Author's Notes: Longest. Chapter. Yet. -Whimpers- There are six chapters left in 'Butterfly Effect' for those of you keeping track of these things :) Morganna3 has been kind enough to start a webpage where the uncensored version of Butterfly will be stored, with banners illustrating the chapters. If anyone's interested in seeing the rough version of the site, please just drop me an e-mail and I'll send you the link :) Happy reading!
Jiji- Slightly rude term for 'old man' or 'grandpa'
Orenji atama- Orange head
Chapter Summary: Denial may not be a river, but it can certainly build up quite a dam….
Disclaimer: Fruits Basket belongs to Natsuki Takaya/HAKUSENSHA - TV TOKYO - NAS - Fruba Project.
Warning: Rated R for language, implied rape, torture, and adult situations. This chapter: frank sexual discussion, adult situations.
Chapter 22: Between a Man and a Dog
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a man and a dog.
- Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Tohru falls through the bedroom window, transforming as she tumbles. By the time her knees hit the ground, she is completely transformed. She kneels there numbly, her hair covering her face as she stares at the floor.
'I shouldn't have listened. I don't want to know this!'
Well, on the plus side, you now know that you wouldn't have to work hard to seduce Hatori to erase the memory of this.
Even though it's just a joke, Tohru can't help but let out a small sob as a few tears fall. Just as she is trying to get herself under control, there is a small shifting noise and her head snaps up.
The boys are sitting on the bed watching her.
Their expressions are completely blank.
For once, Tohru completely agrees with Butterfly.
"Come here, Tohru."
Feeling like a naughty child about to be disciplined, Tohru approaches the bed with her head bowed.
Tohru sits on the bed between them, trying to discretely blink back her remaining tears. Yuki's face softens a little as he looks at her and he suddenly wraps his arms around her. "That was a terrible idea, Tohru and very, very wrong of you but please- there's no reason to cry, darling…"
"Hey nezumi- I thought we were supposed to be mad at her!"
Yuki sounds almost petulant. "Can't help it. Can you honestly say that you don't want to make her feel better?"
Kyou gives a crooked, half-smile. "Move your arm rat-boy so that I can hug her too."
Great way for them to show you that you've been a Bad Girl! Although a little spanking might be fun too….
Tohru leans into both of them, trying to think of some way to let them know just how very sorry she is, how very much she loves them. Yuki turns her chin towards him and she is surprised by his gentle, almost teasing smile.
"You do know that the only reason we're being even a little lenient? That you let us know you were there by showing us how much you love us?"
Tohru blinks in surprise.
'Oh…. I forgot about that!'
Just as well you weren't hit with a sudden attack of indigestion instead then.
"Did the others also feel me?"
Yuki pauses for a moment and then shakes his head.
"No- I think that we're bound more tightly to you than the others- they might have felt a slight surge but it's unlikely that they'd be able to feel your physical location as well-"
Kyou interrupts with a slight frown on his face.
"I bet Shigure knew that you were there- he could always smell us, even when we were in animal form. It explains why he was being such an asshole- he seems to blame us and you for whatever happened to him after we left. But that's not important. Tohru- what the fuck were you thinking?"
Tohru feels drained. "I honestly didn't mean to eavesdrop and I'm very, very sorry that I stayed to listen- I know I should have left as soon as the wind died down-"
"But you did mean to transform by yourself and go outside by yourself in a strong wind where nobody would be around to help you!"
That cornered, trapped feeling is starting again, but Tohru closes her eyes and tries to keep calm. "I'm sorry for worrying you- it was a very bad idea and I'll be more careful in the future."
Somehow Yuki's gentle words hit even harder than Kyou's gruff frustration.
"Darling- it's not just worrying us, it's- It's that you don't trust us. You didn't trust us to tell us what you were actually doing, and, to a smaller extent, you didn't trust us to tell you what you overheard in our conversation in our own time, in our own way. But what's more important is… Tohru- if something happened to you… Not only that but if you die, we die. Hell, even Akito dies if you die! What would happen to Shinta if we all died at the same time?"
Tohru feels instantly ashamed of her desire for some alone time.
Rat-boy's gotten much better at manipulation. Good thing he only seems inclined to use it to guilt you into staying in the bedroom so he can get under your skirt.
Despite her guilt, Tohru knows that she has to make at least one thing clear to them. "I made a very bad mistake and I am so sorry for hurting you in anyway. I love you both so much… And I do trust you, both of you. With everything."
Kyou just presses his face into her collarbone, while Yuki nods. "I love you, darling, no matter what, and I trust you more than anyone-"
Yuki trails off- his eyes don't seem to be focused on her face. Tohru follows his gaze-
Oh. You mean this wasn't a deliberate strategy?
'Why do I have so many of these conversations naked while the boys get to stay dressed?'
You've got better breasts.
Yuki gets a wicked gleam in his eyes as he moves to straddle her legs. "I think I know what you need to do to be forgiven. Have I mentioned lately how much I love your breasts?"
As Yuki starts to move his hands and mouth to show his appreciation, Kyou makes a noise of disgust and gets off the bed. "And this would be when I fuck off." He pauses in the doorway, expression serious. "No matter what- I love you. It's not always easy for me to say and sometimes I get a little strange because I'm scared. Just know that… I trust you. With everything."
And that is what Tohru remembers before she is lost in the touch of Yuki's talented tongue.
There are consequences to the overheard talk other than dealing with the boys' knowledge of her eavesdropping and Shigure's now-constant avoidance of her. A few days afterwards, Momiji approaches her while she is playing with Shinta in the garden.
"Okay. How long did it take Kyou to teach him to shorten my name like that?"
Tohru giggles and Momiji smiles at her as Shinta reaches towards him. "But since you're my favorite nephew, I'll forgive you this time. I don't suppose Mommy would be happy if I taught you that Papa was supposed to be called Orenji atama?"
This time, Tohru bursts into laughter, "He still sometimes complains about Uo-chan calling him that…" Tohru trails off, as she is unexpectedly hit with memories she hasn't thought about for years.
Momiji places Shinta onto the ground, allowing him to resume burrowing into the mud. He sits down beside Tohru, placing a hand on her shoulder. "It's okay to be sad, Tohru. You spend so much time trying to make us feel better… but we were all basically unattached when we came, even if we cared about the rest of the family. I think maybe that we all forget you lost a lot too- maybe even more than the rest of us here."
Tohru feels silly for the slight prickling in her eyes from his unexpected kindness. "Thank you… I needed to hear that. I'm silly, aren't I?"
Momiji grins and playfully rubs the top of her head. "My favorite kind of silly."
In retaliation, Tohru pushes him over and soon Momiji, Shinta and Tohru are rolling in the mud, completely destroying that corner of the poor garden. Sitting up, panting and laughing, Tohru pulls Shinta onto her lap. She looks over to Momiji to see him staring at his lap, fiddling with the edges of his shirt. "Tohru- I'm starting classes again next semester. I'm finally going to get my Journalism training, thanks to your help. I've felt so much better since I've come here… I think maybe though, to get me ready for when I need to go to classes, I should move into Kyou's old room. I'm- I'm sorry for being such a burden to you for so long."
