Kyo's hands were trembling. Forget his hands, his core was trembling.

The little things. He had to focus on the little things… like the 'Royal House of Sohma' … thing. What was that crap? As if being part of the actual Sohma House wasn't pretence enough! Okay… good… good. And Shigure!? Hounds' Master?! The only other pun that could compare was Yuki being a 'Rat Mage.' And she'd kindly respected Yuki's wishes of being referred to as 'The Magician.' Ha. Rat-boy was the pansy-ass Fairy God Mother and there wasn't a thing he could do about it. And 'Hags?' She must have gotten the word from the Yankee to sound authentic or something. And that was another thing: The Yankee and 'endearing' were not meant to be placed in the same sentence. Laws of common sense simply revolted. And it was just amusing that the one time he'd been about to swear she had covered it up with the word 'You-.' And oh God she wanted to pet him.

… Now how had he let that last thought slip in there?

The book slipped from his fingers. Move, he told himself. MOVE! He got up. She wanted to pet him. Before his eyes was flashing every scene he could recall – and Tohru being the cat-lover she was, there were a lot of them – of her with arbitrary cats. Why the Hell was a shiver going up his spine now that he thought about her scratching behind their ears?! Jerkily he fumbled with her bed sheets and smoothed out the indentation where he'd been sitting. He placed the journal back on the bed. Not that it was anything suspicious. After all he'd come up here to get his sock. And even if the little book was jostled that could have been because he'd sat down and… She wanted to pet him. And he had to block out the rest of that story. Had to.

It was true; he didn't like being touched while he was a cat. Forget being touched. He didn't like being seen. It was embarrassing and shameful. And it was usually also rather vexing because around Tohru it usually happened when he was trying to get as close to her as he could to her without transforming. But then, he had never never thought that she wouldn't mind his being a cat. Of course, he knew that she 'did not mind,' or she would have left ages ago with a blank memory. But he had never even considered that she 'did not mind' as in… as in…

She wanted to pet him.

He swallowed hard. He had to get out of there. Out of this room. Shakily, far more shakily than he had entered, Kyo left Tohru's room, shut the door behind himself, and leaned back on it. His mind, whatever was left of it, was traveling in directions that could not have been healthy. No, not in the directions that he had tried so often to suppress when thinking about Tohru, but still….directions.

Had she ever held a cat that hadn't purred within moments of her picking it up? All of a sudden he was seeing those slight nimble fingers coursing thought a thousand shaded of fur – but never orange. How good was she at petting? This is just weird of me. He raised a hand and placed it on the back of his neck where, if he was a cat…

Screw 'what guys aren't supposed to think about girls!' This was crap humans shouldn't think about. Period! And all that junk about carrying the cat 'in her arms,' 'sharing her coat with him'… How the hell was he supposed to look at her with a coat on now!? Granted, she had once offered to carry him in the rain as a cat… but he had thought it was out of good will alone! And he'd refused! ...And why the Hell was he regretting it now!?

She had carried him once though, after transforming. He had been so tired, having run from her the entire night. And she had been so warm…

Beautiful… Warm… 'Considered her honor worthy…' Just where exactly did the fantasy of the story blur into truths she held about their lives? He wracked his brain as he walked down the hall. If only it wasn't winter. He could have used the time on the roof. As it was, his room would have to do. 'She loved to touch, to hold him so.' He stilled on his own threshold now, shivers coursing up and down and up again. When he had gotten to that part… he had told himself that it was just a cat. It was orange, because that was a convenient color. Familiar.

'She thought back to another creature with ginger colored hair that, for the last few weeks… she had also dared to consider beautiful.'

The door clicked idly but did not close fully behind him. His sanity had shattered at that part. Him? Beautiful? He had to stop thinking. He took a deep breath to clear his head, staring blankly around his room. It did absolutely nothing for him. Kyo couldn't even bother getting to his bed. He sat down or, to be more truthful, his knees gave in on him right where he stood beyond his door. He bent over, arms supporting him, blinking down at the floor. How could this have happened? How could he have let this happen? Sure, he had been hoping for a warm word, a favorable touch in some girly story, but not… not. He swallowed.

And she loved him. She loved him…

All those terrible, fantastic words: Beautiful, strong, wonderful. And all those times she picked up a cat in the street, or when he was in a temper and they swarmed at him… Had it really gotten to the point where she thought of him every time she held a cat?

She pitied the Sohmas.

