Ten Years After
(sequel to The Same Shade of Yellow)
A Fruits Basket fanfic by Raberba girl
Author's Note: Well, this story sure had a bumpy ride. Ages ago (almost two years!) I promised to write a sequel to The Same Shade of Yellow, but my ideas didn't pull together when I tried to work on it. Months and months later I got the brilliant idea to use the material I had for a one-shot instead of a multi-chapter - but by that time it was too late. My desire to write fanfics is now all but dead. I made a sincere effort to get the one-shot done, and the last scene came, slowly and painfully, after months of procrastinating. The ending is somewhat abrupt, but it's enough to enable me to pretend the fic is complete. I apologize to anyone who is disappointed by this short product after such a ridiculously long wait.
It was cold when Momo parked and got out of the car at the Sohma Estate. She stood there hugging her heavy coat around herself, smiling as she looked at the building where the party was being held. It blazed with light, and she could see people moving around inside. The faint sound of music, voices, and laughter floated toward her.
'Home at last,' she thought. 'I'll be so glad to finally see my family again. Maybe here I won't have to think about work and Kensuke and R-- who's car is that?' Her peaceful thoughts were abruptly broken off when she noticed the blue truck parked close to the house. 'It couldn't be...that jerk wouldn't dare come here and invade my life, after that last phone call I left him to stew over!' Momo marched purposefully towards the building.
The music seemed to catch Momo playfully as she walked in the door. The whole place was crowded with warm, familiar people, and Momo felt a happy pang of homesickness as she realized she was back among the people she knew and loved best in the world.
Little Tori was the first one to notice her. "Mama, Mama!" Tori hollered. "Cousin Momo's here!"
Uo turned away from her heated debate with Kyo. "Eh? Well, so she is! Come on in, bunny, you look freezing!"
Momo smiled and raised a hand in response. She was immediately surrounded by relatives, all laughing and exclaiming over her and welcoming her home.
Momiji pushed through the others and flung his arms around her. "Momo!" He poofed into his alternate form, and Momo smiled as she held him.
"Hello, 'Niisan." Momo cradled her brother in one arm and used the other to hug her parents, cousins, and whoever else was trying for a hug. "I'm so glad to be back! I missed you all."
"Naturally!" Ayame laughed.
Momo got a good look at him for the first time and gasped.
Ayame grinned and elegantly flicked back a lock of silver hair that came down to his chin. "You like it?"
"You look like...your brother," Momo said helplessly.
"But of course! My dear Yuki said I must if he was to grow out his hair like mine!"
Yuki groaned. "I recall saying something to the effect of, 'The possibility of me imitating your hairstyle is as slim as the possibility of you imitating mine.' That was NOT a suggestion to go slashing all your hair off, nor was it an agreement that I'd grow my hair if you cut yours!"
"I dunno, Yuki," Kyo drawled. "I think you oughta grow out your hair for the next time you wear that pretty dress from the cultural festival."
Sohmas were dodging out of the way even before Yuki gasped with rage and leaped at his cousin. Momo laughed and watched as the two battled it out. Kyo ended up in a chokehold, struggling in vain to free himself. Yuki did not release him until he gasped out an apology. Kyo jerked free, his hair wild, and would have renewed the fight if his son Tohaku hadn't come dashing up to Yuki.
"Hey you big mouse, you beat Dad but I betcha can't beat me!"
"No bets, please," said Yuki, but then he had to raise a swift arm to block Tohaku's punch. The two of them waltzed around, Tohaku laughing and trying to get through Yuki's defense, Yuki grinning and pretending that it was harder to fend off the boy than it actually was.
Kyo threw up his hands and backed away in disgust, only to find Tohru waiting for him with a smile. "You were wonderful, Kyo."
She placed her hand on his face, gently forcing him to look into her eyes. "I'm still here."
"Yeah," he muttered. "I got you and he didn't." He kissed her forehead and looked placated.
Momo was standing there, looking around and marveling. The kids had all gotten so big while Momo was gone. Kia was sixteen now, a lovely young woman, currently playing cards with Mayuko, Hatsuharu, Kagura, and Ritsu. Momo noticed that Kia was wearing her red baseball cap.
