Fruits Basket Fan Fiction ❯ Seasons of Sorrow ❯ Embers of Summer's Glory = Concerning You ( Chapter 37 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

DISCLAIMER: I am me, not the creator, just me. Penniless, too!
Embers of Summer's Glory
Chapter 37: Concerning You
Sweet and clean. That's how the air was the morning after the terrific storm of the century…well, for the week anyway. It seems the weather foretold of the turbulent climate the region was in for in the coming months. It certainly made the nights vividly interesting for a writer seeking the inspiration for his much delayed novel.
“Ah, smell that, Kyo-kun.” Taking a deep breath, Shigure smiled widely and turned to his helper in the kitchen. “Don't you want to just jump and sing and do a jig with this fresh mountain air?”
“NO!” Kyo irritably remarked as he got his lunch ready.
“Aww, is kitty-witty still suffering morning pains? Maybe the weather is too cheery for the gloomy kitty, ne?” prodded Shigure mercilessly.
“Shut up, baka inu! You're too damn cheery after the hellish night we've had!” Slamming his bento box shut, Kyo stormed off with his breakfast plate into the living room. He noted then that he was all alone at the table. `Damn, it's still weird not having her around making us our breakfast…humming off-tune…'
“Oi, when the hell is our light coming back on? And where's the baka nezumi?” asked Kyo annoyed while munching on his dinner leftovers of salmon riceballs that he personally made for himself. He hurriedly added, “Not that I care if he eats…I just don't want to have to wait up for him when I leave today.”
“Of course not,” slyly replied the writer. `Hm, I wonder how long Yuki will take coming down. Uh…oh my…I forgot that his room was damaged from the storm…'
“I'd better check up on him. He's probably checking the damage to his room,” replied Shigure as he left the kitchen, taking the stairs in a hurried pace. All his thoughts were of the more extreme nature as was expected of a harried caretaker. `If that little rat decided to start going through that mess on his own, I'll pop him a good one. I don't care if he has his little friends helping him…all I need is for him to cut himself on something and come down with tetanus. Knowing how Yuki attracts everything, I wouldn't doubt it. Wouldn't that make Haa-san's day…'
“Yuki-kun…where are you?” he called out into the hallway.
“In here,” was the Nezumi's muffled reply.
Hearing the voice from the bathroom, Shigure quickly peeked into the crack of the restroom door. He saw the youth grimacing at his reflection in the mirror while patting his head where the cut was. Lightly sighing in relief, Shigure happily commented as he fully opened the door, “Yuki-kun, you look smashing this morning!”
“Pft, my room is `smashing' this morning. Did you get a chance to take a look at it?” asked Yuki while drying his hands on a towel.
“No, I had thought maybe you'd gone in there already.” Shigure then saw that Yuki was wearing the same clothes he wore the other day. “Hm, I see you picked out clothes from the hamper.”
Yuki sighed heavily and leaned against the doorway. “They're not really dirty, but I did want them washed. Not like I have much choice right now seeing that my room is a disaster-zone. (Snickers) Maybe you can go through there…your room is in the same state, right?”
“Haha, yeah, funny,” sarcastically quipped the writer. Turning around he went to open the door to Yuki's room. “You know, if I weren't such a caring caretaker, I'd let you sleep in Tohru-kun's room with dirty clothing the whole summer.”
Coming up behind his cousin, Yuki peered over his shoulder once the door was opened. Both gasped at the sight that lay before them. The once immaculate room of the Nezumi was now a certified catastrophe, much like the aftermath of a certain kitchen from a certain graduation dinner.
`Glass…water…everywhere…on everything.' Clearing his throat, Shigure mildly noted, “Well, this certainly puts my room to shame. With the window shattered by that lightening bolt, the storm really did a number to your room, Yuki-kun.”
“Hm.” Without a second thought, Yuki started to step into the room before being jerked to a stop.
Clamping down on his cousin's thin shoulder, Shigure quickly remarked, “Whoa there! You're not about to step in there like that.”
“Uh…yeah, right.” Stepping back, Yuki tried to look for some slippers when he spotted the ones his cousin used last night to carry him out of the room. “Hey, let me use these. I have my backpack in the closet. It should be good to take with me.”
Shaking his head, Shigure stopped him before he could get to the slippers. “No, let me do it. Can't have you cut yourself on this glass now, can I?”
“I'll be careful, Shigure. I'm not that helpless,” replied Yuki, irritated that he was being `babied' again.
“Hm…let me refresh your memory…” continued the Sohma adult as he slipped on the slippers. “Haa-san…warnings…threats…bodily harm…does any of this ring a bell? Not for nothing, Yuki-kun, but I'm more afraid of the thought of Haa-san with a needle than of you right now.”
Groaning in defeat, the weary youth leaned against the doorway, staring at Shigure's back as the Inu gingerly walked across the glass-laden floor. He had to concede to the writer's every directive…they usually came straight from Hatori.
And there was no escaping his doctor's administration with his care. Hatori had Shigure on a short leash, literally, and would indeed carry out his threats if the reluctant caretaker didn't follow his orders precisely, particularly those related to the well-being of the Nezumi.
`Well, I can't blame the idiot for being paranoid. Hatori with a needle in his hand can scare anyone. Still…he's being too paranoid.' Sighing heavily, he gazed at the state of his room in awe. The room was truly in a shambles, glass strewn across the soggy wet sheets on his bed, his damp floor, his upturned desk and chair…
“Geez, Yuki-kun, nothing's left untouched. More precisely anything you had laying out in the open. I hope your clothes in your drawers and closets escaped the massacre.” Glancing from the soggy sheets and bedding to the floor, the elder Sohma saw Yuki's stereo next to the broken lamp and so kneeled down carefully. He eHHtilted the stereo and saw water dribble out of the cracks in the casing. Shaking his head at the `dead' item, he stood up and stretched his weary limbs, hearing them finally `pop'. Just then a black stain on the wall caught his attention.
