Chapter Twenty Four: The Happily Ever After

At first, Haru couldn't tell that anything had changed. Baron's lips were as cold as death, naturally, and she couldn't help but feel that she was doing something incredibly naughty by kissing a stone cold corpse.

But then, Baron's lips began to move against hers, and a startled breath was taken in deeply. Haru jerked away in surprise, and stared in amazement as his face began to contort with exertion, and his eyes opened slowly.

In that lone second, Haru realized that both the doll and the painting downstairs hadn't been able to do his eyes justice. They were glorious in their color and intensity. She couldn't look away from him, even if she wanted to.

He looked straight at her, and smiled warmly. "Thank you, Haru."

She smiled right back at him, and gently cupped his face with one hand. "Welcome back, Baron."

He closed his eyes happily, and reached out from beneath the quilt to hold her hand against his face lingeringly. "You're so warm," he murmured, brushing his cold cheek against her hand.

Haru bit back a giggle, and sat down on the bed before lying down next to him, on top of the quilt while he was still underneath, so that he wouldn't misunderstand her intentions. "Don't worry, Baron. You'll get warm again soon." She wrapped both of her arms around him, and squeezed firmly to share her body heat with him before trying to massage warmth back into his back and arms.

He slipped his arms out from the quilt, and wrapped her into them comfortably, a little self-conscious over his cold body, despite the fact that it was quickly warming up, thanks to the brunette's efforts.

"Oh, Haru," Baron whispered softly, his voice on the verge of tears as he held her close, and kissed her hair tenderly while taking in the scent of it. "If any moment in my life could last forever, I wish it could be this one. I love you."

She looked up into his eyes, a little stunned by the way he said it, and the way he was holding her. Having never known what a hug from a male was supposed to be like, she had always assumed that the small twinge of fear was normal, whenever Machida or, on the rare occasion her father, ever tried to hold her.

But… the fear wasn't there anymore. For the first time in her life, Haru felt completely safe inside a man's arms. A few tears of happiness spilled down her cheek as she smiled happily and shifted her body a little higher up the bed so that she could tenderly kiss his lips again.

"I love you too, Baron," she whispered softly against his lips.

Because she was looking directly into his eyes when she said it, she could see his green orbs melt lovingly with happiness before he pulled her close for another hug.

They stayed exactly like that for over an hour, never saying a word, before Haru fell asleep in Baron's arms. It had been a trying day, after all, and the green-eyed man couldn't blame her.

As for himself, he wasn't tired in the least. He passed the time gazing at the brunette in his arms like he had done on more than one occasion before, as a ghost. But actually being able to hold her, and savor her warmth… he never thought that he could be so happy.

"Don't worry, Haru," he whispered softly, kissing her hair again. "I'll never give you a reason to regret this. I promise."

And, after a few more hours, even he drifted to sleep, content that everything was finally right with his world.


"Mommy, Daddy!" a seven-year old blonde girl called excitedly as she burst through the large door in order to run across the room and jump onto the giant bed. "Wake up, it's Christmas!"

"Louise! Don't storm into Mother and Father's room like that!" a young boy a few years older admonished from the doorway.

Haru laughed as her little girl nestled neatly between herself and her father in order to start nudging their shoulders to help them rise. "It's all right this once, Thomas. We might as well get up, love," she gently admonished the blonde man slowly working himself awake at her side. She grinned, and leaned over enough to kiss him lingeringly.

That woke him up, as it always did. He grinned at her around the kiss, and wrapped his little daughter into his arms. "Now, what could have been so important that you needed to bounce in here again, my little kitten?"

"It's Christmas, Daddy! You didn't forget, did you?" the tiny blonde asked worriedly as her father laughed, and kissed her cheek.

"No, my treasure. I didn't forget. Come now, off the bed so I can help your mother."

