The game we play.

DISCLAIMER: What a wonderful world it would be if I owned Fruits Basket. Because if I did Aya and Gure would be boffing, Tohru would be dead and Akito would be the main character. That's why I don't own the show and therefore don't have the chance to completely screw it up. So rest safely world!! ^^

Note: I want you all to know that I am a nice person. One of the nicest you can meet actually. The only person I've ever heard of who is nicer then me is Tohru and that's telling you something. In fact, I'm so nice that if a reviewer has a problem with how I write my fic I will absolutely alter the story to fit the reviewers standards while compromising my own. Because that's my aim in life; to bend over backwards every time someone makes a request.

Just had to get that out of my system.

Having said that now, Gami, I understand where you are coming from and can see why my little 'author notes' would be a pain. But what I don't get is why you had to force yourself to read it. As far as I know I didn't send Akito over there with a gun to hold to your head and force you to finish the lot on pain of death did I? Granted that you like this coupling and you want to know how it pans out, I can see why you would. To the best of my knowledge, there are no other serious Gure/Aya fics out there and certainly none in chapters with a sequel in the works! Therefore I think I have a write to mutilate my story and annoy my readers as much as I like since there is no alternative other then Aya/Hari or Gure/Hari or Aya/Hari/Gure and if you want to read those go right on ahead. Don't let my cliched, annoying writing stop you. But to be fair, I see your point and I must admit I myself would find it annoying if I wanted to settle into the right mood of the story and a stupid comment, with no relevance at all to what is happening and isn't even really funny, is slipped in there at an inappropriate moment. It's really kind of a pain in the ass. I'm not mad at what you said, since you are an Ayame/Shigure fan and they are the only kinds of reviewers who I will allow to give me constructive criticism without me swearing my head off at them. Therefore, to be fair no more author notes will appear in the following two chapters. However most of my readers so far have liked these notes and now I'm getting rid of them and they'll get pissed off at me. So really, I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. But I can see where you're coming from and that's why I'm taking it into account. Thank you very much and hope you all enjoy the next chapter! ^^

Additional note: The fifth chapter, I'm sorry to say can not be displayed on It will however be up soon, on so if you want to read it, do a search and look up Ayame and Shigure and you should find it. If not, tell me off in my reviews and I'll find a better way of directing you all to it!! ^^ Yeah, sorry I know the fifth chapter's meant to be here but it's way too dirty. ^^;;; That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the reader. Oh and ArturwenElf; thanks for the Aya plushie!! (Squeezes it happily whilst Shigure jealously looks on in the background.) Don't glare at me like that!! It's not my fault you're a big brickhead! (Okay actually it is, but still...) If you're jealous go hug the real Aya, I'm sure he won't mind! ^^ Seket Ninstuku I love you too! *Hugs Seket happily* Any friend of the Aya/Gure coupling is a friend to moi! Delusional_lady you are not delusional. You are now my friend! *Hugs her too* Thankyou so much for your kind comments! It makes me happy to think that I've written something that people enjoy reading and even regard as something that could possible happen! That was kinda my aim... *Blushes*

And now that all the legal mumbo jumbo's out of the way, enjoy the fic everyone!!

I don't know why you're so far away
But I know that this much is true
We'll make it through
And I hope you are the one I share my life with
And I wish that you could be the one I die with
And I pray in you're the one I build my home with
I hope I love you all my life

I don't want to run away but I can't take it, I don't understand
If I'm not made for you then why does my heart tell me that I am
Is there any way that I can stay in your arms?

'Cause I miss you, body and soul so strong that it takes my breath away
And I breathe you into my heart and pray for the strength to stand today
'Cause I love you, whether it's wrong or right
And though I can't be with you tonight
And know my heart is by your side

I don't want to run away but I can't take it, I don't understand
If I'm not made for you then why does my heart tell me that I am
Is there any way that I can stay in your arms? ~ Daniel Bedingfield.

He dreamt of Shigure in the night that followed.

As the nightmare faded away to a distant mirage and sleep lay itself across his senses, it brought with it a dream as tender as the softest blanket.

Ayame stood on the edge of a great precipice; hair tangled in the winds fingers as they reached down from the auburn sky. He watched himself as though he were someone else; perhaps the wind itself. The Ayame he saw stood still against the backdrop of an ever-circling sky; clouds whipping past as though tugged on a string in the hands of a small child. The wind brought with it, a thick wall of fog that rose up from wherever it was the cliff fell and it washed across the figure on it's tip, claiming him to it's breast. As they finally drew away an inconceivable sight graced the eyes of the Ayame that watched from afar. The version of himself he had seen on the precipice, had now been reduced to a mere child. He saw clearly the way he had once been so many years ago; hair cut to the nape of his neck, his limbs so small and delicate, like that of a doll. There was a blindfold across his eyes and he stood with his hands outstretched before him, fingers working at the air as though trying to draw something to him. The clouds slowed in the sky as time stopped speeding backwards and another figure came into sight, moving towards the cliff's edge.

Shigure. Or at least the child Shigure.

He ran about the blindfolded Ayame, high-pitched giggles echoing around the vast area like the sweet tolling of bells. A soft smile spread across the child Ayame's face as he turned this way and that, trying in vain to find the body of whom the voice belonged to. With a shock, Ayame realized that he was once again recounting the past. Though not in exact detail. The cliff itself had been the concoction of his own exaggerated mind; but the game itself was plucked straight from the past.

Blind man's bluff.

He and Shigure in particular had been very fond of playing it as children, free from the responsibilities that the other zodiac members seemed to invariably suffer. Not them. Their childhood's had been filled with the simplistic innocent happiness that most children became acquainted with so readily and easily. They would often try to include Hatori in their games, but his time was sparring even as a boy. Born possessed of the dragon he was inevitably cursed to learn from very early on, the controls and limitations of his powers; lest he erase someone's memories accidentally. For him, maturity came through nurture, not nature and he had grown up faster then they had. Perhaps in a way he envied them that, for Shigure and Ayame would never truly understand the effect that the curse had on him.

Which was as it should have been.

Life to them was an exciting adventure that grew in majesty day after day after day. Blind Man's bluff had always been particularly fun as it boasted an element of recklessness. The Blind man could so very easily have stumbled over an up raised root, a rock or even a friend's foot should they extend it. Yet the other player would always be there to catch them if something like that should happen. Shigure and Ayame trusted one another, and that trust had true stamina; which was why it has lasted until this very day.

What irony though; Ayame would later think to himself, when consciousness would allow his mind free reign of contemplation. What irony that the game we once played, would so symbolically pertain our life. That in the real life game, Shigure is the blind man and I have bluffed him at every turn. What sweet, sweet irony indeed.

