Fourth Child

A/N: Okay, I sort of fixed the ending of hot gimmick here. Yay! Enjoy, peeps.

Summary: For once, Shinogu gives up his role as oni-chan and does something selfish. The results are surprising. ShinoguHatsumi

"Move over!"

"Ack! Hatsumi, your elbow's digging into my side!"

"Hey, Hatsumi, your elbows can dig into me any day."

Over Hatsumi's head Shinogu shot Kazama a warning glare, which Kazama replied to by fake-leering at the girl between them. Shinogu shook his head at his roommate but settled in his spot on the couch, facing the television again. With its bent antenna and discrepancies in the screen, it was certainly a novelty, but Kazama had proudly snagged it from a yard sale over by his childhood home ("It was only three hundred yen! You can't shit a cheaper TV set!" he'd protested when Shinogu had seen him lugging it into the tiny apartment.) and the young lecher wasn't giving it up, come hell or high water.

"Kazama, don't you think you could have found a better television set? I can't understand what's going on." Hatsumi whined. Kazama gave a blasé wave of his hand and shoved the bowl of stale popcorn at the brunette.

"You take what ya get or ya leave. Got it, sweet cakes?"

"I can't understand the movie either, Kazama." Shinogu added. Kazama chose to stick his nose in the air, ignoring Shinogu, who shrugged. In truth, he wasn't even paying attention anyway. He'd made his choice to join the priesthood yesterday, and his time to move out of the apartment was drawing alarmingly close. Clawing at a last morsel of precious time with Hatsumi, he'd invited her over, using the spurious television set as a lame excuse. But now that she was here, Shinogu was at a loss. She smelled like sweet almonds and had an unusually radiant look about her that meant really only one thing, as Kazama had seemed to say in subtext to Shinogu when he'd complimented Hatsumi earlier on her "rejuvenated" complexion. The kind of glow that meant Ryoki was, for all intents and purposes, permanently involved in Hatsumi's life.

He kept telling himself as the movie (whatever it was) progressed that he was doing the honorable and right thing towards his only love. Hatsumi and Kazama bickered, but Shinogu knew Hatsumi was acutely aware of him at every passing second. He knew that the scene in his bedroom had not been forgotten, and even worse, the scene on the roof with Ryoki would not be forgotten.

"Crap! Hatsumi, Shinogu, I'll be back. I just remembered we're-" Kazama paused for dramatic effect, "-out of soda!" He pranced out of the room, winking at Shinogu perversely. Shinogu gave a half-smile but it fell away when he felt Hatsumi scooch over to the other end of the couch, effectively away from him. The movie was still going but the silence in the apartment was so tense and obvious that it may as well have been turned off.

"I wonder what this movie is about!" Hatsumi joked awkwardly, laughing nervously and pointing at the crappy television. Shinogu shrugged, unable to come up with anything funny to say back. Why had Kazama done this to him? He knew he and Hatsumi had gone well beyond the point of no return. There was no reason for Kazama to try and create situations where Hatsumi and Shinogu were alone anymore. Any chance had been brutally murdered when Hatsumi had declared her feelings for him would only ever be of the sibling kind, simultaneously professing her undying devotion to Ryoki.

"You want anything to eat?" He finally asked. The popcorn remained untouched so it was a bogus question, but wasn't this entire night bogus? Hatsumi half-nodded and Shinogu jumped up and went into the kitchen, eager to get away from her. Anytime he saw those unusually rosy cheeks it was just another painful reminder of what he had failed to do.

Scrounging around the freezer, he produced a carton of chocolate ice cream. Hatsumi lingered awkwardly beside the stove, looking down wordlessly. Shinogu found a spoon and held the findings out to her.

"You have some too, Shinogu-kun." The absence of 'oni-chan' was strange and Shinogu wasn't sure how to respond, so he grabbed another spoon and they ate from the carton together in silence. Occasionally their eyes met and it stung that he could draw no hope from these instances. She didn't want him.

