Dear Guest, stripstripe, thank you for the lovely reviews. I got back to this chapter after a long while and it will hopefully, still stick with the spirit of the fic. :)



What had she said? Unchanging reality, neverending banquet, eternal bonds.

The dream.

He couldn't help but be derisive about the naivety involved in that vision. Both his and hers. His dream, however has long been stripped of its romanticism and the accompanying delusions.

What had Mayu-chan said to her parents about him? It had made him laugh for days.

Oh yes.

"I am not going to marry him. He is just my ex boyfriend. If you want to marry a wolf with no sheep's clothing over his eyes, you are both free to do so."

And he had laughed. Laughed like when he was with Ayame or Hatori. The startled expression on her face when he smiled after his laughter died out was cute. He chose not to tell her that at that moment. Something like that should be said at inappropriate ones.

"I think about you, and only you...and that is the irrevocable truth" he could hear himself saying, one lazy Sunday afternoon in Shiraki bookstore as he flipped absently through pages of a dreadful novel. Mayu looked up from the set of books she was arranging and looked at his face. He wondered whether she caught the expression on his face, when she said quickly, "I don't remember reading that. Which book are you reading?"

The unease in her tone meant she had noticed.

Oh well.

He grinned, seizing the opportunity. "Chronicles of Mayu-chan's disappointed love. It has been two years and yet she remains, steadfastly loyal to a friend who has forgotten her love and a man who has found his happiness while she wastes away, pining like Shakespeare's Ophelia.."

"That's enough, Shigure" she said, irritably. "Do you want me to ban you from this store?"

"You can do that?" he asked her, raising his eyebrows to imply a challenge. "How, Mayu-chan?"

"You understand how a restraining order works, don't you?" she hissed.

"I understand, but isn't that a bit extreme?" he asked, lightly as he walked towards where she was seated. "Don't you feel stupid? Both of them have found their paths to happiness and you are the one that hasn't let go. "

"What do you mean?" She turned to face him as he leaned down.

"You haven't seen Ha-san since then. It is the best evidence of your feelings."

She pursed her lips, in that angry way whenever he invaded her space and he could see her body stiffening as if she was being caged. She was so tightly wound within herself,and this is where he noticed that obstinacy she shared in common with her...and he felt a desperation, anger, and sardonic amusement bubbling within him all at once.
Of course I love her. I love her so much that I would spoil her, so much that I would happily trample her...

Mayu was aware of his mercurial moods and expressions as she said softly, as if to take the pin out of the tension in the air, "So has he found happiness then?"

Shigure refused to move. He was pushing something, and although he was aware of the boundaries and the vague possibilities, he presented it as a reckless challenge. He smirked, choosing his words carefully, or not quite carefully at all. "With Satsuki. A bit like Kana. Cheerful, a little ditzy.."

She levelled her gaze with his. "I see" she said, a little wistfully. And Shigure felt relief and irritation at her resignation again to how things were. He had to prove a point, push something because back at the Sohma's, he was getting dirtier and dirtier and he was tired of it all..and if he was not aware of how unrepentant bastard he was, he would have moved forward when Mayu's palm touched the bare skin at the crook of his neck to push him away. Both she and he felt his heart give a start at her touch, and he wasn't really sure he wanted to question what it meant or whether or not it will distort his reality, but she pulled her hand back, flushed and went back to arranging books with remarkably deceptive composure. Shigure looked at her contemplatively as she walked to nearby shelves, ignoring his presence or acting as if she couldn't feel his gaze assessing her.

He would have kissed her back then, when she parted his hair and looked defiantly up at him but he didn't because she treated it as a game where he had to one-up her. He would have kissed her now, if she had treated it as game where she would challenge him by putting her hand where it was, watching and daring him to make a move. This time, however, she didn't and stepped back. Only her shaking fingers as she prised books off their shelves gave away the affect it had on her. "Well, how about you go out with me again?"

"No, thank you" she said, quickly. "I'll pass."

"Ah, Mayu-chan. I am not quite the evil reincarnate you imagine me to be, am I?" he pouted.

"That's not it" she told him, and the sincerity in her voice intrigued him as it amused him. "I'm not going to give into loneliness and date other people.."

If I had not wandered around, I would have exploded..

Her words painted a reflection and he said, with caustic edge to his voice, "That kind of thinking is called foolishness."

He shrugged, as he headed towards the door with books under his arm. "But it appears," he paused, " I happen to rather like foolish women."

"Thanks then" she replied, putting the books on the desk. "The book you ordered should arrive day after."

He sighed, watching his reality realign. That woman has right after all, not about her unchanging reality but certainly of his.

He had been selfish enough to try, but there were few people he was certainly fond of, and he would definitely enjoy seeing the furious look on Mayu-chan's face at his intervention. "I'll come and pick it up."

"Sure" Mayu said, tonelessly, her face smooth. He hid his grin as he walked out.

"Oh, Ha-san. The entire stock of the book you wanted will be shipped to Shiraki bookstore tomorrow..."

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