An Alpha to Omega

Customary Disclaimer: I don't own Fruits Basket or anything in it.

Rating: PG-13 – here for violence, angst, language, and some very light innuendo.

Alert! There will plenty of what I can assume are spoilers. Fic assumes a pretty good knowledge of the manga, but it's not necessary. Just have fun with it, baby!

"One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world was better for this."

- Don Quixote, de la Mancha 1605-1615

The street lamps had hopped to life hours ago, lights filtering down through the thick air like a rank of pale orange ghosts in the distance. It seemed that with winter approaching, the entire city began lighting up earlier and earlier to repel the coming dark.

The lamp behind her flickered off with a buzz, and Kagura jumped visibly. A curse was working its way through her lips before she reminded herself that, contrary to Isuzu's example, it wasn't ladylike to swear. She shuffled to the working lamp on her right, and realized that she looked like she was situated beneath an orange spotlight, completely alone on a dark and empty stage. There weren't even moths around, fluttering and circling the bulbs. If it was too cold for them to be in flight, it was certainly too cold for her to be standing outside of Tohru's workplace, but Kagura didn't see how she had much of a choice. She knocked her brown boots together and tried to fight back the chills.

She'd never been to Tohru's work before, so she was a bit surprised on arrival to find that it was actually one of Momiji's father's many buildings. She recognized the logo fixed above the drab gray building. Once upon a time, her father had done frequent business with her cousin's father. That was a long time ago.

In any case, Kagura had marveled at this surprising coincidence at first, but the novelty quickly faded when the streets began to get dark and Tohru still didn't emerge.

Isuzu had said that it was important that Kagura make her visit to Shigure's house a surprise, so he wouldn't have time to make any extra plans before she got there. Then, as Isuzu put it, Kagura would have to do nothing short of slamming Shigure to the ground and purring threats into his ears until they bled if she wanted to get her diary back. Although Kagura did like to use Shigure for practicing her women's self-defense moves, she was instantly repulsed by the idea of straddling him on the floor or any other surface; so she'd come up with her own plan and opted to surprise Tohru instead. Not only was she her friend - she was also less likely to grope her in fight.

Speaking of whom. A stir across the street drew her attention to the building's entrance, where several women in blue uniforms were exiting noisily into the empty streets. Kagura squinted at the figures lingering at the doors, hoping to catch a glimpse of her friend, but all of the women she saw were older – older than Kagura's mother, even. She couldn't catch a single note of Tohru's bright and chipper voice amidst their listless chatter.

One of the workers, with a handkerchief tucked into her removed gloves, noticed Kagura staring at them, and Kagura ran over, feet closed and her handbag clutched tightly to her chest. The women looked surprised to see her, but most smiled anyway as she edged her way, timidly, to the one who had caught her eye.

"Are you waiting for someone, dear," the woman asked, glancing at Kagura's cold, pink face. "Anyone in the building? Why not wait in the lobby where it's warm?"

Since Kagura figured she couldn't say, "it's because I hate your boss, Momiji's-Father-san, and I'd probably strangle him if I got the chance," she decided to ignore the last question and move straight on to the point.

"Ano," she began shyly, covering her lips with a frozen hand. "Ano…does Honda Tohru-san work here?"

A few of the ladies chuckled, and one said, "It's always her they're looking for, ne?" They giggled and exchanged meaningful looks. Kagura could only guess what they were laughing about.

"Kagura-san?" Tohru appeared behind the other women and dashed around them to meet her. "Kagura-san!" She was breathless and speaking fast, a flurry of hair and cuffs and socks in the cold. "What are you doing here? That is to say, I'm glad to see you, it's an honor really…"

Kagura gave a relieved nod, and glanced over her friend's shoulder at the cleaning ladies watching them silently. Tohru stopped speaking long enough to follow her gaze, and jumped like she was on fire. Kagura could practically see her realizing that she'd turned her back to the other women in her excitement, and the apologies began to spring from her mouth before anyone else had a chance to react.

"Sumimasen! Sumimasen, minna-san! Arigatou gozaimasu for your kindness to Kagura-san and myself!" She bowed quickly, deeply, and the women smiled at her fondly before murmuring soft farewells and drifting away into the different patches of dark between the street lamps. Tohru, it seemed, was the only one without a car at her disposal.

