The game we play.

DISCLAIMER: Shigure, Ayame, Kyou and all the other fruity Furuba characters do not belong to me. You'd know if they did.

Note: I was inspired to write this after discovering the lack of Ayame/Shigure couple fics out there, despite how much these two flirt on the show. Sure there are enough lemons about them, the only problem is Mr. Straightest-Guy-in-Fruits-Basket-Hatori somehow manages to worm his way into them. But hey whatever lifts your skirt and I can't stop people from writing their smut (though I very much want to.) This is just my little attempt to try and show anyone who reads it that Ayame and Shigure have all the potential of being a serious couple who don't just joke around all the time. Oh and there's no Hatori in it. All you fangirls who wanted a Mabudatchi lemon can hit the back button right now.

All those that are still here, good for you. There's still hope.

We've known each other

For a long, long time

But I never really noticed

All the magic in your eyes

I've been around you

A thousand times before

And you've always been a friend to me

But now I'm wanting more

I must have been so blind

I never realized

You're the one that's right for me

All the while I couldn't see

And now I feel so strange

I'll never be the same

Going 'round and 'round in circles

And I don't know what to do

'Cause baby-

I've been thinking about you

In the most peculiar way

I've been thinking about you

It's unbelievable to me

But suddenly I think

I'm falling in love with you. ~ Mariah Carey, "I've been thinking about you."

"What the hell are you doing here!?"

Ayame straightened the collar of his long jacket, unperturbed by Kyou's violent eruption and grinned widely.

"Why Lucky Kyou, you don't seem as thrilled as you should be to see me!" He exclaimed, sounding surprised. Kyou arched a delicate orange eyebrow. "But I suppose that's understandable. After all my arrival was so sudden it's only natural you'd be overcome with happiness at my presence!"

"Don't call me Lucky Kyou!!"

"Of course Lucky Kyou, whatever you say." Ayame said distractedly. He had caught sight of his reflection and was busy fussing over his immaculate silver hair, biting his lip as though thoroughly disgusted. "Tch, honestly. I swear I haven't been able to do anything with it lately. What do you think Lucky Kyou, do you think my hair looks messy? No need to be concerned about hurting my feelings now, just tell me the truth so I can eradicate the problem. Don't hold back now!"

Kyou groaned and slammed his fists down onto the table, his features very quickly flushing red to match his hair. (Which is orange. Oops... Oh well, just go along with it!!) There were many things in the world that annoyed him; Kagura, leeks, Yuki to name a few, but none of these could put him in as much pain as the damn rats egotistical older brother, Ayame. True that whilst Kagura and Yuki could bruise his body black and blue and leeks could deliver a particularly powerful knockout punch, it simply took Ayame being in the same room to drain Kyou of any rational reason to continue living. In fact, if he wasn't so invested in his promise to beat Yuki before the year was out, he would have happily taken himself out and pulled a Ritsu by hurling himself off of the roof. Only with a margin more success.

"Look Ayame... Yuki's not here..." Kyou muttered, taking deep soothing breaths in order to keep from cracking the snakes head over the table. "He went to a movie with Tohru, Kagura, Kisa and Hiro."

Ayame's eyes widened curiously. "Well, if that's the case why didn't you go along Lucky Kyou-"

"Don't call me that!!"

"- you can never be too careful you know, what with so many weirdo's running around."

"The weirdo running around would be you and seeing as how you're here torturing me I don't think they have anything to worry about! Besides –" Kyou sank down beside the table and curled his fingers into a tight fist. "- There's no way I'm going to risk being in a dark place with Kagura no matter how many other people there are around us. Can you imagine?! She'd be telling me to put my arm around her and do all that other stupid movie crap she thinks couples should do. Then she'd beat me up if I refused! That girl has some serious problems!!"

Ayame chuckled as he flipped his hair back, the silver strands coming to rest securely between his shoulder blades. "In this family Kyou, I don't think it's anyone's right to start pointing fingers. But blame aside, what time will they be home? I would hate to think that my visit was in vain and that I've failed once again to strengthen the surely forming bond between myself and my baby brother!"

He threw his hand against his forehead dramatically and uttered a hearty cry of sorrow. Kyou started praying to the Buddha and all things holy for some earplugs.

