Aishuu Offers:
Secrets of the Sohma
Mbsilvana@yahoo.com
Disclaimers: Fruits Baskets is most assuredly not mine. It belongs to Takaya Natsuki.
Credits: This has been brewing since I wrote "Smile," a Momiji piece... I wanted to do an in-depth piece on Momo... Two other Momo oneshots deserve credit for inspiring me to actually GO with this: One is Xandra's "Family Matters," and the other one is "I Have a Secret" by maeyan, which actually came out while I was writing this... but it helped me keep motivated. It seems everyone sees Momo as one of the great Sohma secrets.

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Part One: Whispers
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When I was thirteen, I first became aware of how exceptionally beautiful and entrancing my cousins were.

It sounds odd that I never realized that before, but... it never was a consideration for me. I was a member of a large clan, and though my father was important to them, I was not. My mother seemed to be despised for some reason, and this hatred was carried onto me.

A young child's heart sees more clearly then the mind of an adult.

Still, I was always used to having my multitude of family swirl around, with me, always, but not quite, being a part of them. I bore the name Sohma, but was not one of them. I didn't know why, but I didn't let it worry me. I was beautiful and popular with my classmates, and people who met me adored me on sight. Then... I started to grow up, and when that happened, the girls in my class grew with me.
It is natural enough, I suppose, to have a crush on the relatives of your friends. They are safe to practice on, since there's little chance of anything developing, and they usually have a sense of familiarity. That wasn't exactly the case with my friends, but it's the principle of the matter.

It was family day when it began. I had just entered middle school, and was nervous. Mama was back in Germany visiting her family, and Papa had promised to attend, but he had received a call from one of the business branches in Kyoto. I had assured him that I had friends I could spend the day with, which was the truth, but I still felt lonely.

I walked into the school, and smiled at my classmates. Some of them had their families with them already, and others were waiting for their parents to arrive. I was the only one who was going to be alone. It was not...

A tap on my shoulder interrupted my brooding, and I spun around, expecting either Hisae or Nakuru, my two closest friends. To my surprise, a pair of sky blue eyes stared into mine, looking at me with curiosity. "Momo-chan?" the woman said, and I blinked for a moment before I recognized her.

The small woman standing in front of me had just become engaged to one of my cousins, and was due to marry him in a year or so. In fact, he was standing next to her, and his lavender eyes were looking at me guardedly. There was no love or affection present, just something... watchful.

"Honda-san!" I exclaimed, and I wondered if something was wrong with my father.

She smiled at me, and it was like the sun had forced its way through the clouds. "Your father couldn't come, so we came in his place. Since Yuki is acting Clan Head, we figured it'd be acceptable... if it's okay with you?" she asked, and her voice grew concerned.

I blinked, unable to believe what I was hearing. I didn't understand clan politics, but I knew that Yuki was currently the most important member of the clan until a new head was appointed. It had been two years since Sohma Akito had died, but no one seemed to be in a hurry to replace him. I didn't see why they just didn't make Yuki the permanent Clan Head, but father told me things didn't work like that. "I- I'd like that..." I answered.

Her smile grew wider, and Yuki nodded. "I'll get the others," he said, and he moved to the hall.

"Others?" I echoed.

"Well... Since your father couldn't make it, we thought it'd be better to have more of your cousins in his place. That way you wouldn't be so lonely," she explained.

I watched in amazement as Yuki reappeared moments later, leading in two other people that I knew to be important family members- Hatsuharu and Kyou. Both of them interacted quite frequently with many of the important clan members, so I was confused as to their sudden interest in me. I had seen both of them at some point, but I was surprised they would come see this distant cousin they were supposed to outcast.

Mama was gaijin, and so was I. It was the only reason I could think that the Sohma family hated us so.

Still, Haru gave me a soft smile and looked around my class. "Oi, Yuki," he said. "Your princely nature is going to overwhelm the locals," he teased.

Yuki sighed. "I thought I was done with all that when I graduated."

"Well, at least they don't have time to form a fan club," Haru said, blinking silver eyes over at the clan head.

"Wanna bet?" Kyou said sarcastically, arching an eyebrow towards where three of my classmates were standing.

I followed his gaze, and noticed three of the girls most prone to crushes gathering to stare at my cousins. I knew that they were younger than most of the guests for family day, but I hadn't realized how outstanding they were. Yuki's silvery hair was the perfect foil to his violet eyes, and no one could ever miss Kyou's red hair and fascinating cinnamon eyes. Haru, too, was attractive in a wilder way, with his white and black hair, and his colorless clothing.

I looked at my friends, and wondered exactly what they were going to do to my cousins. The love-love looks in their eyes worried me, but... I pushed it aside. For the first time in my life, members of the Sohma clan were making an attempt to accept me as one of their own, and I was going to enjoy it.

