"You wanted to see me, Akito?" Hiro said, kneeling in front of the dais upon which Akito reclined. He wasn't sure why he had been summoned here, but being brought before the leader of the Sohma family was rarely a good thing. With the fear of Akito discovering his rekindled love for Kisa looming over his head, it was all he could do to keep his voice from trembling.
"Hiro, there is something you must do for me," Akito said, "It concerns Kyo."
"Kyo?" the Cat was the last thing that the Sheep had expected to hear. Nonetheless, he gave an inner sigh of relief that Akito had not mentioned Kisa. Yet. "What about Kyo?"
Akito shifted, readjusting the folds of his voluminous robe "The Cat has strayed too far from the Sohma family. I want to teach him a lesson. One that he won't forget."
"Well what do you want me to do about it?" Hiro retorted, trying to hide his growing anxiety.
"Kyo will have to be put back into his place, his original place and you, Hiro, are just the person to put him there."
Akito looked Hiro over. His eyes narrowed, "Kisa seems to be doing well lately," he said nonchalantly. "It seems that you have been consorting with her again, despite my warning," Hiro looked up sharply, the pupil's of his large eyes shrunken with fright. Akito paused to give time for this to this sink in.
"But no matter. I am willing to overlook your affection for that… girl if you do what I ask in return." Whatever the Sheep said next would be meaningless. No matter how he protested, Akito now had Hiro once again under control.
Hiro seemed to struggle with the idea but once Kisa was brought up he knew he had already lost. Still…"But Akito, Tohru already saw Kyo's original form and she didn't seem to mind. I mean, she's still there."
A slow smile sliced across Akito's face, "She thought that she could stand his original form, but that's because she thought she could do something about it. What will she do, I wonder, if she thought it was permanent?"
Hiro's eyes widened but he said nothing. He didn't like it, but he would do it. For Kisa, he would do it.
"Argh, we've run out of milk again !" Kyo snarled, slamming the refrigerator shut. "OK, who was it this time? 'Cause whoever it was they can march down to the store right now and buy some more!"
Shigure peered at Kyo over the top of his newspaper and took another sip of his tea, "Hiro and Kisa used it and they're eating their breakfast now. Why don't you go down and get some more?"
"Argh, never mind. I didn't need it anyway," Kyo mumbled then wandered into the dining room where Hiro and Kisa were eating. Tohru and Yuki were also there, sipping at tea and laughing. 'Gees, why didn't anyone wake me up?' Kyo thought with exasperation and plopped himself down as far away from the damned Rat as possible. Coincidentally, since there was only one place left to sit that happened to be right next to Tohru.
"Good morning, Kyo," Tohru said brightly, "Did you sleep well?"
"Yeah, sure, whatever," Kyo said and poured himself a bowl of cereal only to remember a second later that all the milk was gone.
"Kyo, what's wrong, you look angry," Tohru said in a worried voice, "Is it something I said?"
"No, Miss Honda, he sometimes acts like this in the morning. Its nothing you've done," Yuki said.
"I do not ya damn Rat!"
"See what I mean?" Yuki sighed.
"Oh…ok," Tohru replied and turned back to Kyo who munching at his dry cereal with a distant look in his eyes.
"Well I'm done," Hiro said, pushing himself away from the table, "Are we going or what?"
"Alright then," Tohru said and stood up. "Kisa, are you ready?"
"Yes, I finished a few minutes ago," Kisa replied.
"Of course she's done; I wouldn't have gotten up if she hadn't been. What are you stupid or something?" Hiro said.
"Hey, don't talk to her like that!" Kyo snapped.
"Whatever," Hiro said, rolling his eyes. "So are we going or not?"
"Oh, sure, um let me just grab my purse," Tohru said and dashed out the room. Kyo glared at Hiro, grinding his teeth to keep himself from beating the snot out of the little shit.
"So where are you three going anyway?" Yuki said to Hiro just as he was about to leave the room with Kisa.
"Why do you care? Does it really matter to you where we're going? Why would I have to explain my actions to you? What, do you think you're God or something, is this a confessional?" Hiro replied acidly.
"Forget I asked," he said quietly and turned back to his tea.
"Hiro, we're coming back afterwards, right?" Kisa said in her whispery voice. "I wanted to leave some of my things here and pick them up later, is that ok?"
"Of course it is. I was planning on coming back later anyway," Hiro smiled and for a moment Kyo wondered why the boy felt that he needed to come back for anything.
