Another Mabudachi trio-centric fic, but with a very different tone this time around. While writing about these three, I began to wonder how Hatori's grieving affected his best friends. It couldn't have been easy on any of them. So this is about Ayame coming to stay with Hatori the night he had to erase Kana's memory. Shigure makes a cameo, because you can't write about two of these three without including the other one somewhere. ;) Thanks for reading - R/R! Don't own Fruits Basket.

The door creaked on its hinges as it was thrown open – the first sound aside from his own breathing that he had heard since her footsteps as she walked down the snow-covered path.

"Hatori!" a voice exclaimed.

But it was a male voice – and one he recognized well, for that matter – so he didn't bother turning around.

"Go away, Ayame," Hatori whispered.

"Hatori, why did you do it?" his friend's voice insisted, this time closer. "You didn't have to. Nobody made you do that."

"Quit talking, Ayame."


"I said stop it!" Hatori shouted, turning around and throwing a haphazard punch. Ayame dodged it, but the surprised look in his friend's eyes was enough to make Hatori lose his composure completely. First a couple of tears slid down his face, then a couple more, and before he knew it, he was sobbing into his own shaking hands, his entire body trembling like a leaf.

"Sit down," Ayame urged softly. Though his tears blurred his vision out of his one good eye, Hatori could feel himself being led to his own bed. He begrudgingly allowed Aya to push him into a sitting position.

"Hatori, you have to explain to me what happened. I know about Akito's reaction a month ago, but what went on today? What changed? I thought things were getting better – your eye had just healed enough to take off the bandages and everything."

"That's the problem," Hatori said bitterly. "I can see again. I could see things exactly as they are, and I couldn't pretend anymore."

"Pretend what?"

"I couldn't pretend that she was going to get better if I didn't do something!" Hari exclaimed. "She was getting worse by the day. I could abide with the nightmares and the silences and the unexplained tears. But when I was able to look into her eyes again – and when I realized how different they were from the eyes I had fallen in love with – I realized that something had to change. Something big."

Hatori's tears had slowed, but he was still shaking violently.

"So you actually went through with it," Ayame echoed. "You erased her memory."

"Only the memories of loving me," Hatori replied, as though defending himself. "She still remembers all the medical knowledge she gained over the past few months. She even remembers the other members of the main house that she met. Not the curse, of course, but everything else."

Hatori's newfound composure began to waver once again.

"She even remembers me, Aya," he said softly. "But not the real me. She only remembers Hatori Sohma as her strict and austere teacher. She doesn't remember laughing when I fell into the creek on our first picnic together. She doesn't remember the kitten we nursed back to health together. She doesn't remember the dinners we cooked together or the look on my face the first time we kissed…"

The tears were coming faster again, and Ayame knew he had to do something to distract his friend.

"Hatori, you must have had a good reason for wiping those memories away," Ayame insisted. "It wasn't on an impulse – I know you better than that."

"I had to save her, Aya!" Hari shouted, his show of emotion uncharacteristic at best. "Don't you understand? I couldn't watch her waste away like that. When I could so easily save her. I told her once, when we were first seeing one another, that I would die if it meant she never had to feel another moment of pain as long as she lived. It was a promise that I intend to keep."

Ayame was struck silent. He never knew that his childhood friend was so incredibly strong. He knew about Hatori's mathematical brilliance, handsome looks, and aptitude for medicine, but he never could have guessed that he sat in the presence of such a resolute, compassionate, self-sacrificing man.

"You are an honorable man, Hari," Aya said.

"Too honorable for my own good, I think," Hari replied with dark chuckle.

Ayame shook his head, a weak smile beginning to overtake his features.

"You would do it again, though. You can't deny that."

Therew as a moment of silence before Hatori nodded and lowered his head again. Another tear landed on the white cotton labcoat he still wore.

"I would do it again, Aya. You're right. But I would have done one thing differently. I would have kissed her goodbye one more time. I would have held her for awhile and steeled myself for the blow. I would have given her a little something to remember me by, even if she wouldn't know what it meant later."

Hatori was sobbing in earnest again, his head balanced on his fist.

"There are so many what-if's that I can't answer. What our children would have looked like. How we would celebrate our anniversaries. And the hardest part to stomach is that I never will get those answers. I'll wonder forever."

Ayame sighed, knowing that the logical ways of comforting someone wouldn't be of any use. Feeling as though he could safely leave Hatori alone for a few minutes, he stepped across the hall into an office where he could find a phone. He tapped Shigure's number in quickly and tapped his foot while the other line rang.

