Note to Readers: Oh the dreaded disclaimer. For the millionth time, we do not own any Furuba characters:O Though ohhh, how we wish we did own :cough: Yuki :cough:. Anyways, reviews are much, much appreciated!

Again, we apologize for the huge gap in which we didn't update. I understand that could be frustrating, but we were both so busy with individual things…

Let's just say we won't update though until we get hm…at least five reviews? We only got three last time! xD You sillies. But we love all you who have patiently kept with us and thank you! R & R!

Wilted Flower: Chapter 8 –Achluophobia

"The fear of darkness."

Much too soon, the day of the banquet had arrived. Yuki paced nervously up and down the upstairs hall in his best slacks and Chinese style shirt, lost in his own thoughts as he waited for Tohru to come out of her room.

Why did Akito want Tohru this time as well? It's too suspicious. And he wanted Kyo too. And besides that, both of them are going to see my dance!!! It's going to be even more mortifying, as if doing it in front of the other Jyuunishi members wasn't enough! Of course I did skip for a few years now... Wait…What am I thinking about?! I need to focus on Tohru and Akito! he reprimanded himself, focusing on his original train of thought once again.

"Yuki-kun!"

Shigure's appearance at the head of the stairs woke Yuki back to reality. "Yukikun, I would appreciate it if you stopped wearing a hole into my ceiling. I spend enough money on the damages that Kyo causes as it is."

"What?! Don't blame your lack of money and intelligence on me!!" Kyo snapped, coming out from his room in time to hear the comment. He briefly looked away from Shigure to glance at an extremely anxious Yuki. Yuki met his gaze and acknowledged him with a small nod before resuming most of his pacing. Kyo watched for a moment longer before switching his attention back to Shigure who was babbling some noncommittal nonsense once again.

Suddenly, all talk and movement came to an abrupt stop as Tohru's door slowly cracked open. Her large, warm chocolate eyes peeked hesitantly through the small opening. They all just stared at each other for a single moment.

Shigure felt a smile inch on his face as he thought about what they looked like, three men staring at a pair of sheepish eyes in a doorway. "Tohru…" Yuki whispered in an encouraging tone. There was a small 'eep' as she pulled back in embarrassment. Then after composing herself and banishing away any thought of anxiousness she had, Tohru opened the door all the way and stepped out.

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Yuki's breath caught in his throat as he gazed at the angel before him. Tohru blushed under his appreciative gaze. She was wearing a very simple pink dress that had a small amount of lacey frill here and there and horizontal lines along the length of the dress, which in purpose was to slightly bunch the material together at each segment. The pink accented her pale skin and warm gaze very well and the only accessories she had on was a matching bracelet and the ribbon Yuki had given her at the hot springs. She had also given her hair two small braids at either side of her face, next to her ears which she pulled back behind her head. (Basically what she was wearing on the front of the first Fruits Basket DVD)

"Well then!" declared Shigure with a wide grin. "Now that our everlasting, ethereal-in-beauty flower has made her grand appearance, let's be off!" The inu trotted happily down the stairs first, calling back as he went. "Hurry up, you gawking slowpokes!"

The three teens that were left upstairs stood in a slightly awkward silence. Kyo coughed, bringing attention on himself. "Umm…you look really…nice…" he complimented Tohru lamely, blushing as he turned aside with folded arms.

"Is that all your miniscule brain can come up with?" Yuki demanded in a teasing manner.

Kyo stayed silent for a moment, regarding the new tone Yuki had taken up with him. Sighing, he decided to just mutter a curse under his breath and glare at the nezumi. "Whatever kuso nezumi, let's just go." Tohru smiled fondly as she watched her "onii-chan" stomp down the stairs and start yelling at a poor, unsuspecting Shigure.

Yuki turned to his princess, "Ma, ikimashou!"

Tohru smiled brightly at him. "Hai!" she agreed, clasping the proffered hand.

"Ano, Tohru…" Yuki began slowly.

"Hai?"

"You really do look very pretty. N-not that you don't always look pretty, but you just look even prettier today and umm…yeah." Yuki blushed as he turned his head up and away from her face, halting his embarrassing nonsense.

