Title: rituals and traditions

A/N: For the Thank You furuba zine! I wanted to give Kyoko her dues, I just love the snippets of the past we get in the series.

Summary: Today, Kyoko and Tohru were visiting Katsuya's grave. Today, they were going to introduce her new friends, Uotani and Hanajima. Today, Kyoko was reminded once more of just how many ways there were to say I love you and I miss you.

When she was younger, Kyoko hadn't been big on traditions. Customs like that had to be taught at childhood, had to be given importance and love to carry through to adulthood. There had been no one to teach her to care and so she hadn't. Birthdays were just another day to trudge through, holidays an extra day to sleep in, and gifts were always given by oneself.

Then came Katsuya and his sly smirks, Tohru and her big eyes, and now all Kyoko had were traditions. There were big ones, like birthdays and test results, where they'd grab a special treat from the bakery nearby. Small ones, like the morning goodbye and the bedtime kiss. There were so many, many ways to let a person know I love you and Kyoko never tired of finding a new one.

Even a visit to her husband's grave was one steeped with routine. Standing at the gated entrance to the graveyard, she waited patiently as her father-in-law ambled toward her, a soft smile on his face. Dressed in a suit, he looked more put together than the absent-minded grandpa who liked to cuddle with Tohru in the kotatsu.

"Kyoko!" Noticing her, he waved as he came to a stop in front of the gate. His sleeves were slightly wet from cleaning the grave. "Right on time, I see."

"What, is he taking appointments now?" Kyoko asked, raising a brow. If the dead could talk to the living, she could picture him doing it too. He'd probably even ask for money.

Her father-in-law chuckled, a raspy sound. She's only ever known him for his kindness, for his soft edges, and it was strange to think that at one point, Katsuya couldn't bear the man. "No, nothing of the sort. He's grateful for any visitor, I'm sure."

"That's not the man I married." Kyoko snorted, shaking her head. It wasn't hard to remember how much he teased her, his lips curling into a playful smirk as she fumed. While she wasn't sure where Tohru got her naïve personality, she was grateful she hadn't picked up anything from her father aside from his polite speech. It would have been hell having two Katsuyas.

She wished she still had one.

Forcing a smile, she crossed her arms and asked, "You know, you could always come with us. You don't have to visit alone."

Perhaps reading her mind, he reached out and squeezed her shoulder comfortingly. "After all those years apart, I need a little alone time with him. Though, he's as talkative as ever."

Kyoko guffawed. Her father-in-law was a riot, and she could see the traces of her husband in him. "If you say so."

"I do." Smiling, he stepped away. While he was getting older, Kyoko was certain that all of his wrinkles were from laughing. She could only hope it would be the same for her when she grew old. "I'll see you for dinner?"

Another tradition. Kyoko nodded. "My cooking's improved since last time. Maybe not as good as Tohru's, but nothing is."

Her father-in-law laughed as he headed away. "As long as I don't join him today, it'll be fine."

She almost didn't want to wave goodbye. Really, in that cruel honesty, he was just like his son. Would Katsuya have looked the same if he'd reached that age? Grey-haired and balding, his sides round from eating too many of Tohru's dishes. Before she could linger on the idea, on the image of her husband as anything less than handsome, Kyoko heard a familiar voice calling her name. Turning around, she smiled brightly. "Tohru!"

"Mom!" Tohru waved back eagerly, her long skirt swishing around her heels as she trotted down the street. In her hands was a wicker basket, filled to the brim with this morning's cooking. All as usual.

What was different, however, were the three people following her. Hanajima, Uotani, and Megumi trailed after, all dressed casually as they looked around curiously. Well, Kyoko assumed it was casual wear—it was hard to tell with Hanajima and Megumi sometimes. The siblings looked like they'd stepped out of a Victorian funeral and it was impressive on so many levels, not the least how hot it must be in the August heat. "You just missed Grandpa."

"Oh no." Tohru's jaw fell open. Her eyes darted everywhere in a desperate attempt to catch his back. When she didn't see him, she hunched over, depressed. "I should have come earlier," she moaned.

"It's fine." It was impossible to resist the urge to hug her adorable daughter and Kyoko immediately gave in to the impulse. As she wrapped her arms around Tohru, she glanced at the others and smiled. "I'm glad you all could make it."

Uotani brushed a lock of her hair behind her ear, looking awkward. Maybe it was the way she held herself, her gangly body looking like it wanted to curl up and disappear, but Kyoko felt like she was looking at a younger version of herself. While she had no idea how Tohru came to be, she knew intimately what it took to make an Uotani. "Are…are you sure we should be here?" She peeked at the graveyard, then back at Kyoko. "Shouldn't this be a family thing?"

"Are you saying you aren't family?" she asked, raising a brow. Uotani flushed, looking both pleased and flustered, and Kyoko chuckled. "It's about time Katsuya paid attention to Tohru's life."

Tohru nodded happily, still buried in Kyoko's arms. "I want you to meet him!" she chimed in, her voice muffled.

"See? Not a problem." Kyoko paused. "Unless, you don't want to come?"

"No, that's not…" Uotani was a bright red now.

