So, finally and at long last, the final chapter to Blue Heaven. My most sincere apologies for how long it's taken me to finish it up. I hope it was worth the wait :) Please let me know what you think of it! Many thanks to Quirkyslayer for her beta skillz :)
Blue Heaven, Chapter 15 (the end)
Ayame allowed Hatori to take his pulse, but continued to wave his free hand around to better illustrate the ordeal he'd just survived. "I fell and darling Mine, here, tended me with such KINDNESS! Such DEDICATION! Such DEVOTION! And when I stopped breathing, it was her tender ministrations that prevented me from leaping forward into THE ARMS OF DEATH! With the skill of a professional nurse, she led me back from that black abyss!"
"And you decided to celebrate not dying by—by---" Yuki couldn't say it.
"By having sex?" Ayame supplemented helpfully. "No, not at all. The sex was to celebrate the breaking of the curse."
The words fell like grenades, shocking them all into profound stillness.
"What?" Hatori whispered. His face was ashen. "Are you... are you sure?"
Yuki felt lightheaded and cold even as something that could be elation bubbled in his chest. Still, there was doubt-- you didn't cope for the entirety of your life with a curse and instantly believe it could be gone. Suspicion threatened to overwhelm the hope struggling to break free.
Then Arisa turned to him with a wobbly smile. "One way to know for sure," she said, and held out her hands. The others watched, eyes wide. Shigure's face was avid, but Hatori's looked frozen with an ancient pain. Yuki lurched, rather than stepped, to Arisa and jerkily brought his arms up to embrace her. Their bodies met from shoulder to knee, the sensation of warmth lashing Yuki's emotions into even more of a mess.
"Wait," he rasped, pulling away and starting to fumble with the buttons of the jacket Arisa had loaned him. "These coats are bulky; it might not be accurate." Comprehension lit her features, and she began to remove her jacket as well. Then, eagerly, they fell into each other's embrace again, this time separated by nothing more than two thin layers of cloth, and Yuki gritted his teeth against the inevitable poof! of smoke and the eventual sensation of falling as gravity kicked in and his new, smaller form fell to the ground.
...except that it never came. They embraced, chests radiating heat into each other, and nothing happened. Well, Yuki's more mischievous body parts perked up at the feel of Arisa's nicely developed bosom in such intimate proximity to his own body, but other than that, there were no alarming occurrences, and it was with wonderment (and, yes, a faint blush as he angled his hips away from his girlfriend's) that Yuki turned his face toward his cousins.
"It's really broken," he whispered through numb lips.
Another moment of silence, which of course Shigure felt honor-pressed to shatter. "Well," he said in an oily tone that promised lechery to come, "I won't believe it until I have some proof of my own."
In a flash he whisked Yuki away from Arisa and slithered into her arms, one hand at her back (the better to press her chest into his) and the other directly on her backside (the better to neatly align their pelvises). Yuki growled and reached out with fingers curved into claws, ready to peel the dog (former dog?) away from his girlfriend in strips, if need be.
But Arisa shook her head over Shigure's shoulder. "It's okay," she muttered, and Yuki peered closer to see that his cousin's arms were trembling, a fine tremor going through his shoulders. Arisa firmly readjusted Shigure's hands so they were at the marginally more appropriate location of her hips and patted him soothingly, as if he were an overlarge child waking from a nightmare.
Yuki glanced at the others; Ayame and Mine were snuggled against each other, murmuring romantic nonsense and exchanging little nibbling kisses. And Hatori... Hatori was watching the others with a barely-restrained hunger, his hands shaking at his sides.
And Mine, dear Mine... Yuki had to wonder what a smart thing like Mine saw in his idiot brother, because the lovely girl noticed Hatori's distress and untangled herself from Ayame. She smoothed the front of her maid costume and went to Hatori, arms outstretched in welcome.
"Hatori-san," she murmured with a welcoming smile, and he made a sound that in another man might have been called a sob. Slowly as an old man, with disbelieving caution, he moved into her embrace and closed his arms around her. His eyes shut, and the most brilliant smile curved his lips.
Ayame beamed past him and Mine at Yuki, and Arisa extricated herself from Shigure's clutches to watch, insinuating herself against Yuki's side under his arm. He was shocked to look at her face and find her crying, tears dripping off her chin.
"What's wrong?" he asked softly, using the sleeve of his shirt to dry her face.
"To see how unhappy he must have been," she whispered. "All of you. I didn't know your secret was something this... terrible, how much it's affected you all. And I was so scared tonight, but now it's over and everything's okay, and--" She stopped and sniffled wetly. It sounded kind of disgusting but Yuki didn't care. He just kissed her, tasting the tears on her lips.