"I'm sorry for dropping by like this Tohru-chan," Kagura said, bowing her head. "I seem to find myself running errands later than usual, ne?" She chuckled darkly. Errands… "The library closed early this evening."

"Not at all!" the other girl said. She was beaming, her past embarrassment entirely forgotten. "I'm so glad I could see Kagura-san! How can I be of service?"

"Oh…" Here came the presumptuous part of Kagura's endeavor. She scuffed her boot around, avoiding her friend's questioning eyes. "Well, I was wondering… I'd like to come with you to Shii-chan's house tonight – I haven't called ahead, I'm sorry – I never intended to impose on any of you…"

"Oh, you could never impose! We all had so much fun your last visit – ah! Is your ankle better?"

"Huh?" Kagura looked at her feet, trying to remember. "Oh, yes, my ankle! I fell down the stairs didn't I? Clumsy." She smiled. "Eye of the tiger, ne?"

Tohru laughed warmly, and Kagura smiled again. She had always noticed that there was never a hint of ridicule or even teasing fun in Tohru's laugh. Her laugh was simply one that seemed to spring up in reaction to any smile in her direction; it was as if Tohru was a sunflower, picking up her head at the first glint of sunrise.

"So…it's not a bother? You didn't have any cleaning up to do last time, did you?" Kagura asked.

"Ah! No! Please! I'm sure everyone would love to see you – we haven't had many visitors recently since Momiji-kun joined his after-school club."

Kagura brought her hands to her face again to hide her teeth in her smile. "Thank you so much, Tohru-chan! Here!" She rummaged around in her little handbag noisily, and surfaced with a small package topped in purple ribbon. "A thanks for taking me in, Tohru-chan!" she chirped, depositing the gift in her friend's hands, a bit forcibly because Tohru was stuttering and didn't look like she was able to accept the gift under her own power.

"Kagura-san! Please! I cannot accept this generosity-"

"Oh…" Kagura bit her lip. "Are you sure? It's just some little girly things –a girl alone in a house of boys should be able to treat herself, ne?" She winked. "And there's some nail polish in there that I was hoping we could try out together, if you had the time…"

"O-of course! I would love to! Arigatou gozaimasu," Tohru cried, placing the gift shyly, carefully, into her workbag as if it were made of crystal.

"Great!" Kagura clapped her hands. "Let's go!"

"Hai!" And before she knew it, Kagura was walking through the streetlights and car lights with Tohru-kun like it was perfectly normal for two schoolgirls to prattle away in the dark and the cold late on a weeknight. Of course, Kagura thought, it very well could be normal for people who hadn't been cloistered and led by the hand through life as she had been. She didn't know what normal was. Tohru, on the other hand, had definitely not lived a sheltered life, and knew what it was like to not have her path set before her from birth. She'd carved her own way through – studying and always working, working working, pushing on without a Mama now; while Kagura had only recently gotten her first job.

Spending time with "Tohru-chan" had made her wonder if there wasn't something she'd missed in the last few years of her life. Doing more and more things she didn't want to and accept responsibility for her mistakes was something she'd had to learn in college, but slacking off seemed to have a more profound impact when her performance was directly linked to pay. It was a blessing that she'd found a job that appealed to both her aggressive and nurturing instincts in equal measure.

Tohru stopped suddenly and pointed ahead of them. "This is the path to Shigure-san's house," she explained. Kagura nodded dumbly, staring at the dirt trail that began at their feet. It seemed strange how the woods swallowed the path up almost immediately, while not a few feet away a road that had earlier been filled with cars and smoke and light stretched out further than the eye could see. Because the woods were owned land – Sohma land – they had never been developed; and it struck Kagura for not the first time that week how very old the Sohma family was.

Tohru smiled and walked a few steps up the path, but Kagura lingered behind, staring uncomfortably at the spot where the path met the trees. She realized vaguely that she had drawn herself into a defensive stance without even noticing.

"Kagura-san…" Tohru had noticed her discomfort, and was peering at her through worried eyes. "Are you okay?"

