Just Me And You

.

.

.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Keystrokes of a piano filled the studio as an older woman instructed the class; the young girls doing their best to maintain their postures and follow the moves.

It was late August but Kisa's ballet academy was already getting ready for the fall program. It continued to be nostalgic for the white-blonde as she watched the lesson from the bench, giggling when Kisa would peek over as if to make sure Marley was watching.

After everything that happened at the Summer Resort, this little slice of normal was a relief. The last few days had seemed to fly by and soon the fall semester at school would begin. Marley already had all her summer homework done and her own regular dance studio was gearing up for the new autumn session.

Not that she could join any classes yet. She tried to attend a class yesterday but the cut on her arm was still too sensitive to put much pressure on it and after an embarrassing spill, Marley thought maybe it would be best to wait til she healed up a bit more. Despite that the cuts were healing well, Hatori had been by multiple times to check on them and her grandfather had been keeping a closer eye on her.

Marley had initially been worried when telling her grandfather about the incident with Akito but Kyo had convinced her that he would want to know. He even sat in the living room while Marley approached Tetsuo.

It had led to a discussion about whom had told Marley about Akito's transgressions, but the young woman insisted that it didn't matter how she found out.

She was sure that if she told them about what Shigure had told her; then they would be angry and Marley didn't want that. The truth was that she was grateful to the man because he told her the truth. Maybe now she could try and do something that matters.

The instructor clapped her hands twice and thanked everyone for a good class and told them to make sure to take care of themselves.

A little different from my ballet teacher, she used to run class like it was a military.

Marley shook her but smiled because even though she had been given a tough teacher, she had been passionate, and Marley had been excited to learn something new.

"Onee-Chan, I hope you didn't mind watching." Kisa looked down at the ground as they walked but Marley squeezed her hand in reassurance.

"Of course not, it's exciting. Your dancing is coming along beautifully. Let's celebrate with some shaved ice."

"Really?"

The two walked around the corner as Kisa tried explaining what moves she was having trouble with, but mentioned that the teacher thought it was ready for her to get pointe shoes. Marley mentioned the place where she got her own pointe shoes and offered to take Kisa.

"I just can't get used to the summers here. I feel like I'm melting." Marley joked as she waved her face a bit, Kisa just stared at the cardigan that she was wearing. It seemed odd in the hot weather; especially for Marley who normally liked short sleeved things unless it was cold out.

Before Kisa could suggest that maybe Marley could take off the cardigan, Marley opened the door for her and an excited smile made Kisa doubt that anything was wrong.

They ordered their shaved ice from a small café that was decorated with flowers and a light birchwood interior. Kisa ordered herself a strawberry while Marley got herself a mango flavored dessert.

"Tetsuo-Ojii-San mentioned you got to go a show last night?"

"mm, A few girls from school and Tohru came with me to the club that Gabrielle is performing at. We got treated like V. ."

"Was... was it kind of like your Mama's show?" Kisa knew that Marley's mother was a burlesque dancer and had even seen a few tasteful photos. The woman had looked so lavish and confident that Kisa couldn't help but wonder more about her.

"Almost. Their club was a little smaller, but it definitely made me think of my mother."

"Poor Tohru almost fainted though. I sometimes forget how... provocative the shows can be."

"But it was lots a of fun. Right?"

"It was amazing, All the dancers were so fierce and beautiful. And the live band really made me want to move. Plus Hana was very happy with the food choices."

"Do...do you think one day you...you would take me to a show like that?"

"Of course...when you're older... and when I'm older too..." Marley laughed, remembering that she herself wasn't even legal yet. It was under exceptional circumstances that her and the girls had been able to go the burlesque show last night.

"Oh and Gabi is doing one last workshop in a few days, teaching hip-hop, and she wants me there. You should come too; she's a great teacher and lots of fun." Marley suggested and Kisa already looked excited.

Marley stepped away to use the restroom and left her phone face up on the table. Only moments later the phone let out a buzz against the table and lit up. Kisa wasn't trying to be nosy or anything but her large eyes couldn't help but notice the alert. Marley's phone was giving her a reminder about a memory and a photo from last summer popped up.

Marley had a bright smile on her face as she threw up a peace sign while she and another familiar face stood in front of some sort of arcade game. Akito had a slightly embarrassed look on his face. He didn't look like the God of the Zodiac; just a boy on a cute date.

The girl in said picture came back to the table and noticed the phone notification. A flash of regret seemed to cross her features before she simply turned over the phone and gave Kisa a smile; mentioning that she was a little torn up that summer vacation was almost over but was looking forward to sweater weather.

Trying to switch the subject.

"Onee-Chan...is everything ok-"

Before Kisa could get out the words, their shaved ice was dropped off and the small girl lost her nerve. Marley tried to get Kisa to ask what was on her mind but the young Zodiac member just insisted that it was nothing and dug into her dessert.

.

.

.-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,-,

.

.

When Marley and Kisa returned to the house they were a little surprised to see Tetsuo, Hiro and Miguel watching some sort of T.V. program on cars. The sounds of engines and cars making crazy maneuvers as they burned rubber on the asphalt. It appeared to be a show about drifting in Tokyo and Miguel was doubting that the old man had ever driven anything over 30 miles per hour.

"Not everyone is a demon for speed like you Miguel." Marley teased before giving her Dadaji a peck on the cheek and Hiro a smile before asking if she could grab anyone anything from the kitchen.

"How was ballet class little one?" Tetsuo asked Kisa who smiled and shyly responded that she still had a lot to learn but was looking forward to the next class.

The white-blonde was quick to get started on making some tea for everyone and asked the two what they had been up too. Hiro mentioned that Miguel had shown up, asking for advice.

"on what?" Marley tilted her head, curious what kind of advice Miguel would be asking her Dadaji about. Or maybe Miguel was asking Hiro?

Doubtful

Marley had to giggle to herself over the thought of Miguel asking Hiro for advice on how to be sassy.

"He asked out the Honda girl to a summer festival," The words spilled out from her grandfather so easily that it took a few moments for Marley to realize the importance of them.

"OH MY GOD!" Marley was so thrilled she was shaking Miguel back and forth by his shoulders, and Hiro couldn't help but raise his eyebrows at the girl's strength.

"When did this happen? What are you gonna wear? DID SHE SAY YES!" Marley was just over the moon and Miguel rubbed the back of his head while giving a cheesy smile.

"Come on, I'm a babe magnet, how could you doubt me like that?" He teased but he had a small blush on his cheeks that gave away his confident statement and cocky smile.

"Miguel should wear a yukata," Kisa whispered to Marley. Who immediately agreed and told him, but he just blinked and looked lost.

"A what?"

Amethyst eyes looked over at her grandfather and he could tell what was coming.

"Dadajiii please?" It was the ultimate power move; not only was there Marley but now Kisa was also gazing at him with her own hopeful eyes. No one stood a chance. Not even the ever feared, very intimidating, Man of Iron of the Sohma family.

"...I outta kick everyone out...Damn kids...no respect...I use to be feared.." Tetsuo grumbled as he got up and left; only to return moments later with a few pieces of cloth in hand.

"Well, come on. Strip." Tetsuo gestured as if it was obvious and Miguel's jaw just dropped.

"WHAT!?"

Marley, Kisa, and Hiro all got to enjoy tea while also enjoying the impromptu fashion show where Marley learned that her grandfather had quite the array of different traditional clothes. She wondered if he had done the same thing with Yuuto when he was young.

The house was finally quieting down in the late hours. Tetsuo had drilled Miguel on how to don a summer yukata so he didn't look 'ridiculous' for his date tomorrow. The young man finally escaped when Tetsuo had to take a phone call and disappeared into his home office for work.

The youngest of the Zodiacs were sat in front of the T.V., their favorite anime was on but the two felt distracted. Kisa kept looking in the kitchen where Marley was getting food prepped for tomorrow.

"Here, I picked up some blueberries from the market yesterday, last of the season I think. Oh and if you're still hungry there is some leftover pesto penne I can heat up." Marley placed the bowl down with her right arm.

Her sleeves were rolled up and had removed the bandage so as to not get it wet when she was working in the kitchen but had completely forgotten to put it back on. Hiro's eyes caught something. Without thinking Hiro reached forward and snagged Marley's wrist before she could bring it back to her side.

"Hiro?" Kisa's small voice asked, slightly shocked by the sudden action and Marley seemed to freeze; a look of panic on her face as she awaited the boy's next move. It was so silent that one could hear a pin drop as Hiro just stared at the patch of skin.

It was there clear as day, blood-red scars in kanji reading-

Outsider

The young Zodiac had so many questions. He knew something had happened in the last few days at the summer resort. Marley had said she wasn't feeling well and that was why she had slept all day on their final beach day.

It was clear that something had transpired as it couldn't be a coincidence that Tohru, Momiji and Marley all had bandages on their bodies.

