A/N: The final chapter! For real!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
The road was now familiar to Kio, yet it still made shivers ran down his spine. It all started this way; Soubi driving down this very road many years ago. Kio wondered what his friend had thought of back then. Had the thought of what would happen ever cross his mind? Had he seen it coming? Kio allowed a moment of selfishness to blame Soubi for not disobeying Ritsu's order to stay away from that client but it disappeared as quickly as it came. What was the point of blaming anyone? It's far too late for regret. Far, far too late for regret.
The gate opened for him, admitting him into the mysterious universe if only temporarily. When it closed behind him, he wondered if he should want it to remain closed or open again for him. Kio shook his head. He really shouldn't think of things like that. He knew he didn't belong here. He'd be an outsider here, he wouldn't be wanted, he'd be expected to leave. The truth still stung but Kio refused to let the pain prevail. His car barely made a sound, barely stirring the quietness of the trees which guarded his destination. He should be quick and silent.
The mansion looked grand today, tall and old and proud. The first time he came here it was in disrepair. Time had destroyed it slowly, had tried to return it to the nature. Overgrown plants had tried to hide it, swallow it back to earth, protect it from anything that might come. It had made him think of Sleeping Beauty's castle. It had made him detested the place.
Nowadays, after restoration, it had returned to its former glory and, with the help of an army of helpers, was kept in that state. Nowadays, it was difficult to fully hate it. It was difficult to fully hate life.
Sweet scent of flowers and soil assaulted Kio as he stepped out of the car. He looked around him, admiring the view of the garden. Butterflies danced above the flowers, birds sang in the forest, sun shone down unobstructed by clouds, truly it was the picture of celebration of life. Kio smoothed his suit jacket self-consciously, took a deep breath to chase away envy and jealousy and walked into the mansion.
The place was quiet, as it always was on weekends. No one came to welcome him but Kio knew exactly where to go, having been there, in that place, in that situation, often enough. He walked quietly into the study, trying not to think of how he wished he belonged here. He didn't belong here and never would. What's the point of torturing himself with envy?
His lips stretched into a smile easily, not pretense needed. "Hey, Sou-chan! How are you?"
Soubi smiled back at him and Kio couldn't help but noticed how his smiles were genuine now. He really was happy, wasn't he? Kio knew he should be happy for that, and it had been years after all, but he couldn't honestly say that. He's a difficult man to get over, that Soubi was.
They sat on a sofa in the study and Kio felt guilty for being happy about the rare moment of privacy. "I just want to see how things are going. It's been a month since I came." He said the excuse he had said a thousand times before as he nursed his scotch. It's still too early for alcohol but he needed it to numb his insane jealousy.
"Everything is well here. How are you?"
Kio laughed, not oblivious of how Soubi refused to tell him his life. After all the terror he went through, he valued privacy even more than he used to. "Boring. No wonder those businesspeople kept asking for us to spice up their lives." His smile widened when Soubi smirked at his words. There were soft lines near the corners of his eyes and mouth. Time had left marks on him, but couldn't take away his attractiveness nor his appeal. Kio wished he could say the same about himself. He felt old next to his friend, so plain and unattractive despite the fact that he had men and women competing to spend time with him. "The money is good though. The boredom's almost worth it."
"Well, you can always ask for one of your people to accompany you. It's not like you have to pay."
"True." Kio agreed. "But, no, I don't want to change some things from the old days."
Kio watched Soubi's face for a change of emotions but found nothing, like he didn't understand what Kio tried not to say. The blond never asked about Ritsu and Kio avoided mentioning that name in front of him. They had only met once after Ritsu returned to Japan and it had been a cold reunion. The tension hadn't melted although Ritsu had promised that he would take care of everything Soubi might need and want, and lived up to the promise. Soubi would never fully forgive him, Kio knew, and he had the right to be that way after everything Ritsu did to him. This cold war, this tense non-relationship was all Soubi was willing to give.
It wasn't like Ritsu cared. He had finally gotten what he wanted after his initial negotiation with Seimei ended on a bloody note. His empire had grown. He was no longer just the owner of a high-class escort business. He had a legal business now, one he could flaunt and use to cover his crimes. Yes, some things would never change, but Kio didn't mind much for he, too, had received the benefits of being upgraded into a legit businessman. True, it was only a cover of what they really did, but that's how the society was built anyways. So what was wrong with former escorts pretending to be a respectable part of the society?
