Disclaimer: Property of Takaya Natsuki and company. Just borrowing for my own amusement!

Source Material: Primarily Anime Episodes 1-26 with some manga spoilers thrown in.

Author's Notes: Once again, I find my preference in pairings deviates from the established 'canon.' I'm beginning to think that I just like being contrary. But I really do like the idea of Kyo and Kagura being together and it seems that if I want to read about more interactions between them, I'll have to write them myself. So here we go!


The worst part of solitary confinement was the boredom.

That realization had come as a surprise to Kyo Souma. He had always thought that loneliness or the frustration of being unjustly imprisoned would consume his thoughts.

That wasn't to say that he wasn't lonely or that he didn't feel like screaming and raging until his throat was raw and his knuckles bloody. But after months of staring out the stupid window at the same stupid garden, his mind was desperate for anything to stimulate it.

And the terrible thing about boredom was that it forced him to remember. There simply wasn't anything else to do. Thinking of new and unpleasant ways to take his revenge on Akito could take up only so much of his time. So as hard as he fought against it, images of times past went through his mind.

Kyo had so many regrets. Why had he wasted so much of his life? He never got a chance to tell Shishou that he did love him and consider him a father. He wanted to see Tohru again and thank her for helping him even when he was being a jerk. He had spent so much time being angry and cursing his fate. He was no better than Akito in that way.

It was the fate of the Cat to be imprisoned. He had known that day was coming for years. So why hadn't he done more with his life before then?

He knew the monotony was getting to him when there were times he found himself chuckling at the remembrance of one of Momiji's silly antics or wishing that he could spar with Haru again. He even found himself missing the damn rat.

Kyo would try to summon his rage at such a ridiculous idea, but it became harder and harder to keep up his hatred. Isolation had a way of shedding one's self-imposed lies. His rivalry with Yuki had been so stupid. He wasn't willing to go so far as to say he wished they could have been friends, but blaming Yuki for all his problems simply because he was the rat was so… pointless.

Deep down, he was glad that the rat was free. Akito had been forced to abandon his plans for Yuki because of his increasing weakness. The bastard hadn't completely won, and that knowledge served to warm Kyo on many cold, sleepless nights.

The Cat tried to clear his head of such depressing thoughts by doing his daily exercises. Bodiharma might have spent nine years staring at a cave wall with apparently no negative effects, but Kyo shuddered to think of what shape he would be in if he just sat around doing nothing. And he had little interesting in pursuing enlightenment.

Not yet, anyway. The rest of his life was a long time.

But even performing his katas couldn't completely stop him from reminiscing on his former life, and strangely, his thoughts often turned to Kagura. He wondered how she was doing. He could still remember the lost look in her eyes when he had been dragged away from his home. Her affections were unwanted, but even he wouldn't condemn her to the heartache and despair he knew she had to be feeling.

And if he was honest with himself, he'd admit that her feelings weren't completely unwanted. Yes, the beatings hurt, but he had liked knowing that someone in the world loved him so much and accepted his faults without qualm. It wasn't until he was locked up that he realized how much he had come to depend on that devotion.

One of his bigger regrets was about not being nicer to his first friend and supposed fiancée.

He constantly insulted her when he knew that would just bring out the angry side she hated so much and he ignored the friendship that had began with a young girl seeing no reason not to befriend the outcast of the Jyunnishi. Perhaps her intentions hadn't been purely noble, but whatever her original reasons were, he was glad that she had played with him.

And they were friends even if he would never admit it to anyone but himself. He told her he hated her, but he would have felt guilty if she actually believed him. He ran away from her every Valentine's Day, but he would have been hurt if she never showed up at all. He told her to go away, but his self-esteem secretly relished the attention.

Perhaps that kind of selfishness was worse than hatred. He took and took and never gave anything in return.

Kyo wished he could say he was sorry.

The sound of approaching footsteps broke him out of his musings. Despite himself, he found his heart rate increasing. Was it Akito?

The family head hadn't been by to torment him in four months. In his last visits, Akito seemed to have grown bored with coming by to gloat. He didn't dare come inside the enclosure and verbal attacks could only give him so much pleasure. When the visits had ceased without warning, Kyo became convinced that the bastard had forgotten about him.

