Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Memories of Spring = Bring Me to Life ( Chapter 28 )

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

DISCLAIMER: Definitely still not mine. Really.
28) Memories of Spring - Bring Me To Life
`Dirty rat!'
`I'm not…an animal. I'm human…a real human being.'
`…Stain in our lives!'
`How can that be if you never let me in your life?'
`I'm not the rat in the story…'
`Are you really…ashamed…of me?'
Yuki's mind was stuck in this loop of recycling the events that transpired earlier. He felt numb and oblivious to his surroundings while in the car, save for the erratic thoughts running around in his mind plus the emotions such thoughts evoked.
His mother's words, her behavior…her disgust of him.
`Is that what you truly see me as, Kaa-san?'
She had managed to say every disturbing thought that at times he believed himself to be…all in a span of two minutes. Yet, looking back on it, he could distinguish each and every detail of what had happened with such clarity. He could trace every angry feature on her face as she riled against him. He could feel how cold and bitter she had been whenever she directed her gaze at him. He could see the one truth in her eyes…
Truth was that she truly meant every word she had said.
Bringing his hand to rub across his face, he winced when he made contact with his sore cheek. He didn't even have to look in a mirror to know that he was a sight to see. `How am I ever going to explain this at school? How can I even face Kakeru and Mayuko-sensei after the trouble I caused them? (Sigh) What am I even going to say to my family…or Tohru-san?'
He shook himself mentally from this line of thought…he could do nothing else but wait `til he confronts them and the stares he will surely receive. Looking out the window of the moving vehicle, he stared off to the horizon where a wonderful lightening show was increasing in its intensity rather rapidly. Sighing lightly, he brought his legs up to hug them to his chest, only to once more grimace in pain at applying too much pressure to his injured ankle.
`All the shame…worthlessness…pain,' he thought sadly as he bowed his head to his knees. `For all the problems I had caused my family and others around me, I truly deserve nothing less than what I've been given.'
(Thunder rumbles loudly.)
“Stop the car.”
Yuki snapped out of his dejected thoughts upon hearing Akito speak. He leaned his chin onto his knees and stared straight ahead, not daring to turn his gaze to `god's' countenance. The tension in the car was plenty of warning that she was far from being calm. As painful as it might be, he'd much rather prefer her to react erratically, either physically or verbally, rather than stay put as she had been during the ride.
He did catch his breath as he saw her step out of the car and walk towards a park that had a lake to the back. Seeing her go off like that brought waves of both fear for her safety as well as morbid dread since he knew she expected him to follow her out into the storm. Since it seems that he won't be escaping the storm that surrounded him, literally or figuratively speaking, he paused momentarily as he brought his legs down and slid out of the car. Closing the door, he limped his way to Akito, hoping to close the gap between them…the last thing he wanted was for her to be mad that he was dawdling.
Lightening continued to streak the darkened skies in rapid succession, every so often accentuated with the loud claps of thunder and its rumblings. Gazing up, he absently wondered how Tohru and the others were faring in this weather. No doubt, they were safe and sound in their home, waiting for his arrival…well, Tohru would be waiting on him. Shigure is probably trying to calm her down while teasing a rather cranky neko.
Thoughts of his home life calmed his frayed nerves somewhat. Rubbing his hands across his arms, he vaguely noticed the wind whipping his hair in all directions, at times pushing against him hard enough that he had trouble keeping himself steady on his feet. Focusing his gaze on the ground and ignoring the migraine he was now having, he trudged along the grass and uneven ground `til he reached Akito.
Forcing his eyes to look up, he gazed upon the waves of the lake, whipping against one another due to the windy conditions found here. These gusty conditions by the lake were also cooler to the skin, so now instead of rubbing his arms as an effort to comfort himself, he was vigorously rubbing them to keep warm.
`It's cold wherever I turn…' he mused while steadying himself against the railing that ran along the lake to keep pedestrians from falling in. `Maybe a lightening bolt will strike me here and now, putting me out of my misery. That could be a blessing…'
“Tell me. What stupidity possessed you to hide this from me?”
If he thought the winds were cold, they sorely paled in comparison to Akito's frigid remark. `God's' aura was certainly felt by his nezumi spirit…he felt it cowering to a distant corner of his mind, all in hopes of escaping the wrath that would soon be bestowed upon him. She didn't even grace him with a look—she stared straight ahead as the wind also tousled her hair in different directions. Her tightening of her clenched fists on the railing was the only outward reaction he was getting from her…and that usually didn't bode well for him.
Looking down, he gazed at the deep lake, losing himself in the motions of the waves. `I'm too tired to even think straight. How am I going to explain it to her? She's right, though…it was stupid of me.'
Bringing his hand to his bruised cheek, he reflected once more on each agonizing moment that he was with his mother. The caresses he had been yearning from her since as long as he can remember came to be nothing more than hard smacks across his face. Whatever progress he had made to get closer to his mother these last few years certainly came to an abrupt end. She made certain that he knew that when she started screaming at him…
`Have I already become to be something so abhorrent to her? Does she…does she hate me?' contemplated Yuki on his mother when he felt a lurching in his stomach at thinking that. Pressing his lips into a thin line, inwardly grimacing at his still bruised lip, he quietly remarked, “I had not meant…to hide anything…from anyone. I had kept it to myself, but I only meant it to be temporary…”
(Thunder claps.)
“YOU HAD MONTHS, YUKI!” interjected Akito heatedly as she glared at him with her fists clenching even tighter. She continued to speak vehemently to him, “Don't lie to me or hide anything else from me! There's no point—I already know it all…waiting and postponing taking your exams until the very last minute. Then the biggest news of all in which I was the LAST one to hear…that you've refused to apply to any college or any damn university anywhere. You did all this WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING TO ANYONE! What I don't know is what STUPIDITY overcame you to actually go hiding this from ME? TELL ME, YUKI!
During her tirade, one truth stood out to Yuki…she wasn't angry that he had made this decision. She was angry that he had hidden this fact from her. In quiet reflection, he thought, `She never did like surprises. Problem is what can I say that will satisfy her?'
True, he should have tried harder to get a hold of his parents. He did after all postpone telling anyone, including Akito, anything about his decision until he talked with his parents first. Kakeru just happened to come across this info because he was in close contact with Yuki so much these past few months, what with all the school activities and such. With so much going on, he honestly hadn't realized that he ran out of time until the school administrators demanded that he fill out the application forms to the colleges and universities that were practically screaming that they get his application if he is to attend their school in the next term.
He should have known the administrators would go ballistic when they heard of his decision…Mayuko-sensei was just the tip of the iceberg. Still, how did his mother and Akito find out? Did the school manage to get a hold of them?
(Lightening strikes above…thunder rumbles lowly.)
Licking his dry lips while still gazing at the turbulent lake, he responded demoralized, “I wasn't trying to keep it from you. It's just that…I wanted to tell my parents first, since I knew they would take it the hardest. I tried calling, leaving messages for them, visiting their home…I never got to see them so I could tell them in person what I had decided. (Heavy sigh) I should have tried harder…asked anyone to help me. But…I was stupid. I didn't realize that I ran out of time until it was too late for me to do anything about it. (Shrugs shoulders in helpless gesture.) Maybe I did know all along, and I was…too afraid to see the look of disappointment in Kaa-san's eyes again. So here I am…(whispers) as stupid as ever.”
Even though the elements were getting louder, Akito heard Yuki perfectly well…down to what he whispered to himself. Still staring at him, she bit out, “Why would you ever go out of your way for people that despise you? What would it matter to her what you did with yourself?”
Finally looking at her, he saw that she was still very angry, but for some reason, he knew it really wasn't at him she was angry at. Understanding this, he gazed into her face and was surprised to find a trace of confusion in her eyes…and worry. `Why? What could possibly worry her so? That is…strange…' Wryly smiling, he answered her question, “She may not care, but I do. I only have one mother, and she's it. I have to…do my best with trying to reach out to her. I am just sorry that I can't do that for her on this matter.”
Akito's gaze changed then, bitterness lacing her next remark. “All this you would put yourself through just for HER? (Leans into his face.) In case you've forgotten, she DID NOT care for you for even ONE moment as you grew up! SHE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU NOW OR EVER!
(Thunder claps.)
Frustrated, she turned away from him to regard the ever-growing storm overhead. Without looking back at him, she icily commented, “Don't think you can escape the curse that binds us. It will always follow you like the darkness that plagues this pitiful family. That woman will never accept you as someone…she will only see the curse. (Turns to look at him.) And I assure you that she exploits that to the fullest…so do yourself a favor and stop reaching for something or someone that can't be had. It's hopeless…just like we all are.”
