Written for Flamika, in exchange for website graphics.
Contains spoilers up to chapter 133 (vol. 23).
Original release date: March 22, 2007.
The servants stopped whispering about it weeks ago; it's old news that Sohma Akito has changed, that she's dragging her clan along with her as she begins to rule in more than name. Rin hears it all third-hand, or fourth, or fifth; since the day Akito summoned the former Jyuunishi, she hasn't set foot in the Main House. Kazuma's small household has become the center of her world, to the point where the master himself worries that she so rarely ventures off the grounds.
But to her, it's not an isolated life. School never did more than exhaust her, rubbing her nerves raw through constant contact with strangers. Living at Kazuma's, she's spent more time in the company of her family than she has in longer than she can remember, especially since the bond fragmented and loosed them. 'Family' is a word she still struggles with, but there's nothing else to call them, these people whose souls brushed against hers for nineteen years. It's strange to hear their voices clearly with her ears instead of dimly with her mind, to have the energy to focus on them, to realize how much bemused patience is leveled at her when she snaps. By now, she'd thought they would have been driven away by her years of withdrawal, if not by her months of rage and secrecy.
With them come gossip and news from the compound, and she listens to it with half an ear, as if they're talking about a shared dream. It's easier to hold herself back from it, to pretend to herself that the things she never talks about were only nightmares.
She still wakes crying almost every night, stifling herself with her hands. It disrupts Haru's sleep so much when he spends the night that they fight from time to time; the shadows under his eyes make her irrationally angry, but she has no ready answer for his counter arguments. Yeah, because I sleep so well when I know you're here crying by yourself in the middle of the night, he challenged the third or fourth time she brought it up, so unnervingly clear-eyed and calm in his own anger that she backed down.
Nightmares. And then Akito's name will surface in conversation, forever unexpected, with no immunity granted by repetition. The other once-Jyuunishi may be fonder of her than she had supposed, but they don't know her well enough to read the tiny tremors in her hands, the blankness she can feel wrapping itself around her mind. She nods distractedly when it happens, sets down whatever she's been using to keep herself busy, and waits for it to pass.
It's not even that Akito once nearly killed her, and once left her to die. It's the creeping desire for death that she can't forget, can't escape, can't see past. She doesn't know whether Akito planted it in her heart, or only nurtured it, or whether it matters anymore. If it ever did. If she and her god were ever anything more to each other than windows into what they each hated most about themselves.
"Are you asleep?"
Haru's voice is so quiet that she barely hears him, even though she's still wide awake, curled up on her side and trying to feign sleep so he'll finally relax enough to drift off. She doesn't answer at first, not wanting to break the illusion, but his expectant silence betrays how poorly it's working.
"No." His fingertips run up her arm, elbow to shoulder; half caress, half question. "Yes," she whispers in reply, pushing herself off the bed enough for him to slip an arm under her side. His breath warms the back of her neck as he gently fits his body against hers, holding her close. Something else she fights with him about, when her own neuroses drive her to distraction: without the bond holding them together, she alternates between clinging to him as if drowning and being unable to endure the emptiness of mere physical touch. His acceptance of her moods makes her tense and brittle, brutally aware of her own instability.
Do you still love me? he asked, only once, when her frustration at herself had gone past storming at him and left her shaking with misery. He read the answer in her eyes before she started crying; his arms were as warm and reassuring as ever when they went around her. Then we'll be okay.
"There's something..." He stops, kisses her shoulder as if bracing himself. "There's something you need to know, if no one's told you." She stiffens, but reaches back to grope for his hand. His fingers twine with hers easily, strong and comforting. "Shihan told me he hasn't mentioned Akito to you at all, and I haven't heard any of the others bring it up while they were here--"
"Don't." Akito's name is enough to make her try to pull away from him, to move to cover her ears. She's become so accustomed to him letting her go that it takes a moment to process that his grip has tightened instead. "Don't!"
"You need to know," he repeats. "Akito had the Cat's room destroyed. Kyo said she ordered it before the curse even broke, but they just finished taking it down last week. It's gone." He hesitates long enough for her to distract herself with the sounds of their breathing, and then says, "She's been having prayers offered for the dead."
"Are you finished?" she asks after another silence, staring at the wall.
Neither of them says another word, and neither of them sleeps; his embrace doesn't loosen until dawn begins to lighten the room.
