Hi and welcome to my first (and perhaps only) Fruits Basket story. It centers on Megumi, my favorite minor character in the series, and Momo, another minor character I like. Sorry if Megumi seems a little OOC during this; I'm trying to get him to remain the gloomy person that he is, but include the thoughts and feelings he may have inside. Please enjoy.
Don't Be Afraid
Megumi Hanajima sat quietly in his homeroom in the junior high school he attended, patiently waiting for the teacher to arrive. Around him, some students lounged on desks while chattering to each other loudly, while others furiously scrambled to finish their homework. The girls in this school wore bright blue-and-white uniforms that caught the eye quickly; the boys wore black shirts and trousers. This suited Megumi just fine. He didn't like to draw attention, which was a bit ironic considering his unique hobby that would gain a lot of that…if anyone knew about it.
Ever since his older sister Saki has discovered her psychic abilities – to read peoples' denpa waves and generate electric bolts – Megumi had wanted to help her feel less like the freak everyone made her out to be. Saki herself was at first terrified and frightened of her powers and became isolated and distraught, the victim of much teasing and gossip. Megumi, to help her feel less alone, went and did some research on psychic abilities that could be learned. He settled on curses, and taught himself to use them. Now, after Saki had found accepting friends at her new school and had grown closer to her brother, she was fine, if not a little mysterious. Megumi never let his own secret out unless he was helping his sister.
He had always been quiet and reserved, and if anyone learned about his talent, he might be more shunned than usual. He had always had few friends at school, and everyone else thought he was weird for preferring his solitude, or was afraid of him for his expressionless face. Megumi didn't really care. They didn't really know him, so their judgments never mattered.
He now rested his chin on his fist and let his gaze flicker disinterestedly around the room until the teacher finally strolled in. As the other students hurried into their seats, Megumi straightened up and took his notebook from his bag on the floor, waiting for Sensei to make the morning announcements. It turned out to be the usual – news about school fundraisers, the victory of the school's basketball team in its latest game…today, though, there came a new and different announcement.
The teacher smiled broadly at her students. "And today, there will be a special activity that will take up two periods." A few bored pairs of eyes looked up from the desktops to the teacher at these words. "Some classes from the local elementary school have been invited to visit classes here. It's something the school district came up with, to let younger and older students interact." Eyebrows went up. "One of their classes will be with us. Each of you will be partnered up with one of the kids to give a little tour around the school, and then they will be staying for lunch," she finished.
Megumi's classmates glanced at one another; most of them wore relieved faces at the prospect of getting out of two classes' lectures. Others looked pretty bored at the idea of being responsible for a grade-schooler. Megumi, however, had a feeling of dread about the whole situation. He didn't really like little kids. Rather, he didn't like trying to talk to people who were so innocent and immature…it was too awkward. He knew from experience with his younger cousins – the ones who didn't avoid him, who spoke to him, always made him nervous. Suppressing a groan, Megumi folded his arms on his desk, and wondered how he was ever going to make it through this.
The math and literature morning classes went by way too fast for Megumi's liking. During the lessons, whenever he looked at the clock above the classroom door, it seemed that at least ten more minutes had passed since he last checked. Sighing, Megumi found himself wishing that he had a psychic power that could stop time. He just managed to not miss the teacher informing them of what their math homework assignment was.
Eventually Megumi picked up the sound of many people walking in the hallways, their shoes making lots of clicking noises. He raised his head slowly. It had to be them. He could tell that everyone else in the room recognized it, too, from the way they looked at the door in eagerness. If all those classes of little brats just kept going by, never stopping at this room, then everything would be swell, he told himself.
A sudden knock at the door sent his heart sinking into his stomach.
"All right," the sensei addressed her students, moving toward the door, "go ahead and put your texts away." She opened the door as Megumi's classmates swiftly dropped their books into their school bags. As Megumi securely put his book inside his bag, leaning down to do so, he only wished he could stay down there on the floor for the next two periods. After another moment and a deep sigh, he sat up straight.
The young elementary students, led by their teacher, filed through the door, some whispering to each other, some looking shy when they caught sight of the eighth-graders sitting in the desks. When they had all come inside and were standing in the front of the room, the teachers greeting each other in the background, Megumi inspected the children from his seat. They reminded him of his own memories from that age – feeling nervous around bigger kids he didn't know, learning basic academics for the first time, playing alone on the swings at recess. They had no idea of what awaited them in the years to come, Megumi thought grimly. It was funny; it wasn't so long ago that he had been one of these young children himself, small and looking to fit in somewhere among the others his age.
"Okay, everybody," his teacher called out to her students. "This is Tanaka-sensei and her second-grade class. They'll be with us for the next two hours or so. I have a list of second and eighth-grade partners already made up, so let's do that first." She picked up a paper from her desk and said to the new arrivals kindly, "When your name is called, raise your hand and watch for your partner's, too. Okay?" Some of the little kids nodded, and some just looked at her as they listened.
"Okay," she smiled gently and directed her eyes to the list she was holding, starting to read off names. Megumi watched his classmates, one by one, raise their hands and smile at their partners, who did the same in return.
