Title: Fruitless

Fandom: Loveless

Author: su-dama/tempusfugit3

Pairing: Soubi Shinonome

Warning: not really…except for Soubi being 'unfaithful' to his Sacrifice; manga!verse in mind

Genre: het/angst/comfort

Rating: PG-13 for sexuality, adult implications, and some choice words

Words: 3600

Disclaimer: Loveless is not mine. Too bad.

Author's Note: I say that Soubi/Shinonome would make a lovely pair. Um, well, they'd have to work through many issues at first. And Soubi would have to quit that jerk-thing. Yay, have at it. (I know, the title is my way of being shameless. It's a scandal.)

---

-Fruitless-

If only…if only Ritsuka would forgive him for this.

For spying, for seeking Ritsuka out and remaining beside the streetlight, peering from a short distance into the Aoyagi household.

Soubi clutches-clenches the bandages closer to his throat, pressing his Adam's apple to the degree of mild pain.

This pressure. Beloved. No longer Beloved.

And the presence he senses, the non-Fighter presence, a ways from his position at the pole. He straightens and resorts to stepping from the lighted particles, fixating on the female form—

Mousy hair, draping her… Sensei. Why must he expect her? He has expected her, nevertheless.

Shinonome-sensei. Dear him, he remembers her body. And the roundedness of her breasts and her naïveté through her pain toward his lashing tongue.

She had been so…spiteful.

Spiteful. Spit. Spit on the tongue. Senses…

"Sensei, you have come to observe?"

It is not a sport; it is not for simple flair or godforsaken giggles.

It is her. He sees the dropping-dropped look on her face. He sees the wrapped gift tucked in her arms.

"Have you brought him a toy, or some sanity with a bow?"

"Agatsuma-san…kun… I said I would try."

"Trying… There is no such thing," he sneers, remembering.

No such thing. You're failing me. You're a failure. Turn around or face me. Which do you choose?

"I meant I would. I will help Ritsuka-kun."

They stand there for a befitting moment, both pensive, one in control.

Perhaps she is in control as well. Soubi will have to find out.

Not until he lets her will be done. She means well, she wants Ritsuka to smile unyieldingly.

She had been so…spiteful.

He squints through his glasses into her own bespectacled eyes, the feet between them having no consequence; she is the same near, the same far. He's a cat in the dark.

"Agatsuma-kun. I…I can't confront her."

"That is…"

"It is not fine. I…I promised I would."

"I was going to say disruptive." It is disruptive, on top of disappointing. Soubi sends his best indifference in her direction. It doesn't scare her off, and she approaches him too quickly for words.

"Why can't I do it?" she whispers, alarmed. Her conscience… It is tangible. He's inclined to pass her a token of appreciation.

Soubi eyes Ritsuka's balcony window. He starts mouthing to the window, that bay of curtains.

Look out, see him. See them. Just see me.

"Sensei, do not ask me what you can ask yourself. Ask yourself…sensei. I would like to hear it, then."

They fall silent for the time to overturn to corruption, a drizzle in the pipes around them. It had hailed earlier.

"I don't... I'm scared of pain."

And so are millions of others.

"There is far worse pain." There is evidence of far-worse pain, engraved into his long neck. Alas…that is just a narcissistic thought, plying him apart. He is not in pain; he cannot be in pain. These scars are nothing—only a memory, a device that can be remedied by...not resurfacing. A vicious circle gripping him.

"I'm aware of that, Sou—Agatsuma-kun." She hugs the package to her chest, bowing her head in…shame? He studies this unfledged masterpiece.

Do not be ashamed, angelic child.

This makes him smile.

"Enough. Soubi is appropriate…Hitomi." His own name tickling his own mouth… It is unnatural. But he's said it before—her name…and it feels…

Discursive.

But her name, from the throat to the taste-buds, is three syllables of incurrence.

Hitomi is not his; he should not presume to lead her on.

However, it's occurred to him. The ice on the road glistens under the lamp, and he gestures gallantly.

"Hitomi, a friend brought over some sushi and sake. Please, join me?"

"Huh? What?" She seems beside herself, taken aback or abashed by the dubious invite. The gift shifts against her thick sweater, her shoulders twitching.

Maybe more abashed, her shyness, her lovely shyness stealing his breath for a moment that he will never get back.

"Sushi. Sake. Would you please? Or do you have another late appointment to attend to?" And fail.

Soubi primes himself for her startled I will not go anywhere near where you come from!

She would say that.

What he hears next is foreign on his eardrums.

"That…would be nice. That's nice of you, Soubi-kun."

They stare, and he drops his gaze to the ice. She has made him drop his stare.

