Kyo was disoriented when he woke up in his old room at Shishou's. It took him a few blurry minutes to remember why he was there.

Yuki had been hurt; he remembered that much right from the start. And … he had gotten the rat to Hatori … and then he … he'd gone to Shishou. He hadn't been able to get to sleep until Shigure had called, looking for him, and his mentor had checked how Yuki was doing. After that, Shishou had ordered him to take a nap, and he'd barely gotten to his room before he crashed. It was late evening now.

And Yuki's clothes were probably still in the alley.

Of all the random things that could occur to him, he thought about that? Maybe he ought to have Hatori look him over once he dared to face the other Sohmas. Clearly something was affecting his mind. He kept thinking of that rat … that damn rat, he for some reason had to remind himself … without his usual anger and resentment.

Which wasn't all that bad, and would probably help him keep his temper, but it was weird. Next thing you knew he could be flirting with Kagura!

Kyo did a rolling leap onto his feet and, not bothering with a shirt, jogged out to the yard to do some exercises and hopefully get these terrifying thoughts out of his head.

The trouble with most of his exercises, he decided after half a frustrating hour, was that thanks to all his training, his body went into autopilot and his mind wandered freely anyway. And he couldn't stop worrying about that stupid, spiteful, self-important, godforsaken – No wait, that one's me – irredeemably useless rat!

But he was worried, and Kyo wasn't the type to pace or wring his hands; he was a man of action.

The 'action', in this case, was to go to the alley and retrieve Yuki's things – which were, surprisingly, still there. His next act was to brainlessly risk his life by going to Hatsuharu's house.

It took five minutes for the ox to find his way to the door – You'd think he'd at least know his way around his own house – and he blinked at Kyo in confusion. Good, he hasn't gone Black just at the sight of me.

"Hey, Haru-kun."

"Aren't you cold without a shirt on?"

Kyo blushed, realizing he had just skulked over a good third of the town in just his pants.

"There's kind of a long story there."

"Do you want to come in?"

"That's probably not a good idea. Listen, some stuff's happened and … just come with me."

"What's going on?"

"You're going to go Black when I tell you," Kyo warned. "C'mon, I'll explain on the way."

The ox's eyes narrowed at his cousin, but he grabbed a coat and followed Kyo. After about five minutes he apparently got sick of walking in silence.

"Where are we going? The dojo or Sensei's house?"


"Are you going to tell me what's wrong before or after we get there?"

Kyo sighed. "Last night, I was walking back from Shishou's place and I heard a fight in an alley. It was four on one." He took a deep breath and let the next part out in a rush. "Near as I can tell, Yuki got jumped."


And suddenly the cat was pinned to a wall by his throat.

"He's okay – I think – I used my – other form to – scare the guys – off – Got him – to – Hatori – Shishou said – this morning – he's okay."

"If you're lying … " Haru growled, briefly tightening his grip. He released his long-time sparring partner and Kyo greedily sucked in oxygen. Then Haru roundhouse kicked him in the stomach.

Kyo stumbled back, dropping the bundle of Yuki's things he'd still been carrying. He'd been expecting Haru to snap, but that didn't mean he had to like it. He managed to get into a defensive stance in time to dodge the next punch.

"You BASTARD!" Hatsuharu screamed. "You let Yuki get hurt! You're the fucking cat, you're supposed to be the only one who fights him!"

The orange-haired teen jumped aside and forward as Haru lunged, using their collective momentum to sink a fist deep into the cow's stomach.

They both wheeled around to face each other again, gasping for air. Kyo's throat burned and Haru's stomach probably hurt – it'd better, after that punch – but neither of them was going to let a little thing like breathlessness hold him back. Haru's face said he was on a mission to destroy.

"It's supposed to be you, you damn stupid – "

"Why do you think I helped him?!" Kyo figured his efforts were wasted and Haru was past reasoning with, but no way was he going to sit back and take abuse he hadn't earned.

"Don't play mind games! You were in on the attack – you wanted to look like a hero and impress Tohru-san!"

"I – wait, what?"

His distraction earned Kyo a right-hook to the jaw. A rampaging bull with martial arts training had zeroed all his focus on the cat, who was losing ground mostly because he didn't want to fight Haru right now.

But bringing Tohru into it … the ox had crossed a line. Now the fight began in earnest.

"We need to interfere," Hana informed Uo abruptly, just as the blonde was about to sip her cappuccino. They were seated at an umbrella-d picnic table in front of an American-style coffee shop, although Hana hadn't actually gotten a drink.

