Fruits Basket, Hatori/Kana, 2239 words.
Summary: Hatori. Kana. Sweetness. Angst. I fail at summaries.
Notes: I also fail at good titles. *cough* My other challenge piece for 20_fruits. This one is longer, I took a different approach, and I think I like the final result better. I also managed to totally emo myself into the ground while I was working on this, holy crap. I love Hatori and Kana so much and chapter 12 kills me every time and yeah.
Spoilers for chapter 12 of the manga, episode 8 of the anime.
When Kana enters Hatori's office and introduces herself, he doesn't pay her so much as a glance at first, caught up as he is in thoughts of his patients, his schedule, and a thousand other things that require his attention. Instead, he simply points her at her desk and asks her to start immediately, and only when he realizes she isn't doing so does he begin to pay attention.
When he looks at her, the first thing he notices is that she's probably a bit too short to reach some of the higher shelves in the office, and he'll either have to plan ahead so that she doesn't need to reach them, or see about finding a stepladder.
The second thing he notices is the way her smile lights up the room.
Kana, for her part, immediately notices a multitude of things about Hatori - his businesslike tone, his immaculate grooming, his precise movements. No wasted effort, no wasted words; she can tell that he is the kind of man who likes to keep everything in order and does nothing without purpose.
Despite this, she does not think his serious manner is the most striking thing about him. The most striking thing about him, she decides as he finally meets her gaze, is the gentleness she can see in his eyes.
It's not just her smile that lights up the room, he decides after hardly a week of working with her. It's her entire presence; Kana has a way of doing little things that might seem meaningless, yet somehow add up to more. The way she remembers exactly how he takes his tea without being reminded, the lilt in her voice when she calls his name to ask a question, the little smiley faces she draws at the end of every note she leaves him.
The notes, in particular - he never directly asks her about the smiley faces, but the first time he sees them on a note she left for him, he wonders, and when she comes back from the errand she'd left on, he supposes the unspoken question must've shown in his eyes, because she takes the note from his hand and smiles and says two words.
Kana takes a lot of pleasure in the little things, even if they don't seem like much, because after all, the big things are really built up of lots and lots of little things, and even if she feels she might not be capable of accomplishing big things, she reasons that all the little things she does must add up to something worthwhile, and isn't that like accomplishing something big in itself? Nobody is really insignificant, she thinks, because everyone is capable of putting together all the little things they've done and finding something greater in them.
And so she smiles and makes Hatori's tea just right and keeps drawing smiley faces on every note she writes, because he may always look so serious, but she thinks that a lot of those little things put together just might be enough to bring a smile to his face, and that would be something indeed.
He knows that her favorite season is spring, because she told him so when they first met. And he thinks that is fitting; she is bright, lively, and the season of rebirth and warm sunny days and and colorful flowers suits her well.
One day, however, she has another question for him, and this time she wants to know which season he loves best, and for a few long seconds Hatori isn't sure how to answer. He has long known that winter suits him, but he holds little love for it; cold and snow may be a part of him, but not a part that he is proud of.
He finally tells her that he agrees with her, that he too likes spring best. But what he really means is: I like you.
She smiles and seems glad to hear it, and while he is fairly sure she would have smiled no matter what his answer, he thinks she understands what he really meant to say.
She sees that on the surface, he is winter, but she also sees that underneath that there is something more, something beneath the snow waiting for a chance to bloom. She sees that he's starting to melt, to open up to her, and she knows that she has to be patient and let him take as much time as he needs.
And she doesn't mind that, because the process is as rewarding as the outcome she hopes for - perhaps even more so. She looks forward to the day when Hatori will come out of the winter he lives in and they can share in the joys of spring together, but she knows better than to rush it.
She doesn't mind watching and waiting as the snow melts.
He doesn't know when exactly he fell in love, and he doesn't think it's really important to know. It's enough that he knows that he is in love, and that she loves him too.
But he also knows that things aren't as simple as he'd like, and that a juunishi can never have a truly normal relationship. He can never wrap his arms around her and hold her close and feel her heart beating beside his. He can never place his love for her over his devotion to Akito.
And he can never possibly explain.
She doesn't know exactly when infatuation became love, and she doesn't think it's really important to know. It's enough that she knows her love really is sincere, and she's no longer simply dazzled by his good looks, swept off her feet by blind attraction, and that he cares as much as she does.
But she also knows that he's holding back, somehow, and although she's promised herself that she won't push him, she'll let him take things at his own pace and she'll simply be ready whenever he does open up to her, she can't deny to herself that there is something standing between them, and she doesn't know if or when he'll be ready to tear down that last wall.
It hurts, a bit.
But she could never hurt him, and so she will wait if she must.
Hatori has always been cautious and careful, never one to act without considering the consequences and being very sure of what he is doing.
But the first time they kiss, he is completely caught up in the moment, and for once in his life, he forgets to be careful. The moment he feels her arms around him, he realizes with a start that he has just made a very big mistake.
