notes: The song quoted below just knocked me upside the head like a roll of pennies in a sock, screaming "YUKIANDKYO!" in the premise of this story. So I included it.

Now you think you're so damn fine,
You can rule the world--no, not mine,
I don't think so.
No, the scene that you're in,
And the people that you've been with
Just get to me.
But you think I'm not as cool
As you are, so beautiful,
Well, who're you fooling?
Well, I'm here to tell you babe,
The game you're in is just a game.
So damn pretentious...
God my fingers burn,
Now when I think of touching your hair.
You have changed so much that I don't know
If I can call you and tell you I care.
And I would love to bring you down,
Plant your feet back on the ground.
You think you're so beautiful
(So beautiful)

--Pete Murray

vi. sunbeams break through clouds

Light. It hurt so good that he only hissed in pain and didn't scream, didn't do anything to give away the fact that he was not alone, that he was finally, finally...

Finally in the light again.

He didn't know that he was crying until calloused thumbs swept water away from the hollows beneath his eyes. He leant into the touch, obsessing with it for a few eternities--the strength of it, the surety, the way that it wasn't Akito at all--and then he was being pulled up and out of his coccoon of sheets, up into the light. He blinked ferociously against the pain, the torrential headache building behind his eyes, the pins and needles of limbs too long out of use. He had not needed his legs, his arms, his eyes for so long. He didn't entirely know what to do with them now.

"Walk, damn you," the person supporting him growled.

And this was so familiar that it took his breath. He knew this. He knew it.

"Y-you." A hot wave of shame broke over him. To think that the first person he'd seen in--how long had it been, anyway?--a very long time would be the one person he'd never wanted to see again.

He let go a violent string of curses (which he had chanted in his mind for years, like a song of hatred against Akito, though he had never dared speak them until now) and pushed away the boy who had ruined his life.

"What the hell are you doing here, damned rat? Did he send you? Are you here to mock me?" With every question, the thick knot of hatred within him grew; he felt like killing Sohma Yuki, who was staring down at him with such cool disdain. "You don't deserve her, rat. Barging in here after all this time to gloat--does she know where you are? Does she even remember me?" His voice cracked at this, to his embarrassment. For one dizzying moment, he could think of nothing but Tohru--the gentle glow of her brown eyes, the sharp whip of her hair in the spring breeze, the coolness of her hand upon his. The way she made everything worthwhile. And of course she was somewhere in this complex, playing wife to this...this bastard!

"You idiot!" the rat hissed, yanking him back out of his bed. Kyo fell helplessly against the other boy, unable to support his own weight. His weakness was killing the last vestige of his pride. "You'll have time to jump down my throat later. We're leaving."

Kyo glared. "Leaving? How in God's name do you propose--" He paused. "But Akito--"

"Is going to kill us both if you don't shut up," the rat assured him, before heaving both of them out of the oppressive, windowless room and into the shaded hallway. Kyo could barely keep his eyes open; he wondered, vexed, if the unfiltered light of the sun would blind him permanently. As if catching on to the train of his thoughts, the rat produced a long handkerchief and wrapped it haphazardly around Kyo's temples, saying as he did so, "I think this is it." There was the sound of a catch being lifted (or possibly broken) and a screen slid out of the way. And then the wooden, papery smell of the compound gave way to a spring that Kyo had only been able to dream of before.

Kyo forced his eyes to remain open as he felt himself being hauled outside; the handkerchief blocked out the worst of the sunlight, but it still hurt. Even this minor pain was worth it. He could smell trees growing, wet dirt, newly cut grass. The air upon his face was fresh and strangely sweet. He inhaled, taking it all in. He could feel the rat chuckle low in his throat, and knew that he must have been wearing a huge, goofy smile. He didn't care.

They shuffled onward for a long time, over grass and onto gravel, and from there to what must have been asphalt. After what seemed like hours, the rat pulled the two of them into the cover of the forest, and Kyo was lain against what turned out to be an oak tree, once Kyo pulled the handkerchief from his still smarting eyes. He saw that the rat had collapsed next to him, breathing harshly; he had done most of the work, after all.

