Disclaimers: Standard disclaimers apply.
Author's notes: Plot bunnies strike at the strangest times don't they?
Warning: Post Chapters 97-101. A little dark. Expect a manga Shigure. Some Akito/Shigure.
"You're awake. Certainly took your time."
"Four days. You were drifting in and out, because of the fever."
"That'll teach you to use a sterile blade the next time give yourself a harakiri. It wasn't even that deep a cut, but you were so septic there were more bacteria in your blood than there was blood."
"Did she miss the vital parts at least?"
Since Hatori had his back to him, Shigure couldn't possibly see how the Dragon's lips curled up in a disgusted snarl; it was so uncharacteristic of him that if anyone were to see it, they would have thought he was somebody else.
Shigure, you still take me for a fool. After all these years.
But he chose not to call the bluff.
"If there were any parts of the human body that weren't vital, God wouldn't have made them in the first place."
"So she didn't?" Shigure's already pale face turned a shade whiter.
"Does it really matter one way or the other?"
"Not at all." Shigure broke into his first smile. He slowly raised himself to a sitting position, bracing his hands against the armrest, wincing in pain.
"Quit moving around. The reason why we put you in that reclining chair in the first place instead of a bed was to keep you from tossing and turning and re-opening your wound like you did when you were delirious."
Shigure slipped a hand inside his robe to probe his abdomen. A large gauze bandage protected his midsection where the blade had penetrated. A pulsating ache throbbed deep within him but the hidden masochist in him...was surprisingly at peace.
"Feels like I'm seeing too much of you nowadays. You might as well just move back in."
"How can I? Akito-san kicked me out remember?"
"And you never did tell me why." Hatori rose to his full height and glowered down at him. "And yet you keep doing such dangerous, outrageous things-like purposely making her angry at the worst times. Or were you just too blind and stupid to see the knife?" He baited, knowing that Shigure still thought he had the upper hand.
Shigure looked away.
"Don't worry. The kids suspect nothing. Akito swore everyone to secrecy at the peril of death or eternal exile or something equally heinous so unless you undress in public, no one will ever know you have a hole the size of my fist in your stomach." Hatori picked a fallen book from under the table and uncharacteristically slammed it on his desk.
"You stupid fool."
After what she did to me...to Kisa...to Yuki...almost everyone had suffered some kind of grievous injury, physical or emotional, at her hands at one point or another...and yet you? The smartest of us all?
Shigure only smiled.
"You think this is funny?"
"Don't be angry with me, Haa-san...I know full well the one at fault is me. It's always been me. I'm the worst kind of man, after all."
Hatori sighed loudly. "There is nothing admirable about you at all, do you know that?"
Shigure nodded happily. "Yes. But I'm still too stubborn to die, so it seems."
"Not for the lack of trying," Hatori said darkly. "Half the House of Sohma donated blood so you could live."
That silenced him for a while. Shigure's face hardened as he looked out into the inky blackness of nothingness. Hatori's zen garden was a blur of greys and blacks amidst the glistening ripples of water reflecting the light of the moon.
"Why do you put up with me, Haa-san?"
Hatori's fingers itched for a cigarette.
"Are you afraid of what I'll do to the family? Is that why you feel the need to keep an eye on me?"
Hatori went over to stand next to where Shigure was resting, two lone figures looking out into the night.
"Like you said once...I'm too kind. That's why I hang around devil incarnates like you."
"Aren't you afraid of me using you?"
"Do you really need to ask when you know I know you've been doing it all along?"
You dare to show genuine confusion on your face. Shigure, you monster.
"I never used you."
"My dear, dark friend..." Hatori slowly sank to his knees in front of him, his eyes, like a hawk, pierced deep into Shigure's glazed ones. "How your rotten heart must race every time you lie."
Hatori's fingers bunched around the tousled hair on his cousin's temples, and none-too-gently, he seized Shigure's head and touched his forehead against his.
"You pushed the knife in."
Shigure's breath seemed to freeze in time; Hatori smiled at the sudden absence of warmth against his face.
"Do you like it, Shigure?" She trailed a delicate finger along the length of the gleaming blade, the intricate jade ornament adorning its handle sparkling in the dark.
"It's lovely," he said tightly.
"Kureno gave it to me," she mused, her robe slipping off to reveal one pale, bony shoulder as she raised the cold steel blade and pressed it against her face, revelling in how good it felt against her hot skin.
