Well, I want to thank everyone for reading. It's been a great ride. ^_^ This *is* the last fic in the trilogy. This is not to say that I will never write another Yami fic, but it does mean that *this* universe is finished. I'm not sure anything could top this in any case. Shoutout here to Kimura for providing me with the inspiration for Tsuzuki's last line. Also thanks to the people who did my fanart and my faithful beta readers and idea bouncers for all three fics, especially Karasu, Ria, RubyD, and Vul. Double especiallies to Karasu for putting up with me while I was writing Live Through and refused to tell her what was dream and what wasn't. And for putting up with me babbling on the car trip and figuring out the levels of Hell with me. ^_~
For questions or comments, please feel free to review or drop me an e-mail.
And again, thanks. You guys have been a great audience. You didn't even lynch me once.
As much as I truly hate being an invalid, there's something very nice about being brought breakfast in bed by Tsuzuki. Especially now that I have enough energy to eat it. Though I may have preferred to wake up with him next to me, instead.
"Don't be silly," Tsuzuki says with a grin when I mention that. "You've been sleeping for nearly fifteen hours. I got bored."
"Oh, I suppose you're forgiven then," I say teasingly. And then let him prop me up and even floof my pillow. Being able to fuss makes him feel better, so that's okay. "What's for breakfast?"
"Pancakes!" he says proudly. I decide not to point out that Western breakfast is what he prefers, not me. It might make him droop, and that's something I definitely don't want. Besides, I like pancakes. If nothing else, they're comfort food, because they always make me think of him.
"Open wide," he says, getting a forkful of pancake and aiming it at my mouth.
"Tsuzuki, you don't need to feed me," I say sternly, giving him an exasperated look.
"C'moooooon," he says, waving the piece of pancake in my face.
"Baka," I accuse, and open my mouth.
He feeds me the piece of pancake and smiles, looking altogether too pleased with himself. "Anyway, how are you feeling this morning?" he asks, getting another piece on his fork. Which is technically my fork.
"Better," I say. "A lot less fuzzy. My empathy is starting to clear up. And I can move my arms. Always a plus."
"You'll probably be up and about in a few days," Tsuzuki says. "Maybe later I'll take you outside. It's really nice out."
"That'd be good." Having seen the backyard of the Ko Kaku Rou, I know for a fact it's quite nice. Not that I was paying that much attention last time, given that Tsuzuki was missing and Oriya was in the process of slicing me open a few times, but hey! I'll take what I can get.
Tsuzuki continues to feed me the pancakes, and quite cheerfully finishes off what I don't have the appetite for. Which is quite a bit. I think he made far more than he knew I'd eat, solely so he'd be able to have some. Oh well, he wouldn't be Tsuzuki without the sweet tooth.
There's one bite left. He grins sweetly at me. "Open your mouth and close your eyes," he says.
"I'm not hungry," I tell him. "You can have it."
He just gives me a look.
"Oh, all right," I say, trying to sound grumpy but not doing a very good job. Close my eyes and open my mouth. Tsuzuki's lips brush against mine. "Mm," I say. "Better than pancakes." I lift one arm up and drape it around his shoulders, pulling him closer. Much kissing and cuddling ensues. And, well, a bit more than that. There goes the rest of my energy.
There's a slight cough from the doorway. Tsuzuki meeps and scrambles back into his chair. "T-Tatsumi," he stammers, seeing the formidable secretary standing in the doorway.
Tatsumi is smiling very slightly. "Am I interrupting?"
"Tatsumi, you jerk," I say. "You know damn well that you're interrupting. Come on in."
Tatsumi still smiles, and walks in. Tsuzuki moves to sit on the edge of the bed, so Tatsumi can have the chair. "I see you're feeling better, Kurosaki-kun," he says, the smile turning slightly smirk.
"Much, thank you," I say, but damn it, I know I'm turning pink. Stupid blush reflex. Just because Tatsumi walked in on us making out, that's nothing to be embarrassed about, right? Right? I mean, we're married, so in theory he must know that we're --
This is stupid. Right, moving on.
