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No Woman No Cry

Chapter Text

 

Warning: this story contains spoilers

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Long, long ago.. there lived a certain person in a certain place. This person had been all alone... for many, many years...

One day, they came down from their mountain.. and discovered humans had started living there.

But this person was still alone...

This person had lived a thousand lifetimes and possessed a thousand different powers. Their memories stretched back through a millennia.

They were not like the humans at all.

And so... this person came to fear the humans.

Feared getting hurt... but then, one day...

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Sunlight warmed my skin as I ran. Enjoying the high, the rush, the freedom the …

"Okay... Maybe this wasn't a good idea," I huffed as I tried to catch my breath, placing my hand on my heart. Willing it to calm down and bring it to a somewhat reasonable heart rate. I couldn't afford to pass out or something over a small jog because I'm sure then Dadaji would make me go back to the hospital for another month to make sure I didn't push myself.

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…..although….they might have a point…I feel like my heart wants to fly out of my chest cavity.

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But it was such a beautiful morning, and I was starting to get a little stir crazy inside the house. Although maybe I should've stuck to a brisk walk instead of a jog, but I wanted to move, I wanted to feel the wind, I wanted to run.

I leaned up against a wall and slid down it to sit on the ground, looking towards the heavens... The sky was still blue, but I could see dark grey clouds quickly moving in, the wind helping it along.

"Maybe that's enough movement one day..." I decided, then heard a sliding sound ending with a loud clack sound.

Black hair poked out of the window I was resting beside, her pale face turned my way. Pretty, deep purple eyes looking down at me with curiosity. She seemed to be maybe a few years older than me, but her eyes looked tired like she had an old soul.

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What a pretty girl! But there's something about her…. And I'm staring awkwardly… Alright Marley, time to introduce yourself

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"Good morning!" I greeted, slipping into my Japanese. She didn't say anything, just kept watching. I got up from the ground and walked over, so I was standing directly in front of her.

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Maybe she's shy?

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"Beautiful day, isn't it, great day for a run, but I'm totally out of shape...I hope I didn't bother you with my huffing and puffing." I joked as I smiled at her, dark eyes looking over me, a subtle glare as if my very presence was a bother.

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Or maybe that's just the way her face is...

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"What are you doing here?" She asked as she leaned a little further out the window to talk, resting her head on the on her arms.

"Oh, just catching my breath…. I'm sorry, is this your home? I didn't mean to bother you! I'm still getting used to the Estate, It's like a village in here." I explained, stretching my arms to the sky.

The girl let out a little smirk. "I wouldn't expect an outsider to know their way around," She commented, trying to hide her mouth behind her hand. I decided not to take her words too personally.

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... I mean... I am an outsider

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"Hahaha, well, if you have any tips, I'd be forever grateful. My sense of direction is…. Less than desirable," I laughed, poking fun at myself more, hoping it would help her lighten up a bit.

The girl smiled a bit and looked like she was about to say something else, but as she shifted, I caught sight of the deep purple fabric on her sleeve, catching an intricate design of white floral.

"Wow, your kimono looks beautiful on you," I exclaimed, gazing at the plum material decorated with floral stitching.

She blushed lightly and mumbled thanks, avoiding my eyes. I merely smile at her, felt like I had found a new friend.

" I almost thought Zuzu was the only one around my age around here, my name's Ma-"

Thunder roared, and a strong wind blew past me, interrupting my introduction. Thunder roared again, and rain began to pour down, forcing me to cut the introduction short. I felt the rain hit my skin and couldn't help but smile at the sensation.

"I should get back. I'll see you around!" I shouted, breaking into a light jog towards Dadaji's house, which was almost at the other side of the complex.

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She seemed... a little unsure...a little bit of loneliness in her eyes…. Hopefully, I'll see her again

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Stepping back into the house, I slipped off my sneakers and walked through the kitchen and drank straight from the tap, quenching my thirst. I listened to another boom and the constant sound of pitter-patter against the roof.

" We do have cups, we're not animals." Dadaji's gruff voice called from the kitchen door, I lifted my head and met his disapproving face and crossed arms. He stood tall in deep forest green kimono making him look very regal.

"Sorry." I chirped before I wiped my mouth and gave him a sheepish smile. Thunder boomed again, and the rain started pelting down harder, and I could hear it pounding on the roof.

" Dadaji! The rain!" I cheered as I slid past him and went to the porch and taking insight.

My hand reached out to feel the drops against my skin, rain sliding off the back of my hand down to fingers, sliding down to my dark manicured nails.

"You're much too excited about the rain." He mumbled as he shook his head, his short dark grey hair slightly moving with him. The elder kneeled at the table, taking a long sip from his tea.

"I can't help it Dadaji, this is the first time I've seen rain since I've been out." I laughed as I took in the Sohma property, the beautiful garden now under a blanket of heavy rain.

Mornin', I'm Marley Kaur Bakshi. I've been living in the hospital in Tokyo for the past few months, and just last week, I was given the okay to go home. Only, home isn't really an option, my parents passed away in March, and there's no family left for me in Nevada, so here I am living at my Bapu's father's home is the Sohma estate in Japan till' I get sent back to the states.

It's definitely a whole new world for me, and I stick out like a sore thumb. I think I might be the first brown person a lot of these people have seen. It's kind of entertaining, but it's gonna get old soon. At least I've met some friendly, curious people, well…most are friendly... I'm trying not to get too comfortable, I'll be out of Dadaji's hair soon enough. It'll be hard to say goodbye...

I set up the yoga mat outside on the porch, still undercover from the rain, and started with my morning set. The music of the rain dropping to the surface filling me with gratefulness I couldn't really describe.

"Dry yourself off before you make yourself sick." Scolded Dadaji as he eyed my slightly damp hair.

" Let me do some yoga first, then I'll hop in the shower," I promised as I settled into a simple toe-touch stretch, feeling my muscles getting pulled as my fingers wrapped around the arch of my foot.

I only heard him grumble and the crinkle of a newspaper, choosing to just let me be as I took a deep breath and did a gentle stretch.

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.-.-.-.

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Letting out a long exhale and came out of downward dog and into a cobra pose, stretching my back out as much as I could.

"Hatori is going to drop by to check on you." I heard Dadaji's mumble through the newspaper, sounding less than enthused.

"Don't get too excited." I teased as I finished up stretching and joined him at the table. I wasn't sure what Dadaji had against the handsome doctor, but Dadaji didn't seem to get along with many people. I recalled the walk we took the evening before where every time someone would see him, it seemed to be a forced greeting and Dadaji would just grumble back.

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Or they just seemed to be terrified of him

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He just let out a hmph sound and folded his newspaper, taking off his reading glasses. He was about to say something else when a rumbling sound coming from his stomach interrupted him

Dadaji went a little red, and I could only laugh.

"Let me take a quick shower and then I'll get started on some lunch." Patting his shoulder, I got up and went upstairs.

I scrubbed my body with my lavender-scented body wash, washing away the small sweat I had built up and enjoyed the warm water, successfully steaming up the bathroom while I got clean.

Feeling refreshed, I wrapped my long wet hair up in a towel turban, threw on a casual black cotton dress, and headed to the kitchen to get started on some lunch.

"What to make, what to make…."

As I thought out loud, I walked into the kitchen, and I scrolled through my phone to play my recently played song list. Pressing shuffle, and it automatically connected to the Bluetooth speaker in the kitchen, reggae music filled the space as I opened the large refrigerator.

"No, woman, no cry..." I sang along to myself as I took out some vegetables. I settled to make simmered tofu and chopped veggies. There was some minced chicken left in the fridge, so I decided to use the rest and make some chicken meatballs. I may be a vegetarian, but Tetsuo Sohma is definitely a carnivore. Can't let him starve.

I hummed along to the music as I chopped some chives, hoping the handsome doctor would make it for lunch.

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-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

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Dark eyes stared out the window and looked over the rain covered Estate. The woman was still slightly confused by the girl she had seen earlier. The stranger hadn't used any respectful terms and had spoken to her so casually. As if she had been genuinely happy to talk to her, bright amethyst purple eyes staring into her soul, unafraid.

"Akito, would you like some lunch?" the voice of her secretary asked from inside the room.

"…. Did we start hiring foreigners or something?" asked the girl as she continued to look out the window. The musical sound of the mystery girl's strange accent in her head.

"excuse me?" The woman's personal secretary was genuinely confused by the question.

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The woman sluggishly walked away from the window and draped herself over the tall, handsome man. Running her hands through his deep auburn hair.

" That girl, from earlier… Who was she…" she asked, her secretary looked confused, only annoying the girl causing her to push him away.

"Someone has to know, she sticks out like a nail." She hissed, annoyed for one reason or another. The curious man titled his head, thinking of new additions to the Sohma Estate.

"Do you mean…. Yuuto-san's daughter?" he asked tentatively, his eyes watching Akito's small frame as she walked back to the window. The woman only shook her head.

"She didn't look like a Sohma, I said foreigner. " she snapped at him, growing more and more frustrated that he wasn't properly listening to her.

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"From what I understand, Yuuto-san was her stepfather, I can't remember what her name was." He clarified, now knowing who Akito was talking about.

"she wasn't at the funeral …" Akito pointed out, thinking back at the small funeral service that she had been basically forced to attend.

"Hatori-Nii mentioned it at the funeral that Yuuto-San's daughter was in the hospital and couldn't attend." He explained, the man remembered thinking that Yuuto's daughter must have been pretty sick if she couldn't even attend her own parent's funeral.

"Apparently, she's only staying for a little bit till she has to go home to America." Akito's shoulder slightly slumped, and the auburn-haired man watched curiously as he had known the woman all her life, and it had been a long time he'd seen her interested in someone other than a Zodiac member.

"….."

"Akito…"

"I'm not hungry… leave me Kureno..but don't go far." Akito ordered as she laid down, already exhausted by the events of the day, a sense of disappointment flooding her chest.

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"Tremble for yourself, my man,
You know that you have seen this all before
Tremble little lion man,
You'll never settle any of your scor-"

A chime at the door stopped me in my sing-along of Little Lion Man, and I turned the stove off, removing the tofu from the pot and moving the contents into a large bowl. I wiped my hands on a dishtowel, threw it over my shoulder, and walked over to the main living room.

" Ah Hatori, how are you, can you stay for lunch?" I greeted the tall, handsome doctor, happy to see a familiar face. He nodded and said he was doing well and gave me a small smile, his dark purple eyes looking into my lighter pair.

" I'd like that, thank you. I actually brought someone who-"

Then a small yellow blur jumped in front of me, interrupting Hatori.

"Du bist wundershoen!" The yellow blob exclaimed as they latched onto my hands and jumped up and down. It took me a moment to figure out what was going on. Once the blob stopped jumping up and down, I started into large, kind chocolate eyes.

"Marley, right, you're Marley!" Said the blonde boy. His bright blond hair matching his bright smile. He looked to be only 11 or 12, a young, innocent aura surrounding him.

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What a cute little boy...

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"Uh... Yes, that's me," I said, smiling. He was so cute, whoever he is.

He spoke some more... German, I think... I couldn't understand, but he sounded adorable and friendly.

He placed a kiss on my cheek and was about to say something until Dadaji grabbed him by his ear and pulled him back.

"Watch it, kid, not so touchy," Dadaji scolded while shaking the poor boy.

"Ah, Dadaji! It's okay!" I yelled while waving my hands, trying to lessen the poor boys...punishment. The young boy wriggled in Dadaji's hands, looking to escape.

"Momiji, you promised you would behave today." Sighed Hatori, bringing his hand to the bridge of his nose, looking exhausted.

"But she's so pretty! NO ONE TOLD ME THAT! I couldn't help it!" Whined the young boy as he continued to try and get away from Dadaji's clutches.

"Tetsuo-Sama! I'm sorry," He cried, and Dadaji finally let go, grumbling about making the boy into a rabbit stew. Which, in turn, made me raise an eyebrow.

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That's a very specific threat….

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"Ummmm, we were about to have lunch if you two would like to join." I offered to try to de-escalate the situation.

"Yay! I'll help" Cheered the boy as he got away from Dadaji and grabbed my hands, dragging me into the kitchen.

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The blonde boy who Hatori called Momiji dragged me into the kitchen, bouncing all the way. His energy was undoubtedly infectious, and I couldn't help but giggle at his enthusiasm to help me get lunch ready.

He turned to me, big chocolate eyes gazing up at me.

"How can I help?! Oh, I'm Momiji! Sohma Momiji," He finally introduced himself, giving me another cheerful smile.

"It's nice to meet you Momiji, I'm Bakshi Marley, here, we just need to set up the table." I Introduced myself and started putting piling dishes into his hands.

"Are you hafu?" He asked, looking up at me, his big, beautiful eyes brimming with curiosity.

"Hafu?" I asked, trying to rack my brain for what he meant.

"I am! My Mutti's from Germany and Papa is a Sohma." He explained. So it must have been German he was speaking earlier.

"I don't know, can I be hafu if I'm not half Japanese? But I am mixed. Mama was from India, and my father was European, but my Bapu was a Sohma." I explained, loading a tray with cups and a teapot. I used to be a little unsure of my mixed ethnicity because it caused me a little grief, but it was nice seeing someone else who was a mix. And he was possibly the cutest young boy I had ever seen.

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He's gonna grow into a handsome man, a heartbreaker, that's for sure

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"Ah, so we're both half and half. We should start a club." He decided, proud of his mixed heritage, and he seemed eager to start this club with me. Not only is he cute, but he's the friendliest Sohma by a long shot.

"I've never been in a club before, but I'm happy to be in one with you Momiji, we'll have to come up with some group field trips" I suggested, smiling down at him. He let out a giggle, and a small blush appeared on his cheeks as we headed into the living room to set the table.

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"You really had to bring the boy?" Sighed Tetsuo, rolling his shoulders, trying to get rid of the tension in his back.

"Apologies, I made the mistake of mentioning Marley, and he's been excited to meet her ever since. The Estate, in general, is very curious about the newcomer, she's only been out of the hospital for a little bit, but Marley's become a hot topic." Explained Hatori, the doctor placing his bag by the tatami mat and taking a seat at the table, across from the elder.

"Are you afraid of how she'll react, maybe we should tell her before she accidentally finds out? Or have you changed your mind about telling her at all." Questioned the doctor, knowing that Momiji wasn't as cautious as the other Zodiac members when it came to being around the opposite sex... But Tetsuo couldn't help but wonder how his granddaughter would react to the strange curse.

"No, that boy just annoys me, he's too touchy and should keep his paws to himself... openly kissing Marley like that..." The Sohma Elder looked like he was plotting for ways to get rid of the young boy and Hatori couldn't help but let out a sigh at the protective man.

" It was just a kiss on the cheek... Marley herself has been known to be affectionate when she's excited or happy." Hatori pointed out, trying to give Momiji a little slack.

"Hmph... anyway... There's only one Zodiac member I don't want her meeting….. Plus, if they keep popping up around her, she would find out eventually. My Granddaughter can handle it, Hatori, she knows how to hold her own." Confirmed Tetsuo, knowing well he has the upper hand in this discussion. The elder knew even the 'God' of Zodiac couldn't touch him.

Hatori stayed silent, not knowing what else he could say on the matter. No one knew what to make of the new guest on the Sohma property. Would she be staying in Japan, or would she go back home to America? What did Marley want to do? Hatori kind of knew what Tetsuo wanted from his Granddaughter, but it was a lot to ask of someone who was essentially an outsider.

"Have you asked her yet? She is still just a child, should you be so ready to throw away her future." He answered, making a good point.

Before Tetsuo could respond, the door from the kitchen opened with Momiji and Marley carrying dishes and tea to set up. Disappearing again quickly to grab the food. Laying everything out with care. Marley sat to Tetsuo's right, and Momiji sat across from her.

The smell of the hot food filled the room, and everyone found themselves salivating at the home-cooked meal.

"Itadakimas!" Cheered Momiji as everyone dug in, Marley was none the wiser that the two adults had been talking about her.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.

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Rain was still pounding down on the Sohma estate as Hatori checked my breathing. The cold metal of the stethoscope pressed against the bare skin on my back.

"Feeling a little strained today, Marley?" asked Hatori as he took away the stethoscope, and I pulled my shirt down.

"I did go for a little jog, but I promised I stopped when I started to struggle." I pleaded, looking up at him, giving him my best puppy dog eyes, hoping he wouldn't scold me too harshly.

The family doctor let out a massive sigh, already exhausted by my stubborn nature. I know I probably shouldn't have gone for the small jog, but I had been so excited to be able to. To be free of the hospital room that I had been basically imprisoned to for months.

"You're still pretty fresh of surgery, your scar is healing nicely, but that doesn't mean you should push yourself." He reprimanded, lightly flicking my forehead.

"Ish, okay, I'll stick to just yoga for the next little while, but a girl in a window was totally judging me for my ... out of shapeness... so as soon as I can, I'm taking up jogging again." I reasoned, rubbing my forehead.

"Girl in a window?" Questioned Hatori as he put away his supplies into his bag.

"Ya, she thought it was funny I was huffing and puffing for breath." I laughed, thinking of the strange ebony haired girl I had come across this morning.

"Well... just take it easy, doctor's orders." He said, giving the final word. I gave a small nod, I understood his concern.

"Sooo, when do you think I'll be able to go back to dance?" I asked, slightly just wanting to push Hatori a bit, but I was hopeful for a good answer. Hatori just shook his head and told me to be patient.

"Thank you so much for coming out to check on me Hatori, I think Dadaji worries too much, but I know he's thankful that you came over." I expressed my gratitude and bowed down a bit to him. Hatori had been by my side since the early winter, helping me through some of my darker moments.

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I don't know how I'll ever repay his kindness

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As I was bowing, Momiji popped in and kneeled below me, looking up at me with those eyes that would put my puppy dog eyes to shame.

"Ne, ne! Marley-Chan, let's watch TV together." He cheered, not even giving me a chance to answer and dragging me to the TV in the living room that was playing cartoons. I didn't recognize the show, but I had seen the strange mascot of the show everywhere.

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Sort of looks like a Pikachu knock off... it's kinda cute

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.

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The rain didn't let up till it was late afternoon, and Hatori mentioned that they should head out. Momiji whined for a little bit, but we exchanged numbers, and I encouraged him to text or call me anytime.

"Marley-Chan! Let's go cherry picking soon! They're finally in season!" Momiji was practically bouncing up and down as he held my hands. All his movements reminded me of a cute little cartoon bunny. I could even picture little bunny ears on top of his head.

"That sounds like so much fun, I love cherries." I agreed to the plans, we quickly discussed what day would be best. I was looking forward to making a few delicious cherry pies, making a list to pick up a few things from the supermarket.

"Thank you for lunch, Marley. As usual, it was delicious." Praised Hatori in that kind of deadpan voice that I've learned not to take seriously. He had a rare small smile on his face, and I couldn't help but blush at the compliment.

My chest felt warm when I thought of the idea of Hatori and Momiji coming over again in the future and enjoying meals together.

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I wonder what Momiji's favourite food is?

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"Thank you for saying so, I've been trying to cook more Japanese meals, I think Dadaji might have an ulcer from all the spicy Indian meals I've been cooking lately." I joked as they put on their shoes, the area still slightly wet from the rain the boys brought in earlier.

"Here, let me grab the door, you've got stuff to the carry-" In stepping down, I slipped on the step in the genkan and fell towards Momiji. I felt small arms wrap around me and then— nothing…. but a sharp popping noise rang in the air.

Sparkly yellow smoke was everywhere, and I was holding something soft. I coughed a few times and looked down into soft chocolate eyes.

"Huh?"

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~To be continued ~

notes

Bapu - Punjabi - father

Dadaji - Punjabi term= grandfather, only referring to one's own grandfather

Du bist wundershoen - german - You are beautiful

Hafu - refers to somebody who is Half Japanese

Genkan - traditional Japanese entry way area of the house where people leave their shoes.

Itadakimas - said before eating a meal

Mutti - german - mother

Bold writing- English

* I Do not own Fruits Basket or any of its characters, they belong to Natsuki Takaya

Chapter Text

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Sparkly purple smoke was everywhere, and I was holding something soft. I coughed a few times and looked down into soft chocolate eyes.

"Huh?"

In my arms was a yellow rabbit, their little nose wiggling around. I looked over and saw the clothes that Momiji was wearing, laying on the floor-

"MOMIJI!" I yelled, not believing what had just happened.

The rabbit leaned their head over and let out a giggle.

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The rabbit... GIGGLED!

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"MOMIJI! AYE HAYE! I'M SO SORRY! ARE YOU OKAY?!" I was yelling as I got up, holding the rabbit Momiji close to me.

"HATORI! WHAT DO WE DO! MOMIJI TURNED INTO A RABBIT!" I stammered running to the doctor who had his arms up, and I leaned into him unable to stop my momentum and then-

Another popping sound and smoke engulfed me again and there sitting on top of Hatori's clothes was...

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A seahorse?

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"HATORIIIII! WATER! I NEED WATER! YOU NEED WATER!" I yelled to anyone who would listen, I could feel my heart pounding in my ears as I panicked. The fins on the little brown seahorse we're wriggling about, unable to really move anywhere.

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What is going on?! WHAT HAVE I DONE!

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I picked up little seahorse Hatori in on one hand while still holding rabbit Momiji in my right arm.

"DADAJI! I CHANGED THEM INTO ANIMALS! WHAT DO I DO!? CALL 911!" I yelled, running past him in the living room and jumping into the backyard. My mind was on one thing. Get the sea creature into water.

I placed Seahorse Hatori gently into the pond in our backyard, watching him swim around a bit and then turned my attention to the Rabbit Momiji.

He was watching me, head tilting slightly, and his bunny ears flopped slightly to the side. If I wasn't panicking, I probably would have squealed at how cute it was.

"Okay, Okay, breathe... breathe." I held my hand to my heart, trying to calm down.

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Mama… Bapu …. What do I do? They've turned into animals

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"Well... you definitely are the cutest rabbit I've ever seen," I mumbled as I placed my hand on his head he leaned into my touch.

"Momiji? Are you okay?" I asked, softly looking down at the rabbit, tenderly petting his head.

The rabbit then leaned up, wrapping their arms around my neck.

"We're okay, Marley-Chan." whispered the rabbit softly as he nuzzled into my neck, his wet nose slightly tickling my skin.

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... he can talk... talking animals... they've turned into talking animals.

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Again I was trying to control my breathing. I could feel tears well up, and my chest felt tight.

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What if they're stuck like this?

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"Breathe little one, everything is okay." I heard Dadaji say softly to me as he placed his hand on my shoulder.

I looked up at him, tears threatening to fall from my eyes. Trying to hold it together, I took another breath. "They're going to be okay right?"

He gave me a small smile and nodded. This is the second time I've ever heard Dadaji speak so softly, as if not to scare me more than I already was. He was usually a lot gruffer, but I guess he was trying to keep me calm.

"They are going to be just fine. Ju-" Another burst of smoke interrupted Dadaji, and I immediately panicked that he too was going to turn into some sort of animal as well.

Once the smoke cleared, there was Hatori... standing in the middle of the pond, back to his human form….. With no clothes.

My entire face went hot, my cheeks we're probably bright red.

"He's naked!" I yelled as I turned around and brought Momiji to my face to help me hide.

I heard the sloshing of water and footsteps. Feeling a wet hand pat my head before hearing more steps leading away from me.

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What is going on!

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.-.-.-.-.-

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"So this... is normal?" I was now sitting at the table with Dadaji and Hatori. The doctor was now fully clothed, and a towel on his head, drying from being thrown in the pond. Momiji was still in his rabbit form, and I was holding him in my arms.

"Odd choice of words, but yes, in the Sohma family, there are 13 members who are cursed to turn into animals of the zodiac." Explained Dadaji, biting into a rice cracker.

"Zodiac? Like the horoscope?" I asked, confused.

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I don't remember a bunny and a seahorse being in the Zodiac.

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I looked down at Momiji, who was looking up at me, cuddled into my chest.

"Close, the Eastern Zodiac. Have you ever heard the tale of the banquet?" Asked Hatori. I shook my head.

Dadaji got up from the table and looked through his bookshelf before he picked out a large, worn-looking book. He placed the text in the middle of the table and then slid it towards me.

I couldn't read the writing on the front, but 12 animals in a circle were depicted on the front. I used one hand to feel the embroidery on the front, tracing the animal forms softly as I looked over them.

"I thought you said there were 13 animals?" I asked, counting the animals again on the cover.

Dadaji took a breath and then started to tell the tale.

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"A long time ago, God told the Animals.

"Tomorrow, I'll invite you to my banquet. You must not be late."

After hearing the news, the Rat who likes practical jokes told it's neighbour, the Cat. That the banquet is the day after tomorrow.

On that day, the Rat rode on the Ox and jumped off to get into the banquet first. The Ox followed, then came the Tiger and everyone else. The celebration lasted until the next morning.

Except for the deceived Cat "

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"Marley-Chan! Why are you crying!" Exclaimed Momiji as he tried to reach my face to wipe away my tears.

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To be completely left out like that, all because someone thought it would be funny, to be left all alone

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"The poor cat." I tried covering my face with my free hand. My heart went out to the Cat, wondering how they felt when they realized that everyone had partied without them.

"They... never.. got to go. Didn't anybody wonder where they were?! The Cat should be at the banquet!" Tears freely flowed down my cheeks as I tried to understand what I had been told.

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They were left all alone ... what kind of story was this

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"Marley-chan.." I heard Momiji say softly as he nestled into me.

"I wonder what he would think of that..." Hatori mumbled as I shared a look with Dadaji.

"10,000 yen, he gets flustered and yells something incoherent." Chuckled Dadaji, clearly knowing something that I didn't.

Hatori handed me some tissues to help me wipe away my tears. "That's a certain win for you, Sir. I'm not taking that."

"So that being said, now you know the tale behind it. 13 members of the Sohma family are cursed to turn into the animals of the Zodiac. Either when hugged by the opposite sex or when their body is under an incredible amount of stress." Hatori explained, sounding a little exhausted by the turn of the events.

"Oh, that's why you guys transformed?! And you'll stay like this for as long as I hug you?" I asked, looking down at Momiji.

"Yep, but I could stay like this forever, Marley-Chan! You're so warm and smell nice!" Momiji cheered as he continued to cuddle into me.

I just held him closer.

"You're so cute! I love you." I exclaimed, holding him tighter to me.

The cutesy atmosphere was enough to make Dadaji cough.

"Obviously, this is a secret, and you must promise not to tell anyone." Cautioned Hatori, it was almost hard to take him seriously when only a little while ago, I had thrown his seahorse form into the pond.

"Oh! Of course! I promise I won't tell a soul!" I said, lifting my head and looking Hatori straight into his eyes.

He gave me a small smile and closed his eyes.

"I don't doubt that for a moment."

.

"But Hatori, what Zodiac are you? I don't see a seahorse on here? " I asked, genuinely confused as I looked over the book again and rechecked the animals.

"Harii is the Dragon." Revealed Momiji as his paw pointed to the green Chinese style dragon on the cover

"… Wait how-" I wanted to ask more, but Hatori was quick to cut me off.

"Momiji, I think it's time we head out." Hatori rose to his feet and gestured for me to let go of Momiji, obviously avoiding my question.

"Wahh, I don't wanna! I like it here!" Cried Momiji as he held onto me tighter.

"Momiji, I promise. we are going to see lots of each other, we're going to go cherry picking soon, right?" I comforted softly, lightly petting his head.

"YES! We will!" and he hopped away and around the living room til- a popping sound went off, and sparkly yellow smoke appeared where Momiji was bouncing.

Before I got an eyeful of Momiji, Dadaji covered my eyes with his hands, letting out a disapproving sigh.

"Put some clothes on already... silly rabbit." He muttered, I couldn't help giggle at Dadaji's annoyance.

.

.-.-.-.-

.

They headed out to leave, and before Hatori left the living room, I grabbed his hand.

"I'm really sorry about throwing you into the pond. I panicked." I apologized, honestly hoping he didn't hold it against me.

He softly chucked, which caused me to blush lightly.

"It was definitely a first. You have nothing to apologize for." He said, and then patted my head, chiding Momiji to hurry up.

"Also, I think your seahorse form is very cute." I complimented him, being completely honest. He just groaned, looking as if he wanted to hide.

.

He did make cute seahorse…. But I can definitely see Hatori as a proud dragon…. Maybe he's embarrassed over his little seahorse form.

.

Momiji gave me a kiss on the cheek before disappearing out the door with Hatori.

.

What a day...

.

Dadaji slipped on his sandals "Let's take a walk before dinner, the garden will look especially nice after the rain." He suggested, looking to me for a response.

"Ah, yes, let me just dry my hair quickly!" I yelled before racing upstairs. Taking my towel turban off and getting rid of the last bit of dampness with the hairdryer. My light white blonde tresses starting to curl a bit as I moved the heat through it.

.

A Zodiac Curse... I wonder if Bapu knew...

.

I zoned out a bit as I thought of my late Bapu who had been a Sohma and used to live on the Estate, I was actually staying in his old bedroom. How much did Bapu know, and if he had known anything, did he tell Mama or did he keep it a secret.

"Marley!"

"Ah Sorry! Coming," I yelled, turning off the hairdryer and racing down the stairs to meet Dadaji at the door.

I grabbed onto his arm, and we started our walk around the Estate. Enjoying the smell of fresh summer rain while the sun shined on us.

The weather was warm but not unbearable yet. The property was still damp from the torrential downpour earlier. The humidity was something I was still getting used to.

" Today was lots of fun, Momiji is so cute." I gushed, thinking about the blond bunny as I shook Dadaji's arm.

"Annoying brat." He mumbled. I knew better. Dadaji seems harsh and grumpy, but.. he's soft, more delicate than he puts off.

"Even Hatori, as a little seahorse, he was so cute, my heart can hardly take it." I continued, thinking about the small delicate sea creature.

He teased, "Poor bastards probably embarrassed."

"Dadaji!" I scolded him.

He only let out a chuckle, seeming to be in a good mood.

"Are you alright?" He asked as we strolled through one of the Estate's gardens, stopping on a bridge over the pond.

I smiled at him "Of course, I'm alright. I mean, my heart was beating pretty fast earlier, but it's all good now."

"The Sohma's...are complicated. I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to run away." Explained Dadaji.

I raised my eyebrows in disbelief at him. "I would never! It's not their fault that there's a family curse. Hatori and Momiji are wonderful people, I'm grateful to have met them. Curse or not." I argued, nearly raising my voice but stopped in my speech when I saw his little smile.

"Good, that's what I expected you to say, let's go to the Conbini, I'm craving ice cream." He said, walking across the bridge, not even waiting for me.

"Ah, wait! Dadaji, I'm not done asking questions!" I whined, catching up and linking our arms.

"So how did it start? " I asked, my curiosity had a million questions going through my skull.

"What do you mean?" He asked, slightly raising his eyebrow at me.

"The zodiac curse? Did someone make someone mad? And why the Sohma family?" I asked, hoping he had the answers I wanted.

.

No, wanted is the wrong word... needed, I need answers

.

"I don't know, that's just the way it is." He simply put, clearly, not all the interested in the conversation.

As we walked off the Sohma property, I continued to ask any question I could think of, and he tried to answer the best he could, but it was clear he had never even thought of some of the things I was asking.

"Well... that can't be right, it had to start somewhere, how long does it go back?" I asked, determined.

"Hundreds of years, maybe even thousands," Dadaji revealed, making my eyes widen.

"Thousands?! That's incredible? And it's been kept secret for that long?!" I was thoroughly impressed. He only nodded, slightly smirking at my enthusiasm.

"What's the earliest recording of the curse?" I was so fascinated by the Zodiac curse, curious about all the in's and out's.

"How am I supposed to know. You'd have to check the archives for that." He groaned.

.

Would I be allowed to check the archives?

.

Another thought popped into my head.

"Have I already met other members?" I asked, curious about the other Zodiac members. He opened his mouth about to say something, but I cut him off.

"Wait, don't tell me, maybe they don't want me knowing!" If I did know other members, it was up to them to let me know. It wouldn't be fair to know without their permission.

"Are all 13 members around?" I asked as we waited to cross the street.

"The curse actually includes 14 members," Dadaji revealed, confusing me.

"14?" I counted out the animals in my head, trying to remember the 14th member.

"13 animals and God. And yes, they're all around."

.

Mama, Bapu, I feel like I've been dropped into some sort of Fairy tale. I hope I get to meet everyone before I go.

.

While we waited to cross the road, I looked down and saw a small white flower growing between the cracks of concrete on the sidewalk. I couldn't help but be impressed by the flower that had bloomed despite the harsh circumstances.

.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Teacher and student stood on the dirt path, the chestnut-haired man stood tall as he watched the boy consider a son stare at the ground, his small shoulders slouching forward. Dirt and sweat covered the young boy's body from a day of hard training.

"You haven't given up hope completely, no?" The teacher pointed out as he looked down at his student. Desperately hoping he was saying the right words.

"Because you know that not every person in this wide world... will reject you." It was hard for the teacher to watch his precious student in such a state.

"I don't... I don't know that." the boy muttered, his bright orange locks hiding his face from his teacher.

"And I don't got any hope either." The short-tempered teen spat, frustrated that his teacher would even suggest such a thing.

"You do." His master challenged, knowing the truth. The student clenched his teeth, his eyes burnt as tears welled up.

" I DON'T!" The orange-haired boy screamed, and in his outburst, he slammed his foot down on the small flower his teacher had warned him about. He could feel the small stem crunch beneath his barefoot.

The kind martial arts master could only watch, a small, sad smile on his face.

"Even if.. you don't have hope right now, I promise it will come to you again." The teacher was positive about this; he was full of hope for the young boy.

Hope will always bloom

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-To be continued.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Notes:

AYE HAYE - Punjabi - equal to say oh my god

10,000 yen = 90 American dollars

Conbini = convenience store

Chapter Text

..-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

.

The summer heat was starting to kick up, and the AC seemed like a godsend as it blasted cold air throughout the traditional house. Keeping Momiji and I cool while we planned our cherry-picking outing.

.

June came and went so fast. I hope July doesn't go by as quickly, I'd like to spend as much time as I can with the wonderful Sohma family.

.

"This is really unnecessary, Just take the damn bus and go." Grumbled Dadaji as he looked over Momiji's shoulder as the young boy worked hard on the poster board he had brought over.

" We can't use the private family bus without at least trying to invite other people Dadaji, it would be rude." I teased as I settled into a side splits, taking a deep breath as my muscles strained a bit.

Momiji and I had already looked into a small vehicle to drive us, but all of them were already being used by other Sohma's on the property, leaving us with a small bus that was too big for just the two of us.

Dadaji looked over at me and shuddered, "Don't talk to me while you're doing that, the human body shouldn't be able to do that." I only laughed and continued with my stretching, reaching to the side to touch my right foot.

"I think she looks cool! Like a ninja warrior or something," exclaimed Momiji as he lifted his head from the paper. Finishing up his project.

" Thank you, Momiji." I cried, sliding my legs together and crawling over to the cute blond boy and holding him close.

"You are too kind!" and as soon my arms wrapped around him, the now-familiar popping sound went off, and sparkly yellow smoke filled the space.

" Again! You hugged him when he got here! Once is more than enough." I couldn't see him, but I knew Dadaji was rolling his eyes.

" But Marley-Chan gives the best hugs! I could hug her all day, and it wouldn't be enough." Momiji defended as his little rabbit paws wrapped around my neck.

I held him and looked at the poster he was working on, it had a bright red border, and little drawings of cherries littered the page.

'Let's go cherry picking!' in bold hiragana across the top and then a doodle of a bunny carrying a basket was near the bottom.

'Meet at the main gate at 8am! Tomorrow morning.'

.

Hopefully, that's enough time for people to decide, it was a pretty last-minute decision. I feel like that might be a theme for Momiji.

.

"It looks great, Momiji! I love the little bunny, he's adorable." I gushed, cuddling into him.

Bunny Momiji was then snatched out of my arms, and Dadaji was holding him by his scruff.

"Alright! Enough! You're going to make me sick." Dadaji groaned as he glared at the yellow Rabbit.

"Awww you're no fun, Tetsuo-Sama." Whined Momiji as he wiggled to try and get out of his hold.

"Momiji, once you've turned back, let's hang this up on the bulletin board," I suggested, getting up and stretching towards the ceiling.

"Then let's go get some ice cream!" He cheered, looking excited, despite still be held by the Sohma Elder.

I nodded, and Dadaji let the Rabbit go. Momiji gathered his clothes and hopped into the next room, and we eventually heard the familiar 'pop' sound of his transformation.

"Don't worry Dadaji, I'll bring you back a mitarashi dango from the konbini ," I promised, kissing his cheek before grabbing her small, yellow and blue wallet and the poster. He recoiled a bit from the affectionate gesture and grumbled to himself.

"Let's go, let's go! " cheered Momiji as he grabbed my hand and dragged me out of the house, barely giving me enough time to slip on some sandals.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Momiji and I must be quiet the sight walking around the Estate. Two blondes walking around, giggling and laughing all the way. Our interlocked hands swinging from side to side as we walked. I looked extra tall standing next to Momiji, maybe I'm tall for a girl in general, but Japan makes me feel like a giant. And then being a brown girl on top of that just made me stand out like a sore thumb. It had made me wonder what the demographics of Japan were as I've only seen maybe two other people of colour in the 7 months that I'd been in the country.

"Here?" I asked Momiji as I placed the poster on the bulletin board by the main gate.

"Higher." Decided Momiji, squinting his eyes, acting as if the placement was a high priority.

I placed it lower.

"Here?"

"No! I said higher!" He laughed now, trying to take it away from me, grabbing it from my hand.

"Here!" He joked then reaching up and putting it over my face, I giggled, and as I grabbed it from him, a new voice interjected.

"Can you for once not act like a child." Snickered a new voice, sounding a bit disapproving of our fun.

"Aww, but we are still kids, technically, no need to be so snarky, Hiro." I heard Momiji say as I held the poster in my hand, looking from Momiji to the stranger. The young boy seemed to be about the same age as Momiji, light brown hair swept to the side and brown eyes that oozed intelligence. He was a handsome little boy, even with the holier than thou smirk on his face.

.

All the Sohma's are so good-looking, I might have to marry one and have super cute kids, for science…

.

