Ok, so, here we are in the last chapter of The Twelfth Treasure…I can't quite believe it's done, but if you have enjoyed this story, make sure to thank ReverseHarem888—since it was because of her request that this tale was born. I can't tell you how much fun it's been to write, though difficult at times, too. I really appreciate all your comments and your insights! It has never mattered to me how many people actually read these works, but it means more to me than I can say that those of you who do read have done so with such an attention to details—keeping my on my toes—and with such an energy as well! "Hits" so to speak are pretty meaningless to me, just so long as a few people, or even one person, has enjoyed my writing and found something to take away from it. Fan Fiction is not something I ever thought I'd find myself writing, but, now that I'm doing it…I would like to keep going. So, this chapter, I hope, will be as enjoyable to you readers as the others—and I wouldn't write them without you. I thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart. So, without further comment—chapter 11 of my story—the characters are not mine, and I don't own KKM—but I have to say, if I did, I'd share it with you all who've stuck with me for what's become, as I once feared, a 100,000+ word tale. Thank you again, and I will see you at the bottom of the page…
The Twelfth Treasure of Shin Makoku – A Fairy Tale
Who can tell what is a beginning and what is an end? In Shin Makoku, the Great Demon Nation, the two blend together into a tapestry of life, weaving the threads of love and conflict throughout a history rich with adventure and meaning. What we know of life is built on the backs of those who came before, and the future, always is made by those who will come after. Still, the tapestry is without end, even as love, honor, and sacrifice never die. So, there was, once upon a time, a beautiful demon lord, a handsome demon-king, a brave soldier, a reformed prince, a daring spy, and a stoic general. These legendary mazoku, the bravest and best of the demon nation, suffered many trials, faced adversity, and through it all held fast to their principles. In the end, when questioned about the dark time during which the beautiful lord was almost lost to the demon-king, it was often the brave soldier who reminded the inquisitor that the Maou-Heika had always said, "Where there is life, there is hope." And where there is hope…there is love.
Part Eleven: The Morning After, or, How do you explain to your over-protective brother that you're not a virgin anymore? Make sure your lover is well-armed.
Oh, Oh, Oh, It's magic, you know. Never believe it's not so—Pilot
The message is perfectly simple, the meaning is clear. Don't ever stray to far, and don't disappear…what's your reputation? (ecstasy) What's your destination? (next to me)—ABC
I need a soldier, that ain't scared to stand up for me. Known to carry big things, if you know what I mean—Destiny's Child
Shibuya Yuuri have never felt quite so warm and content as he did when he woke to find himself snuggled against Gunter Von Kleist's chest. As he moved, slowly coming back to consciousness, he became aware of another source of warmth pressed against his back. Before he opened his eyes, though, he shifted his shoulders and realized he was also pressed against another breathing chest, this one cuddled against his back. He yawned.
"You're awake, my love?"
Yuuri opened his eyes, and saw Gunter's loving gaze trained on him. He nodded, nuzzling against Gunter's neck.
"And how do you feel, Heika?"
Yuuri blinked, then turned his head to look over his shoulder, and saw Conrad's warm, brown eyes looking at him with an expression of concern and…hesitancy. He smiled. Did the soldier really think he would be upset to find him here?
"It's Yuuri, Nazukeoya—now you're in bed with me and you still can't remember? That's it. I'm going to take you to a doctor on earth. They have medicine for that now, you know."
Yuuri sighed happily, and burrowed deeper into the covers of Gunter's delightfully warm, safe bed. He was awake. He was alive. And the two people he loved most were right with him. It was hard for him to imagine anything better in all the worlds.
"Truly, Yuuri," Conrad said, close to his ear. "How are you feeling?"
"I feel fine, just a little tired," he replied. "What about you? Are you all right? Where is everyone?"
"I'm well, Heika. I was injured last night, but you healed me. I promise, I'm fine. Yozak is going to be all right, too—Lady Alese is with him."
"Is…is it over?" he asked.
"Yes, Yuuri," Gunter said, leaning down to press a soft kiss to his forehead. "You have released my family, and the Gyllenhaals from a terrible burden. I…I don't know what to say."
"That's right," Yuuri said, turning so that he was lying on his back in between the two men. "I remember Lord Gyllenhaal. Why was he here, Gunter?"
