Here's the last chapter for you all that requested it! =) Enjoy.
"Well, well, well—would you look at this, Kamaji!" Rin's teasing voice rung through Chihiro's ears, interrupting her most pleasant dreams.
"How sweet. Although, they should wake up and separate soon before Yubaba catches them like this," Kamaji's raspy voice answered her. She heard him sigh. "And who knows how she would torture these poor children if she does."
"Well, Kamaji, I'm enjoying this while it lasts. Who knows if we'll ever see them like this again!" she giggled.
Chihiro groaned and crinkled her nose at the noises of reality, breaking through her slumber. She brought the covers over her head and snuggled further into what she thought would be her pillow, but her nose instead met Haku's cheek. She had forgotten how close she was to him.
"Chihiro," she heard him murmur kindly. "We should get up now."
Chihiro groaned once more, unwilling to open her eyes. She heard the loud calls of seagulls, the morning dew on her face, and the crash of waves not far off in the distance, and yet sleep still sounded more appealing.
She felt as Haku raised his head, propping himself up with an arm, looking around. Then came the tickling sensation of his fingers moving along her cheek and coming up to rest his hand on her head.
"Come on, Chihiro, we can't have Yubaba seeing us close like this. Please try," Haku entreated in that soft voice of his.
Chihiro exhaled slowly, then finally allowed her eyelids to flutter open: Another beautiful, sunny day, but still as cold as last night. She met Haku's gentle green eyes smiling at her. She returned a tired smile and yawned, sitting up and extending her arms up into a long-awaited stretch. Her hair was a tangled mess, but having not brought anything such as a brush, as Yubaba said, she didn't have a choice but to go through it with her fingers and simply redo it. Yubaba explained that everyone would take care of their personal needs when they returned to the Bath House before work (as much as she loved to see others suffer than herself, she wouldn't have her workers unclean and groggy-looking because it would make her business look bad), but Chihiro desperately wanted to take a bath and fix herself now. She figured she probably wasn't alone in that regard.
As Chihiro and Haku started waking up, Kamaji and Rin had left momentarily to get breakfast for the four of them. They returned a few minutes later with onigiri.
Chihiro sat on her blankets, fixing her ponytail as Haku rolled up his blankets and tied a string around it.
"Rin, do you think I have time to jump in the ocean real fast before we go?" She asked.
"Mm… you guys slept in a little, and we'll be leaving within the next hour. You'd have to be quick."
Chihiro nodded, reaching for the onigiri offered to them and taking a bite out of it. She closed her eyes and practically melted at the delicious taste. "Hm, can do."
"Chihiro, you eat the rest of your onigiri and I'll take care of your blankets. You should also wash up," Haku said.
She was going to thank him, but after his last comment, she furrowed her eyebrows and took a rough bite out of the onigiri this time. "What are you trying to say, Haku?" (She figured he meant to say that she stank)
Haku looked over at her and tried desperately not to burst out laughing. Little bits of rice clung to her lips and chin, even a couple on her cheeks. Her eyes were wide and her cheeks puffed out with the mouthful of food as she gave him a blank stare.
Instead of laughing (as much as he wanted to), he only smiled and turned away. "I don't know what you're talking about."
She briefly narrowed her eyes at him, then stood up and finished the rest of her onigiri. "Well then, I'm going for a short swim."
"I'll come with you, Sen," Rin called as Chihiro spun around on her heel and began walking to the ocean. Rin lagged behind her and looked over her shoulder, giving Kamaji a "talk-to-him" look. Kamaji thankfully caught on and nodded.
Rin caught up with Chihiro and looped an arm through hers, thinking up questions in her head to ask—or rather, which questions to choose to ask—as there was a whole list of them running through her mind based on what she saw this morning.
Rin didn't wait for a single moment to start asking things after they had stripped their clothes behind a boulder and swam into the ocean. Only a couple other women had joined them in the water, so they had a bit of privacy to talk.
