finally had him within arm's reach again, he couldn't touch him. He hesitated before leaning in—

But he stopped, his mouth slightly hanging open, as Yuki looked away.

"… Here's your rat," he said softly and placed it into Haru's hands. Haru's heart was pounding in his chest as he tried to understand why Yuki had refused him like that. He nodded and said, "… Good night."

Before he exited the room, Yuki called to him softly. "I'd… like a cow. Named Haa-chan."

Haru glanced back at him and slowly grew a smile on his face. He nodded. "I'll get you one tomorrow, 'kay?"

And with that last smile, Haru disappeared down the hall. Yuki went to his bureau and got out his nightclothes from the top drawer. For a moment, he hugged them to his body, ignoring how cold they felt from being kept away for four months. He hadn't bothered to unpack from his time away—more correctly, he hadn't gotten a chance to, yet.

After undressing and redressing into the new clothes, he stepped over to his bed and pulled down the covers in order to climb into the bed comfortably. He stretched after pulling the sheets back over him and then snuggled into his pillow. He shivered with delight as he took a breath in—his pillow and bed smelled like Haru. He sighed his name and moved the top of the two pillows to the front of his body and hugged it like a child would hug his or her favorite stuffed toy.

He turned on his side eventually and rested his hand on the pillow. The way he was laying reminded him of how he and Haru would some times sleep, with Haru on his back like the pillow and Yuki to his side, hugging him to his body and resting his head somewhere between his shoulder and chest. Haru would hold Yuki to himself with an arm around his body, the side of his face resting on the top of Yuki's head. He would use his other hand to stroke Yuki's cheek softly until they both fell asleep.

Yuki reached one of his own hands up to touch his face. He tried to mimic the way Haru's rough hands felt lightly stroking his face, but it was impossible. He continued, however, and closed his eyes, locking the memory of sleeping with him like that in his head. He wanted, even if just for a moment, to relive that, but as he only had his own body and a pillow, he gave up and brought his hand away.

With a start, he was stricken with a memory of when Akito had forced him into a similar position. However, this position was forced and not warm at all. Akito was lying like Haru would with his back to the bed and his arm around Yuki's body. But Akito was pressing Yuki to his body, forcing him into a tight hold. His hand was pressing his hand down into his chest so he could hear the beat of his heart. Yuki's arms were clamped tightly to his own body so that Akito couldn't force him to hold him because he wanted anything but to touch him.

"Hear it, Yuki?" Akito had asked. "I have a heart. You can hear it, can't you? Beating faintly…"

Yuki had grimaced and replied, "That's not what I meant by calling you a heartless bastard."

Akito's low laughter echoed in Yuki's mind even as he hugged his pillow back in his room that night back home. He tried desperately to think of how Haru held him like that but once he would finally grasp the image, Haru melted away to be Akito instead. His words were echoing, repeating, over and over and Yuki felt like he was being covered up in spider webs—Akito's words only got worse… and in Yuki's current mind state, more true.

Slut.

Yuki suddenly gasped and started to grasp at his skin, trying desperately to pull off the "spider-webs" and the "filth" on his body. Of course Haru doesn't want to touch me… I'm covered with filth. I'm tainted and ugly and disgusting. He's always been able to see the truth… so he can see the truth and ugliness that I have. And what's worse, I broke his necklace. He can't trust me with a necklace, let alone his own… everything.

"… Do you think he'll want you back? After I'm done with you, he probably won't be interested and he'll move on to something better…" Akito's words repeated. Yuki shuddered with a silent sob. He was truly convinced that Haru wanted nothing to do with him. He knows I'm a filthy little slut. I never wanted to hurt him, but just being me hurts him. This… existence. It would have been better if Akito had killed me.

Wait, shouted a voice in his mind. It never occurred to him that this voice sounded oddly like Akito's own voice. Wait just a damn minute. Why should I be worried about Haru not trusting me? I'm the one who can't trust him anymore. He knew damn well what went on between Akito and I. If he really loved me, rather than keeping his distance, he should be acting like a real boyfriend and hold me. Is that too much to fucking ask?

Yuki wasn't himself, but he didn't know that. That voice inside his head was not his own.

Haru doesn't love me. He probably did use me for sex. No one else seems to have a fucking problem with doing it. That's all I am to everyone, all I'm good for. I don't think he ever loved me. And… I think… no, I don't think I actually loved him. How could I? I was probably just putting up with him and stamped it as love. Love is fake. He is fake. I am fake.

He slowly let go of the pillow and turned around, his eyes narrow and glowing in the darkness. He ignored the sound of rats scurrying on the roof.

The only person who isn't a fake is Akito.

And he would go to him.

/-/

The next morning, Yuki was silent as the four teens walked to the school and he busied himself with counting the lines in the sidewalk. Haru busied himself with staring at Yuki's back, as the gray-haired boy was walking in front of them all. Tohru and Kyo were walking side-by-side, hand-in-hand, and talking about the remainder of the bell chimes that needed to be given out to the people who had requested personalized ones. Haru silently wondered if Yuki had seen that he had hung the bell chime that he made by the kitchen's porch—near where they once watched the clouds. His face saddened, remembering how Yuki had evaded the goodnight kiss the previous night and thought, do you even care anymore?

During lunch, Yuki stayed off to the side with his homemade lunch (compliments of Tohru). Momiji stood in front of Haru and reprimanded him for, as Yuki overheard it, skipping history class.

"I had to go out and buy something that is a little more important than learning about the French revolution," Haru answered, shrugging. Momiji sighed and instead went to occupy himself with bothering Takei, the student body president, who, with a crimson face, avoided the cross dresser after telling him to wear the proper clothes. Eventually, Haru walked over to Yuki to talk to him but Yuki stood up, glaring at him. The glare stopped Haru in his tracks.

"What the hell do you want?" Yuki asked coldly. Haru swallowed.

"T… to um…"

"Hatsuharu-kun! We're going back to class now!" called one of his classmates. He looked to the clock on the wall and blinked, startled at how late it was. He looked back to Yuki. "… See you after school, I guess."

"Yeah," muttered Yuki. Haru turned away, smiling a painful smile to Tohru as he passed her, and left the room with Momiji and the others who came with him to the room. Yuki picked a tiny spot of lint off of his shirt nonchalantly—like he had, in essence, done to Haru—and continued with the rest of his day.

He exited the school with Tohru, Kyo, Haru, and Momiji, his goal for the evening in mind. They teenagers usually separated at the gates of the school, where Hatori would be waiting in his car to pick up Momiji and the others would go down the street to get to Shigure's house. However, Yuki stayed with Momiji, which Kyo noticed first, because Haru and Tohru had been talking.

