A/N: This fic is dedicated to and based on the amazing Spirited Away fanfics written by Velf. Written after Resilience of the Soul, Ch.52
Inspired by the song, 'I will follow you' by Death Cab For Cutie.
His hands moved in a blur, grabbing the jade tea set from the cabinet and quickly assembling the piping hot tea and assorted crockery on a wooden tray. He could feel his mate's mind, still peaceful in her slumber, but he could not let the worried frown leave his face.
Gently pushing the door open with his shoulder, Haku set the tea tray onto the bedside table and resumed his seat, watching her silently. She was beautiful. She had always been beautiful. Her chestnut brown tresses, not as lustrous as they once were, lay splayed across the pillow where she slept. He could feel the soft, steady peaceful emotion that coursed through the bond as she slept and he breathed a little easier. He had been terrified to leave her. Haku watched as her slight frame rose and fell in rhythmic succession with her breathing; it was all he could do to just count her breaths and hope it would not be her last.
He loved everything about her; the way her eyebrows scrunched up her forehead when she frowned at him; the way her laugh felt like a cool stream to his ear; the way her eyes lit up whenever he did the tiniest of things for her; the way she always knew how to comfort him. What had he done to deserve such happiness?
He remembered how he felt when their first child had been born to them. The most precious baby girl he had ever seen. Clear jade eyes that stared at them with love and understanding in their depths from the moment she was born, half spirit and half human. He had been so scared for her! For them both! His mate had been so weak, so frail. Had it not been for Zeniba's careful instruction and Chihiro's constant assurances that the pain was normal- even though it would have been far more painful than any normal human labour- her pale face and exhausted countenance more than terrified him. But she pulled through it. She was so strong. Stronger than he ever was without her.
He felt a shift in the bond as his mate entered consciousness. Haku? asked Chihiro, without opening her eyes. I'm here, he replied, immediately taking her hand, something he had resisted doing for fear of waking her up.
"I made you some tea."
Chihiro, now a stately woman of 136, smiled. It smells lovely. Bringing the tea tray and setting it at the end of the bed Haku gently lifted her up so that she was propped comfortably against the pillows. He could feel her smiling at him, feel the love that still flowed strong and true through the mating bond. He poured two cups of tea and resumed his seat. They sipped in silence.
He was being childish and he knew it but he could not bear to look into the warm brown eyes knowing that one day soon the light shining in them would be gone. To look and know that there was nothing more he could do to prolong her stay here... They had shared a lifetime together. But one human lifetime was just not enough. He loved his little one more than his own life; he had given his mind, body and soul to her. She was his life mate and it would all but kill him to let her go.
Feeling the desolation that gripped her mate Chihiro looked him, still effortlessly handsome though he had aged himself to match her, and could not help but smile again to realise that this beautiful creature had chosen to love her above all others. He was brooding again, she could feel it. And though they had discussed it countless times, no matter how often she had consoled him about it, his worry and sadness was plain to see.
She placed her cup on the bedside table and cupped his face with her hand. "Haku," she said gently, causing him to look up. And the pain was written so deep in his eyes it caused a pain all her own to bloom within her. How she wished she was not the cause of that pain. "My beautiful, beautiful white dragon," she continued, smiling softly despite herself. Haku leaned into the touch, kissing her palm. She felt the beads of moisture sliding between her fingers and it tore at her heartstrings.
Haku's throat became thick. He did not trust himself to speak. How stupid he was being for wasting the moments he had left with her by being miserable. How many more times would he be granted to hear her voice? That voice that he would cross worlds for if only he could find a way to make it last. But he could not find the strength to stop. "Don't cry, my love," she said, pulling him to her breast, one hand still resting on his cheek, the other running softly through his hair.
He covered the hand on his face with his own, nuzzling into to it, pressing kisses into the soft flesh, too ashamed to show his tear-stained face. He took comfort in the sound of the steady beating of her heart. Oh how he would miss that sound.
"Look at me, my love," she said, soft but commanding. He would go on without her, she would make sure of it- or their daughters would, at least. He looked up at her, his jade eyes glistening. "Now, why are you crying?"
