Author's Note: This is really the last chapter of this particular story! It was a lot of fun to write, but I don't really have much else to say with this current plot. :3 I will try to write more Horo Ren in the future (whether or not people actually want me to xD). Anyway, please read and enjoy!
Disclaimer: Obviously, Ren and Horo are not mine.
Even though Ren had initially only wanted to allow Horo to stay for one night, a series of storms had rolled in and the staff insisted that Horo be allowed to remain. By then, Ren wasn't sure he even wanted Horo to leave. The dream he had had of Horo that first night had left him irritable in the morning, enough to attack Horo, but by breakfast, Ren's attitude towards the other had warmed, much to Horo's surprise. He still sat out of Ren's reach for a while, not sure if he could trust Ren since the rude wake up call that morning.
Ren was sure that if he didn't allow anything Horo said or did get to him, he would be able to get to sleep properly without any embarrassingly inappropriate dreams. Unfortunately, by the fourth day of his supposed vacation, he realized how stupid his plan was. The more he tried to ignore Horo's antics during his waking hours, the more intense his dreams at night became. The last dream he had was so intense that he had been awoken by the inn keeper knocking on his door worriedly, thinking he had a fever because he was moaning and panting so much. He woke up mortified as he tried to explain to her that he'd just gotten himself wrapped up in the blankets . He was even more embarrassed when he realized that he was sure he could still feel his skin tingling where Horo had kissed him. It was still early morning, but Ren needed a bath.
Walking down the halls softly, he headed out towards the hot springs. He was about to step outside when he hear voices coming from the springs, one of them distinctly Horo's.
"No, no, don't worry about it. It wasn't your fault. You tried your best, so I'm definitely going to try my best too, alright? Tomorrow. We'll do it tomorrow," Horo said to someone who's voice Ren could not make out fully. When curiosity finally got the better of him, Ren stepped outside, a little shocked to see that other than Horo, there was no one in the water. Even Kororo was absent, probably still sleeping in his room. When Horo saw Ren, he didn't look particularly surprised. "Hey there! Nice morning for a dip, huh? Come on in while the water is still warm!"
Ren rolled his eyes but got into the water anyway. He stayed some distance away from Horo however, sinking quietly into the water. He didn't exactly trust himself around Horo, not with the memory of his most recent dream still lingering in his mind. Ren became painfully aware of the fact that Horo's eyes were on him, watching him with a smile on his lips. That just made Ren feel embarrassed.
He was used to people watching him, sure, but that was always in a combat situation. Watching an opponent for a drop in defenses he understood. Watching someone so kindly, with such a gentle expression, he didn't understand in the least. He supposed he could have been flattered or angry, but instead, he was just confused. "…what is it?" he asked finally, half-hearted irritation his voice, Horo's earlier conversation with thin air seemingly forgotten.
"I was just thinking that you look really pretty when you just wake up," Horo said simply with a shrug. Ren looked at him with wide-eyes. He knew that Horo was blunt most of the time, but was the situation they were in so natural for him that Horo was not in the least bit troubled? For the last few days, Ren had been assuming Horo was teasing and flirting with him in an effort to make Ren uncomfortable. He was beginning to realize that Horo was being honest. To him, there wasn't anything weird with what he was doing.
"You… drive me crazy sometimes," Ren just muttered, a ghost of a smile playing on his lips. Horo laughed at that as he splashed Ren, grinning triumphantly.
"Took you long enough to smile at me! And for what it's worth, you drive me crazy too."
The rest of the day passed relatively well. Ren was in better spirits than he had been in days and when night fall came, Ren was no longer surprised as he actually looked forward to his dreams. If flirting was no big deal, then simple dreams were just as harmless. It wasn't as if he would ever act out on any of his dreams.
When he heard familiar footsteps approaching him in his dream, he sat up, looking over at the person who approached him. Suddenly his expression fell and a deep frown set in. "Who the hell are you?" he snapped.
Before him, a young girl, only a little older than him, suddenly broke down into tears as she fell to her knees. "Please, you have to help me! This is all my fault!"
In the back of his mind, Ren couldn't help but find the whole situation comical. Whenever he tried to avoid intimate dreams with Horo, they would become more and more vivid. The one time he actually looks forward to it, and suddenly some girl he had never seen before in his life bursts into his room and begs for him to help her. It was so anticlimactic that Ren was a little surprised that he didn't see it coming.