She's up and dressed before he gets up for school, even though it takes her half an hour to choose clothes. Nearly fifteen minutes just to settle on a dress she bought almost a month ago and has never worn, and she feels Haru's eyes on her the whole time.
Picking what to wear with it takes just as long, sifting through chains and straps and sharp-edged things that catch on her fingers. It's past time for him to be getting ready by the time she sits lightly on the edge of the bed, thigh resting against his hip.
She doesn't close her eyes until he's pulled her down beside him--or maybe she moves first, bending to kiss him. She doesn't care which it is, doesn't let herself think of anything more than reassuring herself that his lips are unchanged by their ability to shape Akito's name, that they still shape her name beautifully against her skin.
"Make me feel something," she pleads, trying to find her voice, and he does.
"what it means to be
made of you
but not enough for you"
--Tori Amos, "Bliss" (To Venus and Back)
The story of her life: she never reaches the destination she set out for. Kazuma asks where she's going, offers to accompany her when she tells him, and she shakes her head without trying to force a smile he won't believe. "I should see it by myself." Saying it aloud makes the idea no more tangible. Once, when the Cat's room was nothing but a rarely-glimpsed part of her landscape, she might have been able to imagine its absence. "I need to see it." She hasn't seen it from the outside since the day she was buried alive inside its walls, and the idea that those walls have been torn down does little to convince her that the sunless space they contained is gone.
But the queasy desire to see isn't what rules her once she's inside the Main House, trying desperately to ignore the curious or astonished looks on the faces of people who see her passing by. The fog that spreads over her thoughts as she walks keeps her from registering where she's going until it's almost too late, some twisted instinct taking her to the last place in the world she wants to be. Her first conscious realization comes on the heels of the distracted thought that there are fewer servants in Akito's house than she had supposed: no one lets her in, and no one prevents her entry.
The more public parts of the building are extensive and convoluted, and Rin has only been inside a handful of times; without the bond's instincts driving her, she has no explanation for how she chooses where to go. She wonders if the house was always this empty, if her efforts at not being seen when she came following Ren's directions were a waste of energy.
And then she's frozen on a threshold, half-choking on shadows that are no less real for their absence. The room's brightness makes her eyes sting--all of the shoji are pulled back, admitting the sunlight and the soft breeze--as if she hasn't just been outside, feeling the glorious heat that melted away as she approached the house. The studded leather straps criss-crossing their way up her right forearm are still warm from it when she rubs her hand across them.
To keep her thoughts from disintegrating entirely into the instinctive terror welling up in her throat, she wonders how much Haru read into the clothing she chose as her armor: the corseted dress cut almost too low for even her comfort, slit to show every inch of the boots laced halfway up her thighs. His scent on her skin is the only thing she clings to in the obscene brilliance of the light in Akito's private rooms.
Akito herself kneels only a few feet away, strands of loose hair teased by the wind, reading a book too heavy to be disturbed by the small currents of air. She lifts a small stone to turn the page, comfortable in her solitude; it leaves Rin enough time to stare, to steel herself, to realize that the other woman--and even that recognition is hard, despite the way Akito's shirt betrays her femininity, not clinging to her curves but not hiding them--is no bigger than she is. It makes her skin crawl, along with the inescapable realization that Akito is unaware of her presence.
She reaches up and touches her hair unthinkingly, and the movement catches Akito's attention. Akito looks up, paling under the gold of the sunlight. "Isuzu?"
Half-formed ideas of what to say fragment like dust motes in the light. "I forgot the sun shines here." Her first words to the merely-human head of her family, and she cringes from their inanity, the lack of defiance and rage she had imagined would fill her if only the curse were gone. Without it, she can hardly comprehend the flinching submission that once marked every moment the two of them spent together. The thin hands hovering over the book's pages are too small to have held her by the hair, to have battered and controlled her.
She rubs at her wrists while Akito stares at her, imagining the ghost of Haru's hands pinning them together; when he'd let her go, red lines from his fingers had lingered on her skin, a skewed match for the deep marks the studs on her bracer had left in his palm.
"Shouldn't it?" Akito's voice startles her, and old habit draws her to it even as it repels her. "That room's been destroyed. Did he--did Kyo tell you?"
Something twists in the pit of her stomach at the idea that Akito still knows her well enough to guess at the reasons for her presence. "Haru told me."