Ritsuka would be happy. Let us go, then, let us see.

They will see. See what? Soubi can only imagine the darkest hour.

---

It was not too long ago when Soubi dreamt of her. She had licked his skin, hot and cramped in a bathroom stall at school. At his Sacrifice's elementary school. He didn't know why her dream version did it, but she did it like a pro. She dragged on him, giggling female and blushing love and whispering lust, so he had to do it.

It was remarkable, tasteful and tasteless all the same and at the same time.

It was better than any of the pre-emptive-like benefits his best friend had introduced him to eons ago.

His lust for Hitomi…on the other hand…

Would it be considered a strike?

One may never know, they will never.

Know.

---

The conversation goes zero miles per hour, so Soubi believes he must speak up as polite as possible to give it a shove.

"How is he in class?"

"Ritsuka is…Ritsuka. Do you know?" Awkward.

"I know how he is, yes."

"The poor boy… He is proficient in his Kanji as of late."

"What else?"

"Uh—haha, he's grown so much sweeter over the term."

The young teacher had found a foothold, some semblance of the matter; Soubi discovers that he likes the way she hugs the gift to her chest. Her long mousy hair is grey in the night.

The light they had passed is a far flash behind them.

"You've grown sweeter, Agat—Soubi-kun, sorry…"

He nearly stops and is quiet again. He was about to ask if she was cold, too. No loss.

"Soubi? Did I say something to upset you?"

He ignores her while he can, even though they're walking to his apartment together, even though she is beside him and looking his way with such the conspiring frown.

It must be of that persuasion, or at least, related.

Hitomi opens her mouth, but before she can stutter in her usual scramble, he lets out a long sigh that rides the hidden breeze.

"I am not upset." He hears his own hypnotic voice—as it should be to her—and it is stiff.

"It looks like you are."

"I am not."

"But it looks like--"

"Looks like we're here, Hitomi."

They are here, apprehension at her side, at his apartment, where she will join him for a late supper of sushi and sake, perhaps a dish of fruit or spice on the side. He suddenly wants to get plastered, an excuse to be normal like all the old kids his age, to be like Hitomi would prefer him to be. It might be nice. It might be his thing.

She might be his style after all.

He briefly wonders again after so many fainéant times if she is partial to delicacies.

Hitomi cannot be that brand of person, sophisticated or persnickety.

That hand of his with a mind of its own is pushing open the door, letting it creak, so he must remember the oil for repairs. She finds it funny, somehow, behind his back.

"I'm sorry—ladies first."

"Oh, I—all right."

She is all forced relaxation and nerves right beneath the surface, under her lips, and the young teacher is curtsying before him now, between a shy bow and lady-like gesture.

He wants to say something blunt, but he holds off.

Really.

She scuttles into his barren apartment, first noticing the bed, and the small table, and the whitewashed walls.

Soubi had done it himself when he realized he isn't one for dire plainness. There are a few fingerprints left, if one gets close enough.

He flips on the light so she may notice the elongated painting of Ritsuka on the far wall.

"That! Did you do that, Soubi-kun? You are a painter, no?"

"Yes, I'm in school for it. That wasn't a project for grading, though."

"I like it. I like it a lot." She blusters and flusters suddenly, growing red in the yellowish light of the room; the same thought reaches him. He watches her slim fingers hover against the apples of her cheeks, as if to pluck them.

Hitomi. You are not alone.

"I'm…glad. Thank you, Hitomi-sensei," Soubi flows with it, having carefully snapped the front door shut, locked it, and removed his posh coat.

He can feel her trying to look away from his shoulders, his bandages, his body. He has to smile to himself at her fruitless attempt.

Or, the dear teacher is fruitless, and she is not his style after all.

It would be a trial, one that he's willing to risk. To err…

Would be a grand consequence, he thinks, offering his hand.

She splutters now, and he blinks, grinning at her. "You don't have to suffocate the gift more than you already have…"

Hitomi has misunderstood him, yet she is quick to recover and throws the abused box into his arms.

"I only meant the table, Hitomi." Soubi chuckles anyway, despite her self-kicking expression.

So he places it on the table, positions the couple of chairs across from each other. A pat to wood here, a glance of daring there. All from him, none from her, and he starts to wonder if this is the best thing to do.

Will she run scared?

Are you scared?

She must have a reason to fear him and his audacity. He rummages through his cabinet for a mug and hands it to her in secret atonement. So she takes it, so what of it if she is accepting?

"You live alone here, Soubi…?" She's spotted the bed. How could she not?

"Yes."

Her gaze travels back to the watercolor painting, purples and dark pinks and watery ears that seem to fade up toward the ceiling.