“Hm…I think I've found the remains of your nightlight, Yuki-kun.” Walking to the wall, he bent down to peer at the blackened stain that was once an outlet. He looked down to the floor to see the item in question, clearly `dead' like his other `brother'. “Well, it does seem like I'll have to do some shopping today. Tsk, tsk what a mess… At least you have a nice cool breeze to greet you in the morning. That window is definitely no more.”
“Could you just get my backpack from the closet? I still need to eat breakfast since someone refuses to release me until I've eaten every last grain of rice,” haughtily pointed out Yuki to the dawdling Inu.
“Rush, rush…always rushing about with you kids,” grumbled Shigure while pulling open the closet door and taking out the requested backpack. Walking back to the doorway, he slipped off the slippers and handed the backpack to Yuki. “Here, come on. Can't have you late with your date.”
“I don't have a date, baka! We always pick up Tohru-san on our way to Shihan's dojo.” Rummaging through his backpack to be sure all was fine in there, Yuki turned to Shigure once more with a nice blush gracing his face. “She got lost going on her own, so we just make sure she gets to her office building with no problems. That's it…no date, no nothing.”
“Ah…the opportunities you children throw away… Honestly, I'm so ashamed to call you family,” cried out Shigure dramatically.
“The feeling's mutual,” grumbled lowly the Nezumi while he shoved the Inu ahead of him. He rubbed his eyes sleepily, vaguely aware of his steps as he stumbled along, dragging his backpack behind him.
Kyo turned to face the `plop' of footsteps as they descended the stairs. Seeing Shigure with his signature grin and the ever-familiar dazed look of the Nezumi following him, he turned back to his morning meal, intent on ignoring the two as he normally did since Tohru left. Well, he didn't always ignore them completely, but he preferred to keep himself at a distance. Without Tohru there trying to bring them all together with her warm company and good food, he lost any and all inclination to pay them any mind. Not that it went noticed…Yuki was too far-off in the morning to even conceive an actual conversation (that is until they meet up with Tohru), and Shigure talked enough to put even Ayame to shame. Maybe he's trying to make up for Tohru's absence, not that it helped.
“I brought down the mouse, all hands back to your posts,” reported Shigure authoritatively to the only person in the room. He nudged the sleepy Nezumi over to the table. “Have a seat, Yuki-kun…breakfast should be out in a jiff.”
“When are you going to let me back into the kitchen? This arrangement is getting ridiculous.” As he laid his pack behind him, Yuki rubbed his eyes hard to become more aware of his surroundings. Mumbling a `good morning' to the Neko at the table (Tohru had gotten him into the habit), he continued his barrage on the writer in the kitchen. “You can't keep me out of the kitchen for forever, you know. And I paid for it!”
“Hell, I'd keep you out of this house if it were possible,” grumbled Kyo with a scowl. “I happen to like the larger, cleaner, FULLY INTACT kitchen Shigure had rebuilt with YOUR money. It'll stay that way as long as you're not in there.”
“Shut up, baka neko!” shot back the Nezumi. “It's been months ago!”
“Two months, two weeks, three days, eight hours, and thirty-two minutes since the day the kitchen fell to enemy hands.” Bringing his and Yuki's breakfast with a flourish that only a butler could pull off, Shigure sat gracefully at the table and started to eat his meal with gusto. “Yessiree, m-mmm, my beautiful kitchen didn't stand a chance against the `monsoon' and the `tsunami' of the culinary world! Mmm! The breakfast this morning is fantastic! Thank heaven for Haa-san's cue cards! It's easier to make these dishes with his help!”
“Pft, it's your fault, idiot. You should never have let Shishou in the kitchen with that Rat! That's just beggin' for a disaster to happen.” With a huff, Kyo stood up as he took his dishes into the kitchen while bestowing a condescending glare on the Nezumi. Unfortunately for him, Yuki was too lost in his thoughts at Shigure's last remark to pay him any mind.
`Which am I…the `tsunami' or the `monsoon'? Hm…still, that's an over-exaggeration. The kitchen still had power…partly. It would have had full power if Momiji hadn't sprayed the hose into the wall outlet. I guess it couldn't be helped…the electric fire was zapping its way up to the ceiling. (Mentally sighs) We needed a new rice cooker anyway since it was on its last leg. Besides, it's normal to change microwaves every few months. Shihan said he did it all the time. And stoves go bad as well, at least, that's what Shihan had said… I actually never heard of that before, but Shihan assured me that he's had plenty of experience with bad stoves.' Nodding to himself in assurance once more that he was not in the wrong, Yuki continued to eat his meal serenely, vaguely recollecting that although the meal was fit to be eaten, he still missed the warmth that came when a meal was prepared by that special someone.
`Tohru-san…' Closing his eyes briefly, he mentally recollected her cheerful presence in the morning, almost tricking his mind that she was actually still there with them. Yet as always, his eyes confirmed that she indeed was no longer there. However, the memories they shared were always recalled then, and so he smiled once more.
“Don't worry, Yuki-kun,” went on Shigure obliviously, “I'll be calling up the Honke to send down help to do an overhaul in your room. They're used to catastrophes hitting this house of mine. I think it's also high time I get that ceiling patch in Tohru-kun's old room fixed, too.”