" I'm younger than you, and I'm still more mature than you'll ever be." Said the boy, I only roll my eyes at his bratty attitude as I placed the poster on the bulletin board and adequately secured the poster with a few push pins.

Momiji stuck his tongue out at him in a playful way, the blond Rabbit seemed to be used to the snarky attitude of the stranger.

"Hiro, this is Marley! Marley-Chan, this is Hiro!" Momiji introduced us, and I smiled at the new boy, kneeling down a bit, so I didn't feel so intimidating. The young boy was about the same height as Momiji, and I stood almost a foot over them.

"It's nice to meet you, Hiro. Would you like to come cherry-picking with us tomorrow, the more, the merrier." I greeted, giving him a small smile, I was curious about the young boy and his relation to Momiji. Hiro's eyes looked me over me as if analyzing me and then turned his head away, shrugging his shoulders in the process...

"Pft, why would I wanna do something dumb like that. I could just go grab some from the store. Plus, it's way too hot to be in the fields like some farmer." He muttered, putting his hands on his hips. Still turned away from me.

"We could all use a little sunshine on our skin, also it's an excuse to go out and spend time with friends and create some summer memories," I replied, still smiling at the boy. He seems like he's a bit on the abrasive side, a complete opposite from Momiji's bubbly and cheerful nature.

And I reminded myself that I wasn't perfect by any means when I was younger, I defiantly had my bratty moments.

.

I'm sure he has a softer side.

.

Hiro looked up at me, and I gave him a small smile, which caused him to blush slightly, probably surprised that his attitude wasn't bothering me. I tilted my head as he had yet to say anything, and the blush on the young boy's face grew. Momiji then jumped on the boy.

"HIRO! Your turning all red!" Teased Momiji as he held on to the boy, seeming to enjoy watching the young boy get flustered.

This made Hiro erupt as he pushed Momiji off of him and stomped away.

"We leave tomorrow at 8! I hope you decide to join us, Hiro!" I yelled and waved at the young boy. Momiji and I could practically see steam coming out of his ears.

I couldn't help but giggle at the young boy. He seemed kind of awkward somehow, and I found it endearing somehow.

Momiji and I continued along on our walk, heading out the gates of the Sohma Estate, hand in hand as he told me that's just the way Hiro was, but he did say that Hiro was a good person underneath his abrasive attitude and I fully believed it.

.

People are so much more complicated than what you get at a glance.

.

"Did you know that Hiro is part of the Zodiac?" Asked Momiji as we walked towards a cafe just outside the Estate.

"REALLY!? Oh, who is he - wait, don't tell me- I'm gonna guess." I was so excited, another zodiac member...

.

Can't be the dog... not friendly enough... Tiger? He was pretty fierce. Or maybe the Zodiac members have very little in common with their animal spirits.

.

I then thought of the bouncing Momiji and his mannerisms and the regal and stoic Hatori and felt that they seemed to match their Zodiac's quite well. Momiji made a cute little bunny and had Hatori actually turned into a dragon, I was sure he would have looked magnificent.

Momiji laughed at me, he could tell I was thinking pretty hard.

"You could always just hug him to find out." He giggled, which only made me smile and shake my head, not thinking that would be entirely fair to the young Hiro, as fun as it would be to push his buttons.

"No, no, I couldn't do that to the poor boy, he doesn't look like the type who would appreciate a hug from me." I pointed out.

"hmmm I don't know, I don't think he would have minded a hug from you. Like I said, your hugs are the best." He countered, and I could tell he would give me a hug then and there if he could, but we were in public, and he couldn't risk it.

It hit me now a little more and how the curse must affect them, to never hold your loved ones in public or even share a quick hug between friends. I squeezed Momiji's hand a little tighter. .

.

How much does it hurt them? and is there any way to break it?

.

.-.-.-.-.-.

.

The youngest Zodiac member stormed through the Estate, muttering as he walked up the cobblestone to his house.

"Who does that girl think she is, joking around with the Rabbit like that. What is she, 12?" The young boy was muttering to himself as he put his house key in the door.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Hiro!"

Her bright smile making its way back into his head. Long white-blond hair swaying behind her, large amethyst eyes glimmering in the summer light.

"Dammit... She has to be in high school, definitely a foreigner..." He muttered, taking off his shoes. He had never seen anyone with her skin colour, not in person, at least. He wondered what she was doing on the Estate and why was she friends with the Rabbit.

"Welcome home!" Greeted a sweet woman wearing a pale blue apron, appearing around the corner and placing a kiss on top of Hiro's head.

"Honey? You're all red? Are you okay? Are you getting sick?" Satsuki Sohma fretted over her son, feeling his forehead with the back of her hand and already making a grocery list to pick up ingredients for a healthy vegetable stew.

Hiro swatted his Mother's hands away, embarrassed to say why he was red, insisting that he was fine. The doting mother stepped away and only smiled down at her son, unbothered by his somewhat irritated attitude. She backed off and headed back into the kitchen, working on some lunch and Hiro followed her, hanging out in the doorway as his mother worked at the counter.

.

"Hey, Mom... can I go cherry picking tomorrow?" He asked, looking down at the kitchen floor.

"Of course! Honey, that sounds like so much fun! You know that cherries pick yourself always taste best. I hope you'll share some with me. I love cherries." She gushed, his mother was more excited about the field trip than he was, and she wasn't even going on it.

"Who else is going?" She asked as she whisked some eggs in a bowl.

"The rabbit and um... some girl named Marley." He explained, trying to say the name without blushing.

"Marley?! Tetsuo-Sama's granddaughter?" Exclaimed his Mother as she turned around so quickly that some whisked eggs splashed onto the already messy counter.

"Uh... I guess." Now clicking to who Marley was, there was talk around the Estate about the new girl living in the respected Elder's house. Hiro didn't know what to expect when he heard the gossip of the mystery girl, but he hadn't expected Marley.

"Isn't she beautiful! And such a cute little accent!" His Mother gushed, thinking about the small conversation she had shared with the foreign girl when they had bumped into each other during a walk through the Sohma gardens. Satsuki was speaking so fast that the poor girl actually had to ask her to slow down. Satsuki was just happy that someone was living with Tetsuo Sohma, and he seemed happy that his granddaughter was at home. And Marley seemed like such a kind soul, she was delighted that her son might be friends with her.

"She's alright..." The boy muttered, feeling his cheeks warm up at the thought of the girl's bright amethyst eyes and hourglass figure.

"Hiro! Your face! It's so red!" his mother fretted as she put down the bowl and came over to try and feel his forehead again, and he tried to run away.

"Mom! I'm fine!" The embarrassed Hiro whined as his again mother fretted over him.

.

.-.-.-.

.

Momiji had gone home once the two returned to the Estate after their ice cream date, mentioning that it would be hard to sleep since he was so excited for their cherry-picking adventure. Marley only smiled and hoped that he got some rest because she would need help picking all those cherries.

Tetsuo happily received the sweet mochi treat his granddaughter brought back for him and told her that he ordered in pizza for dinner, and she was grateful. Marley needed a small break from cooking in the kitchen; she sometimes found it stressful cooking because she was afraid of making something that her Dadaji wouldn't like, and she didn't want to disappoint him.

Marley was sitting out on the porch, looking up at the night sky. A half-finished slice of pizza lay next to her.

"not hungry? I thought you liked cheese pizza? " Tetsuo asked as he walked onto the porch looking down from the neglected food to his granddaughter.

" hm? Oh, I do, sorry was just noticing that I actually can see a few stars tonight." Marley mentioned as she continued to look up at the few constellations she could find. A small breeze blew through her long hair, and soon she felt a small blanket draped over her bare shoulders.

"take better care of yourself, it can get cold in the evenings still." Tetsuo scolded as he sat beside Marley, his dark brown, almost black eyes stared at her, daring her to argue with him.

"Sorry…." Marley gave him a small smile, and he just rolled his eyes. To her, it still felt hot out, but she didn't want to ruin the kind gesture, so she kept the blanket wrapped around her shoulders.

.

" so you like the stars?" He asked as he too began to look up at the sky.

"Hmm, yeah, I forgot how much I missed it.." She spoke so softly, it was almost lost the light breeze. Staring at the ceiling of a hospital room got old real quick, and even looking out the window wasn't enough.

"Can't imagine you saw many stars in Vegas." He scoffed, Tetsuo seemed to hate the city that Marley called home, always had something negative to say about it. He also associated it with the city that his own son moved to get away from the Sohma family.

"Your right, too many bright lights, but sometimes, Bapu would drive us out to the middle of nowhere so we could get a good look and a break from the city… back in India, where Mama's village was, it was so remote that the sky was just covered. It was beautiful, you could sometimes even see Mars and Venus." Tetsuo let Marley ramble on as she reminisced about her parents and the stars, the constellations she learned and the stars they wished on.

The white-blonde girl couldn't help but wonder how nice it would be to drive out somewhere remote and truly enjoy the stars with someone special. Her romantic heart at work.

The Elder reminded Marley to eat up, but before he left, he looked up at night sky, a shooting star caught his eye. He turned to ask if Marley had seen it, but she had beaten him to it.

"Dadaji! A shooting star, quick, make a wish!" She cheered as she closed her eyes and put her hands in a praying position, a small smile on her lips. Tetsuo smiled fondly at his granddaughter, happy she was here, despite all the terrible circumstances that had happened.

Tetsuo closed his eyes and decided to make a wish of his own. Even if it felt childish, he figured it couldn't hurt.

Let her live a long and happy life, may no more harm come to her, please, let her be happy

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Orange eyes started up at the sky; the boy looked so lost, a heavy burden on his shoulders, which made him look so small to the karate master looking over him.

"Kyo, you should eat something" the deep voice of his shisou brought the boy out of his trance, and he only looked down at the ground below him.

"Not hungry," He mumbled, shoulders sagging even more than they were before.

The older man let out a sigh and looked up at the stars. His soft brown eyes gazed up at the night sky, and a shooting star crossed by.

"Kyo, a shooting star." Kazuma pointed out, hoping it would bring the boy back up. Lift the boy's spirits even a little bit. Kyo had always enjoyed stargazing and would often escape to the roof to watch the sky.

"Pft, what good is some star, no wish is gonna work…." He spat, annoyed at his master's attempt to cheer him up.

The older man shook his head, his chestnut brown hair swaying from side to side. He looked back up, and his eyes caught another shooting star, deciding to make a wish of his own.

Someone show him that his life is not over, that he will be loved, let him be free and happy

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

The sun shone brightly as I waited for a few people to get onto the private shuttle bus. The perks of having a fancy family are quite lovely.

.

I wonder what Bapu 's life was like growing up with all this... Did he ever regret leaving it all behind for Mama?

.

I shook my head. I knew better. Bapu's loved Mama with all his heart, and he loved me. That's what's important. A cheerful voice brought me back to earth.

"You look beautiful, Marley-Chan!" Cheered Momiji as he grabbed my hand, squeezing my hand.

I twirled a little bit from side to side in my midi white sundress, the large straw summer hat completing the look.

"Thank you, Momiji! I don't have many clothes here, but this was my Mama's suitcase." I said, thinking of when she wore it back in Vegas. My most recent memory was when we went to a tulip festival last May in Washington, all the butterflies that kept landing on Bapu and me as my Mama laughed, taking a video of us.

"I bet she would have loved that you are wearing it." He said softly as lightly felt the linen material. Momiji knew of my parents passing and offered his condolences even though he had never met them. I mentioned that they would have probably adored him.

.

But who couldn't love Momiji?

.

"Oi, are we leaving or not?" Said a familiar sarcastic voice.

"Hiro?! I'm so glad you came." I greeted the young boy who was already stepping onto the bus, I skipped on after him, Momiji following me.

.

Mama would have loved Hiro until he opened his mouth... Then she probably would have thrown a shoe at him... Maybe Hiro's lucky to have never met Mama

.

"Ya well, my Mom said she wanted handpicked cherries, so I figured I would come along." He shrugged, taking a window seat near the back. I could only smile, knowing that he came along because he wanted to, he just was too proud to admit it.

"Hey Hiro, where's Kisa, I thought she would like something like this?" Asked Momiji as we sat in the row behind Hiro. We were taking up the back while 4 adults who had decided to come, sat at the front of the bus.

"Her Mom said no." He shrugged, clearly looking disappointed as he crossed his arms and stared out the window.

"Oh? Who's Kisa?" I asked, never hearing the name before.

Momiji smiled, "Hiro's girlfriend!"

"Shut up, Rabbit!" Hiro's face was bright red, clearly embarrassed, I giggled and let Hiro that I thought it was cute that he had a girlfriend, which only made his face go a deeper red.

.

Poor boy's faces looks like cherry.

.

"Well, we'll just have to pick some extra good cherries for Kisa." I decided. At that, I swore I saw a small, sincere smile grace Hiro's face. The boy was clearly head over heels for this 'Kisa' if the very thought of her made him smile like that.

young love

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

The ride back from the cherry fields was tranquil, the late afternoon ride was gently rocking everyone to sleep. Momiji and I had sat in the back row, he fell asleep beside me, and I moved his head from the hard window pane to my lap as I just gazed out the window, watching the world flow by. The melodies of Coldplay playing in my earbuds as I brushed my fingers through Momiji's hair.

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I felt movement and looked to see Hiro had moved and sat down next to me. I took out my earbud and smiled gently at him.

"Everything okay?" I ask the boy who had been generally quiet except for the occasional sarcastic remark now and then. Hiro had scolded Momiji and me for goofing off too much, which only resulted in Momiji continuing to try and throw a cherry into my mouth until we finally got one. Even with all the 'goofing off,' we had managed to pick lots of cherries.

"Hmph, you just looked lonely without the Rabbit biting your ear off, I'm just trying to be nice. I can go sit by myself, I would rather -" Before Hiro could ramble on too much I placed an earbud in his right ear and held his little hand.

That made him go quiet and go stiff for a bit, but eventually, he relaxed and leaned back into the seat.

"Thank you for keeping me company, Hiro." I thanked him, and he just told me, ' don't get used to it.' with a small blush across his cheeks.

He's a good boy, just...kind of awkward. He's growing up, plus... I can't imagine growing up with the weight of a family curse on your shoulders.

.

.-.-.-.

.

"Feels good to be back!" I stretched hopping off the bus and then doing a little backbend.

"ugh, how does your body do that?" Hiro was a little grossed out by how far back my backbend could go.

"Yoga, years of yoga," I explained, coming out of it and stretching my hands to the sky.

"I'm gonna drop some off at Harii's" Momiji was hopping around after his power nap. He leaned up and gave me a kiss on the cheek, and he was off. I only laughed and hid my bags of cherries behind the gate.

"What are you doing?" Asked Hiro as he raised an eyebrow, holding his own bag of cherries.

"I was just going to walk over and grab chocolate milk and maybe some salty chips from the konbini. I've been craving some all day. Would you like anything?" I asked my young friend as I made sure my bag of cherries was adequately hidden.

"You know it's not very responsible to ruin your dinner with junk food. And chocolate milk? What are you five y- "

I had already walked away, smirking a little bit. Hiro is wrong if he thinks I'm going to give in to his attitude.

"Hey, wait! I'm still talking," He yelled, hiding his own bag and running to catch up.

"I know, I just didn't want to listen," I teased, ruffling his hair.

" So you just walk away, that's childish." He smirked, closing his eyes and resting his hands behind his head as he walked.

" Better than being a smart ass." I teased, which made him yell, and I only giggled at his red face.

.

We came to a crosswalk and waited for our turn to cross, watching a few cars race by. Finally, the small green walking man appeared.

" Today was okay, I guess... and your music tastes are..whatever." He said, starting to cross the street.

.

That must have put him in physical pain to say that.

.

"Thanks, Hiro. That-" a screeching sound tore my attention away, and I saw a few motorcycles racing down the street towards us.

My heart felt like it stopped and my protective reflexes took over when I grabbed the boy, held him close, and jumped back towards the sidewalk, barely hearing the popping sound, and I was too enraged by the cyclists to acknowledge the green smoke that had surrounded me for a few seconds.

"ASSHOLES!!" I screamed, but they were long gone, the sound of their engines in the distance only managing to anger me. What took me back was the shaking tuff of wool in my arms.

"Hiro! Are you o-"

.

Right, the zodiac curse. Whoops.

.

Staring back at me was a sweet little sheep, shaking in my arms.

"Hey, it's okay, it's okay. You're fine, you're alright." I comforted, holding him close, feeling his breathing go back to normal. He looked like he calmed down, and then I let myself gush.

"You're so cute! I love you!" I cheered, holding him close to my chest, his little head slightly squished into my breasts. That's when I felt warm liquid on my chest.

" AYE HAYE! Hiro! I need to get you to a doctor!" Blood had gushed from his little sheep nose and onto my chest.

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

Poor Hatori just shook his head and took Hiro from me, who looked traumatized and handed me a washcloth to wipe away the blood from my skin.

" What happened?" The doctor asked, clearly confused by the strange sight.

.

Well... Who wouldn't be?

.

"Well, we were outside, and these jerks on motorbikes came racing by, and I panicked and grabbed Hiro, I think maybe he hurt his nose?" I tried to explain the events as I dabbed at the dress.

"I'm fine! Just put me down already!" Hiro fought in his little sheep form until Hatori placed him down, and he ran from the room. I wanted to go after him, but Hatori stopped me, saying that the boy would be fine, just a little embarrassed.

.

Why is he embarrassed?

.

"Aww, your dress!" Said Momiji as he looked at the red splotches on the white material.

Dabbing the materiel with the wet cloth was doing very little for the linen dress. I made a note to Google 'How to remove blood stains from linen,' someone out there could help me, I'm sure.

"That's okay, it's just a dress, right? I'm just relieved Hiro is okay." Also thankful that no one was around to view the boy turn into a sheep. I wasn't sure how I would have talked ourselves out of

that one, I was not known for my acting ability.

.

I feel… like I forgot something…..

.

"Oh! The cherries! I left them by the gate! And Hiro's are there as well. Can you let him know? I don't know where he lives, but he can come by and grab the cherries from me whenever he can." I explained while I slipped on my sandals and rushed out, saying a quick goodbye to the Sohma boys.

That was a pretty dramatic end to the day... Mama, I think I ruined your dress; please forgive me... but I got to meet the sheep of the Zodiac. He's a little tough at first, but he's actually easily flustered and thoughtful.

.

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Chapter Text

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It was late afternoon, and Tetsuo Sohma was out taking care of business matters, leaving Marley alone for most of the day. The Tuesday seemed to drag on, but she kept herself busy in the kitchen, washing the cherries from Sunday and preparing to put them in pies, rummaging through the cupboards fishing out pans.

The sweet smell wafted through the air with one pie on a cooling rack. Marley couldn't remember the last time she got to do some simple baking. It felt like ages since she was back in her own kitchen back in Nevada.

She came across the gelatin mold in the cupboards, which gave her something else to work on.

"Zuzu seems to have such a sensitive stomach... Hopefully, a cherry gelatin dessert will work." Marley spoke to herself as she tried to think of what else she would need for the dish.

The black-haired beauty was back in the hospital, it was only last week that the two friends were watching Supernatural in the living room. They ended up having a sleepover because Marley was too afraid to sleep alone after watching a scary episode.

"I'll bring her some magazines when I drop the gelatin off. She must be getting bored of daytime TV, maybe she needs a new sketchbook.." Marley wanted to make her friend's hospital stay a little easier if she could. She was familiar with prolonged hospital stays, and it was easy to get bored.

Hiro had yet to come to collect his share of cherries. Marley figured that the young boy must have been a little embarrassed over being seen in his Zodiac form. While all Marley could think of when was the next chance she would get to see his small sheep form because she was in love. The animal lover in her was just completely enamoured.

Marley figured she could get Hiro's address from Momiji and drop off his cherries later. She got started on more pies and happily worked away while she grooved to a Motown playlist.

But it's all right if my clothes aren't new
Out of sight because my heart is true
She says baby ev'rything is alright, uptight, out of sight
Baby, ev'rything is alright, uptight, clean out of sight

A chime at the door interrupted the Stevie Wonder song. Marley slipped off her apron, and she headed to the door where she was met with one familiar face and one new cute one.

"What are you wearing?" He asked, looking over the foreign girl's attire of black biker shorts and matching crop top, small blush making it way over his cheeks. The attire showed off the girl's hourglass figure.

"Hello to you too, Hiro." Marley greeted, patting his hair, smiling softly at the young boy. His face flushed, and he brushed her hand away.

"You must be Kisa." Marley suspected taking in the girl's appearance. Shoulder length amber hair that matched beautifully with her big amber eyes. She was wearing a cute periwinkle blue dress that went to her knees. Kisa was a stunning young girl, and Marley immediately wanted to play and put braids and barrettes into her hair.

"It's nice to meet you." She said quietly, hiding behind Hiro and bowing slightly. Marley kneeled down a bit, trying not to appear too tall or intimidating.

"It's very nice to meet you too Kisa, I'm Marley." She gently took Kisa's hand and smiled at her.

Marley's warm smile made Kisa feel safe, Hiro had told her about Marley and had been immediately curious about the foreigner. The young girl had wished she had been able to go on the cherry-picking trip, but her mother had insisted on staying home, not wanting anything to happen to her daughter.

"Come in, come in. Did you guys come straight from school?" Marley asked as she led them into the kitchen where the tap was running over the cherries.

They nodded and looked over the state the kitchen was in. Dough rolled out on the counters and pots and pans were everywhere.

.

"I'm just washing yours and Kisa's cherries, Hiro, if you wanna take them home," Marley mentioned, turning off the tap and shaking off the residue from the cherries.

"Ummm.. what are you making?" Asked Kisa as she looked around the kitchen and sniffed the air.

"Cherry pies! Some jello too, I thought I could make a bunch with how many cherries Hiro helped me pick and then I wanted to give them out to friends." She explained as she tossed the apron back on. Thinking of Hatori and Momiji for the pies and cherry gelatin for Zuzu.

Her eyes seemed to light up a bit.

"Would you like to help me make some?" Marley asked. Kisa looked over at Hiro, who nodded his head and then she looked up at Marley.

"Yes, please." she stammered quietly. Fidgeting her hands and slightly swaying. Marley fought back a little squeal at how cute Kisa was. Marley was also excited at having a little helper in the kitchen.

" Perfect, baking is more fun with others anyway, so you are really saving me, Kisa. But, I don't want you to ruin your dress..." Marley lightly grabbed Kisa's hand and led her up the stairs to the room she was staying in.

"Ah wait -" Cried Hiro before he realized his call went unnoticed now and then huffed...

"I'll just watch TV then..." He mumbled as he wandered into the living and made himself comfortable.

.

.-.-.-.

.

I sifted through a suitcase looking for something for Kisa to wear. I had never properly unpacked, and I only had one suitcase. Most of my clothes right now where leisure clothes, giant T-shirts, and pyjama. The rest of my closet was back in Nevada boxed up in a storage locker. The apartment had been emptied out by my parents' friends shortly after their passing. All of mine and my parents' stuff had been packed, and I knew it was going to be a nightmare to deal with when I finally went home.

I had some of Mama and Bapu's clothes here from when they were staying here, and they had a few suitcases for me to go through, though I kind of avoided it and only went through them when I was really in need of something to wear. Right now, I needed something for Kisa to wear over her dress and finally found something of Bapu's for her to wear.

"Perfect! Throw this over your uniform, then we don't have to worry about getting flour or anything on it ." Handing her a giant oversized T-shirt that had the Anaheim Ducks logo on it. It went to her knees, looking like a dress.

She smiled, looking down at the T-shirt, and then smiled at me. I quickly braided the front of her hair to keep it out of her face, placing a pink barrette to keep it in place.

"Beautiful! Now let's get baking." I cheered, tossing my own braided hair behind me.

.

.-.-.-.-.-

.

Kisa and I were in the final steps and now just putting the finishing details on our pies.

Little hearts and stars littered the workstation, the cookie-cutter being put to good use.

"Then we will just lay these on top of our pies." I demonstrated placing a star in the middle of one and then spreading out another and another.

"Cute.." Kisa marvelled at the pretty design, eyes wide and mouth open.

"I know, pretty on the outside and hopefully delicious on the inside," I said, looking over our masterpieces. We finished decorating and slid them into the oven.

"After those two are done, we'll finish the last two. But we should wait a few hours before digging into them." I explained while putting down the oven mitts and removing my apron.

Kisa looked down a little disappointed that we would have to wait so long for our pies. But I had a little surprise up my sleeve. Well… it was in the fridge actually.

I opened the fridge door and took out one test pie, showing it o Kisa before sliding it in the oven for it to warm up a bit before serving.

"Luckily, I made one this morning that we can share with Hiro. I even have vanilla ice cream." I winked at her as I slid open the door connected to the living room, poking my head in.

"HIROOO! Would you like some pie?" I yelled, making him nearly jump out of his skin then turned to face me.

"Fine, just don't give me a piece that's all crust." He huffed then turned his head back to the TV that was playing some sort of game show.

"Yes, your sheepiness." I teased and saw his ears go a little red. I'll have to be careful not to play with him too much... But a little here and there shouldn't hurt.

I cut a few pieces of pie while Kisa helped by bringing me some plates and scooping the ice cream onto the pie slices.

"Maybe after we eat we can play some games, I have a Nintendo switch, maybe a little Mario kart?" I offered the suggestion as we carried the plates into the living room. She gave me a sweet smile, and a soft 'yes, please' left her lips.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.

.

"What the hell happened here?" Asked Dadaji as he looked down at the scene before him. Crossing his arms. Hatori came in behind him and raised his eyebrow.

"Welcome home. I think... that the guy in the suit is trying to find what's made of chocolate in the room?" I didn't even know what was happening, but that was my best guess. But this show was surprisingly intriguing.

The man on TV was licking a wooden clock and made a face. Clearly, the clock was not made out of chocolate.

"No.. I mean..." He gestured to my young friends who were passed out.

Kisa's head was on my lap, sleeping soundly, and Hiro was leaning on my shoulder, taking a little nap.

"Oh, well... there were a few very intense Mario kart races, Hiro can really get heated up and a few rounds of hide n' seek tuckered them out, I didn't have the heart to-" I was interrupted as the young Zodiac member seemed to stir a bit. Hiro's head moved and now rested lightly on my chest.

"Little brat... " Dadaji muttered as I saw veins on his forehead slightly pop up.

I tried not to laugh at Dadaji's expression and shook my head, not really caring about the current position. It was kind of sweet that the two kids felt so comfortable around me. It made me feel welcomed.

"Marley, finish the scale," Hatori instructed as he dug through his pocket for something.

"Huh?" I tilted my head slightly, confused at what Hatori meant.

"Marley... Do Re ..." Hatori started and motioned for me to continue the music scale.

"Mi?" I finished as he fished out a camera and snapped a photo of the scene.

Hatori nodded his head and then showed me the picture he had taken. It was a cute, innocent picture, and Hatori had 'tricked' me into smiling, making the picture all the better.

"I want a copy, please send me one," I told him. It would be nice to have some pictures of the Sohma's to add to my album. A little way to remember my time with them.

.

Poor Hiro, he's never going to come over ever again once he sees it.

.

I felt movement and Kisa adjusted a bit, her hand clenching the blanket on my lap. Smiling lightly down at her and brushed my fingers through her hair. Such sweet kids both of them. I wondered if Kisa knew about Hiro's curse. How close could a member of the Zodiac get to other people if every time they embrace, they change form?

"Marley, we should get them up, it's almost dinner time." Said Dadaji, having enough of the cute cuddle session.

"Oh... ya, of course... Kisa, Hiro." I whispered gently, shaking them lightly.

"It's time for your guys to head home." They lifted their heads, both looking a little dazed.

"Good evening." Addressed Dadaji, looking very intimidating as he stood in the doorframe.

They both got up immediately, I tried to get up, but my legs were asleep, so after the failed attempt, I decided to stay sitting.

"Good evening, Tetsuo-Sama." They both replied, bowing slightly. I was looking at the interaction, impressed at the level of respect that people gave Dadaji.

.

Maybe I underestimated how important Dadaji is. Even Hiro didn't miss a beat.

.

"Go home, you two, I'm sure your mothers are waiting," Responded Dadaji as he stood tall as if was some high lord speaking down to his subjects.

The two grabbed their bags, then Kisa looked over at me.

"Can...um.. can we hang out tomorrow as well?" She asked, holding her bag in front of her and looking down at the ground.

"I would love to Kisa, you can bring Hiro too if you want." I offered, smiling up at the sweet girl.

She gave me a cute smile, and the two grabbed their bags of cherries, a pie each and were out the door.

"The ram and the tiger, what a funny pair." Commented Dadaji as he and Hatori sat at the table.

"... KISA'S THE TIGER!?" I shouted, completely surprised the reveal, but now her amber hair and eyes made more sense.

Somehow Hiro and Kisa's friendship is a 1000 times cuter now I know that they're the sheep and the tiger

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

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Marley walked through familiar halls and kept checking the numbers printed by the doors until she came to what she was looking for.

"knock knock," Marley said as she peeked into the hospital room, carrying a small bag and drink tray with two pink to-go cups.

"I brought you a peppermint tea from the café down the street, you know the one with the pink door," Marley explained as she walked up to the hospital bed handed her friend a cup.

"Did you get-"

"The blackberry streusel muffin? Yes, ma'am." Marley read her friend's mind and handed her the muffin. Isuzu split the muffin in two and gave one half to Marley.

" I heard you tried to make a daring escape last night?" The white-blonde asked, knowing the nurse gossip was probably right. Marley smiled at her friend before she took a bite of the sweet treat.

" it was a bit easier when I had you covering for me" The stoic teen brought up, thinking back on the times when the two shared a hospital room.

"Maybe, but I think it does more harm than good. The doctors know what they're doing, even if it doesn't feel like it Zuzu." Marley tried to explain, wishing her friend would take her health more seriously.

.

The black-haired beauty rolled her eyes and decided to stare out the hospital window and took small bites of the muffin, she knew Marley was right, but she wasn't about to tell that.

"I brought some more goodies." The girl with the sun-kissed skin made herself at home as she hopped into the bed and leaned back into the upright part of the bed. Marley reached into the bag and pulled out a few containers, laying them on the small table while Isuzu finished her half of the muffin.

They made an interesting pair, contrasting in all sorts of ways. Marley's brown skin against Isuzu's pale porcelain skin and Isuzu's dark, black straight hair was almost the opposite of Marley's white-blonde wavy locks. The only thing they had in common in looks was their hair length and large eyes. But their differences didn't end in their looks.

To an outsider, they seemed like they would never be friends as their personalities seemed so polar opposite. Still, Marley had found an intensely loyal friend in Isuzu and saw past her abrasive and couldn't imagine her life without her.

Marley hoped that they would be able to remain friends overseas, she even thought that maybe one day she could come back and visit the Sohma's.

" I've been meeting more of your family members, but the Sohma Estate seems so huge, maybe you won't know them?" Marley pointed out, there had to be least hundred people living on the estate, if not more.

"who'd you have the pleasure of meeting," Isuzu said in a sarcastic tone as she opened the lid of the cup and enjoyed the comforting smell of the peppermint tea.

" a little boy named Hiro and a cute little girl named Kisa, " this brought Isuzu's attention to Marley, surprised that the outsider had met so many Zodiac members and wondered if she knew of the curse.

.

Isuzu realized that there was no way because who could openly accept the Zodiac members, plus there was no way that Akito would be okay with someone like Marley knowing the secret. Hatori would have erased her memory of the Sohma's and Isuzu did not want that.

"you know them?" Marley asked as she opened a jello container and handed the Sohma a spoon. Isuzu fought a smile as eyes the gelatin dessert, a warm feeling spread throughout her chest. She could tell that these were homemade, and it made her feel special that Marley had gone so out of her way to make something for her. Marley always went out of her way to do something for Isuzu, she was grateful to have her in her life. Even if she would deny it til with her dying breath.

"we're cousins…" Isuzu mentioned as she took a spoonful of jello and savored the sweet cherry taste, feeling slightly spoiled by Marley.

" Oh, cool! Maybe we can all go out for lunch or something, or a picnic before I leave." Marley suggested, already planning a picnic menu in her mind.

"…. So you're really going back." spat the dark-haired girl, not meaning to sound so harsh, but she wasn't looking forward to her friend leaving her. Isuzu knew that Marley would most likely not stay in Japan, but she would be lying if she said that she hadn't hoped that Marley would make the Sohma Estate her permanent home.

" well, I'm not from here; I needed to go back eventually…" Marley tried to explain, feeling guilty about bringing up the subject at all. She could feel the energy in the room drop through the floor.

"Right... you were always gonna go back... cause you're not one of us..." The words felt like a knife in Marley's side. Marley knew she was an outsider, but it still hurt to hear it. Marley knew in her heart that her friend was just hurt and was using her words, but that didn't mean it didn't hurt Marley's own feelings.

"Whatever, I'll eat later…" Isuzu but the spoon down and moved so she was laying down in the bed, facing away from Marley.

The conversation seemed to be over, and the girls sat in silence. Marley wished she could stay, she really did. But that would be asking too much.

"Okay, I brought some things to help pass the time… feel better soon, Zuzu, love you." Marley said sincerely, hoping to get her friend to face her, but the girl just let out a huff and continued to face away from Marley. Not saying a word.

Marley let out a soft sigh and brought out some fashion magazines and a new sketchbook from her bag and left them by Isuzu's bedside before saying goodbye. Marley knew she would have to try again later. She didn't want to leave their friendship on a bad note.

.

She didn't want to leave at all

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

But it had to end at some point. Right?

It had been a few days since I had visited Zuzu in the hospital, and when I returned yesterday, she had apparently been released. I know it was a good thing, but I hadn't been able to get a hold of her and could tell she was avoiding me. It hurt... but I couldn't be too mad at her...

.

Zuzu had been by my side through so much, and now I'm just leaving...

.

I was shuffling through all these legal documents. Going over them with a government worker who was now going over them with me. I felt like I was just reading the same thing over and over again since last night.

.

How many trees had to die for this?

.

" You have no living relatives Bakshi-San. As a citizen of the U.S., you are expected to return to the states within the next few weeks. On arrival, you will be entered into the system and placed in a foster home." She explained, adjusting her glasses.

"How is that possible. My son raised her, he married her mother, she is his daughter by those standards, is she not?" Fought Dadaji as he paced around. He had been agitated since the moment the government worker from the U.S embassy had knocked on the door.

"Dadaji.," I whispered, trying to hold it together.

.

I was never meant to stay, right? No reason to get all upset

.

"Yuuto-San never officially filled in any paperwork. He may have been married to her mother, but he had no rights when it came to Bakshi-San. I'm sorry, Sohma-Sama. She belongs to the State of Nevada." The woman stood up, straightening her blazer.

" I suggest you tie up any loose ends Bakshi-San before the week is up, do not put off the inevitable. Congratulations on your recovery." She bowed and was gone like that.

.

A week...doesn't feel like enough.

.

"Well, I guess that's... that." I settled, reminding myself not to cry. It would make poor Dadaji very uncomfortable.

"That's that. That's all you have to say?" He fumed, raising his voice as he stared at me.

I looked up at him, trying to remain calm. I was slightly biting the inside of my cheek as I tried to compose myself. I wished this wasn't the situation at all. I wished that my parents were still here, and we were all going home together. Or maybe we could have made our home here in Japan, but as long as we were together, I wouldn't have cared.

Now I'm about to hop on a plane and go back to

Nevada... Where no one was waiting for me

Back to America to be put into some stranger's home. A 16-year-old foster kid.

.

"I'm not from here, I'm not a citizen," I responded, convincing myself that I had to go back.

.

I can't expect him to fully take me in. That would be asking too much. The Sohma's have already done so much more. I'm alive because of them. It would be too much. I don't want to be a burden.

I'll be fine. I belong in America... right?

He banged the table and glared at me. His temperament kind of shocked me and I hadn't seen him like this and weren't sure how to handle it.

"That can be changed, I can get papers. You can be a citizen. You'll be better off here." He reasoned, clearly not understanding all the hassle it would cause.

I remembered all the paperwork, the interviews, tests that Mama and Bapu had to do to become American citizens. I can't throw all that away because I want to stay here. How happy they were...

"That could take months, why would they grant me citizenship, especially to someone like me? It could be a losing battle! " I tried to reason with him, I was just confused. I knew a little about the history of Dadaji and my parents, but at the end of the day, Bapu left Japan because Dadaji didn't want Mama and Bapu to get married. So why would Dadaji want me around now?

.

Why was he fighting me on this... We're not related... he's just trying to be nice because .. Bapu cared me as if I was real daughter... and now he's gone... he just feels sorry for me, and I won't burden him anymore

I had caused enough trouble for them, I had caused everyone enough pain, I won't do it anymore. They can send me somewhere, anywhere, and I'll make it work... somehow.

"Do you not want to stay here? Are you not happy here?" He asked, baffled that I was just willingly going to leave.

" That's not what I'm saying at all! We knew that I wasn't your biological granddaughter, this isn't a surprise. This was the plan. Come here, hopefully, get better than return home to Las Vegas." I explained, trying to make him understand.

.

Please just stop, why put up such a fuss. Dadaji has his life here with the Sohma family, where could I possibly fit in. I'm not a Sohma, I'm an outsider, I don't belong. How could I? That's why Mama couldn't stay here. Why should I be any different? The Sohma's didn't want us all those years ago, what's changed.

"With your parents? They are gone. You are going back to the states alone. You would have no one. You are all alone. You're telling me you would rather be alone than stay here." Dadaji stated, and it felt like he just stabbed me in the gut and was twisting the knife.

I felt a snap. My hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I had to clench my fists. Nails digging into my palms. Of course, I don't want to be alone.

"YES! I AM ALL ALONE, THEY ARE GONE, AND I HAVE NO FAMILY LEFT! THANK YOU FOR REMINDING ME. I'M JUST .. I DONT BELONG HERE!" I cried as I tried to fight back the tears, my eyes felt like they were burning.

.

This... it' s all my fault... I can't.. I wanna go home.. I-I

.

"Marley-"

" I'VE ALREADY TROUBLED YOU ENOUGH! I - I ca... I can't ask for anything more...! I'm ... going back to the states. I'M NOT A SOHMA! This ISN'T my home! I don't belong here..." I snapped standing up to meet Dadaji's height to stare him in the eyes, I was feeling the guilt of everything that had gone wrong in the few months on my shoulders, telling me that I didn't deserve to stay with them. I didn't deserve any more kindness. My lungs felt like they were being squeezed, and I clenched my teeth.

