Note: Please be gentle with me, this is the first FRUITS BASKET story I have ever written. And as a warning, this uses the anime as its reference, not the manga. I am aware there are differences between the two, so please do not waste review space telling me why it's wrong 'based on the manga.' Okay?

This is set just before Episode 24 and the arrival of Kazuma (so Tohru has met all the rest of the gang, including Ritsu).


TOKENS OF APPRECIATION

"Kyo, stop pacing," Shigure said wearily without looking up from his newspaper. "You're going to wear a track in the floor."

"Shut up," Kyo growled, not stopping his wary prowling around the room.

"There's really no need to be so worked up. Hatori and the others will all be here soon enough, and then we can get started, so you may as well save your energy until then."

"Just because YOU have all the energy of a doorstop-" Kyo began, when the sound of footsteps outside caught their attention.

"Hmm, I guess they got here early," Shigure remarked, setting aside his newspaper and standing up. "But I didn't hear a car door close..."

Kyo, on the other hand, had gone completely white. "Oh, no... oh, HELL..."

But before he could escape the room, the front door had been yanked off its hinges with the dramatic announcement, "I AM HERE, MY LOVE!"

Shigure sighed. "Not again..."

"IT'S KAGURA!" Kyo bellowed and dove headfirst into the kitchen to try and get away from the dark-haired girl who had just entered the room, front door in hand.

"YOUR LOVE HAS ARRIVED, KYO!"

"My DEATH has arrived, is more like it!" came his muffled shout as he scrambled out the window, with Kagura in hot pursuit. Her chase was only slightly hampered by the door she was still holding, until she sensibly let go of it before leaping out the window after Kyo.

Shigure groaned and got up to survey the wreckage of his front door and kitchen. "I guess it's a good thing everyone's coming over... we're going to need all the help we can get at this rate."

A few minutes later, he heard a car pull up in front of the house, following by the slamming of several doors.

"Hi, Shigure, we're here! Shigu-" Momiji's voice trailed off as he saw the missing door. "Wow, what happened to the door?"

"I would hazard a guess that Kagura got here first," Hatori said dryly as he approached as well, seeing Shigure's crestfallen expression.

"Good guess," Shigure admitted, rubbing the back of his head. "But I suppose I should count my blessings that she let go of the door before jumping out the kitchen window after Kyo."

That got blank stares from Momiji and Hatori, and a burst of laughter from the lanky young man coming up behind them.

"So I take it tonight's agenda now includes fixing the door and the window, along with everything else?"

"Yep. Good to see you again, Hatsuharu."

"Is Sissy here yet?" came a soft voice from behind Hatsuharu, and Kisa's wide amber eyes peered anxiously up the others.

"Not yet, she's still at work," Shigure said kindly, kneeling down to lightly ruffle Kisa's hair. "And we have a lot to do before she gets home. Ready to help?"

Kisa's face brightened and she nodded, to the disgust of the boy standing next to her.

"I still can't believe we have to go through all this effort just for that silly girl," Hiro grumbled. "It's not like she's all that great-"

"Hiro, you're being rude," Hatori chided him, fixing him with a stern look, and Hiro subsided sulkily.

Shigure straightened up and looked over the group. "What about Aya and Ritsu?"

"Ayame said that he would bring Ritsu over," Hatori explained. "I figured it might give them some useful time together, if Ritsu really wants a lesson in self-confidence."

"Good idea. Okay, let's get started!" Shigure announced, leading the way inside the house.


The Sohmas quickly got to work on the house, with the adults and taller teenagers hanging decorations from the ceiling and the doorframes while the smaller children puttered around cleaning up the place. Because Tohru generally kept the house neat, there wasn't much work to do in that sense, so once the dining area had been straightened up, Shigure put Momiji, Kisa, and Hiro to work fixing the front door. Hiro had continued to grumble under his breath about it until Hatsuharu threatened to papier-mache his mouth shut.

"Oh, look, Kyo, everyone else is already here!" they heard, and turned to see Kagura standing on the front steps, dragging Kyo by the wrist behind her. "Hi, everyone!"

"Great, now we're late, because of you," he growled, pulling his wrist free. "So why don't you do something productive, like help?"

"You're one to talk," Hiro muttered as he fastened another length of paper to the door for Kisa to smooth. "We've been slaving away here while you two were off having fun-"

"Oh stop grumbling, Hiro," Momiji cajoled, waving hello to the newcomers. "We're almost done!"

"Really? That was quick," Hatori said, coming over to look. "In that case, why don't you three set the table? Kagura, Kyo, please start work in the kitchen."

"Sure thing!" Kagura said cheerfully, bundling Kyo off to the kitchen over his loud protests.

"Ah, young love," the others heard, and turned to see Ayame lounging in the doorway, as elegant as ever, with Ritsu standing nervously behind him. "And now, adding to this festive scene of merriment and joy, is the one thing required to make this evening a complete sensation!"

