Hello new and familiar readers! Before anyone gets upset, I've actually been working on this particular fic for months now to help stir up creative juices. I have many, many good things to say about how this manga was given so much detail – especially with the personalities of the characters and how Author-san explores the impact of past trauma on present situations. That being said, I will be exploring a variety of mental illnesses in this fic (though not in too much detail) since they're hinted all throughout the original story. Because of this I ended up taking forever planning everything since I felt it was my duty as a fan to be just as detailed with my character as Author-san was with hers. But now that the 2nd season is being released I figured it was high time to get this out into the open. And so finally, after editing, re-editing, re-re-editing (you get the point) this first chapter I feel it's finally reached the point where I'm satisfied with the result. Hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: I only own Tori and my plot.

[o]

Chapter 1

I'm Going

The open air was chilly so early in the morning, made even more-so by the river water still in my hair after a quick wash before school. It was just dark enough that I could still see the flashlight shining inside the tent and Tohru's outline as she shuffled around on her knees while running a brush through her hair. Any moment now the sun would make it over the horizon and light the inside up enough to see without the artificial light, but as it was my eyes had to adjust to the light when I pushed in past the tent flap. My identical sister turned to me with a smile, just finishing with her own damp hair.

"Good morning Tori!" In reply I traded my armful for the brush she held out to me and began hacking at my long brown tresses while she switched off the flashlight. Already the tent had gotten brighter inside, but not any warmer. As I worked my eyes brushed over my sister, watching as she folded my pajamas before gathering any loose school supplies into her bag.

"Did you sleep alright?"

"Mm," she answered with a happy nod. "At first it was difficult to sleep on the ground, but it's getting easier every night." I regarded her close-eyed grin with mild exasperation, since that was roughly the same answer she gave every time I asked. It was true of course, the ground was hard and unforgiving, and yet after a week of only that it's easy enough to grow accustomed to. Not that she'd complain if it was otherwise.

"Anyway," I said instead of calling her out. "We should leave pretty soon if we want to pick something up to eat on the way."

"Hai!" She grabbed her bag and rushed out the door to look at the rapidly rising sun, leaving me scrambling to grab my things and catch up.

"It looks like it's going to be another hot day!" She called to me as I shoved last night's homework into my bag before slipping a hair tie around my wrist. "Even though it's already mid-September!" Finished, I exited the tent as well while tying my hair up in a high knot.

"Mm," I agreed. "Hopefully the tent will still be warm by the time we get home from work tonight," though I doubted it. The days were warm, but the nights made up for it with how frigid they were. As expected before any lengthy excursion, Tohru ran back to the tent and ducked in to direct her attention to the picture of our recently deceased mother.

"Alright Mom, you look after things here." She then stood straight and I zipped the tent closed behind her before we started on our way. "See you after school!" At first Tohru's odd way of coping with mom's loss had worried me, but by now it was just another fact of life. That little picture was as important to Tohru at this point as I was to her.

As we walked single-file across a log fallen across a stream Tohru checked the time before levelling out with me.

"Do you think we could take a longer route? We left really early and we haven't had a chance to explore the area yet." She held her watch out to confirm her words and I glanced at it. We really had left rather early. I nodded and watched as a grin grew on her face before she rushed another way. I shook my head fondly at her ever-present curiosity before rushing to keep up with her.

"It's so beautiful out here," she sighed happily and I nodded in agreement. The lush vegetation wasn't something we'd see back in the city; not in our apartment home or at Grampa's house. Her new route took us on a slight hike up a hill that left us both panting for breath at the top, and I was nearly positive that we would soon find ourselves lost. But when I looked up awe filled me at the breathtaking view laid out before us of the city.

"Wow," I breathed.

"The air feels so nice!" My sister exclaimed as a breeze brushed past and lightened the heat already beginning to bear down from the morning sun. She took a deep breath before turning her head to one side.

"There's a house!" I blinked in surprise at the revelation we were living unexpectedly close to other people. Tohru said something which I nodded absently to, already calculating how far the little stream was from here that we regularly used as a bath. Really, we were lucky that no one had stumbled across us while in such vulnerable positions. Alright, it was decided. From here on I wouldn't allow Tohru to go off alone, ever. I was so caught up in such thoughts that it took me several moments to realize she was quickly making her way down to get a closer look at the building.

