"Alive Through the Dawn"
a Fruits Basket fanfic by

Part Two of Two

"tears on the sleeve of a man
don't want to be a boy today"

--Tori Amos, "Pretty Good Year" (Under the Pink)

The rain was just starting to come down in earnest by the time Haru got back to Kazuma's house; he would have missed the initial downpour, but he had to loiter at school until the other Sohmas were gone--no small task with Momiji hovering anxiously, obviously willing to wait for him. The sky was dark gray and yawning overhead by the time he finally made it out, small drops of rain darkening his uniform as he hurried down the road.

He was nearly soaked to the skin when he arrived, the cold stiffening his muscles under their layers of bruises. A quick swipe through his hair sent water showering the front step as he slid the front door open and stepped into the entryway. The tension in the air hit him like a wall before he could even open his mouth for the ritual announcement of his return, and he kicked his shoes off and headed into the hallway without any further attempt at not bringing water in with him.

The silhouette in the doorway was instantly familiar, ripping through the careful ways he kept his temper in check before he could put a name to it. A woman backlit in a doorway, the lines of her body and her scent painfully similar to Rin's. He was almost blind with fury by the time his hand was on her shoulder, spinning her around with no care for whether her limbs or head slammed into the door frame. He felt a sick surge of disappointment when there was no resounding crack of flesh against wood.

"I did advise you to leave before Hatsuharu got back," Kazuma said from a few feet away, as calm as if Haru were offering his guest tea.

Rin's mother jerked her gaze away from Haru's seething rage. "You have no right to keep me from her." She was rigid against the wall, and even the scent of her fear was familiar, unbearably similar to the sweat born from terror and pain that Haru had tasted on her daughter's skin more times than he could count. Nausea tore through his guts, and he gouged his fingers deep into her skin, trying not to throw up.

"How long has she been here, Shihan?" He grated the words out through sheer force of will. "Has she seen Rin?"

"She arrived about twenty minutes ago--" Kazuma began.


"You have no right--" Rin's mother said again, and Haru shook her, shoving her toward the door.

"YOU have no rights to her at all." She started to turn back, and he moved closer, blocking her way. "You threw her away like she was nothing, and I'll break your fucking neck before I let you touch her." His voice was starting to spiral into a scream, abused vocal chords burning in his throat. Rin can hear me. He swallowed the next words, spitting them at her under his breath. "Get the fuck out. You're not seeing her."

"What kind of a daughter wouldn't want to see her mother?" She was trying to glare back at him, but her face was corpse-white with fear.

"She might want to see you," he whispered. "But there's nothing you can do that won't hurt her. It doesn't matter anymore. If you hit her she'll think she deserves it. If you hug her she'll wonder what changed, if you love her again, how long it'll be before you stop. She didn't get sick because you beat her, she got sick because you always had her wondering and scared and trying to fix things so you'd just love her again."

"You're insane," she said.

"Has anyone ever hit you? Like you hit her?"

"I've never hit Isuzu--"

"Then you let her dad do it. It's still your fault. D'you know what it feels like?"


"Doesn't matter if I'm crazy." Kazuma was still watching from the doorway, making no move to stop him. "Do you have ANY idea?" Her head shook minutely, dark eyes--so exactly like Rin's eyes--staring up at him. Haru's hand clenched into a painful fist and he lashed out, aiming low, imagining the crunch of shattering bone under his hand with a queasy anticipation that was like nothing he'd ever felt. Hated, almost-beloved eyes widened with pure terror, and his stomach rebelled as his fist struck flesh--the familiar feel of Kazuma's hand blocking the blow.


"You pulled the punch," Kazuma said gently, stepping between them. "Good. You'll be glad of it later." Haru flinched and stumbled away, trying to choke back the bile in his mouth. Kazuma nodded and turned back to Rin's mother. "You will leave my house now." The steadiness of his teacher's voice rang in Haru's ears as he bolted into the depths of the house, barely making it to the toilet room before he vomited, acid pain that did nothing to relieve the pressure in his head.

Rin was hovering uncertainly in the doorway when he sat back on his heels and swiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "There's tea." For a moment he was disoriented by her appearance, unused to seeing her in traditional clothes.

It took real effort to balance and push himself to his feet, with the floor spinning under him. "Did you want to see her?"

Her arm slipped around his waist, so light that it barely registered against bruised flesh, and he followed her to the sink. "Yes." Something horrible and empty in the single word, an echo from yet another part of herself she'd all but murdered to survive. Water spattered into the sink and he washed his hands mechanically, rinsed his mouth to clear away the taste of frustration.

"Rin." Numb lips barely managed to shape her name, and he leaned against the wall, staring into her eyes and trying to reconcile all the broken pieces of herself she'd poured into his hands. Unwanted child. Would-be whore. Beloved, fragile girl, so close to slipping through his fingers.

"Come on," she said softly, taking his hand and leading him toward the comfort of the kotatsu.

Kazuma was waiting for them. He waved Rin away when she reached for the teapot, and carefully poured steaming cups for both of them. Haru wrapped his hands around the ceramic, flexing his fingers against the heat; across the table, Rin was doing the same. "Should we have let her see you, child?"

Child. The gentle endearment brought Haru back into full attentiveness, and he watched a spill of emotions make their way across Rin's face. She shook her head uncertainly, and Haru marveled at the unguarded moment, trying to imagine how different she might have been if Kazuma had made another choice and raised her beside Kyo.

"No," she said, setting her cup down. The clink of it touching the table almost hid the quiver in her voice. "It's better this way." She rested her head in her hands and gazed out the window. Darkness was falling fast; the lights in the room reflected back from streaks of rain on the glass. "It's really coming down."

"Until tomorrow night," Kazuma said. "Not the best weather for traveling."

"Traveling?" Haru asked.

"Ah--that's right, I was telling Isuzu earlier, before we were interrupted. I'd almost forgotten that there's a conference this weekend I should attend. Kunimitsu reminded me this morning. We're supposed to leave tonight and return the day after tomorrow, but he's offered to stay with the two of you. He's gone home to pack his things, but he said we should call if you want him."

"We'll be all right," Rin replied, still looking outside. "Or did you want him to stay to keep up appearances?"

"Have you suddenly developed a concern for propriety, Isuzu?"

A faint smile twisted her mouth. "I don't care what the family thinks of me, or what anyone else thinks of the family." She shrugged and faced them again as she held her cup close to her face and inhaled the steam. "No one's likely to notice, anyway."


Haru shook his head. "She's right. We'll be fine." His hand shook as he sipped his tea, but Kazuma made no comment.

"If that's settled, I'm going down to the dojo to take care of some things there. I'll leave it locked when I'm done. Isuzu, do you remember where the spare keys are in case anyone needs to get in while I'm away?" Rin nodded, and Kazuma touched her shoulder lightly as he moved toward the back door. "Hatsuharu. You understand that I couldn't allow you to hurt our guest earlier?"

The mouthful of tea stung going down, as his throat tensed. "Shihan, I'm sor--"

"I don't want insincere apologies."

"Yes, Shihan." A belated thought struck him. "How did she know Rin was here? Why would she come..."

"After so long?" Kazuma peered thoughtfully out the window. "She wasn't very forthcoming about the source of her information. As for her motivations..." He glanced back at them, a rare hint of anger tightening his lips. "Why, indeed, after so many years without a word?" Rin avoided his eyes. "Rest easy, Isuzu. I may ask you for details of what happened at some point, but not now. Whatever's happened, you're safe here." She nodded unsteadily, and his gaze turned to Haru. "Your self-control has improved." Haru's head jerked up in surprise. "Only a few years ago I would have had to pull you away much sooner." Kazuma turned away and disappeared outside without waiting for a response.

"I'm glad you didn't hurt her," Rin murmured when he was gone, and Haru nodded. She reached across the table and ran her thumb over his knuckles, tracing the lines of his half-clenched fist.

"I'm not." He watched the words hit her, the small shudder that wracked her shoulders and made him want to rub the tension out again. "I'm no better than them, I--"

"Do you remember the last time my mother spoke to me?" she asked abruptly.

A fresh jolt of anger ran through him, hot and familiar. "Yeah."

"Do you remember what you did?"

"Nothing," he whispered. Rin blinked, and a look crossed her face that he hadn't seen in a long time: bemused affection at the differences in the ways they thought. "Don't look at me like that." He heard the yearning in his own voice, turned away from the tenderness in her eyes.

"I think you were nine," she said. "You must've just turned nine. I was eleven, and I remember not missing too much school, because everything fell apart right before summer break."

"What difference does--"

"You yelled at Mama until she left," Rin said quietly. "That's a big thing for a little kid. And you didn't calm down until Kazuma-san asked us if we wanted you to stay with me overnight. I guess the doctor was so freaked out by what Mama had done that he agreed--even with all the paperwork, he didn't like it. Do you remember?"

"Yeah," Haru replied, the memory sharpening as she spoke. It took shape piece by piece. Rin had always been the one to remember details, but from her he'd learned to remember the things that struck her as important. The long-ago night when she had slept at the hospital for the first time came clear: skeptical nurses bringing a small cot into the room so someone--he--could sleep near her. The few adults who cared what happened to her had been elsewhere, probably discussing her future.

"They gave me painkillers or something, so I fell asleep," Rin said. Haru nodded. She had curled into a tiny ball that took up hardly any of her hospital bed, and he had lain awake for a long time, listening to the unfamiliar noises of the hospital. So he heard the sounds from the other side of the room--the soft whimper of misery, and then the rustling of fabric as she pushed her face into the pillow to keep quiet.

