Teaching brought her a sense of fulfillment, where she as a person could help a group of teenagers discover their true potential and offer some kind of guidance as they took their wary steps into the world. She was older and wiser than them and so, she felt it her duty to give them the best she could offer. It was an ideal that she believed in, no matter how distant it sometimes seemed when students got themselves into trouble or there was some even coming up to stress over, it was never forgotten. Mayuko Shiraki was not the kind of person to repeat it to herself every morning like a mantra; the best she could do was try to live it.

Part Six - Contagious Concepts- A concept for my each of my favorite Furuba pairings. They take place after the reception of Tohru and Kyo's wedding (they're 22, it took him awhile to get the guts to ask her...). Its a moonlit night and there is something contagious in the air.

I'll be posting them as separate one-shots, because the ratings will change between them.

If you enjoy this one, please read my Kakeru x Komaki fic called 'Conference', my Arisa x Kureno fic called 'Content', Yuki x Machi fic called 'Confident', my Kisa x Hiro fic called 'Confess' and my Rin x Haru fic called 'Confront'.

Disclaimer- Furuba isn't mine.

R&R! I'd love to know what you think. Tell me which fic/pairing I should post/write next! No flames please, flames hurt. But kind criticism is appreciated.

---

The Sohma family loved to send their children to Kaibara high school, and so, slowly, her life became more entangled with theirs than she ever anticipated. As a teacher, she watched over them objectively. She saw Kyo's anger begin to fade, and she watched Yuki spend less time sitting quietly at his desk and more time with the student council. She watched Tohru and Hanajima and Uotani begin to join them. She met Momiji and Hatsuharu, then shy little Kisa who commanded a fan club of adolescent boys that she was totally unaware of. Just like Yuki. There was Hiro who she didn't really know and Momo who she was sure was related to Momiji though nobody mentioned it. As a teacher, she observed their struggles, heartbreaks, and triumphs with the eyes of someone who had no right to understand. She understood this clearly.

Then she began dating Hatori. He had been so sudden about it, one day just showing up after the school day and asking her if she would join him for supper in a nearby park, then taking her out for drinks afterward, leading to a date set for a few days later. He'd seemed a little shocked, as if this was something new for him. They started spending all their free time together, not doing things particularly formally, though he had tried that at the beginning, and their lives fit together like puzzle pieces. He'd cook her dinner after work or she'd read to him as he did medical paperwork. After spending all her time with high school students it felt very relaxing to spend time with grownups, and after spending all his time with people who didn't understand him it was a relief to be with her. Seeing him smile gave her life beyond school a purpose.

He was the man she'd always wanted and always would, but she'd never realized that by being with Hatori she would be throwing herself back into the lives of her former students.

Elementary kids are often very shocked when they see their teachers in the grocery store or in a bar with friends or with their own husbands and wives and children. Mayu felt similarly; she knew these people as students. She collected their homework, told them not to run in the halls, and scolded them when necessary. Perhaps she had not really connected to them as people, she realized, when Hatori pulled up a chair next to her at the dinner table where she was grading essays and showed her Tohru's wedding invitation.

It was red and white, lucky colors, and classically designed. It was her turn to feel shocked; picturing her students in wedding clothes or with jobs or with children. She knew them as uniformed youngsters who didn't have problems outside of school that were any of her business. She swallowed.

"I will be attending; will you join me?" His voice was even as if he could not see her shock. She didn't really feel his hand on her shoulder, though any other day she wouldn't feel anything else.

The troublesome emotion nagged at her, tormented her. The invitation wasn't just for Hatori, either. It was addressed to her as well, which meant it was either Shigure or Ayame in charge of the wedding, the latter being more probable.

"Are you okay?" She turned her head a little too quickly. He was looking straight into her face. Calm down, there's nothing to worry about, she told herself. Yet, she couldn't look into her eyes and declare that she was fine.

Lying like that felt so wrong. Hatori was the best thing that ever happened to her. She knew she was lucky to have found him, and lucky to be loved by him. She loved him, and yet, she couldn't speak her mind. The stupidity of her thoughts was shameful, worst of all, what if he agreed?

---

The focus of the reception shifted from the bride and groom into a more open conversation environment. People's neighbors began to turn to each other and chat over plates of catered food. Tohru and Kyo were receiving well-wishers on the other side of the room. It was done, they were married. The hubbub was calming, a pleasant buzz of voices and movement blending into a harmony of contentment.

