Okay so here it is the last part. Cross my heart and kill a muse if it's not true.
Not Quite Normal
Extra Chapter- No Such Thing as Perfect
I'll always remember the moment I first saw her. Gaia Preparatory Academy looked like every other school, just another massive building filled with students scurrying around like ants at a picnic. What it had that my old one didn't was a chance to put distance between me and Merle. The rumors were only half truths, and I should have put an end to things properly. Instead I pretended the problem would go away if I ignored it long enough, but I'd been wrong. Running away had become my only choice.
Rounding a sharp turn into the student lot attention turned towards me, or more so my roaring motorcycle. All the eyes followed my progress into a space reserved for visitors, right up front. I could act as though being center focus didn't bother me, I'd been doing it for long enough. Still the mass of scars on my back itched like healing wounds. Five years old and still I felt them when I was nervous, as though the ugly skin knew something I didn't.
I'd seen her running, short sandy hair damp, bag hanging haphazardly off one shoulder. How could I know then everything she'd become to me? Even as our eyes locked, I had to remember to breathe for a moment. Time seemed to stop by the power of a green-eyed girl.
Why did I remember that? The moment I met Hitomi, but there were so many others more important right? Pulling her onto the back of my bike like a hero in a fairy tale. The feel of her lips against mine in a crowded diner. Especially the way she believed in me even when I had no faith left. That dance we never actually attended, or the one Prom we did. Moonlight on her slim form wading into the small moon lit waves. Smooth skin exposed more by each little hook undone by my own trembling hands.
Maybe this is what people talk about, seeing your life flash by in the moments before you die. The image of her bright eyes filled with love overshadows the blinding headlights of the car swerving into my lane. I can almost taste her soft lips as I squeeze down on brakes but find no resistance there. Heard her sweet voice saying my name the moment a speeding fender collided with my front wheel, unable to swerve out of danger. Time slowing down into crystalline moments as glass shattered and metal crumpled like an empty soda can, Hitomi forgive me.
The spell is broken as reality speeds back into focus with the feeling of flying. I tuck my head down on instinct, shoulders impacting the car's hood first, then my back sending spiderwebs through the windshield. Momentum carrying me up and over the sleek roof, pain everywhere as I roll off. The solid sickening thud of helmet on pavement. Vision dancing with black spots, unable to move. Still I remember the red taillights moving away, not braking for a second, just another nameless hit-and-run.
Numb hands trying to push myself up on useless arms as feeling almost overwhelms my senses. I collapse back into a heap breathing in short painful gasps. Unable to stand I reach into my pocket, the phone screen distorted by fractured glass and a smear of blood. My mind refused to locate the source of the sticky red droplets, but I knew this was bad. It seemed to take ages to dial 911, but before I could hit send an incoming call flashed across, Saint Hitomi.
I lose track of time; did I lay there panting in painful gasps for moments or years? Headlights flared across my vision again, but this instance I heard the squeal of breaks. Voices shouting. It wasn't one car but a legion of movement. Motorcycles, and from the chaos, a lot of them. Everything spun around dizzily, like an off-balance carnival ride. A voice that sounded familiar commanding another to call for an ambulance. Strong steady hands removed my half-crushed helmet, careful not to move my neck. Suddenly I could breathe again. Golden hair brushed my clammy face as orders were given and I was rolled onto my back, head and neck braced in a firm controlling grip.
Allen and the others from the Crusade. My lips moved as I tried to speak, but no words came out only the taste of blood. I tried again and was able to just rasp out one thing, a prayer and a name all in one. "Hitomi,"
The blond biker's voice sounded so far away. I just wanted to sleep, dizzy and eyes impossibly heavy. He told me he'd call her, but I'd have to stay awake. It was too hard. Red and white strobes lighting up the street, a twisted heap that was once my motorcycle. The crowd of bikers and their leader holding me in place, keeping me from drifting away. Calm faces swam, a rigid plastic collar more uncomfortable than Allen's unyielding hands fastened around my neck as I was lifted away.
