title: Junipers
fandom: Fruits Basket
characters/pairings: Ayame, Akito
rating: G/Teen
warnings: Akito and Ayame
summary: Ayame sees to Akito.
notes: for Demeter, because she is so lovely. ^_^ *coughs* even tho she prolly won't like this...
takes place pre-manga, spoilers for manga ch. 96 or 97... whatever it was...

Akito was in the rock garden, delicately seated on a small, silk cushion, one long, slim hand drifting out as if to touch the long, twisting branches of the artfully arranged junipers. It was a plateau of pure beauty, were it etched into wood or hinted at with ink on paper.

Ayame did not announce his presence, a sign of deference. He waited until Akito was ready to acknowledge him.

"Did you come here to see me?"

There was an accusation in those simple words, but then, Ayame knew as well as any of the others that there was nothing simple about Akito's words. "I have a present for you."

This earned him a glance. "Do you?"

Akito's tone was still cool, reserved. Ayame would never earn any of Akito's passions; in a way, it was Akito's way of tormenting Ayame, since Ayame would do so much better with bile than indifference. However, Ayame had never tried to inspire passion in Akito, so he didn't mind so much. "It's something special, very special. A shampoo made with essential oils from the juniper berry, which can take up to three years to ripen fully. A friend of mine in the business got me some as a gift of thanks. I thought perhaps I could wash your hair."

Akito regarded Ayame quizzically. He leaned calmly against the support beam of the terrace, and smiled softly. If it were a waiting game, normally, he'd be at a great disadvantage. But today, he could wait for as long as he was required.

Akito turned away from Ayame, and sighed. "That's an unusual thing for you to ask. It makes me suspicious."

"Don't blame me for that," Ayame corrected, very softly. "You were suspicious long before I said anything."

It was the quiet of his voice that really earned the glare. It was because he said it without looking at Akito. It was because he really meant it.

But Akito was too tired to make a scene, having spent all the energy in the universe just a few days prior. And in the interim, Akito had been horribly neglected. Sighing, Akito shrugged. "As you please, then."

Ayame stepped out across the rocks to lift Akito up in his arms. Akito's weight was like nothing at all, like carrying a bolt of fine silk. Ayame tucked Akito's head under his chin, and smiled. "Kureno doesn't need to watch, does he?"

Akito waved a hand dismissively in a certain direction, and Ayame wondered if Akito always knew where Kureno was, or if Kureno simply managed to always be where Akito wanted him, as part of his service.

It wasn't important.

The water was hot. Ayame let it pour over his hand, turning his fingers through the stream. Akito leaned against the wall, watching him.

"Why are you doing this?"

Ayame smiled softly. "I thought you would like the care."

Akito looked away. "You are playing a game."

"Life can be fun, Akito," Ayame sighed, filling a basin with water. He turned the spigot, so the water would run cooler, and filled a second basin. "Let's see, how to do this... Let's go to the bedroom, hm?"

Akito glared at him, but Ayame just picked up his emperor once more, and carried Akito into the bedroom. As soon as he laid Akito down, Akito slipped away from him, pulling the layers of the yukata covering the pale, sallow chest of the zodiac's god closed. "Maybe I'll change my mind about this."

"That's your prerogative," Ayame winked, and went back to the bathroom to retrieve the basins, and the bottle of shampoo. When he returned, Akito was laying across the bed in the right position for what they were attempting.

Ayame hid his smile.

He wet the fine hair gently, watching it turn from an undefined grey to black. He combed his fingers through the hair reverently, making sure it was all damp. He then poured out a small palmful of the viscous shampoo.

"Doesn't that smell good?" he whispered, smiling. "It's supposed to be very relaxing."

Akito didn't say anything, but the twitch of a nose was very telling on its own.

Ayame grinned. He worked the shampoo through the hair, lathering it up in small piles and then smoothing it over the hair. "You don't like this?"

Akito lifted a knee, which rose from the confines of its silky restraints bare. "It's nice. This is expensive?"

"Very," Ayame reassured. "It's rare; only a dozen bottles made each year. The empress uses it."

"Empress?" Akito sneered.

"Of Japan," Ayame replied, calm. He ran his fingers through the soapy hair, gently pushing down the excess lather. "It's worthy of you, isn't it?"

Akito's eyes rolled disdainfully, but remained compliant.

Ayame smirked. He poured half of the second basin of water over Akito's hair, moving his hands through the water to make sure he got all of the hair. He leaned closer, putting his wet hand on Akito's throat. "Do you remember, when you were young, and you followed us to the pond that one time? You said you could jump off the tree, too? And Shigure said that only big boys could do it, but you said you weren't that much younger? And Hatori said you might get hurt or sick, and you said he worried too much? You insisted you were going to do whatever we did, that you should, because you were just like us?"