In his dream, Ayame turned and made a false step, fumbling backwards over the cliff. Suddenly, he was transfixed behind his own eyes, no longer watching the scene from far way and he felt real terror gnaw at his veins. His hands fumbled the air, his eyes masked from sight by that damnable mask. He ached to rip it away, but the command never reached his fingers.

A warm hand clasped his own and then, there was someone falling beside him, holding him in a warm embrace as darkness and light blurred together as one colidascope of color. There was no jolt to signal the end of the descent, simply a lack of motion at all and the absence of the mask, clinging to his face. He lay on a broad expanse of grass that stretched out into a never-ending field where one solitary tree remained silhouetted against the blue cloudless sky. It was light, but there was no sun. Shigure lay beside him, a fully-grown man once more and laughing his wild gay laugh as though a million years of tension had just been peeled away. Ayame's hand still gripped his, though very slightly by the fingers. To regain the contact he had felt whilst they had been falling, the snake moved his hand directly into Shigure's palm and squeezed tightly, trying to draw the Inu's attention to him, if only for a moment. But Shigure only continued to laugh and the laughter seemed so rational in the dream. As though Ayame were indeed foolish for his desire to deter him from it.

Finally, the broad guffaws withered into hearty chuckles and eventually, drained away to nothing. Shigure sighed and stretched back, his robes falling open at the chest revealing tanned flesh. Though his constraints were well in place whilst his eyes were open, Ayame felt not the chains that would have held him back in reality. There was no procrastination, no weighing up the pro's and con's, or what might become of it should he act on his impulses. Here within the confines of his fantasy, he simply acted upon them.

Before he had the sense to stop himself, his hands were pressed to that skin, stroking it desperately as though it were oxygen to dying lungs. He pushed the robe back and rolled slightly atop Shigure eager to touch more of his friend's sweet flesh, wanting to sample each and every inch of him with his fingertips. Shigure smiled, as though they were both in agreement and roved his hands across Ayame's back, teasingly brushing the crease between his legs and his buttocks. Ayame was whimpering at what felt like real passion and plastered his lips to Shigure's chest, leaving trails of hot wetness across his skin. He wanted to shower him with kisses; bathe him with his lips.

But no more came of it. The dream shifted to a real memory now; an eight year old Ayame and Shigure running along the lake, savoring the wet sand between their toes. Water splashing around their ankles. Shigure stopped and picked up a stone, smoothed down to a fine circular surface by the rough water's touch. He bounced it up and down in his palm a few times, then with an experienced flick of his wrist, sent it skipping out across the lake's surface. Ayame, thrilled by this new activity, tried to follow suit and mangled the task unsurprisingly. His actions were far too rushed and not nearly as comprehensive nor concentrated as Shigure's. The Inu pup sighed and searched for another perfect stone to rival the one he had just returned to the water. He found it and slipped it into Ayame's hand which he then took between his own and demonstrated the correct way of aligning the shot. Shigure stood just behind Ayame, opposing hand positioned around his waist and chin perched on his shoulder, looking out across the lake. As they prepared to skip the stone, a couple came into view just a short way from there they were standing. The two boys watched curiously as the man encased his lover within the fold of his arms, both gazing out at the softly rippling water. How smooth and tranquil it looked that day; like silk being tweaked from every corner by tiny fingers. The couple looked on in silence for a while, before the man bent down to kiss his partner with gentle passion on the lips.

They were both men.

Ayame had been enraptured by the sight; by the tenderness that the gay couple had exhibited. He didn't clearly understand it then but what he did understand was how it made him feel inside. It was different from when he had seen straight couple's kiss. For some reason, these two men seemed more loving and genuine. He looked at them, they completely lost to everything but each other and he wished to know just what they were feeling. It looked so perfect. The men smiled at one another, noses touching for a moment, then started to walk away in the opposite direction, hand in hand. Shigure made a strange sound.

"Dad says that's wrong."

Ayame, who had always disliked Shigure's father, clenched the stone tightly between his fingers. He couldn't see how something that looked so wonderful, that displayed so much happiness and love could be wrong. If he couldn't have it in the arms of his parent's, then maybe Ayame could find it in the arms of another man. Someone to take care of him forever and love him more then anything else. He was envious of those two men, even as a small child. But whatever they shared between the two of them, that feeling that made him feel so warm all over... it couldn't be wrong. It just couldn't.

"I don't think so." He said softly, but firmly.

Shigure, who also didn't like his father, smiled. "Me neither."

Ayame smiled back, then on a basis of nothing other then driven instinct, turned his head sharply and met Shigure's lips with his own. It was a short kiss, a shy kiss, but it felt nice. It felt the way he was sure it felt for the couple they had just seen. Loving. Warm. Accompanying it a sense of acceptance for one another. It was Ayame who had pulled away first, savoring the wetness on his lips and the hot blush snaking it's way up his neck.

"It doesn't feel wrong." He whispered.

Shigure blushing too, pried the stone from Ayame's taut fingers. He examined it in his hand for a moment, critically eyeing its worn surface before finding his lost voice.

"No it doesn't." He said, heaving the stone as hard as he could. It hit the lake's surface with a hearty 'plop' and sank straight to the bottom. Shigure turned to face Ayame, a warm smile marring his features. A smile that had from that day onwards lit up everything around him; including Ayame's heart. "Not at all."


Sunlight streamed through a gap in the curtains and fell across Ayame's svelte figure. His hair fanned across the pillows in tangled waves, shimmering in the early morning light. Dark eyelashes fluttered against pale cheeks as Ayame slowly returned to the waking world. He wasn't really a morning person and waking up was a gradual, painful effort that took a good half-hour at least. Though it didn't really matter on most occasions, since the shop didn't open until 10:30 on weekdays and today was a Saturday. Granted he felt well enough to do so, he wasn't required to be in until 3:00. Which meant a nice long sleep in.

Ayame smiled as he snuggled into the blankets, pulling them around his slim body and stretched his arms out to the space beside him. Shigure wasn't a morning person either; one could argue that he was in fact an afternoon person since that was the only time he ever emerged. It was quite adorable really. He would be still be sleeping soundly, and damn what Shigure thought about it, Ayame was going to wrap his arms around him and cuddle him as they drifted into the morning. Yes, it seemed a fine way to spend his time in those lazy moments between sleep and wakefulness. The dream had also left him feeling a little cosy... to say the least. If he was a man of less restraint he may very well have acted on those feelings, rolling over and stripping away Shigure's robes, taking him there and then. But that could be considered unethical, not to mention embarrassing. Especially if Shigure didn't even wake up.

Whatever his plans, they never had the chance to come into fruition. His searching arms found nothing.