While she floundered, Megumi pushed forward. "I'm in the company of four gorgeous ladies. I'll stay."

"Are you sure you're in elementary school?" Kyoko asked, finally letting go of Tohru. She wasn't sure which was worse, the wink he gave when he said that or the way that his expression and tone stayed flat the entire time.

"He's very wise for his age," Hanajima explained, looking as cool as a cucumber as she entered the graveyard.

"I could say the same about you," Kyoko replied wryly. Tohru's friends were an odd bunch. Katsuya would have loved them.

"Ready, Mom?" Tohru asked, grabbing her hand.

Kyoko felt herself melting again, but this time she resisted the urge to hug. She had to have some semblance of self-control, otherwise, they wouldn't get anywhere today. "Yeah."

The Honda family grave was already clean, the stone gleaming in the sun. Several white lilies were laid in front of it, a gift no doubt from her father-in-law. Setting down her picnic basket, Tohru dashed toward the buckets. "I'll get the water."

"Should I help?" Uotani asked, uncertain as she turned from the grave to her friend and then back again.

"The water isn't that heavy." Kyoko knelt in front of the grave, her fingers brushing the stone lightly. How strange. They hadn't had that many years together, in the end, and she was now more familiar with the feel of stone than her husband's hand. Tohru must remember even less, if she even remembered anything at all, and Kyoko's heart ached. Lost time, lost chances, a void that never had the chance to exist.

Setting out three incense sticks, Kyoko slowly lit each one. Standing up once more, she said, in a stronger voice than she'd expected, "Katsuya, these are Tohru's friends."

"Hi?" Uotani mumbled, even more bemused. Gingerly she lifted her hands, looking like she wasn't sure if she should wave or pray and she'd tried to do both.

Megumi nodded his greeting. "Hello."

Looking up, Hanajima stared at the sky for a few minutes. Her smile was mysterious before she finally nodded. "It's nice to meet you."

Was it? part of Kyoko wanted to ask. It was impossible to speak to the dead, but that didn't feel like the case with Hanajima. The more she learned about her waves, the less she understood.

"I'm back!" Lugging a heavy bucket, the water spilling over the top, Tohru struggled toward the grave. "Sorry I took so long."

"Tohru!" Uotani scrambled toward her, quickly taking the bucket out of her hands. "I'll take that."

"I can't let y…" More water splashed over the edge, hitting the bottom of her skirt. Biting her lip, Tohru reluctantly handed the bucket to Uotani. "Sorry."

"It's fine." Uotani grinned as she held the bucket with a hand. "See? It's nothing, really."

Kyoko watched as the pair sprinkled water over the grave. There were very few things she could deny Tohru, so it hadn't even been a question when her daughter had asked if her friends could tag along. It had been a good idea. "You know, you should pray to him for your marks."

"What do you mean?" Uotani asked, looking over her shoulder curiously.

"He was a teacher, after all. And very smart. Maybe he'll slip in your dreams and give you all the test answers," Kyoko explained, trying hard to keep a straight face. Her husband had never been that kind, and any help he gave would be trapped inside a riddle. "And looking at your grades, you need it. You have to get into high school, after all."

Stricken, Tohru gulped. "That…we can do that…"

Uotani already had her hands clasped, her lips silently mouthing out many, many prayers. Kyoko covered her mouth, forcing her laugh to turn into a cough. Only Hanajima and Megumi didn't move and when she turned toward them with an inquisitive look, Hanajima only smiled. "You can't cure my stupidity."

"She's actually really smart," Megumi added, hands in his pockets. "She just has to be motivated."

"And he's always very smart," Hanajima fondly added, her eyes soft as she looked at her brother. "Besides, we're not good at riddles."

"Oh." Had she read her mind? Kyoko wasn't sure if she wanted the answer to that question. Instead, she pulled out a blanket from the forgotten basket and spread it out on the stone ground.

"What are you doing?" Uotani hissed, glancing around furtively.

"Setting up for lunch?" Kyoko answered slowly, her lip twitching slightly as she bit back her laugh.

"Here?" For an ex-gang member, Uotani was surprisingly serious sometimes.

"Yeah, we're eating with him. We're celebrating his memory, after all." Kyoko knelt next to the basket and pulled out Tohru's carefully prepared bentos. When Uotani still looked troubled, she patted on the blanket. "You don't want Tohru's hard work to go to waste, do you?"

Having no such qualms, Megumi already grabbed a bento and opened it. "Wow, you made all this?"

"Yes!" Tohru sat eagerly next to him and grabbed another one. "And there's some karaage in here if you want."

"Your cooking is as tasty as ever," Hanajima complimented, sitting on her other side and effectively sandwiching Tohru between her and her brother.

It was a lost battle. Grumbling, Uotani sat down and held out her hand. "I'm hungry anyways."

The graveyard was filled with sound, a stark contrast to the usual silence when it had just been her and Tohru visiting Katsuya. Kyoko liked it better this way. Maybe this would become yet another tradition, a lively one that kept friends and family close no matter what boundaries separated them.

"As you can see," Kyoko murmured to her husband, "Tohru's made some really good friends."

And though she couldn't see him, she knew he was smirking at her, the bastard.