Disclaimer- I do not own Fruits Basket. I will use random quotes from the manga. Took a little from Saiyuki, too.
Author's Note- This is the concluding chapter to this story. I posted the first chapter over three years ago. I like that I can see how my writing reflects who I was and how I've changed from the first chapter to this one. In this past year especially, I have experienced great change and progression in my life. This last chapter is my parting gift to you, I thank you truly for reading my story and sticking with it (I know this last chapter was sinfully late!). I hope that it will encourage and inspire writers for a long time to come.
Ashes-Chapter Thirty Four-Begin
I don't know what wakes me. One minute I'm sleeping, and the next, my eyes snap open as if of their own accord. I lie there on my side, blearily staring out of those thick vertical bars into the night sky as the sound of chirruping crickets fills my ears. A chill wind touches the back of my neck and I shrug my blanket further up my shoulders. The stars are dimmer than usual, and I guess from the smell of the air that it's the early morning. I start to close my heavy eyes to go back to sleep when I notice something. There's someone on the outside of the cage.
I blink, rubbing the grogginess away from my eyes and leaving my sleep behind. Someone is sitting against the bars, their back to me. My first fear is that Akito is watching me sleep, and I prop myself on my arms silently and squint through the darkness.
It isn't Akito. There is no inky black hair, only the moonlight reflecting off their head. The head is bright. Moon-bright.
"Are you awake?"
All the breath in my body rushes out of me at the sound of that voice.
It can't be him.
The whispered name sounds foreign and wrong in my ears. I have tried my best to not even think the name in over a year, trying everything I could to forget anything to do with him. He turns his head over his shoulder to look at me.
My blood turns to ice. All the feelings and emotions I had stifled for so long crash down on me mercilessly. My throat closes up and pressure erupts behind my eyes.
This can't be real.
I close my eyes tightly, but the worst thing of all is I have no idea what will happen when I reopen them and am forced to look him in the face.
Getting up from my bed, I step slowly towards him. He doesn't move, head slightly bowed.
I stop short of those cold metal bars and just stare at the back of him.
"Is this a dream?" I ask hoarsely.
"No." He pauses for a second, then, "You're free. I'm here to let you out."
I don't say anything for a few seconds. The words don't have any affect on me. There's something about them that my brain can't comprehend. And it takes me repeating them in my head several times before I realize what Yuki's just said, as I was still so taken aback by his appearance here in the first place.
"What…? Akito said…I'm…done? That's it?" I finally grasp the icy metal in between us. The bitter taste of disappointment settles on my tongue. This definitely isn't real. I have to be dreaming.
"Kyo." I blink. I'd forgotten the way he says my name, with so much intensity and meaning. I'm still staring at the glinting head as though I'll never, ever see him again, because I'm sure I won't. But at the same time, there is a nagging in the back of my mind. Something that says I won't be able to go back from here. Something in his voice, telling me that something's not right.
I hesitate, then, "What?"
A prickling sick feeling seems to thud painfully in my veins, my head suddenly feeling airy and light. This whole…thing…did not make sense. My thoughts run amuck with the hurried effort of putting pieces together, trying to put myself back into the here and now and into consciousness again. My knees buckle and slam into the ground. Cold wetness runs down my face. I raise my shaking hand to my eyes. "…huh?"
"I cried too. Everyone did." I turn my eyes back at Yuki, the only thing keeping me sane, the only thing I can and have been hanging on to.
"How?" I force out.
"I don't know." He shakes his head slightly.
"A few hours ago."
I stare at Yuki in horror. That's impossible, I had just seen him yesterday!
"I…I can't believe it…"
"It's true," he says, with such cold finality that I don't doubt it anymore. Then he gets up, pushing himself off his knee with that oh-so-familiar gracefulness.
Those eyes. Those same eyes that I had stared into a thousand times before but now it was that much more important. Those piercing gray eyes that seemed to stare at my very self, that saw past everything.
