Disclaimer: I don't own Fruits Basket, or any of the characters, places, things, or ideas therein. The aforementioned belong to the writer of the anime/manga, and FUNimation. I am writing this fic for entertainment purposes only, not monetary gain of any kind.

Summary: Tohru asks one last favor of the Sohma family, and one member in particular. TohruxYuki

Rating: T

Warnings: Character death, violence, brief thoughts of insanity

Pairings: Tohru/Yuki, Kyo/Kagura, Kisa/Hiro, Haru/Hana, mentions Hatori/Kana

Spoilers: Very slight ones for episode 9

Author's Note: This is my very first Fruits Basket fanfic, ever. Obviously, I don't like to do things halfway, since my first fic is 16 ½ pages long. I've only ever seen the anime (not read the manga), and since I've seen it English-dubbed, I'll be writing with that style. I really hope that doesn't bother anyone… Depending on how this fic is received, I might do a sequel that picks up at the end of this one. In the meantime, I really hope you like this fic, and thank you so much for checking it out!

*~Snow~*

~decatbastet~

At one point in my life, I had been terrified of this moment. But now? Now I yearned for it with every single fiber of my being.

Even though they weren't there, I could still feel the weight of Hana and Uo's worried stares. I knew what they were thinking - the looks on their faces certainly made it plain enough. They were worried for me physically, mentally, emotionally. Even though I told them repeatedly that I was a survivor (the smile on my face was the most impossible one in my entire life to hold there and not let crumble), they didn't look convinced. Perhaps they were right to worry, this time.

"Are you ready?"

I lifted my head from my dressing table, my hand arrested in its motion of lifting the necklace I'd chosen from its surface to my neck. "Almost!" I clasped the necklace and tried to ignore the anxious fluttering in my stomach. This was the first year I'd be spending New Years at Sohma House; even though I had not been born a Sohma, I was invited since I had married into the family.

Yuki's lips lifted in a soft smile. "You look beautiful." Sincerity shone in his amethyst eyes, but I still couldn't shake off my horrible case of nerves.

"What if they don't like me?" I whispered. I knew I would be fine as long as I was around Haru, Kagura, Momiji, Hatori, Kisa, Shigure, and Kyo, but they were really the only ones in the Sohma family I was well-acquainted with. Yuki's family was huge, though, and I was terrified of meeting everyone else. If I said - or worse, did - something wrong…

Lifting his hand, Yuki brushed the tail of one of the ribbons I'd tied in my hair over my shoulder. I could tell by the way his lips twitched that he was trying to hide a smile. "They won't like you," he said.

I felt my eyes widen and face flush. The fluttering in my stomach turned into full-blown nausea, and I regretted the cakes I'd made us for lunch.

The smile he'd been trying to suppress flickered to life on Yuki's lips. "They won't like you, because they'll love you," he finished. "I admit my family is a little strange, but once they meet you, everything will be fine." He pressed a kiss to my cheek, at the same time linking his fingers with mine. "Now come on, or we'll be late."

I let him pull me after him, both regretting and loving that he'd let me see another flash of his sense of humor. I just slightly regretted that I had been the object of his joke. Despite myself, I smiled as we exited our little townhouse, slipped on our shoes, and took off for the Sohma estate. It was growing dark, the last colors of twilight streaking the sky as we strolled arm-in-arm down the street. There were very few other people around; everyone else was already wrapped up in their New Years' parties.

The street was bustling now, but I hardly felt it whenever I accidentally bumped into someone. However, I couldn't escape the curious stares people aimed at me as I walked along. Some of them knew me; most were wondering what had happened to the happy girl they knew, and the rest stared at me with sympathy in their eyes. It was that which I regretted most, which made me have to blink away more tears. These days, it seemed like I was a bottomless well - I couldn't stop crying, no matter how hard I tried.

Things just didn't seem as bright anymore. It wasn't hard to figure out why.

Any time someone tried to speak to me on the street, I murmured my excuses and kept moving. The effort of being sociable required more energy than I had to spare.

Yuki and I spent most of the walk in comfortable silence, aside from the occasional comment one or the other of us made. It seemed like we were standing before the gates of Sohma House in no time at all.

Just as Yuki had predicted on our journey, Momiji was waiting for us just inside the gates. "Tohru! Yuki!" He was practically vibrating with energy, looking like he was having difficulty restraining himself from jumping on me to hug me. With all the Sohmas around who didn't know about the zodiac curse, it wasn't a good idea for him to hug me and turn into a rabbit.

"Momiji!" I smiled widely at him, offering him a slight bow in lieu of a hug. "Happy New Year!"