“Feh, the little Princess should get up off his tiny ASS and clean up his own mess! It's his room anyway!” complained Kyo loudly from the kitchen. Coming back into the living area, he dried his hands onto a towel while glaring down at the `princess'. “Oi! Ain't ya listenin' to me!?! Don't ignore me!”
Yuki only gave Kyo a blank stare while finishing the last of his meal. Blinking his eyes to the Neko before him, he pulled out his earplugs to his iPOD he had hidden in his pocket. “What are you babbling on about, baka neko? You're going to make us late if you keep dawdling.” With that said, he returned to his meal and inserted his earplugs once again, losing himself to his beloved music and memories of a fair lady he will see very soon.
`When the hell did he put those into his ears!?! Damn that hair that hides his face!' angrily thought Kyo just as he stomping over to the other Sohma youth.
“Now, now, Kyo-kun…mmm…you're going to be (gulp) running late in picking up Tohru-kun,” replied Shigure gleefully while spooning his breakfast into his mouth.
“Ugh, don't talk with your mouth full, baka! I swear your manners took a nose-dive the moment Tohru left the house,” called out Kyo as he ascended the stairs two steps at a time.
“Mm-mmm, my manners (gulp) are fine, thank you very much!” Picking the crumbs off the table, Shigure grinned widely at Yuki. Although the quiet youth tended to tune them out for the most part, he did still listen in every once in a while. “How do you find your meal, Yuki-kun? Come, come now, send all your glorious praises my way! You even have to admit that I'm doing pretty well with the cooking!”
`I'm not about to help in inflating his ego anymore than it already is.' Giving him a sardonic glare, Yuki wordlessly went back to finishing his meal, eager to leave to pick up Tohru.
He had to admit that his appetite was much improved compared to a few months ago after graduation. Given how ill he felt and personally admitted it only to himself, he really didn't have much of an urge to consume anything. Yet his doctor was a rather persistent fellow, and like Shigure, he was threatened with needles plus tube-feeding along with prolonged confinement at his clinic. He often wondered how the board of health could possibly give a doctorate to practice medicine to someone like Hatori. Yet he grudgingly confessed that the eldest Jyuunishi was a great doctor, albeit with questionable techniques to get his patients to cooperate, but a great doctor nonetheless.
`Anyone who can be friends with Nii-san and Shigure for more years than I've been alive, manage the Sohma family's health along with looking after Akito has got to be a miracle-worker of some sort. Hmm…it is a miracle that Hatori got Shigure to actually cook for me the right way. That's a load off my mind…I can actually eat an edible meal by Shigure.'
“Yuki-kun, before I forget, I called Haa-san already, and he'll be expecting you after your classes at Kazuma-dono's. Don't forget!” Taking his empty dishes as well as Yuki's, Shigure smiled down to his cousin and skipped back into the kitchen, singing praises of `oh hail the chef' plus a tune that sounded like `Ode to Joy' except the ode was to the immaculate kitchen.
Shaking his head at his cousin's antics, Yuki sighed tiredly and stood up with backpack in hand. `At least I'm not as stressed as I was before. Peace of mind feels good to have, and if that means I have to put up with the Baby-sitter that just won't quit plus frequent check-ups with Hatori, then so be it. There's no price too high for peace of mind, ne?'
“Shigure, I'm off,” called out Yuki as he stepped down to the genkan and slipped on his shoes. “I'll see you later.”
“Just a sec!” Rushing through the living area, Shigure brought himself up short at the genkan, holding out a nicely wrapped bento. “Lunch. I even added those cubes of cheese you like so much!”
`Geez, he's acting like a mother!' Sensing that to be truer than he'd care to think about, he smiled thankfully and put the bento into his pack, waving a silent good-bye while walking down the beaten path through the forest.
Pounding footsteps were heard overhead while Shigure saw Yuki off. Smiling widely, the writer called out merrily, “Kyoooo-kuuun…! Time's up! Yuki-kun has already popped off to meet the cream in his tea!”
“WHAT THE HE—!” More pounding steps were rapidly making their way down the stairs with a disheveled Kyo crashing into the wall opposite of the stairwell. Clad in a pair of worn jeans with an undershirt and a short-sleeved over-shirt, he carried his duffel bag stuffed with his personal items for his lessons that day.
Huffing and puffing, he bit out, “WHERE THE HELL DID THAT KUSO NEZUMI RUN OFF TO?!?”
“And yet you still dawdle…” remarked Shigure with a shake of his head. “Tsk, tsk, it's no wonder the little mouse ran off without his kitty…”
“SHUT UP!” Shoving the writer to the side, Kyo tied his tennis shoes on in record time. “Stupid, little, beady-eyed, prissy—”
Patting him on the shoulder, Shigure pointed out, “Kyo-kun, you certainly have an interesting vocabulary. Maybe you should become a writer. You know, writing is all about putting words together that will remotely interest somebody. I really see a future for you in this profession.”
“Get off me! I'll be back…and you'd better not let anyone in my room, baka inu!” yelled Kyo over his shoulder as he ran out after the long-gone Nezumi.
“And a good day to you, too!” Waving him off cheerily, Shigure then turned back to retreat into his humble home. Heaving a heavy sigh of his own, he wondered if he should have sprung Yuki's bank account for a dishwasher when the kitchen was being remodeled.
`Hm…I think not. Haa-san would have known and made me take it back. It's not like the kid can't afford the dishwasher… Besides, I'm the one washing the icky stuff off the dishes! And it doesn't matter what that dishwashing brand says…my hands are drying like prunes!' Heaving an even heavier sigh than before, he went off to his `neat as a new pin' kitchen that cost Yuki a fortune (he denied all of Kazuma's efforts to contribute monetarily), deciding that it was time to wash said `icky stuff' from the dishes they used this morning.