Hatsuharu gave a snort of laughter. "Actually, that would be the guest of honor, not you, Aya."

"But of course, the lovely delicate flower that blooms amidst this field of masculinity is certainly the focal point of our festivities, but you must admit, my presence enhances things in the most spectacular way!"

"I think I'm going to throw up," Hiro grumbled, while Kisa and Momiji giggled.

"H-h-hello, everyone," Ritsu said shyly, peeking around Ayame. "I... I'm sorry we're late."

"Not at all, not at all," Shigure said with a wave. "Ayame, Ritsu, we'll be using the small table over there for the presents. Would you mind arranging them over there?"

"Of course! How very wise of you, Shigure, to assign such a task to the one with the eye for beauty, for decor... oh, and to Ritsu as well, of course." Ayame took Ritsu by the elbow and steered him outside once more to collect the gifts from his car and from Hatori's.

"By the way, Shigure, where is Yuki?" Momiji asked as he, Kisa, and Hiro levered the front door back into place with some help from Hatsuharu.

"He went to walk Tohru home from work. They'll be home in another half hour or so."

From the kitchen came a loud crash and a sudden wail of "KYOOOOOOOOO!!!"

"IT'S NOT MY FAULT! HOW THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO COOK IF YOU INSIST ON HOLDING MY HAND THE ENTIRE TIME?!"

Hatori sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm not sure I even want to know."

"Maybe we should help," Shigure grinned, and the adults headed into the kitchen.


With everything else almost ready, Momiji had volunteered to keep a watch for Tohru and Yuki while the others put the final touches on their preparations. Just as everyone sat down to rest, they heard Momiji come sprinting up the driveway.

"They're here! They're here!" he gasped, tumbling through the open door, and Shigure quickly pulled it shut behind him.

"Okay, is everyone ready?" he asked, taking his seat as Momiji did the same.

A few moments later, they heard voices approaching.

"Oh, Yuki, isn't that Hatori's car?"

"Yes, I understand that he and Shigure were meeting to discuss a few things."

"Oh, I wish he had told me, I hope there's enough for dinner tonight for Hatori, too... maybe I should go back to the store."

"I'm sure there's plenty, Miss Honda, and it's getting late as it is."

"Are you sure? It'd be no trouble at all..."

Yuki laughed and slid the door open. "Don't worry, Miss Honda, it'll be fine."

Tohru entered first, still looking back over her shoulder at Yuki. "Well, if you say-"

"SURPRISE!"

At everyone's shout, Tohru whirled around, let out a startled shriek, and fell backward off the front steps.

There was a sudden flash of light and smoke, and Tohru picked herself up only to realize that she had fallen onto Yuki, who was now a rat.

Shigure and the others inside burst into laughter, as did Yuki once he made sure that Tohru was all right.

"Oh, oh, oh my, I'm so sorry! You all startled me, and I didn't mean to fall, and oh, is Yuki all right? Oh, and there's so many of you here! Oh, no, I don't have NEARLY enough to make for everybody-"

"Happy birthday, Sissy!" Kissa said gleefully, throwing her arms around Tohru and pulling her inside.

Tohru blinked several times, finally getting a good look at the house. Streamers and lanterns hung from the ceiling, the house practically gleamed from cleaning, and the table was covered with all of her favorite foods. To one side, a smaller table was lavishly decorated, and covered with several wrapped presents.

Her mouth opened and closed, but she seemed unable to speak, and everyone stared at her in concern.

"Sissy? What's wrong?" Kisa asked anxiously, peering up at Tohru, who promptly burst into tears. "SISSY!"

"I'm... I'm..." Tohru sobbed, then she knelt down and hugged Kisa so tightly that she squeaked. "I'M SO HAPPY!"

The Sohmas laughed, and over the chorus of "Happy birthdays" and other well-wishes, hellos were exchanged. Tohru was bustled over to the seat of honor, Kisa holding her hand the entire time, Yuki joined them a few moments later after returning to human form, and soon everyone was seated and eating, talking and laughing.

"I can't believe this!" Tohru said over and over again, her eyes moving over everyone. "How on earth did you plan all of this?"

Shigure grinned. "It was easy, with you three off at school. I had originally suggested eating out, but everyone wanted to pitch in and help."

"Not everyone," Hiro muttered, until Hatsuharu whacked him across the back of the head.


Once dinner was over, and everyone had helped to clear away the dishes (except Tohru, who was forcibly kept in her seat thanks to Kisa sitting in her lap at Shigure's insistence), Yuki and Kyo turned off all the lights, and Tohru turned to see Momiji carrying a birthday cake covered in lit candles, while the Sohmas began to sing.

"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you! Happy birthday, dear Tohru, happy birthday to you!"