His hair has grown long and shaggy, and it covers his eyes. He continually pulls it back, raking the strands with his fingernails.
"I can't cut it, Akito wouldn't let me," he says absentmindedly, noticing my eyes following his hands. It was clearly a reminder to Kyo of how long he's been here.
"How is Tohru?" He asks, his voice suddenly sharp. "How is she?"
"She moved out a few months after you left. With all the trouble this family put her through, I'm surprised it took her so long, but she tried as long as she could until she realized it was for naught."
"That she could fix us." I look into his eyes and pause, looking for the right words. "After you went, it…everything fell apart. Nobody really believed that Akito would go through with it, and when he did it proved that we really were just cursed people and if you couldn't escape the fate that Akito and the curse forced upon us, none of us could.
"We lost hope, all of us. It…" I swallow hard, forcing my swollen throat to open, "it was the worst feeling. I had found something I wanted to protect. When I lost it, I realized how worthless I was, and that my hands were full just taking care of myself."
I divert my eyes away from him, ashamed that my true feelings were flowing freely. But I couldn't stop now, now that I was finally, finally seeing him, my love, the only person I have ever truly loved as they deserved. My feelings rush out of me in the form of words.
"I felt as though I betrayed you. I know that we couldn't see you, especially not after what happened to Kagura and even though I could have probably done it, I wasn't putting Tohru at any risk, and the risk was too great."
I touch my closed eyes with the tips of my fingers with a light pressure, my guilt haunting me even now, when it did not matter. But it did.
"Even if I did come, would it only be because I felt responsible? Would I try and compensate for my guilty feelings, like I'm doing right now?"
My fingers contract and I grimace, the guilt far too heavy now, too long and too much. Then he says my name, softly but surely. I look back up at him, into his eyes, his eyes like red moons in the starless night.
"I understand." I raise my eyebrows at his words, and my jaw trembles. "I've had more then enough time to think about everything. At first I…I was angry, with you and with everyone else. I resented you for not coming to see me, I even doubted you. After months of anger and not being well I gave it a lot of thought and realized that if you had come to see me, it would have been out of your own selfishness. That you restrained yourself, however hard it must have been, showed that your…that your love is real."
I loved how he knew just what to do to shatter my resolve like a hammer against a stained-glass window.
After a minute where I cannot find my voice, I ask very in a very small voice, "You know that I love you, so, so much, don't you?"
"Yes." He says. "I love you, too."
Yuki disappears from the outside of the cage and in a few moments I can hear the lock of the only door being penetrated and it swings open on creaky hinges. I see him waiting for me.
"Come on, Kyo."
As I take my first steps out my prison, I begin to shake.
Please, please let this be real…
Yuki explains to me that the entire family is waiting for me in Akito's quarters, all of them having been gathered in the event of his death. I stop walking.
I am adamant, all my previous anger and bitterness welling up within me until it is as large and ferocious as some unimaginable beast. I refuse to go into the room where I know the rest of the family is waiting for me, but Yuki doesn't press me. While he goes inside to relay my message that they can all go to hell (although I'm sure he'll use different terminology), I turn on my heel and run away, out of the gates of the main house and into the streets. A feeling as if I am going to burst envelops me as the twilight stars and sky wheels above me, the clouds gaining a gold-orange tint as the first day of my freedom begins. A wild happiness courses through me, along with a fear that this is all a dream and I am going to be locked away again. That fear drives my legs faster and faster, and they tire far quicker than ever before, but I keep running, feeling as though freedom is right ahead of me.
I run, down recognizable streets and past houses and places that are still standing, that were unaffected by my absence and unchanged until I get to a familiar building. Shishou's dojo. It is still sinfully early but I burst into to dojo without removing my shoes, calling his name, my voice wrenching, until I open the sliding doors to the backyard and find him sitting on the deck as though waiting for me. I fall into his waiting arms like a child; sobbing and weeping as he holds me and speaks the words of comfort I had imagined him saying for so long.
