Disclaimer: I do not own OHSHC; Studio Bones and Bisco Hatori own it
Disclaimer: I do not own OHSHC; Studio Bones and Bisco Hatori own it. I do not lay claim to the original idea of the Ouran Elementals; many thanks to Star-of-Seraph for her permission to use them. However, I do own this whole storyline and everything non-canonical.
Musical Accompaniment: Farewell, from the Children of Dune Soundtrack. It should be played throughout the whole chapter. Anyone listening hard enough might notice its similarity to the song from Chapter 11, Inama Nushif, and take note of the parallel meanings.
Author's Notes: This will be the last time I offer my thanks and gratitude to Huamulan03. She has been beta-ing my story since Chapter 6, and I really have no words that can express how much it meant to me that she'd be so willing to help.
March wasn't much of a month for celebration, with winter still throwing its mantle over the city, but it was oddly beautiful nonetheless.
Haruhi looked up and gently tapped an icicle that had formed on the now-quiet fountain that she loved so much. No one else was around – all had gone from the auditorium to the central salon and its adjoining ballrooms – and she needed the time to herself. There was a thin layer of snow on the ground, barely enough to cover the top of the grass, and her elemancy naturally reached for it. The flakes spun and ribboned around as her elemancy took control while her mind emptied itself of everything but thoughts of her kindred.
It was no surprise when she could only feel the barest hint of their emotions. She expected it, actually.
It didn't make it hurt any less.
Remember the days when I'd have given my hands for a little peace and quiet? She thought with jaded wistfulness.
Things had changed after what happened; after helping Ritsu, dueling Circle Sanano, and choosing Takumi, everything that had existed between her and her kindred suddenly turned to ice. The relationships they had tried so hard to keep strong were now brittle and delicate, with each Elemental tired of trying so hard. She could reach out all she wanted, try and convince her kindred that the depths of her feelings were still true, but in the end it was their decision whether or not to open themselves to her. She could only wait.
They were still kind, of course, but distant now. There were no casual touches or telepathic questions or unexpected visits on the weekends. The boys treated each other as they always have, but she was the outsider again.
And might well be for a very long time.
Being in the Host Club was almost unbearable, though she was determined to see it through to the end of the year – today. And since all the third years had graduated mere minutes ago and there was nothing left but celebrations to attend, her tenure as a host was complete.
She was free to walk away.
Except I know that this is what I meant when I said I'd stand by them. Even when it hurts and when I'm terrified of constant rejection, I won't just up and run away because it's safer. I'm going to stay with them because I can't let go.
She turned around, and almost jumped off the fountain's wall in surprise. Both Takashi and Mitsukuni were standing there, and she immediately cleared a small patch of ice and snow on either side of her. Without words, both took a seat and looked out across the white-dusted campus. Takashi sat with his elbows on knees, leaning forward as if he might spring to action at any moment. Mitsukuni was even more reserved, sitting mountain-tall, and it seemed as if he and his cousin had suddenly changed elements.
Now, Haruhi really looked at her kindred for the first time in months. She realized that it had been a long time since she'd had to look down to meet Mitsukuni's eyes; now he topped her by inches. Takashi had allowed his hair to grow out just a little bit, and his shoulders were just a bit broader than she remembered.
They sat in silence, and Haruhi let herself enjoy the warmth of their bodies against her own. She knew they had come outside for a reason, and though she was curious for an answer, she didn't speak and didn't reach with telepathy.
But I want you to say something, she thought to herself, not looking at her kindred. I want you to tell me about anything on your mind, just to let me know that maybe you might forgive me one day and we can try being a real Circle again because I'll wait as long as I need to but I –
"Thank you," Mitsukuni said.
"… For what?"
"For the gift."
She wracked her brain trying to think of what he meant – but I didn't give him his graduation present yet – when he took her hand and wove his fingers with hers. It was a shock, this intimacy, and Haruhi felt herself shake though the cold didn't exist anymore.
Even more surprising was when Takashi mirrored the action and said, "We don't want to leave Ouran knowing that you're not part of us anymore."
She didn't know what to say, and he took her silence for patience.
"When you admitted love for someone outside the Circle, it hurt. We knew you first, we loved you first," he said, speaking slowly but clearly. "But we realized – and so have the others, though they don't care to admit it – that we always expected unconditional love because we believed we deserved it."
But Mitsukuni shook his head. "Nobody deserves anything unconditionally; you have to earn it. And we keep hurting each other, not on purpose but because we don't really know what we're supposed to do. We don't really know how a Circle should act."
