Title: Remembrance of Things Past
Word count: 2,155 words
Status: One-shot. A companion piece to 'Somewhere In Between' but is independent on its own.
Warning: Only if you don't think Akito's dying is canon. Hint of shounen ai.
Otsukimi – moonviewing
Kakei – Japanese bamboo fountain
Gomen ne – I'm sorry
Hatori slid the shoji door open.
He had successfully ignored the other man's presence until now, burying himself deep in work; now that he had opened his own practice he could barely find the time to sit – and truth be told, he was perfectly happy to leave Shigure sitting there as long as he wanted, but it was exceptionally nippy that night and he much preferred his cousin warm and toasty and making a whole lot of noise inside his house to having to take care of a sick dog; no one was as annoying as Shigure when ill.
He had to admit he was a bit surprised himself that Shigure had not already barged into his room to make him regret not chasing him away in the first place. Shigure had been outside for almost an hour.
"If you're actively trying to catch a cold, have a think about doing it from inside, hmm?"
"Just a while longer, Haa-san."
Hatori made no move to switch the porch light on; Shigure would not appreciate it anyway. There was no need for light to begin with for the full moon was at its brightest.
"Tell me, Haa-san. When she was alive-" Shigure kept his voice level. "After I left, was she…did she still…"
Hatori wondered if Shigure really wanted to know, and why it took so long for himself to answer. But it was the first full moon since Akito's passing, and Shigure's sudden visit could only mean one thing. The least Hatori could do was tell him the truth.
"Yeah." Hatori took a few tentative steps out onto his porch. "She did."
"Despite my orders not to most of the time, but yes she would go out onto the porch without fail every night…" Hatori sounded almost wistful. He remembered how Akito, the lone goddess that she was, would sit there for hours, wrapped in her warm blankets to ward off the biting chill of the night air, and just watch the sky.
If Hatori were to describe the expression she always wore, it would be one he would never find it in his heart to tell Shigure. Not back then, not now, perhaps not ever. "The moon must have looked the same from here too."
Shigure smiled a little smile. "It does."
After a prolonged sigh, Shigure brought his knees to his chest, and rested his chin atop crossed forearms.
"It always looks duller from my house though, never this bright." His voice dipped. "Maybe that means I need new glasses."
"Maybe." Hatori did not like to think of how blind he had been to Shigure's loneliness, and it made him wonder if he could have done more when Akito was still alive. He doubted it very much. Shigure had always been his own man; predictability was never high on the list of how one could begin to describe him. He did his own thing, in his own way, and tolerated little interference.
If Shigure had indeed lived a lonely life, it was because he chose to. Hatori had no right to decide how Shigure should atone for his sins.
The autumn chill bit deep into his bones, and Hatori suppressed the echo of a shiver; the tingling in his fingers more representative of his sudden aching for a cigarette than the sudden drop in temperature.
As much as he wanted to forget, memories of Akito were too strong.
He could not stare at the moon too long.
Hatori stepped back into the house but lingered at the entrance, leaning against the wooden door jamb.
"Do you still dream of her, Haa-san?"
Hatori stayed silent for a while. "I don't dream."
"You lie." Shigure sounded almost cheerful. He bent his back to release a crick in his spine from sitting up too long. "You've always liked to keep Akito to yourself."
"Perhaps you should not think about it too much, Shigure." Hatori crossed a leg in front of the other and rested his weight on one heel, letting his cold toes curl against the smooth surface of the wooden planks. "It is best not to dwell on things of the past."
"She has not been gone a month and already you've moved on to better things," Shigure said scathingly. "New practice, new job, new friends – whatever will you do next? Move out of this house, now that she is a 'thing of the past'?"
"You have no right to say such things to me. I was with her till the end."
"And I wasn't?" Shigure finally took his eyes off the moon to glare at him.
"You have dragged me into your affairs long enough, Shigure. Maybe it is time you try to find peace on your own."
"I never asked for your help."
"Maybe that was your mistake, ever thought of that?"
"What are you trying to say, Haa-san?"
"Nothing," Hatori said, clearly just as frustrated.
They glared angrily at each other for a short eternity. Hatori was almost sorry when Shigure was the first to drop his gaze and bow his head.
"I could have forgiven her anything." Shigure's eyelids drooped so low Hatori could not tell if his eyes were open or closed. "Took me too long to realise it though. By the time I did she was-"
Shigure's hand abruptly rose to cover the one half of his face Hatori could actually see from where he stood. "I was just so angry…"
Hatori watched Shigure's other arm circle his middle to clutch tightly around his thin yukata as he hugged himself against the cold.
"Come inside, Shigure. It's freezing."
"Leave me be, Haa-san. I don't mind." Shigure's hand fell away from his face.
Against his better judgment, Hatori stepped onto the porch once more and this time he went far enough to smell the lingering scent of cigarette on his cousin's clothes. Up close he could see Shigure's profile more clearly now; the dark periorbital rings, the sunken cheeks, the pale skin-
"Heavens, when was the last time you shaved, Shigure?"
"I said leave me be!" Shigure snapped, lashing out an arm so suddenly Hatori did not see it coming, causing him to cry in pain when it caught him square in the eye.
"Oh God-" Shigure recoiled in horror when he realised what he had done. He swung his long legs up the side of the porch and onto the planks and walked his knees toward his crouching friend. "I'm so sorry, Haa-san! Did I hurt you?"
