Epilogue: Affection

The snow lay thick outside the school's window, and the boy watched it as new snowflakes gently fell down from the sky. It was the end of November, just a bit less than three months since the incident. He remembered how Mion displeased had revealed how she had hoped to bathe him in snowballs, and a sorrow fell over his heart, knowing that they couldn't fight with snow until the next winter - maybe unless the snow lasted till February, and Mion would have a quick recovery, but even so, she'd probably be vulnerable. They wouldn't be able to fight as wildly as they wanted to.

Keiichi sighed, turning his head back to his book. It was so silent these days, and even moreso with also Shion missing today. He was slightly worried that the sister was in danger, but quite a few students were catching colds lately; he shouldn't be scared.

A knocking sound came from the door, and turning his head, he saw Shion open the door, entering the room, carrying two bags. "Sorry, we tried to tell our parents we'd be late, but they didn't listen!"

'We'? Mion?

"Move your butt, old man coming through," Mion's grumbling voice sounded behind Shion, making the sister move aside. The tomboy came in, walking on crutches. Chie gave them a welcoming greeting, while the class stared at them. Mion blinked, their sudden intense attention clearly making her anxious.

"Mii-chan!" Rena finally exclaimed, breaking the silence as she got up.

"H-hey-hey, Rena! No hugs or take-homes, the old man here is fragile!"

The red-haired girl hesitated, but then gave Mion a careful hug anyway. At the same time, Shion left her sister's side to place the bags by the respective tables.

"I told ya she'd make it," Keiichi said to her. Shion didn't reply, but a relieved and happy smile curved her lips.

'''''

"Kei-chan," Mion looked at him from the door, beckoning him with a waving gesture of her hand. The boy got up from his seat and walked across the classroom, the students not even noticing him as they chatted in the break.

"What's the matter?" He smiled to his friend as she lead him out in the hallway, her limping with the crutches slightly amusing. Yet, as she looked at him, he noticed exhaustion in her eyes; it was really dragging on her energy to walk around like this. Keiichi felt a worry pricking him. "Is it a good idea you walk around so much? You should rest."

A smile formed on the tomboy's lips. "Me, rest? Hah, what planet did you dump down from? Either way, Irie-sensei wanted me to exercise as much as possible."

"Thought you at least shouldn't go to school?"

"Pff, as if anyone can control me! Though, I guess I really am an old man now," Mion joked, not able to suppress a low, short laughter. Though, her smile dropped when Keiichi didn't return the amusement. She tilted her head in a questioning matter. "What is it?"

The boy blinked; he was worried for her, but he couldn't just say that. She'd never stop calling him pitiful. "How are you?"

Confusion edged her eyes. "I'm fine. Still having to take painkillers though, but I'm fine."

"How is your back..? Healing..?"

"Ugly, that's what it is," she began, all of her recent happy attitude gone, "and sadly, it'll never heal properly. It'll forever look like one huge mess of ragged scars."

"Sorry.."

"Why? You have nothing to apologize for. It's not your fault I'm not as sexy as I used to be," a new smile curved her lips as she tried to cheer them both up.

He suddenly had to repress himself, almost having said how she'd always be absolutely beautiful to him, but that'd just be cheesy. He felt himself grow hot with embarrassment, hoping she couldn't see it. "Are you absolutely sure you're fine?"

Mion sighed deeply. "Kei-chan, you don't have to worry so much. This old man here's not that easy to push down his throne."

The boy bit his lips; there was one thing he had to ask her, had to know. He knew how proud this girl was, but he feared she was lying, feared that her pride was broken. Keiichi gathered his courage, stumbling with his choice of words. "Mion, I.. I know this is a weird question, and.. I don't care if you've.." his voice grew slightly lower, trying desperately to find suiting words, "if you've had.. uh, 'affairs'.. in the past, but.. if you've had, then, not counting those, are you still.. you know, considering you were a...eh, a virgin, before, are you still-"

"You wanna know if they raped me?" Mion raised an eyebrow.

"...Weeeell.. that's.. another way to put it.."

The girl let out a low laughter. "Certainly trying to put it nicely, huh?" Then her smile dropped, her face darkening solemnly, "but no, although, one of them did touch me." She looked away for a brief moment, then shook her head violently as to shake away the memories. "But either way, I'm here now, ain't I? They can go to their well-deserved hell."

Keiichi looked her deep in her eyes, trying to find any trace of sadness; though, she really did seem to have overcome it. "Anyway," he broke the silence, "I assume you wanted to talk to me?"

"Yeah. I really just.. wanted to say thanks."

Rather surprised, he noticed how Mion's tone and attitude changed completely. There was no amusement quivering in her eyes, only a deeply serious voice.

There was no self-confident jokes as she continued. "I wouldn't have had a chance of survival, if you hadn't found me. I'd end up as a rotting corpse with no pride, becoming maggot food. Would've been a horrible death, having to suffer till the very end... but thanks to you, I'm still here. I wouldn't have made it without you. I.. kind of owe you my lif-," her pale face turned into a deep shade of red as she cut her own sentence off, starting to stammer, "eh.. owe y-you.. something. Whatever you'd like."