"I see." Akito's eyes drop, run over her in a way that makes her wish she had dressed differently--that she'd covered every inch of her skin, taken advantage of her newfound ability to hide from those eyes. The hint of envy that flits across Akito's face is so small that Rin wonders if she imagined it, something to replace the disgust she knows so well.
"Don't." Don't touch me! catches in her throat, half-strangling her despite all the distance between them. "Don't look at me." Numbness creeps through her body like ice across a lake.
Akito doesn't look away. "Why are you here?"
I don't know. It takes too long to think of even that answer, and her mouth refuses to give it shape and voice. Her hands clench instead, nails scraping up the outsides of her thighs; the weight of Akito's gaze drives them deeper, as if she can make fists through her own flesh. There's no pain to tell her if the skin is broken, if there will be blood on Akito's floor. There's only the feel of Akito's eyes and their strange hunger: not as heavy as a touch, but not intangible.
Rin responds to it like a breath across her spine, strung between leaning into it and flinching away. The bond's absence is its own connection between them, thickening the air until her lungs strain. "I don't belong to you," she whispers.
"No," Akito replies, just as softly. "What do you want from me, Isuzu?"
"Nothing." The question makes her ill, trying to imagine wanting anything at all from those hands. "I want nothing." She hears the truth in her own answer, twists it inside her head to see it from another angle. Nothing. No physical contact, no echo of the voice that had once been impossible to ignore.
"You will never touch me again." She doesn't know what it is, exactly, that's coming out of her mouth. Not a promise, and not a threat. Akito has never wanted to touch her, has never once touched her without intending to hurt her, or without revulsion mixed into the desire to inflict pain. Its absence now is incomprehensible. "Never come near me."
"I don't own him." There's a pleasure and a loss in saying it so clearly. "He knows you. He can do what he wants."
"Did you know he threatened to kill me because of you?"
A thrill runs through her veins, exquisitely sharp and sickening. Good, she wants to say, but what comes out is something else entirely. "Did you ever want me?" And Akito flinches from the question, but not from answering it.
"You were--" Akito breaks off, searching for words, and memory fills the silence: liar-whore-thief-disgusting, women are... Her eyes are too much like the ones Rin sees in the mirror; it could be her own reflection turning away. "No."
"I was nothing to you until Haru loved me," Rin says quietly. "And then, do you know what the worst thing was?" Akito shakes her head, staring blindly out into the garden. "I never wondered what I'd do if I got pregnant. I knew I'd make sure it died before he found out. So you could never touch it." Her fingers are restless on her hips now, lighter than Haru's touch, trying to curl protectively against her body. "After y--after I f-fell--" she stumbles over the words, voice dwindling, truth frozen under habit "--that was the only good thing. Knowing I'd never have to break his heart that way after all."
"Are you pregnant now?" Akito asks abruptly, still not looking at her.
She recoils in spite of herself. "I wouldn't tell you."
"I can't imagine you with children."
The matter-of-factness of it slips under her skin as deftly as the most vicious words they've ever exchanged; Rin closes her eyes instinctively to protect herself from the anguish that has always accompanied Akito's idlest condemnation.
It doesn't come.
She looks at the perfectly human woman kneeling on the floor, steadies herself, and snaps back: "You don't know anything about it!"
"I know you'd rather strangle your children in their beds than let me near them," Akito retorts, nettled. "Does Hatsuharu know that?" She turns back from the sunlight and meets Rin's eyes, falling silent again; they stare at each other, both hearing the unsaid words with murderous clarity. Does he know his lover could kill his children?
The look that immediately crosses Akito's face is eerily familiar, an expression Rin has felt on her own face countless times. She can almost taste the emotion that goes with it: the instant regret, the inability to apologize for a twisted truth, the bitterness rising like bile. "You don't know," she repeats, running her hands over her arms to warm herself against the bleak chill under her skin.
"I know you're not like your mother," Akito says softly, each word a stone falling through the heaviness of the air. "Or your father. You can't hurt anyone but yourself." Rin jerks back, unable to keep her hands from coming up between them; Akito freezes until she forces them down again. "Do you want me to pretend I don't know you?"
"I said don't look at me!"
The mix of defensiveness and desperation in Akito's eyes is disconcertingly easy to read, and completely incomprehensible. "Isuzu, I don't--"
"STOP IT!" She chokes on the scream before it fills the house, but it rings through her skull and ears, still too loud to endure. Shame at her own weakness sets her cheeks burning and a litany she'd prayed to never need again running through her head: Don't run don't scream don't faint...
