Chapter Forty-One: Kin Hoshi
AN: I know, I know; no update for a really long time. I've been lazy and this chapter took quite a bit of thinking and re-doing since the first draft looked like crap and sounded like a cheesy soap opera. So without further ado, I present the final chapter of "Held Loosely"! Thanks for reading/putting up with me and be on the lookout for a sequel of sorts a little later on. ((AutumnXMidnight))
"For such things as honour and love and faith are not only nobler than food and drink, but indeed I think we desire them more, and suffer more sharply for their absence. I speak to you as I think you will most easily understand me. Are you not, while careful to fill your belly, disregarding your appetite in your heart, which spoils the pleasure of your life and keeps you continually wretched?" –"A Lodging for the Night", Robert Louis Stevenson
It felt so strange walking into the house; it seemed like a foreign planet. Everything looked as if it were seen through the eyes of a stranger. Tart and Pai sat on the couch, casually gorging on Ryou's arsenal of strawberry ice cream. Keiichiro hopped up from his seat at the far corner of the room and drew all four of us into a snug group hug. "Oh my God! You guys were gone for two days! I'm so happy to see that you're all okay!" Keiichiro was nearly to tears. Pai and Tart were barely ruffled by our presence and just nodded to us and continued to drool over the TV. After the group hug got broke up by Kish, Keiichiro pulled me into a tight hug. "And I'm especially glad to see you." He rasped while he tried to hide his tears of relief.
"And you have no idea how glad I am to see you!" I rasped back, not really sure what emotion I was feeling. Keiichiro released me from his death grip and wiped his eyes. "Now, I think it's time to fill me in on everything. But before that, I think you people need some food, a shower, and sleep." Keiichiro smiled.
"A shower would be heavenly." Kiyoshi sighed.
Later, Up in My Room
I strode out of the bathroom in my bathrobe feeling clean and trouble free. It was like all my worries and doubts just went down the drain. I leapt onto my bed and pushed my face into the lacy pillow and for a moment considered skipping dinner and just falling into immediate sleep. I glanced at my pink digital clock; it glowed the bright pink numbers 1:32 through the cozy dark. My eyes nearly shut on an impulse just after seeing the time, but my stomach protested loudly and forced me out of bed to dinner.
Keiichiro set the table with plastic ware instead of the usual elaborate china. He looked up when I stumbled into the kitchen.
"I hope you like pizza." He said as he reached into the oven and pulled out a metal tray with two giant pepperoni pizzas stacked on it. The scent wafted to my nose and was nearly too much to bear.
"Right now even grits sound appetizing." I replied, staring hungrily at the pizzas and taking a seat at the table. Kiyoshi and Ryou walked in through the flapping door and groaned as soon as they smelled the pizza. Keiichiro enjoyed their expense and made a show of slicing the pizzas and placing the slices on the plastic plates.
"C'mon, Keiichiro, have some mercy here." Kiyoshi pleaded as he took the seat next to me.
"Mwahaha." Keiichiro chuckled, placing the plates in front of us. "So," he said as he took a seat at the table next to Ryou, "What on earth happened?" We were all silent for a moment, trying to string together the events that had happened only a few hours ago. "Um…Well, Komori ran away, then I got Kish and we went to look for her. Then Kish said we should go and ask Kiyoshi if he knew. After he let us into his house, he grabbed us and dragged us out into the rain to look for her." Ryou started.
"Okay." Keiichiro said flatly.
"So we looked down a lot of alleys and stuff until Kish flung himself on the ground to pout and this giant hole just swallowed him up! And Kiyoshi, being the intelligent person he is, dragged me into the hole after Kish. Is that right so far?" Kiyoshi and Kish nodded.
"We fell through the tunnel for a long time until we fell into this really dark room made of stone. A wall had already been blasted apart, so we just went through the opening. Komori, was it you that did that?"
"Cool. So then we went through this pitch-black hallway (which ended up being a labrynth), Kiyoshi leading the way and swearing that he could smell Komori…
"And Ryou kept swearing he heard something. The sissy…" Kish teased.
"I am not!"
"Yeah you are, Ryou." Kiyoshi agreed through a mouthful of pizza.
"Whatever. After walking forever, we came upon this dead creature. Then we ran into Carden, this tengu that was hired by Ronin to kill us."