It wouldn't be right to burden the Sohma's any longer..

"You're leaving?" A young voice interrupted our... discussion

I looked over the patio leading out to the garden, and standing there was Hiro and Kisa.

Hiro was glaring at us while he clenched his fists, and Kisa was standing behind him, looking at us with glassy eyes.

"Hiro.." His name left my lips quietly, and I reached out to him, but he just grabbed Kisa's hand and ran off.

"That'll make you leaving easier. Since you have no interest in staying, it should be easy for you to say your goodbyes." Scoffed Dadaji while he left the room. I heard the front door slam.

It was an unbearably hot day, but a cool breeze came through that made me shiver to my core. I curled my arms around me and squatted down to the ground, head resting on my knees.

"I ... want to stay..." I muttered, but no one was around to hear.

.

Better get used that.

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Chapter Text

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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Dadaji had yet to come back after walking out of his own house. I hadn't meant to hurt anyone's feelings, and I was only trying to help decide for them.

But somehow I've just made everything worse...

I needed a good walk to cool off and slipped on some sneakers and headed out, venturing off the property. Lotus pose just wasn't going to cut it today.

I wasn't that far from the Estate when a drop of rain landed on the top of my head. And then another... and another.. til it came down like torrential downpour.

"Great..just great. Could this day get any worse." I called out to the heavens, wondering they wanted to throw anything else my way. It was only a few weeks ago that I was cheerful at the idea of rain.

Contemplating my life for a bit as I stood there the rain. The warm drops pelted my skin, soaking me to the bone, my light cardigan sticking to my skin.

I just wanted to go home and hide, but I didn't know where home was.

.

Mama... Bapu... what do I do...

.

"mew"

"huh?" Over the pelting sounds, I swore I heard the soft sound of an animal. Glancing around, I tried to listen.

"meowww" The high pitched sound went off again. Following the noise to a small alleyway, I came across a cardboard box that looked to be barely standing up. The rain was wearing it down even more.

Looking inside, I felt my heart just split in two. The offender of the cute noises was a small dirty brown tuff of hair; they were shivering and shaking, looking like they had eaten in a while, their bones slightly visible. The tiny creature hadn't even noticed me yet.

I slowly knelt, my bare knee's touching the cold, wet ground, I gently put my hand inside the box.

"There, there... I'm here. It's okay.." I cooed, bringing my hand to the kitten's face so they could sniff.

The small feline seemed to have some fire left in their body as their tiny paw lashing out and swiped at the top of my hand.

"Ish..." I brought my hand back and cradled it into my chest — a bright red scratch on the front of it.

The little kitten now had their back arched and was hissing at me, the intruder. Their green eyes were watching my every move.

"That's okay, I just startled you, right? I didn't mean to frighten you. I'd like to help." I comforted using a soft voice as they continued to hiss.

The small thing could not be a little over 7 or 8 weeks old and looked severely malnourished but still had a lot of bite to them — a fighting spirit.

" I can bring you... to where I'm staying for a bit. Get you cleaned up and some food." I offered, reminding myself not to call the Sohma Estate home.

Taking a breath, I tried again and brought my hand to the kitten. They clamped down with tiny teeth on my forefinger and latched down with their claws on the rest of my hand. The little one was prepared to take me down if it was the last thing they ever did.

"ISH.. okay okay... that only hurts a... little. Okay, I get it. You're a boss kitty, but you still need help." I tried to squeak out as the kitten laid out a full defensive assault on my hand. Clenching my eyes shut to try null the sharp pain. The kitten's nails dug in tighter.

What am I doing? I'm more a dog person... but I've never really been around cats all that much either.

.

"On that day, the Rat rode on the Ox and jumped off to get into the banquet first. The Ox followed, then came the Tiger and everyone else. The celebration lasted until the next morning.

Except for the deceived Cat."

.

Recalling the zodiac tale made my eyes water, but no tears fell.

Everyone was all together, having a good time. While the cat was forgotten about..an outsider... nowhere to go

"It's okay... if you're scared... I'm scared too, but I think... I think it's gonna be okay. Please... don't push me away... I can help." I tried to console the small kitten, hoping they couldn't understand me.

"mew." and I felt wet sandpapery tongue over my hand. Opening my eyes, I saw the kitten still latched onto my hand, but instead of biting was now licking.

My eyes softened at the sight, and I couldn't help but fall in love with the feisty feline. The kitten stared at me, watching my every movement as it retracted their claws, and now that my hand was free, I slipped off my cardigan.

"Now, I know it's wet, but it might protect you a bit from the rain." I tried to comfort the scared kitten as I wrapped the cardigan around them and cradled them in my arms.

"That's a good kitty." I cooed as I tried to lightly jog back to Dadaji's house without jostling the little one in my arms.

Hopefully, Dadaji doesn't mind an extra guest for a few days...till I figure something out

As soon as I got back, I found a box and lined it with towels and blankets. I gently washed the kitten with warm water and dried them until finally placing them in the box. The kitten barely fought me anymore, almost falling asleep in the process.

I looked up what I could feed the hungry little warrior and decided to go with diluted milk from an eyedropper.

"I'll see if I can take them to a vet tomorrow." as I fed them, I took in their features. Now that they were clean, I could see the pure orange colour on most of their body but their paws and face and splotches of white. But they were still very scraggly looking. Hopefully, a few meals will fill them out.

"You are so handsome." I cooed as they took milk from the dropper, lapping it up happily.

"I promise... I'll find you a home before I go." I whispered gently as I softly pet their fur.

.

.-.-.-.-..-

.

A few hours passed, and Dadaji hadn't returned. Instead of getting dinner ready, I decided to start cleaning up the room I had been staying in, bringing the little kitten I had named Gimli in their box with me, packing up not only my stuff but a bunch of my parent's stuff.

Well, I guess it's mine now...

Bell chimes came between me and my suitcase. I went down the stairs to answer the door.

A mop of blond hair, wet from the rain, stood on the doorstep, their face pointed towards the ground.

" Momiji? Hey, are you okay?" I asked as I reached forward, tucking some hair behind his ear and lifted his chin, he had tears streaming down his face mixing with the rain.

Did he find out? Oh god... how am I supposed to say to goodbye to Momiji

He immediately jumped towards me and wrapped his arms around me. A popping sound echoed in the genkan, and I yellow smoke surrounded me.

"I don't want you to leave!" Cried the bunny, tears falling from his eyes as he cuddled into my neck.

I didn't respond and just wrapped my arms around him. Partly holding myself together as he cried into my shoulder in the middle of the genkan.

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

Momiji was sitting at the table fully clothed and with a towel resting on his shoulder as I put down a cup of chai in front of him.

"I'm glad you came by, there's a cherry pie in the fridge with your name on it. Oh, and I have someone I want to introduce you to," I blurted, trying to avoid the conversation we were about to have. I figured maybe a cute kitten would be able to cheer Momiji up.

He held the cup of tea between his hands and nodded. His eyes were still very red from crying. Before I could disappear upstairs to grab Gimli, Momiji interrupted me.

"Are you not happy here? Do you not like us? Are you going to forget about me" He finally asked as I about to disappear from the room. My heart broke more than it already had.

Is that what he thinks? That I don't love him? That I don't enjoy being here?

"I could never forget you, Momiji. I love you guys. I love it here. How could I ever forget you." I promised as I sat beside him, reaching out to grab his hand., squeezing it lightly.

I did love it here. I do love them. It doesn't mean I should stay. I should just be grateful for what I've been given. Don't ask for more. I've caused enough trouble.

"Then.. why are you leaving?" He asked, looking at me with those chocolate brown eyes that I couldn't escape.

"Because I have to. I don't belong here. I'm an American, and my parents fought to become Americans, it's not so simple for me to just stay here." I tried to explain.

"But... do you have family back in America?" He asked, and I took back my hand and began brought them to cradle my teacup, feeling the warmth from the hot tea. Looking into the cup's reflection, I just started to think about what would happen to me when I did return to the States.

I didn't have any family in America, but I did have friends who I am sure would at least check on me. I imagined I would just end up in a foster home. Then when I turn eighteen, I would just get a job and live on my own. Not a great plan, but it was something.

"...No. But I do have friends who will help me, and maybe you can come to visit me in Vegas is a few years. Or maybe I can come back here one day." I tried to bargain and comfort. I didn't want Momiji or anyone to worry about me. I would be fine, I was alive, and for that, I was grateful.

.

I can't ask for anything more. I'm lucky to be alive. I couldn't put out my Dadaji out more than I already have.

.

" You don't have to be on your own! You could stay here! You could even live with me!" He countered, reaching over and holding my hands.

"It's not that simple, Momiji. It could be stacks of papers and interviews and money... it's too much to ask for... The Sohma's have already done more than I could ever ask for. I'm sure the last thing Dadaji wanted for his retirement plan was to end up with some orphan."

"Do you even want to go back to America?" He asked, watching my face intensely.

No

That shocked me. Didn't I want to go back? I had to go back... didn't I?

"I-I," I choked out, and I clenched my jaw, not trusting myself to be able to lie.

"I want you to stay! Don't you want to stay here? With us?" He pushed, squeezing my hands in his.

Yes

I felt my lips tremble, and my eyes burned with tears. A tight feeling in my chest felt like it burst, unravelling as tears poured down my cheeks.

"Of course I want to stay!" I blubbered.

" I want to stay here with you, Hatori, Zuzu, Hiro, Kisa and Dadaji! I want to keep living here. I don't want to be alone in Vegas. I love it here. I want to share a life with you all, I want to go on more bus -trips with you and Hiro. I want to bake more with Kisa. I -want to cook more meals for Hatori. I want to have more sleepovers with Zuzu- I want to take evening walks and share ice cream with Dada-jiii." I was crying and hiccupping, switching between English and Japanese without noticing. I let go of Momiji's hand to cover my face.

I bawled into my hands. " I want to have a home here. I want to belong here. I want to stay here. I wish I was a Sohma!"

Momiji rubbed my back and handed me tissues. It wasn't long before he started to cry with me. Chai was forgotten by both of us as I cried like a child.

This really isn't how I wanted to say goodbye

.

-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Hatori's office had a surprise guest. One who had already raided his desk to find his cigarettes.

"Fine, if she doesn't want to stay here, she doesn't have to. She would rather be alone than live with me. It's too loud with her around anyway." Muttered Tetsuo as he parked himself on the patio and lit up. Taking a long drag.

"This might be better. Marley is accepting of the zodiacs and happy knowing the Sohma family now, but our family is dark, monstrous. The curse could hurt her, and you don't want that." Explained the Doctor.

Hatori was hiding it, but he would miss the young, optimistic girl and all the light she brought. But the Dragon of the Zodiac knew no happiness could last, and she would be better away from the harm the Sohma's could cause.

"Be happy with the time you've had with her. Then let her go," Advised Hatori, grabbing himself a cigarette.

The elder didn't reply and continued to huff. He knew the young Doctor wasn't trying to be mean. It wasn't so long ago he had to end his engagement to the woman he loves and erased her memories to keep her safe.

"She could be great for our family. She's thoughtful, intelligent, strong-willed and accepting of everyone around her. She doesn't seem the type to run or fold when the going gets tough...But... if she wants to go back to America, who am I to stop her" Continued Tetsuo, trying to swallow a hard pill. The highly respected man was acting like a child who had his ice cream taken away.

The two smoked as they listened to the pattering of rain on the roof. Until Tetsuo finally broke the prolonged silence.

.

"She said she feels like she doesn't belong here. She feels like an outsider. That's one of the things her mother was worried about. Maybe Marley would be better far away from people who make her feel like that. I'm sure she has many friends back in Nevada." Concluded Tetsuo, gazing sadly at the ground.

"We are lucky Marley is even alive... Be happy for her, and you can always send money to help her once she's back home, she won't be gone forever. She'll be alive and thriving. Living her own life." Comforted Hatori, remembering the days when the young girl was holding on by a thread.

"You're very wise for your age. I'm an old man whining to the younglings about how my Granddaughter doesn't want to hang out. What have I become." Chucked the old man, putting out his cigarette.

"A doting grandfather." Hatori pointed out, a slight smile on his face.

They heard the sound of rushing footsteps and the sliding of the door.

"THE IDIOT WANTS TO STAY!" Yelled the young boy as he held out his phone to the two grown men. His brown hair sticking to his forehead.

"Hiro? Calm down. What are you talking about?" Asked Hatori, putting out his cigarette.

The boy leaned over and tried to catch his breath. Rain dripping from his hair as if he stood in the Doctor's office. Hiro had been running all over the Estate trying to find the Sohma elder to share his evidence.

"Marley - She-wants to stay. Tetsuo-sama, she wants to stay." Assured Hiro as he opened his phone and pressed play. On his phone was a video recording of Momiji and Marley sitting at a living room table. Marley was crying as she tried to get out words, but it was a particular sentence that stood out.

" I want to have a home here. I want to belong here. I want to stay here. I wish I was a Sohma !"

Tetsuo rose from the floor and walked up to the youngest of the zodiac. Hiro stood up tall, trying not to be intimidated.

Tetsuo's brought up his hand and ruffled the boy's wet hair.

"Well, let's get to work." Declared the elder, and he headed out. Invigorated with a new goal.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Tetsuo walked into his home and checked upstairs for his Granddaughter. She was in bed, sleeping soundly, and the Rabbit was sleeping next to her, holding her hand.

"damn rabbit.." whispered the protective figure, but he decided it was innocent enough and didn't want to wake them. He heard a quiet meow and looked further into the room and noticed a small box on the floor that had two bright eyes peeking out of it.

"... I'll leave that for now.. " He mumbled, and the kitten almost hissed at him and at that, he closed the door and headed back downstairs.

Before he headed to his home office, he wanted to grab a snack from the fridge. Opening the door, the first thing he saw was a pink sticky note. Little doodles of smiley faces and hearts placed around the words.

Dadaji, re-heat in the microwave for 2 mins

" I don't deserve her." He mumbled as he took out the small bowl of curry rice and placed it in the microwave.

He took his homemade meal into his office and got started with a clear goal in mind. He imagined the other Sohma's who were stuck in their old traditional ways would give him a hard time, but he didn't care. Time and experience had made Tetsuo wise, and he knew what was best for him and his family.

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

I was up a little later than I usually wake up, carefully getting up as not to wake Momiji, who was still sleeping peacefully.

Disappearing into the bathroom, I groaned at the image in the mirror. My amethyst eyes were puffy from all the crying the night before.

Throwing cold water on my face, I recalled the events from yesterday.

Dadaji and I fought, he left. Hiro and Kisa ran away from me. I picked up a stray cat. Momiji came over, and I cried like a baby, then fell asleep watching an old Bollywood film on my laptop ... that's why I have Maiyya Yashoda playing on a loop in my head.

I patted down my face with a towel and decided to skip the contacts today. They would be too much of a pain to put in any way with the swollen eyes. Slipping on my gold wired cat eyeglasses, I decided to get started on some breakfast. Also should feed Gimli again.

I've stayed here too long . I now crave fluffy white rice in the morning.

Walking downstairs to get started on breakfast, I was met with an unexpected sight.

Dadaji, Hatori, the government worker from yesterday and a new face were sitting at the table, sheets of paper spread across it.

They all looked to me as I entered the room.

.

Where these people here to make me leave immediately? Dadaji must have been pretty mad last night.

.

"Good morning. I'm sorry, I th- I thought I had til' the end of the week to leave? B-But I'm mostly packed if I need to leave sooner," I tried to say with a small polite smile, without breaking into tears.

Hatori just gave me a small smile and then motioned to Dadaji for something.

Dadaji blushed lightly, grumbled something while rising up. He grabbed my shoulder and dragged me into the kitchen, shutting the door behind us.

He then brought out a phone that wasn't his... He pressed a button, and a very recent conversation played out through the speaker. He didn't show the screen, just held up the speaker's side, I could hear crying, and then a voice sounded out.

~" I want to have a home here. I want to belong here. I want to stay here. I wish I was a Sohma !"~

My eyes widened at recognizing my voice coming through the speakers.

"Wait...how did you -" I started to ask but was cut off.

" I want this to become your home," He interrupted, staring down at me with stern eyes.

"huh."

How is this happening to me? How did he get that? Who's phone is that? Who come by when Momiji and I were talking...

Dadaji took a breath as if trying to calm himself.

"I do expect you to honour the Sohma name. You must protect them as they are yours to protect and love. You will arrive home by 11 at night at the latest. We will share at least one meal a day together, where we will tell each other about our day. You will put your shoes on the rack." He started as he placed the phone back in his pocket and then crossed his arms.

"Dadaji- what are you -"

"You WILL come to me immediately if anyone ever makes you feel like an outsider. You must accompany me for evening walks when the weather is pleasant. I expect you to use a glass when getting water from the tap." He slightly glared at me over that comment, and I was too in shock to laugh over his attempt at a joke.

"Any boy who wants to date you must be introduced to me first. You must accept all gifts and let us spoil you and above all else... You must always be yourself." He finished his speech.

.

"What are you talking about?" I quivered. I felt my eyes start to water. Waiting for a catch or anything. This can't be happening.

What are these.. rules? Conditions?

"I lost my closest family eight years ago by letting them walk out the door. I will not lose someone again simply because they don't feel wanted. I won't make that mistake again. You are my Granddaughter. Family is more than blood; it's love. You belong here." He spoke in his strong deep voice, which I knew that some found intimidating, but I found it comforting.

"Dadaji-" Tears were again falling down my cheeks.

Is this a dream?

"Do you want to be Sohma?" He asked, a small smirk on his face as he already knew the answer.

I opened my arms and wrapped them around his midsection, burying my head into his shoulder.

"YES!" I cried, my hands gripping around him as he softly patted my back.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

"Sign here, Sohma-Sama." Directed the new face in the business suit who I learned was a Japanese government agent, a Sohma lawyer also joined us, helping me understand the paperwork.

Dadaji made a few signatures and then papers were turned towards me.

A few awful signatures and my name in messy handwriting and they lawyer and government worker collected the papers and departed.

"It can't possibly be that easy?" I asked once Hatori and Dadaji were done criticizing my messy handwriting.

"Normally no, but the Sohma's are a well-respected family and have many connections. For us, it is that easy. Plus, Tetsuo-Sama was up all night making calls and filling out paperwork." Hatori explained.

"Shut it, sea monkey." Snapped Dadaji.

"You are now, by all accounts, officially the daughter of Tetsuo Sohma and heiress to the Sohma estate." Explained Hatori.

Hatori then raised his cup of tea to cheers.

"... Wait... Heiress?!"

"You do know that your Dadaji is one of the richest men in Japan... right?" Hatori asked, acting aloof in the situation.

"...what?!" I yelped. I knew that Dadaji was well of, but I didn't realize it was to that extent.

"Welcome to the family, Marley Kaur Sohma." Dadaji lifted his cup and smiled. A real smile that rarely graced his lips and my shock over the heiress thing left, and I was just smiling back at him.

Marley Kaur Sohma... I like it

"YAY!" I felt arms wrap around me, and yellow smoke engulfed me.

"Momiji! How long have you been there?" I asked, talking to the rabbit who was now resting on my head.

"5 minutes ago." He giggled

"Meow"

"You wanna explain whatever this thing is doing here?" Dadaji asked as he glared down at the small kitten who had escaped from his box.

Chaos seemed to erupt around me as Momiji hopped around the room, cheering, and Gimli started to scale Dadaji like King Kong going to the top of the empire state building. I couldn't help but laugh, and Hatori even looked like he was softly laughing, letting loose for the happy celebration.

Mama, Bapu. Don't worry about me. I think I'm home.

Chapter Text

Warning: Spoilers, huge spoilers, read on at your own risk if you haven't read the manga.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

.

I'm dying here, this is it... HOW is this even possible!

I took a break to wipe my brow. Sweat making my clothes stick to my skin and hair was starting to frizz. Not a good look.

Japanese summers are hotter than the Nevada desert. How is August worse than July?!

My life has changed a lot in the last month. Along with my adoption process going through the Japanese and American government. Dadaji also had all the belongings from my family apartment in Las Vegas sent to Japan. I had unpacked all of my own things, and I made myself properly at home. Also, little Gimli has gained some strength and is eating solid food. I was able to take him to the vet where we had him checked over, and as long as he keeps eating steadily, he should be fully healthy in no time.

I barely had touched my parents' stuff and boxes of it remained untouched in the storage.

Dadaji might want to go through Bapu's stuff with me. If he's up for it.

Any free time I had, I was usually doing yoga and barre exercises to get my strength back for dance and eventually into my acro and aerial arts. It's coming on a year since I've been inactive. Very thankful for muscle memory and a decently flexible schedule. As soon as I get the proper go-ahead from my doctor... AKA Hatori, I'm finding a studio close by that does street dance and contemporary styling.

I promised Kisa I would teach her what I could. She was a little too shy to enter a class yet. Plus, her mother was very protective, so now I have a little dance partner. But today it's way too hot to exercise... or move

Now sweltering under the heat and cruel humidity, I was hoping that staying here is really worth it. Carrying a load of plastic in my arms to where they kept all the service cars on the property.

Knocking on the garage door, I peeked in.

"Hello?" I called out, looking around the garage until a short man with a balding head, wiping their hands on a towel as he came around the corner.

"Um, hi?" I asked

"What do you need?" He asked a little gruffly, stuffing the towel in the pocket of his overalls.

"I'm Marley... Tetsuo's granddaughter... And -" He stopped me in my introduction, a shocked look gracing his face.

"Tetsuo-Sama's granddaughter?! Apologies Marley-sama. How can I help?" He asked, completely changing his tune and bowing.

"Oh, that's really, um, please don't bow," I asked, putting down the plastic and waving my hands back and forth, still feeling awkward over people fussing over me.

He got up and raised an eyebrow, and then looked at the giant wad of pink plastic I placed down.

" I was just..hoping I could borrow.. what is it called? A tire inflator? A pump?" I asked, trying to put together the words.

Now that I am an official Sohma family, Dadaji has talked to me about having more responsibilities around the estate. Unfortunately, that now means that I have to be tutored 8 hours a day on nearly everything from academic studies to Japanese culture and etiquette lessons. Thank goodness Zuzu, and I snuck away to the Movie theatre last week. Incredibles 2 and air conditioning, a perfect outing in this killer heat.

At least my Japanese is really starting to come through, I mean.. It's been pretty decent thanks to my Bapu speaking to me in Japanese throughout the years. Now that I've been in Japan for about 8 months, I've had lots of practice and was feeling more and more comfortable.

.

My accent is still a dead giveaway... As is my entire appearance. Some words defiantly escape me... like right now. Poor man looks so confused.

"I'm sorry I don't understand." He stammered, looking very nervous.

"No, I'm sorry! My Japanese still needs work." I bowed apologizing.

Okay, time for some charades

I walked over to a tire and lightly hit it, mimed putting a hose into and made a hissing noise from my mouth and moved my hands as if the tire was expanding.

"AH! I see!" he got it and started moving around the garage and brought me an air pump.

"Perfect. Thank you so much!" I cheered, grabbing the hose and placing it in a hole of the plastic.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

"What the..." Leaning out the window, the black-haired beauty spotted what looked like a giant pink inflatable pool being carried on someone's head, blocking their identity.

But the tan arms holding onto the pool and the long legs poking out were a dead giveaway.

"Marley?" The name popped into their head and watched as the figure carrying the pool head towards the back of the estate where they resided.

The figure returned to their room and changed out of their lounging yukata into grey slacks and a white turtleneck.

"Sir, where are you off to?" asked one of the maids, bowing when they addressed the figure.

"Out"

"We will call the car around."

" Don't bother." The figure didn't need the driver knowing where they were heading.

.

.-.-.-.-.-..

.

I set the inflatable pink pool in the backyard and started filling it up with the garden hose.

Dadaji was out for the day, Momiji had returned to Germany for school, and Hiro and Kisa were back in school. Zuzu was also hard to track down. I've never been to her house, but I know she lives on the 'inside' of the estate. There are a lot of Sohma's. About 50 live in the 'Inside' where Dadaji and I live, and then there's another 100 living in the 'outside.'

I need more friends, some my age. Maybe I'll see that girl again. She could probably teach me how to wear a kimono.

While the pool was filling up, I slipped upstairs to change into a swimsuit. A simple red bikini with a high-neck, making sure to cover my scar and cat-eye sunglasses, and I was sunshine and kiddy pool ready. I placed an open-air cage outside and put little Gimli in it. Not fully trusting him to have full access to everything outside. Last time I let him have that freedom, he jumped into the pond trying to catch a koi fish.

"Ahhh, this is what I needed," I sighed, slipping into the pool, leaning up against the side. Throwing my arms behind my head and letting myself melt into the cold water.

The heavenly voice of Bruno Mars playing in the background.

And when you smile
The whole world stops and stares for a while
'Cause, girl, you're amazing
Just the way you are

"You look like you're enjoying yourself." A new voice cut through the music, startling me.

"eeep."

"Marley-Chan? Right." inquired the figure walking towards me, stopping at the edge of the pool.

I stood up and recognized them right away. I pushed back my sunglasses to get a better look.

"You?! I was just thinking about you. This must be fate." I joked as I smiled at her.

She blushed.

"Yo-You were?" She stuttered, hand coming up to cover her face. I had to remind myself to filter my words. I'm a little too forward for a lot of people's taste.

.

Whoops, might have embarrassed her.

"Ya, I was a little lonely, and I thought it would be nice to have another girlfriend, I can only handle so much guy time. I need girl time." I decided to step out of the pool.

"Girl time?" She asked, copying the English term I had used.

"Ya, let me introduce myself properly. Hi, I'm Marley Ba- Sohma. Uh, wait... I mean Sohma Marley. It's nice to meet you." I introduced myself. Excited to meet someone new.

"Sohma Akito. It's nice to meet you as wel-" Akito didn't get to finish as I pulled her into a hug.

"It's so nice to meet you, Akito!" I greeted her, genuinely excited to make a new friend.

I couldn't help but notice how she froze up, but then almost melted and awkwardly hugged me back.

"Ni-nice to meet you too, Marley."

Pulling away, I then realized what I had done. The front of Akito's shirt was now wet because of me.

I immediately broke out into an apology for wetting her shirt. She just laughed lightly and said it was fine.

" Do you want to hop in, it's a really nice relief from the heat." I offered as I pointed towards the pool. I was honestly getting hotter while looking at her. She was wearing pants and a long sleeve shirt. That couldn't be comfortable in this heat.

"I - uh, don't have a swimsuit."

"That's okay, just wear your underwear. No one's gonna come by before 4 anyway." I suggested, trying to make her comfortable.

She seemed to be really uncomfortable, so I just suggested she rolled up her pants and dip her feet in.

"I'll grab you a drink, lemonade, okay?" I asked, disappearing quickly into the house after drying my feet on a towel.

I heard a soft yes and grabbed a cold glass from the fridge.

"Tada! Fresh lemonade. Made it this morning. Let me know if it's sweet enough " I offered her the glass and then hopped back into the pool.

I was definitely the more talkative one, but Akito seemed pretty happy to give short answers.

She explained that she didn't go out that often, her sickness keeping her indoors a lot. I sympathized as I was pretty much chained to a hospital bed for months. How miserable I was looking out the window watching the seasons go by. Not being able to explore or do anything.

.

Even video games and Netflix lose their novelty after a little while. Though that Zelda game was very entertaining... maybe I'll bring out the switch after dinner.

Noticing that Akito looked a little woozy from all the sun, I moved us moved from the backyard into the living room and slipped on a big t-shirt to cover myself in after getting her some water to hydrate.

I even brought out a tub of raspberry sherbet from the freezer and two spoons. Laying them down in the middle of the table.

Shoving a spoonful in my mouth, I thought about activities. Akito followed my actions and grabbed a spoonful herself. Gimli was happy to be curled up in my lap.

"There must be some stuff we could do. You came out today, didn't you? And too much sun can make anybody feel woozy. There are some cool museums I would like to visit. A friend and I went to a movie last week. That would be fun. Oh! Or we could check out some cafes together. My cafe buddy has left me to go back to school. There are lots of cute ones we could explore. There's A Moomin Cafe that looks super cute by the Tokyo Skytree. " I listed stuff we could do. Akito watched with wide eyes, trying to keep up with all the words flowing out of my mouth.

Maybe she's a real homebody? Eh, I'll get her out the door in time. Hatori's probably her doctor as well, I'll get his permission to be on the safe side.

"Or you can just come over, and we could do nails and Netflix unless you're more comfortable at your place? I'm easy."

"Nails and Netflix?" she asked.

"Ya, paint each other's nails and watch movies all day. I wouldn't mind re-watching Stranger Things or something. I also noticed Jurassic Park was added. Haven't seen that in forever. What colour nail polish do you like? I might switch it up and try an orange creamsicle colour," I exclaimed as I grabbed her hand.

" You really do have beautiful hands, Akito! Nice long nails beds." I complimented as I held her hands in mine.

"Really? I guess I never thought about my hands." Akito muttered as she blushed.

" I always notice hands, I love them." I mused.

"Why hands?" She asked as she raised an eyebrow.

"Well... cause they're capable of so much. We're able to touch the ones we care about, whether it be taking their hand on a walk, brushing through someone's hair, or simply reaching out."

Akito didn't respond and just stared at me.

"Sorry, I guess that sounded pretty cheesy. My mama used to say stuff like that, it probably sounded a lot better coming from her." I blurted. I could even hear her voice in my head.

.

"Akito!" A loud gruff voice called out, surprising me.

"Dadaji. Welcome home." I greeted him, smiling. I felt the energy change in the room. Akito glared at my Dadaji while he glared right back.

"Akito and I were just thinking of ways to beat the summer heat. But I think she's more a fan of a staying in and enjoy the air conditioning." I joked, trying to lighten whatever dark cloud that had suddenly appeared.

Dadaji seemed shocked at something I said, and Akito rose up from the table.

"Thank you, Marley, for the lemonade. I look forward to spending more time together." She said, giving me a small smile then leaning down to kiss my cheek.

"um, no problem. Anytime." I replied, not missing the smirk she gave Dadaji.

"Tetsuo-sama."

"Akito."

"I was just introducing myself to the newest family member, seems to be quiet a special girl." She quipped, then headed out.

"Is something wrong?" I asked. Dadaji looked more agitated than average.

Dadaji turned to me and lightly grabbed my shoulder. Looking over me. "Did Akito do anything to you?"

"What? No, we were just hanging out. We were having a nice time." I reasoned.

"How did you find out?" he questioned.

"find out what?"

"That Akito is a woman." He stated, and this just left me confused.

How..what? This is such an odd conversation. And I've seen people turn into talking animals.

"By looking at her?" I answered truthfully, and he walked away; clearly, something was not right.
.

I am so confused, Akito is so clearly a woman, a little flat maybe, but she has girly eyes and light voice. Feminine energy. Or...maybe, she identifies as a man, and I completely messed up?

.

"It's supposed to be a secret." He muttered before picking up a phone and calling someone up.

"Hatori, get over here when you can." Dadaji was quick and hung up the phone.

Why is it supposed to be a secret?

Hatori came over and together, they explained who Akito was in the family. That she was God in the zodiac curse. How her mother Ren wanted her to be raised as a man. But I could tell that there was a lot they weren't telling me.

"You cannot reveal to anyone that Akito is a woman. Very few people in the family know." Warned Hatori in his typical monotone voice as I poured him some green tea.

"Fine. I promise. But Akito doesn't seem to mind that called her a girl, I mean.. she didn't correct me or anything... I don't know if this secret is really worth it. Especially if Akito is an adult now, what does it matter if her mother wanted to be raised as man, doesn't it matter what Akito wants? And she seemed quite intrigued by Girl Time," I noted as I went into thought about the mysterious head of the Zodiac. Crossing my arms and contemplating the situation.

Doesn't seem right

" Just be careful, she seemed uncharacteristically friendly. She might see you as a threat. You two share high positions of power within the Sohma family." Cautioned Hatori.

I let out a sigh. Who is Akito's mother? Why would she want Akito raised as a man?

You guys didn't see her earlier, though... she seemed so unsure, insecure at first. Her demeanour didn't change until Dadaji walked in.

"Oh, and one more thing." Snapped Dadaji, clapping his hands together, he then nudged Hatori.

"As your doctor, you have my permission to take up physical activity again, including but not limited to dance, as long as you listen to your body and DO NOT push yourself." Hatori chided as he stared me down.

"THANK YOU! Thank you! THANK YOU!" I cheered as I jumped up and hugged him without thinking, and soon I was engulfed in smoke and Hatori's large form disappeared.

"WATER!" I yelled as I looked down at the little seahorse that was trying to flop around on top of Hatori's clothes.

"Cat... Attack." Dadaji tried to instruct Gimli as he pointed from the orange and white kitten to the small sea creature.

"Dadaji! NO!" I laughed as I grabbed Gimli from pouncing on the poor dragon of the Zodiac. Poor guy has enough problems without being a cat toy.

Time to actually start using all my exercise clothes for actual exercise now. I wonder if there's a small dance studio on the property for Kisa and me to use.

.

.

It was late morning, and the sun shined over the Sohma estate. The summer heat was starting to ease off, and September was rolling in. Change was in the air.

The young teen felt like a fire had been lit as he walked back into his house after being away for months. Training, getting stronger. Master had told him to have hope that it would come to him, and he was right.

Fate must have been on his side because when he had gotten home, God had asked for a meeting, and he had been gifted an opportunity.

.

"If you can truly beat Yuki by the time you graduate high school... I'll stop calling you a monster. I'll even let you become part of the Zodiac. But... if you can't..."

.

The boy was about to walk out on the deck when a flash of long white hair made him jump back inside.

"Why is that damn snake hanging out around here." Murmured the boy to himself. He couldn't think of anyone we would rather see less. Well, maybe there were a few people he REALLY didn't want to see, but the snake of the Zodiac was still on the list.

Orange eyes peeked around the corner of the doorway to investigate and realized it wasn't the snake at all but a woman.

The stranger's long hair was more blonde than the snake's silver-grey hair. But it was definitely as long, but it was hard to tell from where he was hiding. Her hair was up in a high ponytail, the end still hitting the middle of their back. The stranger's skin was a rich tan colour and looked as if it was glowing in the early morning light.

She was taking deep breaths and holding her fingers to her pulse. He could hear music blaring from her earphones. Clearly out for a run and taking advantage of the fresh morning air.

Light purple shorts came to her mid-thigh, showing off her long tan legs. She stretched towards the sky, doing a slight backbend, her matching tank top coming up slightly to reveal a toned stomach. Tangerine eyes gazed to her chest, perky and bustier than average.

The boy cursed himself out for feeling like an old pervert, running his hand over his face. These feelings were nothing compared to when the woman turned slightly, and he was able to look at her face.

He felt his heart clench as if it had been pierced, and his face broke out into a red flush. Grateful that she hadn't caught on to his gazing eyes. A feeling that had been seeded only grew as his chest grew warm. A comforting feeling rushing over him.

Is that..?

Unlike her light hair, she had deep brown eyebrows and thick dark lashes that framed large purple eyes. Big pink lips that had a prominent cupid's bow. Her cheeks were flushed from her run, and she wiped the sweat from her forehead.

She was clearly caught up in her own thoughts and hadn't noticed the orange headed boy watching her intensely as she stretched out and caught her breath.

A loud chime went off, and this caused the boy to jump and immediately hide behind the door.

"Hello? - I'm just out for a run...uh... huh...let's do lunch. I'll come over in a bit then...bye" The girl's voice rang out as she talked on the phone. He then heard footsteps leading away from his home.

The boy couldn't help be more mesmerized by the woman's sing-songy voice that had a slight accent. He wanted to listen more, he wanted to call out

to her and ask her what she was doing here...

" This is ridiculous I need to get the hell out of here and find that damn rat." Muttered the boy as he shook his head and peeked outside again. He didn't have to fantasize about the picturesque beauty, the boy had higher priorities on his mind. No distractions allowed.

"She's gone...good. What the hell is she doing here anyway? She shouldn't be here." He asked himself as he stretched out and then headed out himself with one goal on his mind. To take his place in the Sohma family.

.

.

.

-.-.-.-..-. To be continued .-.-.-.-.-

 

Chapter Text

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

 

Steam fogged up the surrounding mirrors. Moving bodies were occupying the space in the center of the room. Numerous eyes circled them, admiring the work and energy being put out.

 

A little bit scandalous, but baby, don't let them see it

A little less conversation and a little more touch my body

'Cause I'm so into you, into you, into you

 

.

 

The choreography finished, and the three dancers burst into their freestyling of the song. I took a spin on my left leg, landed and went into a backbend touching the floor and kicked my legs up and landing into a front split. Landing it at the same time as another girl doing a split.

 

.

 

Tell me what you came here for

'Cause I can't, I can't wait no more

I'm on the edge with no control

And I need, I need you to know

You to know, oh

 

The crowd clapped and cheered for the final group as my split partner, and I laughed at our similar ending move, rolling on the floor and catching our breath until coming to standing position.

 

We had learned the choreography from one of the owners of the studio, Kaito, who had learned it from YouTube. He had loved Alexander Chung's choreography and got the song stuck in his head. Kaito made sure that we all knew that it wasn't his work but someone else's and encouraged us to add our own 'spirit' to it.

 

"Joy and energy first, choreography second." He had lectured. Mama would have said the same thing.

 

.

 

"Is there another you? No. Once you put yourself in it, your attitude, your own personality THAT'S when the magic happens... it's about self-love." Mama was always trying to uplift me

 

.

 

I slipped back on my black shirt, and I had abandoned it an hour ago after the room became unbelievably hot. Feeling no shame over the orange sports bra when it came to catching some relief. I grabbed some oversized sweatpants from my bag and slipped them over my bike shorts.

 

" Good work today, Marley! See you next week." Said the young receptionist at the dance centre.

 

I threw my grey duffle over my shoulder as I passed her.

 

"Thank you, have a good night!" I called back as I walked out the door and into the street.

 

The cool crisp fall October air felt nice again my hot skin. Endorphins were flowing me from getting back into street dance, loving the choreography to Ariana Grande's 'Into You'. I am finally starting to feel like myself again.

 

A black vehicle was waiting outside. I waltzed up to the driver's side and tapped on the window.