"You too!" He clapped his hands, leading the way toward the main house. "Almost everyone else is here! Ha'ri is late, but he said he had a little more work to do, so that's no big surprise. And Shigure just got here a few minutes ago, though it's really not like him to be late, but he said something about his editor, and Ayame-"

I felt Yuki stiffen slightly. Though he and his brother were getting along a lot better than they did when he was younger, there was still obvious tension in the air when they were in each other's proximity. I squeezed his arm to lend him strength, and he smiled gratefully at me.

In the past, I had visited Sohma House several times, but I had never seen it so full of people - or so beautifully decorated. I could feel Momiji and Yuki's eyes on me as I gazed around, my eyes wide with wonder.

And then Shigure was there, grinning as shamelessly as he always was. "Tohru!" he sang happily. "It's been too long!"

I smiled peacefully at him, once more in wonderment at how perfectly his personality matched his zodiac animal. "Shigure! Happy New Year! Everything going well with your writing?"

He closed his eyes and lifted his hands in mock confusion. "I don't know why Mii gets so upset," he sighed. "You would think by now that she would know that I will make my deadline."

Someone cleared his throat behind us, and I turned to see Kyo standing there, arms crossed, scowl firmly fixed on his face. "If you didn't torment the poor woman so much, perhaps she would learn to trust you," he growled.

Shigure rolled his eyes. "I get no respite," he sighed dramatically. Then he brightened and lifted one hand in a wave. "Hatori! Excuse me, everyone, but good times are to be had and all that, you know…" And off he went. It was only then I noticed that Momiji had already vanished, no doubt to chatter away at someone else.

"Happy New Year, Cat," Yuki said quietly. He very obviously was not looking his cousin in the eye.

Kyo's left eye twitched slightly. He mumbled something that might have been, "You too, Rat," before he turned to me. "Hi, Tohru. So what do you think of Sohma House?"

I clasped my hands together in genuine delight. "It's beautiful!" I declared. "If I didn't know better, I'd think I was somewhere else!"

Smiling smugly, Kyo followed my gaze as I admired the general splendor of it all. "We spent a week working on it," he said. "Kagura and I have been staying here the past few weeks."

Yuki raised his eyebrow. "Did you get evicted again?"

"Keep your nose outta my business, Rat," Kyo snarled.

At that rather opportune moment, Kisa appeared next to us. "Sissy!" She threw her arms around me in a stranglehold. Even though Kisa was all but grown now, she still hadn't stopped calling me by that fond name - or thinking of me as a genuine sister.

"Happy New Year, Kisa!" I replied, returning her embrace. "So I hear you're dancing this year, since it's the Year of the Tiger."

Kisa blushed. "Yes," she whispered. "I wish you could be there. I'm so nervous."

"You'll do fine," I said confidently.

"Oh! That reminds me." Kisa grabbed Yuki's arm. "It's time for the banquet."

Yuki smiled apologetically and kissed my cheek. "I'll skip this year if you really want me to," he said softly, for only my ears.

I knew how important the zodiac banquet was to the Sohma family, and he'd missed it before because of me. This year, I was determined not to let him do so again. "I'll be fine," I said. "Go ahead."

Kyo smiled, looking so much like a cat I had to do a double-take to make sure he hadn't transformed. "Tohru will be fine," he said. "I'll stick close to her the whole night."

My husband's eyes narrowed infinitesimally, but he left me with his archrival after giving me another light kiss, this time on my lips. Still blushing from his attention, I let Kyo take my arm and lead me into the thick of the crowd.

"Shouldn't you be going with them?" I asked softly.

He shrugged uncaringly. "I haven't been a part of it before. I don't want to be a part of it now."

"But you've been accepted-"

"Not interested," Kyo repeated firmly, putting paid to that conversation. "Now come on. There's some people I want to introduce you to."

"Tohru."

I stopped, wondering if I had imagined the voice. But as soon as I laid eyes on the dark-haired girl wearing a long black cape over an almost equally dark purple dress, I knew I hadn't imagined it. "Hana."

She stepped out of the shadows she'd been blending in with, falling into step with me as I continued on my way. "Uo wanted to come, but I convinced her that I wanted to talk to you alone," she said softly.

My friends were amazing. They'd made a promise that they'd take care of me, and it never ceased to awe me at how seriously they'd adhered to their vow. "What did you want to talk to me about?" Even I was surprised at how flat my voice sounded.

Hana didn't seem to be affected. "We're worried about you. You've barely been eating or sleeping. While I can understand why, we - well… We've been trying to figure out what we can do to help you."

