Here Be Dragons
by Sophia Prester
Summary: A not-so-chance encounter in Tokyo shows Hatori that there are far greater evils than the curse on the Sohma family. Crossover with "X."
Disclaimer: Fruits Basket and X do not belong to me, and I'm not making any profit off of this.
Author's notes: Includes spoilers through vol. 7 of the "Fruits Basket" manga and volume 17 of "X". The story might be somewhat AU for both continuities after those points.
It don't matter who you are
If you only run for cover, it's just a waste of time...
Live, "The Dolphin's Cry"
1. The Calling
The day of the big earthquake, Hatori left the conference center a good hour before they were supposed to break for lunch. As he stepped outside, the muggy July heat was a sweet relief after the overly air conditioned auditorium. He knew he'd be missing the air conditioning before too long; despite the heavy overcast, he could tell that the heat was only going to get worse as the day went on.
Along with the air conditioning, he would also be missing an excellent talk on the co-morbidity of certain psychological and neurological disorders, but he didn't care. His departure would hardly be noticed. People were slipping out all the time, driven to distraction by the tremors that seemed to hit every few hours or so.
After the big quakes that had hit in the recent past, even the tiniest tremor could set people on edge. No wonder people were leaving.
Enough was enough, Hatori had finally decided, but this decision had nothing to do with the quakes. Something was going on, something that had him half-convinced he was going crazy, and he was going to find out what it was, conference be damned.
Ever since he'd arrived downtown two days before, he found himself being distracted at odd moments, as if someone kept coming up behind him and tapping on his shoulder before childishly running away and hiding.
The truly maddening thing was that he couldn't shake the feeling that he knew whoever it was who was trying to get his attention. It felt like someone familiar, someone who was family. But there weren't any other family members in this part of Tokyo, were there?
He thought he was being brutally, bitterly honest by telling himself it was the relative dearth of Sohmas in central Tokyo that had prompted him to attend the medical conference in the first place. It had taken some smooth talking to convince Akito that attending the conference was a necessity and that it made more sense for him to stay downtown for the duration rather than commuting over an hour each direction every day.
It wasn't until Akito had demonstrated some initial resistance to the idea that Hatori realized that the desire to go to Tokyo was becoming more like an obsession and that it had nothing to do with family.
This disturbed him, but it was not enough to make him reconsider the idea. If anything, it only made him want to find out what was going on.
"For God's sake, just don't tell Akito that the conference is on what was it—the pathology of mental illness? With a special session on the treatment of gender dysphoria? Can you imagine the shit-storm if you said that?" Shigure had joked when Hatori approached him to enlist his help. He shook his head and laughed softly, tapping out his spent cigarette. "I don't know why Akito's kicking up a fuss about you heading into the city. Hell, I go away for weeks at time to promote my books, and no one's so much as said 'boo', even when I went to Singapore."
Hatori glared at Shigure as the other man reached across the table to filch one of his cigarettes, but as usual, it had zero effect. Then again, he didn't mean for it to work. He'd never really minded Shigure's pilfering.
"I'm his doctor," he said with the sort of determined patience that was needed to get through a serious conversation with Shigure. "When I go away, he no doubt feels helpless, and you can imagine how much he likes that. When you go away, he's probably grateful for the peace and quiet."
Shigure slumped down in his seat, pouting. "Don't be so mean, Haa-san!" Then, without missing a beat, his face lit up and he sat bolt upright, holding up one finger and grinning wickedly. "I know! I can offer to go with you and keep an eye—"
Hatori glowered at Shigure in a way that promised endless needles and other indignities. This particular glare worked as it should, and that was the end of that brilliant idea.
He needed time away from family, he'd told himself, and even though he felt mean for merely thinking it, that included Shigure.
Now Hatori was starting to wish that he'd stayed home. What with the tremors and the constant feeling of being wanted, he'd had no more than a minute's peace since he'd arrived in Tokyo. Whatever it was that was trying to get his attention, it was even more demanding than Akito.
Well, he was going to find it, and when he found it, he would find some way to deal with it. He kept walking, waiting for another summons.
It didn't take long. He was about a block away from Yoyogi Park when it hit again, the strongest he'd felt so far, and dear heavens, it was coming from everywhere at once and it was getting even stronger...
