This fanfic is an alternate ending. Kanon 2006 was a masterpiece, a giant within its genre, but even people who agreed with all the plot elements felt the ending was missing something. It got a little weird, for one thing. I, myself, had a different problem with it; Yuuichi x Ayu. To me, this was about comparable to a eleventh or twelfth grader declaring classic and eternal love for an elementary school cousin. I know she was technically his age, but falling in love is an emotional process, and emotionally, she registers as a child. Their relationship, both before and after, made me think of a brother and sister, and I never could accept it any other way. Since I had very definite ideas about who it should have been and how, this story was inevitable. It picks up at the conclusion of episode twenty-two. Prior events are pretty much the same except that Ayu and Yuuichi have never confessed and the tragic story they share, while unchanged, is founded on deep seated affection and filial, not romantic, love. Suddenly hit with tragedy after tragedy, all the ones he most wanted to save dying or hurting around him and helpless to prevent it, Yuuichi, in the deep snow of Monomi Hill, finally breaks; running, running through the cold snow, going nowhere…


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CAN YOU MAKE A MIRACLE?

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It was cold, terribly cold. Falling snow bit half numb cheeks and covered his hair and lashes. His coat still hung open, flapping wide as he stumbled forward, staring dazedly ahead with the blank, wide, desperate gaze of someone who can nothing in front of him, only memories.

A gentle smile above a plaid shawl, it's very lack of accusation a bitter mockery. A hunched figure in a corner in the dark, huddled next to a snow rabbits eye. A red hairband and a winged backpack. An endless parade of figures danced before him, and there was nothing else. Tree branches lashed him unheeding, roots caught and tripped him, but he only got up again, hardly noticing. No matter how fast he ran, he couldn't run fast enough. His failures hounded him on, through the snow.

Yuuichi, can you do me a favor? Treat me like a normal girl, just for a while. Pretend I'm all right.

But I wanted to make you better, he had wanted to say.

Yuuichi, I don't think I can stay anymore. I can't see you anymore.

No. No one could see her anymore. She had died long ago, and he had run from the very memory like a coward. Failed even to remember their precious time…

Yuuichi…can you make a miracle?

No, he couldn't make a miracle. He couldn't make anything right, and he couldn't help anyone.

Cold inside, cold outside, it was all the same now, as hot despair became stiff sluggish apathy. At last he stumbled and fell, and couldn't get up, but all he saw was that at last the images were fading. There was something final about it. Was he dying? If this was death, then perhaps it was the better course.

He closed his eyes, letting the snow flakes pattern his cheeks. It was a relief, really, to stop moving. Carrying precious burdens forward, he had only dropped them, damaged all the worse for false hope. Yes, not moving was best. Just sink into darkness.

"Yuuichi."

The voice only faintly penetrated his thoughts; he was past the point of responding. Besides, he recognized it. Mai, who was in the hospital. Mai, who he'd forgotten as well, left alone and desolate for seven years. His inner demons must not be asleep yet after all. If he just stayed still…

Then without warning, warmth broke through the thick, stolid numbness that had become his being. Starting from a ghostly touch and spreading through his body, life was returned despite himself. With it returned the automatic struggle that had carried him this far. Slowly, with difficulty, he pushed himself to a sitting position in the snow, glancing upward.

It was Mai after all. But there was something wrong, something insubstantial about the way she was standing—it took his battered mind a moment to realize that her feet stood on top of the snow, and that there was a strange look of light about her, a luminescence. Normally he would have wondered how her powers had come back so quickly. Now he just he sat back on the snow.

"Yo, Mai."

"Yo, Yuuichi."

He stared, while his tired, battered self tried to think again. "Why—why are you here?"

"You were dying."

"Oh. I see."

"You're still dying."

He looked up, puzzled, but too dulled to respond to anything so complex.

"You're dying inside. Why?"

He stared at her. She stared back. No one stared better than Mai. After a minute, without ever breaking his gaze, she sat down, the better to wait. Faced with such unwavering patience, he eventually had to answer. He began to talk. At first it was slow, rambling, defeated. But then it got faster. Finally loose, the guilt and pain he felt, the red hot, cutting sense of failure, poured out of him, faster and faster, and was swallowed by her infinite stare. Mai seemed like some bottomless hole where all hurt, all pain, could forever disappear. When he finally finished, he felt exhausted, and still disheartened. But that dangerous desperation that had almost killed him was gone.

Instead, there was defeated emptiness

"So many failures." he whispered. "I'm…really useless, aren't I?"

Mai was silent, at first. Of course, she usually was. Finally she spoke. "I was running from my power, before. Because it scared me. And I hurt Sayuri."

