Out of the Tree
The Stupid Tree Part Two Side Story
A Tokyo Babylon/CLAMP Gakuen Tantei Crossover
by Jaelle


Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, they are all copyright to CLAMP, and I am not making any money off them, so please don't sue me. Or send Sei-chan after me.

This is a 'What if' story, in which one major event in the CLAMP timeline gets changed. I apologise in advance to all of those who prefer the canon pairings, several of which I have disrupted in order to write this, but it was just too much of an interesting theory to leave alone.

This part more fully explores the relationship I created between two of the major characters. It's a relationship I've theorised about for a while, but it does disrupt another canon one, so please remember that this is a "what if" story.


Five Years After The Stupid Tree Part One:

Nokoru Imonoyama regarded the CLAMP Campus from the door high up in the clocktower. *Will all of this still be here in four years?* He wondered. *Will any of us?* The blonde man stared at his home and felt the bleak future closing in on them all.

"Kaichou, it's not good to brood." A familiar voice spoke behind him. Nokoru turned to regard his friend. "Sorry Suoh," he apologised. "But now that I know, I can't help wondering..."

Suoh Takamura sighed. "You cannot change what will happen," he said patiently. "All you can do is prepare and hope for the best. So, please, try to cheer up. It's not like you to be so gloomy."

Nokoru smiled. "It's not often that _you_ have to tell _me_ to be happy." He teased gently.

Suoh coughed and looked away. "It is hard for you," he said softly.

"It's hard for all of us," Nokoru sighed. "They say that ignorance is bliss."

"Possibly," Suoh said non-commitally. "But I prefer to be fully aware of the situation. Forewarned is forearmed."

"Just so!" Nokoru agreed with him. "And on that note, I take it my visitor has arrived."

"She has just been checked through the gates," Suoh said. "She will be waiting in the apple grove."

"Excellent," Nokoru rubbed his hands together as he led the way down the stairs. "As you say Suoh, forewarned is forearmed, and the best place to begin preparations is to strengthen the psychic barriers around the Campus. I know that the whole Campus was originally built in a strong protective design, but as the time is getting nearer it is time we renewed and strengthened the protections. We were fortunate that the twelfth head of the Sumeragi Clan was..."

"Fourteenth," Suoh interrupted.

Nokoru paused. "Pardon?"

"It is the fourteenth head of the Sumeragi Clan who has arrived," Suoh said. "Apparently the twelfth head is indisposed. She is quite elderly and this last winter was very harsh."

"I see..." Nokoru frowned and continued walking, heading for the apple grove once they had come out of the gloom of the clock tower interior. "Why was I not informed of this?"

"I did put the memo on your desk," Suoh said casually.

There was another pause as Nokoru sweatdropped. "Ah, really?"

Suoh frowned at him. "Kaichou..." He began. "You PROMISED me you would get through all of the paperwork on your desk BEFORE dealing with this..."

Nokoru snapped open a fan as they came within sight of the grove. "Oops?" He tried to look innocent. "I was going to, really Suoh, it's just that..."

"AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!" There was a loud feminine scream and a sharp thud. Nokoru and Suoh exchanged glances and sprinted towards the source of the sound.

"Owowowowowowowowowow.... that really hurts!!!" Came a loud wail, and both men stopped as they entered the grove. Lying at the bottom of the tallest apple tree, rubbing her posterior with one hand and shaking a fist at the tree with the other, was a girl about their own age.

"Don't think you've seen the last of me you stupid tree!" She yelled. "I'll climb you yet!"

"Ummm... miss? Are you hurt?" Nokoru walked towards her as she bounded to her feet.

"Just my pride, and my rear," she said, turning to face them. "Hello, who are you?"

Nokoru paused and felt Suoh stumbling beside him. This was quite the strangest girl he had ever met. And her clothes! She was wearing a bright red tunic, cut in zigzags at the hem and belted at the waist, with an orange halter vest loosely tied over the top. Along with this she wore orange leggings and red suspenders, and a pair of clunky black shoes.