He tried to imagine what Akito might have put Marley through. Hiro had been sure that since Akito seemed to really like Marley then maybe she was safe. There was something about Marley's presence that just made the head of the Sohma family less intimidating and even seem calmer.

Or was being God's favorite more dangerous?

What could have Marley said to make Akito do something to her?

Had he been wrong? Hiro wondered that maybe if he had warned Marley then maybe she would have been unharmed.

Or maybe if Marley had never met any of the Zodiacs in the first place, then she would have been safer.

"Why didn't you say anything!?" Hiro snapped and Marley's mouth dropped a bit while Kisa tried to tell Hiro to calm down but he wouldn't hear it.

"You walk around, smiling and pretending everything's fine when clearly its not!" Hiro had stood by as Akito had hurt Kisa and here he was again. Someone he cared about was hurt and he was powerless to it all.

"I-"

"HOW CAN YOU STAND IT!?" Hiro yelled and Marley's eyes only softened and she wrapped Hiro in her arms and his head rested against her chest; the soft beat of her heart echoing in his mind.

He didn't even feel himself transform; all he felt was the warm embrace that he thought only mothers were capable of.

"You're right. Everything is not fine. But I suppose I kept things from you the same way you and the other zodiac members tried to keep things from me." Marley never wanted anyone to know, she felt she had caused enough trouble.

But hiding what had happened wouldn't bring any good either. It was better to simply face it and move forward.

"It was to try and protect you and not make you worry." Marley confessed. Hiro and Kisa were very quiet as they waited for what else she had to say.

"But this mark? It means nothing. It's only skin and it will heal." Marley held out her right arm to give the mark a good look and the eyes of the young Zodiac members gazed at it as well. Kisa joined in as Marley's arms were easily long enough and could hold the two children. Well, one child and a lamb.

"I'm still here. I'm not going anywhere."

The three stayed like that for a while til Marley mentioned that that they should go home. Kisa and Marley waited for Hiro to transform back and change and Marley walked both of them home.

The house was quiet when she got home and she peeked in on her grandfather to see him concentrating on some sort of paperwork in his office. She was going to wish him goodnight but didn't wish to break his concentration, so she crept upstairs to her bedroom. Careful to be light on her feet so as to not make the house creak.

The girl suddenly didn't feel all that tired and instead sat at her desk, wondering what she was supposed to do. Her eyes wandered to the little ceramic set of zodiac animals she had painted last New Years. They used to sit downstairs but after a few close calls with Gimli they were set high up on Marley's shelf, along with some books that Marley's grandfather had given her.

A large, worn-looking red book with golden embroidery stuck out to her. Marley turned on the soft light of her desk lamp and reached out for the book; carefully sliding it out. Her hand slid over the cover, tracing the kanji.

The Zodiac Legend

Marley smiled to herself a bit, remembering when her Grandfather had shared this book with her to try and explain the Zodiac Curse. it was the day she had learned of the secret by mistakenly falling onto Momiji and Hatori. Even throwing Hatori's seahorse form into the pond.

Dadaji still laughs when we mention it...poor Hatori

Her room was decorated with pictures of her family, new and old. A few of her and her great grandmother when she was a child. A few of Marley with her dearly loved parents and then a majority were from her time with the Sohmas.

Adventures in cherry picking with Momiji and Hiro. The lake trip where Hatori had played guitar. The first day of school at the high school with Haru and Momiji. Ballet practice with Kisa. Yuki and Marley at the farm with the cows. Tohru, Uo, Hana and her at Hana's house making a big dinner, Hana's little brother, Megumi, huddled into Marley's side. Going to her favorite ramen place with Kyo.

Marley's heart could burst from the wave of love and good memories that she had been lucky to have.

So much had happened and she had gotten to know the family so much better. Yet, there was still so much she had left to understand.

There has to be something...there has to be a way to break it...

Grasping a picture of her parents, she wished they were here with her. Sharing in these memories and most of all.

She wish they were here so they could help.

Marley was just a kid. She knew she wasn't the smartest, or the strongest. She needed help.

"What am I supposed to do?"

There was no answer but she simply waited and waited. Resting her head on her arms on the desk while continuing to stare at the photo.

Til sleep overcame her, and her dreams were filled with zodiac animals, shaved ice and dancing blueberries.

.

.

.

Tetsuo Sohma was about to go to bed as it was late and noticed Marley's light was still on. Softly knocking on the door before opening it and peeking inside.

He let out a sigh, shaking his head at the fact that she had fallen asleep at her desk. He approached and noticed the photo she had been staring at; picking it up.

He felt a deep sadness as he studied the photo of Marley smiling with her parents.

"Mama..." A soft call from the girl's lips made Tetsuo freeze, worried that he had woken her.

"...mangos and peanut butter don't belong on a pizza..." She continued, a weird grimace on her face before going silent again.

Tetsuo chuckled as he had heard some interesting stories about Chandra's cooking from both Marley and Yuuto. And due to those stories, Chandra was barred from the kitchen.

He took a small blanket from the bed and simply draped it over the girls' shoulders; not wanting to wake her from whatever dream she was having and gently closed the door behind him. The Sohma elder made his way back to his office to go over more papers.

While he had wanted to talk to Marley about a few things, he now thought it might be best to wait until the summer ended. Give her a little more time to enjoy what was left of her vacation before the work began again.

Not only would she have to take on more cultural lessons from the tutor, she had school and was also dedicated to her love of dance. Even with all that she took on chores.

With all of that and more, Tetsuo knew she would take time to cherish her family members by cooking for them and just being someone they could depend on.

More than we deserve.

Tetsuo looked at the letters on his desk from various Sohma members, still begging him to rethink his will and who he had chosen as ward. Begging him to support the head of the house as it would be dishonorable to go against tradition.

"Tch, what honor does this family have left anyway..."

He and many others had let the abuse continue on for too long. The young had paid for it and the cycle would only continue.

For the sake of 'tradition'.

It was his son that had told him that some traditions simply needed to be broken. The argument had been one of the reasons he had left the Sohma family all those years ago.

How right he had been.

Yuuto should have been here, to shoulder the responsibilities of looking over the family but he was gone. In his place was Marley who, while she shared no blood, was most definitely his daughter and Tetsuo viewed the girl as his cherished granddaughter.

While he wanted her to enjoy her life and not be burdened by the family, it was clear that life was not fair. It would be time to begin to show her the ropes and guide her in what would be asked of her.

He took a deep breath before he stamped a document with his signature. Staring as the ink dried before his eyes wandered to a family photo he kept at his desk.

"Forgive me my dear, but the God you waited so long for is not the beloved one you dreamed off.." He spoke to his wife, her shining grey eyes staring back at him from the photo. Telling her goodnight before he finally turned off the office lights.

He was long overdue for a meeting at the Sohma Main house; though it was too late now, tomorrow was another day.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

.

The mid-day sun was beating down and the martial arts student was feeling the heat. Kyo readjusted his bag as he approached the dojo, already thinking of what he was going to work on. It was an off day for the dojo and Kazuma was off on a trip. There were no classes going on so it should be quiet.

He had a lot on his mind the last few days; so much had happened and it was like he had to readjust all his expectations. All he wanted was to see Marley. To make as many memories as he could but he was worried about his feelings being too obvious. As if the universe would be able to hear his thoughts and his fast-beating heart every time she smiled at him.

So you're a tough guy

Like it really rough guy

Just can't get enough guy

Chest always so puffed guy

I'm that bad type

Make your mama sad type

Make your girlfriend mad tight

Might seduce your dad type

I'm the bad guy, duh

Music was blasting out of the dojo and people seemed to be crowding around watching whatever was happening in the main room. Some people Kyo recognized while others were complete strangers.

"The hell?" Kyo muttered as he continued over and made his was through the front door of the building to take his shoes off and continue into the large room; which was now stuffed with what looked like 50 people moving in synchronized motions to the song and a foreign woman in the front clapping to the beat and yelling out at them.

"YO, Kyo-Kun. Are you here for the dance workshop too." The friendly assistant to Kazuma waved at Kyo as he walked up to greet him.

"What the hell is going on Kunimitsu?" The dojo looked like it had transformed. The training equipment was gone and there were studio lights that were not there the last time he was here.

"Marley-San's friend from America apparently had a mix up with the studio she was going to teach at and needed a large space. Kazuma offered up the dojo."

"Is she here?"

Kunimitsu nodded and gestured his head to the back corner on the other side of the room where Marley was sitting up against the wall; watching the dance instead of participating. Her platinum blonde hair which almost looked white was parted in the middle and fashioned into twin Dutch braids. She was holding an iPad and showing something to someone who Kyo assumed was another dancer. The stranger nodded their head as Marley spoke. She was wearing a simple pair of loose black sweatpants that seemed to hang off her hip and a cropped lilac sweatshirt.

The two talked for a bit before the stranger bowed and joined the rest of the dancers on the floor while Marley simply leaned back against the wall and watched.

"Staring pretty intently there Kyo-Kun." He teased and Kyo shoved his hand off while his ears went red before making his way over to the other side, careful not to get in the way of the dancers.