He gives me a look over the rims of his glasses. "You're very lucky to have survived, you know."
"No, I'm not," I say with a smile. "Luck had nothing to do with it. I'm very loved."
He nods slightly, and smiles again.
"Thank you, by the way."
Tatsumi blinks, looking slightly puzzled. "For what?"
"For yelling at me when I needed it." I grin and shrug. "For keeping me from doing one of the stupidest things I could have possibly done."
"No, really. I never would have been able to do it without you. I thought . . ." I haven't talked to Tsuzuki about this yet, but it's important that he knows, so I will. "I thought that Ryuushi still had me. That I was hallucinating when . . . when I heard Tsuzuki or Akimiya. And that was part of the reason I wouldn't come out. When I heard you, I knew it had to be real, because that was something my imagination never would have come up with."
Tatsumi laughs a little. "I'll admit that I was a bit upset."
I raise an eyebrow at him. "If that was a bit upset, I'd hate to see you very upset." Though in retrospect, I think I have. When Muraki attacked us with those . . . bird thingies, and Tatsumi showed up and rescued us. In a purely retrospective manner, that was really cool.
"Yes," Tatsumi says, with another slight smirk. "You would."
"So what's up?" I ask. "Or did you just come to check on me?"
"Mostly I came to check on you," he says. "But also to tell you that I'm seeing EnmaDaiOh tomorrow morning. About . . . your status as a Shinigami."
I can't help but wince. "Peachy."
Tatsumi sighs slightly. "I'll do my best, you know that."
"I know," I say with a shrug. "But will it be enough?"
"We'll have to wait and see," Tsuzuki says firmly, and leans over to kiss my forehead. "It doesn't matter. If we survived this, we can survive anything."
"Baka." I give him a light smack on the top of the head. "You'll jinx us."
He laughs and kisses me again, this time on the lips, showing absolutely no concern for the fact that Tatsumi is in the room. Which of course sends me off into fits of blushing again. Damn it. We have to get Tatsumi a boyfriend or something.
But maybe not. I think I've had enough excitement for a while, and that would be enough of an adventure to keep us occupied for years. Well, maybe later. Somehow, getting Tatsumi to think about someone other than Tsuzuki seems like it'd be harder than getting in and out of Hell.
"In any case," Tatsumi says, clearing his throat, "I'll let you two get back to what you were doing."
I stick my tongue out at him, but he just smiles unremorsefully and leaves the room. I decide to be a prick, if he's going to be one. "Make sure you shut the door on your way out."
"Of course, Kurosaki-kun," he says, and does so.
"Now," Tsuzuki says, turning to me. "Where were we?" There's a soft smile on his face as he leans down to kiss me.
I reach up and brush my hands through his hair. "Right about here."
My first excursion out of bed is to the bathroom. How . . . terribly embarrassing, somehow. Tsuzuki has to help me out of bed, but after that I proclaim myself fit to walk to the bathroom myself. Mostly because there's only so much I can blush before I start to leak blood from my eyeballs.
So I shuffle along carefully, keeping one hand on the wall to keep my balance. My knees still feel shaky and weak, but it's better than being carried. As I'm leaving, I pass Muraki and Oriya in the hallway, apparently on the way to the same destination. I say that because Oriya is supporting Muraki in much the same manner Tsuzuki wanted to support me, and Muraki looks like crap.
I blink at him. I knew, intellectually, that he must have been pretty damned hurt if he'd gotten caught in the blast, but it hadn't really clicked. There's nothing I can put my finger on, not exactly. He just looks bad. There are dark shadows under his eyes and he moves slowly, stiffly.
Not much to say. So I say the obvious. "Hi."
He smirks at me. Still trying to be the cool one even though he looks like he's going to fall over at any moment. "Konnichi wa."
Right, remember to be civil. Remember that he saved Tsuzuki's life and must be civil. "How are you feeling?"
"About as well as you look," he says. "You?"
"About as well as I look," I reply. Oriya rolls his eyes, apparently disgusted with the both of us. I'm not particularly sure I blame him. Force myself to say it, because eventually I'm going to have to. "Thank you."