"My name is Imonoyama Nokoru, I'm pleased to meet you," he said, bowing and trying to blink the spots from his eyes from her bright clothes.

"Are you? Then you're the very man I want to see! My name is Sumeragi Hokuto, and I'm also pleased to meet you!" Hokuto bowed briefly and straightened with a grin. "And who is this?" She demanded, catching sight of Suoh.

"Takamura Suoh, it's very good of you to come on such short notice Sumeragi-san..." Suoh began to bow.

Hokuto laughed. "Oh please, call me Hokuto-chan, everyone does.

Both men sweatdropped. _This_ was the fourteenth head of the Sumeragi Clan? Then Nokoru grinned, now who was calling the kettle black?

"Thank you Hokuto-chan," he said, smiling sunnily. "Shall we retire for tea and cake and discuss the request I have made?"

"For cake, I'll discuss anything at all!" Hokuto declared. "Lead on Nokoru-san."

"No, no... If I'm to call you Hokuto-chan, then you must call me Nokoru-chan." Nokoru laughed.

A delighted peal of laughter erupted from Hokuto's mouth. "Very well then. And you will be Suoh-chan!"

Suoh blushed. "H-Hokuto-san!"

"No, no, it's -chan!" She said, grabbing his arm and watching in interest as he flushed bright red. "Does he always react like this?" She asked Nokoru.

"That would be telling Hokuto-chan," he murmured, flipping open a fan that read, 'Yes!'

Hokuto laughed again. "Lead on Suoh-chan!"

Suoh began to awkwardly walk towards the main building as Hokuto pestered him with questions. Nokoru followed them both bemusedly and smiled again. This showed signs of being a beautiful friendship.

***

Six Weeks Later:

Hokuto held up her cup as Akira Ijyuin carefully refilled it. "Thank you Akira-chan!" She said. "This is the best tea I have EVER tasted!"

Akira grinned at her. "Hokuto-chan," he said. "You say the same thing EVERY SINGLE TIME!!!"

Hokuto pouted, "And it's true, every single time." She sipped her tea and smiled. "Aaaahhh... every cup just keeps getting better!"

Ohkawa Utako giggled and held up her own cup. "I must test this theory!" She said. "Refill please!"

"Theory?" Suoh raised an eyebrow.

Azuya Nagisa smiled and rested her head against his arm. Suoh blushed and was silent.

"Hey now you two lovebirds!!" Hokuto yelled. "No making out in public!"

Nagisa and Suoh went bright red at exactly the same time.

"Hokuto-chan!" They both chorused as Hokuto laughed maniacally. Nokoru and Utako laughed too.

"Ahhh... this was a wonderful idea!" Utako announced. "How clever of you Nokoru-sama, to hold a picnic to celebrate Hokuto-chan's completion of her work."

Nokoru smiled as the others agreed loudly, Hokuto loudest of all. "Thank Ijyuin - he made all the food!" He said.

"Too _much_ food I think," Hokuto groaned comically. "I'm sure I've put on weight! I'm stuffed!"

"Well perhaps some exercise would help," Suoh suggested. "We could all go for a walk, the sakura are blooming in the western gardens."

This idea met with near universal acclaim, and the group stood up, stretched and moved on.

Nokoru couldn't help but grin as he fell into step with his friends. Hokuto Sumeragi had arrived on campus a mere six weeks ago and already it felt as though she had been there forever. She and Akira had gotten on at first meeting, they were both so cheerful! And as for poor Suoh... Nokoru shot a glance at his friend, who was now being urged to "Take a chance! Be a man!" and had to stifle another grin. Hokuto had instantly taken to the future Takamura head and seemed to have adopted him as a younger brother.

He sighed internally. Over the past few weeks he'd come to consider Hokuto a very close friend. They all had. He wasn't sure how he was going to get on without her. It just wasn't going to be the same - no more bursting into his office without knocking and dragging them all off to a new cafe she'd discovered. No more encountering her feet at head height as she climbed yet another tree. No more strange and wonderful clothes. No more having to politely refuse her offers to redesign the CLAMP School uniform. No one helping him dodge the paperwork. He sighed again and watched Hokuto badger Suoh.

