Not a guest (Guest): Your temp username makes me think you've got a great sense of humor. That said…request complete.

EmilyNicole865: Things are especially tough now, which makes the little things that much sweeter. I'm happy to know my story helps.

Rubygemgreen (Guest): Thank you for the kind words. I'm trying hard to do the manga and show justice by writing my story as well as I can.

Lizyeh2000: Done and done.

Takarifan01: Aw, what a wholesome comment. I'm glad you noticed Tori's relationship with Kyo since I only recently realized how much I like it too (because it was a complete accident.)

At first I was worried this chapters would be super short. Just cuz this episode focuses a lot on recapping and Yuki and Kyo thinking to themselves. In other words, lots of voice-overs. And there's not much I can do with those…or so I thought. So here's a decent-length chapter for you lot.

Disclaimer: Fruits Basket ain't mine.

[o]

Chapter 8

See You When You Get Back

"You guys go ahead of me, I forgot something in the room." Tohru looked back regretfully before I shooed them along. "I'll catch up. It's not like I don't know the way." With that they finally got started on their way back home from school. Once I was sure they wouldn't turn back I frowned and turned to my shoe locker. I'd noticed the tacks in my outdoor shoes right away. The idiots had dumped so many into each that I hadn't even needed to hear them clinking around because the shoes themselves were noticeably heavier. Just the same, if they kept up with little stints like this it would be hard to keep it from the others. Good thing that as of today we were officially on break.

I grabbed my shoes and dumped the tacks over in the nearby trash that's lately received a lot of offensive notes and objects such as these as the Stalker Squad continued their tireless grudge-fest. Because that's what this must be, I've decided. Most of the school population was jealous of me and Tohru for being closer to the Sohmas than they were, and it was being taken out on me in the form of petty threats and bothersome pranks like this. It brings me great satisfaction to know that they don't even know the half of it. None of them have any clue Tohru and I live with the Sohmas, and every day the temptation grew to out ourselves just to see everyone's reactions. But then again, I wouldn't put it past some of the psychotic ones to try and seriously maim us. Or murder us.

I tapped each shoe against the rim of the garbage can for good measure and dumped out any stragglers, then listened as I shook them around to ensure no more had gotten past me. Confident there weren't any more in there waiting to stab me, I hastily switched shoes and rushed to catch up with the others.

"What are you going to do now that your garden stopped growing with winter?" I heard Tohru ask as I approached them.

"There's always homework to do before school starts up again. But other than that there are New Year's celebrations and some Student Council work I'd like to get done." I pulled level with his other side and smiled at Tohru past him briefly in greeting.

"Council work never ends, does it?" He turned to me and shook his head briefly with a small smile.

"No, but I can't complain. It's nice to have something to keep me busy."

"What about you Kyo-kun?" Questioned Tohru. "Do you have any plans for the break?"

"No."

"Oh. None at all?"

"Other than trying to beat Sohma-kun," I added to clarify Tohru's question.

"What do you mean 'trying'?!" My eyebrow raised at the anger coming my way, but I didn't even bother answering. We all know I'm right.

"Are you denying it, Stupid Cat?"

"That's it! I'll take you on right here right now!"

"No. You'd bore me." I shook my head at the two with an eyeroll and a smile, the shoe locker incident already forgotten.

With the recent chaos of life Tohru and I had unintentionally put distance between us and Uo and Hana, so a lot of our break leading up to New Year's was spent with them.

"Man, it's cold."

"It's been another year of many changes, hasn't it?"

"Definitely."

"Mm." I nodded at both Uo's and Hana's observations while rubbing both hands together quickly and breathing warm air onto them.

"Are you two going to your grandpa's place for New Years?"

"They're going to Hawaii without us!" Uo raised her eyebrows at my outburst.

"Hawaii?"

"Well," interjected Tohru quickly. "We were planning on spending it with them, but it turns out there was extra money from the remodeling budget so they decided to treat themselves. We weren't around for any of the remodeling, so it would be unfair if they paid for our way there too."

"Still, that's quite unwelcoming of them." I nodded at Hana's observation, which Tohru seemed incapable of making no matter how much we had discussed the matter since finding out.

"I agree."

"So what, they think they're too good to watch Kohaku on TV like the rest of us?"

"Will you two be staying at Shigure-san's house, then?"

"I think so, but I haven't had the courage to ask yet…"

"Plus, I'm pretty sure they might have plans already." Tohru frowned at my words but nodded.

"In which case we wouldn't want to impose on them." Uo looked over with slight concern.

"What? You don't even know what you're doing yet?"

"Well, I guess not." "Nope." We answered in tandem.

