Just a warning to readers that this will contain some spoilers for the manga version of Fruits Basket to those who have only seen the anime.







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BLACK AND WHITE

Chapter 1: Chance Meetings





Arms wrapped around drawn up knees encased in black leather, he leaned back against the rough bark of the tree that sheltered him beneath its shade and stared out at the bounty of nature's gifts that were surrounding him. The vitality of a warm and fruitful spring was visible everywhere in the lush green woodland setting from the nurturing rays of the sun shining down from overhead to the liveliness of all below the clear blue sky of the heavens. The high-pitched chirping of birds, the chattering of squirrels and chipmunks as they flitted back and forth overhead among the trees, the lazy buzzing of insects, all were sounds that echoed around him, as if trying to remind him that this was the season for rejoicing in the celebration of life. However, all of it came to him as if from a long distance, the lively sounds no more than a vague buzzing in his ears. None of it could breach the empty void of numbness that had settled in his mind, in his heart, shielding him from anything deemed unnecessary to his present state that wanted only to be left alone in isolation.

"Hatsuharu-san?"

The sweet toned voice had him looking up into the concerned face of his schoolmate, Honda Tohru, who was kneeling beside him in the grass. Coming out of his numbness for a moment, he blinked and looked around as awareness of his location sank into him. In his vacant state of mind, he'd let himself wander about aimlessly, uncaring as to his destination, letting his body go as it willed wherever it wanted. Apparently, in his stupor he had gravitated and settled down near the path to Shigure's. Ironic, he thought darkly, since the place that had once brought him such comfort when he was in emotional distress was now the one that pained him and wanted most desperately to avoid. It was a truly stupid thing to do, his mind whispered, that could only be worthy of someone born under the sign of the cow that was so often ridiculed.

"Are you okay?"

He found himself gazing into moist brown eyes, the sheen of deep concern within them hard to miss. His mouth parted to speak, to reassure and get her to go away and leave him alone again, but no sound came out, only a long drawn-out sigh that echoed the bone-deep weariness permeating his body. He could see that it only made those gentle eyes darken even more in worry. A distant part of him knew that he shouldn't be causing her problems like this when she wasn't involved in the situation in anyway. He should see to it that he didn't burden her with his troubles, do something reassuring to relieve her mind that he was alright. It's what he should do, he knew, but he just couldn't muster up enough strength to put forth that kind of effort.

"Hatsuharu-san?" Tohru's worried tone of voice came again, concerned over his lack of reaction and not knowing what to do if she couldn't get him to respond. "Maybe I should get some help. That's right, that's what I should do. Hatsuharu-san," she said anxiously, "please wait here and I'll come back with someone from the house. Perhaps Yuki-kun or Shigure-san."

This time he did respond as she rose, making motions to leave and head back to Shigure's house in order to find someone who she thought could help. But her well-intentioned actions were forestalled as a hand shot out with lightning quick speed and grabbed one of her own in a tight grip, refusing to let her leave.

"No!"

That one forceful word, plus the physical hold on her, spoke clearly to her of his determination to bar her from bringing anyone else into this situation, whatever it might be. Troubled, Tohru stared down at his bent head as she pondered what to do. He was obviously going through a great amount of inner turmoil and she didn't want to add to it by introducing anyone else into these circumstances if he was so strongly against it. But if she couldn't ask for someone else's help in dealing with this, she also couldn't just leave him alone and go about her routine as if nothing was wrong, not without knowing what was bothering him. She wanted to do whatever was in her power to aid him and, to her, that meant she couldn't abandon him to deal with this himself if he wouldn't allow her to fetch anyone else he'd rather have assist him.

"It's okay," she said softly. "If Hatsuharu-san truly doesn't want me to get someone else, then I won't."

"Thank you," came his low voice as he released her hand, resuming his position prior to her entrance upon the scene.

Tohru smiled a little, happy to have gotten more than one syllable from him this time even though her concern hadn't lessened. It wasn't much, and probably far from having him tell her what was on his mind, but it was a lot better than having him remain completely silent. At least this way, there was a chance that he would gradually open up a little more, even though it may only be in small increments. Grass rustled as she sank down beside him, taking up a seated position as she, too, leaned back against the tree and waited patiently. She knew from experience how terrible it was to be alone during emotionally traumatic times and, if the only thing she could offer him was the comfort of her silent presence, then she would.