"You lovebirds just go on ahead and don't mind us!" She urged Suoh.

Suoh decided it was time to be firm. "Hokuto-san!"

Utako laughed again and pulled on Akira's arm. "Well if Takamura-san and Nagisa-san won't obey Hokuto-chan, we will!" She said, sprinting off, Akira clutched firmly in her grip. "Last one to the garden's a grumpy ninja!"

"Hey!" Suoh looked a bit embarrassed and cast a glance at Nokoru.

"You better go after her," Nokoru grinned. "Don't worry, I'll be fine."

Suoh hesitated, and his eyes moved past Nokoru. Then he smiled. "Very well Kaichou. Shall we go Nagisa-san?"

The pair shot off in hot pursuit of Akira and Utako. Nokoru smiled and shook his head.

"Aren't you going to go after them?" Hokuto demanded from just behind his left shoulder.

Nokoru jumped slightly, and then smiled. "Oh, I think I'll pass," he said with a weak grin.

"Are you really _that_ unathletic?"

Nokoru sweatdropped and changed the subject. "So... now that everything is finished, what will you be doing next?" He asked as they both started walking again.

Hokuto considered for a moment. "I might head back to Kyoto for a while," she said eventually. "I need to do some more training. I have to prepare you know. Just like you."

"Prepare?" Nokoru was confused. Hokuto stopped and gazed into his eyes.

"For the End of the World," she said.

Nokoru inhaled sharply.

"How do you know about that?" He demanded.

Hokuto gave him a hard smile. "The Sumeragi are also aware of this occurence," she said. "We will also be prepared. _I_ will be prepared." Suddenly Nokoru felt a gulf widen between them. "With whom does the Imonoyama Zaibatsu stand - the Dragons of Earth or the Dragons of Heaven?"

There was a long pause.

"The Dragons of Heaven," said Nokoru. "We are with those who would save the world."

Hokuto suddenly smiled brilliantly at him. "What a relief!" She said. "I would have hated to have missed out on Akira's tea!"

Nokoru smiled back, just as brilliantly, and felt suddenly a little better about the future. Leaning forward, he kissed Hokuto quickly.

They broke apart and stared at each other. Hokuto flushed bright red.

"No... Nokoru-chan..."

Nokoru was appalled. "I'm... I'm so sorry," he stammered out. "Please forgive me, it's just that, for a moment..." Flustered, he came to a grinding halt. "I'm sorry, I should never have done that."

Hokuto stared at him. "What's wrong?" She demanded angrily. "Don't you like me?"

Nokoru flushed. He wasn't prepared for this, and his normal candour seemed to have vanished. For the first time he was at the mercy of his emotions. He'd kept them so carefully locked up for so long that he wasn't used to them but they were all now clamouring for attention. And many of them were yelling the same word - a name.

"I... I do..." he stuttered. "It's just that, that... I'm Imonoyama Nokoru!"

"So what?" Hokuto demanded, arms folded.

Nokoru cast about him for words. "Do you know how I first got to be friends with Suoh?" The words spilled out of him. "I was kidnapped! And they took him too to use against me. He, Ijyuin, Nagisa, Utako... they've all been used to try and hurt me. I don't want you to get hurt too!"

He crashed to a halt and waited for her reaction.

"Hmff... snggg... mmmmmfff..." Hokuto seemed to be about to have some sort of epileptic fit.

"BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!" She exploded with her loudest laughter. "You... you don't want me... _me_ to get hurt... AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Oh, please stoppit... that hurts HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Oh Subaru-chan, if you could only see me now!"

Nokoru stared at her, confused. "Hokuto-chan..."

Hokuto finally controlled herself and wiped the tears from her eyes. "I do apologise Nokoru-chan, but you don't seem to have realised the full story. You see..." She straightened slowly. "I am the leader of the Sumeragi, those who will defend this world..." Her eyes caught his, held them with a faint touch of magic.