"From what I gather, the creature you fought in your mind made a bargain not only with my family, but with the head of the Gyllenhaal family as well. They have been hosts to that creature, but in return for what I do not know. However, Lord Gyllenhaal is going to recover as well. We will be able to find out from him, perhaps."
"That must have been terrible for them," Yuuri mused. "I'm sure they didn't know what price they would have to pay."
He felt Conrad's arms convulse around him. "He attacked you, Heika. Do you mean to forgive him?"
"I mean to hear him first, Conrad," Yuuri said, reaching up with one hand to smooth his knight's furrowed brows. "I will withhold any judgment until I know everything. You and Gunter have taught me well over the years, and I won't rush to dispense any kind of punishment before I have all the particulars. Now, don't frown—I'm all right."
"Thank Shinou for that," Conrad breathed, and squeezed Yuuri again. "I…I think I should be getting up, Yuuri. You and Gunter will want some time alone…"
Yuuri shook his head. "No, don't go. You've been up all night and day haven't you?"
Even as the soldier shook his head, Gunter answered. "He has, Heika. He wouldn't sleep until you opened your eyes."
"Well, I'm tired, too…aren't you tired, Gunter?"
His lover nodded, dipping his head to whisper a kiss over his mouth. "It's been a very, very long night."
"Then I think what is called for now, as long as everything is in hand for the moment, is a nice long nap. I want you both near me. Any objections?"
Yuuri waited, but his companions made no complaints. Pleased with himself, he rolled onto his side again, this time snuggling against Gunter so that his back was pressed against his lover's chest, the taller man moved and spooned tight against him. Then, he worked his arms around Conrad's waist and tugged until his knight shifted closer. Yuuri pillowed his head on Conrad's arm and closed his eyes. "Sleep now," he said, pressing a little kiss against Conrad's shoulder. "Talk later."
Gunter woke suddenly, his eyes adjusting quickly to the bright sun that streamed in through his window. His fingers brushed against Conrad as he tightened his hold on Yuuri. The soldier's dark eyes opened, no evidence of sleepy confusion, and he nodded. They were being observed, and Conrad knew it, too.
"What, exactly, is going on here?"
Yuuri's eyes opened, fluttered, and he blinked sleepily. "You say something, Conrad?"
"Yu-chan!" Shori said, his voice strong with disapproval. "I asked you—what is going on?"
"Shori?" The king's sleepy confusion was adorable, but Gunter didn't allow himself to revel in it.
Apparently the king's elder brother was none to pleased with the picture presented him. Had he forgotten to lock the door? Gunter couldn't remember, but given his level of exhaustion and concern for his Maou, he probably had.
"Shori, what are you doing here?" Yuuri asked.
"I was dragged here by Wolfram, the one you used to be engaged to. But you have yet to answer me. What's happening, Yuuri! Why are you in bed with these men? And what are you two doing? Get away from Yu-chan right now!"
Gunter stared at the king's older brother. The young man was seething, his eyes flashing black and his face was so red it was almost purple. He was framed in Gunter's door, his arms folded over his chest and one eye twitching with an angry tic. He looked just a little like Gwendal, the adjutant thought.
"No one's going anywhere, Shori," Yuuri sighed, stretching. He gave Gunter a look as if to say, Sorry, my brother is…well, you know. And Gunter did know. Then the Maou reached up and caressed Conrad's cheek with his palm, the gesture meaning the same as the look.
"Yu-Chan, you don't know what's happening. Look at the danger you've been placed in, and you're—"
"A grown man, and the Maou," Yuuri said, his voice hard. He sat up in bed, Conrad and Gunter moved with him, nearly in unison. Gunter's hand was on his sword—he'd placed it by his side of the bed the night before. Conrad's was also held in his grasp.
"Shori," Yuuri motioned for his brother to come in. "I will have peace now, and you are disturbing it. I don't really know why you're here, but I'm glad to see you and since I guess you probably got here last night, looking at your face, I'm really glad you're safe. I love you, you're my brother, but, you cannot just barge into my room and start shouting down the walls. I'm an adult, Shori, and where I sleep—and who shares my bed—is my business."
Gunter watched the play of emotions over the elder Shibuya's face. The young man was confused, yes, and in some ways shocked to find his brother in bed with two mazoku, but he was also a cunning man, and he was already forming arguments—that much as obvious.
"I had heard from Von Voltaire-kyo that you are courting the Lord Von Kleist."