 

"Evening Marley-Sama, ready to head home." Greeted the chauffeur as he was about to get out.

 

"I'm going to walk Sousuke- San. You can head back without me." I told the older man.

 

He nodded his head, wished me a good night, and drove back to the estate. I really wish he wouldn't drive here at all. But I'm sure Dadaji keeps telling him to wait, just in case I decide I want a ride. And NO ONE argues with Dadaji... well except me.

 

The tutors had started to ease up on me, feeling confident that I would be caught up to the other students once I started school in the spring. The etiquette lessons, on the other hand, were kicking my butt.

 

.

 

Naomi-San would probably kill me if she knew I danced in front of people in just my sports bra and shorts...eh what she doesn't know won't hurt her...

 

.

 

Naomi-San was harsh, but she meant well. Dadaji hired her because he wants me to be somewhat prepared for socialite life and what the Sohma family could have in store me. She was absolutely horrified at how I sat in the cross-legged position on the floor. That's apparently very childish. I might do it again just to see the look on her face. Priceless.

 

In other exciting news, an outsider found out about the curse.

 

.

 

.-.-.-.-.-.-

 

Flash to a few weeks ago

 

Akito and I are hanging out on the tatami mats in her room, listening to the heavenly voice of Michael Buble. I was practicing a standing split, concentrating on not falling why Akito went through my phone. Picking out songs to play as I commented on each one.

 

Maybe surrounded by

A million people I

Still feel all alone

I just want to go home

Oh I miss you, you know

 

" Voice of an angel, right?" I asked I leaned forward grabbing my standing left leg.

 

"Hmm yes." She replied, her voice reflecting the soothing power of Michael Buble.

 

At first, she would stare in shock at my flexibility, and be slightly grossed out but now she's gotten so used it she continues. Which is better because I usually stretch every free moment I get. She's even had the nerve to laugh when I fell out of certain poses.

 

Akito had changed and opened up to me more after spending time together. She would often scoff at some of the 'girly' things that I wanted to do but then enjoyed it.

 

Not that she would admit to it

 

She wasn't as shy as she used to be. She also became a victim to me practicing braiding on her short hair. A halo braid was in her now, keeping her hair out of her face.

 

"I wanted to marry him so much when I was like 10." I explained, trying not to laugh.

 

"Still do?" She asked.

 

"YES! Damn the age difference! We would have beautiful babies, and he would serenade me whenever I wanted." I expressed, coming to a standing position and holding my hand to my heart, living in my fantasy world.

 

Akito slightly laughed herself.

 

"Anyone around here? Any of the Sohma boys tried to sweep you off your feet?" She teased, slightly raising her eyebrow.

 

"I don't think anyone around here is tall enough to 'sweep me off my feet,' not around my age at least." Half joking... half right. Hatori was tall and very handsome but at least 10 years older than me. I normally stood inches above all the other boys.

 

.

 

Had anyone caught my eye?

 

.

 

A flash of orange ran through my mind. On my run the other day I could've sworn I saw someone. Bob Marley was playing in my ears as I caught orange locks with beautiful matching eyes. I didn't have my glasses or contacts on so I couldn't lock on to anything. It was such a quick look because before I could investigate I had gotten a call from Akito and the tangerine eyes had disappeared from my sight.

 

"What about you, anyone you have your eye on?" I asked, trying to picture what kind of person Akito would be into.

 

"Well..." She seemed hesitant to talk about her love life. I lifted my left leg into the air while balancing on my right this time, finding it harder to keep a standing position.

 

.

 

Sliding of the door interrupted our conversation.

 

"Akito" I looked over and saw a handsome man who seemed to be in his mid-twenties, wearing a solid dark kimono. He had short black hair that was a bit longer in the front and brown eyes.

 

"Shigure, what do you want." Sighed Akito as she rose up and faced away from both the man and me.

 

He looked over at me and seemed to be holding back something behind a smirk as his eyes traced my figure. I brought my leg down and stood upright to introduce myself properly, but he spoke first.

 

"There's been an ... incident." He said as he entered the room.

 

"You can talk in front of Marley, she knows of the curse, and she's a good friend." Mused Akito as she stood and placed a hand on my back and fingered a lock of my white-blond hair between her fingers while she stared at Shigure.

 

"I'm Sohma Marley. It's nice to meet you Shigure." I bowed my head slightly to the new man. Questions were popping up in my mind.

 

.

 

The tension in this room became super thick. I almost feel like I'm unwanted right now, is it coming from Akito or Shigure.

 

.

 

Shigure then explained how he and the boy who lives him invited a girl who had nowhere else to go to live with them. As he told us of the incident, Akito walked around the room, seeming to be in deep thought.

 

How a boy named Kyo crashed through the roof causing the girl, Tohru Honda, to slip, causing a domino effect and all three transformed in front of her.

 

Akito came up behind me and wrapped her arms around me.

 

"What do you think, Marley-Chan?" She asked, resting her chin on my shoulder. Yep, definitely not as shy as she used to be.

 

" Tohru Honda, what is she like? Does she seem like a kind person?" I asked the mysterious member of the zodiac.

 

" She does... and she doesn't seem the type who would tell anyone the secret."

 

I looked out the patio window into the rock garden. Hatori had told me that he was the one to erase the memories of people who had found out about the curse. Using some type of hypnotism, his father had done it, and now it was on his shoulders. There was an inevitable loneliness in his eyes as he told me. A deep sadness that seemed nestled in self-guilt.

 

.

 

How many as he had to erase over the years? And who?

 

.

 

He mentioned that I was a rare exception due to being able to keep my memories at Dadaji's insistence.

 

I wondered how the girl reacted to the curse. Shigure doesn't seem to be panicked about the situation.

 

.

 

What kind of person are you, Tohru Honda?

 

.

 

"Well, as long as she's kind to the boys and doesn't judge them, I don't see the issue. I think it would be quiet sad for them to lose a friend." I concluded. Plus I didn't want Hatori hypnotizing anyone unless he had to.

 

I felt Akito nod, and even Shigure seemed surprised.

 

"I'll trust this 'Tohru'... this might be a good opportunity for Yuki, for Kyo, and for me.." Decided Akito as she walked to the patio and as she put her hand out, a small sparrow landed on her finger.

 

Shigure was excused, but before he left, he gave me another once over, and I couldn't help but feel a bit of darkness behind the smile. My instincts are telling me to keep alert and watch my back.

 

.

 

The snake of the zodiac perhaps?

 

.

 

.

 

.-.-.-.-.-. Present

 

.

 

I hope they're all getting along okay. Dadaji mentioned that the two boys had always been at each other's throats.

 

.

 

I arrived at the door to the estate and walked down the long road lined with trees.

 

Then I stopped in my tracks, realizing an essential detail.

 

.

 

I never got to ask what their zodiacs were!

 

.

 

Lost in my thoughts, I didn't see the raging dust storm that was heading my way. Til it was too late and I was on my back.

 

"ISh! ouch, ouch" I hissed as I felt a rock in the middle of my back.

 

"I'm... I'm so sorry; sometimes, I lose myself... I'm sorry." Cried a voice. I opened my eyes and saw brown eyes with tears streaming down her face. She was kneeling and clutching an orange cat backpack.

 

She looked to be about my age and had brown hair that went just past her shoulders.

 

"Oh that's okay, it's okay, it happens. Is everything alright?" I asked as I got up to my knees and touched her shoulder, trying to console the crying girl.

 

She then exploded into full waterfall tears.

 

.

 

Great, I made it worse...

 

.

 

Shuffling through my duffel bag, I found some tissues and handed them to the girl.

 

Rubbing her shoulders, I got her up and led her by the hand to my home as she cried into the tissue.

 

.

 

Some chai will help. It solves all problems, well, most of them anyway.

 

.

 

I let the girl sit down on the patio as I went into the kitchen to heat some water. Playing Frank Sinatra in the background.

 

Moon river wider than a mile

Crossin' in style someday

My dream maker

Heartbreaker

Wherever you're going I'm going the same

 

By now the girl was just hiccupping and blowing her nose.

 

"Here, my grandmother always said chai was good for the soul." I offered her a cup and she accepted, a small quiet 'thank you' leaving her lips.

 

"Why are you being so nice?" She asked as I sat myself down beside her.

 

"Um, I don't think I would count this as being nice to tell you the truth. . Everybody needs a shoulder to cry on, right?"

 

"Now, may I ask what's wrong?" Asked carefully, taking a small sip from my cup.

 

" My fiancé disappeared... for four months... and then he came back, but he hasn't even bothered to call." She revealed after she took a few deep breaths.

 

.

 

Fiancé? How old is she? She can't be any older than me.

 

.

 

"Well, at least he's okay, right? And I'm sure he was gone for a good reason, maybe he needed time. Or maybe he doesn't know what to say." I comforted trying to think of the right thing to say.

 

" I was so worried! I love him so much. He left me without mentioning anything and I still love him.'

 

She then went on a ramble about how much she loves this boy. It was... amazing how many things she could list and forgive. I'm not sure if I could love anyone that much. Or if anyone could love me that much.

 

"How did you two meet?" I asked as I tried to get a word in edgewise.

 

" When we were kids, I found him drawing a fried egg in the dirt." She was smiling at the fond memory

 

"Fried eggs? interesting choice." I giggled,  thinking of my own odd choices that I would draw in the dirt, flowers, cows, sometimes just random shapes.

 

She nodded and laughed at herself.

 

" He didn't have anyone else to play with because....well, I asked if he wanted to play with me and I promised I would always be by his side." She said a last little bit more quietly, bringing her hand to her chest and smiling genuinely into her cup of chai.

 

"He's a bit of an angry grump these days... he wasn't always like that... he is.. kind of awkward but a gentle person." She let out a sigh... there was a lot more hiding behind her eyes, but it wasn't my place to pry.

 

"You're very lucky," I said as it looked like she finished. She turned to me, eyes widening.

 

"Why?" She asked.

 

"Well, I don't think I've ever felt so strongly about someone. Not romantically at least. Back in Vegas, my friends would date, and they would go on about their significant others, but that was never me..."

 

Plus the only time I was asked out it was cruel prank... kind of makes you stay away from the dating scene.

 

"But hearing you talk about how much you love this boy. All the stuff you can list... I hope I find a love like that, and I hope I can be accepting of the good and the bad, like you. " I finished, smiling down at my now empty cup of chai.

 

A love like Mama and Bapu is the dream... can I have that?

 

"I hope I can be as passionate as you when the day comes that I let love in." I quipped, smiling over at the girl.

 

She then started crying again and dragged me into a bone-crushing hug.

 

This girl is like 5 inches shorter than me, and I think she might squeeze the life out of me.

 

She released me and then finally introduced herself.

 

" I'm Kagura, Sohma Kagura. Thank you for taking care of me. Sorry for troubling you..."

 

" It was no trouble at all Kagura. I'm Marley, Sohma Marley." I bowed my head slightly.

 

"How about this, as a welcome back you cook him a nice meal. That's the old go-to right? The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I'm sure it would make him happy." Trying to give Kagura idea's to show her love to her beloved fiancé.

 

"YES! That's also a great idea to show off my future wife skills!" She pumped her fist and stood up. I can just imagine flames of passion burning all around her.

 

"Only thing... I don't know how to cook." She admitted, going back to a dark place in her mind.

 

"I'm about to get started on dinner, how about you help and you can learn along the way?" I suggested as I got up and headed to the kitchen, pulling my hair up into a tight ponytail.

 

"Thank you thank you thank you!" Her mood changed again as she got excited to learn to cook for her future husband. Mentioning that he loves fried eggs.

 

Something tells me that Kagura is a little... bipolar, lovely... but after that bone-crushing hug, I would NOT want to be on her bad side. Maybe her fiancé finds it endearing.

 

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

 

"Mr. Hooper, I'm not talkin' about pleasure boatin' or daily sailin', I'm talkin' about workin' for a livin', I'm talking about sharkin'!"

 

Jaws played on the living room TV as Dadaji, and I snacked on rice crackers, I had never seen it before, but he had watched at least a dozen times.

 

"Did you ever go back in the water after watching this?" I asked as I scratched under Gimli's chin who was laying on his back in front of me, hardly interested in the classic movie.

 

"Don't be ridiculous, with things like that swimming around? No thank you, I've got a few good years left before I kick the bucket, wouldn't risk it even now." He huffed, crossing his arms.

 

"LET'S GO THE FESTIVAL!" The excited blonde boy yelled as he slid the door open from the patio. The loud sound making me jolt in my seat and Gimli running out of the room to safety.

 

Momiji hopped over and sat beside me to show me a flyer.

 

"Kaibara High School 29th annual Cultural Festival?" I readout.

 

"Ya! We should go! We should go!"

 

Dadaji had paused the movie, disgruntled that I was missing bits of Captain Quint and Mr. Hooper's conversation.

 

"That might not be a bad idea." He commented.

 

This caused both Momiji and I to turn to him and shock.

 

Who is this? And where is Dadaji?

 

Silence.

 

He sighed and then adjusted his glasses.

 

"I thought that you might want to go to Kaibara for your second year. If you go to the festival, it gives you a chance to see it. Maybe meet a few students before you attend in April." He reasoned.

 

"Aww Dadaji, you handpicked a high school for me." I gushed as I leaned over and smothered him in a hug.

 

"Alright, alright. Enough. Some Sohma's are also attending, and they are good boys who I thought might look out for you." He continued.

 

"Dadaji- You thought so hard about this." I gushed as I continued to smother him in affection. Rubbing my cheek on his shoulder and arms wrapped around him.

 

"Ya, Tetsuo-Sama! You're a real softie. I'm going to tell Yuki and Kyo that you called them 'good boys'!" Teased Momiji as joined in on the other side of Dadaji, adding to the older man's annoyance.

 

"Go away already." He groaned, wishing he could get back to enjoying an epic battle between man vs. nature.

 

Poor Dadaji is probably trying to figure out if it's too late to send me back. Sorry, we're family now. The Sohma's are stuck with me.

Chapter Text

"Tohru is coming today to meet with Hatori! You should come to!" Squealed Momiji; unfortunately, I had missed meeting her at the cultural festival.

I had been separated from Hatori and Momiji near the beginning of the trip to the high school, but I still had gotten a chance to explore and met back up with them at the car. Being greeted by a bunny Momiji who had jumped from Hatori's arms into mine.

Momiji was now helping me take down Christmas decorations around the house.

End of the year meant I was going to have to say goodbye to the Christmas tree Dadaji let Momiji and I decorate. I would miss all the twinkling lights, but I'll have to wait till next year. My poor Dadaji is probably relieved after a month of looking at it and Christmas carols playing 24 hours.  

I'll pick him up some goodies from Mr.Donut as a thank you for putting up with it.

The entire Sohma estate was in organized chaos in order to get ready for the new year. Most of the staff were overwhelmed with preparations for the New Year's celebrations.

"Sorry Momiji, I don't think I can, I have a meeting with the kitchen staff about banquet menus and the new year's bento b--"

"Osechi" interrupted Dadaji

  "Yes, those. AND I want to go to the supermarket for some ingredients.  THEN,  I'm needed at the temple to grab some sort of pine, bamboo decoration thing."

" A Kadomatsu" corrected Dadaji as himself was going through his books, deciding which ones he was going to give up.

"That's what I said.  And I'm meeting up with you and Kisa later for dance rehearsals." I reminded him.  The year of the Tiger was coming to an end, then it was the Rabbit's turn in the cycle, which meant that Kisa and Momiji would be dancing at the exclusive banquet this year.

I'm lucky enough to join their rehearsals, and they were working so hard.

As much as I wanted to meet Tohru, it just wasn't going to work out today, making lists in my head of all the things I had yet to do.

The ladoo I had made in honor of Diwali last month had gone over really well, and I would love to make a few batches to give out in celebration of the new year. Maybe some barfi and samosas if I find the time.

I wonder if I'll be able to find some edible silver leaf paper for the barfi, they would get a kick out that.

Diwali had come and gone so quickly, but I was grateful I was able to share a few traditions with my Sohma family. Kisa had loved making the rangoli on the table with flowers. We made sure to take lots of pictures.  

We even lit a few lamps and floated them on the pond in our garden.

 

<-<<_<< Last month<<<<<

"Why the lamps?" Asked Hiro as I set a few more lamps around the entrance of the house. Making sure they were out of reach for Gimli. Who was now the size of a small dog.

Mischievous feline also thinks he rules the house. I've lost three headphone wires to him.

"To symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness," I explained, fondly remembering celebrating with my great grandmother in our small village. All the clay lamps lighting the streets.

Hiro, Kisa and I were sitting around the kotatsu on the floor. The floral rangoli that Momiji, Kisa, and I made the day before taking up most of the table. The pink, white, and orange petals were giving off a light floral scent. I placed a tall silver lantern in the middle to finish it off.

"You know, typical good over evil, a tale as old as time."

 But that wasn't enough for the curious pre-teens, so I decided to tell them a favorite story my great grandmother told me.

"A very long time ago, there was a beautiful princess named Sita

She was married to the handsome Prince Rama who had been banished to the enchanted forest by his jealous stepmother, Queen Kaikeyi.

One day, Princess Sita saw a wounded deer in the woods, and she begged her prince to go and help it. Rama drew a circle on the ground and said to her.

I walked around the two, mimicking drawing a circle on the floor around them before sitting next to Kisa.

'So long as you stay in the circle, no harm can come to you.'

They shared a kiss, and Prince Rama left to go and aid the deer.

That night, the princess heard a horrible cry. 'Help Me' it cried and thinking it was her beloved Rama in danger the princess raced out of the circle to answer the call, venturing deep into the forest.

She soon came upon an old beggar man. She had no money to give him, but her kind heart could not refuse his plea. She removed one of her bangles and placed it his hand.

As soon as he had the bracelet... HE TRANSFORMED IN THE TEN HEADED DEMON KING, RAVANA!"

I rose to my feet and spread my arms out, trying to be intimidating. Hiro just rolled his eyes, and Kisa giggled slightly.

He grabbed Princess Sita and took her to his palace, where he intended to make her his bride. While riding on the chariot behind Ravana,  the clever princess dropped bits of jewelry as a trail for her beloved to follow."

The ram and the Tiger leaned in, wholly engrossed in the tale.

"The Demon King locked Sita away in a tower in his palace, and there she stayed weeks just staring out her window, missing her Prince Rama terribly.

Ravana went between sweet-talking and threatening to get Sita to marry him, but the princess would not even look at him and thought only of her beloved Rama.

When Prince Rama returned to their home, he saw that Sita was gone and began to shout for her. While Rama looked around for his princess, the Demon King Ravana loaded his bow with not one, but ten arrows, each filled with deadly poison."

I stretched my arms out, miming the act of the loading a bow and stretching back the string before dramatically letting go.

"The arrows sped through the air, heading straight for Rama in the enchanted forest. The arrows hit the ground and released their clouds of deadly yellow poison.

When the smoke from arrows finally lifted, Rama lay dead on the ground."

"What kind of story are you telling us!" Yelled Hiro, his eyes glaring at me as Kisa had covered her mouth. I shook my head, smiled, and took both their hands, continuing with the story.

"But then, a miracle happened. The deer Rama had helped in the forest came upon his body and laid down next to the prince. Giving him his own life.

Prince Rama rose from the ground and thanked the selfless deer before disappearing into the forest to rescue his wife. Following the gold and silver bracelets, she lad left behind.  

When the prince arrived with his bow in hand, the Demon King Ravana roared, his ten heads threatening to kill Prince Rama one final time.

Rama loaded his bow with a single divine arrow and shot it at the heart of Ravana, ending his miserable life.

Princess Sita ran down from the tower and into the arms of her Prince Rama. They returned to their kingdom and were welcomed back with thousands of glowing oil lamps on a moonless night."

"That is why we light lamps for Diwali. To celebrate Rama and Sita's homecoming and their triumph over evil." I concluded as I held out an unlit clay lamp to each of them and let them light it.

Glad I went with the shorter PG-rated one, don't want to overwhelm with too many names. And I can do without Sita having to step on a pyre to prove her innocence.

