After graduation and before university, Shigure, Ayame, and Hatori slip out for a night of carousing. Slight, slight, slight hint at shounen-ai. Other than that, it's all comedy. Enjoy!
"Shh! Be quiet!" Shigure hissed.
"What, 'Gure-san?" Ayame's voice floated up to him from the darkness. "Speak up! I can't hear your melodious, mellifluous voice, 'Gure-san! Repeat yourself for me so that I might fully appreciate your endless wisdom and--"
Gritting his teeth, Shigure leaned out the window, casting a wary eye over the rest of the Sohma compound. If any of them got caught, it was going to take an entirely new level of creative rationalization to explain why the three of them had been caught sneaking out of Shigure's bedroom window. "Aya."
"Speak more clearly, 'Gure-san -- I can't hear you!"
The Dog clapped a hand over his eyes and counted to ten. Some words simply were not in Ayame's vocabulary. "Subtlety" and "silence" were evidently excluded, along with "paisley" and "polyester."
Just then he heard Ha-san's low murmur. "Ayame. You need to be quiet, or we'll be caught."
The Snake's exaggerated stage whisper soon followed. "Ohhh -- why didn't 'Gure-san just say so?"
There was a sigh. "He did, Ayame."
"Did he? Well, he should have spoken more /clearly/..."
Shaking his head, Shigure eased himself out of the window. It was a short crawl down a narrow, sloping section of roof before he could grasp the drainpipe and shimmy down to meet Hatori and Ayame on the grass below.
And from there, Shigure thought to himself with a secretive grin, it was anyone's guess.
He crept to the edge of the roof, before carefully reaching out and grasping the drainpipe. But as Shigure grabbed the pipe, his foot slipped on a bit of wet tile. He swallowed the panicked yelp and reached out with his other hand to catch the metal cylinder and (hopefully) prevent his fall.
Unfortunately, things seldom work out the way we hope they do. Instead of grabbing onto the drainpipe with both hands, steadying himself, and shimmying downward with unparalleled ease, Shigure instead lost his grip on the pipe and fell, landing flat on his back. The force of the landing knocked the air out of his lungs and he stayed like that for a few moments, until he could take a breath without coughing it out again.
"Be quiet, Ayame!" Hatori hissed, holding his hand firmly over the Snake's mouth. "Do you want to wake the entire compound?"
Huge peridot eyes blinked rapidly as Ayame shook his head, mumbling incoherently from behind Hatori's hand.
"Good. Now be /quiet/." He pulled his hand away and, with a faintly disgusted look, wiped his palm on his pants before turning his attention to Shigure. "Are you all right?" Hatori asked, careful to keep his voice down.
Shigure sat up slowly, taking a shallow breath. He rubbed the back of his head, which had come in contact with the still semi-frozen ground. "I think I'll live," he muttered, getting to his feet. "I only hit my head."
Hatori regarded him for a long moment while Ayame fussed, making sure the dead leaves and grass weren't clinging to Shigure's clothes. "Luckily it won't do any damage. That's your least vulnerable spot."
"So mean, Ha-san." Shigure sent Hatori a wounded pout, which the Dragon ignored with the ease of practice. "Hmph. Some doctor you'll make."
Hatori's lips kicked up into a rare grin. "Shigure, you're on your feet and you're talking. That's enough to tell me there's no real damage." He paused for a beat. "Well, no new damage, at any rate."
Shaking his head, Shigure turned, his steps leading them to the Sohma compound's back exit, located along the north edge of the property. It was most frequently used by maintenance workers, but also provided certain precocious Juunishi a means by which they could sneak away from the compound. Shigure had used this exit many times, as had Ayame -- and the two of them together. Hatori, on the other hand, snuck out with far less frequency, which surprised Shigure not at all.
Once they were safely outside the compound walls, their steps leading them further and further away from the Sohma estate, Hatori tucked his hands in his coat pockets and regarded Shigure in the faint glow offered by the intermittent streetlights.
"Shigure, just so I know we're clear--"
But the Dog simply waved a hand. "I know, I know. No alcohol for Ha-san." He sighed once and shook his head. "Honestly though -- if you're not going to carouse, why bother sneaking out in the first pl--"
"'Gure-san is absolutely correct, 'Tori-san! We are young men in our prime! For too long we have been denied the glistening, sun-ripened fruits available to our peers! Why should we restrain ourselves any longer? We are /men/, 'Tori-san!" Ayame struck a victorious pose. "And as such, I, for one, can see no viable reason why we shouldn't permit ourselves this pleasure! If you are going to come out with us, I absolutely must insist that you indulge! As one of the Mabudachi trio, you must seize life with both hands at every opportunity!"