Mayu's voice was not part of it and she was cold. She shifted nervously, blending in with the furniture of the long room, hiding in the v-shaped shadow beneath a wall sconce. She knew too may people, she decided, but she didn't know any of them. She could recognize their handwriting and guess at what mistakes they would make in a literature assignment but couldn't work out how to start a conversation.

She was watching Hatori as he conversed with Shigure and Ayame. He'd refused to wear the outfit Yuki Sohma's charismatic older brother had put together and she'd gone alone with his decision to wear western clothes. Now she rather regretted not badgering him into it. For one thing, she wouldn't mind seeing him in kimono. But really, she felt she was getting too old to wear pretty flowered garments and she couldn't be sure when she'd get the chance again. She sighed, getting the uncomfortable sensation that she couldn't take a deep breath to the bottom of her lungs. Her short-cropped hair wouldn't look good with kimono anyways. Nevertheless, her deep-green sweater and dark gray skirt felt horribly dowdy.

Her eyes drifted slowly shut and she put her weight against the smooth wall. The blood rushing to her toes felt good.

No doubt about it, she felt old. Ancient. Decrepit. She could think of synonym after synonym and it wouldn't matter. She was watching people she'd taught in high school get married. Married. Something her mother had given up on in her case. She decidedly no longer felt well.

She hadn't been in top spirits for awhile now, the car ride had been quite uncomfortable; the awkward children in the back seat not helping. The toddler was out, not even snoring, and the teenagers were not talking. She could see Hiro Sohma blushing like tomato in a sunset, looking rather… constipated. There was no other word for it. Even that realization hadn't lightened her mood.

Hatori'd noticed, and squeezed her hand as they walked inside.

"Great Teacher Mayuko." A flat voice pulled her out of her reflections. She opened her eyes and stood back up. Her back didn't feel very good about supporting her weight. Old. She was old. Probably getting osteoporosis. Losing bone mass. There was a series of stomach turning pops from her spine.

Saki Hanajima (or was it Sohma? Mayu couldn't remember if she'd decided to keep her own name or take Kyo's father's) was standing off to the side, her face smiling but still the same monotonous expression that she remembered. She'd only slightly deviated from her usual black, wearing the half-black kimono of the mother-of-the-bride. The older woman vaguely remembered that Arisa Uotani and Hanajima were representing Tohru's mother in the ceremony.

Hanajima carried the youngest member of the wedding party, Takeshi Sohma, aged 5 months. Mayu had been at his birth, following behind Hatori as usual. She wouldn't have gone if it hadn't been during a terrible thunderstorm. She hated thunderstorms. She had nothing to do with the actual birthing process per se, but she'd been outside with Kazuma, sipping tea as he paced. Saki was so young and he was so worried. He was ready to slash his innards in the style of the disgraced samurai if there were any complications. She hadn't really said anything, just patted him on the back now and then and offered what distractions she could.

Takeshi was tiny, with a full head of black hair and black eyes like his mother. He was quite well behaved, and cradled in his mother's arms. He was rather still, his sole movement being the blinking of his large, shiny eyes. So young, and so watchful.

"Are you enjoying this reception? I was so unsure about giving away my little Tohru, but I'm afraid I had little choice in this match. She's quite head over heels it seems. But the food here is quite well done." Hanajima put the hand that wasn't supporting the infant's head and neck to her face. Mayu was captivated by the way her face changed expressions but her eyes never really changed at all.

"Hmm…" She nodded. "Congratulations, by the way. I'm sure you're very proud, marrying off a daughter and a son on the same day." Mayu was mumbling a little. Even as a high school girl, Hanajima had been a little intimidating. Some instinct told her to be careful around her, though it had never been founded.

"Indeed." There was a strange silence. She realized even Saki, who never wore kimono, was dressed out of character for the occasion. "Would you like to hold him?"

It took a moment for the statement to register, hold who? Then she saw the mother-of-the-bride-elect holding out the tiny child like a peace offering.

She stuttered for a second, caught off guard. She had no experience with this kind of thing! Then, the tiny, warm body was in her hands, Hanajima's pulling her arms into the right configuration. It felt strange, not entirely unnatural, but like she was borrowing someone else's son to feel what it would be like.

