To Sakura and Tin
Her ribbon was lying on the floor.
He stood still, his silver head bent, studying it. The ribbon gleamed feebly in the blue dusk, the only light present in that quiet room. Yet it drew him, its light as powerful as a lodestar, compelling him forward until he was on his knees. And he continued to stare at the ribbon with an intensity alien to the habitual coolness of his face.
He wanted it. He was alone; the house was empty. No one would see him. How easily he could take it up, tuck it away, make it his.
Slowly, he reached out and took the ribbon into his hand. At its touch, he felt a tremor pass through him. He ran his fingers reverently over its silken length.
She was walking with me, alone, that day, he thought.
His hand closed over the ribbon.
It was March; it was windy.
He smiled and closed his eyes, remembering.
"Honda-san," he called out.
The girl paused, turning to look at him. "Yes?"
"Your . . . hair ribbon," he said quietly, pointing at the loose pink loop near her ear.
"Oh!" She hurriedly set her satchel down. "I'll fix it." She quickly pulled at the loop. At once, her hair leapt out in long, tangled streamers, freed from its silk binding. She tried to gather the brown strands into her hand and under the ribbon, but the March wind whipped her hair this way and that.
Her hair was a flashing stream of honey and gold in the spring sun.
"The wind is so strong today," she commented. Suddenly, a strand lashed out across her open mouth, causing her to sputter.
He watched as her hands frantically parted the currents, struggling to grasp the wayward locks. But the glossy strands slipped through her hands like water. He wanted to go to her, but he held himself still at a respectful distance, while his eyes roved restlessly, greedily taking in the gleam of her hair, the rosy flush in her cheeks, the curve of her mouth.
At last, she managed to secure the strands in her fist. As she moved to bind them, a breeze frolicked past and tore the ribbon out of her hand.
"Oh, no!" she cried out.
He watched the ribbon twist and curve through the air like a live thing. It flashed in the sun, pink and silver. He held up his hand and, as if called forth, the ribbon lighted onto his waiting palm.
"Thank you, Yuki-kun," she said.
He stood unmoving, the ribbon still clutched in his fist.
"I must look a mess," she laughed as she came running up to him, hand outstretched to receive the ribbon.
He thought she looked beautiful.
"He could not wait any longer. So he turned to her, eagerly, calling her name, his arms outstretched to embrace her," Shigure intoned.
He listened intently, his chin tucked into his hand, his elbow resting on the arm of the sofa.
"But she melted away as soon as his fingers brushed against her, like the mist before the sun. She was gone because he dared to disobey the warning of the gods. He was too greedy and in his impatience, he lost her again -- this time for eternity."
He smiled, resignedly, wistfully.
"And so he was doomed to love with empty arms," Shigure concluded summarily, snapping the book shut with a flourish. He rose and looked down at the pale child with an expression that asked, So, what do you think? But Shigure didn't really expect an answer.
"He is like me," he said quietly.
Shigure started. In that hour, the child had not spoken once, but only gazed at a far point somewhere near the door. Shigure looked at him, his astonishment giving way to concern and confusion. "He's like you?" he echoed. "How so?"
"He wants to hold the one he loves, but his touch would only destroy her."
Shigure frowned. "I think that's a little too extreme," Shigure reproved mildly. "The curse of the Sohma family doesn't destroy people."
"And because he couldn't hold the one he loves," the boy continued, who did not hear Shigure's remark, "he destroys himself."
"No, Yuki-kun," Shigure argued, " that's not right. You're different. You don't die. You only transform."
The child shook his head. "No." A pause. " We're exactly the same."
He spied her sitting on the porch, her back propped up against a post. She was reading, her knees drawn up to her chest, the book weighed down in the pink folds of her skirt. He saw her turn the pages, her eyes occasionally brightening over a particular passage, an excited flush now and then burning her pale cheek. She looked so happy, so pretty.
