A bright, sunny day greeted the first day of spring with such welcome Hatori almost felt disappointed he hadn't made other more interesting plans for the day. Instead, he found himself standing in front of his writer cousin's house, tapping his foot impatiently. He rang the door bell again, a little viciously this time. For a house boasting quite a relatively large number of occupants, they sure were slow at getting the door.
Finally the door unlocked with a click.
"Ahh! Hatori-san!" Tohru's eyes widened in surprise, opening the front door wider. "Please come in!"
"Honda-kun. How have you been?"
Tohru clumsily backed away as Hatori stepped forward to take his shoes off, the unmistakable feeling of dread growing in her heart.
Oh no...He's early! I should have polished the kitchen counter last night! And the trash is still in the bin! I am so careless! Tohru berated herself, her face burning as she let the doctor in. And has he had breakfast yet? Should I offer him some?
She looked a bit flustered. "I've never been better, thank you! We didn't expect you this early however...please, do forgive the mess!" The handsome Sohma just regarded her silently out the corner of his good eye as he handed him her coat.
"I trust Yuki is awake?"
Tohru's face paled slightly. "Anou Hatori-san...You see...Sohma-kun..."
"Don't tell me...He's still in bed?" Hatori said dryly.
"H-hai..." She abruptly straightened and bowed her head fervently. "Gomen-nasai! I should have tried harder to wake him up! I should have reminded Sohma-kun again last night before he went to bed!"
"Iie...it's alright, Honda-kun. I've known Yuki a lot longer than you have. I am familiar with his sentiments about waking up in the morning," Hatori said, giving her a very small smile. "I suppose it is partly my fault for coming here so early, it is no wonder he's still sleeping. Leave him be, I'll just go see Shigure and say hello."
Hatori narrowed his eyes. He surveyed the empty living room. "Speaking of Shigure, where is he? Is he still in bed? Is everyone still in bed?"
"Oh no! I think Shigure-san's awake...I'm sure I heard him moving around in his room. He should be in his study upstairs."
"Right." Hatori was about to walk up the stairs when he noticed Tohru staring at him, a flicker of uncertainty in her large innocent eyes.
"Hmm? Nani, Honda-kun?"
"Anou...Hatori-san..." Tohru bit her lower lip, hesitating.
"Speak up, girl. By now you should know I don't bite."
Tohru's face turned bright red. "Right. Gomen-nasai."
Hatori waited expectantly, his hand on the rail.
"Hatori-san...it might not be my place to say this but...I-I was wondering if...after you are done with Sohma-kun, could you check on Shigure-san as well? I am a little worried about him."
Hatori narrowed his eyes. "Is he unwell?"
A worried frown instantly creased Tohru's forehead. "Well, for one, he hasn't eaten anything since yesterday, at first I thought it was just my cooking that didn't agree with him because I did try out a new recipe for lunch yesterday, but he had so little for dinner, he barely ate a thing." She hesitated a little.
"I thought he didn't look well at all but-" she waved her hands frantically in front of her face. "Sumimasen! I may be imagining things, jumping into conclusions like that! I'm sure Shigure-san would have told you himself if he were really feeling ill..."
Hatori doubted that though. But saying that out loud would only worry the girl further so he just nodded seriously. "Iie, thank you for telling me, Honda-kun. I'll see what I can do. He could just be coming down with something, in fact half the House of Sohma is down with a nasty bug at the moment."
"Ah! Then you must be very busy! I'm sorry if I've caused you unnecessary concern...it's just that...I got very worried after I heard him throwing up in the upstairs bathroom last night. "
Hatori's fingers unconsciously tightened around the rail. "I see."
After assuring Tohru that he would do his best to help, Hatori continued his way up the stairs only to run into Shigure who had just exited the upstairs bathroom in the hallway. His cousin's face brightened instantly.
"Ah! Ha-san! You're here," Shigure greeted him cheerfully. "It's good to see you."
The first step to accurate history taking in the daily life of a well-trained doctor: the power of observation.