"I'm not going to hurt you!"
It's more of an apology than she ever thought she'd get, close enough to one that it cuts through the panic trying to surge up in her belly; close to a breach of the only trust they have left, the understanding that passed between them the day Akito knelt in front of her, of all the Jyuunishi, in her woman's clothes and her shame and her silent, palpable awareness that to apologize would be to betray them further.
"No," she says, taking a steadying breath. "No, you're not." She looks at her hands instead of Akito's face, and sees blood drying under two nails. --can't hurt anyone but--
"You should go." It's not an order; only exhaustion colors Akito's voice. "Isuzu--"
Rin leans against the wall, resting her forehead against her arm. Her skull feels unbearably heavy. "What?"
"Be happy with him."
She pushes herself upright, facing the hallway instead of Akito or the sun. "I don't want your blessing any more than I wanted your curse."
She doesn't run, and she doesn't wait for an answer, and she doesn't look back.
It's been almost a year since she slept under Kagura's family's roof. First there was the hospital, then the room whose absence she hasn't gone to see, after all, and then Kazuma's house. But there were seven years in the house in front of her, and somehow it's strange to find it looking exactly the same as it always did, tucked away on the far west side of the compound, as if she's only been gone a few days.
She doesn't have a key anymore; it's gone, along with everything else she was wearing or carrying when Akito ordered her out of her own clothes and into the first of the plain kimonos that were all she was given to wear during her confinement. No one answers her tentative knock at the door, and she's almost glad not to have to face them. But every inch of her skin itches with the need to be scrubbed raw, washed clean of the smell of her own body wasting away in the dark. Knowing she's imagining it does nothing to purge it from her nostrils; she stares blankly at the locked door, wondering if she can make it back to Kazuma's without clawing herself to shreds.
"Isuzu?" She jumps at the surprised voice behind her: Kagura's mother, who she hasn't seen since days before the morning she walked out of this house and never came back. There was one phone call at Kazuma's insistence, a few days after he took her into his care, and nothing since. "Isuzu...?"
"Hi," she says awkwardly, not lifting her gaze as she turns. "I was--I just--"
"Are you all right?" The question comes in a rush, not tearful, but the concern in it takes her aback.
"I--" For no reason, the first thing she remembers when she meets the older woman's eyes is their first real argument. You're not my mother! she'd snarled, the same clich�d protest tossed in the face of every woman who's ever taken in someone else's child. Unimportant; what matters is the frustrated reply thrown back at her.
Thank heaven for that!
Even at the time, she'd known it wasn't really directed at her; her new guardians had made no secret of their horror at how her parents had treated her, or that they had no interest in being compared to anyone who could leave a child with the injuries she'd been given.
"No," she whispers, shivering in the sunlight. "No, I--sorry, I'm just going back to Kazuma-san's, I just thought..." Skeptical silence greets her explanation. "I... can I take a shower?"
There's no attempt at physical contact as she's let into the once-familiar house; it was never the curse that kept Kagura's parents from touching her. "Thanks," she murmurs as she takes off her boots, unsure of what else to say.
"We haven't touched your room. We didn't think you'd want us disturbing your things." A slight hesitation. "I was surprised you asked Kagura to take your clothes over to Kazuma-dono's, but--anyway, I don't mind if you take some time to look through the things that are still here, but you're welcome to leave them as long as you want."
They've been heading down the hallway to the bathing room, but it's her old bedroom they stop in front of. Rin stares at the closed door, sealing off seven years of her life. Until Haru drew her out, it had been a confinement of her own choice, broken only to attend school. A closet she'd slowly filled with clothes that bore less and less resemblance to what her mother had dressed her in; a bed where she'd cried herself to sleep a thousand times, and spent one or two contented nights with Haru when the family was away. "You don't have to go in," Kagura's mother says finally, and Rin realizes she's been staring, rooted to the spot, for far too long.
"I'll ask Haru to pack it up." Her mouth is horribly dry; her voice comes out as a rasp. "I'm sorry, I can't..."
