I'll Do My Crying in the Rain

Chapter 8 -- Three Little Words: The Killing Sword's Sheath

By Gabi (Gabi@pinkfluffy.net)

Soujiro leaned back and stretched, glad for a break in the monotony of repairing the storage shed. He'd been at it all morning and he was happy to find that it was battened down for the winter now. The Yokanos wouldn't have to worry about their food spoiling out in the weather. It was yet another job done and another debt paid.

He scratched the back of his neck and cast about for Toshio. The boy was nowhere to be seen and Soujiro couldn't help but think he'd run off after Kuri. This was one debt that was getting harder and harder to pay. Ignoring Kuri was difficult, especially under current circumstances. She threw herself at him just about every time they met and he found it difficult to constantly dodge her and put her off. He knew that it was making her uncomfortable but he had to give her this choice. He owed her this choice. Here was a steady, stable home with a man who obviously adored her. She seemed to enjoy his company as well, although she was beginning to become more and more shy around him. Soujiro suspected that she might be finally on to the boy's honest yet serious intentions.

Here was a pleasant safe home for the girl who'd nearly been killed because of his carelessness. She had the right to it if she chose it, and he had no right to interfere with her decision. But still, he found it difficult to ignore her and had to lose himself in conversations with the beautiful, chill Yokano Kimiko.

He shook his head and again glanced about, wondering where Toshio had gotten to. He set off to look for the boy to once again recruit him into shed repair and had just rounded the corner of the house when he came across the rumpled heap of clothing that lay underneath the line of fresh laundry. He absently wondered who had knocked it down even as he bent to retrieve it and hang it up again.

Then he noticed her ribbon and the precise, clean stitches that marched across the right shoulder of his gi.

He fingered the stitches idly even as a chill breeze played with his hair. This was a problem

*

Kuri had been walking for three days now. The snow had started midway through the first day. She had certainly not picked a nice season of the year for a walking tour of Japan.

Since she had left so quickly she wasn't exactly suited for the weather. She did have her owagi and she was thankful for that, but her feet were cold. She was wearing thin cotton socks. She wished she had planned her rebellion a little better, but at least she had left. She was proud of herself. She was finally doing things on her own.

She had decided to visit Hisashi and Yoshida in Kyoto and she felt oddly refreshed at having made a decision for herself. Hisashi had invited her to visit, after all, and she knew Yoshida would not turn her away. She had contemplated staying in Sendai Town with her sister but that was too close to him. He might try and get her and bring her back, and she was not going back.

She paused, as she could hear the whisper of crunching snow behind her, but when she turned there was no one there. She hadn't really expected there to be. It was just her mind playing tricks on her after a long day of walking alone in the cold. She turned to face the road in front of her again after a wistful moment of absent regret. It was a pity. He was such an idiot. Well, he deserved what he got. That crane girl had to be a cold fish. He cheeks colored lightly at the thought and she was happy to realize that she no longer felt numb from what had happened. Instead, she felt sort of sorry for Soujiro. Well, it wasn't really his fault if he was an idiot. She shrugged and then giggled.

She took a deep breath and then bellowed, "SOUJIRO NO BAKA!" as loudly as she could manage. Maybe, through some trick of magic he would hear her and get out of the situation while he still could.

She giggled again and she found she could deal with the situation more easily if she considered it all one big joke on Soujiro. She was done crying for now.

Feeling much better, and more alive, even against the heavily falling snow, Kuri bounced forward again, breaking her own track in the heavy blanket that covered the road in front of her. As she did, her hair swung loose around her and she tossed her head to get it secured behind her shoulders again and out of the way. As she did she felt a light breeze on the back of her neck, a whisper touch that was so startling that she froze in her tracks and her hands flew to the back of her head where she found her hair neatly bound by a familiar-feeling ribbon.

Her gaze snapped around behind her again and she found herself searching over her shoulder desperately. What on earth was going on? Was that idiot here? Where had the ribbon come from? She was sure that she had left it at the farm. Her search proved fruitless, however, because the only thing in her line of vision was her own receding trail of tracks in the snow. This was getting just plain weird. She turned to continue only after she was sure that there was no way he could be following her.

And then she ran smack into him.

She jumped backward in shock, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open in astonishment. How in the -- what in the -- what was going on here?

He was, as usual, smiling pleasantly, arms tucked inside his gi, an owagi draped casually over his shoulders and a scarf loose around his neck. Well, at least he had been smart enough to dress for the weather. One point to Soujiro.

He looked completely unperturbed by this whole situation, as if they had planned to meet like this, in the middle of a heavy snowstorm, on the road to Kyoto.

