Wow. I had an image in my mind, and I decided to expand upon it (you know, without all the trouble of developing characters and proper circumstances). So I ran through all the two-person dynamics, starting with not-Furuba but working my way there moderately quickly. And then... these two. I've never even though about... this part of their relationship. At all. But... there we go.

There's even a halfway-serious Ayame.

Ayame sat on the edge of the porch, looking out at the neatly kept rock garden.

His bare feet held onto the wood with sheer determination; the front halves hung off the edge, while his heels struggled for any traction. His hands, fingers loosely tangled up, rested on top of his feet, nearly forced apart by the inexorably advancing ankles, which were barely covered by silver cloth that ran up over his knees, touched his chin, fells back down to crease at his hips, and then spread out over his hunched torso.

Staring blankly at the rocks and wondering what sort of peace they were meant to bring, Ayame simply breathed deeply and let his long hair shift sluggishly in the wind.

And then two hands settled on his shoulders for a second, came together, and moved the gathered hair over Ayame's right shoulder with a gentleness that, just at the moment, might break Ayame just as easily as a raised hand.

The person sat behind him – Ayame could feel the planks under him shift with the weight – and then a warm, strong back was present and just barely touching the lower curve of Ayame's.

Ayame, holding onto his ankles with new determination, straightened his back and leaned it against the newcomer's with a wistful sort of smile. "Hey, you."

Muscles in the back shifted as the person located a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. Ayame closed his eyes so that he wouldn't miss the chlick, chlick of the lighter's wheel turning and the soft exhalation of smoke.

He said, "I found someone."

More muscles moved as the lighter and pack were replaced.

"A woman. Her name is Mine. She took the assistant job in my new shop."

The person's head leaned back to rest in the curve of Ayame's neck.

"She can… handle me. It's been two months since she started, and she can really, really handle me. She hasn't once told me to be quiet, or get away. She can't even fault me for mistakes I made ten years ago, because for once I've found someone who hasn't known me all my life."

The way the upper part of the back worked so regularly, breathing in and out with the occasional exaggerated blow of smoke, comforted Ayame more than he felt he deserved.

"What she really does is… she goes along with what I say. Not all the time, though. She limits me, too, but with suggestions, still letting me be me. It reminds me of Shigure." Ayame's heels were slipping, and he hitched them up again, wrapping his arms more securely around his knees. He laughed desperately. "Who would have thought that I would fall for someone a lot like 'Gure?"

Ayame couldn't tell which hairs tickling his neck were his and which were the other person's…

"I wish I could see you," he said softly into his knees.


"I wish I could understand you."


"But from the beginning, I could never give you what you need, could I?"

Why was there only ever nothing? There was friendship, but never, ever this.

Ayame laughed again, hopelessly. "I'm moving out. All the way out, I mean. No more commuting so far away just to be away. She has an apartment right by the shop. Everything's all worked out."

The person pulled away, rolling forward and taking first their head away from Ayame's neck and then their back and then they stood up altogether…

"I wasn't kidding when I said I love you," Ayame said, looking fixedly at one rock in the garden. "Why won't you talk to me?"

The hands came back, pulling Ayame's hair back over his shoulder to flare out across his back.

Hatori's deep voice, right next to his ear, said, "Good luck with your life Outside. Tomorrow, you'll rush into my office with some innocuous news, and all of this will be forgotten."

Ayame frowned, his brows coming together, fighting the urge to do something neither of them needed. "Even if it's forgotten, it'll still be in me, somewhere…"

"It will be superseded by other things. Mine, and your shop, and Shigure, and Yuki… they will eclipse this."

Ayame wanted to deny it. "That's just… who I am."

There was a long silence, and then Hatori's long, thin fingers ran from Ayame's cheekbone to his chin quickly.

Ayame kept his eyes forward, not looking around and up at him.

Hatori said, "I know." And then he left.

Ayame's heels lost the battle and slipped over the edge of the wood, dropping until his legs were caught just behind the knees.

Ayame stayed there for a very long time, until he was sure that his face was dry and mostly clear of the mottled red and heat. Then, he looked up at the rock garden again, with a fresh smile.

"Isn't he cool?" he asked the garden. "No hope left in the world and he can still say just enough to really touch me on the inside."

He managed to stand up, hands on the base of his back and stretching. He set off toward the outer gates.

"Yeah, I definitely made a good choice there."