Once again, I am venturing into the world of Fruits Basket. Huzzah! I need a break from my other stories just because I'm getting drained of ideas. Ugh. I hate writers' block. So, in an attempt to get the juices flowing again, I'm going to write something completely different. So, here we go!

Another thing: I do not and probably never will understand the formality terms of this particular culture, so I'm not even going to try to use them. I hope that doesn't effect your reading experience:D

Disclaimer: I, unfortunately, do not own Fruits Basket nor anything pertaining to it. Le sigh.

XXXXX

A Love Remembered

Long, graceful fingers trailed lightly over the photograph, pausing in their motion to press down a corner that had folded over. In the photo was a young girl, about high school age, and there was a gentle smile upon her face. Her long, ebony hair billowed in the wind like a banner, and her carefree, blue eyes gazed at something off in the distance, out of view of the camera. A long, coffee colored skirt twisted about her legs, and a burgundy sweater told of the chilly weather that day.

The fingers moved again, this time to rest on yet another photo that featured the same girl, but a boy with long, silver hair and unusual golden eyes accompanied her, and both had identical grins on their faces. Their fingers were intertwined with each other's, but no where else did they make contact. It appeared almost as if they had adopted this pose only for the picture, and as soon as it had been taken, they had released one another.

However, there were only a select few that knew this assumption to be false.

Smiling fondly, Ayame Sohma leaned his elbows on the table and rested his cheek in his free hand. He could feel the questioning gaze of his friend on him, but he did not look at him.

"What has so you captivated?" Shigure asked curiously, leaning forward to look at the photo album as well. A smile lit up his features, and he cast a knowing gaze toward Ayame, "It has been a while, hasn't it?"

"It sure seems like it," He answered, "How long has it been? Ten, eleven years since I've last seen her?"

The novelist blew an errant strand of hair from his eyes, "I can't imagine you still have feelings for her."

Ayame laughed then, and resumed flipping through the pages of the album, "Honestly, Shigure, who do you think I am? Some sort of love-struck high school kid? Besides," He smiled mischievously at the man, "I only have eyes for one person, and I think we both know very well who that person is."

"Oh, I believe I do, Aaya." He replied softly, a hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

Identical, perky grins suddenly appeared on their faces, and they simultaneously gave each other thumbs up, "Yes!"

Both laughing now, their eyes returned to the photos of their youth; however, Ayame could not help but allow his mind to wander back to all of the memories that he had shared with that girl- both the good ones and the bad.

§

"Ha'ri, couldn't you lighten up a bit?" The dark haired boy prodded, walking backwards in order to get a good look at his friend. He shoved his hands in his back pockets, a grin plastered on his face, but the other boy's face remained as stoic as ever. There was a hint of annoyance in his eyes, but he remained silent as he walked. The boy pouted, "Oh, Hatori, you're never any fun!"

"'Gure's right, you know!" Piped yet a rather energetic boy, bouncing alongside the one named Hatori. His silvery white hair, braided loosely at his back, swung back and forth with every step, and his golden eyes glinted happily, "Come on, have some fun! Summer break is finally here! We're free!"

"You know, being an idiot isn't the only way to show your excitement," Hatori said with a roll of his eyes, but both of his friends saw the slight smile.

Shigure faced forward again and fell back into step with the other two, "What do you suggest, Aaya?" As if on call, a rumbling sound issued from his belly, earning himself one grin and one sigh. He laughed in embarrassment, "Well, I got an idea if you don't have one."

Ayame opened his mouth to reply, but Hatori interrupted him by brushing past the both of them, "Let's just find something to eat before he decides to rob someone again."

Behind his back, the two boys grinned cheerfully, then happily followed after him without another word. They did not bother to ask which restaurant they would be going to, for there was only one place in all the city that could possibly satisfy the needs of this particular trio. Before long, one sign out of all the flashing neon advertisements caught their eyes, and not even the people bustling past them was able to deter them from their mission. Even Hatori seemed to drop his usual demeanor and he joined in with his friends' excitement.

As soon as the door had opened, a rush of cool air accompanied by the sweet aromas of sweet, savory spices and sauces greeted them. The chattering of dining guests filled their ears as they entered, taking a seat in the far back corner where, for some reason, there seemed to be an absence of people. Not long after they had decided to make this their regular stop did people begin to avoid them; even the waiters seemed reluctant to serve them. Not that they would care, of course.