That line of thought stumbled to a halt as a rattling from the streetlights above drew his attention. Then came a low, ragged rumbling, and Hatori tried to brace himself as the ground heaved and buckled. The tremors earlier in the day had lasted no more than a few seconds, but this one had teeth. It bit into the ground and it didn't seem like it was about to let go.
Seven seconds. This wasn't just another tremor.
A group of high-school girls clung to each other, screaming.
Eleven seconds. The quake was growing stronger.
A display of televisions crashed and tumbled through a shop window, sending shards of glass flying into the crowd.
Fifteen seconds. Oh, God... It wasn't going to stop, was it?
Hatori instinctively grabbed onto a telephone pole to keep himself from tumbling to the ground, not even thinking about the possibility of the pole falling and crushing him.
After twenty-one seconds the tremors finally stopped, but the chaos was only beginning. The quake may have been brief, but it was brutal. Hatori kept one arm raised in front of his chest and moved as quickly through the crowd as he dared. The dust and smoke made it nearly impossible to see. He needed to find someplace with fewer people! A panicked crowd was a dangerous place for any of the cursed ones, but for the Dragon, transformation in the middle of a near-stampede was an almost guaranteed death sentence.
Still, he couldn't just run away, could he?
"I'm a doctor! Is anyone hurt?"
Of course people were hurt. It was a stupid question, one he'd have been better off not asking. He did the best he could to pick out cries of physical distress from amid the bedlam, but there was too much noise. A water main had burst and the persistent sound of rushing water made him feel as if he had his head jammed in a bucket. He could also hear the crackling and sputtering of a downed power line. Then there were all the other sounds—car alarms, distant sirens, the constant sound of shrieking metal and shattering glass as damaged buildings continued to fall apart. Hatori kept turning as he picked his way through the crowd, looking for anyone with serious injuries and at the same time keeping an eye out for any women who might try to latch onto him as a sort of life-line.
He kept calling out, though, and eventually he could begin to pick out the responses from the chaos.
"Sensei! Over here!"
"My leg is broken!"
"I can't stop the bleeding! Can't anyone help me!"
"My baby! My baby isn't waking up! Would somebody please help! SOMEBODY!"
He had no idea where to start.
Even worse, there was the ever-growing sense that there was someplace else he needed to be.
All he could do was stumble through the crowd and hope that somehow he wound up in the right place.
Someone grabbed Hatori's sleeve and pulled him to a halt. It was an older man with a nasty cut across his forehead.
"Wandering around isn't going to help anyone. We need to set up a triage station. Best bet's over there, by the park entrance," the man said, jerking his head towards the place in question. "I'm also a doctor—an oncologist, but I know my way around an emergency room well enough. Come on!"
Now, with a clear plan and some direction, it was much easier to function, to focus on the problem at hand. It was also a relief to know that he didn't have to do this all by himself.
The other doctorwhose name Hatori never did catchpointed out that the main road between them and the closest hospital had buckled and caved, and that any emergency vehicles would have to come the long way around, through narrow and congested streets. Even if the back ways were unblocked and unaffected by the quake, he said, it could take them well over an hour to get there.
"Also, we might not be the worst hit," Hatori said, low enough that no one could overhear. He inclined his head towards the heart of Shibuya. Pillars of smoke and dust rose up like demon skyscrapers. "It may be a while before any rescue crews get to this area."
It didn't take long for the walking wounded to hear that there was medical assistance at the park entrance, and they soon had a handful of healthy volunteers to go out in search of supplies and of those who couldn't make their own way to the impromptu clinic. A high-school phys-ed teacher attached himself to the search team to identify those who couldn't be moved without the threat of further injury. Somewhere along the line their little crew was joined by a retired nurse who quickly and quietly took over the job of dealing with minor lacerations and contusions.
It was a very rough sort of triage. A couple of nearby shops donated first aid kits, rags, towels, and bottled water to the effort, but even so they had little in the way of real medical supplies. Butterfly bandages and hope had to do in place of sutures. They ran out of antiseptic all too quickly and had to resort to using a bottle of cheap vodka. Bones could be set, but it was hard to find anything to use as a splint. Most of what they did was help people keep their injuries from getting any worse; every time he turned around, he was instructing someone to keep pressure on a wound, or telling this person to sit up and another to lie down. He told a wife that under no circumstances should she allow her husband to fall asleep, and a disoriented young businessman to forget about calling his boss and just hold still, damn it! until the paramedics arrived.