"I am," Yuuri whispered, turning slightly and smiling up into Gunter's eyes. The magician felt suddenly warm and a little shy, but he returned the smile. This was the first time anyone had ever openly addressed his current status as the object of the King's affection—using the words. His mother's outburst didn't count.
"I am courting Gunter, Shori. I love him with all my heart. I really don't need my older brother messing that up, either."
Gunter could have kissed the little pout right off Yuuri's lips. In all his years, he hadn't known how good it could feel to be so openly pursued and obviously cherished.
"Then why is that other one with you?" Shori sounded disgusted.
"That other one has a name, Shori!" Yuuri shouted suddenly, making Gunter jump just a little. Conrad's stunned expression probably mirrored his own.
"For years you have insulted him—so subtly, even when he was enjoying the hospitality of our parents' home!" Yuuri pushed himself out of bed, bounding over Conrad's legs and standing before his taller brother. "His name is Conrad. Conrad Weller. Weller-kyo. Prince Weller, if you force me to go that far, Shori, and I will not tolerate your insults to someone I care about so deeply. I've had enough!"
"Yu-chan!" Shori whispered, taking a step back.
"Don't you Yu-chan, me!" The king's voice softened. "Listen to me, Shori. These two men are my life, my world. I came very close to losing them both, too, and maybe you don't understand, but I need them. You should be happy, brother. This is a day to celebrate, to give thanks for the goodness in us all that has triumphed. I'm happy, Shori, and I want you to be happy, too."
Yuuri laid his hand on his brother's shoulder. "Shori, you are my older brother, and you always will be—I don't have another brother, and I wouldn't choose anyone different, even if I could. But, you are going to have to put your jealousy aside, now. Gunter will always be with me, big brother, and I hope…I hope he will be much more to me, even than he is now. Conrad is my knight, my soldier—he's watched over me and protected me since I came to Shin Makoku. I love him, Shori."
"Heika!" Conrad gasped, speaking for the first time. Gunter put his hand on Conrad's wrist and gave it a squeeze.
Yuuri looked back over his shoulder. "It's all right, Conrad."
"You cannot marry them both!" Shori growled, running his hands through his hair.
"I know that," Yuuri said, smiling. "But you're getting ahead of yourself, Shori, and far too concerned with my affairs and not concerned enough with your own. Instead of worrying about my love life, which is tripping along just fine, thank you, why not worry about when you're actually going to take up your own responsibilities…"
Gunter couldn't help it…tripping…it was still funny. He covered his laughter with a cough, and told Conrad with his eyes that all would be explained later.
"But, we don't really know him, Yu-chan."
"I know him, and that should be enough for you." The king raised himself to his full height. "My soul and Gunter's are linked, Shori, and even though he appears calm enough right now, he's not. You're upsetting the man I love and I won't have it. I told you, this day is for celebrating. We are alive, and we are fortunate. Why are you standing here fighting with me, when there is so much to be thankful—and so much to grieve. Have you considered the families of the soldiers who won't be going home?"
"Heika…?" Conrad whispered, turning to Gunter. "How did you…how did you know?"
"Conrad, I was there last night, remember? Do you really mean to tell me that we lost no one to those creatures?"
The soldier shook his head. The maou came to his side and stroked his shoulder. Gunter had never been more proud of his king than he was at that moment. Yuuri-heika was there to comfort them, and guide them, yes, but he never forgot—he never ignored the sacrifices made by others for his sake—for the sake of all Shin Makoku.
"Shori, tell me you can put aside this foolishness and trust in me now." Yuuri's eyes were shining with hope. "I'm not a little boy anymore."
"But you will always be my little brother." Shori objected, looking terribly confused. Gunter thought he understood the young man's concerns. Somewhere, Yuuri had grown up and Shori felt left behind, maybe even a little lost.
"We would never try to take Yuuri-heika from you, Shori-sama," Gunter said gently. "We have always known that he is of both worlds—earth is as much his home as Shin Makoku. I, too, have a younger brother and perhaps you have met him. Conrad, also. Please won't you trust us to understand your feelings? We have much in common, if you will but give us a chance to know you."
"This still seems so wrong," Shori whispered. "The three of you together."
"Allow me to clarify," Conrad said, finally. "Gunter is Yuuri-heika's chosen—he is courting Lord Von Kleist most seriously. I am, still, the king's knight and his personal guard. That is how circumstances stand at present. Anything else, regardless of what it is, remains our private concern—our personal business. Does that…help?"
