Passages Chapter Thirty Four, The Final Chapter

AN: So here we are, the end of another very long and epic writing project on my part. I'm hoping that this chapter will resolve everything that I've brought up in the story and leave just a little bit of room for a potential sequel for me to tinker with for the new school year in August. I have always loved Mai HiME, and I would never abandon the fandom, but for now it seems as though I want to finish the Nanoha fic that I've started and maybe work towards ending some of my other writing projects that have been open and undone for much longer than this little story about the HiME.

Since this is the final section, thanks is in order.

Lone Wolf, Fire Senshi, and the rest of my reviewers- thank you so much for your continued kind words and support throughout the story, along with the plugs of the story on various blogs that I'm sure had generated more interest in this work. The idea was new and original when I started the story, and I think it still might be. I'm glad you all liked it enough to review it and tell me to keep going. I really appreciated it. :3

To My Sounding Board and LJ friends - thanks for listening to me bitch about this story and how it just needed to be done or the past month and a half. :o I finally finished it, now what the heck am I going to do with myself?


The girl fell off the bridge with all the grace of a cherry blossom descending into space, blood streaming from the hole between her eyes. They watched her fall, knowing full well that there was very little that they would be able to do to protect against the oncoming tide of emotions. They'd killed, again and again, in the name of their happiness and their own sanity.

They'd sacrificed the happiness and sanity of another, again, for that of their own.

Kuga Natsuki lowered her gun and turned to face the three women who had appeared on the bridge not long after she'd taken the shot, her eyes sad. There was nothing that she could have done to prevent the action that was now plaguing her psyche; and she desperately wanted nothing more than to curl up and pretend as though she'd never done such a thing. Killing was never something that could be done easily, and she was no more prepared to do it now than she was in the past.

A small book clattered to the ground, falling as if it had materialized out of nothing some ten feet above the concrete of the bridge's surface. The noise of its fall caused all of them to jump, alarmed at the sudden break of the silence that had fallen once Natsuki's guns had fired their last, cryptic, report. They turned as one and stared at the ground as the pages started to blow in the harsh winter breeze.

"What is that?" Mai asked quietly as Natsuki quickly stepped forward to collect the book from the ground before the roaring wind ripped the pages out of the already old binding and scattered them for the world to see. Her voice could barely be heard above the growing howl of the wind. A storm was coming in off the ocean and the sky was turning ominously black as a faint collection of green sparkles flew up into the sky from the frothing waters below the bridge.

It seemed as though the Obsidian Lord had been telling the truth for once. Yukino's close watch on Tate Yuuichi seemed to indicate that he was still among them, perhaps a little more terrified for his existence than he'd been before, but in one piece.

The book was worn, and the pages were well thumbed and filled with messy characters that Natsuki could barely read at times. Still, she recognized it as soon as her fingers closed around the slim rectangular book. It was her journal, but Natsuki was not about to admit that to anyone other than Shizuru. She closed her eyes and tucked the book into her jacket pocket. "All of our secrets," she said, not meeting Mai's eyes. "Complied in a place where she could just look and know how to push our buttons."

From behind the hulking form of Kiyohime, Natsuki could hear a distinctly Nao-like snort.

Narrowing her eyes, Natsuki glared in the general direction of the red-head, even though she could not see the other woman. It was no laughing matter, and even though Nao knew of her want to write things down when she couldn't work her way though them on her own, it really was none of her business.

She'd nearly gotten them all killed with that damn book.

She'd say as much to Nao, later, when she could get her alone.

Mai allowed her elements to dissolve into nothingness once again, and with it went the bind on the dark child; trapped and forgotten above them. It shrieked angrily and Natsuki raised her guns once more, on the defensive for fear that she would not be able to protect against an attack, should the child still be fully capable of doing anything.

She doubted the crow-like creature would actually attack, however. It didn't make any sense since his mistress was currently evaporating into nothingness as all HiME do when they die.

Beating its wings, the black crow rose into the sky, flying high enough to almost disappear before it flew across the sun. The black wings of the child obscured the wintry light of the sun, casting all of those assembled on the bridge into a dim shadow of howling wind and churning seas.

With an ominous flash of black lightning, it vanished into nothingness.

"What are you doing here?" Natsuki asked, crossing the bridge and keeping a safe distance between herself and Kiyohime. The creature was still as menacing as she remembered, even if its large size was only due to Shizuru's near obsessive love for her. Even after fifteen years, Natsuki still found the idea slightly terrifying. She was not about to let her lover go insane once more, she was not blind any more, she could see the love.