Louise giggled again as she rolled off the bed with ease, and pulled the big quilt and blankets off of her dark-haired mother. Haru struggled to sit up as her husband easily leapt out of his side of the bed in order to quickly walk around it and help his wife to her feet. The reason for her trouble became apparent as her nightgown fell gracefully over the large bump in her midsection.

"Be careful with my little sister," Louise said nervously as her mother linked arms with her father, who guided her tenderly out of the room after pulling on bathrobes.

"It could be a brother!" Thomas defended hotly as he walked at Haru's other side protectively, in case she needed extra help with the two flights of stairs. "Mother, Father, why won't you just ask Doctor Thorn to find out which one it is?"

"Because we'll love the child, no matter what," Baron explained patiently, although it had to have been the thirty-thousandth time. "Are your uncles up yet?" he asked in an attempt to divert his children's attention away from the new baby, to avoid another argument.

"Uh oh!" Louise exclaimed loudly in chagrin, running through the door and down the hall to wake up Muta and Toto.

"Why don't you help her, Thomas?" Haru urged her son as they reached the top of the stairs. "You know how hard it is to wake up Muta, especially when he's been staying up late to write music again."

Muta had actually stayed up late to help wrap presents, but she wasn't about to tell her son that.

"Yes, Mother," he agreed readily, standing on his tiptoes in order to kiss her cheek before rushing after his sister.

Haru laughed warmly as Baron picked her up with ease, and began taking the stairs at a safe pace. "I think we did good on both of them, honey," she said while wrapping her arms around his neck comfortably.

"I think so too," he murmured, kissing her tenderly before continuing the steady journey down the stairs. He turned down the hallway, and made his way to the sitting room, where the tree was always kept.

There were marked differences in the room since Haru had moved in, all those years ago. For one, the mantel now had several pictures bordering the top of it, along with the doll that had housed Baron's soul for the one Christmas Eve. In the middle was Haru and Baron's wedding portrait, with Toto on Haru's left as the one who gave her away with the same pride as a father and Muta on Baron's right as the best man, all four of them sporting huge smiles as the slim brunette happily intertwined her arm with her new husband's.

Haru giggled, remembering the fight that had broken out between her two 'cousins' right after the picture was taken. She looked at the other pictures, remembering warmly her daughter's ballet recitals, and her son's dueling matches. Both of them were excelling in their chosen fields… and neither of them possessed a spark of magic.

Perhaps it was for the best, she concluded as her husband gently set her on the couch, close to the large Christmas tree he and Muta had cut down two weeks before. The world didn't seem to have a need for magic, anymore.

Baron sat down next to her, his arm warmly wrapped around her as she rubbed her belly thoughtfully.

Then again… perhaps the third child would have magic. She sighed, and put the thought away for now, since only time would tell.

"Too bad we can't tell the children who their 'uncles' really are until they're eighteen," she said sadly.

Baron sighed and kissed her warmly. "It's for the best, love. Besides, you know how Louise loves to talk. It was hard enough covering up over half a century's worth of fear and 'my grandfather's kidnapping', but if she were to start talking about what really happened…"

"I know," she sighed, nestling comfortably into his arms. "I just wish it didn't have to be this way."

"Come on, Uncle Toto!" Louise told her tall dark relative as she dragged him into the sitting room by one hand as he used the other to cover a large yawn.

"Coming, sweetie," he said softly, sitting on the other side of Haru as Muta and Thomas also came in.

Muta sat in a high back chair as Thomas joined his sister on the floor next to the tree, and started reaching for presents.

"This one's for Uncle Muta, from Mommy," Louise said, passing a flat present to the fatter man before grabbing another one. "And this one's for me!" she squealed, tearing off the wrapping in her excitement.

Muta smiled in contentment, as he pulled the last of the wrapping from a nice thick new notebook, specially designed for writing music. "Thanks, Chicky. I needed a new one."

"I was half-tempted to get you a big jar of peanut butter," Haru said with a giggle, making Toto laugh as he also sifted through the gifts, and passed both her and Baron presents before unwrapping a nice big piece of plain basswood for making toys; an obsession he had always shared with Haru.