Kagura nodded her head quickly. She reminded herself that she'd been under a lot of stress since she lost her diary, and that it was perfectly natural for this stress to make her more nervous than usual. Still, it was only her friend's kind, searching look that stopped her from demanding they trash the forest idea and find another way home.

"Tohru-chan!" she burst out. "Have you seen a book? It's my book – it's pink with kittens on the cover? I think I might have left it at your house last time I visited." Hope bubbled up in Kagura's chest, and she clutched her handbag tighter, waiting for a good answer that would soothe her anxiety and let her stop thinking strange things about the Sohma family and its stupid, scary woods.

"Oh no! I-I'm sorry, Kagura-san! I haven't seen anything like that!" Tohru threw up her hands in an appeasing fashion, as if she was committing a crime by delivering this bad news. "Of course, I could have overlooked it, I'm so clumsy, but do you remember where you last had it?"

Kagura barely registered her friend's flurry of questions and self-deprecations, her entire body occupied with the same sinking feeling she'd had when she'd turned her underwear inside out the other night and shaken it over her bed. She couldn't say that she had expected Tohru to say "Yes, I've had it locked away for safekeeping and no one's read it at all," but she couldn't say that she had really expected a "No" either.

It was a crushing blow. She was already fighting back tears of frustration, even though a more mature part of her was saying that it was shameful to cry when there were so many worse things to cry about, like Shigure reading her diary aloud to Yuki and Kyou, and forcing them to remember things she only hoped they'd forgotten. This thought made her wail miserably, and she shook a fist at the forest in front of her. If Tohru didn't know where her diary was, would she really have to come in full-body contact with Shigure to get it back? She wasn't even wearing shorts underneath her dress!

A small touch on her shoulder drew her away from her depressing thoughts, and she noticed, shocked, that Tohru was looking at her with an equally miserable expression. Her friend looked ready to cry herself, and Kagura's shame doubled. She should have known that her bad mood would affect Tohru.

For a brief, split second, she was inexplicably reminded of Yun-chan, from a long time ago.

All Kagura could do was smile simply, once again impressed by her friend's remarkable empathy. This seemed to give Tohru heart, and Kagura quickly found herself in a warm embrace right there between the light of the city and the dark of the Sohma woods.

The other girl released her almost immediately, smiling her gentle, reassuring smile, and placed her hands together in determination. "We'll look for it when we get to Shigure-san's house, ne? I'm sure Yuki-kun and Kyou-kun would both be happy to help us, too!"

Kagura somewhat doubted this, but smiled anyway. "Actually, Tohru-chan," she said humbly, "that's really most of why I decided to go to Shii-chan's house." She blushed. "Tohru-chan… that book is my diary."

Tohru's eyebrows shot up, and Kagura spoke quickly. "I'm so sorry I didn't tell you right away! It's just embarrassing, is all, losing something so personal." She wrung her hands, avoiding her friend's eyes. If Isuzu could see her now, she would be laughing her ass off. Or screaming. Either one.

"It's not that," Tohru replied suddenly, cheeks growing pink. "Sumimasen! I was just thinking how upset Kagura-san must be. I lose things all the time – silly me!" She knocked herself on the side of the head. "Like, I'm always dropping Okaa-san, and usually Hiro-san ends up finding her and returning her to me…"

Kagura had no idea what her friend was talking about, but she nodded all the same. She was taken by a small, warm hand, and looked ahead wistfully as she heard Tohru chirp something about, "the sooner we get there, the sooner we can look, ne?" and was led off the street down the dirt path. Tohru's hands were still a bit sweaty from her work gloves, her handkerchief still damp with perspiration, but her late night labors seemed to have had no effect on her determination to provide relief to a friend in need. Kagura shook her head. Tohru was always ready to believe that the needs of others were more urgent than her own. She was glad to see it.

As they finally broke through the trees into the woods, Kagura thought back to this same selfless attitude in all that Tohru had done for her and her family. She thought about how Tohru had continually comforted Yuki when all of her hugs made no difference, how Tohru had run after Kyou when she could not. She couldn't say she wasn't still a little jealous, but that didn't matter anymore. Her cousins mattered – family mattered. She knew, somewhere in her forceful, childish heart, that Tohru was a bridge between light and dark for Yuki and Kyou. They needed her. And that was why she was important to Kagura. She truly loved Tohru, her dear friend; but Kagura unmistakably, unrepentantly, loved her cousins more.