"Alright, Sen, fess up. What's going on between you and Haku?" Rin asked in a stern and suspicious tone. "First you're asking me every other hour where he is, then that morning a couple days ago you had snuck off—not to mention scaring me to death. Then on the walk here you and him are all… hug-gy and he gave you a kiss on the head, and… then this morning… I don't think I need to further explain myself."
"Uh," was Chihiro's only reply to Rin's ranting. She pressed her back against the same boulder they had stripped their clothes behind and sunk lower into the water, letting it pass over her mouth so she had an excuse not to speak. It was embarrassing the way Rin put it. If she had simply asked if anything was going on between her and Haku, she would have gladly told her, but Rin's suspicions and the way she explained her observations, for whatever reason, made Chihiro less inclined to tell. Could she trust Rin? She was her assistant and friend, but that didn't mean she wouldn't go off and tell her other friends if Chihiro told her the story. The worry rose as Chihiro connected the dots in her head: She would become a tease or a laughing stock amongst the other spirits, just when things were becoming a little normal and she was being accepted. Not to mention if the other spirits knew, someone out there would for sure be prone to pass the news onto Yubaba. Then who knew what Yubaba would do to her own apprentice or Chihiro.
"Well? Sen?" Rin's loud voice broke through her stream of thoughts.
Chihiro raised her head out of the water and sighed, pretending to look bored as her eyes glazed off into the distance.
"Nothing is going on between me and Haku, Rin. We're best and close friends."
Rin eyed Chihiro incredulously. "Well what was that I saw this morning? You two were in quite a close position."
"I was cold last night and Haku allowed me to lie next to him for extra body warmth," Chihiro knew all about this from school back in the human world! "It was more so for… survival," she pouted innocently.
"Yeah, because this is the Antarctic," Rin teased.
"It was cold!" Chihiro cried.
Rin laughed, hard. Chihiro joined in a little as well, realizing how stupidly put together those words probably were after all. She toppled over her spirit friend, laughing a little more insanely, creating a big splash. Rin gasped as she popped her head out from the surface and threw water into Chihiro's face. They continued playing like this until one of the women had stepped out of the ocean and called for Rin and Chihiro to come back and dry up before it was too late.
Through their drying, slipping their clothes back on, and heading back to the guys, the two female friends were giggling nonstop, and the questions regarding Chihiro and Haku had slipped away from Rin's mind completely. Suspicions were long forgotten, much to the relief of the ten-year-old brunette, and the subject wasn't brought up again.
When Rin and Chihiro arrived back to rejoin with Haku and Kamaji, Haku was sitting beside the re-burning fire and eating his onigiri. His cheeks, for some reason, were flushed. When he saw Chihiro, he ducked his face and ate slower. Rin looked over at Kamaji, who looked like he wanted to suddenly burst out laughing. Something told her that Kamaji had, indeed, talked to him. As soon as Chihiro sat down next to him, Haku abruptly stood and walked away.
"I sure am going to miss this place," Chihiro mumbled to herself. They had twenty minutes left before they would leave and return to the Aburaya. She took this opportunity, since she had breakfast and washed and had nothing better to do, to sit at the shore and watch the sun rising a little higher by the minute, once more illuminating the ocean. She didn't allow the water to reach up more than over her toes, but where it would touch her, it felt nice and refreshing as the temperature started to rise as well.
She sighed, then inhaling the scent of salt water, savoring every moment, every smell, and the sight while she was here. This was the only time they would ever have a real break from work. Until she could free her parents and herself from her contract with Yubaba, this was it.
Chihiro gasped and nearly fell over. Her parents! She almost forgot them while she spent her time here, living luxuriously while they were getting fatter and fatter by the days and doing nothing but sleeping in their pens, and dangerously close to getting eaten. When they return to the Aburaya, she would have to drag Haku there to check up on them and make sure they were still even there.