They spent the rest of the evening with me, helping me cook dinner and made a few batches of sweets for them to take home to their families.

~~~~~

Now they were sharing their New Years traditions with me.

"I'm excited to hear about the banquet. It must be quiet the event." I gushed to Momiji, getting excited for him. Even Akito seemed to be very enthusiastic about it. She was looking forward to everyone being back together.

"Must be nice to have all the members gathered for the banquet. It's like the folk take!" I started picturing all the animals drinking and eating, having a good time.

"All the members... except the cat," Dadaji mentioned, looking over at me as I took off the last decoration.

"Oh... right..."

I guess it is like the folk tale.

Momiji took the ornament from my hand and then squeezed my fingers.

Nothing more was said as we finished taking down the tree and Momiji ran off in hopes of meeting Tohru Honda at the main gate.

I decided to try and tackle the boxes in storage after the majority of the house was cleaned. Slipping into the room, I was immediately overwhelmed with the boxes upon boxes of stuff from our old Vegas apartment.

No time like the present

Bringing out a pair of scissors, I ripped into the first box and organized a bunch of dishes I decided would be better off donated.

Except for my Lion King mug, that's staying with me.

After a few easy boxes of dishes, kitchen appliance, and towels, I came upon a box that surprised me. Opening the lid, my eyes were met with various fabrics in beautiful bright colors and delicate embroidery work stitched on certain pieces.

I brought out a gorgeous teal sari with silver embroidery and held it to my chest. A memory flashed through my mind. I was holding her hand as we walked into the wedding reception. Both of us looking out of place in the western setting. Her squeezing my hand and reminding me that I looked beautiful as she swept the teal fabric over her shoulder. I felt my heart drop in my stomach and tried to stop the welling of tears in my eyes. How could something as simple as clothes hurt me like this?

"Mama...."

A firm hand squeezed my shoulder and brought me out of my head.

"How about we take a break." Offered Dadaji as he helped me off the floor and closed the door to the storage room after me.

Maybe I'll be strong enough in the New Year

.

.

.

-.-.-.-.-.-

"I recommend you leave that house and have nothing to do with the Sohma family."

The dragon of the zodiac sat at his desk as he advised the young girl sitting on his sofa, nursing a cup of tea.

"What?" This shocked the young brunette. She couldn't imagine not knowing the Sohma family or not having anything to do with them.

"Shigure being who he is... I'm sure he's left you in the dark. The Sohma family continues to be possessed by vengeful spirits. We're not the jolly bunch you probably imagine."

"I don't understand.... except that he strongly feels I should leave....." Tohru thought to herself while she looked down into her cup.

"Akito is attempting to use you, better to get out before you regret getting involved with this family. We already have one innocent outsider tangled up in our curse. I want to avoid another if I can."

A doorbell interrupted the meeting, and the doctor excused himself and asked for the girl to wait a moment while he answered.

"What does he mean by using me.... by curse he must mean more than just transforming right....? Who is this other girl? Has something happened?" She was talking to herself without realizing it, organizing her thoughts out loud.

"Harii... he's talking about Marley... she's become close with us and...he worried that she'll end up like ..." Momiji started and then took a breath before continuing.

"Harii had a sweetheart. Kana was her name. She was his assistant. Such a nice person..." Momiji opened the doors to the patio to look outside while he told the story of Kana and Hatori.

The ordinarily cheerful Rabbit of the zodiac spoke in a slow, sad voice as he tried to make her see Hatori was just worried and not as cold as he appeared.

" I don't know what Akito is thinking either.... if he's using you. But I do understand a little how Harii feels cause I get a lump in my throat whenever I see Akito and Marley walking together... He's worried she'll end up like Kana. He doesn't want another woman like Kana to be involved in all this. He doesn't want you to get hurt." Finished Momiji who then looked over at the brunette and noticed tears falling down her face.

_.-.-.-0.-.-.---..-.--.--.-.-.-.-

 

I sneezed into my hand as I was at the cashier at the supermarket, paying for all the various ingredients I would need. I had become a regular at this market as they were the only grocery store that sold all the different spices I needed.

"Oh someone must be talking about you." Teased the cashier.

I gave her a confused look as I packed the cardboard box with my groceries.

"When you sneeze, it means someone's talking about you." The older woman wiggled her eyebrows at me, making me giggle as I handed her paper bills.

I doubt that because if that's true, then I would have been sneezing like crazy for the past few months because almost everyone at the Estate liked to gossip about the mysterious adopted foreign Sohma.

I pretended all the whispers didn't bother me, but some comments would make it through the cracks and make you feel a bit like sort of circus attraction.

I also might scream if one more person says I should wear more sunscreen... it's not a tan; it's my skin color.

" Well, I hope they're saying nice things." I replied as I lifted the box and thanked the cashier before exiting the store.

"Let me take that Marley-Sama." Said the chauffeur as he grabbed the box from me and placed it in the trunk.

"Thank you, Sousuke-San." He opened my car door for me, but before I stepped in, I felt a cold sensation on my head. Little snowflakes were falling from the sky, and I lifted my hand to catch one.

"Sousuke-San! It's snowing!" I cheered as I felt a huge smile come over my face. I took a moment to stick out my tongue and catch a few snowflakes.  He smiled politely and insisted that we hurry home.

Tonight will be a good night for hot chocolate and a Disney movie.

 

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

 

The kind outsider was led to the main entrance by the dog of the zodiac, thinking about the new information she'd been given. About Akito who had nearly blinded the kind, Hatori. The other girl outsider who was being tangled up in the 'curse.'

"Do they love him? Do they fear him? Is this Marley in danger? Who is she?" All these questions ran through the brunette's mind as she walked on the bricks.

She heard a laugh which interrupted her thoughts and turned to look over her shoulder.

A tall girl with long white-blond hair in a loose braid was carrying a box on her head as she walked through the courtyard and was hooking her arm onto a young shorter man with black hair. The man was blushing lightly as the woman tugged him along as she held the box in place on her head with her free hand.

The man caught the outsider looking and immediately stopped blushing, and his face seemed to lose any warmth it had. Dark grey eyes piercing into the brunette. A wind blew, causing his hair to blow in the breeze but his eyes never left Tohru's. The change in the man's attitude caused the woman he was with a look over to see what caused the shift.

Before the brunette could get a look at the woman's face, the mysterious man grabbed her chin, making her face him. A light laugh left the woman as the man dragged her away in the opposite direction of the main gate.

"Was that Akito... and the woman, could that be Marley?" She spoke to herself. Feeling unable to move from that spot.

"Tohru-Kun?" Called out Shigure as he stopped in his steps and looked back at her frozen form.

"Shigure-San.... What is the curse?..... Is there something I should be doing?"  She questioned as she brought her hand to her chest. Feeling a tight sensation run through her body.

"You should just be yourself."

_._._._._._._._._

 

The light chime of bells rang throughout the studio as two figures carrying their instruments going through the motions of their dance.

Light bounced off the gold of the traditional kagura suzu bells and added to the beauty of the dance performed by the young zodiac members.

The movement was smooth and gentle, slower than any dance I had ever seen before. Every move controlled.

A melodic flute played over the speakers, the only thing missing from the performance was the traditional robes they would wear for the banquet.

Everything was perfect until the Tiger shook the bells of her instrument too early and all hell was released.

A woman in her 50's wearing a simple dark purple kimono stomped over. Her dark brown eyes burning holes into the young girl.

"NO! That was a count early!!! WE HAVE BEEN OVER THIS KISA! Have you not been listening? Are you an idiot?!" The older woman's face was turning red as she snatched the traditional bells from Kisa.

"HOW have you gotten WORSE from last year." The 'teacher' continued until a figure blocked the woman's view of the child.

" I think it's time you walked away Reina-san." I spoke firmly and unwavered as I stood between her and Kisa, who was trying not to cry behind.

"Marley-Sama! New Years is only a few days away, and she is unprepared! She will humiliate herself and Akito-Sama." She continued to berate the child.

" The only one is humiliating themselves is you." I spat, trying not to lose my temper.

I am 30 seconds from dragging this woman out of here by her fake nose

"Excuse me! You insolent brat."

Scratch that, 10 seconds

"Kisa and Momiji are dancing beautifully, and we have time to practice and refine things that we need to. What we don't have time for is for you to bring down a young girl because you don't have the patience to be a decent teacher. Walk away, Reina-San,  have a cup of tea, take a walk, have a nap. Just leave." I spoke slowly and clearly and kept my eyes locked on hers.

She huffed and threw the bells at my chest before stomping out of the dance studio.

Once she was out the door, I released the breath I had been holding. Clutching the handle to the instrument, I turned to the zodiac members.

Aaaand she's probably off to Dadaji to say I threatened her or something..... Maybe I should have.

"I think you guys just lost your dance teacher." I joked as I wiped away Kisa's tears and smiled at the delicate girl.

"MARLEY-CHAN! That was amazing!" Cheered Momiji as he leaped up and wrapped his arms around me.

*poof*

I held Momiji and cuddled him until a soft voice spoke up.

"I'm sorry... I didn't mean to mess up." whimpered Kisa as she looked down at the lacquered wooden floor.

"Oh Honey Bee. No. No, no, no, no. Don't apologize for that." Momiji was resting on my shoulder as I brought the girl into a hug and rubbed her back.

She sniffled lightly as gently rubbed her back in circles.

"You guys have been working so hard, and it's looking beautiful. If you're going to have a misstep, this is the place to do it. We have time to work through it. You're going to do an amazing job, Kisa." I comforted as I pulled back to look at her face.

After working with Kisa in a studio over the past few months, I knew she had beautiful fluid movements and can pick up things very quickly. The only thing she was missing was faith in herself.

"Ya, Kisa! We can work on it together!" Added Momiji as he hopped from my shoulder to the floor.

*poof*

I covered Kisa's eyes with my hands and closed my own as Momiji redressed.

"Now, how about we take a break from this traditional stuff and we try some street dance?" I asked the two as I approached the stereo system to plug in my phone.

"YES!"

"um... I'd like that."

Oh don't you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me
I said you're holding back
She said shut up and dance with me

"Good, because there was this Galen Hooks choreo I've been dying to do. And remember; have fun and be yourself." I lectured as I lightly tapped Kisa on the nose, causing her to giggle and nod.

Hopefully, Dadaji doesn't mind I disrespected the traditional dance teacher......  maybe he'll just be happy I got all the errands done.

"Hey, Marley-Chan, were you able to go to the temple to grab the kadomatsu?" Asked Momiji.

Dammit

Chapter Text

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.

.

With all the preparations finished, I had tackled a different box in the storage room and came upon 'Hospital Stuff.' Bapu's camera, photo albums, photos along with some knitted blankets, books, and an old friend resided in it.

"Shere Khan! There you are." I grabbed the old lion plushy, patting down his wild orange mane. Tucking him under my arm, I grabbed the photos before heading back downstairs.

Feet hiding in the warmth of the kotatsu table I flipped through glossy photos, steam rising from my cup of chai sitting in my 'The Lion King' mug. My music was on a country playlist and flowing from the stereo. I was lightly singing along.

.

Two doors down they're laughing and drinking and having a party
And two doors down they're not aware that I'm around
But here I am crying my heart out, feeling sorry
But they're having a party just two doors down

.

The zodiac set I had purchased from my temple visit was still drying on the porch. A special figurine rested with the other 12 dolls. The pottery set was so cute I couldn't resist. Dadaji had seen them and asked if a toddler had dropped them off. Teasing me because he knew I was the one who painted them.

.

Are they really that bad? I know I'm not much of a painter... I'll have to make sure none of the zodiac members see them.

.

He didn't even say anything about the little cat figure that was in a different pottery style than the zodiac set. Well, I obviously couldn't get a set with all 13 animals because no one sells them that way so I had found the cat figure in a different store. My not-so-little orange kitty had been the color model for the figurine.

I tried to keep one eye on the set so Gimli couldn't make a move. I saw him approach the pottery set and get into a crouch position. His fluffy orange tail swishing back and forth.

"Don't even think about it, mister." I chastised him, which made him meow in response before disappearing to cause chaos somewhere else.

I flipped through more photos and came across a batch that was exclusively set in the hospital in Tokyo. The most recent being from February.

Most of them were candid pictures he had taken. Mama and I playing cards. Me knitting while Dadaji just sat at the chair beside me. Zuzu sitting on my hospital bed, seated at the end with my Mama who braided her hair while I read a poetry book.

.

Becoming so lost in looking in the pictures I hadn't even noticed the doorbell ringing or the sliding of the door. The only thing that took me out of my daze was a tug at my braid.

"I've been ringing the bell for like 5 minutes, can you not hear it over this racket?" grumbled the striking woman as she took a seat to my right.

"Dolly Parton is a treasure, and you will respect her!" I declared as I tugged at her own straight black hair.

"Says who?" She teased me.

"...the world..." I hesitated as I lightly let go of her hair and thought about Dolly Parton's popularity.

"Maybe it's just the states?" I wavered on my previous statement. The fellow teen just scoffed and let go of my braid. Zuzu's taste was more alternative rock, metal, rap and surprisingly k-pop music.

.

She would kill me if I told anyone that.

.

Country music was definitely not in her range of tastes, so I switched the music over to Billie Eilish so we could both enjoy the music.

"What's up? I thought everybody would be with their families today?" I asked as I looked over at the strong-minded girl. I knew she lived on the estate but I had yet to meet her family. She was secretive that way.

Typical Zuzu, all-black ensemble. A long-sleeved short black dress with black stockings and a black choker with various silver accessories.

She defiantly pulls it off the Goth look, it complements her long black hair and dark brown eyes.

"I had to get out of that house." She grumbled as she took my mug and stole a sip.

"Hey! that was mine." I accused, but she couldn't take me seriously with the goofy smile I had on my face. I couldn't help but laugh at the audacity.

She continued to drink from my mug, so I got up and went into the kitchen to make a new cup of tea.

"Your old man sure took a lot of pictures..." She sighed as she flipped through the photos.

"Ya, I think he was just trying to distract himself, and us. I mean he only caught the 'not so bad' moments. Oh! There are a few cute ones of us!" I returned to the table and looked through the photos with her.

There were even a few with just my Mama and Zuzu. Mama showing her makeup or flipping through fashion magazines.

.

These must-have happened when I was going for testing.

.

"Look how cute we are!" I awed at the picture of us both in the signature sailor moon pigtails.

"We look ridiculous." She spat, but there was a light blush on her face.

"So harsh." I teased as I continued to show her pictures.

.

"How are you doing?" She asked.

Zuzu to others seemed very cold and could be impatient and harsh, but she cared a lot. She could see my mood change as we looked at more pictures, especially ones that featured my mother and father.

"A little tired to tell you the truth, I don't think I've ever had to work so hard to prepare for a holiday. I am looking forward to the New Year." I admitted.

"How were new years' normally with your family."

"Well... we normally didn't get to spend New Year's Eve together. Mama and Bapu were normally working very late because New Years is super busy in Vegas...But I would always make sure I was up when then they got home... and we'd watch the sunrise together." I explained as I looked at a selfie Bapu had taken of all three of us. Bapu and I had cheesy smiles while Mama was rolling her eyes at our antics.

There would be no more sunrises together, no more goofy selfies, no more staying up for them to come home.

Zuzu handed me a tissue to wipe away my tears.

"Sorry, sorry, didn't mean to get all sappy on you." I tried to laugh it off as I used the tissue to dab my tears away.

"They were kind people." Said Zuzu as she remembered my parents well. My mother had spent a lot of time with both of us and tried to include her in our antics.

"They were the best," I confirmed as I felt a pure smile on my face which made Zuzu smile as well.

.

"So if you're not doing anything tonight, you are more than welcome to hang out with Dadaji and me. I'm gonna try and figure out to make New Years Soba noodles, and we were going to watch Lord of the Rings." I invited her.

She turned her head to the side to face away from me and explained she had plans that she couldn't get out of tonight.

"Hanging out with your boyfriend." I teased, and her face bloomed red.

"Shut up." She lightly kicked me in the side.

Zuzu seemed like an ice queen, but once you mentioned the boy she loved she would get all flustered. They very look in her eyes changed whenever I brought him up. I haven't met him yet and only knew his name. She had called him kind and accepting. Wishing he wouldn't worry about everyone else so much and take care of himself. She had also asked that I not tell anyone.

.

I hope I get to meet him soon. I bet they are so cute together.

.

She then caught the zodiac figures laying out on the porch. Approaching to get a better look.

"Why do you have two cows?" She asked as she looked between the black and white cow figurine and the brown and white painted horse figurine.

"It's a pinto horse! It's supposed to look like that." I defended my little creations.

"It looks like a toddler painted them."

"That's what I said." Said Dadaji as he emerged from his office.

"Both of you are just trying to break my heart," I whined.

.

These two grumps together are trouble.

.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Night had fallen over the estate. People were in their homes, bringing in the New Year with their loved ones.

12 members sat around in a circle, including God.

The head of the Zodiac kept looking at the empty seat beside her. Frustration coiling through her. The other Zodiac members watched her warily. Not wanting to bring down her wrath on themselves.

.

The energy was anything but what a banquet should be. Some adult Zodiac members were able to still enjoy themselves as they knocked back cups of sake. Except for the Dragon who kept a careful eye on God.

The Dog looked almost smug as he sipped sake and looked over at God. Knowing how broken she was over the Rat skipping the Banquet. How God had been the cause of the Rat running to something better.

Midnight had come and gone, but the feast continued on as it had for the past hundreds of years. A party that was to last all night.

.

The Tiger and the Rabbit were dancing around the room, performing their traditional ceremonial dance and did so with grace and precision.

While the other zodiac members enjoyed the performance, God seemed mostly annoyed. Finally throwing her cup at the wall.

"MAID!" She yelled while she viciously rang a bell. The door slid open and two young maids nervously entered led by their elder and bowed before the figure who was slouching on the floor leaning against the Ox who was seated to her left.

"Bring me Marley." She demanded as another maid rushed in to clean the mess from the thrown cup.

"Excuse me, sir?" Questioned a confused young maid.

"Sir, that is highly inappropriate. This is the Zodiac Banquet." Explained the Head Maid. Her grey hair in a tight bun and cold brown eyes staring at the unstable God.

"Did I stutter? BRING HER NOW!" God grabbed the small personal table in front of the OX by its legs and threw it towards the three women. They all ducked before rushing out.

.

She took a few deep breathes after she threw the table and readjusted her kimono leaning back into Ox.

"We'll all be together... A future filled with happiness.." Sighed God as she thought of her summer skinned friend. A small smile gracing her face that surprised the Zodiac members in the room.

For the ones who knew who was coming, worry for her well being coursed through their hearts.

.

But what could they possibly do against their God?

.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

I had finally figured out the perfect firmness for the soba noodles and sat down to eat with Dadaji to continue watching 'The Two Towers.' Midnight had passed without either of us noticing. Comfortably wearing high waisted black yoga pants and a dark forest green cropped sweatshirt, there were no plans to leave.

The White Wizard strolled down the hall as the to the controlled King Théoden, the Wormtongue whispering lies into the King's ear.

"Late is the hour in which this conjurer chooses to appear -"

Chiming at the door interrupted the magnificent scene, I could barely hear Gandalf's fork tongue line.

"Who the hell is that?" I asked Dadaji as I could already start to see him losing his temper at the interruption.

.

Furious knocking had been added to the door chimes, and I quickly rushed to the door.

A frantic maid was standing there, her light brown hair coming out its bun, huffing, and puffing as if she had just finished a race.

"Is everything okay?" I asked as I tried to figure out how to help. She looked as if she was on the run from something.

"Marley-Sama, quickly, you must come! You have been summoned."

"Summoned? By who?" I asked, and at this point, Dadaji had joined me at the door. This only caused the maid to look more flustered.

"Tetsuo-Sama! I am so sorry for the interruption" She bowed deeply.

"I need Marley-Sama to come with me." She continued as she reached out to try and grab me.

Dadaji stepped in front of me, blocking the maid.

"This is outrageous, why do you need her, It's New Years, it's past midnight. Why can't this wait till morning?"

"Master Akito has asked the Marley be brought to him." She explained.

Dadaji and I looked at each other, confused as to why?

.

Aren't they in the middle of their Banquet? What does Akito need?

.

"Now?" I asked.

"Yes, please, I'm begging you." She got down on her knees on the cold floor into a bow.

"Wait, you don't have to do that." I stepped around Dadaji and helped her up.

"Dadaji, may I go?" I asked as I looked up at him. Thinking that there must be a good reason for Akito's summons.

.

Dadaji please forgive me for skipping out... I hope nothing is wrong with Akito

.

He rubbed his temples and let out a sigh.

"Just... be careful." and to my surprise, he grabbed my shoulders and kissed my forehead.

"Come home soon. It's after curfew." He teased, and I gave him a quick hug before slipping on some boots and a coat before rushing out with the maid to the main house.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Once I arrived at the main house, my coat and shoes were taken from me, and the maid attempted to make me look presentable as she quickly tried to tidy up my hair that I had let fly free for the night.

As I was led to a specific room, an older maid was standing outside the sliding door. She eyed me up and down, slightly glaring before letting out a sigh.

The head maid of the main house had taken a dislike for me since the very moment that Akito invited me to her private quarters. Now she barely acknowledges me when I come through the doors except with small glares and an obligatory bow.

She gave me a light bow before turning around and kneeling and opening the sliding door.

"Akito- Sama. Marley-Sama has arrived."

"Well, bring her in already." I heard Akito's voice. Sounding very aggravated.

.

Is this the Banquet? Is really okay for me to attend? Maybe it's over, and Akito is just by herself.

.

The older head-maid motioned for me to come forward and I stepped through the door. And was met with various pairs of eyes. Some new and some familiar.

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Nope, defiantly not by herself... And I'm severely underdressed for such an exclusive event... This is wrong I shouldn't be here..

.

Akito rose to her feet and wrapped her arms around me.

"Thank you for coming, I'm delighted to see you." She proclaimed as she tucked a lock of loose hair behind my ear. Her face was flushed, and I looked down at the table to see a bottle of sake.

.

Has she been drinking?

.

"Is everything okay?" I asked as I looked around the room. 11 members sat around the room, some in a circle formation while other resided in the far corner.

Hiro, Kisa, and Momiji were sitting together, and they looked both shocked and worried. I caught long black hair hiding in the far corner.

.

Zuzu? She's part of the Zodiac...

.

Before I could get another good look around the room, Akito grabbed my chin, forcing me to look down at her.

"Nothing at all. The Rat decided that he could skip and I had an empty spot next to me. I wanted to include my dear friend in my New Years Banquet." She reasoned as she dragged me down to the floor where the vacant floor pillow laid. When I kneeled on the cushion, I gazed over to my right and caught familiar brown eyes.

"Kagura?" I asked, and she smiled nervously.

Akito looked around the room and spoke in a loud voice. Causing everyone in the room to bring their attention to her.

" I'm so happy that all of us are here together. I love all of you." She proclaimed. What should have been a warm statement made the atmosphere in the room cold. Her voice itself seemed so different now that she was surrounded by the Zodiac.

.

Maybe it feels strange because she's trying to seem like a man? No... It's something else in the air.

.

I wanted to go and say hello to the members, but before I could make a move, Akito had laid down her head on my lap.

She closed her eyes and looked content. I just laid my hand on top of her head and brushed her short black locks. Her breathing came to a slow rhythm as she almost appeared asleep. I locked eyes with Hatori who lightly nodded his head to say hello. He was with Shigure who waved at me and a man with long silver hair waved at me as well. I smiled and waved back.

.

Oh man What have I walked into? The Rat skipped... I wonder why? And is the Cat around here somewhere?

.

While Akito relaxed I looked over to my left, I saw a handsome young man who had to be around my own age. He was wearing black pants and a burgundy turtleneck. His ears had multiple silver piercings. He had lovely white hair, and then I noticed black roots underneath.

.

He's very cute, and he has kind, soft brown eyes. Is being good looking part of the Zodiac Curse?

.

"Hello, I'm Marley." I greeted softy, giving him a smile.

He closed his eyes and gently bowed his head to me.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, I'm Sohma Hatsuharu." He introduced himself.

.

He's so polite, and he looks like he's my age... Hatsuharu... where have I heard that name before?

.

Then it clicked as I looked over at Zuzu in the corner who was watching me.

"Ohhh, You're Isu-" I was about to say, but they both brought up a finger to their lips. Causing me to shut mine.

.

It's a secret? I know she didn't want me to say anything... who are they hiding from?

.

"Why'd you stop?" Asked Akito as she grabbed the hand that I had subconsciously pulled away.

"Oh, sorry I was just admiring the room. Has everyone already eaten?" I asked as I looked down at her.

"Yes, but I'll have something brought for you." Said Akito as she rose up

"Oh that's not -" Akito had already started ringing a bell which caused a maid to enter the room.

"Yes, Akito-Sama." Asked the young maid who had come to retrieve me as she bowed.

"Bring Marley some food from the kitchen." She said.

"Right away, sir."

"Thank you!" I called after her before she could escape out the room. She looked at little shocked before she shook her head and raced away.

The Young Maid returned with soba noodles in a hot broth with Shrimp Tempura resting on top.

.

I should have mentioned I was a vegetarian to her.. oh well.

.

"Here, Akito, you can have my shrimp." I offered to the girl.

" I'm not very hungry."

"You really should. It looks good, plus you hardly look like you eat enough. Please." I asked again as I offered out the shrimp on my chopstick. She sat up properly and pouted.

"Fine." She muttered, and I only laughed as I brought the shrimp to her face.

"Say ahhhh!"

"I'm not a -" Before she could finish, I just popped the deep-fried goodie into her mouth.

I didn't even notice the collective gasp around the room at my actions.

She chewed and swallowed.

"Your lucky were friends." She muttered before opening her mouth again to take the second piece.

"Yes, I know very lucky, here's the last piece." I teased as I fed her again.

She decided to leave my side before I tried to feed her again. Choosing to spend time with a tall, familiar gentleman with short auburn hair.

.

Kureno I believe was his name. Akito's personal assistant is also a Zodiac Member?

.

Now that Akito had left my side, Kagura had chosen to speak up.

"I didn't know that you knew about the curse?" She asked.

" I had no idea you were a member. I've known since... early summer I think." I explained thinking about the day Momiji and Hatori transformed into their respected zodiac forms.

"What do you think my form is?" She asked. I looked her over, expecting for some sort of clue and then went over the zodiac members I had already met.

.

Her impulsive nature? Loyalty? Brown hair?

.

"The dog?" I guessed which made her shake her head furiously.

"No, no, no! That's Shigure" She corrected me as she pointed to the other side of the room to the black-haired man in traditional robes.

.

Whoops... I thought he was the snake.

.

I tried to think harder. Horse? No..Not docile enough to be the cow... She's ridiculously strong for such a small girl. Then I also thought of her mood changes, and I knew that Shigure's house had needed a ton of repairs and a new TV due to when she had visited.

.

Who might be on the destructive side?

.

"Oh! The boar!" I said confidently in my answer.

She smiled and nodded.

"Yep! Good-tempered, kind-hearted, positive, and loyal." She boasted.

.

Okay, the last three sure but I think you might want to throw good-tempered out the window when it comes to Kagura.

.

"Boars are super cute Kagura. I bet your zodiac form is adorable." I complimented, which made her giggle and smile. We chatted for a bit before she said she was going to go talk with 'Rit-chan' and left my side.

Slurping more noodles before they went cold I then turned to Hatsuharu who had been observing our conversation.

I looked again at his hair.

"Is that your natural hair?" I asked before taking a sip of the broth.

He ran a hand through his locks and looked almost a tad annoyed. "Yes, it's real."

"It's beautiful," I said honestly as I admired his features. The blunt compliment shocked him as he widened his eyes a bit at me.

"You don't think it's strange."

"Not at all, I mean. I'm not really allowed to judge hair color. People have accused me of having strange unnatural hair." As I brushed a hand through my own white-blond locks.

.

"Hatsuharu do you mind if guess your zodiac?" This one is pretty obvious.

" You can call me Haru." He insisted and then said for me to take my guess.

"The cow of the zodiac?"

"I guess I'm pretty obvious." He said as he subconsciously ran a hand through his bangs.

"Well, the hair is a decent giveaway but its more than that," I explained as I put down my bowl.

"You seem to have a very gentle nature and kind eyes. Also, I love cows, so I hope you take my guess as a compliment."

He then gave me such a cute, gentle smile; it made me blush a little.

"I'm very grateful that Rin has a friend like you. She's told me a few things but now meeting you, I understand why she seems a bit...happier, she really needed to know the warmth of friendship."

.

Right, people call her Rin... and wow that was pretty cheesy. We are going to get along just fine.

.

"I'm grateful for her as well. I honestly don't think I would have made it without her. I'm glad I finally got to meet you. Zuzu loves you so much. And I promise I won't tell anyone." I said as I put my hand over my heart.

Haru bowed his head, thanking me for my secrecy. A blush adorning his cheeks at the mention of his beloved.

.

I am quickly becoming a keeper of secrets... really need to be careful about who I'm talking to about what.

.

I finished my meal and Momiji, Hiro and Kisa and wandered over to sit with Haru and me.

"Sorry about crashing your new year's party. I honestly thought something terrible had happened when that maid came and got me." I explained to them.

"I think you might be the first outsider to be invited." Scoffed Hiro as he crossed his arms. He seemed very on edge at my presence. They all seemed a bit worried but it showed on Hiro's face the most.

"Hiro!" Chastised Momiji for using the word 'Outsider.'

"No, no, outsider is defiantly the right word for me right now. Trust me I don't know what Akito's thinking either. Maybe.. too much sake."

"How did your dance go?" I asked the Rabbit and the Tiger.

"It was beautiful." Answered Haru and Momiji laughed while Kisa blushed lightly.

"I knew it would be. I bet everyone enjoyed it." I gushed, sad that I had missed it.

.

Conversation stopped as arms wrapped around Haru and Akito rested her head on his right shoulder.

"It was nice, my beloved zodiac members dancing in the new year for me. Even Kisa didn't do as badly as I expected of her." Scoffed Akito, smirking at the children.

Kisa looked a little taken back and seemed to falter into herself. Upset at Akito's tone.

"Kisa is a beautiful dancer. That wasn't a very nice thing to say." I defended the young girl. I was upset at the words. I knew Akito to be a tease but a bully?

Akito just rolled her eyes as if to say 'doubt it.'

"Kisa and Marley dance together, and it's amazing." Interjected Momiji, also jumping to the girl's aid.

"Really? I would love to see that." She scoffed as she stared at both Kisa and me.

.

She seems pissed... what the hell is up with her. I should tread carefully... but I gotta prove her wrong.

.

"You can see it," I said as I stood up and walked to Kisa's side, grabbing her hands and whispered to her.

"You are a beautiful dancer, don't let Akito tell you different...Sh- Forget him for a moment and perform for the rest of your members in a dance that you have fun doing and lets you shine." I tried to give her a pep talk.

"Only if you...do it with me. I don't want to be alone." She murmured quietly. I smiled at her and gave her hands a squeeze.

"You have me. I'll never let you be alone Honey Bee." She gave me a bright smile and wrapped her arms around my waist.

"Momiji, I entrust you to be a good DJ." I gave a thumbs up to the energetic boy, and he hopped right on over to the stereo system in the room while Kisa and I did a few quick stretches. Occupying a good empty space in the room. The remaining members in the room turned their heads to watch.

"Ready?" I asked her as put my hair up in a ponytail.

"Ready." She nodded.

"Good and remember..." I let her finish.

"Have fun and be yourself."

"You got it Honey Bee."

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Three teens sat around the table, enjoying a late lunch. Trying to keep their eyes open, staying up the enjoy the sunrise together took a lot out of them.

The Cats wish for the New Year still on his mind as he gobbled down some rice.

A sharp ping sound interrupted the silence, and the grey-haired Rat went to check his phone.

"A message from Haru?" He read aloud.

"A family member?" Asked the cheerful brunette as she looked over at her princely friend.

"Yes, he's actually part of the Zodiac. I'm sure you'll meet him soon, Honda-san." Explained Yuki as he opened the message.

.

"What does that idiot want?" Groaned the Cat, still exhausted from staying up all night.

"Idiots shouldn't be calling other people Idiots. Idiot Cat." Muttered the Rat.

"Say it again. I dare you."

"Idiot Cat"

"Why I outta-"

"Umm, is everything okay?" Asked Tohru, referring to the message that Yuki was staring at.

" Yes. Everything's fine, Honda-San. Apparently the Banquet last night was a memorable one."

Mention of the Banquet just succeeded in pissing off the Cat more. His hairs standing on edge at the mention of the party he was banned from.

"There's a video." The Rat pressed play and Tohru without realizing looked over his shoulder to watch as well.

The Cat just listened to the sound of music, cheering, and finally, laughing

"I didn't know Kisa could dance like that."

"Kisa?"

"Sorry, Kisa is the young girl. She's one of the Zodiac members. I don't think I've ever seen her that happy."

"I don't know who the other girl is..." Admitted the Rat.

" Oh! She's beautiful! I think I've I've seen her before, the hair is recognizable..."

"Where did you see her?" Asked the polite young man as he raised his brow at her.

.

Tohru got flustered when she realized she couldn't let the boys know she was at the Sohma Estate last week visiting Hatori. It was a secret.

"Ah, III..Ah! Um... I..It must have just been on the street somewhere." she half lied, waving her hands around.

Yuki pressed play again, both he and the girl wanted to watch it again. The curios cat decided he wanted to know what they were talking about. He looked over both their shoulders.

The Tiger of the Zodiac was on the right side of the screen and beside her was a tall woman in tight black pants and cropped green sweatshirt. The same girl he had seen by the dojo... was at the Banquet...

The mysterious woman turned to Kisa and bumped fists with her as music played. They each took a deep breath before jumping into a dance. Knocking on an invisible door in front of them to the beat. Then the lyrics started, and so did they.

Oh don't you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me
I said you're holding back
She said shut up and dance with me
This woman is my destiny
She said oh oh oh
Shut up and dance

They looked like they were having so much fun dancing around, in-sync with each other and the music. Carefree and up-beat. While Kisa looked undeniably happy, it was the foreigner that he couldn't keep his eyes off. She had such a cute smile and really came alive. Pure joy radiated from her, and she even appeared to be glowing.

This woman is my destiny
She said oh oh oh
Shut up and dance with me

Oh oh oh shut up dance with me
Oh oh oh shut up dance with me

As the song ended the white-blond woman ran over to Kisa and lifted her up and hugged while she swung her around. They were both laughing loudly, cheers were heard around the room. The Rabbit jumped in and grabbed the beauty by the hands and they both started swinging around, and the video ended.

.

Who the hell is she? Why was she at the Banquet? She's not a member! How can she go yet I'm still stuck on the outside!

.

Now that the video had ended and he wasn't distracted by the cute smile anymore he was furious.

All he ever wanted was to be invited to the Banquet. To be a genuine part of the family. That's why he had to defeat the Rat. His very skin felt hot as frustration pulsed through his veins.

.

I Hate THIS. I hate her. I hate her. I HATE HER.

.

The Cat's anger turned to aggressions as he punched straight through the table. Causing it to split and spill their lunch everywhere.

It's not fair... it's not fair...

.

.

.-.-.-.-. To Be Continued .-.-.-.-.-.

Chapter Text

.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

"Guess what day it is tomorrow?" Cheered Momiji as Dadaji and I settled down for some lunch.

"Um.. the 14th?" I answered, putting some vegetable pakora on Momiji's plate. He continued bouncing around the room as I also fixed a plate for Dadaji.

"WHITE DAY!" He cheered.

.

What does that mean?

.

Momiji saw that I wasn't cheering with him. I even looked to Dadaji for answers.

"Is it like... everyone wears white?" I asked, dishing myself some dal makhani and grabbed some roti.I was really excited that Momiji was excited but more importantly... I'm hungry.

Momiji laughed. "No. No, No."

I shrugged my shoulders, waiting for an explanation. Momiji was practically bouncing off the walls.

.

Whatever white day is it must be good.

.

"She's never experienced white day silly rabbit. Just tell her already." Grumbled Dadaji.

"Oh, right! Sorry."

" White day is when boys give gifts to the girls that gave them Valentines chocolates." Explained Momiji.

"Oh! That's super cute. We don't have that in the states.." Thinking back on Valentine's day. I had been in that kitchen the whole night before, dishing out cookies like I was a bakery.

.

The little blush on Hiro's face and Kisa's sweet smile when I gifted them heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies... totally worth slaving over. The little lamb looked like he would combust.

Plus I had Zuzu helping me with baking, she wanted to make homemade chocolates for Haru. I wonder what Haru is giving Her for White day? Whatever it is, I'm sure Zuzu will love it.

.

"So my gift to you and Tohru is bampbadada- A hot springs trip!" He cheered, throwing his arms up in the air. A bright, contagious smile taking up most of his face.

"That's so exciting! I've never been to a hot spring." I gushed, getting excited at the idea of the trip and meeting Tohru Honda finally.

"Can you really call it a gift if we own the hot springs?" Asked Dadaji

"We own a hot spring?" I asked. Already envisioning relaxing in a giant outdoor hot spring. Melting my worries away.

.

Damn... I still have a lot to learn about the Sohmas.

.

"Yuki and Kyo too! I'm gonna invite them too!"

"Wait... you, and those two are going to be at the hot spring?" Asked Dadaji as put down his water.

Before Momiji could even respond, Dadaji was out in the hallway and muttering about how he had to make a call.

"I can hardly wait! I'll get to finally meet Yuki and Kyo. I've been dying to meet them. I'm still so upset that they ditched New Years." I started imagining what they would be like. Haru seemed to be sad that Yuki had ditched, the Ox had revealed to me that Yuki was a very dear person to him.

"I'm excited for you to meet Tohru! You two are going to get along so well. I'm going over to Shii-Chan's house tonight to give the news. I've never been so I'm super excited!"

Momiji and I finished our lunch while he gushed about how excited he was for the hot springs.

Dadaji then came back into the room. He crossed his arms, shoving his hands into the sleeves of his dark blue kimono.

" You lot are heading to the springs tomorrow, yes?" He asked the Rabbit.

Momiji nodded.

"Marley, we're leaving in a few hours, we might as well spend an extra night. Plus I'm not leaving you unsupervized with those teenanger."

"Well, they're part of the Zodiac, right? It's not like they would be able to do anything." I joked and then felt my face flush, realizing what I insinuated.

.

Should really think before I say things

.

"I never... want to hear anything remotely suggestive come out of your mouth...ever again." Dadaji looked at me just outright horrified.

"I'm sorry!" I yelped while he jokingly batted me with a rolled-up newspaper.

"Marley-Chan! I'll save you!" Proclaimed Momiji as he jumped over me and tried to shield me from Dadaji's newspaper bat.

.

*poof*

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

I stepped out of the car and was met a magnificent sight.

"WOW! It's beautiful! I can't believe we haven't been yet." my eyes glanced over the gorgeous Inn as I carried my duffle bag.

Kagura had agreed to check in on Gimli while I was away for the next few days. She was determined to get the cat to like her. Gimli was not so happy with it.

.

Maybe they'll be friends by the time I get back. Once she figures out not to force herself too much on poor Gimli...

.

Dadaji and I approached the Inn entrance and was met by an interesting sight.

A woman with black hair in a messy updo in light green yukata was fully leaning on a wooden beam.

I rushed over to see if anything was wrong.

"Excuse me mam', Is everything alright?" I reached out to lightly grab her shoulder, pulling her into an upright position.

"Wel-" I couldn't accurately hear her, she was speaking so softly.

"Sorry I couln-." The Woman came to life and stood up straight.

.

"WELCOME TO THE INN!" The Woman screeched, and she tried to grab my shoulders

I screamed at the terrifying lady and jumped back 5 feet.

"Good to see you're doing well Okami-san." Greeted Dadaji as he put his hand on my shoulder to steady me.

"It's an honor to see you again, Tetsuo-Sama." She gave Dadaji and deep bow and then took another look at me.

"Let me introduce my granddaughter, Marley."

"It is an honor to meet you Marley-Sama. I hope you have a pleasant stay here at the Inn." Okami-San bowed her head to me, and I lightly bowed back.

"No, thank you for having us, but... are you sure you're alright?" I asked tentatively. Hand over my heart trying to will it calm down after the jump scare.

"You're a dear for worrying about little old me. I'm fine, just had to take a moment. Please follow me to your room." She insisted as she bowed and then beckoned us to walk behind her.

The hostess showed us to our rooms, giving us a suite that had sliding panels so we could separate the room.

Dadaji went to bed pretty quickly after a huge multicourse dinner provided by the Inn.

I myself couldn't wait to take a dip in the hot springs.

The open-air bath was the best thing I've ever done, my body was in heaven...

.

Momiji... Where ever you are, thank you

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

"Guten Abend!" Greeted the blond-haired Rabbit as he stepped into the Dog's home, accompanied by Tohru.

"I'm excited since this is the first time I've been to your house Shii-chan!" Cheered Momiji as he bounced around the room, taking in the new surroundings.

"Oh, There he is! And full of energy, even this late..." Admired Shigure as he smiled at the young Rabbit.

"Like this house isn't noisy enough..?" Muttered the Cat as he dried his hair with a towel.

"I bet you feel refreshed after taking a bath, huh, Kyo?!" Teased Momiji right before he got brought into a headlock by the annoyed Cat.

"Y'know.. your 24/7 cheerfulness always get on my nerves!"

"Kyo is bullying me-" Whined the Rabbit as he tried to escape.

.

"Momicchi, have you told her why you're spending the night?" Asked Shigure interrupting the two.

"Uh-huh Not yet." And Momiji squeezed out of Kyo's hold to hop over to the brunette.

"I have a question for you Tohru!"

Tohru pointed to herself and nodded.

"What's today's date?" Asked the cheerful Momiji

"umm The 13th." Answered the girl, it reminded her that tomorrow was garbage day.

"BINGO! And tomorrow is White Day! You're going to a hot spring tomorrow as a present from me!" Revealed the Rabbit as he threw his arms in the air as if throwing invisible confetti.

"What?!" The girl felt her heart jolt.

"I'm naming it 'Momiji, Marley and Tohru's relaxing steamy hot spring trip!" Declared Momiji, feeling very proud of his White Day gift to the ladies in his life.

"There's no need to name it." Sighed Shigure, eyes gazing over his newspaper.

.

"Marley-San is going as well?!" Exclaimed Tohru, she had heard so much about the girl, and after seeing her dance in the video Yuki's cousin had sent, her curiosity had risen even more. But a trip to the hot springs sounded too extravagant to the humble girl.

Tohru started to freak out over such an expensive gift while Shigure tried to calm her down.

"Yes, if you are happy I'm sure your Mutti would be happy for you Tohru! And Marley is so excited to meet you!... Unless... you don't want to go?" Momiji's face started to turn sad at the thought of his dear friend now wanting to spend time with him.

"I'd love to go. I'm so happy!"

"Yuki and Kyo are going too!" Added Momiji, not even asking the boys if they wanted to go.

"This is the first I've heard of it! Don't make decisions for me, Runt!" Hissed Kyo as he tried to catch Momiji in another headlock.

The Cat was tempted to go if only to give this Outsider a piece of his mind.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Dadaji and I lazily spent the morning lounging around the room reading.

.

Well, I was reading, Dadaji was watching TV.

.

