Chapter One

"No, no, no!" the girl repeated, pacing around the park bench that Yuki was sitting on. "I…can't remember…"

She trailed off, sitting beside him and cradling her head in her hands.

"…Do you need some help?" Yuki asked her gently.

"I…don't know," was her only response.

"Do you have a home? What's your name?"

"Rose…I'm Rose," she said softly. "No one wanted me…and then, the fire…the babies downstairs…" A tear slipped down her cheek, making a streak in her dirty face. "I couldn't leave them…not alone, like me."

"So…you have no one?" Yuki wanted to comfort her, but he couldn't see how. "Come with me, and live at our house."

She looked at him blankly. "But…who are you?"

"I'm Yuki Sohma," he replied, taking her hand and helping her off the park bench.

"Are you…sure? You don't even know me." Her blue eyes stood out against her mud-stained face and black hair. If he looked closely, Yuki could see some ash remaining on her cheeks that hadn't been washed away by her tears. She also had many semi-healed burn marks. She wore an old school uniform with no label that was apparently burnt, ripped, and patched in several places.

"It's fine," he replied, smiling at her disheveled appearance. "But I must warn you-my cousin's are crazy."

Rose laughed, following as Yuki led her into the woods. "You say it so calmly."

Yuki nodded. "It's true."

They were quiet for a moment, then Yuki spoke up. "This may seem to be a weird question, but do you do any housekeeping?"

Her face was puzzled. "I…remember cleaning and cooking for pay at some point, yes."

"Good," Yuki replied, with no further explanation.

"Did you say you were from the Sohma family?"

Yuki was surprised. "Yes."

Her brow furrowed. "I seem to remember something…oh, I can't remember. It's like trying to catch a bubble. Just when you think you think you've got it, it pops."

Yuki laughed, and Rose got the impression that he didn't laugh often.

Rose paused suddenly. "Yuki. Do you hear that?"

Yuki stopped, listening. There was a rustle in the bushes. Before he could react, however, Kyo jumped from the bushes. He landed a punch to Yuki's chin, nearly knocking him out.

Rose's eyes narrowed, and an odd change came over her. She kicked Kyo in the stomach, causing him to fall backward into a tree before he could make another move toward Yuki.

"What the heck is your problem?" she yelled. "Surprise attacks are for wimps! Be a man!"

Kyo ignored her, getting up and rushing at Yuki, who easily sent him flying.

"So," Kyo said angrily, wiping blood from his lip. "You have girls fighting your battles now?"

"Shut up, you idiot," replied Yuki coldly, grabbing Rose's arm and leading her away toward the house.