"These are my people," Yuuri whispered, crossing the room and winding his arms around his brother's waist. "This is my kingdom, Shori. I never knew this would happen, and you know that better than anyone. I was happy enough, playing ball and going to school, even if I didn't really know what my purpose in life was going to be. But it's been years since I made the choice to accept the position as Maou of Shin Makoku. I gave my heart to this country and my commitment to its prosperity and peace. I am in no way qualified or worthy to be a king, but here I am all the same. This is my place, Onii-chan. I would like to know that I have your support."
"Of course you do, Yu-chan," Shori whispered, hugging his brother, but still staring at Gunter, confused.
"Good. I'm so glad." Yuuri smiled and nudged his brother toward the door. "Why don't you wait for us in the library, or wherever Freda-dono has decided we should gather? We'll be there soon."
Gunter watched as the Maou urged his brother out into the corridor, then locked the door.
"Wow," the young Maou sighed. "That really was NOT how I wanted to wake up! Gunter…"
"Yes, Heika, I know. And I'm sorry. In future, I won't forget to lock the door."
The next weeks and months were like a blur to Conrad. First, Yuuri had insisted on staying with Gunter's family for a few days before returning to Blood Pledge Castle. The young king had spent most of his time checking on the recovery of his subjects. The Maou had used his own healing mujutsu to take care of Yozak and the other soldiers who had been injured during the battle. Conrad had to smile, then laugh, as the diminutive Lady Alese almost refused the King's assistance. She was so protective of the spy, standing between Yozak's massive frame and the Maou. Finally, it was Yozak himself who reached out with a strong arm and pulled the lady against his side. The young woman nearly fainted with blush, but it allowed the King the room he needed to heal his daring spy. Any further objections Alese might have made were lost in Yozak's kisses, as he pressed his lips to hers. His best friend winked at him, and Conrad lost no time in moving Yuuri from the room. Some things demanded privacy, after all.
Yuuri's meeting with Lord Gyllenhaal was not as easily accomplished. After healing the head of one of the ten noble families, Yuuri listened carefully as the mazoku finally admitted his family's part in the generations worth of agony that had been visited on the Von Kleist's. Both families, it would seem, had been duped by the creature, Chaos. Yuuri judged that the Gyllenhaals had paid with enough of their own blood, considering that the family's reputation for being short-lived for Mazoku had much to do with the creature's need for blood and souls. The relationships, however, would take time, possibly even generations, to repair. And, as he discussed with the Maou later, Conrad knew that just because that one aspect of evil had been vanquished, it didn't mean that Shin Makoku would be without terror and tyrants. Life was never that easy.
What had surprised them all, however, was the contrite and remorseful Wolfram who greeted them when they returned to Blood Pledge Castle. Conrad's younger brother had acquitted himself well, holding the nation steady while they had been in the Von Kleist lands. However, what Wolfram and Yuuri discussed during their long, long walk through the castle grounds would remain, always, between the two of them. However, when they returned, a half-day later, Wolfram announced that he would spend time with Shori—on earth—learning about Yuuri's culture and roots. The entire castle breathed a sigh of relief, however, when Wolfram's apology to Gunter was met with a respectful, if stern, acknowledgement and not a thrown knife.
And somehow, the way it always does, life pulled them all forward. There were still diplomatic trials to be faced, and work to be done. Yuuri spent more time with Gwendal—and to everyone's collective surprise, the two became a nearly unstoppable diplomatic force, allies almost always in concert with one another—the running away from his duties and conflict with Conrad's older brother were a thing of the past. The young king had matured, and become the Maou in every sense of the word. He was a king his people respected, and daily earned the love of his loyal retainers through his actions and deeds.
Their private lives—that business of their own that he had once maintained to Yuuri's brother belonged only to them…? Well, Conrad had to admit that was a bit more complicated. At first, as his courtship with Gunter progressed, Conrad had often had to tamp down his own jealousy. It was not that the soldier felt himself to be unloved—he knew he was loved deeply. It was more that it was an adjustment, a smoothing of edges until everyone knew where he belonged. The transition between friends to lovers between himself and the king was accomplished over long months, years if he was honest. First, though, there had come the wedding. For as many years as Yuuri had languished in his engagement to Wolfram, he seemed equally as anxious not to wait before he married his former adjutant. Conrad was a bit stunned, really, as he watched Yuuri court Gunter with all the skill and precision of a well-run military campaign. He often wondered if he couldn't see some of Gwendal's influence as the relationship progressed.