I suspect that he knew I would run here before I saw them, and had been waiting for me here. He asks when I will return to see the rest of the family. Anger floods out of me.
"Fuck them! Fuck all of them! They're the ones who left me in there, aren't they? And they expect me to just come back like it was nothing?!" Another wracking sob tears through me and I shake my head violently, my voice cracking, feeling grief so acutely it burns my insides. "They've never had to smell the sickness and insanity in the very air! They've never felt the walls closing in so tight that you're sure you'll die, but you know you won't because that would just be too easy!"
The sun is risen well into the sky before I calm down completely. He hasn't let me go the entire time, and I precariously untangle myself from his arms. He looks at me with his compassionate understanding, and the bond between us seems to throb.
"I can't fun away forever. Or even a day." I give one last shaky sigh. "I'm going to go back now."
Shishou dips his head. "I will be waiting here for whenever you need me. It is a father's duty to harbor his son but not to corral him. Please return when you want."
I jump off the deck and forget myself in the jarring of my running footsteps before his words can bring any visible emotion out of me.
I don't go back to the main house. I don't plan on returning there soon, if ever. That place holds nothing for me now. There was no reason why I needed or had to go back.
I run the familiar self-invented route back to Shigure' house. I slow to a trot as it comes into view. It looks…exactly the same. I wonder…who's home? Disappointment momentarily flashes through me as I remember that Tohru isn't here anymore. A smirk plays on my mouth. I wonder how messy it is in there?
I walk through the front door. Unlocked, just like always. I glance around the entrance hall and into the kitchen. To my great surprise it is only a little messy. Looks like Tohru really did have a lasting effect on Shigure.
Shigure's voice rings out from the backyard. "Is that you?"
I follow the voice through the open door to find him. As always, sitting in his deck chair in that old plain kimono, a fan in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. We stare at each other for a few seconds. Did Shigure always look so…what was it? Old? No, he wasn't old, even by my standards. But somehow he seemed...worn.
I flinch and watch wearily as he stands up and walks over to me. I am taken aback when he embraces me, careful not to burn me with the ember of his cigarette. After a few uncertain seconds, I return the hug.
He sits down, closing his eyes and sighing, again seeming worn and tired. "I supposed firstly you want to know where Tohru-kun is."
I nod, taking the only other seat on the opposite side of the table.
"She's living in a single apartment in town. She has a full-time job, but somehow she still finds time to visit and clean up after this old man." He twinkles. I frown.
"Happy? God no. She was nothing when you were taken, and even less when she left. She's making her own way just fine, but her life was up heaved and I know she still hasn't gotten back into the normal groove of things. How could she though? After all the effort she had put into us we showed nothing for her trying."
"Does she know that…I'm here?"
"No. She doesn't even know about Akito. I was planning on telling her last to make it less stressful, but if you want her here now of course I have no objections."
I think about it for a few moments. "No, it's…it's better this way."
He takes a long drag and I watch the embers crawl upwards. He exhales. "What to tell you, what to tell you." He places the tips of his closed fan on the chairs armrest, holding it in place with his index finger, contemplating something. Finally he breaks his silence.
"The family was in an uproar after you were caged. Things happened, some of them you know about, like with Kagura, and some were things that you didn't see."
"Like Yuki. He grew vicious and spiteful, even towards Tohru-kun. I thought maybe he was trying to replace you," the corners of his mouth twitch at his feeble attempt at humor. "His anger pervaded the house, so much so that it was unlivable for Tohru-kun and she moved out. Around this time I confronted him, but he said only one thing to me that wasn't malicious. Do you know what he told me? 'If letting Kyo die was the kind thing to do, then I must be one selfish bastard.' It was rather surprising to hear coming from his mouth, but I knew the pain was still close to his heart."
Shigure falls quiet as I try and comprehend everything just said. My heartbeat rises as different emotions flicker through me.
"He nearly died a few months ago."
My blood runs cold for a second as I take in his words. "…How do you mean?"