Nokoru felt slightly faint. "Then... you are..."

"One of those who is involved with the end of the world," Hokuto acknowledged. "One of the seven Dragons of Heaven."

Nokoru breathed slowly. "Then, I am very glad indeed that I have had this opportunity to meet you." He bowed to her formally.

"Oh stop that," Hokuto said lightly. "Let's get back to our earlier conversation. Now that you know what, and who, I am..."

"Hokuto-chan," Nokoru hated himself for breaking in, but she had to understand. "Your enemies will be those who use magic, and I am sure you can defend against them. My enemies use smoke bombs, gas, and guns. I cannot expose you to even more danger, especially considering your role in the times to come. Even now, you may be considered a target by some."

"I'm already someone's target," Hokuto's voice was chilly. "And I have had extensive experience with those who utilise violence. Nokoru-chan..." her voice turned pleading. "Don't throw away happiness because of a might-be. I haven't."

"I'm sorry." Nokoru turned away. "You are too important to be made a target."

Hokuto watched him. "Oh good grief. And here I always thought I was so GOOD at matchmaking!"

***

"My it's quiet around here without Hokuto-chan." Akira observed casually.

Nokoru twitched.

"Yes, no more maniacal laughter and occasional screams as she falls out of trees," Suoh mused.

Nokoru twitched harder.

"But she always managed to climb back up them!" Akira reminded him.

Nokoru coughed and dropped his pen on the floor.

"True, she was always determined not to be defeated by 'a stupid tree'. Such a strong girl." Suoh watched Nokoru bend down to pick up his pen. "Pretty too."

Nokoru sat up so quickly he banged his head on the underside of his desk. "OW!"

"Are you alright Kaichou?" Akira and Suoh immediately sprang to his side.

"Ahahahaha..." Nokoru trailed off. "I'm fine. Really. Just fine."

"Oh good. Are you ready to hear your morning schedule?" Suoh asked, flipping open a filing book.

"Yes yes. Let's get to work!" Nokoru declared. *Work yes, that will take my mind off Hokuto-chan.*

Suoh and Akira exchanged a glance.

"Are you feeling alright Kaichou?" Suoh asked innocently.

"I'm fine. Just... ready to get to work!" Nokoru declared.

"Uh huh. Well, you have the address to the teachers at 10," Suoh started.

"The Treasury meeting at 11," Akira continued.

"Tea with the Rijichou at 12."

Nokoru's eyes started to droop.

"Paperwork regarding the new building developments to the kindergarten division at 1."

"A meeting with the head of the Engineering department at 2."

"More paperwork at 3."

Nokoru's eyes had closed and his breathing had become slow and regular.

"Blah blah blah at 4."

"Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb at 5."

Suoh and Akira looked at each other and slammed their appointment diaries shut with a loud BANG.

Nokoru jumped and blinked. "Uhh..."

"And you are right on time for your 9 o'clock meeting in the green room." Suoh opened the door. "After you Kaichou."

Nokoru yawned and headed out. As they reached the green room, Akira darted ahead and opened the door, then extravagantly bowed Nokoru through.

"So who's this meeting with?" Nokoru asked just before he entered the room.

"The fourteenth head of the Sumeragi Clan." Suoh replied, and shoved his Kaichou into the room before closing the door quickly and turning the key in the lock.

Nokoru stared at the locked door.

"You should see the look on your face!" Cried a familiar voice, and he jumped.

"I wasn't uh, umm..." He turned around. "How could you see the expression on my..." Speechless, he regarded Hokuto.

Hokuto stood up so that he could admire her outfit. It was based on a 1920s "flapper" costume, all in white, with blood red sequins forming concentric circles in the centre of the dress on the front.

"You like the outfit?" She posed. "I call it my 'target' outfit!"

"Hokuto-chan..." Nokoru tried to regain control of the situation. "I wanted to apologise for yesterday. I was..."

"Being an idiot?" Hokuto enquired. "No you weren't. You were honestly concerned for my wellbeing, and I find that very sweet. Rather pointless considering the circumstances but sweet."