That was the worst insult of all. The psychopath had used up so much time and effort to ruin the life of the monster, then when it got dull he simply left him to rot.

A timid voice caught his attention. "Kyo-kun?"

He couldn't believe it. Standing before him in her simple green dress was the girl he had just been thinking about.


Damn, he hadn't realized how rusty his voice would become from disuse. Kyo focused the muscles in his throat. "Wh-what are you doing here? Is Akito finally allowing visitors?"

Kagura looked at him with sunken eyes. Kyo noted with concern that the girl had lost weight. She replied, "No, he isn't. I had to sneak down here to see you."

"It sure took you long enough," Kyo muttered and instantly regretted it.

He flinched, expecting Kagura to try to attack him, but instead, tears ran down her face.

Eight months in this hellhole and he still hadn't learned how to keep his mouth shut. Why did she have to cry though? He hated it when girls did that. "I didn't mean… I'm just being stupid again. Calm down!"

He was a regular Casanova, Kyo thought in disgust.

Kagura knelt down in front of the window and gripped the bars tightly. "You wouldn't believe how many times I tried sneaking down here, but I always got caught. Akito was expecting people to see you, so he had guards watching all the entrances.

"There was nothing I could do until Akito relaxed his guard. You know how cheap he is. He would have gotten tired of paying unnecessary expenses, especially if he believed that no one cared about seeing you any longer."

Kyo eyed her curiously. "How the hell did you manage that? You're not exactly the world's greatest actress."

"WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY ACTING?" Kagura roared, trying to reach him through the bars with her hands.

Kyo jumped back and was for the first time glad that he was trapped in a cell. Part of him was glad for the familiar sight though. At least she wasn't crying anymore.

Then like a light switch, Kagura's expression turned from pure rage to worry. "Oh, I did it again, didn't I?" She sighed. "And you weren't even wrong. I had to move out and throw myself into my studies, so I wouldn't break down every time I thought about you. I even made myself go on dates, so I could convince Akito's spies that I had lost interest in you."

"And have you? Lost interest in me, I mean." Kyo felt his throat tighten. He didn't know why, but it was suddenly very important to him to hear her answer.

Kagura's gray eyes softened. "I'm here, aren't I?"

This time when she stuck her hand through the bars, he took it. He hoped she wouldn't get the wrong impression from that, but it was just so nice to have human contact again. It was amazing the things that he missed.

They sat in silence for awhile then Kagura asked, trying and failing to sound nonchalant, "Have you been treated okay?"

Kyo shrugged. "It could be worse. It's a lot better now that Akito stopped coming around. I wish I could be given some books or something though."

"So you've been all alone?" Kagura asked softly.

"A guy comes by once a week to restock my food and give me clean clothes. He's not much of a talker though." Kyo felt uncomfortable. He didn't want pity, so he changed the subject. "So how's everyone?"

Kagura brightened a little. She told him how Shigure's new book had reached #9 on the bestseller list, how Momiji and Haru joined some clubs at school, and other news about the rest of the Sohma family.

Kyo tried to listen attentively, but he finally couldn't help interrupting. "How's Tohru doing?"

Kagura shifted uncomfortably. "She's at college." She hesitated. "With Yuki."

The words she didn't say were deafening.

Kyo couldn't say he was surprised at the news, but he was surprised at how much it hurt. He could admit to himself now that he had really liked Tohru Honda. She had been a bright spot in an otherwise dreary life. Sometimes, he wished he could have told her how he really felt before Akito's men took him away, but he knew confessing to her before he was imprisoned would have been cruel.

"So she just forgot about me, did she?" Kyo asked bitterly.

The grip on his hand tightened almost painfully. Kyo looked up and was taken back. He had seen Kagura angry plenty of times, but he had never seen her look so irritated.

"Of course not!" Kagura snapped. "How could you think such a thing? Do you want to hear about how she cried for weeks after you left? Do you want to hear how she argued with Akito on your behalf so many times that he finally had to bar her from the main house and threatened to erase her memories if he ever saw her again? It's only been recently that she's happy again, and you should be glad of that. Or did you want her to suffer forever?"

