Disclaimer: I don't own Furuba. But I do have a crush on Kyou.

Yami no Namida

Tears of Darkness

Sharing Stars

The house was quiet and empty, a more than welcome relief after the long day of putting up with that annoying being presuming to be human—one Souma Ayame, who else? Moving to the kitchen, Kyou heaved a loud sigh of gratitude to the powers that be that had removed that particular blemish—that loud, disruptive, intrusive, silver-haired blemish—from his life.

For the moment.

Kyou had no doubt that that idiot Shigure would bring Ayame back after their "date" with Hatori. Kyou shuddered at the conjunction of that word with Shigure and Ayame. Why Hatori had ever become one of the trio was beyond Kyou's limited, mortal scope of comprehension.

How Hatori continued to withstand them was beyond the perception of any and all powers that may have been.

Flipping on a burner, Kyou checked the plastic bag for instructions, more out of habit than necessity. It wasn't that difficult to retain in his memory the length of time it took to cook soba noodles. He tossed the empty packaging into the garbage as, again out of habit, he checked the water he'd just set to boil. Another part of the routine, probably stemming from the days he'd first learned to cook, at his shishou's house, as a young boy.

Back then, to balance his shishou's amazing ability to absent-mindedly forget to watch the cooking food, Kyou had developed a precise pattern of checking the stove that nearly bordered on paranoid or neurotic.

Kyou shrugged, barely resisted the urge to check the water again—not out of impatience, as most might, but out of self-ingrained response. Old habits die hard.

He glanced idly at the clock as he set the plate of fish leftover from the night before in the microwave oven to heat. It had been quite a while since the last time he'd prepared a solitary meal for himself. The pattern was comfortable, and comforting, and kept his thoughts away from Yuki and Tooru, off to dinner and a movie on their first solo date.

The mention of the words 'Yuki' and 'date' in the same sentence was marginally less repulsive than the combination of 'Shigure', 'Ayame', and 'date'.


The rice was cooked and just about ready to eat; as the microwave oven beeped its completed task, Kyou nearly smiled at himself. Who really ate soba, fish, and rice for dinner? He shrugged mentally, figuring that, if he'd gone that far, he might as well finish off the last portion of Caesar salad in the fridge before the lettuce went limp and brown at the edges.

Since the water was bubbling satisfactorily, Kyou popped in the noodles, using a pair of chopsticks to prevent the dried sticks from clumping. He checked the clock, mentally noting the required duration even as he set the digital timer to beep in the instructed seven minutes.

One could never be too cautious when concerned with the proper cooking procedure of soba.

It was such a simple task—cooking soba—that it would have taken a master to ruin the meal. Kyou let the grin hover on his lips as he reached for plate and utensils. Shishou had, of course, thoroughly maimed the soba that time, overboiling the noodles until all the water had evaporated and the "food" had become one hard, unedible mass fused to the bottom of the pot.

Kyou had had to soak that pot for two full days before he'd been able to begin the arduous process of scraping it clean.

The timer beeped, and Kyou deftly snapped off the burner, using the pronged spoon-like pasta scoop to dump the noodles into a colander. Soba was best eaten cold, and as he had waited until he was actually hungry to start cooking, he was in no mood to wait for the noodles to chill through the conventional methods.

Instead, Kyou ran cold water through the colander, dumping in a handful of ice cubes to expedite the process. Now, it would be a simple matter of transferring noodles to bowl, serving himself rice, and grabbing a drink and that Roman-based salad from the fridge. Then it was a toss-up between eating in front of the TV or in his room with the book he'd just borrowed from the public library.

He'd just about decided on TV—less distance to carry numerous dishes, therefore the sooner he could eat—when the doorbell rang.

More irritated than suspicious or curious about the late evening visitor, Kyou grumbled himself to the front door, solicitously flipping on the porch light for visibility. He thought longingly of his food—whoever it was, he had better have been planning on a very brief visit, because Kyou hated cold, hard rice—sighed, and slid open the door.

To his considerable surprise, Kyou found Kisa standing on the other side of the door, looking as confused at his presence as he felt about hers. Obviously, she hadn't been expecting Kyou to answer the door.