Tohru giggled. "Arigato Yuki-kun..." she whispered, stopping their process for a moment to stand on her toes and press a kiss to his cheek. He gave her a charming smile and the two joined a quibbling Shigure and Kyo moments later.

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The walk to the main house was cheerful enough when they set out, but the closer they got to their destination, the more subdued the mood got. Kyo walked in a hunched manner next to Tohru, his head bowed and his hands shoved in his pockets. Yuki held his head high as if to gain courage, but the motion looked a little stiff and unsure. Tohru's eyes were fixated on her feet and her free hand continually meddled with the hem of her dress. Shigure was the only one who continued to walk as if he had no care in the world.

Within a few minutes, the small group had arrived in front of the gates to the main house which was open and inviting a small stream of people inside. Tohru's hand in Yuki's shook and Yuki had noticed before that it had started to increase in temperature. He quickly glanced at her and saw the apprehension in her face.

He gave her hand a small squeeze. "Tohru…" he whispered, much like before when they were at home. He leaned down and pressed his lips against her soft ones. One of Tohru's hands came up to rest against his cheek. They stayed like that for just one blissful moment.

"Arigato…" she whispered slightly sheepishly but with gratitude when they pulled apart. Kyo looked at them, and then looked away, his face clouded. Shigure glanced between Kyo and the endearing couple with a dark glint in his eyes. He sighed, forced a cheerfully oblivious smile onto his face, and pushed the three teenagers forward.

"Come on you wonderful high school students, we mustn't keep the banquet waiting any longer," he said quite cheerfully. The three friends seemed to gather a breath and brace themselves against their foe.

Tohru turned to Kyo who looked a little scared for the first time.

"Kyo-kun…"

He looked towards her at the sound of his name. "We're all with you." He blinked and stared at her with a little surprise and confusion. "We're all with you," she reinforced, "me, Yuki-kun, Shigure-san, and all the rest of the Jyuunishi." Yuki offered a small nod from next to her.

Kyo gave a small, dry laugh. "Are you saying that you actually want to be on equal terms with me kuso nezumi?" he asked in a slightly sarcastic tone towards Yuki, conveniently overlooking what Tohru said.

"Not on equal terms then," Yuki declared in a slightly defiant tone. "At least a truce."

Kyo looked at Yuki a little uncertainly, trying to see if the Nezumi was playing tricks on him again. "You really mean it…?" Kyo breathed inaudibly in shock. His lips pursed. "Keh! Whatever…"

Tohru smiled, knowing that was Kyo's way of admitting defeat in the matter. She inhaled and exhaled a bit shakily, trying to relieve her nerves.

"Here we go…" the flower murmured, grabbing both boys' hands with a small loving squeeze and leading them inside.

Shigure hung back, staring at their backs with a thoughtful look. "I wonder…" he whispered. "How much longer the curse will hold now…"

It all depends on what happens tonight…

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Tohru gasped as they stepped through the gates. The Sohma lawn looked beautiful! Lanterns were strung everywhere and beautiful decorations hung off of everything possible. And the people looked absolutely breathtaking. Tohru laughed giddily and rushed forward as she spotted a group of Jyuunishi huddled in a corner.

"Tohru-chan!!" came Momiji's excited scream as he rushed forward as well. But before he could glomp his friend, Hatori's hand clamped down on his head.

"Momiji." He said sternly.

"Mouuu, Ha'ri! It's Tohru, it's Tohru!!"

"I am aware of that, but that is no reason for you to transform in front of the entire family."

Tohru giggled. "Daijoubu Hatori-san, he was just a little excited." Hatori gave her a brief nod and released the usagi who promptly glomped and kissed Tohru's hand since he couldn't actually glomp her. "You look like a princess, Tohru-chan! You're very cute today!" he complimented, causing Tohru to blush profusely.

"Eh? N-n-no, really, I'm not all that-"

Yuki smiled as he spotted Kisa rushing over to hug her onee-chan as well. Kyo hung back from the group, slouching against a tree.

