Tokyo Babylon is property of CLAMP, Shinshokan Comics, MOVIC, and Sony Music Entertainment Japan Inc. This is a non-profit work of fanfiction. No copyright infringement is intended. Please do not repost without permission.

Lyrics and translation from Say Anything, by X Japan, copyright 1991

lordofmerentha@yahoo.com

TOKYO BABYLON
CRYSTAL STRINGS
Sumeragi Subaru


[sawameki dake ga kokoro o sashite
only a heartbeat stabs my soul]

Crystal strings.

Hearing them as from within a dream, a vague dream, one of those dreams where he wasn't exactly sure if it was a dream or just his imagination playing tricks on him in the dark.

Crystal.

Strings.

He turned fitfully and the movement brought the sheets bunched up around him tumbling just a bit, a tiny bit, and the chill air of the room hit skin.

He woke.

[I've been crying in a dream]

It was entirely too cold and too early an hour to be up, and his body complained even as he pulled on a pair of sweatpants and oversized shirt, shaking, and he wanted a nice hot cup of tea.

Or coffee, even.

He wondered if he could get her to make coffee for him.

She hated coffee.

She hated his sweatpants and oversized shirt too, but that was a different matter altogether. The expected frown was on her face when he stumbled into the kitchen with a sleepy "ohayo" and the smile on his lips turning to a wary half-hopeful grin.

"Just WHAT do you think you're wearing in MY kitchen, Sumeragi Subaru?"

He sighed.

She had those ridiculous cat ears on again, and he supposed they suited her. Damned if he was going to go prancing around in a pair of cat ears, though. Not that she had bought him any, but it was the principle of the thing.

"SWEATPANTS? AND A T-SHIRT?"

"Hokuto-chan-"

"DON'T HOKUTO-CHAN ME!" Banshee shriek. He raised his hands in front of him.

"Hey…hey…"

The phone rang.

"I'll get it!" he gasped, dodging her and leaning agily across the counter for the buzzing receiver. The look on her face could have wilted a garden.

"Moshi moshi." He sounded a bit breathless. Must let heartbeat calm. Must not look at her. Must pretend she does not exist. Must concentrate on important phone call.

"Sumeragi Subaru-sama?"

[takanaru omoi nurashite
bringing back the memories]

"I have a job today," he said, hanging up with a definite sounding click. He liked the sound of that. It was something done, something taken care of, something that he had a part of making.

She glared.

"Hokuto-chan-"

"I spend good money on your wardrobe, you know, Subaru-kun-" she said at last. "It's not hanging in your closet so you can open and admire it from time to time."

"It's one thing to wear nice clothes out on the job, Hokuto. It's another thing to wear them around my own h-"

"Blah blah blah." The kettle on the stove whistled with a cheerful sounding shriek.

Head in his hands. Of all the days…

"Toshimatsu and I broke up yesterday," she said quietly.

Eyes flying open. She didn't look at him, bustling around the small area, opening and shutting cupboards, taking out cups, bowls, chopsticks, banging pans.

"H-Hokuto?"

"Don't sound so surprised," she mumbled. "It was going to happen sooner or later. Muddle-headed boys. It wasn't like-"

Her eyes were puffy, he realized. She had been crying last night. Probably this morning. Probably hadn't slept. Probably…

"I'm over him, anyway." The quaver in her voice quickly muffled by hissing of steam from the kettle as she poured. Honey-golden liquid streaming into the cups, which were shaped like cats, too, he realized belatedly. They must be new.

"I'm so over him. In fact, I think I'm going to go downtown and buy myself a new outfit. Today. This morning. I haven't been shopping in forever, and I think I-"

Wrapping his arms around her and burying his face in her hair. His face. Her face. Two sides of the same coin. Or was it two coins with the same side? "Hokuto-chan, I'm sorry."

Her sobs were muffled in the long sleeves of his shirt and she didn't answer him. The ridiculous cat ears tickled his nose and he tossed them onto the counter. They skittered across the smooth surface like stones across a pond. Small smooth black stones skipping across a pond, with shadows of goldfish darting away underneath.

