Disclaimer: Fruits Basket is the property of Natsuki Takaya. The following is a work of fanfiction loosely based on that property. This work is unofficial.

There are little hints if you look carefully.


Outside

The picnic had been planned for some time. It would be just the two of them.

Tohru had picked a spot with a beautiful view of the lake (and apparently had plans that involved lunch and skipping stones) but when Saturday finally arrived the skies were overcast. Kyo was having difficulty staying awake but had insisted that they go in spite of it. He wasn't quite sure how or when they arrived at their destination, but he was able to spread the blanket as Tohru unpacked their lunch.

The birds were silent, the June air was slightly humid, and Kyo thought he could smell something; it was unpleasant and seemed to be coming from the woods somewhere behind them.

Kyo tried to ignore the smell; Tohru didn't seem to notice it at all, either because she was her usual oblivious self, or because she was worried about spoiling their time together. Kyo sighed quietly; Tohru always worried about others and didn't take care of herself.

Some distance away, on the other side of the lake, Kyo could see what looked like a large rock. It reminded him of something—the shape seemed familiar—but he couldn't quite remember what it was, and he didn't want to spend the entire picnic worrying about it. He filed the thought away in the back of his mind for later.

Kyo's lunch was a simple bento box with a particular emphasis on fish; like all of Tohru's cooking, it was very good. Kyo focused on the flavors and textures—all of his favorite foods seemed to be there—and ignored the smell from the woods.

"We could skip stones on the lake," Tohru said abruptly. Kyo hadn't noticed Tohru finish her lunch, nor could he recall what she'd been eating.

Kyo's mouth was full and it gave him time to bite back his initial response (which would have been "That's dumb, and ask instead if Tohru had ever skipped stones before. Tohru looked slightly flustered and shook her head.

Finishing the last of his fish Kyo smiled and took a deep breath—and got a lungful of the putrid smell that Tohru seemed to be ignoring.

Kyo coughed and rose to his feet, pausing as he did so; there was a soft noise coming from the woods behind them, and he couldn't quite make out what it was.

"Find some pebbles," he said, "I'll be right back."

"What's wrong?" Tohru asked.

"It's probably nothing," Kyo replied, "I just thought I heard something." Tohru looked alarmed.

"Do you think... do you think it's a bear?" she asked.

"I think a bear would be louder than that; it was really quiet," Kyo said, heading for the trees. "It might have been nothing, but I want to take a look."

"Okay, I'll... be right here," Tohru said, trying to smile.

"Don't worry," Kyo said, smiling back, "I won't be long. And I expect pebbles when I get back."

Tohru's reply was lost as Kyo entered the woods.

He thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye for a moment, but when he looked there was nothing there. The trees grew more dense as he progressed, and the overcast sky was darkened further by the leaves. Wind blew through the trees, and the shadows cast by the leaves seemed almost to wiggle like living things in pursuit of what little light was left.

Scanning the area again, Kyo came to an abrupt halt. There was an unidentifiable lump of fur next to a tree several yards away. It might have once been a large cat, or a dog, or even a tanuki; Kyo couldn't quite make out the vague form, but whatever it was, it was quite dead, and had been for some time. The stench was overpowering, and flies buzzed around the corpse.

Disgusted and slightly unnerved, Kyo kept his distance and didn't stay to inspect it, heading back toward the lake instead. For a moment he thought the buzzing intensified before receding.

The water lapped against the shore. Tohru was waiting for him on the blanket, absently toying with a small pile of damp pebbles; Kyo heard them quietly scraping against one another, scraping and clicking together. The sun emerged from the clouds, and the lake sparkled in the light.

It was beautiful; it was perfect; and the two of them were together to share it. As Kyo approached, Tohru rose to her feet and smiled the wonderful smile he remembered so well, holding up a handful of perfectly shaped flat black stones; she seemed to have forgotten her earlier anxiety already.

"Did you find out what made the noise?" she asked.

Kyo was about to answer when he heard the noise again (was it footsteps?) retreating this time. Tohru didn't seem to hear it.

"I think whatever it was left," Kyo finally replied, omitting all mention of the dead animal; he could still smell it, and almost thought he could hear the quiet buzzing in the distance. He repressed a shudder.

"Oh good," Tohru replied, "at least it wasn't a bear."

"It could have been a quiet bear."

"Really? But I didn't hear it! What if-"

"Tohru," Kyo interrupted, "I love you."

And with that, he abruptly grabbed her arm and pulled her into a hug, nearly throwing her off balance as he did so. The stones were forgotten. Kyo didn't care if he transformed; he wanted to feel her in his arms, if only briefly. Tohru wrapped her arms tightly around him, and they waited for the inevitable puff of smoke.

But nothing happened. The two of them stood there, clinging to one another.

Kyo could still smell the thing in the woods, still hear flies quietly buzzing, but he wasn't paying attention to that anymore; if anything he was struggling to hold back tears. The mysterious rock on the other side of the lake blurred.

Tohru was here and Kyo held her. He held her, tightly in his arms, and promised himself he would never—ever—let her go again. The sun was shining, his curse was gone, and the two of them were together.

They were together, and Kyo knew that this time—this time—they would stay together. Always.

It was like a dream.


(And like a sequel, if only you realize it. This was a companion piece/sequel to "The Window.")