It's not until after he has changed back, as she rubs a towel against his hair to dry him off and tells him that she's glad they met, that he considers that perhaps it wasn't such a mistake after all.
Kana is surprised to see Hatori transform, of course. But the curse explains so much, and so she doesn't have much trouble adapting to it. Hatori is still Hatori, and he is still the man she fell in love with.
In a way, she's glad - not that he is cursed, but that she finally knows. She doesn't think any less of him for keeping it secret, but she wants to understand him.
She goes to the library the next day and checks out a book about seahorses, since throwing him in the bathtub apparently wasn't such a good idea after all. She learns quite a few interesting things, but decides that perhaps she'd best keep the bit about male seahorses carrying the eggs to herself.
The weeks that follow are like a blur to him, a whirlwind of kisses and walks in the park and whispered I-love-yous, and it almost seems to him as if they are trying to fit years of love into two short months.
He doesn't realize at the time just how accurately that might describe it.
If their relationship before had been the first thaws of spring, she thinks the next two months are spring in full bloom, warm and bright and beautiful. She knows more than ever that it was worth waiting, that she is happier than anything when they're together and that he feels the same way about her.
She wishes it could last forever.
He does not expect Akito to be happy about their engagement, but he is unprepared for the fury of the god's reaction. And as he kneels on the floor, clutching his eye and trying not to let the pain get the best of him, he thinks that he is a fool and he should have known, should have realized how volatile Akito was, should have thought of it before now -
And the dragon within him is no comfort, whispering in his mind's ear in a jumbled mess of thoughts, can't betray god god comes first god's word is law love no one the way you love god -
He does not blame Akito. But nor does he blame Kana.
She freezes when she sees Hatori flinching in pain. She can't move, can't speak, can't breathe, he's hurt and he's bleeding and Akito's right and she can't break the curse, no matter how much she loves him and wants to set him free.
She can free him from his loneliness, she can free him from his winter, but she can't free him from the dragon.
He isn't surprised when he is told that he's lost most of the vision in his left eye. It's regrettable, but he's sure he'll get used to it eventually.
What he can't get used to is Kana's tears, the sound of her sobbing, the words that fall from her lips over and over and over. He wants to hold her close and wipe her tears away and tell her that it's not her fault, it was never her fault, that things will be okay. He wants to chase away her guilt, let her fall asleep in his arms.
But the dragon won't let him. So he watches. And worries.
She doesn't sleep that night. She can't sleep.
Even when she closes her eyes, all she can see is Hatori, crouching, covering his eye, Hatori bleeding, Hatori in pain, all because he met her and she dared to think she could make a difference.
Even when he talks to her, all she can hear is Akito, Akito screaming, Akito telling her it's your fault it's all your fault if he never sees again it'll all be your fault.
She doesn't sleep, because Akito's voice is still ringing in her ears, keeping her awake. She doesn't eat, because Hatori's blood is still locked in her vision, killing her appetite.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, Kana is dimly aware that Hatori would probably not want to see her so tormented, but she can't stop crying and she can't stop apologizing. It's my fault. It's all my fault.
Maybe it would have been better if we never met.
Akito never directly orders him to erase Kana's memories - only drops hints, gently suggests that it would be the kinder thing to do, that she wants to forget.
She wants, Akito says, to be freed.
It may be Akito's urging, Akito's suggestions - but in the end, it is Hatori himself who makes the decision.
An outside observer might think it would hurt less if Akito had ordered it. At least Hatori would have someone to blame other than himself for making her forget. That observer would be wrong.
He could never blame Akito, even if the choice were not his.
It is snowing when she kneels in front of him and tells him how sorry she is, how sorry she is that she failed to protect him. She only wanted to free him from the winter he lived in, to love him and be loved in return.
The snow, she thinks, is an ironic reminder of how badly she failed.
And then she is falling, falling backwards, and she can't remember anymore.
He cries when she leaves.
He can't help himself. When she leaves, she is taking so much more than herself - she's taking his light, his spring, his salvation.
But it would be selfish to keep her behind, and he thinks it's better for her this way.
His only wish is for her to be happy.
Kana remembers introducing herself to Hatori and working as his assistant. She remembers making his tea just right and drawing smiley faces on every note she wrote. She remembers thinking that he seems so cold, so withdrawn. She remembers finding him attractive.
Kana doesn't remember the day he finally smiled when he read one of her notes. She doesn't remember the way that cold exterior melted for her. She doesn't remember realizing that her feelings for him were more than a simple attraction.
Kana remembers Hatori, but she doesn't remember loving him.
Kana is engaged to a nice man who loves her and makes her smile. She doesn't remember how she was once engaged to another man who loved her and made her smile.
Kana is happy. And every now and then, she thinks of the polite but distant man she once worked under, and she wonders if he is happy too.