I do not own any of the characters or places represented here. This is me messing with someone else's creations. If said someone stumbles upon this and is offended I am sorry.
Perspectives on Lies, Happiness, and Love
"You're very close to Hatori-san, aren't you?"
The sweet androgynous voice hits my ears like the whisper of a ghost—some strange, deadly ghost. Akito stands before me, draped elegantly in his kimono and his eyes misty and veiled by those long, sweeping eyelashes. I'm used to him, but still he makes me tremble a little inside, he always does. He's like that—so soft and fragile and yet he makes you feel sort of like you're dying just by being in the same room. Every question you answer for him could be your death-sentence. And what can I do besides perk up and be my usual friendly self and act like we all do—as if we love him.
"Yes!" I reply, my biggest smile on my face. "Of course! He helped my Oto-san raise me and takes me to school and looks after all of us when we're sick!" Always ready and willing to call off a person's good-points, that's me.
He smiles, satisfied, I'm still alive and un-bruised. "He must be like a second father to you."
"Yes." I say again, although I just sunk another foot into death. "I love him just like that."
I bite my lip as his face becomes momentarily tense. He hates that word. One only uses that word around him if they're telling him that's their feelings for him. I can see his jaw clench behind his smooth cheeks and flower-petal lips. But then he relaxes again and his false, disquieting smile returns.
"You have love for everyone don't you, Momiji?" He says, and once again my constantly bright disposition proves its worth by saving my butt.
I giggle, and nod, enforcing this reaction. "All of the family members are very special to me." I agree.
He smiles and his face becomes foggy again, as I see a million explanations and self-satisfying little assumptions going through his mind. He's insane. We all know that. Most of his world is made up of conspiracy theories and cover-ups and comforting lies that make it so he knows exactly how the world around him is working. And the really messed up thing is that we all agree. When we figure out something he's decided to be true we all follow along and let it be how things really are until we forget that's not how it is at all. Who knows how many of our truths started from his lies?
He dismisses me as Yuki comes to the door, looking drawn. Most of us get our life back when we leave his room, forget about him a little bit—not Yuki. Yuki is always half-dead, always ready to crumble into a grave somewhere and let Akito just keep beating his corpse. We all pity him, we all wish it didn't happen to him, but Akito says there's nothing wrong, so how can we react when Yuki's actually just fine?
I close the door behind me, breathing out a long sigh of relief and I feel myself becoming pounds lighter, feeling like a kid again—as much as I can, with my life. But that's my job, right? I am the light of the Sohma life. I am the one that makes everyone feel like things are ok, like there's something left in the world that is pure and simple and purely, simply, happy. I know that's my job, and because I do love them all, I am glad and willing to do that. But I just wish it wasn't another lie…one more lie we endure to make ourselves happier—or at least feel like we have a reason to keep living. They may not know it, not really, because they're so busy running around and slipping into all the other, bigger lies they just assume my joy is real and true, and I'm not about to set them straight. I love that I can make them happy, no matter what that means, and the best way it can go is that I'm the only who knows that even this happiness is scarred and impure.
Footsteps down that long hallway. That hallway like an extended coffin; the walkway to a horrid end. Every time we get to walk away, walk the other direction down this hall, it's like escaping hell. I look up at the foot-steps, knowing Akito would never call someone else so soon after calling Yuki to him.
It's Hatori. And that's all I need to know. This is my one reason. The reason for everything. He is my one happiness, the man who keeps me smiling and who makes me believe that there is something worth living for. He's the one that gives the family's hope—hope. But he's also one more reason why that hope is corrupt.
He walks up to me, and pats my shoulder. I must have been showing my fatigue worse than I thought—or it could just be the fact that he always knows; he's the only one that notices if one of my smiles is strained.
"Come on." He says, pulling me to his side. "You need lunch."
I nod, and let him lead me away from Akito's room and finally outside, where the gentle spring breeze blows my soft hair into my face and his musky scent to my nose. I inhale it hungrily, taking comfort in it. I would never smoke, it's gross and unhealthy, but the scent, coming off him mixed with the smell of cologne and the million times a day he habitually washes his hands sends me into an instant calm and I feel a real smile spreading my lips. He notices, for he squeezes me again and then brings his arm back to his side to tuck his hands into his pockets. Sometimes I wish I could stay miserable around him longer, because that means he's more likely to keep his arm around me, but he just makes me so freaking happy. So, instead I call on my ever-present excuse of being the childish, playful one and tug on his arm with a soft whine.
"Haaa-ri." I say. "It's chilly!"
"It is not." He responds soberly, but puts his arm back around me nonetheless.
"Much better." I chirp.