"Hey, you stupid rat, you don't have to go to the main house anymore," he said with a grin on his face. Yuki knew that he would misunderstand the gesture. Stupid cat. By then, Haru and Tohru had turned to face him. Yuki smiled at the worry in Haru's eyes.

"I know. But I want to."

"W-what?!" squealed Tohru and yelled Kyo. Haru kept silent and gazed at Hatori as he exited the car. He addressed him by calling his name and then asked, "Do you have anything to do with this?"

"With what? I'm here to pick up Momiji."

"Yuki says he wants to go back to the main house."

Hatori trailed his eyes to Yuki. "Is this true?"

Yuki nodded. "I want to go back to Akito."

The silence following that statement was deafening. It was Tohru who first spoke after masking her worry with a shaky smile.

"Y-you don't really mean that, do you Souma-kun?" she asked. "You want to stay with us, right?"

"No, I don't. I want to be with Akito."

Tohru started quivering and for the first time in a long time, Yuki didn't care. His eyes… were so scary to her, narrow and mean. She looked down blankly before turning and running the other way. Kyo reached after her, swore at Yuki and called him a fool, then ran for Tohru in hopes of calming her down. Hatori escorted Momiji into the car and climbed into the driver's seat to give some silence for Haru and Yuki to speak. He knew they needed to. He hadn't anticipated that that would happen.

Although they had plenty of silence to fill, neither spoke. In time, Yuki rolled his eyes and turned to get into the car, yet Haru grasped him in a backwards hug before he could move any further away from him.

"Yuki!" he gasped near his ear, clutching him tightly to him. Yuki's arms remained at his sides. "Why are you doing this?!"

"I can't stand you," Yuki muttered. "Let go of me."

"No. I won't," Haru replied almost angrily. "Why do you want to go back to Akito? What good will that do?"

"It'll get me away from you."

Haru rested his forehead on Yuki's shoulders and allowed for tears to drop into his fabric. He still held him tight.

"You… don't want this anymore?" He was obviously referring to the life he shared with him. Yuki shook his head, something he felt, not saw. "… You don't want me anymore?" Another no. "Why?!"

No answer.

"Yuki!!"

Still nothing, save for the force of him pulling Haru's arms away. Haru let go and backed away, his eyes darkening under his bangs. He asked Yuki to look at him and the boy decided to oblige. Once he was facing Haru, the mixed-haired boy shoved a small plastic bag toward him, pressing it into his chest and forcing him to take it. Haru's eyes were wide and dilated.

"I bought it for you during history class… because you said you wanted one," he vaguely explained. "I know that you don't want it now, but I have no use for it and I already took off the tag so I can't return it." His eyes narrowed as he zipped up his school bag and pulled it over his shoulders.

Yuki watched him start off and was a bit surprised when he turned again, facing him with cruelty in his eyes. Haru stared a moment before speaking.

"If I had known that taking a fucking razor to your wrist was the way to win your affections, I would have done that a long time ago."

Yuki's jaw dropped in surprise and he stood, bewildered as Haru ran off in the direction that Tohru and Kyo had run. Yuki's mouth slowly closed and without another moment of hesitation, he opened the door to the backseat of the car and climbed in, ignoring Momiji's glance. He held the plastic bag in his lap but hadn't bothered looking inside yet. He wasn't entirely sure if he would open it anyway.

/-/

Haru was never very good with directions, and that day was no different. He looked around for something he recognized and could therefore find his way using that, but nothing familiar was in sight. He had to will himself to stop running and did so too abruptly, for he ended up losing his balance and falling over onto the pavement. Wherever he was, he was in a lonely street, so no one was around him to see that, which he was about one percent grateful for.

"Yuki…" he whispered, bending his legs and curling into a lazy fetal position. One leg was still somewhat straight and Haru was sure that he had hurt it pretty badly, as his knee was pounding. He looked down to see that the fabric on his pants was ripped apart at the knee like he had expected and he could see a smear of red from beneath the torn fabric.

He hissed in pain and sat up to look at it, hoping that there wasn't any dirt in the wound. He noticed that there wasn't much and he carefully brushed at it, weary of the dirt on his shirt and just about everything else. His hands were burning with irritation from the fall as well.

The wounds and the irritation, however, were nothing compared to the clenched feeling in his heart like someone had reached in past his ribcage and squeezed it in their hand. He sighed and tried to organize the thoughts in his head, whether they were Black's thoughts or his own.

"Why… is he going back to Akito?" Haru asked himself out loud. "What did I do wrong? … Why couldn't he answer me when I asked him?"

The empty street also didn't give him an answer, so he had no choice but to stand up shakily and go find someone to ask for directions. As he noticed someone, he stopped in his tracks, realizing something with a terrified look on his face.

Going back to Akito meant that Yuki might be killed.

His eyes widened. Whether Yuki wanted him or not, he still loved him with all his heart, like he had since he was young. He was going to save him even if he didn't want to be saved. Yuki doesn't deserve this… Akito doesn't deserve him. If he lays a finger on him, I'll kill him my fucking self.

And with that determination in mind, he hurried after the person he saw on the street and asked him for directions to the Souma House.

/-/

Yuki's eyes kept straying to the bag that Haru had given him, betraying the harsh thoughts that told him to get rid of the thing by chucking it out into the snow. As he sat on his bed at the main house, he had a staring contest with the bag until he finally gave in and crawled over to it, opening it at the flimsy plastic handles. He reached into the bag and pulled out…

A small stuffed animal. A cow.

Yuki's wide eyes blinked a few times until they noticed that there was a note tied around the cow's neck. He placed the cow in his lap after taking off the note and unfolded it. He instantly recognized Haru's writing and read it silently to himself.

Yuki—

You said you wanted a "Haa-chan," so here he is. And also, welcome back. I missed being able to see you and hold you and everything… and even now I can't. Shigure told me that it would be better if I kept my distance from you for the sake of your well-being. He said (these are his exact words), "snow will melt if it gets too close to heat." So, as much as I friggin' hated it, I was willing to do so that you could be okay. I wasn't supposed to tell you that but I felt I needed to. I don't want you thinking that I don't love you because it's not true. … At first, I was going to write that you make my world go 'round and I love you so much it hurts and all of that, but that's cliché. So I'll keep it simple because honestly, it's what I do best.

I love you.

—Haru

Tears blotched the ink on the paper as Yuki let them fall without restraint. The voices inside of his head were silent as he read the note that Haru must have written soon after lunch until his eyes were so blurry that he could no longer see. With a painful gasp, Yuki hugged the little stuffed cow to his chest tightly, saying Haru's name over and over. It became painful to even say his name, so he decided against speaking altogether.

He trailed his water-filled eyes up to the clock and realized with dread that he only had ten minutes until he was to see Akito. He could try to run… but to what?