He didn't even need to be conscious; it was a knee-jerk reaction, like dropping something hot. "Not you."

"No. But…if you're afraid…you can't do anything."

He stirred a little, at that. Remembering some of what he used to say.

"You wouldn't forgive me."

"Huh?"

"If you saw me like that…you wouldn't forgive me. You would say, Stupid Mai, don't give up the precious memories. Don't hurt yourself. Get up and fight. Like with Sayuri."

He smiled, laughed, a weak, gasped laugh, more a sudden exhale…but a laugh. Remembering. "That's right."

She nodded. Then she looked out across the snow. "They're there."

He looked up. "Who are?"

"Shiori. Akiko-san. Ayu. Everyone."

For a moment he just stared. The mind, once betrayed, will always recoil from the chance of further pain. So for an instant, he didn't register what she had said. Power. Akiko-san. Ayu…

At last, at last, his body truly reacted. His brain sparked, his head came up, and he lurched forward so suddenly he almost planted his face in the snow. Still in the pose of catching himself, both hands braced on the ground, he spoke with a rough, high intensity.

"Ayu is..in the hospital?"

Mai nodded.

"But…but…Ayu is…she's dead. I saw her die…"

But she was shaking her head. "No. Alive. But sleeping. She can't wake up. For a long time, I think." Looking off towards the hospital, her gaze, and voice, grew distant. "So many. All hurt…all need me."

"Yuuichi…can you go to the hospital?
"Ah—when do you—"

"Now. I need you…there. Now."

It was second nature, really. "Okay."

******

It was a bit of a walk from where he was. Just as well, as it served to shake off the last of his lethargy. The warmth Mai had given him burned through, and by the time it expired his body could keep itself warm—at least within the bounds of safety. Truth was he was beginning to numb again by the time he got there…but he didn't notice. Like before, he was focused inside. But now it was the opposite; so recently hounded by impossibility, the sudden emergence of redemption threw him into a feverish eagerness. It would be all right, now that Mai was here.

Magical Mai—who really could make miracles.

She was waiting for him, Mai, not far down the hall. She was still in her hospital gown; standing straight in the middle, simply looking, at nothing in particular. She looked up, her slight noise, and a slight widening of the mouth and eyes, her only facial reaction. Her face was a language of subtlety, slight movements meaning much. He walked up to her. His brisk stride and over-bright eyes made his state clear. "I'm here."

She nodded. Then she looked up, and touched her hand to his cheek. "Cold."

He was startled—but then the warmth sparked, and gently washed through him. He really hadn't noticed, until she'd warmed him.

He smiled slightly. "Thanks."

"This way."

He nodded and followed behind her: through several halls, up a flight of stairs, through a door marked 'Intensive Care. Patients, Doctors, and family members only.' He was surprised it wasn't locked. Maybe it was. With Mai, who could tell?

He knew where they were going before they got there. Memories seemed to wisp through the air towards him like smells; a gentle smile, a plaid shawl, ice cream. 'I don't like people who do that'. A party. A note. He smiled, remembering what Shiori had said, when he'd asked if there wasn't any hope of recovery for her.

"Maybe…if a miracle happened. But they're called miracles because they don't. Right?"

They went in.

Surprisingly, even though the room was full of special equipment, the girl on the bed wasn't hooked to any of them. He was grateful for it; it let her look natural, almost as if she was merely sleeping, softly slipping away. Her disease was incurable, so why not give her that last dignity?

It was supposed to be incurable, anyway.

Kaori was there, though she didn't see them. She was sitting in a chair, in front of one of the lower pieces of machinery. She was asleep, her head cushioned on her arms and hair, and the lump of metal that couldn't save her sister's life. Even in sleep, her face was pinched, and there were signs she had been crying. He didn't know whether she was regretting her choice to acknowledge her sister's last moments…but it was clearly as painful as she had imagined. Looking at her, he smiled again.

Like Shiori, Kaori had never believed in miracles.

He turned to Mai. She was standing by the bed, on the other side from him, looking down at the invalid it held. Slowly, her hand reached out, and cupped the girl's cheek, caressed her face. Twice she began to lean forward; twice she stopped. And then she began to cry.

Her arms fell to her sides as silent tears coursed down her cheeks and her face tightened into desperate, pain-ridden helplessness. She fell to her knees next to the bed, her hands clenched into fists over Shiori's body as her face lowered to within an inch of the blankets. Tears poured down in streams and painted dark circles in the soft fabric. Yuuichi had never seen her in such pain since Sayuri was hospitalized.