"Don't be stupid!" Kyo yelled. He jerked his hand back and began pacing around, trying to rein in his temper. He finally ended up back at the window, sighing miserably. "It's just so hard being left behind, that's all."


Kagura reached behind her back and pulled something out of her backpack. "She really does miss you. It's too dangerous for her to come herself, but she wanted me to give you this."

Kyo numbly accepted the letter. He stared at it for a long moment then set it down on a nearby chair to read later.

"I'm sorry that she couldn't be here. I know that I must be a poor substitute."

Kyo turned around and saw that Kagura wasn't looking at him. His resolution came back to him. The words that came out of his mouth surprised even him. "Never be sorry for being yourself. Yeah, you can be annoying, but you've never given up on me and I'm sorry I hadn't thanked you for that. I really am glad you came to see me."

Months of worry seemed to fade from Kagura's face and she turned to him practically radiating happiness.

She really does have a great smile, Kyo thought, stunned. Then he shook his head. He'd definitely been in here too long.

Kagura came to visit him every week like clockwork. She would have come more often, but the risk of getting caught was too great.

She often brought Kyo treats or some books that he could hide and read when he was bored. She would update him on what was new with the family and her life at college and how she had no idea what she wanted to do. Kagura also loved to tell him about the many close calls she had with transforming, and Kyo suspected that she was exaggerating.

They would spend the rest of the time talking about everything and nothing in particular. Sometimes, they would just sit together in silence, and that was okay too.

Her time in the real world had calmed her down some and it was with some surprise that Kyo realized that he was getting the chance to really know Kagura as a person and not just an annoyance.

Time went by quickly as it tended to do and one day Kyo woke up and realized with a start that it was his birthday.

Kyo went through his day as he normally did, but he caught himself staring out the window several times. When six o'clock in the evening rolled around, Kyo could no longer deny that he was feeling restless.

"What am I doing? It's not like I care," Kyo muttered to himself. Sure, he could admit now that he looked forward to Kagura's visits, but that was just relief from having something to break the monotony. The older girl had already shown up for her weekly visit a few days before, so it wasn't a big deal if she didn't show up today, right?

His head whipped around at a clattering sound, but it turned out to be the wind knocking off a roof tile.

Kyo put a hand to his head and cursed himself for being so pathetic.

A playful voice made its way into the room. "I can see that you're busy, so maybe I should come back later."

Without lifting his head, Kyo replied, "I was enjoying the peace and quiet, but if you're here, you might as well stick around."

"Kyo-kun, my love, you're not fooling anybody," Kagura teased.

Kyo looked up, startled. He couldn't remember the last time she called him her love. Before he could comment, his eyes landed on her dress. It was a simple yet elegant gown that matched the color of her eyes. It looked like something one would wear to a movie premiere. The fabric rippled and shimmered in such a way that Kyo couldn't help staring at it.

"Do you like it?" Kagura asked as she gave a twirl. "Ayame made it for me. He said it made me look really good."

"That has nothing to do with a dress made by that weirdo," Kyo retorted.

"So you're saying that I'm naturally pretty?" Kagura asked, her eyes twinkling.

"Don't go putting words in my mouth!" Kyo exclaimed, crossing his arms and turning his head away. The girl was too clever for her own good. At least with the beatings, he wasn't left feeling so unsettled.

"Why are you all dressed up, anyway?" Kyo complained. "Today's not different from any other day."

Kagura simply smiled then began passing him the letters and food packages that the family had sent with her. Kyo wished he could receive something that wasn't perishable, but hiding stuff like that was more trouble than it was worth. Food was never unwelcome, but it'd be nice to get something that he could hold onto for more than a few days.

"Did you do anything fun today?" Kagura asked as she stuffed the torn wrapping paper into her bag.

Kyo felt proud when he managed to stifle the sarcastic outburst that almost passed his lips. He was getting better at recognizing the spirit of Kagura's seemingly silly questions.

"Well, I did finally perfect that move I was telling you about," Kyo replied. Without warning, he ran straight at a wall and right up it then launched into a double back flip before landing on his feet.