Ritsu gasped as he laid down his cards and the other players groaned. "Oh, I am so sorry! I didn't mean to win-- I mean, I did, but please forgive me for making you all feel so bad--"
"Ritsu," Mayuko said sternly.
"Um...hurray...I won," Ritsu whispered timidly.
"Not quite," Hatsuharu said, and calmly laid down his own cards.
"You must have cheated!" Kia yelled. A minor argument broke out, and Ritsu looked happier.
Momo also saw fourteen-year-old Aya, chattering happily to a bored-looking Kureno; and ten-year-old Hiroshi, who was playing a handheld video game in a corner with a strange closed look on his face. Hatsuharu and Rin's adopted five-year-old boy stood contemplating a computer screensaver, and the rest of the small children, in addition to Kisa and Kagura's husband Daisuke, were playing with toys and two of the cats.
"It's been so long," Momo said to herself. "They've been growing so much while I was away...I don't even recognize that little girl in yellow."
"Kisa and Hiro's youngest, remember? Risa?" said an accented male voice behind Momo.
"Oh yeah, she was only a ba--" Momo's reply had been automatic, but then her eyes widened as she recognized who she was responding to. She whirled around, and there he was. Ronnie, standing there as casually as if he had a perfect right to invade her family's home, looking at her with that stupid American grin as if he was actually glad to see her. "What are you doing here?!" Momo shouted.
There was a startled silence, then laughter and sheepish grins from other Sohmas as they realized what was going on.
"Oh dear!" Mine sang. "How on earth did Ronnie-san get here? Do you know, Aya?" she addressed her husband.
"Good gracious, no! 'Tori-san, can you imagine what could have happened to make Ronnie-kun feel he was wanted at this joyous celebration?"
"Let me guess," Hatori muttered. "He got an invitation."
"Several," Momo's mother said mischievously.
"Oh, you sent one too?" Hatsuharu said vaguely. "I should have thought of that before I...well, never mind."
"You GUYS!" Momo shrieked. "How could you?!"
"For your information, Momo," Kia said obnoxiously, "you're probably the only Sohma who doesn't like Ronnie-kun. Or at least pretends not to."
"Kia!" Momo cried furiously.
"Ronnie-'niisan's nice," little Risa said. She had wandered over to Ronnie, who picked her up and cuddled her before turning to wink at Momo.
Momo emitted a sound of wordless rage, then stalked into the kitchen before she could embarrass herself further. A few people tried to come in after her, but they were gently stopped by Tohru, who slid the door closed after she came in.
After a while, Momo finally blew out a breath and spoke. "I'm so mad. How could they do this to me? Everyone knows how I feel about Ronnie; how could they deliberately flaunt him in my face like this? When I'm finally back to visit, too! I could-- argh!"
There was a pause. "Momo," Tohru said gently, "I'm sorry they invited him against your wishes. I know it must hurt you to see Ronnie-san right now."
"You didn't invite him, did you?"
"Oh, no! Of course not!"
"But you knew he was coming?" Momo persisted.
Tohru hesitated. "I did ask them to consider your feelings--"
Momo resisted the urge to do something violent. This wasn't her house and she ought not to damage it.
Tohru, apparently recognizing the signs after having lived with Kyo for so many years, fell silent. Then she said softly, "I'm sorry."
Momo sighed. "Well...it's not like this is my party...they have a right to invite whoever they want."
Tohru stayed with her for a little while longer, until Momo had calmed down enough to go back out. Momiji was waiting for her.
"'Niisan." Momo looked up at him and marveled that such a tall man could get away with dressing like a much younger person. "I'm sorry for losing my temper back there."
"I was waiting for you, Momo. Hey, hey, they've been asking for a duet. How 'bout it?"
"On the violin? 'Niisan, I haven't played in years. Since I got out of college."
"Aw, come on, Momo! You're still good."
"Not as good as you."
"Good enough to sound beautiful! Let's go, Momo. It will make Mama happy."
Momo softened a little. "Well, all right. She hasn't seen us together in a while."
People started cheering when they saw the golden-haired siblings unpacking their instruments and clearing a space in front of one wall. Momo felt herself blushing as she began tuning the strings. "We'll play the stuff we used to, okay? The stuff we used to practice a lot together."
"I mean, don't take requests I don't know, or go off on some tangent where I can't follow--"
"It'll be fine, Momo!" Momiji said cheerily.
