SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1Aishuu Offers:
Secrets of the Sohma
~ A Fruits Basket Fanfiction ~
Disclainer: Not Mine
Notes: Now Complete. For Skittles1, who I can always count on. I really appreciate you. Thanks to the beloved imouto, Lyra, for the help.
It had been a year since I had found out Momiji was my brother; a glorious, terrifying year. Most people would think this story would have a happily ever after, but that's not the way of the Sohma family.
Perhaps that is our true secret; we don't know what happiness is. Momiji and I were learning what contentment was. Maybe that's all we could hope for.
Momiji hadn't forgiven Haru for his manipulations; I hadn't forgiven my parents. Each of us was uncomfortable about it, because I was learning to love Haru as a second brother, one who understood that wilder side I had unleashed on my father that day, while Momiji wished I would forgive Mama. Both of us would cheerfully hang our Papa out to dry. Haru had been right about Papa being weak, and I couldn't accept it. Momiji was more forgiving, of course, but I knew that he resented him.
Today, though, I wasn't dwelling on what was wrong with my life. Today was going to be one of the happiest days the family had known, because today Yuki and Tohru were getting married.
There had been a ton of preparations going on, with the entire family planning on going. Papa and Mama had declined, so Haru was going to pick me up and escort me. Momiji wasn't comfortable being around either of our parents.
When the doorbell rang, I ran to get it. My father had made himself scarce, obviously not wanting to encounter my cousin, who had little use for him, and my mother was in the kitchen.
Haru stood outside, dressed in a haori, the dark material making his white hair stand out brilliantly.
"Haru?" I said. I looked at him, surprised to see him wearing such a traditional garment. I had been expecting him to be wearing a suit at best, though if I had thought on it, I would have imagined more outrageous formal wear for him. Traditional and Haru didn't belong in the same sentence.
"You're beautiful tonight." He smiled at me gently, and I reflected that he was gorgeous himself.
It was too bad that he was head over heels in love with someone who didn't love him. From which Kagura-neesan told me, this was the third time it had happened, but it was the first that the object of Haru's affections actively detested him. I wondered about that. Hate was the flip side of love, and all those cliches, so for Momiji to hate him that much meant that he probably did love him.
"You're handsome as well... But I was expecting you to wear something a little less..." I paused, trying to find the right word that wasn't insulting.
"Traditional?" he replied, and he laughed. "Sometimes the best way to shock people is to be conventional. Besides, it's Yuki's wedding, and I don't want to do anything to get him riled. It's his day."
I giggled. It was hard for me to picture Yuki as being riled, but Haru and Momiji had both let hints drop that the clan head had a temper to rival Kyou's - it was just more slow burning. "It is! I bet Tohru is going to be a beautiful bride!"
"She'll look as pretty as her husband," Haru said as he took my hand in his and started to tug me down the walk towards the car he had waiting there.
It was on the tip of my tongue to say something in Tohru's defense about how the bride was always the most beautiful person on her wedding day, but I knew I would be lying. Yuki's beauty was the kind that took people's breath away. Haru's words were actually a sort of back-handed compliment.
I studied his face, wondering if he resented Tohru. I knew that he'd been in love with Yuki at one point, and it would be natural enough for him to feel residual feelings towards the Mouse. Haru's face, though, was wearing its usual slight smile, which could mean any number of things.
I hated that. Trying to read his expression was like trying to speak learn Chinese from take out menus. It didn't work.
I was a bit too far out of the family line to be invited to attend the wedding itself, but Haru dropped me off at the Kekkon Hiroen, promising he'd be back as soon as the wedding was over. The ceremony was taking place inside the main house, and from what I could tell, only the Jyunishi had been invited.
I gave over the oshugi my father had sent with me, smiling as I wandered deeper into the party. The stage where Tohru and Yuki would sit, but as I looked for my name on the table, I was surprised that I had been placed close to the couple, right beside my brother.
It was great. Dinner would be wonderful, I knew, and the celebration would be even better. I nibbled my lip as I slid into my seat at the nearly empty table, knowing that I was a bit early, but that gave me the perfect opportunity to watch the other guests arrive.
The Sohma clan was massive, and when Tohru's friends were added to the mix, my head spun. There were probably three hundred people at the celebration, and I couldn't wait to see everyone. People slowly trickled in, and I smiled as a few waved to me, and a couple others came over to offer me their best wishes.