"You had a bad dream, and I..."

"You remember?"

He remembered climbing out of the bed they'd given him, and padding across the cold floor to clamber up beside her. He'd sat shivering, patting her shoulder awkwardly, until she curled up against him, her damp face pressed against his side. Don't leave me alone. So they'd fallen asleep together on the small bed, clutching each other as much to keep from falling off as for comfort. His first memory of her body, like a harbinger of things to come--bandages and bruises and an IV needle buried in her arm.

"There's nothing clumsier than a Jyuunishi kid trying to hug, is there?" Haru asked, and Rin's eyes lightened for a moment, with a silent laugh.

"I was so glad you stayed," she said, leaning forward to rest her head on the table. "It was just the one night, and I was so lonely while I was there, but it made everything else easier." Her fingers rubbed idly against his. "I'm glad you're here now."

"I love you," he breathed, and she glanced up with a look that loosened the knot of tension in his stomach. Behind her, the door slid open as Kazuma returned, wringing rainwater out of his kimono.

"I think I'll abandon the idea of walking to the train station." He paused on the threshold and attempted to look stern. "Remember to eat while we're gone. Hatsuharu, are you going to school again tomorrow?"

"I--" Haru blinked, not having thought that far ahead. "Rin might need me."

"She may. I must admit that I would prefer it if she weren't left alone."

Rin opened her mouth as if to protest, but subsided. Kazuma nodded, a hint of a smile crinkling the corners of his eyes. "Learning to pick your battles is an excellent plan, Isuzu."

"What time is your train?"

"Seven thirty, I believe. Kunimitsu has the tickets. And now I'll do my part and go pack before he returns and feels the need to do it for me."


Kunimitsu appeared within half an hour, drenched and anxious about their schedule. He was obviously relieved that Kazuma was ready to go, and just as obviously distressed about leaving Rin and Haru alone in the house. To his credit, the worry was mostly due to genuine concern for Rin, rather than the household's reputation; he refused to leave until he had heated some soup and watched them eat it. When they finally left, Kazuma had to take his anxious assistant by the arm and escort him out to the waiting taxi.

As the door closed behind them, Rin rubbed her eyes wearily. "I swear he thinks I can't walk or feed myself."

"I'm not sure you'll feed yourself," Haru pointed out.

"That's not the point." She flushed and feigned interest in the ceiling. "I should dust the house tomorrow. Kunimitsu's been cooking and fussing so much that I don't think the place has been cleaned since I got here."

"You are not doing chores yet," Haru said.

"You've been doing things outside--"

"And I'm not sick."

"Not for lack of trying," she muttered, walking to the window and pressing her nose against it. Haru watched her reflection, blurred by the mist from her breath and the rivulets of water streaming down the glass. Only an occasional glimpse of moonlight from the horizon pierced the tree line and the stormy blackness outside.

What do you see out there, love?

"It's like the world's gone," she said, as if she'd heard. "Do you think it'll flood tonight?"

"Shouldn't be a problem no matter how much it rains," Haru replied. "The gardens are all on the slope, and the dojo's above ground level."

"Can we go see the cherry blossoms this year? If they survive?"

"Definitely." He smiled at the hopefulness in her voice. "You're already dressed for it."

She glanced down at herself as if she'd forgotten what she was wearing, and smoothed the sleeve. "This kimono's too plain. I'll have to find something else." She stared back out at the rain. "It's been years since I wore one for anything but New Year's. Not since I was a kid."

"We'll have to make sure you get something beautiful," Haru said, but she was pressing her forehead against the glass and he wondered if she'd heard.

"I need to go outside," she said abruptly, turning away from the window. "The rain doesn't look too bad."

Haru tried to get a clear view through the water-distorted pane. The rain looked absolutely torrential to him. "Will you be warm enough?"

"I have to go out," Rin repeated, and started toward the garden door. Haru followed, opting not to protest further. The look in her eyes said she wasn't in the mood for argument.

The rain was obviously coming down in sheets when she opened the door, but she went out without hesitation, stepping out of her slippers and walking barefoot into the wet grass. The wind caught the loose locks of her hair as soon as she was out of the house's protection, whipping them around her head. Moonlight was occasionally visible through the racing clouds, and she stared up at them as if she had never seen the sky before. Haru stood beside her and watched the shadows and light play across her face; they lightened her hair and hid her eyes in an eerie, reflective darkness.

Watching her expression, he didn't notice that she was loosening her kimono until it slid off her shoulders and her eyes squeezed shut against the sudden cold of the wind and rain hitting her bare skin.


"I need the air," she said. "Don't look if you don't want to."

Haru laughed in spite of himself. "You think I don't want to look?" Her eyes flashed open, and he reached out to touch her shoulder. "I just don't want you to freeze."

A faint smile touched her mouth. "Too late." She hesitated a moment, and the clouds' shadows hid her eyes completely. "Warm me up?"

"Now?" he asked, responding to the implicit invitation.

Her fingers wound into the fabric of the kimono, where she was holding it around her waist. "Are you ready now?"

"You mean, will I regret it?" She nodded, and he slid his hand around to the nape of her neck, leaning close to her ear. "You remember you said you needed me to understand about you?" She nodded again. "I don't. Not yet. But I need you to understand some things too."

"Like what?"

"Like...I love you." She blinked up at him, and he kissed her temple lightly, reaching for words that were determined to elude him. "I need you to understand that your body's not what I'm in love with."

She frowned at him. "I know that."

"I used to think that wanting to touch you and be with you all the time was how I could show you I loved you. Only it didn't work--I was half-addicted to you, and that got you hurt." He wrapped his arms around her, letting her shivers run into his body. The rain had saturated their hair; the top of her head was soaking wet when he pressed his cheek against it. "I don't want that to happen again."

"I know," she whispered. "I'm not scared of it, though. I always believed you loved me."

"Even when I was a selfish kid?"

"Even then." She clasped her hands behind his neck and leaned back. "It's your decision, Haru."

"You're sure you're ready?"

She met his eyes steadily and nodded. "When you are."

"I don't want to hurt you."

"I know." Her arms tightened around him when he pulled her close again; the sound she made as she snuggled into him would have been enough to arouse him on its own. He closed his eyes and held her, breathing in her scent as he ran his hands firmly over her back, trying to smooth the rain and the goosebumps away. She tensed when he touched her scar, and immediately tried to relax again.

"It's part of you," he murmured. He leaned down and brushed a kiss against her shoulder, grazing her lightly with his teeth. "You don't hide it. And any part of you that everyone else gets to look at, I get to touch."

She took a slow, shuddering breath, and nodded.

"Do you want to go inside yet?" he asked.

"In a minute." She let go of the kimono entirely, worked her hands up under his shirt. "Take this off."

"Okay." Haru released her long enough to peel the shirt off, dropping it on the ground as he hugged her. He gasped involuntarily at the combined sensations of the rain and her naked body pressed against his half-clothed one.

"Better," she whispered, and kissed him. Her lips were cold from the evening chill, contrasting with the warmth inside her mouth and the hungry way she tasted him. Pressed so close together, the shivers that wracked her were impossible to ignore, even with the distraction of her hands on his waist. He broke the kiss and held her head against his shoulder, closing his eyes and trying to force his breathing back under control. "Are you okay?" she whispered, tracing the lines of his tattoo with one finger, as if unable to hold herself still.

"Are you?" he replied. Silence. Her finger kept moving, the edge of her nail scraping his skin. "Rin, come on. Talk to me." He ran his free hand over her back, trying to give her a little warmth. "We should go inside." She tensed against him, and he kissed the top of her head. "I'm not changing my mind. But it's too cold out here." He bent and pressed his lips against her ear. "When it's summer and you're stronger, if you want to do this outside, I'd love to. Sounds fun. But not now. The only thing I want to worry about is how to make you feel good." He bent further and kissed her neck as she shivered. "I want you warm and comfortable and too distracted to remember your own name, lovely girl. Inside, on your own bed."

"I just want myself back." The soft words were almost unintelligible. "I don't want to be for sale."

Haru rested his cheek on her forehead. "Freezing to death out here isn't going to prove anything."

She pushed away from him, wrapping her arms around herself. "I'm not trying to 'prove'--"

"Not even to yourself?" He reached out and stroked her shoulder, unable to keep from running his eyes over her body. Her desperate thinness and the awkward way she held herself against the cold had little effect on the way he responded to her. "Rin, are you sure you want to do this?"

"I need to," she said.

"Why?" He closed his hand on her arm, giving her an opening to come back into his embrace, and she took it.

"Haru, if you don't want to--" He interrupted that train of thought by kissing her, not trying to be gentle about it as he held her close, making sure she could feel him wanting her. Her head fell back, offering no resistance to the way he explored her mouth. "Was that a silly thing to say?" she murmured when he'd stopped, and his grip on her relaxed again.

"Kind of, yeah." He kissed her temple, and the wind brushed loose strands of her hair against his face.

"I don't want to think," she said, her lips moving against his collarbone while she spoke. "I haven't done anything but think and dream for months, Haru. I want to feel like myself again. Alive. I don't want my body to be just something to be used anymore." She touched her hair, clenching her fingers into it. "I don't want anyone to touch me but you." An edge of hysteria lurked in her voice, and Haru let go of her long enough to retrieve the wet kimono from the grass and wrap it around her shoulders.

"Shhh. No one's going to if you don't want them to."

"It always hurts when people touch me," she whispered. "Mama and Daddy. Akito. And then when I went to Gure-nii, I...I told myself that was all there was. Because I'd never be with you again."