Tohru brings Shinta over and pulls Momiji into a three-way hug. "You've never been a burden, Momiji- I've loved having you here. You always make me so happy. I hope that you can be happy as well."
Momiji smiles, but Tohru notices that he puts a little distance between them when he stands up again. Some part of her mourns something that she doesn't quite understand as he turns away and returns to the house.
Tohru is saddened by Momiji's awkwardness, but her biggest concern isn't given a chance to be silenced for nearly a week until she and Hatori are left by themselves to wash the dishes after supper.
Hatori is holding a dirty plate from the table and Tohru realizes that she will have to take advantage of this alone time.
"Hatori… Do you- do you have feelings for me?"
The plate drops to the ground and shatters.
Hatori bends over the broken pieces, his hair hiding his eyes. His voice cracks when he finally breaks the long silence. "I'm so sorry, Tohru. Do you… do you want me to leave?"
In that moment, the pain at the thought of him leaving makes Tohru realize just how much she cares for Hatori. "I don't- I don't love you like that, Hatori. But I do love you so very much. I am so selfish to not want you to leave…. Can we work out something that won't hurt you or the boys?"
He looks up then, a surge of shock through their connection. To Tohru's horror, his eyes are clouded and his hands are shaking lightly. She doesn't think about the situation anymore- just reaches up to wrap her arms around his neck. After a brief moment of resistance, he awkwardly lowers his head to her shoulder, pressing his face against her neck. Tohru tries to reassure him, tries to let him know how much she cares about him. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. It wasn't fair not to say anything though- not to you or the boys. I don't want you to hurt, but I don't know what to do. Please Hatori, you have to be able to feel how much I love you…."
Hatori doesn't say anything- just silently rests against her shoulder. Tohru holds him, stroking his hair, until he finally moves his arms to return her embrace, lifting her so that she is level with his face. He props her against his hip and looks directly at her, eyes slightly red-rimmed.
"I love you."
"That's not going to change."
"If I could take away your pain, I would, but I don't expect you to change."
"I will do whatever it takes to stay here- I will never be as happy anywhere else. But I can't… Tohru, I can't sleep without you."
"You've never tried to do anything to me, Hatori. For right now, I don't think that you need to sleep somewhere else."
The look of relief in Hatori's eyes is quickly overshadowed by some other, darker thought.
"Are you going to tell the boys?"
Tohru has been debating this ever since she first heard and, as much as she has asked the boys to tell her everything, after her overheard conversations, she's decided that some things are better left unknown.
"You would never hurt me or them. I don't think they understand that. It's not fair to any of you to keep you in my bed, but I can't see another solution right now. I won't say anything, but Hatori- we need to work to make you better. But I hope… I hope that you will continue to stay with us for as long as you want. I love having you here if it doesn't make you feel too badly."
"Feel badly?" Hatori's smile is shaky but genuine.
"I can't sleep without you, and, even if I could, even though we're in an impossible situation, I've never been happier than I am here."
He brushes a hand over her cheek. "You can't take away my pain… but you make it unimportant. I love you. I will never hurt you, never push this again… Please pretend that this didn't happen."
And then Hatori leans over, pressing a hot, almost worshipful kiss to her lips before setting her down and walking swiftly out of the room. And Tohru stares after him, her mouth burning.
Strangely, despite the awkwardness that followed the conversation with Momiji, there is no awkwardness dealing with Hatori- something that seems to surprise both of them. Tohru realizes that she trusts him, and he seems to be getting better, being happy just continuing to build their already strong friendship. The memory of the kiss is pushed so deep that she sometimes wonders if it was just a dream.
Actually nearly everything seems to be going positively, with the exception of Shigure's continued avoidance. The boys have even relaxed enough to let Tohru spend a little time showing Shinta off to Akane and Maki. That is they relaxed enough to let her go after a Butterfly-assisted Tohru pointed out that they still got to spend time with their friends at work and the dojo and if she didn't have someone to talk to about womanly things soon she would probably turn into a man herself.
I think even they agree that there are more than enough cocks in your relationship.
The women had been getting a little annoyed that Tohru hadn't been able to see them outside of work- at least, Akane had been getting annoyed and Maki had just looked knowing. One way or the other, Tohru is happy to have a chance to briefly get out of the house and separate herself from the situation a little. Shinta has been worrying her a bit- he has gotten quieter as he goes through teething and has an odd habit of staring off into space as if he's listening to something that only he can hear. Tohru hopes that some time away from the house will make them both feel better.
Akane grabs Shinta almost as soon as Hatori stops the car and lets them out. "I'll come back to get you in three hours?"
Tohru nods as Akane snags her with her free hand, Maki trailing behind them with an amused expression.
Akane lets go of her hand once they are in the apartment, making a wide, sweeping gesture. "I thought the cavemen were going to keep you locked up forever! Maki and I were planning a dramatic rescue when you finally agreed to meet us."
When Tohru turns, Maki just raises an eyebrow and shrugs.
Akane pouts. "Kid- I hope that they're fantastic in bed, because they sure don't seem to plan on letting you out anytime soon."
Tohru tries not to be offended but she can hardly manage a stiff smile in return, as Akane returns to telling Shinta how 'Auntie Akane' will get him some 'special piercings' as soon as he is old enough.
Maki sits down beside her as Akane swings Shinta around and he busily tries to eat her spikes.
"Don't let her offend you- she means well. She really cares about you and maybe- Have you thought that maybe she might have a point?"
Tohru almost jumps in shock and quickly looks over at Maki.
"Those two- there's no question that they love you. In fact there's no question that you're their world, even more than Shinta. But for what they expect in return…"
Maki looks over at Tohru with an unusually emotional plea in her eyes.
"There's a difference between looking at you like you're the only person in their world and looking at you like you should only be in their world."
Tohru isn't sure if this is true or not, but she knows that it is part of those things that she isn't ready to think about right now. Even though she smiles and nods at Maki, she is already trying to focus on something else, trying to see if she can see the base aura color of the other people in the room.
Tohru has not really paid much attention to the effects of her unusual sight since the first few months after the change. She has gotten so used to just automatically incorporating the swirling colors into her interpretations and ignoring the underlying base aura, that she no longer really sees them anymore. As she realizes this she takes a moment to adjust her mind so that she really sees the bases- Maki is a strange shade of cream, Akane's, not surprisingly, is a vibrant red, and Shinta's-
Shinta's aura base is black.
Her laughing little boy glows black as Akane swings him around and around in the air. Tohru tries to concentrate on the conversation, on the usual sniping between the two women, but all she can think about through the rest of the visit, as she says her goodbyes, as she carries Shinta back to the car, is the underlying color pulsing around him.
'Why is his base color black?'
For once, it seems that Butterfly does not feel like talking.
Tohru passes the rest of the drive in silence, although she knows that soon- soon… She cannot hide from these suspicions, any of these suspicions forever. But today- today there is practice with Kyou and work to be done and these things can be left until tomorrow-
When will you ever reach tomorrow, sweetheart?
