Disclaimer: X (X/1999) is copyright CLAMP, Asuka, and Viz. This is a
fanwork and not for profit.
I also owe the idea behind this fanfic to an episode of Xena and the
story of the stone in the water which would NOT leave me alone.
by Fushigi Kismet
Arashi found him sitting quietly at the edge of the pond with a
handful of stones, his eyes distant and reflective. She rarely saw
him in such a state of mind and took a moment to study him before
realizing that he must have sensed her as soon as she drew near.
He looked up as she walked towards him and a smile seemed to light
the depths of his eyes but did not alter the composed expression on
his face. No movement other than that of his eyes following her came
from him, nor did he seem inclined to any other.
Gathering her skirts beneath her, she sat down next to him on the
She had been searching for him all that morning. She didn't quite
know why, and now, having found him, didn't know how to proceed, so
instead, she cast about for something to say.
"What are you doing?"
"Really, and is this how you spend your time?" There was a hint
of what might have been anger beneath the evenness of her voice, and
she marveled at the heretofore undiscovered streak of irrationality
He raised an eyebrow, looking at her appraisingly. "Sometimes.
It beats worrying incessantly about the coming Day, or about things I
cannot change and can do nothing to prevent. Of course, I only
indulge in these activities when I'm not thinking of you, so it isn't
That the blush rising to her cheeks wasn't something she could
stop was something she knew from experience, so she remained silent
for a moment more.
"There are some things I would change if I possessed the ability
to do so."
There was no need for a response. They both knew to what she had
been referring. It hung between them as it always did, heavy and
immovable, like a wall suspended in space through which they could
only reach each other through the miniscule chinks and cracks running
He hacked away at it to widen an opening, as he always attempted
to do, sometimes meeting with success and other times failure.
"Don't worry. Be happy."
"How can you be so flippant?" Again, that note of anger. Or
perhaps this time it was pain?
"It's all we can do, isn't it? Being happy. Happiness is very
fleeting, and that makes it precious. It's the same with living. To
be alive and to be happy, shouldn't they be the same?"
"They're not the same. Not when there's pain and sadness in being
alive." She stopped short of an angry tirade, her heart pained. But
what was that compared to not living? When she was speaking to
someone who had cheerfully accepted his fate and was living with the
inevitable outcome every day? Her words seemed ill chosen and
brutal, some accusation a child would throw out to someone who could
neither deny or accept without destroying some prized or cherished
thing in return.
'Would it destroy me in his eyes?' was the thought that came to
her with agonizing clarity.
"Mmm." His eyes flickered from her to the sunlight sparkling on
the water. Reaching back with his hand he skipped a flat stone
lightly across the pond, nearly halfway across. His tone was mild,
and she wondered if she had hurt him more than he would allow even
himself to see. "I'm not ignoring those things, mind you. But
sometimes I think that if I just skip lightly enough they won't touch
me for long. I've just got to keep skipping for as long as I can."
Her fingers tore up a patch of grass and began shredding them
systematically. She was floundering in a contradiction of her own
words and feelings, which overlapped and pulled away from one another
at the same time. She was spouting nonsense, was shielding herself
with lies. But whatever she did she could not allow herself to look
into his eyes, could not allow herself to see - "That's because you
won't allow yourself to sink. The rest of us can't just-" her voice
faltered as his face was suddenly inches from her own, his eyes
peering into her own.
He broke into a smile, eyes closing happily. "'Nee-chan, you
really *are* cute."
She looked away from him, her heart beating like a mad thing. Why
was it . . . why was it that she could lie to herself and to him and
to the whole damned world but when she looked into his eyes she
couldn't deny the simple truth they held? "I'm being serious."
"I'm being serious, too," he replied, pulling away and redirecting
his gaze to the far tree-lined side of the pond. "What do you
suppose is over there?"
"I haven't the faintest idea," she said faintly, attempting to
sound as disinterested as possible.
He didn't seem to be affected in the least. "We should go and
see, sometime. Just you and me. Take a picnic maybe. Go rowing,
too. I'm sure Nokoru-san wouldn't mind lending a boat to me."
Yes, yes, talk about nothing. Don't think about it. Don't
/think/. "The water doesn't look deep enough for a boat."
