A/N: Heh…I hope you like this… I noticed, while gazing through fics, that there were too few angsty Ayame fics. I shall remedy that.
Disclaimer: I don't own Fruits Basket, and I'm not making any money off this, either.
Genre: Angst/ Drama
Warnings: You'll have to read to find out...I don't want to spoil it for you...
Main Characters: Sohma Ayame, Sohma Hatori, Sohma Shigure, and Sohma Yuki
Additional Notes: Heh. Well, in case you're curious, "Sakura Fuyu" means "Cherry Blossom Winter". Oh, and like most of my fics, this is depressing, so you've been warned in advance.
Chapter 1: Sakura Fuyu
Ayame shivered. It was cold out, but it that was to be expected; after all, it was the middle of winter. He shivered again and pulled the haori tighter around himself as he sat on the bench, snow falling placidly to land in his hair and on his haori and kimono.
One may ask why the snake of zodiac would be sitting on a bench in the middle of winter wearing only a kimono, a haori, and a pair of geta. The reason was simple: he was tired. He had been to see Yuki earlier, only to be shunned as though he was the foulest of creatures.
Then again, he thought to himself as he stared out over the Sohma estate, Perhaps I am…
An old conversation, forgotten for years, floated to his mind…
"Which one is it?"
"The Snake, I heard… Foul, dirty creature, it is."
"I know, I would hate to have the shame of being its parents…"
"As would I… I heard it was stupid…not quite right in the head, you know?"
"Yes, I heard the same thing…they say it does nothing but follow the Dog and Dragon. I pity even those creatures for having to put up with it…"
Ayame's eyes clouded and he realized there were tears on his cheeks; he hurriedly wiped them away and hugged himself. Suddenly his mind returned to what Yuki had said earlier…
"Damn you, you stupid snake! When will you get it through that thick skull of yours that I don't like you and never will! Just leave me the hell alone like you wanted to when I was little!"
"Yuki…I'm sorry," he whispered but the wind tore away the words before they could be heard. The snake shivered as his breath clouded in front of him. Maybe…maybe if I stay here long enough…I'll die… Then no one can hurt me anymore…and I can't hurt them…
And then there was his other problem…the one concerning Hatori…
"Ayame," came a voice from behind him.
The snake didn't move; he knew who it was and he had no desire to talk to anyone, especially not him. "Ayame, what are you doing out in the cold and snow? And dressed like that?" Ayame didn't answer as he concentrated on the snow collecting at his feet.
"Come on," said Hatori. "Let's get you inside where it's warm…" The snake ignored the dragon, pretending to become stone, something that couldn't feel…
"Ayame," said the dragon, sharper this time, "Do you want to freeze to death?"
"Yes…" whispered Ayame finally.
Behind the snake, Hatori frowned and moved to stand behind his friend. "What are you talking about Ayame?" he asked. "You don't really want to freeze to death do you?"
Ayame shivered, feeling slightly drowsy, cold; his eyes drooped closed. "Yes…yes I do Tori-san…"
Hatori sighed. "Come inside so we can talk about this…"
The snake shook his head slightly and Hatori sighed again. "Fine," muttered the dragon. "But I won't let you freeze to death."
Ayame's eyes snapped open as he felt the dragon's strong arms embrace him. "T-Tori-san…?"
"If you won't come in to get warm, I'll just have to keep you warm like this until you come to your senses and come in with me," said the dragon, his head resting on Ayame's shoulder and his warm breath on the Ayame's cold skin sent shivers down the snake's spine.
Ayame sat there, stiff and awkward for a while. He sighed; warm…Hatori was so warm… The snake began to go limp in the dragon's embrace, melting into the warmth, his amber eyes closed. He opened his eyes again to see the sakura tree over the bench in bloom, the grass, green, and the snow had turned into sakura petals. Warm…it was so warm…
"Ayame! Ayame! Wake up!"
Someone was shaking him, urging him to open his eyes and say something. The snake frowned and squeezed his eyes shut, shaking his head.
"Ayame!" He recognized the voice now; it was Hatori. "I know you're awake…"
The snake groaned. Not him…not now! "Go away…" he whispered hoarsely, rolling over onto his side, "Just let me die…"
"Ayame, please…talk to me," said the dragon, worry lacing his voice. "Please." Silence. "Fine," snapped the dragon. "Don't talk."
Ayame sighed and suddenly coughed, his body shuddering with the force of it. "Ayame?"
The snake groaned and clutched at his throat. "Ow…"
"Let me see," said Hatori, sounding professional.