The Maou married Lord Von Kleist that winter—on the earth holiday called Christmas.
The speed with which the pair finally united, however, was nothing in comparison to the swift decision the two men made to begin a family of their own. Though both men had adopted daughters whom they loved without measure, they were anxious for their own children. The moment Gunter explained the finer points of child-birth for two male mazoku, the King demanded a baby. It was a surprisingly simple process—a female surrogate carried the child, though the infant would be imbued with the maryoku of both fathers in a process similar to that which had given Yuuri Julia Von Wincott's soul. And though he was there, ever prepared to change a diaper or rock a sleeping infant, Conrad couldn't help feeling left out. A part of himself, buried so deep inside that he didn't even know it existed, longed for a child of his own. That feeling, the thumping of his own biological clock, became a cacophonous clamor once Yozak and Alese announced they, too, were expecting a child.
Conrad had known he'd been irritable for months, often excusing himself from sleeping with Gunter and Yuuri in the great bed in the King's chamber. He'd found excuses to go on patrol, or to check out small, domestic disturbances which could have easily been left to others. Gunter and Yuuri had fit him into their lives, their marriage, with gentleness and ease—always solicitous of his feelings, but it wasn't really enough. Conrad was a proud mazoku, and loyal. He couldn't imagine being partnered with anyone else, but he had no official standing in the court—other than the role he'd always taken. Still, even though he knew he was loved and desired (and both Gunter and Yuuri spent many hours lavishing him with such tender affection that he could never doubt it), he still wanted a child.
Through his unhappiness, therefore, problems began to creep into the heretofore strong triangle that had united them. There were tears, mostly Gunter's. There were stony silences, mostly his. There were even threats of running away to earth, always Yuuri's but never said with any real heat. Finally, just as he'd been preparing to leave on another scouting trip, Yuuri had called him into his office. Conrad arrived to find Yuuri and Gunter both waiting for him.
"Conrad," the Maou had said, folding his arms and looking at him from behind his desk. "Gunter and I think it's about time you tell us what is really bothering you."
"I'm fine, Heika. Really." And he'd even tried to smile.
The Maou however, exchanged a look with his husband that made it clear he knew Conrad was lying.
"I thought you loved me more than that, Conrad," The younger man said quietly. "Even after all this time, everything we've been through—you still won't tell me the desires of your heart? And…before you answer, be warned, that if you say anything approximating 'Yuuri, I only want your happiness', I will be forced to send you to earth—after Gunter magics you a pair of wings, and you will be made to discuss your concerns with my mother."
"I want a baby," Conrad blurted out. The words had come from deep in his heart, without any warning.
He bit the inside of his lip, then, embarrassed that he could sound so petulant and selfish.
"Why didn't you tell us you wanted to have a child?" Yuuri had asked then, his expression softening with love, his black eyes lighting with the paternal fire that warmed Conrad's heart.
"I don't just want any child, Yuuri," Conrad whispered. "I want to have a baby with you."
"Surely you didn't think I'd be willing to have another man father your child, did you, Nazukeoya?"
Conrad shivered at the intimacy in Yuuri's tone. Years before, when Yuuri was just a boy, the two men had played a game. Conrad would tease the king, calling him, Heika, and the Yuuri would respond with an irritated Nazukeoya. However, over the years, the game had changed. Now, when Yuuri used the term, it was an endearment, a love-word, and only for the two of them.
So it was now, when Conrad replied, blushing, "I had hoped not, Heika."
"Then why have you waited so long to bring it up?" Gunter asked, his smile gentle and loving. "Every demon craves offspring to love and cherish. We had been wondering, truly, whether you would ever tell us at all."
"But, I'm only half-mazoku, and I don't know…I don't know if I can even have a child with you, Yuuri. I don't have that kind of maryoku." He whispered, confessing his deep fear.
"Silly, silly lion," The Maou chided. "You are involved with one of the strongest sorcerers Shin Makoku has ever seen, and I'm not too bad, if I do say so myself. You don't think we can overcome this? I believe we can do anything when we agree and set our minds to it. I'm hopeful, Conrad. Can't you have some hope, too?"