His eyes slide back to the fan balancing on the armrest.
"He got sick in the beginning of February after we had a few weeks of consistent rain," he says. I nod, remembering a time in the cage when the rain did not stop for a long, long time. They were cold weeks.
"He eventually had to move into the main house so Hatori could keep a constant watch over him, but…he wouldn't get better." My eyes widen in shock. At some point, Yuki had been staying in the main house, probably not a hundred meters from me.
"Meanwhile, Akito was having huge tantrums because he wanted Hatori to himself but didn't want to send Yuki to the hospital; as you can see things were piling up and I knew that something had to give.
"A short time later I visited Yuki at the main house, and I knew he was going to die. He barley spoke, and when he looked at you it seemed as though he were looking through a thousand clouds. He had become an empty shell of a person, and I tell you Kyo, I have seen many things, but never someone so hopeless and so dead as Yuki on that day. I knew he didn't have much time."
He pauses for a breath as I continue to listen to him intently, wanting his story to finish uninterrupted.
"After I went home that day I thought for a long, long time. And I came to the conclusion that there was only one problem, and therefore one solution. How could I stand back and watch as two of my family members-two of my children even-were killed off because of one person's madness?" My breath hitches at his words and my throat becomes painful. "I wasn't going to let it happen. I couldn't. That my conscience would come to play in this tale, I had no idea. I burned with guilt, guilt that it took me so long to feel guilty."
He shifts in his chair, his eyes becoming more pensive.
"At first my solution seemed out of the question. I didn't think I could do it. I knew that I would be hurt the most. But then I realized that the burden I would be receiving would be from someone else's shoulders. I could take away so much pain if I wanted to, and all this time I had been avoiding doing that because I was afraid to feel that pain. But when I looked into Yuki's eyes and realized that you both would die, even if at different times, I wanted nothing more than to take on that burden, even if it was for the rest of my life."
His words confuse me, and it must show on my face, because he answers my question.
"I helped Akito die. He had always been on the edge of death, always clinging to life by the tips of his fingers. Without me, he would have hung of his on until the very bitter end."
We don't say anything for a minute, until, "…how?"
He smiles then, that smile of his that was wan and bittersweet, but mysterious to the very end. "I helped him let go."
Another second passes as I don't question his methods. "Do you regret what you did?"
"No. I made the right decision. Even though the pain in the beginning was hard, knowing that I did the right thing helped me get through it."
"How did Yuki survive if Akito didn't die until a few days ago?"
"I told him of my plan soon after I had thought of it. He was the only other person that knew of my plan. I didn't know if he understood what I was saying completely at the time, but whatever I was saying gave him enough hope to get out of death's shadow, and eventually make a full recovery."
"What did you tell him?"
"That he would see Kyo soon."
I blink hard. And swallow.
"Thank you, Shigure."
At first I refused to see anyone in the family besides Yuki and Shigure for a couple of days, but in the end everyone's wants were placed ahead of mine and I saw them.
Firstly I was examined fully by Hatori, who now gave me a full report on my health and answered my short questions. I was by all means still angry; however I knew that my refusal to see them any longer would only waste my own time to get on with my own life.
Hatori packs away his medical equipment into a briefcase. "You are healthy enough," he says in his deep voice, "Albeit a bit malnutritioned. I'm sure you will make a complete recovery as long as you eat right and exercise; it's no cause for concern."
We both turn our heads sharply at loud sounds and voices suddenly emanating from the kitchen.
"I warn you Aaya, he may not be ready to see just everyone yet-"
"To hell with that! It's already been a year and I will not put off our sweet reunion any longer! I'm sure that he feels the same wa- Kyonkichi!!!!!"
Ayame steps through the threshold of the living room and flings himself at me, his voice reaching levels I thought impossible by humans. I grimace and turn my head away as he pins my arms to my side tightly in a deadly embrace.
