Author's Note: Since enough people asked for it, here it is! The True Cross Reunion Dinner! I hope you guys like it. THIS IS THE FINAL CHAPTER. I adore this story, but based on how long it took me to get the motivation to finish this chapter alone, I can already tell that I'm done with this story. I hope you enjoy this last bit! Read, review, and enjoy!
Responses to Guest Reviews:
Bianca – Here you go, another chapter! Thank you for the super sweet review!
Rin was understandably nervous. Actually, scratch that. He was more than nervous. He wasn't even sure if there was a word to describe what he was feeling. Rin was sick to his stomach and shaky and unable to fully focus on anything. He was cooking for the entire exwire class of True Cross. His friends. His former friends. His current friends?
He didn't know. He had zero clue and all that did was add to his nerves. And, sure, by this point, the only ones he hadn't really interacted with were Kamiki and Moriyama, but still. There was something different, something more intimidating about being faced with the entire group of them head-on. There was something more dangerous and painful about putting himself back in a situation so reminiscent to the days where he'd hated himself more than he'd hated anyone in his life.
It was fine, though. He'd grown and matured and changed throughout this entire process. It seemed like the rest of the exwires had grown and matured too. This would be nothing like what life had been before. They would be nothing like they were before. This was a completely different situation to the life he'd lived before at True Cross. He just had to keep telling himself that.
A hand ruffling his hair distracted him, "Ah! Morio! Quit that!"
Morio pulled back, laughing, "You need to relax! If you're all tense like that, you won't be able to enjoy it."
"I'm not sure if I'll be able to enjoy it anyways," Rin admitted, sighing and attempting to pat his hair back into place.
Shrugging, Morio hopped up on the counter, reminding Rin starkly of Shima, who had done the same time. Morio tipped his head back to lean against a cabinet of the kitchen, "You know as well as anyone else that you don't have to do this if you don't want to. This is entirely up to you. Everyone cares and wants you to be happy in this process. At least, we do. And we'll fight anyone who says different. I'd love to see those exwires fight us. They'd be decimated."
He sounded entirely too gleeful for Rin's taste, so he rolled his eyes and pushed one of Morio's legs out of the way to get to a pot, "Yeah, yeah. I know. Please don't decimate them. It's been fine so far, but this will be different, with all of them there. You know? And Kamiki and Shiemi are… different. Kamiki didn't really treat me all that different from before because that's just how she is, you know? A cold attitude is the way she protects herself. Shiemi was so afraid of me. The same as Konekomaru. But I was friends with Shiemi longer. She's so open and so eager to make friends. That's why it hurt a lot when she was scared of me. I was one of her first friends and that didn't matter to her anymore because I'm the son of Satan."
Morio listened to Rin rant in silence. He paused after Rin finished, probably waiting to see if Rin was going to say anything else. When Rin didn't, Morio said, "You've always wanted to see them again and, from what the others have told me, those three guys have been pretty eager to see you. Your brother was certainly eager to talk to you and see you. My guess is that these guys didn't get the same kind of therapy you did. What they went through was traumatic and they had each other and time to help them heal, but no one taught them how to grow from the experience like our therapist did with you. They want this to be better, but they don't know how to make it better, not like you do. If you just give them a chance, it'll all work out. You might accidentally hurt each other in the process, but it'll be worth it in the long run." He grinned suddenly, "Besides, your cooking can win anyone over!"
Rin rolled his eyes. Morio tried to reach out and ruffle Rin's hair again, but Rin was ready this time, tail whipping around to grip Morio's hand before he could do anything. Morio tried to grin innocently. Sighing, Rin moved on to another topic, "How's Kryon? Has he been doing okay?"
"Yeah, he's doing great. He has to sleep in the dorm a lot, obviously, but he's doing a lot better. Who knew that he was allergic to seaweed? I hadn't even known that demons could be allergic to stuff, honestly. Talk about a learning experience." Morio answered, sending a fond look back toward their room.