He gazed back at the letter—now wet with his tears—and thought, Haru wrote this a few hours ago… since then, I spat in his face and now I'm here… I… I've ruined what we had. I've hurt him so, so much… it's my fault for always thinking that I'm the victim… DAMMIT!!

He rubbed at his eyes furiously, yet never let go of his newly given "Haa-chan." His thoughts continued to spin a negative weave in his mind, becoming thicker and thicker by the second. If I were to run back to him now, he wouldn't take me back after what I did to him. The only thing that waits for me is hell. The only thing that waits for me is… Akito.

There's no reason for me to be here anymore anyway, he told himself. I've pushed away everything… the cat, Honda-san, and now Haru…I loved him so much!! Why did I allow myself to believe that I didn't?! He wasn't disgusted with me… until now, that is. He hates me now, I know it. And for damn good reason. What the hell have I done? I deserve to die. Haru deserves… to find someone who will treat him better than I did.

As the clock softly sounded off the newest hour—what he thought was going to be his final hour—he slowly loosened his grip on "Haa-chan," but still held onto him. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back into the wall and tried to will himself to not feel so scared and trapped, but it was impossible. He was willingly putting himself in the hands of a murderous bastard—willingly putting himself at death's door. And he was full ready to step into it.

It's what I deserve.

Akito was smiling as Yuki entered his room with his eyes empty and dark. I knew it would work.

"See, Yuki?" he asked after commanding the boy to kneel in front of him. He reached out and took Yuki's face in his hands, pulling him over to his body and stroking his hair lightly. "I told you that Hatsuharu wouldn't want you back after you broke his necklace and had your fun with me…"

Fun… he dares to say that this is fun…

"That's not true…" Yuki mumbled. It suddenly felt weird for him to speak, like he hadn't spoken in a few days. "Haru… was…"

"Come now, Yuki," Akito coaxed, a little miffed that Yuki had put up a tiny bit of resistance. From what Hatori had told him, Yuki wanted nothing to do with Haru any longer and wanted only to be with Akito. If that had been true, Yuki wouldn't have reacted that way. He would have agreed with him like Akito had planned. Akito decided to try a different strategy. "He is worthless, anyway, Yuki. He doesn't deserve you."

"No," said Yuki, staring off into nothing as though in a trance. "No, that's wrong. It's the opposite. I don't deserve him. He deserves the world and I couldn't even give him a bit of that."

Akito grimaced and was a bit taken aback by Yuki's reply. That strategy wasn't working out either. But then, Yuki added something.

"… I deserve to die for what I've done to him."

Akito quickly covered his grimace up and turned the frown into a sly smirk. That he could use to his advantage, although he wasn't fond of it. All he needed to do, he determined, was get Yuki back in his original mindset and everything would go as smoothly as Akito had hoped.

"Yes, Yuki… you deserve nothing but the worst."

Yuki nodded. "Yes… I only deserve you."

Akito pulled viciously on his hair with an angry growl. "And what was that supposed to mean?!"

Yuki whimpered in pain at getting his hair pulled at but was prepared to answer for his words. "You're the worst, Akito… if I deserve the worst, then you're the only thing I deserve. And I'm okay with that."

"How…" Akito brought his hand sharply across Yuki's face. "How dare you insult me like that… you're absolutely worthless! You can't even keep Hatsuharu nearby for very long because of your own foolishness... and didn't Honda Tohru.... didn't she pick that dirty foul cat over you? No one wants you Yuki. I'm all you've got."

"You're right. You're absolutely right," said Yuki. "I lost Haru because I'm a fool and I lost Honda-san because… she saw that Kyo was a better person than I was. I'll always love Haru and if he'd take me back—"

"Shut up!!" screamed Akito as he pulled Yuki into another slap. And another. And then he threw him down on the floor and took his cut wrist in his hand. "Do you see this?!"

He pressed his fingernail into the wound and Yuki cried out into the wood. Haru…

"This is what you deserve Yuki… and guess what…" he pressed a soft kiss to the cut and that seemed to hurt more than the first thing he did. "Once you're dead… I'll move on to Hatsuharu."

"… No…"

"Hehehe… I've always wanted to see how he is… once you're out of the way, I'll have no reason to hate him, so I can do whatever I'd like with him," Akito taunted. He hadn't actually been planning to do that, but as he thought about it, he didn't see a problem with it. "He seems like he'd be a lot of good for certain things… he's nice to look at, too, wouldn't you say?"

"No… don't touch him," pleaded Yuki, and the plea gained him another squeeze to his cut wrist. Akito grinned at his pained cry.

"I've always wanted to see what you were interested in. It's obviously not personality or brains… so it must be the sex."

"That's not true," Yuki snapped. That accusation caused a fire to crackle in his eyes. "Haru… is everything to me. You're going to kill me anyway, no matter what I say, so I may as well say what I want to say."

"Shut up…" ordered Akito, growing fear in his eyes. He hadn't planned that Yuki would go down with a fight. He wanted to slowly kill him and it looked like that was no longer an option. He dropped Yuki's wrist and pushed him down to the floor harshly before reaching out to wrap his hand around Yuki's neck.

"I'll kill you the same way I would've killed him a long time ago had I not gotten sick…"

Haru… Yuki tried to distract himself from his assault by thinking. How did you feel when you were in this position back then? Did you feel as much regret as I do right now? I owe you… everything. I wish I could tell you that I still love you. I love you, so much… and I'm sorry for what I've done. Go on living, please, and be happy.

But these were not his final thoughts and they were far from it. He felt Akito being pulled away from him and instinctively rolled over to cough and catch his breath. He felt a warm hand on his shoulder and looked over to it.

It was Hatori.

"Yuki, can you stand?"

"I… think so…"

He tried. And failed. And was caught by someone behind him.

"Hah… I knew you would fall for me," said the voice of the one who caught him like he had once a long time ago, in completely different circumstances involving a broken bottle. Haru. If Haru and Hatori were there, what about Akito? Yuki looked over to see Akito on the floor, glaring viciously at Hatori. Both he and Haru found it odd that Akito had nothing to say to the doctor. It was as if he was scared of him.

"You two, go. Yuki, if you can't walk, allow for Hatsuharu to carry you," commanded Hatori. Haru scooped Yuki up in his arms and walked past Hatori, who remained stationary with Akito, and out of the room.

Haru walked with Yuki in his arms for a bit in silence, letting Yuki adjust. He almost died, like he himself had long ago, and he was most likely going through some inner turmoil. Eventually, he had to stop and ask a very important question.

"… Where should we go?" asked Haru softly. Yuki was gazing up at him with soft eyes and Haru couldn't help but look down to him with a smile. Yuki remembered that Haru had asked him a question and answered at last.

"… My room, I guess. Just go down this hallway…"

Haru nodded once and continued down the hall. Yuki noticed that he was limping a little and asked him about it.

"I fell, actually," Haru replied. "I got my uniform dirty, too."