After a few long moments, she awkwardly put him back in his mother's arms. Hanajima smiled. Mayu smiled back, knowing her face was wide-eyed and shocked looking.

---

He'd looked at her.

She couldn't stop thinking about it.

He'd looked at her. Straight up into her face, into her eyes. And she was moved. To tears, she would even say, though she was holding them back. His fat pink lips had moved a little and Mayu had held one of his tiny little hands. He'd held back. His warmth, his weight, everything about him captivated her.

And terrified her.

She'd never been interested in children before. Now she was jealous of the dark-haired girl. Barely a woman, and already had something like that of her own? Yes, Mayu was jealous, but she was also worried.

Kazuma had told her in their time together in the waiting room, too cold for comfort and yet too warm to complain of the cold, that Takeshi was an accident. He'd prayed for it to be a happy accident. They just weren't taking precautions enough, and those they did were faulty in the end.

She'd never made the most important connection.

She and Hatori had had the same problems from time to time. She'd forget to take her pill for a day or two. They'd get too caught up in the moment and not use protection. The protection would fail them when it came right down to it. Sure, these things didn't happen all that often, but still. She hadn't stressed over it because it never culminated in anything at all. Now it all came down to the question she'd never bothered to ask herself.

Where was her baby?

---

She couldn't really focus the rest of the day; not when Kisa asked her if she'd seen Hiro, not when Shigure went on making inappropriate passes as usual, not when Yuki started up a conversation. Mayu never really thought of herself as an insecure person but suddenly, a multitude of disturbing thoughts were racing through her mind.

Mayuko's mother had always badgered her about getting married and having children and it had never really mattered that much. It was just another old-fashioned expectation she wasn't really intending to fulfill. Now, watching people she'd observed developing into adults get married and go off to the life she never wanted, she felt like she was missing something. For sure, Tohru would go off and have a cartload of children and they would all be loved half to death, but Mayu was sure that she too had found her true love.

So why? How were Tohru and Kyo more grown up than her? She could deal with them being adults and she didn't mind treating them as such, but she wondered where her seniority had gone. She should be reaching those milestones first. Or was she just that? A senior. A menopausal old woman with no children. Washed up. She rubbed her forehead, feeling a stress headache building. She didn't feel well anymore. Her stomach was more than a little uneasy.

She wandered across the decorative garden, past the pool and inside, in a daze. What if she could never have her own little shiny-eyed baby, and feel its warm weight in her arms? She swore she wouldn't mind staying up all night if it cried or teethed or change its diapers. The moonlight seemed cold, seeping through the paper door. She snapped it shut and leaned lightly against it, trying to force breath into her lungs. Her headache was getting worse and she felt feverish. A slow drip of sweat seeped out of her pores and lent her flushed face an unpleasant sheen. She was sure if there had been a mirror she would have been thoroughly green.

Something hit her in the stomach though no outside force was touching her. She doubled over, dizzy.

It had been a long time, several years in fact, since Mayu had experienced a panic attack. She was calm and cool and collected and Hatori only helped solidify that fact but now, she was shaken beyond reasonable. Her knees weren't working right and her skin was clammy and her lungs were burning.

It was getting harder and harder and harder to breathe. Her eyes started to water and terror filled her closing throat with acid.

I'm going to die. Cold. Alone. Childless. I'm going to suffocate right here. Now. I can't breathe. Someone's going to find me here stiff on the floor alone and not good enough to do anything!

Her throat was burning. She could picture her coffin and no one standing beside it. A rush of blood brought about another surge of pain and fear. Her vision was getting dim and her head was rushing. Throbbing. Her knees swayed and her neck turned to jelly, not quite strong enough to hold up her own skull. I'm dying. The room reeled and went black as her legs finally gave out once and for all.

A burst of air escaped her throat as she came in contact with something warm and hard. She hadn't realized she'd had any air remaining and it left her gasping and choking. Her eyes were so heavy and the lids were sandpaper grinding against the sensitive interior but they didn't open. She let out one low groan before losing consciousness.

---

Her tongue felt thick and furry like a decaying gerbil in her mouth. A salt-laced thirst forced her to strain against the aching stiffness that screamed in her muscles. She was feeling weary, disgusting. Her panic was over but her problem was unresolved.

Slowly, the world came into more focus.

