A/N: Still no Koichi. I debated using him for prompts 009 and 010, but they flowed in well from Koji's one in 008 so I let Koji have them. So I suppose that means Koichi and Tommy finally show up in 011.

The Curse of the Cat

006. Soft

For Koji, it was new. And it was a soft, tender feeling, having friends who really didn't seem to think any different of him after his secret erupted out of the bag. Perhaps box would have been a more accurate descriptor: Pandora's box, releasing one thing and then a horde of fluttering bats afterwards until only the little butterfly of hope remains, crushed at the bottom of the box.

But for the time, such dark thoughts remained far from his mind. The universal truth that all good things came to an end.

But before that was the rise. And for a time, he remained intoxicated with that softness, that tenderness, of friendship and acceptance.

And when he looked at his reflection in the mirror, he found a light that hadn't been there before.

007. Hold

Of course, Fuyuno found out about his slip. And Koji knew as soon as he read the summons, redirected to him by a simple text message from his father. And to reject the summoning, or ignore it, was inconceivable.

It was the bond the Zodiac members shared with their Head: their God. Something unbreakable, unretractable. Something that caused each of them to collapse into tears in turn when they first prostrated before him, led by a parent with reverence or clinical detachment. In his case, his father, it was the letter.

His mother, he did not remember. Her name was never spoken on Sohma property. There were no photos to be seen, no stories to be heard. The one time he'd made the mistake of asking Fuyuno, he'd been punished. Locked without food nor drink nor sunlight till reason had fled from him. And then he'd lain in a sterile white bed recovering, and saw the cold blue eyes, framed with hair an icy white, staring at him as befitting of their owner's name, and he knew that question would never escape his mouth again.

That stare permeated his life; as the rat, every waking moment of his childhood was spent in that company, and while as he grew and began attending school that changed – eventually leading to him living with his father again, that hold on his life remained. How easily borders were grafted: defined. How firmly the memories of punishment engraved themselves with the lingering taste of death and decay: the Cat's scent, which he'd only sensed once in his youth while standing in Fuyuno's shadow.

And now, that stare fixated him . …not even a hint of the future to come.

And he sat: silently, knees folded beneath him as gravity, the weight of the God, held him in place.

008. Shackles

'You were careless.'

The difference between them, Fuyuno Sohma and Koji Minamoto, was years but not many of them. It was difficult to see any semblance of the closeness in age when the elder of the two looked more the part of an adult than a child, and the look of adolescent rebellion only enforced the distance that pushed them apart.

There was no, however, abandoning such a situation. It was true; he had been careless, and whatever came out of that was a bind like any other consequence. To lose the people that had accepted him while watching for afar, or continuing on as they were – the least probable occurrence by far – and carrying the burdens of a slow decay. A loosened chain in a sense, but not unbound. That was impossible.

'You were wrong.'

The cold eyes bit into him. 'About what?' the Head asked, tone unchanging.

Koji matched it, even if the iciness could not be matched, even by him: the "Blizzard" Prince. 'They still accept me.' He kept his voice level, controlled. 'They're my friends.'

'Really?' Still the same voice, the same pitch. Skin dropped over the eyes; the lashes met, intertwining themselves in a temporary closure. 'Then they can retain their memories for now, and you may continue to see them.'

As slim as the possibility was, the Rat could not help but be surprised. The next words however explained it all.

'You will learn…no façade lasts forever.'

009. Broken

There were times Koji hated Fuyuno. He had been given to the other at three years old, the way all those born under the Rat were, but the young Head of the family had not been interested in a playmate.

'Can you play chess?' he had asked, once they were left alone for the first time.

He couldn't. Not then. So the other taught him, by defeating him over and over again. And many of their other activities progressed in a similar manner. It was a hierarchy, a bond, that couldn't be broken. He grew, but the other remained as far away and aloof as he always was, and there was never anything that dragged him closer. Like the sun, worshipped by some but burning all that came to close.

Yes. Fuyuno may be the winter, but it was summer's scorching heat more so than a bitter cold that prevented one from getting too close to the God. And as he grew in the small alcove of shadow left for him, he found himself adapting those barest parts. Because of that, it wasn't long before he was given the title of the Blizzard Prince once entering elementary school. And to him, it was perfectly fine; he didn't need them any more than he needed the other members of the Sohma family, turning their noses up at him.

But that always brought about the question as to whether or not he needed Fuyuno. Truthfully, he did because he could not imagine how things would be without that barest tint of human contact, that firm cold hand at his back pushing him through life. How things would be with no definition, no directional pull. But it left him bound, restricted. He wondered sometimes – a lot of times really – what it would be like if he let himself connect with others. Play around with them, running and tumbling and bouncing around. But then they'd fall, skin their knee or such, and cry tears of juvenile pain and he would leave the idea because such things only brought pain in the end. More pain, as he watched a girl with a ugly scar laughed at and shoved about and then scorned and left alone, crying tears of bitter anger and blood. As he watched a dog with a limp set upon by other, larger ones of the kind. As he watched a single tall tree bend and break, leaving a severed trunk that matched all the smaller ones in height.

In between, he'd hate the coldness, the unnconnectability that set him apart from the thing closest.

But now that he'd found people who stubbornly persisted, who'd managed to persevere and befriend him, then persevere again after seeing a face, and he hated that coldness for a different reason. For the Zodiac curse was beyond that of transformation, beyond that of family politics. He was older now, he understood more, and his heart had warmed enough to feel a certain pricking to the cold. Like Eve's garden and the forbidden fruit, the taste wasn't something he could forget.

His family, the curse, Fuyuno – even if he had given his permission – stood between that. For his permissiveness was as cruel as to force one to abstain; to bow to emotion and lose reason until it consumed a person utterly. To make a pleasurable thing so horrible; was it worth that perhaps inevitable pain?

He bowed his head and dragged his feet. It was Eden all over again, he had to admit. For he didn't think he was capable of resisting that tide.

But…maybe one day, that bond, that curse…would be broken.

010. Precious

Koji came home to find his father absent again. It was nothing new; on the contrary it was to be expected. As far as the man went, he was only the boy's guardian on paper and his material provider. The house in that essence felt always cold, and that day was no different –

– except the phone ringing insistently in the silence.

He picked up the receiver, and couldn't help but smile…even if the retort to Takuya's teasing words suggested nothing of the sort. Banter was exchanged, a date set; nothing revealed the meeting he had, nor the possible costs that could follow. Light, unassuming, but somehow so perfectly harmonised with his heart.

'Hey! Are you listening to me Koji?!'

That was something precious, to be treasured forever in his heart.

'-and Zoe wants us to go to the photo booth –'

'That's a good idea.'

' – and…what?! Don't tell me I'm outnumbered.' A bit of grumbling followed. 'Be prepared for the worst picture in history.'

That was okay, as long as it captured their time together, no matter how long and short he wound up being…

'Hey, what are you angsting about over there?'

…because all the time in the world would be enough for one to become bored of happiness, and he could not waste what he had.