A Note From Me! Before you start reading, please know that I wrote two completely different endings to this story. I had only intended to post the canon-ending one, but quite frankly this version has a soft spot for me. So I thought I would share them both. Feel free to read them both if you like. Or feel free to just read one and call it good. This is the "happy, fluffy ending" of this story. You also have the option of reading the "canon-ish, plausible ending." I happen to be fond of them both, so I ask you to decide how you want the story to end! So please, continue reading this or scroll through the chapter selector to find the other!
The End and The Beginning -
I don't mean to jump, but the sound actually startles me.
A soft, grumble. The shifting of fabric.
Crimson eyes flutter open and lock right on me almost immediately.
My heart leaps into my throat…
"Where am… what the hell just happened?"
"I will tell you all about it later," I shake my head at him. "We should go now."
His eyes are blurry, but they are still his eyes. At this, I cannot help but smile. I would like to stay here and savour this moment. To curl up beside him while he rains his sense of composure... but I don't think we have time.
"Come on, Kuro-sama," I insist, hopping to the floor to show him I mean business. "We really should leave. I don't want to have to worry about Werra-chan stumbling in here on accident."
"Werra?" he looks at me, completely unaware of who I'm talking about.
"You would know her if you saw her," I grin.
His eyes narrow, and I'm sure he realizes exactly who I'm referring to.
"Come on now, the kids have to be close by..."
He nods in agreement and pushes himself off the bed. I can tell he is still groggy and disoriented. I can't say that I blame him. But I have no doubt Kurogane is quite able to push himself even when he feels like his soul has been ripped out, trampled on and then put back in sideways.
We push our way through hallways, scanning for faces that might belong to Sakura or Syaoran. But they are no where to be seen. I have no doubts that they are near though. I'm able to understand Kurogane now, after all, which can only mean that Mokona is close by.
I imagine they came along with Monagan when he decided to come to Dynn. Sakura-chan knew we were here in the palace after our conversation the other day, after all.
The morning light is bright and clear, but there is a chilled breeze on the air as we finally push our way out of the palace's front doors. The courtyard is full of people buzzing with confusion and concern. Apparently no one has bothered to explain to any of them what has just happened. Their faces rather remind me of Kurogane, who looks at me curiously. He has no more of an idea about what is going on right now than any of them.
I'll explain everything to him later. Right now, I'd be much more content to get as far away from this damn place as possible.
We stand here at the top of the marble steps, scanning the sea of confused faces. Being this high up seems to be our best vantage point.
"Fai-san!? Kurogane-san!?" a familiar voice comes from our left.
We both turn to meet amber eyes and sandy brown hair coming up the steps. He smiles and breaks into a run the moment his eyes confirms that it's us.
Part of me wants to greet him with a warm hug, but I resist. Kurogane does not move either. Instead the three of us stand there in shared, understanding silence.
"Where is Sakura-chan?" I ask shortly after Kurogane awkwardly pats Syaoran on the top of his head.
"She is with Mokona just outside the palace gates. Monagan-sama said we should wait a bit before coming in to the palace. He wasn't sure what all would happen."
That was probably a very wise move on his part, actually.
"I have the other feather," I tell him quickly. "We should get out of here as soon as possible."
"I wanted to thank Monagan-sama first, if that is alright."
"I'm sorry Syaoran-kun," I shake my head. "I'm sure he will understand." And Kurogane seems to be in agreement with me on something, for once.
Syaoran seems to understand my meaning and gives a short nod before turning and making his way back down the steps.
Kurogane and I follow silently after him.
I can see her though the iron bars leaning against a tall tree, her strawberry blonde hair blowing about her face and the edge of her flowery purple sun dress whipping about her knees in the breeze. Mokona is there too, nestled in her arms as she cradles him like doll.
Her face bursts into a ray of sunshine the moment she sees us. Excited, she runs to us, but she too is hesitant to embrace either one of us. Instead, she gives us both polite bows and insists that she is very glad to see the two of us well.
"I have something for you, Sakura-chan," I tell her with a smile, presenting her with her feather.
Her smile is beautiful as she looks to me, "Thank you Fai-san. Thank you so much," she says before taking it with her own hands.
She keeps it in her hand though, waiting for the right time to return it properly. She knows as good as anyone she'll fall asleep the moment she does.
"Should we go now?" Syaoran looks up at me with concerned amber eyes.
"Yeah," Kurogane grumbles looking over his shoulder one last time, "Let's get out of here…"
Mokona is quick to comply, lifting into the air and pulling us from this world in an instant. The next thing I see is… nothing. Well, nothing but tiny, dim stars above. I can feel a light breeze in my hair which smells of salt and lilac, and the sounding of a strange, and quite likely, large bug makes a combination of a chirp and buzzing noise before I hear anyone else even breathe.
A new world.
A new adventure.
"I wonder where we are this time," Sakura-chan sighs.
Someone always has to say it. We all think it, after all.