"Yo."

"Kyo, hey." Her eyes lit up and the smile she sent him made Kyo's heart skip a beat. The boy cursed himself for being so weak at such a simple interaction but also blamed it on the fact that she was looking especially cute today.

"Not dancing?" Kyo finally asked, noticing she was only one of few people not following along with the routine.

"Not today no, just helping. But Kisa is doing the workshop," and she gestured to a tiny dancer on the dojo floor. Kisa almost looked out of place among all the young adults but kept up with a concentrated look on her face.

Was her arm still too hurt?

"How..how's your arm?" Kyo nodded to Marley's right forearm that was covered by a sweatshirt sleeve.

"Oh, it's fine. Doesn't even hurt and it's healing pretty quickly. Just trying to take it easy before getting back to dance." Marley insisted but her eyes wandered back to the dance floor, watching a dancer and Kyo could tell she was itching to join.

"Later...a bunch of us were going to hang out and order in some food. Maybe you wanna join?" Marley felt almost awkward inviting Kyo. He had been a little quiet since the beach trip and seemed to have a lot on his mind, but Marley found herself missing him.

"Yeah sure. I was hoping to get some training in...I'll have to just do it outside." Kyo stretched a bit and Marley realized that Gabi's workshop had interfered with Kyo's plans. He insisted it was fine and there was a good spot for outdoor training and asked instead how her own 'training' was going.

"Mmm. Gabi's a great teacher and I feel really lucky that she asked me to help today, even if it's just translating for the Japanese students." Gabi knew a little bit of Japanese but taught primarily in English so Marley would simply re-explain the moves and speeches she gave in Japanese so everyone could understand.

"Marley! Is this a late arrival?" The woman who had been teaching the class came over and threw her arm over Marley's shoulder.

"Oh, no this is Kyo, he is Kazuma's son. He came by to do some of his own training." Marley explained as she gestured to Kyo and introduced the two.

"Ah, so this is the ginger that you were all dolled up for on that lunch date. You hit that yet?" A flood of panic rushed through Marley as she hurried to stop the older woman from talking, waving her hands frantically and laughing awkwardly.

"GABI- I uh. She's just joking-" Marley laughed, and Gabi just smirked, proud of herself for causing the ballerina to lose her composure.

But Kyo looked pretty clueless and Marley realized that Gabi's quick paced English and lingo was too much for him and she let out a small breath of relief. The older woman simply giggled, enjoying this a little too much.

"Kyo, this is Miguel's older sister, Gabrielle." Marley introduced the two and before they could speak more; Kisa came over and her gold eyes locked onto Marley's. Silently signaling that she had a question about the choreography and Marley was pulled away to a far corner.

"I met your dad, he's a cool guy. Very kind and easy to talk to. Easy on the eyes too." Gabi smirked as she crossed her arms as she studied Kyo's face.

"yeah.." Kyo raised a brow, skeptical about what this woman was getting at, a part of him worried that she was flirting with Shishou.

"You know...Marley's mother and I worked together, and that woman was practically family to me. So she might have told me about the time when she was living and a young boy with orange hair who was fascinated by her wedding mehndi."

Even though this was Gabi's first time meeting the orange haired boy, she had paid close attention to how others spoke of him and had noticed that his name was brought up at Marley's a lot. And her little glimpse of the two together during the video call when all the kids were at the beach house. The soft look in his eyes and the body language the two had was simply too hard to ignore.

This boy is in love with Marley.

"Have you told her?"

"Told her what?" Kyo's eyes squinted into a glare.

A defensive boy it seemed, young and abrasive. As if he had spent a small lifetime being on edge; protecting himself from who knows what. Gabi didn't dislike the boy at all, in fact she kind of liked the fire she saw in him.

"Oh, nothing. Just looking forward to the updates I'll be getting from Aya." Kyo had only known this woman for a few minutes and struggled a bit with his English, but he knew when he was being teased.

"I will say this. You hurt her. I get back on a plane, grab you by your scalp, and slam your face into the asphalt." Gabrielle said all of this with a smile and Kyo took a small gulp.

This was not someone to mess around, this was someone who had seen things, and was willing to do whatever it took to keep her loved ones safe.

"I gotta go teach class but maybe you could join and show off some of your own moves." She winked as she walked to the center of the room and Kyo let out a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding.

The room just seemed filled with so many people. Crowds and Zodiac members seemed to make for a bad combo.

At least Kisa is careful...it would be bad if that cow or rabbit was here...they don't pay enough attention to their surroundings.

"This looks like a good angle.." A monotone voice scared Kyo and made him jump a few feet in the air before hissing at the culprit.

"Haru! What the hell-"

"Kyoooo!" A young energetic yellow blob tackled Kyo and hung off his shoulders.

"Why the hell are you here?" Kyo asked his cousins, the very ones he didn't trust to not transform in front of a large group.

"To film! Gabi mentioned she needed footage to send to her editor." Momiji said still looking through the camera as he kept it on the center of the room. The Rabbit put on a determined face and went to work.

Gabi's voice filled the room with the help of a small mic, telling everyone to clear the floor except for herself. Kisa and two other dancers waited for the song to start. Gabi and the dancers got into position but she had one last instruction for the room for Marley to translate before she got out of the way and went by the sound system to press play.

"Kill it." Gabi ordered and Marley repeated it to the room, firing up the dancers as they all replied in unison.

"Hai!"

Marley looked over at Kisa and gave her a little thumbs-up and she gave one back with a determined look on her face. It was kind of cool seeing Kisa with a little confidence. Kyo had rarely seen it and saw the Tiger as a shy soft spoken girl who was afraid of her own shadow.

The routine was fast paced and incredibly in-tune with the song and everyone was cheering. The high energy was almost intoxicating, and one should not have been able to look away. But orange eyes drifted to the sunkissed girl in the corner who was concentrating on the dance, clearly wanting to move her body but was keeping herself still.

Hopefully she would feel up to joining later as there was still lots of time left in the workshop.

So Kyo left to do his own training, mentioning to Momiji and Haru to be careful around all the people.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

.

The last bit of summer sun shined down as Miguel stood in front of the traditional Japanese home. He took a breath to calm his nerves and ring the door bell but the door slid open before he could press the button.

"Ah, Miguel. Looking smart." The author appraised the young man but Miguel seemed disinterested in the man, looking over Shigure's shoulder to see if he could spot Tohru.

"Thanks, I'm here to pick up Tohru."

"You're taking our princess away on a date? Did you pass this by with me?" Shigure teased but Miguel was quick to counter that Shigure wasn't Tohru's father and didn't care what the pervert had to say.

"Ah, but I am her guardian so if you're looking to ask for Tohru's hand -"

"Ah Miguel-Kun!" Tohru came around the corner, dressed and ready to go.

"Tohru!"

"Miguel-Kun. Konbanwa. You look so handsome." Tohru felt all tingly and like she was almost suspended on air when he approached her. His handsome smile was enough to make any girl's heart palpitate, Tohru hoped that Miguel couldn't hear her's right at that moment.

The American Teen wore a forest green yukata decorated with a triangular pattern and a darker green obi. His wavy shoulder length hair was in a low ponytail.

"Forget about me. You look...beautiful." There really were no other words that Miguel could think of to describe how Tohru looked.

She wore a light pink yukata with a floral design and a yellow obi. Her hair was up in a bun with a floral ornament, and she had the lightest bit of make-up on. Her cheek still had a bandage on it from Akito's nails, but Miguel made sure not to stare at it to prevent making her self-conscious.

And also seeing it only made him want to mark up the bastard himself.

Shigure let out a small cough to announce he was still there and he had the smuggest look on his face.

"Well, I'm off. Make sure to have a good night you two. But not too good." Shigure winked as he made his way out of the house and headed down the path.

"Where's he off to?"

"Ah, Shigure-San is heading to the Sohma Estate." Tohru informed him and Miguel just nodded, not really caring.

"Feels a little weird. Does it look weird?"

"No, no, no. I imagine lots of people will be staring. You look like a movie star."

"If they are, I'm sure it'll because you're with me. Jealous of my cute tour guide." As soon as those words left Miguel's mouth he wished he could pull them back because it had sounded so corny and way too obvious.

Chill dude, don't scare her off.

Tohru honestly thought she was going to melt and became completely flustered. Miguel apologized for coming off so strong and instead mentioned they should get going before it got too late.

"Ah yes!" Tohru grabbed a small purse and the two walked along the stone path and down the stairs. Miguel started to laugh a bit and Tohru asked what was wrong.

"This is where we met, technically." Miguel pointed out. It was this set of stairs that Tohru slipped on and nearly fell but Miguel had been there to catch her before her body hit the concrete.

"...You're right! I thought you were an angel." Tohru also thought of the large wings tattooed on Miguel's back. Miguel laughed and mentioned he just felt lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

When they arrived at the station by the festival Miguel was taking Tohru to, two familiar faces waved them down by a small clock tower. The American boy had to wonder who would remove him from this world if he even tried to hold Tohru's hand. Would the witch curse him? Or would he thrown in a river by the ex gangster?

