I honestly tried to write this chapter so many times. I hold this story so dearly, and I couldn't bear to end it in a way that didn't do the story justice. At one point, I wondered if I should even try anymore, since the story as it was could stand by itself. But I did tell you all that there would be one more chapter, so here it is, friends. Thank you for your attention and your love. This will always be one of my favorite fics that I've written, and I'm glad so many of you could also find joy in it as well.
Haruhi walked silently beside her father, carrying the few materials that they had brought with them. They'd had to cut back this year on the gifts they brought because they couldn't afford much, but she knew that her mother—always logical, frugal, selfless—wouldn't mind.
As they approached their destination, Haruhi found it harder and harder to keep her head up, and her gaze fell down to the ground.
Haruhi was memorizing every possible detail about her shoes when a small gasp came from beside her, causing her heart to stop. Her gaze turned worriedly toward her father, but instead of looking at her, he was looking straight ahead, tears forming in his eyes and his mouth slightly agape.
Haruhi followed Ranka's stare, and then she calmly set down the objects that she was carrying so that she would not drop them.
Ranka was the first to burst into tears, moving swiftly forward and then falling to his knees in front of the grave.
Haruhi just stood for a moment, frozen as she took in the sight before her.
She had set out with her father that morning to pay respects to their late mother and wife, on the anniversary of the day that stole her from them all those years ago.
However, they were not the first ones to visit the grave that morning.
The haka was cleaned, candles had been lit, and incense had been burned.
The ground in front of the grave was littered with an array of objects…
An exact replica of Usa-chan, holding an ornate golden picture frame which housed a group photo from an impromptu ice cream outing.
A novella-length letter on textured celadon paper that was flecked with silvery fibers, handwritten in familiar sloppy scrawl.
A set of pristine silk handkerchiefs, with cursive capital F's instead of O's carefully embroidered in the corners.
A lovely little teapot with an incredibly realistic landscape hand-painted on it, and a set of similarly crafted teacups to match.
A box wrapped in a sheer satin ribbon, holding an expertly-decorated cake covered in pink frosting that Haruhi somehow knew would be extremely hard to wash out of one's hair and clothing, on the off chance that one got covered in it…
And, most prevalently, roses.
Roses, neatly arranged in bouquets and wreaths, in a myriad of colors, bringing life.
The scent was overwhelming, the sight was overwhelming, the implications were overwhelming…
As soon as Haruhi finished looking over everything, she watched it all swiftly become a colorful blur. She was brought to her knees beside her father, who turned and clung to her for dear life, and together, they wept.
Mori was about to shed his suit coat and rejoin the others in the sitting room when he heard the familiar voice of one of the female servants coming from the direction of the front door.
Going down the main hallway to investigate, he heard the sound of the door closing and the servant saying, "They're in the sitting room, down this hallway and to the left."
His pace quickened, and a moment after seeing her disheveled appearance and puffy eyes, she was wrapped in his arms, her heels coming up off the ground as she reached up to him. His hug was warm and strong, making her want to cry all over again.
When they released each other, she quietly said, "You smell like incense."
They exchanged a knowing glance, and then he gave a small, gentle smile. He held his hand out to her, and she took it, letting him lead her down the hallway.
They paused in the doorway unnoticed, and Haruhi quickly catalogued the room.
Hikaru and Kaoru were sprawled out on the floor next to each other, their suit coats and ties tossed aside in a messy heap.
Honey was sitting with his legs crossed, hugging Usa-chan in his lap. His head rested heavily on top of the bunny's head, causing the toy to fold in half.
Tamaki and Kyoya were sitting together and holding a quiet conversation, though Tamaki appeared to be doing most of the talking.
Still listening to Tamaki, Kyoya briefly took his glasses off to rub at the dark circles under his eyes. As soon as he replaced his glasses, his brow furrowed, and he looked over and spotted Haruhi, who was looking back at him. His expression softened considerably. Tamaki noticed this and cocked his head at his best friend's sudden change in disposition.
Mori decidedly cleared his throat, getting everyone's attention, and then he said simply, "Haruhi is here."
Suddenly, all eyes in the room landed on her. The object of their thoughts had appeared before them unexpectedly, and for a second, they didn't know what to do.
Looking at no one in particular, Haruhi broke the silence, speaking in an even, controlled tone.
"My father says thank you to all of you."
There was another second of weighty silence until Mori said, "And you, Haruhi? What do you say?"
She looked up at him quizzically. Why had he said that? Did he somehow know that she was restraining herself, that she had something to say to all of them but didn't know how to say it?
She found herself nodding at him, even though she was sure she couldn't possibly put her thoughts and feelings into words. Gathering her courage, she looked into the sitting room, and after she had made eye contact with each of them, the words came to her.
She began to shake her head and shrug her shoulders, and then she said, bluntly as ever, "I love you."
Then tears from the seemingly endless well inside her sprung up in her eyes, and she smiled incredulously as she added shakily, "My world is a better place because of all of you."
And then she was out of words, out of breath, and out of personal space as the people who had shaped her with their love surrounded her.