"Tohru's staying over at Hana's place for the night with that damn Yankee. But Yuki should be back soon. In good time." Kyou couldn't help but think that if Yuki got wind of Ayame's presence in the vicinity he would never come home. Which was all right with him, the only problem being that he would have to deal with Ayame for longer. And that would never do.

"Guess I'll have to wait around for a little while then..." Ayame said thoughtfully, setting himself down cross-legged on the floor. "So Kyou, why not be a dear and make us some tea whilst I entertain you with anecdotes of the Three Musketeers in High school?"

Kyou thought about this and decided he'd rather gargle with acid and broken glass. Of course, he expressed his discomfort in a politer way.

"ARE YOU CRAZY!? What do I look like, your damn maidservant!?" The cat screeched leaping to his feet and vein popping all over the place. "If you want someone to dress up as in one of your little skirts and kiss your ass then get Shigure, I'm sure he'd be thrilled to do it!!"

Kyou immediately regretted his words as Ayame's eyes lit up like a little kid at Christmas time. Whoo boy... here comes the hentai...

"'Gure-San's here!!" Ayame cried, jumping up and down like Mine whenever he gave her a compliment. Dear God make it stop. "Then it would seem that my coming here was not a waste at all! Oh goodie, where is he!?"

I just sentenced myself to death... no... no this goes beyond death, this goes right to the bowels of Hell! Hell's intestinal vortex of slow painful, acidic stomach juices... Kyou sank to the floor, tugging at great clumps of his orange hair. He didn't stop once to think that he was being overly dramatic and fanfic author wordy about his plight. In fact, he was near to certain that being digested alive would be much less painful then having to deal with a dose of Shigure and Ayame. It was a bit of a no-brainer really.

"Lucky Kyou, where are you going?" Ayame wondered, for Kyou was motoring straight for the door, faster then his short lived journey on Valentines Day to escape Kagura.

"I'm going – Hell I don't know, the mountain, the main house, to fight bears- JUST AWAY FROM YOU!!" He stopped suddenly and turned to the audience. "By the way, I did not fight bears during my training, it was completely coincidental that I just mentioned them there, okay? Okay? Good." With that he returned to his immediate task; escaping the evil, evil Ayame. So eager was he to get away from the evil, evil Ayame it seemed that there was no need to take into consideration silly little things like opening doors. Kyou simply kicked it off its hinges, sending wood chips and paper flying out into the yard beyond. Ayame shrieked like a little girl watching a horror movie.

"Kyou!! That's just inconsiderate treatment of Shigure's property!!" Ayame yelled after the neko's retreating figure. Whether Kyou actually heard or not he was uncertain, since he had taken no time in getting his ass up that mountain and towards some hot bear fighting action.

As he watched Kyou disappear into the night, Ayame started to experience the familiar stirrings of discontentment welling up within him. It was an emotion he felt very in touch with these days; more so then he would have liked. Though really, he didn't feel the word did the feeling justice. He just couldn't understand, try as he might, why when he tried so hard with people that his only reward was their scrutiny and rejection. It wasn't just Kyou-Kun either. Yuki, his parents, even Tori-San at times seemed to view him as a simple two-dimensional being with very little depth and feelings.

Just because I'm eccentric does it make them somehow think that my feelings are somehow shielded? That I don't connect with them the way other people do? I still hurt just the same as everyone else... but does my personality make people feel they have the right to scorn my feelings? Does it?

Ayame unfurled his legs, stretching each limb slowly, so the folds of his coat rippled into deep indents and creases. He watched the cloths subtle movements; somehow feeling himself relax a little as though the gentle waves somewhat translated soothing, calm words. A language only he understood. Fabric was something he could understand and understand it well at that. It was all too easy to pick up a beautiful square or roll of cloth and shape it into something even better, something he wanted it to be. He supposed that was what had drawn him towards tailoring in the first place, the position of control it put him in. Even when he was unable to control other aspects of his life, he was still able to return to his shop each morning and bury himself in his work, making things the way he wanted them to be made. If his tailoring had taught him anything over the years, it was that clothing was worn nowadays not only to keep people from running around naked. If that were the case, then they would all be wearing the same thing with the simple purpose of hiding their nudity from sight. Oh no, clothing was an art, an impression. And he was perfect in his art. Clothing was worn to help impress upon others a person's sense of identity. A claim a unique sense of who they were. If a person was relaxed, sensual, casual, then their clothing would usually reflect that. Or if they leant more towards the eccentric side, such as he himself did, then it was more then likely they would wear something gaudy, flashy to attract a person's attention.