"How did you get here?"

"I asked a man for directions to the Souma House and he saw that I was hurt. Instead of giving me directions, he drove me to the front gate and let me use his cell phone and everything. I called Hatori."

"… And then what happened?"

"I asked him if he was going to let you die."

Yuki swallowed. "What did he say?"

"He said that my call was delaying the rescue."

Yuki's lips twitched at the edges into a soft smiled as his eyes slid shut. Haru spoke again. "We heard everything you said, by the way."

Yuki's eyes reopened with a start and he opened his mouth to say something but Haru gently let him down onto his bed. His eyes were on the cow plushie and on the moist note next to it. Yuki once again opened his mouth to say something, but this time, Haru caught his mouth in a kiss, the first kiss they shared since the cultural festival. Yuki's hands found their way to Haru's collar and pulled him closer, accidentally pulling him too far and causing him to topple over into Yuki's body. Neither seemed to mind and they just began the kiss anew, both being very careful with each other.

"… Yuki," said Haru after he pulled away from the kiss. "Those things you said… about not deserving to live… it's not true. You deserve the world, Yuki. Not me."

"No… Haru… you've done nothing but… be wonderful. And how do I repay you? By—"

"That was Akito's doing," Haru firmly stated. Yuki looked to him questioningly as he sat up as he continued, "Hatori told me once I arrived. He had anticipated that you would live that night when he slit your wrist. He's been planning a few of these events secretly."

"What?!" gasped Yuki, also sitting up. Haru picked up the plushie and plopped into Yuki's lap, causing the boy to stare at it as Haru went on, "He was hoping that you would live. The reason he taunted you so much was to get to into an unstable condition so that you would take his words seriously. Hatori and Shigure saw that something was up when Akito allowed you to stay with us without putting up much resistance. Hatori was worried about your condition and he warned Shigure about keeping you away from people, but Shigure didn't want to be the one who separated us."

"Hatori thought that we should be separated?" asked Yuki. He was cuddling with the cow, which brought a smile to Haru's face and caused him to reach his hand out and stroke Yuki's hair as he spoke.

"Yeah—he figured that in the state you had been in right after getting hurt like that, that you might not want to be around anyone, not even me. You needed time to recover… and you came home soon anyway."

"I thought that I wanted to be home. I thought that it was the best place for me," replied Yuki. "I thought that I… wanted to be with you."

"Yeah, I know… but Akito was hoping… and planning for this to happen. A few things that we did were exactly what Akito wanted us to do."

"But if Shigure hadn't told you to not—"

"Shigure was a pawn, actually," Haru corrected him before Yuki could get the wrong idea. "Shigure was worried about Akito's behavior and thought that it would be better if I didn't do anything that might get Akito too angry. Akito had also suspected and planned this."

"So he really mapped everything out… he assumed that you and I were going to have some sort of… whatever it was… and then I would come here. He told me the things he did on Saturday night so that I would get them in my head and think that they were true in my unstable condition…"

"Yeah. All he needed was for the pieces of the puzzle to fall together," Haru confirmed with a bitter tone. "However, he didn't anticipate that you would break yourself out of the spell that he placed upon you. He thought that you would come to him as a pile of mush wanting only to be with him."

"… There was a point… today and last night… where I saw Akito as my… savior. I had everything backwards…"

Haru pressed a kiss to his forehead, something that Yuki had missed a lot. He reached out and pulled Haru to him tightly.

"I'm sorry…. I'm so sorry for pushing you away…" he softly said against Haru's ear. Haru shook his head.

"I'm sorry for not holding you and kissing you and everything… I wanted so badly to just… grab you and never let go…"

"It's okay. I know the reason now," Yuki reassured him. He closed his eyes and added, "And I'm sorry for not trusting you enough to realize that there was probably a reason for that. I love you… and I really don't deserve you."

"Stop saying that," Haru ordered rather abruptly. "Stop it. This isn't about what we deserve and don't deserve… that's not what controls life, is it? We have to focus on being together, don't we? I love you, and you love me. It doesn't matter if you deserve me or if I deserve you or whatever. The only thing that matters…"

"… Is the love we share?" Yuki guessed. Haru's face was crimson.

"… S… sorry if that was really corny."

"It doesn't matter. It's the truth. You're all I need."

Haru smiled and kissed Yuki's forehead again. "Same to you."

"… Thank you for taking me back," Yuki said after a tiny bit of silence. "After all of what I put you through… and Honda-san… I hurt her, too."

Haru could find nothing to say. But he didn't need to, for there was a voice nearby that said, "That's… okay, Souma-kun."

Yuki looked over—and Haru sheepishly moved away from him—to see Tohru and Kyo standing at the doorway. He happily said their names and gave them a smile.

"I'm coming home. For real this time."

Tohru couldn't help but smile back, despite the tears in her eyes. "Welcome… home."

/-/

Shigure stood in the doorway of the room as Hatori pulled his stethoscope away from Akito's pale body. He passed his hand over the kimono of the man in order to do it back up properly and then turned to Shigure.

"Let's go." Akito turned away as he heard Hatori get up. He had been silent since earlier that evening and sneering at everything like a two-year-old who didn't get his or her way. Hatori ignored him and went with Shigure out the door, closing it behind him.

"So, everything turned out well," Shigure sighed. "But what should we do with Yuki?"

"Akito has requested that he stay with him until he dies," answered Hatori. "And… although I hate it, technically, that was the original agreement."

"Who cares? Akito can't threaten us with making Tohru-kun the mother anymore," said Shigure.

"Yes… that's true. It'd probably be nice for him if Yuki saw him at least once this week, though," Hatori stated. Shigure rolled his eyes.

"Sure thing—after all, he's tried to kill us, so we should be extra nice to him. If we're lucky and nice enough to him, maybe he'll see the light and change his ways! Because it's that simple, of course."

Hatori gave him a sideways glance. "Your sarcasm isn't helping. I think that this isn't finished just yet—Yuki still needs some things worked out. I'm sure that there are a few things he'd like to tell Akito."

"Besides 'eat shit and die,' you mean?"

"… Yes. Besides that."

"Hm. Well, Haa-san, I suppose I should take these ruffians home," he said, referring to the loud noise named Kyo down the hall. "… Would you like to accompany me?"

"Not with Akito this sick."

"Haa-san, must I remind you that you have a life besides being the family doctor?"

"I'll move in with you once Akito's dead," mumbled Hatori in perfect monotone. Shigure squealed and threw his arms around the man. Hatori sighed. "On second thought, maybe not."

"Haa-san, I should move in with you," Shigure completely ignored the last statement of Hatori's. "I have so many teenagers in my house… we'd never get any privacy!"

"You are not moving in with me."

"Then maybe we can wait until they move out? We'll have the house all to ourselves…"

Hatori hesitated, something he didn't do often. "… I'll think about it."