It was such a change from last year.
Forty-five minutes passed without incident, as I rose to mingle with some of the family members I knew well, but then a hand fell on my shoulder, causing me to jump out of my skin slightly. I turned around quickly, seeing who had been so forward.
It was Ayame. Ayame, who I never knew how to understand. Usually he would be laughing brightly, a figure larger than life, but occasionally I would see bursts of the same sorrow that marked the others who bore the curse. He was unrestrained, untamed, so many "un" words that it made my head hurt trying to come up with adjectives. His wife, Mine, encouraged him to plunge headfirst into chaos, rather than hold him back. The only one who had any luck at all keeping him in line was Hatori, and that was just barely.
I wondered if it was by chance that Mine was over with Ritsu, while Shigure and Hatori were with Ayame right now.
"Ayame-san!" I said. "It's been a while!" I smiled a bit at him, though I knew that I was going to need to find a quiet corner to recuperate after he was done with me.
"Momo, my beautiful little fruit!" he exclaimed, and he picked me up by the waist, whirling me around a few times so I was slightly dizzy as he set me down. I wobbled a bit on my feet, but Shigure steadied me by placing a hand on my shoulder, watching Ayame's antics with an indulgent smile. Hatori was quiet as well, so I knew that they were going to let Ayame get away with tormenting me so he'd leave Yuki alone on his wedding day. "You haven't been to my shop! That means I haven't been able to make you an outfit to suit your loveliness!"
Just my luck. I liked Ayame, but I liked him a lot more from across the room.
"Um..." I said, trying to think of an excuse. The truth was, I had heard rumors of what Ayame did for a living, and I wasn't sure if it was safe to visit him. I mean... He designed clothes for cross-dressers.
"Momo-chan is very busy at school," Shigure said. "Besides, she's not your sister."
Ayame seemed to sober at that before tilting my head to consider me. "No... She's not." He seemed melancholy. "I wonder how different it would have been, if Yuki had been more like her."
Shigure smiled at me. "Momo-chan is unique, no?"
As I looked around, I realized that almost all of the Jyunishi had finally arrived. "How was the wedding?" I asked.
Ayame practically swooned, fanning himself. "Oh, they looked so beautiful! Tohru and Yuki are simply splendid together - their clothes were just perfect! Of course they were, since I designed them!"
Hatori gave a tired sigh, and I turned my attention to the tall, stoic doctor. "Where are they?"
"Tohru's changing into her next outfit, and Yuki's waiting for her," he said. "When they get here, we'll start the banquet."
I nodded, feeling excited. I wanted to see what Tohru would be wearing, and I was sure that Yuki would be looking at her in that special way that made me believe that there really was "true love" in the world.
"I'm sure the food is going to be good!" a voice said from beside me, and there was my brother, grinning at me. "Can I escort my princess back to her seat?" he asked.
I nodded, and he took my hand happily. We were very fond of holding hands, since I couldn't hug him without him turning into a rabbit - not that that stopped me all the time, since I knew he loved to be held. We said goodbye to the others, and Momiji helped me weave through the crowd, which seemed immense and pressing now that the Jyunishi had arrived.
Our seats were comfortable, and I shifted a bit as Kisa took the seat next to me. Her smile was sweet, but seconds later Hiro was by her side, and I gave him a smile. I liked his sarcastic attitude, and was learning to give as good as I got. Of course, Momiji hated it when I got confrontational. He really did have one of the sweetest personalities.
"Ayame said the wedding went well," I said to my brother, who was toying with the glass of water on the table, swirling it slightly.
"Oh, it was fun!" Momiji said, and proceeded to fill me in on how nice everyone had been, smiling as he mentioned that Kyou had wished Yuki and Tohru the best.
I wondered how much he was paraphrasing. Yuki and Kyou got along like oil and water, always able to make the other's hackles rise. They didn't fight - not the way they did in the stories Haru told me - but I was willing to wager that Kyou had said something nice to Tohru, and threatened Yuki in the process. I hid a smile behind my hand, watching for Tohru and Yuki.
After a few more minutes, and most of the guests had settled down, they appeared, holding hands. Tohru was wearing a pristine white gown which whispered softly as she moved, while Yuki's haoiri-hakama provided a subtle backdrop for his new wife. Yuki was still stunningly beautiful, the way I remembered him, but today there seemed to be something more. Every time he looked at Tohru, his eyes practically glowed, and I could see the tight grip he kept on her fingers.