"Hokuto..."

"Listen Nokoru." Hokuto looked at him seriously and Nokoru shut up instantly. For the first time since he'd met her Hokuto didn't look playful and cheerful. "In four years time will come the end of the world, the Dragons of Heaven will fight the Dragons of Earth, and I will be forced to fight and kill the man who was so close to me and my brother. The one who murdered my brother. Tokyo will be wracked with earthquakes, the destruction and devastation will be huge, Kamui will have to make his choice, and the Final Day will dawn..."

Nokoru felt his throat close up.

"Now compared to that, starting a relationship with you is only SLIGHTLY more difficult than my duties as a Seal. But I'm willing to give it a shot." Hokuto smiled at him. "What do you say?"

Nokoru blinked. Then he thought about it. And about her. Then back to the situation. Then he looked at her again.

"Don't give up on possible happiness out of a fear of the future," Hokuto whispered. "I haven't."

"Well, then in that case... shall we go out for a walk in the gardens Hokuto-chan?" Nokoru asked, as a smile slowly spread across his face. He knocked on the door and it was immediately unlocked and opened. Suoh and Akira's faces beamed at him.

"Great idea!" Hokuto enthused. "I can show you some ideas I've had for the new CLAMP School uniform!"

The three men blanched. "No wings," they chorused in unison.

***

One Year Later:

In the privacy of her dressing room Hokuto slipped quickly out of her formal clothes and sighed. "Ahhh..."

She couldn't believe how quickly the ceremony had gone. It had seemed like only yesterday they had been in a panicked rush to make sure everything was prepared, and then today she had gone through with it. From now on, she was no longer Sumeragi Hokuto, older twin sister of the heir of the head of the Sumeragi clan - Sumeragi Subaru. No, from now on things were different.

Carefully, she pulled on a shimmering silver dress that fell to her ankles, and carefully pulled on the wings that matched it. Smearing silver glitter face paint over her face she smiled at her reflection in the mirror.

Yes, from now on things were different. From now on, she would be two people. Sumeragi Hokuto, head of the Sumeragi Clan... and Imonoyama Hokuto, wife of Imonoyama Nokoru.

She giggled to herself and admired the wedding ring which now adorned her ring finger.

It had been five years now since the fateful day when Sakurazuka Seishirou had ended her precious brother's life, and her hand clenched into a fist as she relived it again. Seishirou's power, her brother's sacrifice, his powers devolving to her.

A tear dripped down her face, smearing the glitter. Sniffing, she repaired the damage and examined herself in the mirror. "Come on, it's time to be happy! Oh rats, I forgot I always cry at weddings!" She smiled brightly, as tears ran down her face.

A hand reached over her shoulder and handed her a tissue. "Congratulations, Hokuto-chan," a voice behind her said.

Without jumping or letting her smile waver a notch, Hokuto took the tissue, mopped her eyes and turned around. "Thank you Sei-chan!" She said. "I'm glad you came by!"

Seishirou smiled at her. "Now, how could I miss my almost-sister-in-law's wedding?"

Hokuto grinned back at him. "I didn't see you at the service!" She chided him. "I even saved you a seat!"

"Sorry," the tall man replied in an amused tone. "I didn't feel it wise with all of the security guards your husband employs. And there's such a thing as too much exposure."

"Can't your illusions extend to such a little thing as a disguise?" Hokuto mocked him.

Seishirou's smile thinned. "Hokuto-chan..."

"Oh well," Hokuto waved it away airily. "At least you came. What do you think of him? Isn't he wonderful? Handsome too!" She winked roguishly. "And _very_ rich."

Seishirou laughed. "He is indeed," he said musingly. "The Imonoyama family aligned with the Sumeragi Clan. This will make things a bit more interesting."

Hokuto ignored the last statement. "And me, you haven't complimented the bride yet!" She pestered. "What do you think of my dress?"

Seishirou cast his eye over it. "Ah yes. It's much more _you_ Hokuto-chan. I was quite surprised to see you in formal clothes for the ceremony."

