"What's that you're doing, Yuki?" asked Sohma Shigure cheerfully upon seeing his cousin seated by the window, surrounded by needles, threads, buttons, and fabrics. Since when had the nezumi started to take interest on surgery anyway?
Unless it was Kyo or Ayame who was…
"NOOOO! You have turned into a murderer!" cried Shigure, looking in horror at the disfigured face of a neko lying on the floor.
Sohma Yuki arched an eyebrow, and then continued to sew the other button on the stuffed toy's face. "That's being too nice on your part, Shigure. Is that the best you can do to make fun of me?"
Laughing, the writer sat down beside him and peered at his creative mess. "Well, how else could I properly ask what monstrosity are you doing here, exiling yourself in this room for days already?"
Yuki eyed him warily. "Of course you don't expect me to believe that it was done in the name of cousinly concern."
The inu grinned and waved his hand dismissively. "I love you, cousin of mine. It's just you who doesn't want to believe my caring words."
The nezumi picked up his threader, gesturing to the door at the same time. "Leave, please. You are disturbing me."
"Please." He threw him a look that told the laughing inu that he was neither asking him to do that, nor ordering him. It sounded like Einstein stating that emc2 – it was a law and he had no choice but to do what it says.
But the irreverent dog-morphing guy he was, Shigure didn't budge. "So you actually believe that you're sewing?"
"Break not my fantasy," said Yuki sarcastically. "I'm not as talented as him when it comes to sewing."
"So why don't you ask Aya for advice?" asked Shigure, as if he was just asking him why he wouldn't consider using a can opener to open his canned sardines.
"That's the last of my plans," said Yuki smoothly. For a special girl's sake, he was willing to tone down his bitterness for his elder brother.
"But it would make things easier for you and the stuffed toy." Shigure looked down at the mutilated piece of stuffed cloth that he felt was masquerading as a stuffed toy. "Why a cat anyway?"
"Are you starting to feel fondness for your beloved cousin?" pressed the writer.
The prince grinned. Sweet, sweet venom. "Die, Shigure. Just please DIE."
The kimono-clad man rubbed his jaw as Yuki turned his attention back to the cloth. "So why would the High School Prince suddenly decide to sew a stuffed cat? Is there a scheduled meteor to plummet down the planet and blow it to smithereens? Will Earth finally bump the Mars planet off its orbit? Will the lost kingdom of Atlantis rise tomorrow? Will I pass my novel earlier than scheduled?" Shigure's eyes lit up when he finally remembered what the occasion was. "OOOH! Tohru-kun's eighteenth birthday!"
The nezumi didn't say anything, but Shigure sensed the young man's grip on the pin cushion tighten. The elder Sohma nodded cheerfully. "Yup, yup! Of course it would warrant more than a silly little event such as an apocalypse to make Yuki-chan sew a stuffed animal reminiscent of Kyo-kun!"
The younger Sohma chose silence as his next move. It was less troublesome.
"But why a cat, Yuki?" Shigure peered at the bright orange stuffed…thing. "If you would like Tohru-kun to remember the gift as something she received from you, wouldn't it be better if you sew a mouse instead?"
"I don't give gifts as something to remember me by, Shigure," said Yuki softly. "I give gifts to see her happy."
"Oh." The writer paused, a smile of understanding on his face. "Well, that's very sweet of you. But…" He scratched his cheek. "It would be kinda nice if she'll recognize that…well, it's supposed to be a cat, not a squished rag with fake whiskers."
"Your point is…?" asked the prince.
"You are not born a tailor."
"I am aware of that already."
"…Ahahahaha, it is such an honor to have you in my humble little dress shop and ask for my fashionista expertise regarding your puppet!" said Sohma Ayame, tossing his hand happily as Yuki sat in front of him, face dark.
"It's a stuffed toy," said the nezumi at last.
Aya blinked, and then peered at his work: a bright orange-half-sewn, half-stuffed piece of circular pillow with fake whiskers and buttons for eyes. Not missing a beat, Ayame laughed again and patted his brother's head. "Of course, of course! A stuffed toy! Hahaha, as I was saying, I feel so HONORED to have you visit me here…I feel so honored…like an honor student."
Yuki grimaced. Was he supposed to laugh politely, or remain quiet?
His brother sat down beside him and took the stuffed toy from his hand. "Hmm…I feel you've given so much effort on this one."
"What do you know?" he asked sourly. "I may have just made this rushed, basing on its poor workmanship."
The snake smiled affectionately at him. "Yuki, do you know what workmanship is?"
The nezumi looked confused as to why his brother would ask such thing randomly. Deciding that it was just another manifestation of his brother's "artistic eccentricity" (as his Honda-san courteously calls it), he decided to answer it anyway. "It's the quality of work."
"Yes, perhaps," shrugged the snake, touching the stuffed toy tenderly. "But it can also mean the art of labor."
"Perhaps," he half-heartedly agreed. Where was this all leading to anyway? He came here to ask for Ayame's assistance to make the stuffed toy look a bit more…stuffed toy-like. He didn't come here for philosophical discussions on workmanship and such.
Aya took his toy and gestured at his assistant to get him his sewing box. The maid outfit-clad young woman obliged smilingly.
Soon, he was threading the needle already with a color matched to the bright tangerine cloth. Yuki waited, a trace of impatience in his violet eyes. His brother was delaying his sewing work, and he could sense that it was because he had something to say to him.
"What is it?" finally muttered the nezumi when his brother looked at him with somewhat melancholic, even nostalgic, eyes.
"I just remembered…a little boy who once asked me to mend his torn kimono, but I turned away," murmured Ayame.
Yuki's fists clenched when the memory hit him again. "Never mind. Will you just fix this stuffed toy now so I can leave?"
