Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Memories of Spring = The Burdens We Bear ( Chapter 27 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

DISCLAIMER: Alas, but no, the creation known as Furuba doesn't belong to me.
Memories of Spring
The Burdens We Bear
Love. Warmth. Acceptance. But above all hope.
Hope that for any Jyuunishi it is possible to love and be loved in full. Hope that the warmth a Jyuunishi craves from that one special person's embrace is given without prejudice. Hope that acceptance for being a Jyuunishi is not an illusion or dream that cannot be attained.
Hope…the most delicate, frail thread that one holds onto tenaciously. Yet…why is it the hardest thing to keep?
Shock. Confusion. Pain.
`Why? What…happened…?'
As Yuki struggled to get back on his feet, he failed to decipher the commotion going on around him. All he could sense is that he was in some amount of pain, and there was a strange ringing in his ears. Why, he didn't know, but he knew well enough that he was on the floor, and his head felt like a lump of lead. Bobbing his head in different directions, he was finally able to focus by blinking his eyes rapidly.
Figures moving around in a blur. Screaming. Angry shouts of protest. A voice in his ear full of concern. Arms helping him up. All this only presented a jumbled puzzle that Yuki couldn't figure out. Only upon feeling another hard sting did it all start to come together.
Upon feeling this, he immediately snapped back to reality…once again into the cold arms of reality. He was already nursing his right cheek with his hand while struggling to get off the floor again. It seemed that in one of his falls, his head managed to hit the edge of one of the desks that was nearby. As he held his head with his left hand, he finally made out the screams that reverberated through the room.
“What's your problem?! He's not a punching bag for you to beat the hell out of!”
“That's enough! STOP THIS! If this matter is that important to you, then let's DISCUSS it, but I'm not letting you hurt him anymore!”
“Don't you DARE touch me! You know nothing of the gravity of this situation! NOTHING! I will treat him any damn way I please! He deserves nothing less!!!”
`No…it can't be…'
Lifting his throbbing head with his hand, the scene before him was certainly the worst of his nightmares unfolding itself before his eyes. He had tried contacting her before without success, but now that he saw her here, he knew he should have somehow tried harder.
Wide-eyed, he knelt on one knee while bracing his weight on a desk next to him. He feebly called out, “Kaa-san…”
All became silent as they observed the newcomer to the screaming match that was going on. Before anyone knew what had happened, Yuki was being yanked up by his seething mother. Grimacing in pain, he held onto her hand that was pulling painfully at his hair, and he tried to maintain a safe distance from her while he struggled to stand on his feet. He realized then that he was also registering pain from his ankle, probably because somehow his full weight fell on his foot when he was knocked down. He wasn't too sure now which hurt the most…his ankle, head, or the fact that she kept shouting in his face.
“DON'T YOU EVER CALL ME THAT! Not after pulling this little stunt of yours! Did you really think that I wouldn't be told of this?! That I wouldn't find out what you did to me?!” she screeched in his face. Pulling on his hair harder, she tightly bit out, “A disgrace…a true disgrace to me. More so than your own brother, and I'd NEVER thought that it could be possible to be worse than Ayame!”
“Ma'am, that's enough! LET HIM GO! He's your son for god sakes!” yelled Mayuko as she walked towards her while keeping Kakeru from interfering.
“Take one more step, and I swear that I'll have this whole damn building shut down and all the administrators in court on one hell of a lawsuit!” shot back the enraged Sohma. “I don't know what kind of school would allow their students to throw their futures away, but let me assure you that I'll make it my mission to let everyone know what sort of place this is!”
As angered as Mayuko was, she stopped in her advances and was about to speak up when the lone voice of Yuki intervened.
“Iie. Kaa-san, it was my decision—no one influenced me on this. Please don't involve the school…it's not their fault. They even tried to change my mind,” quietly pleaded Yuki while keeping his tentative posture.
“Silence! How could you, Yuki?! HOW COULD YOU DO IT?!” she screeched further. “Why did you make such a STUPID decision?! Why did you do this behind our backs?! WHY DID YOU BETRAY ME?!
“Gomen nasai, but I …it's not... (Pause) I had tried to reach you…to tell you…” he softly stammered. “Your personal assistants always said you were too busy or out of town. I…I even tried to reach Tou-san, but he was out of the country. They told me he wasn't taking any calls…”
“You are NEVER to speak to him! NEVER!!! He's got more important matters to attend to than wasting his time on something like YOU!” she interjected uncaringly while yanking his face closer to her own. “If he only saw what I see now…a filthy mess. How ASHAMED he would be to call you his son. To have two sons that would disgrace our family. And you…you had to become the true STAIN in our lives and ruin it all!!!”
`Filthy mess…ashamed… a stain…' As those words echoed in his mind, he delicately remarked, “I…may be such, but Nii-san is not a disgrace. If you get to know him, you'll see he's a very good person…”
“Don't contradict me! It's a truth that you fail to see just like you failed to see what a DIRTY RAT you've become! A soiled rodent only staining my life along with your father's, she vehemently stated. Narrowing her gaze, she slowly advanced on Yuki, bringing the gap closer to each other and speaking eerily. Let's do this now. You already ruined our lives…let's have the whole world see exactly what I see now! It's time that one truth is finally revealed to those that think you are impeccable.”
Eyes widening at this, Yuki quickly tried backing away from her, ignoring the pain that such exertion was bringing him. In her bitter rage, he knew that she wasn't thinking clearly and was very serious about bringing out his second form for all to see. Not even wanting to think of that possibility, he finally wrenched himself free from her grasp and quickly limped his way over to the other side of the room, stumbling against the desks along the way.