"Tohru," I hissed loudly, irrationally worried of alerting anyone to our presence. "Get back here!" Before I knew it I was standing a distance away from the porch Tohru had wandered towards where a number of small porcelain figures had been set out, presumably to dry.

"How cute!"

"Tohru, we're definitely trespassing. Get back here before we both get in trouble!"

"Well, now!" Came a new voice. "It's not too often I see girls around here."

Too late.

Tohru, as expected in such a situation, began to freak out and apologize with multiple excessively large bows for said trespassing. I sighed wearily and resisted the urge to press a hand to my head helplessly. I truly didn't know what to do with her sometimes.

"Go right ahead. But wouldn't young people like yourselves find this place boring?" I walked over quickly as the unknown man approached the figures as well before crouching down to be closer to both their and Tohru's positions. Sure, he seemed nice enough – or as nice as someone can seem after meeting them less than a minute before – but as far as I was concerned this was some psycho mass-murderer just waiting to drag us down to his torture chambers, or something. I dunno.

"No, not at all!" Tohru frantically placated. "These zodiac figures are adorable." Then I promptly grimaced when he inquired on her knowledge on them, which outed her full explanation on them, including how we'd originally learned the tale and her immediate decision to renounce being a Dog in favor of the Cat. My heart panged as she easily spoke of mom while recounting the story. I knew she wasn't unaffected by her own words, but she was better at lying to herself about her emotions than I was.

"My, my. I wonder what face he'd make if he heard that." His odd words at her recollection effectively pulled me out of my melancholy as I wondered what he could possibly mean by that. Psychotic mass murdered was looking more and more likely by the minute.

"Well," he cut off any inquiries and turned his attention to me. "Did you share the same sympathies?" I shook my head, successfully only narrowing my eyes a smidge at his continued suspicious behavior.

"You don't find many people as passionate as her, even for stories," I explained bluntly.

"Then you were both born in the Year of the Dog? That makes me feel close to you. After all, I'm a Dog – " and abruptly there was another person with us, and the sitting man's head sunk down with the obvious weight of a familiar school bag.

"Lay off the inappropriate flirting," came the new voice. Next to me I felt my sister jump terribly at the sudden appearance. "Are you alight, Honda-san and Honda-san? Did my cousin pull any funny business?"

"Sohma-kun! Good morning!" Tohru completely ignored his question and bowed deeply once again. I, however, regarded the newcomer's inquiry warily.

"Why, does your cousin do that often?" He simply smiled in response which was all the confirmation I needed. My eyes narrowed even further as I now looked at the old pervert with contempt. Definitely never letting Tohru bathe alone again.

"That really hurt," said pervert moaned. "Did you pack a dictionary or something?"

"Yes. Two, in fact." Then, with backpack on and looking very much like he'd rather be on his way, he smiled politely at the two of us.

"Good morning."

"Oh, do you three know each other?"

"They're in my classes."

"I'm Honda Tohru and this is my sister Honda Tori. It's a pleasure to meet you." She gave yet another full bow while mine was much more reserved. The man, Shigure-san, introduced himself as Sohma-kun's cousin, which was easy to see with their very familial way of interacting.

"Say, what brings you here?" Once again my energetic sister began panicking at being addressed by our classmate with an unexpected question, so I took over.

"We were passing on our way to school," I explained. "We live nearby." Presently, was added on to myself. Suspicious looks immediately showed, and alarms started going off in my head.

"Speaking of which," I added hastily and grabbed Tohru's flailing hand. "We should get going." She seemed to understand my urgency as she followed quickly behind me.

"Ah, wait," Sohma called after us. I would've easily continued fleeing but my ever-polite sister stopped and looked back.

"Hai?" There came that long-suffering smile again.

"Since you're here why don't we walk to school together?" I wondered why he even bothered if he so obviously didn't want to.

"If you don't mind," I answered, "we were planning to stop somewhere."

"That's not a problem, if it's on the way." So two became three. We walked in silence, which I didn't mind. I was doing calculations in my head because I knew my sister, and I knew she would offer to pick something up for our little tagalong. The problem was that, if my mental budget was correct, we really couldn't afford it if he took her up on it.

We were at the end of our pay-period and so funds were running much lower than I was comfortable with. I'd just skip lunch, I reasoned. School lunch was more expensive than breakfast, anyway. Actually, in the long-run getting an extra breakfast and no lunch would save money. Alright, problem solved. Before I knew it we were stopped in front of the usual small convenience store we'd been visiting for the past week.