"I think I hear water," Syaoran says, and I hear a rustle of fabric and a small yelp from Sakura. I think he just stepped on her foot.
Stumbling almost blindly around the woods we had managed to land ourselves in and moving towards the sound of water we all soon hear, we happen upon a tidy, pale-sanded beach. The moon hangs low above the horizon and is nothing but a sliver of pale red light.
A red moon.
But it is silent and clam all around us.
The drastic change in daylight always messes with a person's body. Though it's pretty safe to say that it's been a long enough day for all of us, so we might as well set up camp for the night and call it a day.
"I think we should start a fire and wait until daylight to start looking around," I suggest.
I can see little more than their black silhouettes against the sky, but they all nod in silent agreement.
"I'll go gather some firewood," Syaoran offers, as expected.
"And Mokona will help too!" and soon we can hear boots crunching across the sand, fading into the direction my intuition tells me is East.
The sound almost completely fades before Sakura decides to join him.
So, now here we stand alone.
We've hardly spoken all day. I don't fully know where he has really even been all day. And we haven't been able to actually talk for what has been literally, weeks.
But I have no idea what to say.
What should I say?
And he certainly isn't helping.
"I'm sorry," I all but whisper. I haven't been able to properly say those words to him, and it's the first stupid thing that comes to mind.
"For what?" he asks flatly.
We both still stand, facing the sea.
"For a lot of things," I still don't even look at him. "But… not for everything."
"You don't have to be sorry for anything, idiot."
"Yes I do. All of that was my fault."
"It doesn't matter," he shrugs. "We're here now, and we're all safe. That's all that really matters."
"Shut up," he turns his head to me with a snap. "I said its ok. So its ok! Stop blaming yourself for everything. It's annoying."
Part of me really wants to argue with him, but strangely, the other part of me giggles. I didn't even really mean to laugh. But I do. I suppose its because he says things like that reassure me that he is alright: that is really my Kurogane standing there, being his usual, abrasively sensitive self.
"Just what to you think is so damn funny?" he growls.
"You!" I giggle.
His eyes narrow at me. "Well I'm not being funny. I'm serious."
"I know. But I still think you're funny."
"No, you're trying to change the subject."
"No I'm not," I can't stop giggling. I don't know why I find his frustration with me so amusing.
"Then what is so funny?"
"You know what else is funny," he snaps, "My fist breaking your face."
Oh, like I seriously believe that threat anymore! But in my complete change of mood, there seems no harm in messing with him.
"Well…" I take one step closer to him. "You'll have to catch me first!" I come just inches from him before completely turning around and running at full speed.
I actually feel the air being pushed by his hand as he swipes out for my arm. But I'm too fast, even for him. I'm sure he hates that.
"Damn it!" I hear him call after me.
My feet don't get the best traction in this sand, but then again, neither will his. I run for the edge of the water where the ground will be wet, and easier to run on.
Warm water that feels as though it's spent a long day under the heat of a summer sun splashes over my shoes. The warm salty air kisses at my face and I notice for the first time how clean and refreshing the air is.
I don't plan to run very far.
And he doesn't know it yet, but I also plan on letting him catch me.
I'm curious to see what he'll do.
So I – Ah!
I could catch myself if I wanted. But the ground is soft here, so I allow myself to stumble. Allow him to close the distance. And then pretend to be surprised when he reaches for my arm and we both topple over.
I didn't really plan to trip.
But I cannot help but continue my giggling as I stare up at him. He's hands pin both my shoulders against the ground and he glares at me with that annoyed "You're such a dumbass," look. Even though its obvious he's not really that annoyed.
We both laugh, without saying a word. The water washes over our legs as he remains all but sitting on top of me, still pinning me to the ground.
Unfortunately, or at least I see it that way, Kurogane turns his head for just a moment and even in the dark, I swear I can see a flush of pink wash over his face and he immediately lets me go.
"Kurogane-san? Fai-san? What are you doing?" Sakura-chan calls to us from just up the beach.
Its very hard not to scramble to my feet and brush myself off and try to look as inconspicuous as possible.
"I was just knocking some sense into him," Kurogane snaps at her defensively.
He's so shy!
"We've got enough wood for a fire now," she tells us. I can see her black outline against the sky cradling a armload of broken logs and sticks. Further behind her and to the left Syaoran is bent over a small pile soon to be a fire.
I cannot help but smile. After all; lighting a fire for Syaoran is a rather simple task. He doesn't show it much, but he has quite a bit of magic in him.
Soon, we are all gathered around the flickering orange light of the fire, watching the shadows dance across one another's face. It's warm enough, we don't have to sit too close to the fire, but it's too dark to see much of anything else, and we've been separated from each other for so long that we all manage to stand the heart. Side by side on one side of the fire; our backs to the forest our faces to the sea, we watch the red moon sink into the horizon. It's hard to judge how late into the night it is. Unlike a sun which is easy to tell how far along a day has gone, moons at night tend to come and go as they please – if they bother to show up at all.