"Listen, stop crying," he muttered with a sigh, rubbing at his forehead. "What is it you need help with? This is a dream, right? So, let me guess, your family is being held hostage by half-spider half-bear creatures? You need me to go get some mystical items from some old crone who lives in an impregnable mountain fortress?" he asked, standing up and stretching. "I haven't had damsel-in-distress dreams since I was five, so I'm sorry if I'm a little rusty."
"You do not understand, master Ren! This is not just a dream! I need your help!" The girl pleaded. "This is about Horohoro! He promised me that he would help get me back to my mother, but he lost his footing and fell! I fear he is dead! Please, you have to help me, master Ren! You are the only other person here I know that would be able to see me…" she trailed off.
Slowly, Ren's eyes widen in horror. "What… do you mean by that? " he demanded.
The woman just shook her head. "Please, just go save him! As soon as we get him back, I swear to you, all will be explained," she swore, suddenly grabbing a hold of Ren's arms, sending a wave of images into his mind. Ren was now able to see just where Horo had lost his footing and fell. With that, Ren woke up with a start.
Looking out the window, he saw signs of an approaching snow storm. The whole inn seemed strangely quiet and yet, Ren hoped that the whole thing had been a dream. He attempted only once to go back to sleep but could not seem to get images of the mountain path out of his mind.
Leaving the warmth of his blankets behind, he walked down the hall to the room that Horo was using. He would peek in and once he was sure that Horo was alright, he would go back to sleep.
Even before he opened the door, he could tell that something was amiss. Normally, he could hear the sound of Horo's snoring right through door, but in that moment, there was only an eerie silence. Throwing the door open, he looked around. Horo's bedding was all over the place, but there was no Horo. Ren could feel his heart sink as the girl's words rang through his ears. I fear he is dead…I fear he is dead…
Not another moment passed as Ren ran through the inn, rousing all of the workers. The old woman who ran the inn went to his side and took a hold of his shoulders, trying to get him to calm down and tell her just what had happened. When he told her that Horo had gone off on a fool's errand to find some girl lost in the mountains, he half expected the woman to try and tell him that he had seen a dream. Instead, the woman went pale and told everyone to prepare a search party. Ren did not question her willingness to believe him as he rushed to get dressed.
They were looking for Horo for over an hour. The longer they searched without turning up anything, the more most of the search party began to despair. They began to fear that if they ever found Horo, it would only be Horo's body they found. The only ones who remained invigorated to continue the search was Ren and the old inn keeper. Both the young man and the old woman were spurned on by some invisible force to keep looking.
It had been Ren that discovered the place where Horo had slipped and fallen through, having almost slipped in himself. It looked to be the remnants of a tunnel that had probably collapsed when Horo had stepped on it. Calling out for a flashlight, the storm beginning to pick up around them, he peered down into the tunnel. His heart skipped a beat when he saw Horo's still form down in the tunnel. "Horo! Horo!" Ren screamed out for the blue-haired youth. The people around him were quiet. The drop had been quite high and who knows how long Horo had been in the freezing cold, his body already half buried in snow. They had already lost hope that they had reached him in time. "Open your eyes, damn it! If you don't, I'll kill you! Wake up, you weakling!" Ren continued to scream, trying to jump into the tunnel himself, only the inn keeper him firmly above.
" not… weak…ling…" Horo's voice was weak and trembling from pain and cold, but it was still his voice and those two words were enough to cause cheers from his rescuers. Ren, being the smallest of the group, volunteered to be the one to go down and get Horo. Wrapping a rope around his waist, he made his way down below.
Ren couldn't help but breath a sigh of relief as he checked Horo over and saw that his wounds were not that bad. A few bruised ribs and cuts and scrapes mostly. The worst looked to be his wrists, having tried to catch himself when he fell. One looked sprained, but the other one was probably broken. Wrapping his arms around Horo, Ren held him as firmly as he could without causing too much pain before beginning the slow, but steady climb back up. Ren was almost sure that he heard Horo mutter a thank you against his ear. He made a mental note to punch Horo later. Hard.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when they saw a tuft of familiar blue hair, helping him into a make shift sled. Ren was being helped up when some of the inn workers screamed in horror, backing away from Horo's body. It was only now that Horo was safe that anyone had bothered to check to see just what was in the bundle he was clutching so protectively. The unlucky cook had been the one to pull the tattered grey fabric aside and see as a human skull peering through at him. Walking towards Horo, Ren saw that the grey fabric was the old remains of what must have at one time been quite a beautiful blue yukata. The girl in his dream had also been wearing such a pattern, he recalled.
