Epilogue

The sun had long since finished setting when Oriya stepped out into his garden. Even in the dark stillness he knew that his uninvited guest was waiting for him. He stepped out onto the path, pulling out his pipe as he did so.

"Muraki?"

There was a faint snap and a tiny flame appeared, and a shadowy figure lit a cigarette before the flame flickered out of existence.

"Why are you here?" Oriya asked, not really expecting an answer.

"No reason." Muraki's voice was soft. "I just needed a moment, and this is the most peaceful place that I know of."

A small smile pulled up Oriya's lips. "I'm glad I can provide that at least. Is it something you wish to talk about?"

Muraki exhaled a stream of smoke before answering. "Not particularly."

The two men sat in compatible silence before Muraki finally spoke again. "I let the bouya go."

Oriya fumbled with his pipe, almost dropping it in his surprise. "You did? Why?"

"Because he asked me to, and he was right."

Muraki finished his cigarette before continuing.

"It doesn't matter. This is what I am, and the feeling is fading like the memory of a dream."

Oriya waited.

"It was just, if only for a moment…" Muraki turned his head up to the stars, as if seeking answers there. "I was finally seen as somebody who could be, human."

Oriya lowered his head, one hand clenched in the fabric of his kimono, the other wrapped tightly around the stem of his pipe, considering his reply. He looked up in time to see the ghostly shadow disappear into the darkness.

"I've always seen that person."

Oriya tilted his own head back to contemplate the cold, distant points of light, seeking his own answers therein.

Out of sight, but not quite out of hearing, pale lips turned up in a slight smile.

"Thank-you Oriya."

XXX

"…and one two three, one two three, one two three, dip."

The pair gliding across the dance floor paused for a moment in their finishing move. Then Shiori laughed brightly. "I think we've got it down, what do you say we call it a night Nitta?"

Her partner pulled her back up to her feet. "Go, change and I'll meet you at the door."

Shiori hurried to the little changing room attached to her studio and stripped out of her practice clothes. She was doing up the buttons on her blouse when she heard the tapping of someone knocking at the studio door. "Nitta?"

"I've got it!" He called back.

There was the faint mutter of voices as Shiori put on a pair of old running shoes and left the changing room in time to see Nitta turn away from the door with an arm full of flowers.

"These are for you."

Shiori took the bouquet from him and ran her hand lightly over the blooms. "How lovely! Who are they from?"

"They were delivered by a blonde kid."

Shiori's eyes widened. It had been almost a week since she had last seen Hisoka at Jikei hospital, and she had wondered several times if the boy was alright. Knowing that his brother had turned up at the hospital eased her mind, but she still wondered from time to time if he was whole and happy.

Rushing past Nitta, she threw open the studio doors. Down the street, almost out of sight she could see a small, slender figure walking away. Blonde hair gleamed faintly under the street lights. She drew in a breath to call out Hisoka's name when another figure stepped out of the shadows to stand at the young man's side.

The blonde head turned up towards the other, and even at that distance Shiori could see the slight smile that turned up his lip in an expression she had not seen in their time together.

The darker head bent down until their foreheads met.

"Shiori-chan?"

Shiori looked back at Nitta briefly before turning her attention back to the pair on the street. They had started walking again, a dark clad arm draped over narrow shoulders as they disappeared into the night.

Shiori turned back into the studio, holding the flowers close.

"There's a note." Nitta held up a small card that had come with the bouquet.

Shiori took the small card from Nitta and opened it.

Dear Shiori-san

I'd like to thank you for all your help, and let you

know that I found my way back to where I belong.

Thank you for helping me find my way home.

I wish you all the best.

Hisoka