"It's as if he is growing up…" Her inner thoughts have come to his attention, as he had felt she'd guard her wording. She looks at him. "Is that right?"

He waits, standing by the table and squinting. He pinches the bridge of his nose. "The ears are still there, if that's what's bothering you."

"I wasn't…thinking about that." She averts her eyes away from the watercolors.

"You're not as perverted as me, then. I have a friend who insists I am made of questionable motives…" Soubi watches as she sits in one of the chairs. "Am I?" he ventures.

Maybe she will tell the truth.

"Goodness! I would never think that about you, Soubi-kun! Who—who is this friend?" He has this very nasty urge to ask her about her tail-hair.

He throws back a laugh and takes out the items necessary for their late supper. Together.

"You know him."

"Do I?"

"Yes… I do believe he flirted with you once."

"Is it not that young man with the wavy blond hair…?" She sounds almost believing, as if she's known Kio since diapers. Her tone makes him yearn for a good laugh, on the floor, in a clutch.

"Why, yes. But he's been a friend for so long, I forget…"

She remains quiet, and maybe suppressing. He knows she does that to herself.

Finally—like a flicker—she says, "You forget?"

The prepackaged sushi from the mini-fridge is arranged on a decorative platter, set in the middle of the table, along with the rice wine Soubi has hoarded for times like these.

And because Kio likes a mouthful of sake during visits.

"I forget that he's my voice of reason."

The college man plays with his food absentmindedly, touching his tongue to his front teeth. He sits at his chair, on his own across from her, dreaming of counteractive things.

"Ooooh, it's like a manga. You know, when the main character is ruled by fury or some furious determination, and their sidekick or friend or comrade is always there to tell them what's right and wrong?"

He blinks at his mug, catching his blue eye's reflection. The alcohol is akin to murky snow. "I think I know what you're talking about."

"Mhm! Thank you, Soubi, these are quite nice," she jollies, indicating the food and taking another bite.

"The market knows its stuff."

She nods—then sobers as if she was never contented for the service. Her mug of sake stills.

If she is done, or cannot hold her liquor, then that was a quick reaction.

"Soubi…" she starts, moving her hand to the long strands trailing down her sweater.

"Yes, sensei?" he queries innocently, to put her off, to compel her, to…

What is it he's trying to do?

He empties his mug in a minute.

Ritsu-sensei used to say…that there is no try, there is only do or fail.

Soubi, you have failed me. Now turn around.

Because in Ritsu's world, in his school and leadership, he is a witch, he is someone who molests others for power. He can do it with his eyes, he can literally undress others with his eyes, bare them, embitter them, and Soubi knows this from personal experience.

He knows his ex-teacher. The pain is old news, and he resents that part of the teacher in front of him. Why couldn't he have had a teacher, master, leader like her? It is as if he cannot help but blame her for not being there to rescue him. She should have been his.

Shit happens, Kio would say, and… She should have been his, no matter what.

Yes, it happens, for Hitomi is uttering something he really wants to hear, and he is responding in fear, like he did with Ritsu, his mind lapsing into grey scenes of the past.

He's had enough sake already. This is his limit for the night.

"Don't give up, sensei."

She connects with his stony gaze over the sushi platter, her eyes wide and young but still transforming-translating-trans-everything so early, and he reads her unresolved anger.

It is not fear, it is anger… She is angry. He will dream of her murdering him not out of grace, or mercy, but out of unfettered desire for lasting hurt, for disturbances. In his sleep, he will see her.

And he sees her now, her bottom lip trembling.

"Soubi? You cannot expect me to—to fight, when you can fight yourself—for my student's welfare. Are you not Ritsuka's friend? Can you not fight his mother?"

His brows crease beneath the hair that straddles his visage; he slips off his glasses and continues to gaze at her. "I am."

She has dropped her hair-playing and decides that her mug should be emptied as well. She's like a masochistic mouse, drinking in what will inevitably make her vulnerable to the cat of the house.

But she is the one with the feline ears and tail, she is the one who will succumb in the end.

To avoid her anger—of which he probably deserves but will not comment on—Soubi takes a trip to the bedside, leaving the glasses behind beside his mug, leaving her behind to consider her way of escape. He relaxes back on his palms, crossing his legs. With her head turned away, he unbuttons a short stretch of shirt at the top, exposing more of his bones and flesh.

Let her see, let her fawn and then bristle at what she will imagine as horrific.

Ritsuka will never know. He will never suspect.

Ritsuka may never know.

The woman doesn't glow red or threaten to leave at the sight of his open collar, nor does she ask for a refill. She pours the drink of her own volition, sending him a cloudy message. She's being occupational.