"Oh, how I've missed you!!" he cries, "Oh, Kyon, you have no idea what this did to us!! How it broke my poor brothers heart, and in turn mine, to have you locked away!" He lets out a theatrical sob, which by all means could be real, seeing as how there are tears leaking out of his eyes.
"And to see what it did to Tohru-kun, oh, the pain!" he clutches at the material of his ridiculous getup in front of his heart. "The dissaray! The internal chaos! And all the while we knew that our anguish was nothing to be compared to your suffering! Oh, Kyo!" and he brakes into heaving sobs, holding onto me with one arm and petting the side of my face very fast with the other.
I look up at Hatori and Shigure who are standing watching me as if I am about to explode. Oh yes, they know I am still angry. But not now.
"It's okay, Ayame," I say, and he looks up at me with wet clumpy eyelashes, "Everything is okay now."
His eyes squint, and he merely exclaims, "Oh!!" and breaks into fresh wracking sobs. Thankfully Shigure and Hatori rescue me by each grabbing an arm and steering him into another chair. Shigure goes into the kitchen and comes back with a cup of steaming tea and a box of tissues.
"So," I say wearily, "where is Yuki? I haven't seen him since last night."
"He's over at dear Tohru-kun's," Ayame says thickly, "Explaining everything that's happened in the last few days."
"I need more explained too." I say. "Now that Akito's dead. What does that mean for us? Is the curse affected by this?"
Hatori shrugged, "If something was going to happen, it would have happened by now."
"But what about the family?"
"Well, the plan was always that Yuki would one day be head of the Sohma house," Ayame says, honking loudly into a tissue paper, "But as I'm sure you're aware, he will have nothing to do with it."
"Nor will anyone try and seize the power, not that they could." comments Shigure, "No one but Akito had that power over us, and I know as adults no one is going to bend to anyone else ever again. I'm guessing that though we will remain a close family, as I'm sure that we will, there are no longer rules regarding what we do with our lives. I do not think that the estate or the assets that go with it will be divided, as that would take much legal practice and probably cause a fair number of wars within the family. However, no one knows how such things will go about."
Just then, we hear the front door open, and we stop our talk to listen. Padded footsteps grow louder until Yuki appears in the doorway to the living room. He doesn't say anything, merely stares into my eyes and I am confused for a split second until he steps aside and I see the considerably shorter person who was standing behind him. The long chocolate locks are what come into my vision first, the soft hair framing the cream-colored skin of her face. Her eyes strike me as changed, almost alien. She looks different. Thinner. Almost as if there is something missing. But then her hand flies up to cover her mouth and that familiar motion of hers erases any doubt I have.
"Kyo…Kyo…kun…" She sounds so much older. So tired! Her eyes widen and she trembles from head to foot, staring at me with incredulity. Her knees buckle and she places her hands on the ground in front of her, breaking down as I have never seen her break down. I get up so fast my chair almost falls backwards. I make my way towards her and kneel as I get to her, that familiar feeling of unreality washing over me.
Her hands, her tiny hands with those wrists that I could break with two fingers reach up to me as I crouch, and with strength I didn't believe she had she pulls me to her and I transform. But this is what she wanted apparently, because she cradles me in her arms, wrapping herself completely around me as she sobs and tries to talk, getting my fur very wet. I smile to myself, a feeling of great contentment stealing over me as I realize I have been in this very position numerous times but always enjoyed it.
We stay like that for a number of minutes until Tohru excuses herself to wash her face and I transform back.
"I can see your butt!" I turn to glare at Shigure and Ayame, who giggle madly. Yuki makes a strange noise, and I wonder if he's a little jealous. The thought cheers me up.
"Sorry, it's just that now that all of us are back in this house together, I can't help but feel happiness explode out of me!" Shigure exclaims. He and Ayame squeal together, ignoring Yuki and Hatori with the ease that came from lots of practice ignoring those more mature than they.
I met with the rest of the zodiac slowly, taking it day by day. I saw the runts Hiro, Kisa and Momiji. All of them had gotten taller. They spoke quietly and unsurely at first, as if they were a little afraid. But then Hiro mouthed off and everything got a little familiar.