But she was always like this. A strain of music, a moving story, a kind word, a gentle smile would light her quiet beauty to an almost painful loveliness, too bright and too tender to bear.
At last, she sensed his eyes upon her and looked up. "Oh, Yuki-kun! I'm sorry!" she exclaimed contritely as she sprang up, her book fluttering to the ground, forgotten. "Were you waiting long for me?"
"No, no." He waved his hand dismissively as he came up to her. "I came only a minute ago," he lied.
"May I do anything for you?" she inquired.
"No, nothing. I'm sorry I disturbed you." And he made move to withdraw.
"Oh, no, that's all right," she said. "I was only reading." She raised her hand to show him the book. "I -- Oh! Where did I put the book?" she cried. She dropped to her hands and knees, searching. "I had it only a minute ago . . ."
He bent down and retrieved the book from the grass. "Here," he offered. "You dropped the book when you stood up. It was my fault that I startled you. I'm sorry."
"Oh, no, Yuki-kun," she said, shaking her head. "It was really my fault. I'm so clumsy!" And she laughed, rapping her head sheepishly.
"Please continue reading," he said. "I'll leave."
He halted in mid-step.
"I have an idea," she said. "Why don't you read it with me? It's a wonderful book."
"But that would be inconvenient for you . . ." he hesitated. "It would be uncomfortable for you to have me reading over your shoulder."
"I'll read it out loud." Suddenly, she blushed. "That is, if you don't mind, Yuki-kun," she hastily added.
"No, I don't mind at all. I'd like to hear you read." And this time he was telling her the truth.
"Shall we begin?" she asked, settling down again.
He nodded and seated himself at a respectful distance. "Please."
"I can't seem to tie it," she said, as she fumbled with the ribbon.
"If I may . . ." he offered hesitantly, stepping forward.
She looked at him, her brown eyes wide with surprise. After a moment, she silently proffered the ribbon to him. He stepped nearer until her skirt flapped against his legs. The wind flung the streamers of her hair about him, so that he stood in a tempest of honey and gold. The air grew sweet, perfumed with the scent of her shampoo.
He felt as if he were drowning.
"Your hands must be cold. That's why it's been difficult for you to tie this," he explained as he carefully drew a knot of her hair into his hands. His fingers tenderly combed through the locks, pulling the tangles free. The strands unraveled in his hands, sliding smoothly over his palms and through his fingers in shining, honeyed streams.
"Yes," she agreed.
"Please hold your hair for a moment," he requested, placing the strands into her hand. In the exchange, his hands lingered for a moment on hers.
"I have it now," she told him.
"Good." He drew his hands away.
He didn't want to let go.
He gently set the dog-eared book down upon the table.
"That was your favorite book when you were a child," Shigure remarked as he walked into the room.
He turned to face Shigure. "Yes. I remember."
Shigure picked up the book and carelessly leafed through it. "I remember reading that book to you almost every night," he said as he idly scanned the pages.
He reached over and jerked the book out of Shigure's hands. He tucked the book under his arm and began to walk toward the door.
"You sure were a strange kid, Yuki-kun," Shigure commented, extracting a magazine from the pile on the table.
He halted at the threshold, his hand on the lintel of the door.
"So quiet and serious," Shigure continued as he thumbed through the glossy pages. "Such a lonely little thing." He tossed the magazine aside and selected another. "But," he added, "you always smiled whenever I read this story to you."
He didn't answer.
Shigure peered over the top of the magazine to look at him, grinning in fond remembrance. "You were so cute when you smiled," he sighed gustily.
He frowned a little.
"But you haven't changed, Yuki-kun," Shigure said, suddenly serious once more. "You don't smile much." He paused and the familiar mischievous glint appeared in his eyes. "Unless you're around Tohru-kun," he added slyly. He glanced over at the youth. The youth's back was a narrow, impassive column of black.