He looks at me condescendingly through his one good eye, but doesn't say anything to send me away or to discourage my behavior. Because he knows.
We arrive at his house and after getting to the kitchen and being tugged into a stool by the table, I watch him tie an apron around his waist and pull ingredients from the cabinets and knives from the drawers. He knows I'd be just as happy with rice-balls or a sandwich but he likes complicated things—they keep his mind occupied. They keep him focused on something else. Anything else. Besides the thoughts of what has happened, what is happening, what will happen.
"Can I help?" I ask, leaning against the table.
He glances at me over his shoulder, eyes calm and still as always. "No. You just sit patiently and wait."
He tells me that sometimes, to slow down and learn patience, to grow up a little. But I know that's just him feeling like he needs to say responsible things like that to make others feel like he's really attributing something to my education. Really he, like everyone else, would not want to me to change for anything. And I never would. I kick my feet idly as I watch him move around the kitchen, so stoic and powerful and yet full of caution, and some uneasy uncertainty just under his skin that I'm fairly certain only I'm observant enough to notice. I'm always watching him, sometimes when he doesn't even know. If I see him on his porch through my bedroom window or if I see him walking to the store while I play with Kisa and Hiro, I'll stop and just…watch him. I love watching him. He's so gorgeous and mysterious and it gives me a small bubble of excitement to know that I'm one of the people that know him best. Ayame and Shigure may have known him longer, and they may know certain sides of him, but I know all the little secrets of his mannerisms. The way he stands when he's happy or sad. The very subtle difference in facial expression that lets you know he's actually listening. I know so much, I think I know things that he's not even consciously aware of…like the fact that as he's chopping the vegetables his weight is mostly on his left leg meaning he's relaxed, because he's not ready to spring at any small thing, in which case it would be even.
During a point while he waits for the water on the stove to begin boiling he walks over to large window and tugs it open, letting the spring air float in and swoop around me with that amazing scent of the earth waking up. The wind is neither warm nor cold, just there, brushing my skin softly, encircling and making me feel happy and alive.
"You're like a spring breeze…" I say thoughtfully, tilting my head as I watch Hatori add ingredients to the pot on the stove.
He doesn't look at me this time, but I hear on his voice that his expression is ever-so-slightly brighter, amused by my uncalled for and random remarks as he says; "Oh? How so?"
He's humoring me; he doesn't really care how he's like a spring breeze. I don't mind. He's an adult, and he thinks I'm a good kid, so humoring me is what he does, and besides he really doesn't like that many other kids. I'm too shy to really tell him anyway, so I just smile and say; "I was just thinking about it…"
He surprises me by turning around, folding his arms and looking sharply back at me. "Obviously, but how did you draw that conclusion?"
I blush now; I hadn't expected to have to explain my analogy. "Well…you're just…soft and…fresh…"
His eyebrow rises, just a little. Those weren't the words I mean, and they weren't the words I want to say to cover up the words I mean. I bumble on. Shutting up is not something I'm good at. But usually, I'm good with what I say, because I'm cute, and I know if I say feel good stuff that's true-to-heart everyone loves it. But still, when it's him I'm trying to talk to through all my re-takes and uncertainty I only get clumsier.
"I mean, not soft like squishy but like…gentle? And not fresh like Kyo's fresh—"
I'm not even sure what Shigure-nii-chan means when he calls Kyo that. "—but I mean, refreshing? Cuz I always kind of go alive when you're around."
"You 'go alive'?"
"Yeah…I dunno…I just love spring breezes…"
Well, whatta an end note. If nothing else I usually shut up once I say something really awkward. Like that. I go redder than Kyo's hair and bury my face in my arms until my nose is squished against the table top. I can feel Hatori watching me with a puzzled and slightly amused stare.
After a few minutes I hear and feel something placed on the table before me and Hatori taps the back of my head.
"Lunch is ready."
I look up, glad that my blush is mostly gone and take a deep whiff of the mouth-wateringly amazing smells coming over the rim of my bowl. I pull it to me as he sits down next to me with his own dish, a much smaller serving, and then I start shoveling the noodles and vegetables, swimming in a mix of garlic ginger sauce and whatever else he puts in, into my mouth. It's like ramen on steroids. Overly fancy and a million little flavors at once. Super-complicated. It's how he does things.
We eat together in relative silence except for me to comment on how yummy it is, and him giving me his 'you say that about everything you eat' looks behind which are a small glimmer of appreciation for my gratitude. When I finish off the last gulp of broth and he reaches over to take my bowl from me, I lean forward and kiss his cheek, which is ever so slightly stubbly. He probably didn't shave today.