Hokuto stuck out her tongue. "We compromised," she admitted. "He insisted I wear traditional formalwear for the ceremony, so I got to design the dress for the reception."

"Who got to design the honeymoon outfit?" Seishirou asked.

Hokuto gave him a wicked grin.

Seishirou laughed. "Your husband is a very lucky man. You look..." he paused and met her eyes, "_very_ beautiful Hokuto-chan." His voice took on a new timbre, deeper, more serious, and much much sexier. "Indeed, _very_ beautiful." He raised a hand and brushed it lightly over her cheek. "So like your brother."

Hokuto smiled at him. "How _is_ Subaru doing?" She demanded. "You'd better be taking good care of him Sei-chan!"

Seishirou laughed. "Subaru is fine," he replied. "His blood kept the Tree fed for a long time, and now his body rests inside its trunk, still intact of course. I go there and look at him sometimes. He's still beautiful, will be forever now," he paused and met her eyes again, his one blind eye seeming to stare deeply into her soul. "My beautiful, beautiful Subaru. Mine forever. All mine."

Hokuto laughed, breaking the mood. "Sei-chan, you sound just like a possessive husband," she teased him. "It's a pity you didn't let Subaru live - then perhaps you could have seen him dressed as a bride!"

Seishirou's lips quirked upwards. "I prefer the way he looks now," he said quietly. "Dressed in his shikifuku, the pure white flecked with deep red, so still and luminous."

"And dead." Hokuto's voice changed slightly.

"And dead," Seishirou conceded. He smiled at her again. "Perhaps you should come with me sometime and see him?" He offered.

"Thank you but no," Hokuto's smile was back, but it no longer reached her eyes. "It's not the right time. But I will come and see him - soon. Very soon."

Seishirou regarded her with amusement. "Are you so certain Hokuto-chan?"

"Of course!" She laughed gaily. "Wasn't it foretold?"

"Hmmmm..." Seishirou looked up and over her shoulder, and Hokuto made herself relax as they both felt and heard the approach of another.

"Hokuto-chan," a soft voice called. "It's time for the reception! Hokuto-cha..." The door opened and the voice trailed off as the speaker came into view of the pair. "Bastard son of a..."

Hokuto's arm snapped up, forestalling any action. "Leave it Suoh!" She said. "Sei-chan has just come to wish me well."

Suoh snarled slightly and did not pocket the throwing knives that had suddenly appeared in his hand. Seishirou smiled as he regarded the other man. "And who is this? Oh, of course. The best man. Aren't you going to introduce us Hokuto-chan?"

Hokuto smiled and ran to Suoh, wrapping her arms around his right arm. "Takamura Suoh, meet Sakurazuka Seishirou. Sei-chan, this is Suoh-chan."

Seishirou inclined his head slightly. "Takamura-san? Ah yes, the ninja-clan protectors. I believe I met your uncle once." He gently rubbed his shoulder.

Suoh's face twitched back into its usual impassive expression and he moved slightly in front of Hokuto. "Sakurazuka-san." He replied. "I have heard many things about you." He inclined his head to the same degree Seishirou had. "And yes, you did. We buried him in the family cemetary with full honours."

Seishirou smiled. "Hokuto-chan, have you been spreading terrible rumours about me?" His voice was cold.

"I would _never_ spread _rumours_ about you Sei-chan," Hokuto's was equally cold. "Now, you're not going to spoil my wedding day by getting into a fight are you?"

Seishirou regarded the man she was holding. "Not today," he said. "Perhaps another time."

"I look forward to it," Suoh replied, as his hands were suddenly emptied of weapons. He looked down at Hokuto. "Hokuto-chan," he said, putting his free hand on her arm. "It's time for the reception."

"Of course," she smiled at him, and then looked at the other man. "Are you coming Sei-chan?"

Seishirou hesitated, and then smiled. "Well, I suppose it would be rude to leave without even meeting your husband."

Suoh's hand tightened, and Hokuto squeezed his arm in warning. "Don't worry," she whispered. "He isn't going to start anything here today. He's not stupid, and anyway, he has better manners than that. Besides, it isn't the time yet."