"I'm becoming a priest." He blurted out suddenly. He hadn't meant to say it, but these things have a way of just tumbling out. Hatsumi's spoon clattered on the floor but she made no move to pick it up as she gaped at Shinogu.

"...Priest? But why would you..." She trailed off and then understanding passed over her features. "...Oh." She looked away quickly, her hair swinging with the motion. Shinogu set down the ice cream on the counter and knelt down to pick up the spoon she'd dropped. Before he could right himself, she'd knelt down on the floor too. Delicately, she placed her hands on his cheeks and gazed into his eyes. He shut them, wincing. If she called him 'oni-chan' right now like she tended to do at moments like this, he didn't know if he could take it. When he was sure she wasn't going to say that, he slowly opened his eyes, but looked down.

On her exposed neck and collarbone he could see marks, little bruises and nicks that she'd tried to cover up with makeup, evidently. The smooth substance wasn't quite her skin color and she hadn't done a very good job of applying it, anyway. The old urges of overprotectiveness welled up inside him but he knew that these were not inflicted with the intention of pain. His worst fears confirmed, right here, as he stared at her soft skin marred by none other than Ryoki.

"Why do you let him do that?" He murmured. He hadn't meant to say that either, but Hatsumi tended to bring out his unreasonable, impulsive side, for obvious reasons. That moment on the elevator, though fairly minor in comparison to other events, was a good example.

Hatsumi looked down and blushed, zipping up her jacket.

"Don't tell mom?" She pleaded, raising her eyebrows. Shinogu almost scoffed but held it in. Of course he wouldn't tell mom, and Hatsumi knew that perfectly well too.

"Won't have much chance soon." He reminded her, pasting on a smile. Her hands were still on his face but now they trembled. Her brows knit together; it was obvious she was trying not to cry. As tears dribbled down her cheeks and off her chin, her hands slid down to his shoulders, and she moved closer, snaking her arms around him and burying her face in the crook of his neck and shoulder.

"This is not how I wanted it to be." She choked, her voice muffled. Shinogu shivered at the contact. Before all of the drama had started, she'd touched him innocently, not knowing that inside it was all he could do not to react to the images in his mind. Now she was embracing him, knowing full well that his thoughts were anything but brotherly.

"It's the best way, Hatsumi." He struggled to keep the sadness out of his voice but it was hard; this wasn't what he wanted either, even the tiniest bit. Kazama and Azusa had reiterated that Hatsumi wouldn't be with Ryoki forever, but still. She'd told him that night on the roof vehemently: he'd always be oni-chan.

"How?" She pulled her face away; it was red from crying. "It's not fair to mom and dad and Akane." She pleaded. Then she leaned in close again, her mouth an inch away from his ear with her cheek pressed against his. "...It's not fair to me."

"SO! SODA, ANYONE?!"

Hatsumi and Shinogu pulled away as if electroshocked and gaped at Kazama, bearing plastic bags carting litre bottles of soda. The moment killed, they glanced at each other before looking away fervently and standing up. Shinogu put away the ice cream, a distinct sickly feeling inside his stomach. Outside, it was beginning to rain.

"You know, I should probably head back! I mean, it is getting late..." That nervous laughter of Hatsumi's that Shinogu knew so well rang through the apartment and Shinogu focused his gaze on the floor heavily. Somewhere he heard Kazama say something jokingly, and Hatsumi got flustered. Numbly, Shinogu placed a hand on Hatsumi's shoulder. She said something, he didn't know what, but it wasn't important. She didn't want him.

He felt so removed from the situation, now that it was here. In his car, driving Hatsumi home in the downpour, he didn't even feel anything. It was like hearing about it, that it happened to someone else that he didn't know. He felt mildly sad but there were other things to think about. It couldn't be happening to him.

Hatsumi was chattering nervously, as she tended to do. He felt the deathgrip he'd had on the wheel relax a little. She was always comfort to him, but maybe that was the problem. Maybe he was just horribly confused and just needed Hatsumi to leave him alone to his confusion.

"You know... you really are an oni-chan." Her voice pulled him away from his muddled thoughts and back to inside the car, where he was driving home this girl he was supposed to think of as his sister.

