Part 8f

Tien walked to his room in silence, his mind devoid of any thought, as he walked down the empty corridors. After entering the room, he closed the door behind him and began to gather his few belongings. Backpack, coat, and shoes from the closet, clothes from the dresser, a few personal items from the desk . . . he packed it all, save for one item. It was a carving of the dragon and the seven dragonballs. Tien had been carving it for years, he only just finished it last month. Orin had expressed much praise over the craftsmanship, and how much he liked it. Tien ran his fingers over the wood, feeling the details so carefully etched into the surface. It was the thing he had taken pride and joy in, the one object he prized. He placed it back on the desk where it had been sitting, deciding that he would leave it for Orin.

He sat there, on his bed, staring at the wall opposite from him, with a blank mind. Minutes passed, the quiet suffocating. Somewhere a door shut, and his mind was flooded with images, sounds, and feelings of the moments that he had shared with Orin. Tears filled his eyes with each memory, causing a veritable waterfall of emotion to cascade down his pale cheeks. He broke down, curling up on his bed, weeping till the tears ran dry, crying himself to sleep.

Meanwhile . . .

The library was abuzz with activity. A ping-pong tournament went on in one room, and a chess tournament in another, and three different poker games going on in another. When Chaotzu arrived, Joe was waiting for him. He wanted to participate in the ping-pong tournament, but he needed a partner since they were doing doubles. Chaotzu agreed, needing the distraction. They were one game away from playing when his mind wandered back to Tien.

"What's wrong, little brother?" Joe asked him, using his pet name. Joe's voice brought Chaotzu's attention back to the present.

"Nothing, big brother! Nothing's wrong!" He hated to lie to Joe, but he had promised Tien he wouldn't say anything until after he left.

"Your face says there is something wrong, and it must be really bad, if you would lie about it." Joe stated, very much concerned for his 'little brother'.

"I'm sorry, Joe, but I made a promise, and I have every intention of keeping it. Do you understand?" Chaotzu looked up at his 'big brother' with the saddest eyes that Joe had ever seen.

"Yes, little brother, I understand. We don't have to play, if you are not up to it. And if you need to be alone, I understand that too." Joe offered.

"Thanks, Joe!" Chaotzu hugged his large friend. "But I rather not be alone right now. How 'bout checkers?"

"Okay!" Joe and Chaotzu went into another room where the games were kept and found the checkers. They played many games into the night, Chaotzu's spirits lifting with every game.

Meanwhile . . .

After Bob and Clay left, Orin let go completely, his anguish flooding the room with his tortured crying. After some time, there was no more. His tears were gone and he no longer had the strength to cry or lament. He knelt there, on the cold floor of the dinning hall, staring at the wall, but not seeing, a shell of his former self. He stayed like that for a long time, not moving, not even to blink.

His mind replayed every moment he shared with Tien repeatedly, as if trying to burn Tien's memory into his mind, so he won't forget. Then he remembered the gift. He had made something for Tien, but hadn't the nerve to give it to him. Till now. He jumped up and out the door, as if someone had lit a fire under his ass. He ran down the corridors, passing people on their way to bed every now and then, nearly running into some of them. When he reached his door, he stopped, not sure how to proceed. After a moment, he opened the door slowly and let himself in, closing the door behind him.

It was dark, the lamp turned down low. Orin's eyes adjusted to the dimness quickly. He saw Tien asleep atop his blankets, shivering in a fetal position. Orin walked over to the desk and opened the bottom drawer. He reached in to the bottom, then removed a small object wrapped up in a piece of clothe. Having found what he was looking for, he walked over to Tien's bed and sat on the edge.

"Wake up, sleeping beauty!" Orin shook Tien gently. He stirred, but didn't wake. "Tien, wake up!" This time, he did wake. He turned towards Orin, who noticed the dried tears on his face.

"Orin! What is it?" Tien asked groggily.

"First, you'd sleep better under the blankets, than on top. And second, I wanted to give you something." he handed him the small bundle.

"What is it?" Tien asked, taking the bundle.

"Open it and find out!" Tien unraveled the clothe to reveal a small gold, heart-shaped locket on a gold chain. It was simple, with a smooth surface. On the inside, on the left, was an inscription. 'To Tien, From Orin, With Love' it read. On the right was a place for a photo, but Orin didn't have a photo, so instead, on the space that a photo would cover up, he engraved, in flowing script, the words 'I Love You'. Fresh tears filled Tien's eyes as he read those words. He was overwhelmed with joy, and momentarily forgot that he was leaving in the morning.

"Oh, Orin!" he threw his arms around the smaller man and hugged him fiercely.

"Tien! Air!" Orin gasped, nearly crushed by Tien's enthusiastic hug. Tien loosened his grip.

"Sorry! It's just . . . no one's ever given me anything like this before!" he exclaimed, his bliss apparent with every word.

"I'm glad you like it!" Orin smiled, glad that he could see Tien happy at least once more. Then it happened. Tien said something that Orin thought he would never hear spoken to him with every word meant whole heartedly.

"I love you, too!" Tien said as he still held Orin, thus not able to see his reaction to his confession.

"You . . . you mean that?" Orin asked, pulling away slightly, just enough to see Tien's face.

"Of course I mean it! I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it with every ounce of my being! I've loved you for a long time now, and I will always love you, no matter what!" Tien said, looking him straight in the eye.

"Oh, Tien! You don't know how happy that makes me to hear you say that!" Orin said, tears running down his face. He pulled Tien close, and kissed him fiercely. Time seemed to stand still, as the two lovers poured their heart and soul into that one kiss.

A/N: How sappy. Oh well, I like sappy. ^^ It was starting to get a little too depressing! ^^;;

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