And Tohru has no answer.
The practice session goes well and makes it that much easier for Tohru to put her thoughts off to another day. Although Kyou occasionally rubs his temples and blinks his eyes, they are both laughing and happy by the time they are finished. Happy enough that when Tohru sits down against the tree, Kyou instantly flops down with his head on her lap.
"My head hurts."
Kyou looks almost like a little boy when he pouts- even younger than the often unnaturally old Shinta. Tohru smiles down at him as he turns his face against her stomach, eyes fluttering as she runs her fingers through his hair. She loves these moments against the tree where Kyou lets down all his guards and allows himself to relax.
"Is there something I can do to help?"
Tohru feels a flash of strong uncertainty as Kyou looks up at her.
"Actually… I know you don't like controlling but… Cat says that you can help take some of the pain through our link. It wouldn't actually be controlling me, and Tohru… I- I really like feeling you in my mind anyways."
The last is said in such a hopeful rush, that it takes Tohru a few seconds to figure out what he is asking. When he looks up at her with those hopeful, pleading eyes she finds her resolve melt.
Go on. He wants you to be in control. Let him be sub for once. We'll work our way towards his very own schoolgirl outfit.
'Butterfly? How can I do this?'
Remember the attachments to Akito? Look inside your mind for the threads that bind you to Kyou. And pull.
Tohru can suddenly see both inside and out of her mind. The perspective is dizzying- those long strings she remembers from some distant nightmare attach her mind to Kyou's. Only this time, this time she is in control, deliberately pulling the pain, the sorrow, the anger towards herself. At the same time, she can see Kyou's head on her lap, his face contorting as he scrunches his eyes, twisting and… moaning?
'Oh gods! Is he hurt?'
The pain is making her weaker, but she has enough strength to end this-
Kyou's hips start thrusting uncontrollably and suddenly the pain rushes at an almost dizzying pace towards Tohru- angerfearregretlossgriefguiltguilt
When the stars behind Tohru's eyes clear, she is suddenly in the real world again, staring down at a trembling Kyou. A trembling Kyou with a large stain spreading over the front of his pants.
"Fuck… Tohru…. That was… Fuck…."
Now Tohru can feel the vestiges of his overwhelming arousal through their link, as he rubs his cheek against her hand in lazy satiation.
"Let's do that again soon."
Kyou obviously has no problems with what has just happened, the strangeness and power of their interactions-
'So why do I feel like I'll never be clean again?'
Looking down at Kyou's almost drugged expression of bliss, Tohru tries to push away the crushing headache long enough to think.
'Oh gods… What's happening to us?'
Oh FUCK. You weren't ready….
'Ready for wha-'
Tohru knows she is dreaming. She knows that she is not really sitting in a field, making daisy chains but… She doesn't understand why she would be dreaming about a lot of very, very beautiful men and women standing in a half-circle watching her make daisy chains. She's fairly sure that her imagination isn't good enough to come up with people this beautiful. Some of whom have tails. And fangs. And claws. What's even more strange is that some of the people are practically transparent, while others… others are very, very solid.
A broad-shouldered, dark-haired man squints his already tiny eyes and flashes his tusks as he takes a step towards her. "This is the vessel?"
Behind him, a tall woman with long, black-streaked orange hair, stretches lazily, daintily flashing fangs as she yawns. "As much as I hate to agree with Boar, this is hardly impressive." She turns, tail lazily twitching. "Someone call me if she does something interesting."
"I'm afraid Tiger, that you will have to stay for now, bored or not- Oh do try to control yourself!"
Tohru blinks as the short, brown-haired woman who'd spoken busily wraps her thin tail around Tiger's wrist, preventing her from shredding the daisies behind her.
One of the few solid looking people, a tall man with dark blue hair and strangely familiar eyes, walks over to the women. "Monkey is correct. We have finally been given an opportunity to assess the situation and meet as we have not met for nearly ten generations-"
"Which was nearly long enough to forget that you never met a fact you didn't want to bed. Good gods, Dragon! The world won't end if you say something that isn't completely logical and emotionless!"
This man… This man sends chills down Tohru's spine. He's one of those few solid people in the circle and his aura is nearly as overwhelming as his physical presence. Slender, beautiful even in a group of beautiful people, all the others stop murmuring the moment he opens his mouth. His dark brown hair is tied back in a rat-tail, highlighting the flash of the silver ring in his ear and when he turns towards her she can see that his eyes are… black-
"I see our savior remembers me."
Tohru drops the daisy chains, involuntarily leaning backwards when he takes a step towards her. She can see Yuki disappearing in her mind, replaced by this face, this smirk, and she is suddenly, utterly terrified.
"Oh fuck off, Rat. You've humiliated Dragon and terrified Tohru- I'd say you've succeeded in making your point."
Something flashes in Rat's eyes, maybe… sadness, but his eyes are cold again and his smirk firmly in place. Rather than face the smirk, she looks behind her to her defender-
Tohru realizes that this man, although orange-haired and red eyed, has broader shoulders, a broader face, longer hair. And a tail.
The familiar touch of his aura makes her eyes widen in surprise. He smiles at her and it is surprisingly gentle.
"Remember me then?"
Tohru isn't sure whether he moved or she moved, but her arms are wrapped around Cat's neck and he is holding her against his chest soothingly whispering into her ear. "I promise I'll keep you safe for as long as this takes. And it's not as bad as it seems- no one's going to hurt you or even touch you without your permission."
He sits her down on his lap, his arms still around her waist, and turns her to face the circle again. If Tohru weren't already so confused, she might have been even more confused by the expressions of complete and utter shock on the others' faces.
"Cat cares about something other than trying to sink claws into Rat?"
"Cat cares about a mortal more than sinking claws into Rat?"
"I didn't come here to speculate on the outcast's… tastes. Ox and I don't have much time before our absence will be noted. Stop the childish gossip and let Monkey or Rat organize some kind of discussion. Quickly. "
The tall, stern-faced man shakes his head so that his long, black hair billows behind him as he continues. "I did not assess the risks versus the tactical and strategic benefits of this situation to have it wasted on our normal childish fighting. Ox and I-"
"Can our dear brother even speak for himself, Horse? Or will he fall over if you remove your hand from up his ass?"
The stocky, square-jawed man beside Horse makes a low, growling noise. Even his black and white hair seems to vibrate in his fury. "If you weren't a woman, Dog-"
The speaker laughs and turns her head so that Tohru gets her first glimpse of her profile. She is… stunning. Voluptuous, full red lips, long, shining dark brown hair-
"Oh don't worry, Ox. I know that I couldn't fill your ass as well as Horse. And although I appreciate you expressing the interest, you just aren't equipped the way I prefer in a lover."
And with that she turns to press a very adult kiss to the person beside her. Who looks disturbingly like Ayame. With green hair. And breasts.
Tohru lets out something that, if she were actually sane or awake, might have been a whimper. "Oh please, Mom- where am I? Who… If I'd known that curing Kyou's headache was going to do this…"
Suddenly Cat's arms tighten around her, as the people in front of her stop dead and turn towards her.