"So, Momo-chan," Tohru said, cutting through my discomfort, "can you tell us a little about what's going on today?"

I pulled on my fuku's skirt a little, before stealing a glance at Haru. Haru was watching me closely with half-lidded eyes, and I wondered why it felt like he was judging me for... Something important.

"Well, there are going to be some events, and the third years will be putting on a play, but I wasn't going to go to that. My class is holding some races, and family members are..." I trailed off, realizing that they might not be that willing to help me.

"Encouraged to participate?" Yuki said softly. "I'll-"

"It's a challenge! I'll beat you!" Kyou crowed loudly, wearing a smug smile on his face and pointing a finger at Yuki.

Yuki rolled his eyes. "I thought we were beyond this?"

Haru's smile seemed to turn sly, and he rested a familiar hand on Yuki's shoulder; somehow, it seemed very intimate to me. "It doesn't matter, Yuki; it's not just a dog you can't teach new tricks," he said softly. "Besides," and this time, he spoke more loudly over his shoulder, "you know that there's no way you'll defeat Yuki."

Kyou punched the wall he'd been standing next to, cracking the paint. For some reason, my eyes fell the simple peace beads he was wearing on his wrist. For some reason, they struck me as out of place. Kyou seemed to notice where my attention had wandered to, for the next second, his arm was down, and the long-sleeved blue shirt he was wearing was covering it. "Yuki cheats," he muttered.

Tohru seemed on the verge of a panic attack. "Eto-eto!" she was saying, bouncing back and forth between the three cousins.

Haru looked at the others. "They'll be fine, Tohru," he assured her. "You know it's only when they aren't fighting you need to worry."

She gave me a smile. "Well, I guess they'll both play with you!" she said, smiling, and she took my hand. "Do you want to show us around the school? Or maybe introduce us to your teachers?"

I nodded. "My teachers are in the next room. They're letting students bring their families in..."

"Let's go," Yuki said. "Haru... Kyou..."

"I'll be good," Haru promised.

"I won't."

"Kyou-kun," Tohru said, and her liquid blue eyes turned to him. "Kagura would be most upset if you embarrass Momo-chan."

His eyes widened in horror. "You wouldn't..."

"She wouldn't, but I would," Yuki said almost cheerfully.

I watched the interplay carefully, like a moth circling the flame. I longed for the closeness they had, but I worried that it was going to burn me. The Kagura they were talking about must be Sohma Kagura, and apparently, the rumors of her and Kyou's relationship had been true.

For years, it was well-known that Kagura had wanted Kyou, but now he apparently reciprocated... I was happy for her. I didn't really know her, but I was always happy when people found love together. "Let's go," Yuki said, dropping the playfulness of a moment before and studying me. "We'll speak to your teachers..." Something about the way he said that made me wonder if it was really such a good idea. He was Clan Head, and I knew that the Sohma Clan was powerful; if he took offense...

Tohru's smile reassured me as she offered me her hand. "I can't wait to see your school! My mother loved school very much, and I liked it... I was almost sad to graduate..."

"I wasn't..." the three men said in unison, and I couldn't help giggling. I tried to muffle it, but Haru just sighed.

"Go ahead and laugh. If you try to keep it in, these two will drive you mad." He waved a finger between our cousins, who both gave him black looks.

I gave in and burst into peals of laughter as we arrived at the door to the teachers' room. Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to find some semblance of composure before bringing in my relatives.

Yuki seemed to retreat behind a mental wall of ice, while Kyou's eyes flared. Haru and Tohru both looked at me reassuringly, and I walked over to my teacher.

"Sakurada-sensei?" I said, trying to get her attention. "Excuse me, but my family is here to meet you."

My teacher, a woman in her mid-thirties, looked away from the small clique of teachers she was with. Her face went slack in surprise when she saw my cousins, and I could see that their sheer presence had taken her aback. "Y-yes, Momo-chan," she said. "Introduce me?" A faint blush came to her cheeks, and I wondered if she was another woman who would sign up for the Sohma Yuki Fan Club. She was only thirty, so it wasn't entirely unreasonable.

"Sensei, these are my cousins, Sohma Hatsuharu, Sohma Kyou and Sohma Yuki... And Yuki's fiancée, Honda Tohru," I said. Something about the way she was staring at them made me nervous. "My father couldn't come today, so they came instead. This is Sakurada-sensei."

"Feel free to call me Hoki," she said, offering her hand to Yuki, apparently enthralled.

Yuki handled her masterfully, nodding his head regally, though he ignored her hand as though it was not there. "You have our thanks for taking care of our cousin," he said, and he rested a hand on my shoulder for a brief second, making me almost melt in happiness.