"Yo." Uo lazily waved. She was wearing simple shorts and a red tank top; while Hana was wearing a black Victorian style dress.

"Ah, I told Uo-Chan and Hana-Chan about the festival but I had no idea they would come. This is so exciting." Tohru was just happy to see her friends but Miguel got the feeling that the two weren't there just to enjoy the festival.

"Yeah, we looooove festivals." Uo teased as she threw a protective arm around Tohru.

Definitely weren't here just to enjoy the festival

"We simply couldn't pass out on the opportunity to see Tohru in a summer yukata." Hana added before she popped a small piece of fried chicken in her mouth.

Marley had already told Miguel how 'protective' Tohru's friends were and warned him that they might show up at the festival. She tried to give Miguel a few tips to perhaps get on their good side since they weren't sure about him after he had put Tohru on the back of a motorcycle and driven off with her.

"Hold up...why aren't they wearing this stuff?" Miguel asked, gesturing to his own dress-ware.

"Because I don't wanna wear one, it's not like its mandatory or something." Uo scoffed as she crossed her arms. Miguel now took a look around and noticed that lots of people weren't wearing one and he felt like a fool.

"I feel like I've been tricked." Miguel's shoulders slumped a little, feeling like he was the easy target tourist who didn't know better.

"AH b-bu-bubut you look so handsome Miguel-Kun! I am so happy that you wore it and that I got a chance to see!" Tohru insisted and Miguel hid his face as his face grew hot. Tohru was just so cute and her words made his chest go nuts.

The four checked out the festival. Browsing through the food stalls, some souvenir stalls, and even watched a dance performance that many people seemed to join in on. Miguel was forced to join by a few older ladies that left him no choice as he awkwardly tried to learn the steps; his cheeks red with embarrassment the entire time while he tried not to trip in his yukata.

As the night continued, the stalls got busier and busier, and it was harder to keep everyone together. Miguel was standing at a drink stand; staring at a strangely shaped clear bottle that had a small metal ball in it.

"Oh, ramune. Have you ever had one Miguel-Kun?" Tohru asked as she caught what he had been staring at while Hana and Uo walked over to a yakisoba stand.

"Is..is it water? Is the metal ball candy?"

Tohru quickly spoke with the vendor and asked for two bottles and when she went to pay, Miguel quickly intercepted and handed over a bill of yen he figured would be enough. He still hadn't quite figured out the currency but he knew he wasn't gonna let Tohru pay for him.

"Ah but-" Tohru tried to insist that she would pay but Miguel simply mentioned that he had asked her on the date, therefore he would take care of everything.

"Otherwise my mom would probably kill me. Right after Gabi." He joked as he took back the change from the vendor and thanked him.

From a distance, dark eyes watched the two as they walked away to find somewhere to sit and enjoy the drinks. Arisa was distracted by something on her phone and Hanajima watched the two walk away. Tohru had this smile on her face and her cheeks had a light blush whilst she animatedly spoke with the tall foreigner. Not even looking back to check on her friends.

But Miguel did, as if he felt Hana's eyes. The two shared a quick look and Hana simply nodded and before Miguel could say something, a huge crowd separated the two groups.

"Ah... I think I might have gotten a go ahead?" Miguel scratched his cheek a little bit unsure about the interaction.

"Hmm?" Tohru looked up at him, wondering what he was talking about.

"To separate from your bodyguards." He pointed out that Uo and Hana were nowhere to be seen and the brunette panicked a little, hoping that her friends were alright. But... a part of her was also kind of excited.

The brunette loved having her friends here but a small part of her wished she could spend more time with Miguel because she knew..

Their time was limited.

"I'm sure they will be fine. But we can just sit and wait over here if you want? I'm seriously parched," Miguel held up the bottled drink with the silver ball near the cap. His green eyes squinted a little bit as he stared at the bottle, confused as to how he was suppose to open and Tohru couldn't help but giggle.

"Here. Let me help." Tohru sat down on the bench and took the wrapping off the drink before pressing down on the cap.

Nothing happened.

"Ah sorry, one moment. I-just-need-to –press-harder." Tohru got a determined look on her face. She seemed to go to battle with the bottle, pushing down firmly on the cap. Miguel watched, waiting in anticipation for whatever was supposed to happen.

Til he couldn't anymore.

"Okay, okay. You're gonna hurt yourself." Miguel joked as he put his hand over her's to stop her from pushing.

"So, I just..push down?" Miguel asked and Tohru handed the bottle to him, a small sigh of defeat leaving her lips. The boy was a little uncertain about opening the bottle because it had seemed to be pretty tough.

He almost felt bad that when he simply pushed down and the bottle cap popped. Both Tohru and Miguel blinked owlishly at the ball that had dropped into the top part of the bottled soda.

"Do I drink the metal ball?" He asked as he stared at the little silver ball that was now in the soda.

"No, no, no. It stays in there. It's safe I promise." Tohru insisted and Miguel just shrugged and held up his bottle to hers, clinking the glass together.

"Welp. Cheers."

"Kanpai" Once the two cheered, they took a long drink from their bottles. Enjoying the refreshing taste.

"Oh wow. Its really light." Miguel's eyes went wide and then Tohru showed him a little trick about the bottle. She tipped hers upside down right in front of him and he reached out to stop her in case it spilled but the metal ball worked as a stopper; so the drink was incapable of spilling.

"That's sweet. Man I was worried there for a second." Miguel did the same thing to his own bottle, intrigued even more about the design of the funny little bottle. Even throwing the bottle up in the air and catching it. Tohru acted as if he thrown it 500 feet in the air and caught it, her eyes wide as she applauded. Miguel smirked at her but a definite red painted his cheeks as he enjoyed her praise.

"I haven't had one in so long. The last time was with my Mom." Tohru reminisced; playing with the wrapper around the bottle.

"If they came out with a new flavour she would always have to try it." She went on and it was hard to miss the sad smile that crossed her lips.

"So...What's your favorite?" Miguel asked, hoping to bring the girl back to earth.

"This one. It's nothing fancy or anything but it always tastes good." She said before taking another satisfying sip.

"The OG is always the best."

"O Ji?" Tohru's head tilted as she tried to figure out what the English speaker was saying.

"oh, sorry. Original." He translated and Tohru was always interested to learn the funny terms and phrases that Miguel would use.

"Yes, the OG is my favorite." She had a wide smile on her face over learning something new.

Miguel had a thoughtful look on his face.

"Do...do you feel unsafe around me? You brought your friends so I thought that maybe..."

It didn't feel too farfetched, people had been afraid of him since he was kid. He used to have an edge and when he hit puberty he just shot up. His stature was intimidating so he now worried that he scared off people.

"No! I don't feel unsafe around you at all! If anything...you make me feel very safe Miguel-Kun." Tohru insisted as she lay a comforting hand on his bicep.

"Uo-Chan and Hana-Chan are just... I think they feel the need to look after me since my Mom is no longer here..."

Tohru didn't want to speak ill or give the wrong impression that she was unhappy with her friends. She loved them dearly and was lucky to have them. Miguel could easily see it was hard for her to complain about anything, this was nothing new.

"They might be a tad...Over-protective?" Miguel offered and Tohru let out a soft sigh. Maybe it was the right word. She did love them but sometimes it felt like they treated her like a child, coddling her and what-not.

"Sorry, I don't mean to rag on your friends. I can't really judge anyway. I'm sure it's just hard to share you and they worry about you getting hurt."

"I.. Was kind of like that with Marley. I felt so lucky to have her by my side...I got.. I just didn't like to see her with others cause I worried about what they would do if they would mistreat her. But I think I was mostly worried about...her gaining more friends and having less time for me. Now I just learned that it's good. Because more people to love her, the way she deserves."

"Marley-Chan is wonderful. I feel lucky to be friends with her."

"And I'm glad she has you. I swear it sometimes hurt looking at you, you smile so bright. And it feels like just by being near you, everything seems to come to life."

"But...I hope you know that you don't have to smile and be that sunshine all the time. That you feel that its alright to just be...human.."

Tohru nodded and the two enjoyed the soda's as they people-watched.

The moon was rising higher and higher in the sky. As was the celebration. Music, lights, laughter in all directions. Even with all the joy around, Arisa Uotani was ready to tear someone apart.

"Dammit. They got away." The ex-gangster's spat, aggravated with herself for failing the mission she had taken on.

"He has good waves. A gentle soul behind his large frame." Hana insisted, feeling good about her decision to let the two slip away and have some alone time around the summer festival.

"I just don't want her to get hurt." Uo sighed as she ran a hand through her blonde locks; still irritated but cooled down a bit. Hana hummed in agreement. Tohru meant the world to her and didn't want her to be harmed in any way.

But she also wanted Tohru to have fun and be happy.