Astonished, the silver haired bishie spread his fingers across the empty space, stretching as far as his arm could reach. When he had just about popped it out of joint, he consented to opening his eyes, just in case Shigure had slipped to the very edge of the bed and was hanging precariously off of the corner.

He wasn't there at all.

Ayame sat up shock straight, peering over the side to see if he had perhaps rolled out of bed and was now snoozing on the floor. It wouldn't be the first time that something of this nature had happened; Shigure could be counted on to sleep through just about anything. Perhaps he had been forced to adapt in such a way since Yuki and Kyou had come to live under the same roof. Whatever the case, Shigure was not lying comatose on the floor, nor was he anywhere in the room. Unless of course he was being incredibly silly and hiding in the closet, in the literal sense, but Ayame somehow doubted that even Shigure would do this for no particular reason.

The snake sighed and looked over at the clock. His blurry vision was able to make out the numbers 7:25.




Shigure was never up this early!! He never even knew what a sunrise was! Growling, Ayame picked the clock up, convinced that it had stopped and shook it. The numbers flashed but remained stubbornly on 7:25. Ayame then had the common sense to compare it with the wall clock, which backed its little partner in crime up with the exact same numbers.

Bah... all the houses clocks must faulty, Ayame rationalized raking a hand through his hair which still had most of Shigure's braids and what not in them. He sleepily began to work them out, yawning widely and wondering where the dark haired dog was. At this point it seemed feasible that the only way he was going to find Shigure, was if he went in search for him. With that in mind, Ayame swung his tired legs out of bed and coaxed them towards the door, yawning the whole way. His body screamed in objection, not used to being pushed so soon after just waking up. But this was an emergency. Shigure was up way too early, he wasn't in immediate eyeshot and most importantly, Ayame hadn't had his early morning cuddle. DAMMIT he needed his cuddle and he needed it NOW! Full of determination, the silver haired snake pulled his robes tightly around him and slid the door open.

Shigure was sitting cross-legged beside the table reading the newspaper.

Oh. Well that was easy, Ayame thought as a wide smile spread across his face. Shigure didn't turn around to greet him, even though he must have heard the door open. He continued turning the pages, pausing occasionally to wet the tip of his finger with his tongue so the paper wouldn't stick together. His glasses sat up high on the bridge of his nose, dark brown eyes uncharacteristically dull behind the lenses. Understandable. It was 7:25 after all. Ayame thought he knew a way of solving that.

He announced his presence, not in his usual flamboyant manner, but by dropping to his knees, waddling up behind his life long friend and draping his arms around his shoulders. Ayame nuzzled the back of Shigure's neck sleepily, smiling the whole while at the memory of his dream. That one day so many years ago when the two of them had kissed, as nothing more then friends...

"Good morning..." He whispered, feeling Shigure shift at the sudden contact. The other man glanced over his shoulder barely meeting Ayame's eyes with his own, then turned back to the paper.

"Morning. Sounds like you're feeling better."

Ayame hadn't even thought about his fever. In the light of other things it hadn't really seemed all that important... but now he realized that not only did he feel better, he absolutely was not ill anymore! It was a miracle!

"I am!" He said, patting his own forehead as though to verify this. "Thanks to Hari's Home remedies that is! And you taking care of me of course..." He said this bit seductively, spreading his legs out on either side of Shigure's waist and placing his feet in his lap. Shigure turned the page. "Shigure! You're such a wonderfully able minded nurse! Whatever can I do to thank you?"

This provoked a reaction of some sort, and Shigure could usually be counted on to never skip a beat of their game. But he seemed distracted that morning. His eyes never left the minute black print of the paper and his expression never rose beyond that of a brooding one. Ayame waited patiently for the response, which never came before he released his hold on Shigure's shoulders. He scuttled around to his side and slipped his head in-between the newspaper and Shigure's line of sight, so that he couldn't avoid him.

"Gure~?" He sang, rapping the dog smartly on the back of the skull. "You and Hari didn't switch places last night while I was sleeping did you? Because you seem kind of um... grumpy..."

Shigure sighed a little and shook his bangs so they drifted to one side of his face. He still refused to meet Ayame's eyes a fact that annoyed the snake royally.

"HEY!! GURE!!" He yelled, waving his hand in front of the dogs' morbid face. "I don't know what you've done with my friend Shigure but I want you to spit him out right this instant! And if this is you Gure then I don't think you have a right to pout! I didn't do anything unsanitary in my sleep did I? And even if I did, you are not one to judge, considering you snore, sleep talk and have an assortment of other unpleasant personal slumber habits that I feel would be tactless of me to mention right now."

Shigure cracked a grin. It was a start.

Ayame adopted a sympathetic expression and wrapped his arm around the inu's neck, rubbing his fingers through the delicate peach fuzz just below the hairline. What followed was silence as the pair simply stared at one another and Ayame could have believed in those subtle nuances that they really were lovers. The way their eyes met... it seemed almost surreal and as he lifted his face upwards, he forgot about keeping his feelings a secret. It just didn't seem to matter anymore.

Shigure pulled away.

Cold heat flushed throughout Ayame's body and he tried to think of something to say; to make the sudden dash of his lips towards his friends a simple misunderstanding. That he hadn't been about to kiss him... no...

"...Shigure..." He whispered.

" I know."

It couldn't have been more effective, even if a drip full of ice cold water was pumping through his veins. Ayame's eyes widened until the point that they nearly popped from their sockets. For once, he hoped his ears had betrayed him or that he simply read too much into what his friend was saying.

"Know what, Shigure...?"

The novelist made a sound like he was exceedingly weary and gently pulled Ayame's arm off of him, climbing to his feet as the fingers fell away from his neck. He turned towards the kitchen and walked to the door, stretching his own hand up to brace against the wooden frame whilst he and his mind spoke to one another; a hidden argument that Ayame was not privy to. Not until Shigure chose to share it.

"You... Aya. I know how you... how you feel..."

Under normal circumstances, Ayame may have felt inclined to make a dirty joke but these were not normal circumstances. Shigure was too somber; the very air around them seemed choked with an unpleasant vibe. He tried to say something, anything to make the upcoming conversation go away... but he knew now that it wouldn't.

"I... don't know what you mean?" He said lamely, though forcing himself to smile while he said it. He jumped as Shigure spun around, slamming his hand against the wall as though meaning to punch a hole through it.

"God dammit Aya, cut the bullshit!" He all but yelled, glaring down at the other man. "I know okay? I'm not making some fucking hypothesis or some self-righteous guesswork. Where I'm coming from Ayame is the blatant truth you get that? I know! Okay... I—I know..."

