Goo's Note- This fic was written for one reason and one reason only: to plug my new Ritsu shrine.
VISIT MONKEY BUSINESS, THE FIRST, ONLY, AND POSSIBLY LAST SHRINE TO SOUMA RITSU ON THE INTERNET!!! http://www31.brinkster.com/ritsu/index.htm
That said, enjoy the fic.
Disclaimer- Fruits Basket isn't mine. If it were Ritsu would appear in more than one volume of the manga and more than one episode of the anime.
WARNING!!!- This is not a "romance" fic like you are expecting, and its unfortunate that its the only way I can classify it. It is VERY dark, somewhat disturbing, and does not involve the conventional sense of love that is usually chronicled in the romance genre. Dont say I didnt warn you...
Note- My knowledge of the manga being limited, I am working mostly off anime continuity. However, the "shrewd Shigure" image is from the manga, though the way I show him is more anime-like.
Written by A Girl Named Goo
Chapter One: Understated
avoiding obvious emphasis or embellishment - Merriam Webster's CollegiateŽ Dictionary, 10th Edition
There were several sides to Souma Shigure. Some who knew him knew him as a happy-go-lucky, perverted man who seemed to spend a great deal of time fantasizing about girls little over half his age and writing dirty books when he was supposed to be writing his "epic manuscripts". Others knew him as someone who could always get his way, a subtly devious person who could find ways of getting people to do whatever he wanted without them knowing he was convincing them of anything. And still others knew him as fearless, someone who could face the mysterious and intimidating head of the Souma family without an ounce of fear in him.
Now, if anyone asked Shigure to his face what he thought of this image of himself he might have dodged the subject or, depending on who it was, tell them this was exactly the image he wanted to project. And, unfortunately, this would make Shigure a liar, for deep down inside he knew he impressed no one, not even himself.
For the better part of his life this didn't disturb Shigure. He had his closest friends, the people he wished to respect him did, and he really did like getting whatever he wanted whenever he wanted it. Though he had a void in his life from being unable to be physically intimate with the women he loved to flirt with and seduce, he had long since been able to get past this hurdle in his life. After all, if he hadn't been able to then he would never have been able to live. This was the true pain of the curse, after all, and if the Juunishi could find a way to rise above this then they were already on their way to beating it, to living with the curse rather than living by it.
However, living had grown much easier and harder in recent months upon the arrival of Honda Tohru to his home. Shigure had never thought having her living in his house could be so difficult. It wasn't just that he couldn't have her if he wanted to. No, it was so much more than that. It was the way she looked at Yuki and Kyou, a look that Shigure wished she would use for him.
Shigure had no doubt Tohru loved him. She was incapable of not loving him, after all. She was grateful to him for giving her a home and making her feel like she belonged in his house. She respected him as a professional adult. And the fact that she seemed to be unable to not love anyone also added to this. But she would never be able to respect Shigure as the person he truly was, and as a result she would never give him the same looks she gave to Yuki and Kyou. And for some reason this made Shigure jealous.
To a dog, jealousy is not entirely unheard of. They were territorial creatures and could get aggressive if another intruded on their territory. This was especially true when it came to females. But if it was one thing all dogs understood it was never try to steal the female of another male. Hence Shigure was powerless to make his feelings known, lest it disturb the pseudo-serenity that had taken so long to attain in his household.
"Shigure-san?" a light voice asked, jerking Shigure from his thoughts. Hed had his hands poised over the keyboard, but having lost himself in thought the screensaver had switched on, betraying that he wasnt really working. Now little flying toasters were mocking him, calling him lazy the way that they flew around so diligently, always working but never achieving.
"What can I do for you, Tohru-kun?" he asked, hitting the spacebar so at the very least the toasters would stop mocking him. When Tohru gave him a confused look, Shigure realized the error of what he had just said. "I mean, what do you want to talk to me about."
Tohrus face first took on a look of realization, and then relaxed into her normal sunny smile. "Um....we have a vacation from school coming up and Momiji-kun just called and said Okami-san at the onsen invited us all and wanted to know if you needed a break."