Letting her words sink in, he wrapped his arms around his body, again as a way to comfort himself and to keep warm. As much as it hurt to hear the truth about his mother, he still couldn't let that one thread slip through his fingers…not after suffering so much. Not when after all is said and done, hope was all he had left…all his family had left.
“I know that I can't escape this curse, and I won't even try to. However, I…I don't want to lose the chance that just maybe I can still reach out to those that matter to me, and have them accept me for who I am just as I accept them for who they are.” Turning away from her, he returned his gaze to the lake before them, suddenly feeling the soft patter of raindrops on him. “I know that along the way, I'm bound to make mistakes, but I'll learn and keep pushing forward. I will still keep trying…no matter how much it hurts. If that's stupidity, then I am indeed a very stupid person.”
The silence that followed after that stretched for several minutes, neither `god' nor nezumi attempting to break it, each one lost in their own thoughts. The raindrops soon started coming down harder and faster until one final clap of thunder brought down the skies onto the two Sohma members. Yuki felt the rain go into his hair, and he slightly winced at feeling these drops hit his bruised head. Still staring dejectedly at the lake before him, with his mind swirling with disconcerting thoughts, and his heart feeling the distinct jabs of heartache after the emotional turmoil he's been through, he had begun to feel warmth against his bruised cheek.
Bewildered, he turned slightly to see that Akito had reached out to softly trace the bruising on his face. That look was back in her eyes again…worry. Standing there in the rain, he should have felt cold and miserable, but that wasn't the case. Gazing at her in wonder, he distinctly felt his nezumi spirit reach out to `god', and it was no illusion in his mind…'god's' aura of warmth embraced him from within his nezumi spirit.
`Why? (Pause) Still, even if it's just for this moment, I will always cherish this,' he thought with a bittersweet smile while Akito continued to gaze at him as if in a trance.
“You're bleeding,” she commented calmly. Bringing her hand up farther, she reached to a particular point on the side of his head and ran her fingers through his hair. She then brought her fingers down, and saw how the rain had washed off the reddish liquid from her nails. She abruptly replied, “We're leaving.”
Seeing her turn around back in the direction of their vehicle, Yuki limped his way to follow behind her rapid steps. Curious as to what she found, he brought his hand up to the most sensitive region on his head. His eyes widened at seeing old and fresh blood on his fingers.
`This must have happened when I fell against the desks earlier,' he thought to himself while trying to remember exactly how it happened.
“Yuki?” asked Akito suddenly.
Catching up to her quick strides, he cocked his head to attention. “Hm?”
“Why did you decide to not go to any of those colleges or universities? You already took your exams…why bother if you weren't planning to go in the end?” asked the young clan head with curiosity.
`How do I tell her why I decided that? She may not like my reason for it…(sigh) for now, this will have to do.' Glancing at her briefly, he looked straight towards Kureno who was approaching them with a large umbrella. He tranquilly answered, “I wanted to have some time to myself…for now. Later on, I had hoped to take an undergraduate study.”
Turning to him, she arched a brow as she prodded, “And that would be in…?”
Wringing his hands in anticipation to her reaction, he replied softly, “…Music. Perhaps earning some sort of diploma to show for it…if my piano playing isn't too bad.”
Arching her brow higher to this, Akito shook her head in mild disbelief, tucking her now wet hair behind her ears. “You don't like to perform in front of an audience. How do you think you'll overcome that?”
Embarrassed that she would bring that weakness to light, he stammered in response, “…I'm not sure. I…I will overcome it…I will.”
Studying his determined expression, she returned her gaze to Kureno's fast approaching form. With an exasperated sigh, she replied, “Well, if nothing else, you'll have plenty of time on your hands to be with me…just like it should be. Having to compete against your textbooks for your attention is very degrading.”
Noting how much it did bother her that he had devoted much of his time to his school and the activities it ensued for him, he let the matter go. Sure, her possessiveness of keeping him to herself was a trait that she was unwilling to let go, but he's accepted that part of her long ago.
He inwardly smiled as well, glad that her response to his decision was what he had hoped for. It satisfied him that she didn't go into further discussion on the matter. It saved him from having to tell her the whole truth behind his decision…he knew she wasn't ready to hear it.
“By the way…” interrupted Akito into Yuki's wandering thoughts.
“Hai?” he warily asked in turn.
She stopped suddenly and turned to fully face him, oblivious to the continuous falling of the rain that's drenching them both. Staring directly into his eyes, she vehemently demanded in a quiet tone, “I don't ever want to hear you say that you're stupid.”
His eyes widening even more so than they already are, he looked at her with absolute confusion and incredulity. As he tried time and again to phrase his puzzlement into words, she dully regarded him and placed her hand to his gaping mouth, shutting it as she spoke up again.
“Stupidity overcomes the weak at times. It is to be expected, and I am no different in expecting this from you since you are susceptible to it from time to time.” Lifting her hand from his mouth, she traced his face gently and brushed his wet hair from his face. While continuing her ministrations, she continued, “It's like a disease invading a person's body—they come and they go. However, the person never becomes the disease. (Smirks) Well, that is if you're not already stupid to begin with. Do remember that there are those that are like that in the world that surrounds you.”
She then reaches up with both hands and brings his face closer to her own. Leaning to the side of his face that wasn't bruised, she whispered into his ear, “So weak. So frail. So…(eyes closing as she inhales deeply)…innocent. You are bound to make stupid mistakes…but you are not stupid. Never believe otherwise.”
Either the proximity with which she held him captive or the words she spoke had left him completely speechless. Noting that it was probably a little of both, including `god's' aura embracing him and his nezumi spirit, he closed his eyes and merely nodded in acknowledgement to her statement. As he had told himself before…even if it was just for an instant, he wanted…no needed to feel the warm embrace, regardless where it was coming from at the moment. It's a certainty…he will take this to memory for now and always.
It was at this point in their quiet moment that Kureno silently made his presence known, not really wishing to intrude in their private interaction. Yet, the rain was coming down in sheets now, the heavy lightening and thunder now a distant calling. Taking his umbrella forward, he angled it so that it provided some type of protection from the continuous rainfall.
Realizing Kureno's presence, Akito turned and regarded him momentarily before replying, “What are you doing?”
Eyes widening at hearing that, Kureno replied, “Gomen nasai, Akito. It's raining harder, and I didn't wish that either one of you catch cold.”
Giving him a flat look, she released her hold on Yuki and walked past Kureno, grabbing onto Yuki's wrist in the process. As she took those few steps ahead of him while keeping Yuki with her, she called out over her shoulder, “Well? I'm not standing out here in the rain anymore than I have to.”
“Hai, Akito,” remarked the timid bird, all the while letting a soft smile surface his face lightly. Seeing his two charges walk away with more of a calmness that resembled the soft rain coming down on them rather than the turbulent air that resembled the storm a while ago, Kureno was silently thankful that all was well between the two of them, more or less. Feeling at peace with himself, he followed them closely, lending his umbrella out to cover them all. He also found himself giving thanks to someone he'd never thought he would give it to…
`Arigatou, Akito. Arigatou…for bringing Yuki back to us.'
The soft patter of rain also graced one of the homes by the Sohma compound. Although the storm itself passed over, the tension was still thick in the air and it hung over one particular Sohma.
“Well, at least we know that the backup generator is working, ne?” asked Kazuma nonchalantly as he tried to dispel some of the tension. Looking at his raven-haired relative, he pressed, “Isuzu, perhaps you'd like some more tea.”
“No way,” Rin immediately interjected. “That last cup was…more than enough. (Stares outside.) Do you think it'll let up anytime soon? I don't want…to be seen here.”
Hearing her remark, Kazuma noted her nervousness, no doubt due to being in close proximity to the compound. Knowing how she's been avoiding everyone, particularly anyone within the compound, he sympathized with her on her current predicament. She had only meant to visit for a while, but with the storm as terrible as it was, he was adamant that she remained or possibly risk a terrible cold.
“I know, but don't worry. The storm is keeping everyone indoors…no one in their right mind would even think to venture out in this weather,” he assured her while taking a seat across from her.
“Yeah, I guess,” she replied languidly.
Seeing that she wasn't going to enter into any further conversation with him, he turned his attention as well to the falling rain outside his porch. `I wonder how Kyo is doing in this weather? I wish the phone line wasn't down—maybe I should look into getting him a cell phone….hm…'
“It's gone.”
Looking back at his guest, he noted that she was now staring absently at her cup, seemingly lost to whatever thought that provoked her abrupt statement. Not wanting to force her to speak, he merely remarked, “Gone?”