"Really? Yay! I'll call Aaya, too, and see if he wants to move in—"

"I take it back. I never want to live with you. Ever," snapped Hatori as he escaped from Shigure's grasp. Shigure looked horrified and put his hand in front of his mouth.

"Even after all of that time we spent together on Friday?? Even after those breathtakingly good kisses—"

"Stop right now or I'll break your legs," snapped Hatori. Shigure finally got the hint and tip toed past him in order to meet up with a group of four very relieved teenagers.

/-/

Two nights following the incident, Yuki found himself sitting in a chair next to a bedridden Akito who was too angry and sick to even look at him. Yuki was silently doing his homework with his notebook on his lap. After a while, he sighed, put down his pencil, and stretched his arms.

"You can leave, you know," Akito snapped. Yuki looked at him incredulously.

"Why would I leave?"

"Go away and be with your toy," the head of the house muttered, turning on his side. His thin legs were poking out of the covers and goose bumps had risen over them in the cold air.

"Haru's at a photo shoot," Yuki stated. "And plus, I figured that you'd want me here."

"There's no reason for you to be here," Akito pressed on. He sat up in order to glare at Yuki's face in full, something that no longer faced the boy. With a shake of his head, he said, "There's no reason for me not to be here. I chose to spend tonight with you as I work on my homework."

"You're mocking me, aren't you?" asked Akito before a sudden fit of coughs. He held the hand that he had coughed into up in order to inspect his hand for blood. Afterward, he looked to Yuki, awaiting his answer.

"Mocking you?" Yuki repeated. "How am I mocking you? Is it because I can move freely and I'm still able to make choices about what I want to do with my evenings?"

… Holy shit. Did I just say that?! Yuki's breathing stopped as he feared what Akito would do in retaliation. However…

"Shut up," was all that Akito said… and did, for that matter. He's… not trying to kill me? Yuki's breathing resumed its original flow and he decided to try pushing his luck.

"You shouldn't be sitting up, Akito. It's bad for your health."

"I told you to shut up," the head of the house restated. Yuki sighed and started to gather up his things with a half smile on his face. I… can do this. He can't do a damn thing to me.

"It's getting pretty late and I have school in the morning. Haru will be here with his manager any moment now to pick me up," he informed Akito. It was the last thing he would ever report to him. "… It is a bit ironic that although you tried to kill Haru and me, you're the only one who's going to die any time soon."

Akito opened his mouth to snap at him again but Yuki quickly continued, "And to think that if you hadn't tried to murder Haru, you wouldn't be so sick right now. I find a lot of enjoyment in knowing that."

"Shut up…" Akito growled, but Yuki continued to verbally cut him down as he packed away his school things casually.

"When Honda-san confronted you that day, she told you that even if you feel angry, hurt, or upset, you're still alive, and that's all that matters. I was in a lot of pain thanks to you and I lost sight of the fact that I was alive. You worked hard to make sure I felt that way, didn't you? You didn't want anyone—no, you didn't want me to live on happily without you. You didn't want me to outlive you."

Akito's eyes were narrow slits as he gazed at Yuki in hopes of scaring him. But Yuki would no longer be fazed by that glance, that glare.

"Akito," his own stare was harsh and cold, defying Akito's very being. "I will live, a long, long time with happiness… with Haru. There's nothing you can do to ruin my life anymore. You are going to die. Kagura will have the child that will govern us all, and that child will be brought up with love and care and will be nurtured… so he doesn't turn out like you."

"Get out…" ordered Akito darkly.

"You don't scare me anymore. You're nothing now," Yuki said, standing up. "Absolutely nothing."

"Out! Get out!!" screamed Akito angrily with his eyes wide. He looked ready to jump out of his bed, so Yuki decided to let it finish there.

"Goodbye, Akito, and you should feel honored that I'm still wasting my breath on you."

Akito probably would have gotten up and attacked him, but not only was he too sick, but he was also suddenly staring up at Yuki with… fear in his eyes. Yuki had won—Yuki had escaped from Akito at last and both of them knew that Yuki was much stronger than Akito, especially in his condition. He backed down for the first time in his life and broke eye contact.

Nothing more was said, so Yuki decided to leave the room. As he closed the door behind him, he stayed very still and shut his eyes, breathing silently for a moment. So this is what it's like… to be free.

"I'm glad I'm not on your bad side," came a voice that Yuki recognized very well. He smiled upon hearing it and tilted his cheek toward the kiss that he was suddenly granted. He opened his eyes and stared into gray orbs that reflected his own face.

"You couldn't be on my bad side."

"Good to know," Haru grinned. He pulled Yuki into his arms for a tight embrace. Yuki sighed happily and wrapped his arms tightly around him.

"I love you so much," he told him after lightly kissing his neck. Haru beamed and tightened the hug.

"I bet I love you more."

"Nah-uh," Yuki teased as they broke away from each other. They took hold of each others' hands and walked through the hall and eventually out into the cold December night, the brisk night air biting softly at their reddened cheeks. Once they met up with Kohiko at her car, they climbed inside quickly to escape the cold and sat side-by-side in the backseat with their fingers still weaved together. Yuki slid his eyes shut and rested his head on Haru's shoulder, prompting Haru to turn slightly in order to reach his free hand out to stroke his face lightly.

Kohiko smiled at the couple, silently betting her entire career that they would be together forever as she turned her head in order to give them some privacy.

Much later that night, Akito died in his sleep.

/-/

Shigure got the call from Hatori during the early morning and had the quartet of teenagers sit around the breakfast table quietly. They knew that something was up with how serious the novelist was being and waited eagerly for him to tell them what was up.

"Haa-san just called me," he said softly. Tohru's eyes quivered slightly, imagining what Hatori's call meant. Her assumptions were correct as Shigure slowly said, "Akito… has passed away. He died in his sleep at, as Hatori estimated it, around two in the morning."

Haru looked to Yuki with expressionless eyes, wondering about how the gray haired boy was feeling. Yuki's eyes were downcast, feeling not regret or despair… but not joy or happiness either. Kyo crossed his arms over his chest.

"'Bout fucking time."

"Ky… Kyo!" Tohru gasped. She, too, wasn't sure how to feel at the moment, and instead, after reaching her hand out to rest on Kyo's thigh, she stayed silent. His face was anything but sheepish as he looked back at her, but he said no more.

"The wake is being held tomorrow a little after noon…" Shigure told them with his hand at his chin. "Right afterwards is the funeral."

"Should I stay home?" asked Tohru innocently. Kyo looked to her with a somewhat surprised look on his face.

"Why the hell would you want to come?"

"Because it's… I just…" Tohru trailed off, unsure of what to say. Shigure nodded.