"Tooru's not home," Kyou said bluntly, watching the hesitantly hopeful expression slide off Kisa's sweet, round face. Either oblivious or impervious to her disappointment, Kyou cast around the shadows for the brat he knew had to be there. "Where's the bodyguard? Not here to shield you from Tooru's influences?" he mocked derisively.

Kisa merely shook her head, her short blond hair shifting fluidly around her face before settling, well-kept and well-mannered, to frame her face. "Hiro-chan doesn't seem to like Oneechan much, so I thought I'd come alone this time." Her wide, guileless amber eyes met Kyou's, held a naked innocence, an unguarded honesty, that tugged at Kyou's heart.

Eyes like those unfailingly belonged to those who were too often, too easily hurt.

"But if Oneechan's not home," Kisa continued, charmingly naïve, "I can come back later. I should have called first…I'm sorry for the inconvenience, Kyou-no-oniichan."

Her use of the strange appellation momentarily disoriented Kyou, and he blinked once. Almost unbelieving, he scanned the yard area thoroughly a second time, seemingly disregarding her words. "You walked here alone?" It might have been dumbfounded incredulity in his voice, his mind still caught on the fact that one middle school student had walked the streets unattended.

Kisa nodded shyly, her small hands clasping the straps of the backpack she wore—what Kyou assumed to be a child's version of a woman's purse, necessary to accompany its owner wherever she went to carry whatever myriad mysterious objects were crucial to the female ability to step out of the house.

It could have been fierce protectiveness in his rough growl as Kyou stared at his young relative, narrow-eyed. "Who let you do that? It's dark out, and it's not safe for a little girl like you to be wandering around on her own! You could've been kidnapped, or hurt, or gotten lost…" he trailed off, stunned by his own outburst, wondering where the fount of emotion had spurted.

Kisa merely smiled shyly, her striking face both beautiful and childishly cute. "Kyou-no-oniichan is kind," she murmured, blushing at both his admonitions and her own words. "Kyou-no-oniichan is worried for me?"

Snorting, Kyou shifted his weight from one foot to the other, but the truth in her statement—the second one, at least—kept him silent. There was a short pause, and Kyou finally realized that they were still in the doorway, the cool evening air swirling around them with the breeze that brushed through the trees. Kyou cleared his throat uncomfortably, then stepped aside to usher Kisa in. "Come on in if you're coming," he said gruffly, the role of polite host an unusual one. "You can wait for Tooru to get back, and you're most definitely spending the night—you're absolutely not walking back alone." And he wasn't going to offer to chaperone her. Better to endure the encroachment on his solitude than to face going there, to the Souma main house.

Kyou waited for Kisa to exchange her shoes for a pair of house slippers before heading back for the kitchen—and his food. He glanced over his shoulder at his silent Kisa-shaped shadow and asked, "You hungry?"

The little girl hesitated—probably, Kyou thought as he waited wordlessly for her response, struggling between politeness and hunger. If he'd been Tooru, he'd have offered her something from the start; but he wasn't. As it was, he was giving this 'kind' business the best he had.

At Kisa's reluctant nod, Kyou merely asked, "What do you want?" She was silent, and Kyou caught the flicker of fear, of pain, in her eyes the instant before she lowered her gaze to the floor. He remembered that first time Haru had brought Kisa to the house; Kyou had asked if she didn't even know what foods she liked, and he'd promptly been beset upon all sides. One day, he swore viciously as he recalled Shigure's rude interruption, he was going to kill that moron dog and rid himself of his stupid innuendoes and jokes and nonsense…

That pledge aside, Tooru had relayed to him Haru's explanation for Kisa's introverted behavior. "Ijimeta", he'd said simply. Kisa had been teased, mistreated, and as a result had found that the best defense was to not share with anyone anything that could be used to hurt her.

Cats and tigers, Kyou thought with a sudden, unexpected feeling of compassion, weren't, after all, all that different.

Crouching down to the young girl's eye level, Kyou kept her gaze, knowing the prolonged eye contact would be both reassuring and unsettling. "I won't let you starve."

Still, it took several long minutes for Kisa to decide; she finally responded to Kyou's hunger-induced, bad-mannered snaps and, blushing furiously, asked if he couldn't bring her a stool.