'Easy for you to say. You still practice,' Momo thought. But she knew that Momiji would never intentionally embarrass her or make her look bad.
"Okay," Momiji announced after they were ready. "My lovely sister Momo and I will be playing some wonderful songs for you, because you are all wonderful people! This first song is dedicated to my mama--"
"--the most beautiful, caring, super woman in the whole wide world!" everyone chanted along. They broke into laughter, for Momiji always said something like this before a performance. Momiji beamed, heedless of their teasing. He glanced at Momo, nodded, and then they started. Momo was hesitant at first, especially since the opening notes were hers, but the strength and beauty of her brother's music when he came in calmed her.
Momo skipped a note here and there, and at one point forgot what part came next, but for the most part she was amazed at how much her fingers remembered. All the hours her mother had forced her to practice, and all the hours Momo had spent playing with Momiji for the sheer joy of doing something together with him, had done their job. Halfway through, Momo even loosened up enough to smile, and the one time she accidentally glanced at Ronnie, who was watching her with a half-smile, she only missed a note or two and then found her place again pretty easily.
All throughout, Momiji's music encircled and passed through hers, supporting her, covering up her mistakes, enriching her part so that Momo sounded much more skilled than she actually was. Even as she played, Momo admired Momiji's talent. When she stole a glance at his face, she saw that he was completely caught up in the music.
The song came to a close, and Momo managed to bring her part to a graceful finish. She was startled when Momiji, who had begun to hum near the end, did not stop along with the violins. He began to sing, his voice the only sound to be heard in the silent room. When Momo thought she knew the song well enough to accompany him, she took a deep breath and began to play again. He turned his head slightly and smiled at her, and his voice wrapped around the voice of her violin, producing a melody every bit as lovely as the one made by the two violins earlier. Momo realized, when it was over, that tears were running down her cheeks.
"Momo! Why are you crying?" Momiji asked in astonishment, as everyone else applauded loudly.
"It was so beautiful."
"Oh. Well, I'm glad, Momo!" He smiled so prettily at her that she had to stop crying and smile back.
"Momiji-chan!" Their mother pounced on Momiji and ruffled his hair in lieu of hugging him. "You were wonderful! You too, Momo! My two little songbirds." She wrapped her arms around Momo and squeezed.
"Ow! Come on, Mama, I'm a person, not a pillow." Momo shook her head. Their mother had found out five years ago that Momiji was really her son. She had been edgy around him at first, but after that she had started acting like a lively young mother raising a fun-loving small child. And Momiji had responded by behaving more childishly than he did before. It had amazed Momo to see her mother so cheerful, playful, almost hyper, but she had eventually gotten used to it. Her father had explained to her that it was their way of "making up for lost time," trying to reclaim some of those lost childhood years between mother and son.
Uo's voice rang out over all the noise. "I propose a toast!" She waited while everyone chuckled and found their drinks, or poured new ones. "To Momiji and Momo, our little rabbits."
"To Momiji and Momo," everyone laughed, and drank.
Hatori suddenly stepped forward. "And to Akito," he said, only just loud enough to be heard.
Everyone quickly sobered. "To Akito," they all murmured. Momo clutched her cup. It hurt more than she expected, to be reminded so bluntly of Akito, who had finally succumbed to the inevitable three years ago. There had been a brief pang when she'd entered the Estate earlier, though she had been able to suppress it then. But now the thought of their beloved former leader was clearly weighing heavily on everyone's mind at the moment.
"Daddy, can I give a toast, too?" one of the children whispered. It was Kyoko, Kyo and Tohru's youngest daughter.
Kyo glanced at everyone else, his face pink. "Er...Kyoko, this isn't the best time--"
"Oh come on," Mayuko said. "What's your toast, peanut?"
Kyoko's face brightened. "I toast to Sailor Moon, because she's pretty!"
The wave of laughter that greeted this proposal made Kyoko cover her face with her hands and burst into tears. As they good-naturedly made the toast, Kyo and Tohru tried to convince Kyoko that they weren't laughing at her, they were just laughing with-- well, there was no reason to cry, anyway. The other children tried to propose toasts as well, but most of the grown-ups lost interest. The kids amused themselves by making up absurd toasts and chugging glasses of juice and eventually getting into silly arguments.
"So Momo. How've you been?"