The setting was dark, but there was a window somewhere, casting blue light. Mayu recognized it as late night. Her perspective was unfamiliar, she realized, after a moment of understanding that her eyes were open and she wasn't seeing properly. Slowly, she reconnected her brain with her body and eased herself up. She'd been sitting on the floor of one of the inn rooms against the most solid wall with her head between her knees.

Confusion set in. How had she got here? What was going on? Ah. She remembered. She'd panicked and fainted. Yeah. Her throat screamed at her again, the taste filling her mouth. Had she thrown up? She didn't know.

Then, a hand was in front of her bedraggled face, holding a glass of water. It warped the light of the room gently as if it was glowing a little. Tentatively, she put both her hands around the cup, not supporting it enough for the long, pale fingers to let go. She followed the fingers to a hand to a wrist to a long arm to a shoulder, up a neck and a familiar head.

Hatori wasn't looking at her, just staring straight ahead at the shining darkness from outside. He sat next to her, almost a foot away, not touching her. She took the water and downed a few unladylike gulps. It did nothing to clear the gerbil away. She took a deep breath, trying again to make sense of things. Hatori had carried her here, that was clear enough. But what else was going on? It was so dim…

She remembered then. Takeshi's glittering eyes looking up at her, more intelligent than she would've guessed. Those eyes knew her. A helpless wail escaped her, barely audible.

Hatori didn't look at her.

"Are you going to tell me why you have a panic attack and faint out of the blue?" His voice was flat. Mayuko opened her mouth to speak, but he hadn't finished. "Or are we keeping secrets from each other now?" The accusation was clear and it stung like antiseptic in an open wound.

Instantly, she felt guilty. He was right. They didn't keep secrets. Not when she'd forgotten to pay the phone bill. Not when some patient was hitting on him. It felt dirty and wrong and made her wonder if she knew herself at all.

The spinning in her head was going away slightly. She took a deep gulp and felt the lump in her throat. She heaved and suddenly was sobbing. The sounds twisted from her body like vengeful spirits. Pulling her knees to her chest and pushing her eyes into her knee-caps, her sobs were muffled but grew steadily more powerful.

She couldn't handle it. She'd never asked Hatori if he wanted children. What if he did and she couldn't give that to him? What if that drove a wedge between them and he left to go procreate with some feminine…woman. Cold. Alone. Childless.

Her tears burst out of her like a hurricane. Mayu didn't cry much but when she did, she was a force to be reckoned with, all tears and snot and heaving, choking sobs. Her wail was low and broken.

It took only a few fleeting moments for Hatori to break down. He was still quite irked that his lover was keeping secrets but her tears were too much for his quiet compassionate self to bear. He slid himself over the tatami until he was pressed against her convulsing form. Reaching out the same arm that had offered the water, he held her close.

She barely felt how warm he was when he decided to take pity on her misery. She didn't deserve it. Slowly, surely, her grief began to quiet from its tumultuous sobs to smaller heaves to a slow and steady fountain of silent tears. His masculine hands gently coaxed her from her fetal position until she was leaning against his trunk and clinging to his arm with two desperate hands.

At last, her weeping ended, and a strange empty feeling took its place. Hatori leaned his head against hers, taking care not to knock skulls. His hair was damp; she must have thrown up on him to make him take a shower so recently after stopping her fall. Her face flushed. How embarrassing. That would also partially explain the dead-gerbil taste.

The two of them remained in that position for several minutes and she listened to his steady heart. She didn't know enough to tell if it was faster than normal or not, but it ticked along like a clock only she could hear.

"Mayuko." Hatori's voice slid through the air like it had always been there and she just hadn't been listening hard enough.

She braced herself for his anger's return.

"Sensei." He used his rather kinky nickname that she earned once in an encounter when she'd supposedly seduced him with her paper-grading methods. She hadn't bought it, but she didn't complain and the title stuck. It was something he only called her when he wanted something.

"Tell me what's the matter, Mayuko-sensei…" His murmur was warm on her ear, yet her hollowness wouldn't dissipate.

"I…" She was trying to speak, so he stopped begging and waited patiently for her to build up the courage. "Er… Hatori, have you ever thought about having children?"

His body jerked a little. He hadn't been expecting that.

"Why, are you pregnant?"

There was a dead silence. Of course he would have taken it that way, that's exactly what it sounded like she was getting at.