"Would you like to take a walk through the gardens."

"Ya! that sounds nice, oh! Momiji and the other should be arriving soon." I mentioned as I slipped on some sandals and readjusted the pink yukata the Inn had provided for me.

I hooked my arm around his as we walked through the traditional garden.

"You'll be starting school next month. Are you nervous?" Dadaji asked as we walked upon some stone steps next to a koi pond.

"A little nervous, but mostly excited," I admitted

"You could continue to be homeschooled." He offered.

"No No, please, I need to be introduced back into normal society. I feel like I'm going to forget there's more to life than the Sohma Estate." I joked while being completely serious. The only time I ever really left the Estate was for dance or the supermarket.

Akito had asked me the same thing. She seemed to be the least excited for me to start school.

.

.

.

<.<.< A few weeks prior<.<.<

.

"Hey There, Mr. Grumpy Gills."

"That's such good nickname, I need to use that soon" I sighed while I watched the beloved Pixar film with my tired ebony-haired friend.

She hadn't been feeling well, so I brought over some soup and we just been enjoying each other's company surrounded by blankets as we watched children's movies.

The room was kept dark, the sunlight blocked by the paper doors. The only light coming from the TV screen. The humming of the heater in the corner accompanying the movie marathon.

She fought me for a bit saying that they were for kids only... then maybe half an hour into The Lion King we ran out of tissues and had to ask the maid to bring another box. Mufasa's death was still as painful as an adult. We had to actually pause the movie to recompose ourselves.

.

Probably wasn't the best movie choice for those with fathers who were no longer with us.

.

Akito had lost her father when she was young, but she still missed him dearly. Losing Bapu was still very fresh to me, it made me wonder if a day would go by and I wouldn't miss them.

"Who would you give it to?" She asked, still not tearing her away from the screen.

"Grumpy Gills? Well... Hatori does turn into a Seahorse" I joked which caused Akito to laugh and lean into me, clutching to my sweater.

"That.. would. be his nickname." She said between laughs. Her expressions blocked my her black locks of hair.

.

The atmosphere of the room changed somehow. Akito gripped my sweater tightly. The movie forgotten by us as she still hadn't turned her attention back to the screen.

"That Hatori... he's so cold." She sighed once she stopped laughing.

"He's not cold... Hatori is kind, he just reserved..." I thought all of the ways that Hatori had shown me who he really is. How he looks out for the zodiac members, especially Momiji. The weight he carries of having to 'erase' people memories. Holding my hand throughout testing and surgeries when my family couldn't.

"He's like winter, frozen like snow." She muttered into my shoulder.

"Did you know he can't see properly out of his left eye?" She asked as she started playing with strands of my hair.

This was new information for me.

"He fell in love" She scoffed. As if the idea of Hatori in a relationship was laughable.

.

Are any of the Zodiacs in a relationship? Besides Haru and Zuzu I can't think of anyone...and they're keeping it a secret... Oh! Kagura has a fiancé...but she still hasn't told me who...

.

"And the Woman made the mistake of trying to take him away...and he injured his eye in the process. It was that Woman's fault." Akito muttered angrily as she started to pull on my hair more until I had to put my hand over hers to get her to stop.

She was curled into my side, trembling, holding on to me tightly. She seemed like a small, scared child, scared of being abandoned. I chose not to comment any more on Hatori. The topic would only upset her more.

.

Was she afraid that this Woman would take Hatori away from her? Is this part of the 'bond' she shares with the Zodiac members...

.

I just ran my hand up and down her back to calm her down. The blue fish's song of 'just keep swimming' playing in the background.

"You're leaving me too.." She muttered.

"huh? Where am I going?" I asked, confused at the statement.

"You going to attend High school, you'll meet people.. you'll get busy. You'll leave me." She whispered, and her hold on my arm tightened.

"Akito... I'm only going to school, I'll still be around, I'm only a 5-minute walk away from you. We'll still be friends." I comforted her as I started to brush her hair out of her eyes. Her dark eyes stared straight in my eyes.

"Just continue home school, you can stay here, you don't have to go to Public school.." She pleaded, it sounded more like an order than a request.

"How about this, every once in awhile, I'll skip. And we can spend the day together." I offered. Trying to give her a compromise.

"Fine." She pouted, now facing away from me, avoiding my eyes.

"Hey, I will not leave you. You're my friend, Akito. I'm not going anywhere. Pinky promise." I offered as I held out my pinky finger to her.

She looked at it then looked to me. After a moment she hooked her pinky in mine, finalizing the promise.

.

.>.>. >Present .>.>.>

.

I just got to make sure Dadaji doesn't find out about me skipping school days to hang out with Akito

.

"The uniform looks pretty cute, like a little sailor suit," I commented, thinking about the blue and white skirt and shirt combo.

"Just do me a favor... no mini-skirts."

"Yes, sir." I teased with a salute. I had already decided on the skirt that was supposed to go to my knees. I've got nothing against skirts or dresses. Mini-skirts though were just a little too much for me and my long legs.

"And remember -"

"Yes, yes, no dating until you meet the boy first. " I interrupted. My poor protective Dadaji was more nervous about me starting high school than I am. We began to walk back towards the Inn.

.

Wouldn't mind getting in some yoga before my next bath.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Today was already far too long for Kyo's liking. He already had to be stopped from giving Momiji a good thrashing, and the inn lady had called him a lascivious boy... fancy way of saying he must be a pervert.

He just didn't want to stay in a room with the damn Rat. The day was not working out in his favor.

The Cat had already had enough and stormed away to next door to what he thought was the room he would be staying in only to be met with the sound of reggae music and unusual sight.

.

No woman, no cry
No woman, no cry
Here little darlin', don't shed no tears
No woman, no cry

.

A figure was upside-down balancing on their form arms, legs in a 90-degree angle on the patio of the room. They then moved their legs so that it was in a split in the air.

The baffled Cat finally took in the figure's features and recognized the white-blonde in a long braid resting on the floor.

The Woman opened her light purple eyes and spotted the newcomer. She smiled and immediately came to a standing position and bounded over.

"Hello! Sorry I was bit caught up in my practicing my forearm stand, I'm-" She greeted him, smiling brightly and radiant eyes staring into the Cat's own orange eyes. She stood maybe an inch or two over the boy.

"MARLEY-CHAN!" Yelled the Rabbit as he wrapped the girl up in the hug, causing him to transform.

.

*poof*

.

The boy's mind was moving so fast. He had been going over his head how he would hate this girl no matter what. But...

"Momiji! Thank you so much for this trip! I never want to leave!" She joked as she held him close. The Rabbit fully nuzzling her face with his.

Momiji then moved to the top the girl's head and introduced her to Tohru.

"Tohru! It's so wonderful to finally meet you! Momiji talks about you all the time." She exclaimed with a big smile and wrapped her arms around the shorter girl.

Tohru looked a little surprised and blushed from the Woman's friendliness but hugged the girl back wearing a sincere smile of her own.

"It's very nice to meet you too, Marley-San." She expressed and both the girls came out of the hug but held each other's hands.

Marley shook her head. "Please, you can drop honorifics. Just Marley is fine." She insisted.

.

"Isn't this Inn beautiful. You're going to love the outdoor bath, I feel reborn. It'll be good to have someone else in there with me. I might have almost fallen asleep in it last night." She joked which caused Tohru to fret a the idea of someone passing out in the bath.

"Marley-Chan! This is Yuki and Kyo!" Momiji announced as he jumped down from Marley's head and hopped around in circles around the two boys.

"Ah, yes. The New Years Ditchers." She teased with a cheeky grin as she let go of Tohru's hands and went to Yuki first. Her demeanor changed a bit, and her eyes softened.

" It's nice to meet you, Yuki. I'm Marley Sohma. I was disappointed I didn't get to meet you at the Estate, but at least we're meeting now. I hope we can be friends" She gave him a soft smile, lightly took both his hands in hers and bowed her head slightly.

The Rat's face went a little flush at Marley's soft introduction and politely introduced himself. The Cat crossed his arms and scoffed.

Marley turned to him and raised her eyebrow at him. She took him in, and it only managed to make him more uncomfortable. It looked like a light went on in her head.

.

"Kyo, You're just how I imagined! I've been waiting to meet you. Your hair color is beautiful, I love it." She gushed, smiling brightly at him and holding his hands.

The Cats heart started to beat erratically. Mixed feelings whirling in his mind. The Woman in front of him was warm and inviting... and yet.

It was the same bright smile that was in the video of her dancing at the New Year's Banquet. The Banquet he couldn't go to because he was an outsider.

"I hope we can be good friends."

.

The boy went into tunnel vision, and all he saw was a person that wasn't part of the Zodiac who had been invited to the Banquet. Reminding himself of his own banishment. The Cat ripped his hands from the white-blond as if she had just burned him.

"You've got to be kidding me." Scoffed Kyo as he looked over the foreigner. She held her hands to her chest, clutching something in her hands as she looked into his eyes. As if trying to figure him out. Trying to hide the hurt in her eyes.

"Kyoooo, don't be mean." Scolded Momiji as he tried to stand up straight in his rabbit form.

The Cat didn't even hear the Rabbit. The Rat even called him an 'Idiot Cat' and he didn't respond. Locked on to the light purple eyes in front of him.

"How did you get invited to the Banquet?! Who the HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?! " He yelled at her, making her take a small step back.

The questions had been running through the banished Cat's mind for the last few months. He had been curious about the exotic girl the first time he had seen her by the dojo. Somewhat hoping to catch her again. But once he had known that she was present at the Banquet...All he felt was betrayal, his own blood would accept this foreigner before giving the Cat a chance.

She tried to say something, but the Cat cut her off. Lashing out any way he could, not thinking about what was leaving his mouth.

"You don't even look Japanese. HOW IS IT THAT YOU GOT IN?! SOME OUTSIDER LIKE you... You... YOU'RE JUST SOME FOREIGN BITCH." And as soon as he spat that out, he felt a sharp sting, the force of the blow causing him to turn to his right. Then a strong hand grabbed him by the front of his T-Shirt.

.

"Dadaji!" Yelled the foreign girl, shocked at the man's reflexes, trying to figure out where he even came from.

The room was at a standstill. Kyo was now forced to face one of the most influential members in his family, and Tetsuo-Sama was pissed.

"You want to try again. Cat?" The Elder emphasized the last word and shook the boy's form. He might have been considered old, but his 6-foot figure was going strong. And the boy had made his precious granddaughter upset.

Kyo remained silent as he stared into the Elder's eyes. Gritting his teeth, too stubborn and hurt to back down.

"Dadaji... it's fine" Choked out the insulted Woman. Not wanting to be in this situation any longer. A delicate hand wrapped around her Grandfathers' arm the was holding the teenage boy by his red t-shirt.

"It's not fine, he disrespect-"

"it doesn't matter...He's ...right.. just let him go." She pleaded and even tried to smile, to hide the hurt she felt from the harsh words. The rest of the room had nothing to say. Yuki and Tohru stood together at the other side of the room. The Rat glaring at the Cat. Tohru just had her hands over mouth, in shock of the quick turn of events. Momiji had jumped back into Marley's arms, trying to offer some comfort.

Marley really had been looking forward to meeting Kyo. She had no idea that he would hate her so quickly.

.

Tetsuo let out a huff and threw the boy to the side. Telling him to scram. Kyo gave one last glare to the Elder before moving his eyes to the Woman he had yelled at. Her face turned towards the ground, but he could see Momiji wiping away tears with his paws.

His head was starting to clear. Rewinding the cruel words that had said in his mind. The heartbroken look on her face. The Cat felt his heart clench, he had let his anger get the best of him and left the room before he could cause any more damage.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Everyone had departed my room not long after the... confrontation. Yuki apologized for his cousin's behavior. Tohru had tried to offer a kind smile which I had to reciprocate, but I'm sure it came off as a little strained. Momiji only left once Dadaji had shooed him out the door.

.

Kyo was right though... it wasn't fair that I had gotten to go to the Banquet when he was not allowed simply because of an old folk tale... I need to apologize to him

.

"Don't you dare."

"Eep"

"That guilty look on your face says it all, you're thinking of apologizing to that temperamental child." Scoffed Dadaji, flipping through his newspaper, still on edge from earlier.

"Child? We're like.. same age..." I muttered as I got together some bath stuff. I wanted to try relaxing before dinner. The nerves in my body felt like they been tightly wound.

"I consider you a child as well." He confirmed.

There was a knock at the door, and Dadaji just yelled to 'come in.' The door slid open, and big brown eyes looked in.

" I was about to go for a bath and was wondering if you wanted to join me Marley-San." Greeted Tohru as she peeked her head in.

"Just Marley, please. I'd love to join, just one moment." I said as I removed my necklace and laid it down on the table.

"See you in a bit Dadaji." I kissed his cheek, and before he could swat me away in embarrassment, I was out the door with Tohru.

.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Tohru had relaxed fully into the open-air bath, holding a plastic bag with a picture frame inside. I put my hair up into a tight top bun to keep it out of the hot water. I used the hose to quickly wash off any dirt before I could go into the bath.

"This is my first time at an open-air hot spring. What do you think, Mom?" Gushed Tohru as she enjoyed the water.

"Oh? Is that a photo of your mother?" I asked, looking over at her from my little stool, running water from the hose down my back.

"Yes... She passed away last year. I wanted her to enjoy the hot spring soo..." she smiled at the photo in her hands softly.

.

She is a literal angel in human form... Mama hated hot tubs so I don't imagine she would have enjoyed this.

.

Slipping off my towel, I slowly slid into the hot relaxing springs. My body had been craving this all day. Especially after the incident between the Kyo and I.

.

I'm guessing we won't be friends, but I should try to apologize and explain myself. If he'll even hear me out.

.

"You have such a lovely figure Marley." Complimented Tohru as I stepped into the water.

My face went a little pink, and I thanked her before finding a place to sit. I looked over at Tohru and saw she was staring at my chest. She went bright red when I caught her and apologized.

"It's fine, I would probably stare too." I joked as I brought my hand to my chest, tracing my fingers along the long white 6-inch scar that started just above my breasts and ran straight down the center towards my belly button. It made me a little self conscious.. but it could be worse.

"May I ask?... If it's not too much to talk about! I'm sorry... I shouldn't have stared." Tohru became flustered. I only laughed at her antics. Hopefully, she wouldn't fret too much once I told her.

.

Tohru seems the type to be worried if I did as little as sneeze

.

"It's fine, I don't mind... I had a heart condition called cardiomyopathy, it got pretty bad, and eventually, I needed a heart transplant. It's healed pretty nicely, but there will probably always be a scar. I'm honestly just lucky we were able to get a heart in time." I said as I gave Tohru a smile. Trying not to think of the cruel joke of the whole situation.

.

My parents worried that I was going to die before them... we hadn't even thought about what would happen to me if they were to die.

.

Momiji's voice then rang clear over the open-air baths as he called from the other side of the wooden fence.

"MARLEY! TOHRU! Are you guys, okay?" Yelled the blond bunny boy.

Tohru and I just laughed and smiled at each other before calling back to the boy.

"MARLEYY! Let's sing something! Then it'll be like we're all together!" Cheered Momiji, I could hear the splashes he was most likely making.

"The last thing I want to hear is you singing." Yelled Dadaji at the Rabbit causing him to whine. I couldn't help but giggle at their antics.

.

Ever since Momiji caught me singing in the kitchen, he's been eager for me to sing again... Even Dadaji had enjoyed hearing me sing..

.

"What kind of music did your mother like?" I asked Tohru as I looked at the photo in her hands. A beautiful redhead with a short bob- haircut was giving a bright smile.

"oh.. um...she liked to listen to a lot of ... what were they.." She then started to hum a song, and I knew exactly what it was. The classic band seemed to be popular in Japan.

.

But who doesn't love Queen is the real question.

.

I cleared my throat and closed my eyes. Thinking how far I've come from that hospital bed, I was lying in just last year, wishing for it all to end. How, without the support of my family, I would have never been freed from the prison I had made myself. My fingers traced my scar subconsciously.

.

It's almost been a year since you left me, I hope I can move forward, though I know you'll always be with me, Mama, Bapu.

.

One more deep breath and then I let the music flow.

"I want to break free
I want to break free
I want to break free from your lies
You're so self satisfied I don't need you
I've got to break free
God knows God knows I want to break free"

.

I heard the movement of plastic and peeked an eye open to see the Tohru had subconsciously held her photo closer. The two orphans who had been brought in by the Sohma. We couldn't look any different if we tried, but there's something that seems so familiar, maybe we have more in common than. Little did I know that the brunette was thinking the same.

.

She feels like family somehow.

.

Okami-san entered the bath as I was singing, and I nodded my head at her in a greeting as she stepped into the spring to join us. Giving both of us a smile as she settled in. Momiji had joined in from the other side, being an English speaker himself he was able to pick up on the lyrics.

.

"But life still goes on
I can't get used to living without, living without
Living without you by my side
I don't want to live alone, hey
God knows, got to make it on my own"

I then heard the commotion of my Dadaji trying to stop Momiji from swimming in the pool. Even Kyo yelled at the boy before Dadaji told Kyo to be quiet. Things must be a little awkward over there. Hopefully, Dadaji could forgive Kyo soon. My grumpy Dadaji showing his protective side was sweet, but definitely a little scary.

.

I'm happy that I'm not on my own. I've got good people to get me through.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

.

There was still sometime before dinner, and I had chosen to sit outside on a stone bench with Stephen King's 'The Shining.' The warm glow of the outdoor lamp, adding to the ambiance. My goal was to finish it by the end of the trip.

My eyes scanning over the pages as I got lost in the suspenseful tale. My eyes and imagination caught by a certain line.

.

"Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just going to bash your brains in."

.

A hand grabbed my shoulder and let out a scream and threw my book at the attacker. I moved as far away as I could in my pink yukata, then turned to take a look at who had scared me.

"Kyo?" A bright red mark was on his nose, and my book laid on the ground... oh no.

The orange-haired teenager swiftly turned around and started walking back towards the Inn.

.

No! No, no ,no! How did I make this worse?!

.

"Wait! Please!" I called out, running to catch up to him...Except... Yukatas definitely weren't made for running. In my haste to grab him before he left I tripped and wrapped my arms around him.

.

*poof*

.

Smoke engulfed our figures .

"Are you serious?!" Hissed the orange Cat, his back arched as he hissed at me. I was covering my face in embarrassment.

.

I made it worse...

.

I knelt down on my knees and brought my forehead to the cold ground.

"I'm sorry! I am so sorry about everything! I never meant to hurt you.. I know I shouldn't have been at the Banquet and it caught me so off guard... I know it was wrong of me and I'm sorry... I'm sorry.. I'm sorry." I kept repeating, tears building up.

.

I can't be upset with him for not wanting to be my friend, to him I'm probably a horrible person who just busted into the Banquet...

.

"Oi."

I lifted my head and was at eye level with Kyo's cat form. I triped to wip away the tears that had escaped.

"You don't need to apologize... and please stop crying... The brat told me what went down at New Year's..." He had his cat ears folded down and was looking away from me.

"I... I'm still working on... stuff. So sometimes I lose control and I just... I dunno, look I need more training and .. I shouldn't have said those things."

He took a deep breath as if getting ready to jump off a cliff ."I'm sorry."

.

This is really hard for him

.

"And look... if you don't wanna see my face anymore or whatever, I can take a few books to the face. I deserve it... you're not... I'm sorry I said those things" He huffed, tail swishing back and forth, his gaze switching back and forth between the ground and me.

I was in awe of his shyness and complete awkwardness that seemed to really move something in me. I've only known him for a couple hours and yet I've seen so many different sides.

A giggle left my lips, then the giggle erupted into a laugh. Laughing off all the stress and sadness that Kyo had caused earlier in the day. The bath was relaxing, but this is what I needed.

"What are you laughing at?"

"Sorry- - its - just-" He could barely understand me through my laughter.

"Your a weird one aren't you" He muttered, not sure if that was meant for my ears or not.

.

I want to know more about him.

.

"I do want to see your face!" I fought through my laughing fit, not wanting him to think I was laughing at him.

"HUH?" Can Cat's blush? Because Kyo's entire body looked redder than it had a second ago.

"Ever since I learned about the Zodiac members, I've been waiting to meet you. I only recently heard the Zodiac story and I completely just... the Cat in the story is really caught my attention. I love them. It's tough being an outsider...My heart felt like it had stopped when I heard of the Cat's fate... All I want to be is there for you, to be your friend if you'll have me." I finished as I placed my hand over my heart and smiled at the baffled orange cat.

.

*poof*

.

Smoke rose again out of nowhere, and I quickly covered my eyes.

I heard the shuffling of clothes and incoherent muttering. Some of what Kyo was saying came through.

"What is wrong with you girls? Damn year of the cat fans," He muttered to himself.

"You can open your eyes now." He huffed, and when I opened my eyes to a hand in my face. My eyes also gazed over the red and white beaded bracelet he wore.

.

He doesn't seem the type to wear jewelry. Maybe it's sentimental?

.

"Come on, weirdo. Dinner should be soon." He said in a still slightly agitated voice, but as I looked at his face, he just seemed to be embarrassed.

I placed my hand in his, and he lifted me to my feet easily. Recalling the callused hands from when I first held onto them in the Inn. Now I was able to notice the gentleness to them.

We walked side by side, back to the Inn. I couldn't help but sneak glances at his features.

.

It filled my heart with joy that we were able to work this out. He was just upset and lashed out. It might have not been a perfect first impression on either of our parts... but now I'm just happy that we can move on...

.

"Alright, what is it?" He sighed.

" I was just thinking, how sad I would be if I didn't get to be friends with you, I'd be missing out on seeing your handsome face more often," I confessed. Giving him a genuine smile. This wasn't teasing, it was just an honest compliment.

His face exploded into a bright red color, and he stormed off towards the Inn. I could only laugh at the reaction, my own cheeks turning a little pink.

.

I only speak the truth. After all, orange is my favorite color.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.- To Be Continued .-.-.-.-.-.-

Chapter Text

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

The house was quiet as it had been all day. An evening breeze swept through an open kitchen window. Spring was finally here and school started tomorrow. The light sounds of Bob Marley played from the stereo on the lowest setting if only to have some sort of background noise.

Dadaji stood behind me as I cleaned my parents alter in our home. I wiped away the dust from the frame and placed it back down.

The photo had my parents relaxing on a blue picnic blanket surrounded by greenery, Mama leaning her back into Bapu's chest and he had his arms wrapped around her waist, their fingers intertwined. Their smiles directed at me as I had taken the picture.

The national park was a 2-hour drive away from the city, but we always tried to make an effort to pack up a picnic once a month and head out. The long journey was filled with cheesy car games and Bapu and I singing along to the radio while Mama rolled her eyes at our antics. But she couldn't hide her little smile from us even if she tried.

It seemed like the best picture for them. The two had been so deep in love, they were always together.

.

It's almost poetic I guess that they would leave together... as in life in death.

.

Shaking my head of the sad thoughts, I continued cleaning the area. I placed two cups of tea beside the picture while Dadaji placed down a vase of fresh flowers.

For the final touch, I put down the offering of their favorite treat. A giant sticky cinnamon bun. The smell bringing back memories of making them fresh with Bapu.

.

Mama never could finish one by herself, that's what Bapu was for she had said.

.

"The first year is the hardest." My Dadaji tried to console me, and I'm sure he was trying to make himself feel better. It was weird, I would sometimes still turn and expect them to be there, and there are still so many things I wish I could ask them but...

" It is... I'm just lucky I don't have to be alone for the hard times." I looked for the silver lining in the horrible situation... but somedays it is harder to see than others. There was nothing left to say as we just contemplated in front of the altar. Keeping our prayers to ourselves.

.

Dadaji has barely talked about Bapu since the accident, I hope he's not bottling anything up because he's worried about upsetting me... I would like to talk about-

.

"HEY! My mom forgot to go to the store. She needs a cup of milk." Called a voice as they slid open the door and walked into our home.

"Evening Hiro." I greeted as I got up off the floor, quickly wiped my eyes and left the alter, I could hear my Dadaji grumbling about the 'damn open door policy.'

" Did you want to stay for a quick snack, I've got fresh cinnamon buns." I offered the boy as I ran my hand through his hair.

"Did you make them?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.

I nodded, and he decided that my baking was good enough to risk a cavity.

Drizzling some icing on the two warm cinnamon buns, I then brought them out to the table to enjoy with Hiro.

"Your eyes are red? What are you crying about this time? Watching that show again." He smirked as he bit into the pastry.

.

"The Fab 5 are saving America one drab household at a time! You leave them out of this." I whined as I defended my latest favorite Netflix show.

"Whatever you say." Looking smug as if he hadn't been intrigued by the series himself.

"Actually, it's the anniversary of my parents' death, we just cleaned their altar. I guess I got a little emotional." I sighed, wishing I wasn't such a crybaby.

Hiro immediately turned away from me and clenched his fist. Embarrassed at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

"I'll be right back, I wanna show you something cool." And I disappeared upstairs to grab something.

.

Hiro might get a kick out of this.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Marley came back into the living room with the disc and popped into the DVD player.

The screen lit up, and she picked a selection on the screen. Hiro was still quiet, afraid to say anything else.

Purple lights lit up the stage, and two long white silks fell from the top of the ceiling. A beautiful woman with her dark hair in a styled bun walked onto the stage, walking saucily on her tiptoes wearing a sparkly black leotard. The shape of her face and smile was almost identical to Marley. The woman winked at the audience as she came up to the silks. Cheers were heard from the crowd.

A voice called out something in English, Hiro couldn't understand, but he assumed it was an introduction of the woman on stage.

"That's my Mama." The excited white-blond woman pointed out to Hiro, who was lost as to what Marley was showing him.

Music started to play, and Marley's mother began to wrap herself up in the silks, hoisting herself up towards the ceiling. The jazz band accompanying her perfectly. A song played that Hiro could vaguely recognize but not name.

.

I put a spell on you
Because you're mine

You better stop the things you do
I tell ya I ain't lyin'
I ain't lyin

.

With the silks Marley's mother performed flips, tricks, and splits. All syncing up the music, captivating the audience.

"Wow.." Hiro's eyes widened at the act.

"I know, right. I actually found a gymnastics club not too far from here. I wanna get back into my aerial silks. Hopefully, I still remember what Mama taught me." Marley gushed, getting more excited the more she watched her mother amaze the crowd and her friend.

"You can do that?" Asked Hiro as he looked back and forth between the screen and his excitable friend.

"Well, I'm not as polished as my Mama, she was amazing, but I'm not half bad." She gave the boy a big grin, proud of what her mother had taught while she was still around.

"Maybe I'll get to show you one day, it would be nice to share with my friends." She thought out loud. This caused the Sheep to go a little pink and turn away bashfully. His friend continued to surprise him with hidden talents, and she always looked beautiful and happy when she shared her passions.

"Whatever."

Hiro could feel his face heat up and crossed his arms to try and hide it from the older girl. Marley wasn't even aware of how she was quickly able to fluster the Ram.

.

The two finished their sweet snack, and Marley disappeared into the kitchen to grab Hiro a container for the milk and some cinnamon buns to share with his family.

Packages in hand Marley headed towards the door but was stopped by a voice.

"Look... I know... we never met or anything but...the Old man looks after her pretty well... and the Rabbit and Kisa makes her smile a lot..I'm sure Rin would hurt anybody who tries to hurt Marley... I... sometimes try to help but I say the wrong things, but I promise I'll help look after her too."

She peeked around the corner, and there was clever, precocious Hiro talking to the photo of her dear departed parents. He finished speaking and lightly bowed to the altar.

Marley couldn't help but smile to herself and place a hand to her heart. She knew Hiro was seen as a bit of a sarcastic brat, but Marley knew that Kisa and herself got to see the sweet, shy and over-protective Hiro that few got to. Marley couldn't help but feel blessed to have Hiro in her life.

He was the first to chase away any pervert that was bothering her when the two were out in public. Outsmarting them and making them feel ashamed for even thinking they could 'ask her out for a drink.'

"Here you go, text me when you get home... I want to know you get back safely." She requested as she handed him the containers.

"I only live a few minutes away!" He whined, not liking that she was treating him like a child.

"I know, but either you text or I walk you myself" She threatens as she raised her eyebrow at the boy.

"fine." He pouted as he walked out the door, rushing home before he could be embarrassed more by his friend.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Cherry blossoms fell around the school grounds, painting a beautiful picture that I've definitely seen in an anime before.

Momiji and Haru had to go to the opening ceremony for the first-year students. Dadaji and I, on the other hand, had to go to the office to complete some paperwork. I probably could have gone on my own, but Dadaji insisted on accompanying me to my first day. Akito wanted to come, but I'm not sure if she made it.

"Have you got your bag?" Asked Dadaji as we stood in the hallway outside the office.

"Check."

"Notebooks?"

"Check.

"Phone? Wallet? Calculator?"

"Check, Dadaji, It's fine I have everything, its only for a few hours." I laughed as I tried to get him to relax a little.

"Do you have snacks? It's good to have snacks on hand."

"Dadaji, go home. I'll see you after school." I kissed him on the cheek and sent him off. He let out a huff and marched away from me, heading outside to the chauffeur waiting for him.

.

He's acting like he's seeing me off for college or something.

.

I wandered the halls, kind of killing time while also looking for class 2-D. Catching looks of anybody I passed.

.

Hopefully, they'll get used to me and stop gawking by next week... it took about a week at the Estate for people to stop viewing me like some tourist attraction

.

While lost in my thoughts I came upon an... interesting sight.

A gaggle of girls were calling out their names and adding their horoscope signs and their hobbies.

"What in the world?" I asked myself, and then I caught the object of the girls' affection.

"Yuki!" I called as walked over to the good-looking boy. This caused the girls to stop their yelling and take me in. A tall, brown girl with my hair long hair was bound to catch some stares. But these girls were giving me death glares.

I towered over the girls in the crowd by inches as I walked through them to get to the boy.

"It's good to see you again." I greeted the grey-haired boy. He politely smiled, but I could see the exhaustion behind his smile.

.

Must be tiring being the target of affection, especially if you have to be careful of the opposite sex hugging you

.

"How about you show me around," I suggested as I grabbed his hand and quickly led him up the stairwell to escape the crowd. Hoping the girls wouldn't run after us.

When we were far enough, I slowed down from my speed walk. Yuki let out a big exhale when we were in the clear.

"Thank you Marley-san, I think you might have saved me." He bowed his head slightly to me. His shoulders looked like they relaxed a bit.

.

What will it take to get him to call my name without the honorifics?

.

"My pleasure, happy to be of assistance." I saluted him with a small smile. He smiled at the gesture and shook his head, mentioning he wanted to check on Haru and Momiji we continued up the stairs.

"Does that happen a lot?" I asked as we continued to ascend the stairs.

"..."

"That bad, huh?"

"Today was a bit much, they'll calm down eventually." He sounded like he was trying to convince himself.

As we took a turn up another flight, we were met with a little family reunion.

"Sheesh. I can't believe you're wearing that, Momiji." Sighed Yuki, already exhausted by his fangirls, he now had to deal with his cousins.

"Ya, it's not fair that you look better in the girls uniform than I do." I pouted as I walked over to the boy, readjusting his hat. He smiled and then denied the statement while grabbing onto a pleat of my skirt.

Haru floated over to Yuki and grasped as his shirt. The Ox looked very happy to see him.

.

Haru's so cute. Although I wonder if Zuzu would get jealous is she saw how Haru hangs off of Yuki.

.

"That goes for you too, Haru." Sighed Yuki as he looked over Haru's many necklaces.

"Kyo, Tohru, it's good to see you again." I greeted as I grabbed Tohru's hands and smiled at both of them. Kyo just mumbled a 'hey' and looked away.

"Marley! I'm happy you're here! What class are you in?" Asked the friendly brunette as she squeezed my hands lightly.

"2-D."

"That's our class! I'm so happy we'll all be together this year." She smiled, her infectious energy getting me more excited about the upcoming school year.

"Thank goodness, I was kind of worried I would be alone," I admitted. While I had been looking forward to school, I also had nightmares of eating a sad lunch alone in the girls' washroom or something along those lines.

"Hey, listen! I was told to dial it down at school, So I don't crash into girls at school. So I've decided to play it cool at school." Announced Momiji as he put his hands on hips, looking very proud.

"COOL!? You call 'this' playing it cool?!" Yelled Kyo at the small boy, gesturing to the blond boy's sailor uniform, his hair standing on end.

"That's absolutely correct Kyo Sohma of class 2-D, although that orange hair of yours is an eyesore -"

"No it's not" I countered while lightly pouting, not understanding why anyone would call Kyo's hair 'an eyesore,' but only Kyo heard me, he only smirked and mumbled his reply, a light blush adorning his cheeks.

"Whatever you say weirdo" Re-using the same nickname he called me at the Inn.

.

But coming from him, it somehow feels endearing...

.

"But a boy wearing a girls uniform is an act of unprecedented shamelessness! Brazen even! The teachers may allow it, but I will not."

I glanced over at the rude intruder. A lanky brown-haired student with glasses was standing in some sort of superhero pose. He had two girl lackeys by his side as he introduced himself as the "Commander of the School Defense Force'.

.

High school is bound to be very interesting if this is an example of the people attending

.

I couldn't help but giggle at the grand entrance. The others around me in shock while Yuki just shook his head.

The 'Commander' then targeted Hatsuharu for his white hair and jewelry. Haru barely acknowledges the loudmouth and proceeded to drape his arm over Yuki's shoulder.

The loudmouth continued to ask how Hatsuharu could possibly have natural white with black roots, and I was only reminded that I had yet to see Haru in his Zodiac form.

.

One might have to orchestrate an accidental hug to see it...

.

I whispered in Tohru's ear while the President continued yelling at poor Hatsuharu.

"Do you think if we told him it's because he the cow he'd believe it?" I joked, and Tohru couldn't help but laugh with me at the ridiculousness of the situation.

Then the annoyance turned his attention to Momiji.

"And what are you supposed to be? Don't tell me that that's your natural attire Momiji Sohma?! Don't you have any pride as a man?!"

The Rabbit started to tear up, choking up, and tried to defend himself. I immediately placed myself between my dear friend and the senior student.

"That's enough! The school said they were fine with it, why can't you be?" I spat at him, frustrated that he was going on about something that had been okayed by the teachers.

.

Take a breath Marley... he's not worth a slap... even though he deserves it.

.

" It's unfair to the other students! And are you going to try and tell me that that's your natural hair color Marley Sohma of class 2-D. Just because you're a foreigner doesn't mean you should be able to get away with -

Before the 'Commander' could continue his sentence, a figure pushed him away and stood in front of me.

"How about you back off" Sneered Kyo causing the bully to take a step back.

.

Looks like someone still feels guilt about using some 'choice' words at the hot springs... He should know that I don't hold it against him... this bully, on the other hand, is just as ass

.

"I am merely expressing an opinion in accordance with common sense." Continued the annoying man, I caught him readjusting his glasses as I looked over Kyo's shoulder.

"Shut Up." The command caused a cold chill to run up the bully's back.

.

I don't recognize that voice...

.

"Quit acting like you're the king of the mountain, your giving me a headache... you human trash." Continued the new voice.

Kyo grabbed me by the arm and moved me to the side just as the 'Commander' fell backward to the ground. Haru was standing tall, hands stuffed in pockets but it didn't look like the calm, mellow Haru I had come to known. This Hatsuharu was exuding a whole other kind of energy, a very intimidating one to say the least.

"Oi Haru-"

"All right King answer me this If I wear a tie, does that mean I won't rob you? If my ears weren't pierced I wouldn't bully anybody, is that right?" 'Haru' started going off as she stomped over to the fallen 'commander.'

"If I have black hair, it guarantees I won't murder people?!"

The figure I knew as the polite, charming Hatsuharu had now lifted him by his collar.

"Who the hell do you think you are? God?! Huh?!" The deeper voiced Haru doppelganger shook the limp body back and forth.

.

What the hell is going on? Does Hatsuharu have a twin I don't know about?!

.

"Well ain't that something! Give us a few words, GOD! Go on!"

.

I think the 'Commander' might need a visit to the nurse after this... maybe someone should step in

.

"Knock it off! He's not a fighter." Kyo tried to stop 'Haru' from hurting the boy more and at Haru dropped the body only to turn around and get into Kyo's face.

"Cram it you stupid cat! Keep your whiskers out of this!"

"Don't call me stupid! I'll knock you into next week, damn brat!" Yelled Kyo as he gave 'Haru's' fighter spirit right back.

While they argued, Yuki and Tohru explained what was going on.

"sooo Haru has a split personality?" I concluded as I watched the Cat and Ox go back and forth.

"Not exactly... this only comes out when he pissed, we call it his darker half." Explained Yuki as he ran a hand through his hair, looking like he was ready for a nap.

"Would you like a lollipop Marley-Chan?" Asked Momiji as he handed me a cherry flavored candy.

"Thanks, Momiji." I accepted the sweet treat and popped into my mouth.

.

I really could use some popcorn to go along with this entertainment, but candy will do.

.

Dark Haru had now moved onto the 'Commander's' lackeys and explained that Momiji would grow into a handsome man and fill out the boys uniform then.

This worked as the two girls fantasized about the dreamy 'future' Momiji.

" I think your perfect the way you are Momiji." I complimented as I took out the lollipop from my mouth and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Thanks, Marley-Chan." He giggled.

The Commander then started going off again about it being unfair to the other students.

.

Maybe he secretly wants to wear the girls uniform himself... he's just jealous he wouldn't be able to pull it off

.

He finally quieted down when Hatsuharu asked him to envision Yuki in the girls uniform.

"Dreamy.." He sighed, looking to the sky, lost in his imagination.

"Haru.. if you don't quit while you're ahead I'm cutting you off!" Yuki looked seriously ticked off.

"Aww Don't be mad, it was just a figure of speech." Hushed Haru as he brought his finger up to Yuki's lips.

"Divine..." the Commander was still lost in his daydreams, and I couldn't help but giggle.

.

Yuki would look cute in a girls uniform, he does have a bit of feminine face... although I don't think he'd appreciate me saying so

.

"STOP IMAGINING IT!" He yelled, looking like he was on the edge of snapping.

The Commander joined us back on Earth and looked like he was ready to finally accept defeat, but he just had to get another word in.

"But can you prove that that's your natural hair color?!" He Yelled, bringing his attention back to Haru.

"Sure can" piped up Haru, looking very confident.

"HOH-HOH! Do you have physical evidence?! Indisputable evidence!"

Haru then started to drag the annoying boy by his tie into the boys' washroom, and the 'Commander' was no match to Haru's strength as he tried to fight him off. His school slippers squeaking against the floor as he tried to resist.

.

How is he going to prove ... OH!

.

At the realization, I blushed madly and tried to cover my face my hands. A loud scream emitted from the boys' washroom moments later.

My eyes opened as the baffled boy stepped out of the washroom and took his glasses off.

"Compelling proof indeed... the world is filled with unimaginable wonders" He muttered to himself.

Haru exited the bathroom looking very smug.

"I wonder..." The 'Commander' then looked over at me while muttering about 'proof.' Staring at my long hair for a moment then eyes traveling down.

.

Is he waiting for me to drag him into a bathroom? Someone please just strike me down

.

"... please leave already..." I pleaded as I wanted him to stop looking at me. I even tried to shield myself behind Momiji.

The Commander composed himself and gathered up his female lackeys but couldn't leave without promising that he would be back.

"YOU WIN FOR TODAY! But I'll get you all next time!" He screamed as he pointed at our group as he ran away.

"See you later, Momiji-Kun!" Squealed the two girls as they ran off with their Commander, waving at Momiji as they left.

"What did that guy want in the first place?" Asked Momiji as he looked up at me and I just let out a sigh and shrugged.

"To assert dominance?" I questioned and the both Momiji and I shrugged our shoulders insync.

"That Idiot did bring up an interesting point." Smirked Haru who then approached me and placed a hand on the wall behind me.

"He did?" I asked, still sucking on the lollipop Momiji had given me.

Haru then grabbed the stick, hanging out of my mouth and pulled it past my lips, placing it in his own mouth. Smirking as he did so. My face then went bright red.

.

What is going on now?!

.

" I wouldn't mind checking for myself if that really is your natural hair color, why don't we get out of here and go somewhere a bit more private." He flirted in a low husky voice as his free hand grabbed my chin.

"We don't have to actually embrace to-"

.

*crack*

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Within a flash Haru was on the floor, Kyo and Yuki standing above him, huffing and puffing.

"The dark side... I can't handle his dark side." Huffed out Kyo, still slumped over.

"Marley-San, are you alright?" Asked Yuki as the boys turned to look at me.

My entire face was red, and I was covering my mouth, I even had to clench my eyes shut.

"Marley-Chan? Are you okay." Asked Momiji as I felt him tug on my skirt.

.

I can't hold back anymore.

.

I burst open my mouth and laughter that could be heard from anywhere in the school left my mouth. I couldn't stop, tears started to pool in the corner of my eyes. My chest started to hurt. The Rat and the Cat sighed at my reaction while Momiji just laughed with me.

"Wha-t - Just - Happened!? " I was able to get out as I tried to calm myself. Fanning my red face with my hands.

Haru then came to and seemed to have reverted back to his mellow self.

" I'm tired for some reason..." He mumbled while rubbing his head. My laughs had now quieted down to giggles.

Tohru then came over to me and handed me a handkerchief to wipe my eyes.

"So... How did Hatsuharu prove himself?" She asked me in a soft voice.

"I'll tell you later," I promised as I dabbed my eyes and patted down my hair, fixing my hair barrette to keep hair out of my face and tugging my half-ponytail tight.

.

The school bell then went off. Signaling for us to get to class.

"We'd better head off then, I'll trust you to lead the way Tohru." I said as I hooked my arm with the kind brunette.

"Right! You can count on me...Ah! Um, can I introduce you to my friends after school?" Asked Tohru as she looked at Haru, Momiji and I.

"Your friends?! Yes, of course!" Squealed Momiji as he got excited to meet new people.

"Oh.. that's right! Yuki, Kyo, Marley? Would you stay behind a second? There's something I have to tell you." Said Momiji.

"Oh? Okay.." I said as I unhooked my arm from Tohru.

'Well, I'd better head off then." Smiled Tohru, not bothered at being left out.

"I'm sorry, Tohru." Apologized Momiji as smiled at the girl.

"It's no problem." and the kind girl headed off, leaving us standing in the empty hallway.

"What's wrong, Momiji?" I asked the young boy.

"If this ain't important, your gonna get hit." Huffed Kyo as he put his hand on hip, looking mildly annoyed.

Momiji looked at the ground softly, not looking thrilled at the news he was about to share.

.

Must be severe to make Momiji look like that

.

"I heard that... we have a visitor..." Started Momiji

The tension grew in the hallway, all of us waiting for Momiji to tell us.

"He's here. At School... Akito."

All the air seemed to be sucked out of the hallway. Kyo glared at the floor and stuffed his hands into his pocket but Yuki...

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He looks terrified...Akito... what have you done...

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I felt a bubbling of mixed emotions in my own chest. Confused at how to react. Akito had been nothing but a friend to me but... that doesn't mean she would act the same with Zodiac members...