I saw Kagura next, and the reunion was more emotional for me than I thought it would be. I really did appreciate everything she went through for me, and her dedication to me. She promised she would never be far.
Who I looked forward most to was seeing Haru. He comes to the house one afternoon with Rin trailing behind him, her hair cut short. He looks much taller then I remember, and the very familiar feeling of being left behind flashes through me.
Haru embraces me without any anticipation. He doesn't let for about five minutes, but I just let him hold me for as long as he wants.
"It's been more then a year," he says. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again."
I agreed with him, but I couldn't say anything. He's let his hair grow about an inch longer, and it suites him. It seems as though he has more piercings, but for all I took notice of his piercings last year they could have already been there for a while. His dark eyes study me for a moment, and I realize that they are at the same level as mine. I must have grown over the past year, too.
"Is there anything you want to know?" he asks, "You know, about world issues that have happened in the past year. Or maybe you want to hear the latest celebrity gossip? I'm sure there's something that happened in the past year that will make you gasp."
I stare at him, a little dumbfounded, and raise my eyebrows. "That's the first thing you say to me?"
"Gotta break the ice somehow," he pauses as Rin softly touches his arm and moves out of the room, closing the door behind her. I sit back down on my bed. "I mean, what the hell do you say after a year?"
"Why don't you give me a synopsis?" I ask casually, and he smirks at my tone, pulling my desk chair out and sitting on it backwards, his legs sticking out to the sides.
"The whole family went crazy while you were gone. I knew it would happen. Life is about balance. If one thing is taken away in the equation, the whole thing goes to shit."
"So I've heard," I say quietly. "But when Akito was taken out of this equation-"
"Akito is –was- a different story. He was the one polluting the balance in the first place. When he died, everything got better." He says this rather bluntly, and I know that he feels no remorse for Akito's dying. "You came back to us. It all worked out perfectly in the end. It always does."
"I didn't think it would end up like this. I thought I was going to be there for the rest of my life."
"I knew you wouldn't," he says, tilting his head and closing his eyes.
I snort derisively. "How did you know?"
"I just did. People get what they deserve. Akito deserved to die, just as you deserved to be set free. It's karma. It's the only thing in this world that makes any real sense."
"So, by way of karma, you're saying that I deserved to be in that shithole for more then a year."
"You're looking at it the wrong way. Being taken prisoner was the best thing that could have happened to you."
"Oh yeah?" A line appears between my brows.
"Yeah," he says, "Didn't being stuck in that place give you time to work this out yourself? Not only did being a prisoner provide you enough emotional scars to give yourself real character, it also made you a man. Knowing what was waiting for you in there must have been scary. But a specific mixture of circumstances, including future circumstances, caused you to fall in love. Not just the everyday love. The real, real love they talk about."
His eyes slide over to me, the same bland, bored look on his face.
"So, even though you might have been truly punished, wasn't it worth it?
My fingers graze his skin, even softer, more cold-burning than I remember it. Anxiety tickles my ribs, and I withdraw my hand uncertainly.
"Yuki…I…this might be…well…" He stares at me, patiently waiting for me to conclude, "awkward for me," I finish lamely. I hadn't had anyone's touch in over a year, except for Akito's beatings and Hatori's healings. A lover's touch would be so different and unfamiliar, and I was afraid of how I would respond to him.
But the meaningless blur of words run like ink and charcoal on wet canvas, dissolving in incoherence as Yuki's kiss takes prevalence over everything else, sending a warm shiver down my spine. His lips are all I can feel, scorching my own with feverish passion, mouthing wordless desire. A whimper trembles out of my throat, catching as the smooth warm wetness of his mouth covers my own.
My second whimper brings about a change in me as I wrap my self as close as possible to him, deepening the kiss. That feeling that I had stifled for so long now pulsates within me, circulating my whole body and making me ache with a longing so powerful it threatens to overwhelm me.