It certainly was lucky, he thought bitterly, that being his family's attending physician had given him a wealth of experience in dealing with blunt force trauma.
When he heard the sound of ambulance sirens, Hatori wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, but he knew that the real work was just beginning. In a few hours, he would be exhausted beyond belief, but for now he was still riding on the adrenaline high. He would need it. The rescue crews had to be directed to places where people were trapped by debris, and the paramedics needed to be shown who needed to be rushed to the hospital and who could wait.
The first to be loaded into an ambulance was a three-year-old little boy who had been trapped in some collapsed scaffolding. Hatori ran alongside the stretcher as the paramedics carried the boy away, telling them what he could about the boy's injuries.
"Severe head trauma, we're looking at a Glasgow scale of six, maybe as low as five. Orbital fracture around the left eye. Possible flail chest, also on the left side..."
The boy's mother followed along, listening intently for any glimmer of hope she could find, and keeping up a constant stream of questions in counterpoint to his rundown. "Is he going to be all right? What does that mean? Is that bad? Is that good? How long before he wakes up?" She didn't seem to expect any answers to her questions, but if asking them made her feel like she had something to contribute to the situation, then so be it.
"They'll do the best they can for him," he finally said once he had told the paramedics everything. "He's in good hands."
From the way her face lit up, he knew that she hadn't noticed he had told her nothing of her son's prognosis. He hadn't wanted to offer her false hope, but she'd taken it anyway. She went to hug him, and he raised his hands to ward her off just in time.
"I don't mean to be rude, but I think I may have some cracked ribs," he lied. He thought his heart was going to hammer its way through the front of his chest.
She stammered out an apology, then got in the ambulance to ride with her son, but not before squeezing his hand in thanks.
"You're hurt? You should have said something," the oncologist snapped, even as he tried to wave off a couple of paramedics who were attempting to get him to sit down long enough for them to bandage his forehead.
"You know what they say about doctors being the worst patients," Hatori said dryly. "I'll have someone tape me up once we're done here."
Through some miracle, there were only a few truly serious casualties in addition to the little boynothing compared to the ones following the quake that had hit Ikebukuro a week ago.
Of course, they had no idea how bad things might be elsewhere in the city.
Hatori waited around for another hour and a half until all of the less serious cases had all been taken off to hospitals or clinics. He knew all too well that seemingly minor injuries could turn complicated and life-threatening with no warning.
He shuddered, remembering how close he had come to looking after Kisa-chan in his office rather than sending her to the hospital after Akito had thrown her up against a wall. The signs of internal bleeding had been slow to manifest, and it was only because Hatori was concerned about the severity of her concussion that he had flouted Akito's orders to 'keep it all in the family.' There'd been hell to pay, but it had been worth it to see the look on Akito's face when Hatori explained just how close they'd come to losing Kisa-chan.
And wouldn't it be wonderful if something happened and they were no longer subject to Akito's whims and rages?
Habit pushed that traitorous thought back behind a curtain of white and cold. It was best not to linger long on such things lest they provoke other, even more dangerous thoughts, ones that would not be so easily shoved aside.
And then there was that odd and formless sense of urgency, as if he should be doing something more than standing around helping the quake victims.
Once again, he could have sworn someone was trying to get his attention. He looked around to see if anyone really did need him, then shrugged it off just as the first wave of post-adrenaline fatigue hit him. He sat down heavily on a fallen mailbox. He was so tired that he felt like he could sink straight into the earth and never come back out.
Hatori reached for his cigarettes before remembering that lighting up here would be a very bad idea. Just because he couldn't smell it didn't mean that there wasn't a gas leak.
It sickened him to admit it, but it was nice to help someone other than family, even under the present circumstances. He also found he enjoyed the rush of working in an emergency situation and the instant camaraderie that he had felt with the others he'd worked alongside. If it weren't for his family, he very well might have become a trauma surgeon or gone to work at a large, busy hospital.
Speaking of family...
"Do you think this quake made the national news?" he asked the oncologist.
The older doctor sat down gingerly on the ground next to the mailbox. "Who knows? We've had so many quakes recently that they might be 'old news' by now. Besides, after that," he said, nodding towards an eerily empty spot on the Tokyo skyline, "no one's that interested in aftershocks."
