I promised Lux Fruits Basket fiction and this is the beginning of too much fiction to come. Because I cannot help but adore Shigure, this probably focuses far too much around him. Do enjoy. R&R adored, as always.
When was it that his motives changed, Hatori finds himself wondering. Over a cigarette, in the porch darkness, he asks himself this question. When was it that Shigure's motives changed, or have they? It could have been in that dark room of memory, dark but vivid. It could have been then, when the first blood fell, when instinct and scent drove Shigure to protect him. How flattering - how frightening - to think that such calculation was born of his own blood. How selfish. Driven down on his knees, blinded by pain and the blood in his eyes, he could not see Shigure's face. He remembers Akito's wild expression; he remembers the sudden impact. But to assume Shigure's strength began with his own weakness is only assumption.
With Yuki, then? With that small room? If any of them had known first, it would have been Shigure. It was easy to be blind then, through youth, with the capacity for sight. Without the handicaps of age, or the knowledge experience brought. Without the reality of being blinded, of seeing things now as if through mud, or thick, thick ice. Then, they had the choice. To avert their gaze. To ignore simply because it was an option to recognize.
Well, in the past each one of the three of them had looked out for the other two. Latent and childish, these bonds are yet strong. Through pre-pubescence and pubescence and post-pubescence, character changed. Skin was shed - Ayame's, perhaps, more than theirs, but only in the most physical of senses - ideals were lost, youth grew and shaped to fit adulthood. Boys changed, boyhood disappeared. Ayame still needs to grow up, and for some time Hatori harbored the delusion that Shigure is the same way. Incorrigible, childish, exuberant. Lewd.
But the air hangs dim over the porch. And the moon is bright.
When was it that his motives changed?
Hatori keeps Shigure on his blind side. Trust or understanding or ritual, he knows and Shigure understands. It is purely animal. It is as intangible as the air, as unnoticed and incorporated into their beings. The addiction of some strangely forged friendship, fierce, ever faithful. Shigure might comprehend, through simply sensing the question. Shigure might sigh and lean to recline against the wood at his side, rest a hand in his muted gray hair. Shigure might smile. The fractional difference between Shigure's smiles and Ayame's is what alerted Hatori to the change in his friend. Once - years ago. Then. Then he saw it, in a narrowing of Shigure's eyes. The laughter was and is cheerful as ever, the motions as distinct and recognizable. But the line of the jaw, the tensing of the jawbone, the hardening of the jaw muscles, gave the first signal. Shigure is determined, has set himself to some task.
They were such children once, such incorrigible children. Not Hatori - Hatori was not like the other two. Hatori allowed himself their vibrancy because in the end it saved him, saves him still. Ayame's bright voice, pursuing some yet-unattained goal. Shigure's laughter, which is now like steel in the uncomforting night. It promises things, that laughter. Unnoticed things, things yet unseen. They began as a triangle, each side supporting the other two. Each side still does, with whatever fumbling, clumsy methods, or quiet touches, or gentle embraces, as their human forms can muster.
Even with a curse so celestial, they are yet creatures bound to the inadequacy of humanity.
Such irony, Hatori thinks, such incredible irony. Shadows pass over his left eye. He tilts his head back and looks up to the sky, where the stars wink off and on through cloudy uncertainty. The night is not clear, and the weather is cool. The moon makes its case with vivid intensity, such a gray luminescence, such spirit. And the evening suits Hatori just fine, the drumming pace of the world's internal, boiling rhythm.
"A penny for your thoughts," Shigure says, through a cigarette that hangs between his lips. Hatori turns to face him, angular. It is not to look at him. He sees Shigure only through a fall of hair and a misfiring of ruined rods and cones, black and white and almost canine sight. This is rather to judge the weight of his intent. It is so rare, to catch Shigure's moments of lunar gravity. Hatori wonders if he is the only one privy to such personality and even passion.
"Hm," Hatori sighs first, then answers with characteristic truth. "You."
"A penny for me?" The corners of Shigure's eyes crinkle.
"That's what you're worth these days, I hear." Shigure taps his chest lightly. I'm wounded, he says with the motion of his fist, you've gotten me right here, between the ribs. Hatori's lips twitch.
"Another penny," Shigure proposes to the silence that follows. "Another penny for the details." Hatori nudges a cigarette between his lips and lights it there. The flame is bright, struggling in the late evening breeze. It burns into his sight, something even his left eye can register. With cold indifference, Hatori snaps the lighter shut, shuts the light out.
"Look," he answers with absent evasiveness, "there are fireflies tonight." Shigure lets his own cigarette dangle from his fingers, shedding ash to the dirt below. He recalls nights with Ayame pressed up against one side and Hatori lined up just-so-stiffly against the other, barely adjacent. Like that, the wind would soothe fingers through his hair, the world comprehending the childhood of his body. It was as easy as fiction, as gentle as poetry. It was as young as I Love You. Shigure laughs now, softly, a different sort of laugh.
Now, he writes for control.
When was it that his motives changed?
"I'm not a novelist because I love writing," Shigure tells Hatori. He pushes hair out of his fathomless eyes. He crosses one leg over the other.