Fading in and out like the world was controlled by bad reception. Everything is flashes and I hurt too much to piece together all of the puzzle. At some point my clothes had been cut away to evaluate injuries, but I didn't feel embarrassed by the strangers looking at me, just annoyed, I'd loved that jacket. My clavicle was broken, a few cracked ribs, minimal road rash, and a slight brain bleed that may or may not resolve on its own. A surgery was required for the collar bone, another for the brain if I was unlucky, and some internal bleeding that had the doctors worried.
Because the first impact had been my shoulder it saved my spine which was plenty bruised, but not broken thank god. Also, my helmet did its job otherwise they'd still be scraping me off the road. At least I only looked like but wasn't actually roadkill. When I woke up after the one surgery they couldn't avoid, sore and foggy it was to a welcomed sight. Large green worried eyes, Hitomi had been by my side the moment it was allowed.
Throat rough as though I'd been gargling gravel and not just thrown across it, I tried to speak. To apologize for scaring her. A finger pressed lightly against bruised and scabbing lips, I must have bit down when I hit the hood of the car.
"Don't talk," Her voice was soft, full of emotion. "Allen called me. It was the scariest moment of my life."
"Mine too." I croaked before she could shush me.
Hitomi sent me a sharp look, but leaned over with a cup of water and straw before I could ask. "They said you crashed, but I've seen you ride countless times and you've never been reckless."
I thought about the few times where I'd pushed things to a dangerous point, but never beyond what I could mitigate. "Car swerved into my lane," I rasped voice sounding as rough as I felt. "No brakes, they didn't even stop."
One slender hand flying to her mouth in shock. "We need to tell the police," Hitomi turned to go, but I grabbed her wrist in a movement that sent stabbing pain rip through my body as though I were as shattered as my phone.
"Please stay," I pleaded trying not to show her how much the action had cost me. Still she seemed to know and began fussing around me, trying to ease some of the discomfort. We agreed that I would tell the cops everything, but after a few moments of just us.
Eventually she gave me a quick kiss on one bruised cheek before going to notify the police I was awake. They'd already gotten the reports on my condition which included the fact I was completely sober when the accident happened. I did the best I could to recount the swerving car and lack of breaks. Color and model were a blur, all I could see was the headlights and a vehicle leaving without stopping. It was either a sedan or compact car from the profile, light in color white or grey maybe.
Hitomi explained about her talk with Celena and how her twin brother held onto a grudge against me and had recently been discharged from the military, for less than honorable reasons. Dilandau made a good suspect, but just as years ago when I'd believed him the stalker there wasn't any proof. What bothered me most about that theory was how he'd have found me on a road alone when I haven't seen him in years.
Sure, my fights were all on the internet those days, but the amount of work it would have taken for the angry albino to find me wasn't really his strong suit. Celena had been the brains of the operation in high school, why would Dilandau put in the kind of effort to try and kill me now after all this time? The only way it could have been him if by some strange coincidence we were traveling in opposite directions on the same road at the same time. Was I just that unlucky?
Really what were the odds that right when Hitomi was being told about the possible threat against me I was hit by a car and left for dead. To be honest, if it had been Dilandau he would have stopped to make sure I wasn't getting back up. Doing something so drastic would require the belief that no one would be able to link us, and even the reckless man wasn't that naïve.
Hitomi wasn't convinced, but her suspicions had more to do with worrying over my safety than any facts. It was strange to be on the receiving end of overprotective behavior. Part of me wanted to be a sulky patient and I'm sure I'll get sick of being babied, but right then it was nice to have her fussing about me. The first day of recovery I spent most of it sleeping anyways.
On the second day we received an unexpected visitor. Immediately Hitomi stood placing herself between my bed and the newcomer standing in the doorway.
"Calm down Kanzaki," Dilandau's familiar drawing voice said almost lazily. "I'm not going to try and off him in broad daylight."