His smile slipped a little but years as escort had taught him how to feign cheerfulness. Kio looked at the young man standing at the door, feeling breath stolen from him as always.
It was the same black hair, same dark eyes, same pale skin, same lean body. It was Seimei back from the grave.
But Soubi didn't seem to notice this similarity. Or at least he didn't seem to care. The look on his face told Kio the story he never wished to know. He completely adored the doppelganger, completely crazy for him, completely in love with him.
Kio swallowed the lump forming in his throat. He didn't understand, couldn't understand. It was too strange. Their history was too strange. Why this kid? Why not someone older… or more mature? Why not someone else? Why not Kio?
"Hi, Ritsuka! How are you?"
"I'm well." Ritsuka answered, smiling at him slightly, shyly, enforcing the feeling that Kio wasn't a part of this, of what he had with Soubi. "I'm going to be at the garden if you need me." He said as if realizing that Kio wanted to have Soubi for himself just for a while. And maybe he did know. He was an Aoyagi after all. The same blood that had coursed Seimei's body also ran in his. Kio tried not to shiver at the thought of the demonic man. Ritsuka seemed to notice this, eyes piercing into Kio for a brief breathtaking moment, but quickly averted his gaze to Soubi and smiled at him sweetly like he was everything that mattered in this world before leaving them alone.
If he were completely honest himself, if he were able to fully ignore his persisting jealousy, Kio could see why Soubi chose Ritsuka. He was honest, almost too honest. He was easy to read, too transparent. He was kind, too kind, too naïve despite everything he had been through. He was smart. He was too perfect to be true.
Kio wished Ritsuka's feeling for Soubi wasn't genuine, then he'd have a reason to hate him, to say that Soubi should've chosen him over the kid. But his feeling was real. Why else would he discard everything from his past just so he could start a new life with Soubi?
Since Ritsuka's mother died during a robbery in their family house and Seimei committed suicide, Ritsuka was the sole heir of the old Aoyagi family. The world pitied him, calling him a poor boy due to the tragedies surrounding him in such a young age, then tried to take advantage of his inexperience. He surprised everyone by giving all of his assets to Ritsu, a man previously overlooked by society, and then disappeared. People looked for him at first, questioning his decision, worried for his well-being, but they quickly forgot, distracted by the greatest force that moved the world; money.
But Kio hadn't forgotten. He couldn't be distracted. He was too involved in this matter to do so. He knew the truth, the ugly truth. He knew about the abusive mother. He knew about Seimei and Ritsuka. He knew about the murders.
Innocent? No, Ritsuka wasn't innocent. He was as sinful as Kio and Soubi, if not more. After all, he had taken someone's life. But did Soubi care? Could Kio really blame Ritsuka for that? Ritsuka had been dragged into that twisted situation and only did what he could to get out of it. He was a victim. They all were. Love was a frightening thing indeed.
They didn't see Kio off when he left. He didn't allow it, he didn't think he could handle seeing them so happy. Not that he wanted them to be sad. He just couldn't stand the thought of them moving on happily with their lives while he was emotionally stranded in the past, unable to escape.
A butterfly flew past him. It's black and blue wings fluttered, teasing Kio to try to catch it. He resisted, watching it fly away instead.
Butterfly. The symbol of change, soul, rebirth. How very fitting that there were plenty of the insects in this mansion where two people had rebuilt their lives from the scratch. Or was it what called them here, a place where two people who had abandoned their pasts finally discovered what they needed and wanted in live? Kio smiled at the thought. It seemed like he had grown up.
He got into his car and started the engine. Before he left, he threw one last glance at the silent mansion. A part of him wished to see peering eyes, waving hands. But another, more realistic part of him squashed that hope mercilessly, leaving bleeding scars behind. He wondered if he would ever fully heal, but if they could, then he should be able to as well.
Disappeared. Forgotten. Alive and well. Happy.
Maybe he should try that sometimes. Maybe. One day. When there's nothing holding him back. Definitely. Probably. Maybe. One day. One day.
A/N: So, after many, many, many years, The Butterfly Mansion has finally ended. I started out trying to write something like Lolita (and a yaoi manga I couldn't presently recall) and ended up with this instead -_- Anyway, I'm so glad I've managed to entertain so many people with this fic. Thank you for reading and for your lovely reviews. It's been a fun ride!