“You've made your point clearly, Ma'am,” intervened Mayuko as she tried in vain to placate the bitter woman. “Let's end this now and send Yuki home…”
“Do not butt in…so help me if you keep it up!” spit out the mother while returning her gaze to her son. She then noticed that the one student that the teacher had at her side was now helping her son to stand on his own. “Step back…this does not concern you!”
Kakeru turned around and firmly planted himself between Yuki and his mother. Returning the gaze, he calmly replied, “Not a chance in hell, lady. If you want to beat up on someone, take yourself outside and beat the crap out of yourself.”
“How dare you speak to me like that?! No doubt filth like you unduly influenced that joke for a human being to make the worst decision of his life!” she yelled while standing toe to toe with Kakeru.
“So what?!” Kakeru shot back squarely. “If he decides not to go on with his education, that's his choice to make…good or bad! It's not the end of the world you know. You got no right to beat him into making choices you want him to make!”
“How I take care of my son is none of your business,” she fumed quietly. “Stand aside or I'll…”
“You'll what, sue me? Go on ahead lady, it's not like I got much anyway,” challenged Kakeru evenly.
“That's enough…please,” intervened Yuki from behind Kakeru. Hesitantly laying a hand on Kakeru's shoulder, he gently replied, “It's okay, Kakeru. I need to speak with her alone. It'll be…okay…”
Turning to Yuki, Kakeru let his guard down as he regarded Yuki's injured form with a sympathetic look. Just then he felt an arm brush against him and reach out to Yuki once again.
Having Yuki's hair once again in her grasp, his mother once again held onto it tightly. OKAY?! Nothing will ever be okay, you little…FREAK! YOU RUINED MY LIFE!!!
“What a pity.”
Hearing the callous remark from behind her, the angry Sohma whirled around to glower at the teacher that was once again interfering with her private business with Yuki. Yet, of the set of eyes she expected to see, she had never expected to see the eyes of another Sohma that held a rage as cold as ice as they gazed at her momentarily. Frozen by such a glare, she never even had a chance to react to this…
As the once standing mother now lay on her side while clutching her bleeding nose, she looked at the towering presence of one young Sohma clan head that was far from being satisfied with hitting her once. Certainly enough, the young leader reached down and yanked her up in the same manner that she had treated Yuki.
“HOW DARE YOU?! HOW DARE YOU TOUCH WHAT IS MINE! HOW DARE YOU HURT HIM!!! shrieked Akito into her shocked face. (SMACK!)
`OUT. Get them all out of here!' was the one frantic thought reverberating through Kureno's head as he pulled on the teacher's hand to lead her out when Akito started acting on her fury. Seeing that she was resisting, he asked in plea, “Please leave! You must go right now…I cannot vouch that our family head will not lash out at you for just being here. Please go…I'll come and let you know when you can return.”
Knowing full well that he meant what he said about the head being in a blind rage at the moment, Mayuko hesitantly complied and quickly started to walk out. Remembering about Kakeru, she turned to look over shoulder and gave him the signal that they should both leave.
Seeing that the youth was not about to leave Yuki's side, Kureno quickly walked to him and reasoned with him. “I do not know my way around this building, so please locate a first-aid kit and bring it to the classroom that's at the end of the hallway here. It was open and vacant as I passed by it earlier. Yuki and myself will be there shortly…please.”
Sensing that he could trust this mysterious gentleman with Yuki, Kakeru relented and followed his teacher out. With one last glance to Yuki, Kakeru hurriedly walked out with her to locate a first-aid kit.
All the while, Yuki remained immobile as he leaned against a wall. His gaze was transfixed on the scene unfolding before him…that of his mother nursing her wound and Akito holding nothing back when she slapped her after screaming in her face.
`How did this get so out of hand? I never meant for any of this to happen. I wanted to tell Kaa-san what I was doing. How could she have found out? And Akito…how did she find out?' thought Yuki despondently while trying to walk on his two feet. Nearing them, he silently called out to them, “Kaa-san…Akito. Onegai…don't. (Pause) Please stop.”
Head snapping back up, Akito regarded Yuki for a moment while taking in all the injuries Yuki suffered at the hands of his mother. Enraged further, Akito reached down and dragged her back up. Pulling her along roughly, Akito yanked her head once more so that Yuki could see the bloody face. Wide-eyed, Yuki stood there in utter shock while Akito angrily bit out, “Look at him, you BITCH! Say the words if you don't want me to break another bone in your body. SAY YOU'RE SORRY!!!
Warily, Yuki's mother looked at him with unveiled disgust and lowly replied, “I'm sorry.”
Finding his voice finally, he beseeched Akito, “Please let her go Akito! She just lost her temper... It's my fault, so please, don't hurt her anymore…please…”
It did not pass Akito's notice that Yuki was still holding that expression on his face that was very similar to one she had seen a while ago…if memory served, he was like this when she had last showed her more physical assault on his person. It was an image that she never could erase from her mind…being that Yuki's expression at that time held such sorrow and despair that couldn't have been attributed to actions by her alone (at least, not on that particular day). It was now that it dawned on her…
“This is not the first time that this(gestures to mother)…has had `words' with you, is it?” demanded to know Akito. Seeing him avoid eye contact, she pressed, “Tell me the truth, or I won't let her go.”
Looking to his mother, Yuki gazed at her momentarily before looking away. Biting his lower lip and then wincing at the action because his lip was bruised by the fall, he sighed heavily and answered hesitantly, “…Iie, it's…not the…first time.”
Staring at him once more, she considered his comment for a moment before throwing his mother to the side. Akito then tersely remarked, “Well then, since `words' are being exchanged today, let's discuss this some more. (Glares to his mother.) Since you're obviously anxious to express yourself, let's start with you. Kureno, take Yuki outside.”
