A/N: Hey! This is a bit long but I hope you liked it. I had Final Distance by Utada Hikaru in the background as I wrote it. It's a good song. Anyway, thanks to Anonymous (I think this is savethesalmon), THE KYO SOHMA, sesshbaby, and Bookworm and Goldi-Sox for their reviews. Also thanks to those who favorited this story. Enjoy!
THE FALL: Lost and Broken, Pt 1
Shigure's brown eyes snapped open. It was Monday morning. To his chagrin, school would start in the next hour and a half. He was about to get out of bed when he realized someone was onto holding him. Hitomi. She was still sleeping peacefully, undisturbed by his alarm clock. He reached over toward the nightstand and hit the off button. He was certain that his parents had left for work. Usually by this time they were gone and he didn't hear anyone moving about the house.
He unraveled Hitomi's arm from himself and got out of bed. There was one question on his mind – school or Hitomi? He could leave her here; his parents wouldn't be back until a few hours after school ended. But if Hitomi wanted company, he had no problem staying. It wasn't like he was that excited to go to school.
The doorbell rang. Who could that be? Shigure thought as he headed downstairs. Seconds before he opened the front door, the answer hit him: Ayame and Hatori.
His two best friends were already dressed in their school uniforms even though they wouldn't leave for another forty-five minutes. Shigure yawned as he studied his friends' worried faces. "You two are here early," he commented.
"We thought that we should look for Hitomi before school starts," Hatori said.
"Hurry up and get ready, Gure," Ayame urged. "Who knows where our Tomi could be? She must be so lonely and-!"
"She's in my room," Shigure interrupted a bit drowsily. Even when Ayame's eyes widened, Shigure still didn't register how bad that sounded.
"I'm assuming your parents don't know that she's here," Hatori stated, slightly raising an eyebrow. Shigure nodded. "Is she okay?"
"She's fine," Shigure replied. He didn't feel the need to clue Hatori and Ayame in about the bruises. Hitomi probably didn't want anyone to know about that. She hadn't even wanted him to know.
The Mabudachi Trio turned around and saw Hitomi. Her black hair was messy, so much so that there was no way Hitomi knew or else she would have tried to fix it. Except for the swollen cheek, she appeared to be fine. Shigure hoped that Ayame and Hatori wouldn't start asking questions. He knew that once they start, Hitomi would only become upset.
Hitomi's eyes widened when she saw who else was here. "Oh! Why are you guys here?" She asked, the tiredness disappearing from her face.
"We were going to look for you, Tomi," Ayame said. "But Gure said you were here. You seem okay." For reference, he pointed to his own cheek. "What happened?"
"That..." Hitomi sighed before shaking her head. "It's nothing serious. But I'm okay. Really."
Hatori didn't buy it but he didn't say anything either. Instead, he looked toward Shigure and asked, "Are you coming to school today?"
Shigure grinned sheepishly. "That's a good question." He was still working out the answer himself.
"I would like you to stay," Hitomi spoke up. All eyes went to her. For a moment, she hesitated to give an explanation. "I would feel awkward being in your house alone."
Ayame didn't miss a beat. "Why don't we all skip school today?!" He exclaimed.
"Don't be ridiculous, Ayame," Hatori stated. "We can't skip school."
Ayame grinned. "Can't or won't?"
"All three of you don't have to skip," Hitomi said. "It would look suspicious if you all do. I'll be fine with just Shigure."
Hatori looked at Shigure and Shigure shrugged. The dragon of the zodiac looked at Hitomi again. "Can I talk to you, Hitomi? Alone in the kitchen?"
A frown briefly passed over her face before she nodded. "Sure."
The two left the entry way and headed for the kitchen. Ayame and Shigure stood there in silence. It was Ayame who ended up breaking it. "So did you and Tomi, you know?"