Hana's eyes caught the tall foreigner walking side by side with Tohru and she was hung off his arm as she smiled up at him. The wave reader was quick to direct Uo in the opposite direction, saying she was hungry for some more takoyaki.

"Wanna play some games?" Tohru asked as she pulled her date towards a stand and Miguel put down money on the counter and motioned to both himself and Tohru. She was amazed at how Miguel seemed to be able to win game after game. Ring toss, easy. He even gave away the large frog he won to a kid who looked like he had been eyeing it.

But it was finally at the goldfish scooping game where Miguel met his foe. The scooper that was made from thin washi paper could be easily torn when wet and the Miguel's green eyes almost grew dark when he was on his tenth scooper.

Tohru giggled at his determination. It was comical too see his large body squatting down next to the children. The girl knelt down carefully and asked for a scooper. She took a deep breath as she eyed a pair of gold fish and gently scooped them while holding her breath.

"I DID IT!" She exclaimed with a burst of excitement; like she had redeemed herself from not being able to do the ring toss or open the ramune bottle. Her shout made everyone jump and she went red when she realized how loud she had just been.

"Damn, you got that no problem. Easy clap." Miguel awed at the goldfish she had caught while the shopkeeper put them in a bag for her to take home.

"oh for you." Tohru held them out to Miguel and he happily took it, a childish grin on his face as he looked at the fish. But a realization hit him and the smile left.

"I doubt I can take this on the plane." Miguel mentioned and the mood shifted, Tohru's shoulders dropped as she was reminded that he was going somewhere faraway.

Today was the last day of summer vacation and Miguel's last day in Japan. Tohru knew that but yet, hearing it out loud seemed to hurt more and the realization really set in.

"But maybe...you can look after them for me?" He gestured to the two fish who swam in circles throughout the plastic bag.

"Looks like Gabi's gonna come back next summer and do here workshops at work at the club. I figure if its okay I might as well come back too. And I can check in...on the fish." It felt like a dumb excuse. Felt ridiculous to say but Miguel couldn't think of anything else to say.

"I would love that!"

"So..you'll keep them safe?" Miguel offered up the bag, his hands gripping the handle and Tohru nodded as she lifted her hands to it, laying her fingers on the handle, barely brushing against Miguel's large hands.

"I will."

"Maybe we should head back. I'm sure your friends are freaking out that we've been alone all this time. Probably think I've kidnapped you or something." Miguel held the bag of fish in one hand and held out his hand for Tohru to take.

"Yeah..." But the two didn't move, holding hands above the goldfish bag as they stared at eachother.

"I just. I wanna say thank you." Tohru said as she peered up at Miguel's deep green eyes.

"For what?"

"For taking me here tonight. There... there is a lot I have to figure out and I don't know what to do but-...this. Being here with you seems to make all that disappear and... I even feel guilty about it but also happy and I..."

"I'm happy too." Everything seemed to come to a still as the loud noises of the festival faded and all Tohru could see was him. The hazy feeling in Tohru's chest that made her feel all giddy but it wasn't uncomfortable. It was exciting and felt like a little jolt of electricity was running through her. The space between the two seemed to disappear and she felt the need to run her tongue over her glossed lips.

"NOT SO FAST!" The yell broke the moment and Miguel felt a force hit the side of his head.

"MIGUEL-KUN!" Tohru panicked as Miguel now had a bright red shoe print on his face.

"HOW THE HELL ARE YOU JUST ABLE TO STAND THERE?! You should be down on the ground?" Uo pointed at him and he just looked down at her, clearly pissed off as his eye twitched at being interrupted.

"Oh, sorry your kick didn't send me flying?" Miguel sarcastically replied and it only fired up Uo even more.

"SHUT UP! What were you two doing!" She looked ready to murder and Tohru stood in-front of Miguel in hopes of keeping the peace between them.

"Arisa... I think you ruined a tender moment..." Hana's voice interjected.

"Poor Tohru, all alone with a shady boy with girly hair." Uo cradled Tohru, patting her head and Tohru just giggled nervously.

"I have amazing hair, thank you." Miguel rebutted, unbothered by Uo saying he had girly hair. He took good care of it, he even got tips from his sister.

"Shhh...come on, we need to pick a spot to watch the fireworks." Uo had Tohru by the neck and was pulling her along and the brunette looked back and gave an apologetic look to Miguel but held up the little bag of fish, signaling that she had them.

"My date's been kidnapped." Miguel sighed and Hanajima couldn't help but feel a little bad. But she also kind of happy to interrupt the two. But the boys waves were indeed pleasant and she could sense that he was a good; kind person. One that would protect his loved ones against anything that stood in his way.

She was even impressed with how patient he was with how Uo and herself had crashed the date.

"The night's still young. And Arisa and I have to walk an opposite path home so we won't be able to accompany you." She hinted before walking away to catch up to Uo and Tohru. That little bit of encouragement made a goofy smile appear on Miguel's face, looking forward to whatever time he got to spend with Tohru.

.

.

Music could still be heard from dojo to the back garden and Kyo had learned to tune it out while he trained. He was certain he now knew the lyrics to three different pop songs and was positive they would be stuck in his head the following day.

He had been doing his own training regime; Kunimitsu had trained with him for a bit but got distracted by the dancers and had gone back inside to 'supervise'.

"How are they still going?" Kyo asked as he made his way back into the building. It was dark out now and while he was no stranger to hard work, he was starting to get exhausted by training. His eyes scanned the crowded dance floor and saw the whip of long white braid. Marley was now on the hardwood, dancing along with the song.

"She finally broke down and joined, huh?" Kyo pointed out as he hung out with his fellow Zodiac members who had been watching the class.

"Gabi practically dragged her in for this one. But..I'm worried about her arm." Momiji confessed and Kyo could see his worry in his eyes.

Kyo was worried too but something told him that Marley cared more about dancing then she did about the pain in her arm.

And this was her last chance to dance with an important person from her old life. Who knew when Gabi and Marley would have this chance again? Kyo just hoped she didn't push herself too far.

"I'll do it with you all one more time, Marley you're next to me. Then you'll be up first for the filming." Gabi had already made up her mind. Before Marley could try and talk herself out of, the class was getting into position to practice the choreography one more time.

It was some sort of American pop song, Kyo had never heard it before but Haru mentioned it was popular artist.

As expected, Marley seemed to keep up just fine but it her nervousness was clear. The older woman had everyone clear the floor and signaled Marley to get ready.

The music had stopped. Everyone seemed pretty silent and Marley was standing in the middle. Gabi nodded to Kunimitsu who was by the stereo and he pressed a button to start the song.

Thought I'd end up with Sean

But he wasn't a match

Wrote some songs about Ricky

Now I listen and laugh

Even almost got married

The music had barely started when Gabi signaled to cut and made Marley stop mid-step.

"Start again." Gabi ordered and Marley did as she was told.

Thought I'd end up with Sean

But he wasn't a ma-

"Again."

This happened 3 more times and Kyo could tell Marley was starting to get frustrated, her face red. Kyo almost wished he could step in but he could recognize a moment between a teacher and student. He had been in similar situations with Shishou and sometimes this was just part of the lesson.

Gabi was trying to bring something out of Marley.

"Is Marley-Onee-Chan okay?" Kisa's soft voice reached his ears but she was asking Haru. He just shrugged and Kisa looked concerned for her older sister figure.

"She'll be fine squirt. This is nothing for her." Kyo scoffed and Kisa was almost shocked at Kyo's voice until she noticed could see in his eyes that he was just as concerned; but there was something else too.

Confidence. Confidence in Marley to do what was being asked of her.

Kisa nodded and brought her eyes back to the two in the middle of the room, patiently waiting for the dance to begin again. The tension in the room was palpable as everyone watched the teacher and student duo.

"You're a very pretty dancer. I want more."

"But I don't have any more.." Marley felt like she was falling short. Not just in this but everywhere. She had been blind to so much and people had been hurt by someone she trusted. She was too caught up in her happiness to see and now she had a scar to show for it.

"You've got more. I've seen it." Gabi had watched Marley grow up from an awkward kid to a determined young woman. She knew some of the details of what had happened on that beach trip due to her brother and could tell that something was weighing down on Marley.

As much as Gabi wanted to stay in the country to make sure Marley was well taken care of, she knew that she had to leave. Marley needed to find her footing and recognize the strength she carried.

"Remember to attack, trust yourself. I always wanna be sure of myself, I wanna be confident. When life hands me a challenge, imma fucking go for it." Gabi's speech went on and Kyo found himself nodding along.

It was quite the motivational speech.

"Even if I do fail. So what? But imma walk up to it like 'bitch, I can. Because there is no other me. Now I wanna hear that back. There's no other what?" Gabi seemed to ask the whole room and Marley responded but there didn't seem to be much behind it.

"There is no other me." Marley sighed, the long day and exhaustion getting to her.

"Start dancing like it then, bitch. Start again."