"It's no good. I can't. I can't save anyone…"

"Mai, what's wrong? Of course you can, you've done it before."

She shook her head, eyes wide and pouring salty pain. "It's no good. I can't anymore."

"I'm too scared, Yuuichi. It hurt so much. Before."

Before. Her power had shown it to him, that before. When she first found her power, and healed her mother. How she had become famous, and everyone had heard about her, seen her perform wonders on television. And hated her for it. For being strange, for being wonderful, for having something they could neither touch nor understand.

Hate that had driven them to move to this town. Fear that made her hide her power. Memory of the pain that made her a loner, afraid to have friends.

And then he'd come. He'd been the first hope, the first person to accept her powers, and her. He had been her friend—her one precious companion. But then he'd had to leave, and she'd convinced herself that he, too, had run, that it was her fate to be alone. And she spent seven years at it, fighting the phantoms of her fears, clutching a sword in moonlit, empty halls. Trying to fight something that couldn't be cut. Trying to destroy what could not be destroyed, only born.

Her power had always sprung from compassion. But nothing blinds you to others more than fear. She needed to feel safe. Safe to heal. Safe to do magic. Safe to be herself. Safe from empty, terrifying loneliness. Without that, she couldn't save anyone.

She needed him, Yuuichi, her friend. The one who, after so many years…came back.

He was her friend. He couldn't watch her cry.

He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight, feeling her shudder with sobs and shame. Trying to say what everyone wants most their precious ones to believe. Over and over.

"It's all right, it's all right, it's all right. I'm here."

It went on for longer than that, but it was the words, and his presence, that mattered. He simply said them, over and over, while her tears stopped and her shudders slowed, until she was calm. Then he helped her stand up. She looked backward, over her shoulder, at him. Smiling the weak, shaky smile of someone who has just cried all the tears she had, and finally found the other side.

He smiled back."I can't let you fight alone, can I? You just keep making more demons when my back is turned."

It was like laughing, for her. Her smile widened and parted, and her breath came out in a soft, affectionate whuff. She nodded.

"Thank you, Yuuichi. So much. So very much."

******

She turned back towards the bed. Yuichi shifted his hands to the small of her back. Supporting her. Reminding her.

I'm here.

Once again, she touched Shiori's face. But her smile never faltered, and the tears weren't for herself. She leaned forward, gently kissed her forehead, and straightened.

"It's done," she said. "She's sleeping."

Yuuichi found himself wishing that she had been hooked up to machines after all. Then there would have been some change, some signal that all was really over, really finished. That there had really been a miracle. And as if the world heard him—in the way of miracles—a beeping sound came from one of the machines.

Only…it wasn't the machine. It was a watch, on top of the machine.

Kaori woke up.

She did it slowly; it was late, and she clearly hadn't been sleeping much. She drowsily reached over to the beeping device and pushed a button, muttering something about 'half an hour already' as she did. Then she looked over at the bed.

She was so tired she didn't notice them right away. They were on the side opposite her. Instead she noted that her sister was still breathing, still only asleep, with a fatigue-muted relief. Then her eyes popped open, shock lending her the alertness she had lacked.

"Aizawa…what are you…" Then her eyes narrowed, and she stood abruplty. "Oi, Aizawa, haven't you ever heard of private times? Times for family? I'm her sister, people like you don't need to be here. And why is she here anyway? How does she even know Shiori?"

Mai looked up at her. "Sleeping," she explained.

"I know that! That's not answering my question."

Mai looked startled, then looked down at Shiori, and smiled. "She's a good girl."

Under the circumstances, it was the wrong thing to say. "Get out! Both of you! This could be her last night, don't you realize that? Get out, now, or I'll call the staff. Go visit Akiko-san, she's your family. Get out!"

Like so many people do in those situations, her own efforts to prevent noise made too much. Shiori stirred, opened her eyes. "Onee-chan. Are you still here?"

For a moment Kaori paused, panicked. Then she rounded on the two of them. "There, see! Now go! Go on! Go!"

Yuuichi really was back to himself. Knowing what he knew, together with Kaori's touchiness and the situation in general, proved too much of a temptation. His own urges as a prankster combined with his wish to reveal the truth—with semi-disastrous results.

"Didn't you know? She's a great shot. I was going to play catch with her." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small ball. "I hadn't thought I had one with me," he added. "But you never know when a miracle will happen, right?"

Now Kaori was almost white with fury. If the bed hadn't been between them, she would have attacked him outright. As it was, it checked her furious rush just short. Unwilling to even jostle her precious sister as she was, she stopped—but her scream, however controlled, showed her as at the very edge of her limits. "Enough. Get out!"

