1Ghost Hunt

D M Evans

Disclaimer - The Fruits Basket characters belong to Natsuki Takaya et al and not I. I'm just taking them out for a little nonprofit fun.

Rating - FRT

Time Line - set soon after the start the school year in Ch 19

Summary - a school outing doesn't go exactly as planned

Pairings - none really, just some harmless flirting among friends

Author's note - #1 this is my first Fruba fanfic so I'm still finding their voices and I took some liberties with Haru's mother who hasn't been seen yet (at least as of vol. 13). This was written for the Spook Me Multi-fandom Halloween ficathon. My prompts I could chose from were b Alien, Tentacle Monster, and/or alone in the dark and I'll confess to playing a little fast and loose with them. Oddly enough my Halloween fic turned out more darkly humorous than scary.

Author's Note #2 - I have a feeling that the class levels in Japan are far more insular than this and wouldn't go out on outings together but really, I wanted Haru on this adventure so let's pretend okay. And the games they played here, well, let's see, the kimodameshi is the 'test of people's courage' and the point (such as my limited understanding is) is you have a goal that you have to get to (usually set in a haunted house or cemetery-like setting) and you have other people trying to scare you and prevent you from reaching the goal. The hyaku monogatari is the 100 stories. Traditionally it starts at midnight when a hundred paper lanterns are lit and are extinguished one at a time after each story and ghosts are supposed to come and check things out once all is said and done. Obviously, the kids are playing fast and loose with this.

Author's Note #3- Thanks to evillittledog for the beta and to Mjules for reading and encouraging me and to the moderators of this ficathon. It's such a fun idea. I enjoyed it!

"This is stupid," Kyo grumbled, looking at the collection of students that had been bused to a wooded area with an old abandoned house overlooking it. It was as promised, creepy.

"I can't believe I'm agreeing with Orangey," Uotani grumbled.

"Why are Momiji, Haru and other underclassmen even here?" Kyo sulked, continuing the griping that had started on the bus trip to the countryside.

"Because Kyo-san, if you had been paying the slightest bit of attention, this school function isn't just for one class," the student body president, Makoto Takei said. "It's to help us get to know all of Kaibara's students. It was Yuki-kun's idea to bring us together." he added with obvious adoration in his eyes.

Yuki shifted uneasily, looking for a way to deflect attention away from himself. "The kimodameshi and the hyaku monogatari were group efforts, more so than my idea. I'm not even on the student council."

"Yet!" Minami, one of the Yuki fan club girls cried, trying to sneak over closer to him.

"We should get started." Takei took point, leading the students into the forest. They put down the blankets on the ground in a clearing and settled down for the hyaku monogatari

"We're not really going to tell a hundred ghost stories are we before we do the ghost hunt?" Tohru shuddered, sitting between Uotani and Hana. Traditionally the hyaku monogatari entailed the telling of ghost stories until a hundred paper lanterns were extinguished. They were going to make do with a few stories and a flashlight.

"I hope so. I could use the nap." Kyo stretched, making a big production out of not paying attention.

"It'll be all right, Tohru-chan," Haru said in his usual place tones. "In your head, you can change the scary parts into something sweet so you won't have to be afraid."

"Or better yet," Uotani said with a wicked grin. "You grab onto the nearest cute guy and hang on tight."

"Uo-chan!" Tohru cried, blushing in the camp lantern light.

"That is the point of this, isn't it?" Hana feigned innocence, smoothing a hand over the spider web pattern of her shirt.

"It is?" Kyo blurted out, glaring at Rat boy, thinking this was the worst idea ever. Just because Yuki wanted to push the boundaries of the curse didn't mean Kyo did.

"We said we'd be hugging cute guys, Orange-top. You can relax." Uotani flashed him a wicked grin.

"Shut it, Yankee!" Kyo growled, bristling so much his cousins could imagine his arched back and puffy tail.

Tohru clamped a hand over his arm. "You can keep me safe." She reached over to Momiji who had edged closer, his eyes wide. "You can help too, Momiji."