Akito was tense, glaring up at him, but he kept getting closer and closer, his thumb moving in circles over Akito's nonexistent Adam's apple.

"I dropped my pants, and showed you that you weren't exactly like us, didn't I? And you were the first girl who ever touched me there." Ayame chuckled, low, pushing his hand down over Akito's chest, underneath the folds of soft silk. Akito snarled, grabbing his hand, but Ayame had the advantage. "I don't think your breasts have grown much since then."

"Quiet!" Akito barked, glaring. "Get your hands off of me! Get out!"

Ayame held down Akito's shoulder with his free hand, tracing Akito's flat breasts with his other. "Hatori is going to be all right. In case you wanted to know. His eye will heal, although no one will say if he will be able to see. One step at a time, the doctors say."

"What are you talking about?" Akito pushed against Ayame's hands, and thrashed. "I'm going to scream!"

Ayame smiled. "Scream, my beautiful empress; scream all you want. I'll swallow your screams, if you like." He brushed his lips over Akito's.

Akito bucked in horror. "Get away from me!"

Sighing, Ayame pushed Akito's yukata open. "Kana blames herself. She's an outsider, and still, she's wiling to take the blame for you. She's agreed to the mind wipe. She wants Hatori to take away all memory of working with him. Everything."

"Good!" Akito hissed. "It's the right thing, isn't it?"

"You just can't stand the thought of any of us loving anyone but you." Ayame's words were harsh, but his tone was sad, infuriating Akito more. "Not quite any, though, right? Why him, and not me? You have Kureno, Shigure, even my little brother... but if that wasn't enough, why did it have to be him? Why couldn't you have let him go, and taken me, instead?"

Akito snorted. "Like I want your filthy hands on me."

Ayame laughed. "But it would have been perfect if it was me. It wouldn't seem so unusual for you to be with me, since I am the way I am. No one would have thought it odd. We could have been a happy couple."

"You want me to believe that you desire me?" Akito dug her fingernails into Ayame's hand. "You should come up with a more plausible lie."

"But if it were for him, I would have been happy to take on any role you wanted me to," Ayame sighed, ignoring her nails in his skin. "I always thought you were such a nuisance growing up. You were always sick, and that was no fun. And any time we played with you, we got into such trouble with Ren. It wasn't worth it to me, but it wasn't worth the fight with Shigure and Hatori to leave you at home. I was happy when you started to play with Yuki, even though I knew how selfish that was. But it left 'Gure and Ha'ri free for my use. But even still, you kept us all on a leash. I didn't mind, because it was long enough for me. But you've crossed a line, Akito."

Akito tried to slap Ayame, but she was at a bad angle for it. "How dare you tell me what I can and cannot do! You've always been selfish, and spoiled, and everyone has let you get away with anything you want, just because you smile at them and spin stories! I'm not impressed by you, Ayame."

Ayame smiled, and leaned down so they were eye-to-eye. "And I'm not impressed by you, Akito. You can hurt him as much as you like, and I suppose you will, because you're a bigger brat than I am, but he will never love you. And neither will Yuki. You just don't know what love is."

He leaned back and poured the rest of the now cold water over Akito's hair.

Akito hissed with displeasure. "Don't lie to me, Ayame. Don't pretend you aren't just as happy that she's gone. Your precious person is free again. Don't expect me to believe that you aren't ecstatic that you get to be the shoulder he cries on. You hate that bitch as much as I do."

Ayame shook his head sadly. "She made him smile. Now we may never see his true smile again." Ayame picked up the towel wearily. "The problem is, well, it's you. Do you know what you are? You are... not male, and not female. Not human, and not god. Not sick, and not well. You are nothing."

Akito bucked and whirled, sitting up, pure venom in her eyes, her wet hair clinging to her skin, her yukata in disarray around her. "How dare you! How dare you! Take it back! Filth! Vermin! It's you! You're the one who is disgusting, cursed, nothing! How dare you!"

Ayame stood up serenely. "I could never help it. I thought about all the horrible things you've done, I thought of how you hurt Yuki, and even still, I had to love you, because I understood. Or so I thought. It was always so easy to believe that it was so understandable, and so forgivable. I can't help it if I love you, Akito. I do, and I always will." He picked up the basins, and the shampoo. He looked her in the eye. "But, even if I love you, I can never, ever forgive you. Hatori... Hatori will forgive you. But I can never do that. You took away his smile."

He turned his back to Akito, and walked away.