I kept my focus on the ground, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. One step at a time, that was what I had to do - if I tried to think of the bigger picture, the entire journey, I might collapse. Especially if I concentrated on where I was, and the familiarity of the route. "Thank you, Hana," I said listlessly. "But I'm going to see Hatori Sohma now. He will help me."

My friend's eyes narrowed slightly. "He is a doctor, correct?"

"Yes. He knows…" I stopped. Too much, Tohru. Too much. I closed my eyes. Mom, Yuki … Help me.

Hana said no more. She simply kept pace with me, silently offering her comfort and support as we continued on my journey, step by step.

In the end, Yuki was right. The members of the Sohma family that didn't belong to the zodiac weren't nearly as eccentric as those that did. Kyo swept me along from group to group, somehow managing to stay in the background after giving introductions.

By the time Yuki rejoined me at the regular New Years party, I felt like I had met a thousand people, and I couldn't remember even a fourth of their names. Kyo offered me a quiet goodbye and vanished only a moment before Yuki's hand settled on my shoulder to let me know he was there.

"You look overwhelmed," he remarked.

"You look tense," I replied.

A shadow briefly passed through his eyes. "Akito," he said simply. Then the shadow was gone, and a wry smile turned up his sensitive lips. "And Ayame."

The first didn't surprise me, though the second did a little. "That bad?" I held on to his arm, guiding him into a quieter corner of the room.

"It could have gone better," Yuki admitted. Then he seemed to force a pleasant smile onto his lips. "What about you? Did Kyo introduce you to the entire extended family?"

"It feels like it," I murmured meekly. "I knew your family was big, but this…!"

Yuki chuckled. "We can come back tomorrow. After all, the celebration lasts for three days. If you're feeling overwhelmed now, we can certainly come back later."

I bit my lower lip. "Are you sure?" I whispered. "I don't want to-"

Yuki took my hand and pulled me toward the door. "Come on," he said. "It doesn't bother me to miss out on this part. After all, the most important part has passed anyway." He applied slight pressure to my fingers, letting me know he wished I could have joined in the festivities. Across the room, I could see Kagura rattling a mile a minute into Kyo's ear, undoubtedly filling him in on everything he'd missed. He didn't look like he felt as if he'd missed much, but I admired the way he was patiently listening, orange head tilted toward his wife's smiling face.

"Besides," Yuki said, pulling my attention back to him. "There's no one else in the world besides you that I would rather spend New Years with."

I demurred slightly. "Shouldn't we let someone know…?" I spotted Shigure standing close to the door, grinning goofily, and felt myself blush. "Never mind." By the end of the night, everyone - at least those belonging to the zodiac - would know exactly when we left, if not his theory on the whys, too.

A sudden chill raced up my spine, and I turned my head slightly to the left. For a moment I thought all there was to see was a shadow, but then my eyes adjusted and I saw the figure standing there, black clothing helping conceal himself.

Akito.

I must have made an involuntary sound, or tightened my grip on Yuki's hand, because he paused. "Tohru…?" He followed my gaze, and the slightest hint of the fear I'd seen in his eyes all those years ago at school when I had first met the head of the Sohma family flickered in his eyes. I wondered what nightmares he was reliving. I knew he had his reasons for not telling me, though I'd begged him to share his obviously difficult burden with me countless times.

Tightening my grasp on his hand, I forced myself to pull his frozen body toward the door. "Come on, Yuki," I said. I couldn't keep the tremor out of my voice any more than I could get rid of the gooseflesh still rippling across my skin. "I want to go home."

Yuki slid his arm around my shoulders, making sure my arm didn't touch his chest as he did so, and hurried us both out the door. "Yes," he murmured. "Suddenly I have a bit of a headache."

The air had turned icy while we had been at the party. I shivered at the change in temperature, and Yuki's arm tightened around my shoulders slightly. "I could call us a cab," he said softly. "It is quite cold."

I shook my head. "By the time it gets here and then drives us home, we could already be curled up by the heater," I told him. "Let's just walk."

We walked a few minutes in silence as I tried to get up the courage to ask him about the zodiac banquet. In the end, though, I chickened out and asked a different question than the one I had intended. "How did things go with Ayame?"

Yuki's lips twisted slightly. "About the same as usual."

I knew what that meant. Ayame had probably gone off on one of his monologues, then Yuki got impatient and interrupted, then everything escalated into an argument…

"It's not so bad," Yuki continued, surprising me out of my thoughts. "Seeing him only a few times a year helps." He chuckled lightly. "Besides, among Kagura, Momiji, and Shigure, most of my - and everyone else's - attention was focused elsewhere."

"Oh! That reminds me - how did Kisa do?" Remembering the terrified look on her face as she and Yuki left made my stomach twist into nervous knots.