"No." There might be a question in the word, the slight lilt of Hatori's tone. Shigure flicks his eyes over Hatori for a moment, then turns his gaze outward, over the darkening grounds. The sun has long since set, but there are some nights than only grow blacker as the minutes pass. Fireflies move lazily through the are, winking like the stars above. Action and form on earth is a mimicry of action and form in the heavens, Shigure thinks. He makes note to write that down somewhere. His next novel, perhaps, will be a more serious one. "For the prestige?"
"To torment your supervisor?" Shigure laughs.
"That is a bonus," he responds, easily. This is easy, he tells himself. This is friendly. This is easy. He taps his cigarette with his thumb and brings it back to his lips.
"For the women." Hatori does not turn to look at Shigure. But his sight is not what it was, once. (If he could have seen my expression, Shigure tells himself, he would have looked. Sly, very sly.)
"For the impressionable, young women," Shigure agrees. He does not mean it, nor does he mean for Hatori to think he means it. Hatori nods, patient. Shigure knows that he is a serious writer, in his own way. He smokes cheap cigarettes and has a pair of glasses and works off his memories. The most precious he does not cheapen; those, he alludes to, and nothing more. They are the secrets between the lines, tucked into the binding of each most recent novel. He distances himself from his truths, speaks of those that belong to others. He has a collection of expensive pens but he writes only on his computer. Every book review, good and less good, he's kept. Sometimes, he even reads his own books, and he is satisfied with their endings. "For closing them," he says, after a moment.
"What?" The wind in the leaves sounds brittle.
"I'm a novelist to write stories that end."
Hatori reads Shigure's novels, when he has the time. He reads them with a faithful diligence, some sort of extension of his loyalty. They're good. When Shigure puts his mind to something, the result is always intelligent, sometimes innovative. When Shigure puts his mind to something, he more than sees that something through. Shigure will not abandon it - he pursues it to its end. The words are simple, the points clear. Even the cheap, quick-money stories he writes have a certain amount of skill in them. They are at least interesting. Sometimes they don't end well, but they all end. And every story is a build-up to its own end. Each page is turned in chasing after the elusive end. Each sentence whispers, this will end. So this is the goal? When was it that his motives changed?
When they were younger they lived in the moment, no future and no past. No, that isn't true, Hatori warns himself. That is nostalgia and the wishful thinking it brings, slanting false light onto falser memory. For the majority of their time, the present was their home. Unpleasant recollections lingered in the backs of their mind, future fears shadowing those unexplored corners. But there was more hope, then. The irony is stunning, exquisite. Ayame still lives in the middle, remembering and wishing but rooted in each day. Hatori began to love and ended it, yes, but he is mired in its beginning, caught like a firefly in some child's fist. To always live in the winter is to never move on from what is past.
And Shigure presses forward, fighting some battle neither Ayame nor Hatori can name.
When was it that their motives changed?
"What are you trying to accomplish?" Hatori asks the question with impulse that knows it cannot draw blood from a rock, cannot therefore draw this answer from Shigure's lips. For the first time in perhaps months their eyes meet. Through the fall of dark hair Shigure can see Ayame's near-blind eye catch the light of a thousand fireflies. The reflection is only a reflection, in a dull and dusk-tinted mirror. The color is like mournful twilight.
Shigure laughs again. The sound is low, without relief, without joy, without sadness, without emotion. It is a filler of space, like so many scattered romances he once wrote for the money it brought in.
So Yuki could live with him.
Hatori's right eye widens, fractionally. Shigure flicks his cigarette aside, blows warmth onto his cupped, cold fingers. The fireflies are no longer friendly, glitter like the eyes of a wildcat. They wink on, and off, and on, and off, in the darkness. Hatori thinks it is strange to read a man's life's work and be unable to read the man himself. But perhaps that is the purpose, after all. The paths they chose they chose separately, though they were a trio, a triad, a tripod, three legs upon which to stand. In those times, survival was simple and existance was tangled with Ayame's, Shigure's laughter. Hatori had been less quiet, then. Smiles could be coaxed into his eyes, if not his lips.
"What am I trying to accomplish." It is not a question. All of him settles into comfortable lines. He ruffles his own hair, his sleeve falls down and reveals all of his pale forearm to his elbow. He is at rest again. He will not answer the question. "I underestimated Honda Tohru, once, Ha-san." Shigure leans down, now, on Hatori's blind side. Shigure's hands smell like ink and smoke and good food, like udon and teriyaki and onigiri. Like pencil lead. They touch Hatori's cheek and they push Hatori's hair back, away from that eye. Hatori sees him in blurred motion, without any clarity. But Hatori would see him that way now with even his good eye, with even perfect vision. Shigure adjusts it so, touching the bridge of Hatori's nose, his cheekbone, his brow. Runs his thumb over the line of Hatori's brow, right above his eye, across his eyebrow. Hatori does not stiffen. "Do you think because Aya speaks his mind so freely at injustices that he is the only one to feel them?" The indignity of humanity is one curse too many. The Jyuunishi bear one more on top of that. Hatori knows what Shigure's face would look like, if he could see him now. That indiscernible line of strength in his jaw. That unfamiliar determination.
Hatori wonders, who are you?
Because a man is his motivation.
Shigure kisses Hatori's brow and lets his hair fall back into place.
"It's late," he says, "even the fireflies are going to sleep." And there are less and less of them, now. They leave, and leave the night not in utter darkness, but craving only the ephemerality of light, to end this black's ponderous pitch.