Hitomi bristled protectively, but I placed my hand on her arm. "Sit please." She looked down at me for a long moment before retaking her chair at my side. "If it was Dilandau yesterday then he'd be with the police not coming here to talk."
"Van's right this time," The silver-haired man grinned as if he knew something we didn't. I noticed a thin scar down one of his cheeks and realized that between the last time we saw each other and now a lifetime had happened for both of us. "Thanks for sending the cops after me though. They found me at the gym where I'd been all day, my trainer Jajuka and half the people there as witnesses."
"Gym?" I asked a little stunned.
"Yeah, how else was I supposed to be getting revenge?" The incredulity in his voice would almost have been funny if I weren't confined to a hospital bed battered and bruised. "The plan was to pay you back for the beating you gave me during school. I'd thought I was strong until then."
The pieces fit together with what Allen had said about the rough time his younger brother experienced following orders in military school and the information Celena had shared yesterday. Some people excel with the structure, while others find a brotherhood to love, but some rebel against orders and try to gain respect by force. There are few jobs where being the strongest gives you worth, professional fighter is one of them and I can see Dilandau being a real threat as long as he keeps the violence inside the ring.
He also seemed less volatile than before. I had to assume it was a combination of learning from bad experiences and the coach he mentioned teaching the albino to focus his emotions. As a parting shot Dilandau threatened that I better heal soon before he took my title without a fight.
It was a relief to know he planned my downfall in a competitive sort of way. After all I didn't plan to make fighting my full-time career it was just a means to an end. A way for me to earn money and reputation to start up my own self-defense school. Thinking about the future had another question sitting heavily in my mind.
I asked Hitomi if my personal things had been collected after the crash. She assured me that the nurses had placed them in a small safe built into the wall and gave her the code. Trying not to seem too excited I asked if she could get them to make sure everything was there. While her back was turned, I sat up a little straighter, there wasn't much I could do about my appearance otherwise.
She returned with a sealed bag that didn't hold much; the phone with its shattered screen, a jumble of keys, and my worn brown leather wallet. With a sharp pain in my chest I realized that my motorcycle key no longer went to anything, except a pile of scrap metal. The only thing I had left of my father's legacy except the royal crest inked over my heart.
Maybe it was time to start driving something with four wheels and less issues with poor weather. It would make Hitomi's father happy. After living through this wreck, it might be for the best, after all my life was about to change again.
The sweet girl tried to hand me the phone first, but I shook my head and asked for my wallet directly. With a quizzical look she complied handing me the soft scuffed leather. I opened the folds and found a slit that normally held those cards handed out at restaurants to rack up a free item. I'd thrown those out yesterday to hide something more important, something meant for the date I missed.
"I know this isn't exactly traditional," I started looking at Hitomi's confused expression, which turned to one of surprise as I held the golden band with it's setting of three diamonds; representing past, present, and future. "I can't imagine a life without you by my side."
I wasn't much for flower speeches or grand romantic gestures, but she loved me anyways. We both knew that I'm stubborn, reckless, and hard-headed. Still she loved me for who I was and not an unrealistic image that would never be reality. In turn I loved her for both the faults and strengths that made Hitomi who she was.
"Yes," The one word was soft with emotion, and it made my heart leap. I slid the ring onto her finger with shaking hands, ignoring how the IV pulled uncomfortably with the motion.
She kissed me softly on bruised lips stiff with healing cuts. I shifted in the hospital bed to allow her space to climb in and rest her head on my uninjured shoulder. The proposal wasn't how I dreamed it would be, but I wouldn't have changed anything about it for the world.
We lay there together talking about the future. The gym space I'd leased earlier that week with it's small loft apartment. How I wanted her to finish college and find a job helping victims of domestic abuse, but that she could also teach a few kick-boxing classes at Fanelia Self-Defense School. The name I'd chosen to keep a little bit of history alive.
I'd earned enough with my fists that I could finally follow my heart. With her by my side anything was possible.
Over the next few months the healing seemed impossibly slow and frustrating. Classes continued and I saw the point of finishing my degree with each expense it took to prepare Fanelia for its grand opening.