He liked me! He called me his cousin! my thoughts screamed. I gave him a dazzling smile, and a bit of the ice he had assumed right before entering the room melted away briefly.

"She's a brilliant student.... I'm sure your uncle is proud of her."

Yuki smiled, and the temperature in the room seemed to drop in about ten degrees. "The relationship is more distant than that- Momo is my third cousin, Kyou's second, and I think... Haru's second as well," he said, and his voice was sharp enough to cut.

"She's my fourth," Haru said. "Her father is the Sohma Shuichi of Ryu's line, not Tatsumi's."

Sakurada-sensei blinked, but she was too stubborn to pull back. "That... distant?" she said. "You... must have a very large family...."

"You try drawing the family tree out sometime," Kyou was arguing with Haru. "I think you and Momi- Momo... Are more closely related than that."

"We number in the hundreds," Yuki told sensei as Haru was telling Kyou to shut up. "Momo-chan... Can you take us outside, so we can see some of your school, and perhaps some of what your classes are offering?" Though it was phrased as a question, I recognized the subtle command in his voice.

"Hai, Yuki-oniisama!" I replied, moving for the door.

Kyou laughed as I led them down the hall. "Oniisama? Wouldn't that just make Ayame-"

"Shut up," Yuki said shortly.

The school was bright and festive with decorations we had hung up, and as the day progressed, I gradually relaxed in their company.

Yuki was distant sometimes, but there was a gentleness to his demeanor that I liked. Kyou was always on the verge of an explosion that never quite boiled to the surface, and he seemed to take a positive delight in irritating Yuki. Tohru was one of the sweetest women I had ever met, and her gentle moderation of their squabbling kept them in line with a subtle skill I couldn't help but appreciate. They were all fascinating, and people kept trying to get their attention, and I was proud to be with them.

Still, it was quiet Haru I found myself drawn to. He wasn't the most beautiful -that was Yuki- or the nicest -that was Tohru, and while his appearance was wild, it was Kyou who was the outrageous one. Something about Haru, though, drew me... His silver eyes seemed to watch every move I made as though he was memorizing them. I had good instincts for people, Mama had always told me, but Haru... Confounded them.

I wondered why it was like he both loved and hated me, even though he didn't know me.

The celebration continued, and Yuki stood well in the stead of my father. My classmates watched me enviously as I spent time with my family, and we explored all the activities offered.

It turned out neither Yuki or Kyou participated in the family races, simply because the other families sent older fathers, and neither had the heart to defeat them. I had no doubt that one of them would win. Kyou was a martial arts sensei, and something about Yuki gave the impression that he was breathtakingly competent at whatever he chose to undertake.

The food that Tohru had brought for our lunch was amazingly delicious, and at that time, my classmates began to appear. Yuki acted oblivious to their clumsy flirtatious, and Kyou was impatient with them. Haru, though, flirted right back with them, giving some of them weak knees. Their parents on seeing their susceptible daughters repaid him with dark looks.

I loved it. I loved being a part of the Sohma family after being apart from them for so long. Finally, though, it was time for the day to end. I walked them to the gate, and smiled at them shyly. I hated to see this day end. I bowed to them. "Thank you so much for coming here! It really meant a lot to me!"

Kyou just shrugged. "Someone asked us to. You're a sweet chibi, Momo-chan... not a problem."

"Kyou!" Yuki snapped sharply, and Tohru's eyes were wide.

"What Kyou meant was that you're family! Anything for family!" Tohru said, smiling happily, though there was something strained to it. "We had a lot of fun!" She picked up my hands in her own and gave them a squeeze. "You need anything while your mama is away, call the main house and let us know!"

She looped her arms through Yuki and Kyou's and dragged them off, interrupting our good-byes.

I watched them go, feeling thoroughly confused, and I was standing again alone with Haru.

He looked down into my amber eyes, and apparently he decided to say something. "You're a sweet child, Momo-chan... but we didn't do it for you.... Or for your parents. Someone close to us was worried that you'd be lonely today... and since there're reasons why they couldn't come themselves, we came in their place." He studied my face carefully, and I felt as though I had passed some sort of inspection. Then he bent low and whispered in my ear. "The Sohma family has many secrets, and many people are hurting because of them." A moment later, Haru straightened and walked off, without another word.


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END CHAPTER ONE

Notes: An in-depth Momo fic... fun. Set about five years after the series ends, so the crew is about 21 or so.

The Sohma family tree... well, I've never seen a diagram, but I've assumed that it's fairly extended.

Sakurada-sensei is one of the oldest in-jokes in fandom... in seems ALL shoujo fans name teachers that in honor of Takeuchi-sensei's recurring Sakurada-sensei.

Thanks to Lyra and Xandra for editing.

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