Shigure's eyes and nose were red against the unusual pallor of his complexion. And he smelled suspiciously of mouthwash. Lots and lots of it. Honda-kun was right, he thought. Shigure had definitely looked better.
"What's wrong with you?" Step 2. The direct approach always seemed to work with the most difficult of patients.
"Eh?" Shigure blinked. "Wrong? With me?"
Shigure blinked again. Then his face lit up. "Oh! You must mean my yukata! Tohru-kun has washed all my favourite grey ones and I'm only left with the blue one, which I find a little unflattering on me, if you know what I mean-"
A vein throbbed in Hatori's temple. "Shigure, I don't have all day. Are you feeling al-"
"I thought I heard Hatori's voice," a new voice joined them from the far end of the corridor. They both turned to see Yuki sliding the door open, rubbing his eyes sleepily.
"Ohayou, Yuki-kun!" Shigure chirped.
Yuki winced. "Shigure, to be this cheery so early in the morning, it's not normal."
Hatori snorted. Shigure? Normal?
"Come on, Yuki-kun. Don't keep Ha-san waiting for longer than he needed to, he hasn't got all day, you know. Such is the life of a busy man," Shigure said and winked, before slipping past Hatori to return to his room.
Hatori only watched his retreating back, unsure of what to make of their little encounter. Shigure was acting like his usual self, that much was obvious. He guessed he could catch up with his cousin later and find out for himself if Honda-kun's concerns were of any weight. -But right now, there was another Sohma he needed to take a look at.
"You know the routine, Yuki." He handed Yuki a small, calibrated tubular cylinder. "Deep breath, then let it out in the peak flow meter as forcefully as you possibly can." He watched as Yuki did as he was told. He felt sorry for the boy, but he guessed it couldn't be helped. A weak chest was no fun, but at least there was always going to be someone around to keep an eye on Yuki.
"What is it, Yuki?" Hatori pressed the stethoscope against his chest, listening to his lungs for any obstruction.
"You once said I might grow out of this one day."
"Yes, I did."
Yuki was silent. "Okay."
Hatori disentangled the stethoscope from around his neck. "I wouldn't worry so much about this, Yuki. As long as you take care of yourself, everything's going to be alright. I understand you haven't had a single attack for about nine months now. That's very good."
Yuki only smiled. "I have a good doctor."
Hatori shrugged. "You flatter me too much, Yuki. It is my duty after all." He frowned when the distant sound of the toilet flushing caught his attention. The third time in half an hour, he noted. It couldn't be Kyo, whose snores could still be heard from the next room through the wall.
"Are you planning to go out today, Yuki? It is quite nice outside," he commented casually, but he found his mind wandering elsewhere.
"There's an Egyptian arts exhibition at the convention centre today, I was planning to take Honda-san to see it, but knowing the cat, by the time he decides to wake up, the show would be over."
"I see." Hatori stood up. "Well, I hope you'll enjoy yourselves. Just remember, don't over-exert yourself and don't forget to bring your inhaler wherever you go. Your lungs still haven't cleared up completely. Do you understand?"
"Hai." Yuki buttoned up his shirt. "What are your plans for today, Hatori?"
"Hmm?" He heard footsteps going down the stairs, accompanied with the rustling sounds of papers. Shigure must be getting to work. "Oh. I'll probably stay here for a while longer if you don't mind. It is the weekend after all."
"Stay as long as you like, I guess. Shigure's probably going to be home all day. Seriously, I don't think that guy has a life. You tell him to live a little, Hatori."
"That's a very sound advice, Yuki. Maybe I will." He excused himself and immediately made his way downstairs. Sure enough, Shigure was sitting at his usual spot at the table, with his usual stack of books and his usual cup of tea.
Hatori put his bag down on the table and took a seat by his cousin's side. He studied him closely.
Shigure looked even paler then when he saw him a half hour ago, and light sweat had broken out in a fine layer on his skin despite the gentle breeze blowing through the open sliding doors.
The clock on the wall ticked. And ticked. And ticked.
"Take a picture. It lasts longer."