That was why, as the ominous dark swallowed them up, Kagura knew that she would have to protect Tohru – with all her forceful, childish heart.

Tohru would not be the last to receive this honor.

"So you're saying the killer had a personal connection to our victim?"

"I'm saying that when there appears to be no practical motive for a murder, we have to start looking for other motives. Whoever did this was very angry – he stabbed the victim several times, probably even after she was dead. He would've been able to look into her eyes when he killed her. He obviously had some kind of emotional attachment to her."

"So…what? They were related? Romantically involved?"

"That, or she just represented some other significant figure in his life. But the family would be a good place to start."

"I'll check out the brother first."

"It's the cousin," Kyou said, rising quickly from his spot on the floor. He looked pointedly over at his own cousin, who rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, but which one, baka?" Yuki replied, tucking a hand beneath his chin and leaning further back into the couch.

"K'so nezumi!

Yuki frowned. Somehow, during the wait for Tohru to come home, he and Kyou had ended up watching a rerun of some old crime drama, and now his cousin was killing all of the suspense. Watching television and eating were about the only two things he and Kyou could do together, and that was mostly because they weren't really doing it together. It was more like they just happened to be doing the same thing in the same room at the same time. Although lately that had been changing a bit. He wasn't quite sure if he liked it or not.

Kyou interrupted his thoughts. "Well, who do you think it is, smart-ass?"

Yuki looked back at the television, and a red-head appeared onscreen. "Him," he said automatically.

"He's not even her cousin!"

"I don't care. He did it."

His cousin swore angrily, dropping to the floor in a pout. "Where is that girl? I can't take this anymore!"

Yuki squinted up at the digital clock perched on the VCR player. "She should be here in a half hour," he said thoughtfully.

Kyou swore again.

They had walked for quite some time through the woods before the trees overhead became thick enough to hide the path from the light of the half-moon, and they had to look at their feet instead of each other to keep from stumbling. Their hushed chatter dropped down to reverent whispers in the dark, and a thin fog crept out from between the trees like sacrificial smoke drifting over the floor of a pagan temple. Kagura sensed that there was a thousand glittering animal eyes watching them, wide awake, but the woods still seemed fast asleep to her, oddly composed and listless and damp with quickly gathering dew. Suddenly winter seemed very much upon them, the time approaching for snakes and other crawling things to slip into a deep sleep and hibernate until warmer weather arrived.

Kagura was not afraid of forests; if hearth and home was her altar of prayer, then the wilderness surrounding Kazuma's dojo was her church. She'd first learned to meditate in those woods, find comfort and peace surrounded by nature's cocoon. But the woods near the Main House had never been that way for her. They seemed too much like an extension of Akito's dark hallways – undeniably a spiritual place, but the sort that sapped away strength instead of bolstering it. The Main House and all its surrounding properties – where the harmless became dangerous and the benign turned malevolent – were cursed as much as anyone in the Zodiac had ever been.

Tohru rubbed her eyes sleepily, like an infant, and immediately snagged her foot on a stone during her lapse in concentration. Kagura grabbed her arm to stop her from tripping. "Careful, Tohru-chan!" she chirped. "This ground is tricky, ne?"

Her friend smiled warmly up at her. "Thank you, Kagura-san! Forgive me, but I'm so glad that you're coming to visit us tonight, even if it is under such unfortunate circumstances. Yuki-kun and Kyou-kun worry when I walk through the woods without them. I'm sure they would worry if Kagura-san was alone, too, so it really is nice that we could walk together!"

Kagura caught the exclamation in her friend's voice and laughed. She didn't think that Yuki and Kyou would be concerned for her own safety at all, but Tohru's unfaltering confidence in them made her happy anyway. "Tohru-chan, Kyou-kun and Yun-chan walk you home?"

"Hai, sometimes! It's really much more than I deserve!"

Kagura laughed. "Of course you deserve it, Tohru-chan! Kyou-kun and Yun-chan need a chance to act like gentlemen!"