"Mommy… daddy…" Chihiro sniffed, her vision becoming blurry again with tears. She hugged her knees and rested her head between them. Haku assured her that he would help in every way possible to get her out of this situation and her parents, but even someone as powerful as him could only do so much.
How was she going to get out of this?
"You're crying," A soothing voice interrupted her quiet sobs, and then a gentle hand lie itself on her shoulder. Haku.
Chihiro's sobs reduced to sniffles, but she didn't turn to look at him, only buried her face in her knees more. She felt him crouch next to her, wrapping an arm around her back. It was like the gardens a couple days ago all over again, when she snuck out to meet him and see with her own eyes the results of the Spirit World's spell on her parents. Haku didn't say anything further, only comforted her with his presence for the remainder of their time there, and until her sniffling was reduced to silence.
It was a long process just to get all the spirits out of the beach area. Yubaba was her cranky, usual self, yelling at everyone to hustle so they could get back to work faster. She ordered for Haku and told him to lead everyone, then took off in her bird-form, just like yesterday morning. As soon as she left, everyone slowed down – not wanting in the slightest to return to work as fast as possible. Even Haku slowed his pace quite a bit in the front. Resuming missions and working again was the last thing he wanted to do right now.
Chihiro instantly caught up with Haku. He turned to her with a warm smile and took her by the hand again.
"You feel better?" He asked.
She nodded, sniffed, and rubbed away any lingering water in her eyes. "Yeah, I'm fine. It's just that I remembered my parents again – I almost forgot them."
"Another part of Yubaba's spell once you're under her contract. Not only does she steal your name, but over time if you stay too long, you will lose memory of anything else you loved."
Chihiro furrowed her eyebrows at him, pained. "That's… terrible."
He sighed. "I know. My real name is lost because I don't remember the origin of where it came from. Unlike you, I don't have anything with me to once again remember my former life before coming to the Bath House."
Chihiro didn't know how to reply to this. It was either going to be pity or silence, and he didn't seem in the mood for pity. So she chose silence.
"But, it's alright," Haku smiled a little. "My life here in the spirit world really isn't that bad. I'm given a place to stay and everything I really need. I just wish Yubaba wasn't an additional part of it," he frowned again.
There was a long pause before Chihiro spoke again. "Why does she keep doing that?"
"Like, leaving you in charge of leading us and then she takes off in that bird form? It's happened twice now."
Haku chuckled. "She just wants to get there before the rest of us. She doesn't want to waste her time and energy walking, apparently. Plus she wants to get back to Boh as quickly as possible—that's why we left so early."
"Her giant baby. She left him to sleep all day and night. Only one of the workers stayed behind to look after him, much to his dismay—Yubaba's orders. She wanted to get back to him before he would wake up, only to find her gone, and then smash all levels of the Aburaya to rubble."
Chihiro laughed a little at this. But then suddenly her eyes widened as she recalled that moment while ordering a job from the old witch, and her outbursts caused a giant foot to break through one of the back doors, and baby crying following. That must have been Boh, she thought. That poor worker that had to stay behind…
A thought struck Chihiro. She turned to Haku with a quizzical brow. "So, what was that all about earlier? Just up and leaving like that at breakfast?"
Haku laughed, making Chihiro smile. She loved hearing his laugh. It was so rare, but so worth it when it finally came out. "I'm sorry about all that."
"Yeah, you kinda worried me," She replied.
"It was nothing, though. I told Kamaji about what happened last night and I told him of my feelings… well, for you. He gave me a little… warning. Of course I knew all about it before, being an immortal spirit, but it was terrible when he repeated it to me and then you suddenly showed up."
Chihiro, on the other hand, had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. "Warned you about what, Haku?"
Haku laughed nervously and ran a hand through his fine, perfectly cut hair, feeling terribly embarrassed and awkward. "You'll find out in time, Chihiro. I'd rather not ruin your childhood," He let out another one of his rare laughs, and Chihiro still left perplexed.
All the spirits made it back to the Aburaya. The trip didn't seem nearly as long returning as it did on the way to the beach.