"Do you remember what you told me once, Shigure-san?" he asked abruptly, not hearing Shigure's comment at all.
Shigure stopped, puzzled. "What?"
"You told me that I'm not really like him."
Shigure knit his brows, thinking. At last he answered, "Yes, I remember saying that. What of it?"
"And you said that the curse of the Sohma clan was simply a transformation."
"It is," Shigure asserted.
"But I said that I was still like him, in many ways." He stared at the book for a moment, a wistful expression on his face, before slipping it into his pocket. "And I'm still convinced that I am." And he left the room, leaving Shigure to stare after him.
"And at her gentle touch," she said, "he felt himself transform. At last he stood before her, smiling, restored to his true form."
He sat, watching her intently, drinking in the music of her voice.
"So with her love and devotion, she saved him from his fate. And he, who had believed all his life that he would be doomed to such a fate, now lived in joy. His arms were no longer empty, as he so long feared, but now were filled with love."
She closed the book softly and looked up at him, an eager, expectant expression on her face. She waited for him to respond.
"It's a good story," he answered finally.
She gazed at him for a while, the eager light in her eyes replaced with worry. "But you don't look as if you liked it, Yuki-kun." She crept nearer to him in her concern, unmindful of the book in her lap, which tumbled to the ground once more.
"No," he protested mildly. "I enjoyed it, really."
"No," she contradicted gently, "you look sad."
He looked away from her. She sat in silence, again waiting for him to speak. He felt the weight of her eyes upon him.
"It can't really be true," he slowly said at last, still looking away. "It can't happen. I don't believe it. It was his fate."
"Yes, Yuki-kun, it was his fate," she agreed. "But he could change it."
Slowly, he turned about to face her.
"And he did change it." She paused. When she spoke, her voice was certain, hopeful. "It can happen, Yuki-kun." She gently laid her hand on his arm. "It's possible, Yuki-kun."
He continued to stare at her with wide, disbelieving eyes.
"You only need to believe."
He tied the ribbon firmly. He tugged a little at the pink loops to make it more secure.
"There," he whispered softly. He stepped back and the ribbon reluctantly slipped out of his grasp.
"I'm sorry to have caused you so much trouble, Yuki-kun," she began.
He held up his hand. "No, it's all right. Please, don't worry about it. I just hope I tied it well."
She touched it carefully, smiling. "Yes, it's perfect. Thank you, Yuki-kun."
He wanted to reach out to her, but he said instead, "Let's go home, shall we?"
He handed her the satchel and they started again for home.
And so he was doomed to love with empty arms.
Yes, he thought, his hand still clutching the ribbon. It's true.
It was his fate.
I can never hold her. I can never touch her.
But he could change it.
His hand tightened on the ribbon. This is the only thing of hers that I can touch.
And he did change it.
This is my curse.
I can't change. It's impossible.
It can happen.
Maybe, one day . . .
You only need to believe.
He brought the ribbon to his lips.
It can happen.
He tenderly tucked the ribbon into the pocket of his shirt, next to his heart, and walked out of the room.
Dammit, I did it again. I wanted to write a simple, romantic work, but I somehow bungled it up, infusing (unintentionally, though) some angst into it. Will I ever be able to write a purely romantic, non-angst, work? Anyway, please forgive me if Yuki, Shigure, and Tohru were out of character; I'm not (sad to relate) too familiar with "Fruits Basket."
The story that Shigure told Yuki was "Orpheus and Eurydice." The story that Tohru told Yuki, however, wasn't based on anything. (I claim artistic license.)
If this particular narrative style seems familiar, it is. Read Sakura's "Kagura" or "Dancing Alone" -- the style of this piece was greatly influenced by those two works.
This is dedicated again, to my lovely and talented sibling, Sakura, worshipper of Yuki and all that is WAFF. And to Tin, who has been so sweet and supportive in the writing of this work (and yes, death threats from one of your fanfiction idols count as encouragement).