"Whoa," Kagura breathed with widened eyes. "I don't think even Shihan could do that."

Kyo shrugged, trying and failing to look modest. "He's not part-cat. It's probably not fair to compare."

"That was still very cool though!" Kagura insisted.

He was surprised at how absurdly pleased he felt at the congratulations Kagura was offering him. It was just nice getting praise from someone who really appreciated the martial arts and understood his hard work, he told himself. There was no way he was falling for this crazy girl.

"Oh, that reminds me!" Kagura said. "You know that dance squad on campus I was telling you about? I tried out and made it on the team!"

Kyo tried to resist, he really did, but he couldn't help snickering at the thought of this klutzy girl making it on a dance squad.

A maniac gleam flashed in Kagura's eyes. "KYO-KUN!"

It was rather unfortunate for Kyo that Kagura, having learned that she couldn't bend bamboo bars with her bare hands, had taken to throwing rocks at him when she got mad.

"Ow! Hey, stop it!" Kyo cried, trying to dodge the projectiles but getting hit more often than not. "It's my birthday, damn it!"

"Think of this as your birthday hits then," Kagura giggled as she calmed down, but she still kept throwing stones at him with gentler but still deadly accuracy.

"Be nice or I won't invite you to my next birthday party," Kyo threatened.

Kagura clasped her hands behind her back and put on an innocent face. "I'll be good."

Kyo peered at her suspiciously. "Whatever. Maybe you should join the baseball team instead."

"Kyo-kun, why won't you believe I can dance?" Kagura complained.

"Or maybe the wrestling team," Kyo continued wryly, remembering all the times the girl pounded and mangled his body.

"I'll give you your own private performance next time!" Kagura promised excitedly.

To his horror, Kyo could feel his cheeks reddening at the thought. He said gruffly, "Do what you want. I don't care."

It was a good three hours later when Kagura announced that she had to go home. She turned to go, but then she paused and snapped her fingers. "Oh! I almost forgot to give you my present!"

She looked a bit guilty as she handed over a small, thin package. "I know I'm not supposed to give you anything that could get you in trouble, but I'm sure you can hide this easily."

Kyo unwrapped the present and froze upon seeing the contents. It was a picture frame containing a picture of a younger him being held up by a smiling Kazuma.

"Shihan was happy to give me the picture when I told him what it was for," Kagura said. "I thought you'd like someone to talk to when I'm not around."

If Kyo hadn't felt so stunned, he might have made a joke about ending up like Tohru, but he could only stare at the picture and tried to deal with the upwelling of emotion he was now feeling.

"Kagura… I… this is…"

His struggle for words ended when he felt a pair of hands pull his head forward and then felt warm lips kiss him on the cheek.

Before he could even figure out how to react or wonder why his heart was pounding so rapidly, Kagura was gone, leaving only her parting words on the wind.

"Happy birthday, Kyo-kun."

Kyo made another mark on the wall then stood back to regard it. He couldn't believe that he'd been living in this small room for close to two years now.

That number was incomprehensible in some ways. Two years was a long time. So many things must have changed. It would be easy to fall into depression at the thought of the world just moving on fine without him.

But he was a fighter and he refused to let such thoughts weigh him down.

And it helped a great deal to know that whatever happened in the world, there was at least one person out there who hadn't forgotten him.

Not that Kagura was the only person visiting him these days. Events had reached a point that the other members of the zodiac felt safer about coming to see him. Since most of them still lived in the main house, their visits had to be brief. Akito may not have been up to terrorizing anyone these days but it was still considered unwise to attract his attention, and he had plenty of uncursed Sohmas who had no compunction about doing his bidding.

Kyo was always glad for human interaction, but he couldn't help sometimes feeling relieved when they left. It was an uncomfortable feeling to realize that he didn't really have much in common with his cousins.

Ayame and Shigure just got on his nerves whenever they found a plausible reason for visiting the main house. Hatori mostly treated him like a patient, Momiji was his usual annoying self, and Haru wasn't much of a conversationalist when he wasn't Black and threatening to do him bodily harm.

He would have liked to see some people outside the Jyunnishi such as his adopted father or Tohru, but they couldn't make it past the main gates without Akito's permission. He had to be content with the letters from them that Kagura gave him.