"Wanna come to my place? It's small, but not too small to squeeze all of us in."

"You're welcome in my home, too, of course." At their offers Tohru ran ahead and quickly turned back to us, waving the shopping around frantically. Which she would regret later when she realizes everything was squished from the motion.

"Oh no, we couldn't impose on you for the whole winter break!"

"Hey, if you're uncomfortable staying at someone else's place, the three of us could see the New Year in a tent." I sorta wonder if that suggestion was spurred from their knowledge of our temporary living arrangements.

"Yes, beginning the year with a camping trip has a certain appeal." It would be beyond freezing, we'd probably lose a few toes during the winter nights to hypothermia, but they were right. It even sounded fun. If one ignored the fact that camping itself is overall miserable. Plus, well…

This New Year's is going to be painful. And I'm not sure I want to drag them along for that.

"Please, let your families spend the time with you. We'll be alright, right Tori?" I blinked at the call for backup, knowing she was aware I'd just go along with whatever she decided. She was probably hesitant to drag them along as well, since it's hard to grieve around friends. Plus, there's always that little reminder somewhere in my head that they both have at least one parent. And if we still did that's where we'd want to spend the holiday.

"Mm, she's right. Besides, I don't think four people could celebrate very easily in your apartment Uo, even if we could all squeeze in." Said girl laughed and ran a hand through her long blonde locks, but it was easy to see she didn't agree with our decision. Before any more words could be said to persuade us Tohru turned around, shopping bags getting jostled even further.

"Oops, it's gotten late! Let's hurry home!" That was an evasion tactic if I ever saw one. Was she even trying to be subtle? I gave a helpless shrug before turning to the two and waving half-heartedly.

"Well, see you guys later. Get home quickly!" And with that I raced after my twin.

It was time for New Year's cleaning, and it was during this time I realized just how big Shigure's house was. This is going to take ages. Sohma and Kyo were replacing the screen on the much-abused doors and Tohru was cheerily zapping back and forth as she mopped the porch, clearly astounding the boys with her cheer at cleaning. I, on the other hand, was taking the opportunity to eradicate every long-forgotten speck of dust from everything. Everything.

Presently I was elbow deep in the shelves under the TV, emptying out everything and thoroughly dusting each item and the wood until it was sparkling, ready to put on another blanket of dust to be forgotten until next New Years. Such is the way of life.

"Why do we even have to replace these things? Who cares about a little hole or two?"

"Shut up and work. You're the reason for the holes in the first place."

"You and your psycho fiancé," I commented from my spot in the corner.

"I told you, Kagura's not my fiancé!"

"Yet you knew exactly who I was referring to."

Tohru happily zapped past us, singing happily off-tune to some melody. Kyo shot a glare my way before turning to look at her as she went by.

"Is New Year's cleaning really that much fun?"

"Yes! Getting to clean house with all of you is like a dream!" Her answer clearly baffled both of them, but I understood the sentiment somewhat.

"It is kind of weird cleaning a house," I agreed loud enough that she could hear past the distance. "We've only ever cleaned an apartment for New Years." By now I figure it's clear to the two which twin was which after how long we've lived in the same house together. Tohru's general outtake on life was unique to her, for one thing. For the other, the two of us had taken to doing our hair in different styles ever since we were little. Even now, with both our hair in topknots, we looked different. All my hair was up as usual, while Tohru's usual style of having her hair down with a bow on either side of her head was traded for an identical knot but with two strands down on either side of her face.

"Mm!" She agreed. "It's much more satisfying to clean a large house." I looked back and caught the two shooting us odd looks but shrugged them off without a care. It's been four months now since we graduated from living in a tent to living in a house, and I think of the two this was easily the favorite. Thinking on it, if we hadn't stumbled across the estate all those months ago we would've been cleaning a different large house, one cold and unwelcoming save for grandpa, and then heading to Hawaii. Somehow, it wasn't too much of a loss in my opinion. I'd take these oddballs any day.

The door leading to Shigure's study opened and said man came in complaining over the weight of two tied up stacks of books and set them down with a solid thud.

"Books are heavier than you'd think." With that he stood tall and braced his hands against his back as he stretched, voice taking on a strained quality. "It's a shame to get rid of them, but I'll get yelled at if I ship them to the main house…"

At his appearance Tohru left behind her rag and approached him with the long fretted over question. I, on the other hand, patted off my hands to dislodge any dust and went to him as well, ducking down to see the titles of the books he was getting rid of. Maybe there were some decent ones in there I could take off his hands.

"Ano, Shigure-san?"

"Hmm?"