"Thanks!" I say, and sit back again.
He continues what he was doing, unfazed. I love-LOVE-that I can get away with that, with anyone. I sit sucking on my lips as he rinses our bowls in the sink, and I can still feel the tingle of his bristle, and just taste day-old cologne. It must have been a stressful morning; he's not as crisp as he usually is. I watch him curiously as he puts the dishes in the drainer and then comes back over to me. He sits again, slightly closer to me than usual. I notice this because as he slips into the seat his knee brushes my thigh and it sends a small tingle up my spine.
I'm too young for him. He's too old for me. I know all this. But that doesn't change the fact that every time we touch someway out of the norm, when I'm not expecting it, it makes me melt.
He's quiet, just looking at the table for a moment, and it's not just his normal silence. He's thinking deeply about something, so I just sit their fidgeting until he feels like he wants to really bring it up.
"What did Akito talk to you about today?" He asks softly.
I go still, and then wring my hands together. "Just stuff. How everyone's doing."
Hatori's staring at me. He's worried now, I don't know why, I've talked to Akito before. I guess it's just cuz I was so off when he picked me up.
"Did he…did he ask about me at all?"
"Once." I say, confused. "He asked what you meant to me. I told him I love you—" He looks up, horrified, already wondering where the bruises are. "—like a father." The words are like fire in my mouth, I hate saying them. "He was ok with it."
Hatori lets out a long sigh. "Good, I'm glad."
"Me too." I say, and lean forward to kiss his cheek again.
He turns slightly, looking towards the window, and my course suddenly lands me right on his lips.
It's ok. I've kissed people's lips before. Hell, I've kissed his lips before. No big deal. Except that I can't pull myself away. I don't really get into it either, but it definitely lasts longer than the normal peck. I haven't kissed his mouth in a long time, not since my phase when I was a younger—twelve or so. I forgot how amazing it is. His lips gentle, but a little rough, and right now they taste like a brilliant mix of smoke and cologne and remnants of lunch.
It seems like it's been so long, out of sheer panic I finally plunk back and innocently look everywhere but his face. I can't help it; I run my tongue over my lips quickly, to taste the remains of the absolutelyamazing moment.
I laugh softly; it's not the bright giggle I wanted, because I'm still breathless. "Oops." I say, smiling. "Sorry." I brave looking at him, so I can give him my big, blameless smile.
He's looking out the window, a hand hovering over his mouth now, as if shielding from a second attack, but I don't think he's doing it on purpose, he's just surprised. He seems like he's searching for something outside, his gaze is sweeping about intently, not the look of a man just enjoying the view or avoiding my gaze.
"It's…fine." He says, and finally looks back at me. I quiver. He's gorgeous. "I have to go check on a patient now; you're welcome to stay here until I return."
He stands up and goes to gather his doctor things and I'm left sitting here because I don't think I have knees anymore.
while—I think it may have been as much as fifteen minutes of just
sitting there—I'm finally able to move again, and I get up and
walk towards his living room. I know his house just as well as my
own, it's like another home. I stay here most of the time anyway. I
sit on his couch, my knees curled up to me as I think about him. I
love him. I really do. And not like a father. I love him so much it
hurts me just to look at him sometimes, and every time I feel myself
getting close to him, or like I know something secret about him, it
makes me feel like I really have something worthwhile.
I sigh, and flop across the couch to stare at the ceiling. It's pointless. He already loved once and isn't willing to try again. Even if he was, it wouldn't be with a kid like me…because I'm just like a son to him, I'm sure. If that. My kisses are endearing, and my attentions are cute, but I know he never feels those little thrills when we touch, or see each other after a long absence. That's just me. I mean slightly more to him than I do to the rest of the family, and he understands how I feel, and that I'm not always a pure, happy little kid, but that doesn't mean I'm all that important to him. But I do some things for him. I can make him smile sometimes, which is a big deal, and I know every now and then he really does like my company. I think everyone just lets him be his quiet self, and sits quietly with him, where as I'll prattle and laugh until he's so distracted he can't think about whatever fills the silence. That's what I am to him. Because he's complicated like that, and that's how he likes things.
- - -
Akito slaps harder than one would imagine. His frail body and slender, feminine hands hide a great deal of restrained rage and frustration at too many things. He never hits a person for one reason alone, and occasionally some of them are truly your fault. That is why I stagger backwards after receiving a blow from him, on the side of my bad eye, bringing up a quick flash of memory that I quickly stop myself from remembering. This is no time for relapse and regret, I am here to do one thing and when I am finished I can leave and those thoughts will fall away again.