"He has a concert tonight. All the times I spent over at his place listening to him practice…and I'm not even going to the concert. Bastard."

Crystal.

Crystal strings.

[kooritsuita toki ni furuete
shiver in the time that was frozen]

"Hokuto-chan…" he soothed, smoothing the soft hair, like the first down feathers of a baby bird. Her silk nightgown rustled around her ankles and the neko-tail around her waist curled between them.

And the moment was over. She, rubbing her eyes, stepping away. "Ne, what do you say, Subaru-kun? You want to go shopping with me?"

"Ah…I have work." A handy excuse. Thanking the gods for it.

"You always have work," she replied, but she was smiling and her hand was only shaking slightly as she handed him his teacup which was shaped like a cat's head, and the tear which slipped from the corner of one eye like a muse's silken thread was dashed away before a word was spoken.

"I suppose I'll have to go alone. Anything you want?"

[You say anything kizutsuke au kotoba demo
but the words hurt]

The address of the apartment was right near the veterinary clinic and he considered for a moment stopping by to say hello, but work was probably very busy and the animals were always skittish in the morning…

After. After his appointment. Maybe…maybe they could have lunch.

He'd like that.

The landlord of the place apparently didn't believe in elevators, and the stairwell was dark and smelled of rat-droppings. He'd been in worse, but the silk suit he wore hadn't, and he winced when one elegant cuff brushed the side of a rank wall ever so slightly. He knew he should have come in those old sweatpants and oversized shirt.

He knocked. He hoped he had the right address. It was very embarrassing when one knocked on the door of an apartment and someone with bleary eyes opened it and replied in scathing, sleep-deprived tones that the aforementioned person did not in fact reside there, and shut the door with a bang in one's face.

Very embarrassing indeed.

The door squeaked open. Winkled face, deep elderly voice. "May I help you?"

"Ahh…" he bowed, to cover for the fact that he in fact did not quite know how to begin. "Ahh…sumimasen…but I'm looking for an Ueda-san…?"

"I am Ueda." Door opening wider. "You are?"

"Sumeragi Subaru."

Eyes blinked at him. They never expected someone so young, after all this time, after all the jobs and the recommendations the government put out for him. He should just start wearing a sign. ONMYOUJI FOR HIRE, WARNING: YOUNG

"Ah, Sumeragi-sama!" A tone of reverence, almost, of worship. He smiled back shyly. They'd both told him to quit being so introverted and accept compliments in the spirit in which they were handed out, but there always seemed something wrong about compliments to him. And he received them far too often than was comfortable.

"Tea?"

"No thank you," he murmured politely. The apartment was decently furnished, easing the fears which had been founded during his trip up the stairwell, and he perched on the end of a leather chair. Antique, nineteenth century, American. "I'm interested in hearing about your complaint, Ueda-san."

The wrinkled man poured himself a cup of tea, the steam curling around his age-shaking fingers and fogging up the tiny spectacles that seemed on the point of falling off a sharp nose. "My grandson…Sumeragi-sama. I'm quite sure he is possessed."

He blinked. "Ah…possessed?"

Vigorous nodding. "You have heard of Toshiko Isamu? My grandson. Ten years old…plays violin like the young gods themselves."

He'd heard the name mentioned. Toshiko…Isamu. A concert. A flyer. A passing word. Child genius?

"I see," he murmured, taking mental notes. "And what of Isamu-san?"

"He's been playing ever since he could differentiate a bow from the actual instrument." The old man's voice swelled. Family pride. "Took from the finest masters. Toured Asia. Been reviewed in all the newspapers in Japan…on the news. Everything."

"Ah." He wasn't quite sure where this was going. "I take it your family is proud of him, then?"

"His father disagrees, of course." Lips set in a thin, disapproving line. "When I tell him music is good for the soul."

"What do the parents think?"