"Are you going to let me check you out or not?"
"Whatever do you mean, check me out?" Shigure was momentarily confused. Then his eyes glinted with mirth.
"Ah...you think I'm hot stuff, don't you? Aya secretly checks me out sometimes, I always catch him doing that you know-but you, of all people?" Shigure tsk-tsked playfully. "You flirt."
"That's not what I meant, you idiot," Hatori scoffed. "Honda-kun suspected you were not feeling well so I thought I'd play the role of the concerned cousin slash family doctor slash your only living relative who can stand your antics; as long as I'm here and it's free so you might as well just give it up and let me take a look at you and is that cigarette I see dangling from your lips your twentieth this morning?"
Shigure's eyes nearly popped. "All that in a single breath? You're amazing." He took a long drag from his ciggie before snuffing it out in the ashtray. "And I didn't know you could count that high." He smiled at his best friend teasingly.
Hatori just gazed at him coldly. "It is hardly ten o'clock in the morning and you're already on your second pack. You are no chain smoker, Shigure, so it is my duty to infer from that fact and make an educated guess. Now what is wrong?"
"Betsuni." Shigure shrugged. In frustration, Hatori pulled his book off his hands. Shigure grabbed it back stubbornly.
"Everything's perfectly fine, Ha-san! Look at me, sitting here with my cig and my tea and my books, going about my daily life with all the peace and quiet I could ever ask for on this beautiful sunny day, without a care in the world. How could anything be wrong?"
"And yet you've barely eaten anything since yesterday afternoon, or so I've been told. Are you sick to your stomach or are you just being difficult?"
"Honestly, can't a man be not hungry once in a while?" Shigure sighed and buried his face once more in his book. "Ha-san, fussing over me like this doesn't become you. Quit worrying and have a smoke, will you?"
"I am not worrying about you. I'm worrying about those little brats living with you. Whatever will happen to them if something happens and you suddenly decide to kick the bucket, hmm?"
Shigure's forehead wrinkled in disbelief. "That's ridiculous. No one kicks the bucket just because of a little stomach ache."
"Ahah. So there is something wrong with you," Hatori said triumphantly, as much as triumph would sound like in that monotonous voice of his.
"There isn't! I'm just nervous is all. After all, my new novel's launching is next week and all the suspense is making me jittery. Which reminds me, are you coming to the ceremony?"
"Whereabouts is it again?"
"The Marriott." After a pregnant pause, "Akito-san...is coming as well."
Hatori looked at him sharply. He was quiet for a few seconds. "I see."
Then he stood up. "In that case, I'll make sure I have nothing scheduled that day. I assume you would want every chair filled, even if it's mostly the Sohmas who'll end up going."
Shigure smiled at him. "Thank you, Ha-san. You're the best! Ah, in fact I think you deserve a few more lines in my speech-I wrote it yesterday and come to think there's barely a mention of you in it, and since your coming here today has brightened up my day to such an extent that I might just dedicate a whole paragraph to y-"
Hatori raised a stern hand. "Hush!" Shigure closed his mouth abruptly. He turned the page over and went back to reading.
"How's Yuki? I hope everything checks out alright."
"He's fine. As long as he doesn't do anything particularly strenuous."
Shigure snorted. "Have you seen the state of my house lately? The only thing that keeps it standing is because Tohru-kun's here. She seems to be the only one who can keep the two from killing each other every time they meet."
"It's partly your fault for making them stay together under one roof."
"What can I say, I am a bit of a control freak I suppose. I guess I feel the need to keep an eye on them, that's all."
"A noble act, Shigure." Sometimes he felt he gave the dog too little credit. Although he wasn't going to tell him that; the dog was big-headed enough as it was, being a hot-shot novelist and all. But he had a good heart, that much Hatori knew.
"Look, I'd love to stay around for longer but I just remembered I have to run to my stockist to replenish my medical supplies. Now are you sure you don't have any concerns you want to talk to me about?"
Shigure smiled kindly. "Have I ever kept anything from you, Ha-san? If I did, don't you think I would have talked to you about it?"
