A/N: Ah, Shakespeare. Can't live with him, can't live without him. In any case—this came to me while reading Macbeth, and I thought it was too good to let get away. It's also somewhat influenced by the show House, MD.

Disclaimer: Don't own, not making any money!

Ratings: PG-13

Genre: Angst/Tragedy

Warnings: Mentioned character death

Main Characters: Souma Ayame

Additional Notes: I believe I've been watching too much House, MD.


Shadows

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it's a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing."Macbeth

The steel table was cold against his skin and he shivered, pulling the hospital gown tighter in hopes of procuring even the smallest amount of warmth from the garment. He sighed, examining the rough fabric. It was a clumsy thing, the gown; all angles and lines, it bunched awkwardly at his thin waist—God, he'd gotten so thin in these past months. The sharp bones of his hips were clearly visible, his ribs and vertebrae as well. He seemed to be a bag of bones.

He laughed quietly. So this is what he was reduced to? A useless bone-bag, trapped in his own pathetic skin, his own rebelling body. He knew what he looked like now—he'd seen himself in a mirror recently. Sharp angles, hollowed cheeks, sallow skin, and dead eyes. Bandages hid his limp hair and covered one eye; his left hand was splinted, his right leg bound and useless. Thin, black stitches marred his delicate shoulder and extended from his knee to his thigh—the sight sent waves of pain and fear through him and so he did not look, if he could help it. Tears had begun to form at the corners of his good eye and he made no move to wipe them away. His spidery wisps of fingers flitted across the stiff and stark white wrappings. He took a shaking breath. These injuries—his eye, his hand, his shoulder, his leg—they were nothing. She suffered far worse, for far less…

"Ayame?"

He looked up, swallowing furiously, willing the tears to refreeze. He didn't speak—he hardly did any longer. He stared at the lanky man in the doorway, at the familiarity that sent a stake through his chest. Those worried and caring emerald eyes, the left one hidden behind a curtain of raven hair, the starched collar, the professional tie, the lab coat…even the clipboard… He was drowning in familiarity.

Hatori came closer and he could see the toll the worry was taking on the young doctor. "Ayame?" Hatori spoke again, his voice quiet, coaxing. "Ayame, how do you feel today?" Still, he didn't answer; he only watched as a flicker of resignation lit his oldest friend's visible eye. Hatori looked down at his clipboard, flipping through a few of the pages. "It's time for the bandages to come off."

Ayame offered no reaction to the news, not even a weak smile. He continued to watch his friend. Hatori sighed and took a seat next to the thin, shell of a man, setting his clipboard on the Formica counter. He studied Ayame for a moment. "You have to talk, Ayame. You can't hide away here forever; I know it hurts, but don't let it control you—"

"You don't understand."

It was the first thing he'd said in almost three days and it was obvious his voice was unused. It was scratchy, hoarse, and hollow; there was a note of despair evident in those few words that made Hatori pause. "I do understand. I lost Kana—I know how difficult losing someone can be."

Ayame's golden eye closed, his fingers tightening on he edge of the table he was perched on. "Kana didn't die. Death isn't on your shoulders."

Hatori shook his head. Why did he feel so helpless? "Ayame, it wasn't your fault—the roads were slick, and it was dark; the car—"

"No excuse!" His right fist slammed down on the metal table, punctuating his point. Tears were falling now, sluggishly tracing the sharp curve of his cheekbone as he bowed his head. "It's no excuse…"

"Ayame," snapped Hatori, gripping his friend's good shoulder. "Stop it! It's stark stupidity to blame yourself for Miine's death when you nearly died yourself." Ayame was shaking, his breaths coming quicker, as he tensed with a pain that was nothing physical. The mental agony was like an aura that radiated from the bent frame and Hatori found it all but unbearable. "Ayame," he whispered after a moment, desperately wishing he could comfort the broken man. "Please. You can't stop living because she did. Would she want you to torture yourself? Ayame, we go on living because life's not over—honor her memory and give her life—live."

Silence drenched the room and as Hatori waited he fancied he could taste the pain and sorrow if he were to stick out his tongue but he didn't move, too focused on Ayame, anxious and hopeful. The younger man was still for a time before he took a shuddering breath, akin to a sob he had somehow managed to suck back. He opened his eye again; it was sad but there was some semblance of understanding and a flicker of determination. He looked up to the jade eyes and a soft, reflective smile claimed those pale lips. Relief flooded Hatori and released the breath he had realized he'd been holding. "Good—now, to get those bandages off."

Ayame nodded allowing his friend to carefully unwrap the white fabric. Slowly, his face was revealed little by little as the gauze was removed. Scars crisscrossed the pale skin—they would eventually fade to memories—while a line of stitching ran from just below his right eye to disappear beneath the fringe of silver hair. His eye, however, was lost, damaged to such an extent that it had been unsalvageable. It was still gold, but more subdued—empty—and there seemed to be a white film covering it, the scar like a white hair floating on a foggy, gold-tinted pond.

Hatori took a breath. "There…"

Slender fingers cautiously traced the stitching, shuddering a little at every welt, small as they were. He knew it traveled back, almost to the base of his head. Hatori was right—he was lucky to be alive; that fact gave him some stability. "Thank you, Tori-san."

"You won't give up, will you?" asked Hatori, "You won't stop living?"

Ayame smiled softly in answer; no, he would live, having found the reason the lonely, left-behind ones live—he would keep the memory alive, he wouldn't allow the stone to fade, the flowers to die. Her monument would never wear away to cold stone. He would live to remember her, live so she could live. And he could still see her with his blinded eye, his dead eye; he would always be watching her, watching for her smile. He was her walking shadow.


A/N: There. Done. I hope you liked it—oddly enough, it was hard to write Aaya that way… Believe me, Ayame is my favorite character. Please, review!