Like everyone else in the country, Hatori was still in shock over the loss of the Sunshine 60 building and most of Ikebukuro last week and the Nakano Sun Plaza a scant three months before that. Back at the estate, those quakes had done little more than rattle a few dishes and set some hanging lamps to swinging gently.
Hatori nodded, wincing as the motion set off a headache. "If that was an aftershock. For a while there, I thought it was going to be Ikebukuro all over again." Or something worse, Hatori amended silently. He knew it was probably just his memory and leftover terror playing tricks on him, but he could have sworn that he felt some sort of presence beneath the quake. It was like something out of a dream, but instead of fading as dreams did upon waking, the feeling only grew stronger.
The oncologist grunted in agreement as he gazed wistfully at the city skyline. "I've lived in Tokyo all of my life, and I've always said that nothing would ever make me want to leave, but this? If this keeps up, there won't be a city left for me to leave." He went to rake a hand through his hair, and winced when he accidentally bumped the bandage on his forehead. "I know this might sound crazy, but there's something strange about these quakes. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear they were hunting us."
"It doesn't sound crazy at all," Hatori said, before he could censor himself. "I only wish it did."
The other doctor stared at him for a moment, then burst out laughing. "Ah, hell with it. If we're lucky, all that was, was just the last of the aftershocks shaking things loose. As for me, I think I need a drink. Care to join me? I'm sure we can find someplace relatively intact if we put our minds to it."
Hatori thought about accepting, but instead shook his head ruefully. He stood up and offered a hand to help the other man to his feet. "I wish I could, but I need to get in touch with my family. I'm in from the suburbs, and if they know about the quakes, they're probably worried." He checked his watch and was appalled to discover that it had been at least five hours since the quake. "Truth be told, they're probably frantic."
As they said their farewells, Hatori thought that he didn't even want to know how much Ayame was carrying on. He was no doubt having a great time being theatrically overwrought and sharing the joy with everyone else in the family, calling each of them up in turn over and over again, demanding to know if anyone had heard from him.
Hatori wouldn't have been surprised to hear that Ayame and Shigure already had his eulogy—one half embarrassing, the other half lies—almost completely written. It was probably best to put a stop to things before Ayame had the bright idea of driving into the city to look for him. A call to Shigure should take care of matters.
He tried his cell phone and cursed when he saw that he wasn't picking up a signal. The quake must have taken out the local towers.
So, he set off in search of a working phone booth. He headed down the street bordering Yoyogi Park even though he was tempted to cut straight through the park for some reason.
Speaking of temptation, he also was half-tempted not to make the call. If Shigure tried making a joke about the situation, Hatori suspected that he'd reach right through the phone and strangle the stupid dog.
Oh, yes. He was definitely out of sorts. As he walked down the street, he took off his vest and tossed it into a trash can. No amount of dry-cleaning could salvage it at this point. Besides, the jacket that went with it had already been sacrificed as a pillow for one of his patients. He looked forward to getting out of the rest of his clothes; it felt as if the grit and blood had worked their way through to his skin.
The first two phone booths he found were out of order, but he struck gold with the third. He dialed Shigure's number from memory, hoping against hope that his cousin was at home and not at the main house or out with Ayame.
"Hello?" The word was so sharp and strained that Hatori almost didn't recognize the voice as Shigure's.
"Shigure? It's me."
Even though the connection was horrible, Hatori could hear the shuddering sigh of relief on the other end of the line.
"Haa-san! Good to hear from you," Shigure said. As usual, the dog was almost laughing as he spoke, but this time there was a hysterical edge to it. "Damned good to hear from you. We were starting to wonder if we ever would."
"We? You've spoken with Ayame?"
"Among others." The laughter was gone as if it had never been, and Shigure's voice was growing tight with what sounded like anger, of all things. "He came over here as soon as he heard about the quake, and now he's got Tohru-kun all frantic on your behalf," here he sighed the sigh of the longsuffering and martyred, "and you know how Yuki and Kyo get when she's upset about anything."