Aah yes, clothing was made to impersonate a person's persona, but people themselves could not be made to suit the clothing that was a fact. There was no tailor for people, no one could shape them to make them fit to their own ideals and wants. That in itself was life. And the truth was that Ayame was frustrated by it, by his lack of success, particularly with Yuki. It just seemed like the more he tried, the more he set himself up for rejection and the more he was rejected the more he started to notice that the people around him didn't seem to care that it was happening! There were many things in his life that he wished he could shape to suit his ideals; things he wanted. Yuki to look at him as a brother and accept him, for Hatori to finally look at him as someone he could be proud of rather then someone he was more often then not ashamed of, for Shigure to- No, they were all too far fetched, particularly that last one. There was no way in Hell that he would ever... still, was it any more far fetched then Yuki finally tying bonds with him? That was a high improbability with an even greater chance of, NO WAY NOT IN A THOUSAND YEARS YOU BASTARD.

Maybe Ayame didn't show it as well as he should but he had feelings just like everyone else. It was only his pride as a man that kept him from crying out loud in front of everyone. He saved that until he was in the privacy of his own room.

Ayame climbed heavily to his feet, feeling a dead weight settling comfortably into the pit of his stomach. He hated feeling like this, like no one really cared about him. Despite having already taken his shoes off, he made his way over to the remains of the door and peered out. From the looks of things, it would seem that Kyou had dragged a good portion of the door with him, leaving a Hansel and Gretal trail of wood and paper into the night. A cold breeze blew past; whipping up the hem of Ayame's legs and slapping his bare legs playfully, just like the author would if given half the chance. (Oops, did I actually write that? *Slaps wrist*) It was winter now and thanks to Kyou's dramatic actions Shigure's house was going to get all drafty and this simply would not do! Since he felt partly responsible for the horrific mutilation upon the front door, Ayame decided to do his bit and at least pick up all the left over debris. From what he could hear, Shigure was on the phone a few rooms away having a heated discussion with his poor editor, Mii. It sounded as though Shigure had "forgotten" to send a copy of the manuscript to her address and now he was a week over the deadline and she was copping flack from the publishers as per usual. Ayame figured Shigure must have heard the door crash but was so used to it at this point that he hadn't even looked up from his conversation.

Typical 'Gure. He thought fondly, stepping over the threshold and into the front lawn. He'll probably be the death of that woman one day. He'll give her a coronary or something then who will he have to tease? It will have to be Hari... I'm sure that would go down well!!

Chuckling quietly to himself, Ayame pulled his red coat a little tighter around his slim form and knelt down in the damp grass, hurriedly gathering the pieces of splintered wood to him. The wind picked up, sending his fine platinum hair, swirling about his face obscuring his view for a moment, until it settled back against his shoulders. That was the great thing about being an anime character; you don't have too many bad hair days, no matter what the weather. Ayame's teeth began to chatter and he could feel coldness seeping into his bones, always a bad sign that he was pushing his luck. It was stupid of him he knew, to be out in the cold like this with so little layers on, but he didn't feel as though he could relax with the house the way it was; the front door scattered for a mile around. He did feel partly responsible after all... and besides Shigure...

Ayame's fingertips froze, hovering an inch above the torn strip of paper he had been about to pick up. His thoughts were straying away from the cold front yard and back into the house, to where Shigure stood, grinning as he delivered each teasing comment down the phone.

Shigure... Shigure you... you never treated me like the others did... not once did you glance at me with that disgruntled look in your eyes, as though I had somehow done something wrong even before I had said a word. ...Not once.

Ayame's eyelids closed briefly, the wind snapping down and snatching the piece of paper from the grass and away into the darkness, before he could retrieve it. But Ayame didn't even notice. The beauty of the symbolism itself was the paper being his own thoughts, being yanked away by that one persons name... by the mere thought of him. The darkness the same delicious color of his hair, that beautiful creature he had always admired whom he had always desired in one way or another. That handsome face and quirky smile had reeled him in all too easily, the attraction revealing itself for what it was as soon as they had hit puberty and he was able to finally see him as something else then his friend.

Shigure Sohma. The dog of the Jyuunishi.

