...Hello everybody! xD

I cordially invite all of you lucky people on a mystical ride through scholasticness and higher learning! ((looks around mad confused when people start hitting the back button))Ah, perhaps I should clarify some things. This is the sequel to Fruits Medley and we're going on a lessons of love journey. Sound better?

I'm afraid there's been a bit of procrastination on my part. To those I've PM-ed, I apologize for taking so long in posting. In this collections fic, I'm going to put commentary/what inspired the story/etc. if the need occurs (i.e: if I'm not too lazy). First story up is Megumi x Kisa!

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Title: Anytime

Theme: No matter how tough things get, don't leave me here.

Rating: K+

Disclaimer: I don't own Fruits Basket.

Notes:

(1) Yes, this story has been named after the wonderful song "Anytime" by the enormously talented J-pop artist Crystal Kay. I like this song and whenever I hear it, I think of Kisa for some reason, hence the title! I also thought the title reflected the theme of this story.

(2) This tail (I mean tale!) is dedicated to shriveled.up.heart. I said I'd write you a Megumi x Kisa a loooonnnnggg time ago and haven't gotten around to it until now. Sorry! Hope this makes up for it.

(3) The high school featured in this story is named Hokuei, after the school in His and Her Circumstances. I really like that anime and my pen name comes from it as well!

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It was dusk. Twelve-year-old Kisa Sohma, shy middle school student, was walking home from school alone. She cradled a Mogeta DVD tightly to her chest as a smile enveloped her face. She knew how much Hiro liked to watch this anime with her, even though he claimed not to like it very much. Since the Ram was sick with food poisoning, she wanted to brighten his day. Kisa picked up her pace. She shivered. Usually the playground was nearly deserted and she didn't really like the silence. It was eerie and the lonely groans of swing seats without passengers and rattling chains scared her a bit. It reminded her too much of her own demons with silence.

She heard footsteps. Kisa's tiger ears pricked up for a moment and her tail lashed out behind her before vanishing. Perhaps she was being paranoid but you could never be too careful. Kisa buried the DVD in her knapsack. Who knew what treacherous Mogeta fans were lurking about. And this was the newest volume. She had to be extra careful with her treasure.

Right now, with her potential paranoia and uneasiness, she just wanted to make it home as quickly as possible. (And thank goodness she had found this short cut!) But a shadowy figure yanked at her eyes and chained her once moving legs to the ground.

The person wasn't really shadowy. He was just... black. Black hair, black eyes, black cape. Cape? What kind of person wore a cape outside? But Kisa thought it was a marvelous one. It shone in the falling sunlight, giving off the suggestion of silk. But his eyes did not shine. Sure, they were glassy, but they were devoid of emotion, like two black holes in endless space sucking her in. She hoped the stranger didn't think she was rude, but she couldn't help it. She had to stare at him. Even though his eyes were not crying and his face was not frowning, Kisa had the unshakable impression that he was very sad.

The wind picked up, grabbing the leaves by their frail stems and involving their crackling bodies in a dance. His dark hair barely moved. His cape flew up behind him like a butterfly's wing. The worn wooden frame of the sandbox was colored a dull cherry red and the paint was peeling off. A sharp nail poked up not far from the boy.

Kisa was still very insecure and shy. People did not change overnight, and this was definitely the case for Kisa. A former mute, she still found the sound of her own voice strange. Kisa had a few friends and things were much easier for her since she decided to talk, but that didn't erase her past. So instead of saying hello or asking him what he was doing here all by himself, she stood silently. Their eyes struggled against each other's. She wanted to look away because she was uncomfortable but the boy was magnetic.

"Who are you?"

Kisa was startled. His voice was so calm, unruffled like a windless ocean, as solemn as a muggy hot day. Perhaps she was wrong in thinking he was a child. He was probably older, like a high school student. She had to answer him quickly! The older boy might think she was rude! But it took a long time to work out something to say.

What she came up with after five minutes: "Y--Yes?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Your name is yes?" he asked, but oddly without scorn.

Her voice was hushed. "Yes. I--I mean no."

She expected a taunt, a cruel bark of laughter, for him to raise his chin and tell her snidely to say what she meant instead of wasting his time. He did none of that. Instead she heard, "Please speak up." No anger, no taunting, just this soothing, emotionless voice.

"Well, it's...My n—name is... Kisa."

"Kisa what?"

"Kisa Sohma!" She covered her mouth. She'd never spoken that loud before.

"Aren't you scared?"