"Well, I'm glad you understand your feelings for me completely, Hatsumi." He smiled and drew in a breath sharply, squinting and turning on the windshield wipers. It really was impossible to see.

"But... it's...it's just your nature. I think everyone sees you as an oni-chan. In some way, anyway..." Even without looking he knew she was blushing and looking down while twirling her hair in her fingers.

'So what, you're saying I'm doomed to never fall in love because it will always be incest to a degree??' He thought wryly, also realizing how much of an influence Kazama was having on him. The roommate's sarcasm and drollness was contagious. "I mean... it's a good thing. To be an oni-chan."

"Thank you, Hatsumi. Really. But you don't have to... you don't..." He shifted in his seat as they slowly rounded a corner; left turns were always hard for him. Apparently getting flat-out rejected was hard too.

"What I'm saying is...maybe... stop being such an... oni-chan. Do you see?" They slowed to a stop at a red light; in the darkness and rain it was hard to see and was a mere splotch of red in the night. Shinogu looked over at Hatsumi. When their eyes met, Shinogu looked away quickly. He felt like he'd never 'see.' But he wasn't going to say that.

"I think so." He lied. He wondered if Hatsumi knew when he was lying. She had a scary intuition sometimes—it was one of the many things about her that made his heart ache—but she was too innocent, too blind. She'd never see either.

"Well, here we are..." Hatsumi unbuckled her seatbelt and smiled sadly at Shinogu. He nodded, biting his lip. He felt like he might scream. He felt like he just might run up those stairs and stab Ryoki. Pay him back for some of the heartache. He felt like he might just grab Hatsumi, and never let her go.

"Wait." He reached out and touched her arm. Halfway out of the car, she stopped. He reached into the backseat and retrieved an umbrella. Hatsumi sighed.

"It's not even raining that hard, Oni-chan!" She whined. She rejected the umbrella, waved goodbye, and yanked her hood over her head as she sprinted back to the door of the complex.

--

"Stop being such an oni-chan!? What the hell is that supposed to mean!?"

Kazama sighed, twirling the spoon around in the air before violently dunking it into the ice cream carton again. Shinogu was pacing back and forth in a rage, slamming cabinet doors and knocking over chairs as he 'cleaned' the kitchen. Though in reality he was turning the tiny kitchen into even more of a pigsty (which was nearly physically impossible for Shinogu, AKA Golden Boy of the Century), Kazama determined that it was better not to point that particular detail out at the moment.

"You know... you ever consider the fact that this was what she was talking about?" He drawled. Shinogu threw his hands up in the air.

"Stop being so fucking cryptic, Kazama!" He warned. Kazama chuckled and spooned out some more of the ice cream that Hatsumi hadn't finished. He gestured to the kitchen-turned-hellhole.

"This. You. Your temper. She's never seen this side of you, has she, Shinogu? The dripping-with-manliness-in-rage side, which I might add is much more interesting than your usual m.o."

Shinogu faltered as he considered Kazama's question.

"Well, once, when we were little. I yelled at her and she chased me and comforted me. I was mad because I felt like my birthmother didn't love me."

Kazama raised his eyebrows.

"So. There you have it. Think about it, Shinogu. Hatsumi likes guys who treat her like shit, but not because they treat her like shit—which is what some girls have got going—but because she likes that manly energy!"

"...Manly energy? You've got to be kidding me." Shinogu stared witheringly at Kazama.

"Hey, think of it this way: it's been how many years? Fifteen, or something absurd like that, and you've spent all this time with the same routine. And clearly, it's not working--"

"I have feelings, you know..." Shinogu reminded him, stung by the truth.

"Anyways. You've got two days. After that, you'll never see her again--" Shinogu winced. "--so why not be all James Dean and let how you really feel show?"

"...James Dean? What?"

Kazama waved his hand. "Forget it. Just, think about it, 'kay?"

--

"You know, some psychologists might find it mighty interestin that you traveled all the way here, an hour away from your own shopping center, to buy socks." Kazama commented as he and Shinogu milled about the outdoor mall. Shinogu bristled. "Do monks even need socks?" He added thoughtfully.