"So, what do we have planned for the summer?" Shigure asked, "I think it'd be fun to go to the lake house or something; when was the last time we went there?"

"Three years," Hatori answered him, leaning back into the seat.

"Why so long?" Ayame wondered to himself, not entirely expecting a response.

"Because you two thought it would be fun to jump off the porch into the lake in the middle of the night," Hatori looked up when a waiter made to come back in their direction, but upon seeing who he would be serving, stopped abruptly and fled back towards the kitchens.

The white haired boy smiled, "I don't remember you ever trying to stop us, though, Ha'ri." He reminded, "Actually, I think you encouraged it."

There was a moment of silence in which Hatori simply stared at the other as if he had just sprouted another head. The smile on Ayame's face could only grow into a grin when the boy chuckled lightly.

"Maybe."

"If you are ready, I will take your order for you," A soft voice said at the side of their table. They looked up to see a young girl with a pleasant smile upon her face. The three boys watched her with surprised eyes as she bowed slightly at the waist, "My name is Arika Sasaki; I'm new here, and everyone in the kitchen said that I should learn who you are," She shrugged, then held up a small notepad, "So, what would you like?"

When no response came, the girl peeked over her notepad to find them still staring at her with the same expressions. Feeling awkward, she frowned and adopted a shy pose, "I'm sorry, would you like someone with more experience?"

"Oh, no, don't be silly!" Ayame suddenly exclaimed, startling the other two out of their stupor. He beamed up at the timid girl, "Forgive these two brutes; they just don't know how to act when there's such a pretty girl around."

"You shouldn't be talking," Hatori muttered, shaking his head, then returned his attention to Arika, "Don't listen to him, Miss. Sasaki. He's just an idiot." Ayame's laughter only served to prove his point. Sensing the girl's embarrassment, he quickly listed off their usual order, allowing her to retreat back to the safety of the kitchens.

Hatori immediately rounded on Ayame, "I don't think that was necessary."

"But it was all in good fun!" He argued, throwing his hands up in surrender.

"We have to welcome her to the place anyway," Shigure added, staring after the girl as she disappeared into the back room, "And besides, she was quite pretty. Don't you think?"

"I'm not even going to honor that with a reply."

Arika made her appearance only twice more: to deliver the food and their bill. As they were leaving the restaurant, they thought to seek her out and thank her personally for the food, but she had disappeared without them realizing it. Soon, however, the girl had passed from their thought, and they returned to their typical daily activities.

§

"Do you remember how frightened she was of us?" Ayame thought aloud. Shigure glanced up from the album to his friend, his lips pursed.

"Who?" He studied his features, then smiled, "Arika? Probably, after what you said to her."

Ayame pretended to look hurt, "Forgive me, but I have always been one to speak my mind!" He laughed, "You know it was true; I'm sure Ha'ri thought so, too. He was just too shy to admit it."

"Shy? Or had enough sense not to scare her?"

§

Multiple times a week, the trio would dine in the restaurant, but they never once spotted Arika again. Perhaps they had scared her so badly that she quit her job to work someone else, an idea that Ayame constantly rejected. In reality, he just feared to be held to blame for it. He, of course, would never express these doubts to his friends, and so simply tolerated their jokes. It would be a long while before any of them would see her again, and the end result would be quite different than the first.

Ayame took a deep breath, shutting his eyes and turning his face upwards to feel the warmth of the sun on his skin. His long, silver hair fell down in soft waves to his mid-back, blowing gently in the faint wind, free from its usual braid. The hustle and bustle of the city impeded on his tranquil moment, with the roaring cars and chattering people as they passed him by. He watched them occasionally from the bench, wondering what their story was, and if it was similar at all to his.

A doubtful look came to his face; he found his own wonderings hard to believe.

Then, somehow, a voice so timid and hesitant was able to break through the sounds of the city and draw the boy's attention. His golden eyes widened to see a girl about his own age watching him cautiously. Swallowing hard, he couldn't help but shift his attention from her face down her entire figure, then back up again. Her pale pink sundress coordinated perfectly with her pale skin tone, and her blue eyes were accented by the single blue flower tucked behind her ear. Dark, ebony hair fell down in soft waves to her back, framing her blushing cheeks. A single book was held loosely in delicate fingers, while her other hand was occupied with a plastic bag that nearly knocked the entire picture off balance.

