Chapter 1.
It was approaching evening as Sohma Kyou ran through the forest, and the sunlight slanted sidewise through the trees. If Kyou had stopped to look around him, he might have been struck at what a truly beautiful autumn afternoon it was, but the headstrong boy just raced on, though by now he'd forgotten what had set him off in the first place. At length, panting from the exercise, he slowed to a stop and rested against a tree. Before he took a moment to wonder why, he started to climb, quickly and easily swinging to the very top of the tree, where he crouched on a branch and surveyed the woods below.
He'd been sitting quietly there for some minutes before he saw the girl strolling through the trees. His body stiffened a little as he tried to identify her, but she was too far away, even with his above average eyesight. Something about her seemed familiar, though, and it was highly unusual for people who weren't from his family to be in these woods, since the Sohmas owned it.

As she got closer, Kyou relaxed a little, recognizing her as Tohru's friend Hanajima Saki. Neither a family member nor a stranger, he wouldn't need to avoid nor threaten her. She did, however, make him uncomfortable. She was generally considered a dangerous psychic, and while he didn't know her well enough to have observed any truth in that rumor, there was definately something strange about Hanajima. She never seemed to get upset about anything, always spoke in a soft voice and kept her expression almost blank, and yet there was an intensity about her that gave one the impression that she could easily snap you in half if she wanted.

Kyou stayed crouched on his branch, observing Hana with suspicion. What was she doing here? Was she simply going to pay a visit to Tohru, or did she perhaps know that there was something strange going on with the Sohmas, and was trying to gather information to expose them? The thought made him tense up like a cat about to pounce. Just at that moment, though, Hanajima surprised him by looking up, straight at him. "Konnichiwa, Sohma-san. What are you doing up there?"

He was so shocked he nearly fell, but caught himself, and sullenly shouted down to her "What are you doing down there?"

"Come down," she said sweetly. Kyou stared at her. Who did she think she was, walking into his forest and telling him to get out of his tree? He jumped to the ground, landing a few feet from her, glaring.

"Why are you here?"

She ignored his question, instead choosing to continue on her walk.

"Hey!" He shouted. "Hey, you didn't answer my question! What are you doing here? Why'd you tell me to get down?"

"To see if you would," Hana replied simply, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Anger ripped through Kyou. "What?!?!" he roared. Hana didn't even flinch.

"I'm sorry, Sohma-san."

A whole new insult; she'd called him by his family name a second time. "Don't call me that," he muttered, turning away from her.

"Then what shall I call you?"

"By my name, stupid!"

Ignoring the insult, Hana allowed a very small smile that didn't reach her eyes. "Very well, Kyou-san."

He grunted and started to walk away, frustrated by Hana's little game. "Kyou-san!" she called after him, and then her hand had grabbed his arm, and at the contact, suddenly Kyou could feel her power, the incredible strength of her mind, and it was terrifying. Their eyes met and he felt himself shaking from the power emananting from her. Hanajima lowered her eyes, and in a very soft, low voice he almost couldn't hear, she said "You love her, don't you?"

He didn't have to ask who she meant. Pulling his arm out of her grasp, still trembling, he gasped "You can, you are a-"

"One does not need special abilities to see the hearts of the Sohma men in this matter," she said gently, looking up at him. "But there is something you hide."

Kyou backed away. "Do you know what it is?" He stammered, wondering at the same time why he was so scared, as she had given no indication that she was going to hurt him.

"No. But I know how to find out."

Kyou had no idea what to say. The girl was so straightforward about all this. "What are you going to do?"


"Nothing?!" His fear fled him long enough to make room for a flash of anger. "What do you mean, 'nothing?!' Then what are we even talking about?!"

"I only want to know that she is safe. I can see from your face that she may not be."

He froze. It was true. Tohru was never completely safe while she knew about the curse. Not as long as Akito was around. Every day Kyou lived with the fear that Akito was going to lose his patience and do something to get Tohru out of the picture.

"Is she safe?"

"I would die before I let anything happen to her," Kyou replied.

Hanajima's large violet eyes studied him closely. "Good. Then we have something in common. "I'm going to continue on my walk now," she added. "Thank you, Kyou-san."

She strolled off through the trees again. Kyou called after her "Hanajima! You're just taking a walk?"

She turned around again. "It is a beautiful day." She smiled, and disappeared into the forest.