Yuuichi obligingly began to back towards the door. Slowly. "All right, all right, I get it. Still, don't you think—"

"Get…out. Now!!"

Now Yuuichi was almost five paces from the door. Far enough. Abruptly he stopped, put his arm back…and threw. "Shiori!"

"Catch!"

The ball flew across the room in a perfect arc. Kaori flew with even greater accuracy in the other direction. If she was even capable of hearing the noise that came of Shiori's attempt to catch the ball through her fury, it would surely have only made her go faster.

"Aizawa! You—you—I'll beat you right through the—"

"I…"

Kaori paused, as Shiori's quiet voice drifted from behind.

"…caught it."

Kaori froze. Her hands, clenched in Yuuichi's collar, fell away, slowly, like she'd forgotten both to hold on and to let go. She turned around, stiffly, eyes wide and dilated with shock.

Shiori's surprised lunge had taken her right off the bed. The edge of the blanket trailed by her feet. She stood, slowly, staring at her hands.

Nestled ever so gently between them, was the ball.

Kaori's eyes, fixated on the same spot, were the only signs of motion in her body. They trembled, wide as they could go, and yet still trying, trying. Trying to take it in.

"I caught it. I really…I really caught it. Onee-chan, I caught it, I really caught it! It's my first time!" Her eyes were sparkling; the energy that she had been cheated of so long made her jump in place as she waved the ball in the air.

"Look, look Onee-chan, I caught it. I don't have to stay here right? I want to play the gopher game! I want to score a ten! I can do it now, right Onee-chan?"

"Onee-chan?"

"It's… not possible."

Everyone stopped moving, and looked at Kaori. She was frozen, staring, now at her sister. Petrified by the terror of offered hope. Slowly…stiffly…she started to walk forward. As if every step might bring back the reality she knew.

"It's just… it's just not possible. Right? You're not going to get better. That's what the doctors said. It's what they said, they said it, they always said it. They said you were going to die. It's just not possible!" She kept on walking forward, at the same stumbling pace. Tears gathered at her eyes, but she couldn't let them go.

"They said you were going to die. That you couldn't get better. They said only a miracle could save you, didn't they? Miracles…they just don't happen. There's no such thing, that's what they mean. Saying it would be a miracle…don't they just mean that its impossible?"

She reached her sister. She reached out, slowly, and gripped her two hands with her own. They were trembling. The ball lay between both of them. Daring her to deny it.

"Miracles...are things that just won't happen. Right? If they could happen, they wouldn't be called miracles."

"Right? Isn't that right?"

"Well…they aren't supposed to happen…I guess?"

For a moment, Kaori just stared. Then she couldn't take it anymore. She swept up her sister and began to bawl on her shoulder. She could barely speak, barely stand, but she gripped her so tightly you'd think she was denying Death itself. You've already given her up, her grip seemed to say. I'm not letting you take her back. She's mine. She's my sister. My little sister.

She's mine, now. Forever.

"Yeah. That must be it. It must be…" And then she couldn't talk anymore. She just cried. Cried for years of waiting, and for what would never come.

Cried for the impossible miracle — that was.

Yuuichi took Mai's hand in his. "Happy birthday, Shiori," he whispered.

And left.

******

They walked through the silent halls of the hospital in satisfied silence. Both felt renewed, both were content with it. Neither of them thought to let go, so they walked, all the way, hand in hand, to another part of the hospital, where long term patients were kept.

Here there were machines; an IV, trailing life giving nutrients, and several that measured the rhythms of the body, keeping pace with steady, soft blips and beeps. Giving ongoing testimony to the unchanging state of the girl who stayed there.

Even asleep, ten years cannot go by without change. Though slightly, her body had grown, a little longer, a little fuller. Her hair had become a waterfall, an outpouring of red strands around her. Her face was still and peaceful. Yuuichi thought that just maybe, he could still see traces of the smile she'd worn when she last closed her eyes. If you looked very closely, you could see what might have been the trails of her tears.

"It's been a long time, Ayu," he said softly. "But it's almost over now."

Mai walked over, he moved aside. Once again the ceremony of touch and tears, as Mai reached deep inside for a wish strong enough to change fate. And then the machine that measured the activity of mind waves trembled and accelerated slightly; the almost flat line took on a more jagged path. Neither of them knew the patterns that indicated REM: Rapid Eye Movement. Natural, healing sleep, in which the eyes are in motion beneath the eyelids, indicating the brain activity that creates dreams. But some things go beyond knowledge. The air had changed. They were no longer in the presence of someone in the unresponsive state of a coma. They were in the room with someone who was only sleeping, who could wake at any time. Someone who would wake — in the morning. The room was warmer, and that much more alive.

