Hello all! Much appreciative thanks to those who have provided me with the kind reviews. I hope you will enjoy the final part to this short story.

I forgot to give the usual disclaimer last time: Noir and its characters are owned by Bee Train. Characters borrowed for non-profit purposes. No animals were harmed in the writing of this story.

Anyways, please read, and don't be shy, please review!

Return to the Apartment (Part 2 of 2)

I walk into the apartment building's hallway with my head slightly lowered and my eyes gently closed. Without looking, I know there is already someone here to greet me. I open my eyes half way to see her presence. She must be waiting for me to talk first, so I open my mouth and stammer out the first appropriate thing that comes to mind.

"I- I'm sorry I took so long." I say with an apologetic tone at the one who has brought me here, my face still glowing with joy even though I try to not make it look obvious.

"That's quite alright. I told you to take as long as you want." She replies, so kind and understanding as always. It didn't take her long before she notices my change in demeanor. She speaks warmly to me. "Chloe?"

My smile lights up again. It is now like a rush I can only control for brief times. I walk closer to her. My voice trembles with excitement. "I saw… I saw her painting… of me!" I think I must be blushing, but I make no effort to hide it.

She smiles in a delighted and knowing manner. "Yes. Isn't it splendid? She painted that from the bottom of her heart. For you."

With surprise, I look up at her. "You knew of it? You've seen it?"

"Yes. And I know this may be difficult to consider, but I think when she was painting it, in her mind she was hoping that somehow, you would be able to see it."

My mind feels like it is in a daze. I'm not sure if I should be feeling the euphoria of her tribute or the sorrow of the process of letting go of someone so precious.

"I- I want to tell… I want to say to her… so badly. 'I'm sorry if I ever made you sad. I'm sorry I never saw who you truly wanted to be.' I wish I could tell her in person." The words blurt out, barely coherent as my sadness returns for a moment. But she seems able to understand. She raises her right hand and places it on my cheek. She uses her thumb to wipe away the stray tear that found its way down my face.

"I know," she answers simply. "I know. But you can see now. You don't need to. She already knows. She already appreciates all your good intentions, and all that you tried to do for her."

"Yes." I feel the warmth return to my heart as the memory of the portrait reappears in my mind. "Thank you."

At this time, I realize how selfish I appear to be right now. She had initially been slightly hesitant when I asked to come here, and I could understand why. But she saw how important this request was, and she obliged.

So now, I ask of her thoughts. "It must not be easy for you… to let me look into their home." My words are tentative, asking the question with a simple statement.

"No. Nothing like that…" She pauses for a moment to consider her words. "I wasn't worried really about their privacy. I just wasn't sure if coming back here would be too much for you, even though I really wanted you to see the painting Kirika did for you."

She stops for a second or so, maybe she expected me to say something. When no words came from my mouth, she continues.

"My daughter and her beloved no longer live in darkness. The past is behind them, but they hide nothing of their present. I had felt so ashamed, because of what my husband and I had to do to gain the power we held. And it cost us our lives and that of our son, and left the darkness in my daughter's heart. I am proud, that she was able to overcome it all. I am proud, that she is able to find forgiveness in her bitter heart. I am proud, that she is able to find love, in the purest and truest form possible."

A flash of guilt passes through me as she says this. She has done so much for me… For me: The one who on that dark day, almost succeeded in slitting her daughter's throat.

"I- I'm…" The words tumble from my lips with frustrating clumsiness. She seems curious at what I suddenly had to say. She just looks at me attentively and waits for my words.

I know she is aware of what I have done in the past. Yet, she has never showed me any anger for it. Moreover, she has taken me into her care since the moment we met. I so wish I could pretend those actions of mine never happened, but I know I can't.

"Mrs… Bouquet… I am so sorry- I tried to take her life." I speak with my head down and my eyes closed. I don't want to remind her of it, but I have to. I have to let her know that I regret that day. This is the way for me to find peace. I try to open my eyes, to see her face, and her response. I try to open them, but I fail.

But I didn't need to. The calm sensation of warm arms wrapping around my shoulders gives me the reply I need. She holds me close, and allows my face to rest on her collar. It feels so good here, the way Altena used to hold me when I was sad.

"Let's not worry about such trivialities of the past, Chloe." Mrs. Bouquet says kindly but in a definitive manner. "We are blessed with the opportunity to start over, with new hopes for the future. Remember your experiences. Learn from the past, but do not let it strangle you. You must be strong to take full advantage of this chance."

She holds me a few moments longer before pulling back. I take this occasion to open my eyes fully to greet her face. Even with dried tears hovering the edges of my eyelashes, the brightest smile on my face tells her that I understand, and again, appreciates all of her guidance.

"Are you ready to go?" She whispers supportively.

I nod with affirmation. She takes my hand into hers, and starts to step back to where a beam of the clearest of light casts down like a spotlight behind her. I feel a tug on my hand being held as she guides me toward it.

But before she reaches the light, I interrupt.

"Mrs. Bouquet?" I ask abruptly.

"Yes, Chloe?" She answers with curiosity.

"What happened to Altena?" The question arrives in a low whisper, and I ask with great trepidation, fearing to hear what might ultimately be an upsetting answer. Despite what Altena has done, I still worry about her. She took care of me for such a long time. For as long as I can remember, she was nothing less than a mother to me.

There was a slight pause before she replied, a delay that briefly deepened by worries.

"She is at a place where she will no longer be burdened with the weight of hatred and sorrow. We hope she can find peace there." Mrs. Bouquet answers. Her voice layered with restrained optimism. "…But it will take some time. It is not easy to try to undo an entire lifetime of despair and anguish."

"Will I ever be able to see her again?" My question is tentative, but hopeful.

"…I don't know." Her eyes close halfway in disappointment at her answer. She is honest with me, even if it was something sad.

Now it is my turn to lighten the mood. My face lights up cheerfully as I declare: "I know I will see her again. If she has someone as incredible as you to help her, I know she will get through it."

She opens her eyes and smiles widely in appreciation, then gestures her face for us to continue.

We approach the light. But a chill of nervousness passes through me. A part of me still questions whether I deserve to see the wonders that lie on the other side.

"What is there… beyond the light… for me?" I ask with my heart beating fast in anticipation of the unknown.

"Possibilities, Chloe." She tells me as I feel the warmth of the light saturate my surroundings.

"Infinite possibilities... I'll take you through them. …One …By one."

I turn my point of view back towards the white painted door of their apartment for one last glance. The sight progressively loses its clarity as my journey begins.

While our sins will never vanish,

My love for you shall never die.

Live well, Kirika.

Author's notes:

This was meant as a one-part story, but it got too long in the process so I divided into two.

I also have other Noir fics in the works, as well as one very long one for the movie D.E.B.S. coming soon. But don't forget I'm a review whore. So the more reviews I get the more motivated I'll be to finish those other ones!

Special thanks to all the talented Noir fanfic writers whose works I've enjoyed over the years and thus has motivated me to start writing myself.

...Til next time! ;-)