The old man snorted. "His son is a national celebrity and all the man can think of is his own selfishness. Refused to let Isamu take lessons. Refused this, refused that. The only thing keeping the poor boy on career is the money he makes."

"And his mother?"

The mouth shut with an audible snap. "His mother is dead." The tone of voice suggested that this subject was one he should not further pursue if he valued his health.

Another mental note. "You say Isamu tours?"

"Of course." As if it was the most commonplace piece of knowledge in the world. Of course he should know. Where, when, what countries. "Has been, since he was four years old. The European tour was his last to date, though he is planning another one through Asia scheduled for Spring of next year…He's quite popular in China, you know."

"Ah…of course. And what exactly is the…ah…problem?"

A slight pause, as if the angelic grandson could be hurt even with the revelation out in the open. "He…suffers fits. On and off stage. The last one was quite violent after the last concert and he had to be rushed to the hospital…the doctors say it is no kind of epilepsy they've seen before. So we called you in, Sumeragi-sama."

"We?"

"His father and I." A sigh. "The one thing we agree on."

He took his leave politely, bowing profusely to the spectacled old man, hurrying down the dim stairwell as quickly as he could. The sun was bright outside when he emerged, warming the black gloves. One last look back at the apartment.

A puzzling case. Most puzzling.

If there were a spiritual disturbance he would have felt it…but there was none. A ten year old musical genius…a family wealthy enough to hire him for the case…

[if I can't go back to where I have been]

"Subaru-kun! What a surprise."

He hadn't even realized where he was, wandering through the streets. He'd known the clinic was in the vicinity, but…Had he been dazing off into space? Hokuto was always admonishing him about that. That, and blushing.

The kindly veterinary face smiled happily at him from the entranceway to the clinic.

He blushed.

Deep chuckle. "You look positively hungry. How about lunch?"

He felt the various shades of rose continue to build, but managed to keep his voice steady. "That would be nice, Seishirou-san."

"Oh, most excellent. I was just locking up. Give me a moment, please."

[you say anything
whatever you like to say to me]

Do you like the sakura blossoms?

Do you?

Do you know?

There are corpses buried under the sakura tree.

There are corpses corpses buried corpses buried under the sakura tree.

[all I can hear is a voice from a dream]

They went to Tokyo Tower again, because they felt like it. Or rather, he felt like it and so did Seishirou, and by mutual unspoken agreement they decided to go.

"How was work?"

He shrugged a little, taking a drink of the tea. Green tea, chilled. Hokuto made it better. It was too sweet here.

"I took a new job today."

"Oh? Do tell."

"Actually there isn't much to tell. Not yet."

"Ah." Sipping the green tea. "This is much too sweet, don't you think Subaru-kun? Hokuto-chan's is much better."

He blinked.

"Ne…Seishirou-san?"

There were flocks of birds winging their way around the iron railings in the noon sunlight. He couldn't make out what kind of birds they were.

[say anything
you can dry my every tear]

"Have you ever heard of Toshiko Isamu?"

Forehead wrinkled a a little in concentration as he took a bite of his noodles. "The name sounds familiar…concert violinist?"

"Young, child prodigy?"

Thin lips smiled, honey-brown eyes crinkling at the corners beneath the familiar black-rimmed glasses. "Much like you, my dear Subaru-kun."

"Seishirou-san!" He felt the familiar heat settle itself around his face.

"Sorry," the veterinarian said, not sounding sorry at all. "What does little Isamu have to do with the case?"

"He is the case. I spoke with his grandfather today…they want me to exorcise him."

One eyebrow went up. "Indeed. Are you going to do it?"

He sighed. The sunlight felt heavy. Maybe he shouldn't have worn the silk jacket today. "Not without knowing more of the facts, no. I've never met the child, so I don't even know if I need to perform the ritual or not. The grandfather insists the boy is possessed with some sort of spirit. The rest of the family…"

"That was his grandfather," Seishirou said. "That you spoke with this morning?"

"Yes. It was…interesting."