Momo gritted her teeth, then turned to face Ronnie. "Just fine," she said coolly.
"Everything going all right with what's-his-name?" Ronnie was still smiling, but his eyes were cold.
"It's Kensuke! And of course everything is fine, I've never been happier."
"Ah. That'd be why you came alone, then."
Momo colored. "He was busy, Ronnie. People get busy at New Year's."
"Too busy to accompany his lovely girlfriend to be introduced to her relatives at a very special and important family gathering?"
"I'm not so clingy that I need to drag my boyfriend everywhere I go!" She did not mention that Kensuke's excuse for not coming with her had been rather lame. "And don't think you can win me over by showing up here. Why aren't you out with your precious Misato, anyway? I'm sure she's having a very lonely New Year's right now."
"No," Ronnie said tightly. "I'm sure she's enjoying her wonderful holiday with her boyfriend. Who isn't me anymore, by the way."
Momo paused to take this in. Then she burst into laughter. "Ha! I told you Ronnie, I always knew you could never keep a girl. What'd you do, treat her like you did me? Like she exists only to look good and do things for you?"
Now it was Ronnie's turn to blush. "I told you that I'd try to change!"
"Yeah, you changed. For a week you changed, and then you were back to ordering me around and- and telling me how I should dress!"
"I only did that once!"
"You did it three times!"
"Fine then, tree timesh," Ronnie mocked viciously.
Momo gasped. The way he had said it, imitating her lisp... Shame flooded her, and turned quickly to fury. She lashed out and caught him hard on the side of the face, just as he made to duck.
Ronnie snapped out a bad word and backed away, one hand to his face. Sohmas had turned to stare at them.
"There now, Ronnie-kun," Ayame exclaimed. "That is no way to speak to a lady! You must woo her with gentle romance!"
Ronnie controlled his feelings with some difficulty. "Sorry," he managed. He tried to push through the crowd, wanting to get away from Momo and all the crazy feelings he associated with her. Tohru caught his arm and coaxed him along with her so she could patch up the cut on his face, which was bleeding from Momo's fingernails.
"Momo, what was that about?" Momiji asked with an air of childish worry.
"Nothing. Obviously I attacked him without provocation, and of course I'm in the wrong, because Ronnie's perfect and everyone loves him."
"Just like you, Momo!"
Momo shook her head, smiling. But then she asked her brother seriously, "'Niisan? Am I really the bad guy? Am I really being too stubborn to see what a 'wonderful' guy Ronnie is and take him back?"
Momiji cocked his head as he looked at her. "Did I ever tell you about Hilde?"
Momo frowned. "Hilde? I don't recognize the name."
There was an odd smile playing around the corners of Momiji's mouth. "I met her in Germany. At college."
"Your girlfriend?" Momo said incredulously.
He shrugged. "Maybe. She was beautiful and funny and happy. She liked me a lot. But...well, one day we were talking about maybe getting married and having kids. And she said...if she ever had a baby with some kind of problem, like a birth defect - she said she'd get rid of it. She couldn't stand to raise a baby like that." Momiji swallowed. "I was glad I hadn't told her about the curse yet. What she said, I kept thinking about it for a long time, over and over...and Momo, I couldn't do it again. I couldn't let myself get rejected again, and I couldn't ever, ever let something like that happen to my child, no matter what was wrong with it."
Momo felt awkward. "So you broke up with her?"
"I tried to tell myself that it was just one thing she said, that I could get over it. But...I never did. I started to dread being with her. And then, well, she started liking someone else, and it was almost a relief when she told me she just wanted to be friends." He turned his face away. "Almost a relief. I still miss her. The last time I saw her was at her wedding."
He turned back to her suddenly. "But you know what, Momo? Just because she hurt me didn't mean that she became any less beautiful and funny and happy. And it didn't mean that she was any less worthy of being loved. By me or anybody."
Momo was quiet. "I wish I could hug you," she finally said.
Momiji suddenly giggled. "Actually, you're about to wish you could hit me, because I made up that whole story. But I'm too quick for you, Momo!"