There was a silence so thick and consistent it might very well have been compared to melted toffee. Ayame wanted to divert his eyes but they were fixed on Shigure's; Shigure ,'s which darted from his face to elsewhere in rapid succession. Ayame was confused, until he realized that his kimono had hiked up to perch atop his hips, exposing the entire length of his smooth ashen thighs. He felt his cheeks redden, and quickly secured his legs beneath the fabric of his robe, grateful for the excuse to look away from Shigure's hard gaze. And even in a moment like this, he couldn't fail to notice how handsome the dog was when his face was creased with disconcertment.

"How...?" Ayame finally asked. Shigure scratched the back of his neck as though remembering the snakes affectionate touch and wet his lips, as if to prepare his mouth for the words. He didn't want to do this... what if it ended everything? But what was the point in staying silent any longer, when he had already promised himself to be honest? Dammit... if anything Ayame deserved that honesty... even if it hurt him. Which it inevitably would. There was no alternative.

"Last night... you told me." He said, speaking the words with a weight that seemed to send them crashing to the ground as soon as they left his lips. Ayame's breath caught in his throat. His heart refused the wall of his chest. Dear God... "Though I don't think you really meant to... am I right in my assumption?"

"Shigure I—"

"Am I right?!"

Frightened by his tone, Ayame simply nodded praying a rift in the earth's plates would create a yawning directly beneath him that he could disappear into. No such luck however.

Shigure was watching him and slowly but surely, his face gradually began to soften until it took the form of something akin to... pity. No Ayame thought, twisting his own face away. Don't do that to me... that's the cruelest thing you could do Shigure...

"Aya... I really had no idea..." The inu rubbed his chin with the top of his index finger and rested the fingernail against his lip. "I don't know really what to say, it's just... I... you know me Ayame. You know that I... Damn I'm just so sorry..."

"Don't you do that..." Ayame hissed, expression hidden from beneath his hair. He slowly turned his face towards Shigure and his eyes told it all. He was aggrieved, tears were welling behind his lashes and his forehead was creased from the weight of holding himself together. "You think you're sorry? You haven't just made a fool of yourself have you? ...God damn, you're my friend so you have a right to be angry, to shake your head and be disgusted if you have to... but how dare you try to pity me. I'm insulted... truly insulted that you would feel sorry for me as though there is really a cause for your sympathy. You may as well have called me pathetic."

"Aya that's not what I was implying-"

"You don't have to imply, Shigure! If you really were sorry then you would have kept your mouth shut and let things go on the way they were!"

"Like you were planning to?!" Shigure said sharply enough to slice right through the bone of Ayame's skull. "I'm sorry because I can't return the feelings and I don't want to see you hurt Aya. But I'm not going to shut up and let something that's this important to you float by without saying a word. I don't see that as thoughtlessness Ayame, I see that as a kindness. Having the strength to confront these things rather then run from them."

Ayame frowned. "And I'm weak for not telling you, is that what you're saying?"

"Hell no! God, I wish you would stop misinterpreting everything I say!"

"Then say something that makes sense and stop beating around the bush!" Ayame rose to his feet and only then did the tears start to stream down his cheeks. "If you want me to say it myself then fine, okay? I... I look at you as more then a friend. I know that you're straight but I don't care, it's just that you've always been there for me so I—"

Shigure smashed a hand against his forehead and then flung it out to the side fiercely. It was such a violent action that Ayame staggered backwards over the table and nearly fell on his butt. He managed to regain his footing, no thanks to Shigure who was yelling.

"You want me to make myself clear when you can barely do so yourself? You said last night... basically posed the question of whether or not I might ever see how much you loved me. ...How can I see it, if you don't ever show it to me?"

"...I should have caught on when you started snoring..." Ayame said, looking off to the side as though he had spied something interesting in the distance. "Up until that point you were silent and then there was—This is really beside the point, isn't it?"

Shigure grinned a little sheepishly. "Yeah it is..."

Ayame closed his eyes, his long lashes brushing his cheeks as though trying to soothe him. What he wouldn't give for this to be another nightmare; to suddenly wake up and find Shigure beside him, sleeping soundly and still blissfully unaware. Why, oh why had he spoken aloud last night? Foolish... idiotic and foolish and now, as a result he may very well lose the one thing in his life that never had any faults.

"Gure..." He whispered as more tears rolled across his cheeks and gathered on his chin. "I'm so sorry... for feeling this way about you, for not being honest with you... this must disgust you..."

"You sounded so miserable Aya... I've never known you to sound so sad..."

"There are sadder things..." Ayame wiped at his face, trying to rid himself of the salty wetness that made him want to cry even harder and turned away to face the door. "I'm such an idiot. ...I've always known that but I didn't want you to know." His shoulders started shaking as sobs worked their way up from his chest. "I didn't want to lose you too!!"

"Aya you haven't." The dog said gently, reaching out to place a hand on his friends convulsing shoulder. Ayame pulled it out of his grasp and clapped his own hand down as though to eradicate any room for Shigure's.

"Then tell me that this doesn't matter. That you won't feel weird being around me and seeing me... that you won't get uncomfortable when we joke around or when I touch you or look at you." Ayame was shivering now as if the fever had reclaimed him, both arms wrapped around the width of his body as though he meant to hide himself from those deep brown eyes he loved so much. "Even though you know I love you... tell me it doesn't matter!"

"'It doesn't matter?' You want me to say your feelings mean nothing then?"

"No..." Ayame turned his face a little to the side, just so he could see Shigure from the very edge of his sight. "Don't you see Shigure? No words will fix this. You say it 'doesn't matter' you're a cold unfeeling bastard. You say it does matter, it means you're uncomfortable with this... with me. And you are aren't you? That's why you rolled away last night to deter my touch and right now... you couldn't stand to have my arms around you."

Shigure didn't have to say anything. He wished he did, but it was a no win situation. And the truth was... that he really was uncomfortable with it. Knowing how Ayame felt about him gave new meaning to every little word he said every little contact he made and every look. And knowing Ayame not all of those thoughts would be exactly kosher either. With nothing to say, a silence passed between them and Ayame whimpered, squeezing his eyes shut as his fears were confirmed. There really had been no hope after all... why had he even bothered to—

He sighed. "Considering you're an author and all Shigure, I find it kind of amusing that you can't even think of a few choice words to say right now."

Shigure simply shook his head. "I write words... I don't write life Ayame."

"I think I saw that one in your last smut novel."

"Come on Ayame, what do you want me to say?!" Shigure exclaimed, shaking his hands. "I can't give you what you want and I don't know how to fix this! What do you want from me?!"