"I'd think it would be." A familiar box of cigarettes pulled from a hidden pocket. The click of a lighter. "I'd think his grandfather would be living in better conditions, given that young Isamu pulls in a fortune with every concert he plays. The apartments by the clinic aren't exactly…up to date."

The stairway played out in his memory, and he rubbed one hand along the cuff that had touched the wall. "Saa."

"I see we agree." Lazy rings of smoke, curling up from the long white thin stick between the two long brown thin fingers. Beautiful fingers.

[kazatta ai mo toki no suna ni kieru made
holding onto love until it vanishes in the sands of time]

He blushed again. Seishirou's eyebrow went up another few notches.

"I suppose I should do some research on Isamu-kun before I continue this." Trying to cover up his embarrassment. "Do you know of any of his music, maybe that I can listen to?"

"It's no good trying to exorcise spirits from recordings," the deep voice murmured, almost seductively. Long lashes fluttered down concealingly. The eyes were almost…hungry?

"Seishirou-san!"

A light laugh and the predatory gaze was gone, replaced by the friendly veterinarian. He shivered.

"I have a few compact discs you can have." A dismissive wave of the hand. "Flimsy things, compact discs. I collect LP's as much as possible, you know, but Isamu is so young they don't print the things anymore. A pity."

"If you didn't mind, could I-"

"Anything for you, darling." A smirk.

"Seishirou-san!"

"Joking, joking." A placating smile, another wave of the hand. "I'll drop by after work and give them to you, ne? If you could tell Hokuto-chan I'm coming…"

"She'll be delighted." It would be nice, the three of them, having dinner together. They hadn't done that in a long time. And it would take Hokuto's mind off her jilted love. He wondered briefly if she had finished shopping yet, then reminded himself it was Hokuto…she had probably just started, dashing from store to store, turning the salespeople's knowledge of the financial world upside down.

He wondered if she was wearing the cat ears.

"Splendid. And now I'm sorry to be going, but it is almost thirteen hundred and I need to get back to the customers…there's a dog with a nasty sprain and the owner is most distraught."

He almost laughed. "I'm going home then, Seishirou-san. I'll see you tonight?"

For a moment he thought the tall man would bend down to kiss his hand, but the moment passed and the clock struck the hour. Clear golden eyes smiled.

"Definitely. Expect me around...oh...eighteen thiry. Have a safe trip home, Subaru-kun."

[kanashimi ga kieru made
until the grief vanishes]

"I'm home!"

As he expected, the apartment was empty. He removed his silk jacket carefully, hung it on the back of a chair and set his backpack gently on the floor leaning against the chair leg. The ticking of the kitchen clock was loud in the silence. It was only a little past one thirty.

There was a note on the refrigerator tacked up with a smiling cat magnet, her curly, bubbly hirigana contrasting sharply with messy kanji. He'd always wondered how one person could have two types of completely different handwriting.


Subaru-kun! You're probably home early from work again…ha…expected you would be with a rushed case like that. Don't worry, I'm not doing any shopping for you. I'll drag you along next time I feel you need a change of wardrobe. Should be back by 1500. See you in a bit! -Neesan


He hardly ever called her neesan. But she signed all her notes like that. A mark of supremacy? Just another one of her whims? She had a lot of whims.

There were little cat faces all over the note complete with whiskers and paw prints. She'd drawn a little girl cat with long feathery lashes and a little boy cat at the edge of the page and they were kissing. He smiled at that.

[shijin no namida wa kioku ni nagarasete
shedding the tears of a poet in memory]

The kitchen still smelled like this morning's tea, and on a whim he opened the refrigerator, poured a bit of the leftover cold tea into a cup and sat there sipping it, watching the clouds.

He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he knew the key was turning in the lock and a bundle and several boxes clattered into the apartment, along with a pair of cat ears and a cheerful voice.

"Oi, Subaru! I'm hooooome!"

Yawning. He looked at the clock. Three thirty-six. Still afternoon, then. There were creases in the sleeves of the silk shirt where he had crumpled it in his sleep. Rubbing his eyes and trying to erase the traces of sleep from his voice before he addressed the whirlwind.