"Did you have anything to eat this morning, Sohma-kun? We can get something for you, too." I was shocked, to say the least, when the boy's cheeks turned the slightest shade of pink – in shame? – before he politely declined Tohru's offer and said he'd wait outside for us.

Normally I would've happily left him hungry in favor of feeding myself and my sister. But that little blush was the first true emotion I'd seen from the reserved boy, whether he'd given it voluntarily or not, so I sighed and grabbed another filled sweet roll. Then tried to hide my cringe from my confused sister as I handed over the yen for all three of them to the yawning woman manning the lone register.

But our fellow student's genuine look of surprise as I shoved the package in his face was almost worth the extra yen.

"Just eat it," I huffed when he opened his mouth to protest. He closed it dutifully and grabbed the roll.

"Thank you," he said instead and I nodded before continuing on our way. As usual I opened the plastic package but didn't eat. Instead I waited until a bit after Tohru finished hers before handing mine over, too.

"I'm not hungry after all the excitement this morning." By now she didn't question me, but I knew she'd feel guilty eating it if I didn't reassure her. "I'll just eat a big lunch," I lied swiftly, more easily than I would've liked. She sent me a small, not completely satisfied smile, before biting into it hungrily. Ever since mom passed going without food was normal for me, because I refused to let my happy-go-lucky sister go any hungrier than she needed to. If I could feel myself gradually growing weaker for it, no one needed to know. If my stomach had gotten over itself ages ago and stopped bothering to growl when I was hungry, just the same.

My gaze drifted over Tohru, gaze softening ever so slightly, before a contemplative frown tugged at the corners of my lips. She never complained, but I knew she was always hungry as well, even after we ate. We'd never had abundant amounts of food. Back with mom things were usually alright, since she alone was supporting the three of us. Tohru never found out, I think, but I knew Mom regularly went hungry to ensure we both ate.

With Grampa we had to be careful since the old man was living off retirement and with his frail health he couldn't very well change his own eating habits. That's when I first took mom's job of protecting Tohru, and hunger was one of the things to protect her from.

But looking at her frame now I could see the toll the last week especially was starting to have on her. She'd already lost weight, and the thought of eating while she starved truly did make my own hunger vanish as I began feeling vaguely sick. Neither of us had planned on being left homeless out of the blue, so the only money we had was the little we'd happened to have at the time, and it quite frankly wasn't enough.

I watched as Tohru tore a piece from the roll and offered it to me, and though I took it I had to all but shove it down my throat past the rising nausea to make her happy. And I pretended not to see Sohma regarding us subtly as he slowly ate his own roll.

At school we went our separate ways, and the grey-haired boy (dyed? Trick of the light?) turned to the two of us before going his own way.

"Thank you again for the sweet roll, I'll make sure to repay you some time." Before he finished Tohru was already shaking both hands and head.

"No, it's really alright. I'm glad you liked it." As she brushed him off I watched him coolly, not caring whether he repaid us or not since I hadn't expected reimbursement when buying it. Still, it might be nice to have him owe us something in the future. He met my gaze briefly before saying goodbye once again and heading in the direction of the student council room.

Not five seconds after starting on our way again we were confronted with a girl sporting a disdainful expression and eyebrows plucked to the point of ridiculousness.

"Honda-sans, what's the meaning of this?" Immediately one of my own eyebrows raised at the rude way of addressing us; we may be identical, but we were still entirely separate people, thank you very much.

"Umm…" Tohru stuttered nervously. The girl then growled – literally – and introduced herself importantly as three more girls materialized behind her, explaining something about a club and 'Prince Yuki'.

"Prince Yuki?" Tohru repeated, dazed. I listened, half bemused and completely irked, as they ranted off a list of rules for said Prince. And I actually felt a vein threatening to pop when she shoved a finger into our faces. Then all four had the gall to demand an explanation on why we'd shown up with Sohma-kun earlier before jabbing the finger in our faces again, waving it between the two of us as if to clarify that she was demanding an explanation from both of us.

"Back-up," I interrupted with all my ice-cold fury. "First off, it's Honda-san and Honda-san to you, and I really don't see why your so-called 'rules' apply to either of us as you're not in charge of us at all in any way whatsoever. Really, the only thing you've made clear is that all of you are a bunch of creepy little stalkers."

That set them off.

I saw Tohru sweat-drop beside me and she let out a soft "Tori…" that I barely heard over the stalkers' incessant yapping.