"It means nothing--"

"I'm just sayin. I wonder...Hatsumi and Dr. Evil might be hanging around here. It is a weekend. It is a popular hangout..." Kazama scratched his head and glanced around, at the busy street. Teens were everywhere. Shinogu could feel himself start to sweat.

He left this evening, and was merely preparing himself, he decided. He'd said his goodbye to Hatsumi, so he didn't need to see her again. It was done, she was fucking Ryoki, and he was just buying socks. That was it. Really. He didn't choose this particular shopping center based on its proximity to his childhood home. Never.

He felt Kazama lean in towards him. "Don't look now, but you might want to look over there. By the florist." He whispered, jabbing his thumb in the opposite direction. Shinogu glanced over his shoulder, and immediately wished he hadn't.

Well, he'd gotten what he secretly had hoped for. Ryoki was yelling at a very flustered Hatsumi, who was blushing and trying not to cry. She'd bumped into something and broken it, apparently. Shinogu tightened his grip on his plastic bag. "What are you thinking, right this moment?" Kazama asked, watching the array of emotions pass over Shinogu's face. He bit his lip.

"There is just something about his face...that really makes me wanna punch him." He said. He exhaled and turned away. "But that'd make Hatsumi sad, and it'd be ridiculous. Come on, I'm done shopping." He turned and began walking away, but stopped when he realized Kazama wasn't following.

"You're never gonna see either of them, ever again. You have a life to think about your regrets in front of you. You're really just gonna let that motherfucker have the last word? Really, Shinogu? Think about it. Either way, Hatsumi will still have what she wanted. Why not let yourself have something? Why not...try not being the oni-chan, for once?" He coaxed. Shinogu rolled his eyes.

"You're the devil on my shoulder, I swear. No, you're worse." Shinogu said, but the idea was taking shape. He watched hungrily as Ryoki grabbed Hatsumi's shoulders, shaking her roughly. What would anyone do if he just walked up to him, and punched him? Hatsumi would be shocked, probably cry, and try to comfort Ryoki. Ryoki would bitch his head off. People would stare and whisper in shock. And Shinogu...would walk away. What could anyone do? People were already staring at Ryoki and Hatsumi, wondering if he was going to openly hurt her, here in public. He'd be doing them a favor, really.

He dropped the shopping bags, adrenaline coursing through his veins. Vaguely, somewhere far away, he heard Kazama say something, but he couldn't hear: his heart was pounding in his ears. He felt dizzy with the heady sensation of what he was about to do, and so before he came back to his senses, he began striding over to them. Right now, he didn't even care what Hatsumi or his parents or anyone else thought. He wanted to do this; he wasn't going to finish this without putting Ryoki a bit more in his place. Ryoki could smirk all he wanted, but for just a minute, he'd wipe that shit-eating grin off his smug face.

Hatsumi turned and gasped, and Ryoki followed suit, when they saw Shinogu there. He bit his lip, and before he could stop himself, he yanked Ryoki away from Hatsumi.

"What the he--" Ryoki's big, fat, annoying mouth was met by Shinogu's fist before he could utter any more annoyingness. He felt his teeth against his knuckles, and he heard Hatsumi shriek. The impact made a cracking, crunching sound. It was the most satisfying, refreshing sound he had ever heard. He wasn't interested in hearing apologies, or listening to anyone explain why things had turned out like this. He just didn't want to hear it; he didn't care. All he wanted to hear was the crack of bone against bone. Ryoki stumbled backwards, blood dribbling down his nose and out of his mouth, onto his fancy prep school jacket.

Suddenly, everything went back to sobriety. Shinogu blinked, shading his eyes from the daylight that suddenly seemed too bright. Everyone in the area was watching, including Hatsumi, who was gazing at Shinogu with an expression that made him cringe. He was sorry, so sorry, for making her feel bad. He didn't want to make her unhappy anymore, he was always being a source for her unhappiness and unease. She was better off without him, he was always doing the worst thing...