Ayame finally opened his eyes; he was in Hatori's room on the spare futon the dragon kept for special patients he couldn't leave alone for long. Through the window, the snake could see the last dying rays of the sun casting shafts of splintered light into the room. The dragon carefully helped the snake into a sitting position and put a stethoscope to his chest.
"Hmm… You have a cold, idiot snake," sighed the dragon fondly.
Ayame looked at the ground. "I'm sorry," he said, a few tears slipping from under his smoky lashes. "I'm so sorry…so…sorry…"
Hatori looked at the snake, surprised and worried. "It's all right Ayame," he comforted. "I'm not angry."
Ayame didn't answer, his silver bangs veiling his expression, but Hatori noticed the tears fall to the floor. "Ayame, please talk to me," he demanded. "What's wrong?"
"He hates me," whispered the snake. "Everyone does…"
Hatori frowned. "Ayame, look at me." The snake made no move to do as the dragon asked; Hatori sighed, frustrated. He gently lifted the snake's chin with his finger, but Ayame continued to look at the ground, his dark lashes hiding his amber eyes.
"Ayame, please look at me." Reluctantly, the snake did as the dragon asked. Hatori sighed. "Thank you," he said. "Now tell me what's wrong…"
"They hate me," repeated Ayame, tears sliding down his pale cheeks. "They all do…"
Hatori frowned. "They don't hate you Ayame," he reassured the snake. "I promise."
Ayame shook his head; his eyes squeezed shut, silver hair flying with the motion. "They call me stupid, tell me I'm filthy… They don't want me around… I'm sure they'd be happy if I died." Ayame looked away, his thin shoulders shaking from suppressed sobs; he whispered, "No one likes snakes anyway…"
Hatori's eyes narrowed. "And just who is they?" he asked.
The snake sniffed. "Everyone… Yuki, Kyo, other people in the family, Akito…everyone…"
"Ayame," said Hatori, his voice gentle. "They don't hate you. Yuki and Kyo just find you annoying, but they don't hate you," he said.
Ayame looked at the dragon, his eyes pleading, begging this to be true; Hatori continued, "Akito hates everyone, with the exception of Yuki and Shigure," he said. "As to the rest of the family; they don't know you. They see you and make assumptions based on how you look and the spirit that possess you, not about you."
Tears were staining Ayame's alabaster cheeks now and Hatori tenderly pulled the snake to him, comforting him as best he could. "It's all right Ayame," he whispered into the snake's long silver-white hair. "It'll be all right, I promise…"
"I…I don't want to be hurt anymore," sobbed Ayame quietly, his voice muffled slightly by Hatori's shirt. "I don't want to hurt anymore…"
Hatori looked at the air, his arms holding the snake to him. He would have given anything at that moment to take away all of Ayame's pain…all the loneliness he knew the snake endured, the pain he could scarcely imagine. He knew that even though Ayame put up a cheerful front, he was truly the loneliest person.
Shigure's words came floating back to him, the dog's mellow voice as clear to the dragon as if the dog was standing next to him, whispering them in his ear… "That's why…I envy even you, Hatori… I may be…the most cursed of us all…"
No… thought Hatori to himself, pulling Ayame closer still. No…you're wrong Shigure… He has it far worse…than even you…
Ayame didn't know when sleep finally overcame him, still held safely, securely, in the dragon's warm embrace. He woke to soft cotton cloth on his cheek, jet-black hair mingling gently with his own silver tresses, a striking contrast, light-and-dark, night-and-day…
He sighed, still drugged with sleep, the darkness's charming and bittersweet embrace. He snuggled into the warmth, his cold body craving the heat, the pounding of the heart next to his. I…I could stay like this… he thought to himself. Always…it's so warm…so warm here… And soft… I could stay like this…forever…for always… He sighed, contented.
"Ayame?" came Hatori's voice. The softness against the snake rumbled with the sound.
Ayame pulled back, startled at the sudden revelation that he'd been sleeping against the dragon. "T-Tori-san!"
Hatori smiled slightly. "Yes. Did you have a good sleep?"
The snake looked away, a bright red blush on his pale cheeks. "I-I'm sorry…"
There was a soft rumbling and it took Ayame a moment to realize Hatori was laughing, or chuckling at least; he looked up to see a soft smile on the dragon's features. "Don't worry about it Ayame," he said. "I didn't mind…besides, you looked like you needed it."
The snake looked away again, this time more ashamed than embarrassed. "Ayame," said Hatori quietly, serious now. "We need to talk."
"Tori-san…I'd rather not…"
The dragon sighed. "Please Ayame, for your own good, you need to tell me what's bothering you…"
"Please Tori-san, not now…"
Hatori snorted. "Yes, now, Ayame."