"The most we did was share a bed," Shigure said. He would have blushed but his mind was focused on something else. He was trying to figure out what reason Hatori had for pulling Hitomi aside. He didn't know why but it worried him. It wasn't about what Hatori might say or do; it was about how Hitomi might react.
"Tomi... she's really okay, right? She's not lying, is she?"
Shigure turned toward Ayame and sighed. "She said she was, didn't she?"
"She did... I guess if you keep her company today without us, that would be fine. Maybe we can take turns every day," he added with a shrug. "It can be my day to skip school tomorrow."
Shigure smiled wryly. "That's assuming we can keep Hitomi hidden that long."
"I'm sure we can," Ayame said. "Tomi can stay at my place tonight. It should be fun! My parents don't usual pay me much attention with Yuki and all so it should be no problem sneaking food to my room. Sneaking her in, that would be another story."
Before Shigure could comment, Hitomi and Hatori rejoined them in the entryway. "We're going without Shigure," Hatori told Ayame.
Ayame frowned, probably at the way Hatori had said that. Hatori's voice hadn't been its usual neutral tone. However, Ayame didn't question it. He looked at Hitomi and gave her a big hug. "We're having a sleepover tonight, Tomi, just the two of us!"
Hitomi forced a small smile as Ayame pulled away. "If you say so, Aya."
Hatori and Ayame said goodbye as they left the house. Ayame stepped out first. Before Hatori followed, he grabbed Shigure's arm for a second. His voice dropped to a whisper. "Whatever you do today, don't do something stupid."
Shigure briefly glanced at Hitomi. Her brown eyes were on them. "I'll remember that," he said softly. Hatori nodded and walked out. Shigure closed the front door after him. He sighed and faced Hitomi. "So what are we doing today?" He asked her.
"Let's just go out," she replied.
"Anywhere you'd like?"
Hitomi shook her head. "It really doesn't matter to me, Shigure."
"I wanted to know what she and Hatori talked about. But I figured that she had enough on her plate without me prying into her business. Plus I thought I could always ask Hatori later. I always wondered if I had asked then, if things would have played out differently..."
For October weather, it was surprisingly chilly outside. Shigure lent Hitomi a light jacket and some clothes. Even though it was oversized, Hitomi managed to wear them well enough that people on the streets didn't stare. The two spent the whole day going around town, stopping by bookstores, shops, a diner for lunch, and even a bakery on the way home. Shigure and Hitomi took the long way back as they ate their fruit-filled pastries. They were about to pass the local shrine when Hitomi stopped walking.
"Can we stop here?" Hitomi asked.
The two teens climbed the long staircase up. The sun was setting; the higher they climbed, the more beautiful the sunset looked over the town. Hitomi approached the offertory box, put her hands together, and closed her eyes. Shigure watched as he finished his pastry. A minute went by before Hitomi turned around.
"What did you pray for?" He asked.
"I can't say," she said. "If I do, it might not come true."
"You believe in that?"
Hitomi shrugged. "It doesn't hurt... My parents used to come here. I can only guess what they wished for." She suddenly sighed. "You think it's okay to wish for yourself?"
Shigure shrugged. "I don't know. I thought the point was that you can wish for anything, even for your crush to like you."
At this, Hitomi smiled. "I suppose there are more selfish wishes out there."
"Seriously, what did you wish for?"
Hitomi shook her head. "If you must know, I wished for the curse to end."
"How is that selfish?"
"I was only thinking about myself. For most of my life, my mother said that I was the black sheep for a reason. Nobody wants a black sheep. They're worthless and useless. I don't want to be that anymore. I don't even want to be a Sohma. I just want to be-!"
" '–done with all this.' Back then, I couldn't see what she had really meant. I had taken her words at face value. What Hitomi wanted most, probably even needed, was to be loved by someone, anyone. If I had known, I would have said something else."
"We all do," Shigure said. "For our own selfish reasons. You're not the only one, Hitomi."
"... You're right. There's not a single Sohma that calls this a gift."