"You know, when I gave you that ribbon I meant for you to keep it?"

There it was again, that damn proprietary air. He could go straight to hell.

"If you think I'm going to stand here and listen to you mock me then you have got another thing coming. I don't need you the way you think I need you. You're not going to keep me wrapped around your finger any more. I'm tired of following you around."

His smile remained absent, "I am quite aware that you don't need me. You made that abundantly clear by walking out."

She put her hands on her hips, "Then why are you here?"

He looked upward at the sky and watch the snow come down for a few moments before answering, "I need you."

Kuri's arms went slack and she felt all the fight go out of her. This wasn't fair. He shouldn't be allowed to do this to her.

"I am not your child. You can't use me like I'm some sort of blanket to curl up in when you're lonely. I won't live a half life for you."

"I know that," he wasn't smiling any more, just looking at her steadily, "I never meant to do that to you."

She shook her head. She wasn't going to let him do this to her. He had chosen, now he was going to live with it. He couldn't have his cake and eat it too. There was no way she was going back.

"I think you need to go back to the woman that you chose," she spoke flatly and returned his gaze levelly.

He bowed his head for a moment and she wondered about his reaction until she caught his low, soft chuckle. Oh, he was in for it now.

She flailed angrily at him before charging into a sentence that went by almost so fast that it wasn't intelligible, "Seta Soujiro, if you think I'm going to stand here and let you laugh at me . . . "

She wasn't prepared for him to gently lay his hands on her shoulders and pull her closer to him, so he could see her better, as the snow was making their conversation difficult.

He smiled and shook his head, turning her favorite insult over on her, "Kuri no baka. Why do you think I'm here?"

Her breathing quickened and she found she couldn't respond.

"I chose you. You've always been the only one. I'm not very good at saying this. Gomen ne, Kuri. I haven't had very much practice," he looked flustered and paused before he continued, "I don't know what you thought or why you thought it, but you've always been right here."

He took a hand off her shoulder and pushed back the right side of his own owagi so his hand rested over his heart. Kuri's eyes softened as she realized the patch over his shoulder was flapping open again, the seam she'd see a few days ago neatly slit, as if by a dagger or a katana.

"I could say 'I love you' but you deserve more than that. You've been walking the path behind me. I really have no right to ask this, but can we walk the path together?"

Her lower lip trembled as she searched his face. He was serious again, and she could only wonder what it cost him in nerve to keep from retreating into his smile.

"Soujiro no baka!" she laughed, even as she felt tears in her eyes, "It took you long enough to ask. I'm going to say yes, but you had better behave yourself. I can't believe it took you this long to figure everything out. You really can be an idiot . . . "

"Kuri," he nudged softly.

She continued on as if she hadn't heard him, "And furthermore, I don't know what you were thinking hanging around with Kimiko-san all the time. What was I supposed to think with all those old ladies gossiping all the time . . ."

"Kuri," he murmured a little more deliberately, a soft laugh in his voice.

"And how could you let Toshio-san spend so much time with me. If I were you, which I'm not, but if I was I'm sure I'd have figured all this stuff out a long time ago. I mean, come on, you couldn't really think you were doing the right thing. You can be an idiot sometimes, but you're not that much of an idiot. You have to have some brains in there, what with the way you talk all the time . . ."

"Kuri," this time he was loud enough to break her train of thought.

She paused for a moment to catch her breath, "Nani?"

He moved easily, naturally, and before she could blink, he had picked her up. He was warm and she felt so close to him. As if she had finally started listening to a channel of intimacy that had always been there but they had both ignored.

"Be quiet."

She blinked. He had never, in their whole relationship, ever told her to be quiet. It was a surprisingly astonishing experience.

And then he kissed her.

This was also a surprisingly astonishing experience, both sweet and warm, soft, gentle, complete. He broke off after a few moments and then smiled at her.

"Sumimasen, Kuri. I'm not very good at this. I've never kissed anyone before either."

She sighed exasperatedly and kicked her feet in the air, "Neither have I. I'm sure you're doing fine. Soujiro, do me a favor."

"What?" he asked curiously, wondering rather honestly if she had any suggestions.

"Stop thinking all the goddamned time!" she flailed to emphasize her statement and he laughed.

"I'll try, Kuri," he turned to face the road in front of them and then began walking steadily ahead.

"Where are we going?" she asked blankly, quite confused.

He coughed, then cleared his throat and then finally managed to answer.

"I'm trying not to think about it."

END

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That's it folks, the end of I'll Do My Crying. If you're wondering what the hell is going to happen about all the loose ends I left, stay tuned. You'll get all you answers and probably considerably more questions in Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. Stay tuned, they'll be back ^_^