Title: Of Buses and Bulls
Author: The Summer Stars
Pairing: Sohma Hatsuharu/Sohma Kisa
Fandom: Fruits Basket
Theme: 10. 10
Disclaimer: I would be delighted to say I owned Fruits Basket, joyous even, ecstatic…alas, I'm merely a penniless student so no ownership papers for little old me.
"And I thought Tigers were supposed to be masters of stealth…"
The dry comment brought about a slight gasp from behind the youth and he turned in time to see a slightly built figure dart on tiny feet behind a trash can. He smiled, indulgently as he waited there, arms folded across his chest.
It hadn't exactly been hard to figure out – his tora cousin was small and shy, but surreptitiousness was a hard state of mind for her to enter. Even as he had left his house, the sound of soft branches parting and falling back into position again had been somewhat of a giveaway. As had been the tentative footsteps that had mirrored his own, pausing when he did to leave brooding silence for his sharp ears to pick up on. Besides, however deft she was on her feet, it took less time for him to turn than it took for her to slip out of sight.
There was no mistaking that soft head of coppery blonde hair ducking around through the crowd in an effort to remain unseen.
Part of that picture had been confusing – the diminutive tigress had never been a fan of crowds, nor had she been fond of traversing busy streets such as the ones he had crossed. But still she had trailed him, doggedly following in his footsteps with a resolve he had only witnessed when she had been following Tohru after that fateful first meeting. Her dedication was to be admired if she had forced herself into a situation she pointedly disliked, even if her motives were as of yet unclear.
Content to pander to her odd whims for the moment, he had wandered in his normal, aimless fashion around the town, only half his mind focused on actually guiding his own feet that probably accounted for his bad sense of direction. Even his customary blank-mindedness when it came to geography, when he was half concentrating on it, progress was all the more slow.
But the gentle good humour had worn off when his Jyuunishi ears had sensed the weariness entering her quiet footfalls and the forays out of his vision were becoming all the more slow and laborious as the continuous pace took its toll on the younger girl.
Tactful as always, he had decided to conduct this in private, choosing to head down one of the lesser used roads to allow them free speech when he finally turned and confronted his shadow – not that she had admitted she had been seen.
But Hatsuharu was patient as he waited there, a bland expression on his reserved features. Patience personified, that was our ushi as he stood there, lazy grey gaze fixed firmly on the trash can that hid his cousin from sight.
If possible, the silence grew deeper, neither one willing to break the stalemate with words. Words were too precious to the both of them, even more so to the female of the pair. Speech was so infrequently found to come from her that each soft word she did voice was all the more special, all the more meaningful, simply because it was she that spoke them. He was more free with his thoughts, his feelings, verbally at least, but that didn't often help matters – White Haru was infamous for being the cryptic one, someone who could even rival Tohru's protector, Hana-Chan at times.
Haru had patiently zoned out at this point, content to wait for her to make the first move when a low sigh heralded the battle of wills had been won and a shy pair of amber eyes peeped over the trash can at him. He offered a conciliatory smile, a consolation prize for having to be the one to back down. Kisa accepted it gracefully as first her head appeared around the barrier, slowly followed by her torso and finally her skinny legs as she looked ruefully towards her older cousin.
"You weren't supposed to see me," was all the tora said as she sighed, her lower lip protruding slightly in the barest show of petulance.
"You should have been more careful then." The answer was simple, but lacked malice and for a moment amber met clouded grey and neither could help, but smile at the other. Haru did not voice the obvious question that was plaguing his mind – if his little tigress wanted to tell him her motives, she would volunteer it on her own.
He wasn't disappointed.
"Tori-Nii sent me," she murmured, apology apparent in her large eyes as she twisted the hem of her pale yellow blouse between two fingers. As the girl had gotten older, she had gradually eased off on her use of 'Jii-San' for some of the older members of the Sohma clan. Kisa was gradually entering that awkward stage of adolescence where she was starting to bridle against some of the rules placed upon her pre-teen self, starting to question exactly what she should be allowed to do.