Yuki's head immediately turned to Akito. Limping towards her, he was about to protest when he heard his mother speak up.
“No, he's much at fault for this mess, Akito-san! He went behind our backs by pulling this stunt, and he's not going to get away with this…BETRAYAL…and to his own MOTHER no less!” objected the angry woman.
Pinning her with a gaze that only matched the fury Akito had unleashed earlier on her, she was effectively silenced. “You,” bit out Akito with a dead calm, “are no MOTHER. YOU are NOTHING but a SELFISH BITCH who sold her own son to me. And you want to talk about BETRAYAL?! (Smirking.) I do believe I'll enjoy our continued conversation on this topic.”
That said, Akito calmly sat down while the other Sohma female stood standing uncertainly and cleaning herself up as best as she could (her nose was still bleeding quite a bit). As much as it hurt to hear what was said, Yuki didn't feel comfortable with leaving his mother in Akito's presence. However, Kureno's pleading gestures were urging him forward out of the room.
Kureno sensed Yuki's continued resistance to leaving, so he whispered in assurance to him, “It'll be okay, Yuki. She's not going to hurt your mother anymore. But she does need to speak with her alone. It'll be fine…trust me.”
Finally wrenching his gaze away from the other two, Yuki glanced to Kureno and focused on his words and trusting gaze. Nodding in consent, he allowed Kureno to lead him out. As they exited the door, Yuki softly called out to his mother, “Kaa-san…gomen nasai. I did not mean to…shame you. I'm so sorry.”
Seeing that her only response was a clenching of her fist, Yuki looked away and dragged himself away into the deathly quietness of the school hallways. He felt numb in every sense of the word…physically, mentally, but above all, emotionally. He hardly felt anything when Kureno sat him down in one of the deserted rooms where his teacher and Kakeru were worriedly waiting on them. Just knowing that they had witnessed that horrible confrontation and all that ensued afterwards, Yuki felt so humiliated and truly felt disgusted with himself.
`Kaa-san is right. This mess is my fault…I was so stupid…stupid…' berated Yuki to himself, oblivious to all those around him.
Seeing Yuki slumped in his chair, lost in his own thoughts, Kureno knew this whole quarrel took much more out of Yuki than could be seen with the naked eye. Pausing momentarily as he surveyed the `damage' to his young relative, Kureno gestured to the student there to give him the kit so that he could tend to some of the injuries.
“Please stand back. He doesn't like it when you crowd him,” advised Kureno silently to the other two in the room with him. He added, “I do thank you for the medical kit.”
Mayuko looked on with immense sadness at seeing Yuki so pathetically torn apart. She had always known that it would turn out badly when she had heard of Yuki's decision of not going to any of the numerous colleges and universities that the school had received calls and letters from. Still, it did nothing to prepare her for the wrath of one Sohma member, let alone two. She honestly couldn't understand how Hatori (or for that matter Shigure or Ayame) dealt with family members such as those two people in her room right now. Shaking her head in disgust, she softened her gaze at her beaten student who did not deserve to be struck down so viciously and cruelly for all to see. A thought then occurred to her…
`How the hell did they find out anyway? I know I didn't call anyone as yet…I wanted to first see what Yuki's thoughts were on this before dragging family into the mix (and for good reason),' pondered Mayuko. Eyes widening in realization, she came to one conclusion. `Damn that PRINCIPAL! He HAD called someone after I told him that I'd take care of it with Yuki directly and his family. (Pause) But the only person left as Yuki's contact is…' trailed her thoughts when she stopped in her line of musings. Seething inwardly, she angrily thought, `Damn him…DAMN THAT BASTARD! I don't know what he's scheming, but I swear I won't let him get away with it. It's the least I could do for Yuki.'
Feeling the tension in the air, Kureno looked to the faces of both the teacher and Yuki's friend. Sighing gently, he could see the turmoil in the teacher's eyes, no doubt trying to come to terms with what happened. He knew that he could count on her to not discuss this incident with anyone…her eyes said as much. Glancing to the student, Kureno wasn't sure how close of a friend this youth was to Yuki. Not leaving anything to chance, he softly called out to him.
“I am truly sorry that you've had to witness this. However, Yuki will need to have his more serious injuries tended to by our personal physician. I'm afraid he'll miss school tomorrow…” confessed Kureno. Deliberately stopping here, he waited to see what the youth's reaction would be. He didn't have to wait long.
“Yeah, fine. Whatever…just take care of him, okay?” pleaded Kakeru quietly. Seeing that Yuki was currently not responding to anything, he requested, “Just let him know that I'll take care of things for him tomorrow. If anyone asks, I'll just tell them that he took a bad fall. That should help to explain…his…”
Softening his stoic gaze, Kureno nodded in acknowledgement to Kakeru's remark, thankful that this student knew to be discreet about what just happened. Staring back at Yuki, Kureno could tell that Kakeru was right…Yuki's injuries were pretty obvious. A `bad fall' certainly was as close to the truth as could be told.
“Arigatou,” replied Kureno gratefully. Returning his attention to Yuki, he cleaned up the rest of the injuries that were visible to him, at which point he keenly felt her presence at the door. Immediately standing up, he pulled Yuki up gently and asked, “Are you okay to walk, Yuki?”
Upon hearing Kureno's voice break through his distressing thoughts, Yuki realized then that he was standing. Although it hurt to put much pressure on his left foot, he breathed in heavily and nodded to Kureno that he was fine to walk on his own. Limping towards the exit, he saw Akito out in the hallway, frowning and staring off in a different direction. As much headway as he's made with Akito these past few months, he knew that it all came to an end today. Keeping anything from `god's' knowledge was not tolerated, especially a decision of great importance that he kept to himself.