"Um…I know it's terrible of me to ask so much of you, but…" She bowed her head slightly, as if apologizing in advance for any inconvenience we may cause him. "You see, our grandfather contacted us to say that the family is going to Hawaii. So…would it be alright if we stayed here for New Year's?" Though I half expected the request to be shut down I did recognize it as it was, a request. So I abandoned the books and stood at my sister's side at the favor she was asking for the both of us. A somewhat bashful yet apologetic look grew on the adult's face as he lifted a hand up to his head.

"Well, of course, but…I guess I forgot to tell you two that we'll be going to the estate for our yearly celebration." Can't say I'm surprised, and I won't say I'm a bit disappointed. But I would once again remind myself that it's better this way.

Tohru's request seemed to have caught the two teenage boys off guard since the subject wasn't broached or even mentioned until after we had finished cleaning for the day and sat down for dinner.

Only a few minutes in Shigure brought it up again, probably to make sure we would be fine or ask if we'd rather spend it outside of the house with a friend. And was simultaneously rebuffed by both boys.

"I won't go home!" I was shocked. They'd said it almost as in sync as Tohru and I could manage, which I'd sort of associated with our being twins, whereas the two of them were rivals who usually couldn't stand each other's guts. Maybe it was only their mutual dislike for the Sohma estate that spurred on this newfound agreement between the two. The enemy of my enemy, and all that.

"I haven't gone home in four months, and you think I'll do it now just for New Year's?"

"If I show up for the banquet now, what was the point of me leaving there?"

"At least put in an appearance so you don't upset – "

"I won't go home!" Again in sync. Whoa. Hell hath no fury like two incensed boys.

"This'll be trouble…" It was said resignedly and without much hope of changing their minds. In contrast to Shigure's words I felt my hopes rise somewhat at the sudden turn of events. Maybe Tohru and I won't be alone this New Year's after all. Since it was Tohru's turn to make dinner tonight she wasn't included in the admittedly amusing conversation taking place, and thus entered with concern at the raised voices.

"What's wrong? I've been hearing arguing voices."

"Listen to this, Tohru-kuuun! They're both refusing to go to the main estate for New Year's!"

"Don't wheedle like a toddler, it's disgusting."

"Disturbing, too," I backed Kyo.

"You aren't going home? But Momiji-san said that New Year's was a big event for the Sohmas." Seems she had remembered the relevant details of our trip to Hatori's. Perhaps they just hadn't registered as something our few Sohmas would be included in since they lived outside of the estate.

"That's right! The biggest of big events!" He just likes having one of the teens here listen to him and his overzealous ramblings if his over-the-top grin said anything about it. Surely the celebrations weren't that fun to garner such a reaction. "The whole clan gathers to celebrate. And the part considered most important is the exclusive zodiac banquet." I l wondered why they would even bother with such a thing. Wasn't the whole thing considered a curse? Why come together yearly to celebrate something that burdened their daily lives, and the lives of those cursed over the generations before them? Though as Shigure-san continued speaking I found the thought of a barely teenaged Sohma-kun giving the traditional New Year's dance rather amusing. As well as the slices of yellow squash that were promptly slapped onto Shigure's face after he mentioned it.

"That's enough out of you."

"…Hai." I rolled my eyes at their antics and leaned forward to bring a few more toppings into my bowl of rice.

"But how wonderful. The banquet sounds just like folk tale!" Which brought up the question once again of why they celebrate New Year's in such a way.

"It's nothing to do with me."

"Huh?"

"Cat's don't get to go." And suddenly it occurred to me. I had wondered why they would even want to be reminded about the origin of their shared curse and realized that that was the very reason it was done. And I knew exactly who would organize such a thing to remind all the twelve (and Cat) their roles and origins because of it.

Akito.

"It's a longstanding tradition that the Cat isn't allowed. But I guess that part matches the folk tale, too." My chopsticks stilled at Shigure's words, and when I looked up at him my eyes narrowed slightly in disgust as I saw he was now eating the yellow squash that Yuki had thrown at him. Ew.

"How awful…"

"You don't have to look so sad about it. The banquet isn't why I'm refusing to go home." Cuz he's accepted his role in the myth at this point, I would guess. No use fighting a non-existent battle when nothing he did would cause them to accept him as part of the zodiac.

"It's because Kagura would half-kill him in her excitement!" At the mention of Miss Bipolar I felt my lips purse in distaste. Guh, I hope she doesn't visit anytime soon. Forget not fighting a non-existent battle, I can understand why he wouldn't go just to avoid Her Violentness.

"Shut up!"