Slowly Suoh relaxed. "This way please." He said stiffly.

As they walked along Hokuto gently began to tease Suoh, trying to get him to smile. Although he was wary of the assassin walking along with him, Suoh once again found himself unable to resist Hokuto's unrelenting optimism and actually found himself laughing at something she'd said.

Hokuto's eyes narrowed and her lips curved in a smile. "Isn't this whole wedding thing nice," she sighed dramatically. "It almost makes you want to go to one everyday!" She shot a look at Suoh. "So Suoh-chan, when are you going to give us the chance to do this again?"

Suoh choked slightly on this.

"And Nagisa-chan would look SO beautiful in white..." Hokuto sighed.

"H-Hokuto-chan!!!"

Seishirou shot a surprised look at the blushing, stammering ninja walking alongside him and grinned.

"You haven't changed much Hokuto-chan," he said aloud.

"Mmmm, more than you think." Hokuto replied. "But you look a little different Sei-chan..." Her voice sharpened. "Lost some weight lately?"

"A little," Seishirou admitted. "I don't seem to have as much... appetite... as I used to." He directed a predators grin at her.

"How sad," Hokuto said, oblivious to the warning. "Perhaps it was something you ate." She smirked at the assassin. "We have some wonderful fertiliser here."

Discomfited, Seishirou looked away. Suddenly his attention was brought back by a loud shriek of delight.

"Nokoru-chan!" Hokuto flung herself away from her two companions and into the arms of her husband. "I missed you sooooooo much," she purred.

Nokoru grinned down at her. "And so you should - you have been gone from my company for exactly 23 minutes and 17 seconds! We've been married for one hour and 12 minutes and you've spent nearly half that apart from me! How dreadful!" He snapped open a fan and Seishirou blinked as he saw the word "Abandoned!" written on it.

"Not that you're counting or anything," Suoh said with a grin as he walked up to the pair, keeping one eye on Seishirou.

"I know," said Hokuto. "I'm a bad wife aren't I?"

Nokoru tipped her head up and kissed her quickly. "Very bad," he agreed. "But that was to be expected really."

"NOKORU-CHAAAAAAN!!!!"

Nokoru laughed and then turned his attention to the other man who had approached. He stiffened slightly, then relaxed and bowed his head. "Sakurazuka Seishirou," he acknowledged. "We weren't entirely sure you would come."

"How could I miss such an occasion?" Seishirou said, bowing also. "My congratulations to you both."

"You're most kind," Nokoru said. He smiled innocently at Seishirou. "Will you be staying for the reception?"

"I'm afraid not." Seishirou replied. "Things to do, people to see, you know how it is."

"Mmmmm," said Nokoru. "Well then, thank you for coming." He hesitated. "I hope you won't think me rude for saying this but," his eyes narrowed and Seishirou blinked as the innocent demeanor of the man changed suddenly and radically into a much more menacing one, "if you ever hurt my wife I _will_ hunt you down to the ends of the earth and kill you." The group collectively held their breath for a minute as the future destiny trembled. Then Nokoru flicked his fan closed and smiled at the older man. "Nothing personal you understand?"

Seishirou stood for a moment and then smiled. "Of course," he said. "Nothing personal. Until another time Hokuto-chan." And his form frayed away into sakura blossoms and was gone.

Nokoru's smile faded and he stared at the spot the assassin had been in until Hokuto punched him half-jestingly in the arm.

"You shouldn't have done that Nokoru-chan," she said, looking away. "I told you, the Sakurazukamori is MY business. I'll handle him."

"I know," Nokoru replied. "I just wanted him to be clear where I stood." The two locked gazes and then mutually agreed to look away.

Suoh cleared his throat. "The reception." He reminded.

"Ah, of course!" Nokoru yelped. "We must get on. Are you ready Hokuto-chan?"

"Ready, steady, GO!" Hokuto replied, and the pair sprinted off for the reception hall, with Suoh in hot pursuit.