A man with spiky wine-red hair and a gaunt face takes a step towards her. "Do you really not know? Haven't you been prepared already? I thought that by the time we got here-"
"We would know better than to ask questions that could compromise the situation. You're losing your grip, Rooster. If you can't keep a better hold of your vessels and yourself, we'll have to get replacement vessels and lose our chance for another five hundred years."
Rat turns back towards Tohru, as Rooster almost cowers away from him.
"To answer your question darling, we are temporarily visiting a… neutral ground created by your mind. I don't think any of us would have come up with er… daisies. The graceless screwup who's fondling you is our less-than-brilliant Cat and the rest of us… Well, I'm sure you've figured it out by now. And since we've been so very rude as to assume you knew what was going on… Well, it would only be polite to say hello."
He walks towards her, his eyes focused on her and Tohru is surprised to see that when he is not facing the group, his expression is almost gentle, almost longing. Suddenly though, Tohru is unceremoniously dumped to the ground and staring at Cat's back.
"Don't even fucking think of stepping closer."
Rat's expression instantly hardens, and his smile shows more fang than humor.
"Your vessel must be thinking very strongly with his second head if you are being this protective. Or are you that desperate for a piece of ass after all those years locked up as that nasty, vicious monster?"
Cat bares his fangs and lunges towards Rat who neatly sidesteps him. Almost immediately, Dragon and a second solid figure step forward- Dragon grabbing Cat while the short, tan-haired man grabs Rat.
"Oh come on- you two can have sex later. You're not quite as attractive as Snake and Dog, so you're going to have to wait to make out."
The tan-haired man twitches his whiskers and winks at Tohru as he leads a furious-looking Rat back to the rest of the Zodiac. Dragon leans around Cat under the pretext of restraining him and his soft smile makes something twist inside Tohru as he whispers in her ear. "We have to be careful. Cat will explain. But please don't forget that it's- it's not just our vessels' feelings."
He pulls back then, his face settling into a blank mask that makes Tohru strangely sad.
Cat settles Tohru back down on his lap as the rest of the spirits seem to huddle together to hold a hushed discussion. "Those idiots are going to be awhile, which should give us lots of time to talk."
Tohru turns to face him. "What did Dragon mean? Why do they have to be careful?… Why does Rat seem like he hates me?"
Cat's smile is very fond as he pulls her head to rest against his shoulder. "You don't wait to skip to the hardest ones, do you?
"Rat and Dragon- they can't afford to show any affection towards you. I can't believe I'm defending the fucking mouse but… he's trying to protect you. He really does care about you and I don't think I've ever seen him care about anything. If he acts out of character or if the others even suspect how they feel…"
He suddenly pulls her against him in a fierce embrace.
"You're not ready yet. And I'm starting to think that you shouldn't have to do this at all. But if the others suspect- you won't survive if they push this now before Rat and Dragon have a chance to rebel."
Tohru half-turns in his arms so that she can see his face.
"What about you then?"
There is a brief flash of pain in his eyes before he gives a short, bitter laugh.
"Me? You know your legend, love- I'll have no say in anything that happens. My opinion means nothing."
Suddenly a wicked smile spreads across his face. "Of course, that does mean that I get to touch you and hold you while Plague Mouse fumes. I think I'm starting to see some of the advantages to this situation."
His smile suddenly reminds Tohru of a question she's had for awhile. "Kyou always said… he always said that it was your… drives that pushed him so much sometimes. Why- why would someone like you want me?'
Cat freezes. And starts laughing. "Oh my vessel. That boy's the most arrogant, driven, stubborn carrier I've ever had. Definitely my favorite. My vessel blames me for his drive? Do you have any idea how much he desires you on his own? He even gets me worked up and I've never had a vessel affect me like that before. Do you know how much time he spent touching him-"
Tohru is ashamed of her strange desire to hear more, but she refuses to give in to it- she's more than learned her lesson.
"It's not fair to tell me this without him knowing. If he wants me to know this… I'll wait for him to tell me."
Cat pulls back from her, and Tohru is horribly afraid that she's offended the only person who seems to be helping her here. When he turns to look at her, she is shocked by the genuinely warm expression in his eyes.
"You are remarkable, you know that? I think I understand now… why you affect me the way you do."
He leans in and presses a soft kiss against her forehead. As he pulls back, his breath sends goosebumps down her neck when he whispers against her ear.
"Don't worry- I won't push things any farther. I had had a different idea of what we would do when I could finally touch you, but I think now-"
"Even a mess like you should know that you're not supposed to touch the vessels. Did you influence your poor idiot so strongly so that you could live out your own fantasies?"
Tohru is startled by how close Rat's gotten, the rest of the spirits watching him and Cat like it is some kind of match.
"You're one to fucking talk."
Rat laughs and it is not a pleasant sound. "I admit to having my… drives but… You think that it was me influencing the Ice Prince? Does our vessel here want to know what drives the Sohma Prince?"
"He suppressed my… appetite for years but when he met you…"
Rat leans over her, his eyes even darker. "Do you know how many times he'd think about you during those council meetings that last year? How he was so hard after those meetings he could hardly stand? How he'd have his hands down his pants before he even got in his room when he got home?"
Rat smiles and it sends shivers down Tohru's spine. "The reserved Ice Prince could hardly get in the door of his room before he'd have to release. He was so ashamed-"
"Please… This isn't fair…."
"Stop it, you fucking rodent."
Cat has moved in front of her, his body shielding her from Rat's view. "You want to get in a pissing contest with me and use our vessels? Fine. She's got nothing to do with it though and unless you want that fucking bug to kick us out- shut up and leave her alone."
Surprisingly, Rat stops and, as he faces away from the group, Tohru can see a bone deep exhaustion in his eyes before he reverts to a smirk. He leans over her one last time before he returns to the others. Tohru isn't sure if she imagined the soft, "I'm sorry."
One way or the other, his return breaks the silence and starts a loud surge of muttering before Boar overwhelms them all with a bellow.
Boar waves his hand furiously in a sweeping gesture. "This is a waste of time! Sheep hasn't even said anything yet-"
A placid looking woman with long white hair blinks and calmly looks towards him.
"Dog and Snake are too busy exploring each others' tonsils to contribute anything useful-"
Dog momentarily detaches to give a wicked grin. "You go for five hundred years without physical contact and see what your priorities are. Oh wait!"
But Boar refuses to be sidetracked in his rant. "Rooster can hardly hold onto his sanity much less a contribution-"
The gaunt-looking redhead closes his eyes as if in pain, but offers no comment.
"And best of all… Cat is trying to get into the vessel's cunt while the rat half of our Fearless Leaders is too busy trying to get in Cat's ass to actually use the fucking few minutes we have left before the controller cuts us off!"
Just as Tohru is afraid that Cat is going to drop her on the ground and disembowel Boar, a calm voice cuts through the uproar.
"She's not ready."
Sheep's expression doesn't change and her voice doesn't falter as everyone becomes quiet. "This wasn't meant to be the final meeting anyways- merely an assessment. She doesn't know what's going on and she doesn't need to, but she's not ready."
