:: Predilection ::
Disclaimer: I don't own Fruits Basket. Proper rights go to Takaya Mitsuki and FUNimation.
Pairings: Kyou/Tohru, mentioned one-sides Kagura/Kyou
Warnings: language, fluff, mild humor, anime spoilers
Dedicated to: Iapetus
Notes: My second Fruits Basket fic, and my first Kyou/Tohru. I had promised my friend two gifts, and I apologize that this one came out so late. Here's to having so many similar favorite het pairings. (And I apologize about the title; it was difficult to think of one that accurately summed this up. I had to go through a thesaurus many times with several different words-- any association this has with Gravitation is coincidence, as I haven't heard the song. Oo)
Constructive criticism and feedback is appreciated.
There were times when being a Zodiac member just plain sucked. Granted, he technically wasn't a member of the Zodiac, but he had the curse all the same. If he hadn't had the curse it was very likely Kyou wouldn't have known about it, much less cared one way or the other.
But he did have the curse. He did know about it. Worst of all, he wasn't a member of the Zodiac. He was the real outcast in the Sohma family.
Fortunately, that wasn't first or foremost on Kyou's mind today. If it had been he would have been in a very cross mood, possibly even depressed. It was when he was in one of those moods that he tended to get in trouble, and trouble for Kyou meant opening his mouth.
Today promised less trouble than usual. Shigure had gone on one of his sporadic visits to the main house, which made Kyou immensely relieved. The man's presence alone was enough to grate on Kyou's nerves. His whiny, tormenting voice didn't help any. Grown men should have pride enough not to whine, and Shigure didn't even have that.
Or it might have just been due to the fact he was completely crazy. Whatever the case, Kyou was happy he was gone. Yuki, strangely enough, was also absent. Kyou honestly had no idea where he was, though he wanted to know. Not because he wanted to challenge him. He wanted to know how much time he would have.
Kyou's problem today was that he had the most uncomfortable feeling of wanting to be cuddled.
It annoyed him. It wasn't something that happened often, thankfully, but when it did happen it was a persistent feeling tugging on the corners of his emotions.
Asking anyone in his family was, of course, out of the question. Kyou had an image to maintain after all, and he hated being teased. Anyone inside the family would certainly enjoy teasing him if they knew about it.
Asking anyone outside the family was preferable, but also definitely out of the question because of the consequences. Cuddling a boy did not appeal to him whatsoever. Hugging a girl was dangerous.
There were exceptions, of course. If he asked Kagura she would be more than happy to do him the favor. The downsides were that she'd beat him half to death in her joy and he hated her touching him. Broaching the idea to her was the worst way to go about it.
And then there was Tohru.
Not only did she know about the family secret, she had accidentally hugged him a few times before-- and once on purpose. Tohru was the only person outside of the Sohma family to know their secret and not have her memories erased.
She was also one of the very few people Kyou didn't mind touching or being touched by. He wasn't good with people. While he didn't cringe away from every pat on the back or the occasional arm slung over his shoulder, he still had to repress shivers of annoyance. He didn't like to be touched. He only allowed it because he knew he would have to get used to it, and so far it had been working. Sort of.
But Tohru... he didn't mind touching her. Knocking her lightly on the head, holding her hand, having her touch his arm in a comforting gesture... he didn't mind all that. It was actually comfortable.
And there had been a time she had cuddled him. It had been that night, the night he had been forced to reveal his true form to her. His God-forsaken, hideous, frightful true form. There were times he condemned that night. He hated having to reveal that side of him to one of the few people he desperately wanted the love and respect of. By then Tohru's opinion of him meant so much. Despite his numerous short-comings she had still respected him even viewed him as her friend and family. Turning into that... the real form of his curse... it had nearly ruined everything they had built that somewhat shaky foundation of friendship.
Then there were times he treasured that night. She had run away, clearly frightened of him, and Kyou hated himself for it. He had even hated her for it at first, feeling irrational betrayal.
But in the end she had come back. Limping and dirty she had come back, fear still in her eyes but mixed with determination. It wasn't quite the same determination he would have seen when she strove to work hard and make people happy. It had been a harder sort, having a cold, metallic feel to it that was unlike her.