"Oi," came the most welcome voice ever. "Don't you dare use those lame excuses to pick a fight." The stalkers recoiled at the sight of my most favorite ex-delinquent and resident oddity duo. At their appearance threats were given and balance restored.

"I love you guys."

"You two saved us!"

"You poor things," Uo gushed as she wrapped my sister in a hug. "That was some bad luck. Hana, don't actually do the wave thing." I wanted to disagree; that's something I'd almost pay to see. Almost, because there'd be a big internal debate beforehand that would probably end up dissuading myself against parting with the money.

Home-Ec was our first class of the day, and it only really involved gossiping about Sohma, staring at Sohma, and Tohru being guilt-tripped about not telling them our living situation, though our two friends did it completely unintentionally, and the little mid-morning snack made the whole morning hassle worth it. So glad we had this class today.

Since we were still pretty early in the semester none of the classes were too involved yet, so it still seemed like it took ages before we were released for lunch and I left the three like usual to "talk with a sensei" like I'd taken to doing when I skipped the meal. Still, this time it wasn't too bad since we got to eat earlier in class. I sat at my desk doing homework in my spare time, figuring I could get it done now and be able to turn in early tonight for some much needed rest. Shortly after finishing the second page the door slid open, and I listened with half an ear as the person stopped at seeing someone else in the room. I was also surprised someone else had come so early, but as the steps restarted and the door slid closed I figured they'd probably just ignore me. I was wrong.

I looked up in surprise when a pair of shoes stopped beside my desk to find myself looking into Sohma-kun's grey eyes. He knew, then, that I had lied to my sister. He blinked when my eyes narrowed and seemed to understand I was daring him to say anything. Instead it was my turn to be surprised when he reached into the bag he held and put a just-bought apple on my desk.

"In return for this morning," he explained softly. I took it and nodded my thanks, but it wasn't until he was eating lunch at his own desk that I bit into it. My eyes closed of their own accord as I marveled how an ordinary apple could possibly taste so wonderful.

Just the same, I was embarrassed he'd caught me in my lie, so after Tohru and I finished cleaning duty and hurried to the front so we'd make our shifts in time, I wasn't thrilled when we ended up catching him on his way out as well.

"Sohma-kun!" She called to the boy as he switched shoes. "Thank you for this morning!"

"Nonsense. I apologize for Shigure." Again he used his 'I'd-rather-be-alone' smile and I noticed as he closed his shoe locker with a little more force than necessary.

"Oh no, he's a very nice person," she objected and hurried to switch her own shoes. I followed hastily as I realized she intended to walk with him despite both of us having work soon.

"That's right," Sohma recalled as they discussed Shigure's zodiac figures. "You were saying something about being a Cat?"

"I was an odd child," she said bashfully, to which I nudged her playfully as we walked. Odd was an understatement.

"Yes. The Cat is an idiot." I was shocked at his rudeness when all day he'd been doing his best to be polite, but I was even more shocked at him referring to the zodiac Cat like it was an actual being. Just like his cousin had this morning. "And ornery, too." Even Tohru was getting confused at this point, which means I really wasn't imagining things.

I listened in confused bemusement as he continued on about yin-yang and math, which somehow led back to the idiot Cat. Something about the zodiac. Yeah, he'd lost me. Of course, what Tohru got from all that was that he hated cats.

To my immense and ever-growing confusion he abruptly stopped and simply looked at Tohru. There was something in his gaze that I couldn't understand, but vaguely recognized. I tried to recall where I'd seen it before and finally remembered glimpsing it in mom's eyes when she really looked at dad's gravestone picture. It was the look of deep, insurmountable pain that few others could ever understand.

I was knocked out of my trance by Tohru's watch alerting us to the time.

Tohru excused us hastily and rushed away with me on her heels. But he once again stopped us, pulled a leaf out of Tohru's bangs, warned her of looking under the weather and left with a princely air and mystery abundant.

I wasn't concerned with that as I turned sharply to look at my sister. How did I miss it?! Pale, flushed cheeks, now that I look closely she was probably most definitely shaking and sweating…? Was she swaying? Of course she was! Next thing I know she'll be unconscious, and we really can't afford to take her to the hospital so she would probably… Tohru's going to die.

"Tori…" she started meekly as she saw me working myself up.