Shizuru shrugged, flicking an invisible speck of dirt off of her coat sleeve. "Yuuki suggested that we come and make sure that you were okay." She would not meet Natsuki's eyes, and Natsuki knew then that she was very, very worried about what had happened on before Kiyohime had arrived on the scene.

Natsuki promised herself that she'd reassure her lover of her safety later, as well as her mental well-being.

For now, however, she was going to try for nonchalance. Even though it pained her to do so, Natsuki snorted, as if barely cutting back a laugh. "I'm fine; it wasn't that big a deal." She was lying, but she was not going to let them see it. She'd tell Shizuru, later, when they could be alone, what it felt like to end a life.

As if she doesn't know. The nightmares were fairly regular occurrences and they were both used to dealing with them.

Nao moved into view, and Natsuki felt her eyes narrow as the red head looked at her critically. So help her if she said anything…

She was silent, and Natsuki was grateful for that.

Mai shivered, and Mikoto hurried to stand next to her. She looked so lost then, and Natsuki wondered what exactly was in the bond between those two girls was. She'd never really pried too heavily into their friendship, instead choosing to protect her loved ones by keeping her own relationships just as private.

"Are you alright?" Mikoto's voice sounded confused and worried. Natsuki looked at her feet as she tried to ignore the conversation next to her. It was not her business and she felt as though she had no place even listening to it. Mai and Mikoto were among her closest friends, but no one shared the bond that those two did.

They never talked about what had happened once Natsuki had disappeared during the carnival. It was too painful, she assumed, and too raw, but she never pressed for details. They would tell her when they wanted to, but it was a private matter.

"I'm fine, Mikoto, I want to go home." Mai's voice and sentiments echoed all of theirs, and Natsuki allowed Shizuru's hand to slip into her's as they started to walk across the bridge. No one would question them, First District would see to that, and all they had to do now was return home and go one with their lives as though nothing had happened.

"I want to go home and hold my baby." Mai said, her eyes distant.

Natsuki knew that Mai had come close to losing it earlier, to telling her to do awful things to the girl who threatened the happiness of Mai's small family. Living with that would be damaging to anyone's psyche, and adjusting to the fact that you were mentally capable of doing something like that would be very difficult.

That, Natsuki realized, was going to be the real challenge.

-

"Can I talk to you?" Nao looked up from her cell phone and blinked as Natsuki moved to sit down next to her. They'd caught an early train, leaving in a hurry so that no one would think to question them on their presence at the hotel that had been almost completely destroyed by Shiho's attack.

She smiled ever so slightly, and closed her phone with a snap, effectively hiding the email that she'd been sending. It was work related, but she liked to lead Natsuki into believing things that weren't always true, it was her way of messing with her. "What is it?" she asked.

Nao was no fool, she knew what was coming and she decidedly did not want to hear it. The conflict was over; there was no need for her to have her elements any more, so now Natsuki was going to reject her like they did in the movies.

She frowned, wondering if there was a way that they could move around it without having this conversation.

Fuck.

Natsuki frowned, sitting down next to Nao. "I think you know."

Nao nodded slowly. "Look – Kuga – I know that you've got your crazy woman and that's enough for you, but some of us don't get any of that shit." She knew that she sounded angry, but she couldn't really help it. She didn't want to be rejected.

Natsuki closed her eyes and seemed to be counting to ten, calming herself down before she shouted in the middle of a crowded train.

Pins and needles, Nao knew that she had to be careful now. Or else she was going to push Kuga into an uproar and she didn't want to try and deal with the potential repercussions of what might happen if she said something like that so soon after a battle. They were all on edge, and she'd watched Natsuki murder someone in cold blood today. It was not a pleasant sight, nor one that bore repeating. She would have to force herself to put distance between herself and the idea if she was ever going to be able to look at Natsuki without remembering that moment.

"Nao," Natsuki began, her voice shaking a little as though she was struggling to find the right words. "This can't go on. I have the person who's most important to me, and I accept the fact that I'm the most important person to you. You don't have to be in love with me in order for me to care about you and accept the bond.

"We've all seen what obsessive love can do to people, I think we HiME are pretty susceptible to it, and I don't want that for you." Nao frowned, Natsuki had grabbed her hand and she wasn't sure that she wanted to be touched right now.

The older woman would not let go, however, and the gaze of those insistent green eyes that were so unlike her own was enough to pull Nao's attention in and hold it. She was head over heals in love with this woman, the person who'd shown her so much kindness in the past and had treated her like family when no one else had thought her worth their time. This was the woman who'd ignored her wrongs of the past and had simply accepted her as a person and cared for her as such when no one else did.