- - - - -

Kyou headed home. His meeting with Hanajima had left him shaken and upset. The psychic's sweet manner contrasted violently with the power of her abilities, and to Kyou, it was much more unsettling for someone of superior strength to be kind to him than cruel. He was used to taunts and jeers, not polite requests and gentle smiles.
He jogged through the woods, trying to forget all of it, but the scene replayed itself in his mind against his will.

She had not tried to find out about the curse. Why? "I know how to find out," she'd said. Did that mean that she knew hugging him would provide answers? Why hadn't she tried to hug him, then?

"What kind of thinking is that?" he snapped at himself out loud. It was good that she hadn't. For another outsider to know, especially an outsider whose memory couldn't be erased, as he was fairly sure would be the case with Hana, would be looked on as catastrophic by the older members of the family. What would become of him, then? He felt quite certain that it would no longer be considered safe for him or the other Juniishi to live among normal people, at the very least. Yes, it was a damn good thing she hadn't pried.
But why, that was the question that was driving him crazy. What possible reason could she have for not wanting to know? Who can resist a secret? And she could probably find out easily, just by reaching into his mind and taking it. So then why hadn't she?

It wasn't until he came into the clearing with the house in it that it occured to him to think of what would happen to Tohru if Hanajima knew the secret. Another outsider... it was possible, wasn't it, that Akito might hurt her, once he'd realized that erasing Hana's memory wasn't possible? Kyou wouldn't put it past Akito to do something to Tohru.

"Then we have something in common," Hana had said. She, too, would do anything to keep Tohru safe.

"That must be it," he said to himself. She was afraid of putting Tohru in danger. Perhaps she had even seen that in his mind, and that was why she had not searched further. Satisfied with that answer, he slid into the house.

He could smell the early stages of another magnificent dinner being prepared, and he followed the scent into the kitchen, and stopped, struck completely still when he saw Yuki helping Tohru chop vegetables, and suddenly remembered Hanajima's words: " see into the hearts of the Sohma men..."

Perhaps he hadn't noticed because he didn't want to. Perhaps he had ignored it because he hated Yuki so much already. Who knows why, but Kyou was sure that he had never seen Yuki looking at Tohru with quite that expression before. Rage flooded into his body, taking control. How dare Yuki? It wasn't enough for him to have everything! It wasn't enough to be the golden boy of the family, to be adored by everyone at school, to have everything that he had, no, not for "Prince Yuki," he thought he deserved to have Tohru, too.

"You damned mouse!" he screamed so loud he felt something ripping in his throat. Yuki and Tohru jumped and turned around, as they hadn't heard him enter the room until then. "I HATE YOU!" Kyou rushed him, throwing Yuki to the floor, screaming and pummeling him with all of his might.

"Go outside! Don't break anything!" Shigure called helpfully from the living room, but Kyou was too far gone to hear. He couldn't see or hear anything, was not even aware of the fact that he was losing the fight badly. He just kept punching, hate coursing through his body, feeding every cell.

- - - - -

He came to in his room a few hours later, stripped naked and tucked in his bed. The first thing he was actually aware of was a dull pain. He was bruised all over, and his face was swollen. Everything hurt. He could only vaguely remember what had happened, and of the fight he remembered almost nothing at all. He wanted to believe that Yuki was in even worse condition than him, but he knew from experience that the mouse was probably fine. Probably taking Tohru on a date right now, he thought bitterly.

The door opened a crack, and Tohru's face appeared. "Kyou-kun, you're awake!" she cried with relief and delight. "May I come in?"

"If you like."

She did, and knelt on the floor beside his bed. "I was so worried about you, Kyou-kun. Do you feel all right?"


"You've been asleep for hours and hours. Hatori came to look at you, we were all so worried!" Two fat tears coursed down the pretty girl's face. "I was so afraid."

Kyou sat up, doing his best to ignore the pain that shot through his body when he did. "I'm all right, stop crying."

She smiled through her tears. "You're right. I'm sorry."

"Oh shut up. What kind of a thing is that to say, 'I'm sorry?'"

"Yes. Yes, you're right. Now lie back down, you need to rest. Are you hungry? I saved some dinner for you; would you like me to heat it up?"

He nodded. "Hurry up."

She lept to her feet. "I'll be back in just a minute!"

As he watched her go, he could almost hear Hana saying "I only want to know that she is safe."