"That aside," I looked at Sohma as he set down his finished bowl with an air of finality. "If we went home, we'd have to stay until the third. You two would be alone here the whole time." Aw, that's thoughtful. But no need.

"Thank you very much for thinking of us. But it's such a big holiday, you should go and have fun. It'll be your first visit to your parents in a while, won't it?" All attention firmly planted on her, Tohru put her best talent to use and smiled disarmingly at the three of them. "I'm sure they're looking forward to it."

With that she stood, poised with determination and expressive as such. I raised my head from beside her to regard her with a small smirk. My twin she was, and had been for sixteen years, but I still found her rather amusing to watch. Who needs a TV or books for entertainment when you have a twin like Tohru?

"I'll be fine! Trust me to take good care of the house while you're away! I promise to make it gleam with… with…" She trailed off before turning away and running to all our shock. "Oh no, I left the bathwater running!" I bit back a smile at her display before frowning slightly at her implication that the two of us would finish the house cleaning while they were away.

Oh well, it might be good to have something to distract ourselves with anyway.

"Remember I'm trusting you, Tohru-kun." I turned to Shigure with a slight smile and an eyebrow raised.

"Don't worry, I'll be here to keep an eye on things, too."

"What about you Tori-kun?" I waited for him to clarify. "Would you feel lonely if we left?" I regarded the three with a calm face, then carefully lifted an eyebrow. Carefully, because I didn't want any of my emotions to betray me.

"Stop nagging us. Just go to your celebration." And with that I stood and followed Tohru, figuring she might be using the time to worry about the coming day and how lonely we'd be. And if not, I'd use her to stave off my own worrying as I worked to ignore the heaviness in my heart and reminded myself once again that I wanted it to just be the two of us.

I guess, Akito or not, they do have their own families waiting. Just like Uo and Hana. I'm not sure about Kyo's parents, and I'm not aware of anything to do with Sohma-kun's dad, though I know there's a neglectful mom somewhere in the picture. But both have cousins galore. Just because our family was gone or didn't want us didn't mean I had the right to hope they would reject the chance to see theirs in favor of keeping the two of us company. They had lives of their own to take care of. When I think of it that way, I guess things haven't changed too much. Me and Tohru, like always, against the world.

By the time they were leaving for their celebration I had almost convinced myself that I truly did prefer to be alone with my twin for the turn of the year. Almost, because every time I closed my eyes a bright smile and vibrant hair flashed through my mind. During those moments the hollow numbness inside me wouldn't mind having the Sohmas around to distract myself from the pain.

"You're sure you two will be fine on your own?" Tohru was assuring Kyo and Shigure of this very thing, so I determined this one was on me. An eyebrow arched on its own as I regarded the genuinely concerned silver-haired teen in front of me. Something in me wanted to tell him to stay, but the other recalled how easily he had given in to Tohru's words the other day. While I had to give Tohru's powers of persuasion credit I also knew there was something else pushing him to do so. Whether it was wanting to catch up with cousins and his mother, or fear of Akito's wrath if he skips. Maybe both. No matter, who am I to risk his comfort just for my own?

"I'm not going to force you to go, if that's what you mean." The non-answer came out sounding almost teasing, masking my misery unintentionally well. His frown stayed in place but the creases between his eyes eased somewhat before he turned back to his two cousins as they approached the door.

"All right, be careful of crowds!"

"We'll be fine. It's New Year's Eve, so no one's out and about."

"Make sure you lock the doors, Honda-san." I nodded absently at Sohma-kun's words from where I stood near the wall with my arms crossed, even though he was speaking to Tohru.

"Hai! See you when you get back." With that Shigure-san slid open the door and led the others out.

"Okay, see you two later!"

"Take care!" "Have fun."

It was weird to think they'd be gone for three days. I guess we'd never been away from them for so long since moving in. Tohru raised a hand and waved them cheerfully off, and I was certain I was the only one in the room who could see the sadness in her eyes and her posture. Even in her ever-deceiving smile.

I raised my own hand half-heartedly and the two of us waved them away before Sohma-kun hesitated slightly just outside the door, before deciding something and shutting it firmly. Three days completely alone. We'd lived alone for a week before meeting the Sohma's. We'd be fine. I eyed my sister subtly and sighed internally at how she was carefully constructing her cheerful facade. Yeah, I didn't believe myself either.

Mask in place, my sister turned to me with a smile.

"Alright! There's just enough time to make mochi before the show runs. Then there's plenty of games we can play until sunrise." If she's doing her best to be happy I'd do my part, too.