"Did you really expect him to take you up on it?"

Rin shrugged helplessly in his arms. "I didn't know. I thought he had to know something, and he always makes jokes about girls, and I'm pretty enough..."

"And you expected him to hurt you?"

"I didn't know," she repeated, burying her face between his chest and arm, as if she could hide there. His skin and the dull sound of the rain muffled her voice. "I didn't know, I didn't know, and then when he was gone I felt so filthy. Like when men stare at me on the street, only I did it to myself." She inhaled slowly, and Haru waited for her to regain control of herself. "I did it. It doesn't matter that he didn't touch me."

He hugged her tightly, until her spine cracked in protest. "You're not filthy. It doesn't matter what Akito's voice whispers to you in the dark." He gripped her hand and lifted it, closing his mouth over her wrist so her pulse beat against his tongue. Rin made a low, wordless sound in response, and he sucked at her skin until she pulled her hand away. "You taste clean to me," he said simply. "Do you want to go inside now?"

"Yes," she said, and took his hand in both of hers, holding it tightly against her chest while they went into the house and down the hall to her room.

"and how I kissed you then
and you kissed me
shy as though I'd
never been your lover"

--Leonard Cohen, "Song [I almost went to bed]" (The Spice-Box of Earth)

Rin slid her bedroom door closed as carefully as if they weren't alone in the house, and let the kimono slide off her shoulders. Naked in the lamplight, only the way she looked at him belied the vulnerable way she held herself. Haru splayed his fingers over her heart as she sat on the edge of the bed, feeling her pulse against his palm while he kissed stray raindrops off her face. She kept shivering, and after a minute he got up again.

"The blankets are going to waste," he said, and Rin nodded, tucking her knees against her chest to give him room to turn back the covers.

"You're still half-dressed," she pointed out as she snuggled down.

"I know." Haru slid in next to her, and she ran a hand up the inside of his thigh, caressing him through rain-soaked fabric. He sucked in a sharp breath at the knowing way her fingers worked against his cock. He closed his eyes and sprawled beside her, trying to muster the willpower to stop her. "Rin--" Her lips moved against his ear, playing with the studs; the hand that wasn't busy between his legs stroked his throat and the collar he was wearing. "That feels--" A light, slow lick along his jaw made him lose track of the sentence. He caught her by the waist and rolled over, pinning her under his weight, gritting his teeth with the effort of not grinding against the softness of her body. "We've got all night, love. D'you have your heart set on hard and fast?"

A slow shiver went through her. "No." She lifted her head off the pillow and kissed his chin. "Touching you just feels so good."

"You have no idea," Haru replied fervently. He lifted himself off her, cradling her face between his hands and kissing her slowly while he got comfortable beside her. He nudged her head so that she was facing away from him, and began kissing up along her throat. She made an appreciative sound when he traced the whorls of her ear with his tongue, giving extra attention to the sensitive place behind the lobe; when he stopped, she gave him a sidelong glance. "Turn over," he said, and she stretched and obeyed, gathering a pillow up under her chest and resting her cheek on it. Haru kissed the small of her back, began to make his way up her spine; when his lips reached her hairline, he slid one hand up the inside of her thigh, cradling her in his palm while he nipped the base of her neck. She shivered violently when he put weight on her back, holding her still while he ran his tongue over her vertebrae. The subtle changes in her body as she responded made him smile against her skin.

He kept his hand between her legs while he continued kissing around the back of her neck; he explored behind her ears, tracing cartilage and bone, but always returned to the base of her skull. She twisted helplessly under him when he used his tongue and the edges of his teeth; whimpered when he took his mouth away and carefully exhaled over her skin. He rested his cheek on the back of her head, savoring the obvious effort she was making to breathe steadily.


"Hmm?" He slid his fingers idly back and forth against her, smiling at the warm wetness that undermined the forced steadiness in her voice. She shuddered and whispered something incoherent as he stroked her with far more gentleness than he'd used on her neck. "You okay?"

"Mmm. Are you going to let me move?" The last words disintegrated into a startled sigh when he kissed her shoulder and rubbed against her with a little more force. She made a sound that might have been the beginning of his name, but it was lost in a string of barely-audible syllables that meant nothing. Haru closed his eyes and listened: the sound of her voice, as she lost control of what she was saying, had been a major feature of every erotic dream he could remember. The need for caution every other time they'd been together had taught her to keep her voice down, but he had a vivid idea of what she might sound like, freed of worry and paranoia.

"Maybe," he murmured.

"...what?" The confusion in the single word made him chuckle under his breath.

"Nothing." He nuzzled the back of her neck, her hair tickling his face, and kept moving his fingers. "Rin."


"Just let me touch you for a while. Trust me?" He kissed the side of her neck, the shallow indentation behind her collarbone; she twitched under him when he sucked hard at the soft skin there, and he felt her legs open a little more. Her heart was racing, the pulse fluttering against his cheek.

"Always," she whispered back, and what he heard in her voice, felt in her body, made him moan into her neck. He slid an arm under her, gripping her shoulder and holding her against him as he sat up. A flicker out of the corner of his eye reminded him that there was a mirror across from the bed, and he stared at it for a moment. Their eyes met in the reflection and Rin smiled, her head falling back on his shoulder. She let him lay her down across his lap, her slight body frighteningly easy to manipulate. He traced the lines of her ribs, the unevenness where they'd been broken repeatedly in childhood, and for a moment was almost blinded with anger.

Rin felt it, propped herself up on one elbow and touched his face. "It doesn't matter." She took his hand in hers, and twisted one of his rings around.

"I should get rid of those," Haru said, and pulled the bands off, dropping them on the bedside table with a faint clank. Rin wrapped a necklace around her fingers, rubbed at his collar again.

"Leave the rest."

Haru had a sudden, vivid memory of the red impressions their jewelry had often left in each other's skin, of Rin using a scarf to cover them more than once. Her skin was far more sensitive than his, and it sometimes took hours for the imprints to fade. The delicacy of her body almost made him flinch; instead, he moved his legs out from under her, and slid his hands around her sides. She let herself be eased onto her back, and he kissed the damaged bones that would never be perfect again. He felt her breath catch, from pleasure or memory; he moved his mouth to her breast, and one hand back between her legs. Her hips shifted, pushing into his fingers, and she whispered something he couldn't quite hear. He kissed further down along her body, helpless anger channeling into a need to make her forget everything that had ever been done to her, everything but what he was doing.

When he nudged at her thighs, she spread them wider without any further prompting, something that had always taken coaxing before. He glanced up at her face, saw the faint hint of color on her cheeks, and smiled at her before he bent to replace his fingers with his mouth. He let his hand wander down her leg, caressing idly while paying close attention to her responses, relearning how much pressure she liked, what angles made shudders run through her. When he took another quick look at her face, she was almost expressionless, her eyes squeezed shut. The heat radiating off her body warmed his face, and he shivered with anticipation, pressing his finger into her. "Is that okay?" he asked, rubbing his cheek hard against her thigh.

"Yes," she managed, and he pushed further, as far as he could reach. The stifled cry that escaped her in response sent a shudder of empathy through him. Having any part of his body in hers made him want more; he eased another careful finger into her. She began to relax against his hand, warm dampness on his knuckles and palm and thumb while he touched her inside and out; he let her adjust to his touch before he began to explore her with his mouth again. She arched hungrily against him, and he caressed her harder, trying to coordinate his fingers and tongue.

"Breathe, love," he said softly, when she abruptly stopped moving. She was quivering with tension, her body taut with the effort of holding herself still. It made him smile through his own body's sympathetic ache. He carefully repeated what he had just done, and watched her fingers claw at the sheets beside his head. "Rin. Breathe," he repeated, enjoying the noises she was making: quick, startled gasps punctuating the constant murmur that was too faint to make out. She made a soft sound of protest, but inhaled slowly. Only her hands were moving, running convulsively from the sheets to his shoulders and upper arms, any part of him she could reach. He freed up a hand and took hers, twining their fingers and rubbing his thumb over her palm.

Her breathing went shallow again almost at once, and Haru closed his eyes to savor the moment when she climaxed, the helpless tremors that ran through her while she tried not to move away from his mouth. Her nails gouged into his skin, a reflex she had acquired when they learned that it was the only way she could keep from making more noise than had ever been safe. The choked-off sound that accompanied the sudden pain in his hand and shoulder sent a pleasant shiver down his spine.

The tension in her body eased, but didn't vanish entirely. He kissed her thighs lightly and rested his head in the cradle between her hips and ribcage, inhaling the warm scents of arousal and sweat while she released his hand and threaded her fingers through his hair. A gentle tug told him that she wanted him closer; he burrowed his face into her skin, parting his lips to breathe through both his mouth and nose. He closed his eyes and licked her slowly, from the slight curve of her belly and up between her breasts, wondering how much ordinary people appreciated the added dimensions of taste and smell. The differences between Jyuunishi and uncursed people ran deeper than they liked to admit.

He moved to lie beside her, leaving one hand nestled between her legs while he hugged her with the other arm. She stretched in a languid way that made him smile, her eyes fixed on his. The stretch worked through her entire body, giving him a beautiful view of her breasts as her back arched, before she curled against him and finally relaxed completely. "Love you," he whispered, sliding his hand around to stroke her back. She didn't flinch when he touched her scar, and that gave him another layer of satisfaction.

"Mmm," she murmured back, kissing his throat. He laughed at the lazy contentment in her voice, then moaned involuntarily as her tongue traced his pulse and moved down to the shallow crescent cuts in his skin. She made no apology for the small wounds, but paid careful attention to them. He closed his eyes and let himself think of nothing but what she was doing.