"Hanajima Megumi," – his attention suddenly went back to his teacher – "and Sohma Momo." Megumi saw a little blonde girl in a floral-print dress shyly raise her hand while searching the older kids with big blue eyes. It took a few seconds for Megumi to remember to raise his own hand, and when he did, the girl looked at him and quickly put her hand down.
I scared her already, Megumi thought dejectedly. I don't want to do this.
When everyone knew his or her partner's name, Megumi's teacher smiled again and said to the second-graders, "All right, go meet your partners now, and then we'll tell you what's planned for your visit." Megumi noticed she was smiling a lot today. Probably for the benefit of Tanaka-sensei's students, trying to make them feel welcome. Megumi knew that if he were still that young, all the smiling might have struck him as more creepy than friendly. Maybe it was just him.
The little kids broke up the line and walked toward their middle school partners; some walked enthusiastically and with a bounce in their step, and others came slowly and timidly. The girl named Sohma Momo approached Megumi's desk in the latter manner, watching him carefully as though he would pounce on her like a predator. Megumi watched her dully with his glossy black eyes and smiled very slightly. She bowed to him respectfully, and a few moments of silence lingered until everyone's attention was brought back to the front of the room. The teachers explained that the older students would walk around the school with their partners, giving a tour and answering any questions about junior high school life that the little ones had. At eleven-thirty they'd all come back to this room and eat lunch.
Finally they were all dismissed to take their excursions around the building and grounds. Megumi abruptly stood from his seat and looked again at Momo, meeting her eyes. "Ready?" he asked simply in his usual flat way. She nodded.
Among the crowd of their classmates, the pair made it out into the hallway. Each of the other partner-teams was walking off in a random direction, some trying to start a conversation. Momo and Megumi stood awkwardly in place while Megumi thought about the situation. "Is there any particular place in here you'd like to see first?" he asked the girl at length.
Momo looked at him and then shrugged. Megumi was already wondering how long she would stay silent. Oh well. It wasn't his business. He just had to do his job.
"Well, this way, then," he beckoned, and Momo began to follow him.
Megumi decided to show her the library first, since it was so close by. When they reached the double doors to it, he stopped and turned to face Momo. "This is our library," he said plainly. "I guess we should stop inside for a minute." Holding the door open, he watched her walk inside, and then followed.
It was your standard school library – a check-out and information desk, a group of computers, and then row after row of bookshelves with tables and chairs scattered in between. Momo stood next to Megumi by the entrance and looked around with mild interest. Megumi thought of something to say. "Do you like reading, Momo-san?"
She glanced at him and nodded, then softly said, "I like funny books."
Now we're getting somewhere, thought Megumi. "Yeah, I do too," he said, though he actually wasn't picky about any particular genre. A few moments of silence went by, with Momo staring off in one direction and her partner nervously shifting his feet. "Okay, let's go," Megumi said shortly, and turned around to reach for the doors.
The next place he chose for them to go was the gym, which held a class playing indoor hockey. Then he led Momo to the cafeteria, which was empty save for a janitor mopping up a corner that smelled pretty repugnant. Hasty to leave, they wound up at the auditorium, with its thousands of leather-backed chairs and heavy red satin curtains at the sides of the stage. Whenever they walked from one place to another, they passed other pairs from their same classes. Megumi noticed that his classmates seemed to be taking their time, wanting to stay out of the classroom for as long as possible. On the contrary, he would prefer to get back there to end this pointless walk. But if he returned now, it would look like he wasn't putting effort into this thing, and he really rather wouldn't listen to his teacher scold him for that. But what else could he show his partner? The school building wasn't that exciting.
"Any questions so far?" Megumi asked Momo in a monotone voice as they made their way down another hallway. The little girl shook her head, her short blonde locks swaying slightly. Megumi hadn't thought so. Catching sight of the doors to the courtyard ahead, he decided that was as good a place as any to stop at next.
The sky was a slate gray as the two stepped outside. "This is the school courtyard," Megumi said, sounding bored, even to himself. "We don't have recess, but we can eat lunch out here," he put in as an afterthought. Momo looked around at the dark green grass, crisscrossed by cement pathways that to doors back inside. A few benches sat at random spots in the rectangular yard. The girl looked at her guide almost tiredly. He didn't blame her. Wondering where else they could go before heading back to the classroom, Megumi felt a cool and light touch on his cheek. He brushed his face slowly and felt liquid smear against his skin. Was it…
"Hanajima-san?" Momo's soft voice caused him to look at her; she was pointing skyward. The boy looked up and instantly another raindrop hit his face. Blinking, he now noticed the dark clouds that were starting to roll in. Then there was an onset of more raindrops. Momo lowered her arm from pointing.
"Let's go – " Megumi began, but was cut off as a streak of lightning appeared in the air, accompanied by a loud crack. Momo jerked at the noise, her eyes going wide with shock. "We have to go in," Megumi said calmly, turning around. Glancing at Momo, he saw that she was shivering and looked terrified. She's afraid, Megumi realized. "Momo-chan," he said, trying to sound soothing, and crouching a little to get in her line of vision. She stared at him for a moment, then took a breath and scurried back to the door they'd come out of. Megumi followed and opened the door to the sanctuary within.