"I…I think so," he said. "But we're not married, and our children would be bas—"
"Beautiful?" Yuuri asked sharply. "I'm sure that's what you were going to say, Conrad. Because our children will be strong, good, and beautiful—just like you. And without doubt, they will be loved. Isn't that what's important? I will recognize our sons and daughters just as I recognize Greta, Gisela, and every child I have and will have with Gunter. They are all our children, and I am the Maou. So, we're good on this, right?"
The soldier blushed again, unable to put his feelings into words. And it had been through patient teaching, and no small amount of effort, that months later, Conrad Weller held his daughter—little Rosemonde Shibuya-Weller—in his arms, Gunter and Yuuri flanking him and tickling her perfect, tiny toes. Then he realized he had what he always wanted…a family of his own.
Twenty Years Later
"…Once upon a time, there was a beautiful demon lord who fell in love with a handsome demon-king. Though they faced many trials and impediments, the two eventually married and lived together, happily, for all their days. The Royal Couple had many friends—an implacable general, a now-wise prince, a daring spy, and added to their love a brave and noble soldier. The King, the Lord, and the Soldier were inseparable, each loving the other through good times and bad, and from these unions came many children. So it was that Shibuya Yuuri, Harajuko Furi came to be known as Yuuri the Just—the greatest king of Shin Makoku."
Princess Greta closed the book, looking over the edge at her siblings—all of whom were nestled in their beds in the great music room that had once held many instruments and now served as the Royal Nursery. Ranging between the ages of fourteen and two, the princes and princesses, some with Lavender hair and black eyes, some with black hair and brown eyes, and some with brown hair and violet eyes—and every color combination of the three one could imagine—looked at their older sister, incredulous. Between them, there were seventeen children, and Greta privately thought her Papa, Yuuri, should have been known as Yuuri the Prolific.
"Did all that really happen?" Friederich asked, clearly uncertain. He stared at his sister, his pale eyes wide as he shoved his long black hair from his eyes.
She nodded. "It did. And when Papa Yuuri, and Papa Gunter came home, back to Blood Pledge Castle, they told the story to me and sister-Gisela, and we wrote it down."
"So, you mean Morgif can really do more than just bite the maids on the behind?"
All the children laughed at little Jennifer, the youngest of the girls, who looked around, confused. "What?" she asked. "Did I say something funny?"
"And the spy, that was Uncle Yozak?" Rolf asked.
"Indeed," Greta replied, walking between the beds and tucking in her siblings, though they objected, she still snuggled each of the older ones.
"And…Father? Father was Papa's brave soldier?" Christoffer asked.
Greta tousled the boy's brown locks. "Yes, and he still is, today. Now, it's time for bed, and all the little Shibuyas should be sleeping. Tomorrow is Eric's naming day, and we all have to be well-rested."
In another part of the castle, the King's chamber, in fact, three men remained awake. Yuuri, taller now, though still slim and willowy, was walking his son, Eric, up and down the room—the tiny baby's cries only just beginning to calm. Of all his children, Eric was the most temperamental. His soft lavender hair and bright violet eyes glowed in the moonlight. Yuuri's husband, the Lord Von Kleist, and consort to the king, got out of bed and held out his arms.
"Let me have him for a while, Yuuri. It seems our son is determined to spend the night before his naming day awake."
"Just wake me for my shift, Gunter," Conrad mumbled, snuggled down in the covers of the great bed that normally held the three men. "I still remember how hard it was with Shoma when he was little."
"Mother says I was the same way," Yuuri said, passing his little son to his taller father. "Of all our children, Eric is the most like you, Gunter. And he is just as beautiful as his father. I love you so much, my treasure."
The Lord Von Kleist blushed, leaning down to kiss his husband and king. Through all their years together, and throughout however many more were to come, the beautiful demon lord would always remember the time, in their dreams, when his Maou named him the Twelfth Treasure of Shin Makoku.
And they lived, all of them, happily every after.
Well, that's it then. A brood of kids, and that didn't surprise me…and without male pregnancy, too…which I didn't feel I had the moxie to write. And our story is finished. I can't tell you how much I loved writing this one—I really can't. But, I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope to see you all for the next one…stay tuned for "Return to Me." Thanks again, for reading and for all your kind reviews. I appreciate your support and your encouragement! Cheers! Striped Neko.