...And yet, when he looked at Ryoki's bloody, flabbergasted face, he didn't feel that bad anymore. In fact...he felt pretty damn good.

"Um...hi. I..um...Yeah, I need to pay for my socks. Um, excuse me..." He said dazedly, before turning and running through the shocked crowd. He couldn't stop himself from smirking, when he heard Ryoki begin to stammer. He slowed to a stride, and smirked broadly as he strode confidently back towards Kazama, who might have been, for the first time in history, shocked into silence.

"I-I...I didn't actually think ya'd do it." He admitted, reddening. Shinogu beamed as he bent down and picked up his shopping bags. He and Kazama continued walking, out of the shopping center and back to the car.

For the first time in his entire life, Shinogu got something he had truly wanted.

--

Hatsumi's wedding to Ryoki was beautiful. Everyone was thrilled that the two had made it this far. In the five years since they had first started dating, it had been a rollercoaster of emotions, but now, they were here. Hatsumi looked the part of the stereotypical blushing bride, in a frilly white gown and soft makeup and flowers everywhere. Ryoki looked dashing and handsome in his tuxedo, with his glasses gone and his hair slicked back. To look at them was to look at a couple in love; the perfect match made in heaven.

But like anything beautiful, one only has to look a little closer, let their gaze linger a little bit on it, before they see the ugly fissures in the facade of perfection. Bruises on the bride's skin, barely hidden, the groom's eyes bloodshot and puffy.

Asuza was excellent at finding the imperfections in things. He was heavily practiced in doing so, with plenty of experience. It delighted him to no end, to see the way Hatsumi constantly looked out the church door during the ceremony. She was waiting for someone, a certain person, to stop her and save her. The best part was, that person wasn't coming to save her. That person had left, to save her, and had finally let himself be a bit selfish. Ryoki still had the scars on his face showing that. These scars were things that also made Asuza nearly sing with glee.

He'd vowed to ruin Ryoki and Hatsumi's relationship, but then, as it had turned out, he hadn't even needed to do anything. Next to him, Kazama smiled, not at the beautiful wedding, but at the obvious torment of the bride. It had taken a few years, but now everything was coming together, better than they could have ever done themselves. All it had taken was one punch.

Hatsumi stumbled over her vows; a mistake she would pay for dearly. Asuza still smiled at the reception, as Hatsumi got drunk and continued to stare out the window in misery, while Ryoki got even more thoroughly inebriated, and the mood of the party dropped. Yes, he smiled in pure, unadulterated bliss. When Shinogu came back, he would come back and get everything he had ever wanted.

--Five Years Later--

"Ah! Don't trip, Keiko-chan!" Hatsumi called, running after one of the triplets she had born. Her husband, Ryoki, looked on in amusement as he read the morning paper. It was an early autumn afternoon at the park; a family get together. Even Shinogu, who had left the priesthood soon after Ryoki and Hatsumi's wedding, was there. Still single, but for some reason, he didn't seem to mind being single.

Asuza and Kazama had a fair idea of why he didn't mind, and the idea was personified by Hatsumi and Ryoki's fourth child, Sakuza. Her eyes and hair were darker than that of their other children, and she was a little more subdued in personality.

"Oh, crap. Come back here Sakuza-chan!" Hatsumi snapped, leaving a crying Keiko sitting in her place as Hatsumi scrambled to her fourth child, who was balancing on top of a picnic table, preparing to jump off. Shinogu swept in, and got to Sakuza first, lifting her off of the table.

"I gotcha." He said, grinning and swinging Sakuza around. Sakuza shrieked with laughter, and Asuza and Kazama looked on as Hatsumi and Shinogu shared a smile. It was a smile that had room for no one else; it was a private moment. Quickly, they went back to their separate activities, with Ryoki squawking at Hatsumi and Shinogu playing with Sakuza.

"You know, I always forget that Sakuza-chan isn't Shinogu's kid." Asuza commented as Shinogu began leading Sakuza over to him and Kazama. Kazama grinned.

"She has her father's eyes." He agreed.