Sorry for the long pause!! There have been births and deaths in my family, new university and illnesses and such, but I'm back now!!
It's been over a year. Scary, huh? This is the epilogue. Quite a few people want another chapter, but honestly, I've got other stories I want to write, and I'm content with ending it here. I hope it meets standards. Thank you all so much, you've kept me going for this long.
This chapter is for all my reviewers!!!
Epilogue – Picture of Happiness
The banquet opening the New Year was ten times better than the previous ones, the people would agree, because of two things.
For the first time ever, the Cat participated in the banquet. He was still somewhat isolated, forced to sit as far away from Akito as possible, but he was still there. Kyo had to sit next to the last member of the Zodiac, though, and while it meant being stuck with Kagura all evening, he couldn't complain of being lonely.
Akito sat at the front of the room, and the tables were set in a "U" shape, with seven people on the left, and seven on the right. Normally this would be only six on each side, but the addition of Kyo and of the second guest, Tohru Honda, it was capable of being done.
It had taken a while for Akito to warm up to Tohru, really. Most of all, it had required many meetings between the two, during which they were not to be disturbed. Akito would vent out all the anger, frustration, jealousy, and hatred that had been locked up and released only during times of fear or stress. Tohru would listen, and try to calmly answer any enraged question flung at her. There were times at the beginning she would return to Shigure's house bruised, bandaged or red-eyed from crying. But slowly, as the months passed, the physical damage had lessened, as well as Akito's own mental and emotional pain.
They finally realized the two had formed a tenuous friendship when, in an effort to clean up after one of Akito's fits, Tohru fell and cut her leg open on one of the jagged shards littering the floor. Rather than sit and watch in amusement as would have been done a year, even months, before, Akito stood, despite the weakness following a tantrum, and flung the door open, yelling for Hatori. Thankfully the Dragon and Rabbit always escorted their 'guest', and so were nearby. As she was being helped, medicine applied and bandage wrapped around the injured limb, Momiji had noticed the fear and concern in Akito's eyes and movements. Being the little gossip that he was, word quickly spread that the God of the Zodiac had made a friend in Tohru Honda.
Of course, Akito had been furious at the news, and refused it, but after being called Tohru's friend for so long, there would merely be a glare at the mention, then silence, and when it was finally accepted as a truth, occasionally give a very small smile could be seen.
Very, very, small.
Eventually Tohru's friends also became acceptant to the fact that the person who had hurt their beloved charge, made her cry, and who was branded in their minds as a cruel person, had become a staple in the girl's life.
Every Sunday, from four until five, Tohru could be found with Akito. She couldn't be scheduled for work at that time (after all, her employer is a Sohma! He wouldn't argue with Akito!), and she always ended her visits with her other friends before then.
It was during one of these meetings a person 'outside' had to see Akito about the plans for the upcoming New Year's celebration. They were sent away immediately and were informed to return only after five o'clock, and once they were gone, Tohru had looked at Akito with wide, hopeful eyes, and asked if Kyo might be allowed to join in the banquet.
This idea was met with vehement opposition, followed by another three tantrums. After all, Tohru Honda didn't give up easily! Almost one month later Akito sighed during another one of the girl's pleas, and agreed to allow the Cat of the Zodiac to attend the special dinner just for the cursed members. Though Kyo didn't want to show he cared, he could still be found occasionally asking Kagura what the event was like.
At the head table sat Akito. To his right was Yuki, who finally was able to sit in place without feeling terrified. Beside him were Hatsuharu, Hiro, Kisa, Momiji, Ritsu, and Tohru. There had been a few moments of sadness when the teen realized she couldn't sit between the two, but it had been the rule, as the members of the Zodiac were the reason for the banquet. On the other side, it was Kureno, Hatori, Shigure, Ayame, Rin, Kagura, and finally Kyo. The horse had become more relaxed around the others, and even spoke occasionally to Kagura without insulting her.
In the center of the tables, the empty floor was decorated with a beautiful rug in the form of a circle. In the center of the circle was the Jade Emperor, the 'God' of the Zodiac, and surrounding him was the twelve animals of the zodiac. It was on this rug that Akito finally agreed to dance, a feat which hadn't been done since Akira Sohma, Akito's father, died.
In his weakness, he was unable to dance for long. As the two members of the Zodiac danced around him, thanking their God for the blessing of a new year, Akito danced slowly, until he finally had to stop, and merely sat while the others continued the beautiful dance.
By the time Sanganichi, the first three days of the New Year, had passed, Sohmas both 'inside' and 'outside' knew of Akito's increased kindness. Of course, no one would dare imply that Akito Sohma was kind, simply kinder than he had been previously. Yuki would agree to come for visits occasionally, and Tohru was still there every week, often working for her new goal, which was for Kyo not to be locked away after high school.
