Title: Break

Author/Artist: szabotage
Pairing: Kureno/Arisa
Fandom: Fruits Basket
Theme: #1/Look Over Here

Disclaimer: Fruits Basket belongs to Takaya Natsuki and her publishers and distributors. This is a work of fanfiction and no profit is being made save that of enjoyment.

When the atmosphere at work got to be too much for Uotani Arisa, she took refuge outside the restaurant, out amongst the bustling potential customers. At least, that's how she liked to think of it, rather than loafing or goofing off. Not that she didn't do her share of that, but honestly, she liked to just stand outside, and watch the people go by for a few minutes. It somehow renewed her faith in humanity, and afterwards she was able to go back to waiting tables in a better humor. It was a trick Kyouko had taught her, years ago.

But today, as she shivered a little in the winter air and looked out into the post-lunchtime crowd hurrying back to their offices or worksites, a single man walked by, hands buried in his coat pockets, eyes trained on the pavement ahead of his feet, and she felt a shock run through her.

It was him, she was sure of it.

Arisa hadn't seen him in months, but that didn't matter. She'd recognize him anywhere. His height, the delicate way he moved, the wistful expression that would dance over his face…it was him. Kureno.

It had to be.

She wasn't sure what to do. If it were anyone else she knew and liked, she'd call out, and wave, or run to catch up. But she'd done that the last time she'd seen him, and he'd never come back to the corner shop where she once worked and where they had first met. And now, she didn't know what to do. She hated that feeling.

He obviously didn't realize she was there, standing on the same street as he was, less than a block away. That didn't surprise her: Kureno hadn't struck her as being the most observant of men. He always seemed to be a little absent-minded and preoccupied, which was one of the things she actually found so attractive about him. Today, though, he had a determined stride, and his face seemed troubled. His shoulders were hunched over, as if he was bearing a great weight. She wondered where he was going, and why. Which inevitably led to the other questions that had been haunting her since the last time she'd seen him.

Who was he, really? Was Touru right—was he related to Kyou? It was hard to believe that sweet gentle Kureno could have any connection to that rough, orange-haired loudmouth…but then, considering how different Yuki and those other cousins of his were, it might not be outside the realm of possibilities. Kureno certainly looked similar enough to Kyou; well, except for the hair, and the eyes, and the height—although if Kyon-kyon kept growing like that, he'd probably catch up.

Sometimes, she thought of asking Kyou or one of the others about Kureno, to see if maybe they were part of the same family, as Touru had claimed. But the Souma boys were really tight-lipped about their family—she didn't remember any of them mentioning their parents or siblings at all, even in passing. Most guys would at least be complaining sometimes…that was part of being a teenager. Come to think of it, Kyou and the Prince didn't even live with their parents, did they? They were boarding with that weird writer-guy, same as Touru. It was all very strange. She couldn't ask them. In some ways, she hoped that Touru was wrong, and that Kureno had no connection to that family.

Besides, Kyou would tease the hell out of her if it turned out she really was in love with his cousin or whatever the relationship was…and then she'd have to beat some sense into him. Again.

The questions nagged at her, as she stood there and watched him make his way up the hill towards the business district: why hadn't Kureno come back to the store after that time? Had she scared him off? Was Saki right—could he be married or something like that? Or was he just not interested?

It bothered her, the not-knowing. And what bothered her more was that she had been bothered by the situation. After all, what did she care? They were barely acquainted. She'd only met him twice and that was hardly enough time to make an educated impression about a guy. Seeing him in her dreams every night didn't count, unfortunately.

He was walking faster now. If she ran, she could catch up to him. If she shouted, maybe he'd notice her. If she pressed the issue, maybe she'd find out that it had all been some big mistake, that he didn't like her, that he was married or something, that he'd been humoring some silly high-school girl…

Look over here—I'm waiting for you. Come finish what you started…once more, she felt his fingers, delicate as a bird's, teasing up her chin and saw his face leaning down towards her.

But he walked on, unknowing. And she turned to go back to her tables, and customers, and a life made somehow darker.