"Ok, I've got it! Shall we go?" Tohru said, entering the room. Kisa nodded and together they all left the room, Kisa in the middle with Tohru and Hiro holding either hand.
"Why does she let people walk all over her like that?" Kyo muttered and took another bite of his cereal.
"Oh, I don't think she minds," Shigure said, arriving through the door that Tohru and the children had just exited. "When it comes to Kisa I think she does it because she's so fond of the girl."
"Yes, but what about Hiro?" Yuki added. Kyo looked up in surprise. He had thought Yuki had left already. "I never realized that that boy was so rude to her." He frowned slightly and looked off into the direction that they had left in.
"Yes, Hiro's rudeness is regrettable, but Miss Honda seems to be dealing with it well and I think that Hiro may be improving. He's much better then the way how he was when they first met," Shigure said. "She may very well be able to tame his worse qualities. She's already done it once with Kyo."
"What's that supposed to mean!" snapped Kyo.
"Well it's true," Shigure said. Kyo pondered this for a moment, caught between his pride and insulting Tohru. Pride lost. With a parting scowl he turned back to his cereal bowl only to discover that it was empty. Still scowling he pushed himself to his feet and walked into the kitchen leaving Yuki and Shigure to clean up the rest of the plates.
"Hello, we're back," Tohru said cheerfully as she opened the door to the house. Shigure was missing, probably working on his manuscript in his office, but Yuki and Kyo were there, pointedly ignoring each other. Kyo was sprawled on the floor watching TV while Yuki sat curled up in one of the chairs reading a book.
"Why, so you are Miss Honda," Yuki said pleasantly, "How was your trip?"
"Oh, it was fine. Kisa, Hiro and I went and saw a movie," she smiled and walked inside revealing Hiro and Kisa framed in the doorway.
"It's ok Kisa, I'll get your stuff for you just tell me where you put it," Hiro said.
"In the kitchen," she said meekly and sat down with Tohru on the couch behind Kyo.
"So how was it?" Kyo muttered into his hands without looking up.
"How was what?" Tohru asked.
"You know, the movie. How was it?"
"Oh, it was fine. It was based on that anime that Kisa and Hiro watched not too long ago."
"They made a movie of that stupid thing?" he spat glancing up at her and instantly regretted it. "Ah hell, you know what I mean. It's ok if you liked it…"
"No, its fine, I can understand that it's not for everyone," she said, slightly taken aback that Kyo had apologized for his outburst so quickly, and without any prompting from Shigure or Yuki.
"Ok I've got it so let's go," Hiro said walking on from the kitchen with Kisa's bag slung over his back.
"Oh…you're walking?" Tohru said.
"Just to the end of the driveway, you don't have to get so worked up about it," Hiro said as he walked past.
What happened next was a blur. Hiro walked over to the couch just as Kyo began to get up and they both tumbled to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs. "Hey! Get off me you damn Sheep!" Kyo shouted trying to push the boy away from him.
"I can't you stupid Cat, you're on my leg!" Hiro shouted back, pushing Kyo's arms away roughly. He tugged his his leg out from underneath Kyo's, jumped to his feet, and took Kisa by the hand. "Come on Kisa, we're going…. Stupid Cat…" he muttered just loud enough for Kyo to hear. Before Kyo could shout back his own retort Hiro had slammed the door behind him.
"Damn punk, acting like it was my fault," Kyo said, straightening his shirt, one hand flickering to straighten the bracelet. "Whatever, I'm going upstairs. I have studying to do."
"Oh, alright then, see you at dinner," Tohru smiled and for a moment Kyo's face softened as he looked at her before heading upstairs.
Hiro fingered the black and white beads in his pocket as Kisa's mom drove them back to her house. He wondered how much longer he had until Kyo and the others figured out what happened. He knew they wouldn't suspect him, not at first at least. Akito had seen to that.
"Once you have stolen the bracelet replace it with this one," Akito explained, proffering another set of beads identical to the one Kyo wore, "It will only work for about an hour. That should give you enough time to leave. As long as you don't do anything stupid," he smirked. Hiro nodded and turned to leave the room.
"Oh and Hiro," he called just as the boy was closing the door behind him. "If you fail, I will do nothing to you, but do not expect to see Kisa ever again."
Hiro suppressed a shudder as he remembered the icy feeling that encounter had left in the pit of his stomach. The first thing he had wanted to do once he left that room was throw the phony beads as far away as he could. But Akito had made sure that he wouldn't.