Even now when she was gone on her school trip and couldn't visit him for awhile, she had made sure that one of the others would continue the mail delivery. She was always looking out for him like that.

Kyo sighed heavily.

"Twenty minutes without thinking about her. I think that's a new record for me, Shishou," he said to the photograph he had pulled out from under a loose floorboard.

Kyo could admit that he liked Kagura. There was really no point in hiding that fact from himself. The older girl was quite fun to be around now that she couldn't attack him and she wasn't so desperate to get him to like her.

It reminded him of when they were kids. Before the incident that had torn them apart.

Kagura could have had him at her mercy, but it seemed that her time in the real world had taught her some restraint. That restraint had allowed him to see how silly it had been of him to think of her as some kind of ogre.

Oh, he still thought she was nuts in many ways, but he still liked her anyway, so what did that make him?

He wondered if she was still waiting for him to return her love, or if she was happy with what she could get. He still wondered why she cared for him so much. She deserved better than him.

He remembered when he used to go into panics whenever he noticed that he was thinking of Kagura in that way. The first time he realized that the first thought he had in the morning and the last one before he went to sleep was of sparkling, gray eyes was simultaneously the happiest and worst moment of his life.

Kagura had to be insane. He was a freaking prisoner! What did she expect from him?

Kyo pulled out the recent letter that he had received from Tohru and read it again. He still couldn't believe he had been desperate enough to write her for help, but he had to talk to somebody.

Dear Kyo,

It's good to hear from you again. Yuki won't admit it, but I'm sure he's happy to hear you're doing fine as well.

Kyo snorted to himself though more out of habit than anything else.

I was surprised at your request in your last letter, but I am honored that you thought I would able to help you. I will do the best I can even though there are undoubtedly better people out there for you to be asking.

Kyo made a mental note to berate Tohru again for her inferiority complex in his next letter.

I know I have a tendency to simplify things. Uo-chan and Hana-chan are always telling me that life is complicated. I understand that, I really do, but Mother always told me to follow my heart because while being true to myself might not always bring me happiness, it will never give me regrets.

You have to tell her how you feel. Kagura has already made her choice and it's time you made yours as well. You think you have nothing to offer her, but all Kagura ever wanted from you was your heart. Do you think you can give her that?

Typical girly, mushy stuff. But Kyo reluctantly conceded that she had a point. Bah, he was turning into a sap. Worse, he couldn't even say he really minded that.

Yuki tried to protect me by telling me he didn't want me to get hurt getting involved with him. I pointed out that he was the one hurting me by allowing his fears to affect him.

There are many types of prisons, Kyo, and not all of them have four walls.

That's all I can really think of to say on this. I hope that my ramblings were of some help to you, and I look forward to your next reply. I wish you well and I hope that you can find happiness however you can.



Once he would have given everything to hear that phrase from Tohru, but she was no longer the girl he wanted to hear it from. He wondered at what point that had happened. It had been such a gradual thing that he hadn't even realized it was happening.

Kyo leaned his head back against the wall. He still didn't know what to do. Tohru was right that driving Kagura away wouldn't help anything. And Kagura had stuck to him like a terminal disease for over a decade now despite everything he'd thrown at her. Why on earth would she go away now just because he told her to do so?

And how did he really know that she still loved him? Maybe she felt sorry for him or was just being a good friend. Wouldn't it just be a punch in the stomach if when he finally fell for Kagura, she no longer felt the same way about him?

He spoke out loud absently, "Wasn't being locked up supposed to make my life simpler?"


Kyo looked out the window in confusion.

Kagura was walking up the path in a tan sweater and jean combo, smiling widely. She was obviously feeling hyper as she was babbling like a chipmunk. "I came back early to surprise you! There's so much I want to tell you! You wouldn't believe what happened on my trip…"

On a sudden impulse, Kyo backed behind a counter into the shadows.

"Where are you, Kyo-kun?" Kagura asked as she pressed her face up against the bars and moved her eyes back and forth looking for him.

Kagura looked so childlike at the moment that it was hard to believe she was actually older than him. There was an innocent, energetic quality to her that Kyo found himself involuntarily smiling. She had more sides to her than even Haru.

