A/N: I was really hoping to have this out two Sundays ago but I was busy. In fact, I'm still busy. That's college life for you. After writing this chapter bit by bit, I finished it. This chapter sets the stage for the next chapter, which I have wanted to write for weeks. Any guesses about what might happen? Anyway thanks to sesshbaby, Kendra Harrison, and DarkestInk for their reviews. They are much appreciated. :)
THE FALL: Matters of the Heart
"That dinner had a couple consequences I didn't see coming. My parents grounded me for a week, not just a few days as I'd thought. They actually believed that I took advantage of an insecure and vulnerable girl by manipulating her emotions. Plus they were still peeved about me calling Minako 'hot.' The second thing was, Hitomi wasn't at school for the rest of the week."
"That's all I need from you," Shigure finished telling Hatori over the phone. He was in his parents' bedroom, using the phone there. Normally he would use the phone downstairs but his phone privileges had been revoked for a week. Luckily, his parents were still downstairs in the living room. He sat on the carpeted floor, resting his back against the bed. No matter what he did, he could never truly get comfortable. Shigure sighed. "Can you do it, Hari?"
"I was going to drop her homework tomorrow but I suppose I can do it tonight," Hatori stated. "But I'm pretty sure Hitomi's okay. Do you know how crazy Minako would have to be to do something like that?"
Shigure ran his free hand through his black hair. "If you had seen her that night, Hari, you would understand."
"...I'll get Ayame to come with me. We'll let you know how Hitomi's doing as soon as possible."
Shigure didn't know how long he waited. He was lying on his bed, legs dangling off the side, as his brown eyes moved to his clock. The clock on his bedroom wall claimed it had only been two hours but it felt like forever. After a while, he wondered if something had happened to Ayame and Hatori. Maybe they had stumbled on something they weren't supposed to and Minako didn't want the truth to get out. What would stop Minako from-!
TAP! TAP! TAP!
Shigure bolted up from his bed and turned toward the window. He hurried over when he saw it was Hatori. "I'm surprised that you were able to climb that tree," Shigure said after he opened the window. "It's not as good as the one outside of Hitomi's window."
"Yes but I don't get why you didn't try to use it to go check on her yourself," Hatori said from the tree branch. He didn't bother making his way across toward the window; he didn't trust the branch enough with his own weight. For someone like Shigure, who was shorter and a bit lighter, he might be able to pull it off.
"I didn't think about it actually," Shigure admitted. Up till now, he never had a reason to sneak out of his house. His parents usually didn't ground him for more than a couple of days. "Not like I could have. My parents have been checking to make sure I don't sneak out. So how is she?"
"She's fine," Hatori responded. "She just didn't feel well the last two days."
Shigure raised his eyebrows but didn't say what was on his mind. "Will she be in school Monday?"
"She should be. I can't see Minako-!" Hatori stopped mid-sentence as if he was about to say something he shouldn't.
"Minako what?" Shigure pushed.
"It's nothing," Hatori stated. "The most important thing is that Hitomi's fine."
Hatori was right. For now, that was the most important thing. Shigure would have hated for something to happen to her, especially if he had been the cause.
"Monday couldn't have come fast enough. However, Hitomi wasn't in homeroom. Hatori later told me that Hitomi had switched into a different one. I thought that was what he wanted to tell me last night. Hitomi switching homerooms wasn't a problem. I could just see her during lunch."
The moment lunch started, Shigure was out of his seat before Hatori and Ayame could say anything. Hitomi had been moved two classrooms down, which wasn't all that far. He wondered if Minako knew how close they still were to each other. He entered classroom 2-D and immediately spotted Hitomi in the back, opening her bento box. "Hitomi!"
She looked up, clearly surprised to see him. All of her fellow classmates looked as well but that didn't bother him. He started heading toward her desk.
"Sohma Shigure," said a bored voice behind him. Shigure turned around and looked at the teacher sitting behind his desk. The man put down his chopsticks and sighed loudly. Slowly, as if he was drawing out the anticipation, he wiped his hands and threw the napkin on the desk. "You really shouldn't be here. Ms. Sohma's orders, Ms. Sohma being Hitomi's mother."
Shigure looked at Hitomi and she sheepishly look down at her lunch.
"Shigure," the teacher said, speaking up again and not even hiding his irritation. "You can leave now."
Shigure went back into the hallway. Ayame and Hatori were already waiting outside. "The teacher kicked me out," he told them.
Ayame frowned. "Well that's sort of rude. You should march back in there and demand to see Tomi this very instant."
Shigure wanted to laugh. "If only it was that easy."
