Disclaimer! All fictional entities featured/ mentioned in this segment belong to Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata; except Erin Blogger, who I made up for the purpose of this fan fiction. Any other unfamiliar names may be either others original characters or allusions to real-life people, as referred to by the trademark abbreviation. The quote at the beginning is from Jack Kerouac; I found it on an L avatar I stumbled across on DeviantArt.

I know it's been over a year, but…I decided the other night that the ending could have a little more hope. Call this the epilogue to the epilogue. A bonus chapter, so to speak.

29. Hope

"A man can die, and yet not only live in others, but give them life…"

-Jack Kerouac

January 28

3:18 a.m.

Erin, is this you? How are you? Gosh, how long has it been? I'm so happy to have found you again! I've really missed you! And what a place to find you, too, haha! Isn't Facebook™ awesome!

By the way, digging your profile pic! America always seems beautiful to me, no matter how many pictures I see of it. Great shot of the Statue of Liberty.

I'd been about to reply to a friend of mine from the local shelter when I found this in my inbox. I have more of a love-hate relationship with Facebook™, myself, but I can't exactly argue that point. If it can help you find old friends you thought you'd lost to time and distance, then how can it not be awesome?

Not a lot of people use the network, these days. And most of the folks who do won't post pictures of themselves. The two of us are part of a scant few who aren't still afraid to share our names and faces, anymore.

Do you think there's any way we can meet each other again soon? I'm getting time off from work. Chatting online is great, but I'd really like to catch up with you face-to-face. Is that okay? Or is it too sudden?

By that point, I didn't really have to read the kanji signed at the bottom of the message to figure out who this was. In a way, maybe I shouldn't have; looking almost had me tumbling right out of my chair.

Matsu, you always were unpredictable. We all were, to varying degrees. It was just one of those things that drew and kept us together. For all I know, we still are.

The jolt was enough to scare the tiny, warm black mass of fur out of my lap and under the desk. It doesn't take a lot to make Lawliet run and hide under things, and he's always had this fondness for darkness over bright places anyhow, hence the joke that I didn't bring home a kitten to join the clan; "I adopted a shadow."

Can't argue with that, either. In a way, I really have brought home a shadow.

His name had come to me in a dream, and weird as it was, I sort of liked it. It sounded like a great, oddball cat name, a hell of a lot better than Fluffy or Mittens, at least. And it sure suits him: he likes to lie low in dim-lit places, the poor scrawny little creeper.

That's what I told Farley and the people at the shelter when we got him at Christmastime, at least. When he'd asked me about the spelling, I'd told him that "it'll confuse people." That got me some eye-rolling, but he let it drop. He wasn't the one signing the papers. And anyway, I'm crazy. You can't figure out crazy, unless you're willing to go crazy yourself.

I don't know how long it took me to sit there, frozen in space, and try to gather my thoughts. When I came back to earth, I noticed that my face was wet, and salty. I stopped to wipe my eyes dry before I could come up with a reply. Either Matsuda hadn't changed that much in the rough two years since we all went our separate ways, or he had changed almost as much as I had, maybe more, but technology and all the emoticons it offered could never make that apparent. Not even Facebook™. I figured that from the bit about his asking to see me.

I wondered how the others have changed. Would it be safe to ask here over the Internet?

My hand twitched with a vague mix of apprehension and ineffable joy, as the keys underneath my fingertips became moist and slippery with tears as I tried to formulate my reply:

Matsu! You almost gave me a


I was going to tell him that he'd almost given me a heart attack. But that would've been...just, no, even if it was true. When you've spent pretty much your whole life with your foot in your mouth, you don't recover from that overnight. You don't recover from anything overnight.


Nothing I could type onto this screen could begin to express how I felt, right now. Some things, you can only discuss face-to-face. Some things, you should only discuss face-to-face. For now, I'd just have to make the most of it.

Matsu! Is this who I think it is? How have YOU been? How's everyone over there? Thank you; my brother took the shot so I could pose with Liberty. Drove him nuts.

Don't worry about being sudden; I've missed you, too. Maybe more. I'd love to see you again, Matsu, more than anything. You and all of our friends…