"I'd like to add," I said, "that the Chalice was on that creature: that's where I got it from."
"The what?" Keiichiro asked, getting lost in the conversation.
"I'll get to that later. So then…" Ryou continued telling the story animatedly with big hand motions. I felt my eyelids shut and started to drift off to sleep.
"Komori? Komoriiiiii…" Kiyoshi snapped his fingers in front of my face a few times until I jolted awake. "Wha-?"
"You fell asleep, silly."
"Oh." I grumbled and yawned. It seemed everyone had left the kitchen to their cozy beds for a good night's sleep. Kiyoshi chuckled and draped his arms around my shoulders. "I think a certain someone needs to go to bed." He hissed in my ear.
"Mm." I leaned into his arms and shut my eyes, starting to drift away again. "Silly." I heard Kiyoshi huff, pick me up, and hoist me over his shoulder without much effort.Morning
Snippets of dappled morning light slipped through the tightly shut blinds and warmed my pillow. I opened my eyes, confused that I was staring up at my bubblegum-pink ceiling. How did I get up here? A pressure encircled my waist; I twisted around. Kiyoshi?
Kiyoshi was asleep, his eyelids closed peacefully and his arms wrapped around my waist like a child's around a teddy bear. I felt an all-too-familiar heat well up on my face. Oh my god…He slept with me! What do I do? Should I wake him up? …He's cute when he sleeps… But what if Ryou comes in and gets the wrong idea? I want to wake him up…but he's so cute…
Kiyoshi's eyes squinted and lazily opened to reveal his shining green eyes behind a veil of his raven hair. "Mn? Komori…" he muttered, caressing my face with his hand.
"Morning." I smiled. He grinned crookedly and leaned in towards me.
"Morning." Kiyoshi whispered back, closing his eyes and kissing my lips. I shut my eyes and let myself slip into his kiss as his grip around my waist tightened. He pulled away and buried his face into my neck. "Kiyoshi!" I giggled.
An impatient knock rapped on the door. "Komori! Komori, are you awake?" Ryou yelled through the door. Kiyoshi and I sat up and coughed nervously. I pulled myself out of bed and motioned for Kiyoshi to hide. Yawning, I opened the door. "No, I'm still asleep." I grumbled sarcastically.
"Ha ha. Look, Komori, I've got something important to tell you-."
"NO! Your mother's coming!"
"What?" I could feel my pupils dilate.
"Yeah! The whole 'Ronin' ordeal had her really worried, so she hopped on the first flight she could get. I just found out this morning! God, the house is a nightmare! I have to clean!"
"I'm still confused."
"So am I. Get dressed, find Kiyoshi, and I don't know, clean something!" Ryou finished and darted down the stairs, presumably to straighten up the chaotic mess downstairs. "Did you get all that?" I called out the window to Kiyoshi.
"Yeah. God, talk about short notice, huh?" He laughed, leaning up against the window pane.
"Uh-huh." I muttered as I ran over to my dresser and started to shovel my way through piles of clothes to find something to wear.
"What are you doing?"
"Hunting for something to wear."
"Want me to help?"
"If you want."
Kiyoshi hopped off the pane and started to dig through my dresser's contents. "Woah!" He shouted and shut the drawer.
"What? Was there a snake in there or something?"
"Worse! It was a lacy bra!"
"…Oh yeah. That's my underwear drawer."
"Thanks for the warning. I think I'll just go sit on the bed and count the dots on the ceiling or something…"
"Keiichiro! What's her status?" Ryou yelled to Keiichiro as he raced around the parlor trying to clean. "She should be at the airport in an hour! Do you want me to pick her up?"
"Please! And try to drive slowly; this place is a disaster and I need every minute I can get! Hey, don't just sit there, help me!" Ryou shouted at Kish, Pai and Tart, who were lying on the couch smacking on stale potato chips.
"Do I look presentable?" I asked Kiyoshi, twirling around like a model.
"You look absolutely lovely." He yawned.
"Thanks for caring." I shook my head and headed for the door.
"Hey, wait for me!"
Keiichiro leaned back in his chair and glanced back at the gateway. Mabel should be getting here in a few minutes… A steady stream of people started to pour out of the makeshift hallway with disgruntled expressions and bags under their eyes. A woman amid the crowd ran up to Keiichiro and gave him a hug. "Keiichiro!"