"To eat?" Kyou asked, confused and exasperated, with the fleeting mental image of shoving the requested item into her mouth so he could eat his now-cold rice and lukewarm soba. Even the salad, Kyou thought sourly, was probably all out of sorts by now.

And Kisa giggled.

Kyou stared in absolute fascination as the young girl covered her mouth with both small hands in an abortive attempt to stifle her mirth. Her sweet, golden-brown eyes met Kyou's in helpless laughter, the endearing, childish sounds warming the empty shadows of the silent house. "No, Kyou-no-oniichan," she admonished lightly through her giggles. "To stand on." It surprised him to see a light of playful mischief in her eyes; surprised him even more to feel a chuckle in response to her words rise in his throat. "That's what stools are for, Kyou-no-oniichan, or do you use them for meals?"

Grinning, Kyou unthinkingly dropped an affectionate fist lightly on top of Kisa's head. "I don't need stools at all, chibi—" and the nickname sounded more amused than insulting. "I'm not short like you." She blinked at him, and Kyou winced mentally. He treaded a line dangerously close to triggering her upset—treaded uncomfortably close. So he cleared his throat, adding lightly, "Though I was pretty chibi once, too, a long time ago. What," he shifted subjects, a little less than tactfully, "would you need to reach with the assistance of a stool?"

Kisa looked at Kyou through eyes both dark and bruised for one humming minute before saying softly, "To reach the stove and cook soba."

His lip quirked into a half-smile, lopsided and warm. "You like soba, too?" She nodded, hesitant, as Kyou casually turned the stove back on and cocked an eyebrow at her. "We've got a lot in common, chibi, you and I. Though you do have the unfortunate flaw of liking nira."

Her eyes widened as Kyou moved to the cupboard for a new package of soba—whose instructions he diligently glanced at for confirmation of preparation time. "I could stop liking nira if it displeases Kyou-no-oniichan."

That stunning innocence continued to touch Kyou, somewhere hidden deep in his heart, and he put a hand on the top of her head, laughing. The ease with which it flowed from the core of his being, the warmth of the sound to his own ears, startled Kyou as much as it did Kisa. He met her gaze with honest, soft ruby-colored eyes.

"No, Kisa. Just be yourself." He patted her head, twice, and dropped his hand as he inspected the boiling process of the tepid water. His voice was wry, sorrowfully bitter as he added ambiguously, "In the end, that's all any of us can be, after all. Nothing less…and never anything more."

His words resonated through her as she quietly ate her meal, sharing with Kyou both the fish and the salad—though she embarrassedly handed Kyou her portion of salad upon discovering she didn't much care for the taste of the dressing. And as he watched the news on TV—not much else was on, anyway—Kisa watched Kyou.

He said little as he ate, efficiently shoveling food into his mouth with an enthralling one-mindedness, his eyes trained on the screen. Kisa contentedly finished up the last of her noodles and sipped milk from the cup she held in both hands. Kyou-no-oniichan, Kisa decided, was a very determined person. He would set a goal, and he would reach that goal—whether that be sate his empty stomach, watch the news, or beat Yuki-oniichan and become one of the accepted Juunishi.

Kyou-no-oniichan, Kisa concluded as she stacked her empty dishes to carry them to the kitchen, was a very dedicated man. Admittedly, she didn't know him very well, but Kisa didn't know of a single instance where he hadn't applied himself fully—karate training, avoiding Kagura-no-oneechan, hating Yuki-no-oniichan…

"Oi, chibi." Kyou's voice had her pausing even as she started to rise to her feet. He glanced at her and waved a casual hand back at the table. "You sit; there are some Mogeta reruns playing in a minute." He flipped to another channel without needing to consult the TV guide, standing in one fluid shift of muscle. "I'll do the dishes. Relax."

Kisa had little choice in the matter as he pressed her back down to a seated position, tucking her legs beneath the heated table blanket, and headed to the kitchen with her plates.

Kyou ran hot water into a tub, half-listening to the sounds of the TV muffled through the wall. Why the populace of Japan was so enthralled with that one creepy anime, Kyou didn't understand…His hands automatically scrubbed and cleaned, his mind wandering to puzzle over the small visitor in the other room. She was older, and stronger, than her dainty appearance would lead one to believe; and though she rarely contradicted the whims and wishes of those around her, Kyou had no doubt she had many opinions of her own. And despite her almost obsessive clinginess to Tooru, Kisa didn't seem to show anything bordering on that same ravenous need for a guiding hand from any of the older Juunishi.