"You gave that to him ten years ago, remember?" he asked with an evil smirk, making the fatter man shudder.

"That peanut butter joke's worn out already! Please, just let it die!" Muta begged.

"I don't get the peanut butter joke," Thomas confessed as he un-wrapped a brand new practice sword. "Would someone care to explain it?"

"When you're older," Baron said firmly, grinning at his wife before stealing another kiss from her.

"Come on, you two," Muta growled as he pulled the wrapping off of a thick new cookbook. "Get a room or wait until we're out of this one."

Louise squealed with delight, holding a small red book over her head triumphantly. "Thomas, look! I got Mommy's book!"

"We did get to watch her paint the pictures for that book, remember?" her older brother reminded her as she hopped over the mountain of wrapping to weasel her way in between her parents and open the book excitedly.

"That's what makes it so special," Louise answered like she was talking to a simpleton, looking at the title page.

Sleeping Beauty, by Baroness Haru von Gikkingen.

"Mommy, where did you get the idea to have Sleeping Beauty to be a lonely man and the hero a sad girl?" the small blonde asked curiously.

Haru smiled mysteriously, and looked at her husband lovingly while turning the page so that her daughter could start reading.

"I'll tell you when you're older."


Lots of love goes to; Anonomous-Allstar-Fan, samuraistar, Bibliophile Nincompoop, Jacky-lulu, Savannah Cullen, Archon Dragon, Greenhemogoblin, NinjaoftheDarkness, BlazingMidnightRain, Bambi4ever, lolBladeh, AlphaSigma, laurashrub, kittydemon18, Moonlight X Luna, fringeperson, Rini's Ghost, Nonimouse, goblin-queen-of-the-opera, EagleBlaze954, EtherealSympathy, ThePureLily, Chantal, Raye1084, CaptainBillyTheWerewolf, Lanari, The Spiked Dragon, thelittlespirit, Bloodsong, Utsuro, Cici-chi, HyperMint, Sailor Phantom of Middle Earth, NinjaFoodLover, ArtsyChick, xXbunnyholicXx, staggered incite, otakubarbie, Kakachi's-lil'-sis, Lunarobi Pride, Ghost Wulf, QuickStar, Poet on the Run, Strawberry White Tiger, camarts13, Ducklin, Midnight Storm the Hedgedna, MarkyB, SaraHadj, Elvin Magi, Ceysna, Muta Fan, darkryubaby, Caged Gypsy, slavetothekeyboard, Raptor-X1, Macjill, Shatoma, ferir-ice-wolf, xXxThe Unknown MalfoyxXx, Red Panda Obsessor, Annemarie, 002fox, and Bibishi Kuronecko787 for all the reviews. It's tiring, and at the same time exciting, that there were so many people to acknowledge this time.

I forget who asked me to come clean about all the stories that influenced this one, but I'll try to remember all of them for you; Anastasia, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Count of Monte Cristo (or V for Vendetta, since the idea's pretty much the same), Beauty and the Beast, and a traditional ghost story, although one of my betas made mention of a lovely movie about a live woman and a ghost that she's more or less forced to live with. I've never seen it, but it sounded like a cute movie.

Before I give out the summary for my next story, I thought I'd give out a warning of sorts. You see, due to circumstances beyond my control (working full time, chores, church, overdue craft projects, having a life, etc.), I can't write as fast as I used to. I have to slow down, so that I can actually finish my latest story and give the betas some time to look it over before posting it as well. So from now on, I'm going to try to make myself only update once a week, most likely on Sundays. I guess we'll see how well it works out, shall we?

All right, here's the latest summary I have to offer;

Every detail of Haru's life had long been decided for her. But even the best laid plans can be ruined by one tiny… ah… misunderstanding.

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed this story, because I sure had a lot of fun writing it. Except for the sad parts. They weren't as fun to write.

Lots of love,