"I don't see a reason why you shouldn't be able to go…"

Kyo grimaced, but said nothing more on the matter. If it was what Tohru wanted to do, then he wasn't going to stop her. He half hoped that she would spit into the casket, but he knew that she never would, and he didn't dare do it. He was a little worried that Akito would be more dangerous dead rather than alive.

But as he stood among hundreds of Soumas on the cold day of the funeral, he decided that nothing about Akito was dangerous anymore. Akito was dead, Kagura would give birth to the next core, and that would be the end of that.

Tohru couldn't help but feel somewhat awkward around the other Soumas even after the funeral was over. Before Tohru and her housemates could reach the car, Hatori beckoned them all over to a secluded area of the parking lot. In a group stood all of the members of the zodiac, including the two that Tohru hadn't met yet. One was a tall man with light brunette hair and a soft—and maybe hurt—smile on his face and the other was a girl a little taller than herself with long, straight black hair.

Haru saw her, too, and allowed a grimace to take over his face temporarily, as he was quickly reminded that Yuki was next to him, holding his hand tightly as if for dear life. In actuality, Yuki felt a little dizzy throughout the entire duration of the funeral. It was a little nerve-wracking to witness the man who had controlled most of his life be placed six feet under his feet.

There was another person that Tohru didn't recognize standing next to Kagura but she wasn't able to ask her about it right away, for Hatori spoke.

"Well…" he started with a half sigh. "With Akito dead and no core right now, we should decide for a temporary head of the house… Kagura, should you and Takeshi take this job under your wing?"

Kagura, who was looking a little round in the stomach, looked over to one of the two Soumas that Tohru didn't recognize.

"Shouldn't Kureno-san take care of that?" she asked. Tohru looked to him. Kureno… -san?

"Ah, it doesn't matter to me," said the man softly. "You are going to be the parents of the next core, after all."

Tohru allowed herself to space out during the conversation and stare at Kagura. Kagura-san is already pregnant? I can't believe it… was she pregnant on that day we talked? She looks like she's about… maybe two or three months into the pregnancy, so she must've been. … To think… that I could have been the one pregnant right now…

The thought brought a deep blush to her face and she had to think of something else. However, she wasn't given a chance to, as she noticed that the conversation had ended and people were separating. A few of the zodiac (Momiji, Kisa, and Hiro) surrounded her, while Kyo went to talk to Kagura and Takeshi and Hatori, Kureno, and Shigure were talking quietly amongst themselves. Haru was helping Yuki defend himself from Ayame when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned to see the girl with long hair behind him.

"Rin."

Rin gazed up at him with big black eyes. "How are you, Haru?"

"Happy. Very happy."

"I… you're a model now," she said with a look of disbelief on her face. Haru's stone face faltered a bit.

"… Yeah…"

"I almost screamed. I did not expect to see your face in the magazine I was reading."

"It's a bit startling…" he admitted. "I get scared walking through the halls of school sometimes…"

"Ah, Rin," spoke Yuki after finally escaping from Ayame. She nodded to him and then looked back to Haru with slightly narrowed eyes.

"Right. Well, bye."

"See you…" mumbled Haru as she walked off. Yuki looked to him and asked, "What was that all about?"

"I have no idea."

"She doesn't want you back, right?" asked Yuki softly as he wrapped his arms around Haru's arm. Haru smiled and shook his head.

"I seriously doubt it… I wouldn't go back to her anyway."

"You'd better not," said Yuki, looking at him with a slight pout. "Not after all we've been through."

"Nope. Nooo way. I've already got my life planned out, and if I lost you, it'd fall apart. I kinda need you around if I plan to be with you forever."

Yuki beamed. "Good then."

Haru pressed a kiss to his forehead and asked, "You… do want to stay with me forever, right?"

Yuki returned the gesture with a soft kiss to Haru's forehead and said with a smile, "I do."

"Oh good. That'd damper my plans a bit, too, if you didn't want to."

"My, my, young brother!" interrupted Ayame with a flamboyant gesture. "Getting married, are you?"

"W… what?"

"I heard you say, 'I do.'"

"A—ahh... tha… that was…" Yuki's face was absolutely crimson. Everyone had decided to look over at that point and Yuki was feeling, no pun intended, like a rat in a trap.

"I have a feeling I know who's gonna be wearin' the dress," Kyo broke the silence with a sly grin on his face. Yuki glared at the orange headed boy.

"And you can be my bridesmaid."


So! How was the final chapter of Never Gray, my friends?? XD I decided to let Rin and Kureno make a cameo. They should feel SPECIAL.

I have some people I'd like to thank before going into the epilogue. YES THERE'S A EPILOGUE. EVEN LONGER, WHAT NOW BITCHES?! … I mean… yes.

I'm doing this as they flow to my head. If you get thanked last, it's NOT because I dislike you!! ::lovelovelove!!::

Aislin Cade: BRIIIIII!!! My wonderful Yuki and editor of the last chapter! … Okay and also some others. I thank you so, so, SO much for supporting me throughout this grueling process of writing and editing and BLAHBLAH friggin' BLAH. Thank you for allowing me to put in pieces of our Haru and Yuki conversations along with our frightening Akito and Yuki conversations. I TOLD you that what we were doing was incredibly close—if not exactly how this was going to end. Keep working on your fic, too, mah darlin'! N BAKWCPACE BUTTON! YEAH1!!

Ember5000: Sarah for being a loverly girlfriend. ::pounce:: You've inspired more Kyo-things than you know, my adorable little kitty cat, and I thank you for putting up with me. I love you, mah luv! AND YEAH NO BAKCPANE… BACKAPSE… BACKSPARE! AH FUCK! HAhaha!

Gysecune: SIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRA. You sexy fiend. You sexy sex fiend. Yes. XD Thank you, also, for putting up with me so much and for reading this and being THE GREATEST RITSU EVER. You inspired soooooo much of that baseball chapter. Muuuwah! … That's a kissy noise. BACKAPSACE SUCKS.

Trena: HEY! What UP! You've been with me since… a long time! Thanks for continuing to read and not getting lost in the masses. You still need to draw Haru and Yuki in their sexy Cultural Festival outfits! ::prod:: Hahha! You have my AIM now, so feel free to stalk me. A little. OKAY A LOT.

Jessiegurl43953: OMG HIGH FIVE. Your first review is still probably one of my favorites to this day—I even posted it in my livejournal once!! Thanks to you too, for continuing to read. We must come together to drool over Haru's ultimate sexiness.

J-chan/Brauchen: YES! Hell yes. It was fun talking to you as you read this. I'm SO EVIL, aren't I, for making you read all of this crap! Hahahaha!! Thanks for reading, girl. See you on the LJ!