.

She's... so possessive when it comes to them, how deep does that run... what is she capable of?

.

Yuki's eyes looked like they had glazed over. As if he was stuck somewhere and he couldn't escape.

"But... Akito said he wasn't feeling well this morning.." I tried to interject. Reminding myself to use male pronouns. Maybe Momiji heard wrong, and Akito wasn't here.

"Apparently, Akito suddenly said that he'd come along." Mentioned Hatsuharu, he was also staring at Yuki, watching his reaction.

"We didn't know either till Shigure told us right after the entrance ceremony. He said... Akito suddenly announced that he'd be coming too."

"So he probably came sometime after everyone else. We thought it would be a good idea to let you know, especially if you want to avoid him."

Yuki's head dropped, and without saying anything, he turned and left.

"What.. is he going to be okay?" I asked the three Zodiac members, looking for answers to all the questions I had.

"Akito... he is a person that Yuki fears... I don't think he would appreciate me telling you more than that." Stated Haru as he watched Yuki leave

" I don't imagine Akito would want you knowing either..." Momiji piped up, looking over at me. Kyo had nothing to say as he glared into the distance.

Nothing more was said until I finally decided to make a move, heading off in the direction Yuki had left.

.

Then I can least try to intervene or do something to help... right?

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

"... Akito-San?"

Tohru had caught a glimpse of the man walking with Marley at the Sohma Estate, but now she was seeing him up close.

"That's right... Tohru Honda-San." Replied Akito as he approached the young girl

"...! IT'S...IT'S NICE TO MEET YOU..!" Greeted the flustered Tohru as he deeply bowed to the important man. S

She couldn't believe she was meeting the really Akito, wondering what he was doing at school and was it okay for her to meet him so casually.

.

I can believe how young he is and he's as handsome as Yuki... he's also the one who nearly blinded Hatori in one eye

.

Thoughts were racing through the girl's mind as she remained in the bow, trying to figure out how to handle the situation.

A laugh brought her out of her head.

"You seem like a nice, girlish girl. I'm glad. And most of all, you're adorable." Complimented Akito as he smiled at her.

She became more flustered and started denying all the kind things he was saying.

"Don't be flustered. You're adorable. Let me introduce myself properly. I'm Akito, the head of the Sohma Family, It's a pleasure to meet you.

.

But I thought... Tetsuo-Sama was the head of the family? At least that's what Yuki said.

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"Yes! It's a pleasure to meet you too!" Tohru didn't expect him to be so gentle... the girl then recalled the image of Marley laughing beside Akito as they walked in the garden.

.

If Marley's friends with Akito then... maybe there's more to him

.

"I really hope we can be friends, and please continue taking good care of Yuki and the others." The statement felt... wrong... misplaced...he's smiling but...

.

His eyes are not smiling at all.. is this 'hostility'?

.

"Akito!" the two turned their heads and looked at Yuki, he looked frozen, hands clenched at his sides fighting some internal battle.

Akito moved his attention away from Tohru and greeted Yuki, holding out his arms, calling about how much he missed him.

"What did you do to Honda-san?" Asked Yuki, glaring at the authoritative figure.

Akito smirked slightly.

"-Why nothing.. merely introducing myself, right Tohru-San, Didn't I just introduce myself?" Akito looked to the girl in question.

"Uh, yes!" Replied Tohru, but her thoughts were still on the hostile look in Akito's eyes, and the scared look on her friends face.

Akito then got closer to Yuki and started a conversation that Tohru couldn't hear, but by the look on Yuki's face, it was anything but a friendly re-union.

Yuki eyes expressed terror, and it looked like tears were forming, this triggered Tohru into action but was distracted by the sound of running heading towards them.

.

Suddenly Akito was grabbed and was steps away from the two students.

"Akitooooo!" Cheered the White Blonde, her long locks hair flowing around her as she spun the handsome man around before coming to a stop.

" I thought you said you weren't feeling well?" She asked as she latched onto both of his hands with hers. Keeping him in place as his body swayed back and forth a bit from being swung so suddenly.

"... I was feeling better.. but ... I think... I'm going to be sick." Muttered Akito his head lolling forward onto Marley's shoulder

"Oh, no. Well, we should get you back to the house then." Decided Marley as she felt Akito's forehead and steadied his figure.

"I'll see you guys tomorrow." She waved goodbye as she hooked her arm around Akito and preceded to drag Akito away.

.

She's like a hurricane... everything happened so fast... nothing could stop her

.

Tohru looked over at Yuki, and he looked just as shocked as she did. But Tohru couldn't erase the image of the terrified look on Yuki's face. Had Marley seen it too?

Tohru looked back at the figure's walking away, and Marley turned her head over her shoulder at them. The tall girl offered them a smile, but it wasn't one Tohru had seen on the foreign girl before. It was a sad smile... one that said...' take care.'

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-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

"You're going to skip the first day? Not very responsible." Scoffed Akito as I continued to walk with her towards the car park.

"It's only a half-day, I doubt I'll miss much. Plus, I 've had enough of people staring for one day. Need to recharge." I joked as I raised my hands to the sky for a bit of stretch.

.

I hope Yuki's okay... but with Tohru there.. he couldn't be in more capable hands. There's still so much I don't know... I can at least keep Akito at a distance

.

Akito then stopped in her tracks and looked up at the school building. I followed her gaze to the window. Two glaring orange eyes stared at Akito. The look chilled me to the bone, and it wasn't even directed at me.

Akito only smirked up at the Cat before she then grabbed my hand and started dragging me away. Kyo looked a bit shocked at the action as his mouth fell open. I only offered a small wave to the boy as I was tugged away.

Shigure was standing at the car but didn't seem surprised to see me. Akito made me get into the car first, entering after me.

"Shigure, sit in the front." Ordered Akito as she closed the door after her. Once in the car, she immediately laid her head down on my lap. Akito then started tracing circles on my knee with her nail.

.

I should have just stayed home... I'm exhausted

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

The Dog and the Dragon sat out on the porch, lighting a cigarette.

"Tohru is 'ugly' apparently... according to Akito." Started Shigure as he let out a puff of smoke.

"On the car ride home... she called her the worst. You can imagine how well that sat with Marley, who was quick to defend Tohru." Shigure recalled the car ride home. Tensely waiting for Akito to snap on the foreigner.

.

"That's a rude thing to say, Tohru is beautiful, she has that classic simple beauty. I almost find myself a bit jealous" Marley had tried to deescalate the conversation

"With a pathetic girl like that... I don't need to worry...Yuki is bound to come back to me."

In the rearview mirror, Shigure could see Marley looking confused, and he could see her starting to put pieces together... even if she did, he doubted Akito would let her go from her life.

"That look on his face... that proves he can't forget me, doesn't it." Marley then looked into the rearview mirror catching Shigure's eye's, but the Dog merely shook his head and stared out the window.

.

"Unfortunately Akito has yet to understand that just as there are people who inflict pain, there are people who try to soothe the pain... I almost thought that Marley was helping to soften her, but it looks to be impossible at this point." Sighed Hatori, more worried for Marley than Yuki as Marley seemed to be deep in the wolf's den while Yuki had gained a bit of freedome.

"It may not help Akito.. but if nothing else, that gives us courage."

"But Marley gets away with so much... there are times that Akito seems different from her, I find myself jealous when I see them together." Admitted the Dog.

"If Akito is the moon... then Marley is like a sun and either Marley can help Akito glow... or will eclipse her, this has become an interesting development... I wonder if Marley can handle Akito... if she were ever to learn her true nature." The Dragon watched the Dog as he went on with his metaphor, hoping that Marley would never have to learn the hard way of Akito's cruel ways.

"Plus, there is the other thing. Tohru and Marley are so cute, you just gotta love them." Smiled Shigure, thinking of the two girls.

"That sounds criminal coming from you." Scoffed Hatori, wishing his friend could just keep his mouth shut.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

"Welcome home." Greeted Dadaji as he met me at the front door as I was slipping off my shoes.

"How was school?" He asked, clearly thinking of something else as he cleaned his reading glasses.

"Umm, oh it was pretty exciting actually... looking forward to getting to know my classmates," I answered as I rubbed the back of my head.

.

Technically not a lie, it was an exciting day... and I have yet to even meet my classmates

.

"You have a visitor." He mentioned as he pointed to the living room. I raised my eyebrow and decided to check it out. Kisa sat there looking sadly down at her glass of water.

.

Looks like someone had a rough first day of middle school.

.

"Hey Honey Bee." I greeted as I sat down beside her, giving her a small smile.

She avoided looking at me and stared out into the garden. I just sat with her patiently, knowing she was just trying to put together the words.

"I-... I'm okay... It's just the first day, right?" She said as she finally looked at me and tried to put on a smile. I brushed her hair with my hand and tucked some behind her ear.

"It's just the first day, tomorrows another day." I encouraged. She nodded and then let out a big sigh. The sweet girl then took a sip of the water.

.

Hopefully, tomorrow is kinder, but maybe today can still be saved.

.

"I've still got to go to dance. I'd be happy if you came." She was about to protest, but I cut her off.

"You don't have to dance, just watch and enjoy. I promise everyone is really nice." I said while making the motion of 'crossing my heart.'

She took a moment to think about it but before giving me a soft 'okay.' I kissed her on the top of her head and went upstairs to change. I slipped on light grey sweatpants and a yellow cropped hoodie, jogging down the stairs as I put my hair up in a high ponytail.

"Bye Dadaji, be back in a few hours!" I called through the house as I grabbed Kisa's hand and took her with me. It would be nice to introduce her to a new environment that wasn't the Estate or school.

A chance to branch out.

.

.-.-.-.-.-

.

"We'll see you tomorrow, Tohru-Kun." Called the mysterious black-haired girl as the blonde leaned on her, trying to catch her breath,

"Wh-Why is she the only one...who ain't worn out." Wheezed out Kyo as sat on the grass, exhausted from the afternoon of badminton.

"Yes... hopefully tomorrow..you can meet Marley!" Tohru brought up the mysterious girl as she tried to catch her own breathe.

"I think we should get going too..." Mentioned Haru as he patted Momiji on the head.

"Oh and Honda-San... I was worried, but it looks like he's okay... Yuki, I mean... Thank you." Said the kind-hearted boy as he smiled at Tohru.

Tohru started to deny doing anything special while Haru just laughed lightly.

.

"Oi, Haru." Called Kyo from the grass.

"Is something wrong?"

"Look, Akito looked like he was dragging the weirdo away pretty harshly." Commented the Cat, thinking about how Marley meekly waved at him as she was dragged away.

"Weirdo? You mean Marley? You're worried about her" Asked the Ox innocently. Haru could in vision cat ears pop on top of Kyo's head as he blushed.

"Let's call her!" Cheered Momiji as he brought out his phone and clicked to face time Marley.

The phone rang a few time before an unexpected face appeared on the screen.

.

"KISA! hello!" Greeted Momiji as he waved at the shy young girl. She smiled and waved back, loud, fast techno type music playing behind her.

"Dance tonight?" Asked Haru, knowing that white blonde spent most of her time at a dance studio. But he was surprised to see Kisa in the loud environment.

"Yes, she can't come to the phone right now." Answered the Tiger to the three boys. Kyo peering around Haru and Momiji curiously.

'That's okay, can you just show her on screen. Kyo's worried." Answered Haru.

"I AM NOT!" Yelled the Cat, surpassingly making the quiet girl giggle. She nodded and turned the screen towards the center of the studio where the beauty was standing with 3 other girls who looked similar in age.

.

They were all performing similar moves, but the three Zodiac members concentrated on their friend. She seemed to be pouring a heartfelt emotion into the piece, and the song sped up a bit. A beat dropped, and Kyo swore he saw the girl leap 5 feet in the air landing perfectly and continuing on.

.

Oh, baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle?
I'm losing my mind just a little
So why don't you just meet me in the middle?
In the middle, no no

.

Marley caught Kisa's eye and saw her holding her phone pointed towards her. She smiled at the familiar faces and sent a wink while continuing with the choreo.

"Wahh! Marley's so good! You're so lucky Kisa, I wanna come too!" Whined Momiji as Kisa turned the phone back around.

"Are you satisfied Kyo." Asked Haru innocently as he stared over at Kyo who was gathering his stuff to head out.

"Whatever I'm heading home." Grumbled the Cat, trying to disappear before they wanted to tease him anymore. Momiji had already caught on to his red cheeks.

"Kyo's got hearts in his eyes!" Cheered Momiji as he bounced around Kyo, tossing the phone to Haru to hold. The Ox told Kisa goodbye and to get home safely before ending the call.

" I DO NOT! SHUT UP!" Hissed Kyo as he tried to escape. But the bashful Cat couldn't help but feel relieved that the summer beauty seemed unharmed.

One can never be too careful when it came to dealing with God.

.

.-.-.- To be continued .-.-.-.-.-

Chapter Text

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.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

"I'm off!" I called through the house as I slipped on a pair of white sneakers over top my white socks.

Dadaji just grumbled from the table, flipping through his newspaper. Someone was still getting used to the idea of me being out of the house.

.

Alright, 1st day of school... take 2, don't want to be late

.

Walking along through the inner part of the estate, I headed towards the gate to meet up with Momiji and Haru. Although going forward, I might choose to walk to school once I get a better idea of the area. It's only a short 5-minute drive, so walking the distance shouldn't be too bad.

A cold breeze made me shiver and hold my pink school cardigan close to me. Trying to conserve a bit of warmth.

.

I'm looking forward to warmer weather, wearing a skirt in this cold is no fun.

.

Not paying attention to where I was walking my foot stepped on something that didn't seem like the natural stonework. I brought my gaze down, and a pile of dark purple fabric was sitting on the floor. I picked it up to inspect it better.

.

Did someone lose their laundry?

.

A pair of black flats lay a few feet away, and I got a better idea of what might have happened. But I couldn't place the clothing style with anyone I knew.

.

A Zodiac member? I hope they're okay... they can't be too far.

.

Another cold breeze came over me, and then I felt something slither up my legs and under my clothes. My heart stopped, and fear coursed through my veins.

A white reptilian head then popped out of my collar while it's gold eyes stared into my eyes. A boisterous voice left the creature, but I couldn't hear any of it. Gazing at the bringer of death, my heart felt like it was beating so fast it was going to burst out of my chest. Tears burning my eyes.

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NO NO NO NO NO NO

.

"SaSssaaSAPA!" I screamed as I tried to get away from the snake, but its body was circling my neck, I started to feel lightheaded... then everything went black.

.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Momiji glanced down at his phone, checking the time and then looked around to see if he could see his friend anywhere.

"She could have slept in?" Yawned Haru as he leaned against the black sedan. Still not fully awake.

"Then let's go get her." Decided Momiji as he marched off towards Marley's house, arms swing side to side.

"No one gets lefts behind." Cheered the energetic boy who always seemed to be on high energy no matter what time of day. Hatsuharu found himself a little jealous off all the Rabbit's energy

Haru followed his friend after telling the chauffeur that they would be back. His longer legs easily kept up with the short blond boy.

The two came across a sight they weren't expecting. In the middle of the path lay the tall exotic girl, her hair fanned across the ground with a familiar white snake slithering around her.

.

"GOOD MORNING PRECIOUS FRIENDS! It seems out sweet reunion might be tarnished. I seemed to have given the hidden princess a fright." Admitted the snake as he looked at the two youngsters.

"Marley-Chan!" Cried Momiji as he rushed to check on his friend, kneeling down and brushing the hair out of her face.

"She fainted?" Asked Haru as he looked around to see if there was anyone to help while he knelt down to see if his friend's head was injured. She didn't seem to be waking up, and they wouldn't be able to lift her without hugging her.

"I'll go grab some help!" Decided Momiji as he ran off in search of workers around the estate to help.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

I shifted around and cuddled into the warmth of my blanket. Only this blanket felt a little unfamiliar, scratchier almost. Groaning until I finally decided to open my eyes and realized I wasn't in my room... Confused at my surroundings, I was laying on a futon in a vaguely familiar place, but the lights were off so I couldn't really make anything out. Patting my body down to make sure everything was still there. Watching late-night news can have negative effects on the imagination.

.

How did I get here? And where is here? My uniform is still on, so that's a good sign.

.

The door opened and turned the light on. I winced as I covered my eyes to block out the brightness.

"Marley-Chan! You're awake! " Yelled a voice as a blur leapt to me and wrapped their arms around me.

*poof*

"Momiji? What's going on?" I asked as I held his little bunny body, lightly stroking his back.

"Momiji, I told you to be careful." Scolded Hatori as he entered the room, holding a glass of water.

"I'm sorry, but I was so worried. It was scary seeing you lying there." Confessed Momiji as he cuddled into my arms before Hatori told him to move out of his way.

"What happened?" I asked as I rubbed my head slightly, feeling a small bump. Hatori handed me the water.

"Momiji and Haru found you passed outside in the middle of the walkway. Ayame said you fainted and fell, you slightly hit your head on the pavement, but it doesn't seem to be anything serious." Explained Hatori as he knelt down and flashed a small light in my eyes. Checking my pupils and then brought out a stethoscope to check my breathing.

.

"Do you feel okay to get up?" Asked Hatori and I merely nodded as I was still trying to recollect my thoughts.

Hatori helped me get up while Momiji hopped around me, saying he'll be a cushion if I fell down. I didn't want to fall and potentially kill him, so I held onto Hatori's arm tightly. Also, I'll take any excuse I can get to hold on to the handsome doctor. He led me out of the room and into the central part of his office before sitting me down on the couch.

Then something clicked as I patted down my skirt.

"I'm late for school!" I stood up quickly only to get a dizzy rush that forced me to sit back down.

"Take it easy. You're just going to hurt yourself by rushing. It'll be fine if you miss a class or two."

"Ya! Hatori can write us a note!" Said Momiji as he hopped onto the couch beside me. Settling on my knee.

Haru and a beautiful stranger then walked through the door.

The new figure had long grey silver hair with a long fringe on his forehead and gold eyes. I vaguely remember him from the New Years Banquet, but I didn't get a chance to meet him, he had spent the entire evening with Hatori and Shigure. He was also wearing a dark purple fabric that seemed familiar... and I've seen those yellow-gold eyes before. The flashing image of the events that happened earlier raced through my mind.

.

Oh...

.

I felt my face flush and covered my cheeks. Shame coursing through my body.

.

That was not a good way to meet another member of the Zodiac. He probably hates me!

.

" I am so sorry!" I yelled as I got up suddenly, causing Momiji to hop to the ground, I bowed my head to the silver-haired stranger.

The entire room looked confused.

"You..see... I have a tremendous fear of snakes... deathly afraid, and I panicked! I am so sorry. I hope I didn't offend you!" I apologized, sincerely. Hoping that the new Zodiac member could forgive me.

The stranger then let out a loud, boisterous laugh.

"It is I who must apologize! We didn't get the pleasure of meeting at the banquet, and I've been so curious I could not hold back any longer. I am Ayame, is it a pleasure to make your acquaintance Princess! I hope our relationship can overcome this unfortunate meeting" He introduced himself in a booming voice as he got in close and grabbed my hand.

.

Princess? I defiantly wasn't expecting for the Snake Zodiac member to be loud and flamboyant..

.

His energy and word choices made me giggle as laid a small kiss to my hand.

"The pleasure is all mine, I'm Marley Sohma. May our friendship not be tarnished by my deathly fear of serpents," And I curtsied slightly, deciding to play along. I had spent years growing up alongside Vegas performers, so I had picked up a few theatrics of my own.

"I like her." Decided Ayame as he gave Hatori a thumbs up. The doctor looked like he was ready to kick us all out.

"But I am curious... did you run into anyone to make you transform?" I asked, thinking about how I found his clump of clothes outside.

"No, you see as the snake I am susceptible to low and high temperatures. When the cold hit I transformed and had to seek out a warm body. Alas, I found my salvation in you." He gave me another bow.

"That's terrible, you should be wearing a jacket in this weather at the very least." I chided Ayame. It's a miracle he transformed on Sohma property and not out in public. I took in his facial features and was reminded of someone... but I couldn't place my finger on it.

*poof*

Momiji quickly ran to the room I had been resting in to grab his uniform and change.

"We should probably head to school if you're feeling up to it." Mentioned Haru.

"That's right. You, youngsters, shouldn't be skipping. Go to enrich your minds! " Announced Ayame, flipping his hair.

"It's your fault they are late in the first place." Sighed Hatori as he massaged his forehead.

"You're right! My sincerest apologies. We will have to get together over tea my exotic beauty. Please tell Yuki that I'm thinking of him and that I await the next time we are reunited. "

.

That's it!

.

"Are you close to Yuki?" I asked, finally being able to get a word in.

"My dear baby brother, Yuki! You know him." Ayame's eyes were almost glittering once Yuki was brought up, but behind the excitement, there seemed to be.. guilt of some sorts. But in a blink, it was gone and was back to glittering excitement.

"We met recently, we're actually in the same class..." My own excitement quickly dwindled as I thought of the terrified look on Yuki's face when Akito was mentioned...

"Are you okay, Marley-Chan?" Asked Momiji as he tugged on my sleeve.

"Oh.. I was... wondering if Yuki was feeling better," I answered hesitantly as I patted Momiji's hand.

"But yes, let's have tea. Maybe if you're still around after school. My treat, since I do feel bad about screaming in your face, and I make a pretty good chai." I apologized again, hoping he wouldn't hold my fear against me.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

The students of class 2-D started to whisper amongst themselves when their history class was interrupted, and two teachers were speaking at the door. The students were curious as to what was going on.

The door remained open as their teacher returned to his desk to address the class.

"Students, we have a new student joining us, please be welcoming. You can come in now." Announced the teacher sending the students into more whispers as he called out into the hallway.

The whispers came to a halt when the tall figure stepped in. Rich brown legs stretching out from the newcomer's skirt. Her long white-blond tresses flowing behind her. Large lavender eyes gazing over all the new faces. She was a beautiful sight to behold and had the class speechless.

The figure smiled gently at the class and bowed her head slightly.

"I'm Marley Sohma, I'm looking forward to our time together, please treat me kindly." She greeted the glass, her small melodic accent coming through so slightly through her introduction.

The class then broke into questions, and the new student widened her eyes at the enthusiasm.

.

"Alright, alright we have time for a few questions." Called the teacher as he tried to settle the class and then pointed to a student who had their hand up.

"Are you related to Prince Yuki and Kyo?!" Asked a girl with shoulder-length brown hair.

"Oh um technically no, I was adopted into the Sohma family, but I suppose we would be distant cousins." She answered.

"Where are you from?" Asked a boy with black hair in a crew cut.

"Well, I was born in India, but I came to Japan from America," Marley replied, which explained her accent.

"Do you have a boyfriend?" Asked a male student as he raised his eyebrow, which caused the males around him to boo at him.

Marley only laughed and before she could say anything else the teacher was quieting down the class.

"Marley-San, please take a seat in front of Kyo-san." Asked the teacher and Marley walked over to the window and took her seat. She smiled at the orange-haired boy before sitting down. Kyo turned towards the window before anyone could see his cheeks turn pink.

The class continued on but not without everyone sneaking glances at the exotic beauty while she diligently took notes.

The lesson ended, and as soon as the teacher exited the room, the students descended onto Marley. Kyo couldn't help but notice how she tried to lean back against the window sill to try and put room between herself and the mob.

"How tall are you! You must be a model?" Asked a curious girl.

"Oh um-"

"If you're from India, why do you have blond hair?" Pointed out another

"Well, my fa-" People were cutting her off before she could answer any questions.

"Did you have pet elephants in India?"

"No" Marley bluntly put, looking a little annoyed at the question.

"Why don't you wear one of those dots on your head?" Asked a boy with shaggy brown hair, pointing to his own bare forehead.

"A Bindi? Well-"

The questions only started coming at rapid-fire, and Marley looked like she was ready to jump out the window, but she kept smiling and tried to get a word in but...

"You should join my club?"

"You wanna go to a cafe with me?"

"Why did you miss yesterday?"

"Why were you late today?"

"Why are you so dark?"

"How long have you lived in Japan?"

"Say something in Indian."

"Indian isn't actually a-" Marley tried to correct but was cut off again.

"You're Japanese is pretty good for a foreigner."

"What's your blood type?"

"Eh?" Marley was looking back and forth, between the students and had even brought up her hands to try up and put up some sort of barrier.

.

A fist slammed the desk behind her, halting the students of their questions and looking over at the offender.

"Oi! Give her some space, your mobbing her and pissing me off." Spat Kyo as he glared at the crowd.

"Hey, we're just being friendly Kyon-Kyon." Teased one of the students which caused others to join in.

"No need to get upset Kyon-Kyon." Another boy teased the orange-haired teen.

" You're pretty protective Kyon-Kyon." The students hadn't been bothered by Kyo's words and turned all their attention towards the boy instead to poke fun.

"Stop calling me Kyon-Kyon!" Yelled the agitated Cat at the group of students still surrounding them.

"meow" "meow" "meow" The Cat of the Zodiac was now surrounded by multiple cats, clinging to his shoulders and rubbing themselves against his face.

"wow! all the cats are back!"

"How cute!" Cooed a girl.

The orange-haired boy had enough and fled out of the classroom, yelling something along the line of "FORGET THIS! I'M OUT!", cats still clinging to his shoulders and head.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

I watched in amazement as Kyo raced out of the classroom, a stampede of cats following behind him. The commotion caused the student to forget about me and onto the topic of the strange scene. Apparently, this wasn't the first time the cats had appeared.

I rose from my seat to try and follow Kyo to check upon him.

.

Him being teased was sort of my fault. He was only trying to help me.

.

"Hold it right there Marley Sohma!" Two girls stood in front of me, blocking my path.

"Hello," I greeted as I just smiled at them, hoping we could get this over quickly.

"It has been brought to our attention that yesterday morning you were seen man-handling Prince Yuki in school hallways." Accused the girl in light brown pigtails.

"Man-handling?" I questioned them, raising my eyebrow. The word seemed a bit over the top.

I looked over the girls' shoulder and saw Yuki let out a big sigh and leave the classroom himself. I had wanted to check in on him as well, but I needed to apologize to Kyo first. Plus Yuki looks like he needs a moment alone.

.

This must happen a lot... he doesn't seem to appreciate the attention

.

"You better have a damn good reason for being seen alone with Prince Yuki!"

"Um well... we are family.." I responded, trying not to laugh at the nickname.

"Don't get full of yourself just because you share a last name! You really think you're something special don't you" Accused the girl on the right with brown shoulder-length hair.

.

Ugh, I'm gonna get a headache... need to get out of this...who are these girls? Well... this is worth a shot.

.

I then pointed behind the girls to the far corner of the room.

"YUKI! Don't take your shirt off in public! That's so indecent!"I gasped in shock as I brought one hand to my cheek, so I seemed flustered.

The girls rapidly turned around to check out Yuki shirtless, and I slipped out the door and into the hallway before they realized they had been tricked.

Catching some loud laughter and someone saying 'Not too bad new girl' before I closed the door behind.

.

If I were an agitated cat... where would I go? Gimli.. what would you do?

.

A lightbulb went off in my head, and I started to ascend the staircase.

.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

The ex-yankee was leaning onto her ebony-haired friend as she laughed at the sight of the Prince Yuki fanatics flipping out over being duped by the new student.

"Priceless! Things might get a little more exciting around here." Chucked Uotani, starting to compose herself, very intrigued by the new addition to the class.

"So that's Marley, huh?" She said as she wiped the tears from her eyes.

"Oh, yes! It's too bad that she didn't get to join us for badminton yesterday, but I really want you two to meet her." Gushed Tohru, excited about introducing her old friends to her new one.

"Her waves..." Uttered Hanajima as she still stared out to where the white-blonde had made her escape.

"Here comes Hana's wave report." Announced Uotani as she waited for her friend's intel.

"What about them Hana-chan?" Asked Tohru as she tilted her head slightly, curious herself.

"They're quite odd, not like the other Sohma's but still strange, familiar almost. There seems to be a clashing of some sorts...but they are very nice waves. I look forward to spending time with her and finding out more." Concluded Hanajima as she gave a small smile to her dear friend.

"She is very nice! We should all eat lunch together!" Decided Tohru as she smiled about the idea and clasped her hands together.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

"Oh, wow! You're actually here!" I felt triumphant as I scaled the ladder, reaching the top of the roof, find Kyo laying down with his cat entourage.

"What the hell!" He yelled at me as I came over to where he was and knelt down to pick up a small brown cat.

"You are soo cute! I love you!" I cuddled the cat to my face, the purring sound making me squeal even more.

Kyo just huffed and crossed his arms. A few more cats came over and crawled into my lap.

"I love you and you and you too! Awww, look at your little white booties!" I was now in full animal lover mode, almost forgetting about the reason I came here for. Lightly massaging the cat's paws as they meowed.

"Are these all your kitties?" Asked Kyo as I scratched under the chin of a black and white cat.

"NO! Look they just come out of nowhere and mob me." He complained as he tried to shrug off the cats.

"Lucky!" I must have stars in my eyes as I stared at him, jealous of his ways with cats.

"NO IT'S NOT! IT'S DAMN ANNOYING!" He yelled as he tried harder to shake a few cats off, but they just came back.

"You should come over and meet Gimli! He hisses and isn't very nice, but maybe you can help him!" I thought of my own orange and white cat who wasn't very social at all. I was the only one who could pet him.

.

Well.. he doesn't hiss at Dadaji as long as he gets treats

.

"They really like you so Gimli might give you a chance." I thought out loud... I slid out my phone from the pocket inside my shirt that I sewed in last night.

"They only do because of the curse...it's the same with the other members." Kyo just sighed, looking defeated.

"Really?! That sounds like so much fun! Wait, are you saying that if I took Kisa to a zoo that the tigers would come right up to the glass?" I realized, getting excited at the idea. This caused him to stare at me as if I had said something ridiculous.

"I guess... you're really excited about this? huh, weirdo." I only nodded and smiled while I unlocked my phone.

Opening my album, I browsed through a few pictures until picking one to show to Kyo.

.

"Look how cute he is!" I gushed at the picture of Gimli laying across my lap while I played with his paws.

Kyo looked slightly confused at the picture, tilting his head slightly.

"Are you sure he's a house cat? That might be a lion" He smirked slightly at me.

"Of course he's a house cat... although... he did grow very fast..." I mentioned while I took my back my phone and went through a few pictures, smiling softly down at the phone.

"If I can find a picture of him of a kitten... Oh, I can send you one, can I have your number?" I had now started to take pictures of the cats around me. Holding one white cat to my face, I snapped a quick selfie.

"No."

"Aw, why not." Trying not to sound too dejected over the outright 'No.'

"I don't have a phone." He bluntly put, putting an end to the conversation.

"Oh... nevermind then." Now I felt a bit awkward at asking in the first place.

"Why would I want a phone anyway...I'm tryna' get away from you people, what do you want?" He seemed annoyed at my intrusion, he looked towards the ground, his long bangs hanging over his eyes.

.

"Oh, I was just worried, and I wanted to apologize... you seem pretty agitated, and they were only teasing you because of me," I admitted

"It just pissed me off... Doesn't it bother you that people keep outright call you a foreigner or make dumbass remarks?" He asked, lifting a cat off his head onto the ground.

"It's what I am, there's no denying that. It's how people sometimes say it can kinda... bother me. But I've been called much worse so I'll take 'foreigner' any day." I joked trying to uplift the situation.

I knew what I was, it didn't mean I liked to be reminded of it at every turn. I considered this place home now, yet I'm still made to feel like an outsider. There has to be a point when my background isn't the center of attention, and people might be curious about more than just what I look like and who I am instead.

"Seemed like a lot of stupid questions and they were crowding the hell out of you." He said as he leaned back on the ground.

"It's alright, they're all just curious, people normally are." I shrugged, unbothered for the most part, asking if had an elephant as a pet was a bit out there.

"Seems annoying to me." He countered.

"It is a little annoying, but it's harmless. They'll calm down after a little bit I'm sure of it, but thank you for stepping in." I smiled gently at his figure, and he peaked an eye open to look at me before closing his eyes and muttering 'whatever.'

.

"Soo, do you have any questions?" I asked him as I continued to play with a black and white cat in my lap.

"Huh?"

"I'm sure you have some, no judgment, you can ask me anything," I promised, curious at what he might ask.

"...Your name?"

"You don't know my name?" Trying to mask my disappointment. I couldn't help but feel a little sad that Kyo couldn't remember my name after the number of times we've seen each other. Maybe he doesn't see me as a person of importance.

.

Does he really not know my name? Is THAT why he hasn't called me by it?

.

"No! Dammit... I mean.. I've never heard it before... where did it come from?" He corrected as he sat up and looked at me.

"Oh. Mama named me after Bob Marley!" I answered enthusiastically, proud of the name. My energy picked, glad he knew my name was curious about its meaning.

"What's a Bob Marley?"

"He's an artist, reggae legend Bob Marley? Three Little Birds? I Shot The Sherriff?" I explained, baffled at someone not knowing who Bob Marley was.

He just shrugged his shoulders, not having a clue to what I was saying.

I decided to grab my phone and moved to sit right beside Kyo to show him the Jamaican singer. The cat that been in my lap meowed in protest as I moved away. Kyo jumped a bit at our distance, but I just held onto his arm while I played some music and showed him a picture.

.

Don't worry about a thing
'Cause every little thing is gonna be alright
But don't worry about a thing, hey
'Cause every little thing is gonna be alright, oh

.

"Oh, yeah sounds kinda familiar... What's he saying?" He asked while he listened to the uplifting and calming music.

"This is probably his most famous song, he's just saying don't sweat the small stuff, translation: Don't worry, everything is gonna be alright." I simply explained, swaying, along with a familiar beat.

"Easier said than done..." He mumbled. I couldn't help but nod in agreement and just let the song play til the end. Both of us just enjoying the beat. I stole a few glances at him and couldn't help but notice the smallest of smiles as he enjoyed the song. His smile only making me smile more.

"Why would your Mom-"

The chime of the bell signaling the next class went off.

"C' mon, some of your cat friends have wandered off, let's get to class." I said, standing up and offering him my hand.

"They aren't my friends" Scoffed Kyo as he got up on his own and slid down the ladder, walking over to the door leading into the school with his hands in his pocket ahead of me.

.

I'll save Mama's Bob Marley story for another time if he's still interested.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Math class went by begrudgingly slow, but I tried to make the best notes I could. Math was hard in the states, and math has somehow become harder in Japan.

When the class finally ended, I let out a breath of relief, stretching my hands to the ceiling. I saw Tohru wandering over to my desk but before she could make it a few more students came over that still wanted questions answered, but the long blond-haired girl who was sitting in front of me immediately got them to leave.

The girl then turned her seat to face me.

"Thanks for that, I'm -." I was interrupted by a cheerful Tohru.

"Marley-Chan!"

"Tohru! Sorry, I didn't say hi earlier, everything felt really chaotic." I apologized to my brunette friend.

"It's no problem. It looked pretty scary there for a moment." She commented and then she gestured to a pretty dark-haired girl beside her and the blonde sitting in front of me.

"Marley-Chan, I want you to meet my friends. Saki Hanajima and Arisa Uotani." She introduced the two girls to me.

I smiled at the two girls and introduced myself.

"You have very pleasant waves, they have peculiar tendencies, but I look forward to exploring them more." Complimented Hanajima, her dark purple eyes seemed to look into my very soul, but she seemed kind enough.

"Oh... um.. Thank you." I thanked her, I don't know how I could have responded otherwise. I guess it's better than being told I have 'unpleasant' waves.

"Let's all eat lunch together." Suggested Tohru as she brought out her lunch box. Seeing everyone getting out their own lunches reminded me.

.

I knew I forgot something this morning.

.

"I'd love to. I'm not very hungry though so you guys eat without me." Insisted as they sat in the desks surrounding me to eat their own lunches.

"Are you sure, Marley-Chan? You should eat something." Tohru gave me a worried look. Her eyebrows slightly furrowed.

"Really, it's fine, I had a big breakfast." I justified until a grumble from my stomach gave me away. I felt my entire face grow hot.

"Forget your lunch?" I heard Kyo from behind me, I could imagine the small smirk on his face.

"No... maybe one of your cat friends ran off with it." I teased, which resulted in him lightly tugging on my hair, which only resulted in making me laugh at his childish antics.

"Don't be a bully, Stupid Cat. Marley-San, here. Consider it a small apology for the trouble I may have caused you." Said Yuki as he came up and gave me some melon bread.

.

Is he talking about those girls from earlier? What did they refer to him as... oh right

.

"Oh, thank you, 'Prince Yuki.'" I couldn't help myself as I took the offering, leaving a small blush on the popular boy.

"Your gonna get her in more trouble ya damn rat." Scoffed Kyo, kicking his feet up as he brought out a comic to read.

"I can keep them away without lifting a finger." Promised Hana and I could even sense some sort of 'force' field surrounding her body. Causing the two girls who had called me 'man-handler' to stay in a far corner away from our little group.

.

Hanajima seems to be one person I wouldn't want to piss off, those girls from earlier are just staring...

.

"Oh, that reminds me. Sooo who were those girls?" I asked Tohru as I opened the bread's packaging. Sniffing it before actually taking a bite into its pillowy texture.

"It started at the beginning of 1st year. Those girls decided that the Prince here was perfect, they have rules and everything. They call him the most handsome boy in school, so they have a little fan club." Arisa gave me quick information.

"You're so cute Kyo, why don't you have a club?" I asked semi-honestly, semi just wanted a reaction.

"Don't you start with me." Hissed Kyo who had now resorted to using his foot to teeter-totter my chair my back and forth causing my entire desk to move.

"Sorry, sorry!" I laughed as I tried to move his foot away from my chair.

"Aww, Kyon-Kyon's turning red." Teased Arisa

"You should really eat something Marley-San, your sounding delusional." Quipped Yuki, sending a smirk Kyo's way, adding fuel to the fire.

.

Ah, Yuki likes to tease too, he seems to be okay but what do I know?

.

Thinking back to only yesterday when Yuki seemed so distraught, I imagined Tohru must have helped him through it.

"Cram it ya damn rat!"

I couldn't help but laugh, and the girls joined me. They honestly did act like a cat and rat, it didn't seem so bad here as it did as the inn as I recalled the 'ping-pong debacle' where Kyo actually flipped an innocent table in his frustration at Yuki. The scene was outrageous, but looking back, I could only laugh at how 'passionate' Kyo got over the game.

I couldn't help but feel blessed at having these people around me. With Tohru being kind enough to introduce me to her friends who seemed like good people just added to my happiness. This school was bound to be better than the ones that came before it. Even Yuki's fan club wouldn't be able to dampen this experience. Plus, I 'd love to be able to share more music with Kyo to see what kind he enjoys. Since he doesn't have a phone, I'll just have to enjoy time with him exclusively at school.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Three teens entered their home, welcomed home by the Dog who was enjoying a cup of tea while reading his newspaper.

"We're home!" called Tohru as she slipped off her shoes and entered the home.

"Welcome home, you three!" Answered the adult of the house, though he barely acted like it.

"How was school?" He asked, folding his newspaper and placing it on the table, giving the teens his undivided attention

"It was fine. Marley-San appeared to have a good first day, despite some bumps and annoying people." Quipped Yuki as he placed down his bag.

"Bumps, annoying people?" Asked Shigure, curious at who Yuki meant.

"He's talking about his damn fangirls." Scoffed Kyo as he sat himself down on the porch and leaned back. Lounging.

"I was actually referencing you, stupid Cat." Spat Yuki which made Kyo jump right up.

"YA DAMN RAT! SAY IT TO MY FACE!"

"I just did." Yuki sighed as he made his exit, too tired to deal with his cousins any longer than he had to.

Kyo was about to run after him until Shigure piped up, Tohru entering the room to drop off some rice crackers to snack on before she disappeared to do chores.

.

"So how is Marley-Chan?" Asked Shigure.

"Why do you care?" Scoffed Kyo as he sat himself down and grabbed a cracker.

"I got a call from Aya earlier, he was apparently at fault for her being late, good to know she had a good first day anyway." He mentioned before he opened his newspaper back up and began reading.

Kyo flicked on the T.V and continued to snack on crackers. He wasn't paying that much attention to the screen as he kept looking back at Shigure. Wanting to ask something.

After a while, the Dog of the Zodiac brought down his newspaper, raising his eyebrow at the suddenly quiet teen.

"Is there something you want to ask my dear Kyonkinchi?" Asked Shigure, curious as to what the teen wanted but couldn't help but tease him a little.

Kyo clenched his fist and looked like he wanted to hit the man but took a breath and kept his hands to himself while mumbling something incoherent.

"Sorry, what was that?" Shigure was now more curious because Kyo must have really needed something if could hold himself back from blowing up.

"... I need a cell phone. Can you get one for me?" Asked Kyo through gritted teeth. The request surprised the adult.

"Did you want a girls number and realized you needed a phone to ask her out properly?" Teased Shigure as he began to outwardly laugh at the flustered Cat who, at Shigure's comment, turned bright red, yelled something and ran off, probably towards the roof to get away from the Dog's teasing.

Shigure only continued to laugh as he got up to make a call. If Kyo wanted a cell phone to text cute girls, then who was Shigure to stand in his way.

"ahh, young love." Mused Shigure as he stood in the hallway at the phone, waiting for someone to pick up on the other end.

.

.

.-.-.- To Be Continued.-.-.-.-.

Chapter Text

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

My first week of school had gone more smoothly than I had anticipated. I had become close with Tohru, Uotani, and Hanajima, spending most of my school time with them, they were even kind enough to share their lunch with me. I am apparently too scatterbrained in the mornings to remember my own. When I wasn't with the girls, students were pretty quick to descend on me and start asking questions. A rumor had even started about some sort of fan club, but I'm 99% sure it's just gossip. Whenever I felt a little overwhelmed Kyo was quick to drop in and scare people off, diverting the attention away from me.

.

Words cannot describe how grateful I am to Kyo.

.

I felt a little tired out by the end of the week, school plus 3 days a week at dance and twice a week working on aerial silks left me with today, Sunday, my truly free day. Which had been filled with helping to get wedding preparations done for a Sohma member I have never met, but apparently, it's part of my duties now. Once I had finished, Kisa had found me and asked if I had time to work on ballet with her. And how can anyone say no to Kisa? She had called me 'Onee-chan'.

"Back to 1st position... we go slowly, point foot to the front and flex and stretch, back to 1st then front and second ...relevé ... plié... head up" I instructed as I went through the exercises myself, calling out to Kisa who was copying my movements behind me. I was able to watch her positioning in the mirror. She looked like she was holding her breath.

"Breath," I instructed and let out a little giggle as the Tiger blushed while taking my instruction and tried to breathe in and out.

Kisa had been nervous in asking for more time with ballet, she knew that my schedule was pretty packed, but I promised I would always have time for her. Plus, Kisa is helping me love ballet all over again. Before I had just viewed it as foundations to help me in other activities but doing it with Kisa was enjoyable because she enjoyed learning all the new moves and her eyes would shine when she started to get something down.