He gradually became aware of her company, drawn out of the stupor he'd sunken back into upon her agreement, as the knowledge that she wasn't going to leave seeped into his consciousness. Chin resting atop drawn up knees, he slowly turned his head to look at her. She had her eyes closed and, like him, had her back resting against the bark of the tree, presenting a picture of peaceful serenity, looking as if she had all the time in the world to wait with him whether it be days, weeks, or even years that happened to pass by in this spot. A completely idyllic illusion, he knew, especially for her since he was well aware of how many duties and responsibilities rested on her shoulders and the people expecting her warm presence. There was too much waiting for her to do for her to be wasting her precious time with someone as worthless as him.

"Don't you have better things to do?"

Hatsuharu winced when the words came out harsher than he'd intended them to, latent with barely leashed rage he hadn't realized was lying so close beneath the surface of his control. It was strange, he thought vaguely, how he'd thought that he was feeling numb only to have fury and pain batting against the internal shield of emotional distance he'd assumed he'd successfully erected. Even in that he was a failure to be feeling such dark emotions when he'd been trying to keep them at bay only to have them leaking out and lashing at someone who had nothing whatsoever to do with it. She didn't deserve the brunt of his anger, not when she was simply being herself, just trying to help someone she thought needed it. Even if there was nothing she could do.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you," he told her.

"There's no need for Hatsuharu-san to apologize," Tohru replied, shaking her head lightly.

"Yes, there is."

"No, there isn't."

"Yes, there-"

He broke off his own words, rubbing a hand over his face when he recognized the new depths of childish stupidity he was about to descend into with the silly little argument he'd somehow been drawn into. Shoulders heaving as he gave a tired sigh, he looked back over to see her gazing back at him in stalwart determination, obviously prepared to protest to her last breath if he tried to push the topic of his need to apologize any further. A small part of himself that was able to find the humor in any situation, despite being buried in the cloud of darkness and depression his mind currently dwelled in, peeked through as a corner of his lips quirked upwards, torn between amusement and slight annoyance. But even that tiny sign of humor fell flat, turning into a frown, when his eyes landed on the circle of red ringing her wrist.

"I'm sorry," he said softly.

"It's not necessary to-"

"No," he cut her off. "Not for that. For that." He made a gesture towards her wrist. "I shouldn't have grabbed you so roughly. Or so hard."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, staring down at her wrist as if she'd never seen it before.

"It'll turn purple by tomorrow. My fault again."

His tone was regretful as he inwardly berated himself once more for his stupidity and inability to control himself. He sank into an even deeper depression at this further proof of his deficiencies served to enforce how inadequate he was in dealing with other people. Even when he wasn't Black Haru, his more violent counterpart, he still couldn't do anything right. Neither side was any good and both of them together just doubled the worthlessness of the entire package. Echoes of voices from the past whispered across his mind, telling him how useless he was, how stupid, how unnecessary. All true, he thought to himself as the faceless words in his mind continued to wash over him one after another, bathing him in his inadequacies in repeated rushes.

"That's not true!"

Hatsuharu blinked, the exclamation shaking him out of his induced trance. He'd forgotten she was there when his mind had wandered off again. He focused on her form, canted towards him as she gazed at him earnestly. He looked at her in confusion, having lost the last thread their conversation had ended on before he'd withdrawn into his own thoughts.

"What's not true?"

"This," she said holding out her wrist, "isn't Hatsuharu-san's fault."

"Ah," he went, as it all came back to him. "How can it possibly not be my fault?"

"Because it's my fault."

"Huh?" He stared back at her blankly.

"The bruise is because of me."

His stare remained blank.