"If we start getting tired we could take a bath, too. A really long one since the boys won't be waiting for their turn." Understanding my mirrored resolved not to wallow in our shared grief her smile, though forced, grew. As one we turned and gipped each other's hands tightly before heading to the kitchen. Once again we would be each others' lifelines.

"She left her bedroom window open a few nights ago."

"Did you sneak in?" Yuki wouldn't put it past the Cat.

"Yeah, right! I saw it from outside."

"Honda-san never pays enough attention," it was said with a truly forlorn sigh. "She fell down the stairs again yesterday, too."

"The girl even runs into walls. She's gotta be the type to choke on her mochi."

"Don't say that, it's terrifying. Hopefully Tori-san will watch her carefully tonight."

"Mm, she probably will. Unless she's overworked herself with something and ends up falling asleep."

"And Honda-san would leave her alone to get rest."

"Would you stop talking like housewives fretting about your kids?"

"Huh?"

"I know you're worried about Tohru-kun, but you decided to come."

"I-I'm not worried!" Yuki aimed a dry look the Cat's way at his obvious lie.

"And you shouldn't be. Tohru-kun and Tori-kun will watch out for each other the whole time we're gone."

"This is ridiculous. Let's get moving." Yuki headed off towards the estate without seeing if their older cousin was following.

"Oh, come to think of it…" Yuki knew that tone of voice. It was the kind Tori-san used often before poking fun at him. So whatever was coming next would be nonsense. "The morning paper said something about burglaries in our area. They haven't caught the culprit yet!"

What?!

All sorts of scenarios played out in his mind of Honda-san all but beckoning the burglar in and playing the perfect host as she brushed off Tori-san's concerns on the matter. Then as Honda-san asked for his life story Tori-san would inadvertently say something blunt and insensitive that would send him on a murdering rampage.

"Listen, you two, if you stand there holding your heads – "

" – You'll get hit."

"Ahh!"

The new voice came out of nowhere, and both boys turned quickly to see its source was the twins' mysterious friend.

"W-Well, if it isn't Saki-chan!" And she was looking very festive in her deep, black…

Is that a cloak? Where did she buy that?

"Fancy meeting you here! We're just on our way home to the family."

"I see. So they'll be truly alone this year."

Was she…did she mean…?

"The two of them have never spent a New Year's holiday without their mother, but they'll be alone this year. Arisa and I both offered to spend it with them, but Tohru just smiled and told us to be with our families." Just like she had done with the three of us, convincing us to leave them all alone for the holiday. "But what about her? Kohaku and the other New Year's TV shows must bring back so many memories of watching them with their mother. How will they feel watching them this year?"

Yuki thought back on the past few days and tried to recall Tori-san saying she'd be fine even a single time, then cursed himself when he couldn't. It's like back when they left for their Grandfather's house even when neither wanted to. In that moment Yuki came to understand the twins a little better than he had previously: Honda-san would bring discomfort to herself if she thought it would spare others, and Tori-san would suffer discomfort if it would spare her sister. Dread pooled in his stomach as he realized he'd fallen for it once again and let himself think they were okay when they were probably very upset. There's always the chance he was wrong and they were fine, but somehow he knew they weren't.

How did they feel when they saw us off? But all he could remember was a brightly smiling face as he slammed the door shut on the two of them.

"Are Tohru-kun and Tori-kun really fine with that? Will they really be alright?" Without another word it was clear what he had to do, and he took off back in the direction of the house…only to smack his head on the Stupid Cat's head as he started in the same direction.

"What are you two doing?"

"What the hell?! Go on, your precious Akito's waiting for you!" Forget Akito, he would never attend a ceremony just for him.

"And your precious Kagura is waiting for you."

"Screw you! You can have her for all I care!"

"And you can have Akito!"

"I'll pass!" A voice came from behind the two of them as they walked semi-aggressively towards their new destination.

"Oi, where are you going?"

"I'm going home!" They spoke it in complete unison, but were so upset by their recent realization that they didn't think to be disgusted at the fact, just turned as simultaneously and continued on their way.

"Don't you have a banquet to be at?! Go visit Akito!" No way would he be able to bare being away for three days knowing what the twins must be feeling in the empty house.

"Shut up! I don't care about the damn banquet!

Though it's been four months since they came into his life, it suddenly became clear how little Yuki understood the Honda twins. Honda-san always smiles at the smallest things like she's having so much fun, always saying the thing you most want to hear.

Memories race through his mind, holding the tarp down in the dark with cold rain pelting his skin. Soma-kun, your kindness is like a candle. It lights up. Sitting on a pile of large clothes as his whiskered face looked up into her smiling one. If my memories get erased, please make friends with me again, okay? Kyo meanwhile remembered a determined face declaring her want for friendship between them, and telling him she could see a plum on his back – that she saw his worth.