She was so alive.

Kagura was beginning to tear up. "This isn't funny, Kyo-kun! It's mean when Gure-san does it to Mii-chan and it's mean now! Kyo-kun!"

There was no doubt about it. She genuinely cared for him. He used to think that Kagura didn't really love him, but was just overcompensating for running away from his true cursed form. Maybe it started out that way, but over the years it had changed into the real thing. For some mysterious reason, Kagura thought he was a worthwhile person.

Kagura was now vowing to beat the crap out of Akito if something had happened to her 'precious Kyo-kun,' and Kyo realized he should stop this before it went too far out of hand. Suddenly feeling foolish and a little guilty, Kyo stood up and walked over to the window.

Kagura clasped her hands together and stared at him tearfully. "Why didn't you come out when I called you? I'm so glad you're okay! I was so scared. I thought Akito was doing horrible things to you. Please don't do that again."

The expression on Kagura's face could only be described as ecstatic. The one that came after that foretold doom.

"How dare you make me worry about you? You're so mean! What a horrible jerk you are! Is this any way to treat your ex-fiancee? Rargh!"

Kyo found himself being shaken about like a rag doll. He stared at the girl in front of him whose face was contorted with rage and her eyes practically blazing with flames. He had to ask himself some tough questions.

Could he love this? Did he love this? Could he accept every part of her? Could he love someone so wildly emotional that she could be a shy schoolgirl one second and a hellcat the next?



Something in the way he said her name made her freeze and she stared at him with wide, shocked eyes.

Kyo gently cupped her chin and pulled her unresisting face forward. When their faces were barely centimeters apart, he hesitated, wondering if he should say something first.

But he wasn't good with words. He wasn't Yuki who could charm girls with poetic words and his calm demeanor. He felt Kagura starting to draw back and he realized that words didn't matter.

Kyo crushed her to him as best he could with the bars in the way and lowered his lips to hers. He put everything he had into it. Gratitude, longing, apology, and a promise of things to come.

For a moment Kagura didn't respond, then she kissed him back so hard and passionately that he knew that his lips would be bruised the next day.

When they finally separated, Kyo took in a deep breath of fresh air and had to admit that he felt pretty damn good. He felt like he could go fight those bears that Shigure kept telling people that he battled with.

Then he noticed that Kagura was grasping his shirt with a desperate grip. "What's wrong?"

"I don't want to wake up," Kagura whispered with tears brimming in her eyes.

"Idiot," Kyo said affectionately. "You're not dreaming."

"That's exactly what a dream Kyo would say."

Kyo rolled his eyes and was about to retort when he saw Kagura was smiling at him.

"I see you're not mad anymore. I think I might have just found a defense against Angry Kagura," Kyo said, chuckling.

Kagura giggled slightly. Then she looked up at him with a very serious expression. "I'm incredibly happy right now, but if you're just doing this because you feel sorry for me, I'll never forgive you."

Her suspicion hurt a little, but he couldn't blame her. He asked, "Is it so hard to believe that I like you?"

Kagura shook her head then looked at him shyly. "But I'm still not sure. I think you have to give me another demonstration just to make sure I get the message."

Kyo laughed long and hard then he set about doing just that.

"Akito's dead."

Kyo stopped his front kick in mid-snap and stared at Kagura. "What?"

"He passed away last night. The curse finally got him. Hari told me this morning."

Kyo paused for a moment, unsure of how he should feel or react. Finally, he simply resumed moving through his kata. He said, "I can't say I'm sorry."

To his surprise though, he didn't really feel much of anything. He thought he would feel some sort of grim satisfaction when he heard that the head of the family had died. But Akito hadn't been the subject of his thoughts for a very long time.

Kagura looked quizzically at him. "I would have thought you'd have more of a reaction. He did lock you up for life."

Kyo shrugged. "It's tradition for the Cat to be locked up, remember?" He couldn't keep the bitterness out of his tone.

"It doesn't always happen so early though! Shihan's grandfather had plenty of time to marry and have children," Kagura protested. Her eyes hardened. "I can't forgive him."