Thankful that Kyo was at least responsible enough to wash his own dishware, Shigure made quick work of washing the remaining dirty dishes. Prior to having Tohru coming into his life, he, like Yuki, would let the dishes pile up to mountainous proportions, neither male inclined to fulfill the household duties. Yet, once again, Yuki's doctor is rather relentless when it came to the Nezumi's care.
Admittedly, Hatori was always on his case about being careful of Yuki's well being ever since he came to live with him. It stood to reason though…the poor kid was one child that attracted illnesses like bees to roses. Still, even he knew when something was amiss when Hatori demanded status reports on Yuki's well being on a weekly-basis for the last two months since graduation (hence the `neat as a pin kitchen' plus home—he gave up on his room long ago). It's been only these last few weeks that the doctor tapered back his monitoring, much to his relief. Giving status reports without the Nezumi's knowledge was getting tougher these days…
`I'm sure he suspects something like that by now. He's been a reluctantly patient…patient, I have to admire him for that.' Thinking about his charge, he decided to do a closer inspection of the devastated room. Drying his hands off with a rag, he laid it out to dry, and went out and took the steps calmly.
Opening the door to the room, he saw how the bright morning sunshine shone clearly through the wide-open window, dust particles glistening as they descended to the debris-laden floor. Whistling in awe, he slipped on the slippers from before and walked gingerly across the floor, taking faint notice of all the scattered objects.
`Dear me, this will definitely set Yuki back a sum…well, not really. Money seems to ooze out of the bank when I mention his name to the Honke…' Used to this reaction from his family, he shrugged the thought away as he made his way to the window, peering carefully outside. Taking a deep breath, he smelled the clean and fresh scent of mountain air, plus a trace of burnt wood…
`Burnt wood?' Surprised by this, he looked all around Yuki's room, noting nothing in there that would give off this odd smell. Letting his instincts take over, he sniffed the area around the window and found the smell to be coming from outside, possibly from the tree across from him. He noted that a bough was torn off and hanging loosely from the tree.
`Ah…lightening did hit. Heh, might as well help it along to fall down.' Walking out and slipping off the slippers, he walked out into the hallway and down the stairs, going to the back of the house through the kitchen. Slipping on another pair of slippers, he walked outside to meet the morning dew on the ground. Locating a ladder they kept to the side of the house behind some bushes, he lifted this and erected it against the trunk of the tree.
`Up one, up two, up three…' he counted to himself as he carefully went up the ladder. `Come to think of it (grunts in effort to pull up to the next rung), that bough doesn't look burnt. Whew…heh, maybe wind gusts managed to snap it before the lightening struck by Yuki's room and shattered his window.'
Arriving at the top rung, he was admiring the lovely view below him when something caught his attention from the corner of his eye. Looking up, he gasped in profound astonishment, the irises in his eyes becoming pinpricks as he stared hard at the side of his house. The sight that greeted him through the branches and swaying leaves left an indelible imprint in his mind that he would never forget.
`The smell of burnt wood…'
His home…was singed on this side over a particular window. Kyo couldn't have noticed the smell since his window and the one next to his remained securely closed. Yet, it was singed…not torched, merely singed…in the shape of a marking that could only mean one thing.
`There is no further doubt…Kyo's leading her here. And she's starting to remember.'
“Where the hell do ya get off (panting) leaving me behind (panting), kuso Nezumi?!?”
Finally catching up to match Yuki's stride, Kyo huffed and puffed. `Damn he got ahead so fast!' Growling irately, he clenched his fists tightly, vainly trying to hold back his more public display of rage. `Aww, the hell with it! Shishou ain't around!'
“Yo, damn rat! You get one thing straight. Just because you're subbing for Shishou at the dojo doesn't make you anything more than what you already are…a big nobody! Got that?!?” He punctuated his point by jabbing the slender shoulder of his silent companion with his right index finger.
Quicker than a cat's blink, Yuki had the offending appendage tightly grasped in his own hand, giving it a slight crack before letting go of it. Sighing lightly, he slipped off his earplugs to his MP3 player once again, barely gracing his loud companion with a glance who was by now louder than before.
“DAMMIT, SON OF A—YOU STUPID JERK! I NEED MY FINGER!” Kyo cried out as he massaged his abused finger with his other hand, clearly aware that yet again he underestimated Yuki's uncanny reflexes even whilst seemingly distracted.
`Honestly, how does Shihan put up with his whining?' Adjusting the strap from his pack on his back, Yuki stated primly, “Keep your limbs to yourself if you want them unharmed, baka neko.”
“Pft…whatever, prissy boy! I meant what I said…you're a substitute teacher. Nothing more. Once Shishou gets this tournament over with, you're outta there, you get me, JUNKYOUIN?” Oh how Kyo loved the concept of hierarchy…really, he does make a wonderful Sempai at the dojo, especially over the Nezumi of the Jyuunishi. Oh yes, exactly where the Cat deserves to be…above the little insignificant Rat.
`Assistant Teacher? Well, at least he didn't call me meshita like before…I'm not inferior. Still…' Said Nezumi didn't even bother to glance back at the gloating Neko. This was really getting to be old… “No, I don't get you. Please repeat yourself like you have done so in the past two and a half months. The first (`four times thirty days for the two months plus the few weeks…hm…') three hundred times just weren't enough to convey the same thing…idiot.”
“Wha—DAMN RAT—!” exclaimed Kyo.