They held each other close for a long time, savoring the freedom to take their time. The ache of needing her was steady, but the anticipation was warm and pleasant. Her hands wandered over his bare upper body and outside his pants; the caresses might almost have been innocent except for the way she returned more and more frequently to stroke his erection. Haru let himself press into her touch, the soft friction of her palm, and resisted the temptation to finish undressing until she finally plucked at the fabric of his pants with a sound of annoyance.

"These have to go," she said, and he obligingly began working them down over his hips. Her fingers traced the lines of his body that were exposed while he peeled the offending clothing off. "Much better," she murmured when he was naked and lying down beside her again. Her hands slid up to cup his face while she kissed him, and he slowly rolled onto his back, turning control over to her.

"Take me when you want me," he said when she lifted her head. Rin sat up and smiled. The bed shifted as she knelt beside him and started caressing him. He let himself respond freely to her touch until he felt her lips and tongue on his cock. The jolt of pleasure was almost too intense to form words through; he reached down and touched her face, stopping her.

"N-not like that." He fingered a lock of hair that had escaped from behind her ear. "I want to be inside you the first time."

The warmth of her breath on him as she spoke made him tremble. "Even though you did it for me?" A torturously slow, open-mouthed kiss punctuated the words. "We have as long as we want, remember?" There was a raw intensity in her eyes that he didn't recognize. He remembered seeing desire on her face, and need, but never the lust that was there now. The hint of ferocity sang to the parts of him that he had spent his life trying to keep under control. She lowered her head and kissed him again, her lips parted temptingly, and it was all he could do not to bury his fingers in her hair and let himself be lost. He gritted his teeth and tried to ignore the way exhaustion and his earlier fury were conspiring to keep his rougher side too close to the surface.

"Don't, lovely girl, please--"

"All right," she said, and the bed shifted again as she straddled him and kissed his chest. He lay almost motionless under her while she ran her nails lightly along his sides and reached down to guide their bodies together. She took her time, easing into place, using her other hand to brace herself on his chest. The slow deliberation of her movements made it hard not to push up into the welcoming heat of her body. Then her full weight was on him, and her fingers were stroking his hair, and the pleasure of it made him gasp.

"Don't move," he managed, sliding his arms around her and holding her still, unable to keep himself from arching deeper into her. When she kissed him he tightened his grip on her and shook his head, repeating, "Don't move."

"Hmm?" She tilted her head at him but obediently held still.

"Just for a couple of minutes, love." Even the movement of her breathing against him felt good. "It's just...my body's ready to come, and the rest of me would rather wait a while."

Rin nodded and tucked her head under his chin, tracing light circles over his chest with one fingertip. Her heart beat against him, indistinguishable from his. "I want you every way I can think of," she said quietly; the intensity in her was undiminished by the fact that he couldn't see her face, that her voice had softened. "Like this, and in my mouth, and kissing me until I can't breathe anymore--" She took his hand and rubbed her cheek hard along the inside of his arm. "All at once." He stroked her hair, felt her lips brush his arm, her tongue outlining the curved lines of his tattoo as he thrust into her again. She rested her hands on his chest and smiled, pushing back against him.

The feel of their bodies moving together made his breath catch, but after a few moments Rin shook her head and broke the rhythm they'd established, tightening her arms around him as she turned onto her back. He blinked at her, startled, and she laced her fingers behind his head and pulled him down into a kiss that made him dizzy. "You don't have to be so gentle just because of--because this is the first time we've been together in so long," she said when they paused for air. "I won't break." She kissed his throat and shoulder. "Don't worry. Whatever mood you're in, I love you." He touched her face and felt tears on her cheek.


"I can feel you holding back," she said. Her fingers trailed through his hair, caressing and possessive. She dropped her head back onto the pillow and pulled him tightly against her. "Whatever you need, it's okay." He buried his face against her neck, turning blindly toward her tears--tasting the salt, feeling the thrum of her vocal cords under his tongue.

"I love you," he whispered. Small words for the tide flowing through him. The need to touch and taste and consume her was overwhelming, leaving almost no room for tenderness. "I'm just scared--I've missed you so much, I--"

"I know." The raw ache in her voice made him push deeper into her, eliciting a whimper that had nothing to do with pain. "Harder," she said when he eased back, and he obeyed. Her body undulated against him in response, the force of it running from her torso and through her limbs. "Harder, harder..." He hesitated another moment, cradling her face with the hand that wasn't supporting his weight; she turned her head and licked at his palm and fingers. "Harder, Haru," she whispered, with that low fierceness that made him want her in a way he didn't quite trust. Her thighs clenched against his hips. "I don't want to feel anything else." Haru traced her lips, and she moved her head so his finger slid into her mouth. The muscles in her throat moved against his cheek while she sucked at him, and he put more weight on her body, pushing her hard against the bed. Her approving moan vibrated though his hand and face, and he stopped trying to stay in control of himself, the dangerous edge their family called 'Black' driving him while he thrust into her again and again.

The rest of the world burned off like fog at sunrise; guilt and helplessness lost in the simple rightness of being inside her, surrounded by her scent and voice, the exquisite feel of her pulse under his tongue and his chest, around his cock. He had no idea what she was saying, even though he vaguely heard his own voice answering her; all that mattered was the soft pliability of her body, broken only where their bones ground hard against each other, and the need to get just a bit closer, and closer again. He barely felt the way her nails were burying themselves in his back, raking down along his spine.

His eyes closed involuntarily when he climaxed, an instant of blinding darkness before he forced them open again. Rin caressed him lightly while the wave of pleasure receded, and he started to register the pain in his back when her hands brushed against the scratches she'd left. Details took a moment to come into focus: the sheen of sweat on her skin, the raggedness of her breathing, the vibrant flush in tear-streaked cheeks. "Rin?" His throat tightened with worry.

"I'm fine," she said. Haru lifted his weight off her so she could take a deep breath; her arms locked around him to keep him from moving more than an inch away from her. "Don't move."

Haru compromised by holding her and turning onto his side; she clung to him, twining her legs with his, keeping their bodies joined. A flicker of pain crossed her face as they settled.

"I hurt you," he said softly, not needing to frame it as a question. The faint scent of blood mixed with sweat and sex made his stomach turn over.

"Not much," she replied, shaking her head. When he opened his mouth to apologize she kissed him. "And it still felt good. I love the feel of you when you're like that." She stretched, and marks above her breasts caught his eyes: imprints from his necklace, scratches from the pendant, reddening bruises from his mouth. Staring at them brought back only a hazy impression of needing to taste her while she writhed under him.

"I don't under--" Rin pressed her fingertips against his mouth, and he kissed them instinctively. When his tongue touched the edges of her nails, he tasted coppery traces of his own blood.

"I needed that as much as you did," she said. "Every second of it." Haru fingered a long welt across her collarbone, listening, and she touched it as well. "This doesn't turn me on, but it's nothing, Haru."

"Make me understand," he whispered, resting his head on her shoulder, staring at the darkening marks.

"I don't know how to say it. There're so many things mixed together in my head--"

"Try. Please."

Rin said nothing for a few minutes, and Haru held her in silence. "I love you," she said finally. "You're sweet and kind and gentle, and...that's not all you are. I want all of you, not just the parts you think are safe enough for other people to see. And..." she trailed off again, thinking. "What you just did to me felt good. Really, really good. Like you were filling up all the emptiness in me, not just my body." She shifted herself against him, reminding them both that their bodies were still connected. Her muscles clenched against his cock, which stirred slightly in response. She pressed her mouth against his ear. "I love having you lose control, even if it hurts a little. And it feels good when you hold me against the bed. It makes me feel...safe? Like you're between me and the world."

"Being held down makes you feel safe?" he asked, and Rin kissed his hair lightly.

"I don't want to talk anymore," she said, fingering the row of earrings in his left lobe. "Not right now."

"Okay." His lips moved gently along her jaw, her cheekbone, the tip of her nose. "Do you want to go to sleep?"

"Not yet. I want a shower and a soak." She turned her head and stared out the window at the rain. "And we should probably make sure the place is locked up."

"Shihan said he'd take care of the dojo." Haru nuzzled her shoulder gently as she eased out of his arms and knelt beside him, wincing as their bodies slipped apart. He rolled onto his stomach and slid his fingers between her legs, a gentle, apologetic touch. She stayed still and let him caress her, ignoring the coolness of the night and the wetness slowly leaving her body. When Haru finally sat up, his hand and her thighs were damp and glistening.

"just when you escape you have yourself to fear"

--Tori Amos, "Purple People" (b-side, from the choirgirl hotel)

Rin closed her eyes and stood still under the shower spray, grateful for the heat. Water streamed down her face, droplets catching on her eyelashes like tears waiting to fall; she turned and rubbed her cheek against Haru's chest, brushing them away on his skin. She had set the water to the temperature she liked, and then let him turn the heat down enough that he was willing to get in.

"The tub will be hotter than that," she'd pointed out, shivering while he adjusted it. The cool night air made her glad that Kazuma had added a modern shower to the otherwise-traditional bathing room with its roomy soaking tub.

"Yeah, but that water's not going to be pounding on us," he replied. He took her hand and squeezed it. "Look, your arm's still red from testing it." Rin glanced at her skin automatically, then shrugged.