"I'm not saying I forgive him," Kyo replied. "The guy was a bastard and the family's better off without him. But I want to think about the good things I got out of this. Like you."

Kagura blushed. Then her smile faded and she said quietly, "There's a possibility that you'll be let out."

Kyo slowly turned his head toward her. She could not have said what he thought she said. "What?"

"Hari told me about it. Akito's dying wish was to see Yuki one last time. Yuki refused to come without Tohru, and personally, I think she convinced him to come. The funny thing was Akito barely paid any attention to Yuki when they got there. His eyes were completely on Tohru. He told her he hated her, that she had stuck her nose where she didn't belong, and that she stupidly kept trying despite everything he did."

Her voice became slightly disbelieving. "Then his last words were that Tohru better take care of the family if she knew what was good for her."

Kyo didn't know what to respond to first, the fact that Akito had remained such a drama queen even to the end or the news that he'd finally acknowledged that Tohru was not a nuisance and that the Sohmas needed her.

"So Tohru's the new head?" he finally asked.

"The curse doesn't work that way," Kagura reminded him. "And I wouldn't wish such a fate on her. But she's acting head until the new one is born and grows a bit older. Hopefully, he or she will be less of a jerk with someone like Tohru as a nanny." Her voice took on a slightly hopeful air. "If she can convince the rest of the family, then maybe you'll be freed."

Kyo had his doubts about that. The non-cursed Sohmas could be annoyingly idiotic when it came to anything involving the Jyunnishi, and many of them would probably not be happy that an outsider was made temporary head. He was sure that Tohru could handle them though. But even so, the thought of actually being released was simply too overwhelming for him to think about at the moment.

"It figures," Kyo muttered. "I actually have to feel grateful to Akito for something."

"You don't owe him anything!" Kagura cried. "You can't do one nice thing just before you die and expect that to make up for all the horrible things you've done!"

"Why are you so upset?" Kyo asked, concerned.

Kagura seemed to be struggling with herself. Finally, she said softly, "I hate that he made you lose so much of your life. I hate that you missed so many opportunities. I hate that you had to be miserable so that I could be happy."

She looked down then said in a voice full of misery and determination, "It's okay if you don't love me when you get out."

So that's what this was about. It was easy to forget that Kagura could be very insecure. It was hard to imagine that of a girl who had survived on hope and a dream for most of her life.

Kyo found that he didn't know what to say. Did Kagura really believe that he'd fallen for her because she had been the only girl around? That they would have never gotten together if his life had gone on normally? That he would realize what a mistake he made when he got out into the world?

At last, he said, "I will never get you. You never went away no matter how many times I told you to, but you'll do it willingly if you think I'll be happier."

"If you love someone-" Kagura began the old saying.

"Bullshit!" Kyo yelled. "If you love someone then you convince them that nothing else matters. That you can work through anything. You started loving me because you felt guilty as a kid. Does that mean that you don't really love me now?"

Kagura looked startled. "Of course not!"

"So who cares how it happened? Who cares that maybe it wouldn't have happened otherwise? It happened! I'm happy. Are you happy?" Kyo challenged.

Kagura's eyes glistened. "Like you couldn't imagine."

"I'm not into the touchy-feely crap, so I'm only saying this once. These were some of the best times of my life. At this moment, I love you. Whatever happens in the future, that can't be changed."

Kyo's voice dropped to a whisper full of promise and warmth. "And I have no intention of letting you get away so easily."

"I'm going to hold you to that," Kagura said as she took hold of Kyo's hand and pressed it to her chest. She smiled at him and said, "I'm so glad you came into my life."

Two images formed in his mind. One was of a boy and girl happily playing tag under the afternoon sun, and the other was of two teenagers walking home from the market holding hands.

The funny thing was, Kyo reflected, that even when he had thought he disliked the girl in his arms, he had never wished that he had never met her. She was his first friend and he had always been grateful for that.

He knew that things wouldn't be easy. A relationship with Kagura Sohma was bound to be interesting. He thought it possible that she would always have some doubts that he could truly love her. That just meant he'd have to try harder to show her how wonderful she was. It would be a challenge. But he had always loved a good challenge.