His kissed her palm again, hiding his face. "You are going to leave me," he said, his voice muffled by tears.
"You know it is not by my choice, Haku," she said. There was something in her voice that made him look up once more. Every tendril of his emotion was known to her, every feeling she experienced way relayed to him via the bond. And for the first time, though he cursed himself for not seeing it before, he noticed the faint cloud of pain in her eyes. Pain that he was causing her due to his selfishness. The shame was greater than anything.
Immediately he sat up and swept her in his arms, their roles reversed. "Forgive me," he fiercely, his voice still husky with with tears. He wrapped his arms around her more securely. "Forgive me, Chihiro. I- I should be whipped for my insensitivity. Of all the self-absorbed, inconsiderate-"
But he was interrupted by the amazing sound of Chihiro's laugh. "Haku, what are you talking about now?" Her warm brown eyes were light with humour but the cloud in them still hovered. He traced the lines of her face with a finger, his shame and embarrassment washing over him anew. I am causing you pain, he told her, unable to speak the words aloud. She was such a gentle soul that she felt his pain more keenly than he did. She had hidden it from him. He had been too blinded by his own worry to notice. But of course, her death would be just as frightening and unwelcome to her as it would be devastating to him. He cursed himself for his own thoughtlessness.
She leaned up and kissed him softly. "It is not your fault," she said, kindly. His heart protested such undeserved kindness and to hear it offered so easily shamed him even more. "But I think it would be nice to visit the old bathhouse again,"she continued, tracing the lines of his lips without meeting his eyes. "It has been so long since I last saw Kamaji or Rin." Haku's eyes darkened briefly as his mind caught up with what she was saying. There was no way he was letting her travel that far by train in her condition, she knew that. If he transported them there he would not be at full strength and what if she worsened due to the journey? He would not do anything to compromise her well-being.
"No," he growled.
She saw his expression and Chihiro's own hardened in return. "Haku, you will not deny me my right to see my family," she said, every bit as dangerous as he.
"I will not threaten your safety by letting you go on this foolish journey; if you wish to see your family then I will send for them here to see you." His voice softened as he saw the unhappiness within her eyes. "I can't risk your safety, Chihiro."
She turned away from him then, her unhappiness spilling over. She knew she was being ridiculous and that Haku was right in his own way, but being cooped up in this house was driving her insane. She wanted to go out, to see Kamaji, to see Rin and Linca; she wanted to feel the creaking floorboards of the bathhouse under her feet; she wanted to check up on Meeka and Granny and whether they were doing alright; she wanted to walk around the gardens of the bathhouse which would be filled with cherry blossoms by now and inhale their sweet scent; she wanted to return to the place she had first called home, one last time.
She wanted her final request.
"Please, Haku," she whispered, kissing him through her tears. "Please let me go."
Haku froze. His heart constricted in his breast as he understood the double-meaning of her words. He wiped away the tears on his beloved's face. He could feel his river at the back of his mind, roaring as the fact that she would truly be leaving them, finally sank in. 'Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal,' he recited mentally to himself as he cradled her in his arms. She had been more than a mate to him; she was his life. And what kind of mate would he be to deny his beloved anything? What kind of mate was he being now, for causing her distress? They sat in silence for a while as he rocked them gently back and forth.
He smiled sadly at her. Having finally released his pain, the love it had ridden on surged to the surface. He would be forever grateful to his little one, however short his time with her would be, and he would be a fool to waste a minute more of it. Haku was many things, but a fool he was not. He pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead and smiled with as much sincerity as he could muster.
"As you wish."
Haku laid down the bouquet of flowers he had brought and looked down at the familiar white, marble tombstone as yet still untouched by moss though many years had passed. The lettering would remain readable so long as he lived. How typical of his little one to leave him one last gift. He knelt, smiling softly as he traced the words engraved by his eldest daughter at her mother's request:
'Don't cry because it is over. Smile because it happened.'
A/N: The quote at the end is by Dr. Seuss. Would love to hear any feedback from this :)