"Hiro, what's wrong?" Kisa said in her cute little voice. Hiro couldn't help but smile. He knew it was wrong, but doing this for Akito guaranteed that she would never be hurt again.
"Nothing, just a little cold," he said.
"Oh…" she said, "Would you like my coat?"
"No, its ok," he replied, waving it away. "But…"
"Is it…is it ok if I…put my arm around you?" he said, wringing his shirt with nervousness, "That should warm me up."
For a moment Kisa was speechless. Then with a shy nod she leaned in to him and he pulled her closer into his arms. They sat like this all the way home, and for the first time since elementary school, Hiro Sohma was truly happy.
Kyo looked up from his textbook at the sound of someone knocking at his door. "Come in," he called. He knew it wasn't Yuki, since as long as he had lived here the damned Rat had never sought his company.
"Umm, Kyo?" Tohru said hesitantly, peaking her head into the room. "Dinner's ready, do you want to come downstairs?"
"Yeah, sure just a minute," he said, finishing off the last math problem and closing the book. He looked and was surprised to see that Tohru was still there, "You can go downstairs if you like; I'll be there in a moment."
"No, its ok, I'll just wait," she said, "Oh! Unless I'm making it hard for you to concentrate in which case I'll just leave right now." She rushed to close the door behind her.
"No, its ok, you don't have to leave if you don't want," he said pushing himself to his feet. "I was just finishing anyway." Walking towards the door he felt a peculiar rumbling in his stomach that ended in a sharp jerk of pain, 'What the…? That can't be 'cause I'm hungry…'
"Kyo, what's wrong, you look pale," Tohru said, at his side in a flash.
"I don't..." his breath was cut short as another violent tremor ripped through his body, this time dropping him to his knees with a grunt.
"Kyo!" Tohru cried, "Oh no, what do I do! Uh…uh…" Kyo's eyes slashed to slits and began to glow violet. Throwing back his head he gave a cat-like yowl of pain and collapsed to the floor. "Oh no! Shigure! Somebody, call an ambulance!" Downstairs the sound of doors slamming and feet pounding up the stairs shook the house.
"Tohru, get out!" Kyo gasped, "It's- I'm…" a scream of pain erupted from his throat cutting his words short. Tohru suddenly felt his flesh moving underneath her hand as bone and sinew began to shift unnaturally, globs of fleshing beading towards his grotesquely bloated hands. "GET OUT!" he roared more beast than man. Tohru turned back just in time to see his face elongate and his shirt shred to pieces as his torso began to twist into the misshapen contortions of his original form.
"No, Kyo!" Shigure shouted, rushing to his side.
"Stay away from me!" Kyo bellowed and backhanded Shigure away from him with terrifying force, his voice now overlain with the alien tones of the Cat's evil spirit.
Shigure slammed against the wall with a sickening crunch then fell bonelessly on to Kyo's bed. "The bracelet, where is it!" Shigure gasped, pushing himself up on one arm.
"It's on his wrist," Tohru said fearfully. Then, before her very eyes, the bracelet snapped under the pressure of Kyo's rapidly growing arms.
"What is it, what's going on!" Yuki shouted appearing at the door. It took him a moment to absorb the chaos before him. Shigure was sprawled brokenly across Kyo's bed and Kyo himself lay writhing on the floor as the last steps of his transformation into his original form contorted his body into a demon.
And Tohru… lay kneeling on the ground, one hand still resting on Kyo's shoulders as the other frantically scrabbled to gather together the scattered beads on the floor.
"How…?" Yuki gasped the site of the black and white beads sent a bolt of fear through him. "That's impossible; the beads are what keep him from transforming!" Tohru looked up at him with tear-filled eyes and suddenly everything went quiet. All that could be hard was the heavy breathing of the Cat demon.
"Kyo," gasped Shigure, "Kyo, don't…don't run. We can't help you if you run."
The Cat demon's muscles twitched as if he had been contemplating just that, then he looked down to see Tohru's hand was still on his shoulder. In her other hand was a pile of beads. "Please don't run, Kyo. Its ok. I'm frightened, but what scares me more is why the bracelet stopped working, not you." A tear wound its way down her cheek and her voice began to quiver, "Please…don't run away from us." Kyo turned his great head away but he did not move; nor did he try to brush Tohru away.
"I'll go call Hatori," Shigure grimaced, pushing himself off the bed then falling back down again as a sharp pain drove the air out of his lungs. "On second thought," he gasped. "I think I made need Hatori's help as well. Yuki?"