That was what love was, I knew. Tohru and Yuki were in love, because they wanted to be with each other most of all. I wondered how much it hurt Tohru, to know she would never be able to hug her husband, but there seemed to be no shadows lingering in her eyes.
I wanted that for myself, and for Momiji. I wanted someone to love him like that. At the other end of the table, I knew, Haru was sitting with some other cousins, carefully kept apart from Momiji by the wedding arrangers. No one wanted another family incident to besmirch the day.
Still, I hurt for my brother. There seemed to be no end to the pain that he knew. Truly the Jyunishi were cursed.
Momiji, though, was in an effervescent mood, bubbling like the champagne he was sipping at. He had barely had a half glass, but his eyes seemed brighter, and I wondered if he was one of those people who couldn't hold his liquor. My eyes must have betrayed my doubt, because he gave me another one of his brilliant smiles. "I'm okay, Momo. It's just that everyone here is so happy that I can't help but feel that was as well."
I smiled, and watched as tables were pushed aside for dancing. Yuki and Tohru were going to stay up on their dais and watch the fun, but I was relieved that I would be able to move finally. Sitting still for so long, even next to Momiji, was making me antsy.
He noticed me looking around, and gave me another one of those smiles I found so sweet. "Are you going to dance?" he asked.
"In a bit," I said. "Will you dance with me?"
"Always," he agreed. "You're my princess, after all!"
"Haru brought me here, so I should dance with him first," I said, nibbling on my fingernail.
Momiji took my hands away from my mouth, but a certain hardness came to his eyes. "I guess that would be polite," he said. "Come and find me when you=re done, okay?"
I sighed. I was getting very tired of his coldness to Haru, but whenever I tried to bring it up, he'd either pretend nothing was wrong, or tell me that I shouldn't mess with his affairs. "Fine, fine," I said, even though I wasn't agreeing.
"I'm sorry, Momo," he said. "I'm going to go talk to Tohru, and wish her the best. Sohma Tohru! Doesn't that sound funny?" he asked, but there was a wistfulness in his voice.
Finding Haru was easy. He was still seated, patiently listening to Ritsu ramble off all of the things he had done wrong that day. His placid face tilted up as he crooked an eyebrow to acknowledge my presence, but otherwise he kept his attention on Ritsu.
"...I almost tripped over Kagura, which would have been a disaster, since she was wearing such a pretty kimono, and when I went to apologize, Kyou told me to just go away, and then I bumped into one of the caterers, and that's why the tray was missing two canapés, since they fell on the ground, and..."
Honestly, Ritsu was one of the most accident prone people I have ever met. Sometimes I thought that if he wasn't so highly strung, he'd be a lot happier.
"Um, Haru-niisama?" I said finally, when it became clear that Haru was just going to let Ritsu continue to babble.
"Oh! I'm in the way! I'm so sorry, Momo-chan! I'm-"
I shook my head quickly, holding my hands up to stem the stream of absolutions. "It's okay, Ritsu-niisan. I just came over to see if Haru wanted to dance." I felt a bit guilty over cutting in on their conversation. "Um... and would you dance with me, a bit later?"
Ritsu's face exploded into a beautiful smile, and I felt myself returning one. Really, he was quite handsome when he wasn't apologizing. "I'd love to! But... I hope I don't step on your feet and-"
"I'll be okay! I assured him. Glancing over at Haru, I tilted my head toward the dance floor. "Did you want to dance?"
His smile for me was gentle and soft, the one he only gave to the people he genuinely liked. "I guess we should."
The light pressure of his large hand on my waist and the warmth of the other in my own was reassuring, as Haru had taught me to dance formally three months earlier in preparation for this even. We glided around the floor smoothly, in the way only experienced partners could, but all the time I felt Momiji's eyes on us...
And he wasn't watching me.
After the music ended, Haru politely left me by the end of my table, refusing to get near my brother. The dance he had led me on was a good one, but the one he and Momiji were waltzing to was truly a masterwork of distrust and hurt.
I was sick of it it was time someone did something, and since neither of the two lunk heads seemed inclined to make amended, that left me. It was partially my fault that the rift existed in the first place.