She calls me 'niichan', Kyou thought, uncomfortable with the new nickname. Then he shrugged, answering his own question about Kisa's fondness for Tooru. Most every Juunishi—he couldn't possible include Kureno, who had motives that simply eluded the orange-haired teen—had a special sort of attachment to Tooru; Kisa's affection for the girl was nothing extraordinary.

And, if the only other older female figures were Kagura and Rin, Kyou saw absolutely no flaws in Kisa's logic for choosing Tooru. Absolutely none.

Kyou frowned absently as he scrubbed the soba pot. He'd forgotten to rinse it after cooking the noodles, so a slimy residue had formed to cover the sides of the pot. Sighing, Kyou diligently rubbed the soapy sponge along the smooth metal surface, his thoughts still elsewhere. Kisa had, earlier that night, 'chosen' Tooru for one reason or another—while he could see Momiji or Haru randomly dropping in to say hi, he doubted Kisa would act with such flightiness.

She hadn't come to share anything that would affect them all, or she would have mentioned it to him by now, Kyou mused as he stacked the drying dishes on the rack beside the sink and emptied the tub of water. Kyou assumed it was something that was troubling the eighth grader; there had been such a deep flash of disappointment in her eyes when he'd told her Tooru wasn't home. Kyou doubted such a profound disheartenment could stem from the anticipation of sharing good news.

He was so occupied with his thoughts he didn't see or hear Kisa pause in the doorway, pad quietly across the kitchen floor to his side; didn't realize she was standing there until one small hand reached up to fist in the hem of his shirt.

Startled, Kyou looked down to find Kisa staring in embarrassment at the edge of the counter at her eye level. "Kisa?" Her fingers tightened their grip, and he shifted uneasily, as discomfited as charmed by her obvious attachment to him. Trying for nonchalance, he let his mouth relax into what might have been a faint smile. "Come on," he said impulsively. "I want to show you something. Let me finish up here."

Kisa waited patiently for Kyou to go to his room for an extra shirt, which he tossed to her before heading for the back door. He lifted an eyebrow, glancing back at Kisa when she stood, the oversized garment trailing over one shoulder, one sleeve dangling to the floor. "We're going outside," he informed her brusquely, as if the open doorway in which he stood wasn't indication enough. "Put on the shirt—can't have you getting cold, can we, chibi?"

That teased a shyly pleased smile to Kisa's face, and she struggled into the large folds of the loose, black shirt. Kyou wordlessly flipped the collar into place as he closed the door behind her and led her to the ladder propped up against the side of the house. He followed her up the rungs, ready to catch her if she fell; but Kisa, true to her feline spirit, didn't lose her balance.

They settled on the ridge of the roof, and Kyou lay back with a satisfied, relaxed sigh. "Nothing like watching the stars come out," he said, folding his arms behind his head and glancing at Kisa as she carefully arranged herself on the tiles. She smiled innocently at him, and he found himself grinning carefully back. The silence stretched out, not quite uncomfortable, until Kyou cleared his throat. "So, um…How's—uh—Hiro's little brother doing?" The baby—he remembered it was a boy—had been born early spring and, at just about six weeks, was reportedly of Hiro's disposition.

Just what they needed. Another brat.

Kisa's smile was soft with wonder as she snuggled into the borrowed shirt. It was nearing late spring, but the weather had recently taken an unexpected twist—winter's final attempts to clutch the earth in its cool fingers before relinquishing it to summer's oppressive, muggy heat. "Souzo-chan is well," she said cheerfully, folding her fingers into the long sleeve cuffs and tugging the bottom hem over her knees for warmth. "He is very happy and very healthy, and Obasan says he is as sweet as Hiro-chan was as a baby. He cries only when he is hungry or needs to have his diaper changed, and he is very soft. Have you ever felt a baby's head, Kyou-no-oniichan?"

He was momentarily thrown off-balance by her question. "Huh? Uh…No." At Kisa's incredulous gaze, he hunched his shoulders defensively; the words slipped out before he could stop them, "I wasn't exactly allowed to go near any babies—of the Souma sort or not."