Sheep looks over at Dragon who continues in the same tone of voice. "We would be better served to stop scaring her and let her get ready than to continue this… travesty."
Despite the fact that this kind of decision-making seems to be what Boar was asking for, he doesn't seem all that happy.
"Oh no- I'm not waiting a day longer than I have to to finish this. How do we even know we'll be allowed back again after this? If she's willing to take Cat-"
"And to nearly die in the process!"
Cat is holding her tightly against his chest, his voice rough. "In spite of everything, I was willing to play my part and she nearly fucking died. If I hadn't pulled most of it back at the last minute… She's sure as fucking hell not taking on anymore right now."
Boar steps towards them, his expression determined. "I don't think you get to make that decision."
"Enough! I allowed you to have your uninterrupted, unmonitored time. It ends now."
Tohru blinks, trying to figure out why the new voice sounds so familiar. And why it would make Boar freeze where he is.
Boar sneers, looking at something beyond Cat's shoulder. "You won't be in control forever. When she's ready-"
"But she's not ready. Go!"
Suddenly, Boar just… fades away. As Tohru watches, all the other spirits dissolve in front of her, Dragon and Rabbit next-to-last. Finally, only Rat is standing in front of her, but just as it looks like he is going to say something, he too disappears.
Tohru blinks, trying to shake her head free from the sudden vertigo. When she feels the hand on her shoulder, she sinks back a little into Cat's embrace.
"Why-why are you still here?"
"Because he behaved, he gets a few extra seconds."
Tohru tries to turn towards the voice, but Cat holds her in place, bending his head over hers. He turns her so that she meets his eyes, meets his solemn expression. "I never meant to hurt you and I will do… whatever it takes to keep you safe. It may not be enough. But I need you to be careful. Don't always trust the fucking b-"
And Cat's gone. Without even a fade.
The world around Tohru is changing- the daisies stirred as if by a strong wind, the sky becoming overcast, a low, dark fog settling over the field. Tohru turns, trying to figure out what's going on, what's happening to her. And there- there in the distance is a figure turned away from her. A figure with wild, blood-red curls. And antennae-
"I can't hold this much longer. It's time to go, Tohru."
Tohru tries to walk towards it, but finds herself frozen in place.
"Not yet, sweetheart. I can't- You're better not knowing."
But the world falls away in a whirl of daisy petals.
Hatori is grey. Tohru blinks, but he still looks as if he has crawled out of a grave, his aura pulsing grey and black. Then he looks at her and his aura, her connection explode with color and feeling, as he slumps against her bed, his head on her naked chest-
'Bed? Naked chest?'
He doesn't move his head and Tohru can feel a slight dampness on her chest. "You were so damaged… You'd already transformed by the time we got there. I-I didn't know what to do- Kyou was transformed and he wasn't breathing and I couldn't even tell if you were breathing. Yuki collapsed almost as soon as we reached you and he wasn't breathing in his mouse form. We brought you all back here, got the boys breathing. It took two hours for you to transform back and I couldn't tell if you were dead in that time! It's been three days… three days of you not responding, three days of trying to keep Shinta from seeing you…. God, Tohru!"
Tohru instantly freezes.
"The… boys?… Shinta?"
Tohru painfully turns her head to see Yuki obviously just waking up. "Oh god… You're awake."
Tohru feels Hatori lift his head off of her as Yuki reaches over to pull her into an almost hurtful hug. He rocks her back and forth, his head buried in her shoulder, "I love you so much, so much… Don't ever scare me like that again!"
Tohru hurts all over and it is hard to focus, but she still has something that she needs to know. "Where's…Kyou?"
Yuki doesn't even seem to hear her- just keeps rocking her, stroking her stomach as he moves. Hatori seems to recognize her concern though and looks up from where he is sitting on the floor. "Kyou is with Momiji and Shinta. He's fine Tohru, but I think he blames himself for what happened. Although we haven't been able to get a clear enough description from him to figure out what did happen."
"Not… Kyou's… fault."
Tohru is very fuzzy as to what had been going on, but this she is sure of.
Hatori pulls himself to his feet and Tohru is surprised to see that his hands are shaking. "Do you want me to drag him in here then so he'll stop feeling guilty?"
Tohru manages a weak smile. "Please…."
As Hatori leaves the room, Tohru ignores Yuki's stroking and tries to recall what had happened before… this.
'How did I end up like this? I remember Kyou telling me that his head hurt. Then… then…'
You got sick.
'Sick? That doesn't seem right… There was something else that happened….'
But even trying as hard as she can, Tohru can't remember more than flashes of images after Kyou told her he had a headache.
'Butterfly? What happened to me?'
You had wild sex involving Kyou, binding twine and a garden stake. After passing out from exhaustion, you got sick from staying out in the cold in the nude.
''No- that was last week.'
My mistake. No idea then.
'Please see if you can find something. I really think that something important happened.'
You nearly died, Tohru. That's fucking important.
Tohru isn't sure why Butterfly is being so unusually dense, but she doesn't get a chance to discuss it any further before Hatori returns- literally dragging a bent-headed, defeated looking Kyou. Even his voice sounds like all the fire has been taken out. "Fucking stop it, Hatori. I know what she looks like right now- believe me I couldn't feel any worse than I already do. I don't deserve to be near her…"
"Always… want… you…"
Kyou stops so suddenly that Hatori nearly trips over him. "Tohru?"
"Not your… fault… Shinta… okay?"
Kyou takes a few moments to get his mouth to work. "Shinta's fine, just misses- Oh god. You're awake."
And he is on the bed, holding her on the opposite side of Yuki. "I can't remember what happened…. I thought you were dead…."
It takes a few seconds for Tohru to realize that the strange choking noise he's making is him crying into her shoulder. Tohru can count on one hand the number of times she's seen the boys cry. Having them on either side of her making muffled noises into her shoulders, she vows that she will never let that number increase because of her.
The rest of the day passes in a blur- Shinta jumping on her, Momiji hugging her until her ribs nearly crack, even Shigure smiling something that looks like genuine relief when he pokes his head in. Despite that, it takes a few hours before Tohru can breathe or talk properly and she can only sit up with help. Whatever has injured her doesn't seem to have anything to do with her connection to Akito or to the Jade God's power because Butterfly doesn't seem to be able to speed up the healing process.
Tohru feels badly weakened, and Hatori still has no idea what caused her illness or why Butterfly can't seem to heal her. In response. the boys take it on themselves to look after everything that she could possibly need. For the first few days, Tohru is grateful for their attentiveness, for all of the help they are showing her, although she still somewhat prefers the slightly less obvious ways that Hatori and Momiji try to help her get better. After two weeks of being restricted to the house and having either Kyou or Yuki with her every hour of the day, Tohru is feeling more trapped than grateful. Which is why she is stunned when Yuki announces that all of the men, except Shigure, are going on a hike with Shinta.
Yuki sighs. "Apparently we are taking Shinta on a hike before he destroys the house and Hatori and Momiji want us to show them the trails through the forest. We'll be back in a few hours- Shigure will be writing in the office and if there are any problems just get him to call my cell phone-"
Momiji grins and cuts Yuki off, "And we'll get going with Mom here before he tells you to remember to wear clean underwear."