Shigure had long since noticed the fierce blush of her cheeks. She was in an especially good mood, almost intoxicated; the red-purplish mark trailing down the long expanse of her neck...she was purposely letting him see it.
That only meant one thing.
Kureno. Kureno. The name chanted itself in his head, sending a surge of anger with each breath down to the very tip of his fingers.
"His most prized possession," she murmured dreamily. An eye slanted his way.
"What have you ever given me, Shigure?"
"I gave you my heart. But of course, it's not enough."
"Of course it isn't. Because I have Kureno's too." Akito arched a slender eyebrow. "Nothing makes you special to me."
"I bow at your feet, and you become cocky."
"I don't like the tone of your voice. One more word and I'll cut off your tongue and feed it to the dogs." A laughter trilled deep in her throat at the pun.
"Not even the sharpest dagger can cut off the words I want you to hear, my darling."
"Oh believe me, this one can." Akito stroked the elaborate stones on the handle lovingly. "You see, he gave this to me, after one of our lovely nights together. It's getting colder and colder these days...and my bones hurt...guess who warms them up for me?"
Shigure said nothing, only the blank look in his eyes giving away his true feelings.
"You despise him. Oh how I love the gleam in my little puppy's eyes when someone else is circling its master's feet."
"Your words are of no contestation, Akito-san."
"But of course." Akito waved a nonchalant hand. Her eyes glinted as Shigure rose to his full height and came closer.
"Don't come near me, Shigure. I'm not in the mood for you tonight."
"Don't come near you? Isn't this what you want, Akito-san? For all of us to be together? To worship you? This leash we wear, it's never going to come off and you like it that way." He wrapped his hand around Akito's slender fingers encircling the dagger, feeling a shiver run down his spine at the touch.
His voice was soft, like a melody, lulling her to sleep. "I bare my soul to you and you step all over it like the spoiled little God you are."
Akito's eyes narrowed. "You're extremely annoying tonight. Get out of my sight."
"So this dog is of no use to you anymore," Shigure whispered in her ear. "Perhaps you need a new one, more loyal than the one you already have."
"Don't test me, Shigure." A savage smile. "Hatori hasn't given me my happy pill. I might just gut you, you insolent little mutt-"
"Who eats the scraps off the floor?" Shigure pushed in closer, and the tip of the blade made an indentation in his flesh an inch above his navel. "Go ahead. Do it."
"Put me down to sleep."
"You wrapped your hands around hers...like this..." Hatori's hands trailed down to grip his, cold as ice-"And you pushed the knife in yourself."
Hatori drew his head back, a subtle smirk lilting his lips as he took in Shigure's stunned expression.
"Surprised? Kureno saw you. From the window."
"You made sure I was near...so I could get to you in time. How you've used me, Shigure..." Hatori shook his head in mock amusement. "All these years... you cling yourself to me so no one can see what a truly heartless, manipulative bastard you are. And I let you."
"I let you."
The stunned expression softened; the crease on his cousin's forehead smoothened.
"Does that make you love me less, Haa-san?"
It took Hatori a good while to answer; to approach the question was like treading on thin ice. But like most anything in the world, it was simple.
"Love, in the true sense of the word...is unconditional." Something Kana taught him, not so long ago. Must be why he still remembered.
The porch light cast a halo around the crown of Shigure's head as he leaned back carefully, a slow, gleeful smirk spreading across his features.
"Do you love me enough to give me a cigarette?" He asked, half-jokingly.
When Hatori didn't answer, his smile faded, and a rare veil of sadness took its place, casting dark shadows over the contours of his face.
Almost shamefully, Shigure bowed his head, his chin nearly touching his chest.
"Is it so wrong to bask in the brilliance of your light once in a while?" A whisper; almost inaudible.
Again, Hatori reached up to touch Shigure's cheek, a gentle display of affection to anyone who might see, but there was nothing gentle in the way he gripped the side of his cousin's face with such ferocity, the streaks of red marring the pale flesh would inevitably stay for days.
"Bask in all you like, cousin," Hatori purred; his eyes empty, hard. "But if you're not careful...this light you yearn so much from me might just fade away..."
Shigure only regarded him with unreadable eyes.
"Am I that dangerous?"
"Someone who isn't afraid to stick a knife into his gut just to get what he wants, what regards does he have for others?"
"I have nothing else to give."
"So you tried to give her your life? The selfish bastard that you are?"