“It's gone…it's just…not there anymore…” trailed her comment, still looking listlessly at her cold cup of tea. As sudden as the raging storm turned into gentle rainfall, the tension in the room snapped. She immediately released her tense shoulders into a more relaxed pose, setting her cup down. Stretching her arms over her, she looked up and asked, “Say, is it all right if I stay for the night? I'll be outta here before dawn breaks, that's for sure…”
“You know you're free to stay as long as you need to, Isuzu. You don't have to ask,” replied Kazuma assuredly. Still wondering what she meant by her odd remark, he prodded, “Are you sure everything's all right? Is there anything I can do for you?”
Eyeing him squarely, she looked off into the distance and slowly got up from her seat. Walking towards Kyo's old room, she said, “I don't know about everything being all right, but I know that…it is gone.”
It?” he asked with a trace of concern.
She paused in her stride. Without turning around to face him, she quietly replied, “You wouldn't understand. This…link or bond or whatever the hell you want to call it… There was… (Sigh) I don't know what it was, but whatever it was, it…hurt, right here (gestures to heart). (Shakes head.) Whatever, I'm just glad I can sleep in peace now. I'll be taking a nap while the rains pass through. Arigatou, Kazuma.”
Walking off into the darkened hallways of his home, Rin didn't glance back at the bewildered adult in the living room. Sighing heavily, Kazuma went to pick the cups of tea that were on the low table and return them to the kitchen. Washing them off, he wondered just what did the Horse of the Zodiac mean that `it' was gone. Whatever `it' was, it bothered her on a level that only the Jyuunishi could understand.
`Is Kyo feeling the same thing…or better yet, did he feel it at all? He may not share in the Jyuunishi's circle, but still… (Sigh) I hope that all is well…'
“Are you sure you wouldn't like to stay, Hatori-san? There's plenty of food for everyone,” said Tohru assuredly to the doctor at her doorway.
“I appreciate your offer, but I have another patient waiting for my return, so I must decline,” replied Hatori with a soft smile. “Perhaps another time. Please see to it that Yuki stays warm and eats plenty of your good food, okay?”
“Absolutely, I won't let you down,” stated Tohru resolutely. Looking nervously back at her previously missing housemate that was currently sitting at the table, she softly remarked, “Hatori-san, I'm not doubting your good abilities as a doctor or anything of the sort. But are you sure that Yuki-kun will be okay? His fall left him so…injured. He doesn't have anything else the matter with him…something like internal injuries or bleeding or…”
“It's okay, Honda-kun,” he gracefully interrupted her list of ailments. Giving her a reassuring smile, he replied, “I've given him a thorough examination when he arrived. Aside from a nice bump on the head, some bruising on his face, and a sprained ankle, he really is fine. I do want him to stay behind from school tomorrow just to be sure his head injury isn't something more, but there's really nothing to worry about. So please, enjoy your evening and sleep in peace. Doctor's orders, okay?”
Smiling bashfully, she nodded in consent to his request. Turning to Shigure, who was also at the doorway, she remarked, “Shigure-san, do you still have the extra blankets in your room? I was hoping to use them to levitate Yuk-kun's foot from the floor.”
Shigure had been lost in his own thoughts as he stared at Hatori since he arrived with a bandaged Yuki at his doorstep. The doctor was keenly aware of such a stare and was firmly keeping his gaze solely on his injured cousin and Tohru. Shigure vaguely wondered how much the young doctor knew of his involvement with Yuki's injury as well as Akito's own state of mind currently. Not wanting to delve into that as of yet, he turned his attention back to Tohru's question.
Grinning widely, he replied, “Yes, just go to the closet across from my desk. They're in there.”
“Arigatou, Shigure-san,” thanked Tohru happily. “Please take care, Hatori-san. See you later this week, yes?”
“Of course. I won't miss your graduation dinner for anything,” he assured her with a gentle smile once again. Seeing her walk off into the house, he finally turned his attention to the writer at the doorway. Giving him a blank stare, he turned his back and remarked without another glance, “Shigure…I take it you'll be visiting tomorrow.”
“But of course,” replied the writer with a wry grin. “Oh, and don't worry. I'll take good care of our injured cousin.”
Barely turning his head an inch, Hatori responded grimly, “Yes, I'm sure you will.”
Staring at the dragon's retreating back, Shigure thought about how best to talk it out with him. It will not be easy, but then again, nothing ever came easy to this family. And releasing this family from the curse that has plagued them for generations will be very hard on them indeed.
Puffing away once again, he brooded, `So much at stake…I must move forward. I cannot stop…I won't stop.'
“How do you like this Yuki-kun? It's not too high, I hope,” remarked Tohru happily. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't hide her smile of relief every time she was with Yuki. Her heart about stopped when she saw him practically being dragged to their living room by Hatori (with a different outfit no less—she later found out they were Haru's clothes), but she was assuaged of all fears from Yuki's own assurances that all was well. It was unusual to her that Yuki would be careless and take a bad fall like that at school, but she took it with stride and focused on getting Yuki comfortable in the living room.
“Hai, that's fine, arigatou. Please sit down,” requested Yuki serenely. With a small grin, he continued, “Let's get started with dinner. I wouldn't want all your hard work to go to waste because of me arriving late.”
“Certainly!” exclaimed Tohru. “Let me get them all set up on the table. Just stay put.”
Yuki watched her go off with a spring to her step, quite the opposite from what he saw earlier. Although the electricity was out (and currently still was), he could tell from her tense form that she was worried. He mentally berated himself for causing her such distress, and he did his utmost to calm her down when she saw him like this.
`At least I was able to calm her down more than I did for Haru. I'm glad Hatori was there to help me with him,' pondered Yuki to himself. Smoothing the unseen wrinkles in the elaborate tablecloth Tohru had borrowed for their private dinner, he vaguely wondered how he was going to calm down the others that haven't seen him. `At least I have one more day to myself. I don't think I can take any more stares or questions about what happened to me. Not right now…besides, I still need to do something else tomorrow…'
The other occupant at the table also shared Yuki's agitated state. Since Yuki arrived, Kyo resolutely kept his gaze to the opposite wall, never once looking at his injured cousin. If only to keep the heavy weight of guilt off his mind, he hurriedly went off to follow Tohru into the kitchen. Keeping himself busy with helping her, he took small comfort in the fact that she was now back to herself.
`She really is herself when we're all together like this,' was his stray thought. Frowning, he stared at her and thought, `Or maybe…she's like this because of him…'
As they arranged the dishes and sat down at the table, the soft light of the kerosene lamp bathing them all, Shigure finally came in and quietly regarded Yuki momentarily before serving himself. Kyo kept to himself as well, busy getting his meal.
Tohru sensed the tension in the air, but she immediately dismissed it upon seeing Yuki's pensive countenance. Determined to make him as comfortable as possible, she started to serve him his favorite dishes in small proportions. Seeing that his injury to his face may make him uncomfortable to eat, she came upon an idea that may give him the right incentive to eat as much as possible. She did promise Hatori that she'd take care of him…
Since Yuki was sitting across from Kyo on Shigure's left, he had his foot propped up at the other end of the table. So Tohru sat herself between Shigure and Yuki, and before anyone could take a bite of their own meals, she merrily called out, “Okay, Yuki-kun, open wide.”
“Eh?” questioned Yuki wide-eyed as he gazed at his small morsel of food being held in front of his face by Tohru's chopsticks.
“You have to eat a good meal. I'm just helping you,” she replied as if it were the most normal thing to be hand-feeding him.
“Please, that's okay, you have to eat yourself. I'm not that hurt…I could feed myself,” remarked Yuki while trying to pry the utensils from her hand. “I don't want to put you out like that.”
“Iie!” she contradicted with an unbridled passion. “You can never put me out. I'm happy to do this for you. (Quietly comments.) I…I know how uncomfortable you must be feeling now. Whenever I felt bad for any reason, my Okaa-san always had kind words for me. But when I felt really bad, she would do just simple things and show me just how much she still loved me. Her favorite was always making these little snacks and hand feeding them to me. When she did that, I always felt like when I was a little girl, safe and certain that she would just kiss all my tears away. I know this isn't much, but I just hoped that maybe it'll make you feel better.”
Hearing her say that really made Yuki self-conscious. `If it makes her happy to do it…' Turning his gaze back down to the table, he quietly replied, “Gomen ne, it's just that…I've never really had anyone hand-feeding me before. It's just a little…different for me. Thank you, though…this really is very kind of you.”