Rin hummed a note of interest, whisking in the next ingredient, "Speaking of that, I heard that Akio's using that as his final project. A way to do allergy tests on demons. He says that it's so hard because of the different systems and different skin types. Apparently, it's super hard to universalize one."
Morio's eyes lit up, "Please tell me that he's experimenting on you. That would be perfect. Please tell me that's what he's doing."
Rolling his eyes, Rin hip checked Morio's leg, "No, he's not experimenting on me. He's not even close to that stage anyways."
Laughing, Morio asked, "What did you say your big project was going to be? Final thesis or whatever it was called."
"I'm going to look into the reasons why the bond between an exorcist and their demon causing disorientation after disconnect and how to stop that. You?" Rin asked, throwing a little bit more of the last ingredient in. The sauce hadn't quite tasted right, but… there. That was it. He squinted as he rolled the sauce on his tongue. Nope. The aftertaste was weird. Rin sighed and grabbed one of the other spices, tossing a handful in.
Morio sighed, leaning his head back, "I don't know, man. I'm an Aria! That doesn't really relate well with Tamer research!"
Snorting, Rin stirred the sauce vigorously, "Excuses, excuses!"
Groaning, Morio hit his head back against the overhead counters, "I know! Trust me, I heard the whole lecture from my advisor and Headmistress Hana. I don't know. I guess… I really liked those demon psychology guest lectures they did the other day. I was thinking of looking further into that for ideas. It'll be easier if I can connect it to my Aria meister, but that'll be hard."
Rin hummed thoughtfully, "Maybe you could look into how demons feel about fatal verses? Or, no, that's dumb."
"No idea is dumb," Morio threw in instantly. It was something he'd taken to doing when he realized just how little Rin thought of his own intelligence. Rin always rolled his eyes after hearing it, but it really was helping to have those kinds of positive thoughts constantly thrown at him.
Continuing like he hadn't heard Morio, Rin said, "Or you could see why certain fatal verses work with certain demons. Like, what part of the holy books makes it so they're fatal for that demon. What part of the wording? Does it have to do with their psychology, with their physical attributes? Stuff like that. I don't know."
When he chanced a look back over towards Morio, the older student was staring at him with something akin to starstruck awe shining in his eyes, "That's literally the most brilliant thing I've ever heard. I need to write that down." He started patting down his pockets, looking for pen and paper. Rin rolled his eyes and pulled a drawer open with his tail. There was a pad of paper that Morio immediately grabbed, fingers twitching for a moment before he remembered the pencil tucked securely behind his ear. Morio grabbed it, starting to quickly jot down ideas.
Rin raised his eyebrows when Morio kept writing far beyond what should have just been a couple of seconds to write Rin's words down. Apparently, he'd had more ideas about the topic than Rin had expected. Smiling fondly, Rin turned back to his cooking, letting himself fall into the familiar rhythms of a kitchen. He'd never made the dish before, but it was suitably complicated to keep him distracted without being too complicated. It was the perfect kind of meal to make when he was nervous about something.
And he was still nervous. Even after Morio's attempt at redirecting the conversation. Taking a deep breath, Rin tried to let the comforting lull of the kitchen direct his wandering thoughts. He knew that he needed to get his feelings in order before he faced the True Cross students. If he tried to face them with anything less than a complete understanding of his own emotions, he'd be just as wrong-footed as he'd been the rest of the time they'd been at his school. That wrong-footed, awkward nature made it harder on everyone, including the other students at this school. And the last thing Rin's classmates needed was someone making things harder for them.
So. Feelings. Those things. What was Rin feeling at that exact moment?
Nervousness, as previously stated. Where was the root of the nervousness? What, exactly, was causing the nervousness? Thinking on it, Rin figured it was a fear of relapse. From his time talking to Yukio and the others, he knew that the True Cross exwires had grown past their initial fear and hatred of him. He didn't think he needed to fear anger or prejudice from them. Well, he was going to trust that he didn't need to fear anger or prejudice from them. So, it must be his fear that seeing them, being subjected to the memories of when his life was so low, would cause him to relapse. He didn't want to relapse. He'd certainly done it once or twice and it wasn't pretty for anyone. It sucked, really. Falling back into that pit of despair and self-hatred was the worst, especially now that his work with the school's therapist had gotten him to an all-time high with self-confidence and love.