"I'm tired," he said. "Let's go back to sleep."
"Bed!" exclaimed Ayame. "A SPLENDID IDEA, brother mine!" He pried Hatori away from Mine and twirled her in an elaborate dance move that, to her credit, she followed through with in admirable aplomb. Truly, they were a match made in overly elaborate heaven.
"What time is it?" Hatori asked. He had regained control of himself once more, of course, and looked much like his usual self. But there was something different about him; the ever-present strain had left his face; his features had relaxed, and his lips were curled in a faint smile. He looked five years younger. "I want to call Mayu."
"Oh, it's far too late to go calling young women," Shigure said breezily. "Otherwise I'd have been on Aya's phone already. I can hardly wait to test-drive this newfound ability of ours."
"NONSENSE," shouted the former snake from around the mouthful of Mine's throat he was lavishing a hickey upon. "Mayu would welcome your call any time of the DAY OR NIGHT, Tori-san, and you know it!"
Hatori said nothing, just sauntered out of the office toward the shop's entrance. After a moment, Shigure followed, yammering nonsense as usual. Yuki looked around; the shop's workroom was fairly trashed, a fair reflection of how his mind felt at that moment.
"Um, if we hurry maybe we can get your cousin to drive us back to my place," Arisa mumbled, gaze (mostly) averted from the spectacle Ayame and his girlfriend were making. Yuki saw with a vague revulsion that Ayame's hands were busily unlacing the intricate network of fastenings holding Mine's bodice together.
"Yes, please," Yuki muttered, and grabbing Arisa's hand, hurried them both out of the shop.
x X x
Tohru watched from the safe haven of Kyou's arms, one blanket wrapped snugly around them both, as Kureno helped some men in hospital uniforms bundle Akito onto a gurney. Akito had not shown any sort of coherence since regaining consciousness, just staring into space and murmuring "gone, it's all gone, they're all gone, gone," in a creepy singsong voice until Tohru's skin had goosebumped and Kyou had swept her into his lap and swathed her in the blanket.
"That was fast," Kazuma commented to Kureno. He sat with his back against the wall, Hanajima in the protective circle of his arm as she dozed, still fatigued from her exertions of the night. "You had to have had their number on you, to be able to contact a mental institution so quickly."
Kureno nodded tiredly. Tohru was so used to seeing him with the tiny Akito that it was distinctly odd to watch the tall young man by himself; he seemed diminished and yet unburdened by a great weight he'd carried for so long. "I've feared that Akito could suffer his greatest breakdown at any time," he said quietly, "so I've taken to carrying their number with me at all times for the past year."
"It's been that bad for that long?" asked Kazuma, clearly shocked at how the Sohma family head had deteriorated. "How pitiful." He quiet for a moment, then said, "Kureno, how is it that you weren't as affected by it as the other Jyuunishi?"
That startled Tohru; she'd been so caught up in fretting about Kyou and Hana that she hadn't noticed anything different about Kureno. As she watched, Kureno's eyes widened, then closed briefly, whether in relief or resignation, she couldn't tell.
"The curse has had no hold over me for several years now," he replied at last. "I'm told it's been weakening for the last few generations, and it finally broke with me. I have reason to believe that even if this hadn't happened tonight, the next few years would have seen several more of us freed as I was."
Against her, Tohru could feel Kyou tense. "You haven't been under the curse in years, and you didn't tell any of us? Didn't let us know there was hope for us, too?"
Kureno lifted bleak eyes to him. "Akito knew the moment it happened to me," he said, "and forbade me from telling anyone."
"But if the curse was broken," Tohru ventured, "then you didn't have to obey him, did you?"
Kureno was silent for a long moment. "No," he said finally. "But I feared for what he might do to anyone I told, who showed happiness that the days of the curse might be numbered."
They were all quiet, thinking of the truth in his words; Akito would have been enraged to witness any of his Jyuunishi's pleasure at the end of the tie that bound them all to their god.
"Also," he continued, his voice more faint, "I pitied him. He's so terribly alone. I couldn't bear to take away from him the only thing that made his life worth living."
"Tormenting and abusing a bunch of kids," Kyou spat, disgust making him tremble. "Don't you care what he did to Rin, and Kisa, and Yuki? Don't you care what he was going to do to me?"
"Yes!" protested Kureno. "But--"
"But you felt worse for him than you did for us," Kyou finished spitefully. "You could have told one of us, helped Akito along to his breakdown years ago. He could have been committed years ago. We might still be cursed, but without him there to torture us, without us having to look over our shoulders to see what ugly game he was going to play on us this time..."