Widely smiling, she once again shoved the food up to his mouth. Pausing for a moment, he tentatively took her hand and guided it into his mouth. As he chewed his food and besides feeling infinitely embarrassed, he was glad to see her with a look of complete joy that she was doing this for him. Mentally shaking his head at how she could be so easily pleased, he readied himself for another bite as she held another bit of food to his mouth. Despite the very red face he knew he had, he did feel a deep appreciation that Tohru would go to such great lengths just to make him feel better. Strange to say…he was starting to feel more at ease.
“Such a beautiful moment. Oh my, these tears just keep flowing,” remarked Shigure while wiping away his imaginary tears. “Please continue, Tohru-kun, don't mind me.”
“Can't you be quiet, baka?!” cried out Kyo irritably, finally speaking up as the tension in the room slowly ebbed away.
“Hm, someone feels left out. Say, Tohru-kun, perhaps after you're done with feeding Yuki-kun, you can start on…” trailed the inu's comments when the now lively neko starts throttling him.
“BE QUIET BAKA!! Can't you see we're trying to have a QUIET MEAL?! We worked too damn hard on this dinner, so don't screw it up!” exclaimed the angry youth.
“Define quiet, Kyo-kun, because we're obviously not having one right now, ne?” prodded the writer, certain that this would only aggravate the red-headed youth.
“Why you little…” bit out Kyo while narrowing his gaze further.
“This is really a wonderful dinner, wouldn't you say so, Yuki-kun?” happily replied Tohru, oblivious to the ongoing argument between the cat and dog. “Now, here's some more.”
Taking another bite, he thought over that comment from her. True enough, in spite of all of his injuries and sore muscles (he's definitely starting to feel the strain of it all by now), plus his tired soul…yes, he had to agree. This dinner was great.
(Smiles widely—grimacing just a little.) `Only we can find solace in the strangest of places.'
The day certainly was a stark contrast from the day before, as all days that follow a storm are normally serene and beautiful. Taking advantage of their last week as students of this school, many opted to eat an extended lunch outside underneath the still blooming sakura trees. It was here that much gossip and news was passed around, much of it centered on their successful Prom event. However, Tohru decided to reveal another bit of news to her friends.
“Really? Man, I would have thought the Prince was a careful kind of guy. To get himself into a bad fall like that…” remarked Uo in disbelief.
Tohru had just finished relating to both Uo and Hana the specifics of the news that practically everyone knew at this time of day. She knew they'd want to hear the full story from her directly instead of hearing the usual local gossip from a fan club member.
“I know. I couldn't believe it myself until he told me how it happened. The lights at school went out, and he couldn't see very well where he was walking. It seemed that just as he was making a turn around a corner, there was a flight of stairs, and he didn't catch himself in time to stop from falling. Thankfully he was able to get a hold of Hatori-san—I'm not sure what could have happened had Hatori-san not been there to help him.” As she finished relating this to them, Tohru felt her unease from yesterday come back to her. Noting this change in her demeanor, Uo spoke up.
“Oi, all's well that end's well, right? He's okay now…you said so yourself. Why don't we all pay him a visit after school today, hm?” prodded Uo to Tohru, hoping to boost her spirits.
“Today may not be such a good day, Arisa. He missed school so that he could rest,” interjected Hana quietly. “However, we can certainly take Tohru-kun out to get some ice cream. She can then get a pint of ice cream to take home for him.”
Her face brightening at the idea, she hugged Hana and exclaimed joyously, “That's a wonderful idea, Hana-chan! Thank you so much!”
Giving Hana the thumbs-up for lifting Tohru's spirits, Uo turned to their other classmate that hadn't said a word throughout their conversation. “Oi, why so quiet, Orange-top? Don't tell me you actually miss the Prince, hmmm?”
Glaring back at her, Kyo chose to ignore her comment and focus on his meal. He was doing fine in ignoring everyone's questions about Yuki's condition and such, but now seeing Tohru's look of worry only brought back to mind the guilt he still felt deep in his heart. All night long he had tried in vain to keep his thoughts focused on anything but Yuki, yet that was impossible. Getting very little sleep, he was extra grouchy on this day and having everyone ask him about his cousin is grating his already touchy nerves.
“Mind your own damn business, Yankee,” remarked Kyo testily as he once again regarded his meal.
`Such waves of chaos…' noted Hana while gazing at Kyo. Turning to Uo, she remarked, “Perhaps we should decide on which ice cream store to go to.”
“Yes, oh Kyo-kun, you'll be at Shishou-san's place today, right? What's your favorite flavor then? I want to be sure I get everyone their favorite flavors!” replied Tohru happily.
`No matter how worried she gets, she still manages to smile through it all.' Returning her smile with a grin of his own, he remarked, “Yeah, I'll be there for the most part today...I need to focus as much time as I can on training for the tournament. Vanilla is fine for me.”
“Sure thing. I'll get that plus strawberry and…” trailed off Tohru's list of flavors.
“Training? Boy, you need a miracle if you want to make it past the first round!” was Uo's snide remark with a knowing smirk. `Here comes the pop…5, 4, 3, 2, 1…'
“NANI?!” cried out Kyo heatedly. “I have you know that I'm the top contender in my Shishou's school! You don't stand a chance of fighting me in a ring or anywhere else!”
“Yeah, sure, whatever. My ring is out here in the streets, JERK! Bet you never had a real one-on-one match in the streets with real men and women, huh?” challenged Uo.
“FINE! Let's have it out…I got no qualms of fighting a GIRL!” shot back Kyo as he stood up.
Glaring right back at him, she rose as well, determined to put him in his place. “Don't be giving me that chauvinistic crap, you WUSS! Just bring it on…” she dared him on.
“Oh, it's already on, BITCH!” bit out her fired up opponent.
“Ano…Kyo-kun…Uo-chan…the teachers are staring…” tried reasoning Tohru with them.
`His chaotic waves have receded once more. Still…that one wave will not disperse,' thought Hana with a slight frown. Eyes widening, she realized something. `If I'm not mistaken, that wave is very familiar to…but, that can't be. No one can share their waves like this…'
“How long are you going to ignore me?” asked the writer languidly while leaning back in his chair, a lit cigarette barely in his fingers' grasp.
“You are going to break that poor desk of yours, you know,” was his response as he laid his cigarette down. “Just so that you'd know, he hasn't come down with any cold. He was in pretty good shape this morning, aside from his sprain, of course.”
(Papers shuffling)
Sighing heavily, Shigure finally got up and walked over to the clearly miffed doctor. As he approached him, Shigure noted just how tired Hatori was…his eyes were bloodshot and his countenance was grim. Giving his best friend a sympathetic look, he gently grabbed the doctor's restless hands, which earned him a startled look from Hatori.
“Come on, sit down. You need to rest,” he softly remarked while gently ushering a numb Hatori into the seat he had vacated. Once done, Shigure went to retrieve the tea set that was left earlier by one of the maids. While pouring the tea, he quietly asked, “How bad is she?”
Hatori could only stare aimlessly at the cup before him. Closing his eyes, he brought his hands up and rubbed his face vigorously. He fingered his blind eye carefully as his mind carefully replayed all of yesterday's events, from Mayuko's call to let him know what had happened up `til the early hours of that morning. It was still all a blur to him, but he did remember details…
First, both Akito and Yuki arrived soaked to the bone. He immediately demanded that they change out of their wet clothing, only to be silenced by Akito's glare. She had then gently guided Yuki over to the table so that Hatori could attend to his injuries while ordering Kureno to get dry clothing for Yuki. Not much was said amongst them, only Akito murmuring silently to Yuki as she ran her fingers through his hair.
Hatori did remember that it was Yuki that actually helped him with Akito. Despite the pain he was no doubt in, Yuki had pleaded with her to go and change out of the drenched garments. She finally conceded and as she walked out with Kureno, she had demanded of the doctor that he come directly to her and report his findings with Yuki.
It wasn't long after she left that Haru had come out of hiding, and that was a whole new problem to contend with. Haru was so desperate to find out who had injured Yuki so badly that he started to throw things around in his office. The rebellious teen refused to believe that Akito had nothing to do with it and was hell bent on chasing after her. Somehow, though, Hatori had managed to calm him down enough to listen to reason, which of course meant that Haru became quite attached (literally) to his quiet cousin.
He finally managed to take Yuki home (after peeling off Haru), and although it was a silent drive, it was remarkably a comfortable silence. He then noted that Yuki didn't have the air of despair around himself as one would have expected…it was more like an air of serenity one would feel upon coming to terms with something important to them. He felt relief that for now the worst was over even though one part of him was bent on giving a particular writer a piece of his mind.
Upon arrival at Shigure's place, Yuki abruptly asked about Akito. “She'll be okay, right? Take care of her…she must be so tired”—his words exactly. Hatori mentally shook his head at how his younger cousin could only think of others welfare regardless of whatever condition he himself was in…it just never ceased to surprise him.