What else was he feeling?
Excitement. The root of that was pretty obvious, at least to him. He was really excited to see everyone again. No matter what kinds of mistakes they all made, the other exwires were the first friends that Rin ever made. Their cruelty and his suicide attempt didn't change that fact. Knowing that they were all willing to come have dinner with him, that they were all excited at the prospect of seeing him, of trying to make it up to him, it reminded him of why they became his friends in the first place. It made it easier to accept them back into his life. Even though this wasn't the right time to be confronted with them and even though he was nervous about this, he was glad it was happening. The excitement didn't quite cancel out the nervousness, but it was a close thing.
Fear. A deep-rooted fear. He hated that he was afraid of them, but he couldn't help it. He'd talked it over with his therapist and she figured that it would be a long time before he truly got rid of the seemingly ingrained fear of humans. The students at his current school were different. Rin was pretty sure they were just as afraid of other humans as he was. Their connection with their demons made them almost demon-like in their own rights, the same way Shura never quite outgrew the demon-like qualities she obtained from being raised by demons. That made it so Rin could be a little more comfortable around these people who were almost demon. There was less to be afraid of here. Not like with the other exorcists, the people who hunted his kind, who would kill first, ask questions later – maybe never. Then again, he had proof that some could change. Paladin Angel's reluctant, slow, awkward transition into someone who almost cared about Rin's well-being was an example of that.
Did he feel anything else?
Blushing a little bit, Rin admitted to himself that he might, just a little tiny bit, be feeling some sort of lust. Was that the right term? He could readily admit that he'd had a crush on most of his True Cross classmates at some point or another. Suguro was just… so cool! He was so smart while still looking like an awesome punk. Shima was a totally suave, awesome person who was so chill that you couldn't help but form at least a little crush. Kamiki was so aloof, so powerful that Rin couldn't help the way his admiration had slowly shifted into some sort of fond longing. He didn't really have much of a crush on Konekomaru or Shiemi. Well, he might have had a moment where he crushed on Shiemi (she was just so cute!), but that crush evaporated the moment he realized that his brother was head over heels for the blonde.
His little crushes wouldn't matter all that much, but he hadn't really been put in a situation where he had to deal with crushes for a long while. When he'd come to this school, he had not been in the right headspace for forming crushes, so his interactions with the other students weren't tinted by even the most innocent crush. Now he had to fair three people he was semi-crushing on at the same time! It wasn't fair.
Rin shook his head. He was going to ignore that emotion. This wasn't the time or place for crushes. And if he really wanted anything to come out of any of his crushes, then he needed to stop being so nervous at just the thought of eating a simple meal with them. Being afraid of them didn't really help either.
Rin sighed, popping something in the oven quickly before going back to the stove, idly mixing one or two items with a long wooden spoon. He really thought the sick feeling in his stomach would settle the closer he got to the time they were supposed to meet for dinner, but it really wasn't working. If anything, it seemed to be getting worse.
What else did his therapist recommend doing when he was getting worked up over something? Categorizing his emotions and the roots of them obviously didn't help much.
He needed to think of the good things. That was it. If he tried to think of good memories, he'd feel better. He needed to focus on the happy bonds he'd made with these people. Hopefully, that would lessen some of the nervousness that was roiling angrily in his stomach. Hopefully.
So, while he cooked, Rin reminisced about his favorite moments with those people. He smiled fondly as memories popped up, one after the other.