Shigure walked past Hitomi and toward the offertory box. He thought of a quick prayer. He didn't believe in all this but, like Hitomi said, it couldn't hurt to wish for something. After he was finished, he walked back to Hitomi.
"What did you wish for?" She asked.
Shigure smirked. "I can't say."
Hitomi frowned. "Why not?"
Shigure smiled and looked away. "It won't come true if I do."
"But I told you my wish."
"Well, one of ours should work or else this trip would be a waste." When Hitomi gave him a dirty look, Shigure laughed. "I don't think your wish matters anyway. You're not that person."
She stared at him, momentarily speechless. Then she smiled and shook her head. "What would you know?" Even though those were her words, he knew that she felt differently. The pleased look on her face was enough for him to see that. He cupped her chin and tilted her head up to kiss her. However, at the last second, she turned away. "Not here. This is sacred ground."
Shigure blinked. "How about at the bottom of the stairs?"
Hitomi giggled. "How about at your house?"
Ayame's earlier words came to mind. "S-Seriously?" He asked, feeling the heat rise to his cheeks.
Hitomi blushed. "Not like that! People might see us! People we know! And your parents won't be home for a while, right?"
"I knew what you meant," Shigure claimed.
"I don't want to know what you thought I meant."
"It wasn't that bad!"
"We should go before it gets dark," Hitomi said. She had changed the subject but Shigure wasn't going to protest. Instead he followed her down the stairs.
Once they reached the sidewalk, Shigure grabbed Hitomi's hand and pulled her toward him. Shigure felt his heart race when he saw the confused look in her wide brown eyes. After a few seconds, the look finally changed to one of understanding. Hitomi closed her eyes and gently pressed her soft lips to his. There was innocence behind the kiss, reminiscent of their first real kiss in the woods. Back then the air had been warm on their faces but now it felt raw.
Hitomi slowly pulled away. Shigure was still holding her hand securely in his. "I..." She tried again. "I think we should go now."
"We should." The way Shigure felt in that moment, it wasn't new. He had felt it before. Only now, it had been amplified severely. Shigure couldn't think of the right word but he was beginning to wonder if it was one he didn't use often.
By the time they reached Shigure's house, the sun had already set. Shigure opened the front door and let Hitomi inside first. They were heading for the stairs when Shigure heard his mother. The two stopped in their tracks.
"Shigure? That's you, isn't it?"
"Yes," he replied. Why is she home? He looked at Hitomi and gave her a signal to go upstairs without him. He couldn't let his mother see her. Hitomi was about to sneak upstairs but then—
"Hitomi? You're there, right?"
Hitomi stopped in her tracks. Seconds later, Shigure's mother emerged from the nearby living room. Her eyes went from Hitomi, still halfway up the staircase, and then to her son. "I thought you said Hitomi wasn't here."
"She just got here," Shigure lied.
"Then why is she wearing your clothes?"
Hitomi came down a step. "It's not his fault," she said. This only caused Shigure's mother to frown.
"Your mother is worried about, Hitomi. How can you put her through this?"
Hitomi's expression darkened significantly. "She doesn't care about me."
Shigure ran a hand through his hair. He looked at his girlfriend. "Mom, she-!"
"Your school called us at work, Shigure," his mom interrupted, looking back at her son. "When they said you didn't come in, I thought it might have something to do with Hitomi. I was right."
"...Mom, you didn't call Minako, did you?"
As if to answer his question herself, Minako emerged and stood by his mother. Shigure didn't flinch when she gave him the nastiest of looks. She was clearly placing the majority of the blame on him but her look barely changed when she stared at her daughter. "Let's go home."
Shigure's eyes widened. Never before had he head Hitomi talk that way to her mother.
"Hitomi," Minako said very carefully. "Don't make this difficult."