He seemed to have run out of words. Eyes narrow with fury, he stood so quickly he almost dumped Tohru on the ground. He quickly righted her, tucking the blanket around her shoulders before squaring his own. "Thanks for nothing, Kureno." He tossed the young man a scathing glance and stomped from the room.
Kureno looked old, his face lined and weary. Tohru felt a little bad for him, but mostly she agreed with Kyou. It was just cruel to not do anything to help the others. She stood slowly, feeling very tired, and went to the phone, not looking at Kureno as she passed him. She didn't know what to do or say to him; she'd never felt so unhappy with someone like this before.
Tohru called Hana's parents and gave them directions to Kazuma's home, then returned to wake up her friend. Kureno was gone, and Kunimitsu was helping Hana stand while Kazuma got to his feet.
Hana's lovely eyes filled with tears once again. "Tohru-chan," she whispered, "I'm so sorry I hurt you."
Tohru just smiled and hugged her. "Don't you see?" she whispered into the abundant fall of Hana's hair. "You saved me. You saved them. You saved everyone." She pulled back and smiled up at her friend. "I think they'll all agree the pain was worth it."
Hana smiled back uncertainly. "I still don't understand what I saved them from." She turned and gazed placidly at Kazuma. "But I hope one day you'll tell me?"
He nodded. "One day," he agreed, and led her to the door.
Tohru followed at a slower pace; behind her, Kunimitsu began to tidy the room. She slipped out the back door, picking her way cautiously in the dark toward where she knew Kyou would be hiding.
"You're going to trip and break your leg," he grumbled from above her, and she tilted her head back to see his eyes, and not much else, gleaming in the moonlight-- the rest of him was hidden by the leaves of the tree in which he was crouching.
"And then you'll swoop in and carry me to safety," she replied, grinning up at him. Tonight had been frightening and painful, but she was filled with an elation so wild she could barely contain it. They were free! The cloud hanging over them for so long was gone! She felt bad for Akito, but... she was so, so, so happy for Kyou and Yuki and everyone else. Maybe now the anger would leave Rin and Hiro, maybe Kisa's and Ritsu's fear would fade, maybe Momiji's and Hatori's sadness would turn to joy. Rin and Haru could be together, Yuki would have the life he deserved, and Kyou...
"I love you," she told him. Air whispered by her face, and he landed lightly beside her, his hands coming to hold her.
"Guess I don't need this anymore," he said quietly, after a moment, and she opened her eyes to find him holding up his wrist, displaying the bracelet. She reached out and slowly, slowly removed it, not even realizing until it was off and nothing happened that she'd been holding her breath until she let it all out in a loud whoosh. She cocked back her arm and flung the bracelet into the trees, as hard as she could.
"We're going to have a very happy life, now." Tohru pressed her face against Kyou's shoulder and hugged him tighter.
"We are, huh?" he replied, a smile in his voice. She felt him drop a kiss on her hair, and nodded firmly.
"We're going to graduate from high school, and go to college, and get jobs." She could already picture them with diplomas in hand, ready to take on the world.
"Get married and have children," Kyou added quietly, suddenly very still against her, nervously awaiting her reaction.
"Children!" she exclaimed, a trifle manic as she twitched free of his embrace. "Ahahaha! That's... that's a lot to plan for, it's so far in the future and, and, and a jet could fall from the sky right now and splat on top of us! Ahahaha!"
Kyou only pulled her back against him, laughing helplessly. "I didn't mean we should have the children right now, dummy," he said, knuckling her gently in the head. "Just... eventually."
"Eventually?" she repeated, staring up at him. In the moonlight that fell through the leaves and branches of the tree, he was very, very handsome. "I can live with eventually."
He kissed her, then tucked her head under his chin. "I might even let you name our first son Raidon."
"You'd better," she said comfortably. "Or I'll let Hana-chan decorate the nursery. Black ducks everywhere."
Kyou clutched his head, groaning theatrically, while on the other side of the house his father was handing Hanajima into her father's car and nodding numbly while she calmly informed him she would be visiting him for lunch tomorrow, and could he please make sure there were plenty of pickles?
And Hatori wound the telephone cord around his finger, smiling as he chatted with Mayu, who had most definitely not minded his late call. Rin let Hatsuharu kiss her, and Kagura walked hand-in-hand in the garden with Ritsu. Ayame and Mina finished their post-coital snack and went back for shag number three, Hiro hugged his little sister while Kisa watched and smiled, and Yuki and Arisa slept on. Kureno entered a peaceful hospital room, and Shigure looked up from Akito's side, then gestured for the former rooster to take a seat.
And Momiji turned away from the window, where he'd been watching his sister enter their parents' house. Just moments earlier, she'd hugged him goodnight. He had a wide, wide smile on his face, because he'd always known that things would work out.
He picked up his violin, and began to play.