Not that any of that was apparent – as one of the youngest members of the Jyuunishi, it only seemed natural that she would automatically seem more obedient, but even that was flawed in itself. Take Hiro – the sheep had to have one of the least eager to please natures in the whole clan. But all of the cursed ones, the tie between them all was complete and unwavering obedience towards Akito. All of them, even the strongest willed of the Jyuunishi, were slaves to the Head's whim.
It just showed more in the reticent tiger – unwilling to contradict anyone, it just made her growing up all the more difficult. But what zodiac member's life was easy?
"He wanted me to make sure you didn't get lost again…" If Haru hadn't known any better, he could have sworn that he saw an amused glint in those reserved pools of liquid caramel. He should have been offended.
The ushi shook his head resignedly, to fingers tugging thoughtfully on the ring looped through his left ear. "Any particular reason our dear doctor cares whether I ramble around the city for a day or two?"
Kisa looked at him with a kind of fond sadness, her expression as sympathetic as she could bear to be. "Tomorrow's New Year's, Haru…you forgot didn't you?"
He smiled, sheepishly and the hand on his ear moved to the nape of his neck, toying with the black strands that lined the base of his hairline. "Maybe," was his vague answer, not denying his absent mindedness. Suddenly shaking off his distant look, the Ox focused more on the moment, beckoning to his younger cousin. "You coming then?"
"Where?" She didn't hesitate in trotting over to his side, her trust in him apparent even as she questioned as to their destination. With Haru, her belief in him was implicit – he used to be her Haru-Nii, her unofficially adopted brother. But time wore its toll on childlike relationships and change had worked its way into the mix.
What is he to me now? That was the question, the un-asked one anyway.
As for the asked question…
"Bus stop, then the music shop." Haru slowed his pace so she could keep up with him on her shorter legs, not wanting to tire her anymore than he inadvertently had. "I need some new plectrums for my guitar."
"Ah." The soft sound was the last thing said between the two for a while as Haru once again led the way, this time with his follower beside him instead of behind him. The silence was a comfortable one, a silence between two people for whom words were merely perfunctionary. The two always had been close – it was an unspoken fact to those who knew them that anyone who 'messed' with the shy, Sohma girl would have to deal with the wrath of He-who-is-Black.
New Year's. Had it been a year already? If he had been observant, (a feat in itself for Haru who was only observant at intervals) he would have sensed the growing tension his unusual family gained as the impending social occasion loomed. Twelve people. Twelve people gathering together under the calculating gaze of Akito – all it took were those twelve coming together to count as a family meeting, but it was only at New Year's when all of them came together. All the Jyuunishi together.
And all under the command of Akito.
For all the uncomfortable thoughts running rampant in his absent mind, Haru's face always remained perfectly impassive as his grey eyes rested on the metallic gleam that was the bus.
"Not that one, Haru…" Kisa said softly, tactfully pulling on the sleeve of his alabaster coat. "If you want to get to the other side of town, you need to take the number ten bus."
There was something so caring in the gentle way she steered him on the right course once more – the tora leading the ushi; it was an odd image to comprehend.
"Ten?" he asked blankly, but following where his smaller companion led him.
"The eleven one goes too far and thirteen curves around in the wrong direction," Kisa said patiently as she took the wallet he had offered her, rummaging around for some spare change as the bus driver looked bemusedly at them. They certainly made an odd pair. The young girl with burnished gold hair and the vulnerable features along side the leather clad teen with copious amounts of silver jewellery – not exactly the companion you would expect for such a delicate, sweet-looking girl. He blinked as the diminutive girl handing him a small skyscraper of glittering change, her eyes never meeting his as her imposing keeper nudged her along towards the back of the bus, a ring adorned hand resting at the small of her back. But when you work in public services, you soon learn to ignore the abnormal and just concentrate on getting your job done.
"So which bus takes you up towards the town centre?" Haru was clearly perplexed as he guided Kisa through the throng of people. Deliberately keeping up the flow of conversation when he felt how tense she was around so many strangers – many of them males who could easily set off the curse at any point. Animal instinct always seemed to take over at times like these – stay away from me…not safe…too close…danger. Base thoughts and triggered reactions were hard to control so he sought to distract her. It wasn't harming him either if she could manage to make the bus system stay in his head.