Kyo huffed but he settled down to all the horror stories. He listened with half an ear to Haru retelling one of Shigure's sicker stories with a few twists of his own. Sometimes Kyo wondered about the Ox. Haru could be the sweetest guy ever but his dark side was really something else. Of course, that's what made Haru interesting. Even if pushed, Kyo wouldn't admit he sort of liked his younger cousin but he did.

Haru handed Kyo the flashlight. "Your turn, Kyon."

Kyo acted on impulse and told the sad tale of the poor possessed young man with a sickening evil spirit inside him, a tale of lost love and wasted futures. Even Uotani looked a little sad at the tale. Kyo felt triumphant. Yuki, on the other hand glared at him, mostly because the Yuki stand in in Kyo's story had been well and truly mauled by the cat monster.

"Your imagination is scary," Tohru said, a little tremble running through her. Kyo didn't get why. It wasn't like she didn't know the real story.

"I like it," Hana put in as Kyo passed on the flashlight.

"Thanks." He flashed a shy smile at her.

Predictably they ran out of stories long before they reached a hundred then Takei had them draw lots to break up into teams for the kimodameshi. Other members of the class had already been stationed in the woods between the start of the game and the goal, the 'haunted' abandoned house. Yuki had wanted to be one of the people who jumped out and scared the others since it was less risky hug-wise than being with a pack of frightened girls but no one thought he could be scary and vetoed the idea. Maybe he should have enlisted Kyo for that. It would have appealed to the cat's nature but Yuki was half afraid of what his cousin might do. The best Yuki could hope for now was not to get grouped with too many of his fan club. They started drawing lots to pick their groups.

"Oh, look I'm in the same group as you, Kyo-kun," Tohru bubbled, waving her slip of paper bearing her group number.

"Lucky me, so am I," Uotani grumped, eyeing the cat sourly.

"Me too!" Momiji grabbed Kyo's arm. "This will be fun."

Kyo yanked his arm free from a non-plussed Momiji.. "Kill me."

"How about you, Hana-chan?" Tohru turned to her black clad friend

The Goth girl looked at her number. "I'm with Yuki-kun," she replied and Yuki relaxed a bit. Hana wasn't the huggy, shrinking violet type.

"As am I, Yuki." Haru beamed and Yuki rolled his eyes. If the ox proclaimed his love once during this, he was going to kick Haru in the tail.

"And it's my lucky day," Takei proclaimed happily, showing the number that said he was in Yuri's group.

Yuki scowled at a snickering Kyo when two of his fan club, Takeda Kiyomi and Minami, were added to his group. He envied the cat's group.

"Well, let's get it over with," Kyo said, striking out on a path.

"After you, Yuki," Haru smiled.

Yuki just sighed and led the way.

XXX

"Why did you even come if all you're going to do is complain, Orangey?" Uotani grumbled as they went along. She dodged a tree root.

Kyo blinked at her, not expecting that question. For a moment the sounds of the woods at night flooded in. The trill of night birds, the songs of the cricket were scarier than anything that had happened so far which was sad. "I...beats sitting at home, I guess." He thought about that for a moment and decided that was true. Why sit around staring at his perverted cousin, Shigure, who couldn't even be trusted not to give away his room? Not to mention Yuki was coming and how could he pass up a chance to one-up the rat? Kyo couldn't let Yuki go off with Tohru alone, after all.

"Aren't you scared at all, Kyon?" Tohru grabbed his hand. "I'm shaking."

"Me, too!" Momiji said, bouncing around Kyo and Tohru and nearly ricocheted into a tree. "But Kyo's never scared."

"Yeah, he's so bad." Uotani snorted, chucking Kyo's shoulder.

Kyo danced away, dragging Tohru with him. Uotani was scary enough. The touch of a girl, it shouldn't be a scary thing. It was patently unfair that he and his cousins had to fear touch. It was wrong that normal things were so out of reach. There was no fear in him for what might pop out of the game at him. No, he was afraid it would scare Tohru or Uotani - okay, that was unlikely - or one of the other girls and they'd crash into him "Let's just concentrate on beating Yuki's group," he suggested, trying to put distance between himself and the girls.

"I can go along with that." Uotani grinned. It was times like this that Kyo actually had to admit Arisa wasn't so bad. She made a good partner in crime.

XXX

"Haru, stay close," Yuki hissed, seeing his cousin heading off the path just a little. Haru got lost for days going between two houses he knew well. If he disappeared in the woods, they'd need a search party.

Haru obeyed immediately, Hana moving in his wake. They looked rather well matched; Hana in her dress of many layers of black lace and muslin and Haru in black and red with multiple silver bats holding the straps on his flashy pants. Both had spider web motifs on their shirts.

"I think the leader of the idiot brigade would rather take up that spot close to you," Haru whispered, his eyes canting toward Takei.

"Haru, stop it." Yuki glared at him and his cousin pouted. "Besides, you're likely to get lost if you get too far from the group."

"He's wearing a collar. I'd gladly put a leash on him," Hana offered, ticking the D-ring in the dragon's mouth - the silver collar's centerpiece.

Yuki shuddered as Haru grinned at the girl. He wasn't sure if his cousin was even aware of how much he flirted. Haru could flirt as easily as he breathed. It was a wonder Rin put up with him or maybe the flirting was a ruse so no one knew Haru was close to anyone.

"When does the scary start?" Hana asked, glancing around at the twist of trees the path wended through. She didn't find dark forests inherently frightening.

"Maybe when we get to the house," Haru replied, sounding as disappointed as Hana.

"That would be our goal, the end of the game. It should be scary before that," Hana sniffed.

"Maybe we should have started in the haunted house and the goal would be to get ourselves out," Haru suggested and Hana made happy little noises at that idea.

"Oh no!" Kiyomi proclaimed, grabbing onto Takei's shirt. "That would be too scary. This is scary enough."

Haru and Hana exchanged long suffering glances, their eyes rolling in concert.

"Why don't we go this way," Yuki suggested, pointing out a path, knowing a classmate awaited on it. Well, it would do them some good to finally get to something scary.

XXX

Kyo tapped Uotani's shoulder and put a finger to his lips. He pointed to a large tree where he had spotted one of their classmates hiding and waiting to scare the team to throw them off their goal. He beckoned for Uotani to follow him so they could sneak up on the person who was meant to frighten them. She grinned with delight at turning the tables. Neither even thought to include Tohru or Momiji who were talking so loudly they were giving away their position to the entire world but at least they sounded like they were having fun. Besides, those two would dither at doing something bad and Uotani wouldn't.

He and Uotani snuck up behind the crouched student who obviously had his sights set on Tohru. Kyo grabbed the boy's shoulder as Uotani screamed in his ear. The student shrieked loudly. Their team screamed even more loudly and everyone, including the forest monster, ran leaving Kyo and Uotani behind.

"That was so worth it," Uotani laughed, holding onto a tree as she giggled.

"Totally...um, we don't have a flashlight," Kyo said, a scowl cutting across his face.

"Alone in the dark..." Uotani nudged him. "Just my luck, I'm stuck with you."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Kyo bristled.

Uotani laughed and started walking. "We'd better catch up with them." She stumbled over a root.

Kyo's hand flashed out and he caught her before he could stop himself. Idiot! What if she stumbled back into him? Luckily, she didn't. He took Uotani's hand. "I see pretty well in the dark," he informed her honestly.

"Thanks," she mumbled. "But if you tell anyone we held hands, I'll kill your ass, Kyon."

"If I'm going to tell stories about this - which I wouldn't since I have better taste in girls - we'd be doing more than holding hands," Kyo shot back and she punched him in the back. Kyo just laughed and tugged her along.

XXX

"I shouldn't have come," Kiyomi fretted, trying to find a way to hold on to Yuki but he was too elusive. "This is too scary."

"When?" Hana muttered, bunching up her skirts in her hand.

"I think it's fun," Haru said, helping Hana over a fallen log.

"It's because you're as scary as Hanajima-san, Hatsuharu-san," Kiyomi replied. "I almost cried when the last monster popped out of the woods at us."

Haru helped Kiyomi over the log as well, in spite of the slight.

"It's not like they're really going to hurt you," Hana said, rolling her eyes, impatient with her classmate's silliness.

"You don't know. I ran into a tree and fell the last time something popped out at us," Minami cried.

"Isn't that the house right there through the clearing?" Yuki asked as Takei shone their flashlight ahead of them. "And no sign of Kyo's team," he added happily.

"Let's hurry," Takei suggested and as he took the lead, a classmate jumped out of his hiding spot with a scream. Takei shrieked and slammed into a tree. The flashlight died with a crunching noise.

Darkness wormed along the wooded pathway, so heavy it seemed like it was alive. Kiyomi let out a blood curdling cry, latching onto Haru, knocking him into Hana. He wasn't sure which willow arm went where. Haru barely had time to curse and yank himself out of the tangle of feminine arms before his oxen form could crush the girls.

"What the?" Hana mumbled as Kiyomi started making noises so high only Shigure should have been able to hear them.

"A monster!" Kiyomi screeched as Yuki cut back towards them in the darkness. "It ate Hatsuharu-kun!" She tried to run and slammed into Haru's backside. His tail slapped her in the face. "Tentacles! It's a tentacles monster!" Kiyomi nearly bowled Yuki over chasing after the rest of the terrified team, bolting for the clearing around the abandoned house.

"Tentacle monster?" Hana asked Yuki. "On dry land?"

Yuki rolled his shoulders, inwardly cursing their luck. Of all his cousins on this trip, why did it have to be Haru who changed. He was big, noticeable and his clothing wouldn't have survived the change. "I have no idea."

Hana squinted in the dark. "Looks more like a cow that escaped its pasture." She glanced down between Haru's legs. "Well, a bull at any rate. Aren't they supposed to be violent?

"Guess we got lucky," Yuki said wryly as Haru's head swivelled toward Hana. At least there wasn't enough light for her to see the ox had the same three earrings per ear that Haru wore. "Why don't you join the others, Hanajima-san? I'll check to see if anyone ran the wrong direction...namely Haru who can get lost in his own house. Can you make it in the dark alone?"

Hana shot him a look that said he was being stupid. "Of course."

Yuki waited until Hana was out of ear shot then turned to Haru. "It was Kiyomi, wasn't it?"

"Yes." Haru scuffed a hoof in the underbrush.

"Tentacle monster?" There was a hint of absurd humor in Yuki's voice.

"She ran into my tail...then Hana-chan ogled my fun parts. I feel so violated." His head drooped.

Yuki ignored the reference to Haru's currently outsized anatomy and pulled out his cell phone. "Hatori, it's Yuki. There's been an incident at the school outing. We might need your help...you're at Shigure's? No, don't tell him...it was Haru."

Haru caught the hem of Yuki's shirt with his blunt teeth. "Don't tell him that."

Yuki tugged his shirt free then put a hand on Haru's thick neck. "You're going to be naked in a few minutes Haru, Hatori will figure it out."

"Oh...yeah," Haru added an inventive curse and Yuki raised an eyebrow at him. "Don't look at me like that, Yuki-kun. You just fall out of your clothes when you transform. I just lost an expensive outfit and I'm not going to be able to get dressed and joined the group."

"Tell them the tentacle monster got your clothes," Yuki snickered.

"Not funny. Do you know how much those boots cost?" Haru's tail swished angrily as he pawed the ground.

"I'm more worried about the bat earrings. You're so strange. You stay here. I'll tell everyone you got lost and come back for you once I calm everyone down," Yuki said then tensed as something crashed through the woods.

Kyo thundered into view, hurtling over a branch. "I heard Haru was attacked and...oh. What the hell, Haru?"

"There was an accident. You stay with Haru. I'll tell everyone you're out looking for him. No one will care if the tentacle monster gets you," Yuki said, smirking.

"Drop dead, rat boy," Kyo growled but Yuki ignored him and moved off. Kyo couldn't go after him because Haru had the hem of his shirt in his mouth. "This wasn't one of our better plans," Kyo said to Haru who sighed.

"It wasn't even scary, that's what really sucks." Haru shook his head. "Damn now my ear itches."

"I scared one of the people who were supposed to scare us, that was fun," Kyo said wickedly, leaving no doubt in Haru's mind that he had enjoyed it. Kyo scratched behind Haru's long ear.

"I think I connected a little with Hana-chan." Haru leaned into his cousin's touch. "She's different. Hmmm."

"I think you mean freaky," Kyo shot back, dropping his hand. "Then again, you're wearing bat earrings and..." Kyo scuffed a foot in the underbrush, turning up the collar. "This!"

Haru changed back with a pout. "Now I'm naked in the woods."

"And I have to stare at you. Well, at least it's dark and I don't have to see you clearly," Kyo grumbled as he handed back the collar.

"Hatori is coming. I have to stay here until then...unless I want to go back with the class and say the tentacle monster got my clothes." Haru examined the collar. The hinge had popped when his neck expanded but it was undamaged. He slipped it on.

"I'd pay to see that if you weren't related to me. I'm not going through the humiliation of being your cousin next week in school if you flash the class," Kyo warned.

Haru huffed at Kyo but settled in for standing around in the cool night air, naked, hoping no one came looking for him. Finally Yuki came to tell him it was all clear. Hatori had arrived and done his thing with memories and the students had been bused back home. Haru picked his way through the woods barefoot, yelping the few times Kyo missed moving a branch for him.

"Here you go, Haru," Shigure said, holding out a yukata for him.

"Why did you come, too?" Haru said, hating that everyone in the family was bound to know he had made a fool of himself. He slipped into the soft cotton robe.

"Hatori was at my place. I just kept him company," Shigure said lightly, ignoring Yuki and Kyo fighting over who got to sit on the hump in the back seat. Tohru had gone back on the bus with Momiji to help keep the rabbit out of trouble. "Your mother will be waiting for you at my house. It might be better if you spend the night, if Akito heard about this..."

"I'll sit on the hump," Haru interrupted, feeling depressed. He didn't want to think about Akito. He climbed in between Yuki and Kyo and crossed his arms tightly over his chest.

"Haru," Kyo said, finally giving up his bitching at Yuki. "I think your feet are bleeding."

Haru lifted one, looking at it, feeling the cuts and punctures in his sole. "It'll be okay," he said, trying to hold onto his white self. He knew he was going to get blamed even if this wasn't all his fault. He was just so tired of being this way. Haru shut his eyes and pretended he didn't care about what was going on around him.

Haru didn't stir himself until they got back to Shigure's and he saw his mother's little car outside the house. She was waiting on the porch, obviously having taken the time to fix her hair perfectly, to do her make up and clothing like she was going to a fashion shoot and not going to pick up her errant son. Haru wasn't sure Momiji was exactly right. Juunishi mothers weren't always over protective or totally abandoning. His mother was neither really. She loved him, sure but she wanted to pretend he was anything but the ox. Was she embarrassed that she gave birth to the moo-ron? Did she really think that if she and he looked good, if they were beautiful enough, that the problems he faced wouldn't be real.

She said nothing, just letting her stare say it for her as Shigure unlocked the door to his home and ushered Haru inside. Haru limped along then sat on the couch, waiting for it.

"How did you let this happen, Haru?" Hatori asked, taking out a cigarette. "It was a job working on that many people. We probably shouldn't have let Momiji go home with them on the bus. Hopefully Tohru will keep him from crashing into anyone."

"I don't know how you could have been so stupid, Haru. You know the dangers. How could you have even let a girl get so close," his mother ranted. "We're always cleaning up your messes. Do you even think before you do things? You can't be this clumsy. Hatori might not always be there to fix things," she continued and Haru slumped on the couch. She paced back and forth in front of him. "Why can't you ever do the right thing, Haru? Tattoos, piercing, those horrible clothes of yours, the collars, I'm very lenient but if you keep messing up like this, you're going to have to go back to an all-boy's school. I should never have let you talk me into going to Yuki's school. I only said yes because I didn't think the ox could pass the entrance exams." His mother missed the tears starting to pearl the fringes of Haru's eyelashes. He wanted to go black but this was his mother and she was scared and angry and she didn't really mean what she said, did she? He couldn't go black on her.

"That's not fair," Kyo snarled. "You shouldn't yell at Haru like that. None of you."

Everyone looked at him in shock, Haru and Yuki included.

"Haru isn't stupid. He's never been stupid," Kyo said, having had more than enough of his family. He and Haru were always the butt of the stupid jokes and he was fed up with it.

"You know the story as well as any of us," Haru's mother said.

Kyo threw up a hand. "So what? None of you treat Yuki like shit but the rat was the one who caused all the problems. The cat innocently believed what the rat told him and I have to bear the punishment for that. So what if the ox let the rat ride him to the banquet? How does that make the original ox stupid? It makes him kind hearted and protective of someone smaller and less able than him. That's what Haru is. He's too good for this family. We're all so cruel to each other, me included. Haru is usually the sweetest person around. He looks out for all of us. He makes sure that no one is bothering Yuki, not even his brother. He takes care of Kisa. Hell, he even talks to the cat. And what was his thanks for this? We broke him into pieces that he can't put together right, not even with Kazuma's help."

Kyo whirled on his heel, turning his back on his stunned relatives. "Whatever, I'm done with this drama. I'm going to bed."

"Kyo, wait!" Haru got up, wincing as his cut up feet contacted the floor. Kyo turned and looked at him. Haru looked at him with those big cow eyes shining with emotion. "Thank you."

"Man, never talk about this night again, okay." Kyo flushed, embarrassed at how open he had been. Someone would think he was in love with Haru or something stupid like that. He was just tired of the put downs. It was about time someone took a stand. No one deserved to be called stupid, not even the rat.

Kyo was so glad the adults didn't say a word and better yet Rat-boy was silent, but looking at him in something that was almost like approval. Kyo didn't know what to do with that so he just did what he said he was going to do. He went to his room after getting washed up and crawled into bed. A soft knock on his door dragged Kyo away from the edge of sleep. "Yeah, what?"

The door opened and Haru hobbled in. He lifted one foot. "Hatori fixed me up."

"Did they keep on yelling at you?" Kyo asked, not sure he wanted an answer.

Haru shook his head, his white hair flopping into his eyes. "No and Mom went home. I'm going to spend the night here."

"Oh." Kyo shut his eyes then they snapped open. "Here? Hell. Where do you think you're sleeping?"

Haru pointed at the other side of Kyo's mattress.

"Can't you sleep in Shigure's room?" Kyo asked and Haru's eyes narrowed. "Or with Yuki. You like him."

Haru's lips fell into a little pout. "Yuki's door is locked and besides...I thought." Haru shook his head with a sigh. "I'll sleep on the couch."

Kyo saw the hurt in Haru's eyes. Hadn't he just campaigned for more compassion in the Sohma family. "You can stay."

Haru beamed and slipped into bed.

"But stay on your own side and you're not going to do anything weird, are you?" Kyo asked worriedly.

"Weird?"

"You know what I mean." Kyo glared at him.

Haru huffed but curled up on his side, facing away from Kyo. "Nothing weird."

"Good." Kyo tried not to regret this decision and didn't have a lot of time to fret about it before he almost fell asleep. Once more he was dragged back awake, this time by the sounds of Haru giggling. "What the hell, Haru? Shut up."

"Tentacle monster," Haru gasped and both boys fell out into giggling fits.

Finally, they subsided. Kyo looked over his shoulder at Haru. "Tentacles!"

And they were off giggling again. They kept winding down and setting each other off until they heard Shigure outside the door.

"I think Haru is initiating Kyo into some of the things he's read in my books. Sounds like they're enjoying it," Shigure said.

"You're sick," Hatori said, followed by the sounds of him pulling Shigure away.

"Eww, pervert!" Kyo screamed after them then looked over at Haru. "We'd better get some sleep or Gure-san is going to be telling all sorts of crap to Ayame tomorrow."

Haru nodded and waited until Kyo's eyes were shut before adding. "I don't regret going tonight."

"Me neither." Kyo mumbled.

Haru shifted on the bed and hugged Kyo. "Thank you, Kyon, for what you said."

Kyo squirmed away. "Haru, that counts as weird." He shoved Haru back to his side of the bed. "And you're welcome."

Haru was almost asleep when he stirred and added. "My only regret...tonight wasn't scary in the least."

"Yeah, I know." Kyo tucked up under the covers. "Next time, we find something really scary to do."