Well... If Tohru had managed to break Yuki and Kyou's sorrow, I was going to finish breaking my brother's - with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, if necessary. I had just about had it with both him and Haru, and they were about to be treated to what was going to be the third and hopefully final round of Black Momo.
I needed an accomplice though, and I needed that accomplice to be female. I glanced around the gathering. I needed a Jyunishi, and Kagura had vanished with Kyou and Kisa would be too shy, as close as she was to Haru. Process of elimination left me with Rin.
The idea made me uncomfortable. I respected the enigmatic woman, but I didn't understand her at all. She was contrary, and somehow managed to be the only one of the Jyunishi who disliked Yuki, which I hadn't believed possible. Even though Yuki was icy at times, he had such intense charisma that made you want him to love you. It was that way with the Mouse.
But Rin would help, because she loved Haru, and Haru loved her- just not in the way either of them wished. Their lives would have been easier if their love had been of the romantic kind.
I made my way over to her, and she seemed to be waiting for me. Rin always seemed to have a sixth sense, a knowledge of what was to come. It was one of the reasons she made me uneasy. "Hello, Momo-san," she said. Ever since I had learned the truth, she had used the formal honorific, rather than address me as a child.
"Konban wa, Rin-san," I replied softly. "Can I ask you a favor?"
She blinked slowly, covering her fascinating green eyes. "Depends what the favor is." That was another thing; she never agreed straight-out. She was untrusting.
"Ask Haru to dance. Please?"
She studied me for a moment, taking in things about my soul I didn't know about myself before nodding slowly. "Just dance? One dance?"
"Keep him on the dance floor until..." I said, wondering, if Momiji would be cooperative or not. He might be in the middle of one of his bouncy fits and unable to focus, or one of his melancholy moods at seeing Tohru getting married but I hoped that he was still in his "Momo is my princess and I'll be her prince!" mode.
Rin didn't press. She nodded, and seemed thoughtful. "There's few men here I want to dance with, and Haru is the best of them," she assured me.
I smiled at her in relief. "Thank you," I said.
"Go ask Momiji to dance. I'll keep Haru to the sides so no one interferes."
My smile widened as I realized she had predicted what I had in mind. It was an obvious plan, but sometimes the simply plans were best. There was less chance for things to go wrong.
Momiji had been too busy teasing Hiro in an attempt to get him to dance with Kisa to see me talking to Rin, and readily accepted when I asked him to dance. It was a bit awkward, really, because he placed his hands on my hips instead of around my back as a precaution, a step away from the intimacy I knew he craved. I leaned against Momiji's chest. I had learned, through trial and error, just how much contact I could have with a Jyunishi without triggering a change.
Momiji was quiet as we danced, seeming to be lost in his own thoughts and not really paying attention. I had grown accustomed to his odd silences, and was relieved for this one. It made it easier for what I planned. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as Rin maneuvered Haru onto the dance floor, and smiled. For once, one of my plans seemed to be working.
It took about two minutes to be positioned right, and I wondered if I would have the nerve to actually do it. Rin and Haru were suddenly dancing next to us, and I looked at them nervously. I started to doubt myself.
I needn't have worried, because when my courage started to fail me, Rin's kicked in.
"Excuse me," she said, and suddenly Momiji and Haru were staring at each other. "I'm cutting in."
Momiji's hands fell away from me obediently as he turned to Rin, obviously thinking she meant to let me dance with Haru again, but she grabbed me instead, somehow forcing Momiji into Haru's arms. "Have fun," she said, before dragging me off.
Rin wrapped her arms around my waist, apparently unconcerned that she was dancing with another woman. That was her; Rin wasn't bothered by social norms. "Do you think that was a good idea?" she asked me. Her eyes shifted over to where Momiji was locked in Haru's arms, apparently unable to move through shock.
"Probably not," I replied. "But they need to start looking at each other." I laughed a bit as Rin swung me around in a dizzying spiral. "Besides, when Haru goes Black, we'll just blame it on me being a child."
She quirked an eyebrow at me in amusement. "You're too clever by half," she said. She leaned in closer, and I was surprised that she was wearing a light raspberry scent; I had figured her the type to wear something more exotic like jasmine or a musk. "Don't change, little one," she said, and then she spun me away from her.
I was whirling like a dervish, wondering who would catch me, but sly Rin had planned it well. Shigure's hands caught mine, and I saw the imp of mischief that was so much a part of him dancing in his eyes even as he pulled me into a waltz that was against the tempo. Dancing to our own beat, we swung into wild movements.
