A/N: I have not written in a while so am not quite sure how this is going to turn out. This is going to be multi-chaptered, just how many I can't quite say at the present moment. Most characters you know in FB will make an appearance but central characters, as always in my stories, are Shigure and Hatori, and a lot of Akito and the three kids as well. So..enjoy~
"All of you wish to see me dead. You think I don't know." The small fist stabbed a vicious dent in the weathered zabuton. "You think I'm stupid."
"Aren't you tired, Akito-san?"
Her glare, feral and vicious, was ineffective to say the least. Shigure showed no sign of cowering.
"Tired of what? Of this deep-seated sickness eating away at my bones? Of this imprisonment Hatori insists on calling respite despite the certainty of my impending death?"
Shigure's handsome face remained impassive.
"Of course I am." A humourless chuckle tickled the back of her throat.
"But most of all…I'm tired of you."
You, who swears your allegiance to me-
Shigure's smirk had a mind of its own everytime he was around Akito; it never looked as cruel as with anybody else.
-yet betrays me with your little lies, and cruel smiles.
"I see." His answer, short and curt, made Akito's sullen frown falter; his shadow loomed over her as Shigure rose to leave-
"Then I see no reason to worry."
Akito glanced at him sharply, her expression demanding but one thing: an explanation. Shigure was no longer smiling, and his eyes shone dark and black.
"You are the one person I know who savours loneliness even in the presence of company."
Despite herself, Akito wanted so desperately to say she did not mean what she said, that she wanted him to stay –
But the magic was lost, and the spell broken. Their moment was gone, for tonight at least. She could tell as much from the stiff, unyielding form of his shoulders as he bent abruptly forward - she barely felt the light, brief brush of his lips against her cold cheek.
"I'll leave you alone now, Akito-san."
She watched Shigure's shadow disappear beyond the shoji doors, and only when she was completely and utterly alone did she bow her head – in despair? In relief?
Could you tell, Shigure?
She did not know. She touched a tentative finger to her face where his scent lingered.
How disappointed I was? Could you tell when you kissed me?
"She didn't look well."
"She has not been doing great lately." Hatori let a small sigh escape despite his effort to not let his suspicion show. Shigure showing up late at night to pay Akito an impromptu visit was never a good thing. "Please tell me you did not upset her."
His friend did not answer immediately. With Shigure's back to him, Hatori did not even have much luxury in the way of reading his face.
"She didn't look well at all."
Hatori's fingers unconsciously gripped his pen tighter.
"I'm trying my best, Shigure."
"Hmm?" Shigure's head rotated slightly to the side, the angle still not acute enough for Hatori to see beyond his side profile, but what little Hatori could see of his expression, it was one of confusion.
"I wasn't questioning your competence, Haa-san."
It took him a while, but in the end, Hatori sighed apologetically. "I know you weren't."
Perhaps I was the one questioning it.
"She looks thin."
"It's always worse for her this time of the year. It'll pass soon."
"It's bad for everybody this time of the year." As if on cue, Shigure himself let out a series of half-suppressed, painful coughs, which, for an untrained ear, may have seemed faked.
"How long have you had that cough?"
"Since…the last time I saw you for that cold I had?" Shigure's eyebrows crinkled. "When was it-last month?"
"The kids told me you got better." Hatori's accusatory tone was uncalled for, and Shigure's cigarette-holding hand stilled midair on its way to his lips.
"Cough must have stayed then. It isn't a big deal."
"It is when you're only 27 and already coughing like an old man missing a lung." He held out an unwavering hand. "I'm confiscating all your cigarettes."
"You're not serious. First you tell me I can't smoke in my own home because of Yuki-kun, and now this?"
Hatori only stared at him blankly, hand still out-stretched. Soon a half-empty pack of cigarettes landed in his palm.
"Take it. There's plenty where that came from." He sounded teasing, but Hatori seriously doubted Shigure was in a jesting mood tonight. Rarely the dragon spirit experienced difficulty tolerating his cousin's presence and sometimes even welcomed it – life in the Main House could get intensely mind-numbing – but when Shigure was like this…Hatori knew there was nothing he could say or do that could reach him.
Shigure did not come for conversation. If he did, he would have initiated one already.
"It's getting late. Do you want me to drive you home?" Hatori asked casually, the slightest hint of uneasiness tingeing the edge of his question.
Shigure mumbled something under his breath.
"What was that?" Hatori was just putting the contraband cigarettes in his drawer; he'd missed Shigure's half-hearted reply
"It's just-" Shigure drew in a shuddering breath. "It's nothing. Forget it. Forget I said anything."
"Shigure. If you don't spit it out, I'm going to hit you."
Shigure brushed stray bangs out of his eyes. He had a troubled look on his face. "Dreams."
"Dreams," Hatori echoed.
"I'm having dreams. Bad dreams."
Hatori clasped his hands in his lap, the ball of uneasiness growing in the pit of his stomach.
"I can't sleep, I can't think-" Shigure appeared to be wanting to say something else, but after a few seconds, decided against it.
He abruptly grabbed his coat from behind the door. "Never mind. I'll see myself out."
"Shigure," Hatori growled warningly.
"Maa, maa, Haa-san…" Shigure waved a placating hand. "It really is nothing! Just too much coffee and too little sleep is all!"
Hatori knew better than to pursue the matter. He knew Shigure well enough to know how protective he was of his secrets, big or small. He also knew Shigure well enough to know that if he could just wait, sooner or later Shigure would come to him and tell him what was bothering him, if Shigure ever wanted to.
Nobody could make Shigure do anything he did not want to do. Except for one person.
And if that one person could not give the solace Shigure so desperately sought tonight, Hatori knew better than to expect he could.
Hatori sighed. He retrieved the pack of cigarettes from his desk and wordlessly handed it back to Shigure.
The grateful look on Shigure's face was possibly not worth the concern the doctor had for the obvious disregard with which the novelist was taking care of himself, but they were both adults now. And Shigure was his friend.
"So you'll have some to share the next time you come around."
To be continued...