Being the Demon Cat that he was, Kyo was accustomed to pity, to being felt sorry for. People had pitied the Cursed before. But they had always pitied and despised the Cat most of all. And she… she pitied them. Dear, sweet, loving Tohru. All those times when the Cursed had come over to eat: Haru, Kagura, Momiji and all the rest of them. She had always greeted them with that air-head smile of hers, a laugh, a stutter… and pity? He opened his mouth and took in a much shakier breath, his head swiftly falling forward against the floor. He curled up there, his fists taking themselves in.

How?!

Every tradition that had been force-fed him as a boy, every instinct that had been inborn in him with the Cat Spirit, was in revolt. He had seen her overcome her fear of the Cat's true form when she came for him in the forest. He knew that she had chosen to believe in 'him' rather than the monster. But she pitied those who had not made the choice she had? She thought that everyone should be kind to the cat to better see his beauty? In a family where men turned to mice and women to horses, the thing she found most strange was that they could not accept him!?

"… My brain will burst," he murmured into the floor.

Little things. He was thinking about little things again. And oh God how the little things rattled him. A mirror. She wanted a mirror? For him? Suddenly his head was reeling again from the shocked state it had been in moments before. When he came into the kitchen after school she was always skidding around frantically. Why? Now that he thought about it, Tohru didn't make dinner till about six. So why would she be running around frantically at three thirty? A mirror?! Really? Every time he walked into the bloody kitchen she wanted to look pretty for him?

He was sure that his face would burn a hole into the floor.

The story… it really was about them. It wasn't really just a story at all. All that nonsense about 'There were so many magical, beautiful things in this world that she had never known of before this Story with the Sohmas began…' etc, etc, and damnit.

He clamped his hands around his head and began to rock back and forward, still curled into a ball on the floor. What his presence did to her? Was it even fair for him to have to deal with that knowledge while she stayed ignorant of what her presence did to him!?

It's your own damn fault. 'Martial art ethics?' Remember? That was you being tested and you just went and gave in. You stupid, stupid IDIOT.

'The one time Kyo had arrived while the Magician was present Tohru had wondered if hehad noticed the difference.'

Now Kyo bolted upright. Yuki… noticed?! His pulled his hands from his hair, his fingers convulsing every few seconds. And Shigure? Damn it, why hadn't she said anything about Shigure's reaction in that story of hers? Did the pervert really have that 'writer's intuition' that he kept talking about? No… No. Hatori had disregarded it as bull, so it probably was. Again, Kyo tried to breathe steadily.

He blinked down at his floor, trying desperately to clear his head. But when he didn't think about how he himself featured in that story of hers, he thought about her… what she thought. How she thought.

It… surprised him, how much an air-head like her had picked up. That junk about her being a good match for Yuki, for one. Sure, that snake, and he meant it as an adjective, Ayame had made it no secret that he thought Tohru should 'belong to Yuki.'

And there the nausea set in.

Kyo shook his head, trying to concentrate on just blinking at the floor. Yes, after what his brain had just taken in even that was needing focus.

There were those side glances Shigure kept sliding at Tohru and Ratboy when they were together, though Kyo half suspected it was just to antagonize him into a response. And there were the rumors at school. True, they were mostly fueled by a crazy depraved fanclub, but still, Tohru was really quite 'secretly famous' because of her 'involvement' with the Prince. He furrowed his eyebrows. And she knew? All of a sudden there was another aspect to that most confusing of creatures. An aspect now staring him in the face. She knew what was expected of her, or what everyone expected her to do, and she, quietly, still didn't seem to care?

Now that was just way out of left field. Tohru, the Tohru that always smiled at the Cursed when they came the hang out at Shigure's, did not care that she was expected to like Yuki. She pitied the Sohmas and she liked… loved… him. Kyo.

He raised a hand up to his throat. It had become hard to swallow again. And then there was that little detail. Commoner. His fingers flexed instinctively before he was brought the uncomfortable reminder that they were still around his throat. Damn, that unhinged me, he thought shaking his hand out wearily. But he was remembering Akito. Akito… trying to implant a seed of doubt and distrust in his head. 'Monster,' he had called her. Why? Because she had accepted him. Kyo smiled wryly now. How much did Tohru pity him, he wondered. Monster. Commoner. Akito had hurtled them all out at Kyo, and somehow Tohru knew.

The floor was cold. He'd forgotten that the floor was cold. What was he going to do now?

"Kyo! If you're still cold you can come down here to the kitchen and warm yourself on the stove!" her voice floated up to him and nearly sent him into a heart attack. What the hell am I going to do.

For a moment, he did nothing. Another moment passed. Then another. "Kyo?" Her voice came again, now filled with worry.