Shigure wondered if Tohru had gotten winded blurting everything out in one breath that way, but rather than dwell on this thought he gave the offer serious consideration. On the one hand, his latest novel was getting close to its due date, but on the other hand this could offer a valuable opportunity to terrorize Mit-chan. And he was feeling stressed lately. A visit to the onsen would be just what the doctor ordered...
"Dont invite him!" he could hear Kyou shout from another room. "This is supposed to be a vacation!"
"Shes just telling him what Momiji told her to say!" Yuki shouted back. From the sound of it he and Kyou were in separate rooms.
"She doesnt have to!"
As they argued verbally Shigure and Tohru could tell they were walking toward each other, which seemed to foretell an oncoming physical confrontation. Tohrus expression changed to that of concern as she turned and left the room.
"Kyou-kun! Souma-kun!" she shouted as she began her expedition to wherever the quarrelling cousins were currently located.
Shigure poised his hands over the keyboard again, preparing to resume writing, but changed his mind. If he was going to go to the onsen and hide from Mit-chan for a while then what was the sense in straining himself to finish his current project?
Tohru and Momiji were very much alike.
This was Shigure's latest observation as he watched the pair looking out the window of the bus at the scenery, oohing and ahing as if they'd never seen it before in their lives. It was actually a rather cute image, but Yuki and Kyou were less than amused by the picture this pair made.
"Look! The mountains!" Tohru squealed, pointing off into the distance.
"And the woods!" Momiji added, also pointing. They were the only ones that looked, however. Shigure might have humored them, had he not been too caught up in his own thoughts.
Shigure had been mulling over the same thought for the past three days, since Tohru had informed them they were going on vacation. This thought was best summed up with one word: redemption. If Shigure ever wanted Tohru to look at him the same way she looked at Yuki and Kyou he would have to find a way to redeem himself, to atone for the bad things he had done in the past, both those that Tohru knew about and those that he had done before he had ever met her.
This was not as simple as it sounded, though. Attempting to absolve past sins was not something that could happen with the wave of a magic wand. Though he knew Tohru would forgive him anything he had done, that wasn't good enough. He needed to truly redeem himself in her eyes, to prove that beneath the many layers of his exteriour there beat the heart of a good man.
He didn't even notice Tohru sitting down next to him, evidently having grown tired of the marvels the landscape leading to the Souma Family Onsen had to offer. That, or all of the excitement, standing, pointing, and jumping up and down over the slightest thing had finally worn her thin. She attempted to lean forward enough to look into his eyes, and noticing the strange faraway expression on his face she sat back.
"Do you think Ri-chan-san will be there?" Tohru asked no one in particular.
Momiji threw himself on the other side of Shigure, jumping him out of his thoughts momentarily. "Hmm..." Momiji started, rubbing his chin in apparent thought. "I don't know. I don't think his school is on break right now. He goes to a university and I don't know if universities have school breaks."
"Ri-chan-san goes to a university?" Tohru asked, wide-eyed in amazement. "Wai! What's he training to be?"
Momiji just shrugged. Yuki sighed and glanced out the window. He was sitting next to Kyou, though not by choice: Shigure had claimed the spot next to Tohru and Momiji the last spot on that seat, so he was stuck with his nemesis. "He's majoring in architecture."
"Ritsu? An architect?" Kyou asked. Then he snorted. "He'd probably tear down any house he built just because someone mentioned the hinges squeak."
"I don't think he wants to be an architect," Yuki explained calmly. "I think he wants to analyze ancient architecture. Either way I was very surprised to hear this. He doesn't strike me as the kind who would like buildings."
Shigure looked over at Yuki. "How do you know this?"
Yuki shrugged. "Okami-san told me last time we were at the onsen. She tells me a lot. She likes me for some reason."
Shigure considered this. The only time he could put "Ritsu" and "buildings" together was when he imagined him destroying them in an apologetic fit or acting as if he was going to jump off them in a suicide attempt.
"Maybe he can show us some of what he's learned!" Tohru cried out excitedly.