"That would be the…the…" Kisa's nose wrinkled up in thought as she followed the subtle touches Haru was placing on the base of her spine, ushering her towards the empty seat he could see at the back row. "The twenty-ninth I think."
Haru shook his head, looking at her with something resembling admiration. "I don't understand how you keep it all straight in your head, Kisa."
"It's easy," was the reply she gave before she froze, brain catching up with her mouth a few seconds too soon. Behind her, she felt Haru stop as well, that hand still resting at the small of her back; his rings cool against her skin even through the pale cloth. How could she have been so thoughtless? Of course it wasn't easy for him; Haru had always had trouble with simple skills like that and there she was pointing out the obvious to him. It wasn't like her to spout a comment thoughtlessly, but clearly today she had relaxed more than she had believed she was capable of. The copper haired girl bit her lip, her shoulders hunching automatically as she waited breathlessly for the ushi's response, but she was surprised when she felt a languid hand on her shoulder, moving her to the side so he could slip into the vacant seat. Lanky legs spread slightly, Haru left a v-shaped area of bare seat, an area he was tugging her towards.
Still half expecting a vituperative few words or even a blow, Kisa went along with his movement, sitting stiffly on the edge of the seat – Haru had never hit her or even raised his voice to her, but you never could tell what might set him off and she had never met the infamous Black Haru.
She never wanted to either – she had no wish to meet anyone who would make her think of her Haru-Nii with fear.
Such was the mental conditioning of a child who was a Jyuunishi, Kisa flinched when she felt his warm, familiar hand rest itself on her stomach, pulling her backwards until her back was leaning against the lean muscles of his abdomen. Memories of a pair of lily soft hands touching her just as gently before dealing out a harsh slap clouded her mind and once again she blindly obeyed the physical command from her cousin, her breath still hitching painfully in her chest.
"Actually, the school wants to arrange a meeting with my parents sometime soon," Haru remarked casually, shifting his legs a bit further apart so he could provide more space for his slender companion. If he noticed her tenseness, he didn't comment on it, showing his normal tact when it came to delicate situations.
"Is it about your hair again?" Still uneasy, Kisa kept her back ramrod straight and was disturbed to note that her hands were trembling slightly – even if it was her Haru, there was still a skittishness about her that probably stemmed from how close they were to so many people. The bus was crowded – they were lucky to have found a seat at all. She felt him shake his head behind her, his grip around her waist tightening as the bus ran over a bump in the road.
"They want to talk about how I'm doing in class," he said calmly, now moving his other hand so they were comfortably interlaced over her stomach, holding her steady against him.
"I thought you were doing okay…" she said softly, gradually relaxing when she realised that he hadn't been mortally wounded or at least wasn't showing it, though the meeting between school and relatives was…unnerving.
"I'm not doing so great actually." Haru's voice was wry as he turned his head to look out of the window. "They think I might need some…special help."
The tora twisted her head around in surprise, looking up with her wary eyes towards her cousin's deadpan features. "Do they mean…?" She flushed slightly as she struggled to find the right words – she didn't have the tact Haru had, an awareness of other's that almost stemmed to clairvoyance at times. The only reason Kisa never offended anyone was simply because she never offered any opinions or thoughts to most people – you can't insult someone if you don't say anything in the first place.
"I think they're not sure what to make of me. They can't seem to decide whether to treat me like a special Ed student or just an unruly one who doesn't want to pay attention." The ushi sounded amused as he absently hugged Kisa closer to him, both of them ever aware that touching like this was something they could do with no-one else outside of the Jyuunishi and as such, they all gained a sort of guilty little pleasure from such simple, physical contact. "I suppose there are times when I'm sharper than most of them put together and I can focus on one thing with pretty much all I have. Shame is, that's normally just before I feel the need to go Black and I can hardly tell them about that." The casual way with which Haru talked about what most people would call a severe psychological flaw had always made Kisa feel odd and strangely humble – her cousin saw his faults, not as that, but as an integral part of him. Apart from the obvious split in his psyche, Haru seemed remarkably secure with himself and the way he acted. "But the rest of the time…" he sighed, eyes going distant again as they so often did. "I understand it all fine – I just can't keep it in my mind."
