CHAPTER 17

Without even thinking about it, I find myself sliding off the bed, pacing towards the door. I need to see Tohru, need to see her like a man dying of thirst needs to drink water, so that even in his awareness that the cold, moisture-striped glass is booby-trapped somehow, he'll still reach forward and wrap his achingly dry fingers around it. Only for me, the glass isn't booby-trapped by an external, oppositional force. Instead, sipping from it will only inflict harm on me because of my own uncontrollable emotions. Seeing Tohru will only be a brief quench to my burning thirst if Yuki is with her. And I know he is, know he is by the tinkle of his sweet but slightly icy laugh that echoes from the living room.

The door creaks open under my light touch, and I'm greeted by a blast of color and sound. There are more people here than I initially thought, or so it seems. But when I take a closer look, the only people here I wasn't expecting are Saki and Megumi Hanajima, as well as a quiet, dark-haired girl that seems to be staying nearby Yuki. I edge towards the wall, trying to stay camouflaged, as there's a particularly loud burst of laughter from a corner of the room where Haru sits with Rin and a small audience, which includes Ritsu, Kisa, and Hiro, among others whom I can't identify from the back. He's holding a plastic cup of something that looks suspiciously like beer, and I wonder for a moment just how close of tabs Kagura has been keeping on her 'innocent' little party. There's a sudden swoosh of air from behind me, and I whip around to see that the bedroom door has closed again. It takes me about another second and a half to note that Shigure and Mitsuru have disappeared from the crowd. Somehow, I'm not all that surprised that the former Dog has seemingly managed to bring things to such an intimate level after what couldn't have been more than an hour at this party thing. You've got to give it to the guy; he has skill.

I can't see Tohru anywhere, but I know that I heard the sound of her voice earlier, so I keep looking. Kagura sidles over to the crowd surrounding Haru and slides an arm over Ritsu's shoulder in a surprisingly close way. My gaze flickers over the twinkle in her eyes, the slight relaxation of the muscles in the cross-dresser's feminine face, and something registers inside of me. So it wasn't Kyo that Kagura was in love with, after all. Unexpected, for sure. As I look around the room, I begin to realize that everyone in here is actually paired off. Kagura and Ritsu, Shigure and Mitsuru (though they're in the bedroom), Kisa and Hiro, Aaya and that maid of his—Mine, I think her name is—Ha'ri and the schoolteacher, Kyo and Arisa, and, most painfully, Haru and Rin. Even Akito and Kureno, though they're not here. I wonder if the rumors about God being a woman are true. For some reason, it's not difficult for me to believe.

Fragments of my conversation with Haru earlier drift back to me suddenly.

" I swear I do. I absolutely love you. But I'm not in love with you."

"They're the same thing! You're just looking for a fancy way to say that you don't give a shit about me!"

"No! No, I'm not! Listen, you're my brother, my friend—isn't that enough? It doesn't have to change now!"

"No, it doesn't have to. But that doesn't change the fact that I want it to with every fiber of my freaking being."

It strikes me then that I don't want Haru to know that I'm out here. I'm not sure why, but I just don't. So I try to keep to the shadows as I inch around the room. Come on, come on—

There.

There she is.

Tohru.

I'm stumbling over towards her, her name is spilling out of my lips and my legs are moving underneath me, seemingly without messages from my brain, carrying me closer, closer to that lightly flushed, pretty but not beautiful face, those huge sapphire eyes that gleam with infinite kindness, the sparkling grin that comes straight from her heart. And then she's turning, turning to face me, just as I come to a halt before her. I realize that I'm actually looking down to her. For how long have I been the taller of us two? I never noticed.

"Momiji!" Tohru exclaims, glitter sparkling in the dark depths of her pupils. "Ah—you're here, you're here!"

She sounds so ditzy. It's ridiculous. All I can see are those gigantic blue eyes, that wide smile. Her light brown hair is completely down, something that rarely happens, and I like the way it frames her face in soft little waves. A faint smell of cherry emanates from those light, swishy curtains. The only thing that I want in this whole goddamn universe is to lean forward and kiss her, kiss her harder and softer and stronger and gentler than I've ever kissed anyone in my life, even Haru.

Haru.

It's as if I suddenly see his face superimposed over hers, dark brown eyes instead of pale blue ones, downy white hair instead of straight brown, pale skin instead of flushed pink, a sarcastic smirk instead of an open smile. And I feel completely nauseated. I don't want Haru to interrupt this moment. I want it to be in between Tohru and I, Tohru and I alone.

Something jolts inside of me, and my focus widens, until I'm looking past her shoulder, at something that I'm not supposed to be seeing by any means.

In the corner of the room, cloaked in shadow, is the unmistakable form of Yuki, and the shorter brunette girl is cradled in his arms.

Then everything's shooting away, like I'm soaring backwards through a blinding white tunnel. I open my mouth to scream, but the sound is ripped away from me. I can't see Tohru, can't hear anything but a rushing, a horrible, deafening rushing, which grows and grows to such a crescendo that I fear I'll never be able to hear anything again, ever, but this screaming, raging white noise, and then—

Everything stops.

I realize that my eyes were closed, and slowly open them. I'm lying on my back, in a meadow. The sky above is a beautiful, shimmering tapestry, and there are more stars in it than I knew existed in the entire universe. A soft breeze tickles my battered senses, and the only word I can conjure to describe how I feel right now is magical.