`Kaa-san was right again. I did betray those that trusted me…' sadly thought Yuki while looking back down. As he passed by his teacher, he paused momentarily and quietly commented to her, “Gomen nasai, Shiraki-sensei…for everything.”
Bowing lowly, he inwardly grimaced at the gesture but kept himself steady. Regaining his posture, he tentatively walked on and didn't even glance at Kakeru while leaving…he just couldn't face him. Upon walking out into the hallway, Yuki saw Akito walk on towards the exit with nary a glimpse to him. Glancing back at the room where he had left Akito and his mother discussing matters privately, he saw no sign of his mother. He did hear the distant sound of a door slamming. It seemed that his dear mother opted to leave without saying good-bye to him, which didn't surprise him. Sighing, he went on to follow Akito down the long corridor, mentally preparing himself for the inevitable.
`There. That should do it,' Kureno thought to himself while putting everything in the medical kit back in order. Turning to the teacher, he calmly remarked, “Thank you for your aid with Yuki. (Hands her a card.) Please contact this number for reimbursement for the damages your room sustained. Do you have any documentation that requires the attention and/or signature from Yuki's guardian?”
“Ha-hai. Here, I kept this paperwork with me…” replied Mayuko while handing Kureno the documentation.
“Arigatou. I will take care of this. Please excuse me,” Kureno politely excused himself to the two.
Walking out briskly, Kureno pondered the situation at hand. It certainly was tenuous at best…he honestly didn't know what to expect from Akito at this point. He half wondered what she had said to Yuki's mother, but he knew that he'd never come to know the details. She was always particular about keeping her conversations with Yuki's parents private…the sad fact of money being involved was one of the few details that was known to Kureno and unfortunately to Yuki, too. It was a matter he never discussed with his younger relative…seeing Yuki's crestfallen face at hearing the ugly truth said loud and clear was reason enough not to.
`The delicate webs we weave and the secrets that become entangled in them. They always seem to bring sorrow to those I care about the most,' despondently thought Kureno to himself as he followed the other two out the building. `I don't know what would have happened if it had gone on further…we are very lucky that Yuki has very good people looking out for him when we're not around. (Sigh) As much as I want to know Yuki's reasons for keeping it to himself, I know to trust him to do the right thing. If only that were enough for Akito to accept…'
Reaching the car, Akito and Yuki took the back seat while Kureno rode up front with the driver to allow them their privacy. Once inside and driving off, Kureno and Yuki both agreed on one thought.
`This is just the beginning.'
(Papers shuffling)
“Arigatou, Hari!” Momiji merrily replied while gathering his things to go out. “Hey, Haru, are you sure you don't want to come with Momo and me? This movie is awesome!”
“Nah,” languidly remarked the teen from the couch as he read a book.
“Okay! Bye, bye Hari!” Momiji called out once he was out the door.
“Are you sure it was all right that you let him out in this weather?” asked Haru mildly.
(More papers shuffling.) “Hm…yeah, sure,” off-handedly remarked Hatori. “The weather's fine…”
(Thunder rumbles far away.)
“Yeah, right,” remarked Haru doubtfully. He put his book down to sit up and watch Hatori still rummaging through the pile of paperwork on his desk, oblivious to anything going on around him. “Hatori-niisan?”
“Hm?” absently remarked the doctor without ceasing his activity.
Thinking for a moment, Haru replied with a smirk, “Can I take the car for a spin?”
“M-hm…yes,” was Hatori's idle comment to Haru.
Haru then arched one brow high into his bangs, knowing now that Hatori was definitely preoccupied. And that's one thing that Hatori never was, at least he never showed it anyway.
`Well, there's a first time for everything,' noted Haru to himself while gazing at the young Sohma physician. He did notice however that Hatori was a bit agitated earlier in the morning when he returned from visiting with Akito. That in itself wasn't unusual—anyone seeing Akito will likely come out of their `interview' with more than just a headache. What puzzled him was the fact that Hatori made a call a little later, only to come back with a frown on his face and thus the preoccupied state he was currently in.
`Wonder who he called?' wondered Haru as he stood up. “Hatori-niisan, what are you doing rearranging all your paperwork on a Sunday? You can take a break from work, you know.”
Seeing that Hatori continued to ignore him, Haru walked over and nudged the distracted Sohma. “Oi, I'm talking to you.”
Flicking his gaze to Haru, Hatori looked at him as if he had two heads. “What do you need, Hatsuharu?”
“Me, nothing. You, a doctor,” wryly remarked the teen. “I've been talking to you, and you don't even know it.”
“I've been listening,” replied Hatori tersely while continuing with his paperwork.
“Yeah, so you really don't mind if I take the car?” asked Haru with a trace of sarcasm.
“What? Are you crazy?!” replied the doctor incredulously, finally stilling in his actions as he regarded the youth with a good adult-like glare.
“No more than you sending Momiji off in this weather!” shot back Haru evenly.
“Nani?!” Quickly glancing outside, Hatori finally noticed the darkening skies and gusts of wind that were starting to pick up. `Where did the good weather go off to? (Sigh) Perfect, I sent Momiji off in this weather, too. Better call his father to pick his two kids up from the movies, just to be on the safe side.'
“Well, now that you're `back', mind telling me what's got you worked up?” Haru questioned as he helped Hatori with the paperwork that was being blown off the desk by the winds from outside.