The police cleared Dilandau of any suspicion though he still insisted on taking me on in the ring to finally settle things. Turns out my opponent the day before hadn't been quite as sportsmanlike and cut the breaks of my poor bike. The car on the other hand had been a bad timing situation. A middle-aged man with no connection to me, decided to drive home from a bar completely tanked. When he swerved into my lane it was unfortunate that I'd noticed my lack of brakes. The same time he chose hitting me was better than the cops finding out his license had already been suspended.
One of the situations I might have been able to handle without much trouble, but together, well I was lucky to walk away. My bike wasn't as fortunate. I'd miss riding, and one day might get another motorcycle for the enjoyment and freedom of it, but for now being safe and having the ability to transport equipment for the gym led me in another direction.
That was a few years ago now. The only physical reminder of the wreck was a pale scar over my collar bone. Both Hitomi and I graduated, marrying shortly after. I couldn't have survived the first year running my own business without her. Having the funds saved from fighting worked well for start-up, but even with my reputation getting out of the red took patience I didn't have some days.
Fanelia's success was slow, but it did happen. I teach a variety of classes including; Muay Thai, Jiu jitsu, mixed martial arts, and kick boxing though the last is mostly Hitomi. My favorite classes are still basic and advanced self-defense. We even offer one class a week free to victims of abuse, some of which came to us from the non-profit organization the green-eyed woman worked for during the day.
Dilandau did get that fight he wanted, and it was my last. Officially retiring undefeated the next day. The albino went on to surpass the level where I competed, becoming a household name and making far more money with his fists than I ever did. There wasn't any jealousy though, because I fought out of necessity, but he was driven by the competition of two men both testing to see who was the strongest.
Celena and Hitomi were able to mend their friendship at a distance with regular social media messages. Keeping the Marine at a distance, but putting the past where it belonged healed something deep down she hadn't even realized caused her pain for years.
I wake each morning with a profound sense of contentment. Savoring the quite moments where my wife slept in peacefully my arms. Glad for the life we found even if getting here has not exactly been normal.
A/N- For real this time. We finally got full closure. Hitomi and Van got their happily ever after. Dilandau got his redemption. He was never going to be the one that tried to kill Van in this story. Another competitor didn't like losing (the fight those girls had been watching in the last chapter) and tried to get Van back in a very dirty underhanded way. The car he'd been hit by was a beige sedan driven by a guy who'd gotten a DUI before. With his breaks working Van might have been able to avoid the wreck maybe ending up being run off the road. Without the car he might have noticed the brakes at a stop sign or light and driven himself into a ditch to stop the bike without wrecking.
We didn't meet Jajuka but I had him as Dilandau's coach. In some ways the albino might have made a good soldier. His men loved and followed him until the end, but I had that as his basketball team who he lost because of his actions against Van. The brief time in the Marine Corps for Dilandau symbolized his spinning out of control near the end of the war. No one wanted to work for him, and those uncontrollable people are just as bad for the military as the ones who break rules for personal gain. Jajuka's patience helped bring him out of the darkness and that became a successful fighting career in this story.
Van starts Fanelia Self-Defense School. I thought to differentiate it from a regular gym or martial arts academy. He still teaches fighting skills, but his focus is one of helping people like him that found themselves needing strength to heal or protecting themselves from being in a bad situation ever again.
I thought to have more interaction with Folken or Merle, but it didn't really fit. Sure, they'd have come to the hospital to be there for Van as his family, but showing the moments with Hitomi and Dilandau were more important. The loss of the bike and deciding not to replace it was a direct correlation to the series and Van removing the heart stone choosing a life of peace.
I really hope you enjoyed the extended story. This is the end. Can't wait to hear what you think.
Time to go back to Bitter Medicine, Strong Memories, and a brand-new story called Blades and Bellflowers. Not sure how many more posts I have before getting underway again, but I'll do my best to keep writing and might post whenever we come into port. Keep a look out for those three stories. As always thank you so much for your support!