Outside of the Sohma home, many things were going on as well. Kureno, who had been held on a tight leash by Akito, had been able to spend more time with Uo since Akito attacked him not long after Tohru began her visits. It seemed Akito had learned of Kureno's caring for the girl, and had been against it. It took three weeks for Tohru to convince the Jade Emperor that a person couldn't control who they loved. As soon as he agreed, many of the Zodiac began admitting feelings to Akito, so long as Tohru was there to calm him back down.
Which was why the girl found it unusual when one day in early Spring, Hatsuharu asked to speak to Akito alone. Confused, she sat outside the room with Momiji, who simply smiled at her anytime she asked him what was going on. It was as he was telling her, in great detail, about his latest violin lesson with Momo, that they heard it. There was a loud cry, and the sound of something being knocked over. Before Tohru could enter, though, Momiji had grasped her arm and told her not to.
"Haru said to stay here, right? Besides, Akito's not as mean, so Haru should be fine!" But neither of them was able to sit again, and merely stood before the door until it finally grew quiet again. Finally, the Ox stepped out of the room, a cut above his eye bleeding slightly, which meant that it wasn't deep. Momiji took him to Hatori, while Tohru went to speak to Akito.
It only took a week to find out what Hatsuharu had wanted to speak with Akito about. On Saturday, as the half-day of school was ending, the teen approached her, looking as bored as ever. But he gave her a small smile as he stood between a curious Yuki and Kyo, and asked her if she would want to join him for lunch at a restaurant nearby. The Rat was obviously surprised, but didn't object, unlike Kyo who began yelling at the Ox. It wasn't until the orange-haired teen made an accusation of Haru planning something indecent that Black Haru appeared and challenged the Cat. If he won, he could take Tohru to lunch, if he lost, he'd retract his offer.
Tohru tried to point out that she didn't mind going to lunch with teen, but it was lost as the two males attacked each other. Momiji was no help, as he merely stood beside her and Yuki and offered candy. In fact, it took Hatori's arrival to make them stop. He had come to pick up Momiji, as he already knew Hatsuharu's plan to ask out Shigure's 'little flower'. When he heard why they were fighting, he pointed out to Kyo that it was Tohru's decision whether or not to go on a date with the black-and-white haired teen. Of course, the moment he said 'date', Tohru's face flushed red, and Momiji laughed before offering to go along if it made her feel better.
"After all, she's still just a madchen! She's bound to be nervous being alone with a guy!" But Hatori insisted, finally pointing out that Momo was due for a visit. Kyo and Yuki were told to go home, though it was obvious that both boys were worried. Shigure, of course, teased both of them until she returned.
Soon a new tradition started. While Haru was, of course, always welcome to visit, and saw Tohru at school and at the main house, once a month they'd go out to lunch, just the two of them. Hana and Uo both supported the idea, as she always made sure to spend time with them as well. Plus Uo now had Kureno to spend time with, and Hana was constantly making Kyo panic by asking about his 'father', and calling the Cat her 'son'.
And though they had yet to break the curse, it didn't mean they stopped trying. Tohru and Rin both continued their search, occasionally meeting to trade what little information they had. Shigure offered to help sometimes, but more often than not spent his time teasing Tohru, until Rin would get annoyed.
On her birthday, she received a new (and expensive) frame for her mother's picture from Hatsuharu, as well as a kiss on her very red cheek. Kyo had been outraged, but probably mostly due to the fact that the simple, chaste act had Shigure and Ayame rambling on about some story or another, and Hatori had gone outside to smoke for a moment. Momiji gave her a stuffed Ox, as well as a card from Momo, and both of the violinists had played a duet for her. Yuki offered a new cookbook, and from Kyo (with his adopted father's help, of course), had given her a new apron. Kagura offered to take her shopping and buy her a new outfit. There were many other gifts, but the nicest was from Akito, who had to give it to her on her next visit. It was an ink painting of the zodiac animals in a circle, with the cat sitting in the far corner.
So while life still wasn't perfect, Tohru doubted she could be much happier with her new family and all the friends she had made. And the next time she went to visit her mother, they were finally able to have a real party, with a large group, just like Kyoko would have wanted.
They were finally forced out by the people who took care of the grounds, though they were all laughing as they apologized and hurried home.
I thought that would be a good place to end it. The tale really began with the death of Tohru's mother, so I thought it best to end on a note with Kyoko. I'm sorry if it seemed rushed, but I have to go to work soon!!
I'm sorry I took so long to put up this epilogue, and I doubt it's as good as people would have wanted, but I really have been wanting to work on my other stories. This is the only one for Furuba I ever plan on writing. So I hope it was at least decent! Thank you for the year and a half's worth of reading and reviewing! I couldn't have done all of this without your support!!
If anyone is going to attend A-Kon in Dallas, Texas this June, you can feel free to come chew me out in person!