Hatori sent the other two a wry look. "And just who is going to be keeping an eye on you both while you..." his gaze settled on Shigure, "'carouse,'" and then on Ayame, "and 'indulge'?"
Shigure suppressed his smile -- that was so very like Hatori, too concerned in the well being of his friends to allow himself even the slightest iota of pleasure. Well, he thought with a faint shrug, at least one of us will be able to find our way home. Better than last time, at least. If he never woke up naked in a city fountain -- a very cold city fountain -- again, it would be too soon. Perhaps having Hatori around keeping an eye on them was a good idea, after all.
The Dog looked at his platinum-haired partner in crime, sending him a gently reproachful gaze. "Now, now, Aya, if Ha-san isn't comfortable with letting his hair down at least once before he's torn from us, sent off to a cold, unfeeling university, with none of his closest friends to comfort him, then we should respect his wishes."
Ayame wilted. "But 'Gure-san..."
But Shigure held up one finger, miraculously halting the Snake's pleading diatribe. "If Ha-san isn't comfortable with going out and having a few drinks with us, then it wouldn't be right of us, as his closest and dearest friends, to force him."
Still wilting, Ayame heaved a sigh. "All right."
It occurred to Shigure that the Snake was capitulating rather easily, and he frowned faintly.
Ah well, perhaps he doesn't want to make too much of a scene in front of Ha-san.
And so, he left it at that.
Hatori regarded the plain building incredulously. "This is it? This is the place you've been talking about? This is the place you've been making such a fuss over?"
"Tsk, tsk, Ha-san..." Shigure slung one arm around the Dragon's shoulders. "You of all people should know better than to try and judge something by outward appearance alone."
But Hatori was still dubious. "You're sure you've never been spotted by any Sohma here?" The compound laws were strict, and this kind of public...fraternization was frowned upon. Of course, Shigure and Ayame never seemed to worry about whether their behavior garnered negative attention -- or, rather, Ayame never worried. Shigure simply covered his tracks too well and too carefully. Very little ever seemed to fluster the Dog and, for a moment, Hatori envied his friend for his carefree attitude.
"Trust me," Shigure said, stepping forward and opening the heavy, smoked-glass door, "if we'd been caught by now, I'm quite certain young Akito-san would have had something to say about it."
Raucous laughter filtered out of the open door, the heavy, warm air tinted with the acrid scent of cigarette smoke. Hatori grimaced almost immediately even as Shigure braced the door open with his back and withdrew a pack of cigarettes from a pocket. He pulled one out and lit it, the end glowing orange in the dimness. Exhaling a stream of blue-grey smoke, Shigure nodded at the open door.
"Shall we?" he asked. Hatori barely had time to nod when Ayame flounced in ahead of them and the volume inside seemed to double immediately. Blowing out a resigned breath, Hatori stepped inside, allowing himself to be swallowed up by the loud, smoky atmosphere.
He blinked a few times to let his eyes adjust to the bar's dark interior. It was, by and large, pretty standard, all things considered. There were a few neon signs gracing the walls, adding a colorful, if surreal tint to the smoky air. The bar itself looked very much like something he'd seen on TV and in films -- several glass shelves along the back wall, all of them laden with various bottles, some of which were filled with exotic looking liquid. Two attractive women were tending bar, which surprised Hatori somewhat -- he'd half expected a burly, middle-aged man with heavily tattooed arms to be wiping a ratty dishcloth across the bar's surface.
And it was at that moment that Hatori told himself he needed to watch far fewer American movies.
One of the women, a petite twenty-something with long black hair, riddled with bright blue streaks, sent Hatori and Shigure what looked distinctly like a come-hither smile, which both thrilled the Dragon while at the same time it filled him with trepidation.
She shot Shigure a wink. "I had a feeling you'd be back." Her appraising gaze went to Hatori and he squirmed a bit under the scrutiny. "And you brought a friend."
Shigure thumped him on the back. "My very best friend," he replied. "And I trust you'll both take excellent care of him, Kumiko-san." Shigure flashed a charming smile and gave a tiny bow.