"What kind of pervert are you Hatori?" Akito rages. "Kissing a young boy!"
Again, my mind flashes elsewhere; to the image of Yuki, visiting me after an audience with Akito, bruised and damaged in so many places and ways I could never fix them all. Oh, the irony. I force that down as well, shuffle it in the back with all the other bad memories, all the reasons I hate this man.
"That's why I came to speak to you Akito, I realized you probably saw what happened and wouldn't understand—"
"I understand perfectly well what I saw! A kiss is a kiss!"
Of course he understands, he knows every move of every piece in his board-game of a world. I can not tell him he is wrong, I have to give him a different reason cautiously, secretly, until I have managed to make him believe me. It sickens me to play his game, but as I am the only one who knows how, it is my duty in this family to do so, and keep his mind somewhat straight, so it does not become so twisted none of us can even breathe. Unfortunately this is also why he likes me so much; because I calm him, and tell him what he wants to hear so the world that confuses him so much and fills him with so much rage makes sense in a way that makes him happy.
I am going to respond, but before I make words he slides up next to me, and I pause, waiting as leans against my side, one hand gently resting on my chest and his pretty, deceptive face looking up at me with so much confusion and hurt I almost balk. Instincts tell me this is just an act, because he wants attention, but I know that in his warped mind he really is hurt, because even he has forgotten what a liar he is. It is what makes him so dangerous.
"Hatori…" He purrs. "Why? Why are you always running away and doing things behind my back?"
I put an arm around his slender shoulders. "I'm sorry." I say, because he wants to hear it so badly. "Momiji is like a son to me." I say, remembering what Momiji had told me earlier. "He went to kiss me as a thank you and because I did not wish to embarrass him I couldn't push him away." Thank god for Momiji's childish, sweet antics, it makes excuses in his defense so much easier.
Akito's expression is instantly more relieved and lays his head against my shoulder. "Oh, that makes sense. You really shouldn't let confusing things like that happen so I have to hurt you."
Of course he had to hit me, I encouraged it through my reckless and careless actions. I squeeze Akito tightly, because that is what he wants, and then respond appropriately when he tilts his head up search of a kiss. His lips are soft and warm, but upon pressing against them with my own I am washed over by regret to wipe away the memory of much a much sweeter pair. Akito smiles after pulling away—and he is the one to pull away, always, it is not my place to stop kissing him if he desires otherwise. Then he turns away and sits on his mat, looking dreamily out the window through which he spotted Momiji's kiss earlier. Since he is no longer throwing himself at me, and today I am wearing thin, I do not wait for the words and instead know that this is his dismissal and take my leave.
I feel guilty for it, but I am glad he had an audience with Yuki today, for otherwise he would have kept me much longer. Instead he vented most of his needs earlier. I feel sick at this thought; I should never feel such a way. I would much rather be the one Akito sends for to have such things, I am older and stronger willed; I can take it. Yuki is so broken, beyond anything my medicine can do, if I can just deter another wound for one day it is worth it.
Still, today I am at my wits end. When I heard that Momiji had a meeting with Akito this morning I almost tried to stop him from going. I almost went straight to Akito to stop him and talk him into believing there was no need to see him, but I knew something like that would eventually arouse more suspicion within Akito's mind, and then he wouldn't give Momiji a chance to speak. I just prayed that Momiji's ever-present brilliant happiness and naiveté would get him out of trouble again. I could do nothing but sit in my office and try to distract myself, which ended up consisting of staring at piles of papers and grinding my teeth and chipping away the peeled enamel under my desk. When I saw Yuki crossing the courtyard to Akito's I knew I could go pick him up.
The lack of bruises was both a relief and a further worry. I feared some kind of mental damage, as is so common with Akito, but Momiji seemed as bright as could be expected, if a little un-nerved and distracted.
Akito had been asking me about him for some time; concerning the nature of our relationship and how much he means to me. Because Akito adores me so much his jealousy issues with me are slightly worse, and half the times we are together I spend assuring him he is the most beautiful person I know and could never be tempted away from him. However, he was truly stuck on Momiji, convinced there was something more. I don't know why the father-son relationship never came to mind as a cover, but I can suppose with little doubt that it was my own un-ease at suggesting that relationship between us when I feel the way I do.
I sigh as I think of him again. I am old, and it makes feel as perverted as Shigure to think such things about such a sweet young boy. He is too young to understand what having a serious relationship with me would mean. Even if he does, as I heavily suspect, have a crush on me, the kind of thing I am looking for is far too serious for his childish heart. And I believe it's illegal.