Marley took in a huge breath and was about to get into position, but Gabi stopped the music again and approached the teenager, taking her face in her hands and making her look straight into her eyes.

It was a conversation only for the two in the middle. No one else could hear but whatever it was seemed to make Marley nod and even laugh as she tried to subtly wipe a tear from her eye with the sleeve of her sweatshirt.

Gabi walked back to the front and crossed her arms as she waited for the dancer to start again. Marley pulled off her sweatshirt, leaving her in a sporty grey bra with her bandaged right fore-arm and the bright white surgery scar on display. The dancer went back into position and Kyo could see she was grounding herself, taking in a deep breath and thinking about whatever Gabi told her.

Her bright amethyst eyes opened back up and a smirk graced her lips and even Kyo knew. This was the one.

The music was playing but she only began moving forward once the lyrics started. This time was certainly different. The sparkle and the simple sass she seemed to have showing in her movements. Marley was determined to prove to Gabi and everyone that she was strong enough to accomplish what her loved ones needed of her.

All the lessons she received would not be wasted and her experiences would only strengthen her. Marley's body rolled and moved with the song, making it her own and creating a story.

One taught me love

One taught me patience

And one taught me pain

Now, I'm so amazing

Say I've loved and I've lost

But that's not what I see

So, look what I got

Look at what you taught me

And for that, I say

Thank you, next (next)

Thank you, next (next)

Thank you, next

I'm so grateful for my ex

The planned choreo was over. Marley made a move to try and leave but Gabi shooed her back on. Which just caused Marley to laugh and continue on; mixing in moves from the class with her more contemporary, as well as her ballet, training.

Spend more time with my friends

I ain't worried 'bout nothin'

Plus, I met someone else

We're havin' better discussions

I know they say I move on too fast

But this one gon' last

'Cause her name is Ari

And I'm so good with that (so good with that)

Gabi shouted out Marley's name at the 'Ari' bit in the song and everyone else cheered as well while Marley covered her face to hide the blush, but it was clear she was having a good time. A large smile was on her face as she powered through everything she was feeling and poured it all into her dance.

All the pain that Marley had been through these past few years brought her to what she felt was her breaking point. But it was all the new friends she had made in this new life that kept her going; even if there was still pain. All the love she had received gave her strength.

She taught me love (love)

She taught me patience (patience)

She handles pain (pain)

That amazing (yeah, she's amazing)

I've loved and I've lost (yeah, yeah)

But that's not what I see (yeah, yeah)

'Cause look what I've found (yeah, yeah)

Ain't no need for searching

And for that, I say

Marley slid over to where Kisa and Momiji were sitting and grabbed their hands; bringing their hands to her heart as if to say 'thank you. Before spinning back towards the middle where Gabi jumped in beside her and they redid some choreo from the chorus.

Thank you, next (thank you, next)

Thank you, next (thank you, next)

Thank you, next (thank you)

Gabi turned and hugged Marley tight, nearly squeezing the life out of her, and Marley could only laugh as the older woman picked her up off the floor.

"THAT'S WHAT I"M TALKING ABOUT! GOD DAMN!" Gabi cheered.

"Who wants the smoke? Let me take this god damn mic off, take this god damn mic off!" Gabi was fired up but laughing as she tried to remove the wires from the mic.

"Ready to kick some ass! Let's do some more!" Gabi smacked Marley on the butt making her let out a squeak. Gabi clapped her hands to get everyone's attention and told everyone to get into their groups to film.

"Oh man, my heart was beating so fast." Marley laughed as she placed a hand over her chest to feel her heart beating a mile a minute, still on a high from the dance.

"Did they teach you that in ballet?" Kyo teased as he bumped his shoulder to hers causing her to blush and laughed it off.

"What did she tell you anyway?" The Cat of the Zodiac was curious as to what exactly lit a fire under Marley.

"You came from the edge of death and are still standing. You're still going and moving onto the next thing, you are stronger than before, everything you've been through has made you stronger and you will continue to do so. Show off that you ARE that bitch and not to be taken down. And do it with a smile that says, 'thank you, next'. Water off a ducks back baby."

"She told me...show off that I'm THAT bitch." Marley smiled at him and Kyo looked a little confused.

"...That supposed to be...encouraging."

"It certainly did the job." Marley laughed.

"Americans are something else.." Kyo teased as he shook his head, a soft smile on his face.

"HELL YEAH WE ARE!" Gabi swung her arm around Marley and held her close, a huge cheesy smile on her face.

Kisa's group was next and the tiger looked up at Marley hopefully . It was hard to say to those large golden eyes. Marley didn't need much convincing to do the routine again and KIsa looked absolutely ecstatic to be dancing with her older sister figure.

Soon, everyone had gone up and had a chance to do the routine. Gabi thanked the class before telling them to go home and rest. She also let them know where they would be able to get their footage alongside letting them know when the edited video of the workshop would be available.

"Lets get out here, I wanna raid your grandpa's sake collection one more time before I leave. Oh and lets get Aya and Tori. Diana's already on her way." Gabi cheered as she quickly stretched out.

"And let's have a barbecue!" Momiji cheered.

"I'm exhausted." Haru mentioned and Kyo glared at him.

"You sat around watching, how are you tired?"

"Supervising is hard work." Haru explained with his usual straight face that made one wonder if he was being serious or not.

"Maybe you should warn the old man about...all this." Kyo suggested as he gently elbowed Marley and she quickly agreed; pulling out her phone and typing out a message to send off to her grandfather along with a few other family members to see if they wanted to come over.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

.

"Tetsuo-Sama." A younger maid of the main house greeted him and bowed as he slipped off his shoes and entered the main building.

"I have a meeting with Akito." He simply moved forward into the house, swiftly walking through the halls and the young maid hurried to keep up.

"Akito-Sama is not feeling up-"

"If the brat thinks she can hide from me then she has another thing coming," Tetsuo insisted; not even breaking his stride and the maid fretted over what to do. An older woman saw him in the hallway and tried to intervene, but Tetsuo brushed her off like she wasn't even there.

"If you know what's good for you, you will leave us." He demanded and while Tetsuo wasn't the head of the Sohma house, he was not a force to be reckoned with and the two maids opened the sliding door for him and closed it behind him.

"Who let you in." Akito groaned, her body slumped over the table, too lazy to even sit up straight. She was not feeling well and she wanted nothing to do with unwanted visitors.

"Doesn't matter and I'll only be here for a moment." Tetsuo did not want to be here at all but he had to be, he needed to make his point clear. He stood tall, not bothering to sit since he didn't plan on staying long.

"You will never be permitted to step into my home or have anything to do concerning my granddaughter."

"Don't even breath in her general direction."

At the mention of Marley, Akito seemed to spring to life, standing up and pointing an accusatory finger at him.

"It was her fault! She shouldn't be interfering with matters that aren't her concern."

"So you assaulted her." Tetsuo's words were heavy and his stare was full of venom, Akito was not used t being confronted and found herself feeling weak in the esteemed Elder's presence.

"I-"

"Cut into her skin, scarred her... because she confronted you..." How did it end up like this. How was the head of the Sohma family this violent brat. He knew the answer.

"I take blame for this. I should have never allowed her to befriend you. I should have known you were too far gone... I even had some strange sense of hope that perhaps Marley was getting through to you. Maybe her kindness could soften you and she always seemed happy to be with you."

Marley's kindness had warmed his own heart and helped him open back up and let the family that he had been distancing himself from back in. So Tetsuo had hoped that it could reach Akito but perhaps the curse was darker than he understood.

The God of the Zodiac and the Sohma curse just seemed to hurt anyone in came in contact with. While the other elders stood by the notion of upholding the revering Akito as God; Tetsuo just refused to see it.

His finger subconsciously ran over his wedding band and he found himself almost grateful his wife wasn't here to see this. That she wasn't here to be at the mercy of such a God.

Tetsuo thought of his beautiful and kind wife who had been cursed with the spirit of the Dog. She had been a lonely Zodiac member for years until Hatori had been born and then Ayame had followed not long after. She had loved her husband and child and was looking forward to the daughter that was on the way, But the spirit of the Dog longed for its fellow members...they longed for God.

"My wife used to dream of meeting you. She wanted to meet God and have a banquet with everyone. She knew that everyone was coming soon."

And then due to complications during birth, Tetsuo lost both his wife and unborn child. He withdrew into himself, caring only for his businesses rather than his family. His wife would be so disappointed to know he had let down so many people.

"I'm thankful she never got to meet you because she would have been heartbroken by the sorry excuse of a god that you are. You're nothing but a spoiled brat and I'm ashamed that I let the people in this house raise you to be this way."

"You ever lay or hands on Marley, or even look at her-" Tetsuo wanted to make himself clear but so did Akito.

"I am God. I'll see whoever I wanna see. You can't tell me what to do." Akito scoffed and Tetsuo prayed for the patience to deal with the obstacle in front of him.