Peter James: I'm not sure if you're reading this anymore, BUT THANK YOU FOR YOUR WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL BELL CHIME IDEA. It helped SO much. Thank you thank you!! Oh, and in case you were wondering—or any of you were—Haru still has the bell chime and "Yuki-chan" and Yuki still has "Haa-chan." ::giggles::

The FruitsBasketFun Cast: EEEE!! I did it, guys!! As some of you may have seen, the interaction between Haru and Yuki and then with Akito and Yuki was similar to that of something that happened in the comm. As I told Bri, it was amazing that the comm had a scene that was almost an exact replica of where I was taking this fic. I couldn't believe it. And the great thing is, I only needed Bri's permission to use Yuki's dialogue because I'm both Akito and Haru, so I was half the conversation both times! XD I love you all so much.

The Kyo/Tohru fans: I'M SORRY!! I just couldn't fit anymore things into the fic!! You went all this time in hopes that I would let Kyo have his sexy fun, and I DIDN'T!!! WELL, I've prepared a little special something for you!! Here!!

And then Kyo and Tohru had slow, passionate sex. The end.

How's that? ::gets tomatoed::

Well, the good thing is, I'm thinking of writing another fic that centers around Kyo and Tohru and it has a cute premise. I hope it hasn't been done and I hope I'm not too lazy to do it. I'm kind of worn out. Sorry again for the lack of Kyo/Tohru smut. Really, I am.

Everyone else: THANK YOU FOR COMING ALONG ON THIS CRAZY JOURNEY OF COLORS AND ANGST AND RAZORS AND CORES. NOT APPLE CORES. BUT SOUMA CORES. I love you all!!!!

And last but not least… the epilogue.


Epilogue

Haru placed the phone back onto the receiver and rushed downstairs to see Yuki sitting at the table, writing diligently in a small notebook at the American style clear glass top table they had in the middle of their dining room. The young man put his hand to Yuki's back so as to not startle him and looked at him intently.

"Yuki! What are you doing just writing?" he asked. Yuki blinked, took off his reading glasses, and looked up to his lover.

"I'm not just writing. I'm doing my Western Civilization homework. The professor is really strict about essays—"

"Baaah it doesn't matter!" Haru interrupted him impatiently. "Listen to me! That was Hatori on the phone. Kyo and Tohru are having their baby!!"

Yuki's jaw dropped in surprise before turning into a wide smile. "Are you serious?!"

"Yes! And Tohru wants us to be there with her! We gotta go!"

"How—"

"I'll call Kohiko!" Haru cheered excitedly as he rushed off again to use the phone. Yuki was beaming—Kyo and Tohru were finally having their baby! It was a very exciting thought… after waiting so long, Yuki could hardly contain himself. The pregnancy was the normal length of nine months, which meant that they weren't going to have a zodiac baby, at least. After thinking about it more, Yuki had determined that Tohru wouldn't have minded having a cursed child and she would have dealt with it just fine.

"She's on her way," Haru told Yuki as he came downstairs again, much more calmly than before. "It's a nice day out, for once, so do you want to wait outside?"

Yuki smiled and nodded, grabbing his gray jacket just in case the May winds decided to turn cold. After Haru put on his long white coat and the two shoved their feet into their shoes, they exited the apartment.

It had been a little more than three years since Akito's death and the two separate couples, after finishing high school, branched out and lived very different lives. Yuki was in his second year of college while Haru was busy with both his first year of college and his modeling career, as he was still a pretty big model out there.

Neither Kyo nor Tohru attended any sort of college but rather had decent jobs. Kyo ran a martial arts studio which was funded by the Souma family and co-run by Kazuma, Kyo's master. Tohru had a very different line of work, but her career also had to do with children. She was an aid at a small preschool—also co-run by the Souma household—in the city, training to become a teacher herself. She had taken her maternity leave and since then has gotten constant letters from the children, asking her how she was doing. Each time she read a letter, it brought a smile to her face.

To this day, Kyo was grateful to Yuki for protecting that smile.

"They said it was going to be a girl, right?" asked Yuki as he and Haru were escorted by Kohiko to the hospital where Tohru was in labor. It would take them an hour to get there, which almost drove Yuki crazy. He wanted to be there immediately, but the two couples lived so apart now. Haru nodded to Yuki's question.

"Yeah… they couldn't come up with a name though. I hope they thought of something."

Yuki smiled. "I wonder if she will be friendly with Kagura's baby?"

"Most likely. Age difference never really mattered to Kagura-san, did it?" Haru replied with a soft smile. Yuki chuckled.

Kagura had given birth to a beautiful baby boy with Takeshi and the two couldn't be happier, even though the child was the core of the curse. Tohru and Kyo had visited the two often to see that the child, named Takaya, was doing well, along with his parents. Takaya seemed to be all right with his fate as the core, as he was merely two years old and didn't know any better, but Kagura promised both herself and her child that she would stay by him so that he would not end up like Akito.

While Yuki and Haru didn't exactly have any children, the love they shared for each other matched that of the other two couples perfectly. Even with Yuki almost always doing schoolwork and Haru's stressful career, the two found time to relax with each other and were inseparable. They lived in a very nice apartment, furnished and mostly paid for by the Shinibana Cooperation, in which they had spent their days since moving out of Shigure's house.

"Uh, hello, we're here to visit Souma Tohru," Yuki informed the lady at the front desk. "She's currently in labor and is expecting us."

The lady peered at them, widened her eyes, and gaped at Haru. "Souma Hatsuharu?!"

Haru blushed. Although he wasn't new to the modeling business, he still found it awkward that people knew his name with just a look at his face. She told them which room Tohru was in and they ran off that way. Kohiko, to be polite, stayed in the waiting room to read some magazines and catch up on gossip, something that intrigued her more than Haru, perhaps.

Upon arrival, they met up with Saki, Saki's brother Megumi, and Arisa standing outside of the door. Saki looked to them with expressionless eyes.

"Greetings."

"Hanajima-san. Oh, Uotani-san, too," Yuki looked to the both of them with puzzled eyes. I didn't expect to see them here, for some reason… He looked down to Megumi. "Oh… who's this?"

"This is my little brother, Megumi," Saki told him softly. Arisa grinned to Yuki and asked, "How's it goin', prince?"

Yuki smiled, remembering his high school days fondly for the first time in a while. "It's all right."

"Where are you two living now?"

"In an apartment in Kyoto," Haru answered.

"It must have taken you a while to get here… is it big?" Saki inquired. Yuki nodded to her question and then asked one of his own. "Why are you all standing outside?"

"The birth is complete. She would like a few minutes for just her and Kyo," Saki answered. Yuki smiled. I thought that she might…

Saki spent her days recently performing psychic wave readings for money and had quite a handful of customers to keep her busy. Megumi mentioned that every once and a while, Saki would come home with frazzled hair from all of her readings, but she enjoyed it anyway. Megumi himself was in his last year of high school. As for Arisa, she still had her job at the restaurant where she always used to work, only now she works full time. She finds it very pleasant and enjoys her relaxing adult life.