"That's assuming he's there at all," Yuki pointed out. Then he muttered under his breath "and he isn't off apologizing to someone."
Shigure retreated back into his thoughts. He never gave his timid, apologetic younger cousin much consideration unless he was sitting right in front of him. And yet right now he seemed to be the answer: anyone who could instill confidence in Souma Ritsu would be deemed a miracle worker. And miracle workers usually gained admiration. In this case the admiration would come from a certain dark-haired young lady who had returned to looking out the window of the bus with Momiji.
Shigure grinned a little to himself, having found his answer. Of course, for this plan to work then Ritsu would have to actually be at the onsen, but even if he wasn't he knew where to find him. After that, the rest of the trip passed relatively peacefully, Shigure lost in his thoughts and admiring the scenery.
"I'm so glad Shigure-bochan could come this time," Okami told Shigure with a genuine smile. She was also leaning against him for support.
"I'd hardly call him 'bochan'," Kyou muttered.
"She calls all the boys that, no matter how old they are," Yuki snarled back at him. Both boys were standing next to each other, with Tohru standing next to Yuki and Momiji next to her. Shigure had been in the line before he'd noticed Okami practically dragging herself out to greet them and had rushed to her aid.
Of course, Shigure could hear them, even if no one else seemed to. He had long since given up on telling Okami he was no longer "bochan", as had Hatori and Ayame. Now a whole new generation was trying in vain to break her of it. About the only one who seemed to have no problem with this title was Momiji, who was too busy relishing in that Tohru was spending time with him and not Yuki or Kyou. Shigure wondered if he was having a problem with jealousy similar to his own.
"I hope you do not have a problem with being in the same rooms where you last stayed," Okami continued. She moved her eyes to look over at Shigure. "And Shigure-bochan, I hope you don't mind having your own room. I didn't expect you to be coming so I only prepared the other bochans' room for Yuki and Kyou."
"Oh, it's not a problem at all," he reassured her. She was starting to get heavy and hurt his shoulder, but he didn't want to tell her so, lest it trigger one of her "episodes". Plus one slip and he'd be man's best friend rather than man, and he wasn't in the mood for that on his vacation.
As if she had read his mind she stood up straight and began to walk into the doorway leading to the hotel part of the onsen. Yuki and Kyou grabbed all of the bags as Shigure, Momiji, and Tohru followed her, not even bothering to help them.
So far everyone had been at the onsen for two hours, and so far there was no sign of Ritsu. It seemed that he wasn't there at all, as Okami surely would have said something if he was. This put a slight damper on his weekend plans, but at least he could actually relax and plot a definite course of action now. After all, no one could tackle a problem like Ritsu's low self-esteem alone and with no clue as to what they were going to do.
Right now Shigure was sitting in a chair in his room. Momiji and Tohru had gone to explore the grounds of the onsen, and while he couldn't be certain where Yuki and Kyou were he had a feeling if they were together then at least one of them (most likely Kyou) would spend the weekend with a bruised ego at best. Shigure considered changing out of the suit he'd opted to wear when he'd left the house (mostly because Tohru had once remarked it looked nice on him) and into the yukata that was laid out on the bed, but changed his mind. He wasn't in the mood to settle in just yet, and he shouldn't change until he'd at least bathed in the hot spring.
"Shigure-bochan?" Okami's voice asked from the doorway, jarring him once again from his thoughts.
Shigure turned and looked at the doorway. "Yes?" he asked, sure that she was going to ask him if he needed anything or if he was enjoying his stay so far. Instead she walked the rest of the way into the room and shut the shoji screen door behind her.
"I am very, very sorry to disturb you like this," she began. "It's just well could you please call Hatori-bochan?"
"Why? Aren't the doctors here taking care of you?" he asked, surprised by this request. Though Hatori was technically the family doctor he was usually only called in to help Akito or the Juunishi.