"Sometimes I wonder, Shigure." A steadfast gaze. Sometimes.
Hatori finally gave a sigh. He bent over for his black briefcase. He rummaged in it for a while before producing a palm-sized bottle filled with some kind of viscous pink goo.
"Here." He plonked it on the table next to Shigure's tea.
"That looks vile." Shigure slid his glasses on and peered at it. "It looks like something Yuki-kun would whip up in the kitchen if he were living alone on a desert island with nothing to eat but pink salmon and pink rose buds blended together. But then again, he wouldn't have a blender, much less a kitchen, would he? Hmm."
"Can you be anymore disgusting?"
"In fact I can! See-"
"Take it after you've had something to eat. A spoonful during the day and another at night. That should help settle your stomach."
Shigure sweat-dropped. "That stuff is going nowhere near my taste buds. No sir, no way in heaven-"
"You leave me with no choice, Shigure. Either you let me examine you properly or you do as I tell you. Now, which is it?"
Shigure winced. "The salmon and rose bud smoothie," he mumbled finally, lowering his head dejectedly. God knew what other bizarre concoctions Hatori had stored in his magical bag.
Satisfied with himself, Hatori stole the last of the cigarettes from Shigure's pack. "I'll see myself out. You should thank Honda-kun for being so concerned about you. That's the closest thing you'll ever get to a woman's sympathy, as I'm sure you very well know."
Shigure winced again. "That's so mean, Ha-san...And to think I let you steal the last of my nicotine fix for the day."
"Missing one is not going to reduce your chance of getting lung cancer by much. Get over it," Hatori said, shrugging.
"That is indeed true, I suppose," Shigure concurred calmly, taking a sip from his tea. He said nothing else.
Something seemed amiss. Shigure's good mood, while in a stranger's eyes may seem natural, but for someone who'd known the dog for as long as he had, it felt false, forced. But if he refused to be seen, then there was only so much Hatori could do.
"I don't really have to tell you this, because you'll end up doing it anyway-" Hatori grabbed his coat from the coat rack. "But call me if...you feel the need to."
He stood in the hallway for a minute, uncertain if he should really leave. He had a feeling his company was needed somehow. "I'm going to be in most of the day anyway."
"Alright. Thank you for coming, Ha-san." Hatori nodded curtly, throwing his cousin one last inquisitive look, before heading out the front door. Since he was heading down to town anyway, he guessed he should take Momiji with him or something. The kid would appreciate it at the very least; he didn't get out much and he deserved some fun after all.
Shigure had hoped the potion Hatori gave would get rid of this stomach flu thing, but it only managed to take the edge of his nausea, and by mid-afternoon, the dull persistent ache in the central region of his abdomen had radiated to his right side and it was worsening by the second.
He held a hand to his waist and breathed in deeply, slowly.
"Shigure?" Shigure opened his eyes to see Yuki standing in front of him.
"Are you alright?" He asked curiously. "You look pale."
"Ah! Daijoubu." Shigure straightened up, despite the protests of his cramping muscles. He gave him a reassuring smile. Then he frowned.
"I thought you were supposed to go out? To see mummies or something?"
"Yes, we are going out in a minute." Yuki's sharp eyes didn't miss the sudden grimace on his cousin's face and the slight stiffening of his body. "Shigure, are you sick?"
"Hmm?" Shigure's head snapped up, his eyes slightly unfocused. "I'm fine. Just a little upset stomach, that's all."
Yuki nodded. He figured that was why Shigure hadn't been eating much. "I see Hatori gave you something for it." He gestured toward the bottle on the table.
Shigure just glared at it viciously. "I'm telling you, that guy is seriously trying to poison me."
Just then, footsteps came thundering down the stairs. Yuki smirked. "Finally. Stupid cat takes forever to get dressed. He's such a girl sometimes."
"Now, now, be nice, Yuki-kun." Shigure wagged his finger. "Try to get along with him, okay?"
"Heh!" A new voice joined them. "Get along? With him? You must be joking."