"Did you get anything exciting?"

"When do I NOT get anything exciting?" The boxes and parcel followed her energetic aura into the kitchen, where she proceeded to dump them on the table and open them, pulling things out, the clothes spilling over into his lap like her voice spilled over into the air, making it alive.

"Look! And I got these…and THESE….aren't they just precious? And oh! Subaru-kun, I thought you'd like this. Since you listen to that classical stuff so much."

"I do?"

The plastic cover of a compact disc case was dropped into his lap, the afternoon light glossing over it, blinding. "Well, yeah, I mean you never listen to the latest stuff on the radio anyway." Pulling out another compact disc and waving it in his face. The title flashed before his eyes, holding no meaning.

"What is that?"

"THAT," Hokuto said, "is Chara's latest release, which I am going to go listen to once you stop clutching onto all my clothes and give them back to me so I can put them in my room properly."

"Ah." Dazedly letting her collect the piles off of him and staring rather faintly at the title on the case cover.

"Toshiko Isamu?"

"You don't like it? The little kid on the cover looks cute."

"No…no, I like it just fine."

[kooritsuita toki ni furuete
shiver in the time that was frozen]

Seishirou arrived at six thirty, just like he said he would, carrying a small package, a bundle of roses, and a bottle of wine.

"Sei-chan!"

He waited patiently while his sister fussed, hovered around the older man. She was wearing the gauzy outfit he had seen in one of her shopping boxes this afternoon. It was bright pink and satin white and floated around her like a cloud. There was a bright pink halo to match, bobbing above her hair, seeming to trace her movements in slow motion with delicate grace.

He accepted the package and roses with a slight blush.

"Well, really, Subaru-kun, you don't have to be embarrassed…it's not like you weren't expecting this."

"Not wrapped! And not roses!"

"Ooh…presents!" Hokuto mock-leered. "What is it? Open it!"

The shiny wrapping peeled off like candy paper, crinkling, and the plastic covers sparkled in the light.

"Hey! That's the same kid…on the cover of that one I got you today! Well. Didn't know you liked him." She sounded pleased.

"I…ah…" he managed, clutching the boxes.

"He's Subaru-kun's new case at work," Seishirou said, removing his jacket and letting Hokuto drape it gracefully around a hangar. "Subaru-kun wanted to listen to some of his music, that's all."

"Oh." She sniffed, throwing the coat into the closet with a dramatic gesture. The hangar landed on the rack with a click and a pinging sound. "Well, in that case how boring. Always work, work, work. Really! You two!"

"We men must make a living to care for beautiful women like you." Sly smile under the glasses.

She punched his shoulder. "Silly! Come into the kitchen. You can help me cook."

He listened to her lively chatter drift away, his low baritone murmured responses following, felt something light and airy float out of the room along with them and leaving him simply sitting there in dead air holding the cheap plastic case.

Well, he might as well make himself useful.

[You say anything kizutsuke au kotoba demo
but the words hurt]

The stereo set in the small study offset from the kitchen hadn't received much use since she'd brought it home a year ago, proclaiming that it looked lonely in the store window and needed a home. It was another one of her whims. It had been the latest state-of-the-art model then, black and silver and shiny. He brushed the dust off of it, wondering. He didn't like machines, as a rule. Didn't understand them.

A click as he fumblingly managed to open the CD player, insert the disc. Pressed the pointy key that he guessed made the disc play. There was a satisfying whir and he picked up the box, looking at the back cover as he squirmed onto the slick black leather chair behind the study desk. He couldn't remember the last time the chair or the desk had been used. There was a thin layer of dust on the mahogany wood surface and he brushed it away, sneezing.

Dust particles settling as the music began.

[say anything]

It was something soft, with strings. Violin, he supposed. He didn't know much about classical music, or any music for that matter. He had never really bothered with it. All he really knew was that Hokuto's taste bordered on eclectic and amusing, and he tolerated her choices blaring throughout the apartment at odd hours of the day and night.