Ayame slowly looked over his shoulder, a tear carving a silver trail across his cheek. How very badly he wanted this whole thing to be nothing but a bad dream, because then he could take the easy way out and wake up from it. But this was no dream. He wasn't hiding behind closed eyes; he wasn't treading foot on grass that was blue and a sky that was purple. This was very real. His eyes stung from the biting harsh reality of the tears and his heart ached, from beneath the weight of the great loss he was enduring.

This was certainly not how he had imagined this moment.

"What I want from you...? I want..." And despite everything, he smiled. What the hell was he trying to shelter himself from now? What would be the harm in admitting any more that was far less then what Shigure already knew. "I want you to be how I see you in my mind. Sweeping into whatever place I'm in, no matter how far away I may be. All eyes and arms and lips... I want you to pull me to you and let me sink into those eyes of yours. You'll tell me the past is the old book we've put aside and the future is open and-- ... and then you'll say... 'You win.' That's all you'd ever say Shigure and I'd know it meant that you loved me as I loved you. 'You win...' Because that then will be the end of the game we play."


The snake smiled softly. "Its okay Shigure... you haven't done anything wrong. Thankyou so much for taking care of me... I don't know if I'll be visiting again anytime soon but... take care of Yuki okay? If you feel as though you have any obligation to me at all because of this... that can be your way of showing it."

"Ayame... it can't end this way... not over something like this." Shigure's eyes were glassy, as though he meant to cry but couldn't quite force himself to do so. "We've been friends forever... it can't end this way..."

"But it has." Ayame said and with that, the last of his self control fled. Sobbing loudly, hands clasped over his mouth he threw the door open and ran through the entrance way out through the hole Kyou had created in the front door and towards his car. He didn't stop to consider his clothes were still inside, or that he was running around in a filthy old kimono which would have given Mine a coronary on any day of the week. He just wanted to leave Shigure behind him, to escape what had happened. The car was unlocked and for once Ayame was grateful for his absent mindfulness. He tugged the driver's side door open and somersaulted into the seat, crying openly as he twisted the key in the ignition. By now Shigure was out on the porch yelling at him to come back. Ayame ignored him and started to car in less then three tries, a record for him and quickly backed down the driveway, running over some phallic shaped plant that had no justifiable reason for being planted where it was. In the garden.

"HEY!! WHAT THE--?!" Kyou dived out of the way as the car flew down the drive at him, faster then a train that had been derailed. It was lucky he had been paying attention that morning or else that little incident could have been quite messy. Not that the alternative was any cleaner, considering he had landed in a great stinking pile of what he hoped was mud. The car reached the end of the driveway and spun a 180-degree angle, taking off down the road and almost skittling the mailman who was on his morning deliveries. Kyou wondered why it was Hatori was the only member of the Three Musketeer's who acquired his license by actually learning to drive and not from finding his in a cereal box.

For a long time, Shigure simply stared after the car and for the first time in a long time, he had no idea what to do. There was no witty remark, no come back no nothing... just a sedate feeling of emptiness within and without him. He leaned heavily against one of the wooden support beams, thinking back to what Ayame had just said:

"That's all you'd ever say Shigure and I'd know it meant that you loved me as I loved you."

"Hey what's up with him?" Kyou asked, jerking Shigure back to reality. The cat was standing beside him on the porch, wiping mud off of his shirt and staring off down the road, that familiar look of disinterested interest on his face. "The shop on fire or something?"

Shigure said nothing.


Hatori was reading through Akito's medical chart when Ayame came knocking at the door. The doctor groaned, irritated that whoever it was had ignored the 'Do not disturb' sign he had hung outside.

Maybe if I ignore them they'll go away... He thought, though this very rarely worked in any circumstance. And what if this person had an emergency? Hatori sighed, feeling his conscience get the better of him and was about to get up and answer the door when he heard the voice yelling from outside.

"Hari!! Let me in, I have to talk to you!!"

Ayame. Hatori turned and sat back down at his desk, swinging the chair around to face away from the disturbance. He picked the chart back up and gazed down at the writing, single eye squinted as though to replicate his annoyance. This was not an unusual occurrence; Ayame often came knocking at his door early in the morning and he usually didn't give up until he was heard out. He probably just wanted to show that he was feeling better or something. In any event, Hatori was going to ignore him. Akito's health was on a rabid decline and he needed to concentrate if he hoped to figure something out.

The banging at the door became more desperate as did Ayame's voice. "Hari please! Open the door!"

He sounded as though he were crying. Also not unusual. He often tried this tactic in the hopes Hatori would open the door to see what the matter was. Not today. The dragon stuffed a finger deep into his ear and stared resolutely at the chart with unwavering scrutiny. Suffering from acute muteness and conjunctivitis—

"Hatori PLEASE!!" Ayame was so desperate now he was banging on the door as hard as he could and screaming at the same time. "Please let me in! I feel like crap, I have to talk to you PLEASE!! PLEASE!!"

This was too real to be an act; Ayame really did sound upset. Hatori set down the chart and looked over his shoulder, listening to see if he could hear the snake snickering from outside. Nothing, other then the sobs and the weakening banging. He got up and made his way over, sliding the door into the wall.

Ayame pitched forward. It would seem he had been leaning on it, forehead pressed against the wood. The paper was covered in scratches as though he had been tearing at it with his nails in a desperate bid to get Hatori's attention. The dragon let out a surprised grunt and quickly caught Ayame in his arms, holding him beneath the armpits as he pulled him inside.

"What's wrong?" He asked as the other man clung to him desperately. "Do you really feel that ill?"

"No, no, no, no, no..." Ayame whimpered shaking his head furiously and burying his face into the stale smelling doctor's coat. "It's all gone... it's ruined everything's ruined... and it's all my fault!!"

"What's all your fault?" Hatori said, not understanding. He tried to stand to bring Ayame with him but the snake slumped as though the strength of his legs would not support him. "Stop this right now! Stand up! Whatever the problem is I doubt you have to be this dramatic about it!"

His arms fell away and Ayame knelt on the floor, hands pressed across the expanse of his face as though trying to hide his grief. As though ashamed of how he was behaving.

"I'm sorry Hari!!" He sobbed, shoulders shaking with silent tremultations. "I didn't mean to bother you... I just... I just didn't know where else to go!!"

Hatori's features softened a little, though his heart did so much sooner. He didn't mean to be annoyed with Ayame, he was just so overworked with Akito taking sick more and more frequently. It seemed as though the family master was truly on his last legs and with that in mind he was under more pressure to try and slow his gradual descent into death. But it wasn't fair for him to put Akito before his lifelong friend and he knew this. With a patient sigh, the doctor reached down and pulled Ayame into a standing position, leading him back to sit in his chair and then going over to one of his cabinets.