Ayame had a feeling he was making her uncomfortable again when she started fidgeting, so he attempted to relieve her hesitance with a smile.

"So, we meet again, Miss. Sasaki!" He greeted, patting beside him for her to sit down, "How about we sit and talk for a little bit? We never had the opportunity at the restaurant."

Still blushing, Arika obliged, and sat beside him, but kept her eyes averted to the book in her lap. To those passing, it was an image of complete opposites- while the girl sat hunched up, trying to disappear, the boy was more than happy to flaunt who he was, and sat in a way that clearly screamed confidence. Some smiled as they passed, while others simply looked away.

"So, Miss. Sasaki, what brings you out here?"

"Well," She started quietly, so that Ayame leaned forward to hear her, "I was on my way home from work, but decided to stop and do a few things for my mother before I came home," She motioned to the bag at her feet, "Groceries."

"How boring," He said flippantly, waving his hand. He leaned back on the bench, shutting his eyes, "There are so many other things that you could be doing."

Hurt, Arika said, "Well, I must do my duties to my family."

One golden eye opened to look lazily at her, and he sighed, "I understand."

Silence fell between the two teens, although Ayame was much less bothered by it than the girl was. The busy noise of the streets seemed to increase tenfold, and whether this had a part to play in what she said next or not, the teen didn't know.

"I think it's time I get home," She said, standing up. A delicate finger tucked long strands of hair behind her ear, "It was nice seeing you again…um…"

"Ayame Sohma," He filled in for her, "But you can just call me Aaya, if you want. Everyone else does." He grinned. A bit startled by the lack of formality, Arika bowed at the waist again as a blush grew steadily on her cheeks.

"Good bye then… Ayame." The idea of using such an informal name for him made the girl uncomfortable, having barely even met him, but it didn't appear to bother him very much. He simply waved cheerfully as she turned and left to join in the crowd and was soon lost in the sea of bodies.

A small frown marred the snake's face, and he uttered under his breath before standing and continuing in the opposite direction, "See you, Arika."

From then on, any meeting that the girl and any three of the boys had, it was short and brief, usual consisting of only a passing greeting. Neither parties made any attempt to grow closer to one another, both having their own fears and worries of doing so. Summer came and left, landing every youth in the vicinity back in school, must to their chagrin and displeasure. Leaves changed and fell to coat the grass, and the bare trees appeared as frail skeletons against the hazy, grey sky. Snow blanketed the frozen ground like one massive cloud, and sparkling flakes fell like stars from the heavens above. Everywhere, one could hear the laughter of children as they tussled and played in the snow, oblivious to the roaring cars just inside the city.

Shigure glanced worriedly at his friend wrapped tightly in an extravagant fur coat as he gave another violent shiver that made his teeth chatter together. Ayame pulled the coat closer about his body, his eyes hazed with fatigue. The dark haired teen shot his other friend a knowing look, then stopped suddenly, placing a hand on the snake's shoulder.

"Are you sure you'll be okay? We really don't need you transforming here," Shigure scanned the small park where a few children were chasing one another with snowballs, their families watching with amused smiles on their faces, "I think it would be a little bit more than unusual."

"Shigure's right, for once," Hatori agreed, "You should know by now that the cold effects you more than other people."

The silver haired teen pretended to look offended, "I think I know my own limitations, Ha'ri." As if to prove his point, he released his arms that were folded around his chest and chose to simply tuck them in his pockets. Turning his nose to the air, Ayame strode forward with a confident bounce to his step. The falter he soon made, followed by yet another shiver, did not go unnoticed by the other two.

"Okay, Ayame," Hatori said, "I'm sorry that it hurts your pride, but would you please just do this one thing? For us?"

Ayame stopped to look over his shoulder at the two of them, regarding them with a careful eye, then sighed, "Fine." As the boy trudged his way over to them, Hatori and Shigure shared a successful smile, then flanked their friend as he continued past them.

The sound of clear laughter attracted their attention from their conversing, and all three simultaneously turned in the direction of the sound. Shigure and Hatori regarded the girl seated upon the bench with unfamiliar indifference, but Ayame's eyes had widened in surprise and wonder. After all of those months, he had finally found her again, and lord, was she beautiful.