By the time his words had registered, Momiji had already skipped away. But that didn't stop Momo from shrieking with embarrassment and mock-rage as she swung at her brother. "You little liar! Come back here, 'Niisan!" He laughed and fled, and soon they were joined by many of the kids. Annoyed adults called for them to take it outside, so Momo and Momiji got jackets onto the kids and dashed out into the cold. Momo's revenge turned into a game of tag, and then fruits basket, until everyone was either too tired to run or laughing too hard to stay upright.
Young Aya hadn't joined in the game, because it was too cold outside for her. But after talking to the grown-ups for a while, and eating, and playing with the cats, she finally bundled up and went outside.
The game had wound down. Cold children were slowly trickling back inside, and the rabbit siblings were sitting on the porch, talking. Aya wandered away from the house.
The sounds from the party had faded by the time Aya could see the shrine. She felt all alone in the midst of the cold Sohma Estate, a feeling that was not unpleasant, though not particularly cozy. And then Aya caught sight of movement inside the shrine.
Aya paused. Then she entered the dark little building curiously, wondering who would rather be here than at the warm, cheerful party.
A man knelt before the picture of Akito that stood on the little altar. He was fairly young, maybe in his early 30s, though it was a little hard to tell because of the untidy beard. His dark hair was long and ragged, his clothes were tattered, and he didn't seem too clean. He was weeping.
Aya pushed back her hood. Her long silver hair, already coming loose from its bun, finally tumbled free completely. "I'm sorry, Mr. Bum, but you are what is called 'trespassing.' However, I will be quite generous and allow you to stay here, as long as you do not make a mess or let anyone else see you. Perhaps I will even sneak you some food. Haha, that sounds like something out of an adventure novel! I wonder why you are crying, because you cannot possibly know Akito-sama-- If you try to harm me, I will scream, and then all my strong and beautiful uncles and cousins will come and throw you out, Mr. Bum."
The man had turned and was staring at her intensely. "Aya?" he whispered.
"Oh, you know my name?" she said, strangely pleased.
He stood and came towards her slowly. "You are a woman. How did you become a woman, Aya?"
"Why, I was born that way, you silly man!" Aya laughed.
He stopped. "You are not Ayame, I think, but you look like him."
"Oh! You must be talking about my father, Ayame Sohma. That is so funny, that you would think I was him! But of course we do look somewhat alike. Do you know my father, Mr. Bum? Should I go and fetch him? That would be quite tiring, though, to go and get him and then bring him back here, so perhaps you had better come up to the house--"
"I was too late," the man whispered.
"Pardon me, Mr. Bum?"
"If you call me a bum one more time, I will tie your pretty hair to that post and leave you out in the cold."
"Really! How rude of you. You need a bath and a shave and a haircut, you know."
"Yes. I do." He laughed. It was a strange, frightening laugh, and Aya shivered.
"What was that you said before you threatened me with bodily harm?" she asked.
"I said, I was too late. Akito is dead, isn't he."
"Why, yes he is. That is his picture there--"
"I know." They looked at each other for a moment. The man said in a low voice, "I went to my old house. It was dark and empty. But I could see that children live there now...there was a wedding picture of Kyo-kun and Tohru-kun..." He shook his head. "It wasn't enough for him to go breaking my house every two minutes, now he's gone and filled it with cat-spawn. And he's stolen my little wife." He smiled. Then he suddenly buried his face in his hands and choked out a sob.
"You are a very perplexing man. But come up to the house. The grown-ups will know what to do with you. We are having a New Year's party, by the way, because it is tradition to get all the family together--"
"New Year's," the man hissed. He shivered and dropped his hands to his sides. "Just the thought of it makes me sick now." He followed Aya outside, but then he suddenly caught her arm. "Girl, how old are you?"
"I am fourteen years old. For my last birthday party, Father made me a splendid gown with pink ribbons on--"
"Never mind that. What year is it?"
"Silly! On New Year's, the old year becomes the new year, which means that you simply add one to the previous year, and you get the number of the new year!"
"You really are Ayame's daughter," he said in disgust. "Girl, just oblige me and give me the date."
He fell back a step, his mouth open. "That can't be true! Aya and Ha-san, how old are they?"
"Do you mean Uncle 'Tori? He and my father are both forty-six years old. Oh, you do not look well. Perhaps you should have Uncle 'Tori take a look at you. He is a doctor, you know."