As Yuki sputters and Kyou and Momiji laugh, Hatori winks at her as he casually hefts Shinta over his shoulder and shepherds the boys towards the door.
'Oh! That's what's going on!'
Tohru realizes that Hatori and Momiji have done this as a special favor to her to try and get her some alone time, but she still wishes that she could leave as well. Without even realizing it, some of her thoughts make their way out of her mouth.
"I'm not… I'm not dying. Even if I'm not strong enough to hike with you, I'm doing a lot better now. I could go over to Akane's! It would be a lot of fun and if something went wrong, they could always call Yuki's cell."
For a few brief seconds, Tohru can see the boys wavering before their faces harden in resolve.
"We can't take the chance. They don't know what you are and it would be too far for us to get to you if something happened."
Tohru likes to think that she can see the good in things, that she can keep her determination and hope, make her Mom proud but… But as she sees the men off with Shinta in his hiking backpack on Yuki's back, she feels like all of the energy is being slowly sucked out of her. After the front door closes, she leans against it for nearly a minute before she can move again.
Tohru is tired of the house restriction, tired of being kept in a box even more than she normally is, especially when a lot of it just seems like excuses to keep her at home.
'I can't- I can't live like this.'
Finally. I think it's time for that conversation you've been putting off. Caveman is one thing, but this is more 'Life Sentence. No Parole.'.
Tohru sighs, feeling slightly sickened at the thought of the upcoming confrontation. As she passes the office, she hears the sound of typing and remembers that she wasn't left entirely alone. She pokes her head in the door and makes a split-second decision.
"Shigure-san… would you like to play cards?"
It is the only thing that she can think of as a peace offering, since she's still not entirely sure why Shigure is upset with her. Shigure hesitates for a moment and looks back at his laptop as if he is debating whether he'd rather write his special books or play with her.
Well if he 'plays with you' then he might have something to write about!
'You know, I really hope that he doesn't think the same way as you because he just nodded.'
They kneel on opposite sides of the dining room table as Tohru deals out the cards. Tohru tries to study him a little without being obvious- Shigure certainly looks better than when he first came. In fact, if she didn't know better, she would say that he didn't look any older than when she first met him…. As she tries to think of a safe topic of conversation, Shigure unexpectedly breaks the silence.
"Ha-san didn't sleep for three days. I don't think he left your room- he was starting to smell like Aya after a bender by the end of it."
After the conversation she'd overheard, Tohru thinks that she can recognize a peace offering when she hears one. She looks up and smiles. "Hatori is far too good to me."
Shigure smiles, and there isn't the bitter edge Tohru has come to expect. His voice is even teasing rather than mocking. "Nothing is too good for our little flower!"
They both start laughing and it is almost as if they have returned to the times before graduation. They continue for awhile, laughing, Shigure teasing her as she tells him a little bit about the restaurant, about Shinta, about life here since she left. Shigure doesn't mention the compound or the curse, but Tohru is much happier to hear about some of the strange people who delivered things to him in the hidden house he was living in, about the even stranger people he met before he was able to get her address from the restaurant. "And who was that woman who threatened to tear my balls off and stuff them down my throat if I hurt you? I think there was actually some kind of betting pool going on!"
Tohru laughs as she remembers poor Hatori's greeting and deals the next round of cards. She remembers something that has been bothering her for awhile when Shigure brushes up against her arm as she picks up her cards. She decides that it might be worth breaking some of their comfort to know.
"Shigure- why did it not hurt you when Hatori grabbed you that day on the porch?"
Shigure freezes, dropping his cards. And gives a low chuckle, "You were always far more observant than we gave you credit for, little flower. Truthfully? You and- Well, you are the only one that it never hurts to touch. Since I've been away from the compound, I've found that, with practice, if I know that someone's going to touch me I can prepare myself and it won't hurt for a few minutes. It's gotten longer as time goes on. I imagine at some point it won't hurt at all."
"You knew Hatori was going to grab you?"
Shigure shrugs, carefully picking up the cards he had dropped.
"I was counting on it- if he felt the way I thought he did."
This then got to the heart of what Tohru wants to know and Tohru knows that she'll probably never get another opportunity where Shigure is willing to answer her questions.
"It was wrong of me to be there and to listen, but why ask those things if you knew I was there? Why pretend that no one except me can touch you at all?"
Tohru doesn't understand Shigure's strange, wry smile.
"Eavesdroppers never hear any good of themselves, little flower. As for the other…" The smile fades and he just looks tired. "Haven't you ever wanted to use whatever advantage you can take, no matter how small? Just have something to protect yourself in reserve…."
It is hard for Tohru to put it into words, but she suddenly thinks that she might understand.
"I know that sometimes I wish- I get scared that the boys have so much power over me, that I don't have anything to protect myself from them. It's not even that they'd ever really hurt me…."
Shigure chuckles. "I could say the same for Akito."
And Tohru makes a connection that she realizes she should have made a long time ago.
"So Akito- she was your most important person?"
Almost as soon as she says it, Tohru knows that she has crossed some kind of line. She feels a building dread as Shigure turns from her and his voice comes out far harsher than before. "It was just good sex, little flower. We were nothing but good fucks for each other, physically and mentally."
Shigure's shoulders are shaking and Tohru is more than a little concerned. "Shigure… is something bothering you?"
Tohru is startled by the anger she sees in his eyes, in his swirling colors.
"You, my little flower. You are bothering me."
Tohru reaches a tentative hand towards Shigure. He backs away from her as if she is diseased.
"You're no better than Akito. There's no difference between you. At least she's honest about her control. You manipulate and coerce to bind us to you. You never gave Yuki or Kyou a chance to try for any other life. Do you think that this is really where they want to be, what they want to be doing? What do you think they could have done if they weren't being held back by their need to protect you? They've never been with another woman. Do you really think that someone like you would have satisfied them if they had had other experiences?"
Tohru is completely calm. It is like a curtain has been lifted in her mind. Shigure is right. She has used her own desires and vulnerability to bind these men to her just as tightly as Akito had wished to bind them.
She catalogues her traits with a certain vicious satisfaction. She is not beautiful, not smart, not talented. Yuki and Kyou are with her because she was kind to them and they were starved for kindness. Later they became her lovers because they were seduced by their ability to hold her. Then- then she coerced them into meshing their animals, binding them so tightly that they had a true physical need for her. And now she is starting to walk the same path with Hatori, with Momiji, with Shigure.
It is a good thing that Shigure is not as blinded by affection as the rest of them. Tohru does not think that any of the others have even realized the depths to which she must have unconsciously manipulated them. She would thank Shigure, but if she opens her mouth she will start keening and never stop.
So she does the next best thing.
She opens the front door and leaves.
Quick Author's Note: There were enough questions about the last chapter that I decided to post an LJ entry to answer most of the more pressing ones. The address is here (just take out the spaces) http/ www. livejournal. com/ users/ anaphalis/ 16496. html Hopefully most of the questions have been answered in this chapter though :) The color chart (for the meanings of aura colors) is in Chapter 16.