"She did fine." His steps faltered for a moment, and he lifted his free hand to his mouth as he turned away and coughed.

"Yuki?" I rested a light hand on his shoulder. "Are you all right?" As he'd gotten older, he'd slowly outgrown the problems he'd had with his bronchial tubes, and the resulting asthma attacks he suffered from when he got too cold or worked too hard. But I still worried sometimes that he hadn't completely been able to shake his problems.

He straightened his shoulders and turned to me with a reassuring smile. "I'm fine," he said. "It's just a tad colder out here than I thought. Once we get home, I'll be all right."

"I'll put some tea on as soon as we get to the house," I said resolutely. "You go straight to the heater." I was beginning to regret telling Yuki not to call that cab.

Smiling dryly, he wrapped his arm around my shoulder again as we continued walking. "I have no idea what I would do if you weren't here to take care of me," he said genuinely.

"Dry up and wither away, probably," I said, finishing his joke.

Yuki abruptly withdrew his arm from my shoulders again. This time when he twisted his upper body around to cough, it sounded deeper in his chest, and there was an accompanying rattle. When he turned back, his face was pale, and his breath wheezed past his lips.

Panic swelled up inside me, and it felt like I was the one who was having trouble breathing. "Yuki!" I didn't know what to do. If I hugged him and turned him into his rat form, I could carry him home, getting him there much faster. But I didn't know what transforming him would do while he was having such a hard time breathing.

"I - don't - understand," he rasped. "I thought - I had - outgrown - my asthma." His long-fingered hand went to his chest, tugging at the buttons on his coat as if the piece of clothing was too tight across his chest, and that was what was causing the problem. "Tohru…" His knees buckled, and he fell to his knees, right there on the side of the street.

"Yuki!" I tumbled after him, ignoring the painful scrape of concrete against my skin. Grasping his face in my hands, I nearly choked when I realized how icy his skin was. I had a horrible feeling it had absolutely nothing to do with the frigid temperatures we were outside in. "We need to get back to Sohma House - Hatori should see you."

He shook his head, silver hair shining in the moonlight. "No!" he half-snarled. "I don't want to go back there tonight."

I remembered the way Akito had been staring after us, his dark eyes full of something I couldn't quite identify but which terrified me greatly. "But Hatori-"

Pushing my hands away, Yuki turned and coughed again, doubling over on himself in pain. "All right," he rasped resignedly when the fit passed. "But I'm not going back into the main house."

Thankful that he'd agreed to go at all, I helped him stand, looping his arm around my shoulders as we turned and headed back the way we'd come. He leaned heavily on me; though slight of build, Yuki was all muscle, and it showed.

The walk back to Sohma House seemed interminable. With every step Yuki leaned on me a little more, and I saw that a cold sweat had broken out on his skin, which was so pale it was almost translucent.

I turned my gaze up to the gates as we approached them, feeling heartened for the first time since Yuki started coughing. We were so close! All I had to do was get him into Hatori's office, then go back to the main house and find him…

Just as I was reaching out to open the gates, Yuki collapsed.

"Tohru? We're here."

At Hana's soft words, I lifted my head to be faced with the very gates I'd just been remembering. The hair on my arms and the back of my neck prickled, and I shivered involuntarily. It wasn't as chilly as it was on New Year's, but even if it was, the temperature had nothing to do with my chill. That was entirely inward. "Thank you," I whispered.

Hana brushed my arm. "Would you like me to go in with you?"

"No," I replied listlessly. "This is something I have to do on my own." I started to reach for the gate, hesitated, then turned back and hugged Hana fiercely. "Thank you, Hana. For everything," I said genuinely.

A gentle smile turned up the corners of her mouth. "You are my best friend," she replied guilelessly. "You have been there for me when I needed you. It is only fair I return the favor in your time of need." After hugging me back, Hana gently pushed me in the direction of the gates. "I will be right here when you return." With that, she went to sit in the shadows by the wall, calmly pulling a deck of cards out of the pocket of her cloak so she could play a game while she waited.

I drew in a deep breath, and with it, my courage. Once more reaching out for the gate, I pressed my hand against it, swinging them open. Then I walked inside, quietly closing them behind me.

This would be the last time I entered the gates of Sohma House. It would be best if I made it count.

"Yuki!" For the second time that night I skinned my knees as I fell next to him, just managing to catch his head before it impacted the sidewalk.

"Get … Hatori…"

"I need to get you to his office!" I swallowed back my panic. He needed me to be calm.