"Oh, yes, they are doing a wonderful job," Okami said quickly. "Don't get me wrong! I appreciate everything the family is doing for me, letting me stay at the onsen while I receive treatment and everything!" She was now having one of her "episodes". Shigure leaned further back into his seat. "I am so very grateful! I wish I could make it up to them but I am far too ill to do anything!"
"C-calm down," Shigure tried meekly. He was rather surprised when she did. "If you don't need a doctor then what's the problem?"
Shigure was even more surprised when he noticed Okami looking away. He could see tears in her eyes as she did so, adding to his worry.
"I-It's Ritsu," she started. "He came home last week. I think he is very sick. He doesn't talk, doesn't leave his room, doesn't eat. Sometimes when I leave food outside his door some of it disappears, and once in a while I can hear him sneaking to take a bath, but all he does is cry and apologize when I try to talk to him. I don't know what to do. I was hoping Hatori-bochan would accept my invitation. I would have told him over the phone, but Momiji answered and I didn't want to worry Tohru-san or the other bochans too much."
Shigure was at a loss of words. This certainly changed his plans. If Ritsu's already fragile emotions had already been destroyed then he'd have a whole new challenge when it came to "saving" him. Of course, this would mean not calling Hatori. Though he was a good doctor he wasn't very good at dealing with the emotional aspects of people. The most he would do would be to come all the way to the onsen to tell them that Ritsu was physically just fine.
"Where is he?" Shigure asked. He wasn't sure which room at the onsen was Ritsu's. In fact, he hadn't even known Ritsu had a room at the onsen before Okami mentioned it. He'd always assumed that Okami hadn't moved there until after Ritsu had begun attending the university.
"I can show you," Okami offered. "I just don't know what to do with him. I'm so worried."
"I understand that," Shigure told her in a tone he hoped was at least moderately soothing as he climbed to his feet, following Okami out into the hall. He noted there was a phone in the hall as they rounded a corner to an area he'd never been to personally. He assumed this was because this was where the personnel lived and wasn't supposed to be seen by guests.
They stopped in front of a door at the very end of the hallway. Okami took a deep breath before knocking on the screen next to the door. "Ritsu?" There was no answer, so Okami lowered her hand. There were tears streaming down her face now. "Ritsu, Shigure-bochan is here to see you." Again, no answer. Okami looked up at Shigure pleadingly.
"Ritsu, are you in there?" Shigure asked. He was starting to worry now. Usually, no matter how depressed he was, Ritsu gave some kind of acknowledgement when people spoke to him. "You're mother is worried about you. She's crying." He knew that would get a reaction from him. If it was one thing Ritsu hated it was being the source of pain for others.
"I'm so, so sorry," a voice said weakly from the other side. However, Shigure didn't hear anyone moving to open the door on the other side. He looked over at Okami, who was looking down at her feet again, then gripped the door. He knew that the doors at the onsen didn't lock, and he had no problem simply sliding the door open.
Shigure shut the door behind him as he walked in, knowing he would need privacy. Having Okami in the room would have hindered him. After he was safely inside the room he looked around it. It wasn't any nicer than the guestrooms at the onsen. In fact, it was actually a bit plainer. The only furniture in the room was a table with a hairbrush and some ribbons sitting on it, a mirror, and the futon. Curled up in a fetal position on the futon was Ritsu, his hair slightly matted from not having been brushed in who knows how long, wearing one of the simple yukatas that were given to the guests who stayed at the onsen. The closet door was open, as were his suitcases, and it looked like he had at least made some attempt to unpack. A few of his outfits were hanging in the closet, but the rest were either folded in his suitcase or crumpled on the floor.
"Your mother said you weren't feeling well," Shigure said, though he wasn't actually looking at Ritsu when he said it. Instead he was surveying the room. The lighting was sparse, probably because the room was set into the trees, and it seemed that Ritsu had never tried to remedy the situation by the absence of lamps or any other kind of light source.
There was no answer from the bed. Shigure glanced over at him over his shoulder. He hadn't even moved. Shigure sighed and walked over to the futon, kneeling down onto it, careful not to touch Ritsu.