"It can't be," he whispered. "How can so much time have passed here? They cheated me...they cheated me..." The shocked expression in his eyes slowly faded. His face now looked like stone. "Well then. We might as well go. Aya." He glanced at her as he hesitantly added her name. "Aya-chan," he whispered again. Very gently, he picked up a lock of her silver hair and stroked it between two fingers. "You are quite beautiful."
Aya smiled warningly. "I hope you are not a pervert, Mr. Bum. I shall remind you again that I have many men in my family who will gallantly defend my virtue."
He let the lock of hair slide out of his fingers. "I only meant that Aya did well. He must be quite proud of you." A ghostly smile flickered across his lips before he passed by her and headed slowly toward the house.
Aya watched him for a moment, feeling strange, like her heart was aching. Then she moved up and walked silently at his side.
Momo had just offered to go back out and look for Aya when the girl herself stepped through the door. There was a chorus of relieved laughter, and Ayame and Mine swept up to their daughter, both talking at once as they affectionately pulled her away from the door and helped her off with her jacket.
"Oh, Mother, Father," the girl managed to say. "I met somebody outside."
"Met someone?" Mine repeated curiously.
"A man," Aya added casually.
"Ah!" Ayame's eyes glinted. "A meeting of soft gazes in the snow...the flutter of a young man's heart, the rose-like blush creeping across a young girl's cheeks...my daughter has found romance!" Mine heard this and beamed.
Aya laughed. "No, Father, not that sort of a man! He is quite dirty and I suppose he is a homeless person. I did not know what else to do with him."
At this, everyone turned curiously toward the door. At first, Momo could see only the darkness of night outside. Then a shadow moved, and she realized it was a person; he stepped onto the porch, and though the light from the doorway slanted clearly across his dirty bare feet and the dirtier rags covering him, it did not reach quite to his chest, so that his face was still concealed in shadows.
"Oh, do come in," Tohru said at once. "Don't be afraid. We'll be quite happy to let you eat and clean up, and give you a place to stay, for as long as you need." Kyo snorted a little at her generosity, but did not otherwise protest.
There was a low chuckle from the figure outside the doorway. "Why, thank you, Tohru-kun. I never imagined, when I took you in all those years ago, that one day you would have to return the favor."
The room went very still. The children looked up, puzzled and worried, and Momo felt nervous as she glanced around. What was going on?
The stranger slowly stepped into full light. Momo was startled at first by the dirty, emotion-ravaged face, but after a moment she realized that this man was still fairly young, and he had once been quite handsome. 'Who is he?' she wondered. 'Does everyone know him?'
Hatori came up to the man, moving as if weights were dragging at him. Ayame drifted slowly forward like a ghost, his face rigid. The three of them stared at each other for a long time, searching for familiar features.
"You cut your hair off," the man said to Ayame, a little sadly.
"Oh, 'Gure-san," Ayame whispered. "What happened to you?"
Shigure raised his head and looked around at the Sohma family, his eyes burning. "I broke the curse," he said. "That's what happened."
Momo came in from the kitchen with a steaming cup of tea in her hands. She knelt quietly at the living room table and sipped at her drink, watching Shigure Sohma. After some food, a shower, a shave and haircut, a change of clothes, and a full night's sleep, he was much more respectable-looking than he had been the night before; but his face was still the face of an old man, and his eyes kept their haunted, bitter expression. He stood now on the porch of his old house, the house that now belonged to Kyo and Tohru, and he looked out at the yard where Kazuma was supervising Tohaku's martial arts practice.
"I...I don't know if you remember me," Momo said awkwardly after several minutes of silence.
"Momo Sohma. Momitchi's cute little sister." Shigure turned around and smiled faintly at her. "You were very young when I left."
Momo smiled back. "I don't remember you from back then, but I've heard a lot about you since. I am very honored to meet you, sir."
Shigure shook his head and came slowly to kneel at the table with her. "I feel like I've returned to a completely different world." He glanced back out at Tohaku. "Who would have thought that the Cat could find so much happiness. Who would have thought that the members of the Sohma family would one day be able to smile with free hearts. My one hope at the end was that I would be able to share in that joy..."
"What can't you?" Momo asked hesitantly.