Haku sighed. "Home sweet home," he muttered sarcastically, then turned his attention to the group. "Alright everyone, we've returned to the Bath House! Please get in single file again as you cross the bridge and re-enter the building, for everyone's own safety," He raised a hand, giving everyone permission to cross the bridge when they were in perfect order.
Haku stood off to the side as the line of spirits began moving. A small hand suddenly gripped the fabric covering his chest. He turned to Chihiro, her eyes pleading at him. For what, he couldn't understand.
"One more?" She whispered innocently.
Then it all instantly became clear. Haku took her gently by the shoulders and pushed them off behind a tall and conveniently wide tree. As soon as they were out of sight of the other spirits, he leaned down and captured Chihiro's lips one more time, exactly like the one shared the night before. A sudden holler of a spirit somewhere close by made Haku immediately pull away, but when he saw it wasn't intended for them, he turned back to Chihiro and gave another peck on her lips, then connected their foreheads.
"I have to go check in with Yubaba, and then I have to leave," He murmured.
A concerned expression spread across Chihiro's face. "Where are you going?"
"It's an important mission. I don't want to do it, but Yubaba is forcing me…" He trailed off and shut his eyes tight, as if in pain. Forcing me to steal something precious from Zeniba, was what he wanted to say, but the words never formed and came out. "I'll come back to help you soon," he said after a few moments.
"Haku!" Chihiro exclaimed, grabbing his sleeve just as he was walking away to leave. She pleaded again with her eyes. "Don't do something that you don't want to do! Please?"
Although it wasn't something he could promise, instead he answered her with a gentle and reassuring smile. He ran a hand through her hair and then revealed himself from out of the tree. Chihiro's eyes followed, and then she turned around the tree to continue watching him leave her, but he had disappeared from sight. She looked up at the sky in hopes of spotting his dragon form soaring to the top of the Bath House, to Yubaba's room, but she didn't see that, either.
She exhaled deeply through her nose and followed the crowd of spirits inside, meeting back up with Rin in the process. They prepared that afternoon for more work. It wasn't something that Chihiro was looking forward to, but she reassured herself that Haku would come back to her, soon.
The night came and went, much too slowly to Chihiro's liking. Then, the following morning, Chihiro had awoken from a nightmare she had of not being able to identify which pigs were her parents through the hundreds in that pen. She feared she was forgetting what her parents looked like. It was that morning when everyone in the women's bedroom was gone, and Chihiro went out to investigate. She almost went down the stairs when Rin came up to her with a piece of gold between her fingertips, telling her of a new guest who was loaded with gold and giving it to everyone. An image of No-Face suddenly flashed in her mind. Suspiciously, she asked who the guest was, but Rin didn't give the response that she wanted: "Oh, who cares?"
Chihiro, instead of getting herself rich, went back into the bedroom and slid the door open that led to the balcony. It had rained heavily last night, and the water had flooded over the train tracks. It was truly a sea.
"Where is Haku?" Chihiro wondered to herself, eyeing the pig pens up ahead, where her parents were lying lazily. She sighed. "He better get here before I forget what my parents look like," she folded her arms on the rail and rested her head there, "I sure hope dad hasn't gotten too fat."
A calming breeze floated over the surface of the water, and Chihiro closed her eyes. Then, suddenly, an abnormal sound of something flying through the air caught the attention of Chihiro's ears. She opened one eye to see, and something white slithered in her view. She raised her head to see her dragon, her best friend, being chased by a flock of paper birds, cutting him to no end. Haku was back from his mission.
And that's the end! Haha, a strange way to wrap up this story, I know, but I thought it would make sense what scene we would see next after the beach. So, the last part was what happened in the movie – you can probably guess what comes after.
A big thank you to those that have stuck with this story from the beginning. I hope it satisfied your need of Chihiro/Haku fluff, I had a lot of fun writing it. I probably should get back to Emotions Galore, though, huh? ^_^;; hehe.