"What's happened?" asked Uo, figuring it was just another of Hana's 'wave' powers acting up. Her friend abruptly stood and swept away. Uo sighed and followed, still carrying her cup. She'd paid good money for that coffee and she was damn well going to finish drinking it.

"Take that back!" roared a familiar voice. "I had nothing to do with it!"

"Sounds like the Prince and Orange-Top are going at it again," Uo commented. "Is that what you were sensing?"

"It's not Yuki-san," Hana deadpanned. "Something's happened to him."

"How bad is it?"

" … Not deadly and he's not here. But it is bad enough to severely distress his cousins."

"Even Orange-Top?" Uo smirked. "I knew he cared."


The girls finally got close enough to see … well, Uo wasn't entirely sure what they were seeing. It looked a bit like a martial arts movie sequence, a bit like a brawl, and a lot like two guys making idiots of themselves in public.

Kyo was … aggressively defending himself, against the Sohma with black and white hair whose name Uo couldn't remember, although based off what Kyo had just screamed, it was Haru.

Okay, how would Tohru handle this if she were here? … Never mind, no time for sweet and innocent – not that Hana or I can really pull that off anyway.

Uo lunged between them and grabbed Haru around the shoulders, trying to hold him back. She was totally unprepared for him to turn into a cow.

Kyo and the Haru-cow looked shocked as well. Hana didn't, but then, when did she ever?

Uo let go and stumbled back. Kyo hastily looked around.

"I don't think anyone else saw that …"

"This is all your fault!" the Haru-cow screamed at him.

"My fault? You're the one who went crazy and attacked me in public!"

"What is going on?" Uo demanded.

Kyo, grumbling, gathered up a bundle of clothing, then snatched up the clothes that somehow fell to the ground instead of tearing apart when Haru transformed into the Haru-cow.

"I guess you may as well come with us," said the Haru-cow slowly.

"Yeah, Hatori should still be there if it's a problem," Kyo agreed. "We can explain on the way. Tohru will probably be glad to see you."

"How did he turn into a cow?" Uo cried in exasperation. The Sohmas began walking and Hana and Uo kept pace on either side. Kyo spoke first.

"How much do you two know about the Chinese Zodiac?"

"Just the old story," said Hana.

"Yeah, God had a banquet for all the animals and the rat tricked the cat into missing it."

Kyo ground his teeth at Uo's casual sum-up.

"Fourteen people in our family are possessed by the spirits of the twelve zodiac animals, 'God'," sneering a little, "and the cat. As you've probably noticed by now, Haru is the ox. We change into our animal forms when we get weak or we're hugged by a non-possessed person of the opposite sex."

"Which animal are you?" asked Hana. Kyo jumped.

"Who said I was one?"

"You said 'we' rather than 'they' when you explained what causes transformations. Besides, you and your cousins all emit the same electric signals."

"Uh … "

"Kyo's the cat and Yuki's the rat," and by Haru's tone, he seemed to have calmed down. "That's why they don't get along."

"So, how long are you going to be stuck as a … cow?" wondered Uo.

"We change back after a while; the time varies."

"Grip him around the neck until we're in the woods," Kyo suggested. "We're naked once we're human again and I don't think the general public needs to see that."

Hana immediately hugged Haru's thick bovine neck. Uo smothered a smirk.

"So, Kyo, do you need a hug as well? Show us how you look as a cute little kitty?"

His glare said it all: 'Try it and I kill you. Slowly.'

"You'll see it soon enough," said Haru. "Tohru will probably throw herself into his arms as soon as she sees him."

"Does Tohru know?"

Kyo blushed. At any other time, Uo would've teased him relentlessly.

"Yeah. She found out the day we met."

"Aww, that's so sweet."

Tohru was in the kitchen trying to make lunch – she was still cooking for four, but it felt strange not having to remember Kyo's hatred of leeks or that Yuki liked his food with a hint of curry even when the recipe didn't call for spice.

There was a knock, and she answered it quickly. Outside was one of the last collections of people she'd expect to see together. Uo, Hana, Haru, and …


She leapt at him and hugged him tightly, cuddling his adorably fluffy cat body and trying not to cry. In the background, she thought she could hear Hatsuharu saying, "Told you so."

Sorry this update was so delayed. I will try not to do that again.

I didn't originally plan for Tohru's gal-pals to be in this chapter, or in the story as major characters; then I decided they deserve some time in the spotlight too. Someone had to save Kyo's life back there. And yes, I was planning for Uo and Hana to find out about the Sohma Curse … just. Not. Yet.

Also, I made up that bit about Yuki liking curry so he could have a food quirk too.

Published October 21, 2008