Colour of the Roses

"You want to be part of this family so badly? You want to be close, and 'learn' about us? You'll learn more than you ever wanted to know!"

A slap. A sting.

"Curse!" He laughed. "There's no curse! There's only the cursed, and those who have to bear the core of their misfortunes!"

A flame of candle. A red hot iron. Closer to her skin. Closer. A scream.

The scent of burning flesh.

"This is going to take a while. I hope you're comfortable."

Flickering light as the rain slices through the night sky.

"You see, I understand the curse. I understand the beginning of it and the end of it. I am the curse. I am God."

"And I understand how the curse was made. How the curse can be undone. And then done up again. Like a ribbon, knotted and unknotted."

"You want to know how to break the curse? You want to know how to save them?"

A whimper. A pleading voice.

"You can't. There isn't a way. You can't even break your own curse."

'But Yuki-kun…Kyo-kun…'

"It's simple enough. Only three things – a lock of hair, a lock of fur…a kiss."

And a scream.


"Hatori, I need you to take care of this. For me? Just erase tonight. Nothing else. From when she arrived on the grounds."

Hatori looked down at the vaguely human shape bundled into one of Akito's spare silk kimonos. One of the serving girls? Or had he hired someone? No matter. She didn't look too battered…

He looked up at Akito, who was staring out the window at the rain, the garden illuminated by sudden forks of lightening, the thunder to far off to hear. Dark hair twisting over his forehead. Eyes unlit, dark. Eating up the darkness outside and growing bigger.

"I assume she can't walk? How can I take her to my office?" he asked. The lump on the floor didn't move. Didn't even moan in answer at the movement around her.

"Carry her. She's light enough."

Was Akito going crazy again? He knew Hatori couldn't carry her – unless he wanted to instantly be eight centimeters tall and wishing for seawater. Sometimes he did snap like this, too much stress from being the center of it all…From being…

"I am God."

"Don't worry. You won't recognize her. Just take her to the office, erase her memories and send her home."

Hatori paused, trying not the make any sudden moves. His voice was scaring him. Smooth like honey, slippery and sweet. Poisoned honey. He drew in breath and realized Akito was not even looking at him. Still staring out the window.

Hatori moved toward the shape on the floor and heaved it into his arms. He froze for a second, bracing himself for the 'poof' but nothing came. He was still standing. A man.

"I told you."

There was another pause. Thunder rumbled far the east, and Akito nodded towards the garden.

"Come here, Hatori."

Hatori strode toward him, his good eye navigating the dark candle-lit corners of the chamber.

Wet rain lashed the window, cold grey slashes against the glass. The garden below was dark, with bare trees like skeletons, the wind stripping them of the last of their dead autumn leaves. The wind wailed through them. Hatori blinked, and for a moment his world seemed to flicker, and he wondered why he was holding a body, staring out into a cursed garden during a storm with a madman. Then it flickered again, the world righted itself, and he could hear the hushed, dry whisper of Akito's voice:

"The roses. Can't you see those beautiful black roses in the courtyard?"

Those invisible roses that grew and blossomed in the long month of November…black roses.

Akito had officially lost it, thought Hatori as he set the body onto the examining cot in his office. Everyone knew Akito was insane. They all were, in a way. They all had scars on their hearts that would never fade. But Akito was now…seeing things? The pressure, probably. The pressure of being…Akito.

He took out his medical kit and undid the latches on the metal briefcase, revealing the simple necessities he used to clean up after Akito's playtime: gauze, bandages, bruise salve, wash clothes.

He lit the stove to reheat the spare water in the kettle and turned back to his patient. Without blinking, he undid the sash on the kimono and slid it off the nude body underneath, but piling the rest of the lightweight silk over the face. He never wanted to see the face. It haunted his dreams that one day he'd recognize the face, as Kana, or Rin, or one of the others…He would never look at the face.

He always did the memories first. There was nothing strange about being cared for by a doctor. But any time she might have to remember the night – he didn't want to chance it. Just this night.

As he swabbed cleansing alcohol onto one of the long cuts along the girl's inner thigh, his brain had time to jog. Why could he carry her without transforming? Was she one of the zodiac? Rin, maybe, or possibly even Kagura or Kisa? The thought made his blood run cold.

He wrapped the slice on her stomach in thick bandages, shaking himself into reality. Rin was staying with Kagura and Kagura's mother. Kisa was staying over at Shigure's tonight with Yuki, Kyo and Tohru. No one was out, and in danger.

So how…?

His fingers probed her abdomen for bruised muscles or broken ribs. Those would need salve. And the hands? Akito was known for breaking fingers if the mood suited him.

He reached for the hands. The fingers were long, but the nails short; short for practical use. There were a few minor scratches, but nothing more. Except, when he turned it over and looked at the palm…

A hot branded scar was burned into the flesh, the red welt raised and plump with seared cells. Running a finger down the traces of the burn, he could almost make out a sort of pattern – a weird kind of symbol. God knows what Akito got up to. His little idea of fun.

He bandaged the hand with thick yellow paste, and continued examining the body. A young girl, maybe seventeen or so at the most, and if he knew Akito – freshly ravaged.

He had to see her face, now. Had to make sure this wasn't one of the dreams he had late at night, when it was Kana looking back from his 'coronary' table. He reached a shaking hand for the silk…And then…

There was a desperate, shuddering gasp from the table and from himself as he recognized the face.

Tohru-kun.

Her eyes were wide, brown and wet with unshed tears; he could see her shaking, quivering, like a mass of jelly. And then her face was shifting, her features, and then her body was shrouded in a heavy cloud of pale pink, a sparkling cloud, with a sharp poof

He turned around just in time to see an brown cat race from his office.