"Maybe we should ask Akemi for help," Hatori suggested. "Tell her to grab Hitomi for another 'Student Council meeting.'"
"Wow, Hari," Ayame said in awe, clearly impressed. "I didn't think you were so devious."
"I wouldn't exactly call it devious, Ayame," Hatori said. It wasn't often he would condone such behavior. Unlike his two best friends, tricking an authority figure was something he did mind doing.
"Would Akemi even help?" Shigure asked out loud.
"She might," Ayame said. "Isn't messing with Tomi what she does?"
They found the Student Council President in Room 3-C eating at her desk. When the Mabudachi Trio approached them, she gave them the strangest of the looks. Shigure quickly launched into his story. Akemi listened to Shigure's plan of luring Hitomi out of the classroom. At the end of his explanation, she returned to her lunch, picking up some ramen between her chopsticks. "No," she said, putting the noodles in her mouth.
"I thought you out of all people would enjoy pulling a prank on Hitomi," Shigure stated, hoping to rile the third year grader.
Akemi put down her chopsticks. "I don't hate Hitomi, you know."
"Yes you do," Ayame quickly disagreed. "You're always mean to Tomi."
"Like the election," Ayame said pointedly.
"I wanted to win, you know."
"Come on, Akemi," Hatori said, interrupting. "You have to admit that even in meetings you're not that nice to Hitomi."
At this, Akemi sighed and picked up her chopsticks. "I know that I may not have been the nicest to Hitomi but I like her now. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have the best presidency, you know? I have the carnival and the school trips. Who has ever hosted a carnival in this school's history? Only me. So why would I play a trick like that on Hitomi? Clearly the teacher had a good reason for not letting you see her, Shigure. Maybe it was because she didn't want to, you know."
Shigure stared at Akemi before sitting across from her. He had thought that if he played to Akemi's 'evil' side, she would do this favor without a problem. Now he realized he had to crank the charm up to one hundred. "You believe in true love, right?"
Ayame and Hatori stared in surprise while Akemi simply blinked. "In what?"
"True love," Shigure repeated. "You believe in it, right?"
"I, uh, think so. What does this have to with Hitomi?"
"Well, you see," Shigure said, holding out for dramatic effect, "I'm in love with her."
The ramen slipped off Akemi's chopsticks. "W-what?"
"I'm in love with Sohma Hitomi," Shigure told the gaping Akemi. "And right now, her mother is trying her hardest to keep us apart."
"It makes so much sense!" Akemi exclaimed, still in shock. "I wondered why Hitomi was transferring to another school before midterms."
Shigure didn't say anything at first. His mind was trying to wrap around what Akemi had just said. But he realized he shouldn't zone out for too long. "Can you help me, Akemi?"
"Well," Akemi said, calming down for a bit. "Since this has to do with love, I suppose I can help you."
Shigure told Akemi to bring Hitomi to the roof top. Up here, he and Hitomi could remain out of the faculty's sight and talk in private. While he waited for Hitomi and Akemi to arrive, his two best friends kept him company. Shigure took the opportunity to bring up what had been bothering him.
"Is that what you wanted to say the other night?" Shigure asked Hatori. "That she was transferring schools?"
Even though he was under fire, Hatori was as calm as ever. "Hitomi wanted to tell you herself."
Shigure was dying to ask Hatori why Hitomi had told him first. Shouldn't he have been the first person to know? He tried to argue with himself that Akemi knew as well, that it wasn't a matter of favoritism on Hitomi's part. However he could easily argue that Akemi only knew because of Student Council business. Akemi would have to find a replacement Treasurer and she needed as much time as possible. But Hatori? Hatori?
"Maybe Gure wished he knew when you knew, Hari," Ayame thought out loud. All eyes went to him. The snake of the zodiac shrugged. "Gure is Hitomi's boyfriend."
Hatori's eyes moved back to Shigure but Shigure quickly averted his gaze. He could already imagine the look on his friend's face. When Hatori spoke, Shigure was sure he was going to pull the jealousy card but he was caught off guard.
"What you told Akemi, is it true?"
Shigure's face heated up. "I-!"
Suddenly the door to the roof banged open. "Here she is!" Akemi announced. She stepped aside, allowing Hitomi to come out onto the roof.
"We'll leave you two alone," Hatori said much to Ayame's and Akemi's dismay.
Ayame followed Hatori off the rooftop with some reluctance; Akemi had to be pulled away from the door. The two teens waited until the roof door closed before facing each other. Shigure wasn't sure of what to say or do. The vibes he was getting from his girlfriend were not good. To be honest, he was a bit frightened of what she wanted to say. There was a lot going on behind her brown eyes and the sinking feeling in his stomach wouldn't go away.