“Thus point proven. You truly have a limited vocabulary. (Sigh) Why they allowed a fool like you to graduate is a mystery. Probably desperate to be rid of you,” commented Yuki lowly without letup in his quick strides, leaving a fuming Cat far behind him.
`GGGRRRRRR!!!!!!' The incensed Cat cried out as he ran to catch up, “What the HELL is that supposed to mean, kuso nezumi?!? Don't be talkin' in riddles to me!”
`Must connect the dots for the little mind of the Neko…' Looking down to his player, Yuki selected the one he desired, confident that even Kyo's bellows can't possibly drown out Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. “Every time you open your wide mouth, more filth dribbles out. It's repulsive that I have to listen to the same filth over and over again. Why don't you at least try to vary it? Make it at least worth the effort it takes for you to breathe and yell all the time.”
“How…what…ARGH, I don't YELL all the time, only around you, kuso nezumi!” the irate Neko sputtered in response above the normal decibel, for surely he never yelled. Mentally coming to a halt, he asked suspiciously, “Hey wait, did you just tell me to shut up?”
`Wow, nothing gets past him.' Slipping his earplugs back into place, the Nezumi began to listen to his music as he replied, “Incredible…you do have the capability to think despite the contrary.”
`Did the jerk just insult me? I think he did…' The wheels slowly clicked for Kyo but were stopped before he could voice them vocally.
Without looking back, Yuki promptly remarked, “Baka neko, don't bother thinking. It's too much for you to do this early in the morning.”
“ARGH, THAT'S IT!!! Let's settle this here and now!” yelled Kyo (this time he admittedly did yell) with clenched fists. “I'm not about to roll over and let you walk all over me.”
“Only if I'm lucky,” mumbled Yuki while mentally distancing himself from the source of his irritation to images of dancing leaves in the early morning summer breezes and of the smiles of a young lady he will soon be meeting. `Good thoughts…good thoughts. Heh, Beethoven can win over the baka neko's bellows. I hardly hear him anymore.'
As he came to the crossroads where the main street met their pathway, he set his pack down while stretching his limbs some more. Feeling them limber, he breathed in deeply the cool, clean smell of summer morning and smiled softly at thinking of what Tohru might share with them today. She always made it a point to share her tales of daily activities with them each time they met. Beautiful gems in life are what Yuki saw them as, and so he looked forward to hearing each and every one.
`Speaking of which, it's getting late.' Mesmerized by the beauty of nature all around him plus the astounding melody of one of his favorite composers, he leaned down to retrieve his pack, and absently swung it over his other shoulder, which unfortunately caught one encroaching cat by surprise. Painfully.
Sensing a thud behind him, he turned around to see Kyo on his back on the ground, nursing what seems to be a bleeding nose. From the way his lips were moving, profanity spewed from the Neko's mouth like sewage from a drainpipe. He was definitely not going to acknowledge any of it…there's only so much profanity one should hear in a day.
“Baka neko, stop dawdling and get up! We're running late as it is because of you!” Not waiting for a response, Yuki's quick steps took him further away from the distraught and clearly yelling Cat as he made his way down the street to the small apartment Tohru shared with her old schoolmates.
`Apartment' could actually be construed as `elaborate duplex' in this case. The elderly landlady that lived in the main part of the home had wanted to rent her rather spacious guesthouse that was built into the back of her house. She had meant for it to be used by her daughter, but the girl had married and so left the small apartment/guesthouse vacant. Wanting desirable company with the loss of her only daughter, the landlady rented it out to the lovely young ladies that were just starting out on their own. Since she already knew Tohru from constant run-ins at the local market, she felt comfortable renting out the place to her and her friends at a below modest price.
`And what a beautiful young man she has picking her up everyday for work! The soft, shy smile…the large, evocative eyes…and his manners can shame the most traditionalist! Oh, please fan me!' Such `complimentary' thoughts always ran through the mind of the elderly landlady as she swept her porch and sidewalk each morning. It was no small coincidence that she made it a point to be right on time at the front of the house to welcome the handsome teen that was many years her junior.
`Ah, but I can always admire! If he was only a little older, and I a little younger…well, maybe a little more younger…' Shaking her head and blushing like the fifteen-year old teen within her, she busily swept stray leaves and such from her walkway, humming contentedly to herself, anxiously waiting for…
“Sohma-kun! Ohayo gozaimasu!” she called out happily while waving to the approaching Sohma. “Open the gate…it's not locked.”
“Ohayo gozaimasu, Hamada-san. Please excuse my intrusion into your home,” replied Yuki softly as he bowed politely in greeting.
The landlady merely waved off the comment while wiping her hands on her apron. “Bah, it's never an intrusion with you! Please come in, our tea set is already laid out under the tree. It's such a fine morning today, wouldn't you agree?”
Smiling shyly, Yuki nodded in agreement and sat with her at her small table arrangement. Under her large blossom tree, he experienced brief moments of tranquility that he found sadly lacking at home ever since Tohru left. Sitting here with the landlady, he could already feel the nostalgia come over him as he took his tea quietly.
`It just doesn't feel like home without her. But this is what she wants…I mustn't be selfish.' Sipping his tea carefully, he smiled a little more widely at the kind landlady. He was thankful that Tohru had ended up living so close in proximity to his home, and that she had the good fortune to have a wonderful landlady as Hamada-san.
“Arigatou gozaimasu, Hamada-san. Your tea is wonderful as always,” complimented Yuki serenely while casting his gaze to the snack tray on the table.