"I'm cold," she said quietly, and Haru's forehead furrowed in the worried way that always made her want to kiss him. He pulled her against him and rubbed his hands up her arms, down her sides. His fingers lingered on the edges of her bones wherever they showed through her skin; she knew her thinness worried him, but it was also obvious that he was fascinated by it, by the evidence of her body's inner workings. "If you do that while we're in the shower, I might stay warm enough," she conceded, and let him tug her into the water.

He kept stroking her while the heat soaked in, until she stopped shivering, and then he let go of her long enough to pick up the soap. "We're supposed to be getting clean, right?" he said, and his hands were on her again, slippery with lather. Rin let him manipulate her while he worked, lulled by his touch and the lovely feeling of being warm all the way through.

When Haru was finished washing her body, he straightened up and touched her hair gently. "D'you want...?"

She shook her head. "I washed it this morning, so it should be fine with a rinse." She put her head under the water, working her fingers quickly through her hair, and then rested her forehead on his shoulder. "It's a lot easier to take care of this way, that's for sure. Trade places." Haru blinked down at her, and she frowned. "My turn."

"Thought you just had your turn," he said mildly, letting her nudge him aside and slip behind him.

"Don't be difficult," Rin replied, wrapping her arms around him. She buried her face in the shallow between his shoulders and inhaled. "You smell good," she whispered.

Haru laughed, sending vibrations though her. "I smell like you."

"That's not all." Her lips moved over his back. "Does it hurt?"


She pressed a fingertip against one of the scratches on his back. "You were so worried about hurting me, and you're the one who's bleeding," she said, kissing his shoulder.

"Am I really?" He moved as if trying to see his own back, and she tightened her arms to hold him still.

"Only a little." A web of angry welts marked her nails' movements across his back, but the skin was mostly unbroken. Only one scratch was still bleeding; impulsively, she ran her tongue over it. Tasting his blood was like tasting her own, in a way. Sohma blood, binding them together on a cellular level. She reached around and took the soap out of his hands. "Hold still now."

He submitted to her attentions without further complaint. When he was clean, she gathered him against her. "Better?" he asked.

Rin pressed her face into his skin again. "Different," she replied, sliding around to stand in front of him. The water beat onto her back, liquid heat pouring over her while he folded her into his arms. She lifted up on the balls of her feet and kissed him; he held her there while he returned the kiss, toying with her lower lip before his tongue slipped into her mouth.

The water made it hard to hold onto each other, but her skin tingled under it. The feel of him becoming aroused again sent a wave of warmth through her; she closed her eyes and let herself feel the ache deep inside from the force of their earlier lovemaking. She stood lost in the memory for a moment: the harshness of his breathing, his heart pounding against her, his entire body straining with the need to be closer to her. A vague feeling of guilt over how much pleasure she took from the unrestrained strength of his body--less intense than the release he had given her with his mouth, but still enough to leave her dizzy and clinging to him. Almost enough to thaw the cold emptiness in the back of her mind, and for once she'd heard the words spilling from her lips--don't stop, don't stop--and the equally-incoherent replies he muttered into her skin. She had barely noticed that it hurt until it was over and she saw the stricken look that flashed in his eyes.

She kissed him again as she came out of the reverie, backing him against the wall, sliding one hand lightly down the outside of his leg, over his knee, up the inside of his thigh. For an instant he hesitated, but then he leaned back, giving her the same freedom she'd given him. One hand wandered over the back of her neck, stroking too lightly to be controlling. For several minutes, Rin teased him gently, exploring his chest with her mouth, his hips and thighs with her hands, never quite touching his erection except when she leaned close and felt it between their bodies. She moved from one sensitive spot to another, cautious of his bruises, trying to keep him from anticipating her. The steady rush of the shower made it easier; the water touched him wherever she didn't.

When his breathing was ragged, she arched up and kissed his lips again, holding onto his hips for balance. She smiled at the way his mouth opened under hers, and slid to her knees, holding onto his hips to keep herself from slamming into the floor. A kiss just beside his navel made him twitch, his hand coming to rest on the top of her head while she licked the innocent patch of skin, almost carelessly rubbing her cheek against his cock as her mouth worked only inches away. She didn't need to look up to know he was staring down at her, entranced.

Sure that he wasn't going to push her away again, she ran her hand up the inside of his thigh and closed her lips over his cock. His incoherent sound of pleasure made her laugh, and the vibration in her throat sent a violent shudder through him. Water streamed down his body and through her hair, keeping her warm while she took him as far into her mouth as she could. The rigid feel of his legs under her hands spoke volumes about the effort he was making to not thrust further; she eased back and turned her head, teasing with the barest touch of her lips. He made a faint sound of protest and she leaned in close again, reacquainting herself with the feel of his cock sliding across her tongue, the hint of his pulse deep in her mouth. She brought one hand up close against his body, cupping his balls in her palm and rubbing her fingertips hard against the insides of his thighs. He caught her other hand in his, clenching down painfully on her fingers while she stroked and sucked at him.

His low moan was all the warning she needed before he climaxed, salt and warmth flooding her mouth and throat; she kept her tongue moving gently until his grip on her fingers eased, became a caress across her palm. She squeezed his hand and pressed her cheek against his hip, letting her mind go blank while he touched her face and the water kept beating down on them.

When she finally leaned back and looked up at him, something in his expression made her heart skip a beat. She tugged gently on his hand, and he let her pull him down so they were facing each other. "What is it?" Water pooled around them where their legs blocked its access to the drain. Haru stroked her face, his thumb grazing over her lips while he stared at her. "Haru?" She ducked out from under his hand and moved to crouch over him; his arms went around her, crushing her against him. For a long time he only held her, his face hidden against her breasts.

Finally he shifted, and she took the opportunity to change position. When she glanced at them, her knees and shins were lined in red from the tiled floor. Haru followed her gaze. "The tub's probably more comfortable, I guess," he said. Rin nodded agreement, and he slowly stood up, keeping an arm tight around her waist so that she had to move with him. He turned the shower off with his other hand and stood still.

"Haru." Rin tried to step back, to look at him, but his hold on her tightened. "Are you--what--" She worked one arm free and reached up to stroke the back of his neck.

"I can't." He made a sound that was almost a laugh. "I can feel you getting cold already, and it's only about five feet to the tub so I can run the water, and I can't--I can't let you go."

"You don't have to," she said. "I'm right here."

Haru looked down at her, bringing one hand up to slowly finger her hair. He nodded after a moment and loosened his grip enough that they could slide the shower door open and step out. Even in the steam-filled room, the temperature drop made Rin's skin immediately ripple with goosebumps. Haru snagged a yukata from the hook on the back of the door and wrapped her in it before leaning over the tub and turning the water on. While it began to fill, he slid his hand up the inside of a sleeve, caressing her arm. Rin closed her eyes and leaned against him until the tub was almost full, then let the yukata slide off her shoulders so they could get in. When they sat in it, the water came halfway up her arms; she slid further down so she was almost completely immersed. Haru wrapped his arms around her again, holding her close.

"I'm scared to let go of you," he said eventually. "I feel like if I stop seeing you or touching you, you'll be gone."

"You weren't like this earlier."

"Not when you've been awake." Something terrible sparked in his eyes, and Rin pressed her fingertips against his face, tracing its lines as if she could read his nightmares like braille. "I just..."

"Tell me." He almost flinched under her touch, staring at her. "Tell me," she repeated. "Whatever it is--"

"I wish you hadn't--" Tension made his muscles spasm under her touch, and she tried to stroke it away. Haru reached up and caught her hands, pressing them together as he swore under his breath. "D'you have any idea how incredible your mouth feels? I thought--thought it'd be okay, if you wanted to--but I was watching you, and..." One hand slid up her back and settled unerringly along her scar, fingertips on her shoulder, wrist against the edge of her spine.

"Do you know what that is, sweetheart?" he whispered, and the anguished edge in his voice scraped against her ears. "That's me wanting you and pretending you were terrified for no reason. That's my fucking lust carved into your body, and it's never going to heal, is it?" His fingers moved convulsively, mapping the ridges of insensitive skin. "I wanted to kill your mother for letting your father hurt you, when I let you get hurt because touching you felt so good, and I pretended nothing happened, just like them."


"I can't even sleep 'cause it's all I can think about, but then--then I can watch you going down on me, and want to stop you because it makes me see all the ways you've been hurt because of me--and I didn't stop you because it felt too good." Rin stared at his mouth, the shape of the words. "Your parents are crazy. What's my excuse? Loving you?" His lips were deathly white, sweat flecking his skin. "I didn't hold back because she looked like you. I stopped because she looked like me." One shaking hand pressed against her cheek. "I love you, I swear I love you, but I don't know what to do." His voice faded almost to nothing as the torrent of words slowed. "Rin, what do you want me to do?"

"I--" The desperation on his face made him look almost obscenely young. Rin looked away--at the ceiling, at the steam obscuring the mirror, at the walls, anywhere but at him. He hadn't looked so young since the sunny afternoon he'd come to see her in the hospital and she had used every intimacy they'd ever shared to construct the most brutal, concise rejection she could think of. He hadn't said a word, hadn't argued, only stared at her while something vulnerable and irretrievable crumbled behind his eyes. "I'm not the only one who was hurt."

Haru's hand was still on her cheek, and she let him turn her head. "It's not the same," he said.

Tears welled up without warning. "I hated hurting you, I hated it so much, but I did it anyway." Her stomach clenched, bile burning her throat. After breaking up with him, after he had gone, she'd vomited until she was too weak to stand. A nurse had had to help her back to bed. "I didn't know what else to do. I couldn't tell you what happened." She tried to push away from him, suddenly unable to bear his touch, and he let her go. Water splashed over the edge of the tub, counterpoint to the rain hitting the window, and she buried her face in her hands. "What I want you to do is hold me and make love with me and...and sleep." Her voice was breaking, barely functional through the pain in her throat. "You're not like my parents. You're--"

His hands closed on her wrists, so tight that she could feel her own pulse beating against his palms. "How am I different?" he demanded, and she stopped trying to look away from the need in his eyes.

