I wrote this for a challenge posted at the online RP community of Furuba-Rama. Check it out w/ a google search; I play as Saki. Who else, right? Hahaa. I hope you enjoy the story. Oh, and just so you know there are manga spoilers in this story. Just thought I'd tell you that.


ii

"And why do you sing 'Hallelujah'
If it means nothing to you?
Why do you sing with me at all?"

- from Delicate by Damien Rice

ii

Shigure could hear vomiting in the upstairs bathroom. The suit he'd worn to the Honke felt tight as he climbed the stairs, the sticky-warm air of a coming storm filling the spaces between his clothes and his skin. There was quiet, and then the violent splashing started again. He sighed and opened the door to his study. For the first time since the dog could remember, it was clean and organized. He fell into his leather chair, took off his tie, and waited.

It is easy to be patient when one is not distracted by the ticking and tocking of a clock. Having learned this early in life, Shigure had no such contraption in his study and only wore a wrist-watch (foul invention!) when patience proved a burden. Opening a drawer, he pulled out a sheet of paper and started folding. Seven cranes perched on his desk by the time the knock came.

Always polite.

Hanajima Saki stood outside, her hair tied back in a braid. Her clothes were rolled up, pinned back, and patched in various places. A purple bandana covered her brow.

"We need soup."

Shigure held out a crane and smiled.

"For the beautiful nurse."

"That is not soup."

"Oh, shot down once again!"

He raised the back of his hand to his forehead and was pleased to catch a frown on her face. It died, sadly; she tossed it aside.

"It's been seven hours. She needs soup to take the medicine."

"But won't it come up as fast as it goes down?"

The silence cut through his protests. The novelist gave her a too-heavy sigh and fluttered his eyelashes.

"Fine, I'll make soup. But Saki-chan cannot stay cooped up forever. I insist that you visit me tonight. We can-," he wagged his eyebrows, " -chat."

He was robbed of her response by a badly timed groan. Saki turned and left (without so much as a glare) to Tohru's room where the stench of sickness clung to everything. Shigure watched her leave, her braid bouncing against her back. He ran a hand through his hair, stepped out, and locked the door before clomping down the steps toward the kitchen.

The cans were in the pantry, but he didn't go to them. Instead, the dog filled a kettle with water and put it on the stove. Turning the dial to high, he rolled up his sleeves and sat at the table, his face falling into his palms. His skin smelt like someone else's.

It was quiet. Not even Tohru's noises could be heard- the retching, the moaning, the agony that often follows a flu. A breeze rustled through the trees, but Shigure was deaf to all that went on outside. Old sounds filled his ears: Akito whispering, Akito crying, Akito shouting his name between insults. He remembered how his god, covered in naught but his jacket, had slept off their "spat". She'd drawn her legs up, her knees barely brushing her chest.

He pinched the bridge of his nose.

Suddenly, a wail pierced the haze of memories. White steam gushed forth from the kettle. He pushed back his chair and snatched it off the stovetop, grabbing a cup and a teabag from a box on the counter. When he'd finished, Shigure set the kettle on a plate and blew at his drink, taking sips as he dug around for a can-opener, hoping that neither of his cousins had taken it with them on their school trip.

They hadn't. Soup was easy enough. He half-filled a bowl with gelatinous muck from the can, then topped it off with hot water. Added with a little spoon action and voila! Shigure carried the food upstairs and pressed his ear to Tohru's door in time to dodge the doorknob. He barely managed to balance the bowl before Saki took it from him.

"Thank you."

She closed the door. Shigure sighed.

I expected more conversation. Then again this is Hanajima Saki

He fixed another cup of tea and retreated to his study. Hours passed, though just how many the writer couldn't say. He'd been too busy writing about his afternoon at the Honke (with certain names changed, of course). Balancing a crane on his head, he'd been brainstorming a title for his bestseller when the first jolt of lightning cracked the sky. Shigure glanced out the window.

1... 2... 3... 4...

The thunderclap shook his bookshelves. This time, when Saki appeared, she forgot to knock.

"You must collect the laundry."

A crane fell to the floor.

"What?"

"It is drying on the line."

"But it's gonna rain!"

"I know."

Shigure muttered an oath and stood, stepping on his crane. He glared at it before looking up and pouting.

"But Saki-chaaaaaan- "

"No. Tohru needs me."

Her stern expression left little room for argument, so he shrugged. Her dress swooshed when she turned; the dog caught sight of milky ankles. He licked his lips and bolted, taking three steps at a time.

The rain, when it began, did not fall lightly. It crashed to Earth like a curtain, drenching everything- including Shigure and the laundry. He panted as he dashed into the house, the sopping clothes bunched up in a basket that he promptly threw into a corner.

"They'll soak the floor."

Leaning against a wall, the novelist looked up and was startled to see Saki standing there. Her bandana was gone and her hands were in her pockets. He swiped his fingers through his bangs, flinging the drops of water on the linoleum.

"Fine, I'll get a towel."

She shook her head.

"You're wet. I'll get one."

The girl lifted the basket and walked off to the laundry room. He felt a twinge of surprise that she knew where it was, but then he remembered that she'd been caring for a sick Tohru since dawn, so of course she'd done some of the chores. Tohru wouldn't have stayed still if she hadn't. When Saki returned, he smiled at her as he scrubbed his hair dry.

"How's my little flower?"

Her eyes softened. His pulse jumped.

"She's asleep."