He gave a reassuring smile as he helped Yuki out of the car. Walking up to the house, the rain was lightly falling down on them. It was then that the Inu of the Jyuunishi made his way to help them. As much as he wanted to interrogate him right then and there, this doctor knew his priorities were to his patients. Ignoring Shigure as best as he could, he had gone back to his car and driven home with his conflicting thoughts.
It was upon arriving that the worst of his fears had come to reality. One of the maidservants to Akito had rushed out to greet him…and for good reason, too.
Looking now at Shigure's concerned face, he dropped his hand and sighed in response, “She had collapsed. Kureno was attending to her needs before I had arrived from dropping off Yuki at your place. She was…(heavy sigh)… It was touch and go for the rest of the evening. I stayed for the most part, and Kureno rested until early this morning. She was stable by then, so I let him stay with her.”
Taking a deep whiff of his cigarette, Shigure regarded his fatigued friend with a saddened look. Putting out the old cigarette, he grabbed a new one and calmly asked, “Why aren't you resting then? It's been a tough night for you. Don't mind me, I'll stick around until you've had some good rest. We can talk then.”
Immediately Hatori pinned the writer with a strong gaze from his good eye. “No, now is fine. Since I know you won't tell me why, just tell me if you got what you wanted. If you haven't, I can tell you right now that neither person can take much more of your schemes.”
“This isn't a scheme,” interjected the writer with a strong gaze of his own. Lowering his eyes once more, he looked out into the water garden Hatori had just outside this part of the house. His voice barely above a whisper, he stated, “Their bond with each other is strengthening as each day goes by, ne?”
Not wanting to let go of his indignation with his best friend, Hatori heatedly demanded, “Is that what bothers you? That `god' and `rat' have the link that you can't ever have?”
`Damn, he really is in a bad mood,' mused the writer. Responding to the accusation, he remarked with a sigh, “I've always known that I can't ever be like that with Akito. It's how things are within our stations before `god'—we can't change that. What will be, will be.”
Feeling tired from all the strain from yesterday and today, Hatori stretched his arms high above him and arched his head back, staring blankly at the ceiling above him. Laying his arms across his middle dejectedly, he quietly implored, “Then for pity sakes, leave them be. If you must know any more details about them, I'm sure Akito is now willing to speak with you on the matter.”
“Hm, words to consider,” conceded the writer, warily glancing at the tired dragon.
Knowing that this was as close to an agreement as the writer will give, Hatori then asked about his other patient. “Is Yuki all right? Did he take the sedative I left him, eat well, stay in to rest…?”
“Of course. Fit as a fiddle, more or less. Tohru-kun did this really cute thing by the way…” began Shigure excitedly.
“Shigure…” interrupted the doctor exasperated. “Just tell me what I need to know.”
“Oh, well, like I said, he's fine. I stayed by his side all night long, and this morning he woke up quite in an energetic mood. However,” said the writer as he eased himself away from Hatori, “he did escape me. I tried telling him that he'd just be injuring his ankle further, but he wouldn't listen. He gave me that glare that he must have learned from watching Akito. I'm telling you, those two are so alike in some unique ways that it's creepy.”
Setting his elbows to the table, Hatori pondered on that remark. Frowning, he asked, “Where would he go? It's too late to go to school…”
Blowing out a stream of his cigarette smoke, Shigure gave him a knowing glance. “Where do you think? He's tenacious…stubborn to a fault.”
Reflecting on this, Hatori could feel the sadness running through him. Shigure was right…Yuki was stubborn and won't let go of completing a task once he sets his mind to it. No matter the cost to himself.
“Don't worry,” replied the inu to the dragon in soft tones. “I'm sure that the…um…'woman'…won't be trying any aggressive moves on Yuki. Of that I am certain.”
Not wanting to know exactly how Shigure could be so sure of that, Hatori joined Shigure in gazing at the water garden. He, too, became lost to the thoughts that have been plaguing him since yesterday. Although some questions were answered, many more popped up.
`Wherever Yuki is, I hope he's having it better than yesterday.'
(Panting for breath.)
`Maybe I should have called a cab. My ankle sprain is killing me,' thought Yuki irritably. Sighing heavily, he limped onward in the deserted neighborhoods he was walking in. `Shigure would definitely be giving me the `I told you' speech right about now.'
Yes, of course he knew that today he was supposed to be resting, but he just couldn't. There was too much on his mind that he needed to get off his chest, and so, while ignoring the adamant demands and near threats from Shigure, he left the comfortable confines of his bed to wander out into public. It was a Monday and there wasn't much foot traffic in this part of town, so he took his time getting to his destination. It didn't seem that far before in his roller-blades, but then again, he never actually limped his way there before.
`Damn, I need to sit…just for a while.' Feeling the throb from his ankle to near unbearable proportions, he sat on a ledge that protruded from the walls beside the sidewalk and brought up his leg with the injured ankle. Nursing it as best as he could, he felt drained in many ways. The rush he had this morning upon leaving the house was long gone, and now all he wanted was to lie down under a tree and feel the cool breezes soothe his aching body.
Yeah, all of yesterday's incidents had hit him like a ton of bricks earlier this morning. Although he felt like he hardly slept a wink with all his tossing and turning, he did manage to drift off to sleep, probably because the sedative finally kicked in. Still, despite the drug, he actually woke up before Tohru, but since he had felt so listless, he just stayed curled up in bed. Lying there with a blank mind, somewhat calm, he recalled those moments with his mother, Akito… As brazen as their actions were, they weren't as clear-cut in his mind as the words they had said to him. Odd that the words of comfort he always longed for from his own mother actually came from someone who in the past treated him in much the same way that his mother had treated him yesterday.
That being the case, he immediately set his mind to accomplish what he must do…or at least try to. By then Tohru and Kyo had already left as quietly as they could so that he wouldn't be disturbed. Getting dressed silently, he wondered where his `watchdog' had gone. Shigure, who had stayed in his room throughout the night and left before he woke up, was probably getting himself ready for his day as well.
Strange how the normally relaxed inu was not himself at all despite the happy façade he put on for the others. Yuki's instincts told him otherwise…the writer was definitely being weighed down by something unseen. It was actually the first time that Yuki had actually seen him close to being worried. About what was still a mystery, but he knew well enough that even if he did ask him about it, the writer would dodge the question like the ripples in the water dodge a finger. If truth be told, Yuki had an idea that Shigure probably already knew about what really happened to him. If there's one thing you can count on from the perverted inu is that he can sniff out any secret that was hidden from him. Besides, it's not like Yuki could hide the evidence of the assault had he wanted to. Looking in the mirror that morning gave him enough proof of that. The bruising to his face was several shades darker. Even though it didn't hurt as much as it looked, it clashed terribly with his fair-skinned face.
`Well, at least he's leaving me alone and not trying to get me to talk about it. It's bad enough that I had a migraine over it. Then again, it could be because of the bump to the head. (Sigh) I really need to be more careful.' Drifting back to the present, he gazed back down the sidewalk and wondered, `I hope she's willing to listen to me, if only that much…'
Sitting here resting, he was starting to get second thoughts about trying to visit her today, so soon after their volatile confrontation yesterday. Shaking his head of those moments of despair, he mentally went over what he wanted to say to her. It won't be easy, especially since he's coming unannounced. This time, though, he was better prepared to handle the situation. Well, at least he thought so…
Getting his second wind, he rose from the ledge and walked on but at a much slower pace than before. It was hard enough to walk with a limp; now he's wondering if he's pulled a muscle on his good leg. Admittedly, he wasn't walking right to begin with so he's bound to injure himself even more. Breathing in heavily, he could only imagine the scolding he will be getting from Hatori when he finds out, and he will find out. Hatori can be just as good as Shigure when it comes to finding out things…come to think of it, that's probably why they're best friends. They understand each other without even trying. However, for his instincts, he'd trust Hatori over Shigure any time, any day.
Thankfully his errant thoughts passed the time away quickly for Yuki. He was now in front of the very house he was determined to get into. He never could understand why his mother refused his visits over the past year. He had also called at various hours of the day, night, weekday, or weekend. She never attended to him. She had done everything to avoid making direct or indirect contact with him. It was certainly weird in his book, but given the fact that she rarely showed up to begin with, it wasn't too farfetched. Still…her reaction yesterday still proved that she did care about what happens to him on some level…
`Here's hoping…' He rang the bell on the intercom at the gate to the huge house his mother lived in. One of the maidservants finally made her appearance, and once she caught sight of Yuki, she disappeared again. Another maidservant, which Yuki recognized as the lady that was in charge of the servants, came out to greet him.