"Go…" Yuki's hand curled around my arm with surprising strength. "Be fine … till you get back…"

Leaning down, I pressed a quick kiss to his forehead. "I'll be right back!" I vowed. "I love you!" And then I was off, bursting through the gates and toward the main house, running as fast as I could go.

My sudden entrance into the house caused the entire party to freeze, every pair of eyes in the place turning toward me with curiosity. I couldn't even bring myself to be embarrassed at bursting in so rudely, I was so worried. Their momentary inaction, however, let me scan each face for Hatori's without much trouble. As soon as I spotted him, I ran straight toward him, grasping his arm so I could pull him after me. "Hatori!" I gasped. "Please, it's Yuki… He's sick, coughing, he can't breathe, please help him…"

The remaining Sohmas burst into confused conversation the moment the door shut behind me and the doctor. I ran back to the gates, explaining in as few words as possible what had happened to the man running behind me, looking extremely worried.

"I thought he was over his asthma," he murmured. "I don't understand. This shouldn't be happening."

"He made me leave him outside and come get you," I said as we neared the gates. "He looked and sounded so horrible, I didn't argue- Yuki!"

Hatori pushed past me, kneeling next to my husband's still form. He was half-slumped against the wall, body lax, head lolling. His eyes were open, focused on nothing, and his lips had gone blue in my short absence. I felt myself starting to shake, chilled despite how warm I'd gotten during my run from the gates to the main house and back.

Quickly and efficiently, Hatori picked up Yuki's arm, fingers pressed to his wrist. The one eye I could see was closed in concentration, his lips moving silently as he spoke to himself. But then he sighed, his entire body seeming to drain of energy with the motion, and leaned forward to gently rest Yuki's arm across his chest.

My trembling turned into teeth-rattling shudders. "H-Ha'ri…?" I whimpered.

He lifted his gaze to me, meeting my eyes for only the briefest moment before he lowered his head and shook it once. "I'm sorry, Tohru," he whispered. It seemed like the weight of the world had suddenly settled onto his shoulders - and mine.

Arms wrapped around me, catching me as my knees buckled. Conflicted, I wanted at the same time to cling to the strength they offered me and push them away so I could run to Yuki. I wanted to grab him, to shake him, to demand he look at me, say something, do something other than lie there looking so…

I stopped fighting against the arms that were now restraining me, succumbing to the urge to throw my head back and scream my grief to the sky. I screamed until my lungs begged for air, my vision went blurry, and then I passed out.

First my mother. Now my husband. My life was wrought with tragedy, full of loss and heartache. I had succeeded, somewhat, after my mother died at maintaining my façade of being happy, and okay with what had happened. After a while, I even started to believe it.

But now? Now, without Yuki, it felt like the world had died, that the sun had gone down and never come up again. I had no idea what to do. In the week that had passed since that horrible night, I kept turning around, expecting him to be there, but he never was. I woke up at night with a stranglehold on his pillow, surrounded by his smell, which was fading more and more with every passing day. I was haunted by his memory, and I knew if I didn't do something, I would buckle under the pressure and succumb to a living death.

I was very careful not to look toward the main house, though I felt those cold, inhuman dark eyes focused on me from that direction. I fought back the urge to shiver, clenching my hands into fists into the fabric of my skirt as I forced myself to take a step at a time toward Hatori's office. I needed to escape - from my too-painful memories of Yuki, from the Sohmas that reminded me of him every time I saw one of them, and, most of all, from Akito.

I heard my skirt rip as my hands tightened even more. Akito. I had never felt the urge to kill anyone before in my entire life, but now…

My throat hurt when I woke, and I lifted one hand to the painful spot as I squinted my eyes against the lights shining around me. It took a moment, but finally my eyes adjusted, bringing into focus the faces gathered around me.

Hatori, hovering close by, looking every inch the concerned doctor I was most familiar with. Next to him stood Kyo and Kagura, him with his arm around her shoulders, her with her head resting on his chest. Then came Hiro and Kisa - he looked like he was only there for her, but I appreciated the effort. Haru hovered behind Hiro and Kisa, the dark look of his Black form obvious in his eyes, though he was remaining mercifully silent for once. Momiji, Shigure, and Ayame were kneeling at the foot of the couch I was resting on, all staring at me with wide, frightened eyes.

Quickly, I scanned all the faces, looking for the one I most longed to see. Surely I had only gotten too warm in the party, and passed out, and Yuki was here, waiting for me to wake up and assure him I was okay so we could go home…

And then I saw the cot across the room, half-hidden behind a decorative screen. I saw the white sheet covering the familiar form, and just above the top, a few strands of silver hair.

I opened my mouth, unable to utter anything other than a long, thin wail that was a mere shadow of the heartrending pain that was shattering my chest.