"Mabel! I haven't seen you in ages!" Keiichiro laughed and ruffled her bright blonde hair. A grave man carting a small bag stepped from the crowd and stood behind Mabel.
"Who's this?" Keiichiro asked politely, trying to hide the chills the man sent up his spine. There was just something about his stare…
"This is Kin. Komori's father," Mabel's smile faded as she motioned to Kin, "Sorry, I forgot to mention he was coming along."
"It's no trouble at all. Here, let me get that for you…" Keiichiro started to take the baggage from Kin, but Kin kept a firm grip on it.
"I would rather carry it myself, thank you." He said coldly.
"Right. So…uh, the limo's this way, if you'll follow me." Keiichiro muttered. I see where she gets her social skills from.
"Quick! Stuff those old cheetos under the couch cushion!" Ryou ordered Kish.
"Ryou, I don't think that qualifies as 'cleaning'." I chuckled from my perch at the top of the stairs.
"Komori! She'll be here any minute! Hurry! Clean something!" Ryou frantically darted around the room.
"The place looks fine; calm down." I strode down the stairs. Ryou latched onto my shoulders and shook me.
"She'll think I'm not responsible! THIS WILL RUIN MY REPUTATION!"
"But you're not responsible. Let's see: You let Kish cook himself with the toaster, let me nearly bleed to death, oh, and my recent near-murdering by a psychotic alien…"
"It's true though!"
The doorbell rang out loudly. "How was I supposed to know you had chosen to go fight him?"
"And if you did…?"
"I would've laden you with weapons and told you to have fun!"
"NO NORMAL PERSON DOES THAT!"
Kish lazily looked towards the door. "I guess I'll get it." He grunted under our bantering. Kish pressed the intercom button and looked through the peep hole.
"Hey Keiichiro…Who're they?"
"They're Komori's parents, now let us in."
"M'kay." Kish opened the door.
"Thanks." Keiichiro muttered.
"You forget that I am not a normal person!" Ryou shouted back at me, freezing when he saw Mom had walked in. "Aunt Mabel!" Ryou walked over to her with a plastered-on smile and pulled her into a bear hug.
"It's good to see you, too, Ryou." She laughed. There was a tall man standing behind Mom that was staring straight at me, with unblinking tea-colored eyes. Creepy…
Mom came to me, looking me up and down. "Not bad, not bad at all…" she smiled and tackle-hugged me. "Oh Komori! I missed you so much!"
"Mom, could you please stop strangling me?" I whispered painfully.
"Oh, sorry." She sniffled and wiped away a tear. The man behind her cleared his throat and took a step forward. Mom grabbed his shoulders and pushed him towards me.
"Komori, this is your father, Kin. Kin, this is Komori." Mom said slowly.
WHAT? He looks like he's twenty! He's way too young!
"Komori, it's so nice to finally meet you." He reached out to touch me; I flinched. I was at a loss for words. What do you say to someone you thought was gone forever that just shows up one day? 'Hey, Dad, whatcha' been up to these past eleven years? Me and Mom have been fine, you know, living in a run-down apartment and everything while you were out doing stuff that was obviously more important to you than us.'
"I-I…." I tried to talk, but I still couldn't think of anything to say.
"Naturally it will take you a while to get over the shock." He smiled and turned to Ryou. "If you could be so kind as to show us to a room. We're exhausted."
"Of course." Ryou led mom and the man that claimed to be my dad upstairs to one of the various guest rooms.
I lowered myself onto the couch and buried my face in my hands. Kiyoshi rushed from his quiet position in the corner of the room to sit by me and wrap his arms around my shoulders. "You okay?" he asked quietly, pulling me to him.
"I know him."
"I know him."
"I know him."
"I got that part. How do you know him?"
"Well…" Kiyoshi started to get nervous.
"Kiyoshi…" I said warningly.
"At least I think I do…I'm a little reluctant to say it since it really doesn't make any sense…"
"No, not until later."
"You shouldn't lead me on like that if you're going to do that."
"Sorry." Kiyoshi placed a kiss on my cheek apologetically.
"You promise you'll tell me?"
"Yes, I promise." I leaned into his arms and shut my eyes. "You know what I don't get?"
"Why he left. I don't even think mom knew…"
"I'm sure he'll offer an explanation."
