The Sohma Institute
Disclaimer: I don't own Fruits Basket, but you knew that . . .I hope. I do own this story, and all the plot twists it contains.
The Sohma InstituteBy Lady of the Ink
After the Institute
Yuki sat at the small kitchen table, watching idly as Haru unpacked the numerous white bags of takeout that had just arrived. Rin sat directly across from him, slouched down in her chair with her arms crossed loosely over her stomach. Her chin was lowered until it touched her chest, the position causing her bangs to almost completely cover her eyes. It was only because he was sitting so close to her that Yuki was able to see that her gaze was rarely away from Haru's face.
He gave his head a mental shake. You would never suspect it from their cool, detached attitudes, but Rin and Haru had their own way to be demonstrative about their feelings. In the weeks that he had spent living in close quarters with them, he had learned that they were rarely out of one another's sight. Nearly all of their time was spent together. He had gotten used to finding them sitting, nearly in each other's laps, their heads bent together over one thing or another.
Due to their closeness, Yuki found himself spending much of his time alone. It was something that he was used to, having been that way through most of his childhood. It was a bit different this time, though, emptier than he remembered it being. The logical part of his mind told him it was the result of having spent so much time in a small area with three other people, but he still felt unsettled.
He felt bad for feeling so isolated when Haru and Rin had done a lot to make him sure of his welcome. After all, if they hadn't allowed him to stay with them, he'd have wound up with Ayame for a roommate. He suppressed a shudder. The last time he'd stayed with Ayame, he'd woken in the middle of the night to find his brother taking his measurements while he slept.
"I saw Kureno today."
Yuki was so wrapped in that particularly bad memory that he jumped when Rin spoke. His eyes flew to her face only to find her looking back at him. Unsure of what that might mean, he looked away, waiting for her continue at her own pace.
It was only after Haru had sat in his chair that she finally went on. "He was with a blonde girl in town. When he saw me, he waved me over and gave me this." She pulled a folded sheet of paper from her pocket and tossed it onto the table. It lay among the napkins and wrappers for a long moment before Yuki reached out to open it.
His eyes skimmed the words quickly, and then went over them again more slowly in order to make sure he wasn't mistaken. The message remained the same, however. Right in his hand, in black and white, was a contract signed by Akito, agreeing to all their demands.
Still stunned, he wordlessly handed it off to Haru, who read it in silence. For a long time, no one moved. Haru was the first to break the silence. He tossed the note back onto the table and stood. "It's about time." Rin's mouth quirked in what might have been a smile as she followed suit. They headed towards the living room and Yuki, not wanting to intrude, sought something to occupy his time.
He found his way onto the porch, a stack of magazines in hand. In the morning he would finally be able to begin picking up the pieces of his life. There would be a house to find, furniture and clothing to buy, people to get back into contact with. It would be a lot of work, but work he wouldn't miss out on for the world.
His eyes dropped to the magazines he held. They were the same kind that he had had to leave behind in his room when he fled the Institute. His mind drifted back to one of the few happy times he could recall within its walls. It was a night spent with his fingers dipped in the soil, teaching and encouraging and hoping for just one more glimpse of a smile so pure and bright, it made his head spin.
A face formed in his mind, with deep eyes and brown hair, and an eager to please expression that caught you unaware with its genuineness. It was hard to believe that something so good had come into his life while he was in a place that was so dark. It was even harder to believe that regaining everything he'd lost would mean losing the one thing he'd never even thought he'd be lucky enough to find.
A seemingly loud click and whirl caught his attention and he looked up to see Haru lowering his camera. The younger boy looked at him calmly, his head titled slightly to one side.
"Not trying is the same as quitting, you know." His cryptic message delivered, he retreated back into the house, leaving Yuki on the porch to think long and hard about many things.
Tohru sat in the center of her bed, eyeing the two envelopes that lay on the coverlet in front of her. They had both arrived in the day's mail, but she had yet to open them. The one on the left was a standard looking letter, thin and white with typed address labels. The one on the right was almost its polar opposite. It was the thick yellow kind, packed so full that it was close to bursting at the seams. Her name and address were scrawled across the front in nearly illegible handwriting and a return address was noticeably absent.
She opened the white one first. Inside was a single sheet of printed paper. Her eyes zeroed in on the logo in the upper corner. It was a very familiar symbol to her, since she had seen it each day on her way to work, emblazoned across the lobby doors of the Institute.
Her hands were shaking so badly that the paper rattled when she unfolded it and started to read. She was nervous, in fact, that she had to go over the single paragraph three times before she could make any kind of sense of it.
A small smile found it's way to Tohru's face when she got to the signature. If it had come from any other source at that place, she would have tossed it out immediately. But the past few weeks had seen her in contact with her old supervisor on more than one occasion. There had been paperwork and final checks to be taken care of, but there had also been another sort of business to handle as well.
She had once questioned Ms. Almont's feelings for the Sohma cousins. After all, she truly seemed to care for them and yet she had appeared to find nothing wrong with the condition in which they were forced to live. All it had taken was one look at the older woman's face at their first post-breakout meeting for her to get her answer.