A hot blush crept up onto his cheeks as the thought drifted across his mind, accenting the pink tinge that he had already acquired from the cold. His lips parted slightly as he watched her talking to a young child that had fallen before her in the snow. The teen noticed that her hair had gotten even longer, and he imagined that it would probably fall the entirety of her back if she were to stand. Rosy cheeks stood out on a pale face, and her lithe body was covered with a long toggle-button coat, along with a scarlet scarf around her neck.

A hand waved in front of his eyes, snapping him out of his reverie, and he blinked rapidly.

"Earth to Aaya!" Shigure laughed, staring his friend in the eyes with a cheeky grin, "What's up?"

"Uh," The snake trailed off as his eyes glanced discreetly back at Arika. She had stood up, and had taken the hand of the boy.

"Wow, someone's up in the clouds," Shigure commented, "Come on, we got to get out of the cold before- hey, where're you going?"

The silver haired teen had brushed past his friend and was making a beeline for the girl. The two left behind stared in silence, wondering what his intentions were. Furrowing his brow, Shigure looked to Hatori.

"Who's that girl? Does he know her or something?" When his questions went unanswered, he pouted, "Oh, why does no one listen to me?"

His legs were moving towards her on their own accord, and he had hardly any idea what he was planning to say to her. Before, in the hot summer air, she had appeared as just an ordinary girl. But now, here where the flurries fell and the ground glistened with fresh snow, she was so much different. No doubt it was more the environment that had him captivated, but the environment wasn't the one watching him with nervous, blue eyes. It wasn't the one who had stopped in their tracks to wait for him, even though they barely even knew each other.

Ayame, possibly for the first time, looked at her with embarrassment etched upon his face. The snow crunched beneath his feet even as he stood motionless before her, but all he could see was the way the snowflakes reflected in her shimmering eyes, the way her lips were parted as if waiting to speak.

Much to his surprise, a peal of giggles escaped Arika's pink lips, and he smiled, soon joining in with his own bashful laughter. The teen reasoned that it was simply a way to avoid uncomfortable silence, and for that, he was thankful.

Eyes alight, she laced her fingers together and shifted her weight to one leg, "Hello again, Ayame." She said shyly. The boy's heart leapt a bit at hearing her speak his name.

Then, for reasons unknown, he took a step closer to her and said, "You look very pretty, Miss Sasaki." A blush glowed upon her cheeks, but she did not become offended or upset with him. Instead, she simply laughed again and said:

"Call me Arika."

§

The love and admiration upon the snake's face as he recounted the tale brought a smile upon Shigure's lips. He himself remembered very well the day he watched his best friend and a girl who had brought him his meal converse quietly with one another that wintry day, oblivious to all else around them. He and Hatori literally had to drag him away from Arika, fearing that he would transform any minute. Afterwards, Ayame never told them what they spoke of, despite their constant pestering. Not even Hatori, whom he had admired above all else even then, could get through to him.

"I think," Ayame started seriously, drawing Shigure out of his daydream, "If we had met at any other time, things would've been different. Another day once the snow had melted, we would have remained acquaintances, would never have fallen in love."

A sudden glimmer appeared in his eyes, and, knowing what was about to come, Shigure relaxed his elbow on the table.

"Just as a simple dress can suddenly transform a girl into the object of a man's fantasy, the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful backdrop changed even the most ordinary girl into something of unearthly beauty and splendor! I was captivated, astounded that one could be so breathtaking, and I could not contain my natural urges! Just as she had done to me, I had swept her off her feet before she even knew what was happening, and what followed was a period of happiness and love!" His usual laughter filled the room, bouncing off the walls, and scaring a couple birds off the porch.

The door suddenly slid open, revealing two very disappointed boys and a girl with a big smile on her face. Ayame beamed at them, "Well, isn't this a surprise! You came right home from school just to see me!"

The faces of the boys darkened, "He's still here," They both muttered.

"And here I thought it would just be Tohru and I." He mused, smirking at the trio. What was simply meant in fun soon erupted into a screaming match between them, but the smile never dimmed on the girl's face. Ayame was almost happy to have a distraction now so that his mind would not stray down the darker paths of his time with the girl, even if the good did outweigh the bad.

It was not until that night as he sat at his own table, a cup of hot tea grasped loosely in his hand, that he gave into the haunting memories. He pressed his free hand to his forehead, and he shut his eyes, willing the tears to stay locked away.