"Kyo-kuunn!!" came an energetic call. His amber eyes widened as he turned just in time to see Kagura rushing towards him. She gave herself a running leap and flung herself into Kyo.

"Kuso!!!! Woman, watch where you're going!!!"

"Nani?! But I was watching where I was going! To you, of course!"

"Do you think I want you viciously attacking me every single time I see you?!"

"But…Kyo, darling! I was just so excited to see you!!" she pouted, loosening her grip on Kyo's torso slightly.

Kyo's mouth opened and closed as words escaped him. He blushed and looked away from her.

"Ah, Tohru-kun!" Kagura suddenly spun around. "I saw Akito-san on the way here, he said that you were to join the Jyuunishi in the banquet hall immediately." Everyone grew quiet and stared at Kagura and Tohru.

"I see…" the flustered girl murmured. "Very well, we shouldn't keep Akito-san waiting. We should all go." She decided in a matter-of-fact tone. Momiji and Kisa grabbed her hands and led the way to the banquet.

"Eh..matte! What about Yuki-kun?!" Tohru suddenly asked, trying to look back to find Yuki.

"Ah, you didn't know? This year Yuki has to do the traditional dance that a member of the Jyuunishi does every year. His dance starts out the banquet as the ending of his year and at the end, the next Jyuunishi dances for the beginning of his or her year…" Haru explained.

Tohru blushed and giggled, "Hontou??!" It was hard for her to imagine Yuki doing a traditional dance, but she was sure that he would do it beautifully and with grace.

Kisa tugged on Tohru's hand lightly. "Onee-chan…did Yuki-onii-chan not tell you?" she asked gently, a smile on her face.

Tohru grinned at her. "Iie, he didn't. But I'm sure he had his reasons. Aw, I can't wait!" she giggled softly, smiling all the way as Momiji and Kisa held her hands all the way to the banquet table.

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It was beautiful.

Maybe it wasn't as fairytale-ish as Tohru had imagined, but still, it felt unearthly and just plain extravagant and lovely. Everyone just seemed bonded in the room, like a big, close family reunion. And of course everyone looked their best.

As soon as the entire Jyuunishi was in the banquet room, Akito made her grand entrance. Everyone immediately hushed and took their seats in a semi circle around Akito's spot at the head of the space as if in a drill. Tohru, her face flushed a bright strawberry red, stood awkwardly near the door. Her eyes searched for Kyo and she bit her lip. Maybe she could just sit by him? He hadn't been to one of these before either, right?

"Why Tohru-san…"Akito said in a tone as if she was surprised to see Tohru still standing. "Please, do sit down here." She mentioned towards an empty cushion between herself and where Kyo was sitting. Kyo tried to give her what he imagined was a reassuring smile, and it seemed to work. Tohru strode determinedly towards her seat, though she was nervous to sit so close to the volatile God.

"Ano..." she whispered. "Arigato…for inviting me here."

"Iie…" the God replied in an icy tone. "Hmph…we'll see, Tohru Honda," she said crisply, dismissing Tohru by not looking at her. She turned to address the rest of the Jyuunishi. "We shall now begin with Yuki's dance."

The lights dimmed and Yuki appeared in the center of the floor. Beside her, Tohru heard Kyo try to snuffle a snort and from around the circle she heard a lot of appreciative inhales, but she was too preoccupied with just gazing at him.

He looked gorgeous, even though he was looked as if he was trying to compose his embarrassed emotions. Well, maybe a little awkward in such extravagant clothing, but still as beautiful as a statue! The lilacs and blues in his robe brought out his porcelain skin and his eyes, and the golden decorations and cool blue ribbons of his headdress framed his face. Tohru was just mesmerized. If she had been in a right state of mind, she would have remembered to politely close her mouth and to not lean forward so childishly. She felt Akito's eyes on her before they flickered back to Yuki.

Yuki bowed lowly and at the single defined bang of a drum he posed precisely. Amethyst eyes were shut as he waited for the sound of the music, and when he heard its first soft strums he opened his eyes and began to dance.