Kyo's eyes followed my gaze, and his worried look melted into one of anger. He let go of Kagura, crossed the room in three long strides, and jerked the screen into place so it blocked my view of Yuki. "Hatori, I told you that you shouldn't have brought her here," he growled.

The other man seemed unperturbed. "This is my office," he stated calmly. "If Tohru was in need of further medical attention, this was the logical place to bring her since all of my equipment is here."

Pushing myself up onto my elbows took a great bit of concentration and more strength than I felt like I could expend at the moment. I concentrated on Hatori, knowing he was the one who could best give me the answers I was seeking. "What happened?" I knew he would know instantly that I meant what happened to Yuki, not me.

Hatori paused for a few moments longer than necessary, his face pinched in a pained expression. Then he turned to the others in the room, motioning with one hand toward the door. "Out," he commanded. "All of you."

"But-" Kyo started to protest.

"Out," Hatori repeated. "I need to speak to Tohru. Alone."

Albeit reluctantly, everyone left Hatori's office. Most paused to squeeze my shoulder or offer me quiet words on the way, until it was only me and the doctor left. He slid the door shut, then turned to look at me, wariness in the eye not covered by his dark hair.

I felt my stomach twist at the look on his face.

The sliding door into Hatori's office was open as I approached. For a moment I stood in the doorway watching him. He sat at his desk, back to me, hunched over what I assume was a file. Smoke curled above his head, and the scent of cigarettes teased my nose. I lifted my hand and tapped gently on the edge of the door.

Hatori spun in his chair, looking surprised to see me there. He pulled his cigarette out of his mouth, extinguishing it in the ash tray on the desk next to the open file he'd been studying, and stood to come greet me. "Tohru, what a surprise. Please, come in."

I smiled thinly, accepting his invitation. He watched me warily as he motioned for me to have a seat on the same couch I'd woken on. "Have I come at a bad time?"

"No. Not at all. Are you - unwell?" The pinched look around his eyes and mouth since the night Yuki died was still very much present. He looked rather like how I felt.

"Not physically." Looking down, I smoothed my skirt over my knees.

Dropping into his desk chair, Hatori sighed heavily. "I had a feeling this might be coming. Are you here for - why I think you're here?"

Clenching my hand into a fist to stop its trembling, I nodded. I couldn't bear to look into his eyes; I knew the pain I would see there. Every time he had to use his unique power on someone, it not only brought back horrible memories for him, but created new ones. "I'm sorry," I whispered. "But the pain - it's so much. I feel like - like I don't have any other choice. Especially after you told me…" My anger flared again, briefly. I was too tired to sustain it.

"I should not have told you," Hatori said tiredly. "I'm sorry for bringing you so much pain, Tohru. For all the pain knowing and loving my family has brought you."

"What happened?" I managed to ask from beyond the lump in my throat.

Hatori pulled his desk chair close. Sitting down, he sat with his shoulders hunched, head down, looking for all the world like he wished he were anywhere else at that moment. "You should know that I feel partly responsible for what happened to Yuki," he told me quietly. "In hindsight, I know all the clues were there for me to see, if only I'd known…"

Impulsively, I reached out to rest my hand over his folded ones, offering him strength I wasn't sure I could spare. But I needed to know what had happened to Yuki, and Hatori was the only one who could offer me that information. If he wasn't strong enough to tell me, I might never know, and I couldn't live with not knowing.

Looking up, he smiled weakly at me. It was short-lived. "For the past few weeks, Akito has been - different," he said warily. "More sullen, angrier. The relationships among the family that he was all right with earlier seemed to be making him upset now. Life has been difficult for Kyo and Kagura, even Hiro and Kisa, lately. I knew his real problems lay elsewhere, though I wasn't sure how to begin to discover where exactly that was."

A few things were beginning to fall into place. "Me and Yuki," I supplied. "He was upset about us."

Hatori nodded. "Akito's always preferred that the secret of our zodiac curse, thus romantic attachments, remain within the family. And, as you know, he caused Yuki a lot of pain when they were younger. It was why Yuki moved into Shigure's home in the first place, in hopes his cousin could help protect him from the wrath of the head of the family." He shook his head once, slowly. "It was only a matter of time, though. It wasn't quite so bad when you were just there, a live-in housekeeper and a friend to Shigure, Kyo, and Yuki. But then you and Yuki entered a relationship, and - in his opinion, worse - married."

I'd had few encounters with Akito in my life since coming to know the Sohma family, but each one had been enough to stir discomfort and even fear inside me. As if his attitude toward me weren't uneasy enough, I knew of his hatred for Yuki, and that made me all the more uncomfortable around him. I had no idea his revulsion ran that deeply, though.