He remembered sitting with the Kyoto trio for lunch one day. It was one of the few days where Suguro hadn't made some token effort to grumble about Rin's presence. Rin had been able to just plop down into the seat, already animatedly diving into a discussion of the new video game he and Shima had tried out the day before. They were both trying to draw Konekomaru into playing the game. The kid had some sort of visceral fear of video games. Rin personally thought that Konekomaru was more afraid of Shima and Rin's vivacious attitudes while playing than of the game itself. They'd talked about the game for fifteen minutes before Suguro had slipped up and admitted that he'd played the game before. It was easy to drag the teen into their conversation. He'd gotten so animated discussing it, too, all wildly waving arms and bright expressions.
He remembered one quiet day when he'd actually gone to the library. Rin had needed actual book references for one of his school projects and had braved the library alone (his brother had been on a mission at the time and the Kyoto trio had all gotten the same stomach bug). Sighing, Rin had settled despondently onto a table near the back, squinting at the books in a vain attempt to make them reveal their secrets. Why couldn't he use the internet? That would be a much easier and more convenient way to get this information! He'd use credible sources! Kamiki and Paku had come around the corner of a bookcase, visibly startling at the sight of him. Apparently, that table was the table they always used to do their work because no one ever sat at it. He'd offered to move, but Paku had immediately refused, saying that he was there first and there was plenty of room. They'd spent the rest of the afternoon either sitting in comfortable silence or making idle conversation about their projects, actually helping each other from time to time. Kamiki was calm enough that day that she hadn't been snarky about Rin trying to help. She'd actually taken his advice to heart and thanked him for it, though she'd said that she'd deny it if someone ever asked.
He remembered visiting Shiemi at her garden while his brother got supplies from the shop. He and Shiemi had been carefully weeding one of the garden areas, hands smeared with dirt and faces dripping sweat in the hot air when Shiemi's mother had come out of the side door, preparing to ask Shiemi where one of the items went. Apparently, Rin had looked 'wan and thin, more like a dirty ragdoll than an aspiring exorcist.' Shiemi's mother's words, not his. He'd been mildly offended, but it had been one of his better days and, honestly, anyone giving him positive attention at that point was well appreciated. Shiemi's mother had immediately invited Rin inside, bringing him cookies and a soothing tea, telling him that he simply needed to sit there and relax for a little bit. After Yukio had gotten his supplies, Shiemi's mother had shooed him out, telling him that she'd get Rin back to the dorms in time for dinner. Yukio had left, slightly offended, but mostly amused. Rin had spent the rest of the afternoon being pampered by Shiemi and her mother. (There might have, possibly, been some experimenting with makeup that showed Rin that he'd be a gorgeous woman).
He remembered long weekends waking up at four in the morning in order to get to the batting cages by 4:30 where Shura would be waiting, slightly sluggish and definitely hungover, nursing a bloody Mary to tide her over. They would work on Rin's sword work for hours only stopping once Rin completed whatever goal Shura had set for the day. He'd missed plenty of lunches trying to meet those goals. But there were plenty of days where he'd finish in time and they'd eat lunch together, sprawled out over the gymnasium floor like some kind of bizarre picnic. They'd talk and laugh and mock and tease and it was perfect. It was kind of like what Rin imagined having a mom would be like. Maybe that was silly, but what would Rin know? He'd never really had any sort of female figure in his life. The feeling that Shura was like a mother to him would intensify in the afternoons when they would spend the entire time trying to practice with Rin's fire. She would heckle and prod him as much as he needed, switching to simple comforts and easy understanding when she knew he needed it.
He remembered playing chess with Mephisto, trying to remember what each of the pieces meant while Mephisto looked on with this open expression of total, complete patience. He always waited for Rin to struggle through his memory of the pieces and the game play. He always repeated the rules whenever Rin forgot. There was always something beautifully fond in Mephisto's expression when the two of them would sit in his weird, Otaku lair playing chess. It made Rin feel like maybe he wasn't just a chess piece to Mephisto. Maybe, sometimes, Mephisto thought of him as a brother before he thought of him as a pawn.