Tohru bowed her head in an unconscious gesture of humility. Kagura could see why her cousins were so protective of her. She just thanked her lucky stars that they hadn't come to walk Tohru home that night, because then they would have interrogated her without mercy about why she was coming to Shigure's so late unannounced, and she'd never be able to tell them, and then she'd probably end up hitting them or something to hide her embarrassment. Tohru was so much easier to commiserate with, girl-to-girl.

Not that the commiseration was distracting her very much from the uneasy silence that had followed them into the woods. Kagura wondered briefly if it was just worry about getting her diary back again that was setting her on edge, but that thought just didn't seem to cover the burning anxiety beginning to itch away at her. She trusted her instincts that there was something amiss in this cursed forest; she just had no idea what it was. She smelled smoke, but where was the fire?

"Ne… Tohru-chan?" She bit her lip hesitantly. "Why do Kyou-kun and Yun-chan not like you walking home alone? It's Sohma property, it should be safe."

"Ah, Shigure-san said says there a perverts in here!" Tohru replied cheerfully.

Anywhere else, she would have immediately thought about her cousin Ayame, and his bawdy little shop, but as it was, Tohru's answer did little to ease her anxiety.

Kagura heard a yelp behind her, and realized that Tohru had fallen behind while she'd quickened her own pace significantly. She apologized and forced herself to slow down, even though it was torture for her to try to put her prey instincts aside to fight the flight response. And then the sound of a twig snapping shot out in the dark.

Hell, she was never any good at ignoring her instincts, anyway.

Tohru reached out a caring hand to her, and she'd barely registered the trusting gesture before that hand was in her own, and she was hauling Tohru behind her at full speed, feet pounding desperately, blood roaring a morbid pulse in her ears. Over it all, though, over Tohru's weak protests and the rustle of her hair in the wind, she was positive she heard, knew she heard, heavy footfalls drum, drum, drumming somewhere behind them to a chorus of sickly wet breaths. When she glanced over her shoulder and saw a distant flutter of grey, she knew it was done – the spell of silence had been broken. In running, Kagura had created something to run from.

A wrenching tug from behind sent Kagura slamming into the ground. She hissed when rock and grit dug into her hands but she scrambled to her feet quickly and helped up Tohru, who was chattering frantically, like something in her head had been knocked loose by the fall:

"Gomen nasai! Gomen nasai! I tripped and took Kagura-san down with me – sumimasen! Demo! Kagura-san, why-"

Kagura clapped her hand over Tohru's mouth desperately, and the other girl froze in her arms. She spread her feet further apart in an assertive stance and stared defiantly into the all-encompassing dark – Sohma dark, Yun-chan – around them. Her peripheral vision was not as good now as when she was transformed, but even with her eyes set front and center like a carnivore, she could take in enough of her surroundings to see something stalking through the trees. She could see that they were prey.

"Come out, come out, wherever you are…"

Tohru stiffened suddenly in her grip. Kagura followed her frightened eyes, and saw that fleck of grey again, more prominent in the inky dark. She dipped her mouth low to Tohru's ear.

"Tohru-chan. Go ahead of me. Run to Shii-chan's and tell them I'm coming, please?"

Tohru shook her head. "What about you, Kagura-san?"

A voice rumbled out between the trees. "Hai, what about you, 'Kagura-san?'"

She snapped to attention, and took in the figure stepping out of the fog with wide eyes. It was difficult for her to believe what she was seeing. The man was dressed was so normally. It was probably the first time in her life that a grey business suit seemed out of place. But she wasn't an idiot. She didn't have to look at his dirty dress shoes to know that he was their pursuer.

She watched how his chest heaved under a pristine white Oxford shirt slicked with sweat, and listened to his deep rattling breaths. Not even the tame blue tie, slack around his neck, could conceal the raw strength in his thick hands and broad shoulders. He may not have been exceptionally tall, but Kagura was exceptionally little, and this hadn't seemed to escape his notice, because he looked back at them with black eyes licked bright, and smiled.

"Two birdies in a cage," he cooed.

Kagura noticed how his voice was slurred. "You're drunk," she accused.

He shrugged dismissively, but the predatory smile didn't fade. She narrowed her eyes. He wouldn't be going after them if he wasn't drunk. Kazuma had always said that men like this one, who preyed on children and anyone else who looked helpless, were perfect cowards. They only approached solo targets. If he was pursuing two almost full-grown women, he had to be drunk.