"But do you remember it if someone points it out to you?" Kisa was genuinely curious now – she had never really given any thought to how the outside world might view the absent mindedness she had come to accept as being uniquely Haru.
He shrugged, but she saw a small smile playing around his lips. "It depends – I think it's the connections I have problems with."
"Like the buses." Haru nodded at the vehicle they were in, not seeming concerned that they were currently stuck in a traffic line as they passed some road works. The noise of their pneumatic drills was muffled through the double glazed windows, but their heads were so close together, conversation was quiet and private. "In your mind, I suppose you can imagine a route and immediately connect it with the number of the bus in your mind." He gave another shrug, this one more helpless this time. "All I see is a number ten and this bus – I don't see a connection."
"Oh…" Kisa looked thoughtful, as only young girls could, quietly intent in their own little way. But Kisa wasn't a little girl anymore, that, Haru was coming to understand. The tora nestled in his lap right now, her back moulding to his front was nearly a young woman – it was only her silence and delicate features that suggested she was younger than she actually was, just as he was often being mistaken for being older than his age. Even now, her face was beginning to lose her girlish roundness and new angles hovered precariously beneath the surface of that marble skin. He tried to picture the woman she would become…and couldn't. His Kisa and that woman, he couldn't connect them.
Like the bus and the number ten. As far as he could see, they had no relation even if they were one and the same thing.
"That must make languages hard then." The quiet comment brought his attention back to the tigress in her lip, watching as she let her head relax back into a normal angle, resting her small hands loosely in her lap, arms folding over the circle his own forearms made around her waist. "How are you coping in English?"
"Terrible actually," Haru said dryly and this actually brought out a soft laugh from her lips. True it was awkward and rusty, as if she was unused to making the noise, but that little sound of happiness made him want to hold her all the more close, to try and protect an innocence he knew she would lose soon, when she stopped being the little girl his mind still clung to.
Satisfied that all was well between them, Kisa allowed the conversation to lapse into silence, being content to watch the town pass by as the bus trundled happily along, the two of them cradled at the back. True they were attracting some looks from the more curious of their fellow passengers, but Jyuunishi were used to ignoring outsiders – it was second nature now and it explained the little world of their own the two cousins were in.
"So why did you let Hatori coerce you into following me?" Haru released his hold on her stomach briefly so he could swap his hands around, resting the bottom one on the top now.
"Tori-Nii needed a favour and I had nothing else to do," Kisa said docilely, lifting her elbows so he could rearrange his grip, not really listening to what she was saying. Her gaze had been caught by a couple in the pair of seats in front of them. Watching them with an odd expression, she turned her face to one side, tucking the top of her head under his chin. "He said it was important."
"He would," Haru snorted, resting his chin more firmly on her soft hair as his eyes flitted downwards. Once again, the famous Haru-sense kicked in and he looked towards the two who had the tora's attention. The girl was a pretty little thing, happily reclining back against the broad chest of her boyfriend. Their hands were casually linked and resting on her thigh and, as the two Sohmas watched, the guy leaned forwards to whisper something in his girlfriend's ear. She laughed, batting playfully at his hand as if offended, but after some equally teasing cajoling, she shifted so she could press a kiss to his lips. Unconcerned or unaware that they had an audience, the two were happy to sit there, kissing softly as if it were the most natural thing in the world and it made something in Kisa's chest ache.
"Do you ever think you'll find someone, Haru?" she asked quietly, her eyes never leaving the kissing couple. "Someone who you could be that close with?"
The ushi could feel the sudden dejectedness that was running through her and he considered his next words, speaking carefully when he finally did so. "Physically? Maybe – there are ways we can touch people, be close like that. Mentally…" There was a long pause and both savoured the silence, unsure of what the next words would bring. "No-one understands a Jyuunishi like another Jyuunishi."
"I suppose so." Kisa's voice was even quieter than normal as she tilted her head again, pressing her cheek against the warm black material covering his throat. "There's not much hope, is there? Even if Akito would…" There was no need to finish that train of thought – even if the Head did approve of relationships within the cursed ones… "Besides. There aren't enough of us girls to go around."