"For what?" he asks, raising an oh-so-elegant eyebrow at me. I'm not afraid of him anymore, and I'm not sure I still hate him, but I'm sure as hell never going to like him. Arrogant bastard that he is.
"For saving Tsuzuki's life," I say grudgingly, and resist the urge to add 'of course' or 'you stupid idiot' or any of the other many things I'd like to add.
Muraki shrugs. "Somebody had to."
"Were you intending to die?" I ask coolly. Oriya flinches. I think I just asked the one question he's purposely been avoiding ever since we got here.
"No," Muraki says. "Not precisely. I knew it was a possibility, of course."
"Of course," I say. "Death is always a possibility. Did you hope you would die?"
Oriya doesn't flinch. His face is a stone cold mask, hiding whatever he's feeling. I could feel for it, of course, but for now I let it be.
"Not that precisely, either," Muraki says with a slight smile. I know what he's feeling without really trying. Killing Saki may have fulfilled his purpose, but it also left him without one. I glance at Oriya, then sigh and set about doing something I never in a thousand years pictured myself doing -- making Muraki feel better.
"Look, you unmitigated asshole," is how I start, and Muraki's lips twitch in another slight smile. "I don't like you. I never have and I never will. But you saved my husband and even though I don't consider that I owe you for that, I at least feel obligated to talk you out of your stupidity. You saved Tsuzuki because you believed he deserved life more than you. Am I right?"
He nods, very slightly.
"Then keep in mind that it's bullshit. No one is more deserving of life than anyone else. I've had to kill ten year old children that did nothing wrong, except escape death. You don't want to talk to a Shinigami about who deserves to live. Everyone does. Just some people don't wind up living, that's all. And no matter how much I hate you, I won't say differently. Life has nothing to do with worth, Muraki, and you'd do well to keep that in mind."
He gives me a cool glance. "I'm not sure I believe you actually mean that."
I glare back. "If I was given a choice and either you or Tsuzuki had to die, believe me, I wouldn't even have to think for a millisecond before I chose your death. But that's my opinion, based on my emotions and past experience. It's not based on worth. It's based on love." I give Oriya a sideways look. "I think some other people might choose differently from me."
Muraki says nothing to that.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to bed." Done with my inspiring speech of the day. Push past him and nearly fall.
"I'll help you back," Oriya says, getting an arm around my shoulders. Muraki is leaning against the wall, looking on impassively.
I allow Oriya to help me, more because I think he wants to talk to me than because I really want the help.
"Thank you for that," he says quietly, after we rounded the corner.
I shrug. "Anything I might have owed him is paid. Next time I see him, all bets are off."
Oriya laughs. "Sure, that's what they all say."
I sigh as we walk down the hallway. "What did you want to ask me?"
He smirks at me. "You're pretty sharp, you know. Did you mean what you said to him?"
"Yeah." I sigh slightly. "I did."
"He's being a prick," Oriya says irritably. "He could have been out of bed days ago if he'd just heal himself. But he won't. Stupid asshole. I guess he thinks it's some sort of penance or something."
"Penance." I roll my eyes.
"I was wondering what might make him be such an idiot," Oriya says. "Thought you might know, being an empath and all."
"I suppose it leads back to what happened with Saki," I say with a sigh.
Oriya is on this statement in seconds. "You know what happened with Saki?" he demands.
I give him a funny look. "Well, sure. I was there. He wouldn't tell you?" At Oriya's head shake, I continue. "Muraki killed him. Ripped his soul right to shreds. It was sort of cool, you know, in a he-was-really-evil sort of way. But Saki said some things which are probably bothering Muraki a bit. About how if Muraki killed him, it would only be the final step to becoming him. That he had spent his entire life becoming what he despised."
Oriya lets out a very vehement and rather impressive swear.
I can't help but snort. "Apparently Saki would've grown up to become a psychotic murdering child rapist, too."
Oriya flinches again. "Of all the things Muraki has done that bother me . . ."