That, she thought grimly, made him ten times more dangerous. Even if his movements were impaired, it would still lengthen his reaction time to pain, and eliminate any tactical reserve that he might have approaching them.

He shifted, rolling his head to the side to look at Tohru. Kagura could feel her trembling behind her, but she had no doubt that her friend was putting on a brave face. Tohru's hand was firmly planted in her own, as if to say she wouldn't abandon her. Kagura's throat tightened. If Tohru ran to Shigure's house, all she had to do was do her best to incapacitate the man and follow suit. But if Tohru was unwilling to leave her behind…

She tightened her grip on the other girl's hand. She'd never encountered a predator like this before, but it was still obvious to her that her training gave her a significant advantage that Tohru didn't have.

Evidently, the man had sensed this too, because he was making direct eye contact with Tohru now, glittering black against honey brown. He laughed, deep and mocking, when her friend shuddered. Kagura clenched her fists, and ignored the heat and pain rocketing up her arms into her shoulders. Everything Kazuma had taught her about tactical defense, everything he'd said to her about keeping her emotions in check – she was already mentally tossing it all out of her mind like a litter of textbooks out an open school window. It didn't matter to her why he was drunk, or why he was there in the first place. All that mattered was that he was licking his lips and stroking his neck and undressing Tohru with his eyes and it pissed her off

"I don't care if you lost your job or had a fight with your wife or whatever the hell your problem is," she screamed, throwing Tohru behind her and out of his sight, "you're not making any of your damn problems ours! Get the hell out of here, you perverted-"

He roared and lunged at them, all raw animal strength with nails and teeth flung out to find vicious purchase, but she was ready for it, and she threw out a red-hot arm to meet his unshaved jaw. The sharp stubble dug into her fist, but the fresh pain of the scratches soothed the marks where her fingernails had punctured the scented skin of her palm. She knew even before he stumbled back, yowling clumsily like an angry bear, that his senses were too numbed by the alcohol for her punch to incapacitate him.

"Run, Tohru!" she screamed. "Run to Shigure's!"

But Kagura didn't hear any footsteps, and when she looked back, Tohru was still standing there, eyes transfixed on the man who was rapidly regaining his balance in front of them.

"Tohru!" She was yelling now, trying desperately to jar her friend into action. But Tohru remained in place, and Kagura had to throw herself at the girl to pull her out of the path of a fist that came rocketing back out the dark.

"Come on!" She seized Tohru by the arm and pulled her into a sprint. "Don't look back!"

Listening to their feet slapping the ground and her heart beating in a feverish rhythm, Kagura almost thought that they had a chance at winning the race. It wasn't a few seconds, though, before she could hear his furious panting behind them, and he lunged in one last demonstration of agility that sent both girls tumbling into the dirt.


When Kagura collided with the ground, she could barely make out Tohru's high screams over a sickening pop! that echoed in her ear. She realized it came from her shoulder, trapped between her body and an unforgiving tree root, and a wave of nausea sent her reeling onto her back. Through her blurry vision, though, she could make out Tohru sobbing, pinned to the ground by a man three times her weight, and she swung her arms up and catapulted herself to her feet.

Shrieking like an avenging angel, her hair flying in an immaculate halo around her face and her legs arched in a celestial bow, she leapt onto the demon and yanked him off of Tohru by his tie, ignoring the pain slicing up her shoulder. His hands flew up, grappling for her neck, but she scissor-kicked him in the face and sent him flying.

She was standing over his prone form before he even opened his eyes, a mess of softly rustling cotton ripples silhouetted by the faint moonlight. She didn't care that he had a clear view up her dress – and he didn't care either. It was past that for either of them. He sneered up at her darkened face and made a quick grab for her ankles. He never had a chance.

He only caught a single glimpse of her face before her blows began to fall. He was clawing at her hair and face, ripping at her wildly dancing silver earrings, but she was only aware of his chest heaving beneath her as she moved to pin him to the ground with her legs. Kagura thought she heard a cry somewhere in the dark, but it was clouded as she felt herself become consumed by a fire of her own building. Her nostrils flared - took in the exhilarating scent of her own sweet perfume mixed with her attacker's sweat as she landed another punch and another -


Her fist froze in the air. Choked sobs were ringing faintly in her ears, rapidly bringing her back from the heat of the fight to the cold air and fog. The man was heaving beneath her, but all her senses were ripped from her body and focused entirely on struggling her way back to reach that terrified little voice. Completely sobered, she jumped up.