"Tohru-kun and the others are here," Shigure told him. "They want to see you. Don't you want to go out and see them?"
He was rather surprised when Ritsu shook his head. He had thought for sure that would coax Ritsu into at least speaking.
"Why don't you want to go and see them?" Shigure asked. He wasnt actually expecting an answer, but it was at least worth a shot.
"I'm such a failure," Ritsu whispered. His voice was so light Shigure almost thought he'd imagined him speaking. "They don't want to see me. They're better off. I'll just ruin their weekend."
"I don't think that's true," Shigure told him with as much honesty as he could manage. In all actuality he was pretty sure that a depressed Ritsu would bring down the atmosphere during the others' vacation.
Ritsu just sniffled in response. "I am so sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean to ruin your weekend. You don't have to sit here with me. Please go and have fun. Forget about me."
Shigure stood up and walked over to the closet. "I just want to know why you're so upset. Your mother wants me to call Hatori, but I don't think that's what you need right now." He began to pick up the clothes on the floor and hang them up, putting his more masculine clothes on one side and his feminine ones on the other. He noted idly that a few of his dresses would look cute on Tohru, and almost considered asking to borrow them on her behalf, but decided now wasn't the time. Besides, they were all too big.
"Please don't trouble Hatori-niisan," Ritsu told him. "There's nothing he can do."
"I assumed as much. But is there anything I can do?"
Ritsu sat up and wiped his eyes, sniffling. "No, Shigure-niisan. I already ruined your weekend. I'm so sorry."
"Well, since you've already ruined my weekend I might as well help you. So tell me what's bothering you. Your mother said you left school. You didn't drop out, did you?"
"No! Of course not!" Ritsu cried out. He drew his knees up to his face and hid his face behind them. "I'm already enough of a disappointment to Okaasan without dropping out of school." He was crying again. "I am so, so sorry. I can't do anything right! I am such a failure!"
Had he not been sobbing Shigure would have dismissed this as the same tangent he'd been on for the past twenty years of his life. He hung up the last of his dresses and turned back around, walking over to the futon and sitting down again. Ritsu was sobbing uncontrollably into his knees, something Shigure had never seen him do.
"Ri-chan, what happened?" Shigure asked, keeping his voice as light as possible and trying to hide his annoyance. The one thing that frustrated him the most about his younger cousin was his seeming inability to just get to the point. Instead he apologized over and over again without giving details.
When Ritsu didn't answer Shigure reached out and tentively touched his shoulder. He was surprised when the sobbing young man shrunk away from his touch. He'd never known him to be tactile defensive...
"Ri-chan, you don't have to tell me what happened," Shigure finally conceded, deciding that if he wasn't going to get anywhere then there was no sense in forcing him and potentially pushing him further away. After all, he was trying to establish himself as a trustworthy ally, not an enemy that should be feared.
Deciding to take a risk, he began to edge his way closer to the younger man. He took the fact that Ritsu didn't move away as a sign that he didn't mind and reached out to touch him again. At first he started to pull away, but then he slowly relaxed. This was definately good. Ritsu was trusting him as an ally. This would make his work much easier.
Just as he was taking pride in this accomplishment, however, he was shocked to find Ritsu embracing him tightly, crying into the jacket of his suit.
"I don't know what to do, Shigure-niisan," Ritsu whispered, feminine voice light and childish. "I failed everyone, and I can't do anything to fix it. It hurts so bad right now."
It took a moment for Shigure to process all of this, but as he did he placed a hand between his younger cousin's shoulder blades, idly playing with his long hair and trying to work out the knots.
"It's all right. I'm here now. It's okay."
End of Chapter One
Goo's Final Note- This chapter sucks REALLY bad, but the way it works is how a lot of my failed projects started and I can't seem to break the loop. Now that I have it out of my system the rest of the chapters will be MUCH better. I'll admit I was only half-way into this project because I have a lot going on (and other projects are suffering as well). Just remember: THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE PRETTY. Now I leave you with some 15th century Japanese haiku to ponder over:
Year after year
On the monkey's face
A monkey's face