"You're going home!" And that was final. We parted with the understanding that I'd tell our boss what happened and that she'd be better in time for her next shift, and she was to pick up a nutritious dinner for herself, a large bottle of water (rather than refilling an empty bottle with restroom tap water), and she was not to get out of bed until I got back.

In hindsight I probably over-reacted a bit, but honestly, that girl didn't know how to take a break. In the end I went in as Tohru and told our boss 'Tori' was out sick, knowing Tohru would protest if she ever found out. But in the end I'd rather our boss be upset with me for taking time off than be mad at her. I could handle having him dislike me.

By the time I got back I was bone-weary and more than ready to take up residence in my sleeping bag. A headache was threatening and my limbs felt weighed down, but there quite frankly wasn't time for me to feel unwell right now. Maybe when Tohru was back up. Maybe.

When I was outside the clearing we'd set our tent up in I forced myself to straighten, then pinched my cheeks and slapped them lightly to coax color back into them in case Tohru was still up. When I crawled through the flap my eyes softened at the sight of her sound asleep. Her brow was sweaty with fever and her cheeks were lightly flushed, but the sight of her resting helped ease my concern somewhat. Unfortunately, a glance at her school bag showed it was untouched from where it had been discarded, which meant she hadn't finished her homework sheets for tomorrow. But I didn't want to wake her. I sighed, knowing she would refuse to turn them in if I simply filled the sheets out myself.

I kissed her forehead lightly and combed my fingers through her sweaty and sleep-mussed hair, like mom used to do to wake us.

"Tohru," I spoke softly as she stirred. "You have homework to do." She groaned but obediently got up.

"I'll help you," I assured her. As planned, my sheets had been finished during lunch period, though it looked like I wouldn't be turning in early like I'd wanted. No matter. Besides, most of it was math homework, and that's my specialty.

"Thank you," she moaned, still exhausted, pale, and more flushed than I was comfortable with. I may have imagined the shivers before, but now she definitely had them.

"Let's go down and wash your face first. It'll help wake you up." And hopefully bring down your fever. Without a word she grabbed her towel and I in turn grabbed her bag, fully intending to secretly fill some of her work in while she freshened up, not that she had to know that. I'd only do enough that she wouldn't notice when looking over it the next morning. She seemed to have this idea that if I did her homework she wouldn't know the material when it's covered in the following tests. Absurd, I know.

Then my blood froze as hysterical, male laughter sounded from outside until it clicked that I knew the voice from just this morning. Cold righteous fury filled me and I shoved my way out past my frozen sister and rose quickly, feeling my exhausted limbs protest strongly at the abrupt movement, not noticing that her bag was now clenched tightly in my balled fist as if I intended to swing it in protection at any moment.

I positioned myself in front of Tohru, enraged the pervert had snuck up on our tent only to laugh at the predicament we'd been placed in. It must've shown on my face because the laughter cleared quickly. My glare found its way to Sohma-kun, and I can honestly say I hadn't expected for him to be in on something like this.

"It's not what you think," he sighed in explanation, shooting his cousin an annoyed glance.

Next thing I knew we were in the Sohma household while Sohma-kun explained how they owned all surrounding property. The pervert sat subdued beside him, though I still saw fit to shoot glares at him every now and again. Living on his property for a week or not, I was angry at him. But as I listened to Tohru begging them to allow us to stay on their property, the severity of our situation finally broke through the haze of exhaustion and my ever-growing headache. If they send us away, we really would be homeless this time unless we could miraculously find another suitable place to set up our tent away (seemingly) from any civilization.

I clenched my fists when she offered to pay, but I knew she was right to do so. Maybe they'd wait until we got our paychecks. We'd figure it out. We always do.

"That's a dangerous spot," Shigure spoke up for the first time, and despite his warnings on wildlife and rockslides I felt hope at not being immediately rejected. Suddenly I felt nervous of my cold behavior towards the man, and any consequence it could bring on us. Tohru abruptly stood up and passionately proclaimed her strength and willpower. In the meantime I stayed down, unsure of my ability to stand at the moment as my body screamed at me to go rest already.

…I want to go to bed…

I was too busy judging the comfort of the floor (I could use Tohru's school bag as a pillow) to notice the exact moment she collapsed, but I turned to support her kneeling form quickly enough that black spots danced in my vision. That wasn't a good sign.