We sit in content, peaceful silence for quite some time before Syaoran speaks. "Mokona? Do you sense the presence of a feather here?"
"There is a strange magic here. But it is far away. Too far away for me to tell. I'm sorry. Mokona didn't get us very close this time."
"There isn't anything to be sorry for Moko-chan. I actually think it might be nice to just relax on this beach for a day or two," Sakura smiles and pats Mokona on the head.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
We sit by the fire for a while, listening to Sakura and Syaoran tell all about their experience with Monagan's world while we were on the other side. About Annabelle and Ienyn. About a festival they attended. About the books they read.
Neither Kurogane nor I are quick to recount our story for them however. And neither of them ask. But they are probably better off not knowing.
"Look!" Mokona shouts, pointing at the skyline above the trees.
The slivered red moon faded in the horizon some time ago and now, as we turn our heads, a much larger, half full silver-blue moon peeks over the tops of the trees.
With more light to see by, the sand seems to be pure white. The trees, an odd blue-green.
The colours of this world are somewhat unusual. But rather lovely, in a mysterious sort of way; like something from a strange children's book.
I hear Kurogane yawn and then lean back to lay on the soft sand. And soon, we all are yawning, and Syaoran suggests that Mokona take out our sleeping mats so we can get settled for the night.
"I'll stay up for a bit," I offer. "You all get some rest."
"Are you sure Fai-san?" Syaoran looks over to me. "I can stay up a bit."
"No. I'm fine."
"Wake me up whenever you get tired, and I'll take watch," he says while fluffing his pillow and placing it on the ground.
"No. You just sleep kid," another voice interrupts and for some reason, I feel my face grow warm. "I'll stay up too."
There seems to be no further discussion on the topic, and I suddenly find myself absolutely fascinated with the ground and drawing circles in the sand. And I don't look up until I hear Sakura and Syaoran getting into their preferred sleeping positions.
"You going to draw in the dirt until your fingers bleed, or what?" he asks me after what seemed to have been almost an hour.
"No," I shrug once. But I don't look up.
I have no idea what I'm so nervous about suddenly.
"Then what are you doing?"
"If you want to draw in the sand, you should draw in wet sand," he says very matter-of-factly. "Would you like to go?"
I can't keep the corners of my mouth down, and I nod, only once, and then quickly find my way to my feet.
We've not been stocking the fire, so the orange flames are dim and do not cast light very far.
Neither of us speak as we walk towards the water. Only the sounds of our boots crunching through the sand and the calm waves lapping up onto the shore and falling away again. We walk side by side, close enough that our arms bush against one another on an occasional step, but other wise we do not touch.
"You're not really going to draw in the sand, are you?" he asks in a rather testing tone.
"No," I shake my head and cannot help by chuckle.
"Then what are you going to do?"
Under the light of the silver-blue moon, I can actually see his face; see one single black eyebrow raised in anticipation of my answer.
"I don't know, Kurogane," I shrug innocently, "did you have something in mind?"
His eyes narrow. "Why 'Kurogane' still?"
"Because that's your name."
"It sounds dumb when you say it now. I was getting used to the other ones…"
Again, my eyes fall to the ground, yet my lips cannot get rid of my smile.
"Look at me."
My eyes flicker up for only a moment. But I can't hold them there.
One hand cups my chin and forces me to look up. I can't get rid of my smile or the flush in my cheeks, so I look away.
"I've never seen that before," his voice is soft. Pleased.
I don't have to actually ask what he's talking about, because he finishes his thought before I even need to.
"That smile; a true, real smile," he gives a short chuckle. "I like it."
I wouldn't have had time to say anything to him if I wanted to, as I am captured in a warm, soft kiss.
This kiss is light, gentle and quick. I didn't even have time to close my eyes.
"Do you… think this is ok? Are they asleep?" I ask nervously, glancing up the beach to where the kids are resting by the dim fire.
I see one eyebrow raise and he takes a step back and looks at me sternly, "With you and all your 'mommy and daddy' talk back then, and now you don't want to kiss me unless you know they're asleep?"
"No! That isn't it," I cannot argue fast enough. "I just thought… you-"
"I would care?" he laughs. "I don't. I'm sure they'll figure it out eventually anyway. They're not stupid you know."
"Then what's your problem?"
"I don't have a problem," I shake my head.
His eyebrow raises again and he grins mischievously. "Then kiss me."
Well, there it is kids! Sixteen chapters later. 202 Pages [on Word. Over 14000 hits. Over 140 reviews. Thank you all SO so so so so so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. I know that I very much enjoyed writing it.
I ran a poll a while ago on my lj to see what everyone wanted the ending to be like. The "canon-ish" ending won by a long shot, but it made me a little sad, so I wrote this one too. I hope you find it satisfactory. I would love to know what everyone thinks though! Did you like this story? Love this story? Hate it? Please let me know!!!! Yes. That means you should review! ;)
Hope to see you again soon!