"Sorry to break up this touching moment, but I must warn you that they're coming back downstairs." Keiichiro pointed out from his perch in the armchair. Kiyoshi and I pulled away from each other and sat upright staring at the blank TV screen.
"Sorry that there's not many decorations or anything. I haven't gotten around to all that yet, although I need to…" Ryou said to Mom and the man I refused to identify as my father just yet.
"Who's this, Komori?" Mom motioned to Kiyoshi, who immediately stood and went to her with his hand outstretched.
"I'm Kiyoshi Yamamoto. Komori's boyfriend." Kiyoshi smiled as he shook my Mom's hand. 'Dad' was analyzing Kiyoshi from head to foot through scrutinizing eyes. Mom gasped and hopped up and down excitedly.
"Komori! You have a boyfriend?"
"Yeah." I grunted while I strode over to Kiyoshi's side. He was having some sort of tacit stare-off with 'Dad'.
"It is nice to meet you." 'Dad' shook Kiyoshi's hand stiffly.
"Same here… sir." Kiyoshi replied blandly.
"So! Who's in the mood for lunch?" Keiichiro interrupted.
"I am!" I yelled and raced to the kitchen, following Keiichiro. The signs were showing that today would be one of those really weird oh-crap-Kish-got-stuck-in-the-oven-again days.
Lunch had been all but comfortable, with 'Dad' and Kiyoshi having silent stare-downs, Kish and Tart's across-the-table food fights, and Mom's embarrassing childhood stories she insisted on cramming into Kiyoshi's head. Try putting up with all that and still attempting to carry on a semi-intelligent conversation with Keiichiro, the only other person that wanted a peaceful, awkward-free lunch.
"I'm going up to my room." I grumbled after clearing the table. Kiyoshi followed instinctively, of course.
"Komori," 'Dad' called after me as I bounded up the stairs with Kiyoshi tagging behind, "I would like to speak with you later. All right?"
"Okay." I muttered hastily.
"Is she still being cold towards you?" Mabel asked Kin as he sighed and took a seat next to her on the couch.
"You weren't kidding when you said she was a sourpuss."
"She gets it from you." Mabel nudged his arm.
"I suppose I can't blame her."
"When you explain I'm sure she'll understand." Mabel reassured him.
"Now I just have to figure out how I will explain…"
"It is a pretty wacky story…"
"Are you saying that you do not believe me?"
"It's just so…out there, Kin."
"Will you tell me why you two were having a stare down all through lunch?" I asked Kiyoshi as soon as I shut the door behind me.
"I'll explain everything later. I'd like to talk to him before I say anything, okay?" Kiyoshi stated.
"ARGH!" I screamed. "I am sick and tired of waiting, waiting, waiting! I'm going to be old and grey and wrinkly before I find out a thing!" I huffed and flung myself on my bed, screaming angrily into the pink fluff of my pillows. Kiyoshi took a breath and laid next to me, grabbing hold of my waist. "I think a certain someone needs a nap." He whispered into my ear softly.
"No I don't."
"Yes you do."
Kiyoshi sighed, got up, and made for the door. "I'll go talk to him right now, okay?"
"Mmf." I grumbled. I heard him sigh again and firmly shut the door behind him.
"Kin, could I have a word with you?" Kiyoshi bellowed as he bounded down the steps. Kin promptly stood from his place on the couch and simply nodded to Kiyoshi. "Why don't we go outside?" Kin motioned to the front door. Kiyoshi nodded in response and wordlessly followed Kin out the door.
"We have much to discuss, don't we?" Kin chuckled while taking a seat on the cold concrete steps.
"Yes, we certainly do. God, I never would have suspected you were my girlfriend's father."
"Ironically enough. Anyways, I have already told Mabel my story, but it's easy to see that she doesn't believe me. I suppose I can't blame her."
"Komori will believe you."
"Really? What makes you so confident?" Kin chuckled.
"She's had some paranormal adventures of her own." Kiyoshi smiled.
"Do you remember those Mew Mews a few years back?"
"Turns out Ryou was the one that created them and Komori somehow got into his lab, and…"
"Turned herself into one?" Kin didn't seem that surprised.
"Precisely. It happened shortly after I chased Ronin here, so naturally he came after her since she was spoiling his plans."
"Have you found out how to get rid of him yet?"
"Yup. Thanks to Komori he's gone for good." Kiyoshi beamed proudly.