He remembered an entire childhood with Yukio. Days and days of playing with his little brother. There would be days where the two of them would be sitting on the floor, Yukio building elaborate battle scenes with his blocks as Rin used the ever-changing map to wage war with his action figures. The Old Man would always hear them shrieking with joy and would just sit there, hip leaned against the door frame as light filtered over his kids.
Rin shut down that line of thinking. The therapist had been working on his self-image as a demon, but they hadn't gotten into the former Paladin's death yet. It was… it was too much for Rin. He wasn't ready to face that yet. He wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to face that (even though it faced him every night in his dreams. Blood splattered the ground as he was sucked through squelching depravity, his father being ripped apart from the monster who tried to claim the same title, horror lighting the room as one of the only people who really, truly believed in Rin, who would never have been afraid of him, died in front him. Rin had been powerless to save him, powerless to do anything but watch as his world was torn to shreds).
Sighing, Rin glanced at the clock. It was almost time.
Soft fur rubbing against his ankles startled him. Rin almost dropped his spoon before he realized it was just Kuro winding between his ankles. Reaching down to pet Kuro between the little nubby horns, he asked, "What are you doing, buddy? I thought you were going to stay back in the dorm with Kryon."
"I wanted to make sure you were alright with the whole dinner thing. Kryon said that I should come be with you because he knows how worried you are," Kuro informed him, starting a loud purr that tickled at Rin's exposed ankles.
Scoffing, Rin said, "Kyron's a worry wart and you can tell him I said that. Really, I'm fine."
Kuro pouted up at him, "It's okay to not be fine."
"I know, I know! Trust me, I know. But I really am fine. I feel a lot better about it now," Rin said, sending the smaller demon a crooked grin.
Kuro preened under it, "I'm glad I was able to make you feel that much better! See? Kryon was right to send me in. Obviously. Oh, also, Ukobach said to check that you knew that he was going to make dessert while the rest of you were having dinner. He said he's making stuff for me and Kryon too! He said he'd bring that to the dorm, but I'm going to eat with you. I'm obviously helping you, so I've got to eat with you now."
Raising an eyebrow, Rin attempted to send Kuro a stern expression, knowing he was failing miserably, "You just want to get pet again, don't you?"
Kuro tried to remain ignorant, but quickly caved under Rin's attention, "Konekomaru gives the best pets!"
Rin laughed, rolling his eyes. After one more taste of the sauce and one more check of the time, he bumped his knee against Morio's leg, "Hey, they should all be there by now, so I'm going to take out the dinner. Go ahead and grab your portion while I get the serving platter out, okay?"
Morio blinked at him, coming down from whatever inspirational haze he'd fallen into, "Yeah, right. I think I'm going to take my dinner over to sensei's room, see if he's still awake. I need a sounding board and Kyron needs to be sleeping."
"Well, after this dinner, I'll be there to be your sounding board if your advisor isn't awake," Rin offered, dishing out the plates as Morio started to shuffle away.
Grinning, Morio called back, "Spend the night with your old friends, Rin! You deserve that much. But take it back to their dorms, yeah? I've got to practice that presentation with Karin." Rin threw a towel at him, but he dodged out of the way, laughing as he carried his dinner over to the teachers' quarters. Kuro leapt after the rag, pouncing on it and gnawing contentedly on it.
Smiling, Rin grabbed the platters in each arm, one balanced precariously on his tail, "Ready Kuro? Could you get your bowl in your mouth and that cracker bowl on your head or something, like – oh, yep, like that. Look at you. Those are some skills right there. They should train demons in acrobatics. Would you want to learn acrobatics? No! Don't nod, Kuro! Ha, yeah, that works too. Maybe we can talk to Headmistress Hana about something like that. It'd be fun. I think Eimi would like to try it, too. She likes doing stuff like that."
He was still caught up in his conversation with Kuro when he entered the dining hall where his friends were waiting. He didn't look up until he was at the table. Rin blanched a little bit at the full attention of all of the exwires.