§

Fingers intertwined loosely between them, the couple walked side by side down the path through the park where they had met so many months ago, content to be in silence. The snow had long since melted, and the spring air and warmth was a fresh change from the usual rain and unpredictable weather. Birds chirped happily from their nests in the blossoming trees, and children laughed at their mothers' sides. May had arrived, and it was sure to make itself known.

However, although the season usually brought joy and rebirth, not all was well in the heart of one.

Arika frowned as she watched her own feet, barely conscious of the person walking beside her. For almost six months they had loved each other- or close enough to love that two teens could comprehend- and although it had been the happiest time in her life, she felt that there was still something lacking, something that was not right. There was something that he wasn't telling her, and it worried her. What could he possibly be hiding from her that he was afraid to share with her?

"Arika?" His cheery voice called to her, and she looked up into his golden eyes. How he came to acquire such a unique trait, she never knew, nor would he explain.

"Yea?"

"How about we go sit over there?" He pointed to a secluded section of the park where trees overhung the path, creating a dark canopy above the heads of those who passed beneath it. Pink and white flowers bloomed from the leaves and littered the ground, "It's not often just you and me are together, you know? Ha'ri and 'Gure finally let us be alone!"

Laughing softly at Ayame's eagerness, Arika relented and allowed him to drag her down the petal-strewn path.. She watched in fascination as the shadows of the leaves danced across his face, and she wondered what was going on in his mind. She had come to realize that there was more to Ayame Sohma than what met the eye, but not even she was let in on the secret.

"Aaya?" She started hesitantly.

"Hmm?"

"I was wondering…" Her eyes darted up to see if she had his attention; she was disheartened to see that he had not looked at her, "Well, is there something that… maybe you're not telling me? I just have this feeling I'm missing something."

The familiar laugh that she had grown to love reverberated about her, and she was warmed by it only momentarily. Arika stopped suddenly, placing her fists on her hips.

"I'm serious, Ayame! I know you're hiding something, but you just don't trust me enough to tell me."

Attention now captured, Ayame slowly removed his hands from the pockets of his light coat to hang limply at his sides. There was a mixture of confusion and curiosity dancing in his eyes, but he was unable to mask the fear that also resided there. Blinking owlishly, he said, "What do you mean? There's nothing… I trust you completely."

"Then I want you to tell me everything right now," She demanded, crossing her arms over her chest with an expectant look in her eyes. The boy's mouth opened to speak, but he stumbled over his words. He cast his head downwards in shame.

"Arika, please…"

"See! This is just it! Why won't you tell me?" Tears were welling up in her eyes, threatening to spill down her cheeks, "We're not like normal couples, you know that? I see other people hugging, kissing, but we never do that. You know, I don't think you've ever done more than hold my hand! You've never even held me…"

Regret ate away at the teen's heart as he looked upon the girl whom he loved more than anything in the world, brought to tears because of something that he could not control. He wanted nothing more than to hold her, kiss her, but he was afraid of how she would react were she to discover his secret, the secret he was forced to carry for all of his life. Rejection… that was what he feared. To be left with nothing.

"Arika, I can't- no! Arika, don't!"

But it was already too late. Ayame shut his eyes tightly as he felt the girl's arm wrap about his neck, and she pressed her lips to his own. There was but a moment where he believed that nothing would happen, and he would be allowed to enjoy the feeling of her against him, but then it ended all too soon.

A pop and a burst of grey smoke engulfed his body, and he reduced to nothing but a white snake held in the hands of the girl he had just lost.

One look in her eyes told Ayame that what they had was finished; nothing would ever be the same. Pure fear and disgust. That was what he saw. No amusement, no relief, nothing but everything he hoped he would not see.

Whether or not it was intentional, the snake slipped from her hands, landing hard on the coat and long, black pants he had been wearing. He reared up quickly, but saw only her retreating back disappear down the path.

And then, he cried.

§

A single tear dripped into the steaming tea, a plop echoing about the room. Golden eyes were shut tightly, and long fingers became tangled at the roots of silver hair. His elbows slammed hard on the table, causing the cup to jump, and his shoulders racked violently as he wept.

XXXXX

Well… that ended on a less happy note than I had originally intended. Ah well. In the words of Shigure, que será será!

Now, a choice for all of you lucky readers: would you prefer for this to remain a one-shot, or would you like to see it continued? I'm not going to do anything to sway your decisions, so let me know!

With that said, I hope you enjoyed this! Please remember to review:D

Until Next Time,

Manwathiel