Kyo stuck a hand inside his jeans pocket. "So. Are we going or what? I wanna go see the pyramids."
Yuki sweat-dropped. "What pyramids?"
"You know, the pyramids!"
"Pyramids are in Egypt, you idiot. They can't be moved around from place to place like some kind of statue!"
"Then what are we going to see actually? And don't you dare call me an idiot, you damn rat!"
"You know, mummies, burial jars, papyrus, those kinds of things."
"What the heck is a papyrus?"
"And you want to call yourself intelligent."
"Anou...Shigure-san?" Shigure, who was finding himself lost in the pointless argument about pharaohs and papyrus, looked up.
"I left some lunch for you in the fridge, do you want me to heat it up for you before I leave?" She asked in concern. She hoped he was feeling better; Hatori-san said he had left him some medicine.
"That's very sweet of you, Tohru-kun, but it's alright. I'll do it myself later when I'm hungry. Now go on, you guys, get out of here and let me have some peace, will you?"
"You should really eat something, Shigure-san." Tohru's eyes were filled with anxiety.
"Honestly, Shigure, you're acting like a child. Do you want Tohru to force-feed you or something?" Kyo glowered. "Coz I could help her with that-"
"Like how Yuki-kun force-fed you leeks, you mean?" Shigure teased but he tensed when another shard of pain stabbed his side. Underneath his yukata, he held his waist even tighter. "I'll be fine, really. Now go!"
Kyo was about to retort something when he realised Yuki and Tohru were already heading for the door. "Oi, chotto matte!"
Before stepping out from the living room, Kyo turned and saidto him seriously, "You do look like hell, Shigure. Get some rest will you? Tohru's going to worry herself sick."
Shigure sighed. He wished people would stop fussing over him. "I will, don't worry. Don't stay out too long okay? And take care of those two for me."
Kyo made a face at the notion that he was supposed to take care of Yuki as well, but he just nodded. "We'll be back soon. See ya."
Shigure lifted the lid off the pot and the strong aroma of beef stew immediately assaulted his senses; and immediately he felt the blood drain from his face as a powerful wave of nausea washed over him. The lid fell to the floor with a resounding clang as he blindly stumbled toward the sink.
Dry heaves wracked his body as his stomach roiled dangerously, and Shigure held on the edge of the sink for support as his head swam.
He guessed the effect of the pink stuff he took earlier was only temporary. He buried his head in the sink, feeling the heat radiate up his neck, all the way to his temples.
Shit. He was really sick.
So much for eating, he thought dizzily as he heaved again, bringing up nothing but tea.
After what seemed like hours, the bout of nausea finally passed, leaving only the intense, pulsating ache in his side. Shigure straightened up gingerly, pressing the sleeve of his yukata against his mouth, trying to will the pain away and pull himself together.
His hand shook slightly as he turned the stove knob off.
He curled an arm around his midsection and struggled to regain his bearing. He needed to lie down.
But before he could reach the living room, an invisible knife stabbed him in his side, and with a cry, Shigure doubled over and fell to his knees. Cold sweat ran down his face in rivulets as he fought for control of his own body, as it convulsed with spasms of pain.
What the hell is wrong with me? He thought dimly, on the verge of panic. He tried to speak, but only a strangled cry escaped his lips as black spots danced in front of his eyes. He was aware of his body collapsing forward, aware of the carpet rushing up to meet his face, but he was already unconscious even before his head hit the floor.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Gomen-nasai : I'm sorry
Nani : What
Sumimasen: Excuse me/I'm sorry
Ohayou : Good morning
Iie : No
Betsuni : Nothing
Daijouobu : I'm alright
Yuki, teme: Yuki, you!
Author's notes: My second FB fic. Please note that everything I know about Fruits Basket, I only learned from watching the ANIME, not the manga. I know it's like watching LOTR without reading the actual book, or reading an abridged version of Oliver Twist or whatever, but please bear with me and pardon any OOC-ness and uncanon-ness. I'm trying my best.
I love Shigure. Oh and please review. It gets you the next chapter faster, for whoever wants it.