"Kumiko-san" giggled behind her hand and nodded. "Of course, of course. What can I get for you and your... very best friend?"
The words seemed laden with innuendo and Hatori blinked once. What was she implying? It wasn't as if he and Shigure had-- okay, maybe just the one time, but it was purely experimental, and only after Shigure had promised that Ayame wouldn't find out.
"Unfortunately, Ha-san has decided to be selfless and allow his dearest friends an evening of indulgence while taking the weight of responsibility upon his shoulders. So why don't you get him a--"
"TEA!" Ayame came rushing up, a tall, slender glass of deep amber liquid inside, presenting it with a flourish.
"Huh?" Shigure blinked as Hatori took the glass, eyeing it curiously.
"I took the liberty of ordering iced tea for my dearest, most beloved 'Tori-san," he beamed. "Foreign iced tea," the Snake added conspiratorially. "I understand it's just the thing!"
The Dog watched as Hatori took one small experimental sip. And as he watched, he grew more and more curious. Foreign tea? Weren't most teas foreign anyway? India, China, Thailand... "Aya?" Shigure asked, regarding his platinum-haired friend for a moment. "Where did you say this tea was from again?"
"From the Americas," Ayame answered loftily. "It's very popular there."
"It has an... intriguing flavor," Hatori murmured, frowning down into the glass. "Certainly unlike any tea I've ever--"
"That's because it's imported!" Ayame exclaimed. In an instant, a thoughtful frown creased his forehead. "It's from some island... in America, I'm almost certain."
A tiny alarm went off in the back of Shigure's mind, nagging at him. There were no islands in America, were there? Aside from Hawaii, of course -- though that was more off the coast than a part of the continent itself. But then again, Ayame often considered such facts unimportant -- perhaps he meant an island off the coast of America, or even South America. With Aya, it was frequently difficult to tell. He opened his mouth to ask the Snake about the drink, but Ayame had already ordered himself something frothy and pink, with a tiny paper umbrella off to the side. Shigure gave a mental shrug and slid into the stool next to the Dragon before ordering a beer.
If Ha-san's all right with it, I'm certainly not going to worry.
Shigure was starting to worry.
No, scratch that. Shigure had started to worry long before now. Actually, he'd started to worry the moment when Hatori and Ayame had slid out of their bar stools and gone off to play a game of billiards. While that in itself wasn't entirely unusual, the fact that Hatori had been giggling and stumbling as he leaned heavily on Ayame as they walked, well that -- that was something Shigure found marginally alarming.
Hatori did not giggle. He didn't stumble, either, but first and foremost he did not "giggle."
And he was presently losing a game of billiards to Ayame. /Ayame/, who, whenever they'd played in the past, was never quite sure whether he wanted to be "stripes" or "solids."
Stripes were too tacky for Aya, while solids were far too bland.
But there he was, playing solids and winning.
Shigure passed a hand over his face, rubbing his forehead. "The Four Horsemen are saddling up as we speak," he muttered.
Kumiko was wiping down the bar not far from him. "What's that again?"
The young man waved it off. "Nothing, nothing -- just a little..." he looked once more at Hatori and Ayame, "...out of character behavior."
She shrugged. "I thought you were serious when you said he didn't want to drink, but after he ordered a refill, I figured you'd been given the dubious honor."
"...Dubious honor? Refill? What?" And again, Shigure's dark eyes went to his two friends. Hatori, laughing, lifting a glass to his lips as he drank.
"Foreign" iced tea.
Long Island Iced Tea. And Hatori was now drinking his... third? Fourth?
"Oh, just... hell," he muttered.
Shigure rested his elbows on the bar, holding his head in his hands. His mind was working frantically, slowed only by the faint haze brought on by the two -- no, three beers he'd had already. As with most things, there were very logical, very good reasons why younger Juunishi were forbidden to fraternize publicly at establishments such as these. Transformation came when a cursed Sohma was ill, weak, or hugged by the opposite sex. Unfortunately, the possibility for unexpected physical contact increases when alcohol is added to any social situation. And when too much alcohol is added to a social situation, the individual or individuals indulging in it grow uncoordinated and, yes, weak.
It was clear -- indescribably clear to Shigure what he needed to do. He gave a single, decisive nod. I need to get Ha-san and Aya out of the bar and back to the compound before anything else happens. Simple.
Sliding off of the barstool, Shigure made his way to the pool table. "Having fun, you two?" he asked, leaning nonchalantly against the table.