"Sounds chaotic," Hatori said dryly. He needed to bring this to a close. Whatever it was that was trying to get his attention, it was getting even stronger, so strong that Hatori felt like his skin was sparking with electricity. He knew this feeling, but from where? "Anyhow, I'll be—"
"Akito's going nuts," Shigure continued. It was strange hearing him speak in such harsh, clipped tones. In many ways, it was more disorienting than the quake itself. "He's convinced that something awful has happened—is happening—to you."
Hatori pinched the bridge of his nose. He was starting to wish he'd taken some aspirin from one of the first aid kits. "Shigure, I'm fine. Tired, yes, but fine. I'm sorry it took so long for me to—"
"Shibuya's gone," Shigure said, his voice utterly flat.
"What?" That couldn't be right. Hatori looked up and around, trying to see if he could spot a new emptiness on the skyline. He'd seen the smoke rising up in the south, but...gone? "Gone? What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means it's fucking gone. Flattened. Destroyed. A whole 'nother part of Tokyo. Gone. So's the entire Yamanote line. That's what they're saying on the news. You were staying in Shibuya, weren't you? And we kept waiting for you to call..."
Hatori closed his eyes, trying to fight down the wave of nausea and guilt at realizing that his first thought on hearing Shigure's words was not concern for those who were dead, or who were trapped and dying even now, but rather, 'how am I going to get home?'
"Where are you now? When Mii-chan—and thank God she decided to work from home today—when she called to tell me that Shinjuku and Shibuya were hit..."
Shinjuku, too? Hatori looked around, wondering where the hell all the chaos could have come from. "Um, I'm right outside Yoyogi Park. I think. I went for a walk this morning and ended up here."
The tree-filled park appeared to be untouched by the quake. It struck him as somehow unnatural that this serene forest should be standing here so close to the chaos and destruction of the city.
"What took you so long to call, Haa-san? Mii-chan called right away. Why didn't you?" Shigure whined. It was not the playful whining that he normally used when accusing Hatori of being mean. He sounded frustrated. And lost.
This was getting old. Hatori didn't want to deal with Shigure any more, especially this strange, frantic Shigure. He didn't realize until then just how much he'd been counting on his cousin's normal carefree, 'the-world-is-my-toy-box' attitude to ground him and make him feel that everything was going to be all right. He needed to get out of there. He needed to hang up the phone and go...
And go where, exactly? The park? Why did the thing that was calling out to him now seem so insistent that he go to the park?
"Once the quake stopped, there were injured people who needed my help," Hatori answered as calmly as he could. He looked longingly at the park gate. "I swear to you this is the first chance I've had to—"
"It's been six hours!" Shigure yelled. Hatori winced and held the receiver away from his ear. "Anything could have happened to you! You could have transformed—you wouldn't have stood a chance, not in your cursed form! If something had happened to you, how would we know?"
"You would have figured it out," Hatori said coldly. "Eventually. When the next Dragon was born."
Shigure hung up on him.
Hatori knew it wasn't the kindest thing he could have said, but he wasn't in the mood to be conciliatory.
He was tired beyond words of being the only responsible adult in the family. In a just world, Shigure would have been trying to calm him down, not the other way around.
With nothing better to do and his mind a stew of bitterness, Hatori finally gave in to whatever it was that kept wanting him to go into the park.
Hands jammed in his pockets, he strode down the first path he came to, and even though his hair was matted with sweat and dust, the bangs that normally obscured the faint scarring over his left eye were blown back from his face by his own speed.
After a little while, the compulsion to move finally abated. He kept on walking for a little while, but that was only to find a good place to sit. Compulsion or not, he was exhausted. It didn't take him long to find a vacant bench.
Hatori sat down, congratulating himself on his good luck. Not only was the bench deserted, so was this part of the park. There weren't even any birds. The quiet would do him a world of good after the mayhem of the streets. He pulled his cigarettes out of his shirt pocket and as he lit up, he noted with grim satisfaction that his hands were steady enough to perform surgery.
He sighed with pleasure as the nicotine hit his system. He knew he should quit, but he could never think of a good enough reason, even though he knew that the damned cigarettes would probably end up being the death of him. Assuming his curse didn't do him in first, that is.
Not for the first time Hatori thought about how fucking ironic it was that the one creature in the Zodiac that should have been the most powerful was instead the most vulnerable. At twenty-seven, he was the oldest of the Jyuunishi by several months. It was rare that the Dragon was ever the eldest. The fragility of the Dragon's form usually meant that those who bore its curse rarely survived into adulthood.