Tori-san brushes everything off without concern for her own feelings, pretending she doesn't care so no one can see when things do affect her. The moments that Yuki recalled differed from his previous thoughts on her sister, in that Tori-san's actions often spoke louder than her words. A tilted head angled down so she could look into his downcast eyes. How often has she comforted him now when he's feeling upset? Light twinkling in brown eyes as she laughed at his self-inflicted discomfort by wearing the dress yet did everything in her power to help him. For Kyo it was the same, and he was shocked to realize how much the less pleasant twin had managed to grow on him. A slight eyeroll as he blushed at her twin's back, and a faint smile tugging at her mouth as she turned away. He knew Tori-san disapproved of how he treated her sister when they first moved in, but she gave him another chance no matter how often he screwed up. Scathing words to Kagura and concerned looks whenever he collapsed while the others looked on. Very few people in his life stood up for him. He didn't even realize she'd become one of them.

…why didn't they see?...

And then the memory of crouching behind a window, two crying twins inside a house holding tight to each other. I wanted to stay. I wanted to stay with Sohma-kun and Kyo-kun and Shigure-san.

There's no way they're fine with being alone. No one is, and they should've known better.

I…want to…go home. I want to go home to where all of you are. I want to go home!

I'm glad you two came for us.

As both boys ran the long distance back to the house, they began to understand a couple things clearly. There was no way the twins were fine being alone. No one is happy alone. It was decided then between both boys as they rushed back, that they wanted to go home. And home is wherever the Honda-twins are.

"Things have changed so much from last year," I thought out loud. "It makes me wonder how much can change even just by next year."

"Mm," Tohru agreed. "Who knows. Maybe we'll find out Uo and Hana are also cursed by spirits." I grinned evilly and turned to her with wriggling fingers, lowering my voice.

"The spirits of Christmas past and present. And Megumi-chan is possessed by the spirit of Christmas future." She giggled adorably before giving a look.

"Somehow I don't think that's the case."

"Bah-humbug."

Mochi finished, we left it to cool down in favor of going to the TV room and sitting at the table, switching to the correct channel. Everything we had done so far tonight was nostalgic, but not the pleasant reminding kind; the painful, heart-wrenching kind. The pain was still too near. The first song being sung on Kohaku, the smell of the traditional food, I reached beside me and grasped my sister's hand again and squeezed a little too tightly. She returned it somewhat and gave me a concerned look. I knew I needed to get a grip, but another part of me was irrationally aching for the familiar voice to come from behind me, commenting in a semi-joking, semi-serious sorrowful tone on how much we had grown from years past and surely we couldn't change any more by next year than we already had.

My eyes clenched shut as I fought and failed to ground myself. Applause sounded from the speakers but went ignored as Tohru scooted closer, putting a concerned hand on my lowered head.

Knowing it would only make things worse I turned my head to chance a look, hoping beyond hope when I opened my eyes mom would be there and we'd be back in our cramped apartment, all squeezed around the coffee table and leeching each other's warmth. That all this had only been a terrible nightmare.

But when they opened it was to the harsh reality I knew would greet me. Already knowing what I would see didn't mean my heart didn't shatter, and it certainly didn't stop a broken sob from escaping.

"Tori, it's…it'll be…" It'll be what? Okay? No, it's not okay and it hasn't been for a long time. If only I hadn't –If only I wasn't –

Another sob tore through me at the sheen in Tohru's sorrowful gaze when I looked up at her. It's all my fault. Tohru at least should still be with mom, not bunking in a generous stranger's house. Guilt tore through me as I took advantage of her kindness once again as I scooched closer and buried my head in her shoulder, and felt her arms wrap around me. I didn't deserve this. I didn't deserve her.

"I miss her so much. I want her back." Mom shouldn't have been the one to go. She always did her best to raise us and keep us happy on her own, and I knew there was some guilt driving her after her breakdown following dad's passing, but even that made her so wonderful. That she came back from the brink and held things together for our sakes. Then I went and ruined all her hard work because I was damaged.

Tohru's arms tightened around me and she rocked side to side. After a minute she ducked her head and pressed a kiss to my forehead followed by a small sniff as she drew back.

"One second. I promise I'll be right back." I watched her go with sight blurry from tears. I knew what she was getting and for once felt some degree of affection for that picture. Even if it still evoked more guilt than comfort.

It was to the sight of both girls leaning against each other with their backs to the TV and arms wrapped loosely around the other, both staring with watering eyes at a picture of their deceased mother that the two Sohma boys burst in on.