Silence was his answer as Hatori continued shuffling his paperwork in order once more. Normally a good thorough reorganization of his paperwork would ease his tension, but not today. Sighing in frustration, he leaned against the wall and rubbed his temples to stem off his headache. Pulling out his packet of cigarettes, he took one and lit it up. Inhaling deeply, Hatori pondered over the happenings earlier in the day.
Looking back on them, it was certainly out of the ordinary, from Akito's strange behavior to Shigure not answering his call. The latter really confirmed it for him…something was up between the two.
Akito had been currently recuperating from a long, restless night (half of which Hatori was a witness to). When he took a short break early in the morning to catch up on his coffee, Akito apparently got the call then. The call. That one call really had riled the young Sohma leader, so much so that she got up and dressed to go out. Despite the ardent protests of both Kureno and himself, Akito ignored them all. She didn't offer much explanation, only that `she had to go…she needed to be sure'. Ramblings like those really didn't ease his mind until finally one coherent phrase from her gave him a clue. Kureno was busy getting the car then when she had muttered those words.
“Damn that mutt…damn him.”
As they drove off, Hatori could not believe that she had said that about someone she had close by her side for many years. Then again, this was Akito…she could change opinions about anyone as fast as her moods swings. Yet, it was troubling to hear her say that about a person that was as close to a confidante as she had. Whatever that call was about, it certainly didn't help Hatori with his care to his patient. Said patient was now running amok with great disregard to her health, and this doctor had no way of stopping her. His only consolation was that she had taken Kureno with her…maybe the timid bird would act when the need arose, wherever they were headed.
Still, not wanting to miss an opportunity to find out what is going on, Hatori had then tried to get a hold of Shigure. Tohru was the one that answered, but being snubbed was plainly what had happened when she told him that Shigure would call him later on. Tohru must have suspected something. Fearing this, he ended the conversation as abruptly as he could. Since then, here he was, busy rearranging his paperwork if only to get his thoughts away from scheming writers and uncontrollable clan heads.
`Power plays really are a….'
(Ring, ring)
Startled from his line of thoughts, he answered the ringing phone. Watching Haru continuing to help him, he quickly answered into the phone, “This is Dr. Hatori Sohma.”
Haru had heard the phone ring and was about to answer it (given that Hatori was out of sorts), but saw that Hatori beat him to it. Shrugging his shoulders, he went about fixing the scattered paperwork into nice piles for the young doctor to sort through later. Looking up, he noted that said doctor was now staring off to some unknown point with a look Haru had never seen on him before. If he had to guess, that look translated to one thing…disbelief. But…of what?
After a long pause while Hatori listened to the other voice on the line, he finally replied quietly, “I understand. Arigatou. I appreciate the call…yes. To you as well.” (Click)
“Hatori-niisan,” remarked Haru uncertainly, seeing that Hatori stood there with the same look and not moving an inch. “Is everything okay?”
Reacting to Haru's voice, Hatori blinked back to his present once more and gazed at Haru momentarily before setting the phone down. “Hatsuharu, help me get all these papers out of the way and pick up your things immediately.”
Sensing the urgency that laced his voice, Haru immediately stood alert and started to pick up what he could. “What's going on? Is someone coming over?”
Not even sparing him a glance, Hatori anxiously remarked, “Unfortunately…yes. I also need you to make yourself `scarce' while they're here. It'll be less…complicated that way.”
Stilling in his actions, Haru whispered, “Is this about Rin?”
“Iie. I can't tell you more, just be sure to hurry and stay out of sight, okay?” called out Hatori as he walked off to find the one single item he wished he didn't have to retrieve this day.
His medical bag.
“Here we are. That should do it,” cheerily replied Tohru to her simmering stew. Wringing her hands on a washcloth, she went to check on her meals baking in the oven. Seeing them baking to a golden crisp, she sighed in relief and went to grab herself a cup of nice tea.
Ever since Kyo brought the necessary grocery items for her to start cooking, she had immersed herself in her task of cooking the best meals for each of the Sohma occupants in her home. In doing so she was able to shove to the back of her mind her earlier uneasiness with the phone call. She was also assuaged of all fears when she saw Shigure's brightened face in her kitchen a little while ago. He had apologized for making her worry, and he had asked if she was still making her special dinner as planned. She had answered with a bright smile…why wouldn't she after the way he was practically behaving like he normally would.
`It's like nothing had happened. Whatever it was, he's not too worried about it anymore. He's even received a visitor…that part is still strange to me, but Shigure-san had wanted his privacy on this one. I won't think about anymore, that's just as bad as me going in there and intruding on his conversation with the person, whoever that may be.'
It was odd for sure to have Shigure also tell her not to go out of the kitchen, as he will be having a private conversation with a visitor of his. `Don't leave for any reason'—his remark exactly. Shrugging her confusion away for the moment, she had decided then to start making dinner. It was a long task to make the meals she had wanted to, so it was easy to comply with Shigure's request. To be sure she gave Shigure the extra privacy he had requested, she turned the radio on in the kitchen, hearing the melodies of the day play out as well as hear the weather reports coming in.
Sighing she mentally glanced upwards to Kyo's room. Now he was another puzzle altogether for her. He had arrived before Shigure's visitor with such a serious look on him that it alarmed her at first. She asked immediately what was wrong, but it seemed that she had worried about nothing, so it seemed. He quickly smiled at her in assurance and let her know that nothing was the matter, that he was just extremely tired due to the weather. He was still insistent in helping her in the kitchen, but had let her know that he was going to take a light nap to take the edge off his nerves. By the time she put away the groceries, he had already went to his room to lie down for a while.