"Forget about it," I say wearily. "It doesn't matter anymore."
"You know," he says thoughtfully, "I was first friends with him before he was like . . . all this. I watched as he became more and more corrupted, and I remained friends with him because . . . I suppose because I thought I could help him. Because I wanted to keep him from turning totally evil. But in the end it didn't really help."
I shrug. "You don't know that. You only know what evil he did do. You don't know what evil he may have done if you hadn't been there."
Silence for a moment.
Then I let out a sigh. "And you didn't stay with him because of that," I say. "You stayed with him because you were in love with him, and still are."
He gives me a glance, but says nothing.
There's another moment of long silence.
"Love is a really strange thing, isn't it," I finally say.
Oriya lights a cigarette. "Yeah."
We're at my dorm. I turn to face him. "I think you and Muraki are going to be all right," I say with a shrug. "No real reason why. I just do."
He smiles at me, the first real smile I've ever seen from him. "Thanks."
The next afternoon, Tsuzuki picks me up and carries me out into the backyard. The weather is nice; just warm enough to sit around in a sweater and jeans that Tsuzuki very carefully helped me into, but enough of a breeze to keep it from being hot. The leaves are starting to turn. One thing I miss about Chijou.
Tsuzuki settles down on a blanket that he already brought outside. He didn't really need to carry me, but insisted on doing it anyway. He sits Indian-style and I settle in his lap, resting my back against his chest. His arms come around my waist and I rest my head on his shoulder. For a long while, we just sit and enjoy each other's presence.
We're so close now it's almost like being one person. And I love it. I love knowing that I'm never going to be alone again. I could live forever with only him, I think.
So we just sit outside and rest comfortably in each other's presence. It's a while before I notice we're not alone in the backyard, since it is definitely a big yard. Oriya and Muraki are sitting on the other side. Oriya is leaning against one of the large rocks that adorn the yard, and Muraki is lying down with his head in Oriya's lap. Very cute.
Did I just use the word cute to describe Muraki? Something must be seriously wrong with this.
"Ne, Tsuzuki?" I ask quietly. "When I was . . . well, crazy . . . just after the explosion, you were in my mind, and you gave me your ring back."
"Did I?" Tsuzuki asks casually, but I can feel him tense. He's still wearing his ring, so I'm not too worried, but I'd like to at least clarify. "I don't remember it."
"Yeah. You said it was . . . for my sacrifice."
"Maybe subconsciously I thought I couldn't uphold my part of the bargain?" he says, sounding curious. "My death for your life . . ."
"Could be," I say. "I want to be sure you're not going anywhere, though."
He chuckles. "Does it look like I am?"
"Nope." I snuggle back into his embrace and let out a contented little sigh.
"Oyy!" There's a flurry of activity and Watari comes bouncing up to join us. Akimiya is walking behind him, rolling his eyes slightly but looking pleased enough. "No one answered at the front, so we just came back here," Watari says, plopping down on the blanket across from us. "How're you feeling, kiddo?"
"Better," I say, and try not to scowl at the pet name, which he's been using ever since he's known me. "How are things up in the Meifu?"
"Borrrrring," Watari complains, and begins to regale us with the story of his latest invention. Akimiya settles beside him. Oh, look, they brought a picnic. How very cute. Akimiya shares out sandwiches and tea.
About an hour passes of random chatting. After a while, Muraki and Oriya come over to join us. Oriya is tugging on his wrist so hard it looks like Muraki might fall over. Apparently he's quite reluctant, and I'm not surprised. But Akimiya and Watari make room for them on the blanket without comment.
"Konnichi wa," Tatsumi says, as he walks up. He takes a seat on the blanket.
Tsuzuki and I glance at each other, and I can feel the tremor of fear run through him even as it runs through me. "Konnichi wa," we echo faintly.
"I just returned from speaking with EnmaDaiOh," Tatsumi says, as if we could possibly have forgotten that. "Apparently, he feels that this . . . misadventure . . . was a sufficient test of Kurosaki-kun's skills." He looks at me. "You're free to return to being a Shinigami, if you wish."