"Ah," she stalled, hands fluttering nervously as she tried to find a better way to explain. "Well, my body bruises easily. Even if I bump into something, no matter how lightly, my skin still gets marked. And even when my wrist was taken, it didn't hurt at all. Besides, it wouldn't have been grabbed if I had waited to get Hatsuharu's permission first before trying to get someone to help. That's right," she said, nodding decisively. "So if it bruises, it's not Hatsuharu-san's fault. It's mine, isn't it? That's why Hatsuharu-san doesn't have to apologize."

She smiled at him brightly, apparently quite satisfied with her logic. Deep down inside, Hatsuharu just knew that there was something wrong with it but, at the moment, his normally agile mind felt too exhausted to pursue the matter, knowing that she'd try to find a way to tackle any argument he might make and he simply wasn't up to the task. One good thing, he vaguely noted, was that any rage he previously held seemed to have subsided, washed away in his confusion and weariness.

"I see," was all he said, giving up on the matter.

Minutes continued to pass on by and she seemed to settle herself patiently to wait once again, hand folded quietly in her lap, showing no signs of going anywhere. He suddenly recalled the issue he'd raised earlier before he'd gotten so badly sidetracked and immediately addressed her with it.

"Don't you have better things to do than waste your time staying here with me?"

"No." She calmly shook her head, loose tendrils of brown hair sliding off her shoulders with the motion. "Right now, being with Hatsuharu-san is the most important thing. That's what I think." She gave him a little smile. "It's not a waste at all."

He was silent for a moment in his surprise. "Why?" he managed to say. "I know you've got other things to do."

"Yes," she agreed with a slight nod. "But Mother always said that things aren't as important as people. Although I may be presuming too much in saying so, I feel that staying here is the best thing for me to do." She looked down at her hands, a frown furrowing her brow. "After all Hatsuharu- san has done to help, I want to be able to do something in return. Even if it may not be much."

"I haven't done anything," he denied.

"Hatsuharu-san has done a lot!" she exclaimed, looking serious. "Hatsuharu- san is always worrying about others, I know. Yuki-kun, Kyou-kun, Kisa-san, too. And Hatsuharu-san has helped me understand them better when I'm not sure what to do. And I'm sure there's much more Hatsuharu-san has done that I don't know. Although I don't have any solid proof," she said absently, as if speaking aloud to herself, "but I'm sure of it. Especially when Yuki-kun seems troubled sometimes and doesn't seem able to tell me anything. But then he comes back after talking with Hatsuharu-san and everything is better again."

"Honda-san is making too much of me," he said quietly. "I don't deserve such high praise."

He didn't think he was worthy of anyone's high regard. But all the same, he did feel a little happier with the knowledge that there was at least one person in the world who thought of him so well. Even if the praise came from a person who held everyone in high-esteem. But he was also a bit surprised that she seemed to have picked up on some of the things he had done since she had never struck him as being that observant and he'd done his best to keep a low profile in such matters. Nonetheless, it was nice to know that there was someone who had an awareness of what he was about and so obviously appreciated it. In a way, the praise meant even more coming from one of the last people he'd ever expected it to come from, someone he didn't think had noticed. Still, those were little things that she mentioned and in no way came even close to making up for his inadequacies in the other areas in his life.

"Hatsuharu-san shouldn't underestimate himself."

He found that she was gazing at him solemnly, the set of her features plainly revealing that she was utterly convinced in the validity of her words. Though he felt like refuting the statement, certain she was overestimating him, he couldn't help but wonder why it was she was so sure of his worth.

"What makes you think so?" he asked.

"Because Hatsuharu-san is one of the kindest people I know. Always worrying so much about other people, trying to help them as much as possible, even though it may not seem like anything special at first. I often think that Hatsuharu-san keeps how much he does for others almost a secret, although I'm not sure why." She tilted her head in consideration. "But it doesn't change the fact that many people really are helped by Hatsuharu-san."

He shifted, a little uncomfortable at her words. "I haven't done as much as you think."

"Hatsuharu-san doesn't have to be so modest because I'm only telling the truth." She was practically vibrating with the intensity of her emotions. "Even I've been helped a lot even though I didn't deserve it because I was weak to be so afraid. Still, Hatsuharu-san put my mind at ease even though he didn't have to do anything. I'm really grateful."