Lost as she was in the beauty of the memory, Kisa unthinkingly reached out and idly patted Kyou on the knee in sympathetic comfort. "One day, Kyou-no-oniichan. One day you will. They're so soft, and so small…" A shy little smile touched Kisa's lips. "Even more chibi than me." He snorted teasingly at that, and Kisa sighed in tender reminiscence. "Does Kyou-no-oniichan have pictures of when he was little?"

This one pint-sized child had managed to disorient Kyou more times in one short evening than he could recollect having been stupefied in the past two years. "What?" When she started to reiterate her question, he shook his head irritably. "No, I heard you the first time. Pictures? No. Why?"

Kisa lifted her shoulders with an air of such affected offhandedness that Kyou narrowed his eyes dangerously. "Kyou-no-oniichan would have been a very cute chibi," she commented, all too airily for her normally reserved nature. There was a pause; just as Kyou was opening his mouth to ask where that comment had come from, Kisa added quietly, "Kagura-no-oneechan has pictures."

Kyou froze, the news, delivered in that sweetly naïve voice, a shocking fist in the gut nonetheless. His first fear-shocked thought was that she had a picture of that day, the day she hadn't stopped badgering him to share his juuzu…But she hadn't had a camera that day, and had been so scared any photographic skills she'd possessed would have been rendered absolutely useless.

"Pictures?" Kyou repeated dumbly, his voice a croak. He cleared his throat, but couldn't dissipate the hoarse rasp worry infused in his tone. "Of who?"

Kisa looked at him anxiously at his so-obviously stricken tone. "Of Kyou-no-oniichan when he was young, of course. Kagura-no-oneechan has them in a photo album. Pictures of Kyou-no-oniichan and Kagura-no-oneechan playing in a sunny park; Kyou-oniichan with shihan-no-ojichan; Kyou-no-oniichan training with Haru-nii…" her bond with the cow reflected almost tangibly in the affectionate nickname. "Kyou-no-oniichan was very chibi."

Objectively speaking, Kyou wasn't surprised to hear that Kagura had childhood pictures of him. Who had taken pictures of them both—if Kisa's account was accurate—he didn't know, couldn't begin to conjecture, but it was only to be taken for granted that Kagura had obtained, or commissioned, those prints.

"Not 'very'," he murmured in distracted, unthinking protest, bristling a little in defense at the mention of his rather small stature as a boy. It had been a touchy subject for him then and, apparently, now still, too.

Kisa smiled delightedly, but it faded quickly as she tentatively broached the next subject. "Kagura-no-oneechan said she has a Kyou-no-oniichan of every mood. She even has one picture of Kyou-no-oniichan fighting with Yuki-no-oniichan."

Kyou's eyes were flat as they turned to the girl beside him. "She what?"

Swallowing, Kisa shut her eyes in automatic defense. "Kyou-no-oniichan is yelling at Yuki-oniichan, looking very upset."

Why would she have a picture like that? "When was this picture taken?" His voice was suspicious, angry, control singing strongly through his words.

"About two years ago," Kisa admitted in a small voice, wincing reflexively at Kyou's guttural, infuriated snarl. "Kagura-no-oneechan says it was soon after Kyou-no-oniichan came back." There was a long stretch of silence, during which Kyou struggled with annoyance and fear and the beginnings of curiosity. He wasn't sure he could passively accept the fact that Kagura had an entire album of photos of him—pictures of times he wasn't sure he wanted to remember, times he wasn't sure he wanted her to remember.

Kisa spoke again, and had Kyou scowling darkly in response. "Kyou-no-oniichan is much more tolerant of Yuki-no-oniichan now than he was before."

"And you think that it's a good thing?" Kyou mocked sarcastically, wanting quite suddenly to kick something. Instead he clenched his hands into impotent fists and imagined bashing in Yuki's skull as an outlet for his anger. It was hardly a satisfying substitute.