There was a moment of stunned silence filled only by the Sohma's panting where their eyes quickly took in the scene and both girls simply stared at them, unsure and surprised at what they were seeing until Tohru finally snapped out of it.

"Y-Y-You startled me! What on Earth happened?!" Without a word Sohma-kun walked to her and held out a finger to catch one of her tears. He pulled away while he looked at the tear tracks on her sister's equally shocked face as both realized they'd been caught.

"N-No, don't worry! I can explain! Somehow!" Tohru slapped her hands to her cheeks, and I quickly used my sleeve to wipe all the moisture from my own face, sniffling a couple times as well.

"I shouldn't cry, but the New Year sort of…makes people sentimental?" Next Yuki's eyes took in the picture propped up on the table next to two mugs of warm tea. "Um, and as a Japanese person, I can't help but be moved by Enka songs—"

Then both panting and sweaty boys abruptly fell on their backs, exhausted. I didn't even register getting up, but one moment Tohru and I were sitting at the table and the next we were crouched worriedly at their sides.

"Are you two alright?!" Neither answered as they panted, both quietly grateful they had realized their mistake and come home before the twins could spend the holiday alone crying in each other's arms. Tohru, concerned at their continued silence, fell to her knees with concern.

"U-Um…"

"We're okay. We'd better…watch the first sunrise…huh?"

"I wanna eat New Year's noodles first." After Kyo's statement both opened their eyes and aimed a look up at the two of us. That's when I realized what they were doing. They were skipping their own festivities in order to keep us company.

"I'm home." Just like a few days ago when they'd both protested against going back to the estate they spoke completely in unison, but this time there wasn't any anger. They spoke in a tone that was unmistakably fond. My eyes drifted from one teen to the next and I felt my heart swell with something that felt a lot like love. This was the first time I'd felt it so strongly for anyone other than Tohru in a long time. And I knew Tohru felt just as touched as I did, drawing back slightly with a few more unshed tears trailing their way down her face as she opened her mouth to speak.

"Welcome home…!"

I sniffed noisily a couple more times and turned my head away to wipe my face again, trying to make the knot in my throat small enough I could speak past it.

"You two are crazy," I finally squeezed out, sounding choked even to myself. The affection it held was equally apparent.

So the rest of the night the four of us kept each other awake in order to watch the sunrise. The mocchi was eaten with much caution due to the boys' uncharacteristic nagging, only interrupted from a well-meaning evening call from Uo-chan. And if both of us ended up teary at her concern for whether we were lonely or not – something about our waves being agitated? – no one had to know. Except maybe the boys eavesdropping from the kitchen doorway.

Kohaku continued to play well into the night as we played games (Yuki beat us at nearly every game no matter what we played), and the grief that had been gripping me and Tohru earlier in the evening was forgotten. Not completely, of course. There were some moments where a familiar song or a certain favorite game would bring the sadness rising again, but I had been wrong earlier. It's not harder to grieve around friends, it's just easier to remember what there is to be happy about.

Eventually it was time to head up to the roof. Kyo led the way up since he frequented the space most often. The brightening horizon provided enough light to see the roof tiles as we picked our way to the far edge in the frigid air, breath forming clouds and faces going numb. Being up here reminded me that Shigure never did end up get the roof security checked. Was it worth pestering him about until he finally went through with it? Probably not. Again, Kyo's the only one who goes up here on a regular basis.

We all made it up without any unfortunate tumbles so we had a clear view as the light on the horizon brightened little by little from beyond the distant city. The view from up here was stunning. No wonder Kyo-kun spent so much time out here.

"Sohma-kun, Kyo-kun, Tori-chan, the sun is about to come up!" I shot a wary look at the edge of the roof and the long fall beyond it, but decided there was enough space up here to move without worry so relaxed as Tohru got closer to the edge. A small smile graced my face at her enthusiasm and I looked over at our two male companions as well, glad to see they also seemed to be enjoying themselves. Or, at least, not visibly regretting ditching their family and joining us instead for the next three days.

"Have you all decided what to wish for? I'm all set!" Tohru's joyous gaze was expectant so I nodded dutifully though in truth I hadn't thought of anything. A shiver wracked through my frame and I absently burrowed deeper into my coat, and at just that moment the shining sun finally made its first appearance over the city, framing Tohru like a brilliant backdrop. Realizing the change in lighting Tohru turned quickly with a happy sound, hands coming up to clasp as she made her wish. My gaze settled on the city laid out before us as she wished, nose tucked in the warm collar of my coat to protect it from the icy breeze. Despite the different vantage point it was the same view Tohru and I saw just before discovering Shigure's house, back when we were the only ones we had. But now we're not alone anymore.