And he, more on instinct than from conscious thought, called back to alleviate her worry. "Coming!" Another moment. He sighed, braced himself, and rose. It was strange. Getting up felt as if it took more effort than it usually did and yet, at the same time, he felt that he was hardly present in his own body. He set his two, orange-shock-clad feet firmly on the ground, straightened up, and righted his shirt. I can do this. He didn't know exactly what it was he could do, but he could do it. Really.

Momentarily he looked around his own room, so different from Tohru's. Then, despite himself, he looked up to the ceiling. She woke up in the night from nightmares… and hid her gasps for fear that he would notice while he was on the roof at night.

And once more his brain went reeling. How she cried. And he knew she cried. Of course he knew she cried. But he… he was the only one? Happy, silly Tohru. He had almost taken for granted that she had a sad side to her. Yet he was the only one?! She could relax around him and him alone? Were they really that alike. Oh…

He needed to lean against the doorframe on the way out of him room. Just for a moment. Tish. She should see him now. A tree indeed. …Ivy… Kyo closed his eyes and gritted his teeth till his jaw hurt. How could someone so innocent as she write things which, to him were so… so…alluring.

He thought to how she wrote that she bowled him over into the floor, tugged on his hair, and kissed him.

Kyo froze. Then, with all of the stony resolve of a surgeon cutting off a limb, he turned to the wall in the hallway, and threw his head into it. …And there was a dent. He blinked at it through the pain. Fantastic. Shigure would be giving him hell for that. …ouch.

"Kyo!? Are you alright?! Do you need help?"

"I'M FINE!" he howled back down the stairs, telling himself that he was trying to massage his head while really going more along the rout of scalping himself. Silence form downstairs.

And now he felt like shit. No, wait, that was wrong. He already felt like shit. Now he just felt like shit even more. …It was just that he now had a rather good idea that she – in at least some censored, innocent versions of the same thoughts – wanted the same things.

In fact, according to her story, so many of those times that she spaced out in front of him, it was actually because she was thinking about those things. And how wonderful he was.

Kyo stared down the straits in an almost contemplative state of mind. What was he contemplating? Whether or not he should just dive down the straits headfirst and put himself out of his misery. It really just seemed like such a good idea. Shigure would have to deal with the paperwork. He, Kyo, would not have to deal with the headache he now had. It just seemed like such a win-win situation.

Silence pervaded the house. Ah. Right. If he died now Tohru would be the one to find the body. No go. Too bad.

Heavily, he made his way down the stairs. Clear the streets girls and boys. 'Kyo is coming.' …Kyo is coming. And she thought that would have been nice to shout out? Every day? He shook his head. He was on the first floor now, and made his way to the kitchen.

And there she was, the little novelist. Milling around, seemingly over nothing. "Hey," he said, walking in.

"Ah! There you are! I was worried something had happened to you! I told you it was warm here. There's the stove! I thought you'd fallen over or something! Or pricked yourself on my needle! It was in your sock. Oh, good, you're wearing your sock. I hope you're not wearing the needle too! That's very dangerous."

He couldn't help himself. He smiled. Only a little. "Relax, idiot," he said, walking past her and giving her one of his gentle punches to her forehead. Was this the smile that she liked so much? Had this been that first thing she had noticed about him? This smile? "I took the needle off and put it on your bedside table. Just don't sweep it off or get pricked on it yourself."

He didn't give her a second glance, but walked over to the oven. She had pried a crack open in it with a chopstick, and it radiated warmth. He allowed it to waft over him, and he stretched his hands out towards it.

"Ah…" she said behind him, "I was thinking of making some rice balls…as a snack? You know, for when the others get back? And… would you like to make them together?" His ears twitched. Now… was he just imagining the slight change in the pitch of her voice? In its headiness? He closed his eyes for a moment, and took a deep, steadying breath.

"Sure, whatever," he said, turning back to her. "But hell if we're saving any for that damn Rat!"

"Eh…"

They laughed. They joked. Nothing had really changed. He was more aware, as she had become, but that was unavoidable. It didn't mean anything. It couldn't. And Kyo wasn't stupid. He had noticed, of course, that every single time she had mentioned something she thought truly impossible in that weird little story of hers, she had labeled it 'a fairy tale.' Of course he had noticed.

Still, as they stood there, idle happy banter passing between them as riceballs materialized on the plates before them, the oven radiating heat, he could not help but think that, to have this forever… forever happy, forever with her… it would be nice. Even if it was only possible in a fairy tale.