Of Fortunes and Ferrets
Author's Note: This is set within Chapter 10 of Natsume Nullifed.
Epilogue: Precise and Cryptic
Two years later, Prom Night
They walked from the quadrangle to Hotaru's room at a leisurely pace. Ruka kept the conversation light, refraining himself from commenting how nice it felt to have her hand in his while they strolled. It would only irritate her and he didn't want that.
They had returned to the dorm rooms later than the other couples. After the prom, Ruka had invited Hotaru to sit with him on one of the benches on the cobbled path. She'd called him a sentimental dork but had stayed anyway. They spent the rest of the night talking about everything. She knew more than he did about things. She always knew more than he did.
Then there, when he was sure no one was watching, he'd kissed his new girlfriend. He guided her through it, going slow and taking in the moment until his heart soared. When they broke apart, she leaned her forehead against his shoulder. Ruka remained still, resting his chin on top of her head. They stayed that way until their hearts stopped racing then they decided to call it a night.
So now they were in front of Hotaru's room. He leaned down and kissed Hotaru again. Two years. He'd waited two years before he could do this without fearing for his life. It was well worth it. The kiss was light but it held enough promise to convey how much he wanted her. She gave him liberties and so he knew she wanted him too.
They got together on the day of the prom. As cliché as that sounded, it also seemed apt. Hotaru took his ferret. Ruka had no choice but to go after her. Now they were treading carefully in their new relationship. Both were aware it was fragile. Both knew how strange and wonderful it was. They needed to be wary because neither of them was particularly skilled at keeping it together, especially considering who they were. Perhaps that was for the best; because they weren't very good at it, they'll work harder and that's why this would work for them.
Ruka braced a hand against Hotaru's door. He took her hand. Hotaru's expression was unchanged and so it was her eyes that he read. She was happy too.
"I should go in," she stated.
"Yeah, you should," he answered, still not moving away. They locked eyes a minute longer then he stepped back. "Good night, Hotaru."
He didn't want to leave.
She didn't want him to leave.
One of them would have to say it first, but how could they without it being awkward? To ask just wouldn't be them. To say so would be taking a step they hadn't gone past. Having no other recourse, Hotaru opened her door. Ruka stayed where he was, waiting for her to lock up. She paused and he saw his last opening. He pulled out a small box from his coat pocket.
"Hotaru, do you want to play cards?" he blurted out.
She stopped then took her time to answer. He knew not to push. She was grateful for that. Hotaru gave him a wispy smile. "Winner takes the pot."
If anyone saw them the following morning, that person would have said they made a very pretty picture. But if that person knew their story, he'd think the scene was more than a bit startling. Morning light spilled inside Hotaru Imai's room and the view it touched was a world's first.
Ruka was on Hotaru's bed, lying flat on his back. Hotaru was next to him with her head resting on his chest. They were still in their prom clothes and they were fast asleep. A deck of cards was splayed out at the foot of the bed. More than a few had spilled to the floor, showing off traces of two aces and three kings. It was hard to tell who had held that hand. Mixed with the cards were multicolored paper, some buttons, screws and anything else they had used as chips. The items were scattered all over the rug.
Ruka stirred first. He smiled affectionately at the Ice Queen sleeping peacefully next to him then checked his watch. He gave a weary sigh when he realized it was time to get up. He had to or else there would be no way to avoid the school gossip.
Much like the last time they had spent the night together, the two of them had talked and bickered while they played cards. Ruka had sat on the floor, with his coat off and a loosened tie around his neck. Hotaru had positioned herself on her bed, leaning over the side in her prom dress just to place her bet on the growing pot between them. By their twelfth hand, the stakes were high. He'd wagered a kiss, lost the hand, but she had given it to him anyway. After that, they ended up sleeping in turns. Hotaru dozed off first. When she woke he was still there but she didn't shove him off the bed. Sometime in the night they'd woken up together then argued themselves back to sleep.
"What time is it?" Hotaru muttered when Ruka rocked the bed upon sitting up.
"Six o'clock," he whispered to her. "Don't get up."
"I wasn't planning to," she mumbled. She shifted to her other pillow then continued to blink back sleep. Ruka laughed quietly.
He walked over to the chair where he had propped his coat then draped the tie he had taken off some time during the night around his neck. Hotaru watched with an idle smile as he brought order back to his clothes.
"I'll see you at breakfast," Ruka spoke as he smoothed the sleeves of his jacket. "I should probably check on Natsume before that."
She shrugged in response. It felt odd seeing Ruka Nogi leave her room so early in the morning. He looked very rumpled but charmingly so. Still, she wasn't about to say that out loud.
Ruka went on, "Natsume told me he and Mikan went to the prom as friends. Could you believe that?"
He smiled briefly. "You should probably go to Mikan too. You know, make sure she's okay. Who knows if they ended up killing each other last night?"
So this was it. She was going out with Ruka Nogi. There was no turning back now since they'd overcome the biggest hurdle because everyone already knew. Anyway, given a choice, she knew she wouldn't take it back anyway. It was just surreal. After everything they've been through, who would've guessed they'd end up here?
"Do you think Natsume and Mikan will ever get together?"
Hotaru shrugged and wore that faint smile he so loved. "I'd believe just about anything right now."
Ruka laughed, her meaning not lost to him. He picked up his watch then his eyes fell upon a scrap of paper that lay on her dresser. Your future lies with a snow-white ferret. He did a double take then picked up the unmistakable fortune.
Hotaru yawned. "Oh, I meant to show you that last night. That's the reason I took Shiro back when you pissed me off with the pink screwdriver."
Ruka stared at the paper a while longer, then he slowly smiled. "Funny. This is the reason I went after you. Otonashi, right?"
"Mine too. I asked her for a precise fortune."
"I asked for a cryptic one."
"But she told us the same thing." Ruka raised an eyebrow while Hotaru slowly sat up to ponder. "I guess Otonashi owes one of us money."
She shook her head. "Or maybe not."
It was the first of many smiles they would share— a look full of secrets and a connection no one else could come close to understanding.
They had many other things to talk about like predictions on slips of paper, a domesticated polecat running around Ruka's dorm room and a classmate by the name of Yura Otonashi who could've told them about that day had they asked her four years ago. They may never know what she really saw in her visions. Later, both of them would say it didn't matter. In the end, they would have gotten there anyway— through fortunes and ferrets.
- THE END -
This concludes 'Of Fortunes and Ferrets'. Thank you for reading and reviewing this story. I know it took me a long time to complete it and that makes me even more grateful for those of you who stayed with it until the end.
All my best,