"You all right?" he asked her when they were standing inside, next to the door. Momo nodded, trying to be brave, but then winced when a rumble of thunder sounded. They heard the sound of fast falling rain falling on the windowpane next to the door, and looking out, they saw it was beginning to pour. Momo looked back at Megumi, her eyes pleading…for something.
"I guess…you don't like storms?" asked Megumi, though the answer was obvious and he knew it. "I'm okay," he heard Momo say, as she tried to calm herself down. Megumi saw that she was still gazing at him hopefully. Briefly he wondered if by concentrating on him, she was trying to ignore the thunderstorm. He hadn't been too happy about this partner thing, but a scared little kid was way beyond his control. Slowly, the teenager came closer to Momo and sat down on the floor next to where she stood. "You know what a storm is really about, right?" he asked.
Momo looked at him questioningly.
"Some people say that thunder is really the sound of God and angels moving furniture around," Megumi explained, and watched as Momo considered this.
"Really?" she said softly. "But what about the lightning?"
"Oh, well…" Megumi tried to think fast. "That's because some of the angels are clumsy and accidentally bump into the light switches, turning them off, and then of course they have to turn them back on." What a stupid explanation, he thought. That was all I could come up with?
"Oh…" Momo looked thoughtful. "I didn't know any of that before," she admitted shyly, and Megumi felt relieved. Just in case, he added, "Others believe that the thunder is the sound of angels bowling, and lightning comes from other angels taking photos with a flash camera."
"Really?" she said again, now looking interested. Then she frowned. "But then, which is it really – the furniture thing or the bowling?"
"Um…" He could only shrug. "I guess you can believe whichever you want. Maybe sometimes it's the one and sometimes the other," he suggested.
Momo glanced out the window. "Maybe," she agreed, as a distant rumble sounded. Now the wind was really blowing out there, carrying the rain about and making it swing around in sheets. The water had gone beyond pattering, to slamming itself against the glass. Megumi still sat cross-legged on the dusty floor, watching Momo uncertainly. The seconds ticked by in silence, and Megumi wondered if he should say something more. He looked at his watch; there were still fifteen minutes before they had to be back. Nuts…nuts, nuts, nuts…
Momo surprised him by being the first to speak. "Do you like this school?" she asked softly, turning to look down at her partner.
Megumi was taken aback by the question. "Eh…it's all right. The teachers are mostly nice, and as long as you pay attention in class, it's fine." He paused. Momo was staring at him again with those huge eyes. "What about you at your school?" he asked cautiously.
Momo carefully sat down a few feet away. Megumi wondered what she would think when she stood up to find dirt on the backside of her pretty dress. "I like my school," she replied, staring down and running her finger along the floor. "I like to read, and draw in art class."
"Do you have friends?" Megumi inquired nonchalantly.
"A few," she said, not looking up.
"Me too," he sighed, then mumbled, "The last friend I had moved away in sixth grade." It was true. They hadn't been particularly close, but Megumi missed him all the same. "I guess my sister is my closest friend," he ended.
"I don't have any brothers or sisters, though," sighed Momo, now playing with a few strands of her hair.
Megumi said nothing. This talk seemed to be taking a depressing turn. "Well, you still have plenty of time to make more friends," he finally said, staring down the hallway.
"So do you," replied Momo, turning to shyly smile at him. Megumi was slightly startled. "You're right," he said with a quiet rare smile, contemplating. There was still a whole expanse of life ahead of him, to meet new people, hopefully coming across the ones who would see in him, a friend. Perhaps Momo was, without knowing, trying to become one of those future friends.
She seemed to be becoming more comfortable around him, Megumi noted. This was especially made clear by her next question. "Oi, Hanajima-san," she said, "do you like onions?"
Well, that had come completely out of the blue. Megumi's face took on a confused expression. "Yes…they're all right," he responded, inwardly bewildered.
"I don't like them," she declared. "But my mama put them in my sandwich today." She looked at Megumi and asked tentatively, "Could I give them to you?"
"Uh, sure." It struck him as a very random thing all of a sudden. He felt a grin forming on his face. "I'll give you some of my shrimp, then," he told her. "You like shrimp?"
She broke out into her own full-fledged smile. "Yup!"
"Okay then." Megumi looked at his watch again and decided it was time to head back. He helped Momo up from the floor, though even after they were standing, she remained holding his hand. Megumi, feeling uncertain at this, wasn't sure what to do. He glanced at Momo, and she beamed up at him. "You're nice, Hanajima-san."
That was something he hadn't heard said to him in quite some time. "Yeah?" he replied, with a small content smile. Momo began to swing her hand, the one that held his, back and forth, so he ended up swinging that hand as well. "Call me Megumi-kun," he suggested. Momo nodded happily.
Outside, the storm was clearing up.
One last note…I got the title of this from the fact that Momo becomes a little less afraid of thunderstorms, and she also realizes there is no need to fear Megumi.