Arms came around him quite suddenly and he squeaked.

"Beethoven," the deep voice murmured. "Interesting choice. One of mine?"

"Sei-Seishirou-san!"

"No, this one looks new. Did you buy it, Subaru-kun?"

"I-iie," he managed, cheeks burning like fire at the touch of the older man's arms around his neck. The arms showed no inclination of leaving but instead draped themselves more comfortably onto his shoulders.

"Romance in G Major," the almost amused tone continued. "Romance? How thoughtful of you, Subaru-kun."

"I, no! Err, that is, I didn't! I mean, I-"

He stopped, not quite sure of exactly what he wanted to say, and in the pause, Seishirou laughed.

"It's quite all right, Subaru-kun." The arms withdrew suddenly, and he breathed a relieved sigh, yet feeling strangely…

[just tell me all your sweet lies]

"What do you intend to do with this boy?"

"I don't know," he admitted, mind moving on to more practical matters. "I have to meet him…I should meet his father as well. His grandfather seems rather…"

"Odd?"

Green eyes meeting golden with a start. "How did you know?"

Cigarette drawn out of the box with an almost nonchalant grace, twirled elegantly between tapered fingers. The amused smiling eyes through the crown of flame that splashed the dark visage with ephemeral light. "Let's say…I did some research on my own."

He didn't know whether to feel pleased or resentful. "Hokuto-chan doesn't like you smoking in here, you know."

"I'm doing it all for you, of course," the voice continued, as if he hadn't spoken. "Wouldn't it be much easier if I helped? As a trained assistant, I mean. I am trained in your arts as well, you know."

"Yes," he murmured. The orchestra swelled in the background. "I can do it on my own, Seishirou-san."

"I know," the voice returned, and for once there was no artifice in the tone, nothing insinuating or sultry or anything but simple and plain truth. "But I also want to help you. May I?"

For a long moment he couldn't answer. Golden eyes…gods, he could drown in those eyes. So beautiful…there was something in their depths that he couldn't read. That he couldn't read, but wanted to so desperately, if he only could see…

[say anything enji kirenai kokoro ni
to the heart that cannot lie]

"Ah, well." He felt the moment escaping him like a stray wisp of breath, reached out to catch hold of it and found nothing but air. The smiling veterinarian was back, long frame lounging in an impossibly delicate way over on Hokuto's expensive leather couch. "Have it your way. It is your case, after all."

"Boys! Dinner's ready! Mou! You two!" The door flew open. "What are you-oh! Am I interrupting something?" Her eyes were laughing, mysterious.

"Hokuto-chan!"

"Merely discussing the technique of Subaru-kun's latest client." Waving a hand at the stereo. "Subaru-kun is of the opinion that his staccato notes are a bit too short for this type of piece."

"Oh, yeah right. Subaru doesn't know squat about classical music. He told me so this afternoon!" Turning triumphant eyes at them. "You can't fool me, Sei-chan!"

He rolled his eyes at them. He couldn't help it.

[you say anything]

The sakura blooms every year because of the corpses buried underneath.

Do you know?

Sakura blossoms are white. Pure white. Like snow.

Pure white like snow pure pure white like snow.

Sakura.

[you can dry my every tear]

He managed to secure an appointment with Toshiko Isamu's father for the next day, was up early as usual listening to her bustle around in the kitchen. When he entered, this time in checkered shirt and moss-green tie up pants with hat and gloves to match, she simply smiled at him.

"Looking good today, Subaru-kun."

"Lovely tea, Hokuto-chan."

She beamed at him. "Scat! It's cleaning day today. I bought a nice air freshening thing I want to try out in the kitchen."

He took that as his cue to leave, beginning the walk towards the nearest subway station. The engine of a car purred behind him, and he stopped.

"Would you like a ride, Subaru-kun?"

Arguments were pointless, as usual, so he got in. He was smiling behind the glasses, neat in black suit and white shirt and thin black tie. If he had been a few years older he could have been a father, taking his teen-aged son to school.