Sohma raced over and informed us what I already knew, and through the haze slowly engulfing my mind I observed as Shigure-san opened a door to hell – which I would later realize was their kitchen – then just as suddenly they were reassuring themselves that the tent wasn't crushed and we were leaving despite my true longing to collapse on their floor.

We arrived at our tent to find a large mound of dirt. At the sight of the buried tent my mind cleared somewhat, trying to process what had just happened. Tohru quite literally jumped on the mound and began to dig mom out, but I stood frozen, feeling myself begin to panic as the reality of what had occurred ever so slowly registered. I'd come so close to losing everything tonight. What if we hadn't left? What if I'd left during the night for some reason or other and come back to find Tohru buried alive, slowly suffocating or already dead? Fear clenched my heart, banishing all previous exhaustion. I would've been completely alone. Completely and truly; I would have no one and nothing anymore. I felt my heart clench in panic, eyes growing unfocused as Tohru continued to tear at the dirt with unprotected fingers, knowing I should go over there and calm her down but unable to move my tense limbs. I'd almost lost Tohru.

A hand fell on my shoulder and I jerked out of my spiraling thoughts to see Shigure-san looking down at me with faint concern. I dismissed him quickly with a quick mental shake of the head and turned back to see Tohru being comforted by Sohma-kun. Now once again in full control of myself I hurried over to her, fighting to push down any lingering panic over what I'd almost lost and forcing my focus onto calming her own fears.

"Tohru," I soothed in a soft voice, turning her gently from the dirt while she rambled about mom not being able to breath, the fever affecting her thoughts. "Mom can't hurt now, remember? Mom's okay." My voice cracked on the last word, but it worked to calm her down.

Shigure-san mentioned coming back when it was light out and thoroughly convinced her by mentioning how much mom would suffer if Tohru was hurt. Then before I knew it we were once again at the house, now swimming in some of the man's clothes as night-wear, with a couple futons set up where the short table had been before. Despite my body's insistence to lay down beside her, I instead sat on my knees with Tohru's head resting on my lap as I combed my fingers through her hair. I didn't want to lay down while the man sat over us since I was still uncertain on whether he'd try anything funny on us while we slept. Plus, I know as soon as I was down there wouldn't be any getting back up, and I'm not quite ready to call it a night just yet.

As she told her story of losing mom and of the now three homes we'd lost, my hands stilled from their motions and curled themselves into fists of their own accord while my jaw clenched. I wanted to cover my ears but knew the motion would be noticed so resisted and instead did everything I could to block out her words. I couldn't hear the story, not like this, especially knowing Tohru somehow thought Mom's death was her fault.

There was a moment of silence when she finished speaking as she finally drifted off, and I looked up slightly to see the expression on Shigure's face. I couldn't quite identify it, but it looked not quite like pity but more like a sympathetic regarding of her story. An odd expression, and certainly not one of the reactions I had anticipated.

"This is a surprise," came a voice from the door. I looked over to see Sohma-kun there, having heard every word. "She's always so cheerful at school, looking like she hasn't got a care. She's amazing." I resumed my stroking of her hair while listening to the two converse, brushing my fingers lightly across her forehead to test the severity of her temperature. Already the medicine was kicking in, and I figured her fever would be completely gone by morning.

"Amazing how?"

"I thought I'd broken free of the Sohmas, but if I really hated them, I could've just gotten a tent like she did and gone off someplace where they wouldn't find me. I'm realizing that I'm spoiled." I looked up at the boy through my bangs in wonder, knowing I'd just been let in on a bit of information he'd probably never intended for any of his classmates to know. It seems the Prince's life wasn't all his club would make it out to be. Everyone has demons, I suppose.

"Calling Tohru amazing is an insult to her, you know." I shot the man a look, not quite agreeing with his statement. If anyone told Tohru she was amazing she'd get bashful and protest, probably genuinely believing she didn't deserve said praise, then end up basking in the sentiment behind the praise anyway. But then again, I don't think my sister could recognize an insult even if one slapped her in the face.

I watched in wonder as the conversation finished without further ado and Sohma-kun left the house without another word, Shigure shooting a knowing look after him as the door slid closed.

"Where's he going?"

"Probably to call some help to dig up your tent," and the way he said it let me know that this was another mystery I wouldn't be let in on, so I let it be at that.

"Tell me, why is it she always seems so happy despite everything you two have been through?" He inquired after a moment, apparently still pondering Sohma-kun's words from before. I blinked slowly down at the girl as she sighed in her sleep.