"What's wrong?" He asked, searching around for the xainex he kept in there. Ayame sobbed and bent over, his forehead nearly touching his knee's.
"Shigure... he, we just... I ruined it..." He continued crying and wouldn't say more. Hatori coaxed him into taking a tablet and lying down in his bed, knowing that forcing him to say any more of what was troubling him would only cause more harm. If he kept it going at this rate, he would only revoke the fever and that was something he didn't need.

Besides... Hatori felt he had a pretty good idea about what had happened...


Shigure was uncharacteristically cheerless at breakfast that morning. Tohru and Yuki both turned up at around 10:30 and the prior immediately set to work preparing their meal. Shigure picked at his food, forming patterns with his rice and fish and very rarely spooning any of it into his mouth. He didn't even compliment Tohru at her cooking which was something of a daily ritual for him. The two boys were busy arguing as per usual and Tohru was the only one who seemed to notice Shigure's lack of enthusiasm.

"Um... Shigure?" The inu looked up at the soft calling of his name. Tohru was gazing at him, her large green eyes wide with concern. "You don't seem very happy this morning. Is something wrong?"

Shigure smiled barely a slight uptake of the corner of his lips and inclined his head. "Just thinking is all Tohru. Your breakfast is superb as usual. Sorry if I seem distant."

Tohru shook her head hurriedly. "No, no! It's okay if you were just thinking. I was worried that maybe you weren't feeling well."

"Maybe my brother got him sick." Yuki said, turning away from Kyou's reddening face. "You know what those two are like Miss Honda, I wouldn't be surprised if Shigure caught something off of him."

A silence followed as Shigure simply sat staring at his plate. He barely had the energy to rebuke Yuki's comment with some witty remark of his own, let alone to even defend his 'innocence.' Kyou paused with the chopsticks an inch from his lips and spoke to the group as a whole.

"Something happen between you two? Ayame did take off pretty fast this morning."

"You don't say?" Yuki said, running his finger along the curvature of his bowl. Kyou nodded.

"I thought it was kind of weird. Considering there was no Hatori in sight-"

"Good morning."

The whole group balked in shock as Hatori appeared beside the table. No one had even heard the door open. That was Hari though; swift and silent as a shadow.

"Okay. Now that's just freaky." Kyou said, speaking for all of them.

Shigure looked up and smiled lightly at his friend. "Oh, Hari. If you were looking to check on Aya I'm afraid you just missed him. He went on his way a few hours ag-"

"Beat it kids."

Kyou, Yuki and Tohru stared in shock. "Eh?"

Hatori sighed. "Let me try that again. I'm asking you to leave Shigure and I alone for a minute. Is that all right?"
"Why don't you and Shigure just go outside?!" Kyou snapped, grinding his chopsticks into the table. "In case you hadn't noticed we're eating here! What gives you the right to come into another person's house and just start snapping out orders left and righ-"

"Sorry Kyou. But I'm going to have to agree with him." Shigure said softly. He had caught the look in Hatori's eye and let's say it wasn't exactly pleasant to behold. "Just a minute, then you can come back in."

"GEEZ!!" Kyou yelled, jumping to his feet and taking his bowl with him. "Fine then! I'm going to eat this on the roof! You two'll take forever and I'm not eating this cold!"

"Kyou don't yell..." Tohru said, diplomatically as Kyou disappeared upstairs. Yuki sighed and picked his bowl up as well, going outside with it.

"Miss Honda. I'm going to eat at the Secret Base. Would you like to join me?" He asked, flashing her his million-dollar smile. Tohru blushed and nodded, following at his side with her own bowl clutched in hand. Hatori waited patiently until they were all out of immediate earshot before addressing Shigure.

"What did you do?"

Shigure glanced up, unable to read Hatori's expression as his lame eye faced him. "In regards to what?"

"I'm not going to skip around the topic Shigure. I don't have time to waste playing your little games and I think you know that, so just come clean." He turned and slipped his hands into the pockets of the suit he had chosen to wear, locking his eyes on Shigure's face. Hatori had this way of looking at you that made you fearful to look away. He was very intense. "Ayame came to my place this morning in a state of near hysteria, crying about how something was ruined. I'm assuming of course that this was in regards to your friendship." His voice lost some of its sharp clarity and he sat down at the opposite end of the table, brushing the corner as though cleaning away dust from the surface. " I want you tell me what happened. He was in no state to do so himself. I had to give him a Xainex to calm him down."

Shigure seemed shocked. "He was that upset?"

Hatori was grim. "To be honest, I'm surprised he was able to drive to my place without crashing the car. Why don't you tell me what happened?"

"It's none of your business." Shigure said gruffly, picking some meat out of his bowl and then putting it back down. Hatori narrowed his eye.

"Would you like to repeat that Shigure?"

"I said; 'It's none of your business.'"

Hatori rose to his feet and came around to the other side of the table. Shigure thought he meant to leave, which was why he was so stunned when he felt a hard fist connect with his jaw sending his toppling backwards. His shoulders hit the floor with such force; the wind was knocked from his lungs. He barely had time to recover before Hatori had him by the front of his kimono and pushed against the table, glaring into his aching face.

"Now you listen, and you listen good you son of a bitch." He snarled in a voice so unlike Hatori it was frightening. "When I lost Kana you were both there for me when I was at my worst. The three of us have been constant to one another for our entire lives and when I was grieving you and Ayame helped me to get better. Should I have shunned that? Should I have told you to ignore what was happening because my relationship with Kana did not directly involve you? 'It's none of your business.' How dare you say that to me. Twenty-seven years and you try to tell me that something that is happening between my two closest friends is 'none of my business.' Well I think that's fucking pathetic, Shigure. Pathetic. 'None of my business?' What the Hell else do I have? Huh? You tell me that!! I won't stand by and do nothing while Ayame suffers, do you hear? Of course this is my business. I cannot be your friend and Ayame's too because the three of us have always been the three of us. Not this disjointed little group. I inevitably suffer from this too you know and if you even think for one minute that this has nothing to do with me, then you're more blind then I am." He shoved Shigure back hard and stood up. "Now tell me what happened!"

It took Shigure a while to speak as he was recovering from Hatori's sudden outburst. It wasn't usual for the quiet, withdrawn dragon to flare up like that and especially not over something like this. He and Ayame had fought before but it wasn't like Hatori to get involved. But then again... Ayame had never walked away this upset before.

Shigure cleared his throat. "I... I um, found out something about Ayame... that I hadn't expected to find out."

Hatori nodded. "You found out how he felt about you."

The blood froze in Shigure's veins and he glanced up at his friend who was lighting a cigarette. The tip flared red for a moment and then faded to a dull ash with orange in the very center. He chose to instead focus on this, rather then the look on Hatori's face.

