Final Regrets

     The cloaked figure walked up to the gate, looking at it pensively. The iron
bars were pitted with rust, only scraps of black paint still clinging to the
metal in a feeble attempt to prevent further corrosion.  It would be a simple
matter to rip it off the hinges.  Still...after a moment's thought, the figure
vaulted the wall instead.  There was no point in making excessive noise.
     The figure walked through the cemetery, his long strides carrying him
swiftly towards his goal.  He was not worried, as many would have been, by the
thought of walking through a graveyard in the dead of night.  The cloaked figure
had long since lost any superstitious impulses.  The real world was cruel and
strange enough; only a fool would cling to nonsense such as that.
     Finally, he reached his destination.  The headstone was quite plain,
probably due to the uncertain financial straits of the family.  Then again, it
was rather suitable to the personality of the one buried beneath it.  The
cloaked figure stared at the headstone for a moment, his expression unreadable.
Then, slowly, he went down to one knee.  His unbowed head and ramrod straight
back belied the overtly submissive movement, making it more a gesture of
respect.  One arm lifted, the pale hand emerging from the cloak to touch the
headstone, tracing out the simply carved lettering.  From the depths of his
hood, his voice emerged, still smooth and seemingly confident despite what had
happened over the past few months.
     "I've found you at last.  It wasn't easy, of course...nobody would tell me
anything, even if they didn't try to kill me on sight.  Ah, but you had friends,
and it was a simple matter to wait for one of them to come visit you."  The
figure paused, as if unsure of what to say next.  "For what it's worth, I never
wanted this to happen.  You were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  You..."
He broke off again, lapsing into a dark silence which lasted for several
minutes.  Finally, he withdrew his arm into the cloak and continued, "What can I
say?  If you can even hear me, which I doubt, you probably don't care.  Or
perhaps you do after all.  I never could understand you.  So I will tell you
this.  I'm not here because of guilt, or because I was forced, or to make peace
with myself.  I am here because I owe you a which I will now never
repay.  Little as this is, it is the only way...the only way I see to even
partially repay you."
     The cloaked figure threw back his head, his hood falling back.  It was a
clear night, and the light of the nearly-full moon glinted off the figure's dark
hair, reflected in his piercing grey eyes.  His thin-lipped mouth was pressed
tightly as stubborn, fierce pride warred with his honour.  Honour won.  Just
this once.
     "I loved you, girl, in a way.  I had never met anyone like you.  In my
whole life, noone had ever helped me out, noone had ever cared.  Noone but my
mother...and you.  I had kidnapped you and beaten up your boyfriend.  But you
helped me, you talked with me, you didn't judge and you were sympathetic.  I
couldn't believe it.  I still can't.  You were too good for this world, girl.
And now you're gone."  He shook his head, smiling humourlessly.  "And it's my
fault.  How ironic."  There was another long pause, and then he continued, "Why
did I never say so, you ask?"  He shrugged.  "Why bother?  I'm no fool.  I knew
who you loved, though I'll never understand why.  And I doubt we were really
meant to work out that way anyway.  You might marry a jerk, but I wouldn't be
the one to impress it upon you."
     The figure stood, the nightblue folds of the cloak swirling around his
ankles.  He looked down upon the headstone, which had been unadorned except for
the gifts brought by sorrowing friends and relatives.  All had become bedraggled
over time and taken away by the groundskeeper.  All save one.  A fresh bouquet
leaned against the headstone.  The figure didn't need to have seen it put there
to know which mourner had brought it, had brought a new one every day.  "But
it's a moot point now, isn't it?," he said casually.  "You're gone, and now it
seems half the world is after me.  Particularly one someone."  He smiled.  "And
after tonight, he will know I am here.  He will search, and I will let him find
me.  And then I'll make sure you're reunited with him...permanently.  Perhaps
that will repay my debt; though more likely you will not approve.
Unfortunately, that one and I have unfinished business, and even were I not
interested in finishing this, I suspect he would force the issue.  Tomorrow
night, I think.  Yes, this will finally end tomorrow night."
     The figure rummaged in the cloak for a moment, then brought out an object
and leaned it against the headstone, on the opposite side from the bouquet.  It
was another arrangement of flowers,  but whereas the others were pure white
roses, these ones were blood-red, and instead of a ribbon around the
arrangement, it was wrapped rather oddly with a pair of pantyhose.  The cloaked
figure straightened, and looked at the flowers for a long moment, his expression
unreadable.  "Tomorrow night," he said softly.  Then he pulled the hood back up
over his head and started to walk away.  Before he went more than a few steps,
however, the cloaked figure stopped, and looked back at the headstone, his eyes
glittering out the depths of his hood.
     "I -am- sorry, Akane Tendo," he said, and in that tacit admission was
honest regret, for once untainted by bitterness, sarcasm, or contempt.  The
cloaked figure stood for a moment, as if he himself was surprised by his
actions.  Surprised that he cared.  Then he turned away, letting those feelings
drain away, replaced by the one feeling he was comfortable with, the one feeling
he knew how to handle.  Perhaps the one feeling he was ever destined to
experience.  He walked back towards the gate once more, his stance unhurried.
He did not look back.
     "Tomorrow night," he repeated, standing at the entrance.  Then he leaped
over it and was gone.

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