She seemed to be referring to something specific that she had in mind, her eyes unfocused as if recalling a distant memory, but he didn't have a clue as to what it was. Made mildly curious as to what event could have inspired such gratitude, he had to ask, "When did I help you?"

"At the haunted house, of course," she replied, looking surprised that he even had to ask. Then she turned serious, as if about to impart some great secret. Even her voice became more hushed as she continued, "Hatsuharu-san may not remember, but I was really very frightened."

He cleared his throat, squelching the sudden urge to laugh. "Mmm," he said noncommittally.

"Yes," she said sadly. "Even when I tried walking with my eyes closed, it didn't help."

He swallowed hard, trying to keep his face as impassive as possible.

"But then," she said in a cheery voice, "Hatsuharu-san told such a wonderful story and I wasn't afraid anymore. It truly helped me very much. Although Yuki-kun and Kyou-kun seemed depressed by it. I wonder why." She puzzled over it a bit before brightening. "But Momiji-kun and I thought it was beautiful. The curator who worked there did, too! So it's obvious that Hatsuharu-san made many people very happy." She smiled as she added, "Even the two dolls Hatsuharu-san told such a great story about are together now and I'm sure their spirits are very happy and grateful, too!"

Just in time, he turned the laugh into a cough. Unfortunately, that had him the focus of a very worried girl who began fussing over him and kept asking him anxiously if he was alright, whether she really should get help this time because she was worried about him suddenly getting mysteriously sick when the weather was so nice, all of it which only served to make the so-called coughing even worse. He eventually subsided, easing the mind of his companion, and felt better than he had for what seemed to him like a very long while. Aware of that concerned feminine gaze trained upon him, he sent her a small smile.

"Thank you."

"Eh?!" Her eyes widened in confusion. "For what? I didn't do anything." She bit her lip worriedly. "Except maybe make Hatsuharu-san sick somehow."

The urge to cough or laugh rose up again but he managed to suppress it. No matter how amusing it might be, he didn't really want a repeat. Nor did he want to make her any more anxious than she already was. He looked at her with all the reassurance he could muster in order to put her fears at rest.

"Honda-san didn't make me sick," he told her, still feeling faintly amused.

"Really?" she asked uncertainly, hope warring with doubt across her features.

"Yes, really," he affirmed

"Oh, that's good," she sighed in relief. But then she looked at him in puzzlement. "But then why did Hatsuharu-san cough so much?" Anxiety returned to her gaze. "If it's an illness, we should call Hatori-san right away."

"It's not an illness either."

"Then what was it?"

"Ah." He wondered what to say. "It wasn't coughing." Well, that was a start, but then what was it? "I just had a sudden tickle at the back of my throat and was trying to clear it." Which wasn't really a lie, not much of one anyway.

"Is that so?"

She still appeared slightly unconvinced so he schooled his expression into as much calmness and certainty as he could when he nodded. To his relief, her lips curved upwards, sure sign that she'd decided to believe his words.

"Thanks goodness!" she exclaimed. "I don't know what I would have done if Hatsuharu-san had suddenly become sick."

"I'm fine."

He said it with a faint smile, for a moment feeling that he was until the humor of the situation subsided as the reason he'd been found in that spot in the first place returned to him, the emotions washing over him making a lie of his former statement. The lightheartedness he'd so recently experienced made the darkness attached to his earlier thoughts seem even blacker and more painful in contrast as the lines of his face fell into depression in such a way that his companion couldn't help but notice. The worried frown returned to her lips as she glanced at the top of his head, bent in a melancholic manner, and wondered anxiously if there was anything she could say. He'd seemed a little more energetic for a while before slumping back into the mood he'd been in when she'd first stumbled upon him and she pondered what to do now. He wouldn't let her get someone else, she couldn't leave him alone, and she couldn't sit silently here with him forever. Something had to be done, but what?