"As the New Year, thus the party, grew closer, Akito began to make strange references. By themselves, they seemed harmless, but put together, they paint a very unsettling picture. I should have known when Akito insisted Yuki sit close to him at the zodiac banquet that something was wrong, but I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. He's always been - unwell - and I didn't want to push it, especially with so many others present who aren't as familiar with the darker side of Akito and Yuki's past." Withdrawing his hand from my grasp, Hatori planted his elbows on his knees and rested his head in his hands. "Tohru … Akito poisoned Yuki's food at the banquet. He deliberately killed your husband."

For a moment I sat in shocked silence, feeling like someone had flipped a switch inside me. Suddenly I was numb; my mind a jumbled mess of thoughts and nameless fears.

Yuki was dead. Akito had killed him.

I wanted to scream, to cry, to charge straight back into the banquet and kill Akito with my bare hands for what he'd done. Yuki had never done anything to hurt Akito, or any of the other Sohmas. In fact, he'd done all in his power to protect the family, and their secret, even going so far as to keep me at arm's length when we first met. How was it that Akito's hatred for Yuki had progressed so far that he felt like he had to kill him?

"Why?" I asked brokenly. I knew Hatori didn't have the answer, but I couldn't not ask the question.

"I don't know, Tohru. But I'm so sorry. I should have done more to protect Yuki. I should have known Akito was going to try something like this, and done more to stop him."

My mind was still a confused jumble, but I did know for sure that what had happened to my husband was not Hatori's fault, and told him so. Even if Ha'ri had tried to stop Akito, it meant both would have suffered for it. The thought of something happening to Hatori, as well, broke what was left of my heart. I had lost Yuki - I couldn't lose Hatori, as well.

"It should have been me."

I didn't even realize the words had left my lips until Hatori sharply lifted his head to stare at me. "What did you say?" he asked, voice sharp.

"It should have been me instead of Yuki that died," I repeated. "Akito wanted nothing more than to hurt my husband."

Rolling his chair closer, Ha'ri took hold of my hands and squeezed them gently but fiercely. "Tohru, don't even say that. Yuki would have…" He hesitated, looking torn. It was disturbing, seeing such an expression on his usually peaceful face. "You were everything to Yuki. He loved you so much, he would have fought anyone to save you. He would have killed for you."

Tears prickled in my eyes as I imagined Yuki in so much pain. "But why did he have to die? Why?" I still couldn't wrap my mind around the concept. Did Hatori not realize that that was exactly how I felt about Yuki? That, now that he was gone, I felt like the entire world was crumbling around me, that if I tried to keep going for one more day, one more hour, I would break? That spending the rest of my life without him was an impossible concept that made me feel oh-so-close to losing my mind to even consider?

"I don't know, Tohru. I'm so sorry, I wish I did, but I don't."

Lifting my hands, I quickly swiped away my tears. "Regardless, you know why I'm here now. There's nothing I can do to bring Yuki back. There's also no way I can avenge him. And - and right now, all I want to do is forget." I swallowed back more tears.

Hatori stared at me sadly, thoughtfully. "Tohru - you know once I remove your memories, there is no way for me to give them back. Once gone, they're gone forever. You'll forget us all - Momiji, Kyo, Kagura, Kisa, Aya, Shigure, even me. You'll forget Yuki. Forever."

"I've given this a lot of thought," I admitted. But my voice was uncertain - I was wavering. Despite how painful Yuki's death was for me, I had had a lot of good times with him, and with the rest of the Sohma family. They were my friends and, yes, my family. Did I really want to forget them?

Did I really want to remember all the pain of knowing them? Did I want to live with the knowledge that Akito had murdered Yuki in cold blood, and there was nothing I could do to make him pay?

Leaning back in his chair, Hatori narrowed his good eye at me. "May I tell you something?"

I knew he wanted to change my mind. And, deep down, maybe I wanted him to. So I nodded once, silently, for him to go ahead.

"I must admit, when I first heard that Shigure had given you shelter, I was angry at him. He's always been impulsive, and even a little reckless at times. When I first met you, I had already determined not to like you. I didn't understand what was so unique about you, what made Shigure, Yuki, and Kyo like you, and Akito-" here he added an unkind epithet that I whole-heartedly agreed with "-was so willing to let you go on being friends with them, being wise to our secret. And then I got to know you, and you reminded me of Kana, and I…" He paused, looking away before I saw more than a flash of the pain in his eyes. Even after all these years, talking about her still pained him. "And I realized that it was important someone else get the chance she and I never had. When I had come to visit you at school, I saw the way Yuki acted around you. I saw that he cared for you, deeply, and recognized his emotions as ones I'd had many years ago, and had almost forgotten." Hatori sighed once, heavily. "And I realized that, even though Kana and I really never had a chance from the beginning, I wanted to give you and Yuki that chance. I didn't want to take it away from you then, and I don't want to now."