Ms. Almont was beaming as she grasped Tohru's hands between her own. In an act that seemed totally out of character for her, she pulled her into a hug, right in the middle of the restaurant. They had barely taken their seats when she dove into a stream of conversation that didn't seem to stop until they parted ways. Ms. Almont had asked about the boys and whether or not she had heard from them since their escape. She had wanted to know if they had seemed happy, if there were people who were going to take care of them until it was all settled.
The fact that she didn't ask for names or too many details helped to set Tohru at ease. It really seemed like she just wanted to make sure they were doing okay on their new starts. She wanted, for her own peace of mind, to know that they had a place to stay, food to eat, and people to depend on. It made Tohru feel good to be able to give that to her, and to know, even when it no longer mattered, that they had had someone watching out for them while they were on the twelfth floor, even if it hadn't seemed like it.
They had both parted feeling better for the meeting and had been in contact twice since then. While they had to keep a low profile, Ms. Almont had also made it clear that she was in no danger of retribution for her part in the escape. The four newly freed Sohmas were cutting a deal for their freedom that had included an addendum that she was not to face any sort of trouble on the part of the Institute.
Tohru sighed, setting the letter aside. While she grateful for the opportunity the letter presented. She wasn't sure she was ready to jump back into that sort of job just yet. Taking life on a day-by-day basis, she was sure she'd know when she was ready.
She turned her attention to the other envelope. Carefully studying both sides, she came up with no further hints as to its sender. There was nothing left to do but open it. Sliding her finger beneath the lip, she gave her hand a quick jerk, effectively tearing the seal. Immediately after that, a waterfall of items slid into her lap. It took a moment for her to realize they were photographs.
The shaking returned to her hands as she lifted the first one from the pile. It was a picture of Kyou and Kagura, standing side by side. Kagura had her arms locked around Kyou's waist, but more surprisingly was the fact that Kyou didn't seem to mind . . .much.
The next photo was of Momiji, Minna, and who she assumed was Momo. They sat together on a couch, their similar features instantly marking them as family. Their smiles were as big as their faces would allow and she noticed upon closer inspection that they all held hands.
There were several more shots of them all, including one with Momiji and Momo both playing violins at the same time. Another showed Kyou sitting on a high tree branch while Kagura stood below, apparently begging him to come down.
It wasn't until she got closer to the bottom of the pile that she found one of Haru and Rin. Someone had snapped a shot of them while they were sleeping on what looked like a porch swing. Rin's head rested on Haru's chest and both wore completely content expressions even in slumber.
The final group of photos stole the breath from her throat. Yuki, sitting alone by a window, his fingers rubbing a leaf of the potted plant that rested on it. Yuki, digging in the dirt, happily unaware that he had been caught, up to his elbows in soil. Yuki, staring at a magazine laying open in his lap, his expression one of sad contemplation.
It was only when the first tear blurred the picture that Tohru realized she was crying. Swiping at her eyes, she dropped the snapshots back into the pile. Only the final picture, with its sad violet eyes, remained in her hand. As she looked around for a tissue, she noticed a small slip of paper resting halfway out of the envelope. Tugging it free, she found herself looking at two words that held more meaning than a million pages.
Smiling and crying at the same time, she hugged the note to her chest. She was so glad that they had all gotten their lives back that she wanted to scream with joy. However, there was another part of her that felt a twinge of regret. The final tie that had connected her with them had snapped, leaving her alone. They would move forward with their lives and so would she, but there was a good chance the two would never meet again. She might never get to spend another afternoon just playing with Momiji and Haru, or arguing with Kyou, or gardening with Yuki.
Her flash of self pity lasted for only the briefest of moments before her usual sunny attitude was resurrected. It was selfish of her to be thinking of herself when the happiness of the others was much more important. Just because she might lose them from her life didn't mean she should begrudge them their independence. She would be happy for them, and nothing else mattered.
Tohru left the pictures on the bed and made her way into the living room and the box of tissues she kept there. She had just begun dabbing at her eyes when the doorbell rang. A small frown hovered on her lips; she hadn't been expecting anyone. Then she recalled that Arisa had a date and Saki had mentioned stopping by. She hurried to the door and pulled it open, revealing Yuki Sohma standing there.
Tohru was stunned, shocked speechless. Yuki seemed to be having the same problem, as he didn't say a single word to her, either. One moment drifted into another until they simply looked into each other's faces and smiled. As she motioned him into her apartment and back into her life, Tohru came to a very simple conclusion.
Life was good.
A/N:16 months . . .80,000 words . . .almost 500 reviews . . .saying goodbye is hard . . .but it's been fun.
We regret that your position at the Institute is no longer needed. As a gesture of goodwill and in acknowledgement of your outstanding work, we've taken the initiative to aid you in your search for new employment. The below company would like to extend you an invitation to join them in a position similar to the one outlined in your original contract. Contact them at the listed number if you're interested.
Best of Luck,