Forcing the instinctual nervousness back down, Rin tried to recapture the easy feeling he'd gotten when talking with Kuro. They were his friends. It was just like talking to Kuro or any of the other demons. He'd talked to most of them on their own before anyways. Talking to the whole group like this would be fine.
Predictably, Shima broke the silence, "Are you going to set the food down? I'm hungry!"
Konekomaru instantly kicked Shima, apologizing sincerely for his breach in etiquette even as the rest of the table sighed in annoyance.
Thankfully, though, that was exactly the sort of opening that Rin needed to kickstart his brain. What was he doing? He could handle this. They were just people. They'd grown from their mistakes, the same way he had.
Taking a deep breath, Rin gave them a goofy smile, telling Konekomaru, "It's alright! I just zoned out for a moment there. Here we go." He carefully set out the plates, pausing to grab the one still delicately balanced on Kuro's head, setting that in the middle of the table. Thankfully, this school liked to use round tables to encourage discussion and the ideal of equality. Or something like that. Rin wasn't entirely listening. Either way, it made it easier to put dishes in the middle of the table without having to have people passing it up and down the line of people.
Yukio said politely, "Thank you for the meal, niisan."
"Of course!" Rin beamed, "Like I told those three last night, it's great cooking for you guys again. I hope you guys like it."
"You could make toast and I'd like it, Okumura," Shura complimented through her bite of the meal. She'd dug in without waiting for anyone to sit down and without waiting saying proper thanks. It was comforting to know that something like that hadn't changed.
The rest waited until Rin sat down before they said, almost as one, "Itadakimasu."
For a long moment, the only sounds were the brief noises of pleasure at the taste of Rin's food, a couple of compliments pushed through food-laden mouths. Rin flourished under the compliments. He loved making people happy with his cooking. It was such a wholesome feeling. Food really was the language of peace. At least, that's how he thought about it. And it certainly seemed true most of the time.
Eventually, though, eating slowed and conversation started. Shiemi started it, tentatively commenting, "That was really good, Rin. Was it hard to make?"
Rin smiled, "Not too hard, no. The sauce was just kind of finicky."
"It's fancier than what you made us last night," Yukio commented idly, still tucking away huge mouthfuls of Rin's cooking, obviously not worried about his image when his brother's cooking was sitting in front of him.
Rin just shrugged, not saying anything to confirm or deny it. Briefly, the conversation died again. Rin was still searching for some sort of opening when Konekomaru mused idly, "I like working at the outpost. I thought it was going to be a menial task, but there is a lot more to do there than I thought there would be. A lot of the higher-ups at the outpost have to decide who goes on which mission. They have to take gathered information and use it to create an accurate picture of a situation they haven't even seen. It seems like a fun challenge."
Suguro raised an eyebrow, "Would you rather get put there for your two years training period or would you rather be a teacher?"
Konekomaru's eyebrows bunched together before he decided, "The outpost. I quite liked it, honestly. I'm not sure I could handle a classroom full of students."
"I'd take the teacher position any day of the week," Shima said around a mouthful of food, "I'd be the cool teacher, too. Everyone would think I was awesome. I'm sure I could get a bunch of hot chicks to fall all over the cool teacher…"
Kamiki rolled her eyes, "The outpost is a better situation no matter how you look at it." A moment later, her eyes widened, and she blushed prettily, "Ah, sorry, Okumura sensei."
Yukio glanced at her mildly, causing her to gulp. He sighed and said, "It made more sense for me to be teaching at the school since I also had to attend the high school classes." Rin inwardly laughed as some of the others frowned at the reminder that Yukio was the same age as them and was, in fact, going to school just like them. It must be strange for them to be in classes with him while he taught them during cram school. It must be especially strange to think of him as their age when he was so stoic and sarcastic all the time. He seemed like an unmovable fortress. If Rin didn't get to see him being silly (on accident or on purpose) back at the dorm, he'd probably be just as shaken by Yukio's impressive adult-attitude.
"Would you have preferred the outpost?" Shiemi asked curiously, eyes wide.