After delivering a hard kick to his face, she was off of the man and in front of her friend in an instant, combing back Tohru's hair from her face to check for injuries. "Tohru-chan?" she asked quickly, desperately. "Wh-where are you hurt? Tohru-chan?" She petted her hair again.

Tohru was biting her lip in a struggle to stop the hot flow of tears from her eyes. Kagura looked her over frantically, trying to figure out if she was crying in pain or fear, but her question was answered immediately when she spotted Tohru's leg, stretched out in front of her like a crooked twig. Trembling, she touched her friend's knee, where blood was already beginning to pool, and Tohru yelped.

Kagura realized she was crying, too.

"Kagura-san…" Tohru breathed, speech labored through pale lips. Her eyes fluttered faintly. "Kagura-san…"

Kagura knew Tohru was going to faint. She needed to get her friend out of there, but if she had to carry her she wouldn't be able to outrun their attacker.

There was a moan behind them, and Kagura looked over her shoulder. The man was trying to work his way to his feet again, thick hands clawing desperately at the ground. Tohru tried to follow her gaze, but Kagura patted her cheek gently and guided her eyes back to her.

"Don't worry about it, Tohru-chan," she said, trying to blink back the tears. "I've got it, okay? We're going home now."

Tohru studied her a second before nodding stiffly. "I trust Kagura-san."

Kagura tried to smile. "Hai."

She wasn't smiling when she turned around to face their attacker. He was almost up now, caught somewhere between a crouch and standing. His eyes widened.

"Crazy bitch," he spat, wiping nastily at his face.

Kagura snarled, and delivered a swift kick to his groin. He fell to the ground again, yowling hysterically. She noticed his wallet fall out of his suit jacket, and impulsively picked it up, stuffing it in to her handbag. And then, with one final, hurried, kick to the head, she left him crying and motionless in the dirt and dark without a single look back.

"Come on," she whispered to Tohru, lifting her friend onto her back. Tohru whimpered when Kagura wrapped her arm beneath Tohru's injured leg for support, but she wrapped her arms tightly around Kagura's neck anyway and rested her head on a bony shoulder.

Kagura took off into the dark, leaning her head forward for balance. It occurred to her that her shoulder should be hurting under the strain of her new burden, but she only felt an uncomfortable numbness that was spreading into her ribcage. It was probably for the best, because her other shoulder was already beginning to burn under the strain. As her chest began to tighten painfully, she wondered how far they were from Shigure's house.

She ignored the tears streaming down her cheeks and picked up her pace. She was flying, flying on adrenaline and sheer desperation beyond the hateful man in the dirt and towards safety and warmth and home. Some part of her was soaring above, watching her struggle forward with Tohru's limp form draped across her back, and her frenzied mind couldn't conjure a stranger picture of a knight saving the damsel-in-distress than the one she and Tohru must have made now. Kagura had always known that she wasn't very good at being rescued. Now, she was painfully reminded once again that she wasn't good at rescuing, either.

She felt Tohru's arms begin to slide off her shoulders, and had to jerk her own arms up sharply to keep her injured friend from falling off. She was almost brought to her knees by the almost inhuman pain of torn and tearing muscles, but if Tohru had lost consciousness, that pain was the least of her worries.

Hot tears flew behind her. All Kagura could do now was run.

"'Cuff 'im, boys."

Yuki watched the red-headed murderer be carted away with a satisfaction that was plainly visible; satisfaction, because he'd been right, and visible, because Kyou had been wrong.

"Damn you! You've seen this episode before!" Kyou was on his feet again, glaring at his cousin.

"I haven't," Yuki denied stonily. "Anyone with half a brain could have seen it coming a mile away."

The other boy sputtered, turning red. "No, you saw it coming because you're a psycho just like him!" He thrust a finger at the television screen. "It's always the creepy, quiet ones like you that end up taking out their families."