Ayame's smile was almost blinding. "I'm having the very best time I've ever had in the whole of my life, 'Gure-san! You cannot possibly conceive the depths of my joy at this very moment. My happiness transcends--"
"That's nice, Aya, but..." he cast a disparaging look around the bar. "I think I'm getting kind of bored. Why don't we go home?"
"What? No! It's still early, 'Gure-san!" Aya turned pleading eyes to Hatori. "'Tori-san, tell 'Gure-san it's not time to leave yet!"
Hatori regarded Shigure for a moment or two, his expression one of perfectly earnest concentration. "...No, 'Gure-san..." he shook his head slowly, seriously. "No, it's not time to leave yet," he said, his speech slow and careful.
"Told you!" Aya chirped.
"Really, Shh... Shigure, you... you worry too much." Still, Hatori was speaking slowly, carefully pronouncing each syllable, though there was still a slight slur to his words. "Why both-- bother sneaking out at all if you're not gonna carouse, right?"
"Oh, I agree entirely, Ha-san, it's only that I'm--"
But Hatori ambled forward and slung one arm around Shigure's shoulders in a demonstration of friendship far more... demonstrative than was normal for the Dragon. "You know Shi-- Shigure, I've never tol' you this, but you're the best friend." Hatori wagged his finger at the Dog. "You'll see, you're gonna be a great author!"
"Yes! Yes!" Ayame replied cheerfully, hugging Shigure around the neck. The Snake's mouth was by Shigure's ear, and when he spoke, his voice was low, and full of promise. "Oh, yes, 'Gure-san, a great author." And then the seductive spell was broken as Aya squee'd in Shigure's ear, causing the Dog to wince. "I love you~!"
Shigure closed his eyes in dread. The only way this could get any worse is if--
There was a sudden, loud, popping noise and a puff of smoke, and suddenly Hatori wasn't leaning on him anymore.
"Shit!" Shigure hissed, dropping to his knees to sift through Hatori's clothes. He scooped the seahorse off of the ground, depositing it into his front pocket. Taking a quick glance around to make sure no one was looking (and they weren't), Shigure shoved the Dragon's clothes under the pool table.
"What are you doing down there, 'Gure-san?" Ayame asked, tilting his head in inebriated bewilderment. "And where's 'Tori-san?"
Shigure got to his feet, patting his pocket lightly. "Ha-san's in here," he whispered. "Now, Aya, we have to /go/!"
Ayame blinked. "What? Go? But why?"
The Dog leaned in, whispering urgently in his friend's ear. "Because Ha-san is in my pocket/, and /you're drunk. What did you give him, anyway?" Shigure hoped his was wrong. He really, really hoped he was--
"Something called a Long Island Iced Tea," Aya replied happily. When Shigure only gaped at him, large green eyes blinked rapidly. "What? 'Tori-san likes tea!"
Closing his eyes, Shigure took a deep breath and let it out. He couldn't rely on Ha-san to be the level headed one right now, particularly since the "level-headed one" was presently in his front pocket, quite possibly passed out. "Ayame, do you know how much alcohol is in that drink?"
"...There's alcohol in tea, 'Gure-san?"
"It's not tea/," Shigure snapped, opening his eyes and glaring at Ayame. "It's an /alcoholic drink." But Ayame only gazed back at him, his expression blank. "With alcohol in it!" Shigure added for emphasis.
The Snake, who was quite unused to any show of temper by his friend, immediately pouted. "How could you yell at me so cruelly and crush the delicate flower of my spirits so --" his head snapped around as if on a swivel "--hey, that drink's blue!"
Sighing, Shigure placed his hands on Ayame's shoulders, dragging his attention away from the azure liquid in question. "Aya. Ayame. Listen to me."
Ayame blinked, his expression perfectly earnest -- or perhaps a perfect facsimile of earnestness. It was hard to tell sometimes. "Yes, 'Gure-san?"
When the Dog spoke, he did so slowly, carefully enunciating each word. "We need to go home. Now."
And then there was another loud, horribly familiar popping sound, and the next thing he knew, Shigure was holding on to nothing. Ayame was gone in a puff of smoke, his clothes at the Dog's feet. Swearing, he stooped and picked up the white snake, draping the serpentine body around his neck. Again, the clothes were stashed under the pool table.
The familiar voice was now at his ear, a forked tongue tickling the earlobe. "What are you doing, 'Gure-san? What are you doing to my /clothes/?!"