"We could go swimming," he continued blithely on, ignoring the
objection. He scratched the side of his face, blushing a little.
"I'd love to see you in a bathing suit, 'Nee-chan."
She glanced sideways at him, but he was no longer smiling, his
eyes still faraway. "It would be nice, don't you think? Someday."
Her hand was covering his and the words were suddenly tumbling out
of their own volition. "Don't."
Don't think. Please, don't dwell on it.
"I would settle for a real smile, you know. Just one would be
enough. You realize I've never heard you laugh?"
She pulled away, the hand that had touched his grown suddenly
cold, and he made no move to stop her.
There it was, all around them now. The inevitability of it all.
The conclusion of a promise.
I never asked you to choose me.
"'Nee-chan," he said suddenly, "skip a stone."
"Across the water. Skip a stone."
"I don't - I won't -"
Then his hand was thrusting a stone between her fingers and his
eyes were looking gently at her. "Just let go. And throw."
What was he thinking of? Skipping stones!
She flung it hard without looking, and he shook his head and
laughed. "Not so hard."
He looked at her for an instant before handing her another one.
Aiming carefully this time, she sent it out with a practiced flick
. . . and stared in shock as her stone sank beneath the surface.
"It requires a deft touch and the proper movement of the wrist and
arm to skip the stone lightly enough."
His hand reached out and clasped her wrist between his fingers.
"Shall I show you?"
He felt her tremble beneath his touch and he wondered for an
instant if he was presuming too much, but her whispered, "Please,"
pushed aside his doubts.
"All right," he said, placing a stone between her fingers with his
other hand and drawing her wrist back with his hand. Her back bumped
against his chest as he did so and he felt them both tense for an
instant, before all the tension suddenly melted away with her glimmer
of a smile.
You're a fool and I'm a fool, but I don't care.
"You draw your hand back like this-"
"Was this a ploy?"
"Was this" - if he didn't know better he could've sworn that was
amusement in her eyes - "one of your ill-thought schemes to bring us
into a rather compromising position?"
"Not originally. Maybe now, seeing as you've mentioned the
possibility, 'Nee-chan. Going to hit me?" he whispered teasingly,
close to her ear.
She affected disdain but he could see the slight flush of her
cheeks. "Later, perhaps."
"Letting me off easy today?"
"Don't push your luck." Pushing his forehead away with her
forefinger she moved easily away and to one side, smoothing her
skirts once more. Her hair fell forward to hide her face and he
couldn't tell if that had been intentional - to hide her blush.
He still held the stone that she had dropped as she moved, and he
absently threw it lightly into the air and caught it several times
before stopping and examining it more closely. He was studying it
very intently as he intoned, "Who will be the one to cast the first
The seriousness of his tone made her look at him as he continued
to speak. "To trouble the surface for a time before sinking beneath
His eyes rose to meet hers. "It was not I who was first the stone
and you the water."
There was an instant where they both heard the lapping of the
water and felt the caress of the wind.
"Did I trouble you so?" her voice asked, breaking the silence.
“Then. Now. Yes.”
"Funny," she murmured, "I thought it was the other way around."
"Do I trouble you?"
"Is the sky," she paused, her eyes lingering on his face before
glancing away to gaze at that very sky overhead, ". . . is the sky
blue?" Just this once I can be honest. Just this once . . .
"But unlike that sky you're an ever-present worry. Was that your
intent when you cast yourself into me?"
"I wanted to break through your calmness if only for a moment.
And though you seem unchanged, am I not still there, lying somewhere
beneath the surface?"
"Yes," she murmured softly in reply, pressing a hand to the place
beneath which her heart beat, "you're here."
"So," he said, "I will rest there, untroubled, forever."
"Thank you." She forced her face to remain composed. Tears would
only cause him more pain.
Taking the flat stone from his hand, she sent it across the water
with a flick of her wrist. Sorata sat up as it skipped almost the
entire length of the pond before sinking. "How did you . . . ?"
Arashi gave him a cryptic smile as she stood, dusting off her
skirts. "Would you expect any less from the champion stone-skipper
four years running at Ise Shrine?"
He watched her slender form as she moved away, and when she was
out of sight, he leaned back against the grass, stared up at the blue
sky, and laughed.