"What? That's incredible! Are we still talking about the same person?"
"She's chock full of surprises. I'm pretty sure she'll believe you after all the paranormal hell she's been through." Kiyoshi nudged Kin in the side.
"I suppose. But I'm not sure if she'll forgive me even if I do explain…"
"It's worth a shot. She really wants to know."
"…All right." Kin pulled himself to his feet and determinedly swung open the front door.
This day has been nothing but a crock of shit. Maybe Ryou has some sort of machine that can let you switch lives with someone. Takara looks like she has a pretty cozy life…No weird aliens or disappearing dads. Yeah, I'd like to be Takara. Ryou has pretty lax security, I could just break in. Yeah…
"Komori?" came 'Dad's' muffled voice from the door. "Can I come in?"
'Dad' and Kiyoshi walked in and took seats at the foot of my bed. "Komori, I owe you an explanation. Kiyoshi filled me in on your activities this year and I have to say that my adventures weren't unlike yours, and as you know, they all have a dark side to them that I would rather not remember."
"Which 'activities'?" I asked, suspiciously glancing at Kiyoshi.
"Fighting Ronin and such." Kiyoshi smiled. I threw him my I-will-murder-you-in-your-sleep glares.
"I fought him a few times myself. In fact, at one point Kiyoshi and I fought together."
"Wait, how did you get into the whole Ronin ordeal? And why did you leave?" I was still completely addled.
"Let me finish explaining." 'Dad' held his hand up patiently and continued. "As you know by now, Ronin likes hiding the entrances to his lairs in the strangest places, occasionally in the middle of roads or in abandoned houses. I was out one day, running some sort of errand, I can't even remember what it was now, and I somehow opened a portal that was in the middle of the road. I found myself falling and dropping into one of his unused lairs. It was there that I had met Kiyoshi, who was searching for Ronin, and who nearly attacked me, if I remember clearly."
"Sorry…" Kiyoshi mumbled.
"He had explained everything to me, and, after some time, I accepted it as reality. I had tried and tried to get back to you and your mother, or at least get my hands on a phone to see if you were all right. Kiyoshi just dragged me around as a sort of sidekick, tracking down Ronin all over the goddamn universe. After two years or so, I had given up hope that I would ever get back to my family. Kiyoshi and I had found Ronin several times and 'killed' him over and over, but he just wouldn't go away permanently. Eventually I separated from Kiyoshi to find my way back to Earth so I could get back to my family. It took me quite a few years to get back here. But here I am."
"A few questions: Why did mom say you left? Why do you look like you're still in your twenties? And how old was Kiyoshi when you met him?"
"Before I had gone, your mother and I had gotten into a fight and I suppose she thought I had walked out on you both. As for my age, the only explanation I can offer that makes sense would be that time passes differently in all the places I was in. It's like I was frozen in time and couldn't age. And Kiyoshi…well, he was about maybe eleven or so…"
"Ten." Kiyoshi corrected.
"Ten? Then how can you be sixteen?" I counted in my head and calculated that he should be twenty-one.
"Like I said, time passes differently."
"This is really weird…" I muttered, hugging one of my pillows for comfort. Dad pulled me into a sideways hug and ran his hand over my sheet of blonde hair.
"But I'm here, and that's all that matters." He mumbled and kissed my head. "Hm. You have your mother's hair…of course, hers has grey in it now." He chuckled, running his hand over his own spiky golden brown locks.
"Dad." I whispered and buried my face in his shirt, feeling the stinging of tears on my eyes. "Komori." He whispered back and lowered his head on mine. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks and gracefully trickled onto my hair.
"I'm home, I'm home..." he chanted through escaping tears.
A Week Later…, 一星期以后
The café was absolutely packed; then again it always was on Saturdays. I had volunteered to sacrifice my glorious Saturday to help out and also forced myself to come to terms with the uniform; it's not that bad, aside from the itchy lace.
"Hey Komori! What can I do now?" Takara strode out of the kitchen clad in her sky blue café uniform. Oh? Did I forget to mention? She and Kiyoshi got jobs at the café! Although Kiyoshi hasn't quite gotten over his uniform yet: a frilly magenta tuxedo (I picked it out myself).
"Table nine needs a refill on a soda." I called to her while trying to balance a tray full of dirty dishes. The bell on the front door jangled and I hurriedly snatched some menus and ran to greet the customers.