He felt warmth wash over his own head. Anything? Then that offer with 'your life' didn't sound so bad. "Eh... it was no problem, really... Just don't you ever scare me so much again, okay?" He ruffled her hair, receiving a surprised and disapproving muttering from her.

The school bell rung. Keiichi gave the girl a smile before turning.

"W-wait, Kei-chan!" She grabbed his arm, her hurt wrist quickly complaining about it when she tugged. The respective crutch fell to the floor, and she had pain in her eyes from the quick movement, change of position, force of balance.

Not understanding what she wanted, he halted, picked up the crutch for her, and supported her until she regained her balance properly. "What is it? We have class now, Mion."

"Screw that, we.. we'll figure some excuse. We'll just say you wanted to keep the slowpoke here company, or something.." Her face was burning with her red blush, and a feeling told Keiichi that something was about to change. "Kei-chan, I.." she swallowed, looking around anxiously. Then she neared him cautiously, leaning herself against him. He felt an extreme warmth run through his veins, the girl putting the crutches against the wall once her balance relied on him, wrapping her arms carefully around him. Her head rested on his shoulder, their heated cheeks touching.

"T-thought you s-said you were f-fragile," Keiichi stammered nervously, remembering what she said to Rena when the red-haired girl had rushed to her.

"Careful," the tomboy whispered, "I am."

Cautiously, the boy let himself return the hug, putting his arms around her - but at the same time, not pressing, trying to avoid inflicting pain on her back.

Mion's voice was nothing but a low whisper as she continued. "Kei-chan... I.. I wouldn't mind if that wasn't the last time you laid beside me.."

Even more heat rose to Keiichi's face. "Y-you... remember that..?"

"I've.. I've always wanted to tell you.. but I was never really sure... but.. I love you, Maebara Keiichi... and I've never been more certain than I am now.."

Click, went the boy's brain. Maybe not audible, but it sure felt like it. He felt the girl's breath on his neck, getting stressed with every second that passed; he had to answer her, now, if he wanted to keep it this way. Though, a huge clump had gathered in his throat, making it hard for him to breathe, and impossible for him to speak.

Thankfully for him, the girl broke the silence again. Her voice had become stronger, as if the first step and words had been harder. "I want to be with you. Always. Not just as friends. I trust you, Kei-chan.. I want to put my life in your hands, just as I hope you will put yours in mine.. Is that.. is that okay?" She broke a little off the hug, looking him in his eyes.

Keiichi stared at her, baffled. He was still trying to swallow that painful clump in his throat. "It's.. erh, I mean.. I'll.. eh.. I.." Helplessly and desperate, the boy tried to speak, trying to tell her he wanted the same, but it was impossible for him to use his voice. Even despite he was the 'magician of words' in the club, he was utterly speechless. Then, giving up, he leaned his head closer to Mion's, pressing his lips onto hers in a hope it was answer enough for her. She immediately flinched when their lips touched, but didn't try to get away; rather, she returned the kiss just as softly.

Once they let go of the kiss, and their red faces begun to take their usual pale coloring, both teenagers became more calm now that they were absolutely certain their feelings for the other were returned.

"Don't tell Shion - she'd never leave me alone again.."

Keiichi, having finally gotten rid of his stammering, smiled uncertainly. "At this rate, they'll find out sooner or later."

"Then let it be 'later'," Mion smiled back at him, before putting her head on his shoulder again.

His hand ran through her hair, his fingers intertwining with random strands. He closed his eyes, enjoying every second of his life right now. Their breathing fell into the same rhythm, and Keiichi was aware of one thing; their souls were bound by an invisible chain; a chain he intended to never let break.


[A/N]

And that, will be the very ending of Apprehension. Now, The Minister of Silly Walks made me aware of the fact that I never really answered the prologue. I tried to find somewhere fitting in the epilogue, but… I suppose I failed that one.

In the case I need to clear up just about what happened in the prologue; Mion was aware of the fact that Mifune and his gang were after her. She didn't want to attend her martial arts, because she was certain they'd track her down. Though, she had no idea of what they'd do to her. I hope this makes some sense.

Giving my own words and thoughts on Apprehension; it was alright fun. It wasn't something I worked on daily, except the last week where I felt a sudden need of finishing it. At some points, I even had to force myself to begin (however, after having begun the first few sentences, the rest came with my pleasure).

Though, I must admit, Apprehension will probably never be my favorite of all the fanfics I have in mind. Not even out of the short-stories. I'd prefer Too Late or Unhappiness (both are tentative titles… neither are uploaded) but I suppose it might just be taste. Now, of course, all you slave-…eh, readers, have no idea what those two fanfics are about, and I'll have to say that it's uncertain when you'll see them.

My working schedule tells me to upload Sixty Seconds very, very soon… and after that, it'll be Kurushi-hen, my pride, my huge… too long fanfic, that's gonna kill me. And if not the fanfic kills me, then some reader will, because I'm pretty mean in that one… (let's just say that quite a few characters aren't… too happy to see me approach my writing software.)

Please leave a review for the girl. Now, if you'll excuse me, I will disappear into a flame of shadow…

…until next time.

~ Cherrylin