His dance was indeed graceful, beautiful, and every inch ethereal-like as Tohru had imagined. Her heart pulsed in beat with the rhythm of the music, and it seemed as if Yuki's did also. His movements were so graceful, yet so precise and accurate. She had no clue Yuki could move like this, and with such emotion and passion! It really was a stunning sight!

Their eyes connected at various points in the dance, and it always seemed like it was just the two of them…as if Yuki was dancing for her. Every time he would glance at her, a brief cool smile would cross his lips before receding. Yet, every time he turned in his movements and came face-to-face with Akito, there was a distant look of mixed feelings, but mostly obligatory respect.

All too soon, in Tohru's opinion, the dance was over to polite applause. She could see Yuki visibly huffing, trying to catch his breath as he remained in his last pose. Their eyes connected and he looked away, a light pink tainting his already flushed cheeks. She smiled awkwardly and looked at Akito as she stood.

"What a suberb way to end the year…and how like the Rat to give a stunning performance. I am pleased, Yuki," she cooed, watching with pleasure as he bowed lowly in return. "And so ends the Year of the Rat and begins the Year of the Ox!"

Maids and servers soon appeared, serving out dishes filled with extravagant portions. Tohru's eyes danced happily as she took it all in, and Kyo seemed impressed also. Seconds after the food was served, Yuki took his seat and everyone began enjoying themselves.

Akito remained silent through out the entire meal, and didn't even make a comment when Kyo snidely "complimented" Yuki's "fairy" dance. As the chatter increased, and everyone seemed to forget the presence of their God, she slipped away…

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Tohru had just finished her meal, when she felt someone tug on her arm. It was Kisa. "What's wrong Kisa-chan?" Kisa just handed her a small note and shrugged. "Arigato." Tohru thanked, hugging the tiger cub. She watched fondly as the small girl pattered back to her place.

Tohru unfolded the note and her eyes widened slightly at what she read.

Dear Tohru-san,

I am aware that you wish to help the Sohmas get rid of their curse. I have a small idea as well. Please meet me outside this room.

Sohma, Kureno

As she looked around, she did notice one Jyuunishi member missing…

How odd, how would Kureno-san know? I really don't know him that well except for that brief meeting I saw him with Akito… Am I being that obvious in my efforts to find out the cure?

"Tohru?" enquired Kyo, seeing her distracted. "What's wrong?"

Yuki looked over to her as well, hearing her name. Tohru saw them both looking at her concerned and she waved her hands out in front of her.

"Ah!! Nandemunai! I'm just going to go to the restroom… Sumimasen!"

"Do you know where it is?" Kyo called out.

"Ah, h-hai!" Tohru lied. She hated lying, but she didn't want to worry any of the others, especially Kyo and Yuki. "I'll be back soon," she reassured and left.

Tohru closed the door behind her and sighed. Wow, she hated lying. She really, really hated lying. Upon turning around, she found a man waiting for her and she inhaled sharply.

"K-Kureno-san...?" she whispered. The man nodded.

"I am Sohma, Kureno, the rooster. I will answer your questions once we reach our destination. If you would follow me…"he informed his voice void with emotion.

Tohru bit her lip, hesitant about where he was about to lead her, but she obediently complied. He took her through a maze of halls and rooms silently until they reached what Tohru knew to be a fairly unused part of the main estate.

"Ano…Kureno-san…" she whispered, wavering in her steps.

"Don't worry, just follow me."

The two finally stopped at a dark doorway. Kureno slid the door open and gestured for her to go in. "Please sit down, I shall be right back," he informed, leaving Tohru in the eerily dark room and sliding the door closed behind him.

Tohru shivered as she took in the sinister room. It was small, dark, and there was a small amount of strange splotches on the walls and floor. She sank down on her knees as her breath nervously caught in her throat and she choked. Tohru coughed and a sinking feeling began making its way down her body. It was a bad feeling...a hopeless feeling. She really despised the darkened attitude of the room; it felt like it was swallowing her. In reality…it was truly frightening. As she continued to wait for Kureno, her fingers nervously messed with the hem of her dress and her brow furrowed in worry.

Minutes later, the door slid open once again. Tohru looked up eagerly, expecting it to be Kureno, but instead-

"Hello again Honda, Tohru-san…"