She was confused. She felt weird and awkward around him, but scared? No way. "Scared? Why should I be?" She reddened. The remark almost sounded cheeky, as her mom would say. Not that her mother often called her daughter that. Kisa was far from disrespectful.

The boy leaned forward. "Why aren't you scared?" he asked.

Through stammers she choked out, "Be—because you're a kid, just like me. And you seem lonely. So..." She looked down at her toes in embarrassment. That sounded like a stupid reason.

"You're right. I am lonely. Kids call me a monster. They make fun of me. It used to be much worse," he continued. "They would throw stones at me and follow me home. They even called my sister a witch. But that's not true. My sister is kind and gentle."

Kisa smiled, but in sadness. He really was a tortured soul even though he spoke of the bullying as if it were as commonplace as a sunny day. Intuitive, sensitive girl that she was, she saw right through his calm outer shell. She felt a pang in her own heart. This boy was more like her than she could've ever imagined. "I understand. I used to be picked on too. I wouldn't talk so all the kids made fun of me. It got so bad that once I was locked in the storage room. It was awful," she said through her tears. She held out her hand. "So maybe we can be friends. Then maybe you won't look so sad."

Shock. The first emotion he'd shown during their encounter. "I look sad?"

Kisa nodded.

"Well, I might look lonely and sad, but I advise that you don't get too close to me."

"Why?"

"The kids at school sense who's different and alienate them. This time, it's for a good reason. I have a power."

She was blown away. She had never met a magical person before. Her family was in some ways magical, but turning into animals was a curse, not a power. Her mother had given the evil witches, good fairies and noble princes and princesses life from the golden-edged pages of her storybook, so for her to meet a real life magical being was amazing.

She whispered as if speaking up would shatter the spell. "What kind of power?"

His voice matched hers, but he used a deadly whisper. "The power to curse."

Her hand fell limply at her side. "To... curse?"

He nodded. "Yes. And you made a big mistake telling me your name."

"W-why?"

"Because if I know a person's name and if they hurt me or say mean things about me, I can punish them. I won't hold it against you if you want to run away. It's a lot to handle, I know. If you want to be my friend, you'll have to be extra careful around me. Who knows? Even if it's small, I could snap and turn against you. I'm not to be trusted. Don't you see?" He spread his arms wide. "This is who I am and who I will always be. A wretched little cursed boy. I'm different, so you should be scared of me, Ms. Kisa. Are you really willing to place your life in my hands? Me, a stranger, who could guarantee you'd never be happy again? You seem like a nice girl and I don't want to make you cry. So just give up. I'm not worth the effort." The wind picked up. Leaves swirled around them. Her fiery hair melted into the orange sorbet sky.

"Then I'll just have to try not to displease you." She held out her hand again. "And please don't say you're not worth it. When you talk like that, you've half defeated yourself." Kisa smiled. "Let's join forces and choose happiness. Because... you deserve good things and I like you."

"Not everyone is so kind, Ms. Kisa. You'd be considered very strange to like me. You might even be picked on too."

"Then I'll just get picked on!" She blushed at her own passionate cry. "No matter what people think or what people say, I'll be your friend. And please, just call me Kisa. There's no need to be so formal. We're friends, not strangers."

"You consider me a friend?"

Kisa nodded.

"No one's ever said that to me before." He shook his head and allowed himself a smile. "Let's start over. I'm afraid I was a bit rude." He stood up and took her hand. He dipped down low a bit to kiss her hand, then released it and bowed. "My name is Megumi Hanajima. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Megumi frowned. "Did I do that right? Perhaps the kissing thing was a bit much. It's just that I've never had a friend before and my sister always told me to be extra nice to girls, except when they're unkind. But you might be upset, so I apologize."

Kisa was shocked. This dark, solemn boy was blushing over her! It made her blush in turn but she was smiling. She laughed. She liked how old-fashioned he was. It was cute. "Then your sister is very wise. Is she your big sister?"

Megumi nodded.

Kisa inclined her back. "My name is Kisa Sohma. Please regard me kindly."

She smiled.

And Megumi smiled back.

X x X x X x X

And that was how their friendship began.