Falling Right Side-Up: It was sad the way Shigure was acting, but I hope that he's starting to make more sense after this chapter. It was great to hear from you- I'm glad that you enjoyed that you enjoyed the chapter :)
tnumfive: The shininess will never end! Embrace the shininess ;) I hope that Shigure's behavior is starting to become clearer- you weren't the only one who was confused. You were also not the only one who was sad that there wouldn't be more men in the bed. I'm beginning to wonder just how widespread Butterfly's brainwashing is….
Shoomy2003: Book Worm gratefully appreciates all thanks and cookies. And very much deserves them :) I'm delighted that you've been enjoying the story and the turn it's taken. I was kind of afraid that I was going to get dropped in boiling oil after the last chapter ;) The story will definitely be finished- a friend is actually putting together a web page to archive it with banners illustrating the chapters, so I have really no choice but to get it done ;) It was a pleasure to hear from you- I hope that you continue to enjoy the story!
ximmortalrain: Just remember that no one's exactly what they seem in the story and hang on for a few more chapters ;) I really do love Shigure and this plotline isn't over quite yet… Thanks for taking the time to comment- I hope that you enjoy the new update!
Crisi: Heee… I just had this vision of Shigure twirling a mustache and going 'Mwa haa haa!' Thanks for making my day!
for sale: Don't worry- you're not alone in your dislike of the current Shigure incarnation. But I'm afraid that it's going to get even more twisty before it gets better. Because I'm evil like that ;) It's always a delight to hear from you and I hope that you continue to enjoy the story.
Bluespark: Yes- eavesdropping bad. I think poor Tohru figured that out fairly quickly ;) And I think that chapter was a bit of a gut kick, especially after such a long wait. Please don't apologize about your commenting! I love hearing from you and you were one of the only people who actually commented that what Tohru did wasn't right either- which was a very good point :)
Cinderelly: Wow. I'm delighted that you think the characterizations were three-dimensional- that's been one of my major goals for the story. I'm very happy if it's worked in any sense :) Heee… I love Tohru with pretty much any of the Sohmas and I admit that the thought of cloning her holds a certain appeal. Obviously I think that the Tohru/Yuki/Kyou triangle should be resolved this way, but I doubt that Takaya-sensei's read my mind yet ;) It was a real pleasure to hear from you- I hope that you continue to enjoy the story!
Clandestiner: You know, I'm often totally paranoid about the sexual tension in this story (as one of my betas put it, 'Not turning her into whore!Tohru'), so hearing you say that it wasn't a completespatter of hentai made me feel 100 better. Because sometimes it's tempting ;) I'm also evilly happy that Butterfly ideas keep popping into your head when looking at your own story- it means that the brainwashing is successful ;) Thanks for the chuckle- I hope that you enjoy the new chapter :)
DBZ luver2: Thanks for asking such interesting questions! I actually answered a number of yours specifically on the LJ link I posted at the top of the responses. I'm pleased that you thought that the chapter was worth waiting for and that you were shocked by the Hatori twist ;) As for Shigure knowing that she was a butterfly- he actually found that out in Chapter 1 and this chapter also offers another possible explanation. Thanks you for taking the time to comment and ask questions!
hannah5o: Yes- Shigure is seeming very different from his normal, laidback joking manner. I hope that this chapter will start to explain some of those changes, although the next chapter will focus on it even more ;) As for Shigure's contact with Tohru… part of it is talked about this chapter, but I'm afraid you're going to have to wait for a more definite answer ;) I'm glad that you've continued to enjoy the story- I've always enjoyed hearing from you and I hope that the new chapter continues to hold you :)
bob: Wow. I'm glad that you've been enjoying the story so much! However, you might have difficulty getting involved in a relationship with it- it's very fickle and not known to return affection easily ;) Seriously though- thanks for taking the time to comment!
Acey Dearest: I love Hatori's last, melodramatic line too. I'm afraid that I'm not-so-secretly a mushy romantic. It escapes me sometimes :) I'm delighted that you enjoyed the suspense and dialogue- those are two of my favorite aspects of this story to write and I always hope that they'll work as well as the fun I have writing them :) And poor Shigure indeed… As for Tohru- Hatori, Kyou and Yuki- Momiji's got a crush… Well, I guess that is a lot of bishonen from the tribe ;) Tohru's having much less fun with it than I would though ;) Lovely to hear from you- I hope that you enjoy the new chapter as well!
Sakky-chan: It is hard to see Shigure being upset with Tohru, but Tohru is a strong person ;) And Hatori does seem to be trustworthy- I guess we'll have to wait and see :) Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Not a Monkey: Not God, but I hope that you enjoy the new chapter once you recover from your shock ;)
CocoLoco: Six chapters left now:) I can't believe it's that close to the end… I love the last few lines as well and there will be an explanation for Shigure's behavior. Promise. I'm delighted that you're hooked. Butterfly will be pleased to learn of the success of its brainwashing initiative ;) Great to hear from you!
bookworm0492: Hee. I appreciate you not using your flamethrower on me. Of course, it would be very hard for me to write if I were a pile of ash, so it all works out in the end anyways ;) Good to hear from you!
Placid Snowflake: You asked such good questions that I put answers on my LJ, although I think that this chapter answered most of them as well :) I'm very glad that you enjoyed the story and the thanks for bbw was much appreciated- she deserves it :) I'm afraid that the way I keep revising the ending, I'm probably still going to worry about it, but at least this way I know that it will get finished ;) It was a pleasure to hear from you- I hope that you enjoy the new chapter!
baka-onna2003: Shigure is being a bit harsh, but there's still more story to go ;) Thank you for commenting- I hope that you enjoy the new chapter!
hatori still isn't mine: I really enjoyed writing the sex conversation, so I'm glad that you enjoyed it :) I love the excuses you came up with for Shigure's behavior- now I really want to write a one shot where Shigure is a puppet or a shapeshifter or tied up in a closet somewhere. And those all sound like the start of bad romance novels o.0 Thanks for making me laugh- I hope that you enjoy the new chapter!
AzianCutieMiyan: We'll see what we can do about the sandwich ;) And I can safely promise that there will be more surprises. Because I'm evil :) Very good to hear from you again!