`I'm not saying that I know everything about them, but I know Kyo-kun well enough to know when something is bothering him. What had bothered him so much I wonder? Hm…today just isn't the perfect day it started out to be,' mused Tohru forlornly to herself. Shaking her head of her thoughts, she resolutely thought to herself, `Nope, I won't do this. Whatever had bothered Shigure-san or Kyo-kun is by all accounts their business. If they want to share the problems with me, they will. And I will be there to listen when the time comes. For now, I'll do what I can to just be here for them…for Yuki-kun, too. I wonder, what's taking him so long? Maybe he got caught by the rain…that would make sense if it were actually raining…'
She glanced out to the windows and saw the skies continuing to darken with lightening now streaking the sky. She idly hoped that the lights wouldn't go out, but just to be on the safe side, she pulled out some dusty kerosene lamps to have them easily accessible in case she needed them. You could never be certain when you were this far away from a neighborhood. Inwardly sighing, she tried to calm herself about her missing housemate, trying in vain to convince herself that if there were bad news about anyone, she would know by now. However, that didn't always apply to this family…
`This is not right. This means something is up. This means…(sniff)…MY STEW IS BURNING!' she shrieked mentally while going over to the stove to check on her latest creation gone to waste…maybe. All previous thoughts were now gone as she tried to salvage what's left of her stew.
“Say something, damn you!” quietly seethed an irate Sohma.
“LOOK AT ME, you FOOL!” she demanded.
Growling, she fumed silently as she bit out, “Shigure-sensei, would you answer my question.”
(Thunder rumbles distantly.)
Glancing up, the writer looked at her squarely with a leveled smirk. Finally getting the appropriate recognition from her, he calmly replied, “Hai, I knew.”
“Why the HELL didn't you tell me that Akito-san was going to be there? ANSWER ME!” demanded once more the angered Sohma woman.
“Now, now. We both agreed that there'd be no yelling. I do have other occupants in this house that would definitely come rushing in to see what all the commotion is about,” reasoned Shigure to the woman as if talking to a child. “I wouldn't think you'd want any…witnesses to your current `condition', ne?”
(Lightening lights up room. Thunder rumbles closer.)
Trembling with pent up rage, the angry woman paced the small room of Shigure's study, bent on venting her anger in some way in his direction. She had rushed over to his home after her run-in with Akito, determined to make the devious Dog of the Zodiac pay for contributing to her current injured state. For now, she grudgingly agreed to keep her voice down—discretion is key to her…after all, she was definitely a sight to behold what with a broken nose (it had stopped bleeding in the car) and a badly bruised cheekbone given to her by a very angry clan head.
“This is your DAMN fault! You sent me there knowing full well that Akito would be there!” she quietly seethed out once more. “Just LOOK at me! Do you have any idea how angry she is with me? Using my ungrateful son to lure me into your ploys with the clan head is something I won't tolerate!”
“I merely informed you of Yuki's decision on his education…nothing more. The rest was left entirely up to you. The fact that you decided to act on your anger and violently react to Yuki is a decision you made,” sternly remarked the writer. With a derisive glare, he continued, “Akito-san was informed of the same thing…more or less anyway. It was her decision to do what she wanted with the information given to her. If she wanted to pay a visit at Yuki's interview, it was her right and choice.”
“Don't presume that I'm some idiot! You planned on Akito seeing me there with Yuki! What was it that you were looking for? A kick…some sort of sick thrill to see an altercation between the clan head and myself? Are you so utterly bored with your pathetic life that you have to find amusement by messing up my life?!” brusquely remarked the bitter woman.
(Thunder claps loudly.)
Said woman immediately took one step back at finding the once sitting writer now squarely in front of her very eyes. As much pain as she was in, she felt a lot more discomfort from the gaze this normally docile inu was giving her now. Such gaze could only be described as one of pure loathing…a look conveying true disgust at seeing her there before him. She inwardly cringed at the next words from the visibly pissed off inu that dripped of frigid emotion.
I don't give a damn about your life. For all I care, Akito-san should have gone ahead and beaten you within an inch of your life. You deserve no less,” remarked Shigure as he steadily locked his gaze on her. Seeing her pallor pale somewhat, he continued, “It's incredible how Yuki puts up with something like you. Rather pathetic to see him attempt to gain your favor, seeing how utterly pointless it is. No matter how hard he tries, you'll never see him anymore than the cash machine he's born to be. Your little `cash mouse', wouldn't you say?”
Seeing her bite back a scathing retort to his accurate accusation, he waved her off and walked back to his chair and sat back down. Unable to have a good smoke then, he bit on his pencil, eyeing the Sohma mother with sheer revulsion before speaking once more.
“I recommend that you stay out of my personal affairs with Akito-san. They don't concern you, much like Yuki's welfare doesn't concern you. Of that I am quite certain.” Shuffling his papers he was working on earlier, he didn't glance at the woman again as he said in clip tones, “I trust you can see yourself to the door.”
Grinding her teeth in seething rage, she heatedly blurted, “Damn you, bastard! Don't you ever shove ME to the side like some dirty rag! Akito may already know about your dirty tricks, but I'm pretty sure Yuki has no knowledge…”
(Lightening strikes, thunder rumbles loudly.)
She was immediately silenced at the cold glare that Shigure gave her from his narrowed eyes. She could clearly see in the writer's eyes the reflection of the lightening like that of a true inu. Such illumination made her wary of the leveled stare from him, feeling much like the prey under a predator's gaze. And this predator was teetering on its last shred of patience…
“This discussion is over,” was the hushed remark from the inu.
Sensing that now was a very good time to pack up and leave while she still had the use of her limbs, she hurriedly fumbled with her belongings. With her sunglasses on (to hide the obvious bruising due to her broken nose) and scarf wrapped around her face to hide her face partially, she quickly gathered herself and walked out the door from Shigure's room that led to the porch outside, bypassing the main entrance altogether. She was about to make her escape when his voice stopped her. The next words from him truly made her realize that the malice the Inu of the Jyuunishi could bestow closely resembled that of his `god'.