"Hajimemashite-." I started, noticing that they weren't ordinary customers, but Mom and Dad.
"I mean, welcome to Café Mew Mew!" I smiled.
"This is such a cute place, Komori! …It's kind of weird that Ryou would come up with something like this…" Mom gawked at the sugary decorations.
"We thought we would check it out." Dad smiled crookedly.
"Then follow me to your table, please." I said and motioned them to a table, setting the menus down.
"What do you recommend?" Mom glanced over the frilly menu.
"Kiyoshi makes a mean parfait and I'm starting to get the hang of making strawberry-banana crepes."
"I think I'll just have a peach smoothie. What do you want, Kin?"
"I'm fine. Sweets and I do not go together." Dad said, taking in the sugar-charged atmosphere and grimacing.
"Suit yourself," I shrugged, "One peach smoothie, coming right up." I squeezed through the crowd to the kitchen. "Peach smoothie!" I yelled to Kiyoshi, who nodded and haphazardly tossed me a smoothie. "Geez, just toss it at me, why don't you?" I grumbled.
"Sorry, it's just that I'm busy. Do I have to wear this uniform? Can't I get a blue one or something instead?"
"Nope!" I chuckled, half-skipping back to Mom and Dad and setting the smoothie in front of Mom.
"So that's twenty yen, right?" Mom started to dig into her purse. "It's on the house." I smiled.
"Ugh. I'm beat." Takara collapsed into a chair.
"I can't believe we made it to closing." Kiyoshi flopped into a chair next to her.
"C'mon, guys. It wasn't that…bad." I tried to perk them up while I swept crusty gummy bears and cake crumbs from under table three.
"Yeah, it was worse." Takara grunted.
"You sure did work hard, though." Mom commented from her seat next to Dad at their table. Ryou emerged from the storage hallway with Keiichiro at his heels pushing a cart covered by a white sheet.
"Great job, team!" Ryou clapped his hands, beaming like he'd just won a Nobel Prize.
"And to congratulate your hard work, here's a little treat from the two of us!" Keiichiro yanked off the white sheet to reveal a giant three-layer cake absolutely smothered in icing.
"Little?" I muttered.
"Oh God, please! No more icing! No more cake! No more anything that contains any sugar!" Kiyoshi groaned.
"Well you're eating it, whether you want to or not. It's my new recipe!" Ryou pulled up Kiyoshi and pushed him towards the cart.
"Hell, why not?" I dropped my broom and carved a chunk of cake onto a plate. When Ryou had made sure that every living soul in the café was burdened with a portly slab of his newest concoction.
"Hey, this isn't half bad!" Takara exclaimed after taking a taste of the cake.
"I told you." Ryou stuck his tongue out.
"Yeah, it's really good." I managed to say through a mouthful of the spongy mixture. Kiyoshi, who was stuffing his mouth full like a chipmunk, gave Ryou an animated thumbs-up.
"Komori," Mom stood and came to me, "We've been meaning to talk to you."
"Abouh wah?" I sputtered through cake morsels.
"Well…Your mother and I think you have grown into a mature young lady and learned quite a bit in your time here and…we would like you to come back home." Dad
"Of course." Mom grinned wider than I had seen in a long time. I lowered my eyes to the floor and gazed over at Kiyoshi, Takara, Ryou, and Keiichiro laughing over some joke. I could go back home now, leave this place, go back to my dark room in New York. But the thought of leaving this place, this frilly, incredibly annoying, beautiful place, put a weight in my chest that wouldn't lift. I had found so much life here, and I was pretty sure that going back to New York would kill every thing that I had gained. In New York there wouldn't be Kiyoshi, Takara, Café Mew Mew, psycho aliens getting caught in toasters, fencing, nothing. Just traffic and pigeon shit.
"I know that when I first got here I would've taken your offer in a heartbeat. But now, I just can't. I've found my place here and if I leave I'm positive that I would just go back to the way that I used to be. I'm happier here." I stared directly into their shocked eyes. After a moment Mom smiled slightly.
"Somehow I knew you would say that. If you're sure that this is what you want, I won't stop you."
"Although I will miss you, I understand." Dad placed his hand on my shoulder and smiled encouragingly. "I love you guys." I sniffled and yanked them into a giant bear hug.
I'm finally home.