Suddenly uncomfortable with the attention (or, maybe, just by being addressed by his long-term crush), Yukio stuttered, "Well, I, uh, never got to try out different types. I am not sure which I would have preferred. It seems strange to think of myself in the outpost now that I've been teaching for so long."
Shima picked the conversation back up again, "Did you teach or work at the outpost, Kirigakure sensei?"
She belched, making Kamiki, who was sitting next to her, wrinkle her nose. After she took one more swig from whatever she was drinking, Shura shrugged effortlessly and said, "I was a teacher. Why do you think I have all those presentations ready? I certainly didn't make them this year. I've spent too much of it chasing after you guys to have possibly made them recently." The group sent each other looks of painful understanding in remembrance of the 'presentations' Shura had put on for them. They had been barely coherent and mostly consisted of her sprawled out over the desk, mumbling nonsense into the tabletop. She only pulled out the presentations when she was particularly hammered. Otherwise, she did rather great improvised lessons that had surprised a lot of the exwires with their usefulness and easy practicality.
Yukio quietly nudged his knee against Rin's talking quietly under the buzz of conversation taking place with the other members of the table, "You've been pretty quiet. You alright?"
"I'm fine," Rin answered, just as quietly, "Just… adjusting. I don't know. Your relationships are different now. I'm just… seeing where I fit into that." He was doing a lot better with this dinner thing than he'd expected. Sure, he wasn't really talking all that much, but that wasn't surprising for him anymore. He'd learned to just sit back and observe a little bit more. A lot of his bluster and bravado had been a deflection technique more than anything. He didn't need to deflect from anything now, so he could just… be. Sure, he could be just as happy and boisterous as he'd been before – he didn't change that much – but there were also times where he was just quiet and observant.
"You'll always fit in with us, niisan. You know that, right?" Yukio asked, eyes worried beneath his glasses.
Rin gave him a crooked grin, "Yeah, I know that. At least, I do now." Yukio gave him a slightly hesitant but mostly genuine smile, prompting Rin to give him one in return.
"Oi!" Shura called, interrupting the moment, "Listen when people are talking to you!"
"Don't interrupt a conversation!" Rin shouted back, tail whipping up in protest behind him.
Shura smirked at me, "What are you going to do with that thing? Fluff me to death?"
"It's not fluffy!" Rin gasped, offended, "It's… it's…"
"Furry?" Shima offered.
"Yes! No! Tha-that's almost worst!" Rin groaned, dramatically clutching his head, "It's fearsome! I have a terrifying tail! It strikes fear into my enemies! Right, Kuro?" In a rare moment of disconnect (or maybe it was intentional sabotage), Kuro just started purring and rubbing at Rin's shins again. The half-demon groaned, plopping his head down onto the table. The whole group laughed joyously. He wouldn't know until he talked about it with Yukio days later, but they'd all been waiting to see some sort of sign of his former self, of the friend they'd gotten to know.
Conversation continued to flow around them, wrapping them in a comfortable atmosphere that did more for Rin than he could have ever imagined. How could he have ever been scared of doing this? Sure, there was still a slick coil of fear wrapped around his heart, but he'd grown almost used to that feeling by now. It was something to work on.
For now, though? He was sitting with the students from True Cross and they were accepting him completely, demon attributes and all. They were supportive, bright, and happy. It buoyed his own self-confidence, giving him a sense of security in himself that he hadn't thought he'd achieve for a long time.
Things weren't back to normal, but… normal hadn't really been a good thing. Normal had been Rin slowly suffocating under layers of lies and deceit that constantly ate at him. Then normal had become Rin losing… everything to the swirl of negative emotions constantly battering him. He never wanted to feel that way again.
But this was different. And it was better, purer. It was untainted by too many lies and too little mutual understanding. It was fresh from a healing time separated. It was… it was the friendship he had dreamed of having with these people.
Because finally, finally they were trying to see what was behind blue eyes.
Author's Note; And there we have it. I'm not sure how I feel about the ending? I think I like it, but you'll have to let me know what you think!