"Yes. I don't shout like an idiot because I'm planning my next murder." Yuki rolled his eyes and grabbed the remote. "I guess I'll have to kill you now, so you won't talk."

"K'so nezumi!" Kyou wheeled his pointed finger into Yuki's face. "I wouldn't talk big if I looked like that bastard Akito! I'll bet he even gives you pointers!"

Yuki narrowed his eyes, and reminded himself that Kyou wasn't worth showing how hard that accusation hit him. He had always heard that he looked like Akito, but the pain of being mistaken for the family tyrant from behind didn't cut nearly as deep as any comparison between Akito's cruel ways and his own behavior. The truth was, if someone else could see in Yuki what he already feared most about himself, his fears were that much more real. It was almost paralyzing.

Luckily, he had Kyou to spur him into action. He was looking at Yuki very smugly now, and Yuki wondered if he should actually take his own advice and just kill him.

"Baka neko," he said. "I picked him because he looks like you."

Kyou froze. "What!"

"The killer - he has red hair. Like you. That's you being shoved in the cop car right now." Yuki waved a sarcastic "good-bye" at the television as a policeman closed a car door in the killer's face.

Kyou's hands balled into fists. "Then you lied, k'so nezumi! You never knew he was the murderer, you just pulled something out of your ass!"

Yuki folded his arms and frowned. "I never said I doubted my choice was correct."

Listening to his cousin launch into another spit-filled tirade, Yuki wondered when Tohru was going to come home and save him from another hour of late-night quality time with the neko. He'd offered to walk her home earlier that day, but she insisted that he stay home because she didn't know when she was getting off work, and he had "so much homework to take care of." This was true, but he probably wouldn't have mentioned it at lunch if he knew she'd be throwing it back at him a few hours later. He suspected that his cousin had fallen prey to the same maneuver.

Kyou began stomping around, and Yuki realized he was being talked at. When the neko shouted, his words tended to blur into a single, obnoxious echo that Yuki preferred to ignore, but there seemed to be something coherent coming out of his mouth now.

"Oi! When–"

"For the last time, I don't know when she comes home," Yuki snapped, finishing the unanswered question.

Kyou's face turned red, and it looked like he was about to start in on another one-sided shouting match, when the dull thud! of footsteps on the front porch punctuated the air. They exchanged glances for just a second before taking off, racing for the door with pure, ecstatic release. Neither stopped to wonder why Tohru's footsteps sounded so heavy and uneven. They were both just so relieved to finally have her home that when Kyou ripped back the paper panel, they could barely realize that they were seeing their worst nightmare.

Kagura was trembling violently on the edge of the porch, head down low and arms wrapped white and raw around the legs of another figure on her back, whose arms dangled limply on either side of her neck. Though the other girl's face was hidden in Kagura's hair, Yuki knew that it was Tohru's blood he saw mixed with Kagura's on the wood paneling beneath their feet.

"Gomen…" Kagura looked up, and he could barely recognize her torn and borken face. "Gomen ne…"

And with all the silent forest and moon and night as a witness, Kagura finally fell to her knees.

Next time:


Shigure froze when he heard her voice, partly in terror, and partly because quick movements were known to provoke her…"

Kagura becomes part of a self-fulfilling prophecy, Yuki and Kyou get a verbal thrashing, and Hatori drives the Sohma family to the police station.

A Little Plate's Rondo: No. 2:

Unrelated fact: herbivores like boars (or pigs, whatever) have eyes positioned on the sides of their heads so they can have a wider range of vision that helps them view predators. Carnivores like dogs have eyes positioned close together at the front so they can make the distance judgments needed to catch prey. So while we don't have the total visual range of a pig, our eyes are so close together that what range we do have is mostly 3-D, instead of mostly peripheral, like an herbivore. There you go. So not sexy, right?

Thanks for the reviews! I'll get around to answering them after I get some sleep.

About this Fic: No. 2

So Kagura hates Momiji's dad. It's pretty important, because they go really far back in this story.

I was gonna talk about how out of character everyone was in this chapter, but then I realized that they're pretty much out of character in every chapter I write, so I got over it. I tried hard, though, and I think there are a few spots that stick true.

No romance in this chapter, but there is some in the next - some Yukira, Kaguki, whatever it's called.