Her answer surprised him. "Maybe," Kisa said thoughtfully, finally settling down to stargaze even as her words unsettled Kyou. "Kagura-no-oneechan said she'd be happy if Kyou-no-oniichan and Yuki-no-oniichan were friends. But Kyou-no-oniichan is the cat, and Yuki-oniichan is the mouse, aren't they? Isn't it okay if cat and mouse fight? Isn't that their nature?" She paused, inhaled the early pre-summer night scents—night-blooming jasmine, the sweeter perfume of late sakura. She sighed, a peaceful, soothing sound. "I think…I think Kyou-no-oniichan has done enough."

The tone of her words indicated both admiration for his achievements and acceptance of this amount of change. And didn't demand for more.

From his reclining position, Kyou awkwardly lifted a hand and patted Kisa's head. "Arigatou," he said simply, the simple word encompassing a lifetime of gratitude for the one who had truly understood.

Wakatte kurete…Arigatou.

They stayed up, watching the moon rise over the mountainous horizon, until Kisa drifted off into a dreamy state of half-sleep and Kyou felt his own body begin the slow spiral towards the warm oblivion of unconsciousness. Yawning, he bid a tired farewell to the quiet stars above, grinning self-consciously at the childish habit he'd retained—preserved, really—of speaking to the celestial bodies that had once been his only friends.

He grunted, bundling Kisa up into his arms and treading carefully across the slanted roof. He'd spent hours of his lonely childhood—in the pre-shishou, pre-Kagura days—staring out his bedroom window at the pretty sparkles in the sky. Their wordless reassurances and laughter had kept him company on the countless long, empty nights, had kept him warm when his mother's proclamations of devotion no longer scared away the chill of desertion.

Kisa stirred, a small, fragile soul, and opened sleepy eyes at him. "Oniichan?" her voice was slurred even as she snuggled closer into him for warmth. "Are we done watching the stars?"

"Yeah," he replied, voice low. He shifted her to one hip, freeing his other hand for the precarious descent to the back porch. "Bedtime for you, chibi."

Kyou deposited Kisa on the edge of Tooru's bed, with a quick reminder to change out of her regular clothes; for lack of anything better—and out of respect for Tooru to not ransack her closet—he told her to just wear his shirt for pajamas. Kyou hesitated at the doorway, hand on the handle, eyes averted from the row of thirteen animal figurines lined up on Tooru's desk.

"Um…" he desperately wished he didn't feel the urge to fidget in the ensuing awkwardness. "Well. I'll just…leave the light on." He shuffled his feet, a deplorable movement of weakness that had him grimacing in self-directed disgust. "Sleep well, Kisa," he finally blurted abruptly. "Good night."

And as he quickly stepped from the room—his haste only attesting to another weakness—he heard Kisa murmur a soft echo of his words. Shutting the door, Kyou rested his back against the sturdy wood a moment before heading down the hall to his own room. He flicked on the lights, stilling the reflexive rising sadness as the manmade illumination dulled the starglow from the window.

"Someone understands me," he sighed in an awed whisper, moving slowly to his desk and falling gracelessly into the chair. Kisa had, after her rather astounding perceptions, added that some change was necessary in life—for example, very early in life, she'd had to learn to stop regarding Hiro and Momiji as food.

Kyou had laughed.

Now he sat in silence, contemplating Kisa's words and deciding, with not a twinge of unrest at the upcoming confrontation, he'd just have to ask Kagura about those pictures. In all honesty, he wanted to see what his shishou had looked like when he was younger. For inexplicable reasons, Kyou's memories were indistinct, only the feeling remaining—shishou as a tall, trustworthy, guardian presence in his earlier days.

And if asking Kagura to see those pictures meant confronting everything he'd been avoiding—running from, if you had to put it in such terms—for the past six months since their last meeting, then so be it. That was just the way life went, and he'd have to deal with it.

Just like he'd dealt with everything else in his life…

It was just past eleven when Kyou roused himself from his thoughts and moved to exchange his clothes for the shorts and long-sleeved shirt he wore to bed. It wasn't that late, but he really had no desire to be awake when Shigure and Ayame returned. Bad enough Ayame would be there in the morning; no need to subject himself to undue exposure. Kyou was of the mind that prolonged proximity to the creepy humanoid Ayame-thing would lead directly to cancer. Then an excruciating and painful death.

So, leaving the porch light and one downstairs light on, he walked back into his room for the night. But instead of heading straight for his futon, Kyou turned off the lights and stood, hands on the windowsill, gazing out at the nighttime panorama.