"What now, rat?"

The rat's expression was guarded. Kyo noticed, with some degree of wonder, that the rat had given up his elaborate, beautiful clothes in favor of plainer, more masculine attire; and he was taller. He still retained the grace and beauty (Kyo thought these words with a faint shudder of disgust) that had always marked him.

"We wait," the rat said tiredly.

"For what?"

When the rat didn't answer, Kyo relaxed against the tree, enjoying the rough feel of bark against his back. He didn't even mind the damp seeping through his trousers (which were the plain white Akito provided him with, like his shirt, very thin).

Covertly, he studied the rat's profile. The rat longer seventeen. A little shocked, Kyo realized that neither was he. Of course, he had already known this, but he had never really understood it. He had been stuck in a moment--the moment the rat defeated him for the last time, and the doors slammed shut on his freedom. The rat's was a cold, almost expressionless face; Kyo thought he could guess what was on his enemy's mind.

"How long?" Kyo asked. He barely recognized his own voice; it was coarse and flat from disuse.

"More than two years," the rat replied distantly.

"Aa." Kyo frowned. Nineteen, then. "And Tohru--"

The rat's eyes flashed dangerously.

He heard the approach of the car before he actually saw it. The very leaves trembled with the force of the heavy bass beat; Kyo, who was accustomed to the maddening silence of his prison, winced and tried to act like he hadn't. He was afforded a glimpse of the vivid purple body and chrome rims as the driver of the car parked off the side of the little road. There was the sound of a door slamming shut, and then of someone pushing through the briars and wild tree limbs to the spot where the rat and Kyo were resting.

Kyo went very tense, but he didn't miss the almost-smile that played around the rat's lips. He thought that whomever it was, was expected.

He blinked when a very tall, very...shiny Sohma Hatsuharu appeared. The shinyness was due to the bountiful collection of chains and jewelry that the ox wore.

"Taxi fare is five thousand yen," Haru stated blandly.

Kyo sweatdropped.

The rat and Haru both helped Kyo up and out of the woods; by now, the sun was beginning to go down, and Kyo no longer felt like needles pricked his eyeballs everytime he exposed them. He gawked at the weird, purple car that the rat and the ox apparently intended to put him in.

"I've never been gladder to see this pile of junk," the rat muttered.

Haru grinned. "I was under the impression that Yuki-kun was very fond of having his sensitive ear drums busted out by the tender symphanies of this glorious machine. Why the change of heart?"

The rat grimaced.

"A mystery," Haru said in a stage-whisper.

Kyo could almost sympathize with the rat when, hours later, he found himself aching with cramps and nursing a thunderous headache brought on by the screaming of ACDC and various other rock groups. He seriously wanted to kill somebody. Preferably with a very big, very heavy bass guitar.

Still, the rat wasn't as perturbed as he pretended to be. Years of careful observation had trained Kyo to the secret language the rat used instead of words. He hadn't had much else to think of when he'd been put away, and he found that he hadn't forgotten any of it. The subtle relaxation of taut shoulders. The almost not there smile. The even brow. The way his hair fell forward and got in his eyes, and the gentle sweep of long fingers pushing the light strands aside. Of course, Kyo loathed everything about the rat, and this silent language was no exception, but he couldn't help but be somewhat relieved...he had almost been afraid that he wouldn't know how to deal with the rat. That the rat might have gone on without him.

"I see Kyo-kun is entertaining dirty thoughts about Yuki-kun," Haru bellowed over the blare of Gorgon Zero.

Heat flared all up and down Kyo's body. "What the hell!" He glared at the rat, who was smirking, the bastard. "Damn rat!"

"What did I do?"


"How cute--he stutters and everything."

The music abruptly cut off and Haru's last word came out much too loud. He unconcernedly fiddled with the CD player, ignoring Kyo's sincere cursing.