"I don't mean to insult your intelligence, Haa-san...but you...you can't possibly understand...why..."
"It seems to me you've got all your game pieces ready in place. Will you at least give me a heads-up when it's time for your final move?" The biting sarcasm dripped off Hatori's voice like acid.
No whining now. No drama. No 'Haa-san, you're so mean!'. Only silence.
"This is as far as I go," Shigure said finally. He sounded almost regretful.
"In seeing how far you can change things?"
A slow, reluctant nod.
Hatori looked at him sharply, unsure if he should believe him or not.
"Shigure...it's not something you can do alone."
"Unlike stupidity, courage is not contagious. Neither is determination."
"Is that what you are? Determined? Courageous?"
"I have no choice. I don't recall anyone offering to help."
Hatori's throat constricted. His mouth closed. And opened. And closed again. He had always suspected Shigure harboured hard feelings against the other Jyuunishis.
Shigure was right. Only a few select people ever caught a glimpse of his real, ruthless nature beyond the layers upon layers of disguise, and those who did-never lent a hand.
He had always fought the fight alone, as if the slightest trust in anyone would derail even the best-laid plan.
"I don't blame you, Haa-san. I never expected anything from you, or Aaya...not even Kazuma-dono. I know she's scarred you beyond repair."
"Out of all of you, I admire Rin the most. No offence to you, of course...but out of all of you, I think she's most like me." Shigure tilted his chin. "Haa-san."
Hatori just glanced at him out the corner of one eye.
"Say what? That you're a narcissist, who cares for no one but himself?"
"You don't like me very much, do you, Haa-san?"
"Don't tell me you really care if I said no?"
Shigure blinked languidly a few times. He clenched, and unclenched his jaw.
"Your opinion of me is one of the few things that actually matter to me. And that is no lie."
"I don't judge people."
"Surely you do. Even to yourself. It's only human."
The tense silence was only broken a few minutes later as Hatori inhaled and exhaled slowly. Shigure deserved an answer. Sooner or later, he would have to give him one.
"You personally? I don't. If I weren't a Jyuunishi...I don't think I would have cared to be near you, much less be your friend. But..."
"But you still tolerate me. Why? Is it pity?"
Hatori's back stiffened. He couldn't explain it himself; as much as he disliked the measures and methods Shigure exploited to achieve his goals, he couldn't explain it, this bond they had, forged in blood and spirit. Looking at him now...Hatori realised he didn't know Shigure at all.
Why can't I understand you?
Hatori's shoulders slumped in defeat. "What is it that your heart truly wants?"
A thoughtful look crossed Shigure's face, and for a second he looked as if he wanted to say it, to reveal his darkest secret, to confide in him, his best friend, even his mentor sometimes-but the precious second finally passed, and again Hatori found himself at a loss, as how he'd been for as long as he could remember.
"Don't worry too much about it, Haa-san. Like I once said to Rin-chan...I'm overrated. I'm noticeable... but I'm not worth one bit."
"Not one damn bit."
A lone cricket strung its own melody of the night, a forlorn, sombre tune.
Shigure was silent, but the unspoken question left hanging in the air was as blatant as the night breeze itself.
"If it's Akito you're wondering about...she's been with Kureno since that night."
Shigure doubled over suddenly as if struck.
Instinctively Hatori reached out but he froze at the sight of the droplets dewing on Shigure's lashes. Even his eyelids were red against his pasty complexion.
"It's...still not-" he whispered. "What I did..."
The Dragon's heart began to race.
"Still not...enough." His chin trembled.
"It's enough!" Hatori thundered, his face white with anger. Shigure lying on the floor as pale as death, blood gushing out from the stab wound in his gut...Akito hovering over him, bloody dagger in hand, stunned; looking every bit as young and small as her twenty short years of life would allow...
Hatori didn't want to go through that again.
"I hate him." Shigure's shaking hands clenched into fists; one raised to press against his trembling lips, the other he pressed against his wound to keep it still.
"Gure-niisan...I understand...how you must feel..."
"Yes. I hate you. I hate you very much." There weren't many people in this world who could profess such hatred outright with a genuine smile on their face.
"Don't misunderstand me, Kureno. I love her."
"I love her too much."
Shigure squeezed his eyes shut.
"You could have pushed her away."
That's why...I hate you. Kureno. You could have pushed her away.