Shuffling his papers once again and without a glance in her direction, he darkly replied, “Another thing, my dear. Touch Yuki again, and I guarantee I'll finish what Akito-san had started…and trust me, I won't be as kind.
Swallowing her nervousness that she was sure the inu sensed clearly, she quickly left the home without ever looking back for fear that she'd see the eyes of a predator ready to devour her. Lightening and a thunderclap quickly shrouded her presence as she walked away from the home in the forest.
As Shigure sat back in his chair, eyes closed and shoulders slumped in fatigue, he mused on a single thought.
`Damn, this is getting pretty ugly real quick.'
(Thunder claps loudly. Lightening streaks sky frequently.)
Heavy, even breathing echoed within the moving vehicle. The driver wisely ignored the thick tension and put every effort in driving dutifully to his destination. His three passengers within all stared out the windows, each one lost in their own thoughts.
Glancing upward to the dark skies, Kureno absently thought how the storm was fast approaching. It really was incredible how the weather had changed so abruptly. He was so certain that the beautiful spring weather would hold for the rest of the day, however, his flighty friends all but guaranteed quite the contrary. Of course he believed them and had enough sense to grab an umbrella and stick it in the car before leaving with Akito early that morning.
That was one thing that still rattled him even now. He had been up most of the night while looking in on Akito. She was running a high fever and woke up frequently from constant nightmares. Her incoherent mumblings during this didn't give him or Hatori any clues as to what she dreamt, and she steadfastly refused to relate the dreams to them, citing that they were over and that's all that mattered to her. Despite the tough night, Kureno stayed by her side constantly, providing some nourishment for her as the need presented itself.
It was then that the call came through to Kureno's cell number. Before the normal greeting was out of his mouth, the Inu of the Jyuunishi demanded to speak immediately with Akito. That in itself surprised him—normally Shigure would greet him with some kind of tart remark before asking to speak with Akito. Kureno shook the shock off and promptly gave him the usual excuse that Akito was not available to speak with him. However once again, before the words left his mouth, Shigure interjected with his demand that Kureno put the young `god' on the phone. Flicking his gaze momentarily to Akito, Kureno saw her watch him with keen interest in his end of the conversation.
Nodding to him to hand her the phone, she took it and quietly greeted the caller, never once allowing her voice to betray her current duress. Kureno deftly kept his distance to give her the privacy she would want. All was well for a few moments until he heard her go silent, a sudden drop in room temperature one good indication that something was wrong. Turning to her, Kureno noticed that she had changed from her listless behavior to one of alertness and dare he say it, fear. To say that from then on all went downhill was an understatement—it was more apt to say that his day that had begun the night before was shot straight to hell.
Evidence to that was sitting right behind him. Checking the rearview mirror, he saw Yuki staring off out his window, giving him a clear, unobstructed view of the nezumi's right side of the face. The discoloration was clearly evident now…the red and blue bruising was starting to intensify in color against Yuki's porcelain skin. He doubted Yuki felt it at all, numbness usually coursing through a person that has been traumatized. And Yuki was infinitely traumatized today…
`What moment is he reliving I wonder?' Kureno asked himself.
(Thunder rumbles loudly.)
“Stop the car.”
The sudden demand boomed inside the vehicle. The driver promptly stopped the car, just in front of what appeared to be a deserted park with a lake. Opening the door on her side, Akito got out and walked on toward the lake, oblivious to both the shocked faces of the occupants in the vehicle and the ominous storm that was ready to shed its load on the world.
Kureno was eager to bring the young clan head back to the car, but Yuki immediately soon followed her out. Knowing then that he will be unable to get them both back inside, he directed the driver to park the car for now. Getting out carefully to avoid traffic on his side, he walked to the other side of the vehicle, leaning back as he observed his two charges walk out towards the lake.
`Given our streak with luck, I wouldn't doubt one good lightening bolt hitting those two. (Glances upward.) Or me for that matter.'
(Beep, beep)
“Good. This is perfect,” commented Tohru softly to herself as she stirred the contents in a bowl that was heated in the microwave. “What do you think, Kyo-kun?”
“Yeah, it's good,” replied absently the youth from his place before the cutting board, focused solely on his task of cutting raw vegetables, light fatigue marring his brow.
Chewing her lip a little, she quietly remarked, “Thanks again, Kyo-kun, for helping me with dinner. I know you'd rather be in bed trying to get some more rest.”
(Thunder claps loudly—lights flicker.)
“I'm not likely gonna get any good rest with all that noise,” replied Kyo sarcastically. Breathing out heavily, he asked, “What else are we missing here?”
“Hmm,” thought Tohru for a moment, “well, I was hoping to do the leek stew last…”
Looking up at him, she was expecting a full disgruntled look or even a flat out refusal. She was surprised to see that he only stiffened for a moment before quietly grabbing the leeks and getting them ready for the stew. Strange? Absolutely. Softening her gaze, she mentally noted just how much Kyo (or his second form) truly hated this weather. She was glad that her fish soup she made would bring him some relief.
In all actuality, the weather wasn't the only thing weighing on Kyo's shoulders. When Tohru mentioned the leek stew, he immediately thought back to the nezumi he left behind at the school.
Yes, he had seen it all…it was one hell of a front row show. It was mind-blowing, to put it mildly, what he saw going on. His mind screamed at him to rush in there and help his cousin (where that notion came from, he still wasn't sure). Yet his body resolutely stayed put, too in shock to even breathe, let alone move a few feet to reach Yuki. That's when he felt the air around him electrify to a level that he could feel it in his bones…well, at least his neko spirit felt it.