"Um, Hatsuharu-san?" she asked hesitantly. He showed no reaction but she drew in a steadying breath, a little nervous over prying into something that was none of her business but unable to leave things as they were. "I know it's rude of me to ask, but if it's okay, could Hatsuharu-san please tell me what's wrong?" She wrung her hands anxiously. "It's not because I'm curious, but because I want to help. Although I realize I probably won't be able to do much, I can promise to listen if Hatsuharu-san likes. And Mother used to say that sometimes, even if nothing could be done, just talking about problems and having someone listen can be a big help." Her face softened as he turned his head to look at her. "That's why, if the only thing I can do is to listen, I will. I just want to help, even if it's only a little. And I promise not to tell anyone if Hatsuharu-san says not to," she reassured him.

He continued to look at her, reading her absolute sincerity, and thought about her words as a mix of emotions roiled within him, too many to count. Did he want to open up his shame to someone else? No. But neither did he want to stay in this state of mind. If talking about it would help, it would be worth a try if it would get rid of these feelings. But should it be her that he confessed to? But, if not her, then who? He didn't feel comfortable talking to his parents about this. He didn't want to tell Yuki, not to the one he still looked up to. And he doubted Kyou would be any good in this type of situation. Momiji had a hard time keeping secrets, blurting them out at inappropriate moments sometimes when he got too excited. Ritsu was absolutely out of the question. Hiro and Kisa were too young to burden with such a thing. And in no way did he want to go near any of the trio of Jyunnishi adults who always seemed to stick together. Besides, he didn't want to let another person in onto this, not if it could be helped. That only left her who was already aware that there was something wrong with him.

"Okay," he said, consenting in his own way about telling her.

She understood, adjusting herself a little more so that she was settled directly before him, ready to listen to whatever he had to say. And she continued to wait while the sounds of nature stirred about them while the two of them remained silent as time passed on. Seeing the expression on his face while he seemed to struggle to find the words to begin, she gave him a gentle look, not wanting him to force himself.

"Hatsuharu-san doesn't have to tell me if it's too painful."

Somehow, it was those soft words of kind understanding that sought to release him from the burden of having to force himself to tell that finally unlocked his throat. The words welled up in him, coming out roughly in a husky voice with a will of their own as he continued to gaze off into the distance, remembering and reflecting on events past.

"My girlfriend. We broke up." He let out a sigh. "Rin."















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AN: Yes, another in a long line of unfinished Furuba fics in the making. ~cringes from readers who want chapters of my other fics out first~ Sorry but Haru wanted a foothold in my fic palette first, afraid I'd forget all about him otherwise. LOL Although this one may take longer to be updated since I'm more interested in getting chapters of the other fics I've got going on. Just thought I'd post this up since it's idea I've been kicking around for the past month and have working on off an on in between my other fics so I apologize if the flow is choppy. I'll go back and fix any problems later.

But don't you just love the title? I do. "Black and White" fits both Haru who is the cow (white with black spots) and Tohru whose is often symbolized as an onigiri. For those who don't know (although I don't see how that's possible if you're watching Furuba), an onigiri is a Japanese rice ball, often with stuffing inside and wrapped with a strip of seaweed. Although seaweed is actually really dark green but it's colored black in manga and anime. Oh, well. But "Black and White" also has ambiguous connotations that I love as well and think it'll fit with the direction the story will take too. Okay, enough with my silly mooning over the title. It's just that I have a lot of fun coming up with, almost as much fun as the fic itself. Yes, I know it's silly but I don't care. ;p

Okay, little more explanation of what Tohru means when she says she doesn't have proof of some of Hatsuharu's good deeds. I actually had a specific scene in mind, thinking along the lines of the manga in volume 6, ch. 35 when Tohru's upset with Yuki's behavior and runs into Hatsuharu who sees that she's bothered by something although she doesn't say anything. Then he goes off, leaving behind a confused Tohru, to talk to Yuki and everything seems to settle back down again afterwards. But there are other times when Haru's done something similar in a low-key fashion so take your pick of his behind-the-scenes helpful moments.

All will be explained in due time. Whenever I get around to working on it, that is. Sorry to any Haru/Tohru lovers, if there are any out there. No doubt it's a very rare breed. Guess I'll be lucky if anyone even bothers to read this. Ah, well. Any comments I get on this one will be ecstatically appreciated. (^^)