summary: AU 'And Tohru hadn't been able to break the curse.'

pairings: Momiji+Tohru, Yuki+Kyo, Hiro+Kisa

warnings: sort of inavoidably angsty, spoilers from about book ten onwards

notes: I took Akito's plan to keep all of the juunishi under one roof forever as metaphorical; so though they aren't confined to the compound, he really has absolute control over their careers, personal relationships, financial assets, etc. I'm not so sure about this story...it's my first Furuba fic. Comment, please?

Oh, and I redivided up the story since someone (not naming names, but, uh...coughMomiji-kuncough) practically held a gun to my head to help "convince" me to continue the story. Actually, it was a Super Soaker 2000, but whatever.

disclaimer: alas...no. All I own is my dirty, dirty heart.

The Only War I Fight

by Becky Murakawa

i. storm clouds gather

Souma Momiji had become an adept liar.

It had all started, of course, with a girl. Most things do. The girl was Honda Tohru--but not the one he had idolized as a boy of fifteen. This Honda Tohru wore plain slacks and button-up shirts (a far cry from the frilly dresses she'd loved) and worked in a factory owned by Buro Electronics, Inc., which, Momiji had been unsuprised to discover, was owned by a distant cousin, a man who, though on the 'Outside', was neverthless connected to the Souma Family.

He had seen her, for the first time, outside her apartment building, and had stalked her closely enough to see that she lived in a third floor room, unremarkable from all the other rooms. He waited until she shut the door behind her, and then he had walked back to the nearby shopping district where he told his driver to go home; he would call for someone when he was ready to go back. Momiji grinned and winked mischieviously, trying to give the impression that he was getting into the kind of trouble all seventeen year old boys do. The driver took all of this in stride and bid Momiji to behave as befitted someone of his station (that is, don't get caught).

And when the car was out of sight he sprinted back to the unremarkable apartment complex, up the stairs to the third floor room. He knocked.

When she answered, he could tell that she didn't recognize him at all. Her hair was shorter than he remembered, her features less child-like, her figure filled out in all the right places. She smiled her sweet, confused little smile. He felt sick.

"Ano--are you Plumber-san?"

Without skipping a beat, Momiji replied in the affirmative.

"Please come in!" Tohru seemed flustered. Momiji traced the unfamiliar line of her profile, missing the old Tohru who had let him jump into her arms, a lapful of happy, squirming bunny rabbit.

The apartment was tiny; the living room also, apparently, served as sleeping and dining quarters, as evidenced by the futon stowed in a corner and the plastic table, also in a corner (there were no closets). It was very efficient, and more Western-style than Momiji was used to. The bathroom, when they came to it, was also painfully small; it, at least, consisted of only a toilet and a sink; Momiji assumed the bath was in a separate room.

Tohru had evidently attempted to personalize the room by implementing a fluffy round toilet cushion, adorned with cheerfully grinning fish, and fish shaped soap near the sink. Momiji found it endearing. He couldn't hide a smile.

"Plumber-san...ah...what may I call you?"

"Mo--" Momiji caught himself. An alias couldn't hurt. "Momo. My name is Momo. And..." He pretended to think. "I believe the landlord said that you are called Honda Tohru-san?"

"Ah, yes! What a good memory you must have!" Tohru twisted her little hands, seeming for all the world like a child caught in a lie. "Momo-san--" And Momiji was amused to find that she didn't think the name odd, "I'm afraid that any work having to be done must be paid for in installments." Her face was pink. "I don't really have enough money--"

"No, no, Honda-san." Momiji waved off her protests. "You seem to have overestimated the cost." He pretended to inspect the toilet (which was, in fact, full to the brim with clear water, as was the sink, now that he noticed) and wondered how long he could keep up the charade. What had come over him, claiming to be a plumber?

"Ah...surely Momo-san's clothes are far too nice to spoil here?"

Momiji could have kicked himself. Damn Versace, anyway.

He decided to switch to Plan B.

"Actually, Honda-san--" He sidled past her out of the bathroom and instead stationed himself by the entrance, prepared to leave at once should she show any reluctance to let him stay. He didn't want to frighten her, and by now he knew that his...somewhat overwhelming...personality had that affect on a great many people. "I spoke an untruth when I said that I was a plumber." He was, in his own opinion, a master at appearing to be remorsefully guilty, and he used every ounce of skill he possessed to appear so now. "I recognized Honda-san as I walked by her apartment. I..." He thought furiously of how to phrase this. "I am the son of the owner of the building Honda-san used to work in as a janitor. I doubt you remember me," he added hastily, knowing full well that she didn't, "but I was so grateful to see Honda-san that I couldn't resist coming up to see her."

To his relief, Tohru looked absolutely overcome. "But that was so long ago! To think that Momo-san would remember someone like me..."

"Well, I just recently moved into an apartment near here," Momiji lied. "I must confess, I don't know many people, and I was just so glad to see a familiar face--"

"You must stay for dinner!" Tohru said excitedly. She reddened as she said this. "I don't have much...and I'm having over two other guests..."