There was silence, the calm before the storm, as Ayame fixed his narrowed amber eyes on the dragon, a strange fire flickering in their golden depths. "Fine! It's you…you're what's bothering me so damn much!" he hissed, voice low and vehement. "It's your fault!"
Hatori blinked back his surprise at Ayame's tone; he'd never heard the snake sound so enraged before in all their long years of friendship. "A-Ayame…what do you mean?"
"Forget it," snapped the snake, moving away from the dragon's warmth. "It doesn't matter."
Hatori frowned, shaking his head, black hair falling in his emerald eyes. "Ayame, I'm your doctor, of course it matters to me. You're my friend."
The snake chuckled bitterly, a sour smile curling his thin lips. "Friend," he whispered, his lips carefully forming the word, feeling it roll off his tongue. "Yes, that's all I am, your patient, your friend; someone to help you when your so called perfect love can't pull herself together enough to spare you pain, someone to help you pick up the pieces when she left without a backward glance. Yes, I'm your friend."
Hatori watched the snake, confusion clear on his face. "Ayame…I…"
He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose tiredly, shaking his head. "Ayame, I have no choice as your doctor but to confine you to this house, is that clear?"
Ayame remained silent, his eyes closed; the fire had drained, leaving him weary. "Ayame?" repeated Hatori, softer this time. "I am sorry, but you left me no choice…please forgive me…"
"Of course Tori-san," answered the snake quietly, nodding as he got to his feet and left the room.
Hatori sighed, running a hand through his jet-black hair. "Why must you be so difficult Ayame?" he asked the empty room.
"Haa-san!" chirped Shigure on the other end of the telephone line; Hatori groaned mentally. "How are you today?"
The dragon sighed. "Shigure…not now. I'm under a lot of stress…"
A pause. "What kind of stress Haa-san?"
If only there were a needle long enough… "Ayame…"
"Ah," said Shigure knowingly.
"He tried to kill himself."
Another pause, longer this time. "What?"
Hatori sighed. "Ayame tried to kill himself yesterday…he's here now though."
"What do you mean he tried to kill himself?" demanded the dog angrily. "How?"
"He sat outside in fifteen degree weather for almostan hour and a half, wearing nothing but a kimono and an old haori, hoping he would freeze to death," answered the dragon tiredly. "Which is suicide, especially for Ayame."
Hatori could hear Shigure groan on the other end. "Did he tell you why?"
"Not yet," replied the dragon, rubbing his temples, Ayame's accusation pounding in his skull. "But I've confined him to the house for now… He hasn't said much since last night, but what ever was the reason for the suicide attempt, its apparently been going on for some time and he just finally collapsed under the pressure of it."
Shigure sighed, a rush of static on the line. "Poor Aaya," he muttered. "I don't understand why he didn't tell us sooner that something was bothering him like that…"
"Ayame bottles up his true feelings, Shigure," said Hatori quietly. "He puts up a happy mask, but he's tormented inside…though I'm not sure why."
Shigure sighed. "So you've noticed that too, huh?"
"Do you know why?"
There was a pause. "No…look, I have to go now, Tohru's just set the table; I'll talk to you later…"
Before Hatori could say anything, the dog had hung up and he was left listening to a dial tone. That was strange…thought Hatori. He's hiding something… The dragon sighed and shook his head. I might as well try to talk to Ayame again… He made his way to the living room, searching for the snake, but strangely enough, Ayame was absent from every room…
"Ayame?" called the dragon. "Where are you?"
There was no answer. The dragon was getting worried now; the only room left was the kitchen and he highly doubted Ayame would go there…
"Ayame?" Hatori looked in and his emerald eyes widened. "AYAME!"
He raced in, rushing to the snake's side. Ayame was lying on the floor, blood all around him, the crimson staining his silver hair that covered his ghost white face. Hatori knelt next to the motionless body, hands trembling, and searched for the wound.
Blood…there's so much…there's so much red! It's everywhere! What the hell happened! Ayame! The dragon finally found the source and his own blood ran like ice in his veins, the fragments cutting his heart, ripping it to jagged pieces. It was a long, deep cut, the crimson liquid still welling out of it, on Ayame's slender, powder-white wrist.
"Damn you Ayame!"
A/N: Wow, short chapter; please let me know if you think the rating's too high. Either way, will Ayame die? I don't know. Maybe. Heh. I know; you hate me. Oh well. Anyway, I hope you'll keep reading. And what is this secret Shigure seems to have? Does the dog know more than he's telling? Perhaps… Keep reading. And please review!