"Do not forget that I am the head of this clan. I was destined for this. Born for this!" She screamed, flipping the small table causing the tea set that was on it to crash to the floor.

Another temper tantrum.

Tetsuo walked to the wall that housed traditional weapons that had been used by Sohma ancestors during the warring period.

His eyes stopped on the large bow and it reminded him of a past head of house. Akito's grandfather was a stern man of tradition and had taken up the bow as a hobby just like Tetsuo had. Kyudo had been a way of life when he was a youth but he hadn't shot one in years. No time like the present.

"Born into it perhaps. But born for it? No, your time as head of the Sohma clan has been a disappointment. I doubt many would come to your aid if you were challenged." Tetsuo suggested, a confident look in his eyes and Akito felt herself falter.

A coup?

It wasn't something that happened often in modern time but it wasn't completely unheard of.

He lifted a bow from it's display. Testing its weight and marveling at how good it felt in his hands.

"You aren't as loved as you delude yourself to be."

Akito felt a chill go up her spine as Tetsuo put in a arrow into placement and drew the string of the bow back.

"You wouldn-" Akito was cut off by Tetsuo releasing the string.

Letting the arrow fly, it whizzed past Akito's left side, her hair whipping in the wind from the shot and a loud thud as it lodged into the tapestry behind her. Akito's body shook as she slowly looked behind her and saw the arrow sticking out of a red Camilla flower etched in the tapestry.

"Let that be a warning. You lay a hand on my precious family members, and it'll be your eyes next." He calmly said . Akito was still frozen and the elder placed the bow back in its place before walking out the door in dead silence.

"Ah, Ojii-San. Its been a while." A familiar voice called to him from down the hall and out stepped a man dressed in his usual traditional clothing.

"Shigure, I wouldn't go in there if I were you. You're bound to get hurt." Tetsuo was already walking away, ready to be away from the main house where the air almost seemed stifling. One of the most unwelcoming buildings on the estate.

Only one building had the main house beat and no one was living in it. Not yet at least.

"Nothing I can't handle, I'm sure. How is Marley-Chan doing?" The way Shigure asked it made Tetsuo stop in his steps and the Zodiac member couldn't help but prod a little more.

"I imagine learning the truth was hard," He sighed as he crossed his arms and shook his head, muttering something about the loss of innocence but all Tetsuo could think was how had it come to this.

"Ah...I had wondered how she found out in the first place."

It had been a mystery since Tetsuo knew that everyone wanted to keep Marley from knowing in order to keep her safe. It had sort of been an unsaid rule as they knew that Marley would try to confront Akito. And confront her she did. Now Marley would carry the new scar for the rest of her life.

But due to the incident it was as if Marley had become more interested in the family, its history, and had even asked for more time with the tutors.

"Hmm?"

"I don't know whether to thank you or to curse you," The elder wondered again how had it all come to this.

"I'm already the most cursed member there is," Shigure offered but it made Tetsuo chuckle, surprising the Zodiac member,

"Stop the pity party. You aren't and you know it. You may pretend that you're an adult but you're still a spoiled child. Scheming and manipulating when you don't get your way," Tetsuo scolded, feeling too old and tired for these games.

"I-"

"You know what's ridiculous. I asked Marley to tell me who told her about Akito's actions. And she said she heard someone over-talking. She's a terrible liar but the more I asked, the more she refused. She knew that I would be angry with whoever told her. So, she was protecting you."

Ridiculous indeed. She was a child, just trying to find her footing while also taking on responsibility and burdening herself with the feelings of others. The adults of this world had failed in protecting her and the children of the zodiac.

No more.

"I didn't mean for that to go the way it did. I am sorry for what happened to Marley." Shigure's 'apology' barely seemed to have any weight to it but maybe it was just because Tetsuo was too disgusted by him at this point to truly take anything he had to say to heart.

"It's hard to believe sometimes that you were that funny boy who would follow my son around, calling him big brother and asking what book to read next. He always had a high opinion of you. He thought that behind that manipulative nature, there was someone with a big heart." Tetsuo locked eyes with the Dog, the disappointment on his face as clear as day. For the first time in a while, Shigure felt shame.

A text from Tetsuo's phone interrupted the stare down. The text was from 20 minutes ago and Tetsuo opened it.

+ Were having a bbq in the backyard, I'll save some of the wagyu for you 😊 Also..heads up, we got a bit of full house tonight XD +

He already figured that people would be coming over after Marley's day at Gabi's workshop. It was also Miguel and Gabi's last night so he had figured it would turn into a bit of a party.

So he texted her back with the suggestion that she order in a bunch of sushi and get whatever they wanted.

+Gabi opened a new bottle of sake...+

"I'm going home...I've wasted enough time here."

"Calling me a waste of time now?" Shigure teased, wanting to get in a last word, hoping to get more of a reaction but Tetsuo barely blinked at the Dog's behavior. The Sohma elder had become used to this attitude. The writer had been like this since he was a young child, but Tetsuo couldn't deny that Shigure had become a little darker these last few years.

It wasn't due to lack of kindness or people who cared about him, Shigure had just become greedier it seemed, and his jealousy became more evident the moment Akito turned her eyes towards Marley.

Tetsuo knew he should have warned her about Shigure but a part of himself had wanted to think that he would never truly do anything that could harm Marley.

Even now he wanted to believe that Shigure had not meant for the incident to happen.

But it did happen.

"If you truly want to apologize, then you can tell her yourself. But I doubt you're brave enough."

The elder walked away with his head held high, ready to be at home with his family and a good meal.

His home was filled with familiar faces. Zodiac members along with Gabi and her wife Diana. Most of the household was scattered around the living room, many watching the T.V. while others were out in the backyard. All gathered around the bbq stove in the backyard.

Marley and Hatori were flipping stuff on the grill while a few others just seemed to be supervising. Aya, Gabi and Diana were sipping on sake as they lounged on the porch shouting out what they wanted and Kyo and Hiro told them to be quiet.

"I can't believe summer's over." Momiji whined, wishing that the vacation could last forever but Marley was looking forward to the fall.

"You know...I'm actually kind of excited for the new semester." Marley mentioned.

"Why?"

"I think I'm gonna switch up my uniform. I wanna give the miniskirt a try with the high socks." Marley revealed and Ayame gave her a thumbs up and encouraged it. Mentioning it would look really cute. Hatori didn't understand the need to 'switch up a uniform''. This began a discussion about fashion.

"Seems like a hassle. It's just clothes." Kyo shrugged, not seeing what was so exciting about switching up the school uniform.

"Just cause you have no taste." Aya pointed out.

"HAH?" Kyo hissed, Marley could just picture his cat years popping out.

"Well, you do have that pair of camo cargo pants..." Marley reminded him, her distaste for those pants very clear.

"yeah Kyonichi, it's clear you have no eye for fashion." Aya teased and Kyo's glare only hardened.

"I'm not about to take any advice from you..."

"It's okay Kyo, you're still very handsome. You can pull of the sporty look very well." Marley complimented him as she placed a few pieces of meat on his plate.

Kyo's entire face burst into red and even went speechless causing everyone in the room to laugh at his expense while Marley just tilted her head.

"I guess if you're okay with being blinded by that hair colour..." The elder's voice made everyone jump a little as no one had noticed him yet.

"Dadaiji! Welcome home!" Marley greeted as she waved her tongs that she was using to flip the food on the grill.

"Now what's this about wearing a mini skirt?" Tetsuo raised a brow, obviously not a fan of of the school boys seeing his granddaughter's bare legs.

"...I don't know what you're talking about?" Marley questioned and Tetsuo just rolled his eyes and grabbed himself a cup so he could join in on the sake drinking.

It was his sake after all.

Soon, everyone filled their bellies with the fresh food. Ayame tried to talk Marley into finally trying meat by waving a thin piece of grilled meat in front of her but Kyo's mouth intervened, and he ate it himself.

"HEY!"

"Don't make her eat something she don't want." Kyo challenged. He was ready to argue and Aya was always looking for more reasons to tease Kyo. It looked like he found a new one.

Marley decided to take action and fed Kyo another piece of meat before he could yell. The act made everyone go quiet and Kyo's face went bright red before everyone started laughing.

"That's one way to keep the peace." Hatori commented and Kyo just sat there chewing the barbecued meat while Marley mouthed an apology to him.

Hiro took something out of his bag and passed it to Marley.

"What this?"

"Well...you slept through the fireworks at the beach resort and we had these at the house."

"Sparklers? Hiro, you're such a sweetheart, thank you!" Marley wanted to wrap her arms around the boy and smother him but had to remind herself that there were many people here that did not know about the Sohma curse.

"Just say so if you don't want them. We don't have to waste them." Hiro shrugged, feeling silly for getting the fireworks for her in the first place. Wanting to play it cool while Marley seemed to be thinking hard about something.

"Just giving myself a reminder is all." She smiled down at him and he raised a brow in suspicion.

"To what?"

"To give you a big hug later." Marley said as If it was the most obvious thing in the world. Hiro glared but a bright red blush gave away his embarrassment.