Before Ren could take another step towards him, the old inn keeper walked past him and right to Horo, picking up the bundle of bones, hugging them close. With that, she ordered everyone to gather Horo and return to the inn. She was holding old bones and there were tears streaming down her cheeks, but she had the biggest smile on her face.
As he sat by Horo's side, one of the inn staff told him the story. Almost fifty years ago, the mistress of the inn had given birth to a young girl named Moriko. After her husband passed away, she had taken over the inn and Moriko helped her. One day, when Moriko was still only a child, she had gone up into the mountain forests to collect flowers and had never returned. Long after everyone had given up hope that Moriko would ever return alive, the inn keeper remained. Every winter, she would stay in the inn and pray to the gods of the mountain to return her daughter's body to her. Every summer and spring, she would walk through the mountain every single day from sunrise until sun set, looking for her daughter. It was amazing that Horo could stumble upon the bones in a snow storm, they were all saying. To them it was luck, but Ren knew with certainty that it was not just luck. Moriko had been fighting as much as her mother had in order for them both to be reunited.
When he thought about how stupid Horo had been for going out in the middle of the night, he was surprised as he felt tears fall down his cheeks. It was only now that the ordeal was over did Ren realize just how close he had come to loosing Horo. Looking down at his lap, he gave a soft sob as he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to think of something, anything else. He could hardly believe he was crying even though Horo had turned up safe and sound.
When a warm hand touched Ren's cheek, his eyes snapped open with a gasp, trying to hide the fact he'd been crying. Horo just looked up at him with a grin, even when he was bandaged, bruises showing through. "Hey…what is this? Are you crying for me? Man, I really did die down there, huh?"
"S-shut up," Ren stuttered despite himself, reaching out to hold Horo's hand weakly, careful to not hurt him. " What were you thinking… I knew you were an idiot, but did you have to try and kill yourself while I'm on vacation? You're an idiot and inconsiderate!"
Horo just chuckled. "Sorry about that. I just… wanted to keep my word to Moriko," he murmured before he looked up and saw the look on Ren's face. "I guess I should explain," he muttered as he relaxed back against the pillow, closing his eyes as he recounted the tale. He had caught sight of Moriko's ghost the first night they had been at the inn. When she realized that he could see her, she had come to him that night, crying, and begged him to help her. In a few days, she had told him, there would be enough time between storms up on the mountain for him to go and find the remains of her body and bring them back to her mother. He happily agreed to do what he could to help her find peace. She had been so shocked by his selflessness that she had offered to help him win Ren over. She had acted as facilitator to connect their two dreams together. When Ren was relaxed, Horo could feel a connection between them. But when Ren would realize what he was doing, he would get defensive and tense up. Horo had come to accept that he could never have Ren, but he had thought that if he could win Ren over in his dreams, then maybe Ren would want to open more up to him when he was awake. "Thinking about it now… I realize how stupid and selfish it was. Ren…I really am sorry. I would completely understand it if you don't ever want to have anything to do with me."
Ren sat there for a few moments in silence, trying to let everything that Horo just confessed to him sink it. He knew he should have been angry that Horo would take advantage of him in his dreams like that, but such anger felt disingenuous. Ren wasn't angry, not really. The dreams had caused him grief at first, but he was starting to doubt if he had ever really hated them. Horo was looked up at him now, half expecting to be punched in the face. He winced when Ren moved forward only to gasp in surprise when he felt Ren's lips against his. He still had a look of surprise when Ren pulled away, turning his head to the side as he cleared his throat, trying to will away the red from his cheeks.
"If you want to kiss me, the least you can do is do it when I'm awake,' he said authoritatively before standing up. "I'm going to go eat lunch. Get some rest."
Only when Ren left did Horo snap out of his reverie and grin, chuckling. Ren's words reverberating in his head. He had said "if you want to kiss me."
As soon as he was all healed up, he had no doubt that Ren would regret giving him such an open invitation.