“Ohayo gozaimasu, Sae-san,” greeted Yuki with a bow. “I was hoping that you can let me in to speak to my mother. It is very important.”
“Sumimasen, Yuki-sama. The mistress of the house is currently not seeing anyone. Those were her strict orders. Please forgive me,” she replied quietly as she turned to walk away, noticing full well the bruising her young master now sported.
He immediately stretched out his arm through the bars and caught her wrist. “Please don't keep me away anymore. Onegai…I promise not to take long.”
“Sir, I've already told you that she doesn't wish to be disturbed by anyone…” continued on the servant, glancing down at her captured arm.
“Onegai,” he pleaded quietly. Glancing as well to her wrist, he let go of her and looked back at her. Pinning her with a beseeching gaze, he remarked, “I know you're worried about upsetting her even more than she is now. I understand that, but please, open the gate. If she asks, I'll let her know that I snuck onto the grounds and dodged her security. Please…Sae-san…”
Said servant was struggling to not concede to his request. However, just looking at his pleading, injured face…hearing his soft voice…
“Please Yuki-sama, go away,” she stated once more, turning her back to him while walking away. Without looking back at him, she called out softly, “I must attend to a breach of our grounds. It seems that yesterday's storm system had struck down a tree, and it tore down a portion of the back brick wall. Have a good day, Yuki-sama.”
Upon hearing her initial response, he felt defeated, but was back to being hopeful when she gave him that bit of useful information so he could sneak inside. Turning quickly away from the main gate, he wobbled a bit before regaining his pace once more. Limping hurriedly, he reached the back of the house and did indeed see the damaged wall.
`I can't turn back now…' he tiredly sighed to himself. Getting his bearings, he climbed over the fallen limbs of the tree and fell to the ground below. He immediately grimaced and bent down to soothe his aching ankle. Taking deep breaths, he walked on with a more pronounced limp, all the while dodging various servants of the household that were milling about.
Finally reaching the house, he snuck in and walked through all the corridors of the large home. Leaning against a wall in one of the darkened rooms, he thought about where his mother would be. Letting his instincts guide him, he made his way around until he ultimately reached a room that he knew she'd be in. Opening the door gently to the solarium, he quietly made his way to her. She currently sat in a couch with her back to him.
“Sae, I told you that I don't wish to be bothered with your damn problems,” she cried out abruptly.
“Gomen nasai,” replied Yuki softly. “I won't take too much of your time, Kaa-san.”
Once hearing his voice, she suddenly whipped around and saw that it wasn't her imagination. Yuki couldn't see much of her face because she had these large, heavy sunglasses covering a large area of her face. He could only tell that her nose was injured because it had swelled up a bit plus its distinct discoloration was hard to miss. Not meaning to stare at her, he quickly glanced down and bowed in greeting.
“Kaa-san, I had only wanted to talk with you for just a few minutes. I know that you don't wish to see anyone…” quietly commented Yuki before his mother interrupted him.
“Then explain why you're here or be gone,” she curtly remarked. “I should think that you'd want to be as far away from me as you could get.”
Unconsciously bringing his hand to his bruised face, he thought for a moment on her remark before he shook his head and looked back at her. Breathing in deeply, he replied, “No, I had wanted to speak with you before…before yesterday. (Swallows—gazes directly into her eyes.) I had wanted to tell you a long time ago of what I had decided for myself. I never meant for you to find out about it by someone else.”
“Your shortcomings only prove to me what I already know,” she bit out. Turning her back to him, she remarked, “Is that all you wanted to say? If so, then leave how you came in.”
Wringing his hands together, he quietly continued, “I also wanted to apologize about what had happened yesterday…with Akito. I don't know how she found out…”
“I had already spoken with Akito. Nothing more needs to be said about it.” Getting up and walking to a pitcher on her table, she poured herself a cup of tea. “Are you done?”
Taking another deep breath, he boldly made his way to her side. Straightening his posture, he replied firmly, “I wanted to let you know that my decision was for the best. I had given it a lot of thought before going through with it. I know you had such…high expectations of me. Going to a university. Perhaps taking over a business of the family. (Pause—then whispers.) To see that dream unfulfilled must make you feel so disappointed, even ashamed of me.”
Whirling around, she faced him, seething in bitter rage. Eyes flashing angrily, she slammed down her cup on the table, thus shattering it. “Shame?! Disappointment?! I've already been through it all the day your brother was born. And oh yes, it just got better after that—you came into our lives ten years later. The only good thing about you is that you were the prized Nezumi of the Jyuunishi. You were actually worth something then, that's for sure.”
Yuki could only blink his eyes in response to her declarations. The sense of numbness was coursing through his veins, and all he could focus on were her words that matched her feeling of loathing for him. Licking his dry lips, he stammered in response, “I…I see. (Pause) I'm afraid that I…I can't do anything about meeting your expectations. However, I don't plan to rule out an advanced education permanently…”
“You know what,” she butt in with disdain in her voice, “I don't care what you do with yourself anymore. Go to school later on or stick yourself in a trash bin with all your rat friends for all I care. I just don't give a damn anymore…your value to me expired a long time ago. You were just too stupid to realize it on your own. (Pause) You know your way out…”
Yuki could only watch her walk away from him to gaze through the windows facing the gardens outside, too stunned to think of a reply to her bitter remarks. He stared blankly at the floor once more, still reeling from her barrage of insults, and slowly got down on his knees. With trembling hands he started to pick up all the shards from the cup she had shattered, and once he's gathered each one, he deposited them onto the tea tray set.
Standing back up, he kept his gaze to the floor as he softly whispered, “Gomen nasai. I never meant to be such a terrible burden to you or Tou-san. I'm sorry…for everything.”
Turning around, he slowly limped his way to the door. Just as he was about to leave, he stopped and remarked quietly, “Kaa-san, you need someone to look at your hand. It's bleeding.”
Without even waiting for a response from her, he closed the door quietly after letting himself out. Not allowing himself to remain in the oppressing house any longer than he had to, he limped hurriedly down the hallways and out the front door. Breathing rapidly, he felt his mouth dry and tried swallowing to alleviate it, only to feel a dry lump in his throat that pained him immensely. Limping on, he paid no heed to the throbbing pain in his ankle, his mind still going over what his mother had told him.
`Will it always be this way? Will I always be a paycheck for her?' Closing his eyes briefly, he thought about what Akito had said yesterday. She kept telling him that his mother would never see him as nothing more than cursed Rat of the Zodiac. That it was completely hopeless…
`No, somehow, someway, hope always came through for me. Just when I was about to let go, Tohru-san walked into our lives. She reminded me time and again that hope is always worth holding onto, no matter the obstacles or pains one goes through just by holding onto it,' he affirmed silently to himself. Breeze blowing his hair freely, bringing with it the scent of sakura blossoms, his eyes glazed over as he calmly recalled one moment from yesterday…
“…you are not stupid. Never believe otherwise.”
Shaking his head and smiling softly, he thought, `I can't give up. Hope is worth holding onto.' Closing the gate behind him, he glanced back at the house and mused, `Despite how hard it is…or how painful, I can't let that hope go. I just can't…I won't give it up.'
Hearing his name called out like that, Yuki's eyes widened considerably. He was so surprised that he stumbled in his walk when he looked around to the source of the voice. Not being able to catch himself, he fell forward, fully expecting to meet the pavement most painfully. However, Yuki felt his fall cut short upon feeling a strong pair of arms embrace him from in front of him. Being hauled up, he looked in shock into the golden eyes of none other than his older brother.
`Peachy, the last person I need to see,' thought Yuki glumly. (Sigh) “Nii-san, what are you doing here?”
“Why, I'm here for you, silly!” Ayame cheerily replied. Staring into Yuki's face, he saw the bruising that marred his brother's porcelain complexion. Remarking in a hushed tone, he gazed at Yuki intently as he spoke, “Did she do this to you?”
Caught off guard by his brother's sudden change in demeanor, Yuki couldn't immediately reply to him. Not waiting another moment, Ayame quickly turned back around, heading towards the large house Yuki had just left. Seeing this, the mouse hurriedly limped after the seemingly fuming snake.
Grabbing his shoulder, Yuki calmly called out, “Nii-san, no. Just leave her alone. It's nothing really…anyway, it's my fault.”
“It isn't nothing. And it definitely isn't your fault,” stressed Ayame as he turned to Yuki, eyes flashing at the mere thought. “No one has any right to lay a hand on you. Not like…this.
“Nii-san…it was my fault for making her lose her temper. I made a mistake. (Gestures to face.) This I do deserve…” trailed off Yuki's quiet admission.