"I don't think I've done one of these since I was child." Tetsuo mentioned as he was handed a sparkler from Marley.

"That must have been quite exciting in the stone age." Ayame quipped and Tetsuo glared before mentioning he needed a snake skinned wallet. Marley gasped at the threat while Kyo said it sounded like a good idea.

Mostly everyone got to light a sparkler and it felt like a perfect end to the summer vacation. It had certainly been a memorable summer filled with laughter and lessons. The night was coming to an end and there was a comfortable feeling in the air. Kisa was asleep, her head laying on Marley's lap as she sat on the porch and Kyo brought her a cup of iced tea.

Marley felt her phone go off and checked to see a new message from Miguel. She opened it up and saw a selfie of Miguel and Tohru.

"LOOK HOW CUTE!" Marley nearly shoved the phone into Kyo's face and he let out a small chuckle at how excited she was over the photo. The two were smiling and Tohru was holding up a bag of goldfish.

"They on a date or something?" Kyo asked, pushing away the phone so he could look at Marley instead of the photo of Tohru and Miguel.

"You know..now that I think about it. She was acting a little differently earlier today. Seemed excited about something." But Kyo felt that wasn't saying much when Tohru always seemed to be in a good mood but the boy saying that only made Marley smile more.

"Then.. Is putting those two together a good idea. Isn't it going to be hard when he leaves?" He suggested and it was clear it something he had thought a lot about.

She had thought a lot about pushing the two together, had even heard an earful from Uo. Marley just wanted the two to have some fun together because they clearly enjoyed being with one another.

And they looked so cute together, how could I resist?

"I just thought... even if there was a smallest chance to make some happy memories, then they should take it. Even if it's just for one small night. Life is so...unpredictable. We never know what's going to happen or when it ends."

Kyo hung off of every word that Marley said, a soft look in her eyes as she explained her reasoning while running a hand over Kisa's hair.

"So maybe just one beautiful night is enough. And who knows what happens from there. Even if they get separated, those feelings could still reach. Besides, Mama and Bapu were from completely different countries and I've never seen any two people more in love." Marley pointed out, her hand automatically going to the locket she wore around her neck, giving it a little squeeze.

"So you would be happy, with just a few memories. Even if the other person has to leave?" Kyo asked and Marley realized how close they were sitting on the porch; Kyo's orange eyes gazing into her own with an intensity that made Marley's stomach flutter.

Those butterflies seem to be hard at work these days

"I would! I would feel lucky to have made even a few wonderful memories." She insisted and then became distracted with the onslaught of pics she received not only from Miguel but Uo and Hana as well who seemed to be documenting everything.

"Have you been to a summer festival?" Marley asked as she quickly looked through some other photos that she had been sent and starred which one's she would print out at home as a little present to Miguel. She had already printed a few photos that had been taken at the beach house.

"Mhmm, Shishou carried me on his shoulders most of the night since it was so busy." Kyo mentioned, remembering the first time Kazuma dressed him in a yukata and bought him a candy apple.

"Cute! Do you have any pictures!?" Marley gushed as she imagined a child Kyo at a festival and Kyo pinched her nose as he blushed, embarrassed.

"Have you been to one yet?" Kyo asked.

"Not yet no. But they look like lots of fun!" Marley answered through a nasally voice . Kyo still had her nose in his grasp.

"Next year." Kyo said and Marley wasn't sure what he meant by it.

"huh?" Marley asked and Kyo released her nose and she rubbed it a little bit, her nose looked like she had been out in the cold with how bright it was.

"Let's go, next year." Kyo rubbed the back of his neck like he was nervous but Marley was just excited about being invited to go somewhere with Kyo.

"I would love that!" Marley agreed, a smile that Kyo was sure to snapshot. Last summer would be his very last summer and he was already making sure he could make as many memories as possible.

Kyo wanted to make Marley smile and would do whatever he could to make that happen til he couldn't anymore.

"Can..May I come too?" Kisa had woken up and was looking up at Marley and she turned to Kyo. Both girls turned their eyes to Kyo as if waiting for his answer and he just let out a sigh and nodded.

How was he supposed to say no?

"We can share some cotton candy." Marley was already looking forward to next summer. Kyo hung his head as he realized that he would have to share Marley with Kisa and Haru came over to pat his back.

"That's rough buddy."

"Haru. I'm gonna kill you." Kyo threatened but Haru hardly seemed to care.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

.

The large well lit building was vaguely familiar but it had been a few years since Marley had been in it. It was peak travel time so there was a great deal of people. Many were either returning from holidays or traveling back overseas.

"Keep in touch miss, and I'm gonna start sending some care packages. Why didn't you tell me that you couldn't get fruit loops or cinnamon toast crunch?" Gabi exaggerated as she held Marley tight and kissed her cheek.

"You don't have to do that. I'll just make sure to stock up when I visit you." Marley insisted but she knew that Gabi was already putting together a list.

"Come on babe, lets drop off our luggage." Diana had already said her goodbyes and now it was Miguel's turn.

"OH! AND NEXT TIME WE DOING HEELS!" Gabi yelled back to Marley as she was pulled away by Diana who looked a little embarrassed over her wife yelling in the middle of the airport. Marley just gave the thumbs up and laughed.

"I'm so happy you came." Marley's smile was sincere as she tried to not let tears fall. It was always hard saying goodbye, even if she was sure that they would meet again one day.

"Me too."

"I know that you're probably working through some sort of family shit...but.. Can you like keep an eye on Tohru. She's too nice for her own damn good." The favor was so sweet and Marley felt giddy over how much Miguel had come to care for Tohru. Even in the limited amount of time.

"You're so cute." She was sincere in her words but he just rolled his eyes.

"I might have told her the same thing for you too. Try not to take on too much. You got people who really care about you and...they wanna be there for you. Maybe try letting them." Miguel asked her and Marley felt herself choking up a bit, it was hard saying goodbye.

"Are you crying?" Miguel asked as he could already see the water welling up in those large eyes.

"No."

"Come here." Miguel pulled her in for a tight hug, one last goodbye for who knows how long.

Marley had been a little nervous when it came to Miguel. Like their friendship had been ruined due to a dumb mistake but seeing him among her family and friends, spending time with Momiji, and being flirty and cute with Tohru was honestly some her best summer memories.

Miguel squeezed her tight while she rubbed his back, it might have been a bit much for the middle of the Narita airport as people couldn't help staring, but Marley and Miguel paid them no mind.

"Message me when you get home," Marley asked of him, wanting to know that they got home safe.

"Bet."

Miguel released her and the two said goodbye as he adjusted his duffle before finally walking away. Marley waited til they were all gone from sight, waving at her while they got their tickets scanned and disappeared behind large automatic doors.

Marley closed her eyes and said a little prayer for their safe journey across the sea back home.

In her hands she looked at the letter that read 'Tohru' in hiragana. It looked like it had been written by a child but Marley was just touched that Miguel had tried to learn a bit of the Japanese writing system.

A part of her even felt just a tiny bit jealous that the two had gone on a summer date to a festival and seemed to reciprocate their feelings for another. Marley hoped that those feelings would reach each other, even when they were far apart.

I can't wait to talk to Tohru about the date, I want to hear all the details

She held the letter to her heart, saying a little hope for the two before gently placing the letter in her purse. It was a quiet ride back home and Marley swore she could see leaves falling from the trees already even thought it was still a million degrees outside.

Summer was over and the fall semester would begin soon.

Her Dadaji immediately went into his office, grumbling about paperwork and Marley mentioned she would make some tea before getting started on laundry.

An ebony haired guest in the living room went unnoticed until Marley passed by and nearly dropped the cup of tea when dark eyes met Marley's own amethyst eyes.

"We need to talk."

.

.

.

.

Notes:

Songs:

Bad Guy – Billie Eilish

Thank you, next – Ariana Grande

A snippet of Gabi's speech in the workshop comes from Aliya Janell's Lil Bebe dance class video, worth a watch if you need a pep talk.

Ramune - known for the distinctive design of its bottle They are made of glass and sealed with a marble. To open the bottle, a plastic device used to push the marble inward is provided. The marble is pushed inside the neck of the bottle where it rattles around while drinking. Therefore, the drinks are sometimes called "marble soda" outside Japan. People trying Ramune for the first time sometimes find it difficult to drink, as it takes practice to learn to stop the marble from blocking the flow. Is one of the modern symbols of summer in Japan and is widely consumed during warm festival days and nights.

Kyudo – is the Japanese martial art of archery. Using a exceptionally tall bow called a yumi that is two meters tall.

Hi!

I am back babyyyy! The wrist is healed (mostly) and I am so happy that I got to post a chapter after so long.

Summer has ended and Marley had to say goodbye to her American friends. Looking forward to what the fall will bring. School trips, fairytale plays and so much drama to unfold, can hardly wait. Thank you so much for your patience and please leave a review letting me know you think. Please and thank :)