Thank you for having tea with me, young man. Not many young folk would bother to grace this old woman with their company nowadays. Eh…such is life in this fast-paced world.” Setting a small plate with some of her snacks next to him, she added, “Oh, the poor dearie must be running a little behind today. I hope you don't mind.”
“M-mm. I'm fine with waiting on her. I just hope I'm not imposing on you, Hamada-san,” replied Yuki as he daintily took a bite of her snacks.
`And he can eat like a fine gentleman. Not one crumb…beautiful.' Sighing dreamily, she set her teacup down. “Of course not…you can never impose on this house.”
“Pft, hell if ya like the damn fool so much, then KEEP him! He's driving me CRAZY!” bellowed a rabid Neko from the gate who was sporting a nice wad of tissue up his nostril.
“SHUT YOUR MOUTH YOU LOUD PUNK! You ARE an imposition in this house!” shot back the once-serene landlady.
Yuki did recall that his moments of tranquility were brief. There was no level of civility between Hamada-san and Kyo. From day one, Kyo rubbed her the wrong way, not that Yuki blamed her…the Neko had called her an old wench that snored too loudly. True, she had been lightly dozing outside in her chair under the tree, and she may have been snoring a little. Yet common sense and tact were never Kyo's best attributes, so he bluntly spoke his mind when he first was introduced to her. And peace forever evaded the two whenever they met.
“…and I don't see how the poor girl puts up with your loud trap!” cried out Hamada-san while waving her broom threateningly around Kyo as she kept the gate to her home closed.
“Kyo, would you knock it off already? What if Tohru-san saw you arguing with her? You know she would worry,” calmly replied Yuki from his seat at the table, still sipping his tea quietly. `That always gets these two to quiet down. Honestly, my ears are starting to ring. They don't give two yen about each other, but they tone it down if Tohru were around. I'm amazed Hamada-san hasn't had a coronary with all her yelling at the baka neko.'
“Now Sohma-kun, this PUNK ROCKER is much too brash for the young lady,” commented Hamada-san as she eyed Kyo warily.
“Pft, this OLD HAG has a few screws loose from being SO OLD! And I'm not too brash!” went on Kyo at a lower decibel level than from before, unwilling to let this argument go down without one last jab at the landlady.
“Who's brash, Kyo-kun?” was the soft reply from the side of the house.
Turning to the soft voice, Yuki welcomed the newcomer with a warm smile that had Hamada-san sighing dreamily from her post at the gate. He quickly set his teacup down and took up his pack as he walked over to the young lady that was happily smiling at them all.
“Ohayo, Tohru-san. How are you this morning?” asked Yuki while taking her small bag that contained her dress shoes. She preferred wearing her loafers while traveling between work and home, having suffered blisters when strictly wearing her heels the first month she started working.
“Ohayo, Yuki-kun! I'm fine, thank you for asking,” replied Tohru while running her fingers through her neck-length hair, still mildly self-conscious of her new hairstyle.
It had floored the Sohma men to see that she sported a new, much shorter hairdo when they saw her two weeks after she had left their home. It had seemed that she along with her two long-time friends had decided to make a fresh start in their journey as individuals striking it out on their own in the world. With new living quarters and jobs (well, Tohru and Uo had new jobs, and Hana decided to continue her studies in a local community college—yes, quite the shocker), they wanted to take it a step further and so decided on sporting new hairdos.
Tohru had her hair cut to come at neck-length while Uo went for the chin-length look, very much imitating a hairdo of the woman she most admired. Hana had made the concession as well to cut her hair, but not too extremely as she was fond of her long hair and so only went for the `just below the shoulder' look. The three ladies couldn't have felt happier with their new start down this path called `life after graduation'.
To the Sohma men, they saw this as yet another unsolved mystery. How did hair and starting new jobs relate to one another was something they couldn't understand, so they saw the matter as another `girl thing', an unexplained enigma from the female psyche. Still, just the same, they accepted it with no qualms since it was Tohru's decision. And basically they always blessed anything she decided for herself.
Seeing how self-conscious she still was of her haircut, Yuki smiled widely and replied, “You look very nice today, Tohru-san. Will you be helping with another luncheon meeting today?”
“Hai, and I'm so nervous! Last time it was just for the heads of the departments, but now, I'll actually be doing this for the members of the board. Momiji-kun's father will even be there!” exclaimed Tohru frantically with wide eyes.
Laying his hand gently on her slim shoulder, he brightly smiled at her as he assuaged her fears some. “You always do great…of that I have no doubt. Just be you, and all will be well.”
Smiling gratefully to her friend, she nodded in acceptance of his words and took a deep breath to calm her raging nerves. Seeing that they had been walking and were practically at the gate, she noticed then that both her landlady and Kyo were glaring daggers at one another, both keenly intent on `out-glaring' the other. As always, she nervously tried calming them down with her feeble attempts.
“Eh…ano…um…Hamada-san, today is a…uh…lovely morning, ne?” asked Tohru warily. “Ohayo, Kyo-kun…it's a good morning, too, ne?”
“Fine morning, dearie, until this BRASH PUNK ROCKER came and ruined it with his LOUD MOUTH,” bit out Hamada-san irately, still clutching her broom and silently daring the orange-haired teen to cross her gate.
“Eh…uh…” stammered Tohru uncertainly.
“I only talk loud because you're too OLD to hear anything!” shot back Kyo while holding his glare on the elderly woman.
