This is the final chapter! Thank you to everyone for making this my most popular fic yet. Special thanks to my wonderful beta WolfSinKyros for all her help. Without her, I wouldn't have had the confidence to post.
I hope to see you all again soon. :)
"Isn't that… Nikaidou?"
"Yeah, didn't you hear he was coming back today?"
"Hasn't he been gone for four months now?"
"They said he was dying. He was stabbed through the stomach, or something."
"Nikaidou, dying? Yeah right."
Kengo and Aya glanced at each other nervously, then at Akira's back. He kept walking, head held high as usual. They couldn't see his face, but they knew it would be uncaring. His hair, cut to shoulderblade length, swayed softly as he continued down the hallway. As he passed the window frames into a brief moment of shadow, the strands faded to black, then blazed back into light auburn-brown when he stepped into the light again.
He hadn't spoken much on the way to school, but he looked just like the Akira they remembered. In fact, they might have been convinced he was completely back to normal, if it weren't for how he kept gingerly touching his stomach, or the defeated light in his sharp grey eyes, or the fact that now Shirogane was trailing him as his shadow. But they hadn't asked… Kou had warned them that this was something between Akira and Shirogane, and that Akira would only get upset if they pried.
He was quiet during the classes, staring out the window. He would answer when the teacher asked a question, and would turn his eyes to her, but otherwise he was off in his own world. Aya and Kengo could see Shirogane standing behind the younger Shin, hands carefully placed on Akira's shoulders. When the lunch bell rang, Akira was up and out the door faster than any of them, Shirogane right behind him.
"Aya, should we go after him?" Kengo asked.
"No. Don't you remember what Kou-san said? We need to give Akira time to himself."
"Kou-nii didn't really explain what was going on. I'm not saying we need to know everything… just… I don't understand what's going on. I don't know what's happened to Akira."
Aya could say the same. Kou had merely said that Akira needed space to work things out, and that he needed Shirogane with him. He wouldn't explain what had happened that made Akira need to be alone, or why the silver-haired Shin King was allowed near but no one else was.
"I'm sure he'll tell us if he feels like it's something we need to know… but otherwise, I think we should just keep out of it."
Up on the roof, Akira leaned against the fence, looking out over the city. Shirogane stood close by silently, watching Akira cautiously.
"Please don't think of jumping, Akira-kun."
"I wasn't going to," was the grumble.
A pause. "I'm glad you cut your hair, but it's still longer than usual."
"Is that a problem?"
"No. But I would like to know why, if it's at all possible."
"I don't need that long hair anymore. I like it this length for now."
"Ah, I see." Shirogane's voice was warm, and it thrilled Akira to the core. "That's good." Another pause. "Akira-kun, you still haven't regained your strength."
Akira's hand jumped to his stomach protectively – ashamed, he turned his head, but a gentle finger turned his gaze back to the pale blue. Shirogane was very close… their noses were brushing.
"But I'll be here. I won't let it ever happen again."
"He did it… to make you suffer, didn't he?"
Shirogane hesitated… his face looked tortured. "Yes. And I'm very glad he failed. I honestly… don't know…" Shirogane's voice cracked. "… What I would have done, if he hadn't. If I lose you again, Akira-kun… I…"
They were both afraid. They knew it. Akira closed his eyes, pressing both hands to his stomach now, trying to ignore the sharp stabs of pain. He was afraid that he couldn't have Shirogane's love. Shirogane was afraid of losing Akira. They understood each other so much it hurt. The fear, and the relief that they had gone through was pulling them closer and closer. Sometimes, Akira loved it so much he felt like he could drown in it. But…
"So you know… he's probably going to come after me again. He's not going to stop, if he really wants to cause you pain."
Akira heard his own voice shaking. Shirogane drew him close, locking him in a tight embrace.
"I won't let him," was the fierce reply. "If he even shows his face, I'll tear him apart!"
Akira knew what the best solution would be. He didn't want to make Shirogane suffer, and the only way to ensure that such a thing wouldn't happen was to sever all ties. But he was selfish… he had always been selfish. Even if it would make things easier, he couldn't bring himself to try to break away again. Especially now, when things were going this way.
But if it would come down to it, Akira knew what he would have to do, and he steeled himself for it.
And the Shin King bent his head, capturing Akira's mouth in a tender, warm kiss. Akira, despite his best wishes, couldn't help but let his eyes slide shut… couldn't help but let his defences melt away. When Shirogane pulled back, grey eyes gazed up at him through ebony lashes.
It would be difficult… it would be very difficult to be ready. But for now, Akira would let himself rest.
Shirogane was his, and he was Shirogane's, forever.