"You've never done anything to me that I haven't let you do. Nothing."

The words stopped him cold, his grip on her mercifully loosening. Rin let herself go limp, trusting him to hold her up, envying his ability to regain control of himself once something snapped him out of whatever state he was in. Her own control was slipping dangerously, parts of her mind shutting down like lights going out. She tried to focus on Haru saying her name, on the pressure of his hand against her chest as he felt her frantic heartbeat.

"Your heart," he breathed, staring at her. "Rin, it's okay. Don't--" His lips kept moving, but his words slid over her like the water falling to the floor, warmth that might be comforting if it weren't slipping away. "Rin. Come on, lovely girl, stay with me." She dimly remembered him shaking her back into focus earlier in the week, her attempt to explain the safe blankness she had learned to live in.


The sound of her real name brought her eyes up to meet his, shocked. "You've never--"

"Don't lock me out," Haru whispered.

"It hurts." The vulnerability in her own voice made her wince and shake her head.

"I know." He pulled her back into his arms and leaned back into the water, letting it close over them.

"Don't call me that name."

"You weren't hearing me--"

"It's not my name. Not with you." Tears were leaking down her cheeks no matter how hard she squeezed her eyes shut, trying not to sink back into the deathly stillness that had held her mind together through the months of isolation.

"I'm sorry," Haru said. "Rin. Rin, Rin, beautiful girl, I love you." A sob escaped her, and another.

"I can't stop it," she choked out. The fierce ache in her throat spread down through her chest; she rubbed at her neck, trying to ease it.

"You don't have to stop it."

"It's too dark in my head." Pain lancing through her temples made her whimper and hide her face against him. "I can't--" her voice broke "--why can't I stop it, I stopped it before--"


"In...in the room, I..." Breathing was almost impossible through the pain. "I couldn't make noise, I couldn't--Akito didn't want to hear me, and I--" Sobs shattered the words, battered against the old cracks in her ribs, and Haru was clinging to her, his fingers buried in her hair, lips moving against her cheek. "--I had to be quiet so the darkness couldn't--couldn't get into me and Akito wouldn't hear me and--" She shoved her hands against her mouth, trying to block the terrified sound of her own voice.

"Tell me what to do," Haru whispered, and the helpless words sent reflexive protectiveness resonating through her, into the emptiness that she had expected to swallow her whole. The familiarity of his heartbeat suddenly immobilized her: Sohma heart pumping Sohma blood, Akito's blood, in his veins, and the blood and the need to protect him held her still while Akito's fingers raked through her hair and Akito's voice gave the orders that would lock her away and Akito's footsteps down the hall left her alone with her own silence...

When the scream tore out of her, she didn't register it as sound, only as more pain in her throat and as a startled spasm in Haru's body. The echoes of her voice, the broken despair in it, came back at her from the walls, and she heard the second scream: it boiled out of her, left her cold and so tense that every muscle in her body cramped violently, paralyzing her with pain. She bit her lip hard, tasted her own blood instead of his as she tried not to cry out again.

"It's okay." Haru's voice shook as he spoke, but he took her hand and began massaging her palm and fingers gently to try working the cramp out. "No one's here but us." He rested his cheek against her forehead, and she felt his tears, hotter than the cooling water. "You don't have to be strong all the time. I'm scared to know what happened to you, but it happened, Rin. And you survived."

She shuddered and forced her eyes open, saw blood from her lip staining his skin. "I never want to see Akito again." The twin horrors of the words--seeing or not seeing her god--made her cringe.

"No," Haru whispered. "No, you shouldn't." His fingers were digging into the agonizing tension in her back, and Rin tried to relax her muscles, to think about anything but the lurking emptiness in her mind and the tears still running freely down her cheeks.

"Akito left me there." The final abandonment, deeper than the physical hurt, deeper than her mother walking away. "But the bond--it's still... I was going to--to die in there." A memory of the peacefulness she'd had for those last few days before waking in the hospital settled on her despite the crying that refused to stop. "I was going to die."

"Rin, no--" The misery in Haru's voice wasn't enough to shake the memory. No god to want her, no hope of a comforting touch again. Nothing to hold her in her body.

"I was finally going to get to die." She was dimly aware of how violently Haru was shaking, and that her muscles were finally relaxing enough to leave only a dull pain throughout her body. "All I had to do was not make myself eat. So easy." She rubbed a hand across her face, smearing the tears.


She rested her head on the edge of the tub, listened to the soft sound of water dripping from her hair to the floor. "I held Hiro when he was born. Satsuki-san let me hold him." She stared at the ceiling through the fading steam. "Akito didn't want me to, I don't think. Even then. I was too dirty to touch anything that belonged to Akito, and I hadn't even slept with you--"

"Stop it," Haru whispered. "Rin, you were six years old when Hiro was born. You're just hurting yourself now."


"I don't know why Akito doesn't love you." Fresh tears welled up at the stark words, but Haru kept talking. "But it's not just you. It's not your fault. And you're loved. I love you so much, and Hiro loves you, and Shihan, and Honda-san--"

"That girl loves everyone," Rin muttered, and Haru shrugged.

"So? And Hinata-chan will love you if you're there while she grows up, and--"


"Hinat--oh. Hiro's sister." He smiled faintly, running his fingers slowly through her hair. "You'll be able to hold her, and it won't matter what Akito wants." He pushed away from the back of the tub. "The water's getting cold. D'you think you can sleep? You might feel better--"

Rin took a slow, tentative breath, rubbing at her eyes. "Will you sleep?" Her throat ached when she spoke, but no new tears came. "Haru, you have to," she said when he didn't reply immediately, and he laughed, a pained, bitter sound that made her cringe.

"It's not exactly my first priority when my girlfriend's wishing she was dead."

She jerked back as if he'd hit her. "I'm not--I..." Haru climbed out of the tub while she was groping for words, and pressed his hand against the side of her neck. She leaned against the side, tepid water dripping from her arms as she tugged him close enough to kiss. "I'm not. It was different in there."

His lips moved against hers. "And before that, you never...?"

Water splashed around her as she followed him out into the cool air, pressing herself close. "Not when I had you." He flinched, his fingers brushing against her back, and she shook her head. "I never thought you were perfect. But I wanted you, too." She wasn't sure if the warmth on her cheeks was tears or a blush; the words were trying to stick in her throat, and it took all of her concentration to force them out. "I don't know if I would have started this if you hadn't. But I wanted it." She kissed the hollow between his collarbones, pressing her tongue into it, and he went rigid in her arms. "I wanted it when you kissed me, and I wanted it when you touched me, and--it's not all your fault."

"It's different."

"You would've stopped if I'd told you to." He stared down at her, his face drawn with misery, and she slid a fingertip under the studded collar he still wore. "I was scared. I was. But I never asked you to stop."

"You were crying."

Rin rubbed her cheek against his chest and tasted the wetness left behind. "I'm crying now. And I still--"

His embrace was suddenly crushing, and she returned it with a sob. "I love you," he whispered, muffled against her hair. "I love you, I love you so much..." His hands slid down her sides, and he stepped back, one thumb rubbing her hip distractedly. "You're freezing."

"Mm hmm."

His ability to shift focus never stopped surprising her; in an instant he'd turned away and reached into the tub to pull the plug, turned back and wrapped her in the yukata she'd discarded earlier. She closed her hands over his when he looked as if he was going to carry her the short distance down the hall, and tugged him toward the door. Genuine amusement lit his eyes.


"It's usually me who tugs at people," he said, and Rin blinked, realizing it was true. She had a thousand small memories of his fingers twining in her sleeves, loose around her arm as he tried to catch her attention or steer her. A childhood habit that had mostly disappeared as he grew up--in most of the memories, his hands were smaller than hers--and lingered with her and Yuki.

"I must have learned it from you," she replied, and he followed her into the hall and the warm safety of her bed, with its nest of thick blankets.

"The blood, the soil, the faith
These words you can't forget
Your vow, your holy place
O love, aren't you tired yet?"

--Leonard Cohen, "The Faith" (Dear Heather)

After the brightness of the bathing room, her bedroom's darkness enfolded them in silent comfort, easing the ache of eyes raw from crying. Rin went to the window and fumbled with the latch, opening it wide to admit the night air. Raindrops came in on the wind, spattering her hands as she leaned out to inhale the coolness. Haru waited uncertainly behind her, until she turned to face him.

"If you even think about offering to sleep somewhere else, you won't like what happens." She was too weary to try putting any weight behind the threat, or to think of what she would do if he went and curled up under the kotatsu, or wandered out into the night.

"I won't." He stepped back to the bed and sank down onto it, holding out a hand to her. After another deep breath of the soothing air, she dropped her yukata on the chair beside the bed and joined him. She settled into his arms, irrationally grateful that their bodies still nestled together as smoothly as they always had, a perfect fit undisturbed by their capacity to hurt each other. Haru held her silently, caressing the back of her neck when she buried her face against his shoulder. The slow deftness of the touch made her squirm, wanting to get closer. It was too dark for her to see him clearly--the rain was beating against the roof, too heavy for the moon to peek through the clouds--so she moved by feel, curling up on top of him and sighing under her breath at the warm softness of his skin. He made a faint sound as she arranged herself, and she remembered the bruises covering his sides.