"Hey," Shigure finally said, sounding winded. "What's up?"

"He did it, Shigure. The rumors were true."

"You're lying!" Shigure exclaimed, his voice full of disbelief.

"I wish I were. I can't leave him alone much longer, but I have a question you might be able to help me with. When you're writing one of your suspense stories, what kind of thing does the enemy use to knock someone out? Like what kind of medicine?"

"Well, I guess the old standby is chloral hydrate," Shigure replied, sounding a little confused.

"Would that be commonplace in a doctor's office?"

Ayame's intent was suddenly quite clear.

"Aya, be careful," Shigure said. "He's going to have to face this sometime."

"But sometime isn't tonight," Ayame replied impatiently. "Now what's a reasonable dose?"

"It will say on the label. But Aya – "

"We'll be fine," Ayame interrupted. "I'm staying the night, and you should come over tomorrow morning. I'm going to have to open shop because Mine has the flu. Goodbye, Shigure."

Ayame dropped the phone unceremoniously back in its cradle. Shigure might call back, but in that case, he would be ignored. There were much more urgent matters at hand. Aya's next move was to turn on the light and start opening cabinets and going through drawers. He finally found the stash for which he was looking: the cabinet filled to the brim with little orange bottles.

"Jackpot," he whispered to himself.

The battle wasn't won yet, though. Ayame read what felt like a thousand little white labels before he finally found what Shigure had told him about: chloral hydrate. The bottle was labeled with a name and diagnosis as well: "Akito Sohma – for insomnia."

"Makes sense," Ayame murmured. "Sorry Akito – your next prescription is going to be one dose short."

Slipping one of the little red pills into his pocket, Ayame headed for the kitchen. He set to work making a rice ball with pickled plum. It was an ordinary rice ball, except for one major factor: he slipped the pill into the little pickled plum on the back. Hopefully the taste and texture of the fruit would allow the pill to go unnoticed. When he returned to Hatori's room, his friend was predictably right where he had left him.

"I brought you a rice ball, Hari," Ayame said softly. "You need to eat."

"I don't want to eat."

"Of course not. But it's funny; the things we want least to do are quite often the things we need to do the very most. I believe you saw that philosophy in action today, come to think of it."

Hatori gave Ayame a long look, but finally accepted the food held out to him and began to eat. He looked somewhat suspicious when the plum went "crunch," but continued to eat. Ayame wondered if Hari really was so out of it that he couldn't figure out the ulterior motive behind the late-night snack. More likely, Aya decided, Hari just didn't care. If he was at all smart, he probably wanted it himself.

The two sat in silence for a few moments before Hatori's eyes finally began to droop.

"You did this on purpose," he sighed, lying back on the bed. "I heard you rattling the pill bottles."

"Yes, but you're not fighting it," Ayame replied. "I'm staying for the night on your couch. Shigure's coming over tomorrow morning."

Hatori only grunted and rolled over, clearly too heartbroken and drugged into exhaustion to attempt to fight. He sniffled a couple of times into his pillow, but his breathing had evened out into a peaceful sleep before Ayame had even turned out the lights.

Ayame was sadder than he could say as he walked back into Hatori's living room. The usual bounce in his step was long gone, and a leaden dragging had replaced it. He yawned once, but realized that he didn't feel sleepy. Unwilling to waste anymore of the chloral-whatsit drugs on himself, he decided to occupy himself with the bit of work he usually kept with him. Aya pulled out the tote bag he had stashed under the sofa upon his arrival.

A lump rose in Ayame's throat as he pulled out a fragment of the project on which he had been spending the majority of his time: it was the sleeve of a white A-line, French-lace gown in perfect 36-30-36 measurements. Kana Sohma's size. She had secretly asked him to make her a wedding gown about a week before the fateful meeing with Akito, and he had dutifully been sewing faux pearls and embroidering swirls into some of his finest satin ever since.

Oh, how things changed.

When Ayame got back to the shop, he would resize the bodice and move on, of course. There were other clients that would pay top-dollar for such a fashionable and finely-made garment. He could only hope that Hatori would eventually be able to do likewise. There were other girls who would fall hard for a handsome and clever doctor. Hopefully one day after the pain had run its course, Hatori wouldn't hold it against these girls that they weren't Kana.

Yes, this was Aya's prayer.