Apparently even Tohru was capable of harboring some of her own frightening traits.
She had clung to him, whispering to him in her hoarse, weak voice. Even shaking with tears she wouldn't let go, no matter how many times he had tried to throw her off. She had wanted him to come back. She admitted his true self was frightening.
But she still cared deeply about the Kyou she knew, and she wanted him to come home.
It had been brief, but Kyou remembered it well. He remembered sinking back into his normal self, both in mentally and physically. He remembered the strange sensation of her hands growing warmer as he shrunk from a hideous, scaly creature into a normal-looking boy. Most importantly, he remembered the overwhelming emotions of relief, gratitude, anxiety, and love moving him so much he had wrapped his arms around the girl.
Of course, the curse caused him to turn into a cat mere moments after that. Tohru had moved reflexively when that happened, catching him in her arms and cradling him close. He felt relieved of an enormous emotional weight then.
Even now Kyou could almost feel the warmth of her embrace. They had both been wet and sticky from the rain, both shivering from the cold, but her body warmth had seeped through his fur and soothed him as though he had just drunk a cup of hot herbal tea. It was that sort of cuddling he found himself wanting today.
The biggest problem was getting her to hug him.
If Kyou hugged Tohru first, she would know that something was up. She was dense, incredibly so, but not even that sort of brash move would bounce off her thick skull. Maybe. It was still a risk he didn't want to take.
But getting her to hug him... that was going to be difficult. She did her best to not make that sort of contact. It didn't even have to be an embrace, just the fleeting touch of one chest to another. (Or chest to back. For some reason back to back didn't trigger the reaction.)
There was always the fake trip option. However, Kyou refused to let his pride sink so low as to pretend to be clumsy. Especially in front of Tohru. He was clumsy enough with his words; he had to at least keep some physical dignity.
This is stupid Kyou told himself angrily, sitting up in bed. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Just forget about it!
He cursed himself as he stood, padding barefooted downstairs and toward the kitchen. It was a bit chilly for late spring and the wooden floorboards didn't warm his feet any. The linoleum in the kitchen was twice as cold.
Kyou was annoyed with himself. He was also annoyed with the cold. And Kyou being Kyou, he instinctively took it out on everything and everyone but himself.
"Damn weather," he muttered softly, filling the teapot with water from the kitchen faucet. He could make some hot tea, maybe some instant cocoa if they had any. Perhaps that warmth would help shake his damned wanting-to-be-cuddled feeling.
The sudden exclamation made him yelp. He whirled, bristling and speaking without thinking. "Don't sneak up on people like that!"
Tohru made a surprised squeak, her hands raised in a weak defensive gesture. "Ah... sorry, Kyou-kun. I didn't mean to sneak up..."
Kyou groaned, thumping himself on the forehead. Glancing down he saw that she was wearing her slippers. That would explain why he couldn't hear her, despite his sensitive ears. Then again, a small part of him admitted that he probably wouldn't have heard her if she'd clomped in with heavy rubber boots.
I'm really losing it, he thought in annoyance. He waved his hand, muttering, "Forget it. I didn't mean to yell..."
Tohru seemed to take that as his way of apologizing. She sidled up behind him. "What are you making?"
"Hot cocoa." He hadn't decided before, but again he had spoken without thinking. Apparently I'm having hot cocoa...
"Ah?" Tohru pressed a finger to her lips before she gave Kyou a sheepish smile. "I... don't think we have any." He twitched. "I'm sorry!" she yelped, taking a step back and giving him another hesitant smile. "I mean, I know we had some, but it's been really cold lately so I've been making sure Shigure-san and Sohma-kun have something warm to drink before bed."
And why the hell not me? Kyou thought irritably. Then he remembered. Right... my big mouth runs away with me and I always have to snap and tell her I don't need anything. He pretended to have more interest in the tea kettle than anything else.
"Um... we have some green tea, if that's okay," Tohru suggested. "I can get more hot cocoa when I go shopping tomorrow."
"Okay," Kyou agreed absently.
