Chapter Two.

He sat prostate, staring at a page of homework. His eyes took nothing in; he was trapped in memories. Desperate, clawing memories, trying to escape. Belatedly, he shook his head. He must give no sign that anything was wrong; if he fell behind in his homework, the whole world would realize something was wrong. He had to present his perfect face to the world, because that was the Yuki they knew and expected. Did it matter that more often than not all he wished was to melt into the background? That he wanted to fail a test, come second in a race, go out with a normal give who could accept him for who he was? But no one would ever accept him, even if they knew about the zodiac curse. It was more than that; he had a worthless personality as well.

He was startled out of his reverie but a soft knock at the door.

"Yes?" he answered cordially.

"It's Kyo. Did you bring your math textbook home? I need to check something,"

It was unusual enough that Kyo was studying at all, especially late at night.

"Come in then," Yuki replied for lack of a better answer.

Usual soft scowl on his face, Kyo entered. His sneering gaze swept over Yuki's meticulously ordered room before focusing on the occupant.

"The book?" he growled not standing on ceremony.

Yuki handed him a green book without a word. He was still in no mood to provoke the fiery cat, but at the same time despised himself for being unable to do so.

"Thanks," Kyo sounded anything other than thankful, but Yuki let it go silently once more.

He simply kept writing, feigning complete interest in his essay. Kyo still studied him, much to his annoyance.

"Something's different," Kyo stated as his cousin tensed.

Had his farce been seen through? Had all his efforts been for nothing?

"You moved that mirror, didn't you?" Kyo said as he left the room, gesturing vaguely at one on the wall.

Yuki let out a deep breath. He was safe still.

"Oh how about these? Will these grow around here?" Tohru's enthusiasm was incomparable. She insisted on looking at every packet of seeds, as if it were a matter of life or death and not just a replanting of his precious patch.

"I know I'm babbling but I'm just so excited! I know it was horrible and everything, but we can make your garden even better than before!" she said optimistically.

"Yes, of course," Yuki replied, flashing her his perfect smile.

After they had paid for half a dozen packets, they began the short walk home.

"Miss Honda? Sorry to do this again, but I need to go to a student council meeting," Yuki coughed out. He hated lying, but it was necessary.

"On a Saturday? I was hoping to get started on planting," she replied disappointed.

"Some of the other students couldn't make the Thursday meeting, I need to catch them up on what we discussed," he offered lamely. He wished he was a better liar, but luckily Tohru was one of the most gullible people he knew.

"Oh of course! Well, you'd better not keep them waiting!" she smiled and the world seemed just that little bit brighter. As she walked away reality hit him. Not all people made the word a better place.

A bird alighted upon his finger, creating a perfect irony. Here was a man cruel and callous beyond reason and yet small animals trusted him inexplicitly. His uncut hair fell in soft clumps down his neck as the wind tugged playfully at it. To all appearances he was utterly serene. That is, he was calm until the smallest thing annoyed him and he was given to jealous fits of rage over his many subjects. They all knew how he had reacted when Hatori announced his intention to marry Kona Sohma. Hatori had never fully regained sight in his left eye, and never recovered from Kona's loss.

"Akito," Yuki croaked, voice barely above a whisper. He had been here for hours now, blood crusted over his face and body. Never before had Akito been so violent, so demanding.

His ribs felt like they were on fire, and his hands seethed with pain as bones moved through shattered skin. There was no way he could hide this anymore; no way he could pretend to be perfect.

"Did I tell you to speak? Did I?" Akito shrieked. The bird flew away startled, and Akito turned his bloodshot gaze to the teenager in front of him.

"You scared it away! You scared it!" he was punctuating each blow with a flurry of punches or kicks and Yuki could hear screams. Gradually Yuki realized the sounds were tearing themselves from his own throat. The pain overwhelmed him and he sunk into welcoming darkness. There was no pain there.

Akito was screaming, and from the sound of it destroying his room. Hatori sighed and put down his pen. It had been some time since Akito had behaved like this, although it was by no means unusual. He routinely destroyed everything around him in a fit of temper and once had even killed one his birds. That had left him desolate for days, crying over the small body until Hatori had hidden it from him. What startled Hatori into action was a second scream joining the first- a terrible, animal-like scream of pain.

Hatori threw back his chair and leapt up, tearing into Akito's quarters as fast as his legs would allow.

"Akito, no!" he cried, desperately clawing at the younger man and trying to force him back.

"Your fault! Your fault!" Akito was repeating, causing a jolt threw his physician's heart. This scene was all too similar to the one he had witnessed a few years ago, when he had lost Kona.

Akito was fighting against him, straining to get to the blood covered form in front of them when another person entered the room- Shigure. He pulled Yuki to his feet and dragged him from the room. With Yuki gone, Akito fell prostate in Hatori's arms.

"Your fault!" he still mumbled, but he was no longer fighting.

Hatori let him go and went to the cupboard he kept his medical supplies in. It would take a strong dose of sedatives to calm him this time.

There was so much blood; Shigure could feel the young man slipping form his arms. He let him fall.

"Yuki?" he gasped unbelievingly at the still body.

What was he doing here? Why had Akito done this?

Shigure's shaking hands pried apart the boy's shirt, trying to find a pulse, some sign that he was still alive. He was roughly pushed aside as Hatori took over.

"Go to Akito, make sure he falls asleep. I need to take care of Yuki!" Hatori's voice was so commanding that Shigure had no other choice.

"Dammit, Yuki," Hatori grunted as he attempted to staunch the flow of blood. "You're going to have to help me here!"

His pulse was weak and inconsistent, breathing labored.

"Akito's out of it, tell me what to do," Shigure was back at his side, but from the look on his face he would be worse than useless.

"Call together the rest of the zodiac. We need to work out what to do about Akito," Hatori replied without looking up. It was going to be a long night.