"Am I hurting you?"

"No." His fingers worked steadily down her back, making her fidget as he stroked each individual bone, avoiding her scar for the first time that night.

"Touch it," she whispered. "Don't make it something it's not." She folded her hands on his sternum, resting her chin on them, and watched the faint shine of his eyes while he touched her. "I haven't been awake for this many hours in a long time."

"You should sleep."

"I still feel..." Rin trailed off, trying to isolate the feeling under her skin. Not quite desire, not with exhaustion burning in her muscles, but something enough like it that she kissed his chest to see how he responded. A slight quiver ran through his body. "Could we--" She kissed him again to cover the awkwardness she felt. "Just a little?"

"What do you want me to do?" he asked quietly.

"I just want to be closer." She blindly outlined his tattoo with her fingers, and he slid his arms around her waist. "To have you inside me for a while."

"Won't it hurt you?" Concern and longing spun together in his voice, and she rested her cheek against his heart, listening to its quickening rhythm.

"We can stop if it hurts."

"You'll tell me?"

"Yes." She pushed herself upright, straddling his hips, and rested her hands palm-down on his belly. Haru sat up in one smooth motion, powerful muscles uncoiling under velvet skin, and she smiled at the sensation. He eased his hands under her, balancing her on his lap as he nuzzled her throat. "It doesn't hurt so far," she whispered, tilting her head to lick his earlobe while she slid a hand between his legs.

"Good to hear," he replied, gasping a little as she stroked him. Rin kept her hand resting against his cock while he kissed her, savoring the gentleness of his lips on the love bites he'd left earlier, the soothing sensation of his tongue on the welts and scratches that crisscrossed her collarbone and shoulder. He hardened slowly under her touch, and she curled her fingers to fit, feeling a flush of arousal warming her. She slid her other hand behind his head and kissed him, licking his lips while she shifted her weight off his thighs and onto her knees, pushed herself down onto his cock.

The room's darkness hid her wince of pain, but the accompanying flinch had Haru's hands on her hips instantly. "Rin--"

"Shh." She braced herself on his shoulders and took a deep breath, forcing herself to relax while she slowly ground herself against him. "I think I'm kind of bruised." She wrapped her arms tightly around him while she shifted her hips. "It's fine. Just don't move too much and I'll be fine." Haru made a faintly skeptical sound, and she cupped his face in her hands. "This is all I want. Just to feel you like this." His lips parted under hers as she pressed him back onto the bed, running her hands up his sides.

He pulled the blankets back over them while she kissed him, and the simple bliss of it--his taste in her mouth, the feel of him deep inside her, the protective way he held her--was overwhelming. She buried her face against his neck and shook, listening to his wordless murmurs of reassurance. His comforting solidity flooded her senses so thoroughly that when he turned so they were lying on their sides, it seemed as if it was the world shifting around them. With her head pillowed on his arm, a feeling of contentment began to displace her anxiety; she lay still and gazed at the familiar dark ribbons of his tattoo, faintly visible against the paleness of his skin.

Haru's breathing and heartbeat slowed against her, exhaustion finally catching up with him despite the way they were entwined. Rin held him tighter, smoothing her hands over his back, and his breath caught as he tried to hold onto consciousness. "It's okay," she whispered, kissing the hollow of his throat. His pulse fluttered against her tongue, and he snuggled closer to her, the movement making her hidden bruises twinge. She stroked his face with the backs of her fingers, lines of worry and guilt melting under her touch as he surrendered to sleep.

Weariness clawed at her, but she stayed awake a while longer, warmed by the comforting weight of his body. Small twitches went through his muscles as he started to dream, his eyelashes brushing against her skin. Sleep took her unawares as she listened to the steady sound of the rain, pulling her down into a sweet dreamlessness.


Rin woke gradually, disoriented by the diffuse gray light in the room. The patter of the rain was sporadic, almost drowned by the rise and fall of the wind. Her first thought was of battered cherry blossoms, followed by the less abstract realization that her right arm refused to move. "You're heavy," she told Haru softly, as she began working the uncooperative limb out from under him. He mumbled something in response, curling up around the warmth where she'd been lying; she leaned back and drank in the sight of him. There were still dark shadows under his eyes, but they were fading faster than his sparring bruises. His body had filled out in their year apart; she had felt the changes when he held her, had seen them through his clothes, but seeing him in repose drove it home.

The naked expanse of his back was startling. She traced the scattered marks her nails had left on him, exploring the new definition in his muscles and the valley between his shoulder blades. Rin allowed herself a moment of possessive pleasure, watching his lips move with whatever he was dreaming, and trailed her fingers into his hair. The black hair was growing longer than he usually kept it--she stroked the dividing line between black and white, idly wondering if anyone else knew or cared that the difference was more than color, that the white hair was infinitely softer.

She sat up slowly, tucking the blanket around him, and assessed her reflection in the mirror. Still pale--she considered the effort it would take to hide her pallor with makeup, and dismissed the idea. The marks Haru and his jewelry had left on her skin were still glaringly obvious, and she frowned at her image until she remembered a high-necked sweater in the closet--not enough to conceal the damage from Kazuma or Kunimitsu, but enough to get by outside.


The bed and Haru's sleeping warmth were both desperately tempting, but she twined a lock of hair around her fingers, remembering Kunimitsu's offer to trim it more carefully than the hospital staff had done. Her reflection stared back at her, a silent reminder of vulnerability that a simple trim wouldn't hide.

"I'll be back," she said, too quietly to wake Haru. She slipped out of bed and dressed quickly--the sweater was easy to find, and the extra layer of warmth was comforting. It look a little longer to remember where she'd left the stash of money Kazuma had once told her to keep at the house.

She found it in a wallet on the closet's shelf: enough cash to get her through almost any short-term emergency, easily acquired from Kagura's mother, who was used to the small fortunes she spent on clothing and had asked no questions. But nothing else--no credit cards, no identification, no photographs. As if I don't exist.

Nausea hit her abruptly; she pocketed the wallet and went out into the hallway, slumping down against the wall to wait it out. If Kureno hadn't found me-- Three months with no one noticing her absence--one lie had been enough to convince her school to graduate her in absentia, enough that the family she'd lived with for almost eight years had simply accepted her disappearance. She fought down the urge to run back into the bedroom and shake Haru awake to hold her.

It took two tries to get to her feet and head for the phone; the clock on the wall pointed out that it was well past noon and that she hadn't eaten since the previous evening. Later. She paged through Kazuma's out-of-date phone book, fingering the wallet in her pocket, and called a cab.


Rustling noises gradually pulled Haru out of his dreams: the closet door opening, hangers clacking quietly against each other, the soft thump of fabric hitting the floor. He kept his eyes closed and listened while Rin got dressed, wondering how long she'd been awake; there was no lingering warmth in the bed with him.

He came fully awake when she sprawled across the head of the bed, her sudden closeness filling his nose with her scent. Musky-sweet warmth, the faintest hint of sex, a trace of rain. "Morning," she said, sliding her arms around his head. A flash of color flickered past his eyes as he pressed his face against her breasts, inhaling deeply.

"Morning," he echoed. "...is it still morning?"

"Not even close." There was something in her voice he hadn't heard for a long time, a hint of relaxation that made him smile. "It's four thirty." Color again as she touched his cheek and bent to kiss him.

The taste of her mouth reminded him of how he'd fallen asleep, and he leaned back. "Rin, I didn't mean to..."

"I know. It's fine." He almost didn't hear, suddenly too caught up in looking at her. She ducked her head under his scrutiny, one hand fidgeting with her earlobe. Perfectly manicured indigo nails gleamed against the blackness of her hair, damp from the rain whipping against the window. Even windblown, the new haircut was sleek and smooth against the contours of her face, hiding the waif-like fragility of her bones. "I went out."

"I can tell." Haru sat up slowly, looking her up and down. One of the long skirts from the closet covered her legs, but the black shirt she was wearing was new, and cut too low to hide the perfect curves of her breasts or the marks he'd left on her. A plain collar was buckled around her neck, half-covering the purplest love bite. "I--" He jerked his gaze away from her throat, trying to ignore the wave of desire that crashed over him at the reminder. "You've been busy."

"I was tired of looking like that." A hint of contempt flickered in her voice, and she looked past him at her reflection. Haru watched her face while she studied herself: no pride showed in her eyes, only detached assessment. "And most of the clothes here aren't awful, but I wanted something I'd picked out myself."

"How was it? Being outside?"

"I took cabs, so I wasn't out in the open much. It was fine." Rin stared at the mirror a moment longer, and then met his eyes. "Except I almost got sick at the salon, when they were touching my hair." She shuddered, biting her lip. "I had to go, and I didn't want to wake you."

"D'you feel better?"

"More in control." A soft laugh bubbled up, and she fingered the collar. "The store I went into for this does piercings. The guy behind the counter had some...interesting ideas when I asked for suggestions. Probably the most creative attempt anyone's ever made to get me out of my clothes."

"Did you get anything done?" He examined her closely, looking for bandages or signs of pain.

When she shook her head, her hair swirled out from her face, easing the severity of the cut. "Guess I'm not like you. Do you think I should have?"

Haru imagined her trying to hold still for a needle, deliberately allowing someone to break her skin. Other than me. She had been attracted to and horrified by his fling with body modification, by the way he let strangers mark his body to assert his own control over it; she had brought it up more often than he had, listening to the possibilities he mentioned. After the tattoo, he'd hit her limits by explaining surface piercings and showing her how the small bars he was considering would line up with his shoulders. Waking up in the middle of the night with her cheek pressed against the proposed place on the back of his neck, her tears hot on his skin, had broken him of the idea. "It...doesn't seem like your thing, sweetheart."