"How'd you know that?"

Hatori inhaled on the cigarette. "Maybe if you stopped talking for a moment and started watching instead you would have too. Ayame didn't make it easy; I had to read between the lines. Often when he came to talk to me he'd tell me about something you did, or something you said that day that made him laugh. Then he'd laugh again and sort of lapse into this dreamy state where he would continue speaking to me, but never really moving past that topic of conversation. Then somewhere along the line it would be; 'Gure thinks that too' or 'Shigure said something really funny about that.'" The dragon held the white cylinder away from his lips for a moment and blew out a thick stream of smoke. "He comes alive around you Shigure. Do you truly not see the way he looks at you, when you're together?"

Shigure lowered his gaze to his lap, placing the chopsticks down on the tables' surface. "I always thought that was just... us having fun."

"Of course it was Shigure. But it was fun for Ayame, because he felt that way. He clung to you as a child. Knowing him I suppose he comes to me because he wants to know my opinions on things, or maybe it's because... he wanted me to notice." Hatori looked at Shigure from the corner of his eye. "So that I might one day save him the trouble of telling you."

"But..." The dog swallowed past the large lump in his throat. "But—it's Aya. He always tells people what he thinks, what he wants."

"Then you should know, that he is very clumsy in doing so." The doctor sniffed, flicking ash out onto the verandah. "Ayame tends to internalize a lot; he stews over his feelings until they become a maelstrom of emotions that he can't control. He gets overexcited and jumps in head first, failing to put the right thoughts and words into action. Instead he fools the world around him and gives people a completely wrong perception of who he is. When it comes to Ayame, he only shows the world what he wants them to see. The rest... well, in a sense I suppose he's more like Yuki then either of them will let on. Because they both try to keep their faults shadowed and not give the world a chance to hurt them. Was Ayame wrong in thinking so? Considering what has happened here today?"

"It's not that simple Hatori."

"Am I implying that it is? Perhaps it is more simple then you know Shigure, because it can be summed into words and words are something you are familiar with." Hatori stepped to the door and gazed out towards the woods, observing the tree's gentle movements in the wind. "He loves you. There it is; plain and simple. Why is he upset? Because he feels that you do not love him."

"He's upset because he thinks that this will ruin our friendship." Shigure said dully, wishing for a cigarette of his own. It was too early for such philosophical wondering.

Hatori merely shook his head. "Don't be a damn fool. If Ayame had the choice, he would sacrifice this friendship in a heartbeat; if it meant that you would love him beyond that. He wants you as a lover."

"Please don't say lover." The dog groaned, feeling his face grow red. "This is me and Aya you're talking about!"

" 'Aya and I' Shigure and why should that make any difference." Hatori drew on the shortening length of the cigarette and handed it towards Shigure. "Do you really find it impossible to see the two of you in a relationship? I don't and believe me, gay relationships have been something I've never been truly comfortable with."

"But I'm not gay." Shigure snarked taking the cigarette and inhaling. The smoke coursing down into his lungs felt strangely calming.

"What about bisexual?" The dragon suggested, as though it were something you could just choose to be. "And even so, maybe you don't have to make the choice about your sexuality. If you do so chose to be with Ayame, you won't have to say out loud what you are or in which direction you lean. Perhaps you can just be. So I'm going to ask you straight out; Do you or do you not have feelings for Ayame? Past that of friendship of course."

For a long time, Shigure sat on that question trying to navigate through his mind. He couldn't really say how he felt... He felt sadness at the thought that he and Ayame might never be able go back to the way they were before. And somehow, having Hatori there to confirm it made Ayame's feelings seem that much more real and it was... nice in a sense. Flattering. And more so then that. He liked it.

As he drew the cigarette smoke into his lungs he thought back to the previous night; everything that had happened, brushing Ayame's hair, the shock he felt at hearing about how he'd slept with that Rocky fellow, sitting close to one another like that... how it must have tortured Ayame! And then... in the middle of the night, he awoke in Yuki's bed to hear Ayame whimpering and writhing in his sleep. Shigure had wasted no time in racing downstairs and crawling into bed beside him. He's wanted to awaken the poor snake as he tangled the blankets around himself, sobbing in his unconsciousness but he'd heard it was dangerous to do so. Instead, he had put his arms around him holding him tight until Ayame had awakened. He had pretended to sleep, for what reason he didn't really know but the last thing he had expected was for his friend to press up against him, holding him so close and personal. Shigure had felt Ayame kiss his skin and at first he was shocked and then, even more so at the words the other had spoken. He had rolled away and made a snoring noise, hoping it would deter the snake from doing anything else. But Ayame had not been deterred. He had spooned him from behind instead and kissed the back of his neck. Shigure knew he should have been angry, that it wasn't right for Ayame to be taking advantage of his supposed slumber, but he didn't feel any of this.

He'd felt warm.

He'd liked it.

"Shigure?" Hatori asked and the dog looked up speaking his reply before he'd really even considered it.


"Oh! Hi Ayame!" Mine chirped from behind the counter. "I didn't think you'd be coming into work today, what with um... that Hatori chap ringing up to excuse you!"

Ayame swept extravagantly into the store, flinging his arm out towards all the employees that had the joy of working on the weekend.

"Greetings all employees who have the joy of working here on the weekend!" He said, sounding quite chipper despite the morning's unpleasantness. Flipping his hair out behind him with the tip of his fingers, he turned and walked over to the counter, leaning across it to speak with Mine. "I had a fight with one of my friends and it left me feeling, how do I put this... a bit heart sore? But I'm here now so why don't we get to work and make today as good a day as any?"

"You've got it Mr. Shopkeeper!" Kiku Tomoku, one of the employees yelled as he carried some fabric over to the display shelf. Mine however, sensed that whatever had happened between Ayame and his friend was troubling him more then he let on. When Ayame had a fight with someone he was close to, he tended to spend his day at work sulking around and generally not concentrating. One time he had mistakenly sold a nurses uniform to a man who had been after a female cop's uniform. That may not sound like much, but in this business it was a major balls up. It took weeks to correct it and a lot of late nights just to make up a new outfit.

"Ayame are you sure you're in any state to work today?" She asked, resting her hand on his shoulder. "You know what you're like after all. Perhaps you'd be better off resting."

Ayame came around to the other side of the counter and leaned down to speak to her. "And knowing myself like I do, you know that if I rest I'll just stew on what happened all day and work myself up even more. I can't be sitting around in some bed feeling sorry for myself. I need to be doing something to distract myself. Do you understand?"

The look in Ayame's eyes threw her for a loop for a moment, but Mine eventually smiled. He looked so sad deep down in those green orbs and she knew it must have been something particularly hurtful for him to speak so seriously. For him to look that way.