Now more than ever I understood his actions toward me when we first met - his coldness, then his gradual warming as we got to know each other for longer periods. I tried to swallow, but the lump stuck in my throat made it nearly impossible.

"I know you're heartbroken. I know you're angry. I know you want to get rid of all of that, forget the pain and the anger and the guilt. But…" He gazed down at his hands, clenched together on his lap. "But, as your friend, I don't want to take the good times away from you. I'm also selfish enough to not want to lose another friend."

I was, to put it frankly, shocked. I had never realized Hatori's feelings ran so deep. I knew he was a gentle, thoughtful person, but to know that he felt things so profoundly, so personally, was eye-opening. At that moment I was extremely tempted to just lean forward and throw my arms around him in a tight hug, but I knew better than to do that. He probably was in no mood to revert to his zodiac form in the middle of such an intense discussion. Instead, I spoke to him in as heartfelt a manner as I could. "Thank you, Ha'ri." Standing, I bowed slightly towards him, pressing a soft kiss to the top of his head at the low point of my bow.

He looked up, surprised. As I straightened, I saw the true gratitude, relief, and warmth shining in the eye not hidden by his hair. "Thank you, Tohru," he replied. Briefly, he squeezed my hand, then stood with me. "Will you be all right?"

Turning my gaze toward the open door, I looked in the direction of the main house. I couldn't see it from where I stood, but I knew it was there. Just as well as I knew who was there. For the first time since I'd burst through the gates and saw Yuki lying there, dead, I felt like maybe there was hope in the world. I still missed him terribly, and knew I always would. I also knew I would forever hate Akito for what he'd done. But, like Hatori had said, it would do me no good to forget about all the good times I'd had with Yuki and the rest of the Sohmas just so I could forget about the bad. I smiled genuinely, this time not having to force my lips into the position. "Yes, Ha'ri, I do believe I will. Thank you."

This time Hatori was the one to lean forward and kiss my brow. "Come back and see me whenever you need to," he said. "As a doctor - and as a friend."

I left his office feeling much lighter than I had when I went in. In all honesty, Hatori had not said much to me, but he had known just the right words to say that made me see sense. And, perhaps part of the reason why I had heeded Hatori's words was because I knew that those were the exact things Yuki would have told me, had he been able to.

This time, the cold gaze riveted on my back from the direction of the main house did not bother me as I returned to the front gate. Akito could do whatever he wished, but he could not hurt me further. All I faced now was healing. There would be rough patches, but in the end, I knew I would be all right.

Perhaps one day, I would be able to remember the good times with Yuki and smile, instead of feeling tears prick my eyes. I looked forward to that day.

Hana looked up as I exited the gates. She gazed at me nervously, then glanced to her left. I was surprised to see Haru sitting there, two-toned hair blowing across his face in the breeze. He casually held a few cards in his hand, since I had interrupted the game he'd been playing with Hana. His eyes were soft, understanding - he was definitely White Haru at the moment. He jumped to his feet, reaching down to assist Hana to hers.

"Tohru?" She gave Haru's hand a thankful squeeze, then stepped toward me. "Are you - all right? You look … better."

I smiled again. "Yes. I feel better." I met Haru's eyes and tilted my head; he nodded. I knew he was probably expecting me to come out with no memory of him, and was relieved to see that I did remember him, still counted him as a friend.

Hana smiled her shy smile at me, her eyes shining with relief and happiness. I could see it on her face - somehow, she too had been expecting me to come out a different woman, and not like how I had arrived. Between her and Uo, Hana was the more observant, the gentler and intuitive one. I wished she knew about the zodiac, for I felt if anyone could survive knowing, it would be her.

And then she glanced at Haru, who looked back, and I smiled. Perhaps she would know soon. Hatori and Kana had been a door opening for me and Yuki, though their story had been almost as tragic as ours. As I turned my steps toward home, leaving Haru holding out his arm and offering to escort Hana home, I mused that, in the end, perhaps it was a good thing that Yuki and I had been able to be an open door that led to their relationship.

Perchance something good could be born of our tragedy. I turned my face up toward the snow that was gently falling from the grey sky, and smiled. It's snowing for us, Yuki, and the legacy we built. I shall never forget you, I promise. And, most importantly, I shall never stop loving you.

*~The End~*

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed!