Title: In the Dark (Chapter 12)
Spoilers/Warnings: hints at Manga 17
Link to Chapter 11
Link to Chapter 13
Hatori looked up when he heard someone shifting uncomfortably in the doorway to his office, and his face hardened at the sight of Kureno standing there.
“Yes?” he asked curtly.
“Akito-sama wants to know the condition of his Snake,” he said.
“His Snake is ill, so you can consider your job well done, even if you didn’t manage to kill him, this time,” Hatori said coldly.
“I’m sorry, I cannot disobey him though. When you say ill, how ill?”
“He has a fever, and a chest infection is starting to set in, so his asthma will more than likely flare up. Will that satisfy his vengeful soul for a while, or should we expect another attack?” he asked.
“He seems to be focused on something else at the moment, he knows you and Ayame are together now, and he’s obsessing over ‘the first alliance’, whatever that is,” Kureno sighed.
“What makes him think that Ayame and I are together?” Hatori asked, his blood running cold.
“Don’t take me for an idiot, Hatori, I could see your worry for him when you tore off to Shigure’s house, and I know he’s been in love with you since he was a boy. I told Akito-sama you were together, because you are,” Kureno said in annoyance.
“And he didn’t immediately send you back to hurt Aaya again? He must be slipping,” Hatori snorted bitterly.
“I told you, he started obsessing about this first alliance, all he wanted to know about Ayame is his condition, for the moment. I should get back to him,” he said, turning away.
“Damn it Kureno, why do you stay with him, continue to do his will? You of all of us have what the rest of us want, and still you stay,” Hatori asked angrily. The rest of them would probably run far and fast, if they had been granted the gift Kureno had, and he was still here.
“Because I promised, because I have no choice, because I love him,” Kureno answered softly, keeping his back to Hatori.
“Does he love you?” Hatori asked.
“No, but that doesn’t matter, I will take what I can get, and at least I have more from him than Ayame got from you before now, at least I know where I stand with Akito-sama,” Kureno said cruelly, walking away.
Hatori slumped back in his chair, feeling a shard of ice twist in his heart at the reminder of how callous he had been to Ayame’s feelings for so long. He didn’t deserve the vibrant, caring, loving, beautiful young man, and he knew it.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” the soft voice from the doorway made him jump, and he looked up, surprised to see Honda-san there.
“You never led Ayame-san on, he always knew where he stood in your eyes, even if it wasn’t where he wanted to stand, and now he has you, and you have him, and when he’s well again, you will still have each other, and Kureno will still be where he is, in the shadow of someone who will take the love he offers without giving anything in return. I wish someone would care about me the way Ayame-san cares about you,” she said quietly.
He thought about the Cat and the Rat, who had both been competing to spend time with her, and smiled faintly, a tiny, wry quirk of his lips.
“That may be closer than you think, Honda-san. Did you need something?” he asked.
“Oh, yes. Shigure-san asked me to come, and bring you some lunch, as you had not eaten breakfast and didn’t bring anything with you,” she said, holding up the small basket he realized she was carrying.
“Oh, that’s very kind of you, Honda-san. You didn’t need to trouble yourself,” he said, surprised.
“It was no trouble. I also wanted to know if there was anything I could bring for Ayame-san, soup or anything?” she offered.
“No, really, that’s too much trouble, and he’s not really up to eating much at the moment.”
“But he still should have something. I will make a light broth tonight, and Shigure-san and Yuki-kun can bring it over for him tomorrow when they come,” she said decisively, placing the basket on the desk and bouncing out of the door, already working out what ingredients she would need to pick up on her way home to make a nice nutritious broth.
Hatori watched her go silently, thinking about what she had said when she arrived, and the depression that Kureno’s cruel parting words had left lifted a little. She was right, he may not have been what Ayame wanted him to be for a long time, but he had never been wantonly cruel the way Akito so frequently was to Kureno. It was unlikely to be a fairy tale romance between himself and Aaya, but they were both in it together now, and as long as they remembered that, they could face their problems.
“Thank you, Honda-san,” he whispered to the empty room, and hoped that Yuki or Kyo sorted themselves out before someone else snuck in and snatched her from under their noses, whichever one of them she ended up with, she would be good for them.
Shigure was sitting on the sofa, reading one of the few fiction books Hatori owned when he returned home that evening.
“Where’s Yuki?” he asked.
“He had to go, he got a call from Haru about a homework problem that has to be handed in on Monday, and realized he hadn’t even started. He’ll bring it with him tomorrow, but for today, he had to make a start.”
“And how has Aaya been?”
“He’s still too hot, we got him to drink as many fluids as we could during the times he was awake, but I don’t know if it was enough. He’s still kind of dehydrated, I think, he only asked to go to the bathroom once all day. His breathing is starting to sound a little wheezy too. I called your office, but the phone rang out, so you must already have been on your way home.”
“I brought some IV fluids home with me, I’ll get him hooked up now, and that should help with his dehydration. I’ll check him over, and if his breathing is that worrying, I’ll ask you to stay a little longer while I run to the hospital and borrow a nebulizer and some oxygen,” he said, picking his bag back up and walking through to the bedroom.
He could feel Shigure hovering in the doorway as he knelt at the side of the bed and picked up one thin wrist to check Ayame’s pulse, but he ignored him, counting off the heartbeats against the sweep of the second hand on his watch. Ayame stirred at the feeling of cooler fingers against his heated skin, and golden eyes, now dimmed with fatigue and fever fluttered open.
“Tori-kun, don’t frown, you’ll get wrinkles,” he wheezed before his eyes dropped shut once more, the sheer exhaustion pulling him under again.
My deepest apologies for the wait. Hopefully we can pick up the pace again now, but please believe me our boys are not forgotten.