"Kisa never told me why she came," he muttered, thoughtful, as he slid his window open for one last, deep breath of the fresh, crisp air. It was too chilly outside for him to leave his window open—regrettable, as he liked the feeling of the night breeze as he slept.

Shrugging, he slid the window closed just as there was a knock on his door. Curious why Kisa would be coming by so late, he turned and called an affirmative for her to enter.

"…Niichan?" her inquiry was soft as her bleary eyes scanned the shadowy darkness to focus on his figure on the opposite side of the room. "I…I had a nightmare."

She sounded so alone and scared, one hand still holding the door handle, the other hidden in the draping sleeve of the borrowed shirt. She looked years younger than she was, dressed in the over-large nightclothes, her hair mussed around her face. And Kyou felt an instinctive stirring of fierce protectiveness of his cousin—both by blood and by nature.

"Come here." The command was soft, and he met the frightened, sleepy girl halfway across the room. Putting one hand on her shoulder, Kyou steered her gently to his futon and laid her down, moving to cover her with the blankets.

She mumbled, already half-asleep—she must have been bordering on sleepwalking down the hallway to his room—even as she wrapped surprisingly tight fingers around his wrist. Her innocent entreaty stirred Kyou's kindred soul even as her plaintive plea awakened old, painful memories of the past. "Niichan? Don't leave…"

"Don't leave..."

And, sighing, Kyou knew he wouldn't. Couldn't. He settled himself as comfortably as he could—sharing a bed with a thirteen-year-old was just awkward enough to disconcert him—beside her. Kisa immediately snuggled up against his side, both for warmth and for comfort from her earlier unsettling dreams.

Feeling slightly silly, Kyou patted Kisa's hair, settling a companionable arm around her shoulders, knowing she was already too deep in sleep to note what he considered an inexcusable display of softness on his part. "Oyasumi, chibi," he said through a yawn, for the second time that night. "Try not to dream at all."

Her lips curved upward at the corners as his breathing slowed to a deep, smooth rhythm. Kyou had forgotten one thing.

Tigers are very light sleepers!


NOTES: My first Furuba fic! This began as a one-shot, but it's sort become a two-chapter piece that has a sequel and ties in intimately with another long-fic idea I had, but haven't had the patience to write yet. Hopefully, this will lead directly to the creation of that other fic. "Yami" was born from the random idea that Kyou the neko and Kisa the tora should have a heart-to-heart about the recurring theme of Kyou's relationship with Yuki.

I've tried to stay true as possible to the manga, though I have manipulated/added a few facts to fit my story—for example, Kyou never hears Haru's reasoning for Kisa's first meeting with Tooru (the "ijimeta" part), but it was integral to my story that Kyou understand that. Kisa refers to Tooru as "Oneechan", but I've made up her names for the others—Haru-nii indicates a closer relationship than "Kyou-oniichan", but you'll see the evolution of Kyou's nickname as we progress…I've tried to be as accurate as possible in Kisa's names for the other Juunishi, but none of this is absolute. )

4.2.05 : edited in hopes of adding future chapters to make this my very first, full-length, plot-driven Furuba fanfic. My very first, full-length, plot-driven any fic, for that matter…

Glossary, in alphabetical order:

arigatou: thank you
chibi: "kid". Kyou's nickname for Kisa. Used here for "small"
ijimeta: "they teased her". triggers Kisa's appearance in the manga
nira: leeks. Kyou hates them; Kisa likes them
Obasan: auntie. Kisa's name for Hiro's mom
Oneechan: older sister. Kisa's name for Tooru
-no-(o)neechan: older sister. (suffix) Kisa adds the "no" before the suffix
-no-(o)niichan: older brother. (suffix) Kisa adds the "no" before the suffix
shihan-no-ojichan: Uncle Shihan. Refers to Kyou's shishou, Kazuma. The other Kyou-generation Souma call him "shihan"; Kisa refers to the older-generation Juunishi as "-no-ojichan"

shishou: 'master'. Kyou's karate instructor and 'adopted father'
soba: buckwheat noodles. Kyou likes them
wakatte kurete…arigatou: thank you for understanding