"Of course I wish," I snap, but Tatsumi holds up his hand to silence me.
"He also decreed that . . ." Tatsumi stops and swallows hard. If I didn't know him better, I'd say he felt and looked afraid. "That Tsuzuki-san's penance is complete."
Tsuzuki's head whips around like it's on a string. He stares at Tatsumi wordlessly.
"And that he may move on, if he so chooses." Tatsumi is obviously taking a lot of effort to keep himself calm. "And that Kurosaki-kun may also do so, in order to stay with Tsuzuki-san, if he so chooses."
There's a long moment of silence. Everyone looks poleaxed, and no one more than Tsuzuki and I. I feel a surge of emotion from him -- relief and joy, but more than that. Indecision and confusion. He doesn't know what he wants to do.
The silence is allowed to linger as the breeze stirs all our hair. Tsuzuki just sits there.
"Ne, Tatsumi?" I finally ask. "Did you ever figure out how Ryuushi escaped from his prison?"
Tatusmi looks surprised at this total non sequitir -- which, to me, isn't a non sequitir at all. "No. Why do you ask?"
I frown. "You don't think EnmaDaiOh would have . . ."
Tatsumi starts. This, obviously, had not occurred to him. "Why on earth would he have?" he asks cautiously, in that way Tatsumi has of never making assumptions, even the most obvious ones.
"Well, for Tsuzuki to truly finish his penance, he would have had to face him eventually, wouldn't he?" I say. "So doing it then, when it seemed like Tsuzuki might escape . . ."
Another long moment of silence follows. No one knows what to say.
Tsuzuki's hand closes on mine. What do you want to do? he asks me. Communicating silently is much easier now.
I don't know, I answer. I don't want to deprive you of what you've waited so long for. But at the same time, I want to stay. Because of Akimiya and Rika, and Watari, and Tatsumi. Especially Tatsumi. He'll never admit it, but he isn't ready to let you go yet.
Aa. I know.
There's more silence. It seems like it's echoing in my ears. I'll leave the decision up to Tsuzuki, because he's the one with a right to make it.
Tsuzuki finally yawns and stretches and reaches for the tea. "I suppose we should be getting back soon, now that that's cleared up, ne?" he asks cheerfully. "Not that we haven't enjoyed your hospitality, Oriya," he adds with a smile. "But I think it's probably time we went home."
Oriya just nods.
Tatsumi looks at Tsuzuki, and I can feel his confusion and slowly dawning hope. "Home?" he asks.
"Of course!" Tsuzuki says. "In Heaven they probably don't have chocolate cake and apple pie and mousse and -- "
Everyone laughs. "You don't need sweets in Heaven," I remind him.
"I know," Tsuzuki says. "But that doesn't mean I won't want them!"
Tatsumi smiles, and for a minute I think he might reach out and touch Tsuzuki, but he doesn't. "Thank you," is all he says, but it's all he needs to say.
The day slowly fades away. Tatsumi has to leave first, claiming that he has work to do. Watari reluctantly departs not long after. Akimiya stays for a while, but eventually he also has to leave. He's going home to Rika, of course. So very sweet. Bittersweet, perhaps, but still sweet. And certainly better than nothing, which is what they almost had. Muraki falls asleep and Oriya stands up to bring him inside.
"Ne, Tsuzuki," I ask, for the second time that day.
"Hm?" he asks, and snuggles closer to me.
"Did you want to go?"
"To Heaven?" he asks.
"Yeah." I'll admit to being a little nervous. I don't want him to be upset about his lost chance. He could have gone, could have been free from all this, but he chose to stay for me. Maybe for others, but mostly for me, because I wasn't ready to leave yet, and he knew it.
He laughs softly, and turns me around so I'm facing him. "You're silly, Hisoka."
"Just answer my question, idiot," I reply.
Tsuzuki shrugs and smiles. "Why would I need to go to Heaven?" he asks. "I'm already there." And he draws me close to him and kisses me, then kisses me again, and again, and again.