"Her greatest talent is smiling," I answered cryptically. I didn't clarify that my sister would smile as the world crumbled apart, trying to find the best of the worst situations. She would smile as her heart broke, not wanting to bring down those around her. She would smile, and it was my job to remind her sometimes that it's okay to be upset, because if it was up to her she would smile for those around her until she fell apart.

I sighed softly when Shigure handed me the ice pillow and I eased my legs out from under her to slide it into place, abandoning my spot at her head to grab her school bag that was left here the first time we came. From it I took out the homework sheets, positioning myself against the TV stand so the bright moonlight shining from outside through the thin porch door illuminated the questions just enough for me to start filling them out. Since I was now otherwise occupied I fully expected Shigure-san to retire to his own bed, but instead his attention turned from Tohru to me.

"Yuki told me earlier that you haven't eaten all day." I shot him a vaguely annoyed look, figuring Sohma hadn't told Tohru so I couldn't technically be angry about him telling his cousin. He took my silence as confirmation and pressed on.

"I'd offer you food, but as you saw earlier even if we had any there really isn't any way to get to it." He sweat-dropped, and I still didn't say anything. Food, as always, would be nice. But I hadn't expected any and I really didn't want any from them. I couldn't be sure if there would be any drawbacks. At the moment we were completely and totally at their mercy, and I didn't want to give them any more power over us than they already had.

"Tohru-chan's happiness is the reason for that, isn't it? You gave your breakfast to her and sacrificed your lunch – maybe your dinner, too –since you don't have enough to feed both of you properly."

"It's my job now," I finally spoke up, raising my gaze to look him square in the eyes and feeling somewhat shocked that he'd guessed the situation so accurately. "Now that mom's gone it's my job to take care of Tohru. No one else will." He regarded me with that same look he'd given Tohru.

"Thank you for your sympathy, but we really don't need it. As soon as Tohru is feeling well we'll find somewhere else to stay that's not on your property this time. Thank you for your hospitality, and if Sohma-kun successfully digs our tent out we'll be out of your hair in no time." The look didn't leave, but not long after he finally stood and left me to Tohru's homework.

I'm not sure when but at some point I must've fallen asleep, and when my eyes opened during the night it was to see Tohru's unfinished homework sitting in a neat stack and a blanket draped over my slumped form as I curled still sitting upright with my head resting on the stand.

Despite knowing I should've sat back up and continued– it would destroy Tohru to turn in incomplete homework – I found myself grabbing the blanket and pulling it down with me as I shifted slightly to lay on the floor. Tired muscles screamed at finally being allowed to rest and I couldn't find it in myself to regret it as I slowly drifted back off to sleep.

The floor really was comfortable.

I woke slowly to a familiar, panicked voice, sleep holding on stubbornly as I blinked my eyes a few times to see I was on the floor of a large room with doors leading outside, through which I could see my sister and our two hosts conversing before all three walked away to another part of the house. The sleep, I could already tell, had done me wonders though the headache still lingered, and my body protested weakly as I forced myself onto my feet and towards my sister. I walked across the porch and through the door I could hear her voice coming from and was greeted with the sight of Tohru and Sohma-kun talking at the base of the stairs. Though I couldn't quite seem to make sense of their words through the exhaustion clouding my thoughts I could've sworn I saw an invisible breeze ruffling both of their hair as they gazed at each other, and…were those blue and pink sparkles drifting lazily behind them? I shook my head lightly when they both turned and ascended the stairs and followed slowly to arrive next to my sister just outside of a relatively empty room. Just as a large, orange-topped thing crashed through the ceiling.

All in all, it wasn't until there were three animals in the place of three men that I finally snapped out of it.

I stared at the cat, mouse, and dog, and suddenly found myself on my knees studying them and trying to figure out what on earth just happened. I must've not been completely present because I was stuck on a loop trying to figure out if the humans were animals or if the animals were humans. Is this supposed to be normal? Do people usually do this? Ohh, I know, I'm actually still asleep and this is all just some crazy dream. A quick pinch later disproved that, so I looked up and met gazes with my equally lost and slightly panicking twin.

[o]

Before anyone asks I will be following the manga more than the anime, though the new anime follows the manga so closely this time they're almost interchangeable. I will be hinting throughout the beginning towards some of the darker themes coming up in the near future. Btw, any of you anime-only fans hold onto your pants as Season 2 is released. Things are about to take a turn for the dark.