Yuki nodded shakily and dashed downstairs to get the phone. Shigure gave a sigh and slowly eased himself back onto the bed, his breathing labored.
The sound of Yuki's barely calm voice wafted upstairs; mingling with the sound of Tohru's sniffles and Shigure's pained gasps.
'This wasn't supposed to happen,' Kyo thought to himself, staring down at his clawed hands uncomprehendingly. "It's not raining."
Shigure's heads shot up (though Tohru did not seem as surprised) and his expression riddled with shock, "Y-you can talk?" Shigure said. Kyo nodded slowly but did not speak further.
"What do you mean, it's not raining?" Tohru said softly, placing a hand on Kyo's arm.
"I-," Kyo winced at the beastlike snarl that emerged with his words. "I don't transform when I lose the bracelet unless it's raining," Shigure propped himself up on his elbow despite the pain and gazed out the window, his head cocked to the side listening for the faintest whisper of rain. But there was none to be had. The sky was crystal clear, the velvety blackness glimmering with scattered stars that sparkled like trapped fireflies.
"I called Hatori. He said he would come as soon as possible," Yuki said reentering the room. "Akito just had some sort of attack. Once Hatori gets him to bed he will be right over."
"Well that's good," Tohru smiled, the oddity of Kyo's transformation forgotten for now. "Hatori should be able to make things right." Yuki and Shigure exchanged glance, both knowing full well that Kyo's malady was beyond anyone's skill to heal.
"Yuki, would you be so kind as to help me get to my room?" Shigure said, "I would go myself but…" he tried to sit up but a grunt of pain sent him right back down again. "I don't want to move too much in case I damage myself further." Turning his head to the side he said with a glimmer of his old humor, "By the way, Kyo, have you ever considered fighting Yuki in that form? I know firsthand that your strength and speed are at least doubled, and the smell alone may be enough to knock him out!"
Yuki paused mid-step to Shigure's side. "That wasn't funny, Shigure."
Shigure grinned at him but something in Yuki's tone chilled him. It had threatened a great deal of pain but at the same time… it sounded like Yuki too truly had been hurt by his callous remark. And if Yuki thought he had overstepped his bounds... He turned to look at Tohru, realizing the depth of his error as he saw the stricken expression on her face. What was worse was that even Kyo was staring at him, his shock and hurt apparent even in the alien exterior. It was almost as if he could see Kyo in his human form through the grotesque shell, and nothing could wipe the grin off his face faster than that.
"Miss Honda, would you be so kind?" Yuki said with a tinge of frost in his voice, though it was not directed at her.
"But Yuki…I don't think I'm strong enough to... Oh! How silly of me." Carefully placing the beads on the table she walked up to Shigure and wrapped her arms around him.
"Y'know, maybe being cursed isn't so-," POOF!
"Thank you," Yuki said and walked out of the room carrying Shigure, now in the form of a small black dog.
"Kyo…" Tohru said, returning to his side. "Don't worry, Kyo, Hatori will be here in a little while. He'll make things right again." Kyo said nothing, refusing to even look at her. Wordlessly she sat down next to him and wrapped her thin pale arms around his misshapen ones. At first she thought he was going to pull away but he did nothing, almost as if she wasn't there. But she saw, she knew and so she reached out to him, in that special way that only Tohru could. Just when he needed it.
Akito smirked as waves of anger and fear rolled over the bond she shared with Kyo. As the bearer of the core of the Sohma Curse she had such a bond with all the Zodiac members, whether they liked it or not. At all times she could feel their extreme emotions: their anger, their fear, their love, all laid out before her as if on display. It infuriated her whenever she felt happiness, true happiness, from those beyond her immediate control like Kyo and Yuki. It all came from that outside world, the world she could never enter because of the Curse that isolated her.
None of the Zodiac members knew for sure that the bond existed, though a few of them suspected. Like Hatori, who occasionally commented on how Akito could know so much about each individual member of the zodiac, even though she had not heard from them for long periods of time. But even Hatori did not suspect that the bond went further. It allowed her, to a small extent, to control the effects of the Curse on all but herself, even the Cat who was not a true member of the Zodiac.
In truth it was not a difficult task to halt the Cat's transformation in that of his original form. The demonic form was an evil creature, and thus negative emotions like anger, hate, and fear only strengthened it.
Her smile was somewhat lessened as the self-loathing that came across the bond receded. But it was not enough to free the Cat. Sooner or later Kyo would come to believe that the transformation was permanent.
Then it was only a matter of time before that foolish girl did as well.