"Very well." Ayame began to hand-stitch the gaps that his own hasty running stitch was not able to cover. "You know, Yuki, if we are to base your grade in sewing on workmanship, I think you're very good."
"I do not have time for flatteries," he said curtly.
"I don't waste flatteries on a field of endeavor that I happen to respect a lot," replied his brother quietly. "I told you already that workmanship is a worker's finest art."
"Yes, and that does not qualify as art," said Yuki matter-of-factly.
Ayame looked surprised. "What are you talking about? I have never seen a much finer sewing work in years. This is wonderful!"
"Will you tell me what's so wonderful with that piece of rag?" asked the nezumi, finally finding the end of his legendary tolerance.
"It's art," said Ayame simply.
"It's trash, and you know it," he snapped.
"What is art, Yuki?" asked Aya, using his seldom-heard aniki voice.
The younger Sohma was torn between annoyance and puzzlement. What was it with Sohma Ayame today that got him into this quiz mode now? "Art is an expression of an eternal abstract into a visual and sensual presentation."
"Some may think that this would instantly mean that art is the same as aesthetics." Aya shook his head. "But really, Yuki, art is in its truest and highest sense, has no other synonym." He grinned and held out a Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary Home Edition ®. "You can even check if you want!"
Yuki's face darkened. Where did that bulky thing come from?
Ayame placed the book down and continued his sewing work. "It is beyond beauty and subjective view of it. The best thing we can say about it is that it expresses an eternal idea. Eternal ideas…like love." His eyes smiled at him warmly. "And I being a master of threads, can feel so much love in this puppet you made."
"Stuffed toy," corrected Yuki, although he was unable to suppress a pleased smile on his face.
"Right," nodded his brother. "So don't feel so down. I'm sure Princess Tohru would like this very much."
"Y-You think so? I-I mean—" He looked away quickly. "How did Honda-san get into the topic of the conversation—"
His stammer was met by Ayame's delighted chuckle. "Ah, otouto, your big brother always knows everything that happens in your life. It's only right!"
"No. Shigure called him up," came Hatori's voice from the doorway.
"Oh, Hatori dear! You too visited!" Aya's delighted laughter filled the air once more. "My, I should have done something good these past few days to have this kind of opportunity, don't you agree, Miss Miine?"
"Yes, Master!" agreed the maid-assistant cheerfully.
"I dropped by to get Yuki. Shigure said that Tohru will be home any minute now from her part-time job, and he must fetch her already." Hatori sighed, and then looked at Yuki. "Now I understand how convincing that dog can be if he wanted to."
Yuki's face darkened once more. "Shut up—" His words were interrupted by Ayame planting something on his hand.
His eyes slowly widened when he saw a cute bright-orange neko reminiscent of what he did awhile ago, only this was better sewn, and its face was much more properly proportioned.
"I'm glad you came, Yuki," said Ayame smilingly. "You have no idea how much it means to me that you came to me to share how you express your love for someone. It showed me what I've missed, and at the same time, it inspired me to strive harder to make it up to you."
"Hmp." Yuki mumbled a small phrase of gratitude, and then walked away, holding the stuffed cat face with much care.
"Yuki, you didn't tell me yet why you made a cat instead of a mouse," said Aya, snapping his finger.
The young man froze, and then shrugged casually. "She likes cats better than mice."
"Oh." Ayame waved at him lovingly. "It's okay, little brother! She may not like mice, but maybe she likes you!"
"Shut up." But Yuki couldn't deny the hope that sprung in his heart.
After all, the world is always big enough for maybes, for a dreamer like him.
"Yuki-kun, you're unusually pensive tonight." Honda Tohru's warm brown eyes regarded him with concern as they walked back to the house that evening. "Is something bothering you?"
"I was just thinking…" He stopped walking, surprising the onigiri. He looked up at her. "Honda-san?"
"Hai?" she asked cheerfully. His heart palpitated. Her affectionate warmth could never fail with making him feel this good.
"Do you still dislike the rat for pushing the cat out of the Juunishi circle?" he asked quietly.
Her response was immediate. Smilingly shaking her head, Tohru looked up at the sky. "I forgave the rat because I was just thinking….maybe it was lonely for him too, to lose the cat for a friend." She glanced at him again. "Why?"
"Not much," he replied, smiling too. He quietly handed her a gift-wrapped box. "Here. Happy birthday, Honda-san."
Her cheeks turned pink. "A-Aaah, Yuki-kun! Y-You shouldn't have—"
"Please take it."
"A-aaah…" She shyly took it and opened it carefully. Her eyes lit up when she saw the stuffed cat. "Waaai! So cute!!!" Her flushed face turned to him. "Do you know that Kyo-kun gave me a stuffed toy too?"
He blinked, especially when he saw her bring out a stuffed mouse. His eyes recognized the stitches of his cousin, Kagura, on it.
"Coincidence, ne?" she asked smilingly.
He laughed quietly. Maybe he and Kyo were indeed cousins after all. They had the same thing in mind.
To see her smile, like she was doing now.
And yes, to not embarrass themselves in Tohru's eyes because they both fail in sewing. Miserably and pathetically.
Tohru excitedly grabbed his hand and started to run. "Let's go, Yuki-kun! I'm so excited to see everyone already!"
He nodded happily.
"Thank you so very much, Yuki-kun," she said softly, cheeks still visibly burning. She quickly turned away shyly.
He squeezed her hand back. Words could never suffice to express his gratitude for having the chance to meet her in a world full of cold, unfeeling strangers.
Perhaps, that too, was Fate's own special art only for him.
An Art Lesson
A request fic for TuhruluvsYuki