***

"I love weddings!" Akira said.

"Me too!" Utako chimed in. "When's ours?"

Akira grinned. "You know very well what date it will be on. Eight months is not such a long time."

Utako grumbled cheerfully and hugged her fiances arm. "Doesn't Hokuto-chan look wonderful Suoh-kun?"

"She does indeed," Suoh agreed. He sighed. "Perhaps now that Rijichou is married, he will settle down and be more serious about things," he added hopefully.

Akira nodded. "Perhaps," he said. Suoh was so busy scanning the crowd he didn't even notice the slight twitch at the corner of the younger man's mouth.

"Time for the bouquet throwing!" Hokuto yelled. "Get ready ladies!"

Suoh raised his eyebrows as he caught the faint signal she gave Utako. It seemed the fix was in.

Hokuto turned her back to the group and hurled the bouquet with practiced ease into the corner nearest Utako. Suoh watched as Utako put up her arms... and pushed Nagisa gently forward. The flowers landed perfectly in her arms and Suoh choked on his drink.

"Oh my," said Utako. "I _wonder who_ will be the lucky man to put Hokuto's garter on Nagisa-san."

Left with no choice but to "obtain" the garter, Suoh growled something rude, sighed and blushed a little as Nokoru prepared to throw it. Three throwing knives, one jump and a broken vase later (one of the other men stumbled), it was in his possession. As he walked past his earlier post by the wall towards Nagisa he caught Akira's eye.

"Perhaps marriage will settle him down," Akira said. "But I wouldn't put any money on it Takamura-senpai."

Suoh reddened and turned to glare at Nokoru. Nokoru put up both hands to ward off the glare and then pointed at Hokuto, who was yelling and whistling in encouragement. Suoh blushed even deeper and bowed to Nagisa. Without stumbling much he finally succeeded in getting the garter onto her and they both kissed as the hall exploded into applause.

"I think we were set up, Takamura-san," she whispered to him as they parted.

"I _know_ we were," he said grimly. Then he smiled. "But I don't mind that much."

"Me neither," Nagisa replied. She looked at Hokuto, who was deriding their earlier effort as unworthy and encouraging them to try again. "It's funny, I know the world may end soon, and that the whole future of mankind is at risk, but today I feel a bit more optimistic."

Suoh also looked at Hokuto, who was now laughing at something Nokoru had said. "You know," he said wonderingly. "So do I."

"Takamura-san?" Nagisa blinked as the man before her sunk gracefully to one knee. The entire hall hushed.

"Nagisa-san, would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?" Suoh asked her.

"Oh, Takamura-san!" Nagisa's eyes filled with tears. "Yes!"

The entire hall exploded into rapturous applause as the pair kissed each other again, with Hokuto and Nokoru leading the cheering.

"Attaboy Suoh! Woo hoooooo!!!" Hokuto shrieked with joy. "Go get him Nagisa! Hey wait a second, how dare you two upstage my wedding??!!! Get up here and..."

"Enough, enough," Nokoru gripped her tightly, trying not to fall over from the laughter. "Are you happy NOW my love?"

Hokuto hugged him back and looked up into his eyes, her own bright with tears. "Deliriously." Reaching up, she grabbed his head with both hands and dragged him down onto her mouth, kissing him passionately as the rest of the crowd gathered around Suoh and Nagisa showering congratulations upon them.

Nokoru wrapped his arms tightly around Hokuto and swore inside never to let her go as he leant into the kiss.

Outside, Seishirou watched as the two finally broke apart, panting slightly, and then quietly backed away. As he walked away from CLAMP Campus, he touched his own lips and thought of Subaru. A smile spread across his face. "Hokuto was right," he said aloud. "You _would_ have made a beautiful bride Subaru. I think you would have been happy to see her today too." He looked up at the stars. "A pity."

Inside, Hokuto smiled. "It's not over yet Seishirou-san," she whispered quietly. "Not over yet."

***

End

(Sort of. The story of Hokuto and the Sakurazukamori continues in The Stupid Tree).

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