For good reason, too—`god' had walked in. Kyo for sure felt that Akito had noticed him there hiding out in the hallway, but instead, the young clan leader stood stock still in the hallway, observing all that he was seeing. Akito along with Kureno had their backs to him so he couldn't tell what expressions they held on their faces. If it was anything like the sickening feeling Kyo felt in his stomach, he wouldn't know. As soon as he saw Akito walk calmly into the room, Kyo did the only thing his body was willing to do—run the other way and out the second-story window only to turn around towards the school lobby and retrieve his purchases before running in a sprint all the way back to Shigure's place. He remembered how he completely blocked out his surroundings (including the incoming storm) and all sensations save one…guilt.
`I'm such a coward…couldn't even take one step,' thought bitterly the youth while getting the stovetop ready for the stew. Said thought echoed his mind constantly since arriving at the house. It was hard to ignore the pang that wrung his heart tightly…it seemed that the nap he took didn't shave off the intensity of it. Shaking his head, he angrily thought, `Stupid idiot. How the hell did he manage to get himself in that mess? Stupid, stupid idiot…and then Akito decides to show up…'
Sighing heavily, he went to the sink and rinsed the leeks thoroughly. Just then the lights went out in the house and a loud clap of thunder reverberated through the home. Startled out of his wits, he twisted around, looking above to see if the bolt of lightening would reach down to them.
“EEP!” cried out Tohru while dropping her bowl of leafy greens to the ground. Laying her hand across her beating heart, she swallowed back her panic and leaned down to pick up her mess that was visible in the darkened room that was constantly lit up by the lightening storm overhead. “Kyo-kun, are you able to light the kerosene lamps?”
“Hm…(match lights up lamp), yeah, here it goes.” Crouching down to help her, he asked, “Are you okay? This damn weather isn't letting up yet, huh?”
Smiling, she replied, “Well, at least the grounds will be getting a good soaking. Rain is important this time of year…even the lightening.”
“How do you figure that?” he asked skeptically while standing back up to turn his attention to the leeks in the sink.
“Remember?” She then joined him at the sink, washing the greens just as thoroughly as he had done with the leeks. “We learned in our science studies course that lightening invigorates the ground, allowing it to get the necessary nutrients to feed the plants that are growing on it. Or something like that, hehehe.”
“I'll take your word for it,” he said as he started to make his way to the stove with a pot in hand for the stew.
“Well, I'm sure Yuki-kun knows more than I do about things like that,” she happily remarked. Concern laced her expression when she asked, “How much longer do you think he'll be gone? He's taking so long…what if he gets caught in this storm? Lightening strikes can prove fatal…what if one manages to strike him on his way home? Is he okay? Do you think we should call Hatori-san to ask him to pick Yuki-kun up from school? Kyo-kun, what do you think?”
At the mention of the nezumi's name, Kyo ceased in his activities by the stove. The one topic he's been avoiding in his mind like the plague, and here Tohru is asking about it with a rising tide of panic.
`How the hell do I tell her what's really going on?' he questioned himself as he pondered on ways to console her fears. `I don't think telling her that the nezumi had found himself between the beatings of one Sohma and possibly another will calm her down. (Sigh) Or worse, tell her that I actually walked away without even helping him out.'
Breathing in deeply, he looked away from her apprehensive gaze, glad that the lack of light hid his anxious face. Clearing his throat, he said, “I'm sure the nezumi is in a dry place. If he needs help with transportation, he's smart enough to call Hatori on his own. Don't worry too much…he'll be here before you know it.”
“Yes, of course, how silly of me. Yuki-kun is smart enough to know how to take care of himself. It was foolish of me to worry like that,“ she grinned sheepishly in Kyo's direction. “He'll be here soon, and we can then start on our meal together.”
Even she had to pause in reflection at her spoken words. They had sounded so hollow to her…the relief she was expecting to feel at hearing those words said out loud never came. She still continued to stare out at the darkened skies and wind-lashed trees that surrounded the home. Edginess was thick in the air, and she just couldn't shrug it off any longer. She mentally berated herself for the umpteenth time for never successfully memorizing Yuki's cell number (Kyo and Shigure didn't know either)…it would have been a blessing right about now.
`Please come home, Yuki-kun,' she silently pleaded to herself. `I need to know that you're okay and safe…here…with me…'
The tension that she was feeling was the same that Kyo was feeling while doing his best to ignore the worried state Tohru was in. He knew that no matter what was said now, she will not stop being worried until the nezumi was back safely in their home. Hell, if he had to be completely honest, he had to admit that he'd prefer the presence of the mouse versus the growing tension in the room, not to mention the unbearable pang that still clenched his heart.
That part was still unsettling to him…so much so that he could swear that his bracelet was burning into his skin. As if to relieve the discomfort, he twirled his bracelet round and round his wrist. Why…why this sickening feeling in his heart? He wanted the nezumi brought down from his mighty position…to feel the pain of being nothing but a reject much like himself. Where was the satisfaction seeing that the mighty Rat of the Zodiac was indeed brought down? Again, why the stab in his heart?
One other in this home also shared such a state of mind and spirit, although he knew perfectly well as to why he felt that way.
`Gomen nasai, Tohru-kun,' thought Shigure sullenly to himself as he walked away from the kitchen doorway back to his study. ` I never wanted to bring any pain to you. If it wasn't so necessary, I'd never have done it. That much is the truth…'
Edited by: Seiren-no-Kaze 02-23-07
Author's Section continued in next chapter. See you there! (03-17-05)