With great care, Momiji set the cake down in front of Tohru, and Kisa scrambled off Tohru's lap. "Come on, Tohru, make a wish!"

Her face radiant in the candlelight, Tohru looked up at each of the Sohmas, one by one, as though memorizing their faces. Even as tears filled her eyes once more, a huge smile lit up her face, and she turned back to her cake, drew in a deep breath, and closed her eyes. Then she opened them again and blew across the candles, extinguishing them all.

"YAY!" Momiji led the others in applause as the lights were turned back on and everyone sat down again to enjoy the cake. "So, Tohru, you have to open your presents now!"

"Yes, I agree," Shigure remarked. "Ritsu, why don't you give Tohru her presents?"

"M-me?" The young man blinked several times, then smiled. "I-I'd love to!"

He sat next to the small table, looked over the presents, and then selected one and handed it to Tohru. "Here..."

Tohru took the brightly wrapped box, looking at the tag that read, 'To Tohru, from Kisa.' As she unwrapped it, she gave a delighted exclamation when she saw the stuffed tiger inside. "Oh, Kisa, and it looks just like you!" She immediately scooped the little girl up in a hug. "Oh you are so adorable, I love you!"

Next was a long, flat box from Kagura, which Tohru unwrapped to find a lovely sweater in a shade of blue that matched her eyes. "Kagura, thank you so much! It's so pretty!"

"Very nice, Kagura," Ayame drawled, studying Tohru over his tea cup. "Although if you'd wanted to purchase clothes, I'm surprised you didn't come by my shop-"

"As if she'd WANT to shop there," Yuki muttered, throwing his brother a baleful glance.

Ritsu next handed her a small box, no larger than her hand. "This one doesn't have a name."

Tohru carefully unwrapped it to find a jeweler's box. Inside it was a small note, and a silver pendant in the shape of a snowflake.

"When the snow melts, what does it become?"

Her eyes widened, and she lifted her gaze to Hatori, whose cheeks were slightly red. "Thank you, Hatori," she said softly, and the doctor's blush became even more pronounced. "It's beautiful."

"Awwww, Hatori, how sweet," Shigure teased. "Jewelry is such a lovely courting gift-"

His words were cut off as Yuki and Kyo, in near-perfect unison, brought their fists down on top of his head.

"SHUT UP!"

Wide-eyed, Ritsu handed Tohru her next gift, another small, flat box with the tag, 'Tohru.' Tohru carefully unwrapped it to find a book inside. Closer inspection revealed it to be a coupon book for many of the popular amusement parks, movie theaters, and other entertainment places in town.

"Wow! But who-"

Hiro went red and turned away slightly. "Well, you can't always be taking me and Kisa to the park. At least this way we can go some place fun."

"Birthday gifts are for the person whose birthday it is, you ungrateful brat!" Kyo shouted, but Tohru waved him down.

"No, no, no, Kyo it's fine. Thank you very much, Hiro. Um, maybe later, you and Kisa and I could plan where to go!"

"Yeah, sure." Hiro tried not to look like it mattered, but he couldn't quite hide his smile at the radiant look on Kisa's face.

"Um, Tohru... this... this one is from me," Ritsu said shyly, and handed her another present. She opened the little box and found a beautiful hair comb inside.

"Ritsu, it's lovely! Thank you so much!" Then she looked at it again. Unless she was very much mistaken, this was the hair comb he had been wearing when they had first met, and she had mistaken him for a girl. That he was giving it to her now... she wondered if this meant he was taking another step forward in leaving behind his tendency to wear girl's clothing. Either way, she was pleased, and smiled at him again. At his answering smile, she knew she was right.

"Hey, Ritsu, give her mine next!" Momiji chimed in. "It's that one, over there!"

Ritsu handed Tohru a rather gaudily wrapped gift, and she opened it to find a photo album. Inside were several pictures of her - some with the Sohmas, others with her and Uo and Hana, even a few of just her.

"Momiji, it's wonderful, but how-" Tohru gasped, and Momiji beamed.

"I got Arisa and Saki to help me! Isn't it great?"

"Yes," Tohru said softly. "Yes, it is. Thank you, Momiji."

Next was Shigure's gift, and Tohru's eyes were absolutely enormous in her face as she opened the box to find a pair of silk pajamas. "Aren't they nice?" Shigure said in satisfaction. "Ayame suggested the colour, and I think he did a wonderful job with them, don't you?"

Yuki and Kyo both narrowed their eyes, abruptly looking like thunderclouds.

"You had Ayame-" Yuki began.

"-make her silk pajamas?" Kyo finished.

"Oh, it was the easiest thing in the world," Ayame said with a wave of his hand. "And with such a lovely subject to work with, it was pure pleasure. Silk is such a feminine fabric, and our Tohru deserves nothing but the best from the men in her life."