Except he wasn't a few years older, and he wasn't a father, but a friend taking his teen-aged friend to work, his friend who was too young to be doing what he did, and he was…

Was what?

"Where to, Subaru-kun?"

"Eh? Oh!" He flushed, caught off-guard. "You can drop me off at the subway. It's rather out of your way."

"Nothing is out of my way, for you."

"Seishirou-san!"

The weather was perfect and the car rode smoothly. It was awhile before the buildings began to thin out to countryside and he looked at the map in his hand. "It should be around here…a western-style house, he said. A few kilometers after we see the shrine."

Yokohama Shrine, the sign post read, pointing up a narrow pathway between the trees that had closed in around the narrowing lane almost imperceptibly.

"We're close."

"Would that be it?"

A massive gated thing in the distance, surrounded by dense trees and bushes and green foliage bursting into bloom in the midmorning sun. It looked like a wild garden of the gods, of the type that he had read in fantasy books when he was little, hoping his grandmother wouldn't catch him filling his mind with what she called "wild notions."

"Yes, I'm sure that's it." Car purring through the open gates. "You can drop me off here, Seishirou-san…"

"Nonsense." A quick pat to his shoulder as he got out, the key turning in the ignition and the car shuddering to a halt. "You don't know how long this could take."

"I-"

"No arguments, Subaru-kun, and that's final. Besides, don't you want to go out to lunch today? It's so beautiful outside. I thought maybe a picnic in Ueno Park. I brought sandwiches."

"I-uh, that is-"

"So it's settled then!" A friendly squeeze on the shoulder. "Let's go in and meet your client, shall we?"

[akari no kieta
the lights have gone out]

Toshiko Kenji was a big man in his late thirties, it looked like, eyes slanted and calculating, lank hair falling in strands across a sweaty forehead. He did not offer them a seat, looking suspicious when he carefully introduced himself and his assistant.

"I hired you of course," he said carelessly, wiping his face with a white handkerchief. When it came away from his face there were brown spots there. "You are the best, so I hear."

"What is the nature of your son's illness, please?" he said politely, jotting down date and time in a small yellow notebook. There was a cat on the cover. A smiling one, with a bow behind one ear.

"He faints." Blunt, sharp. "After performances, once during. Last time had to be carried out by a stretcher."

"Yes…his grandfather told me so, I believe."

He could feel Seishirou's eyes, sharp.

"Grandfather. Hn." The musky smell of a cigar being lighted, a puff of smoke. "I wouldn't believe that bastard for all the money in the world. He's just in it for himself."

"Your son seems to bring in a fair amount of money," he said. Keeping his voice neutral. The chandeliers dangling from the ceiling swung and sparkled. Behind him he could see Seishirou taking an interest in what seemed to be crystal ornaments on the western-style mantlepiece.

What was that? Something about crystal.

Crystal strings?

The sweet, high note of a violin pierced the air. A single note, sustained. Then movement. Scales.

"E flat major," Seishirou said softly. "Smooth tone. I take it that is your son?"

"So you're a classical music buff, eh? That's him. Practices all the time." There was contempt in the man's tone, the kind of contempt which made it very clear that young boys should either be outside with a ball or inside with a textbook and a pen. Either or. "I don't see much of him these days."

"You don't go on tour with him?"

A snort. "I stay here and mind my own business. What he does on tour is his affair."

The violin began again, and he recognized the tune that had been playing last night in the darkened study.

Romance.

[tooritsugita hibi ni dakareru
embraced by the days that have gone]

"Quite remarkable," Seishirou murmured.

He tucked the pen behind his ear, closed the notebook. "That was most helpful, Toshiko-san. If it wouldn't be too much trouble…could I have a few words with your son?"

"He doesn't take to strangers. But that's none of my concern."

The violin grew louder, the notes more distinct, through the passages of the house, floating on the motes of sunlight glancing through skylights and the odd window. A strange house. There were too many dark places. He couldn't see.