The woman who'd saved her.

Nao allowed her hand to be held, she allowed Natsuki to try and talk her out of her decision to love her despite her own personal fears for her safety, given the nature of Kuga's girlfriend. She'd already decided that she was going to back off. Fujino had made such an honest effort not to snap at her like she'd done in the past, and Nao felt as though she owed it to Jun – if not to Natsuki herself - to try and not drive a wedge into her own surrogate family.

When she'd kissed Natsuki, she hadn't been thinking clearly, that much was for sure. She'd known then that when Kikukawa had seen them kissing in the elevator, that her fate was sealed, but so far, the mousy girl had kept her mouth shut. Nao prayed that she would never have to live up to her one moment of weakness; as Fujino was quite terrifying enough without the large purple monster she called a child at her beck and call.

"I will still love you." Nao pointed out quietly, her voice barely rising over clatter of the train cars going over the tracks beneath them. "Even though it's perhaps the most suicidal thing I've ever done."

She wasn't lying, either, for the mere idea of not trying to bury her feelings in the presence of that monstrous purple thing was downright insane.

How Natsuki put up with Fujino was anyone's guess, because Nao – and Yukino as well, she suspected – could not think of a worse fate than being trapped alone with a lovesick and homicidal Fujino Shizuru. She knew her limits well, and stayed far away from Fujino most of the time.

Despite all of that, however, she was still Natsuki's preferred babysitter for Jun, and she did love the boy like an older sister.

Natsuki squeezed her hand, "I wouldn't doubt it." Her eyes were sad, and Nao realized that this was difficult for her as well. "You're like the little sister – the family that I never had. It's the least I can do, to be there for you." She looked down at her knees. "I-I, I just can't be there for you in the way that you want me to be."

Nao didn't know what to say. She knew that it had been coming, but she couldn't think of a way to make it any better. She was just doomed; it seemed, to never really be happy.

Fuck, she was crying too.

Why was she always such a fucking girl about this shit?

"I can't say I won't stop," Nao said evenly, her tears not reaching her voice, thank the heavens. "-loving you, that is. But I can try not to be so obvious about it."

Natsuki smiled. "That's enough for me," she said. She slung an arm around Nao's shoulder. "It's better to just be ourselves, after all."

"True."

They shared a laughing moment and neither of them noticed the slow and easy smile that spread across the face of the tall, dark haired man sitting across the aisle next to his younger sister. Neither of them trusted him, and neither of them saw the flash of golden happiness in his eyes as they made their way home.

The HiME had killed one of their own.

That could only mean one thing.

-

From the writings of Kuga Natsuki, on winter vacation with her family in Okinawa

Jun and Shizuru both had a week off from school and I'd taken the vacation time, so we all decided that it was time to take a trip together, just the three of us as a family. It's the off season for a vacation, but I just needed to get away from home for a while and not have to think about anything, let alone social obligations over the winter holidays that all of my half-Japanese friends seem to celebrate.

Shizuru seems happier now that I've got her alone in a hotel room (we splurged and got Jun a smaller room of his own) and can have my way with her on a regular basis without having to worry about being too loud.

She and I don't talk about what I did on the bridge, and I think its better that way. I know that we need to be more open with each other, but at the same time, I don't want to tell her what exactly I said to Nao, or how much it hurt me to say those things.

Nao is like my best friend, the person I could have been, had Shizuru not come into my life. I need to take care of her, and I need to be there for her.

She doesn't know what it's like to kill, and I can tell that she fears the fact that I could do it so easily.

I don't want to be able to do it easily, but some skills are honed even if one does not want to learn them. I think that she'll be alright, however, she always is.

Mai and Yuuichi are pregnant again. I knew that this was going to happen to one of us when all of this bullshit was over, but I'm happy for them. Mai's one of the best mothers I know and more children need her to bring them into the world and raise them

I hope she gets a boy this time; however, Jun needs someone to play with.

. We don't know what to tell Jun, how to explain to him that his parents are former magical girls with obligations to revert back to being heroines with the slightest change in the careful structure of our lives. Shizuru thinks we shouldn't mention it at all, but the kid's really sharp and he's sure to pick up on it eventually.

I want to teach him how to shoot a gun, but I can't, since they're illegal.

He needs to be able to protect himself from the darkness that lurks in the shadows of this world and his own heart. We tell him to be strong, to stand up for himself, and to never falter in his beliefs. That's all we can do.

He is his own person, as are we.

Ours is the only destiny we can shape.

Kuga Natsuki, December 28