"But you didn't," he breathed out, the tears clinging to his lashes dropping one by one onto his blanket-covered lap.
"Shigure. Get a hold of yourself." A strong hand gripped his shoulder.
"She's mine..." A sob. "Mine!"
The pain in his stomach grew, and Shigure found himself collapsing forward-only to be supported by two strong arms pushing him upright again so he wouldn't topple off the chair. Shigure slowly leaned his head forward, burying his face against the crook of Hatori's neck.
"Would I have been...a nicer person...if we weren't cursed?" he whispered. "How is it possible-to love and hate yourself so much...all at the same time?"
Hatori could feel the heat emanating from Shigure's burning forehead against his cold skin. "Shigure, you're still not well. You need to rest. Your wound will only take longer to heal if you keep this up."
Shigure's body shook as a giggling fit took over him.
His last words sent a chill down Hatori's spine.
"Who says I want it to heal?"
The painkillers seemed to work.
Shigure stared off into space, his eyes transfixed on the little crack at the far corner ceiling of the room, in one of the guest Sohma houses near Hatori's. After he moved out, Akito had ordered his old house to be sealed up.
After four days of blissful, albeit fevered oblivion, sleeping was the last thing on his mind. Hatori made him promise he would rest though. He closed his eyes, breathing in deeply.
He must be losing it. Not that it was a really sane thing to do, stabbing yourself on purpose, but he really must be losing it. He was even smelling things now. This scent...this intoxicating scent...the scent which haunted him always, in wake, in sleep-
A soft 'click'. And the door swung with a creak.
Shigure dared not open his eyes, for fear of seeing a mirage he knew couldn't be real.
But the scent...
Something slithered across the floorboard, like fabric scraping against the cold, hard floor. Then silence. The presence had stopped a few feet away from the bed.
He imagined her undressing slowly, undoing her robe, letting it fall to the floor. The soft rustling noise confirmed it.
A slim pair of legs slid onto the bed, jarring him hard. He grunted involuntarily. Then a pair of arms enveloped him in a sudden shroud of warmth, circling his chest, clinging to his neck, the nakedness of her pressing against his upper body.
Shigure frowned slightly.
"Open them." He obeyed. Her face hovered over his a mere inch away, the hotness of her breath, the stray locks of her hair tickling his cheeks, his eyes, his nose...His breath caught in his chest, mesmerized.
Was that relief he was seeing in her eyes?
It was too dark, he couldn't tell.
Her thumb caressed the arc of his jaw. "You tried to leave again."
"Disappointed?" He stared up at her, unblinking.
"Beg me." She raked her nails down his shoulder. "Beg me to give you another chance."
A slow smile. "Begging gets me nowhere. I learnt that from you."
Light feathery fingers traced the line of his healing wound. "If you try to leave me again..." She leaned in, pressing her lips against his ear. "I will kill you."
"My dear, dark flower..." he breathed out. "I can make the same threat."
The fingers on his abdomen stilled. But he reached out and grabbed them before they could move away.
"From now on...you will look only at me."
He gripped her fingers so hard he thought he could hear her knuckles crack.
"You will sleep only with me."
"How dare you-" she started to hiss. "I choose whoever I-"
"If you defy me..." He closed his lips over hers to shush her up. "If I even catch a whiff of the putrid rooster on you-"
He used both hands to grip the sides of her head. "These hands will do it for you. This time, the knife goes straight-" he pulled her face forward and pressed it against his heart. "Here."
"This time, I won't miss."
Shigure breathed in the deep, sweet scent of her hair, musky yet feminine.
Her face still buried in his torso, the fingers around his shoulders tightened. Her body began trembling.
The wetness on his chest was too real to just be part of his imagination.
A part of me wanted to live, to see if she'd truly cry for me...but a part of me wanted to let go...so she really would.
That was what he had wanted to tell Hatori.
Akito continued to sob quietly.
His heart soared like it had never soared before.
"What is it your heart truly wants?"
To triumph over her. That's what I want. I'm too tired to want anything else.
I've finally won.
Author's notes: 'Namida' means tears...Harakiri is the honorable death by disemboweling yourself-My first dark ficcie, quite different than my previous ones but I hope you've all enjoyed it. Hope it all made sense, since this is the first time I'm writing Akito. Sorry for any OOC-ness.
Please review! We don't get paid, so the only reward we reap from doing this sort of thing is hearing from the readers! Thank you and have a great 2006!