Seeming pleased that he was okay with that, Tohru walked over to open one of the cabinets. "Green tea is healthier for you, anyway," she said thoughtfully. She made a small noise, indicating she had found what she was looking for. "Here we go! Ah, maybe I should have some tea, too," she said.
Kyou decided to refrain from telling here there wasn't enough for two cups. He rolled his eyes. Instead of saying anything, he got two mugs.
He heard what sounded like Tohru dropping the tea packages. Kyou turned to set the mugs on the counter, but at the same moment Tohru had already picked the bags up and was standing. She barely had time to squeak out a warning before they collided.
Chest to torso contact.
Of course, in his cat form Kyou couldn't hold the mugs. They slipped as he transformed, hitting the floor. One of them shattered with resounding, ear-splitting cracks. Yowling in protest, Kyou leapt from the floor and into Tohru's arms. Despite her obvious surprise she managed to catch him.
'Watch the porcelain!' Kyou hissed. Glancing down, he could see her slippers but was unable to tell if the soles were very thick or not. Tohru obediently took a step back. Kyou allowed himself to curl up against her chest, trying not to purr in content and stay focused. 'Now back out of the kitchen.'
She was able to hear him; Kyou had yet to figure out exactly how. If she wondered as well, she didn't bother asking. "But... I shouldn't leave a mess," she fretted. "If Shigure-san or Sohma-kun--"
Kyou decided to refrain from making a remark, though he personally could care less if one of them stupidly stepped on the fragments and cut themselves. 'They're not here, anyway. I can't walk upstairs; it's too cold.' He cringed slightly, realizing that was a lame excuse. If Tohru thought so, she didn't say.
"Oh... okay." She padded out of the room, the teabags still clutched in one hand as she made a cradle with her arms to support his cat form. "Should I take you to your room, Kyou-kun?"
'Yeah.' Personally, Kyou wouldn't mind if she carried him around the house for the rest of the day. Her embrace warmed him far better and more thoroughly than a cup of hot tea could.
Nodding, Tohru started for the stairs. "I'm really sorry, Kyou-kun," she apologized, seeming embarrassed. "I should have watched where I was going..."
'Doesn't matter,' Kyou said, barely even registering the words.
'I said it doesn't matter!' If he had been human Kyou would have smacked himself; there he went, saying things without thinking. Again. Tohru's embrace had stiffened a bit. She seemed uncomfortable. Kyou berated himself inwardly before speaking aloud. 'I mean... they're just... accidents... they happen, okay? Stop beating yourself up over them.'
He glanced up in time to see Tohru smile. She didn't seem uncomfortable anymore, her arms relaxing. "Okay!"
Kyou was briefly thankful he wasn't human; otherwise his face would have been many embarrassing shades of red. He huffed softly, though it sounded more like a sneeze in his cat form.
They reached his room all too soon. Disappointed, Kyou huddled against Tohru's warm body, damning that such a rare moment wasn't going to last very long. A part of him was telling him scornfully that he was acting like a high school girl with a crush. Kyou cursed that part of him as well.
"Do you want me to get your clothes, Kyou-kun?"
He shook his head, sighing as she carried him to the bed. He leapt from her arms and to the covers, quickly scrambling beneath the blankets. He was not going to risk turning back into his human form while she was still in the room.
'No. I have extras up here,' he said, aware that he sounded irritable.
"Ah..." Tohru shifted her weight to her other foot, looking sheepish. "Not that. It's just... Kyou-kun seems a little sad--"
'I'm not sad!'
"Sorry!" she yelped, raising her hands defensively again.
Cringing, Kyou buried his head beneath the blankets. I really have to stop that, he growled to himself. Aloud he said, 'Really. I'm not. I'll be fine.'
Tohru said nothing for a while. If Kyou didn't know any better he would have guessed she had left the room; his sensitive ears told him she hadn't moved an inch. He would have heard otherwise.
Then she said brightly, "You know, I saw this really adorable kitten on the way home from work yesterday."
Kyou blinked. That had been fairly random. Then again, Tohru tended to be random at times... and usually when she said something like that, she was trying to get a point across.