"No." The syllable hurt to say. "And…" Her voice broke.

"What if I can't?"

"Can't have children? Don't be ridiculous." He seemed relaxed, as if her fears didn't mean anything. It irked her a little but she was too deep in her sorrow to start an argument. "You're hardly old enough to be menopausal. I mean-"

"Think about it." She turned her head to look straight into his eyes, wanting him to perceive her sincerity. There was nothing less than dead serious about this.

He saw what she was trying to convey and waited, a bit shocked, for her to continue.

"All the times we haven't really been that careful. All the times where I prayed I wouldn't be late. And I never was." His face showed that he understood but not what he made of it. "What if I can't? What if I'm not woman enough?"

He gently pulled his arm away and turned to look at her soberly. He didn't seem to be studying her red-rimmed eyes or her cracked lips. He took in all of her at once. He pursed his lips, though not as if he didn't like what he saw.

"If you're really that concerned, would you like a doctor's opinion?"

She didn't really have to give any indication of yes or no, he just continued, first pulling her sweater over her head, leaving her in a black tank, then gently turning her until she was on her stomach on the floor. Mayu rested her head on top of her arms and closed her eyes. She felt too empty to be truly curious.

His long fingers gently ran up her neck. Before she'd met Hatori, Mayu had assumed all doctors had cold hands. It made them seem objective and unobtrusive even as they poked and prodded. Her new, favorite doctor was different. Carefully, he massaged under her jaw and down her neck, stopping at the center-front for a moment.

"Any pain here?"

"No. Nnn." She didn't want to speak.

"Good. Your thyroid's fine then."

His fingers moved down the bumps of her upper spinal column for half a moment before kneading her upper back and shoulder blades. She hummed. He was good at it. She thought she heard him murmur 'so tense' but she wasn't paying careful attention. His precise doctor's hands were making it impossible to think of anything else.

"Hmm. Push against my hands now, please." He had his palms on the back of her shoulders. She didn't understand but complied nonetheless. The stretch was amazing, popping open cramps that she hadn't felt. The release was instantaneous and extremely satisfying. She groaned, low and long until she'd gotten all she could from the simple motion.

His fingertips were suddenly under the fabric of her shirt, tripping delicately over the ridge of her spine, starting on her neck and gaining dangerously low ground.

"What are you doing?" She had the nerves enough to ask, a little indignant at the intrusion.

"Counting vertebrae. Making sure you aren't some genetic mutant." His fingers were at the sensitive skin of her lower back. She drew a sharp breath. He skimmed over her rear as if by accident. Mayu realized she was tingling. Her face was hot. She felt like a girl rather than a worn-out old woman.

He intruded under her shirt again, reaching around the front, in a position that she could feel the buttons of his shirt against her back. Firmly, he applied pressure on her stomach, below her navel.

"Does this hurt?" She was very distracted and torn beneath her worry and her desire. The latter was beginning to win.

"No." Her voice trembled. His fingers moved to a new location, and pressed again.

"How about here?" His voice, usually so simple, between severe and somber, was nearly purring.

"N-no." He was taking her off guard, his scent and the warmth radiating from his heart and his veins. Though she couldn't see him, he dazzled her.

He pulled her back into an upright position, sitting between his crossed legs, and held her close enough that she couldn't turn to stare into his unrevealing face. His arms locked around her, and again she got the sensation that she was very young. An emotional infant.

"One last question: when was the last day of your period?" If his voice was any less professional she would've slapped him. Instead, she chose to answer.

"Three days ago." His neck rubbed slightly against her head as he nodded.

Sneakily, as if they'd always been there, she felt his lips against her ear. They gently parted, as if he was kissing her.

"You want to know my diagnosis?" She shivered, somehow a little scared, but also shaking with an uncontrolled electric current. His teeth grazed from the modest pearl-drop in her lobe to the top of the surely-red shell. Mayu couldn't help humming.

She hardly had time to blink before both his hands were grasping her face and turning it up towards his. His eyes were serious as she'd ever seen them and their equally breathless faces were centimeters away. One thumb parted her lips as he stared into her, knowing her, sharing with her, loving her.

Just before their mouths collided, he gave his report.

"Not trying hard enough."

---

Heh heh. I love this couple. Sorry if it got a little long!

Hope you enjoyed! Please R&R!