"It's all right." Tacit permission to move, to flee into the bathing room and shut the door behind her. The lacing on her dress resists her first attempt at undoing it, and she makes herself stop and breathe until she can force her fingers to work properly, but it still takes far too long. She's almost in tears by the time her clothes and jewelry are laid aside and the water is streaming down over her. The scalding heat soothes her even as it makes her skin sting; the discomfort slowly overrides the phantom sensation of invasive eyes and hands.
When the trembling finally leaves her limbs, she rubs soap between her hands and over her body, crushing the urge to scrub ruthlessly at her skin. Instead, she washes slowly and methodically, watches the lather build and dissolve again and again. She knows she's clean long before she stops, before she forces herself to set the soap aside and watch the last of the foam run down the drain. It takes longer still to shut the water off and step out of its comforting isolation, bundling herself in one of the thick pink towels Kagura's always liked.
It isn't until she buries her face against its softness that she realizes she's crying after all, silently; the skin around her eyes is tender when she touches it, and she doesn't have the energy to try concealing it, even if she had usable makeup at hand. Instead, she fills her hands with cool water from the sink and presses it over her eyes, wiping away the telltale marks on her cheeks.
Being able to get her hair somewhat dry in a matter of minutes instead of hours is still a novelty, one she focuses on to finish getting herself under control. With loose tendrils wisping behind her ears, she carefully hangs the towel up and reaches for her clothes, but her steam-distorted reflection distracts her.
She stares at the mirror, unable to remember how long it's been since she saw herself simply naked, head to toe. Kazuma's home is comfortable, but the absence of some things betray that she is the first woman to ever live in it. A full-length mirror hangs in the front hallway, perfectly adequate for checking herself over before going out into the world, but the other mirrors are all smaller, used when the men shave or she takes the time to do dramatic things to her eyes. Her impression of her own flesh has been filtered for so long--through the clothes she wears, through the angles of her vision when she and Haru are in bed together, through his eyes--that it's almost a shock to recognize herself at all.
The girl in the mirror is no one's lover, no one's fantasy; there's only her, a sum of broken parts assembled in an illusion of wholeness. Rin keeps looking, trying to see what once made Akito touch her as if her body were only so much filth, trying to see what's changed. She runs a hand over the back of her neck, down between her breasts, and presses her palm between the bones of her hips, where a child might have quickened and died if any number of tiny things had been different. "I would never have forgiven you," she whispers to the reflection that doesn't hide how alike she and Akito are with everything stripped away. She touches her neck again, the soft fringe of drying hair that stops at the base of her skull instead of the base of her spine, the edge of the scar disfiguring her back. "How am I supposed to forgive you?"
The distant sound of the phone ringing in the hallway doesn't fully catch her attention, but hearing Kagura answer makes her wonder how late it is. The last year has destroyed her sense of time--the casual routine of Kazuma's lessons is the closest thing she's had to structure in longer than she can remember, after waking and sleeping on her own schedule for so long. There are footsteps approaching, and a tentative knock. "Isuzu?"
A year ago she would have snapped back for being interrupted. Now she runs a fingertip under her eye, resigning herself to the lingering evidence of tears, and begins to get dressed. "What?"
"Haru-chan just called looking for you." Rin's heart lurches in her chest, a tension so sudden it hurts. Instead of answering, she lifts her dress to her face, breathing in her own fear and the lingering hint of Haru's scent. "Shihan told him you were in the compound, so he tried here first," Kagura continues.
"Is he coming over?" Her fingers are obedient again; she laces the dress up with a rush of gratitude for the ease of it, tightening and tying and smoothing in just a few deft movements. Kagura makes an affirmative noise from the other side of the door; Rin slides it open to face her as she slips her necklace on and begins strapping leather to her wrist. "Okay."
"He sounded a little freaked," Kagura says, nose to nose with her. "I mean, it's Haru-chan, so not so much, but--are you okay?"
"Fine." Rin sidesteps past her and heads down the hallway. Kagura follows without challenging her reply, but somehow even her footsteps sound dubious.
They stop by the living room; it feels strange to go out of her way to say goodbye to Kagura's mother, especially since her last several months of living here involved more sullen silences and sneaking out than anything else. But it's not her home anymore--never was, no matter how hard they tried--and she's not their problem. "Thank you," she says quietly, slipping into the room. "I feel a lot better."
"You said you were fine," Kagura mutters pointedly, too serious to pass for I'm-bored-and-teasing-you, and Rin gives her a halfhearted glare. She's not sure if it's the tone or the look that makes Kagura's mother smile as she sets down her book.