No you don't. Mistake or no, her losing her temper is her damn fault. She's supposedly an adult, and I'd be damned if I let her get away with this,” he passionately exclaimed. Looking down at Yuki with sorrowful eyes, he softly replied while reaching out to trace Yuki's injured face, “Don't ever say that you deserve this because you don't. You…deserve only the best.”
Hearing his brother's concern, Yuki could only return such a sad gaze with a soft smile of his own. Tugging at his brother's arm, he remarked quietly, “Come on, let's go, Nii-san. I just want to go home. I'm…too tired to talk about this anymore.”
Observing his younger brother more carefully, Ayame could tell that Yuki was exhausted, not just physically but mentally as well. As much as he wanted to find out all the details behind this new development with their mother, he set them aside for now and complied with his brother's request.
`Haha-kimi,' thought Ayame with disdain, giving the house one last look of contempt, `your motherly affection…really reeks. (Sigh) I'll just have to ask Tori-san about what had happened. He should know the details.' Turning to Yuki, he affectionately patted his head. “Then let's be off then. The day isn't getting any younger for either of us. Can you walk to the car on the other side of the street?”
“Car? You don't have a car…” replied Yuki in confusion.
“Tsk, tsk, open your eyes, my dear. That way,” remarked the tailor with a wide smile as he pointed to the very car he was referring to.
“What are your doing with Kuramae-san's car?” asked Yuki, absently wondering why his brother would have his assistant's car.
“Well, how else do you think I was going to get here? I refuse to perspire anymore than necessary, I mean, do you realize how that smell tends to cling to fine material? Let me tell you…” rambled incessantly the snake while taking Yuki's left arm and sling it behind his neck. That task done, the snake prattled on as he guided them both slowly to the awaiting car.
With Ayame's assistance, Yuki could definitely feel the throbbing from his ankle ease down a bit. Inwardly smiling that his brother had without further question dismissed the previous matter altogether, Yuki actually didn't mind the distraction his brother was now providing with his constant talking. It gave this weary teen a means to relax into something that was very familiar to him, something that didn't require him to think. Suddenly coming across a thought, he turned to Ayame and interrupted him.
“Nii-san, how did you know that I was here?” asked curiously Yuki.
“I've got my sources,” replied the snake with a sly smile.
“Eh?” questioned the mouse.
Reaching the car, Ayame settled Yuki against the passenger seat carefully, making sure not to jostle his injured ankle. Closing the door, he walked around to the driver's seat and got in ever so gracefully. Slipping his sunglasses on, he peered in the vanity mirror, tactfully tucking wayward strands of unruly hair back into place.
“Nii-san…how?” demanded to know Yuki. For good reason, too…he was secretly afraid that his private crisis was being relayed publicly, at school or within the family.
Giving his worried brother a comforting pat on the arm, Ayame smiled in assurance, “Your private matters are still kept private, so don't worry. I was actually told by a rather worried maidservant that you had arrived at this house. She was so concerned about your welfare. (Winks at Yuki.) Sae-san is such a sweetheart, ne?”
Blinking at that remark, Yuki gave Ayame a wider grin before returning his attention back to the road. Letting out a sigh of relief, he replied, “Arigatou, Nii-san.”
“Don't thank me! I'm your beautiful, superb, one-of-a-kind Nii-san! As such, thanks is not necessary—I'd do anything for you without question or a second thought,” remarked assuredly Ayame as he drove on.
Hearing his brother's elaborate response to his thanks, Yuki couldn't help but give Ayame a wider smile. Staring ahead, he shook his head in disbelief. `As unpredictable as he can be, I have to admit that I do believe him on this one.'
Drifting off to take a light nap in the car, Yuki pondered on his brother's behavior with him. Always protective of him, always demanding to be heard… That's probably why Ayame insists on talking to Yuki, so that the lines of communication never fail again like it had happened in the past. It was truly amazing to see that the deep gap between them has somehow along the way developed a bridge of understanding. A tentative bridge with a twisted sense of understanding, but nonetheless, it was a bridge just the same.
Feeling the car come to a stop after a short while, Yuki opened his eyes, expecting to see the path that led to Shigure's place. However, that's not what he saw; instead he saw that they were currently parked in the middle of an unknown forest. It must have been a pretty secluded area because he heard no nearby traffic.
Seeing Yuki awake, Ayame remarked, “Had a good nap? I figured you must be tired, but don't worry! I as your beloved Nii-san will see to it that you relax on this fine day! (Shows him a basket.) See, I brought all the necessary items to make this picnic a success. Let me help you out!”
Watching Ayame flounce out of the car, Yuki was left with his mouth agape in shock. Since when did his brother decide that they were going to have a picnic today? Rolling his eyes and letting out a sigh of defeat, he unbuckled himself from his seatbelt and opened the door. Ayame had already set the basket on the hood of the car and was waiting for Yuki to get out of the car. Slinging Yuki's arm over his neck once more, Ayame led the way, Yuki on one side, the basket on the other.
During their nice trek through the lush green forest, Yuki focused on the serenity this location gave off, long ago having tuned out his brother's nonstop chatter. It was certainly a lot more appealing to his senses than the forest that surrounded Shigure's home. Reveling in this new atmosphere, Yuki breathed in deeply, glad to know that it was a fresh, clean scent that surrounded this area.
Lush forest abruptly gave way to a hillside that had a view that was spectacular. All around as far as the eye could see there were deep green forests with lakes and hot springs dotting the landscape here and there, contrasting well with the deep blue sky. It was breathtaking to say the least.
Seeing Yuki gaze at his surroundings in wonder, Ayame felt like jumping for joy, happy to see that he was right in bringing his little brother to this place. As discreetly as he could, he set Yuki down on the soft grass and immediately set up their picnic out on a clean blanket he had with him.
“Yuki, do you want juice, soda, or water? I have all sorts in this basket here…” trailed off Ayame as he rummaged through his large basket.
Startled from his reverie, Yuki noted that he was now sitting on the grass, and Ayame was giving out a list of all the beverages he had brought with him. Settling on just letting his brother have his way of comforting him, Yuki let him know what he'd like to drink. Realizing then that he was famished, Yuki also looked into the basket to see what could be deemed as edible from Ayame.
After a while, Yuki and Ayame were both laying on their backs and watching the clouds go by, taking in the calmness all around them—so much so that Ayame was for the most part silent, every now and then speaking his mind about something regarding the area. Curiosity getting the best of him, Yuki spoke up.
“Nii-san, how did you find this place anyway? It's pretty much out of the way of any normal traffic…was this a place you and Shigure and Hatori go to a lot?” questioned Yuki.
“Iie. I come here by myself. You may not realize it, but this area actually is the beginning of the Sohma property that includes the hot springs you had visited in the past,” informed Ayame. “I just came across this place when I needed to drop off a friend in need. Poor thing, he was caught in the middle of a drainage in front of my shop. But your wondrous Nii-san came to his rescue and brought him here to live freely.”
“Eh?” asked Yuki baffled. “You dropped off a person in the middle of nowhere?”
“Hehehe, silly thing! That's so funny,” laughed joyously the tailor. “I dropped off a `friend'—I'm here to serve and protect them as well, you know. See, some of them are right behind you.”
Propping himself on his elbows, Yuki turned around to see that Ayame's `friends' were indeed behind him, their tongues darting in and out to taste the area around them. Not keen on staring into the eyes of these slithering predators of his furry `friends', Yuki lied back down and closed his eyes to the world around him. Once again, however, Ayame interrupted him.
“Say, have you already purchased Tohru-kun's present for her graduation?” asked Ayame while propping himself on his side to face Yuki.
Sighing, Yuki replied quietly, “Iie. I have an idea of what I'd like to get her, but I haven't been able to find it anywhere. And with everything that's going on at school, I won't have time to investigate over the Internet at school. (Brings arm across eyes.) I suppose I'll just settle by giving her something else…”
“Hm, is that so?” asked the tailor with a sly grin. “Why don't you tell me what it is you're looking for? Maybe I can help! Your dear brother has connections in every field of entertainment and gift shops in all this city…”
Not immediately replying, Yuki thought that idea over. His brother did have a point, but still… Letting out a rueful sigh, he brought his arm down to his side and closed his eyes. He didn't realize how much time had passed and what he had been doing until Ayame asked him quietly a very strange question…
“Where have you heard that, Yuki?” was Ayame's hushed remark.
Startled by the sudden change in his older brother's façade (again), he asked in turn, “Heard what?”
“You were humming it just now. Where did you hear that tune?” pressed Ayame.