`I'm not getting through to them today either! Why can't I ever get through to them?' Wringing her hands uneasily, she was going to try yet again to be the peacemaker. “Ano…Hamada-san is a wonderful—”
“You've done and said enough to shame me for the whole week, baka neko,” remarked Yuki eerily as he took his foot down from the gate. He had come to the gate silently while the ranting continued, and so saw fit to end it his way, which ended up with him kicking the gate to swing open into Kyo's face. Sighing heavily, he knew this was only the beginning. Oh, how he was going to pay for this later today…
“Hamada-san, please forgive my idiot relative for his callous remarks,” replied Yuki with a bow of apology, which was the normal custom as of late. Turning to a stunned Tohru, he coolly commented, “Tohru-san, he'll be fine. The twitching stops after a minute. He'll catch up, but we better start our walk now. We must get you on time for work, ne?”
“Eh, um, as long as you're sure Kyo-kun will be fine,” murmured Tohru as she gazed down on her other friend worriedly. True enough, she saw the twitching stop just then and only moans of pain were heard.
`That'll change in a heartbeat.' Smiling softly, Yuki took her hand and pulled her away from the scene of his crime. He called out to the landlady over his shoulder. “Hamada-san, have a wonderful day. I'll see you tomorrow.”
“Hamada-san, good day to you! I'll see you tonight!” called out Tohru with a slight bow as she was taken down the walkway, every so often turning her head to be sure her other companion got up okay.
“Haha! You have a wonderful day you two! Hehehe…” Hamada-san was having too much fun observing all that just went on that she couldn't stop her laughter. In the past, so little happened in her solitary life, but ever since Tohru moved in, it was extremely entertaining to have the young Sohma men come by. `Ahhh…it does this old soul good to laugh it up and admire the scenery.'
Colorful metaphors soon reached her ears as she wiped her teary eyes and saw that the defeated teen was now standing on his two wobbly legs, nursing a bruising forehead and another spurt of blood from his nose. Deciding to ignore just this once the brash teen, she sauntered off with broom in hand and a smile that stayed on for the rest of the day.
Words best left to no one's imagination were tumbling one after another through Kyo's lips as he tried orienting himself on his trembling legs. Nursing a good bump to the forehead plus tucking another wad of tissue paper into his nose to stop the bleeding, he narrowed his gaze on the figure walking away without a care in the world. He saw Tohru's worried gaze on him when she turned around to see that he got up okay, and as he caught up to them, she smiled in relief to see him somewhat okay.
`I'll be okay,' he silently conveyed through his eyes to her as he smiled softly at her. Then his gaze turned murderous as he eyed the back of the guy that had knocked him out for the count twice in one morning. Cracking his knuckles loudly he was about to land a good one on the Rat of the Zodiac from behind (to hell with being fair—he was far too mad) when he heard the one voice that always cut through his rage.
“Ano…Kyo-kun…eh, did you have a good breakfast this morning?” hurriedly asked Tohru in hopes of calming down the enraged Cat.
Seeing her anxiously gazing at him, he sighed heavily and took up her other hand absently to assure her that he was okay. “Yeah, well, it was okay. Unlike a moron I know that can't even boil water, I made my own breakfast and lunch without annihilating the kitchen in the process!”
`He'll never let that go, will he?' Keeping his annoyance in check, Yuki ignored the insult to his lack of culinary skills and went ahead and asked a question of his own. “Tohru-san, did you hear that incredible storm last night? Or early this morning, depending on how you look at it.”
“Hai! That storm cut off our electricity for a couple of hours. Were all of you okay? It must have been horrible since I saw that most of the lightening was over by where you live…” trailed off Tohru as here worrisome thoughts crowded her mind.
“Oh…it was nothing we couldn't handle. No need to be concerned, Tohru-san.” Seeing that Kyo for once didn't butt in with his own narrative of what happened last night, Yuki turned the subject back to her. “It was rather humid when the electricity went out. Did you get enough rest?”
“It was rather warm, but we were fine. The electricity had come back on after a couple of hours, so it wasn't too bad. But Uo-chan had forgotten to bring in the laundry yesterday, so she's right now washing it all over again.” Tohru sighed heavily as she looked to the ground, staring down at her comfortable loafers. “I was hoping to help her, but today's luncheon is so important, too. She said not to worry…still…I should be the one doing those chores.”
“You can't do everything, Tohru. That Yankee needs to earn her keep anyway, so just let her do all the housework. You've got better things to work on, right?” Eyeing her with a side glance, Kyo saw her turn to him with a warm smile that certainly caused his heart to flutter for a moment or two.
“That's just what she said.” Taking a deep breath, she set her gaze to look straight forward, determination gleaming in her eyes. “I'll make everyone proud today. I'll give it my all to make this luncheon a success!”
“Just remember to take it easy as well and enjoy yourself, Tohru-san. You always do best when you do,” advised Yuki as well.
She gave her other companion a warm smile as well, feeling her heart swell even more to see how much her closest friends were supporting her in all that she did. She was also glad to see that for the moment, her two closest friends amongst the Sohma family were not at each other's throats.
It seemed that as of late, the tension between the Rat and Cat of the Zodiac was once again mounting. They were both on edge with each other, as if their time living together in the past came and went without further recollection. That pained her to a certain degree, but also brought on the curiosity as to why this was happening. Could it be because of their prolonged exposure with one another at the dojo? That was the only difference besides her absence…
`That wouldn't make any sense…they were always in contact with one another at school and then at home. I was with one or the other or both during those times, but still…even by themselves they managed to get along better. Not like the best of friends, but they tolerated the other's presence. I was told that much by the others.'
She stole a side-glance then at her tall orange/red-headed escort, taking into account the grave lines across his face, sensing that the storm from last night had sullied his mood for this morning, which made perfect sense, yet…
`Kyo-kun will never mention it to me, but he has seemed more preoccupied recently. His face…his eyes…something's bothering him. I could be wrong, but I don't think it has anything to do with Yuki-kun. How can I help him?'