Shit. Did I just die?

"Okay," I'm murmuring. "Testing, testing. Am I dead?"

There's a very quiet sigh nearby, and I jerk into a sitting position, panting. "Who's there?"

The person comes slowly into my view, sitting cross-legged on the grass before me. She's very beautiful, dark-haired and pale-skinned, decked out in a black robe that somehow manages to add more curvature to her despite its simplicity. Or maybe it's just that I'm not used to seeing her as a woman.

"So you really are a girl after all," I say quietly.

Akito nods. She doesn't seem particularly happy, but she's not crying, only sitting there with eternities-old sadness in her eyes. "Yes. I am." The voice isn't how I remember hers being. It's lighter, softer, with a girlish lilt to it.

"Please don't tell me that I'm dead," I beg without pretense. "I didn't just get a heart attack or something, did I?"

"No. No, you didn't." She sighs again, this one long and heavy. "I don't think you're going to be very upset about what's happening now."

And then I understand. "My curse is broken."

"No, not quite yet. But almost. Almost. You're the last," she continues, meeting my gaze for the first time. She seems younger than I remember. "Kureno was the first, then Kyo, and the rest, one at a time. And now you. The little rabbit. No one ever paid all that much attention to you. You weren't a noticeable part of the Zodiac, ever. Just sat in the back of the banquet, eating your carrots."

I wait for more, and it comes after a brief pause.

"Well, this is it, Momiji."

"Wait." I hold up a hand, and suddenly realize that I'm wearing the same pajamas I did That Night. The ones with the too-tight lace cuffs. "Hang on. Why is the curse breaking now? What triggered it?"

She almost smiles. Almost. "Look inside yourself, and you'll see." Then she lifts a slim, light-looking pair of simple craft scissors. "Come here, now."

I scoot backwards, instead, the dampness of the grass soaking into the seat of my pajamas. "Wait. Are you going to slit my wrists or something."

"Of course not. Come on. Trust me."

It's not like I have any other choice, so I scoot up to her nervously. "Okay. Now what?"

"Your hand."

I give her my left hand first, the one that I can stand to lose the use of. She slides the blade of the scissors underneath the lace, positions them carefully, and snip. Just like that, one of the bindings falls away, and blood begins flowing back to my wrists. As I watch, the remnants of the cuff fall to the ground and begin to glow. I feel something inside of me lift. I extend my right hand without hesitation, feel the cool metal against the soft flesh of my inner wrist. It suddenly strikes me that perhaps I should say goodbye to the creature I've shared bodies with for so long, but snip and it's too late.

It's gone.

I think I see something hopping away out of the corner of my eye, something faint and wispy, but my gaze is stuck to the two severed cuffs, which are both glowing now, their light shooting up into the sky. They swirl together into a circle, which then shifts to a familiar pattern: yin and yang. Then I'm falling forward, into the void of light and dark, and shooting back through the rushing tunnel, but much faster this time, and before I know it, Akito, the peaceful night, and the blinding brightness are gone, and I'm standing in front of Tohru, who's still smiling cheerfully up at me as if nothing has happened.

I'm free.

I feel the truth burning inside of me with a fierce, delighted fire. I'm not the rabbit anymore. I'm just me. Momiji Sohma. I'm free of the curse, and with it, I'm also free of the false love, the crush on Haru that was holding me back all this time. Music and laughter pounds my eardrums, and I'm bringing myself closer to Tohru, wrapping my arms around her in the embrace that I've waited to give all my life.

"Momiji," she's gasping. "Your curse—"

"Gone," I whisper against her warm forehead. I tilt my head down so that we're eye to eye, brown to blue, blue to brown. "Gone forever."

And, suddenly, I know why it's gone. Starting with Akito and Kureno, then Kyo and Arisa, Haru and Rin, and so on and so forth until it finally reached me and Tohru.

Love. Love breaks the curse of the Zodiac.

That's when, finally, I'm pressing my lips against hers, letting myself sink into her, into Tohru Honda, the perfect girl that everyone loves, everyone, but no one so much as me. Momiji Sohma. Not Rabbit, but boy. Ordinary human boy.

For a moment, we break apart, and I catch Saki staring straight at me over Tohru's shoulder. Her pale lips curve into a smirk, and I hear her dark voice echoing clearly in my mind.

Congratulations, Sohma-kun.

I smile back, just for a moment, then wrap myself up in Tohru to celebrate away the night.


OMG! *obnoxious squeal* IT'S OVER! IT'S REALLY TRULY OVER! Wow, this is hard to believe. My first semi full-length fanfic: completed. Wow, wow, wow. 75 pages, 30,000 words, and 17 chapters exactly. Thanks eternally to all of my reviewers: Tuliharja, lavillalover, xxasianicexx, Alice, Airu74, Experienced Author, and Honorary-Weasley-Lover. All of you have helped me out a ton with this. I'm sure that the ending wasn't necessarily the one that some of you would have picked out, and I can honestly tell you that I do like Haru better than Tohru, but Haa-kun will always belong with Rin, and this is just how things turned out. I hope you all forgive me...! Please review telling me what you think of it. Thanks AGAIN to every single person who read this fic. May the Force be with you (that was out of place...)!