Hey again! I just have a short note this time. I think you will notice but I am not doing the traditional Japanese name order. (Last name first that is.) But rather am putting first names first. No particular reason for this. It is just how I wrote it.
But anyway I hope you enjoy the chapter! Let me know what you think about it.
Chapter 2: Heat Wave
A family of birds sang merrily in the early-morning sunlight, their nest perched safely in a large tree that stood directly outside one of the windows of a quaint two story house. Hidden away from the closely packed houses of the suburban neighborhoods the house, though not particularly impressive by itself, was the only residence built within the large wooded area. The land in every direction belonged to the Sohma family, though the house itself had been bought and paid for by Shigure Sohma when he had decided to leave the luxury of the family's main dwelling. It was a private setting far away from the prying eyes of any neighbors.
The loud echo of wood slamming against wood broke through the quiet of the woods as a window on the second story of Shigure's house was thrown violently open. A roughly handsome teenage boy stuck his head out the window and glared up at where the nesting birds were still singing away. Raising a hand up to smooth over his slightly mussed orange hair Kyo Sohma narrowed his bright red eyes at the offending creatures.
"Hey!! Shut the hell up already!! Some people are trying to sleep!!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs before slamming the window shut again. Knowing that he should be up already anyway did nothing to calm the annoyance bubbling within his blood. This kind of rationality, or any kind really, was rarely able to overcome the powerful forces of his hair trigger temper. And the fact that the temperature was already soaring above 90 degrees outside and their air conditioner was still broken didn't help either.
Stalking over to his closet Kyo stood before his selection of comfortable T-shirts and assorted pairs of cargo pants with his arms crossed over his bare chest. Barely spending more than a minute on his decision he grabbed a plain black shirt and random pair of kakis and jerked them on. Padding bare foot to the door of his room Kyo opened it and nearly jumped out of his skin when he caught sight of his cousin, Yuki, lurking directly outside.
Standing with one hand braced against the door jam, his oddly toned gray hair sticking up in several unnatural directions, Yuki sleepily ran his free hand over his half open eyes. "You woke me up," he growled menacingly, his violet gaze flickering up to pin Kyo with a dark glower. "I had another hour before I needed to get up for my student council meeting."
Taking a hasty step away from his cousin Kyo quickly assessed the other teenager's mood as being dangerously close to violence. Yuki was not a morning person, and though Kyo wasn't particularly sorry for waking him, he knew that the other boy could easily kick his ass if he was in the right mood. And right now Yuki definitely seemed to be in the right mood.
They had both lived under the same roof for three years now but their seemingly natural dislike of each other had only faded from outright hatred to reluctant tolerance. Yuki's effortless ability to garner other people's respect annoyed Kyo to no end. The fact that his cousin was cursed with the sign of the rat and he was cursed by the cat had now become merely a secondary reason for their continue rivalry. At least they had gotten to the point where they no longer broke into a fist fight every day.
Bristling defensively, Kyo raised his chin up and fixed a fierce scowl onto his face. "Oh yeah?" he snapped, refusing to show any sign of weakness in front of his greatest rival. "So what?"
Temper flared in Yuki's gaze as he slowly drew himself up to his full height. Looking coolly regal, despite the fact he was still dressed in his pajamas, he stood silently in the doorway for a full minute with his hands slowly fisting at his sides. Then without a word of warning Yuki's left hand shot out, contacting Kyo's shoulder with an open palmed blow even as his foot swung forward and hooked around the red-eyed boy's leg just behind the knee. Caught off guard Kyo let out a curse as he lost his balance and fell flat on his behind.
Straightening his pajama top and smoothing the wildness from his hair Yuki sleepily opened his mouth and yawned. "Next time you feel like shouting like an idiot think twice about it, stupid cat."
Coloring at how easily he had been knocked to the ground Kyo jumped to his feet and launched himself at his cousin. "I'm going to freaking rip your head off you damned rat!!" he howled as he swung a fist at Yuki's delicately handsome face.
Evading the blows the gray-haired boy countered with several well aimed kicks. Drawing on all the years of his martial arts training Kyo looked for even the smallest opening in his cousin's defenses but was unable to find one. Though Yuki was still half asleep at this point he was still dangerously good at fighting. Growing frustrated Kyo let out another curse and swung a wild punch at Yuki's head. Dodging to the side Yuki avoided getting a black eye but Kyo's fist slammed into the wall behind him, putting an almost perfectly round hole into the plaster.
"What are you two doing?!" a feminine voice gasped from out in the hall.
Freezing in mid-fight both boys glanced over at where a pretty girl with long brown hair and large sky blue eyes stood watching them with an expression of shocked dismay. Recovering his composure the quickest Yuki lowered his fists to his sides, a sheepish smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Sorry, Tohru. I didn't realize how loud we were being."
"Ah no… that's not it," she replied, her gaze turning to the hole in the wall. "You were fighting again…"
Remaining silent Kyo dropped his eyes to the floor, as if there was something fascinating glued to the tops of his feet. Shame, instead of the earlier anger, stained his cheeks a bright pink as he listened the worry in Tohru's voice. I always seemed to make her worry.
Tohru hated it when they fought because she considered them both good friends, Kyo knew this, but he just couldn't seem to check himself when it came to Yuki. It was a problem that he had been wrestling with since the moment he had moved into Shigure's house and met Tohru for the first time. And, despite the fact that she was technically their housekeeper, he had always cared about what she thought of him. When she looked at him as she was now, with a touch of disappointment, he practically wanted to crawl under a rug somewhere.
Trying to cover up his embarrassment Kyo pinched his mouth into a thin line. "I didn't mean to worry you," he offered when an awkward silence settled over the room. "Sorry…"
"You should be sorry, not for being your usual stupid self though but because you were hollering loud enough to wake the planet," Yuki added as he strolled toward the door, his movements becoming more controlled as he began to wake up. Smiling at Tohru as he passed her in the hall he reached up to smooth his hair again. "Excuse me for a little while. I will see you again downstairs."
Brightening now that she had something besides their fight to think about, Tohru folded her hands together and tilted her head slightly to the side in thought. "That reminds me! I already have breakfast made so I hope you both are hungry."
Yuki nodded as he continued down the hall, heading to his own room to change out of his pajamas. "I can't wait!" he called over his shoulder, the eagerness in his tone specifically added for Tohru's benefit.
Watching Yuki's retreating figure with a smile Tohru smoothed her hands down the front of the blue sundress she was wearing. After a moment she turned her attention to Kyo, her smiled dimming ever so slightly as she took in his still lowered gaze. "Are you alright Kyo?" she asked gently, her tone automatically soothing the shimmers of annoyance still tightening his fists at his sides. "What were you yelling about earlier?"
Relaxing his stance Kyo finally raised his eyes to meet hers, slowly an awkward smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. "Oh it was nothing… just some stupid birds squawking outside my window," he said with a shrug as he moved forward to join her out in the hallway.
"Some birds?" Tohru repeated her gentle smile growing into a bright grin as she led the way to the stairs. "Do you dislike birds, Kyo?"
Eyeing her suspiciously Kyo scratched his head. What in the world is she smiling at like that? It made him nervous when she directed those bright blue eyes and affectionate smile in his direction alone, like he was the only other person in the world, because it never failed to cause a his heart to flutter stupidly within his chest. "Uh, yeah I guess."
Clapping her hands together like she had made some fantastic discovery Tohru glanced over her shoulder at him as she began descending the stairs. "Do you think that is because you were born as the cat? Like how you don't like the rain too?" she asked enthusiastically.
Finding it impossible to be unmoved by her infectious good humor Kyo chuckled and shook his head, forgetting for a moment that he was still pissed at Yuki or that it was so hot inside the house that he could already feel a sheen a sweat covering his body. She always was doing stuff like that, making the curse seem just a little less grim; injecting a touch of humor and light into his darkness. Making life just a little more bearable.
"I don't know," he said with a laugh. "Could be just because they were being damned annoying."
"Ah I guess so," Tohru agreed as she came to the bottom of the stairs and turned into the kitchen. "It is funny to wonder about things like that though," she said as she moved to the refrigerator. "Would you like some orange juice with breakfast? I am pretty sure we have plenty for today because I just went to the store two days ago."
Helping himself to the food already set out on the counter Kyo waved off her offer. "No thanks. Yuki is the one who likes that stuff more than me anyway," he said off handedly as he flopped down into one of the kitchen chairs instead of carrying his food all the way to the dinning room.
"So you are saving it for him…" Tohru wondered aloud as she sat down at the table with him.
"Pah-lease," he huffed quickly. "As if I would worry about that."
Resting her chin in the palm of one hand Tohru watched him quietly for several moments. "I think you are both getting along better," she said determinedly. "I am glad you are."
Uncomfortable with her line of thought Kyo frowned down at the table. "Aren't you going to eat anything?"
"Oh, I already ate with Shigure. He got up extra early to begin working on his next book. I think he stayed up late last night too. He won't tell me what it is about but it must be something exciting since he is always going off during the day to research it. I know he doesn't want anyone to know it, but he has been working really hard ever since New Years."
"Somehow… that just seems hard to believe," Kyo muttered as Yuki strolled into the kitchen. Looking perfectly put together in a white Chinese style button up shirt Yuki cast a cool glance Kyo's way before turning to get his food. Glaring at his cousin's back Kyo momentarily wondered how the other boy managed to not even appear to sweat despite the heat. God… I hate how he can do that. It is damn annoying!
"By the way," Yuki said as he turned from the counter, his large violet eyes immediately going to Tohru. "If you need anything from the store I can pick it up on my way home today."
"Oh no… I wouldn't want you to trouble yourself!"
Coming to sit down at the table with them Yuki pointedly ignored his cousin. "It wouldn't be any trouble. I have a student council meeting at school today so the store would be on the way back."
"What are you guys already having meetings for? It is summer break now. Geeze you would think you would want to give all that crap a rest once in awhile," Kyo needled.
Stiffening in his chair Yuki turned a narrowed gaze to Kyo. "Don't speak like you know anything about what we do. It takes months to plan some of the school functions so we are getting a head start. Not like you would understand something like setting budgets or preplanning or responsibility."
When Kyo opened his mouth to shoot out another retort Tohru quickly interrupted. "I could use some cucumbers, Yuki… if you are sure it isn't any trouble!" she said hurriedly, effectively cutting off another argument before it could get into full swing.
Nodding vaguely Yuki turned his attention to his food. "Alright… I should be home around three or four."
"Would you like me to pack you a lunch before you go?" Tohru offered helpfully.
Getting to his feet and taking his dishes to the dishwasher Yuki shook his head. "No thanks. I will just buy something there."
"Where are you going? I thought you said you had another hour before you had to go," Kyo asked as he watched his cousin pick up his schoolbag and prepare to leave.
"I will just get there early and get to work. It will save everyone else some time." Turning to Tohru Yuki gave a quick wave and walked out of the kitchen towards the front door.
Sighing, Tohru raised a hand to fan her face. "I hope he doesn't overheat on his way over there. It would be terrible if he transformed where a stranger could stumble upon him," she worried as she ran her teeth over her bottom lip.
Nodding absently Kyo's eyes strayed downward to stare at Tohru's mouth as she continued to worry to herself. Hmm… I don't think I noticed before but she has a really pretty mouth. Jerking up straight in his chair at the thought Kyo tore his eyes away from Tohru. What the hell is wrong with you… thinking about her like that… God I am such a jerk! Getting to his feet without giving his friend another glance he put his dishes away and headed towards the door. I gotta get out of here!
"I think I will head over to the dojo and get some extra practice in. I will see you later!"
"Wait… will you be back for dinner?!" Tohru called after him.
"Yep! Bye!" he shouted over his shoulder as he ran out the front door, leaving Tohru behind to wonder at his sudden departure.
"Great work today everyone," Yuki said with a smile as the other members of the student council gathered up their belongings and headed toward the classroom door. "I really think we are going to be ready when school starts again."
"It is all thanks to you President!" A very pretty girl with long dark hair called out.
Yuki's polite smile slipped marginally as he let out a long suffering sigh. "I think I mentioned before that you really don't have to call me president…"
Ignoring him completely the girl giggled and opened up a pink cell phone to begin texting her friends as she walked out the door. "I will see you at the next meeting President!" Pausing for a moment she looked up from her cell, a sly grin sliding across her face. "Unless, of course, you want to take me out for ice cream sometime," she chirped, twirling a lock of her hair about one finger coyly.
Opening his mouth to respond Yuki felt the tell tale signs of a flustered blush working its way to his cheeks. He had never been good at dealing with the opposite sex, especially in situations that had even the slightest romantic undertones. Though he had become a master at hiding his embarrassment with aloof disregard or cool disdain, it was becoming more and more difficult to ignore the appreciative glances from his female classmates. But more importantly it was becoming a constant struggle to ignore his own heart's secret wish to have someone with whom he could laugh freely and go on a date with, someone with whom he could pretend to be normal, if only for a little while. But of course, that was an impossible wish.
Viciously pushing aside the deep seeded longings stirring within him, Yuki drew his expression in to an impassive mask and busied himself with neatly placing a stack of notes in his school bag.
"Come on now! You are irritating him." One of the other council members laughed as he pushed the girl away from the door. "Besides you have a boyfriend already!"
Shrugging prettily, the girl allowed herself to be led away. "Sorry President! I was just playing a little. Bye-bye!!" Pushing her ahead of the group the other members threw apologetic smiles over their shoulders before they all disappeared around a corner.
Letting out a shaky breath Yuki raised a hand up to press against his temple. Glad that he was finally alone he closed his eyes and took a moment to gather his composure. Just forget about it. It isn't like you even like her. Forget about it. Lowering his hand to the desk he pursed his lips into a firm line and stood. Snagging his school bag by the strap he strode out the door and into the hall.
Moving quickly through the deserted hallways Yuki began to notice how strange the building seemed without the noise and crowding of the other students. The emptiness made it seem as if something vital was missing. Normally when the council had a meeting at the school during a holiday he didn't pay any attention to the echoing stillness of the place, but now, in his current mood, the half lit hallways held a distinctively eerie atmosphere. The hairs along the back of his neck prickled and then stood on end. A spike of apprehension clenched the muscles of his stomach when the unmistakable sensation of being watched slithered into his consciousness.
Coming to an abrupt stop in the middle of the hallway Yuki cast a quick glance over his shoulder. Searching the empty space with narrowed eyes he saw nothing out of the ordinary. Relaxing his tensed stance he let out a nervous laugh and shook his head. "Must have just been my imagination…"
"What is?" A deep masculine voice asked from directly behind Yuki.
Jerking away from the unexpected sound Yuki nearly swung a fist around in an automatically defensive move, but he stopped himself at the last second. A large man in his mid thirties with curly brown hair caught back in a low ponytail stood a few feet down the hallway. Visibly starting at Yuki's shocked reaction the man shifted the stack of folders in his hands and nearly upended them onto the floor.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you!" he exclaimed breathily as he fought to regain some of his own composure. "I thought you heard me coming down the hall," he continued with a grunt as the stack of folders toppled dangerously to the side.
Studying the older man for a moment with a wary frown Yuki finally stirred himself to respond. "You didn't scare me. I was just distracted…" Waiting a beat as he watched the stranger heft his unruly stack of folders back into balance, Yuki then continued carefully. "Um, are you looking for someone here… or…"
"No, no. I work here. I mean I will be working here. Once school starts that is. I am the new art teacher. I'm Shinji Yamahara… nice to meet you," the older man stuttered, a nervous smile sliding across his face as his brown eyes skittered off to glance down the hallway.
Feeling the last visages of apprehension slip away Yuki smiled politely and inclined his head in greeting. "I am Yuki Sohma. Nice to meet you too."
"And what in the world are you doing moping around the empty school building on your summer break, Yuki Sohma?" Yamahara asked as he brought his gaze back around.
Moping? Yuki thought indignantly. I wasn't moping… "I am the President of the student Council," he said a little more sharply than he had intended. "We had a meeting today to plan some events for next year."
"A council meeting in the middle of summer break?" the new teacher asked uncertainly. "You poor boy… Even I wouldn't be here except that I have to move in all my supplies… and I am on the pay roll. I have always thought that empty buildings are really creepy."
Thoroughly annoyed now, but too polite to show it to a teacher, Yuki merely stood by impassively. "It really isn't a big deal. I don't mind a little hard work. It will pay off in the end… And I hardly noticed how empty it was. I am used to it," he lied.
Raising his eyebrows incredulously the older man let out a sigh. "Ah well if you say so." Taking a step forward he moved slowly passed Yuki.
Watching the new teacher warily Yuki's eyes slid to the stack of folders in the man's hands. The top folder had a single name printed neatly upon it, Kyo Sohma. Wondering what exactly Yamahara was carrying Yuki tilted his head to try and get a better look, but the older man moved by too quickly.
"Just make sure you close the door after you go out. I think I will have a heart attack if I run into anyone else unexpectedly," Yamahara called out as he disappeared around a corner, almost loosing control of his load a second time.
Rolling his eyes Yuki jerked around and marched off in the opposite direction. That guy is a new teacher? He seems just about as reliable as my brother would be. What is wrong with him popping up out of nowhere and startling people! How annoying. Scowling openly, because there was no one around to see it, Yuki quickly made his way out of the building. As soon as he opened the door to the outside world a wall of hot air slapped him in the face. Raising a hand up to shield his eyes from the glaring sun he ducked his head against the heat and hurried forward.
Remembering his promise to Tohru, despite his bad mood, he made a left and crossed several streets until he was standing outside a small local grocery store. Walking through the automatic doors he was relieved to feel the first soothing blast of ice cold air conditioning. His annoyance began to fade as he traveled up the aisle toward the fresh foods section. He liked doing something nice for Tohru and carrying out this small favor further calmed his rotten mood. Thinking of how many cucumbers he should buy rather than the exasperating encounter with the new art teacher, Yuki lingered several minutes before making his decision and checking out.
Feeling much better now that he had made his purchase and was on his way home Yuki quickened his step. Ignoring the suffocating heat he mentally went over the plans he and the rest of the council had made that morning. A warm sense of satisfaction eased through his system as he considered the many fantastic ideas that they had come up with for the following school year. Instead of choosing the usual fundraisers and events they had decided to shake things up a bit and go a different route. This year they would keep the very popular cultural festival but rather than celebrating Japanese culture exclusively there would be the addition of several others. A talent show was also scheduled as well as several other smaller events throughout the year.
Thinking about all the changes put a pleased smile upon his face, lighting up his eyes until they glittered violet in the summer sunlight. There was something truly exciting about doing the unexpected for once. He had very little chance of being spontaneous in his everyday life and so he secretly cherished this one chance to do something surprising. It made him feel as if his life had some meaning to it, as if he truly had something to offer.
Unconsciously swinging his grocery bag back and forth in time with the spring in his step Yuki turned a corner and started up a rather steep hill. The sidewalk thinned down as a tall retaining wall jutted out from the hillside, narrowing the walking space to just enough for a single person. Stepping aside to allow an elderly woman to pass by him Yuki pressed his back against the warm concrete of the wall. Smiling kindly when the woman waved her thanks he moved to continue on, his mind once again turning with excitement to the planned events of the coming year.
A sudden loud, trilling noise broke into his thoughts. Blinking in surprise as the noise rapidly drew closer Yuki looked up in time to see a young boy on a wobbling bicycle careening down the hill towards him. Yuki's jaw dropped open in shock as he realized that the noise was the bicycle bell that the kid was desperately ringing because the bike was quickly getting out of control. Having no more than a few seconds to get out of the way Yuki dove to the side and stumbled out into the street. The boy and bike flew by with an audible whoosh, ruffling Yuki's neat gray hair as he went.
Turning with a jerk to stare after the boy, Yuki's heart nearly leapt out of his chest as he watched the boy finally regain control of his bike. "Whoa…" he breathed shakily. "That was clos…"
The terrible shriek of squealing tires interrupted anything else he might have said. Wrenching his eyes towards the deafening noise Yuki had time to see the gleam of sun off of jet black metal roaring down the street before a cloud of burning rubber passed before his vision. With no time to dodge he tensed every muscle in his body and waited for the bone crushing impact.