Her thoughts were not that far from the truth as Kyo recollected the events from the previous night/early morning hours. The images…the sounds of terror…the lightening.
`Yeah…the lightening. That's what those bright flashes of light were when I was dreaming. Man, I must have been seeing the damn storm in my nightmares. Pft, figures I'd be half asleep, half awake. But the other stuff…' He shook his head roughly, ruthlessly clamping down on the horrific images that bespoke of terror and pain beyond reason.
`There's no sense in it. None at all. Tohru's here, and she's fine. Nothing's the matter. Nothing…that's all that matters.' Unconsciously he squeezed her hand just a little more as he stared absently at the walk ahead of them, intent on focusing on the here and now…intent on forgetting, if only for the moment, and just feel this sense of peace.
A peace that for some reason he felt was quickly slipping away with each day that passed…
Looking up at Kyo's far-off expression, Tohru returned the tightening in their clasped hands, hoping her small measure of comfort proved that she was there to support him as he has supported her. `He'll come to me eventually. I must have faith in him as he has faith in me. We're friends after all…good friends.'
Unnoticed to her, Yuki slipped his hand away, sensing that the two were silently conveying a conversation with one another that didn't include him. It didn't bother him too much since he'd been known to do the same thing with her. It was her natural concern for others that always prompted her to show support vocally or silently to those that needed it. Even he could tell that Kyo was more than unruly as of late, he being the prime target of the Cat's irritable behavior.
`Stands to reason…I'll always be the Nezumi of the Jyuunishi to him. In his small mind, it's naturally my fault. Really, he just can't let go of some things.' Sighing lightly, he turned his attention away from the pair next to him, hoping that maybe their small interaction will calm down the uptight Neko. It's no wonder his own patience with the Neko, which he had purposely stretched for the sake of peace, was wearing bare-thin these days. Kyo has been more than a handful these last few months, and that says a lot.
`Only the baka neko knows what's bothering him. Even Shihan who's used to Kyo's moods is at his wits ends trying to make sense of the idiot's restlessness. Hmph, whatever it is, he's not saying anything…yet.'
Yuki's thoughts then turned to the other topic on his mind…the dojo. He then mentally cringed at what he knew to expect when he got there…the good and the bad. And if Kyo had anything to say or do about it, the bad will definitely be given in infinite amounts on this fine day…
Lost and found Author (03-02-06):
Yep, lost in my own muck of `lack of motivation' but found by my lovely reviewers!
Good day to all!!! Welcome back to this belated release of SOS! Yessiree, it's been a while, but I've kept busy with other fanfic projects, which I hope you enjoyed. I will shamelessly advertise them because I canSometimes…, The Game of Memory, To My Surpriseread them my dear readers if you haven't already! They aren't true spoiler fics…except for Akito plus some others who don't get a lot of exposure in the manga anyway. So most of the details I lay out in the fics are purely my invention. Still, I hope it compliments the manga…you decide!
Now, back to SOS. Hmm, so much of this release was a filler of sorts. It was to help the readers catch up to current events in the SOS timeline which is now over two months past graduation, putting the date around mid-June. Hope you like my take with Tohru's new lifestyle…I wanted this to be different—the haircut was specified because in a way, this whole fic is turning in a unique direction. If it's not already obvious by now, I'm definitely heading in a completely opposite course of `canon manga', not that I wasn't already, but hey, I might as well spell it out. Heck, I plan to be unique even for fanfics, so hopefully you'll continue to read this behemoth! It will be fantastic…trust this author!
Ahem, let's see… Oh, I clarified what's up with Yuki's current health status. It's to strictly move the story along, so please don't get too caught up in that thread of the storyline. And Shigure…whew, I really wonder about your thoughts regarding the whole `marking on the house' deal. It was done on a lark, so I'm really curious about what you think about it. From now on, there will be more action and less words involved related to Shigure and Kyo on this matter.
How do you like my OC? They strictly move the story along, so don't expect full chapters dedicated to them…there will be more (you'll see more in the `dojo' chapter), so hopefully it's not too disconcerting for you. I already did some OCs in previous chapters, and it worked out okay. Sohmas plus Tohru will always take precedence in my story, and the OCs are strictly to support them and the storyline. I just wanted to clarify this in case some of you were questioning my use of these OCs. Please don't hesitate to drop me a note in case you're still wondering.
Musical moments. Okay…this was rather hard. The song has really nothing to do with the storyline. It was just a nice song to listen to…for me. `Big Yellow Taxi' performed by Amy Grant or that other guy (can't remember his name, sorry). Why? Well, it was a song that reflected on change and how it can't be undone. This chapter basically bespoke of change and many more changes to come. I guess it does relate in a way to the storyline!
Well, that's it from me. My editor is still lost in the endless pit of her schoolwork and something called `life'—please take care of yourself, Miya; I do worry about you! Oh, and I want to send a BIG THANKS and HUGS to all my reviewers to this fanfic and the others. I tried replying to each one of you (if on fanfiction-dot-net), but if I missed you, please forgive this lowly author! All your notes of well wishes and praises really boost my motivation to continue with this fic. I really need them now more than ever since I'm feeling rather `in over my head' with this fic. It's not a surprise—I have so many notes and many more pouring out of my head that it's so not funny.
So read, rate, review…lots of reviews. I won't force you, but man, can I beg? Hm…I'm close to doing that…aw heck, I BEG for motivation! Yeah…I've hit bottom again. Is that legal?
Hugs and tootles from me to you! Take care—TTFN!