When he said nothing she continued. "She was absolutely adorable. But the poor thing was so cold. I think she really liked me, because she started purring when I started carrying her around." Reluctantly Kyou poked his head out from under the covers, giving Tohru a skeptical look. She was wearing one of her soft smiles, the kind that could make almost anyone she met simply melt at the sight of it.
"But then I remembered that cats are usually warmer than humans in cold weather," Tohru said. "Because of their fur. Then I realized she just wanted someone to hold her!"
She had realized the game. Feeling hot and embarrassed, Kyou made another kittenish huff and started to move back under the blankets. He stopped when Tohru knelt down in front of the bed, smiling warmly at him.
"If Kyou-kun just wants a hug, that's okay," she said. "I understand."
'It... it's just because I'm a cat,' he said hastily. 'Just weird urges, okay? It's nothing more than that!' He was starting to babble and he knew it, but he couldn't help it.
"Okay," Tohru agreed, holding out her arms in invite. His heart thudding painfully against his ribs, Kyou kneaded his claws nervously into the sheets before he moved quickly, practically pouncing on the girl. She caught him, shifted her arms so he could curl up against her.
She was warm, just as blissfully warm as she had been only minutes ago. An unintentional purr worked its way out of Kyou's throat, and he was relieved when Tohru didn't comment. She sat down on his bed, cuddling him close.
"Kyou-kun's fur is very soft," she murmured, scratching gently behind his ears. Kyou was about to tell her that he wasn't a pet, but the scratching felt so good that his protests faded. There was no one home to tease him about it right then-- and he knew Tohru wouldn't tell anyone.
Even so, he had to make sure. 'Just don't tell that damn Yuki,' he muttered, another purr escaping him.
Giggling, Tohru promised she wouldn't.
Dinner would have been a far more pleasant affair if Shigure hadn't been needling him for stupid information. Kyou continuously twitched as he ate his curry rice, trying to ignore the man's voice. He wasn't even sure exactly why Shigure was being annoying (aside from the fact he just liked to be), but he did know it had something to do with the novel he was supposedly working on.
"Why don't you just give the character a dog?" he heard Yuki ask.
"Oh, no," Shigure said. "Women love a story with cats. Their delicate, graceful nature appeals to them."
"I see," Yuki said flatly. "They must know the wrong cats, then."
Growling, Kyou slammed his chopsticks down on the table. "I heard that!" he yelled, getting to his feet just as the teakettle whistled in the kitchen. From the corner of his eye he saw Tohru scramble to her feet to go attend to it, but he wasn't paying much attention to her at the moment. "Are you trying to start a fight?! Let's go!"
"Mind your manners," was Yuki's mild reply. He didn't even look up as he continued eating, which only served to agitate Kyou further.
Shigure, for once, didn't say anything about the tension. "Seriously, Kyou," he said, leaning against the table with one elbow. Kyou didn't miss the tiny smirk curving his lips. "What do cats like? Belly rubs?"
"That's what dogs like!"
"Ah?" Tohru stood in the doorway, her head tilted thoughtfully before she knelt down in front of the table. She handed each of them a mug of hot tea. "Well, Kyou-kun likes to have his ears scratched--"
"Tohru!" Kyou shrieked, feeling his face warm. He should have known better; despite her good intentions, Tohru simply spoke without thinking much of the time. It was just his luck this sort of conversation had been brought up today.
Realizing her slip, she made a small squeak, giving Kyou an apologetic look. "Oops..."
Great. Now there was another thing Shigure was never going to let him live down. Kyou twitched, giving Tohru a sidelong glance as she apologized profusely, sounding embarrassed. As she did so, Shigure began to mercilessly tease him and Yuki simply shook his head at their actions.
I guess it doesn't matter, Kyou finally decided. He could pretend it didn't bother him just this once.
"Was Kyou-kun doing something naughty with Tohru-kun?" Shigure teased, his voice lilting in a sing-song tone. "My, my, we can't leave you two alone for a minute anymore, can we?"
Well, he was going to try to pretend it didn't piss him off, at least...