"For you!" Kagura grinned, proudly unveiling a little stuffed cat that bore a remarkable resemblance to the handmade backpack she wore everywhere.
Kyou's eyebrows rose and his face twitched in disgust as he drew back from it.
Yuki sighed. It was beyond him why they had to do this in the doorway.
"How cute!" Tohru gushed, peering around the orangeheaded boy. "Did you make it yourself, Kagura- san?"
"Hai!" the older girl cheerfully affirmed, thrusting it toward Kyou, who shrank away again. "Here, it's yours! I made it just for you!"
"Don't want it." he declined, trying to back into the house only to meet an implacable, pleasantly smiling Shigure.
"Now, Kyou- kun, it's rude to spurn the gift of a lady!" the older man admonished, holding the cursed boy back with an arm as he tried to duck around him.
"Kyou- kun…" Kagura said, in the teary, wavering tone that served as the only scant warning before she snapped.
Kyou's reddish- brown eyes widened and his lips drew back in a fearful grimace.
"Keep it outside!" the dog called cheerfully as Kagura's grey eyes sparked and her hands shot out, snagging the boy's shoulders and tossing him over her head and into the yard.
"You're evil, Shigure." Yuki commented.
"But my house is intact." his cousin smiled.
Tohru spent a moment making an array of variations on "Umm…" before noticing something and brushing past Shigure and Yuki, picking up the fallen stuffed cat and brushing it off gently. "Kagura- san is incredible, ne?"
"That's one way of putting it." Shigure agreed dryly, watching the girl in question sweep her beloved off his feet- literally- and pound him into the dirt. Already knowing what the outcome would be, he excused himself and went back inside.
Yuki and Tohru remained in the doorway; Yuki watching Kagura and Kyou, Tohru delightedly examining the little cat Kagura had made.
"Isn't it cute, Yuki- kun?" she asked, smiling up at him brightly.
The smile he offered in return was halfhearted; there was something sad in his eyes. "For a cat, I suppose so."
"Cats are fools. They have a bad nature."
Tohru turned her attention from the cat to the rat. "Yuki- kun… is something the matter?"
He'd been looking at Kagura and Kyou again. "No."
She moved to his side, smiling as she followed his gaze with her own. "Amazing, aren't they?"
"That's one way of putting it." he replied, his violet eyes now on her- and only her. And a smile had appeared in them…
"What were you thinking?" she asked reflectively.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she cried, suddenly conscious of what she'd said. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry- Okaa- san always said it was bad to be nosy and I just- oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to!"
"It's all right." Yuki answered, but the pleasure had disappeared from his gaze. There was a moment of silence before he haltingly tried to explain. "It's- it's Kyou's ability to interact so easily with the others around him. Even if he's abrasive sometimes, he's able to deal with other people in a way that I've never been able to; Kyou doesn't hide behind manners, he is who he is. And others like him for it… I can't help wondering if it's one reason Kagura loves him, has loved him for so long, despite the Cat's curse."
And you wonder if, being so different from Kyou- kun, you'll ever find someone to love you as much and as steadily as Kagura- san loves Kyou- kun. Tohru realized. She kept her tone light as she responded. "Others like you, Yuki- kun. You have the respect of the entire school, you're on good terms with all your peers; girls are always talking about how nice you are, how much they admire you, how they'd like to…" she trailed off with a blush and flailed verbally for a moment before remembering what she'd been trying to say. "And, and, umm, I, ah, I know we've talked about this before, and it probably didn't help you any then and I don't suppose it's helping anything now, but everyone really does like you as much as they do Kyou- kun, just in a different way, and that's not a bad thing…" She sighed. "I'm trying too hard, aren't I?"
He shook his head with a negative "Uun." "It does help, Honda- san… I'm glad that they think well of me, but…" There was another beat of silence before he came out with it. "I can't help but wonder if they knew how I really was, if they would still like me."
There. It had been said; and Akito's face floated in his mind's eye as Yuki sweated, waiting for her reaction.
"Hatsuharu- san knows you, and likes you. Momiji- kun knows you, and likes you." Her eyes, filled with something he couldn't define, settled on the two in the yard- Kagura, again in control of herself, was now coddling an insensate Kyou to her bosom. "Kyou- kun would never admit it, but I think he somewhat understands and respects you in the same way you admire certain things about him."
"Kyou hates me." Yuki countered flatly.
"I like you." Tohru stated.
Yuki's eyes widened, he gasped, his entire body seemed to freeze… What?
"I- I mean… I've been living with you for some time now, and I've never seen anything from you to put me off. You've always been kind, polite, helpful, friendly, and sweet; you've always been to me what everyone else is always saying of you. Yuki- kun… I know that I cannot know you as well as others do, and I don't have… I'm not… I can't know you in the way that they do, or the way that you know yourself, but to me, you've always truly been… a Prince."
He couldn't have said anything if he'd wanted to; he was having trouble enough just processing what she was saying. Tohru had blushed mightily and turned her head away from him, so that he could only see the curve of her cheek; there was another quiet moment between them before Tohru could stand it no longer.
"I- I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said all that, now you probably think I'm like those Prince Yuki Club girls… oh! But that's not nice to say either, is it? Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…"
"No, don't be!" he objected forcefully enough that she peered at him curiously out of the hands she'd brought up to shield her face in embarrassment. He smiled. "You're not like them, not at all. And that is a good thing."
Tohru stuttered incoherently.
"I like you too." Yuki told her impulsively, looking at her with that intense violet gaze of his- no one had eyes like Yuki- kun's!- and taking her hands in his own, bringing them down from her face as he smiled at her.
"He never smiled like that when he was at the main house."
"Arigato, Honda- san." he said softly, sincerely.
Tohru couldn't for the life of her form a cognizant thought through the haze in her head.
Yuki kept the smile and tilted his head, dropping one hand; Tohru unconsciously brought it back up again, curling it into a loose fist above her heart. "Would you like to come to the secret base with me? The strawberries are starting to flower."
"I- umm- strawberries! Yes!" she agreed, rather wildly, but he didn't seem to mind; the smile widened, lighting up his eyes in a way that stole her breath, and he kept hold of her hand as they walked past the shouting Kyou and Kagura and into the woods.