They met at the park at sunset to play everyday. Her mother was always worried about her and asked her dozens of times where she was going, who she was meeting with. She was very protective over her small daughter, which made Kisa feel stifled. She wouldn't run away again because of her overprotective mother, but sometimes Kisa felt like doing it. In her dreams, she would live in the playground and live off the sweet apples the small trees provided. When Megumi came to see her, she'd run out from under the plastic castle or from behind a bush, grin, and yell, "Surprise!" Then he would laugh. Kisa loved making him laugh. His eyes folded up into crescents in the most adorable way. It made her feel like laughing too. In fact, Megumi made her feel like doing many things, like smiling and laughing and talking incessantly. Her family marveled at the change. Haru smiled. Tohru squealed and called out, "Kawaii!" while hugging the smaller girl to her chest. And Hiro was...

Jealous.

This was lost on Kisa. She didn't understand why Hiro was so upset. So she decided to hide Megumi for a little while, at least until Hiro calmed down. And anyway, although she wouldn't admit it, she was a little greedy when it came to him. She wanted him all to herself for as long as she could keep him.

They did everything together. Megumi pushed her on the swings. Kisa pushed her new friend down the slide. They hung upside down from the monkey bars and played Hide and Seek. She taught him how to ride a bike and he showed her how to spin around in a circle without falling down. She told him jokes and they had breath holding competitions. Kisa always won, but she knew Megumi let her win. She loved this feeling so much. To have made a friend all by herself, and to play with this friend, smile and laugh with him... That was special. And nothing could ruin their friendship. That was what Kisa believed. Until that day...

"Tag, you're it!" Kisa called out boldly as she swatted at Megumi's shoulder and tore off into the sunset. Her girlish shadow was being tugged on by the disappearing sun as her pounding footsteps made little dust clouds rise in the cracked dirt ground. With a grin, Megumi rushed after her.

She looked over her shoulder with a squeal. Megumi usually let her take the lead, but today he was giving it his all. His hand reached out. His legs were a bit longer than hers, so it would only be a matter of time...

Until...

He...

Fell forward?

Poof!

The colorful plume of smoke evaporated, leaving behind a tiny tiger. She struggled against the school uniform shirt until her head poked out from the short sleeve. She wiggled her new feline body out of the shirt. Her amber eyes looked around briefly. All of her clothes were scattered, as if they hadn't been able to wait to jump from her cursed form. The confused tiger looked into Megumi's eyes, hoping for something, anything, to end the poisonous silence stretched thin between them.

She knew she should've run away. Or better yet, she should've been more careful. Playing tag when she had this secret to keep? Did she really think he would never find out? That he never needed to know? Megumi said that he wasn't worth the effort, but right now, Kisa realized she wasn't worth anything. What was she really? Just an animal. A cursed girl in a family of freaks. What other family but theirs transformed like this? None. They were the only ones.

Would Megumi leave her? Kisa was so scared! After all, she had deceived him. She hadn't told him her biggest secret, the secret her mother made her promise everyday on her knees to protect. 'You'll only get hurt, Kisa, sweetheart. Please don't let anyone know. I'm just trying to protect you.'

Trying to protect me? Kisa really did feel like she was suffocating. Her mother meant well, and she knew this, but... Was she ashamed of her little Tiger daughter? Kisa shook her head. No! She wasn't! But the feeling haunted her every single waking moment of her day. And in her dreams her mother would look at her with those worried eyes.

And Akito would punish her until there was nothing left for her but despair.

Kisa trembled. Hatori-ojiichan would have to erase Megumi's memory. She didn't want that! She liked him! He was her best friend next to Hiro. But would he want to stay with her? And did she have a choice? No. Kisa didn't have a choice. So, because she couldn't do anything about it, she would give him a proper goodbye. She would, without tears, tell him everything. She would apologize for deceiving him all this time and betraying his trust. She would treasure each word his soothing voice gave birth to, even if he screamed, "Freak!" or "Monster!" or "Thing!" at her. She would understand and try not to feel hurt. If it were her in his place, she would be just as upset.

But... thinking about it only makes me--

She didn't realize she was crying until his finger stopped the falling tear. She looked up. Megumi's eyes were filled with nothing but kindness. He smiled.

"Kisa. I understand. It's okay."

And then he held his arms wide, as wide as the sunset sky above him, as wide as his fragile heart.

And Kisa was moved.

Because he didn't call her a thing or an animal or worthless.

He.

Said.

Her.

Name.

He smiled at her just as he'd always smiled. Nothing had changed. In his eyes she understood that he didn't need her to explain anything. He wasn't expecting an apology. He wasn't expecting anything.

Just her company, her friendship. Just her.

Kisa hunched up on her hind legs and sprang into his arms.

X x X x X x X

To be honest, Megumi knew Kisa was different.