"It's very unfair isn't it?" Haru tried to make his tone light, jovial, but only managed to sound sincere. "But our Hiro seems fond of you – there may be hope for him."
"Maybe." Kisa sounded doubtful and even a trifle resentful, an unusual emotion to be seen in the young tiger's eyes. But it was a teenager's lot to be resentful, against anything and everything and as much as he hated to admit it, his tora was growing up. Suddenly miserable, Kisa shifted closer to Haru, suddenly needing the reassurance of simple, physical touch to convince herself that she was actually still here. There were times when she felt disembodied, like a wraith since she rarely touched people – being pressed up against her black and white haired cousin convinced her that she was real, that she was alive. "Or maybe we're just destined to be alone. Maybe that's what the curse is all about."
Haru had no answer for that and was saved from having to admit that by the bus stopping. A bit regretfully, he opened his legs again, allowing his slender cousin to stand up. In the rush to reach the bus doors, he got separated from her after the eager crowd hurried to get off. When he finally stepped out into the chilly air, he scanned the dispersing crowd for the familiar head of gently coloured hair. When he did find her, the Ox was surprised to see that his shy cousin was listening to a stranger speak, looking bemused and wary. Hen the stranger turned to go, clearly having finished the exchange of words, he saw it was the girl from the couple in front of her and he watched her bound over to the attentive boyfriend and take his arm. Curious, he let his gaze skate back towards Kisa.
She really wasn't his little girl anymore, not when he really looked at her. Her limbs were gaining the gangliness adolescents possessed, the quality of being all elbows and knees. Even when he had been resting his chin on her head, his sensitive skin could feel the change in texture of her hair as it lost its childlike fluffiness. Most startling was the slight curve he could vaguely see under the loose folds of her buttercup yellow blouse, a feature so often hidden by too large clothes or folded arms. As her face turned questioningly towards him, he smiled and walked over towards her, nodding towards the music shop across the street. It was odd – she was hovering between two images now. She was sharper than the soft image he had of a little girl with a silent heart, but she wasn't quite the unimaginable woman she was going to be. He couldn't see the connection between those two, but he was starting to see the connection between him and the awkward young girl who stood before him.
Starting to – the idea wasn't quite fully there yet, but with time he could see the connection solidifying and he knew there would be a point when he would just understand it, no questions asked.
"We shouldn't be too long in the shop," he said in response to her questioning look, keeping his thoughts to himself for now. "Then we can take the…ah…seventeen bus back?"
Kisa couldn't help, but smile at the hopeful look in his eyes, though her smile was only half there, just like her mind.
Is he your boyfriend?
That was what the girl had asked her, a sunny smile on her beautifully happy face as she looked conspiratorially at the tora. Kisa hadn't answered – partly out of silence, but partly because she was unsure. A year ago, she'd have answered with a shy 'no', that he was her cousin, albeit a distant one. Now…now she didn't know what he was. The ushi was certainly important in her life, but could she see him as someone she could love with all her heart? Mentally and physically?
Whatever you do, keep him – he's cute!
Suddenly, the tiger smiled fully, the expression lighting up her face as she beamed up at a slightly surprised Haru. Only a Jyuunishi could understand a Jyuunishi, but only close friends could understand each other and they fitted into both categories perfectly.
"It's the number ten bus again, Haru."
"I'll try and remember that."
"You've forgotten it already, haven't you?"
A cheerful grin. "Yep, but you'll always be there to remind me, won't you, Kisa?"
Kisa nodded, the copper locks framing her face falling back to reveal a shy smile as she looked up towards him when she felt the cool metal of his rings press against her fingers.
"If you remember the number ten, I'll remember the bus and we can figure it out together," she said, letting him enfold her small hand in his own larger one.
Hmm…for my first piece of Fruits Basket fiction, I'm pretty satisfied. The question is, did all of you like it? Feedback would be wonderful – I'm always seeking to improve, especially with a pairing like this – don't expect the next twenty nine themes to be this length, I meant it to be drabble and it turned into a full length chapter. /Sighs/ And I was supposed to be doing schoolwork as well…oh well.