Kyo awoke when the car stopped moving.

"Morning, princess," Haru crooned mockingly. He unceremoniously opened the door Kyo had been curled against, and the drowsy cat tumbled out.

He saw sleepily that they were far from the Sohma Estate, and far from the city, too. This was a very old, very traditional inn. He was distinctly embarassed, realizing that he'd have to go in there in his skimpy white robes.

"Put something on." The haughty voice of the rat came from behind him, and before Kyo could retort, he felt something heavy settle around his shoulders. It was a long overcoat. Sullenly he buttoned it up to his chin.

"Is your friend here?" Haru sounded bemused, and Kyo didn't blame him. Friend? The rat?

"Should be," replied the rat. "In fact--" He trailed off.

Kyo caught a glimpse of someone coming through the screen entrance, and then, shocked, he watched as a very large, black-haired man skipped up to the rat and embraced him heartily.


"M-M-Manabe-san!" The rat yelped, mortified.

Kyo tried to pry his jaw off of the ground.

"Ah, Yuki-chan! So good to see you again after so long!"

"A day is long?"

"A day is an eternity!"

"...Please get off of me."

Haru asked, straight-faced, if Yuki-kun was going to introduce his fiance.

The rat coughed pointedly. The black-haired man backed away, grinning wildly. "Manabe-san, my cousins, Sohma Hatsuharu and Sohma Kyo."

"Yuki-chan's cousins! I remember you from school."

Kyo couldn't believe that he had never noticed this boy. He would have stuck out like a pink sheep.

The rat's expression was suddenly wary. "We need to be quick, Manabe-san. I don't know how much time we'll have."

"I brought all of my books and notes," the other boy assured the rat. "We've got a room near the back--come on, follow me..."

Kyo found, to his surprise, that he felt much better after his rest, and he walked on his own, determinedly not leaning on Haru, who stood very close to him. "I'm fine," Kyo said in a low tone after a while.

Haru smiled.

The room was near a natural spring. The floor was spread with tatami mats and there was a small group of futons already laid out in the far corner. Kyo sat down carefully at the low table, stretching his legs out under the cloths and sighing from the heat there. The rat knelt opposite from him, frowning to find that his knees bumped against Kyo's toes. Stubbornly, Kyo refused to move.

"Go get your notes," the rat ordered Manabe. Haru folded himself elegantly next to the rat, tapping his fingers on the table.

"Give me your hand."

Kyo blinked.

The rat grimaced and grabbed Kyo's wrist, his hands strangely warm. Kyo had half expected them to be like ice. Disgusted, Kyo tried to jerk away but the rat had an iron grip. One hand held on to Kyo and the other gently prodded the Juzu beads encircling Kyo's wrist.

"Damn it, let me go, rat--!"

"Stop." The word was so firm that Kyo couldn't think of anything to say for a moment. The rat's attention was more focused than he had ever seen it.

"Yuki-kun has a plan," Haru said softly. Kyo looked up questioningly. "He thinks he can break the curse."

Kyo snorted. "Don't be ridiculous. No one can break the curse. Even Tohru--"

"Honda-san," interrupted the rat sharply, "never had the chance to get very far."


Abruptly, the rat rose to his feet and went across the room to where Manabe was shuffling through a relative mountain of papers. Kyo felt his heart stutter. "What does he mean? I thought Tohru--"

"After Akito put you away, he gave Honda-san over to Hatori-nii-san." Haru rested one cheek upon his open palm. His eyes never left the rat. "We haven't heard from her in years. I think she works in an electronics factory--I'm not sure, though. No one ever speaks of her." Haru glanced at Kyo's stricken face. "What, did you think he got to keep her?"


Kyo groaned and buried his head in his arms. "How the hell was I supposed to know? He never said anything, the idiot."

Not that he felt bad about it. Anything that got through to that rat was, in Kyo's mind, a good thing.