He couldn't really describe it in so many words, and at the time he didn't really know her curse. He wasn't an expert at reading denpa waves like his sister, but he did have a sort of sixth sense about him. So even though he was in the dark about her unique family situation, he sensed that Kisa was not like ordinary little girls.

From a young age, Megumi had been branded an outsider, just like Kisa. And kids, they are not always so kind and forgiving towards anyone who doesn't fit their mold. Scary people, usually the ones who were just misunderstood and most in need of acceptance and love, were also the most hated. It was like a huge war for them. The normal ones were on one side. And the outsiders were, well, outside.

Because of this, Megumi suffered gravely. In elementary school, kids threw stones at him. Cruel tricks were played on him. Kids always tried to jump him. It seemed like even the teachers were powerless. After all, most of their pupils were the offspring of wealthy people with power. Why try to mess with them when generous donations poured in annually? So the "unfortunate situation" was overlooked. Megumi couldn't tell his parents. They already had their hands full with Hana and Megumi knew she needed their support more than he did. So he kept quiet. No one cared about him. No one stood up for him. Megumi had no one to call a true friend. His sister always defended him, but he couldn't help her. It was so unfair! But he was powerless.

As he got older, Megumi learned to use his newly-developed power to his advantage. He spoke up. He stood with his spine up straight instead of cowering with his shoulders pulled close to his body. He looked directly into people's eyes, which made everyone look away. Since attendence was called everyday, Megumi knew his tormentors' names. He made it very clear that he could cause great pain to those who hurt him or dared called his sister names. Most of the time, his threats were empty. Megumi was generally a peaceful person and had no real desire to harm anyone. Only in the most extreme cases was his power needed, and even then he considered the matter very carefully before doing anything rash. However, no one else knew this, so for the most part he was safe. The bullying was a lot more tame than before.

Oh, but the whisperings still went on behind his back.

"His eyes are like a monster's."

"He's a freak."

"He's nobody."

But Megumi held his head high, no matter how hard his soul cried out in loneliness.

X x X x X x X

Which was why he didn't turn her away when she transformed.

Kisa was just like him.

He had learned a lot about her in the time they spent together. Due to relentless teasing about her hair color, Kisa had ceased to speak. This made her schoolmates bully her even more. It seemed like nothing she did could please them.

And then she met Tohru and everything changed. Kisa had opened up to the sweet girl after a while of deep distrust. For the first time in a long time, Kisa finally spoke. After that, Kisa was glued to her Big Sister's side.

She had a timid smile and an even more timid voice, but Megumi liked her. She was the first person who hadn't deserted him. She didn't tease him or call him bad names. She treated him like a person.

So how could he turn her away when she had given him so much? This girl who looked like she could be blown away by a mere breeze ended up being one of the strongest people he knew. Megumi would always be in her debt, but the strangest thing was that she didn't expect anything in return. Only to stay by his side.

Friendship.

A word once as foreign to him as a kind smile.

A kind smile.

A gift in its own right because it was always there for him.

She was always there for him.

Her ears would listen to his words.

Her eyes would light up when she spotted him.

Her voice gave him the comfort he so desperately needed.

Friendship, but she had given him so much more. What was this feeling? Was it--

Hope?

Determination?

Faith?

No. It was all of these things.

Faith in himself and in humankind.

Hope in the future.

Determination to keep on being himself.

And he couldn't have felt any of these things, believed in any of things, if it hadn't been for...

Her.

X x X x X x X

Crossing his arms, Hiro spilled tawny eyes over her, darted Megumi an ugly glare at his back, and made his verdict.

"I hate him."

Which had wilted poor Kisa's heart. She so wanted them all to be friends. She thought Hiro could handle it, but she guessed it was too soon. It was too late now and she wouldn't want to turn back, even if she could do it all over again. Megumi was an important person in her life and she wanted to share him with her cousin.

"Aren't you scared of him?" he persisted wildly, extremely jealous of this new rival. First that dimwit Tohru and now this spook? "He scares me. I mean, creeps me out!" he shouted quickly to save his masculinity. "He's a creepy guy! And I don't want you hanging around him!"

Kisa pleaded up at him with the widest, cutest, shiniest eyes ever created. Had she learned that from Shigure? Hiro shook his head, trying to stand his ground, but she was making it hard for him.

"But I like him," she sighed. "And I thought you'd like him too.

And how could Hiro resist? Whatever Kisa wanted, Kisa got. In his mind, it was her world. So he gave in with a shaky "Okay" even though every cell in his body screamed out in protest.

Years passed. The unclear feelings of childhood had a little more clarity through the eyes of teenagers.

Hiro was witness to a blossoming love.

Megumi and Kisa were becoming...

Close.

And he hated it.

Neither noticed their feelings but for Hiro it was startlingly...

Heartbreakingly...

Clear.

Damn, damn, damn him. Megumi with his weird looks and tragic past and broken soul.

Hiro wondered, if he were as ugly, would she love him too?

He was the one who deserved her, dammit.

His heart was crushed too!

He had a tragic past too!

Hiro was the one who needed to be saved the most.

But he would step back and watch them.

What else could he do?

He cared too much about Kisa to step in the way of her happiness.

So if this guy made her happy, he'd try to be happy.

He'd try and...

Fail, but he'd pick himself up and move on.

X x X x X x X

"I can't."

Kisa took a wobbly step back. Her face was pale.

Kisa Sohma, age fourteen and a freshman at Hokuei High School, had been rejected for the first time.

By her closest friend, Megumi Hanajima.

Tears started to fill Kisa's almond eyes but Megumi had to stop himself from clinging to her, even if it would only be for an instant.

Kisa. He looked at her pretty face, the golden-orange hair he loved so much. The blue cardigan sweater she wore over her white linen shirt with a dark blue ribbon tied under the collar looked so lovely paired with her navy blue pleated skirt. Her school uniform. Kisa had modeled it for him, so happy that she'd gotten into Hokuei. It was a prestiguous school and Kisa had studied like mad for the entrance exams. He knew she'd pass the exams. She was too smart not to get in.

It was a good thing he went to a different school. He would be heartbroken if he saw her in the halls with her friends, or even worse, with a boyfriend. Kisa had been asked out on many dates and she had a huge male fanbase. Kisa was upset now, but she would get over him. Her cousin, Hiro, looked like he needed her more than he did. It was all for the best.

Megumi knew it couldn't last forever. This revolutionary girl, one who'd healed his wounds and stuck by him through everything, this beautiful, funny, talented girl would one day get tired of him. It happened before. A girl, Riika, had befriended him shortly after he became Kisa's friend. She was sweet and kind to him at first, but when he wouldn't curse a boy she hated, she turned on him. Not that he was comparing Kisa to her. Riika wasn't a thing like Kisa. Kisa was an angel. It was just that Megumi had to protect himself. And he was preventing her from truly being popular. Once again, his differences was hurting someone he loved. He didn't want to hurt her, but this was all for her.

"You make her cry, punk, and I'll make you pay."

Megumi closed his eyes. Then hit me, he told the scowling Hiro in his mind. I deserve it after all. I deserve nothing but bad things. I love her but she's too good for me.

"Why?"

Megumi turned away from the school's chain link fence. A pang entered his heart. But he didn't let it show when he replied, "Isn't it time we stopped?"

Megumi. Kisa felt his pain. Distrusting others no matter how long you knew them, being afraid, always afraid, of being deserted. But she wasn't like that! She loved him and the more he pushed her away, the more she loved him and wanted to stay with him. If only she could make him see that...

"It's worthless. I'm worthless. Pretending I'm nothing more but different... Kisa-chan, you shouldn't have to suffer because of me. Just give up." And with that, he turned his back and began to walk away.

Until a shrill scream made his feet stand still.

"I place a curse on you, Megumi Hanajima!"

He turned around and saw it.

Determination.

Eyes fixed in a glare, her hair splashing around her shoulders, hands made into fists, he saw it. Kisa wouldn't dare give up. She was determined to reach him.

She stepped forward. "I know your name, right? And I know where you live. I know what school you go to. I know everything about you!" Kisa was shocked. Her unstable voice, the tears running down her face... She felt something she'd never felt before. She couldn't even describe it. "I place a hex on you, and that hex is me!"

With no hesitation, she ran into his arms...

...and he received her.

His arms were spread wide and...

...hers went around his waist.

It all happened in slow motion for him.

And when her head landed on his shoulder...

...and their bodies met, it was...

...the most beautiful thing in the world.

With wide eyes, he stroked her hair. Tears accumulated on his shoulder. His arms tightened around her.

And nothing happened but the most wonderful transformation.

A cosmic explosion of love and understanding.

"I love you, Megumi!"

I love you. I love you. I...

"...love you. I love you, Kisa." Megumi smiled. "And I wouldn't mind being stuck with you."

Anytime, anywhere, I'll always be with you.