"Are you really transferring schools?" Shigure forced himself to ask.
Hitomi nodded. "My mom believes that an all-girls school might be better for me."
"... Do you want to go?"
"I don't really have a choice, Shigure." Instead of closing the distance, she took a few steps away, leaning on the roof door for support. "What happened the other day... It made me realize that maybe this isn't such a good relationship."
"Because of Minako," he stated.
"It's not helping either of us," Hitomi said. "We need a break."
"I need a break," Hitomi corrected. "I need to figure me out. I can't do that with you and my mom coming from two different sides."
He stared at her for a moment before asking his question. "How long do we go on break then?"
"I don't know. I just need my space."
Shigure was the one who crossed the distance between them. He trapped her between his arms against the door, his brown eyes boring into hers. Hitomi couldn't keep eye contact for long; she had to look away. For whatever reason, his heart began to ache. He thought about holding her or kissing her, wondering if that would convince her to change her mind. But nothing seemed good enough.
"Hitomi?" She lifted her gaze warily and that was when he knew. They were done.
Shigure pulled away. "You should go. You don't want to be late for your next class."
"Neither do you," she told him.
"Yeah but I think it's best if we go separately."
Hitomi just nodded before opening the door. She paused for a moment. "Have a good afternoon, Shigure."
"I didn't know what to think. Rejection wasn't something I was accustomed to and from my point of view, Hitomi had chosen her mother over me. I got to class late and Aya and Hari looked at me for an explanation. I couldn't tell them until school was over. By then, I had enough time to think about what had actually happened."
Although the classroom was nearly empty, the Mabudachi Trio still hadn't left. If there wasn't a Student Council meeting in the next ten minutes, Shigure would have filled in his best friends on the way home. However, he couldn't wait for the next time the trio would be together again. He had to get what had happened off his chest.
"So that's it?" Ayame asked sadly. "No more Gure and Tomi?"
Shigure shook his head. It was one thing to hear it from Hitomi. He could always hope that Hitomi was just being Hitomi and that her decision wasn't final. Hearing from Ayame's mouth, on the other hand, did make it seem like the end. Shigure had never imagined that he and Hitomi breaking up could be a reality. He also never imagined that any sort of pain would come with it. It was frustrating. Every time he thought about her, there was suddenly an uncomfortable feeling in his chest.
"Wouldn't it be weird seeing your ex-girlfriend every day?" Ayame suddenly asked, oblivious to Shigure's cringe. He was not ready to hear 'ex-girlfriend' yet. Ayame folded his arms, frowning just a bit. "What do you say to each other? What about New Years' when we all have to be in the same room?"
"New Years isn't for another three months," Hatori said matter-of-factly.
"Yeah but still," Ayame said. "Would Tomi ever hang out with us again? I like Tomi but she did break Gure's heart-!"
"She didn't break my heart," Shigure interrupted.
"Really," Hatori said, clearly not convinced.
"Yeah." Shigure ignored the uncomfortable feeling building up in his chest again. "I'm actually happy that we're done. Now I can date whoever I want. Maybe I'll ask Akemi on a date the next time I see her."
"You should do that, Shigure."
The dog of the zodiac turned around and was surprised to see his ex standing behind him. Now he understood Ayame's earlier point. He really wasn't ready to see her again so soon.
"I'm glad you feel that way," Hitomi continued quietly. "I wouldn't want you to be unhappy."
"I was joking about Akemi," Shigure said, trying to shrug the matter off.
"Is that all you were joking about?"
Shigure didn't answer. He wanted to say he hadn't meant any of it but how pathetic would that sound? Should he really be the one apologizing? Funny enough it came down to what was more important: his pride or the girl looking at him at that very instant.
"...Are you in love with me?" She asked.
For a second Shigure wondered where she had heard that from. Then he remembered telling Akemi that. He thought about it for a second before smirking to himself. "Does it matter, Hitomi? Actually," he said, suddenly changing his mind. "I don't think I could ever love you."
Hitomi tore her eyes away, suddenly holding herself in a protective way. Shigure had to avert his gaze. He had been trying to even out the score but for whatever reason he felt worse than before.
Hatori quickly stood up. "You came here so we could go to the Student Council meeting together, right?" He started to grab his stuff in a quick yet calm manner. "We should go before we're late."
Hitomi turned around. "It's okay. I can head over there by myself." Before Hatori could speak, she was already gone.
Hatori stood still for a moment before his eyes went to Shigure. "I hope that was worth it," he told him before he went after Hitomi.
Ayame looked at Shigure, concern etched on his face. "Are you okay, Gure?"
Shigure nodded his head although he thought that the answer should have been obvious.