They could have left, but they didn't. Both had gone through so much to get here, and they'd each faced their own struggles doing it. Now it was over, and peaceful, and it just seemed right to stay, and watch it together. Watch her sleep. Think about the other girl who wasn't sleeping, or dying. Knowing that nobody precious would die. It had taken both of them; they stood, hand in hand, watching the machines give testimony to their night's work.

Beep. She's alive. Beep. She's alive. Beep. She's going to wake up.

Beep. It's all alright now.

Yuuichi turned to Mai and smiled. She was already looking at him, smiling back. She looked like she had been for a while. When his eyes met hers she blushed, but her gaze didn't waver. It never did.

"What?"

"You're…alive. It feels good. Warm."

"Yes. Thanks to you. You saved me. You really are a miracle worker."

"No."

"Huh?"

"What I do — that's not miracles." She said it with an intensity she rarely showed: she, who could heal with a touch and make flowers bloom, had clearly thought about it for a long time. "When people are sick, they say, maybe they'll get better, and sometimes they do. Sometimes they say, there's no hope, but sometimes there is. That's a miracle, Yuuichi...hope that shouldn't have been. Magic is supposed to be able to do those things. Miracles—are something that you can't explain. They're just there."

"It's still wonderful though."

"Yes. But…"

"Yes?"

"I can't do it without you."

He smiled. They were facing each other; he reached out with his other hand, so that he held both of them. "I know."

"Neither can I."

The moonlight shone through the window, illuminating them both, and throwing soft, huge shadows about. In a way, it was very similar to the first time he really saw her—that night in the school hallway; a single striking figure standing proud and solitary in the middle of the corridor, standing guard, a figure both magical and lonely.

And in a way, it was completely different.

"Hey, Mai…let's fight demons together. Forever."

She nodded. "We won't lose."

"No. Definitely not."

******

He walked her back to her room. Both were still aglow with everything that had happened, and reluctant to separate. When they got to her room, Yuichi turned to say good night…and stopped.

"Wait a minute…what about Akiko-san? We completely forgot about Akiko-san!"

"No."

"What?"

"I didn't forget. She doesn't need us."

"But…but she was in critical condition! She hadn't changed, hadn't improved, not even once. I don't understand—how?"

"What do you mean?" Mai asked. She was smiling, a faint smile under eyes that suddenly held tears. "What else could it be? It's a miracle, of course."

"They really happen — they really do happen, Yuuichi."

"Akiko-san…got a real one."

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Yuuichi…can you make a miracle?

No. No one can make miracles. Because miracles aren't made. Miracles happen.

And that is why they are called miracles.

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Writing this one took a long time. It had been a long time since I'd watched it when I finally decided to write this, and I literally had to 'resurruct' the feelings that formed it. It was a slow process. Some of the scenes have been rewritten, entirely, more than three times. If this story was a doll, it would resemble frankenstein. But it was worth it in the end, of course, and I'm very proud of the results. You people up here are my only source of feedback on my work when it comes to fanfiction; if you like it well enough to add to your favorites - or disliked it enough not to - please tell me why. I honestly want to know (yes, even the bad reasons).

It's a little selfish, but I'd like to let everyone know that there will be a new type of fanfiction site coming up soon. I've been a reviewer for boontan (.net) for some time now, and as the site has been steadily growing, we've been preparing to redesign and expand the site. One of those expansions will include a fanfiction section. However, on my suggestion, it is going to be different in one significant respect: it will maintain print quality standards. All entries must first pass the inspection of selected editors - me, for the moment, though we'll take as many qualified people as would like to help. The more editors, the less chance someone will get shortchanged because his or her story type or style doesn't work for us. In any case, exactly when the new site will be ready is not yet clear, nor is how submission will work - if you are interested enough, you can send stories to my email, available through my account here. If I like them, I will store them for when the site launches. In any case, for now, I just want to spread word - I have high hopes for this attempt. In the world of published writing, being accepted by a magazine marks a milestone - the moment your talent, the fact that you write at a professional level, has been officially acknowledged and confirmed. In time, I hope our site, In Black and White, will serve the same role for fanfiction writers. Someplace where the masters of the field are showcased and new talent is revealed - that is my vision. If you share it, please let me know, or just keep an eye on our site...it's pretty popular already. And now, I think, I have pitched this sales speech at you quite long enough...all things of boontan aside, I hope you enjoy my writing!