"Of course I understand. We'll have a great day! In case you'd forgotten it's Card Captor Sakura theme day!" She tugged him towards the back room, all smiles and laughter. "Come on! I have your outfit hanging up on the door for you! I'm going to get changed myself!"

"Ah... I was wondering why Kiku was dressed even more oddly then usual." Ayame said hypocritically, looking over at the blue haired man wearing a green robe costume more formally recognized as Li's battle outfit. "I thought maybe he was dressing as Link again."

Mine raised an eyebrow. "Link?"

"You know; from Zelda!"

She still looked confused.

Ayame sighed. "Well, I'll go get changed then. Do I get to be Sakura?!"

Mine laughed. "No of course not! I get to! You're that Uain guy; you know the one with the long silver hair? I figure why not work with it!"

"But I want to be Sakura!"

"Too bad I've already had the outfits ordered and Sakura won't fit you so go on!" Mine gave him a forceful shove behind the curtains and laughed at his whiny voice disappearing behind the door. Having done her duty, she went off to get her own outfit, wondering to herself what Ayame's predicament was this time and why he had failed so far to share it with her. She usually told him everything.

But maybe... maybe this was something he wanted to deal with on his own...


"Simply splendid!" Ayame cried as Mine spun in a circle, showing off the green skirt she was wearing. Her hair was done up in two little pigtails, not braided and she wore an oval shaped hat. Kiku beamed with pride.

"You look terrific Mine as always!" He cried, linking his arm around her shoulder. "Maybe you should wear that tonight? I guarantee all eyes will be on you, if they're not already."

"Hard to believe it's been a year already!" Ayame exclaimed, as Mine linked her fingers through Kiku's. "Why it just seems like yesterday that the two of you were shyly tiptoeing around the subject of asking one another out! Thanks to me taking action I spared you both the trouble! I hope you toast to me tonight on your 12 month anniversary!"

"You'll be mentioned in a small footnote Ayame." Kiku smiled, giving Mine a kiss on the forehead. "Might I say, those robes really do compliment you though my boy! You look positively dashing!"

Ayame flung his long silver hair behind him and posed like a super hero. "Well what do you expect Kiku, I'm just one of those people who seems to walk through life with my own private spotlight on me!"

"Mmmhmm, whatever you say Ayame." Mine giggled as the door slid open behind them. "Ah! First customer of the day!"

"To your stations everyone!" Ayame cried with gusto, pointing a finger forwards. Kiku and Mine nodded in unison and saluted, rushing away to the places they needed to be. Ayame vaulted the counter and stood straight and tall, smiling as the customer came into sight. A tall dark haired man with a smooth handsome face. He seemed to know exactly what he wanted and made a beeline straight for the counter. Ayame tossed his hair a little and beamed, feeling himself slip into his automatic work mode. This strange sense of autopilot was helping to keep his mind from wandering back to the painful conversation of that morning and as he discussed different kinds of fabric that could be used in a can-can girls skirt he started to gradually feel better.

Another customer entered the store and Mine went over to help him, prompting a hail of teasing from Kiku about her flirtatious behavior. She ignored him and he made a big show of flirting with the next customer who came in; a twenty-something year old boy who seemed frightened by the attention. Ayame laughed as he watched them, feeling that his decision to come into work that day had been a good one after all. Even if it meant he would go home that night and cry, at least for the moment he had this little antiseptic shop of his to disappear into for a while. And that might just be enough.

The door whooshed open.

Ayame looked up from the fabric samples he was going through to see who was entering the store. He was running out of employee's to deal with them, so he kind of hoped that this one might just browse around for a bit until he could get to him.

It was Shigure.

Ayame's heart stopped as the inu strode resolutely into the shop, ignoring the other customers and the strangely dressed attendants. My God just look at him, Ayame thought as his eyes roved over his friend's body with very little restraint. Shigure was wearing a black pair of slacks and a casual blue shirt, with the top two buttons undone. His hair was brushed neatly, though not gelled and his expression was something akin to that of nervousness, though overruled by a sense of determination. He looked delicious. Kiku was making motions at him with his thumb and mouthing; "He's HOT" at Ayame. The snake swallowed and felt his eyes swell with tears. Shigure was here to ease his conscience with empty words, nothing more. He just couldn't handle feeling guilty and he was going to fix it in the way he always dealt with things; by sweeping it under the carpet.

Ayame lowered his head as the tears came forth again. No you bastard. I was just starting to feel better, you can't make me hurt again.

Shigure spied him and was striding over before the tailor could even utter a word of protest. Everyone in the shop was watching, drawn in by his resolute movements and Ayame's reaction to his presence. He wanted to yell at them to stop staring, but no words came. Only more sobs and more tears.

Shigure reached the counter and started to come around it to the other side. Ayame covered his mouth with his hand and shook his head, silky silver hair whipping around his face as tears leaked across his hands and down onto the fabric on the tables surface.

"Go away Shigure." He cried, muffled from behind his palm. "Please go away... I don't want to hear you try and make this better when you can't."

Shigure grabbed him around the wrist, his fingers cutting deep against the skin and tugged him sharply towards him, pulling him around the counter out towards the center of the shop. Ayame struggled, trying to free his arm from his grip, crying and shouting all at once.

"Just go! I don't want you here! I don't want you—" And then... there were no more words to say. Shigure had pulled him into the circle of his arms and was pressing his fingers delicately to his lips, tracing the soft curvature of them with his thumb. The last of Ayame's protest died in his throat at the look in Shigure's eyes; the compassion vanquishing his anger and grief. The inu gently reached up, brushing the backs of his fingers across the tear stained cheeks trying to soothe them away with his touch. This only made Ayame cry even harder; thinking how cruel it was for him to do this. To touch him this way.

"Shigure..." He whispered and those fingers moved away, trailing gently off the pinkish skin to clasp his jaw between both hands. Shigure gazed at him, his eyes swimming deep within those beautiful green ones he knew so well. And then... those eyes fell closed behind dark lashes and his lips were pressed to Ayame's, kissing him with a tenderness he never knew he possessed. Ayame's eyes widened for a moment and then he was relaxing into it, arms branching across Shigure's lower back and clasping the indent in his spine as he held him to him. Their lips touched in every place, until Ayame felt awash with Shigure. Bathed in him to the very brink of overflowing. It was like tasting fire and it was more wonderful then the snake could have ever imagined. Yet it ended all too quickly and as Shigure leaned back he drew on his bottom lip for as long as he could, feeling the other mans arms wrapped around his back and shoulders. All was silent around them and had it not have been so; perhaps Ayame would have missed the words Shigure breathed to him. Those blessed words he ached to hear.

"You win."