"Before Hatsuharu-kun called, I was telling Kagura that it's nice to have you in the house again." Rin says nothing, unsure how to respond. "They told me you were all right, but it's good to see it for myself."
"I have to get going," Kagura pipes up. "Mom, I'll be back after my lesson. Are you going to Shihan's, Isuzu?" Rin hesitates, and she continues, "Guess you have to wait for Haru-chan, anyway. But I'll see you over there?" Her mother is on her feet and coming closer, and Kagura hugs her goodbye before stepping into her shoes and disappearing out the door. Before it clicks shut, they can hear her greeting Haru, asking if he wants her to wait for them, carrying on her way when he says no.
Rin almost jumps at an unexpected touch against her arm, where the leather stops and her skin is exposed; it lasts only a moment, just long enough for her to shiver at the strangeness of being touched by someone who shared so many years of her life. "I'm very glad to see you," the older woman says simply, and then Haru is there, sketching a quick bow of greeting--automatic but sincere, with the unexpectedly refined manners he reserves for the few adults in the family he trusts but isn't close to.
He looks Rin over in one swift glance, searching her eyes with an intensity that makes her muscles clench and melt all at once. "I didn't think you'd come here," is all he says, and she's tempted to misunderstand, to think he means only this house, but there's the memory of him not quite waking from his own dreams, whispering half-intelligible things into the dark: her name, fragments of fear when he can't find her, and just once, something that would have been an order if it hadn't been saturated with terror. Rin, don't go near Akito.
"I wanted to see it," she says, knowing he'll pick up on her meaning, trying to lead him away from where she's already been. Not a lie, not quite.
He nods slowly. "Are you okay?"
"I haven't looked yet. I got distracted." So delicate, the line between craving and dreading his understanding; she holds his gaze until he sighs and doesn't ask. "Come with me?" He nods again, leaning against the wall while she puts her boots on.
When she straightens up, there's a casual, open admiration in his eyes that makes her smile. She takes his hand when he extends it to her, remembering only after his fingers squeeze hers comfortingly that Kagura's mother is still watching them. He tightens his grip before she can flinch back, stroking the back of her hand with his thumb. "Ready?"
It's strange to walk through the compound with Haru openly at her side--it's only the second time since the day he first kissed her, and when they answered Akito's summons he deferred to her nerves and stayed close without touching her. It's stranger still when a distant relative passes them and gives their joined hands a startled look as he nods acknowledgement. Haru responds by letting go of her hand and putting his arm around her shoulders, but neither of them says anything--not to the people who see them, not to each other.
Halfway there, she tries to imagine making this walk alone, without his silent presence to buffer her from the looks thrown her way. But they pass fewer people as they approach the back of the grounds, where the family has always tucked away the things--living and inanimate alike--it doesn't want to see. Gardens full of rocks instead of plants, buildings used for storage, some servants' homes off to one side... and at the very back, a tiny, razed patch of ground where a single-roomed building had hunkered down, stones and mortar whispering "don't look at me" with the voices of the people who lived and died in their colorless embrace.
With the walls torn down, the bare earth is brightened by stray beams of sunlight that never penetrated through the small window. Rin stops at its edge, and Haru lets her go, standing protectively behind her as she kneels down and presses her spread hands against the ground. The murmur of its ghosts rises to meet her: the soft call of forlorn, barren soil reaching back to the only person ever carried out alive.
Akito's been having prayers offered for the dead.
She shoves herself back to her feet, rubbing her palms together viciously to wipe the dirt away. "There's nothing left," she says, too cold inside to find unshed tears to soften the dry earth.
"I watched them take it down," Haru replies. "She ordered them not to leave any pieces on our property." He comes closer, close enough to stroke the back of her neck, and Rin shivers under his touch.
She keeps looking until the sun brushes the treetops beyond the wall. When the light hits her eyes, she turns away from it and into the safety of his arms. "Take me home?" she asks, and he nods, waiting for her to take the first step away.
Fruits Basket is the creation of Takaya Natsuki, and is licensed in North America by FUNimation (anime) and Tokyopop (manga). Used without permission or the intention of making a profit. Please support the original work!
"The Light in the Dark" � 2007 by .
Light beta by Alishya Lane.
Comments and criticism welcomed at the above address.
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.
Title from "Spark" by Tori Amos, found on "from the choirgirl hotel".