He really shouldn't blame Shigure for his panic and anger; he should probably be mad at himself for letting Shigure imagine the worst for so long.
Hatori slumped back, stretching his arms out across the back of the bench. If only he wasn't so damned helpless. What would it be like if he transformed into a true dragon? If he had the power associated with one of the mythological beasts? The shiver that went down his spine at the thought was not a pleasant one.
Part of the shiver was due to the realization that he had finally recognized what had been calling to him. He'd felt something like it before, on his high school class trip to Australia. He'd gone out snorkeling along the Barrier Reef only to find hundreds of tiny seahorses trailing after him expectantly.
He had felt the creatures before he had seen them. It was a much fainter version of what he had been feeling for the past several days, a vague tingle at the base of his skull, the prickle of the attention of hundreds of minds so small, so undeveloped that they had no sense of self, no thoughts that weren't instinct, no sense of anything beyond the simplest painpleasurehungerfear.
Now, if he didn't know any better, he would swear that there was an entire horde of seahorses (because of course there weren't any real dragons, were there?) lying in wait for him somewhere nearby. He closed his eyes and let his mind wander, gradually becoming aware of a dozen or more distinct intelligences, infinitely more complex than the primitive seahorse minds he had once encountered. Each was perfectly aware of itself, each was a sea of emotions, some peaceful, some violent and conflicted, some wracked with grief and shame, and one that...
Hatori shuddered, even as he told himself that this was all nonsense. He took a long pull on his cigarette, praying that it would do something to take the edge off his nerves. He was wound up from the earthquake, yes, that was all that was wrong. The worst of it seemed to be over, so he should be able to relax, right? In the quiet of the park, it should have been easy to forget the wreckage that lay just a few hundred meters behind him.
He did what he could to let his mind empty out. In an hour or two, he could worry about how he was going to get home, and whether or not his hotel had been destroyed in the quake. Right now he needed to relax, and the park was the perfect place for that. It was hot out, but not unbearably so, and a gentle breeze carried drifts of sakura petals from somewhere off to his left.
He was so entranced by the sight that it took him a good ten minutes to realize that it was utterly impossible.
It was late July.
The cherry trees had stopped blooming months ago.
He rubbed his eyes, but the blossoms didn't go away, and as he lowered his hands from his face, Hatori noticed something else strange about the blossoms:
He could barely see them with his right eye, but with his left eyethe one that was almost entirely blindhe saw them with absolute clarity.
Slowly, almost afraid of what he might find, Hatori turned his head to see where the petals were coming from.
A tall, dark-haired man stood between him and the source of the petals so that it looked as if the petals were coming from the man and not from any tree.
For some reason, even though the day was heavily overcast, the stranger wore sunglasses so dark they might have been opaque.
He couldn't say why, but Hatori sincerely hoped that the stranger kept the glasses on.
"It's about time you looked up, Sohma-san," the man said, all pleasantness and good cheer. He was impeccably dressed in a way that made Hatori painfully aware of his own rumpled and blood-stained dress shirt. Despite the heat, the man's dark overcoat didn't seem the slightest bit out of place. Rather, the man's bearing implied that the weather was at fault for being out of step with his choice of attire. "I've been trying to get hold of you for days. I was beginning to wonder if you were deliberately ignoring me."
The affable familiarity was deeply unsettling; Hatori was sure he had never seen this man before. Even standing still, the stranger had an air of swiftness and casual grace that belied his height and the breadth of his shoulders. Obviously, this was a physically powerful man, but one who was well accustomed to masking that power.
He was not the sort of person Hatori would have forgotten easily.
Hatori swallowed and tried his question again. "Who are you? Why have you been calling me? What do you want with me?"
"It isn't all that important in the long run, I suppose, but please allow me to introduce myself." The man walked over and, uninvited, sat down next to Hatori. "My name is Sakurazuka Seishirou, and you have something I need."
Author's notes: Many thanks to Yumeko, who beta-read this chapter and made me go back and rewrite the entire beginning because it wasn't working as originally presented.
I hope that Shigure's atypical behavior makes sense given the stress and worry of wondering whether or not Hatori was alive.
Reviews and feedback are greatly appreciated, of course.
Next Chapter: Sei-chan makes Hatori an offer he can't refuse.