He smiles, dragging his fingers through my hair as he plants open-mouthed kisses down my neck lovingly, his hands falling down the sides of my face to my shoulders and down my arms until they reached the hem of my pants. Clothes are removed quickly and dropped carelessly onto the floor as we reattach to each other, skin running against skin.
The bed cushions our fall as we land parallel to it, the creaking of mattress springs unnoticed. I am underneath him but flip myself to the top, touching every inch of his soft skin, kissing madly.
I grasp the slim hips and pull him towards me, and suddenly I'm inside him, and he closes his eyes and gasps and then opens them again and stares at me with burning intensity. Soft noises coming from his throat fill my ears, setting my blood boiling.
"Yuki," I gasp, holding the back of his skull, my lips wetly grazing his ear, "it feels amazing…" He turns my face to kiss him again, and suddenly love bubbles up inside me and I close my eyes, meting into the kiss and into him. It was tender but not gentle, sweat running down between our two bodies as we tightly grasp each other and thrust; the act serving only to bind us closer together each time until the flame of Yuki's spirit was a bright spark of warmth illuminating the shriveled organ that I called a heart, opening me slowly to life again in the wash of bluff emotion.
Feelings clash while our hearts mix. I can feel your pain. I can feel your anger. I can feel your fear. I can feel you. Touching, sucking, licking, I can feel you. Do you feel me? The light of the moon disappears. We are alone now. I want to know the answers, to unlock your doors, to explore you. I'm getting there. I can feel it. I can feel you.
There is no distance between us now. No walls. Fire spills unchecked through me, hot and wild, pouring into the man in my arms. Spasms of pleasure wrack my body as I give my final thrusts, as my throat works and lights flash before my eyes. I collapse across him, still grasping at his slippery body with my hands as my lungs work furiously. I can feel his shivers too as my body comes down and my heart slows, and I start to concentrate on the warmth of the flesh beneath me.
I push his damp silver bangs out of his eyes, smoothing his hair against his head. Our breath intermingles as we look into each other's eyes, then simultaneously move forward to kiss. This causes our noses to gently bump, and we both giggle. Suddenly, the corners of his lips curve upward, and a softness comes into his eyes as he strokes the side of my head. That smile. That soft, gentle smile that I had seen and envied for so long, is finally for me.
It took several weeks for me to get back in the normal groove of things, being able to function with the life of a normal person. For the first few weeks, I had convinced myself that my time in the cage had really caused me to lose my mind. I actually considered going to a therapist, but Yuki stepped up and was all the shrink I needed.
He would be attending the local four-year college in September next month. It turns out he had taken a year off from college, something the family was very opposed to, but he did it anyway. "I would have failed out and that would have been worse," he had said, smiling. He would be studying botany.
I made the unaccompanied decision to also enroll there. At first I struggled with indecision about my future, because it was hard to think of what I wanted to do. I had thought my only prospect was the cage and I couldn't see past it. While everyone else had spent years planning out their lives, I took a month to both recuperate and make a choice.
I don't know what life has in store for me. I can't see that far into the future; but who honestly can? No matter how many years you have planned out ahead of you, the future whether it be a few seconds or many years is as black and uncertain as the night sky. I thought that I knew my future, but I was given a second chance. I was given the people whom I love very much. I would not change a thing in my life, because every past circumstance, no matter how unpleasant, got me to this exact point. I was brought here and made to be who I am, so I am grateful even towards the bad things. Without them, I would not be where I am right now.
"We should go now, or we might be late. I don't want to make Tohru wait by herself."
He smiles and brushes the dirt from his knees, taking off his gloves and putting them in his pocket. He stands and surveys his garden, which had grown to twice its original size. The oak trees surrounding the little glade make soft rustling noises as the wind blows through them, the branches full of thick emerald leaves in the height of summer.
"Yes. Let's go." I take a hold of his hand, and together we walk along that well-worn green path back to the house.