title: Strange Quiet
fandom: Fruits Basket
characters/pairings: Ayame/Hatori/Shigure, Mine
rating: G/Teen
warnings: none
summary: Ayame is suspiciously quiet.
notes: for une moineau, for her request on fic on demand.

He wasn't singing. Or humming. Or chattering. Or primping. Or prancing.

He was just pouring tea. It wasn't even a special blend. Hatori had come unannounced, but Ayame usually loved surprises. He just bit his lip, and grabbed the tea off the counter. He hadn't even counted the number of times he bobbed the silver ball full of tealeaves. He just left it in the pot.

Hatori sipped his tea quietly, waiting for Ayame to say something, but Ayame was quiet, nibbling on a biscuit.

It was strange.

Shigure called Ayame's shop long after the children had gone to bed. He shuffled through the rooms on the lower floor, waiting for Ayame to answer.


Shigure paused. "Aya-love, how are you?"

"Shigure. I'm sorry, it's late... Can I help you?"

Shigure stared at the phone for a second. If he didn't know that voice so well, he would have sworn he had called the wrong number.

"I don't really know what you expect us to do." Hatori sighed softly, rubbing his eyes gently. His paperwork was strewn all around him on his desk, but he hadn't really been looking at it, even before his cousin had shown up.

"But you admit that something is wrong." Shigure tapped his cigarette over the ashtray. He hadn't taken a drag since he had first lit it, and he was nearly halfway done.

"If he needs our help, he'll come to us. Even I can't force him to talk when he doesn't want to." Hatori propped his chin up on his hands, and regarded Shigure coolly. Shigure was sitting in the doorway to the walkway outside, his legs hanging off the edge, his toes just skimming the surface of the pond. It was... lovely.

"But you do admit that something is wrong, right?" Shigure was being obstinate.

Nothing else for it. "I do."

Shigure smiled, and took a drag on his cigarette. "Well, all right, then."

Ayame was working in the back of his shop. He had pins sticking out of a pincushion attached to his wrist, and a half dozen in his mouth as well. He was pinning lace trim to the hem of a skirt for a French maid outfit. He hated this project. First of all, French maid outfits were black and white. Where did people get the idea that it was cute to add color to classic designs? It just looked garish. And Ayame was not the type to judge people based on appearances, but there were certain people whose bodies worked with the French maid concept, and there were people who just didn't.

A 5 foot, 175 pound man with back hair simply did not work with a French maid outfit. No matter how kinky his wife was, this was not going to be sexy.

He was ignoring his shop. Just nothing was working right this day. So he hadn't really heard the little bell tinkling to announce a new customer. Which was why he wasn't expecting anyone to burst in on him, and tackle him. Certainly not Shigure. He pushed his boisterous cousin off of him, and looked up to find Hatori leaning against the wall, his hands in his pockets, his eyes cool and dispassionate.

"To what do I owe this honor, as it were?" He tried not to sound annoyed. Really. There was just about no one else in the world he would rather see at any given moment. He just didn't want to see anyone now.

Hatori gracefully shifted forward, and pulled his hand out of his pocket, offering Ayame a gift. Ayame blinked, and then slowly divested himself of everything else that was in his hands, or on his hands, or in his mouth, and he took the small, gold foil wrapped package. He looked at it oddly for a moment.

"What is this for?" He looked from Hatori's bored expression, to Shigure's mischievous one.

"Do we need a reason?" Shigure asked offhandedly.

Hatori regarded Ayame closely. "You're always the one thinking of us when we need you. This time, we wanted to do something for you."

"Really?" Ayame smiled shyly, and looked at the package in his hands.

"Open it!" Shigure laughed, impatient.

Ayame winked at Shigure, and unpeeled the paper from the box, being extra careful not to tear it. Shigure huffed, rolling his eyes, but Hatori just watched him, calm.

He set the paper aside, and removed the lid of the box. Tucked inside the delicately folded black tissue paper was a simple gold chain, with three talismans hanging from it - one for the dragon, one for the dog, and one for the snake.

Hatori looked away. "It's just a reminder."

Ayame smiled. "Thank you."

"Don't let Akito see it, though," Hatori warned.

Ayame grinned, and bent his head down to hook the chain around his neck. "Don't worry, unlike you two, Akito isn't always climbing inside my clothes."

Shigure got to his knees next to Ayame, pushing Ayame's hair out of the way for him. "So you like it."

Ayame put his hand on Shigure's cheek, and leaned in close to kiss him. Hatori watched them for a minute, and then he raised his eyes up, half sighing, and got onto the floor next to them. He sifted his fingers through Ayame's long, silky hair. Ayame pulled away, and smiled at Hatori.

"Soooooooooo!" Shigure whined. "What's been going on with you, anyway?"

Ayame sighed softly, and closed his eyes, leaning his head on Hatori's shoulder. "Nothing. Nothing at all. Even I can be down at times, right?"

Hatori had never known Ayame to be 'down,' but he silently put his arms around Ayame, and kissed the top of his head.

Mine smiled as she sorted the corsets. The shopkeeper's cousins always cheered the shopkeeper up. She felt so guilty about his somber mood of late. She should have known better... even if the shopkeeper was kind and sweet and always willing to listen and pretty and fun and boisterous and energetic and wonderful and brilliant and creative and amazing, a man like that... After all, he was a Sohma, and a Sohma is a Sohma, even if he is a dressmaker specializing in fantasies.

It was just that... Her fingers trembled, clinging too tightly to the lace. He had seemed so... disappointed when she asked him if he wanted to take her to her sister's wedding. She might have thought that he was disappointed in her, but he seemed to be so genuinely honest when he said he wished that he could. When he said things just wouldn't work between them... he sounded so disappointed.

Mine forced herself to smile, and went about her work. She loved the shopkeeper, and she would be a good worker for him, always, and a good friend, when he would let her.

What else could she do? He was Sohma, after all.