'Gure-San you're the wind to me... elusive as you've always been. You snatch me away and carry me with you, then drop me where you see fit. ...Like a game. Our game that we play you and I, Shigure... A game you always seem to win, without even knowing that you're playing it.

It was his best-kept secret, his feelings for Shigure, his feelings of love. A sincere love at that, one that not many were sure that he was capable of. But how else could he describe it? It was such a wonderful feeling, how alive he felt every time he looked into those deep brown eyes. The very curve of his mouth as it shaped upwards into a joking, appreciative smile. His casual relaxed posture and gentle nature, so kind and caring to those around him. He could make him smile so easily and there had never been a time when he had failed to bring him out of a slump, laughing hysterically. Lord he was a wonderful man. It had not been difficult for Ayame to fall so hard for him, hard enough to bruise every bone in his body and scrape the skin for each limb. Yet it was divine, the subtle pains in his stomach he felt when thinking of him, imagining the two of them together as he so wanted them to be.

The reason for it being so well hidden was that he boasted it as loudly and flamboyantly as possible, at every given chance. His outrageous flirting, his sly comments of ambiguous nature... they were as much a mask as Kyou's tough guy persona. (When really he's just a gentle guy who loves animals. Awww!) The way Ayame looked at it, the more open he was about it, the more people around would come to see it as a joke.

Another thing about him that wouldn't be taken seriously.

Shigure had almost certainly never suspected it for what it was. He had been all too happy to play the game, delighting in the witty hi-jinks the pair of them got up to whenever they were together. It was no secret he liked to torture people who were altogether too serious and flirting with Ayame was just another way of going about it. There's more then one way to skin a cat, if you'll pardon the expression. Maybe I should go ahead and piss Akito off too by saying; "Killing two birds with one stone?" (Random Akito: DIE, DIE DIE!!! *Stabs author repeatedly*) There were times when Ayame wanted more then anything to be taken seriously. Not all the time of course, because seriousness could seriously make the world a dull place, but just sometimes. It would be wonderful if he could only make Yuki believe that he was truly sorry for what he had done all those years ago and that he sincerely wanted to change. If Kyou could try to understand him more and even accept him for who he was without telling him to go away or going away himself. And if Shigure... Shigure would pull his head out of his ass one day and realize that every word Ayame spoke to him that he had believed to be a joke... every word... was actually true...

The wind picked up again and Ayame jerked out of his thoughts, realizing that he was boring the readers and probably should get back to work. He hurriedly moved about the yard, picking up the remaining bits and pieces before the wind snapped them up too. He was definitely shaking now, a very bad sign overall and it didn't help that wet hot tears had started to form in the corners of his eyes. He blinked, drawing them out onto the arch of his long eyelashes allowing one single drop to fall across the arch of his porcelain cheek. He reached up to wipe it away; berating himself silently for getting so worked up about nothing.

Isn't Shigure off of the phone yet? He couldn't have missed my voice could he? ... Maybe he thinks I just left or something...

Still, he found it surprising that Shigure hadn't at least taken a peek at the damage. As accustomed as he may have grown to it, he still couldn't resist moaning over each new hole in his beloved house, no matter how big or small it may be. And this was a big fucking new addition. Shigure would be in his element.

'Gure-San... you have no idea how much I care for you... do you? Ayame thought as he secured the bundles of wood and paper tight against his chest. You think I'm only joking, when I really want you so bad it hurts. So bad... I can't even lie still for a single moment without thinking about you. Thinking of what it would feel like to have you lying there beside me, of your gentle hands roaming across my skin. How your mouth would taste as your warm lips possessed mine... Shigure, what does it mean to you, this game we play? Why can't I just come out and say that I care for you this way? Hell, Haru did with Yuki! Or could it be that when I think of the possibility of you saying that you don't feel the same way... I'm afraid? Because the idea that this much love for you could be nipped in the bud... it hurts so much...

True that whilst Ayame admired Hatori for his many good qualities, what so many people failed to see was that he admired Shigure too. On the one hand, he and Shigure could joke around madly, laughing and flirting to the discomfort of all those around them and on the other, they could also sit down and have a serious discussion over tea. A friend like that was all he felt he ever needed and whilst he had that sort of fulfillment with Shigure, Ayame felt as though he could handle all the other disappointments in his life. Even if Shigure could never see past the joking or the laughter and catch the look in Ayame's eyes as he spoke every word, he had that friendship. Did he really deserve any more then that? Was it selfish to want more, to think about Shigure in such ways when he himself so obviously did not feel the same way? It was almost indecent... rude, to imagine holding him close, kissing him, making love to him... What would he say if he had any idea what was going through Ayame's head? He'd probably run screaming into the night just as Kyou had.