"Well... Now what are you going to do?" he asked me, and there was something in his eyes that made me wish I was ten years older.
"Hmmm?" I replied innocently.
He slowed down after a moment before staring into my eyes. "You've done what you've had to. Look at your brother, Momo-chan..." he said, and he led me to the edge of the dance floor, though his arm was still on my waist, making it clear to others that I was his partner still.
I studied Momiji, who seemed to have relaxed. The third song since Rin and I had pulled our swap was beginning, and he still hadn't left Haru. The tension in his body had faded from him, and he seemed to actually be speaking. Then I noticed him gesture elaborately with his right hand, and Haru smiled indulgently.
"They're doing well," I said softly. "They might make it."
"They will," Shigure assured me. "Because it's what we all hope for, and it's what they dream of. They need each other; they belong together. But what does that leave for Sohma Momo?" Shigure asked.
I blinked at him. "Well... It leaves me where I always was. As Momiji's sister."
Shigure blinked. "What does that mean? If he finds happiness with Haru, that means you can't build your life around him. He's spent the last year of his life focusing solely on you. And..."
"I'm a teenager. I expect the world to revolve around me," I said practically. "But in the end, I wouldn't want to be just Momiji's sister. I have him, and if he has Haru, I'm happy. Because... When I grow up, I want to find that special someone who looks at me the way Haru looks at him... Or the way Yuki looks at Tohru. There's more than one type of love, and I don't want to be loved like a sister for the rest of my life."
Shigure tilted his head. "But... Can your family give it to you?"
"Sohmas often intermarry, and from what I understand, I don't have any first cousins, so everyone is fair game," I said slyly, flirting my eyelashes. "Besides, don't you like high school girls?"
"Momo-chan! I'm old enough to be your father!" Shigure sputtered. It was the first time I ever saw him look flustered, and I knew it would go into my most cherished memories.
I couldn't contain the laughter that burbled out of me. "I'm teasing, Shigure-niisan!" I assured him. "But... There's hundreds of Sohmas. Just because I know of the curse doesn't mean I have to marry one of you. Hiro loves Kisa, and no one else isn't taken."
He blinked. "Well, there's always Ritsu...."
I shuddered. I would walk all over Ritsu. It wouldn't be a healthy relationship for either of us. "Um..."
Shigure laughed at me, before leaning in to brush a kiss across my forehead, the way Momiji so often did. "You're a treasure, Momo-chan. Don't limit yourself just to us... Though we'd be fools to let you escape."
I nodded playfully. "Well, I'm not quite fifteen. I can't make my mind up yet on anything! Life's short, why not live it?"
Shigure's smile was beautiful as he took my hand. "Indeed. And if you keep it up, I may forget how young you are." He winked at me playfully before dragging me back out to dance. I glanced around, but Momiji and Haru had vanished, and I hoped they were finally talking. It would take them a while to rebuild their relationship, and longer still to come to an understanding about where they needed to head, but I had faith in them.
Shigure's hand was warm on my waist as he swept me around, playfully teasing me. That fluttery feeling built inside me, and I decided that I was going to let myself indulge in my first full-blown crush. A crush on someone that much older should be safe, after all. If Shigure ever tried anything, Haru and my brother would make him miserable, and I was willing to bet Ayame, Kyou and Yuki would have a few choice words.
Still, I decided it would be my secret - a normal schoolgirl crush on a man she could never have. For once, a Sohma secret would be of the normal variety, a love that wouldn't hurt anyone, but was of the kind you encountered as you grew up. I was a teenager, and I was in love, and I had a secret.
And wasn't that what life was suppose to be about?
END OF SECRETS OF THE SOHMA
Author's Narcissistic Ramblings:
What a long, strange road it's been. This was begun before Momo was recognized in the more recent manga chapters of Furuba, so it stands now as an AU.
Yes, there's some plot ends which aren't tied up. What did Akito do to Momiji? Momo's anger at her father is not dealt with appropriately as he is turned into a whipping boy. Momo's mother still got off. But remember... 1POV. We only know what Momo does... and she's fourteen. Momo's characterization is based on many young teens I know – too smart for their own good, but with no wisdom to really understand what they're doing. Yeah, I was that way at thirteen, and I'm still that way at twenty-three.
Don't you love first person POV?