My gaze turned towards the others again, a wish now in mind as I closed my eyes and pulled out my hands to clasp chilled fingers together against my chest.

"Kyo-kun, Sohma-kun, Tori-chan!" I opened my eyes to look up at her, bringing my hands back down to my sides. "Happy New Year! I look forward to another year with everyone!"

"And I with you." I looked back at Sohma-kun with a smile, then over at Kyo.

"Yeah." I raised an eyebrow at the Carrot-top, watching as he began frowning and shaking with frustration, scratching the back of his head in agitation before he turned to face the sun and cupped his hands against his mouth.

"I'm gonna beat that Damn Rat this year!"

"Ah, yes. Good luck with that wish." I smirked at their continued antics before my gaze unconsciously softened.

"Happy New Years everyone!" Tohru turned to me with a grin at my words which I returned equally, unable to express my happiness in that moment surrounded by the people I love.

Before long the thrill of the first sunrise faded, and the four of us decided it was cold and we were ready for a morning nap after staying up all night. Kyo went down the ladder first and I turned to Yuki as Tohru turned to go down next.

"I did some research. This year will be the year of the Rat, won't it?" He nodded to confirm my suspicion – which was good to hear since it was my first time researching anything regarding the zodiac. "Then that means it's your year. Great things are gonna happen for you." He smiled down at me then looked over at Tohru thoughtfully as she disappeared past the edge of the roof, but didn't respond.

If the rest of the year was anything like the New Year holiday, it looked like we were going to have a promising year.

"What did you wish for?" Asked Tohru as we climbed into bed, drapes pulled to block out the bright morning sunlight.

"Can't tell. Besides, it's silly." Silly, but no less important. To me, anyway.

I wish that things won't change too much this year. After all, if I've learned anything it's that a lot can change in a year.

The next three days were spent as Tohru had promised, and Shigure returned with stories of how much everyone missed the two boys to a house sparkling clean and ready for the New Year.

[o]

1. So I have a question for anyone who knows anything about Japanese New Year celebration traditions. You know how at the very beginning Uo is carrying some sort of tip-less arrow and Hana is carrying a wreath looking thing? Well if you go to the parts where the front door is slammed on Tohru you'll see one of those same wreaths over the door on the outside of the house. Does anyone know anything about those wreaths? Are these real things in Japan, or are they just there for the show? And while we're on it, what's up with that arrow Uo is holding?

2. That little bit about the twins' respective hairstyles. Usually I refrain from overly describing a character in one sitting, instead giving little bits at a time to keep things flowing naturally. To clarify, when Tohru puts her hair up in a knot to work she usually leaves a strand down on either side of her face – a common fashion trend – while Tori ties hers all up for maximum efficiency. However, when she's trying to prank someone she'll just do her knot up however Tohru has hers done at the time.

3. I did a little research on what Kohaku is (as in I looked on Wikipedia) and found out that it's a yearly special broadcasted on New Year's until midnight, the full name being NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen (Or, Red and White Song Battle. I'm sure that gives away what it is). From what I understand it's a bunch of popular singers divided into competing white and red groups. Boys in the white group, girls in the red group. When Yuki and Kyo first open the living room door to see Tohru crying at the table, the screen shows someone in a black and red dress. So it's probably safe to say it's a woman singing a Japanese enka song, from what Tohru said later about being moved by enka songs because she's Japanese. Further research (still Wikipedia) shows that enka is a Japanese music genre. As of recently there are now two enka genres: enka, which is more traditional and nostalgic, and a more recent 'modern enka' that has shown up in the past fifty years or so, which often has rap and tends to be somewhat sentimental. Going off the formal wear and nice hairdo, I've decided the performer we see on the screen was probably trying her hand at the traditional enka genre (I'm thinking it's similar to opera, cuz I've never heard this genre. Not a big fan of traditional vocals so I'm not going to check it out either). Correct me if I'm wrong. Anything's more reliable than my present sources.

4. Lol, whenever there are those little memory scenes where Yuki and Kyo remember special memories about the twins I realize how little Tori interacts with Kyo. I should work a little more on their relationship – though I'm kinda liking how it's starting to shape itself with this chapter. How they don't interact much but her concern over him and his welfare is managing to come through despite her best efforts. Like she doesn't want him to know she cares but isn't quite managing to hide it well enough. Aww, I think I've just set the tone for them. Plus, let's face it, when given the choice of writing a cute little scene between her and either Yuki or Kyo, I'm usually gonna pick Yuki.