This time, both Shigure and Ayame nearly found their faces in the table as Kyo and Yuki decked them, while Tohru shrieked in panic and the others either laughed or groaned.

From Hatsuharu, Tohru received a pair of dangling earrings forming the character for "joy". When she gave a delighted yelp at seeing them, he grinned wryly at her. "Well, you have admit, they seemed made for you."

"They're so cute! Thank you, Hatsuharu!" She quickly put them on, carefully putting her other earrings in the box.

But when Ritsu handed Tohru the box with the extravagant tag that showed it was from Ayame, the tension in the room seemed to mount. Kyo and Yuki appeared ready to spring on him at any moment, while Shigure and Hatori waited to see just what Ayame had given Tohru as a gift.

Slowly, she opened the box, and then promptly dropped the lid. "Oh... Ayame... oh, I couldn't accept this!"

"Nonsense, my dear Tohru," Ayame purred, practically oozing self-satisfaction. "There's simply no one else who could do justice to such an outfit. And you must admit, with your innocent loveliness, garbed in one of my creations, it just redefines the word 'radiance.'"

Cautiously she lifted out the flowing dress that Mine had cajoled her into trying on the day that she and Yuki had visited Ayame's shop. Tears filled her eyes, and she quickly pulled out a handkerchief and dabbed away the tears.

"It's too lovely... I couldn't possibly..."

Sitting nearby, Yuki had a strange look on his face, then he gently placed one hand on Tohru's shoulder. "No, Miss Honda, I think... I think my brother's right. I think you deserve a dress like this. You looked... you looked adorable in it."

For a moment, everyone seemed frozen, and then Ayame shattered the silence with a triumphant proclamation of, "Hatori, Shigure, did you hear? A compliment, perfectly formed and freely given from Yuki's lips! Oh, this evening is truly a celebration of joy and rapture!"

He would have gone on and on in this vein for some time had Hatori not firmly clamped one hand over Ayame's mouth, while the others burst out laughing.

"Let's see... we have two left," Ritsu murmured, looking at the table again. "Here, Tohru... this one is from Yuki." He handed her an elegantly wrapped box, and Tohru opened it to stare in astonishment at the silver picture frame inside that now framed her precious photograph of her mother.

Yuki looked a bit uncomfortable. "I'm sorry if it seems presumptuous, Miss Honda, since I wasn't sure if the frame that you had before had significance for you..."

"Oh, no, Yuki, it's lovely! And Mom would be so happy to see her picture in this! Thank you so very much!" She hugged the picture impulsively, beaming at Yuki, then she set the picture on the table next to her.

Then Ritsu handed the last gift to Tohru, who studied the small box. When she opened it, however, her mouth opened, but no sound came out. Instead, she carefully lifted out a bracelet of pale jade, with silver links forming the character for "friends."

"It's so pretty," Kisa said, staring at the bracelet.

"Oh, wow..." Momiji whispered, leaning closer to look at it. "But who is it from..."

Everyone turned to look at the ginger-haired young man who sat half-slouched in the corner.

"Kyo?" Tohru asked softly, and without looking at her, he nodded.

Tohru burst into tears again.

"Oh, no, don't cry! Oh, no, was it something I did?!" Ritsu wailed. "No, please, I'm sorry, I should have given you Kyo's gift first! Or anyone else's! Or I should have let someone else give the gifts! I'm so sorry!"

"No, no," Tohru gasped through her tears, accepting the handkerchief that Kagura pressed into her hand. "You've... you've all given me so much... I don't know what to say..."

She buried her face in her hands and cried, while Kisa crawled back into her lap and hugged her tightly.

"Don't cry, Sissy. Please don't cry."

"I'm... I'm just... so... so HAPPY!" Tohru wailed. "And... and 'thank you' is just... so inadequate..."

"It's okay, Tohru, we understand," Shigure said gently.

Yuki nodded. "We wanted to do this for you, Miss Honda... after all, you've given US so much."

"But it's... it's just too much..." she wailed, getting up. "I don't-"

Unfortunately, her foot slipped on some of the wrapping paper, and she toppled forward toward the table.

There was a loud crash, a huge gust of wind, and several flashes of light.

When the smoke cleared, Tohru was lying amidst the wreckage of the table, half covered in cake, and surrounded by the transformed members of the Sohma family.

"Hatsuharu, would you mind not standing on my tail?"

"Yeah, stand on Ayame's HEAD instead!"

"Come now, Kyo, that's hardly called for..."

"Shigure, get your tail out of my face!"

"Sorry, Yuki... oh, no, where's Hatori?!"

"He landed in someone's tea, I think..."

"Stop laughing, Tohru, this isn't funny!"

But then Kisa began to giggle, and Kagura as well, and then Tohru began to laugh until she didn't think she could stop, while the Sohmas all joined in.