But whatever his reactions might be on the matter, it would never change Ayame's feelings for him. They were a constant companion day in, day out, knawing at his heart, begging him to quell the rampant urges in his body. Like his serpent form sought out heat to stay alive, so did Ayame seek that warmth, the simple warmth of a loving human touch, a warmth only Shigure could provide. He'd tried to find it in others, both men and women alike, but in comparison to Shigure, his feelings for him made it near to impossible to be satisfied by anyone else. He found a contentment in Shigure such as he had in no one else. Whilst he was with him, he was happy, when they were apart, he missed him. It almost seemed as though the two of them were in fact lovers; yet Ayame alone was the only one who noticed. When he had first started having these feelings he couldn't say, but as he had grown so had they in their intensity until they were almost unbearable to contain inside of him. Why did Shigure choose to be so blind? Couldn't he see that this wasn't a game to Ayame? It never had been, not at all...

"Shigure..." He whispered, not surprised at the lusty weight in which his words fell to the wind. "...Shigure..."

He took a few stumbling steps towards the house, his bare feet frozen by the wet chill of the grass. His eyelids were feeling heavy and that familiar drowsy sensation was starting to overtake him. Each step was an agonizing battle, taking a thousand years to fall. And he was cold... almost as cold as Hatori's heart. (Okay, I'm sorry, I couldn't resist! You can all hunt me down later! ^_^)

"Shigure..." He whispered again, barely registering the feeling of the sudden pelting rain against his skin. Nor the fact that he had fallen to both knees's in the sodden grass, unable to keep his frozen body standing. (I was going to say 'erect' but then I realized just how very wrong that would have been!) He fell forward completely, his hair falling across his face as he made contact with the damp soil.

"Yuck..." He muttered, spitting out a mouthful of mud. "How unsanitary! This is certainly no desirable treatment for a house gues-geau-GUH ~" He broke off into a shuddering yawn, a chill racing up and down his spine as the rain fell against his back, like the chorus of a thousand tiny fingers against the keys of a piano. Tentatively seeking out the correct points and grazing them with only the slightest brush... He scoffed to himself. Bet Shigure would never do that. He hung his head. Then again, would he want to do it to a man, who was sprawled out on his front lawn in the rain, angsting away in an internal monologue and occasionally verbalizing to himself? He has a little more class then that... not much, but a little more.

The drowsy feeling was reaching up to claim him; gently tugging him downwards, away from those gentle fingertips that continued to dance along the expanse of his angular back. He was falling into a deep sleep, the darkness calling to him, enticing him to succumb to it and then, over the sound of the rain he thought he could hear someone calling his name. But it was only a passing thought, then with a puff of smoke he was a snake, curling up desperately amongst the wet garments, trying to draw from them whatever heat it could. The ground reverberated up through his belly, the distinct sound of approaching footsteps and a blurred buzzing sound that translated as human speech, though it had no impact on his snake body at all. But even in that fevered hibernation, Ayame was became consciously aware of the warmth that ensnared his body, surrounded him from everywhere at once. If only for a second, then he fell into an even deeper sleep as complete as death itself (though not quite, since you know... he would be dead and all.) cloaked in a dark warmness that he had not even needed to seek out...

Note: This is only the first part of what I hope to be a five-chapter story. In case you hadn't noticed, this was the fluffy, angsty, exposition chapter where I really drill into you what to expect. Now that I have scared you, I can happily warn you that this is the angstiest chapter of the lot and the rest will be only medium fluffy. If I can help it. Oh yeah, and chapter 5 is going to be lemonish, hence the R rating. Though I have to say, it was nice to take a break from my humor fics to try something like this. And once I'm done with it, I may very well never do it again. (Collective sigh of relief.)

So, please R and R and flame if you feel like it. Like I said, don't flame me about its fluff-iness, because I'm beating myself up enough about it for everyone in the world. Flame my bad sentence structure or inability to write anything serious. But lay off the fluff, son. Lay off!