"No," grinning, he threw the damp thing away from him, "I meant you. 'Hana' means flower, after all."

The edges of her mouth turned down in what he wanted to call a scowl. He waved his hands and gestured toward the kitchen.

"Maa, maa. Don't be angry, Saki-chan. Sit down and have tea with me. Please?"

Her gaze shifted to the table.

"You should go upstairs and change. You'll get sick."

He blinked.

Oh yeah. I'm soaked.

The dog scratched the back of his head.

"You're right, of course. I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere!"

While undressing in his bedroom, Shigure noticed that his jacket was nowhere to be seen.

I left it with Akito.

Peeling his clothes from his body reminded the novelist that he'd left more than just his clothes at the Honke. Resting with his god after a visit, his skin against hers, there was an all-consuming heat. It would seep into his fingertips and unfurl in his gut, dripping through his blood all the way to his toes. He missed it most in moments like these, when the air blasted needles through his limbs. Shigure put on a clean-smelling house robe and slippers and left the room.

He stopped at the end of the hallway, just close enough that he could see Saki in the kitchen. She was sitting down, her hands wrapped around a steaming cup of tea. Gloves covered her fingers- small, black, lacy things that seemed little protection against dirt and cold. The braid was now undone; inky spirals framed her face as she watched the water running down the window pane. If the girl noticed his return, she made nothing of it. All was quiet and calm, like a painting.

"Saki-chan looks pretty like that."

She cut her eyes to his and held them.

"This rain is most unfortunate. I cannot travel home until it clears."

Shigure smiled.

"I didn't think you of all people would be afraid of a little water."

"It is complicated."

"Oh, I'm sure it is. Saki-chan, after all, is a complicated person."

She shifted in her seat.

"Yes, well, we are none of us as... simple as we appear."

His spine stiffened. Standing, her hair tumbling over her shoulders, Tohru's dark friend rinsed her mug in the sink and glided toward the stairs. The dog, however, reached out and took one of her hands in his own. Her flesh felt cold and solid beneath the lace.

"Let me get you a sleeping bag. I doubt the rain will be letting up anytime soon"

Shigure looked to her face for change, but she turned away from him.

"What are you doing?"

"Your phone. I need to use it."

"Why?"

"My family will be wondering if I'm safe."

"Ah, of course. How foolish of me. It's over- "

"I know where it is."

The novelist frowned as he made his way to the closet.

Touchy.

He grabbed the sleeping bag and glanced back into the kitchen. Saki was murmuring into the receiver, one arm wrapped around herself. She paused, held her hand over her eyes, whispered something short to the listener, and hung up. Lethargy appeared to have taken over; she looked like she'd slump to the floor any minute.

"Saki-chan can camp in Tohru's room tonight. I don't think she'll mind the company."

The denpa girl nodded and walked toward the stairs. Shigure followed. Her hair swayed as she moved, the black veil occasionally exposing the white slope of her neck. His tongue dried in his mouth.

When they reached the bedroom door, Saki turned and bowed her head.

"I thank you for your hospitality."

She turned away, but his hand swooped out and caught hers a second time. Saki's flesh was soft and yielding beneath his fingers as he brought her wrist to his lips. The glove itched his chin.

"There are better ways to thank me."

Her eyes darkened.

"Goodnight, Sohma-san.

With little effort, Shigure grasped the girl's shoulders and pressed her back against the wall. There was a dangerous lack of distance between them.

"You're too hasty. Let a man plead his case."

She scowled.

"You are hardly the kind of man to plead."

He half-smiled.

"No, I'm afraid not."

The dog lowered his mouth to hers- so close he could feel her slow warm breath- but did not quite touch her. She shivered, and that was all he needed. Shigure kissed Saki. Neither closed their eyes. When she didn't respond, he pulled back.

"What's wrong? Am I not attractive enough for your tastes?"

The novelist brushed his lips against the shell of her ear.

"I'm certainly old enough, nee Saki-chan?"

"You're a fool."

He plunged his fingers through her hair, one hand sliding down her dress to caress her collarbone.

She feels so damn cold.

"What makes you say that?"

"I am not who you want me to be."

The dog shrugged.

"Ah, but what difference does that make?"

Her silence rang in his ears as he came at her again. This time, Shigure shirked the act and hungrily worked his mouth against hers. Saki's complacency, however, did little to stir the heat searing his intestines. Rather, it crushed it. He broke from her and frowned. She looked annoyed.

"Are you finished?"

He licked his lips.

"Yes. I'm finished."

Her mouth had turned coral pink. She wiped at it with the back of a hand, the wetness marring her glove. The novelist fell back against the other wall and pulled a cigarette from his pocket. Saki snatched it and tossed it aside, a finger pointing to the bedroom door.

"Tohru."

He sighed.

"A little smoke won't make her sicker."

Sparks snapped at his nose. Shigure laughed despite himself.

"Maa, Saki-chan needs to lighten up."

"It is a revolting habit."

His eyebrows lifted as he watched her pick the sleeping bag from the floor.

"Perhaps, but we all must have our vices. Sometimes I wonder about yours."

Her wan smile caught his eye.

"Sweet things, of course."

And with that, she left him alone in the hallway. He pulled out a cigarette and sucked on the filter.

"Of course.

ii

By morning, Tohru's fever had broken. She assured her friend that she could care for herself, now that the horrible stomach aches had subsided. Saki agreed and left for home, stopping only to collect her umbrella from Tohru's closet.