"Are you getting drunk, sensei?" Are you feeling it yet?

She is standing, a hand on her hip—gripping the bone so callously out of spite—as she finishes off the second helping and he finishes off with the thought of virgins and silly fulfillments, how he once had ears and a tail shunned from his young self by his…teacher. Shunned, as if he were never meant to be born with them.

"You like the wine?" He is laughing inside.

"It's a treat." She is lying, he senses, while the damn woman, older than he, is kidding herself.

He can feel his anger apart from hers, rising up and stretching its wings with bated breath. It wants to come out. He has control, he has reason not to challenge her.

But has he done that just now? Had he done it in the past few minutes?

Her appeal to him—gulping down the wine and cringing at it, disguised by her silent conversation with his white ceiling.

He would like to say I'll paint the sky for you.

Like he would, like he has that sort of nerve to lead her on, much less paint the ceiling for her entertainment.

"Sit with me and talk," he says invitingly.

She, not so surprisingly and yet so strikingly, sits beside his splayed hand on the bed's edge, her hands folding neatly in her lap.

He reclines further backward, itching to pull out a cigarette for time-management purposes. He doesn't know when he started the habit; not of smoking, but smoking to distract his other instincts.

Since the time she called him on his cellphone, since the moment she claimed her role as one of Ritsuka's caretakers, it was like he said—it is like it is. He wants to fall in love with her, for her pleasure, for his…

In payment of her concern? Does he cost that much?

Or is he Ritsuka's teacher's prize?

"Hitomi…sensei."

Her spine slouches, her hair draping her backside and arms.

"Do you think I don't do anything for him?" he continues, using his left hand to reach over and pick some invisible lint from her sleeve. She flinches quietly. "I'd do anything for the boy. I have tried. He forbids me from his family business." I have tried and ultimately failed. He is stubborn like you are.

I am a failure, sensei.

She turns her head, looking at him forcibly from beneath long lashes, behind her glasses.

They are the same, this way. This way, they can mirror each other.

But he had taken off his glasses, and all he sees is a rose-colored room with her in it, plaintive and urgently available.

The longing for a cigarette snaps.

"Forgive me, sensei."

Soubi's fingers tilt her chin up toward his, moving in.

He hears crying in his head, he hears it like an orphan child in the next room, but it is not real.

It is not. It is not.

He repeats himself in circles.

No, fuck for crying out loud, it has to stop; the kiss is going and going and he never wants to relent.

The crying is prayed to stop—his inner scream telling it to get. away. from. here. She moans at his lips, and he notices that, having not expected this, she is firm at her post.

Hitomi is strong; her hands have come up to rest, shaking, yet strong.

She tastes like the fruit he had lain out. He wants to ask.

She tastes like the ordinary sake that seems to spur her on. He wants to ask a lot.

She also tastes like comfort, and he stalls, worrying… He doesn't ask.

He wets his lips a bit before kissing her full on again, nudging her elbow to encourage her.

This is different from Ritsuka. She is an adult, while he is an adult, both at the same time, both consenting. Now it rings in his ears. Alcohol, pah.

This is different from Ritsu-sensei, this is black and white from his ex-Sacrifice Seimei. Seimei had been scarce and stingy with his affection…

He opens his eyes to glinting rims, closed lids, noses rubbing against each other. Soubi says dryly, "You're a wonder," and the ringing stops too.

She pulls an odd face, in and out of prim control. "I—!"

"You."

"It's…not funny. Is it funny?" Then she's giggling, uncorked, taking off her glasses with a jerk.

"Do you plan for it to be?" he asks seriously, smugness across his jaw.

She pauses. "I don't know what this is," she answers honestly, her version of soft smugness threading into him.

He sits up properly to hold her in his arms. As her bodily vibrations have tapered off, so have his vibrations begun. Soubi is shaking. He is thinking…speaking…

"Our name, united, can be Fruitless," he is mumbling, whispering. Pretending. Trust me.

Hitomi giggles into his chest, helplessly wanton without realizing it. "Soubi-kun, you say such awful things…always…" Sniffs.

Yes, always.

While she will always love him, pine for him knee-deep in promises, her children at work.

While he supports Ritsuka's defense, command, ready to take the fall, prepared for such awful things.

Like rapid compliance to unsaid demands, he tells her that there is a world where he's fallen for her and no one else, and in that world, she can hold his hand. He leaves out the part about their legs entangling together.

Let us be Fruitless. Soubi doesn't need to say—

She is kissing him, smelling like rice wine, old wrapping paper, sweet shampoo, and a killer likelihood.

---