Crystal strings, vibrating in the dark. He reached out to touch.

"Isamu?"

The violin stopped.

The crystal moment shattered.

The door opened.

[kazatta ai mo toki no suna ni kieru made
holding onto love until it vanishes in the sands of time]

He was a slim boy, eyes large and dark in a face that was too thin and too sad, as mournful as the crystal notes which sang out on the strings.

"Could I ask you a few questions, Isamu-kun?"

A mute shake of the head.

"Just about your…fainting…at your concerts. Do you feel unwell before or afterwards?"

Panic in the wide eyes. A slight quickening of breath.

"He doesn't like you," his father announced. "You'd better leave."

It had been worth a try. "All right, Isamu-kun." Sketching a slight bow. "I'm sorry to have bothered you."

The violin began again after a brief moment, and he could see the crystal strings in the darkness, wet with the pearls of tears.

[time may change my life
but my heart remains the same to you]

"Doesn't look like we learned much today." Agonizing over his hurriedly jotted notes. The compact disc was back in the player again. His nerves were raw, and he needed the music. "If only the boy would talk to me."

"Some are like that," the deep voice only sounded bemused. "He'll learn. Especially being a public performer."

"I suppose so." Looking out the window at the sunset and wondering when Hokuto would come home. She had finished her cleaning, apparently, from the strange smell in the kitchen, and gone out shopping. There had been another neko note on the refrigerator, telling them both to wait until she came home and then she would make dinner.

"What are you going to do now?"

He sighed. "It would be easier if I had any sort of guide…but there's nothing. Nothing at all…for all I know the boy's problems could be purely medical. Maybe the doctors didn't look hard enough."

One eyebrow quirked. "I'm a doctor. Should I examine him?"

"Seishirou-san!"

Seishirou laughed. "I'm joking, of course. Though the family in general seems eccentric enough to allow that kind of thing."

The soft music swept under him, lifting him up on wings of air and waiting sleep, the sunlight fading. He yawned.

"I wonder…never mind. I wish…"

There was only the brief whisper of air as a warning and then the arm slid around him.

"Seishirou-san!"

"You don't like this?" Murmured in his ear, words falling one by one like raindrops, soft and tantalizing, forbidden fruit. "Should I move?"

"I-I don't-"

"It's all right," the voice continued. "It's all right, Subaru-kun."

He drew a long shuddering breath. "Seishirou-san-"

"Close your eyes," the voice whispered. "Close your eyes…"

[time may change your heart
my love for you never changes]

So gentle.

There were words in his mind, words coming to the forefront before his eyes, bright sparkles of light that would take shape and bloom into golden flowers if only he would speak them, open his mouth and utter them so they could take root and grow, but he couldn't. Because he was afraid.

[I believe if time passes, everything turns into beauty]

"Don't be afraid."

He jumped a little. A low chuckle, and soft lips grazed his ear.

"When I'm with you, Subaru-kun…you don't need to be afraid."

"Why-" the words made no sound. "Why do you do this? Seishirou-san."

"Why?" A whisper along the plane between silence and the noise of falling sunrays. "You know the reason why."

Fingers at his cheekbone, lips moving down the line of his jaw, and he shuddered in delicate anguish as the exquisite sensations covered him and he was drowning, drowning.

[if the rain stops, tears clean the scars of memory away]

"Because, Subaru…"

The last light of day.

"Because I…"

Crystal strings.

[desire is embraced in a dream]

Sakura blossoms are white. Pure white. Like snow.

Do you know why these are pink?

Do you know why?

The blood…

There are corpses buried under the sakura tree.

If you and I. If you. If you and I can meet again.

[but my mind is still in chaos, and...]

There were crystal strings in the darkness and warm breath and skin on skin and only silence filled the empty room.

[akari no kieta
the lights have gone out]

There are corpses.

Under the sakura tree, the blossoms are pure white. Like snow.

If you and I can meet again.

So today, I'll…

[sawameki dake ga kokoro o sashite
only a heartbeat stabs my soul]