If he didn't know any better, Yuki could have sworn that his brother was actually a little desperate to find out the answer to his odd question. Well, it really wasn't that odd…Yuki noted that whenever he did hum this old tune, he'd get these weird looks from those around him. He was oblivious to them all, though, since he rarely realized that he was humming.
Tucking a strand of his hair behind his ear, he mulled over the question once more. Smiling at his wayward thoughts, Yuki replied, “I really don't know. I just always knew this tune, I guess. Is it bothering you…I'll try not to do it anymore. I've been getting the strange look from people anyway.”
“No, don't! It's just that…” trailed off Ayame's retort. Softly replying, he continued, “It's been so long since... I honestly never thought you'd remember it though…you were barely born.”
Snapping his eyes wide open, he turned to his side and regarded Ayame with a piercing gaze. He noted that the snake was completely taken away to that far off time long ago. “Nii-san, what are you talking about?”
Ayame gazed back and wistfully replied, “Well, you see, once upon a time, there was this gorgeous child of 10 years of age. He was ecstatic that his baby brother had come into his world to keep him company. It was even more so since the beautiful baby was just like him in that they were both cursed to follow the steps of their Zodiac signs.”
(Pause) “Before the baby eventually was taken away, the 10 year child would always sneak into the nursery, making sure the callous maids or a certain mother of his weren't around. They rarely were since the baby had always cried, no doubt begging to be heard and loved by anyone. The little boy just couldn't bear to hear the pitiful cries of such an innocent, so he reached over and picked the baby up from his cradle. (Sighs) The baby was immediately quiet and only stared with beautiful gray/violet eyes. Sometimes, however, the baby would cry so wretchedly that the little boy could only sing him a lullaby that he heard once in a toy at the store. It was always the same thing…the little boy didn't have much else to go with, but it seemed that the baby didn't mind.”
Looking back up at the sky, he mused, “That little boy always did wonder if the baby will ever remember the times that they shared, no matter how brief it was.”
Such an admission was met with silence on the teen's side. Yuki tried recalling those moments, but of course he couldn't. Yet, that tune…
“Nii-san?” asked Yuki softly.
“Hm?” prodded Ayame for Yuki to continue.
“What was the name…to that tune?” continued Yuki while staring up at the sky high above.
“Well, don't laugh, but it's called `You Are My Sunshine'—it's not a hit song or anything like that, after all, I was just a little kid back then,” grinned widely Ayame. Quietly laughing, he said, “But I did like that tune…so simple and true.”
Yuki then gazed back at his brother's wistful expression once more. `So…he was there for me when I had no one to hold me? It was just a brief time early in my life, but…he actually was there in the beginning. And now…'
“Nii-san,” remarked Yuki while closing his eyes again, “I would really appreciate any help you can give me with Tohru-san's present. If it's no bother.”
Smiling widely, Ayame responded joyously, “But of course, why I won't let you get anything less than the very best, you'll see. I have great tastes in all areas of the female gender, from fine chocolates to stunning dresses to exquisite lingerie…”
“Nii-san,” stressed Yuki with a touch of annoyance, “don't ruin this for me.”
“Oh yes, of course! Whatever my little brother says,” replied Ayame merrily.
“Nii-san…” whispered Yuki quietly to himself as he drifted off to a time long ago where he was secure and safe in the arms of another.
Ayame turned then to Yuki, only to see that Yuki was smiling softly, seemingly not pursuing the conversation any further. It was the first time that Ayame had seen him in utter peace. A part of Ayame was truly touched to see that he had for once been there for his little brother, giving him exactly what he needed at the right time.
`I did it, and it wasn't even that hard. Tori-san was right—I don't need to push it. (Turns giddy.) Tori-san would be so thrilled when I tell him… (Pause) Hm, no, on second thought I think I'll keep this moment just between Yuki and me. Between us… Between brothers…'
Author's Long Lost Notes (03-17-05):
Wow…how time flies by! So much has been going on personally that putting these two together was tough! I hate cliffhangers, but oh well, hopefully these two chapters answered your questions.
One word to describe this experience: HARD! Not just hard, VERY HARD! Getting the action sequences flowing smoothly while keeping the characters in check is HARD! A lot of the situations in these two chapters are out of the ordinary, and so keeping the characters true to themselves was torture! I'm not sure if I accomplished this with Mayuko and Kakeru, but here's hoping for the best.
I mean, how many of you thought it was Akito that was assaulting Yuki? That was a curve I threw in for you guys! The good for nothing called `Kaa-san' by Yuki is never given a name in the manga. Like Kyo's dad, Yuki's mom has very little bonding with her kids. She loves the money above all else…nothing specific was ever told of how she and Akito arranged it so that Yuki stayed on with Akito, but the money factor was something that Yuki did know of. Nothing else is released in the manga, besides the fact that she is a very bitter and conceited person. Ayame certainly doesn't have any love for her either. Still, I may have embellished her character some so that it fit better with this storyline—I doubt she'd raise a hand to Yuki, but then again, she isn't a very nice person. I do believe many will agree with me on that note. Also, note that I brought up a point between Akito's thoughts now and what had happened a while ago back in `Winter's Tears' segment. Did you catch it?
Honorifics—I know I got them mixed up on this release. Please help me and point them out so I may adjust as necessary. Thank you!
Shigure and Yuki's mom—this scene was also out of the ordinary. Still, I wanted to keep Shigure as true to himself as possible, but also add in the element that is unique for him in this storyline—that of his protective streak concerning Yuki. It is no coincidence that both Akito and Shigure feel this need or urge to protect Yuki from anything. This is key in the storyline later on.
Ah, in this new chapter, Bring Me to Life, the title was taken from Evanescence's song title. The song itself was quite applicable in these scenes between Akito and Yuki plus Yuki and Ayame. However, there's more to the meaning of this song than it was explained in this storyline, but keep it mind for later on.
Speaking of Akito and Yuki, the time I spent in this section alone was a LONG time. It was really hard to get those two characters interacting with one another in a different light, but still keep them in character. I really made it hard on myself, but I hope that in the end all my readers will like the outcome.
Rin and Kazuma moment was actually a last minute thing…I needed something to be the buffer but still be informative. Rin really creeped out Kazuma with her remark. Such an innocent remark will have great significance later on.
I tend to jump around a lot in this last chapter, but I pray that it's not too `jumpy'. Making them run smoothly into each other was difficult, too. Another buffer moment here as well…keep in mind Hana's remarks on these waves of Kyo. Yep, there's more to it for later on.
Shigure and Hatori moment was written in haste as well. You get a glimpse of what Shigure is looking into closely between Akito and Yuki. This is actually quite critical to the storyline. And yes, the confrontation between `god' and `dog' will be coming around very soon to shed some more light on this matter.
The house where Yuki's mom lives in was made up on my part. I know that in the manga it gives better details on this, but admittedly I was too tired to investigate. It's not that important in my story anyway, so if you want to correct me, go right ahead.
Another thing that I kept vague in my story is how Akito had treated Yuki in the past. I've not read anywhere in the manga that Akito would physically assault Yuki. Sure she threw him in a dark room and left him there for who knows how long (I also remember a paint incident but vaguely). But actually taking a whip or anything to him physically is not clearly made out in the manga. In the anime it was, so that's why I've been keeping these past references between Akito and Yuki as vague as could be had so that either anime or manga lovers can take it anyway they want to.
Finally we have another Yuki and Ayame moment. Ayame did have a bit of a serious streak in him that's not normally there, however, it's not very normal that Yuki is injured as bad as he was. `Haha-kimi' is actually Ayame's pet name for his mother which from what Ina had said before to me, it means `dearest mother', or in this case, `mommy dearest'. It was spoken with an air of insult…go Ayame! That CENSOR of a mom really is CENSOR (hehehe, Rjunkie, how do you like?).
Overall, I had wanted to balance out Yuki's world with Akito's cold and intuitive remarks to help Yuki realize that he's only hurting himself and with Ayame's loving remarks on his behalf. One cold and the other warm…did I succeed? Do I even make sense…maybe, maybe not. We'll see. At least my readers now know how it came to be that Yuki is humming by himself sometimes, especially when he's under some kind of stress. Quite a shock to our dear Yuki to find out that it was his brother's doing from a long time ago.
This is a very long author's section, and so I'll stop here. I can't reply personally to the last round of reviews, but hopefully all questions were answered here. If not, ask me again…between forced vacation, constant doctor appointments, and being under the influence of drugs (legally of course), time is very limited for me. I can hardly think straight right now. I'm so tired!
Please leave your insightful comments on your way out of the mayhem that is my fic. Happy reading and reviewing…ja ne!