This was the most she'd ever heard either speak on such sensitive truths, and it was humbling to know that they would share this time with her.
"May I ask you something?" Takashi said.
"You said you loved us. That wasn't a lie, was it?"
And, for the first time in over a month, she felt a gentle whisper of empathy echo in her chest. It came from both sides, from the air and from the ground, and wrapped her up in hesitant but sincere warmth. 'I miss you.'
'I miss you, too.'
'They miss you.'
'But I had to give you guys the room, or else… or else you wouldn't ever come back.'
Like one mind, the cousins stood up. Since all their hands were still entwined, Haruhi had to rise with them.
"Let's go back," Mitsukuni said. "Tamaki has a few ideas he wants to discuss with you, and our parents want to meet you."
She couldn't help but smile, and actually let herself laugh with joy when she felt an influx of thoughts in her mind, as if someone was carefully turning up the volume of her headphones.
'We can't let the Host Club die, not when we've fought so hard to keep it alive!' Tamaki said firmly. 'Who can we get to replace Mori and Huni? They'll always be with us in spirit, but we need people here in the flesh!'
'Maybe Kasanoda for Earth,' Kaoru suggested.
Kyouya thoughtfully added, 'Renge for Wind?'
'And we can always use more people for other elements,' Hikaru reminded them. 'Didn't Kimiko say she'd like to try tutoring?'
'Both Chika-chan and Satoshi want to come by and see what we do,' Mitsukuni said.
And Haruhi felt her mind race with wonderful ideas, sharing and speaking as she walked into the Grand Ballroom. She let herself get swept up in their excitement, speaking congratulations to passing third-years and warmly hugging her two graduating kindred when they were all together.
So maybe we can make this work. Despite time and distance and past pains, we're going to try.
Elemancy stirred the snow on the ground to life, throwing it into the air like a shaken snow globe. There was sunlight pouring past the deep gray clouds, and it cut into the flakes so sharply that a delicate rainbow arched overhead. Everyone standing by the windows sighed and clapped at the unexpected sight.
With Mitsukuni on her right and Takashi holding to her left, Haruhi knew that they were going to be magnificent. All of her kindred were going to be magnificent.
And when a small rainbow fell through the window and onto her face, covering her tattoo in infinite shades of colors, she had a feeling that she, too, might be someone to remember.
Author's Notes (7/30/08): This might take me a few minutes, perhaps more space than the chapter itself, but there are many people I'd like to thank.
First and foremost I'd like to thank Sambucivox for staying up until the wee hours of the morning chatting with me about plotbunnies and various other ideas that I've had for this story. She'd been a wonderful friend, and I owe her a great deal. Perhaps it will be paid in chocolate and some side fics about what happened to Circle Sanano.
I'd also like to thank Aenisses Thai for being another friend-sounding board that I could chat with. Yes, Thai, you were a wonderful woman to talk with. Despite killing the first two chapters of the original version of this story, I still love you. Mostly.
There are people who wrote me some of the most comprehensive reviews I've ever seen. Vmailer, Mirsa, Akoya's Mistress, RaeRurounifan, Darkkinkachu, VampireInuFreak, Official Ramber, Star Garden, Yami Umi, and Angry Girl left me thick paragraphs of thoughts and I can only boggle at the amount of time they put into their words.
There were also people who reviewed without fail from the first chapter they read until now. Artemis 89, jeemawoo, The Violent Tomboy, Kanamelover, Lakoma, ddd, I play wid fir3, Emiko87, Silent Kunoichi aka. Fiona, anahmidale, Erilin-chan, fallendemise21, and Estantia are especially noted for their consistency, and I'm very grateful to them.
Hoppy-chan, lu.e3, and Jmai were right there at the beginning, and they kept with me the entire time. Wow. Wow. Origamistarshape deserves a mention for saying that a certain chapter was "so damned awesome I could die", and for being a returning reviewer. High praise, indeed! Destiny Writes made me laugh when I saw the unending line of 'OMGs' for the Chapter 23, but also made me smile by the joyful and exuberant comments.
I really loved writing this story. If I had time, I would seriously consider writing one or two sequels to this story (I have the ideas in my head, yes). However, I am going on to be so busy in the coming few years that I can't promise I'll even have the time to look at fanfiction. So for the moment, I'm sorry to say that you'll have to content yourself with what I've written thus far. If anyone wants to PM me to talk, please write. I really enjoy hearing your thoughts.
Thank you, everyone, for reading and enjoying the ride. Take care, and I hope to see you in the future!