Akemi managed to acquire some cardboard boxes from Lucy, and gathered up a good amount of Darien's possessions – certain clothes, books of his, most of the stuff off his dresser top. She spent a good amount of time going through sketches of his.
Life went on pretty much like normal…if media was considered to be normal. Akemi read in the newspapers a few days after that there was only one death caused by fire – Darien's. The picture they gave was of a surly, snarling teenager – not the Darien Akemi had known. The Darien I know, she told herself. Not had known.
And, according to the news, people Darien had hauled out of the burning west wing were Toroshi Adams, other people that Akemi knew by their faces but not their names, and interestingly, part of Toroshi's group, Mika Anwar, and some girls.
"Darien saved them??"
They had come out with minor injuries, except for a choice few, Toroshi for one. He had to be sent to the hospital. Akemi had to laugh, mean though it might have been.
"The reason we were in the west wing at all was because we were, uh, well, um…making out," says Jessica Morgan, one of the few hauled out of the building. "We didn't hear the bell…"
They didn't deserve to be saved, Akemi thought, disgusted, and read on. The last person mentioned was, of all people, the head principal, which Darien did NOT save. Mr. Hadsworthe was in the hospital as well for numerous burns and a concussion when a burning beam fell and clipped him on the head.
Akemi sighed and set away the papers, sipping at her tea. She'd taken to sleeping in Darien's former bed, and nobody had come for his things yet. Let's hope they don't, ever.
No one in the entire school really remembered Darien. Those from Toroshi's group knew him as the guy they had picked on horribly, but they remembered nothing about Darien and Akemi, didn't remember the graffiti. Brian and Makito didn't remember Darien at all.
Am I the only one in the world who has any memories of Darien Suzaku? she wondered, fingering the locket that hung from her neck now, along with the medallion. Akemi had gotten a tiny picture of herself and placed it in the locket. I miss him.
Her fingers went to her lips, remembering that one kiss…
"Darien," she whispered softly. A tear slipped down her cheek. "I have no clue where you are right now…can you hear me? See me? Isn't is sad – I still can't think about you without crying…but I'm a girl. Live with it." She smiled sadly and smoothed down her skirt. "How's life as a phoenix? What do you do? Are you all right?" Akemi sighed and leaned back against the pillows.
It was ridiculous, talking aloud as if he could hear her, she knew, but it was the only way she could convince herself that she was really going to be able to see him again.
For the next few weeks, she concentrated on her schoolwork, throwing herself into studying and homework and tests. Every evening she returned to a dorm that was now all hers again, though now it seemed awfully lonely, that it had once been occupied by someone other than herself.
It had taken a long time for Akemi to realize that the back of her medallion was bare again. She'd been playing with it, as she often did, when she suddenly noticed that it was smooth on the back. And when she held the medallion up to the light and tilted it, sometimes…just sometimes, the imbedded golden eyes would sparkle with a greenish tint…
"April showers bring May flowers…" Akemi murmured, staring out the window at the forest below. "Funny, I don't see any flowers…" She turned and sat down on Darien's bed, smoothing the pillowcase with her fingertips. Sighing, she absently brought her hand up to touch the phoenix medallion she'd hung on a nail over the bed, turning it to see if the eyes looked slightly green again.
They didn't look slightly green, they looked green green. Akemi gawked at it, then blinked.
"Okay…I shouldn't really be surprised…I mean, after all," she laughed softly, "today is exactly one month after…well…it's May 3rd… Ugh. I can't think."
She blinked and shook her head, then yawned. It was Sunday, and it was seven p.m., but Akemi hardly ever got so sleepy this early. It hadn't been a particularly tiring day either, but now, all Akemi wanted to do was to just lie down…and go…to…sleep…
She was dreaming. She had to be. There could be no way she'd willingly walk into a fire in real life, ever, even if the fire wasn't hot. Which it wasn't. It was pleasantly warm, and soothing, flames lapping at her skin almost like water would. It was a soothing, relaxing, comforting sensation.
Someone was calling her name. The voice seemed vaguely familiar…
She peered through the flames that completely surrounded her and walled her in, waved a hand at fire in front of her face and watched as it parted for her.
"Akeeemi! I know you hear me."
Almost abruptly there was suddenly a figure standing in front of her. She stared at it in puzzled wonder, then finally looked up –
Her heart seized with a painful clench, and she took a step back. "Darien," she tried to say, but her throat closed and nothing came out.
Darien tilted his head quizzically, golden eyes soft. "What's wrong?" he asked, reaching for her.
Akemi stepped further back, quickly. "No," she blurted with a sharp shake of her head. "No. I'm dreaming. I'll wake up and you'll be gone. This isn't fair."
Darien stepped forward with her, holding out a hand carefully, as if he was talking to a frightened animal. "Akemi, wait. I – sit down." He gestured at the ground the colour of fire, slowly sitting himself.
Akemi cautiously did the same, sinking down, automatically smoothing her skirt. "If I'm dreaming," she tried to say in a steady voice, "I don't want you to be here."
Darien sat back, looking hurt. "Why?" he asked.
Akemi laughed and clutched her head in her hands. "Because it'll hurt again when I wake up and you're not there," she explained rationally, or a little hysterically, when she laughed again.
"You mean…" Darien looked a little hesitant, then continued. "You do want me here…if you weren't dreaming."
The nod was accompanied by a glare at the lack of confidence.
Darien turned a little red, shrugged, fingered the flames that drifted up around him, then looked back up at Akemi, leaning forward slightly as if about to divulge some important secret. "What if," he said slowly, "you didn't have to go back?"
She stared at him, uncomprehendingly. "…What?"
"If you stayed, here, now. Ah…with me." Darien was forced to elaborate further when Akemi just gave him a blank stare. "You'd be…well. Dead, I guess," he muttered, frowning, but then he looked up again, eyes dancing. "But you'd be here. If, uh, you wanted to, I mean."
It was slowly sinking in. Akemi swallowed and said, very quietly, "I can stay…here? Not wake up?"
Darien nodded. "Yeah."
"…I can stay with you." Her voice was incredulous. "What do I have to – "
"Choose." Darien's lips twitched, trying to hold back a smile. "You only have to choose." Almost unbidden his hands moved to grasp hers.
Akemi swallowed again, then said, "I choose to stay here with you."
The smile broke free as Darien clutched tighter at her hands. "Just hold on, okay?" he said, as Akemi's vision fuzzed black at the edges. Slowly, she was falling into black…black…
Darien could barely contain the joy as he waited for Akemi to wake up…to here. When she'd hesitated he'd been afraid that maybe she would go back, that maybe she had found someone else, maybe… But she'd chosen to stay! He'd show her what it was like, to fly…to see the world, to never be cold…
"…Darien?" Akemi stirred, opening her eyes, then looking up at him from where her head lay in his lap.
He smiled down at her. "Hi," he whispered, and watched as a smile crept onto her face, too. "Guess what?"
"What?" she murmured.
"I don't think first kisses should be all tears and goodbyes."
She laughed, eyes growing brighter.
"How about hello?"
I'm so sorry. No, it should not have taken me this long to finish it (even though I feel it's a bit of a cop-out ending), since I wrote the second half of this last chapter in less than half an hour, the rest already being in existence. I honestly think some parts of this story is crap, and maybe one day I'll pick pieces out of it to use elsewhere, but… Thank you for reading…I feel like I don't deserve to have this read, having neglected it for so long. But it is done, thank goodness. I can formally put it away now. Chiclet