Shigure gazed at her for a long while. "You can't know how it feels. Like it's lost to me forever...I thought I would be able to come back, laugh with my friends, raise a family of my own, watch Akito heal and learn to truly live." He sighed and dropped his eyes. "I came back to find a family that has moved on without me. Hatori doesn't know what to say to me. Ayame cries every time he sees me. I feel old - you can't know how old! Like I've lived many lifetimes already. And Akito is dead..." Shigure's hand came up to briefly cover his eyes. "I think I could have faced the rest if only Akito were still alive."
Momo felt sorry for Shigure. She couldn't watch such dejection and say nothing to ease it. "But look what you've done," she said encouragingly. "You've destroyed the last of the curse. The Juunishi can embrace their spouses, their children...their siblings..." Sudden tears welled in Momo's eyes as she remembered the feel of Momiji's arms around her. It was the first time her brother had ever been able to hold her, and they had both cried then, too.
It had happened the night before, when, after Shigure's explanation, Ayame bravely threw his arms around his wife, and stood there, and then hid his face against her shoulder as one second after another passed and he remained in his human form.
Kyo had said in an angry voice, "I can't believe this. After all this time, Shigure, you're still joking around and playing with people's feelings!" Without a word, Shigure had marched toward him purposefully. Looking suddenly afraid, Kyo had backed away, and gasped in horror when Shigure grabbed his hand before he could stop him and pulled his bracelet off. Kia and Tohaku had left the room instantly. But seconds ticked by, and nothing else happened, and Kyo stood staring at the bare wrist Shigure held until he suddenly collapsed to his knees and began to weep. Tohru ran to comfort him, and tears ran down her own face as she put her arms around him and held him close.
It had been an incredible, terrifying, liberating moment.
Shigure looked at her. "It was the first time you were able to embrace your brother," he said softly. "I forgot." He hesitated, the hardness in his face melting slightly. "Momo-san...was it worth it? Was what I endured-- was my sacrifice worth it?"
"Yes," Momo assured him. Her gratitude shone in her voice. "Oh Shigure-san, I can't thank you enough. You saw the look on Mama's face, right? The way she and Momiji cried when they were able to hug each other? There had been such pain between them for so long. Now there is no barrier left between them. You have restored a mother to her son."
"And a son to his mother. Well, Momo-san...you might be glad to hear that you have eased my heart."
"I hope so," Momo whispered. "Oh, I hope so."
Author's Notes: Yes, I know you're screaming at me for cutting off Ayame's hair. Actually, I do have an explanation, and it's that I thought it would be an interesting idea for Ayame to copy Yuki's hairstyle. Tohru did say, seeing a picture of Ayame in high school, that he looked like Yuki. My friend Kittycow actually illustrated this for me. You can see it at: www . deviantart . com/deviation/10328779/
Momiji's mom changes personalities on me every time I write her. That woman is horrible to work with.
It is silly of me to go writing post-series fics when the series itself is incomplete. I have read manga summaries through to the end, so I know by now that the curse is not lifted in any of the ways I had imagined. My vague idea, for this fanfic at least, was that Shigure had somehow struck a deal with the zodiac spirits, promising to go to their spirit world and do unspecified stuff in exchange for the real curse (the bond or whatever) being broken. While he was gone the Juunishi would still have to deal with the poof-transformations (because, let's face it, the transformations are fun), but they would have time to recover; and then when Shigure returned, even that part of the curse would be gone. Also, inspired by tales of people spending a night in Fairyland and returning to find that seven years have passed, I thought that maybe Shigure spent thirteen months in the spirit world, one month for each zodiac spirit, but when he came back it ended up that thirteen years had passed. Actually, that wouldn't have worked, but whatever. Anyway, that's what he meant by "They cheated me;" he didn't know so much time would pass in the real world. He also now hates anything to do with New Year's, the zodiac, etc.
I never got to use the subplot with Hiroshi, about him enduring teasing from his classmates and being rescued by Momo and/or Ronnie. I also didn't get to play with Momo and Ronnie's love-hate relationship much, or give Hatsuharu and Ritsu more screen time like I wanted.
Yes, well. Last time, I killed off Shigure (I realized later) because he started acting freaky-sinister in the manga. Then, just when I started to forgive him and invite him back in, Akito had to go pull that earth-shaking stunt in chapter 97. I am thinking that may be why I subconsciously decided to kill him off in this one.
I realized, while writing one of the early scenes, that Ronnie must know about the curse by now. Oh well.