Calyco: I've long held the opinion that if Tohru became aware of the boys' feelings that she wouldn't be able to choose between them. Both because she cares deeply about both of them and because she wouldn't want to destroy the building friendship between them. So basically I agree completely with you :) As for tense… Actually, the entire story, with the exception of some flashbacks and memory scenes is in present tense. I do have some major plot and characterization reasons for doing this, but I'm delighted that it wasn't obvious up until this point. I hate it when the present tense voice becomes intrusive and I was a bit sad that it was absolutely necessary for the plot of the story :) I'm glad that you enjoyed the story- thank you for your articulate, thoughtful comment :)
Liviana: Yay! -Showers you confetti and confection of your choice- You were the only person to notice Hatori grabbing Shigure without consequences and I'd huggle you electronically except that I'm trying to maintain some dignity ;) I was delighted to hear from you and I hope that you continue to notice these kinds of things in the chapters to come ;)
Sesshomaru'sbabygrl: Heeee! I loved your question and actually answered it on my LJ questions :) I agree that the men are really, really horny. Is that all they think about? Unfortunately, since the entire story is from Tohru's perspective, we may never know…. Thanks for making me laugh!
kayla: Butterfly is pleased that you like it. It is even more pleased that it's brainwashing efforts are obviously so successful ;) I agree that I love it when Tohru chooses both guys. But I'm obviously a bit strange ;) Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Knux girl: Thanks you so much for both your kind comments and your concern. I am doing a bit better now, although things are still a bit stressful. Your thoughtful comments always mean a lot to me and it was great to hear from you :)
Lizzy44: Thanks for the sympathy :) And poor Tohru- she can't ever seem to catch a break when she does something bad ;) Thanks for taking the time to comment- I hope that you enjoy the new chapter!
AmayaSaria: I'm very glad that you enjoyed the chapter and I hope that you continue to enjoy the story :)
Illusen52: A lot of people were disturbed by Shigure's behavior- I hope that this chapter makes it start to make more sense :) I'm glad that you enjoyed the chapter and I hope that you enjoy the new one as well :)
anahmidale: Awww… Thank you for the concern, sweetie :) I am doing a lot better now. Tell me how it goes with shaking the monitor until new chapters pop out- I'm afraid that I haven't been having much luck with it ;) Your support means a tremendous amount to me and I hope that the story will wind up being worthy of your interest and kindness :)
MistlicAngel: I love Hatori too and I'm glad that you still loved him after that chapter. I promise that Shigure will make more sense in the upcoming chapters. Either that or I'm just evil. One of the two ;) I'm hoping that there will be lots more Butterfly goodness as well soon, but this chapter was so huge I may need to recover from the shock ;) Thanks for taking the time to comment!
A Panda From CTY: Have I told you lately how much I look forward to your reviews? I miss band camp- I'm sorry that yours was the ninth circle of hell. Of course playing a bassoon always made for a good conversation opener, but it was still a lot of fun ;) I love your comment on manga Shigure showing snips of ruthlessness and me flipping it so we see snips of perversion and lots of ruthlessness. That was an amazingly astute comment- hold that thought! I hope that you enjoy the new chapter as well- it's always a pleasure to hear from you :)
PrEtTyStUpIdGiRl: I wouldn't write Shigure off just yet… But yeah- he wasn't too nice last chapter. I hope that you enjoyed this chapter- it was great to hear from you!
Mewling: Actually that was one of the nicest comments I've ever gotten- I've been trying to write this as a more mature, darker version of Takaya's universe and I was really delighted that that was how it was coming across to you. Shigure's certainly er… something, but I wouldn't write him off just yet. Because I'm evil like that ;) While fanfiction isn't that important in the grand scheme of things. It's been a really amazing break for me and I love writing this story. No matter how long it takes, I'm determined to see it through to completion :) I always love hearing from you- positive or negative comments, you always manage to make me think :)
MiniDebz: I agree that what has happened to Shigure has probably shaped him and the way he's reacting- it was very good of you to be able to figure that out from the chapter :) I hope that you continue to enjoy the new chapter- thank you for commenting :)
Cody Thomas: Thank you for the concern- it really does mean a lot. I'm glad the last few lines hit hard- I'd sort of meant them to be a bit of a gut punch and apparently succeeded beyond my wildest dreams ;) I appreciate you not demanding that I update every fifteen minutes- as fun as that is, I think that I've already got a large enough collection of death threats for my wall ;) The real world can be a bit crazy, but this story will be finished. It's always great to hear from you and I hope that you also enjoy the new chapter!
Jade Cerise: Updated faster! And I love poor Ha-chan too :) Thanks for taking the time to comment!
luvHaru7: Although I am not a Holy Fish, I greatly enjoyed hearing from you again ;) My helper deserves all praise and chocolate- thanks for thanking her :) Since nearly half of the people reviewing didn't realize that it was Shigure, you're in good company ;) I'm glad that you're enjoying the story still- I hope that you have fun on your summer vacation!
Ella: Heeee… You and my beta would get along great, She keeps wanting me to turn this into Hatori/Tohru too ;) As for killing to have Yuki, Kyou and Hatori in love with you? You and me both ;) I loved hearing from you- I hope that you enjoy the new chapter!
bb chan: I laughed so hard at the mental image of Shigure squishing Tohru. Which is bad and wrong, but it's still such a funny image. Thanks for commenting- I hope that you continue to enjoy the story!
ryan: Heee… Sometimes I feel like I've been writing this fic for years, so you and I both match. I'm glad that you're enjoying the story- thanks for commenting!
Kaoru4: Wow. I read your review and I just had to sit back and think for a few minutes. I am truly honored that the story made you that happy and affected you that strongly- my biggest goal as a writer is to make someone else feel what I see in my head when I write the story and immerse myself in the characters and plot. Shigure does seem bitter, but there's definitely more to go on that storyline. Although this story covers many areas, at its heart it is a love story, and I'm glad that that part of it worked for you. And poor Hatori… I like to think that his love has its own beauty though, in spite of what Shigure said. It was a real pleasure to hear from you and I hope that you continue to enjoy the story.
Helga: Yay! You ask such good questions! Hold that thought about the source of Shigure's bitterness- although there may have been a little bit more explanation this chapter. I hope that this chapter answered the rest of your questions. Thank you for taking the time to comment- I hope that you enjoy the new chapter!
truffletruffle01: Hold the decisions on Shigure a little while yet! Because while he may or may not be evil, I most certainly am ;) That's an excellent question about the 'one-time-love' thing. You're the only person to comment on it and I really, really want you to remember that thought for a few more chapters ;) It's always awesome to hear from you and I hope that you enjoy the new chapter.
AkaiKurai: Butterfly definitely has er… interesting timing with its comments. That whole discussion was a bit exciting for poor Tohru :) You know, you're the only person to comment on Tohru being suffocated, and, as that is about to be very, very important, I think that you deserve Special Internet Cookies! As for Shigure- things will start to become more clear. Unless I'm actually truly evil and just stringing everyone along to confuse the hell out of them ;) I love hearing from you- thanks for making me laugh!
Redmoonfae: Hee…. I hope that you actually finished the chapter after the drugs wore off, although that would have made for an interesting reading experience. I'm delighted that you enjoyed the story in spite of your pain and I hope that the operation went well! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment :)
Inuyasha-Hottie-101: Moo to you too :) And Yuki drooling on the pillow is very, very cute. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Phoenixfire1389: -Eats virtual chocolate and becomes Pheonixfire's devoted slave- Thanks for the concern- things are going better and I appreciate you taking the time to comment :)
Conejita de la Luna: Heee… I'm sorry that the last chapter confused you- I hope that this chapter cleared some of that up! Although, knowing me, it probably made things worse ;) Thanks for taking the time to comment!
xoxKiSS: I'm glad that you're enjoying the story- hope that you enjoy the new chapter!