Reaching up, Shigure held Ayame's jaws shut with his thumb and forefinger. "I'll come back and get them tomorrow, Aya. Right now, we're going home." He patted his shirt pocket. "Ha-san is probably..." Shigure frowned, patting the pocket again. "He's probably..."
The pocket was empty. The Dragon was gone.
Shigure swore. Vociferously.
An hour later, Shigure was at the back of the pub, leaning against the wall, staring forlornly at the bustling crowd of people, moving from table to table, never watching where they stepped. But if Hatori was anywhere on the floor, Shigure hadn't found him, even after an extensive, and at times invasive search.
So where was he?
"I still cannot believe you lost 'Tori-san!" Ayame wailed in his ear. "You lost the dearest, kindest member of our little family, 'Gure-san! 'Tori-san! Lost forever in the teeming thong of humanity!"
"Throng, Aya," Shigure corrected, absently.
The Snake tsked. "Really, 'Gure-san -- now is no time to start discussing women's underwear!"
"Ayame!" he hissed, turning his head to glare at the Snake. "Be quiet!"
"No!" Ayame's forked tongue slithered out defiantly.
"You're attracting attention," Shigure replied, smiling amiably as a slightly wary young couple passed by.
"Well I deserve attention!"
The young couple paused and looked back at Shigure, who only smiled, while grounding out through his clenched teeth, "I mean it!"
"You're so mean!" Ayame cried, swatting Shigure's cheek with the tip of his tail. "If you don't stop, I'll lick your nipple!"
Shigure gaped at the Snake. "You wouldn't dare!"
"I'll do it!!"
"Don't you da--/aaah!/" True to his word, the Snake darted inside of Shigure shirt. And, true to his word, Ayame was flicking his tongue across one of Shigure's nipples. A soft, frustrated sound formed in his throat, and Shigure began batting at his shirt. "Aya," he hissed, "knock it off! Get out of there!"
Ayame's reply was muted by Shigure's clothing. "Ooooh! It's warm in here!" And, saying so, he wriggled further south, eliciting another yelp from the Dog.
Upon seeing the several startled glances thrown his way, Shigure gave an apologetic smile before hurrying to a darkened corner, where he could swat at his pants without fear of reprisal or arrest. "Ayame!" he whispered harshly, futilely batting at himself. "Get out of there this instant!"
"But it's warm in here!"
"I don't care if it's--" Shigure's words were cut off sharply when he felt a light touch at his shoulder. He looked behind him, all the while trying to will the blind panic from his eyes. Ha-san was lost, Aya was down his pants, but was Shigure going to ask how much worse things could get? Of course not, because Shigure wasn't stupid.
The touch on his shoulder had come from a young woman with short dark hair and wide dark eyes. "Excuse me, but do you know where the..." she trailed off with a frown, tilting her head to the side. She looked left, and then right. "...Who were you talking to?"
"Talking?" Shigure replied guilelessly. "I wasn't talking."
Just then, an insistent voice came from the direction of Shigure's pants. "He was talking to /me/!"
Unfortunately, no god listening saw fit to answer Shigure's ardent prayer that the floor open up and swallow him whole, and so he was forced to watch the young woman's eyes widen in shock, and then narrow in distaste.
"Really," he began quickly, "it's not what you--"
Shigure's life was over.
He had searched the entire pub, a task that became much easier after Ayame decided to stop wriggling around in his pants, searching for a sufficiently warm spot.
But, no. No amount of searching had uncovered Hatori's transformed shape. The only other possibility Shigure had been able to conceive was that Hatori had somehow gotten out of the building. It was entirely possible, particularly if Ha-san had grown frustrated with Shigure's inability to find him.
Maybe -- maybe if he searched outside, then maybe his friend would turn up.
If not, then it was only a matter of time before Hatori transformed back into a shape that would be far easier to find. Then, of course, they'd be forced to explain the situation, forced to admit they'd been out of the compound without permission. Punishment would follow.
But only if Shigure couldn't find Hatori first.
He made his way to the door and pushed it open, looking out into the dark night. Somewhere -- Hatori had to be somewhere.
And then, from behind him, there came a crash -- a chair scraping back across the floor, silverware clattering to the ground, a sharp yelp of surprise. The words that followed sent a rush of relief through the Dog's entire body:
"Bartender! There's a seahorse in my martini!!"