He reached out a hand. "Let me see-I hit your bad eye, didn't I…"
Hatori pried his hand away from his stinging eye and blinked a few times to clear away the tears. "It's nothing. I'm okay."
"You sure?" Shigure asked guiltily.
"Yeah." Hatori gingerly swept the stubborn strands of hair out of his eye. "You couldn't have hurt it any more than she had."
A wave of relief washed over Shigure. He could not remember ever losing his temper like that. Well. Except for that one time he flew off the handle and nearly strangled Yuki and Kyou to death, but the boys' predicament was no one's fault but theirs. This was clearly his.
"You idiot." Shigure stared at him in a cross between relief, wonder and amusement.
"Not the word I'd use," Hatori muttered, not unhappily. Shigure seemed to be back to his own self. "You're the one sitting out here in the cold doing God knows what."
"Oh she knows, Hatori." Shigure lifted his face heavenward once again, letting it bathe in the moonlight; Hatori marveled at the triangles of shadow cast over his cousin's sharp features, more prominent now that he was not eating or sleeping.
Something was killing Shigure, and it was doing it slowly.
Hatori snapped out of his reverie, only to see Shigure smiling at him softly. "Huh?"
"I'm doing it down here." Shigure gestured toward the sky with his chin. "She's doing it from up there."
"Always the same moon," he caught Shigure's languid sigh, and followed his cousin's gaze.
"Always the same moon," he echoed. It really was beautiful tonight, almost unearthly so. It filled the sky with a golden glow, luminous and serene, with not a cloud in sight to mask its silhouette cast over the kakei fountain in his garden, reflected across the water in an uneven tier of glistening daubs.
"I think I need to lie down, Hatori." Shigure was still staring at the moon, but his smile was tight and his face pale.
Hatori leaped to his feet with haste and offered him a hand up which Shigure gratefully accepted. His cousin's hand was as cold as ice. He must have already caught a chill, Hatori thought in dismay. He kept a supporting hand on the small of Shigure's back and used the other to slide the shoji door open before pushing him inside.
"I can't use that. That's your only futon."
"Don't worry about me." Hatori pushed Shigure onto the floor and into the covers. The dog spirit was visibly shivering now. "I can get the servant to get me another one later."
Shigure curled into a ball, bringing his knees high up his chest.
"I'll make us some tea-" but a hand shot out from under the covers to seize the front of Hatori's shirt.
Unsure of what to do, Hatori hesitated for a moment, wavering between pulling away, and staying. He chose the latter.
It was only when Hatori was already lying on his side on the bare floor that he realised he had forgotten to switch the light on. In the darkness with only the residual moonlight seeping through the screen door, Shigure looked like a ghost.
"She's gone forever, and I can't bear it anymore, Hatori," Shigure breathed out with difficulty. His chest throbbed with an uncontrollable ache and he reached up to clench it unconsciously. "She's lost."
"That is not true and you know it," Hatori said soothingly. He scooted an inch closer, dragging his hip across the tatami mat until his chest bumped into Shigure's bent knees.
"You'll see her again."
"When?" The desperation in Shigure's eyes was so great Hatori almost gave in; 'soon', or 'not long now, Shigure' - he could have said any of those things, but he did not. He could not.
It was selfish of him not to give the answer Shigure so desperately wanted to hear, but it was one that he could not bring himself to say easily. For a single reason so simple Hatori did not care to question.
He did not want to have to let go.
Hatori tugged the blanket higher up Shigure's shoulder, letting it drape over the front of his exposed neck.
Guess he loved the bastard after all.
Shigure did not blink for a long time, and Hatori met his gaze for just as long. He could only hope his eyes spoke the truth when his lips did not.
He wanted Shigure to wait. He wanted Shigure to be around for a long, long time.
Hatori slipped a hand under the cover. He did not search for very long until he found what he was looking for, and he unabashedly gave it a gentle, warm squeeze.
When Shigure's cold fingers returned the gesture, Hatori could feel something in his chest break. It was then he knew; he had to stop being selfish. As much as he wanted to hold on to Shigure for a bit longer, Hatori was more aware of the truth than he had ever been.
And now as he protectively held Shigure's hand under the covers, he knew he could not deny Shigure the one thing he wanted most in the world any longer.
"Soon, Shigure." He tried to dislodge the lump at the back of his throat, but it was too tight. "Very soon."
Shigure's face crumbled at his last words.
"Gomen ne, Haa-san…" A lone tear dewed and pooled at the corner of Shigure's eye. Hatori watched transfixed as it began to slide fast and silent down the bridge of his cousin's nose, past his now closed right eye, and disappeared into his pillow.
Perhaps Hatori was the only person who could tell how happy Shigure was at that moment. But it did not matter.
Hatori gently ran the pad of his thumb along Shigure's lower eyelid, and kept it there, until Shigure was crying no more.
"You sleep now. Everything will be alright in the morning."
Hatori's promises had always been worth gold in Shigure's book, that Hatori knew this. If they were the only things left in this world that Shigure could hold on to with the least slip in his grasp, Hatori was willing to make as many as was necessary.
Whether he could fulfill them or not was a story for another day.
A/N: There endeth my Haa-san/Shii-chan muse. I love this pairing dearly and it makes me real happy to know there are others who ship them too; thanks for reading and I hope you've enjoyed the fic even if only a bit. Reviews and comments are so much love ♥