One guess as to who they might be, Momiji thought, picturing the Wave-Girl and the Yankee whom he distinctly remembered hovering over Tohru like weird guardian angels.

"I would be honored," Momiji said, bowing. It felt so strange, being this formal. He wanted to say, 'You used to cook for us all of the time!' and, even more importantly, 'Don't you remember anything?', but he knew she did not.

Hatori never skimmed around corners.

Kisa was the first person to notice the change in him.

Momiji had, of course, caught himself humming snatches of tunes he'd grown out of years ago. Eating sweets with a vengeance. Bouncing around high on caffeine and aformentioned sweets. Acting like he hadn't acted since That Day.

They were hanging out at the arcade, Kisa happily bashing in aligators with a large mallot, Momiji rocking a Mortal Combat-type game, and Hiro calculating how many tickets he would need to get Kisa that damned pink-ribboned bear she'd been eyeing covertly all afternoon. Momiji, ecstatically murdering his well-muscled opponent and mentally dwelling on the meeting with Tohru (oh God, Tohru!), didn't notice when Kisa approached quietly and simply stood, and watched.

"You've changed," she said suddenly. Momiji gave a start, and left an opening so wide that his character was beaten in under three seconds. He gaped.

"Noooo...I died."

"Momiji-kun..."

"Kisa. That was my very. Last. Token."

"This morning, Momiji-kun was singing the cherry blossom song."

"...So?" Momiji pouted as the game started displaying preprogrammed battle scenes. He'd felt sure he was on his way to a high score.

"In a soprano."

"She has a point," Hiro said haughtily, coming up behind them with a pink-ribboned bear carelessly clasped in one hand. He handed it over to Kisa when he saw her eyes light up over it. Momiji grinned, though it felt (and probably looked) forced.

"How many tickets did it end up taking, Hiro-kun?"

"Don't change the subject, rabbit." Hiro frowned. "What're you up to, exactly?"

Momiji waved his hands in a don't-worry-about-a-thing gesture. "Hiro-kun! So suspicious!"

Kisa laid a hand upon Hiro's arm--he was beginning to get really agitated--and regarded Momiji with some worry. "Momiji-kun does tend to leap before he looks," she said gently.

"Ahahaha!" Momiji plastered on a smile so large it made his jaw ache. "My eyes are wide open this time, Kisa-chan, I swear!"

And his eyes were open.

Mostly he was afraid of Akito. This was a dark cloud that followed him around like in cartoons, raining on even his happiest moments. And he was afraid of the memories that were slowly resurfacing, though he had never forgotten them; he had simply put them away because they were too much. They were still too much.

All through dinner, with Tohru next to him in one of the cheap plastic chairs, and Hanajima-san and Uotani-san across from them, watching Momiji warily, Momiji remembered. He went back to That Day. He saw Hatori grim but unflinching. Shigure standing by Akito, expression unreadable. Akito smirking a little. Kisa and Hiro, he found out later, had disappeared into the gardens, where Kisa wept and Hiro didn't. Haru, Ritsu, Ayame-ni-san, Rin--who knew where they were? But Tohru had followed Hatori, and Yuki had seen it all from his place next to Akito, opposite Shigure, and Momiji knew that Yuki was hating himself more than he ever had. He knew that Yuki felt as much the coward that Momiji knew himself to be. And Kyo...

Kyo had lost the bet.

Momiji hadn't actually known much about the bet until Akito announced that no one need be bothered by 'the monster' any longer. He was being taken care of. Momiji clearly remembered the sheer agony that had been written in every line of Shishou-san's face. Shishou-san had not been at the family meeting; only juunishi were allowed (required) to attend. But Shishou-san had known, somehow, and had been somewhere near, of that Momiji was sure.

And Tohru hadn't been able to break the curse. So in the end, she was just another one of Akito's toys, to do with as he pleased. And he wanted to take away what had been most important to her--the Soumas.

Tohru might have vaguely remembered Momiji as the son of her former boss. If she had seen Yuki, she would have remembered him, too, as a former classmate. But if anyone had asked, she would have said that she only lived with the Soumas for a month or so, and then moved in with her grandfather. Everyone, even the Yankee and the Wave-Girl, were made to believe this.

Momiji was certain she didn't remember Kyo at all. It seemed to him sometimes that no one did.

He went to Tohru often. She thought he was adorable (he was), and she enjoyed his company. She thought he was just a lonely boy who needed a friend, and not the guilty bastard who had chosen to save his own skin rather than stand up for her.

Momiji cleverly evaded most enquiries as to where he was spending his time these days. He told Hatori he went to the arcade. He told Hiro and Kisa he went to see his older, richer, beautiful girlfriend (hahaha). No one else asked.

He and Tohru started on a thousand piece puzzle. It was of a basket of kittens. With every piece that fit into place, Momiji thought of Kyo.