I know all this, and still, if were not for Akito being here now, I can not help but think that Momiji and I would not be able to ignore the connection between us, and something would happen. It is for fear of Akito and partially because he is too naïve to understand how strongly I reciprocate his feelings that we stay apart now.
He is frustratingly naïve at times, with his care-free flirting and skipping about. He has no idea that when he is out running about the gardens I stop and watch him, entranced, and can hardly look away—because it is so wonderful to see something happy around here. When he kisses me, even just a thoughtless peck on the cheek when I drop him off at school, it leaves me stunned and my head and stomach spinning.
I do think of Kana, often, and wonder if I am somehow cheating her memory, since even as Momiji seems to be sweeping me away I still can not help but mourn her. Then, when Momiji does one of those things that makes me forget, for one moment, that there is so much wrong and I can just be happy, I feel as though I did something wrong by forgetting her, as if not having her on my mind every second now means I never loved her then. Actually, not too long ago I broke and asked Ayame, with as much subtlety as I could, what he thought of this. He told me I was being silly and that when things are over, people move on, and that is how it is. He has never made more sense.
- - -
Hatori went out and shopped for groceries through the rest of the afternoon, and returned home that evening to find Momiji asleep on the couch, sprawled out and snoring lightly while holding a pillow under his arm. After putting the groceries away in the kitchen Hatori returned to the snoozing child and patted him gently on the shoulder to wake him—with no success. He was going to shake him more roughly, when the small boy cooed in his sleep and curled into the fetal position; hugging the pillow in the small gap it left between his arms and chest.
Hatori sighed, and realized there was no point pretending he had any desire to stop something so cute, and so instead he scooped Momiji up into his arms and began the carefully-non-jostling walk down the hallway to the guest bed-room that everyone knew was really Momiji's. Momiji did something similar to gargling and then turned his head against Hatori's chest, cuddling against him, and Hatori felt his cheeks grow pink at the adorable sight. When they reached the bed room the doctor did not place Momiji directly into the bed, instead he sat on its edge and gently moved Momiji so he was cradled cozily in his arms. They stayed that way for a while, Momiji sleeping happily and Hatori holding him, watching him slumber as if spellbound while the boy twisted a small bit to re-position his arm, and puckered his lips for a moment—ever so invitingly. Momiji's pale, smooth skin and fluffy gold curls have never been more beautiful…more tempting.
He is not as young as he seems. Hatori said, to himself. He does have some maturity; it is not as if he were really only a child.
And what was more, he was asleep. So, Hatori leaned forward and gently pressed a kiss to Momiji's mouth. Shivers instantly filled his body, and he held the boy tighter, pressing a little more firmly, taking a deep breath of him.
Momiji's eyes slowly opened, alerting Hatori when his long lashes brushed his cheekbones as they fluttered. Reluctantly, but still with the hastiness of surprise, Hatori pulled back and look down apologetically.
Momiji could only stare, and groped mentally for something to say, and when no idea came, he finally reached forward to tilt Hatori's gaze upward again. They met eyes and stopped even trying to form words. They knew. Both of them. But to speak the words that were so clear now would have sentenced them to separation by Akito's rage faster than they could next breathe. So, instead, they very quietly leaned forward and kissed one more time, neither of them taken by surprise this time, but all the more breathless for it, and then Momiji slipped off his lap and crawled into bed. Hatori leaned forward to tuck him in, but instead, after a pause, he climbed into the bed himself and laid down beside Momiji, with one arm draped cross him, pulling him close. Excuses could be easily made; nightmares, a stomach ache, Akito would believe it at least once. Right at that moment, they just wanted to be together.
They knew they could not be. Not just then. There were too many lies and worries floating about with him hovering near, and they would not put danger on only themselves to indulge in this; and for both of them protecting the rest of the family was so important. But Akito would not last long. And when he was gone all his intricate lies and games would crumble and fade with him.
But we will not. We will wait and when that time finally comes—we will be happy.
Wellll, this little story is a little bit sexy. Sorry, it just turned out a lot better than I expected. Anyway, it's supposed to take place maybe a year before Tohru shows up, and I really hope the three-perspective thing turned out ok. The only that bothers me is the title. It's kind of meh. The rest of the story speaks for itself.
I wasn't planning to do any more Fruits Basket after "Under the Clouds" but I got a challenge and well, here you go. I also have a Kyo/Shigure challenge (same person) coming up, it'll be a LOT fluffier. Hee, kyo gets fluff and miji gets angst, how do you figure that one? Anyway, maybe stick around for that, yeah?
So yeah! This was my FIRST challenge fic! Kindly provided by xXLady-of-LoveXx. So, if you particularly liked this, you have her to thank too. :) Woo! Thanks for reading!