"Maybe not." She stood up and stretched, watching him. "Are you hungry?"

"Yeah." 'Ravenous' was the word his stomach suggested, now that he spared it a thought.

"Me too." A hint of color showed in her cheeks, as if hunger were something she had forgotten. "With the way Kunimitsu-san's been cooking, there has to be something in the kitchen. I'll go check."

Haru slid out of bed as she left, and the room's chill made him wince. He pulled on a pair of pants and went to close the window. Outside, the sky was gray and angry, still spitting rain. The air was cool enough to sting his lungs, but he took a slow breath of it, trying again to imagine what Rin's captivity had been like.

The sound of the front door sliding open and closed didn't register at first, not until he heard a distinct clank from the kitchen, at the other end of the house. Who-- Someone with a key, which probably meant 'someone safe', but he left the bedroom without bothering to throw on more clothing. There was no sound of movement anywhere in the house but the kitchen; the too-perfect silence confirmed Kyo's presence a moment before Haru found him frozen on the kitchen's threshold, staring at Rin.

"Isuzu, what the hell--" Haru prodded the cat's arm, and Kyo swiveled to glare at him. "What're you guys doing here?"

"I've been sick," Rin said flatly, crossing her arms and staring challengingly at Kyo. "It's too noisy at Kagura's, so Kazuma-san said I could stay here while I recuperate. What are you doing here?" Her response was automatic, lacking real anger, but Kyo bristled.

"Came to make sure the place was okay while Shishou and Kunimitsu are out of town." He shook his head, sending drops of rain flying, and swore. "What happened to your hair?"

She rolled her eyes. "What does it look like?" The immediate escalation to open irritation on both sides reminded Haru of their childhood, and of Kazuma's reasons for sending her away. "It's a pain getting bitched at by nurses who think it's in the way when they're running tests, so--" she mimed scissors with her fingers, and even watching for it, Haru barely saw the way her eyes shadowed with pain.

Kyo didn't catch her momentary lapse, but as Rin dropped her hand, she turned so that the fading marks on her neck and above her breasts were plainly visible. She realized it an instant too late, and straightened with a glare as Kyo noticed, daring him to comment. Haru winced, waiting for a reaction, and then realized the cat was only staring at her, a puzzled line creasing his forehead.

"How'd that--" Kyo crossed the room to take a closer look, and Haru sighed, leaning against the door frame. Kyo and Rin had never appreciated interference in their fights. "Damn, Isuzu, what'd you do?"

A hint of amusement touched her lips. "I didn't do anything."

The protective way Kyo hackled took Haru by surprise, and Rin's eyes widened. They fight like siblings, Yuki had said, one long-ago New Year's, a hint of envy buried in his dismissal; Haru had shrugged, long since inured to their bickering.

"Then--" Kyo glowered at her, and she stared back defiantly. He turned and looked at Haru, naiveté no safeguard against the obvious conclusion. The blush that colored the cat's face was deep enough that Haru was caught off-guard by the speed with which Kyo crossed the room and grabbed his wrist. "Haru, what'd you do to her?"

Like siblings. Under the blush, Kyo was enraged in a way Haru hadn't seen since he had made the mistake of laying hands on Honda Tohru after going Black.

"If we told you what he did to me, your head would explode." There was nothing casual left in Rin's voice, only ice. "None of your business." Haru looked at her skin as she came over, trying to see what it would look like to someone else. The worst love bite was still half-hidden by her collar, but lighter bruises were scattered down her throat, and the scratches from his necklace were livid against sun-deprived skin. She muttered something vicious under her breath when Kyo looked skeptical. "Haru, turn around."

Haru shrugged and obeyed, twisting out of Kyo's grip. Rin touched his back, tracing one of the welts she'd left on him. "How bad is it?" he asked.

"I'd say we're even." Haru turned back to face them, and Rin glared at Kyo again. "Does that look fair to you?"

"If it makes you feel better, neither of us did it on purpose," Haru said mildly, when Kyo didn't answer.

"I don't even want to know," Kyo growled, rubbing at his eyes. "Where've you been, Isuzu? Tohru's been worried about you, and I know you haven't been here since New Year's--"

"I was in a hospital up north," Rin replied, looking away as she repeated the lie that the family had been told. "I went after the holiday. For tests." A shimmer of tears in her eyes made Haru ache to comfort her. "It took a long time."

"Well, you should tell Tohru where you were." She turned back, and a strange expression crossed her face, something sudden and awful that Haru didn't grasp until she glanced away from Kyo again.

The Cat's room.

The look melted away, leaving only annoyance. "Fine. You can tell her if you want--not like it's a secret anymore. It's bad enough I still have to call Kagura." She shrugged and leaned against Haru. "I guess I should go do that."

"I guess," Haru said, slipping an arm around her waist. Kyo made a strangled noise and turned away; without his embarrassed eyes on them, Rin pressed closer for an instant.

"I didn't get as far as looking in the fridge," she said, stepping away and heading into the hallway. "Can you?"


"I'll make something," Kyo grumbled as she left. "I'm not going back out in that without eating something hot first. Shishou should've told me you were here." He began rummaging through the cupboards.

"I can cook," Haru pointed out, but he leaned back against the counter and didn't interfere. Down the hall, he could hear the heavy sounds of Kazuma's ancient rotary phone as Rin dialed.

"You and Isuzu..." Kyo began, and then stopped, staring out the window at the drizzle. "How long's that been going on?"

"How long...?" Haru echoed. "I don't know."

Rin's voice came back to them, faintly. "Kagura, it's me."

"What d'you mean, you don't--"

"A day or two," Haru said. "My whole life. I don't know." He realized that he was rubbing at his tattoo, and made himself stop.

"She was pretty sick, huh?"

"Yeah." He closed his eyes, remembering how frail she'd felt when he first lifted her off the sidewalk. "Really sick."

"Will all the tests help?" Kyo threw ingredients into a pot more forcefully than necessary, underscoring the rough concern in his voice.

"I've got a better idea about what's wrong with her," Haru said finally. "She's been getting stronger. Shihan's probably going to send me back to my parents' place soon." He pushed away from the counter. "I'm gonna go see if she's okay."

"It's just a phone call," Kyo said as he walked away.

Rin was leaning against the wall when Haru reached her, and she slid into his arms, holding the phone between her ear and shoulder. "...yes, I know I should have--Kagura, just listen for a sec... No. No, I don't need to talk to her now, I--" He winced at the strain in her voice. "I'll call her tomorrow, okay? Just tell her I'm home. I don't know when I'll be back there. I'm all right, will you just--I'll see you soon. Okay, I--" She caught her breath and reached for his hand, twining her fingers tightly in his. "I missed you too. Bye."

Faint food smells came drifting down the hall as she hung up the phone. "Kyo's cooking?" Haru nodded, and she relaxed against him, her body going entirely slack. "I don't want him to know. Or Tohru-san--she wouldn't understand."

"She might," he murmured, and she shuddered.

"I don't want her to understand. I don't want her to do that--that thing she does, where she just looks and sees and--" She clung to him, her fingers pressing hard against the scratches on his back. "Kyo would've told her I was here, anyway. And you told Yuki, and Mama found me somehow..."

"Shh." He kissed her forehead, tasted the sheen of sweat on her skin. "Shh, love. It doesn't matter. You're safe." Rin reached up and buried her hands in his hair, tugging his head down. Her lips moved against his in wordless reply, soft and fervent, as if it didn't matter that there was someone in earshot. Haru tightened his arms around her, imagining what it would be like to love her openly. "Kyo really had no idea about us," he said softly. "But Shigure-sensei figured it out, and you said Honda-san knows... I wonder if anyone else guessed."

"I don't care." Electric tension ran through her body as she kissed him again, harder, as if silently daring Kyo to come out of the kitchen and see them. "I don't care anymore. Let them see." The ghost of fear flickered in her eyes as she looked up at him; he stroked the back of her neck, feeling the rigid set of her shoulders.

"Come on," he said, taking her hand. "There'll be food soon, and he can't see us if we don't go back in there."

Rin hesitated for a moment, wide-eyed in spite of her defiance, and then nodded. "Have to start somewhere." She touched the scratch on her collarbone thoughtfully. "Maybe I'll let this heal more before I see anyone else."

"Might be a good idea." He squeezed her fingers gently. "Are you okay, sweetheart?"

"I--" For a fleeting instant she pressed against him again, her lips brushing his bare shoulder. "Close enough." She tugged at his hand, and he let her lead him back toward the kitchen.



Fruits Basket belongs to Takaya Natsuki and Hakusensha; English-language versions by FUNimation (anime) and Tokyopop (manga). This piece of fiction is in no way approved or endorsed by any of the copyright holders. Please support the original work!

"Alive Through the Dawn" © 2004-2006 by
Edited by Alishya Lane; additional beta work by Flamika and Ginny T.

Head cheerleader: KawaiiAyu.

Comments and criticism welcomed.

This story may be reproduced and archived so long as the original text is preserved and the author's name and contact information remain attached. Notifying the author of any such use is an appreciated courtesy. NO CHANGES OF ANY KIND ARE PERMITTED.

All quoted lyrics/epigraphs are the property of their copyright holders, and are also used without permission. The title "Alive Through the Dawn" comes from the song "Crazy" by Tori Amos, found on the album "Scarlet's Walk".