It was Kyo who opened the door, peering outside. He grinned to Yuki.

"Damn rat."

"Stupid cat."

Although their reasoning for calling each other by animal names blew straight over Saki, Arisa, and Megumi's heads, no one bothered to say anything else on the matter. Kyo gestured for them to come in.

"She says she wants to see everyone now."

Yuki's eyes almost watered when he saw Tohru sitting upright on the hospital bed, cradling a baby in her arms. The baby was asleep and it seemed as though Tohru was slowly getting there. He crouched down near the bed, smiling.

"Are you sure you just don't want to sleep?"

She looked over to him, smiling radiantly. "I wouldn't want to be rude… after all, you and Haru-kun came all the way over from Kyoto. Plus, I wanted you to meet Natsuki…"

"Natsuki?" asked Haru. "That's a nice name."

"She's beautiful," Yuki commented, catching a glance at the babe's ethereal face. "Even though she looks a bit like Kyo as well."

Kyo chuckled. "What can I say?"

Saki bent over to look upon Tohru's face. "Tohru-chan… remember—if you need anything… Uotani-san and I will just be a phone call away."

"That's right," said Arisa. "Don't hesitate to contact us. We can baby-sit if you'd like."

Tohru smiled tiredly. "That would be great…"

"Tohru!" cried a voice. A blonde young man entered the room, creeping past the others. He stared wide eyed at the baby. "Aww! She's beautiful, Tohru!"

It was Momiji. Haru's vision of him when he was older was, oddly enough, very accurate. He was tall, skinny, and his face had chiseled out nicely, much different from his previously cherubic face. His eyes were piercing but very caring as he looked over Natsuki. Hatori stood at the door with Shigure at his side.

"I couldn't keep him back, I apologize, Tohru," Hatori said. Tohru's smile only broadened. Hatori smiled back. "Kagura and Takeshi would have been here, but Takaya came down with chicken pox. I just wanted to stop by to see how you were doing."

"I'm fine," Tohru replied quietly, as Natsuki had stirred slightly. They all quieted down and watched intently, but Natsuki continued to slumber on. They all exhaled a breath of relief. Momiji smiled down to Tohru.

"She's very pretty! I'll help with baby-sitting if you need it! Oh, and I'm very good at changing babies, too! So I could definitely help with that!"

"Thank you, Momiji-kun," Tohru replied gratefully. Momiji bowed. "Ha'ri and I could only stay for a bit… but Shii-chan can stay longer if you want him to!"

Tohru looked over to Shigure and found the man busy with bothering Hatori. Hatori averted his attention to the new mother so that Shigure would notice that she was addressing him. He gave a goofy smile.

"Tohru-kun, I'm very glad to see that you're all right. Remember that you can give any of us a call if you need anything."

"Right, I'll remember."

"Momiji," Hatori called softly. The younger boy nodded and gave a polite kiss to Tohru's forehead before saying his goodbye. He waved to the others in the room and headed out, following Shigure and Hatori closely. Saki sighed.

"I have a feeling that we should get going as well… I have an appointment soon, unfortunately."

Arisa put her hand to Tohru's head. "You take care of yourself, too. Not just the kid, eh? And don't let Kyo have any fun. Make sure he's up at three o'clock in the morning taking care of Natsuki-chan as well!"

"Who said I wasn't going to, yankee?" Kyo grinned to her. The three of them said their final goodbyes to Tohru and then exited the room, leaving only the new mother, her baby, Kyo, Yuki, and Haru.

"Oh… do you want us to leave as well?" asked Yuki softly. Tohru shook her head.

"Yuki-kun, it's been a while since we've all been together. My only concern is the fact that you have to stand there. Do you want me to see if I can get any chairs for you? There's only one in here…"

"No, no, there's no need," Haru assured her. "That applies to us as well, you know. If you want anything done or you need anything… or you break your arm and need me to live with you for two months…"

Tohru laughed. "Right. You'll be the first person I call."

They stayed for a while, talking with Tohru and Kyo and tried to be careful to not wake Natsuki. However, Yuki noticed that Tohru was straining to keep awake. He looked to Kyo.

"I think that we should take our leave here," he said. Kyo nodded, contrasting Tohru's protest. He looked to her. "C'mon, doofus, we know you're tired and you need as much rest as Natsuki."

Tohru blushed. "W-well, I suppose so…"

"Goodbye Tohru, Natsuki-chan," said Haru softly, smiling to the sleeping babe and her mother. He looked to Kyo. "See ya around, kitten."

"Yeah right, cow."

He walked toward the door as Yuki said his goodbye to Tohru as well. "Tohru-san, I know you'll do well as a mother."

She gave him another smile before he turned, giving a light punch to Kyo's shoulder. "And if you had half a brain, you'd make a great father, too."

"I have half a brain! … Wait, I have a whole brain! … Shut up!"

They laughed quietly and then the two young men took their leaves, shutting the door behind them. Kyo took the only chair in the room and slid it close to the bed, sitting and watching his wife over. She softly said, "Good night…" as her eyes slide shut and he kissed her on the forehead. He continued to contently watch his newborn daughter and lovely wife until he, too, fell asleep in the chair. When the nurse came in, she smiled and carefully placed a blanket over Kyo's body and let the couple and their infant be.

Soon, the sun started to set behind the hills and lightly stroke Kyo's sleeping face with its rays. He did not stir and neither did Tohru nor Natsuki when the rays touched their sleeping bodies as well. The same rays also lit the porch that Kagura was sitting on as she dangled her legs over the edge of the wooden planks and cradled her half asleep toddler in her arms. Takeshi sat next to her with a smile upon his face as he stroked her hair lovingly, admiring the way the sun's beams lit up her face.

Momiji was nodding off in the back seat of Hatori's car as the sun's rays spread over his legs, warming him up as well. Shigure was talking with Hatori about many things as the sun warmed their faces pleasantly on their way home to the house Yuki, Kyo, Tohru, and Haru once shared with Shigure. The very same beams of the sun were feeding the flower that Hiro had placed in Kisa's hair right before giving her a soft kiss, another thing warmed by the sun.

The sun was also lightly stroking both Yuki's and Haru's faces as they exited Kohiko's car to enter their apartment. Before either of them stepped inside, however, they decided to watch the sun disappear into the horizon. Hand-in-hand, they watched the same sun that had watched them all of these years and forever reminded them that no matter what, another day was sure to follow.

And so, the sun had finally set on this tale, and thus ended it at long last.

Never Gray

Yes, the babies' names are a play on the creator of the series, Natsuki Takaya. Kudos to the people who caught on to that!!

And now, I bid thee… SAYONARA!! ::bows and runs away::