Hitomi narrowed her eyes and took off upstairs. The three remaining Sohmas stood there. It wasn't until Shigure made a move that the two mothers began to move as well. However, Shigure had a head start and he knew where Hitomi would go to. He reached her first. No sooner than he entered his room, the door slammed shut behind him. Shigure turned around, seeing just as Hitomi locked it. The doorknob rattled.
"Open this door!" Shigure's mother yelled but her shouts were ignored.
Hitomi walked over to the window and pushed it wide open. The screen was still up from the previous night. She paused and clutched at the window sill. "We can run away from all this. There's nothing stopping us."
Shigure took a moment to realize the pronoun she had used. "What do you mean?"
"I don't want to stay anymore but I... I want you to come with me."
Shigure was dumbstruck. The rattling of the doorknob snapped him out of it. "But what about everyone else here? Like Aya and Hari-!"
"I told you last night, didn't I? As long as I have you, I'll be okay. I don't want to do this without you."
"You're not," he said quietly. Before he could say more, he remembered Hatori's words. "Whatever you do today, don't do something stupid." He looked back at the door. The doorknob had stopped rattling. For now, at least. Shigure exhaled slowly, thinking the situation over. "You're not doing anything without me, Hitomi. We just can't do this."
Hitomi swallowed. "Why not?" She asked, keeping her voice steady.
"Because this would be a mistake."
"The only mistake I've ever made was putting up with my mother and this curse. This would be the smartest thing I can ever do."
"This would be the dumbest thing you can ever do," Shigure said. He hadn't meant for it to come out like that; Hatori's words had been on his mind the entire time. However, the instant he saw her recoil, he knew he had said something wrong.
"Do you love me?" Hitomi suddenly asked. "Because if you do, you'd come with me right now."
Shigure had always wanted Hitomi to break free of her mother but not like this. This course of action was rash, which was not a word he would have ever use to describe Hitomi. "Running away won't make things better, Hitomi. We can talk things out with my parents, maybe they can talk Minako out of-!"
"I came back for you, Shigure," Hitomi said, cutting him off. "I could have run away yesterday and not look back. I could have done that but instead I came back for you." Tears started streaming down her face. Hitomi swallowed the hiccups down and clenched her fists. "Don't tell me that was a mistake, too! Don't tell me everything you said was a lie!"
"I... This isn't the only option, Hitomi."
"I knew what I wanted to say but I was young and foolish. I wasn't ready to cut my ties with the Sohmas. I thought that if I didn't say it, maybe Hitomi would stay. I was willing to tell my parents the truth and convince them to not send her back with Minako. I never expected her to say-!"
"I hate you so much."
The bedroom door opened. Shigure turned around and saw his father in the doorway holding a key. He had unlocked it. Before Shigure could speak a word or even his father, Minako charged into his bedroom. She stormed past Shigure and took hold of Hitomi's arm. She yanked the girl away from the window with strength that Shigure didn't know she had.
"You stupid child! Are you trying to make a fool of me?"
Shigure stood there, angry and ashamed of himself. "Be rational, Shigure. Whatever's going on is clearly over our heads."
"Minako!" Shigure heard his mom exclaimed. "Get a hold of yourself!" His mother entered the room but she stopped in her tracks as Minako hit the floor.
Hitomi stood there, breathing hard. It took Shigure a moment to realize that she had pushed Minako down. Minako sat on the floor, looking up at her daughter in shock. Hitomi didn't flinch as she turned away and headed back to the window. Shigure realized that with or without him, she was going to run away. He would never see her again.
At the sound of his voice, she stopped for a second but that all it was. She proceeded to stick a leg out the window, reaching for the nearby branch to pull herself onto it.
Minako stood up and ran toward the window.
"I can't forget the sheer terror in her eyes when Minako reached her. I thought Minako would have dragged her back inside the room. Minako did the opposite. In those final seconds, Hitomi looked at me. There were hatred and hurt in her eyes but there were also anger and fear. Fear of dying, anger at Minako, hurt because of me. The hatred, I was sure that I was at the receiving end."
"I couldn't reach her in time."