.

Plus, what kind of big sister figure would I be if I denied her request to learn more, I'll have to join a ballet class myself just so I can keep myself ready to teach. Have to start researching ballet academies in the area.

.

I wanted Kisa to join a proper ballet school. There would be only so much I could teach her, and I don't want to lead her astray with my bad habits. While she had fun with hip-hop styling, she really shined when I taught her ballet. She had so much talent and love for it, but she was so shy, and her mother would never allow it. Kisa's mother proved to be very protective and barely allowed me to let Kisa tag along to my own dance workshops.

Little Kisa had accompanied me to the studio all week, with the exception being late-night dance classes. The other dancers there loved Kisa and were very kind to her. On certain days she would even join in, and people began calling her my little shadow.

"Onee-chan," Kisa called in a soft voice which made me turn and look at her. She then showed me her plie and said something felt off.

"Turn out your toes a bit more, belly in- perfect." I complimented.

Kisa still wouldn't talk to me about middle school no matter how many times I asked. So instead of pushing, I thought I would just enrich her life in other aspects. Hoping that one day she might open up. When she was ready.

We spent the next hour going over basic exercises and working on turns and chassé, repeating the process over and over diligently till Kisa was able to get a hold of it without my help. Gracefully traveling across the dance floor as if she had done this all her life. I would love to see her in full ballerina attire. When she has a proper teacher, she'll probably get proper ballet Pointe shoes. Which only reminded me that I should replace my old ones before joining a new ballet class.

"C' mon lets stretch it out and finish for today. I can almost hear the others groaning about dinner." I joked but all in all, I was excited for the group dinners that had started to happen more and more which meant more cooking on my part but seeing Kisa, Hiro, Dadaji, Hatori, Momiji around the room eating as a big family became a favorite part of my week. My heart just bursts with love and appreciation for the Sohma family.

Sometimes even Haru and Zuzu would join us when they weren't busy gazing into eachother eyes.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Entering the classroom took a while as many students in the hall greeted me and asked me about my weekend, but I was finally able to make it to class 2-D with time before the bell rang. I noticed my friend looked grumpier than usual this morning.

"You look beat? Are you alright?" I asked Kyo as I stood beside his desk. I looked over his face that looked more annoyed than usual, his body slumped over his desk.

"NO, I'm not alright, that damn snake spent the entire weekend, and he doesn't seem to want to leave." He groaned into his hands.

"Oh? Ayame's over-"

"Good morning, Marley." Called a student, interrupting my conversation with Kyo.

"Good morning, how was your weekend?" I asked being polite to the class vice president. She seemed surprised I was even asking. A small smile gracing her face.

"Good, my family went cherry blossom viewing." She shared, smiling at the memory.

" That's wonderful, some friends and I had a picnic along the river before the new school year started, it was beautiful, excited to see blossoms in full bloom next year." I gushed thinking about the picturesque sight. The girl agreed and moved to her own desk.

"Who did you go Cherry Blossom viewing with?" Asked Kyo as he leaned back in his chair.

"Not that I care or anything.." He added on which only made me smile and slightly roll my eyes at his attitude. I had become used to his way of speaking, knowing not to take it to heart for the most part. Sometimes it got to me...

"Momiji, Hiro, Kisa, and Dadaji. Although I don't know how much Dadaji enjoyed it. He complained about his back the whole evening." I confessed.

"Maybe next year you can come, I'd love to have you there," I mentioned, thinking it would be nice to have him around for the cherry blossom viewing picnic. I wondered what kind of foods he enjoyed.

"Flowers aren't my thing." He scoffed at the idea of a picnic under the cherry blossoms.

"I think it's more about the people than the flowers." I pointed out.

"NO way then!" He snapped, which made my smile drop from my face.

.

Wow... ouch that hurt

.

"Oh okay," I sighed, my mood shifting a bit at the outright rejection to my invitation.

"I didn't-" Before Kyo could continue the bell rang for class and our teacher walked in calling for everyone to take their seats.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Kyo kind of avoided me for the rest of the day, or maybe I was avoiding him.

.

Maybe I should stop trying to make friends with Kyo. If he doesn't like me, then I shouldn't push it.

.

I was on cleaning duty with Tohru, and as we swept outside, Momiji and Haru approached us. Haru sat on the stairs while Momiji chatted with Tohru and me.

"Kyo mentioned that Ayame is visiting," I mentioned. Well, he said that 'Snake' was over and I imagined he meant the silver-haired male.

"Maybe I'll go and see him at Shigure's! Ah, but if the two brothers are banding, I don't want to get in the way." He concluded seeming very thoughtful over the situation.

"You mean 'bonding'.." Interjected Haru, correcting Momiji.

"So how's Yuki? Is he happy?" Asked Momiji.

At that very moment, Yuki was walking across the yard, head turned down as he walked along. The grey cloud that had been with him all day still hovering over him. Yuki looked emotionally exhausted.

.

Yikes, what happened?

.

Haru nodded as he watched Yuki walk by and mumbled some words I couldn't quite catch.

"Do Yuki and Ayame not get along?" I asked Tohru.

"Well... Ayame-San explained that his relationship with Yuki-San is like a rift." She tried to explain, smiling sadly at Yuki's figure.

"A rift?" I repeated the word Tohru had used.

" Ayame-San wants to fix it by being there for Yuki-San. Although.. I get the feeling the rift between them is only getting deeper..." Sighed Tohru looking very stressed over the relationship between the two brothers.

.

I did mention to Ayame that I was worried about Yuki... this might be my fault

.

"So Ayame visited because he wanted to check up on Yuki?" I asked hoping that Ayame's impromptu visit was for something else.

Tohru nodded, and I felt my mood lower.

.

Yep, my fault

.

"But can Ayame leave his shop unattended, he is the owner." Added Momiji.

"He's a business owner?" Asked Tohru looking very impressed over the new information.

"He sells...Wedding dresses, nurses outfits, maid outfits. Stuff like that." Explained Haru and I started to imagine what kind of shop Ayame ran.

"So it's a boutique?" Asked Tohru.

"Ya'know. I'm not really sure." Confessed Haru.

"Aya says he sells men's' fantasies!" Cheered Momiji but I don't think he understood what he was really saying.

.

Sweet, Innocent souls

.

The three didn't seem to grasp what that could mean, and I only laughed lightly as I walked away. Last week I had explained to Tohru what Hatsuharu had done to prove himself to the Student Council numbskull, and I thought she was going to combust, so I wasn't going to risk explaining a potential sex shop. Slipping my earphones in I continued sweeping away as I listened to a 90's playlist.

.

But any fool can see they're falling

I gotta make you understand

I'm, giving you everything

All that joy can bring, this I swear

I give you everything

.

Lost in my music and my work I was brought back to earth by a tug of my french braid. I took out my earphones and turned to see who had interrupted 'The Spice Girls.'

"Yo." Greeted Kyo as he stood there with his hands stuffed in his pockets.

"Hey, something wrong?" Noticing his hunched shoulders.

"Look earlier, I didn't mean I didn't want to spend time with you or whatever...I just... Dammit!... I can't... it's the brats that can get on my nerves, and your grandfather hates my guts, and I've been to meaning to ask -" He tried to explain, his hand rubbing the back of his neck as he tried to get the words out.

"And the snake and that damn Shigure are starting to really just... don't know how much more I can take." He really did look defeated, his usual energy just not there. He started to fidget and was lightly blushing.

.

He's trying to apologize for earlier, maybe he doesn't hate me. Perhaps I can lend a hand. I'm partly to blame for Ayame being there in the first place.

.

"Do you wanna come home with me?" I offered the flustered boy who only went redder at the invitation.

"Just to give you a breather, although I can't promise that my company is any better than Ayame's." I joked as I smiled at him, trying to clear the air and make him more comfortable.

" What the hell is your grandfather gonna say...and you live on the inside." He pointed out.

"I can take care of Dadaji and why does it matter, it's my home, and I'm inviting you." I countered

"The cat isn't allowed on the Inside." He explained. I knew the Cat wasn't allowed to the banquet but to be banned from the 'inside' of the estate just made my blood boil at the blatant exclusion.

"I'm inviting you Kyo, you. Just trust me okay, I've got tricks up my sleeve." I encouraged him, looking him straight in the eyes. Staring him down.

He let out a big sigh and gave in... mumbling a 'you win.'

"I'm so excited, I do have one errand to run if you don't mind tagging along." I mentioned as I thought of the dance shop I wanted to hit on my way home.

"Fine." He sighed again, looking like he just wanted to leave already.

"Marley-Chan! The driver is waiting." Called Momiji who was standing with Hatsuharu from the gate.

"You guys go ahead! I'm walking today!" I yelled back as I waved at them as they slipped into the black sedan.

"I'll just put this away and meet you at the shoe cubbies." I gestured to the broom before running off.

.

.-.-.-.-.-

.

Kyo watched as Marley talked with the shop attendant, explaining what she needed and the Woman continuously nodded her head while she leads Marley to an area with hardwood flooring, a mirror and a standing bar of some sort.

Kyo stood in the middle of the shop, surrounded by the feminine atmosphere. Heels and ballet slippers on display and different types of dresses, leotards, skirts adorning the racks. There were even some Tutus on display. Kyo felt very out of place but tried to not let it get to him. Marley had promised she would be quick.

Marley had told him she needed some sort of new shoes for ballet as her old ones had seen better days and hadn't used them for the past year and bit.

.

His new friend took off her sneakers and then slipped off her socks. Kyo couldn't help but wince at the sight of her toes. The area around the front of her foot looked like they had been to hell and back. Bandages wrapped around some of her toes and obvious calluses were visible.

Marley caught the look and promised him they looked a lot worse than they felt.

"They're the sign of hard work." Quipped Marley as the store attendant had her stand in a particular position while she examined and measured Marley's feet.

"Nice arch... tendu your right please... good flexibility... Now your left" Noted the store attendant as she examined Marley's foot. Kyo didn't know what all if meant but watched as they discussed what Marley was looking for.

The older attendant brought out a bunch of different ballet shoes for Marley to try and asked her something specific.

"I like the long cloth toe pad, I get hotpots, so the long clothe makes it more bearable." She informed, picking out a pair to slip over just her toes.

The attendant slipped on a few different pairs, interchanging when she felt something off until finally asking her to stand in a couple of satin pinkish color shoes.

"1st position... demi-plié for me... noticing it's a bit shallow but we can fix that. How's your big toe?" Asked the shop attendant and Marley mentioned that her right toe was touching but not jamming. The Woman helping asked to go 'en Pointe' and Marley assumed the position and Kyo couldn't help but watch in amazement and how regal Marley looked balancing on her toes, even in her school uniform.

"Cross into 5th position and bourrée please." Marley followed the instructions and brought her feet close with her left slightly in front, and it looked like she was rapidly stepping in place on her tippy toes.

"Looks really good, you have beautiful positioning, how do they feel?" Asked the attendant.

"I like them, they feel good, my toes are straight.. yes these will work beautifully." Smiled Marley as she did a few more simple moves on the floor in front of the mirror.

.

The attendant asked her to try a few more things, and Kyo just watched on, not saying a word. Slightly intrigued at the movements. Slightly.

"What do you think, Kyo? Do I look like a dancer?" Asked Marley as she smiled over at Kyo, bringing her hands above her head and balancing on her toes.

"Ya, ya Can we leave now?" Huffed the impatient Kyo as he crossed his arms and looked away from her.

The attendant and Marley merely giggled at the boy while the older Woman whispered something in Marley's ear and Marley just nodded, and the two women giggled some more. The shop attendant wanted her to try one more pair and then went through the entire routine again, but Marley ended up going with the first ones she tried on.

"I'll just need to grab some stretchy ribbon as well and some toe spacers if you have them." Mentioned Marley as she sat down and took the shoes off, replacing them with her school socks and white sneakers. She mouthed a 'sorry' to the waiting boy while she hurried to the counter to pay for her things.

.

"Thank you for waiting! I hope that wasn't too boring." Apologized Marley as they walked out together.

" I thought you were more into hip-hop or whatever?" Asked Kyo as they walked out the door and headed in the direction of the Sohma Estate.

"I like lots of different types of dance... I'm probably least familiar with ballet and wasn't sure if I was going to pick it up again." She admitted looking a little embarrassed.

"What? don't really like it?" Asked Kyo, surprised she would even waste time on something she wasn't interested in.

"I actually only started it because someone said it would help me get stronger and learn better posture." Explained Marley as she subconsciously fixed her posture to stand up straighter.

"So why are you still doing it?" Asked Kyo as they passed a group of older men who shamelessly checked out Marley. She didn't seem to notice, but Kyo sent a harsh glare to the men.

"I wanted to show Kisa some stuff and teaching her was so fun made me kind of curious to go back to class. I have sort of a renewed love for it." Marley smiled as the two teens walked along.

.

"Do you have any hobbies?" the curious white-blond asked as she looked over at Kyo.

Kyo thought for a bit before deciding to finally answer.

"I've taken martial arts since I was a kid." He shrugged, hesitant to share personal information.

"That's so cool, what belt are you?" Asked Marley as she looked at Kyo with anticipation.

"Blackbelt..."

"That's amazing! Are you still training?!" Asked Marley while she looked at the bashful teen with stars in her eyes. This caused Kyo's cheeks to flush and had to turn his head away from Marley to hide.

"Well, my shisou is away right now, so I'm training by myself right now." He confided to the tall beauty.

"Oh, that sounds so cool to say. Maybe I'll start calling my teachers shisou. They must be super cool to be a martial arts master!" Commented the excited girl as she thought about all the martial arts movies she had seen.

" He is the best! He's so strong even that damn Rat doesn't stand a chance against him. He's a Sohma too, but he understands me and taught me everything I know. My training in the mountains was harsh, but it was super fulfilling. I could hardly wait for each morning to come, wondering what he would teach me or how strong I would get. Just thinking about it gets me pumped!" Rejoiced Kyo as he put his fist to the sky. His face adorning the big smile. Marley couldn't help but gaze at the sight. She had never seen him look so genuinely excited before. For some reason, the sight made a warm feeling spread from her chest.

Kyo remembered who he was with and seemed to withdraw into himself, embarrassed at sounding like a little kid.

.

"... I'm boring you...Going on about something that girls aren't interested in." He scoffed, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets. Marley could just imagine little orange cat earns turned down in shame. His entire body going into a slump.

"Are you kidding. To see you get so excited just talking about your passions. I loved it. I hope I get to a demonstration one day. I must admit I don't really know much about fighting... except what I've seen in 'The Karate Kid.'" Answered Marley honestly, hoping she would get to more of Kyo's passionate side. He had looked so excited, Marley couldn't help but feed off the joyful energy.

"The what now?" Asked Kyo, coming out of his slump and looking at the girl like she was crazy.

"You know 'The Karate Kid'? ? Wax on, wax off?" She tried to explain, not believing that Kyo didn't know the classic movie.

He just continued to stare at her. Which then made Marley try to explain the plot, which led to more confusion.

"Have you never seen it!?" She asked in shock as she copied the movements of wax on, wax off with her own hands. Moving her hands in circular motions in the air. The sight looked ridiculous, and Kyo couldn't figure out what she was trying to do.

"Pfft, what are you doing?" He chuckled as he gestured to her movements.

"Wax On... Wax Off." Marley demonstrated again, which in turn just made him laugh.

"Whatever you say, Weirdo." He said as he shook his head and kept walking.

"I can't believe you've never seen it? I bet you would like it." She mentioned as she quickly caught up to him with her long legs.

.

" I... didn't really watch TV when I was a kid." He explained quickly while he shrugged his shoulders.

"That's all I did as I kid. The TV was like my best friend. How about we watch The Karate Kid together?" Marley offered. Thinking about all her days as a kid she spent in the house, watching Hollywood and Bollywood movies alike. Learning from them and holding onto them dearly. Now she had friends to share with. She couldn't wait to share one with Kyo.

"Really?" asked Kyo as he looked over into Marley's jewel eyes, and she nodded and smiled.

"Oh, here let's stop and grab a peace offering for Dadaji." Quipped Marley as she hooked her hand onto Kyo's elbow and dragged him into a bakery. Kyo hardly resisted and was still thinking about the look of wonder and appreciation in Marley's eyes that were directed at him just moments ago. The strange girl had even offered to spend more time with him. He felt warm sensation traveling from his chest as the white-blonde girl held onto his arm. He doubted she would hold on to him like that is she knew everything about him. Would she be inviting him into her home if she knew his 'true form.'

'Probably not' Kyo thought to himself.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

We picked up some chocolate croissants for Dadaji at the bakery, and I had grabbed a little apple strudel for myself. I had offered to buy Kyo something, but he insisted he didn't like sweets. Which led me to buy a baked bacon n cheese bun for my friend. I stuck the bag of treats into Kyo's schoolbag to for safekeeping.

We made it the Sohma Estate but instead of going through the main gate, I dragged Kyo along the outside wall until we came to a cherry blossom tree. The season was near its end, but the tree still had a few blossoms left.

"How are you as a climber?" I asked as I looked over at Kyo while slipping off my backpack.

He puffed out his chest and boasted that he had no problem with climbing.

"Good." I simply said as I then threw my bag over the wall leaving the Cat in shock. I knew my bag would be safe, there was nothing breakable in it.

"Follow my lead," I said as I quickly pulled myself up to the top of the tree and jumped over to the roof of the protective wall serving as a fence for the Sohma Estate. I then walked along the roof.

"Oh actually, throw your bag to me!" I decided it would be safer that way, unsure of Kyo's climbing skills.

"You've got be kidding me, doesn't this count as breaking in? You're gonna hurt yourself!" He yelled as he just his bag closer.

"Please, I've got this done before. Sometimes I don't feel like walking through the estate. Just trust me. Toss me your bag?" I asked again, and he just shook his head, spoke incoherently to himself before he finally lightly tossed his bag to which I barely caught.

.

That catch probably didn't inspire confidence

.

"Sorry, I've got it, I promise." I laughed as I held onto his bag with both hands and tilted my head, indicating that he should now follow. Kyo quickly made it up the tree and jumped over to the roof, walking to where I was standing.

"Very nice Spiderman." I complimented at how easily he made it up.

"Who?" He asked, tilting his head to the side in confusion.

"Really? I am so excited to introduce you to more movies, I think you'll like Marvel." I said as I thought off all the superhero movies he might like.

Before Kyo could interject, I handed him his bag and then walked over to a tree and hopped over to a far branch and carefully made my way to the ground. This tree was in my own backyard, so no one was around to see that I had snuck Kyo in. Once I was down, I gestured for Kyo to toss his bag down, and instead, he just wrapped his bag around his shoulder and made his way down to me.

.

"Welcome home." A deep voice spoke out, which made me and Kyo jump in surprise.

"Dadaji! Hi...Oh Um here, Kyo picked you up something." I scrambled to open Kyo's bag and handed a small package to Dadaji. He rolled his eyes and took it from me and gestured to come into the house.

"C' mon children." Instructed Dadaji as he walked through the garden to our porch.

Kyo glared at me, and I only laughed at him before grabbing his hand and pulling him along. Promising him that it would be fine.

Dadaji stood tall on the porch and stared us down at we stood on the ground in front of him.

"Marley, why don't you make some tea and put the croissants in the kitchen." Instructed Dadaji as he handed the package to me while staring down at Kyo, the poor boy was avoiding Dadaji's gaze as he stared at the ground.

I gave Kyo's hand a little squeeze before I let go and entered the house, but before whispering in Dadaji's ear 'to be nice.'

I slipped upstairs first to change into something more comfortable, knowing well that Dadaji wouldn't be too rude to my friend.

.

Hopefully...

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Tetsuo kept his eyes on the orange-haired boy in front of him. Kyo could feel the intimidating Elder's stare and couldn't come up with words to say.

"Look at me, boy." Commanded the Elder.

"Don't call me boy!" Snapped the Cat as he glared straight into Tetsuo's eyes.

"There it is. The infamous glare of the cat." Smirked the Elder, proud that he could easily elicit the reaction.

Kyo was ready to turn and run, but Tetsuo's words stopped him.

"My granddaughter speaks well of you." He spoke, causing Kyo to halt and look back at Tetsuo, who looked very regal in his dark green Yukata, hands held behind him as he stood tall.

"When she entered high school, I worried that she would be pushed around a lot, because of the way she looks... She's too kind and patient to let people know when it becomes too much. A pushover much like Yuuto." He commented, smiling as he thought about the nature of Marley and his late son.

"When I talked to her about it she said... 'Don't worry, I've got a tangerine guardian who's quick to jump in.'...so I forgive you for your tantrum at the hot spring and am thankful that you're looking out for her," Tetsuo explained as the young teen looked up at him in shock. To Kyo, Tetsuo Sohma was the embodiment of intimidation, and he had doubted that he would ever be able to earn his forgiveness. He might have to thank Marley for putting in a good word for him.

.

"And as long as you look out for Marley, I won't tell that brat Akito that you're here... " Tetsuo held out his hand to the boy, and Kyo reluctantly took it to shake.

Tetsuo gripped Kyo's hand tightly, making the cat wince at the old man's strength. Okay, maybe Tetsuo wasn't entirely over it.

"You hurt her, make her cry again, and I'll send you to the taxidermist." Tetsuo threatened all while smiling, which made it all the more intimidating. His tall stature towering over the teenager.

Kyo gulped at the threat and nodded and could only nod his head and Tetsuo released him and walked into the house.

Marley walked into the living room and placed down some cut up fruits in the middle of the table. She was no longer in her school uniform and changed into a pair of high waisted grey sweatpants and a light pink cropped hoodie. Marley looked cute, and Kyo couldn't help but blush a little at the new look. Tetsuo caught it, and it made him chuckle a bit.

"I'm heading out, you kids stay out trouble." Announced Tetsuo as he headed towards the front door. Marley gave him a quick kiss on the cheek as she said goodbye and said she would set aside some food for him. Before Tetsuo disappeared out the door, he turned to look at Kyo once more.

"Welcome to our home, Kyo." And with that, he left. Kyo had never heard the esteemed Elder say his name before, and for some reason, he felt like he had been given some sort of responsibility.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

The smell of spices filled the home while I stirred the pot of tea as it steeped on the stove, adding a few more sticks of cinnamon into the mixture. Kyo was sitting at the table watching the television screen. Reading the Japanese subtitles to understand what the American actors were saying.

"This old guy isn't teaching him karate! He's just using him as a servant!" Kyo yelled at the screen as I walked in and placed a cup of chai in front of him. Mr. Miyagi was now showing Daniel how to paint the fence.

"Just keep watching." I laughed as I sat down at the table, enjoying his reactions to the 80's classic.

He had been pretty locked in from the beginning. From feeling bad for the new kid town to hating the Cobra Kai dojo. "They're a disgrace to the martial arts" is what he had yelled. He even laughed when 'wax on, wax off' came up and made fun of my movements as I automatically mimicked without missing a beat.

He got distracted when he picked up the cup of chai and placed in front of him.

"What is this?" He asked as he sniffed the aroma coming from the cup.

"It's chai. It's tea." I explained as I took a sip from my own cup, savoring the taste.

"It's okay if you don't like it. I can make you something else. I've gotten so used to making it I completely forgot to ask if it was okay." I panicked, embarrassed I had assumed he wouldn't like the tea.

.

I'm such an idiot, I should have asked first, he probably won't like it...

.

Before I could take it away from him, he took another sniff and then a sip from the cup. Then a longer one. Then another till he handed it to me.

"It's empty..." I said astonished as I looked into the empty cup.

"It tastes okay... I'll take another." Requested Kyo as he turned his attention back to the movie. I couldn't help but notice his hears were a little red.

"Coming right up." I said through my smile as I rose up and went into the kitchen to pour him another cup of chai. When I placed it in front of him he muttered a 'thanks.' I then noticed a new box in the middle of the table with a picture of a phone on it.

"Where did this come from?" I asked as I picked up the box.

"... that Shigure got it... I don't know how the stupid thing works... I didn't know who... look you're the one who asked for my number so can you just set it up for me.." Asked Kyo as he hunched his shoulders and still faced away from me. I couldn't help, but his ears had turned a little red.

.

Did I embarrass him when I asked for his number, and he got a phone because of that?

.

I started laughing as I held the box.

"The hell you laughing at!" He yelled, and I could almost envision the cat ears popping up.

"Nothing, nothing at all. I'd be happy to set up your phone up for you Kyo." I laughed as I opened the packaging and took out the phone, noticing we had the same model. I grabbed my phone and took off its simple black case and put it on his. Wouldn't want his brand new phone breaking in the first few days.

I set the phone up while asking him minimal questions, letting him enjoy the movie. When I finally rose my head to look at the screen, it was the scene of Daniel's birthday, and I started to get chocked up.

"Whoa whoa, what happened? Why are you crying? Is it the phone?" Panicked Kyo as he turned at the sound of sniffling and noticed my tears.

"Its.. just that... Daniel finally has a father figure... and lost his family... and now he has Daniel who's become like a son.. teaching him and now giving him his first car.." I said through my sniffles as I wipe my eyes.

"You're pretty emotional aren't you..." Muttered Kyo as rested his head on his hand as he leaned on the table, watching me struggle to stop the tears.

"I know... I'm a mess." I admitted, drying my tears and getting a hold of myself.

.

I probably look so gross right now.

.

"Na...I'm sure I'll get used to it." He chuckled as he reached out and caught a stray tear trailing down my cheek with his uniform sleeve. The gesture made me freeze slightly, surprised at the gentle move, but then I smiled gently at him.

The sound of the movie brought him to his senses as he brought his hand back and turned around to continue watching the movie.

I finished setting up Kyo's phone and quickly added a few numbers and started a LINE account for him while also downloading a few useful apps. I used his phone to text mine so I would have his number in my phone. I typed in his contact information and couldn't help but giggle at what I named him.

"Kyo!" I called, and as soon as he turned, I snapped a picture of him.

"What the hell was that for?" He asked.

"Look, now I have a picture of you for when you call me." I gushed as I showed it to him.

"If I call you." He mocked.

"Now you're just trying to hurt me." I teased as I handed him his phone. Before he could say anything else, a loud growl left his stomach.

.

"I'll get started on dinner." I decided as I got up and went into the kitchen.

"You don't have to -" Kyo tried to interject, but I cut him off.

"It's fine, I have to anyway and besides, how could I invite you over and not feed you! My great-grandmother would be shaking her finger at me." I shuddered at the thought of her figure being disappointed in me.

"Just sit back and relax, there's also a savory bun in your bag that can hold you over." I mentioned the treat from the bakery as I walked into the kitchen and started preparing food for dinner.

I made dinner while I periodically checked in on the movie, the smell of food permeating the air. I was able to catch the end of the film as I laid down a plate of crispy fried tofu drizzled with sweet soy sauce, roasted cauliflower with buffalo sauce and bowl of salad that had grape tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, feta, and a light vinaigrette.

"Oh Kyo, would you like some shrimp?" I asked before I put the coconut-crusted prawns into the fridge for Dadaji.

"Sure." He answered, and I put a few shrimps on a plate for him with a side of curry lime mayo.

"Not having any?" He asked as he noticed I hadn't put any shrimp on my own plate.

"Oh, I'm a vegetarian so no shrimp for me." I informed him, not expecting to get any more questions on the matter

"But it's just shrimp.." He pondered.

"Shrimp is still a creature." I defended my choice.

"What about salmon, you gotta eat salmon. It's so good, how can you not eat salmon?" He asked, utterly astounded that I didn't eat fish.

"It's got a face! I can't eat it." I maintained, but I couldn't help but laugh at the look on his face. Horrified that I would deprive myself of what seemed to be his favorite food.

.

"Look at this way, it just means more meat for you when you come over," I stated as I started to pile the vegetarian dishes onto my plate.

The movie had ended, and Kyo helped me clean up afterward. Cleaning the dishes, Kyo noticed that it was getting dark outside.

" I should head out, Thanks for.. you know... and the movie was.. okay I guess... My Shisou is way better though" He mumbled as he dried the plates I handed him.

"Well, maybe when he's back, you two can show me a demonstration. I would love to meet him." I offered as I checked the clock and realized that I should probably head out myself.

.

7:30... should probably leave if I wanna make it to dance on time.

.

"I'll walk out with you." I offered as I told him to wait a minute while I went to grab my bag from upstairs.

We made our way over the Sohma Wall again, being a bit more careful in the dark.

"Where are you off to late at night?" Asked Kyo as we walked along.

"Dance is late on Monday nights for my group. They spend the afternoon with beginners and then evenings are intermediate and advanced dancers." I explained as I enjoyed the clear night air.

We came to a street, and I realized we would have to part ways.

"I'll see you to-" I started to say goodnight but was cut off.

"I might as well walk you... that snake might be there, and I don't want to risk going home too soon." Huffed Kyo as he started walking in the direction I was about to go in.

"Kyo, it'll be such a long walk, I don't min-"

"Let's go already. There are a lot of creeps, and you shouldn't be walking alone at night." Interrupted Kyo as he grabbed my hand to pull me long. My cheeks burned lightly as this was the first time he had caught my hand in his grip. I was usually the one dragging him around.

.

My eyes gazed down to the bracelet he always wore, curious again at the accessory but before I could ask Kyo asked me what direction to go in.

We made it to the studio and stood outside for a moment. Kyo had finally let my hand go when I announced that we had arrived.

"Are you walking home?" He questioned as he looked over at me.

"Oh... no Dadaji normally sends a car." I clarified, which made him let out a sigh of relief.

"Good.. not that I was worried or anything, I just can't have your grandfather tracking me down or anything if you get hurt." He huffed as she stuck his hands into his pockets. I smiled at the reaction.

.

Kyo really is something special

.

"Thank you, Kyo. I had a really nice day today." I stated honestly, only to watch as even in this low light, I could catch him blushing.

"Whatever, I gotta go. See ya." He grumbled as he walked away.

"Please text me once you get home!" I yelled after him.

"Why?" He groaned as he looked back at me.

"Otherwise I'll worry, please," I stressed as I looked him in his eyes, trying to give him a puppy dog look.

"FINE!" He gave in as he stomped away.

.

I really am a lucky girl to have such wonderful friends... I still can't believe he went out of his way to walk me

.

"What are you so happy about?" Asked a fellow dancer as she walked past me to get to into the studio.

"Hmm no particular reason, just feel happy," I replied as I smiled at her and we entered the studio together.

While we learned the choreo for the night, my phone let out a sharp ding noise, and I apologized as I ran over to my bag to turn off my phone. Only to notice that the new text was from 'Tangerine Karate Kid.'

-=home, you happy=-

I smiled at the text, glad that he actually used his phone. I sent a text back to him

-=very, thank you for letting me know, sweet dreams=-

.

Hopefully, Kyo had a good time today as well, I really would like to share more movies with him

.

Before I could put away my phone, I received a text from Akito.

-= Where are you?=-

-= At dance=- I answered

-= I need you to come over=-

I raised my eyebrow at the text, hoping it wasn't anything significant I texted back.

-= I'm here till ten, I promise I'll head to you right after=-

It took a few moments until she finally texted back a 'Fine.'

With that, I turned my phone off and put it away. Hoping nothing was wrong, and maybe she just had a bad day. Shaking my head, I decided I should be concentrating on the teacher who was trying to teach us choreo, and then he played the song to see how much the group had taken in.

.

Sorry if it's hard to catch my vibe, mmm

I need a lover to trust, tell me you're on my side

Are you down for the ride?

It's not easy for someone to catch my eye

But I've been waitin' for you for my whole damn life

For my whole lifetime

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.- To Be Continued .-.-.-.-.-.-

Chapter Text

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.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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There was no time to chat with my peers at the studio after class tonight as I rushed out the door and into the black sedan that was waiting outside.

"Good Evening Marley-Sama." Greeted the chauffeur as he started up the car and rolled down the divider.

"Evening Sousuke-san, straight to the main house please." I requested as I texted Akito that I was on my way. During the drive, I dug into my bag to grab a wet wipe so I could at least clean myself up a little bit before heading into the main house.

It was a quick drive from the studio to the Sohma Estate, and I was soon walking the halls of the main house, maids of the house lightly bowing their heads to me as I rushed past them and greeting them with a quick apologetic smile.

.

Approaching Akito's quarters, a maid announced I had arrived and slid open the door for me. Akito was lounging on the floor in the darkroom, only the light of moon pouring through the windows providing a solemn ambiance for the room.

Akito's personal secretary, Kureno, stood up from the floor and approached me. We didn't exchange words, he just gave me a small, lonely smile and left the room. I immediately sat down next to Akito's figure and grasped her shoulder lightly.

"Hey, is everything okay?" I asked her, and she slowly opened her eyes and stared at me.

"You came..." She muttered, eyes gazing across my face.

"Of course, why wouldn't I?" I asked, slightly confused.

"I haven't seen you... you've been away." She mumbled, bringing her head into my shoulder, nearly draping her whole body over mine.

"I've been busy, you know that... Akito, when's the last time you left this room?" I asked as I felt the staleness in the air, Akito's energy just more drained than usual. When she didn't answer me, I just let out a sigh and made her stand up.

"C' mon, we're going for a walk," I suggested, but it was more like an order.

"It's late... I don't want to." She whined as she tried to sit back down.

"Ah ah, No, you don't. Being cooped up in this room isn't good for anybody. It's not that late, and the moon is providing enough light for a nice walk through the garden and back. I'll be right back." I left her in the room only to grab a few things from her closet.

"Here, some comfy pants, your sweater, and a coat. It'll keep you nice and warm. It really cools down at night." I mentioned as I laid out the stuff for her. She let out a huff but gave in as I stared her down, not taking no for an answer.

"... I need my scarf..." she muttered as she pointed to a drawer across the room.

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I'm supposed to get it? Man, she really does NOT want to leave, making me work for it.

.

I went into the drawer and pulled out the only clothing item. A long knitted maroon scarf, the one I had knitted for Akito as a Christmas present.

"Awww Akito." I gushed as I brought the scarf over to her and wrapped her up in it. I had honestly thought she would have thrown it away, Akito has all the money in the world to buy whatever she wants, so I was happy she would wear what I made over some designer scarf. She lightly blushed and rolled her eyes, mumbling "it's comfy..."

I linked arms with Akito as we walked out of the house and down the main road, passing some shocked maids as we walked. The old head maid gave me some problems, telling me this was irresponsible, but Akito quickly told her to leave, only in less kind words.

"You shouldn't shut yourself up in your room, ya' know. It's not healthy." I chided her as we walked through the arch into the main gardens.

"You're not a doctor." She spat deflecting my advice.

"No, but any decent would doctor knows how beneficial fresh air is." I teased but Akito just scoffed at my answer but held onto my arm tighter.

"Why haven't you been to visit me?" She asked, sounding vulnerable as we stopped at a small bench to take a seat.

" I just started school, and I'm trying to figure out my new schedule. Once everything settles, I'll be able to hang out. "

We walked along, catching each other up on our week and enjoying the crisp evening air. Her mood seemed to be imporving but I was feeling slightly drained.

.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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I tried to suppress a yawn as I sat through Japanese Literature class, my head nodding back and forth. I hadn't gotten home till 1 last night, Akito had ordered food for us when we returned to her room, so it took a while for me to escape. Even when I finally got home, I had homework to finish up, so my body is running on fumes today. Doing my standard set of yoga this morning was still not enough to wake me.

My head was swaying back and forth in my seat, and my notes were more illegible, then they usually were. My notebook looked like the scribbling on one of Hatori's prescription pads.

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Maybe if I just close my eyes... just for a minute... just a little ..

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.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

"We can stay, I can cancel, just say the word" Mama insisted as she fluffed my pillow for what had to be the 6th time that morning.

"You have been looking forward to doing this show for ages, and I won't be the one to keep you. And Bapu has yet to miss a show, I don't want him to start now." I chided as Bapu helped me back into bed.

"Sweetheart, we don't want to leave you here alone," Bapu said as he placed his hand on my head.

"I won't be alone, I've got Hatori and Zuzu... plus I've just started A Feast for Crows, so George R.R. Martin will keep me very busy." I reminded them as I held up the thick book.

Bapu smiled and kissed my forehead, and Mama came to my side and caressed my hair before placing her own soft kiss on my forehead.

"Are you sure, Titali?" She asked again as she played with my hair.

"Get out of here already, you're gonna miss your flight." I laughed as I tried to shoo them away from me.

They got their stuff together, and Bapu gave me one last big hug.

"I love you, goofball, we'll sneak out to a movie when I get back" He said as he let go and stepped away.

"Promise?" I asked, getting excited at the idea of stepping out of this hospital.

"Promise." He replied as he gave me a big grin.

"We'll call you when we land. I love you." Mama promised as she slipped into our native language as she held onto my hands

"I love you too, now go." I insisted to Bapu, and Mama smiled, giving them a big smile.

"Sat sri akaal." Said Mama as she let go of my hand and folded her hands infront of her before heading to the door.

"Sat sri akaal." I answered back while folding my own hands, copying Mama's motions and then waved as they both exited.

~.~.~.~.~

A tug at my hair brought me back to reality. I panicked and stood up quickly, holding my hand to my chest.

"Oi, you're supposed to read, page 65." Whispered Kyo harshly form behind me, everyone in the class was watching me, warily, almost as if they expected me to jump out the window.

Picking up the book of poetry we had been working on, I flipped to page 65.

"The rainbow stands

In a moment

As if you are here."

I read the Takahama Kyoshi haiku aloud and went to sit down, only to be met with confused stares from my classmates.

"um, could you please reread it Sohma-san, but this time in Japanese. Not that it didn't sound nice in .. sorry what was that?" Instructed the teacher, looking at me.

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Did I... just recite it in.. without realizing... when was the last time I spoke it -

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"May I be excused? I'm not feeling well." I asked as I lowered my head, hoping to hide my face from my classmates. Flushed with embarrassment, tears prickling.

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I can't let them see

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"Go ah-"

"Thank you," I was heading towards the classroom door before she could finish and was out in the hallway to try and compose myself.

I leaned back against the wall and reached inside my uniform to grasp my necklace. The clasp of the pendent digging into my palms. I took a few deep breathes, trying to calm myself down.

.

How could it just hit, I'll never converse in Punjabi with Mama ever again, what if I forget how to? Would it matter? Where did that even come from...

.

"Marley-Chan?" a sweet familiar voice asked, and I opened my eyes to see Tohru's worried face as she knelt down. I had slumped down to the floor in my stupo, she sat next to me and rubbed my shoulders as I cried.

"Sorry- I- I don't know what happened, I- Just." I tried to choke out but couldn't and continued crying. The lack of sleep was really taking a toll on me today, I could barely keep myself in check.

"Was um, when you were reading, was that Indian?" Asked Tohru carefully changing the subject once I had stopped crying.

I laughed lightly and corrected her in saying that there was no such language as 'Indian.'

"It was Punjabi..." I corrected her as I calmed down, dabbing my eyes with the handkerchief

I finally unclenched my fist, causing the pendant to fall out my palm and swing into my chest.

"Oh what a pretty necklace.." Complimented Tohru as she gestured to the large silver oval pendant.

"... thank you, it's a locket actually." I explained as I ran my finger over the engraving on the back.

.

'Always with you.'

.

I clicked on the latch, and the locket opened up, my Mama's picture on the right and my Bapu's picture on the left. The locket had been a birthday gift from Dadaji back in November. I had let it sit in the box for months until I finally decided to wear it. It normally hid underneath all my clothes, only being brought out when I needed its comfort.

"They're very beautiful, they look like kind people." Commented Tohru as she looked at the photos. I smiled lightly.

"They were... I sometimes wished they hadn't been so good to me ya know, because maybe then losing them might have been easier somehow" I confessed as I gazed at the locket.

"am I ever going stop feeling like this... I still miss them." I concluded, and at that comment, a fresh batch of tears came over me while Tohru leaned on my shoulder and held my hand.

" I still talk to my mom, I still need her, and sometimes... all the time, I don't want to believe that I'll never see her again, or talk to her, spend time together. I imagine it's normal to miss them, but I'm sure it will get easier..." Confessed Tohru, voice wavering slightly, which caused me to squeeze her hand lightly, trying to offer comfort.

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I want to move on though... they're gone, and they're not coming back.

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I took in another breath and asked Tohru if she would walk back to class with me.

"Oh, and Tohru.. thank you for checking on me." I thanked her as I gave her a smile.

"No! I hardly did anything, no need to thank me! Honestly when you left they all looked worried..." She was shaking her head vigorously, denying my gratitude.

I parted ways from Tohru to head to the washroom. I splashed some water on my face and checked my appearance in the mirror. My eyes were slightly red but were calming down, my cheeks were considerably flushed, but I trusted that would go down as well. I took out the elastic from my braid and fluffed out my hair, letting it go free for the rest of the day, flowing down in waves from being kept in a tight braid.

I tucked my necklace back into my uniform and took a deep breath while looking into the mirror. Slipping on a smile if even just to pretend I was okay.

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Gotta make it through the rest of the day.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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The girls and I settled down for lunch by a tree, choosing to enjoy the beautiful day. Plus, Uotani's allergies were settling down so we actually could sit outside today.

"So Marley, if you don't me asking, how were you brought into the Sohma family?" Asked Uotani as she unwrapped her bento box.

"I don't mind, I'm sure it must look odd." I laughed as I picked at my own lunch.

"Hmm, where do I begin?" I contemplated. Thinking about the best way to explain.

"Bapu was a Sohma, and he fell in love with my Mama, they ended up getting married when I was about 7."

"So he was your step-father." Input Hanajima, snacking on hot dog weiners that looked like little octopus.

"Technically yes but I considered him to be my real father," I explained, even if I hadn't entirely accepted him at first. Bapu kept on trying to be a good dad despite me fighting him on it.

"I never met my biological father, Mama said he had no interest in being a dad and left when he found out she was pregnant," I explained, shaking my head over the poor situation Mama had to go through.

" Maybe if you had a picture I could send him unpleasant waves," commented Hanajima, being completely serious with her offer.

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That is so tempting...but I don't have a picture.. proabably for the best... the past is the past

.

"That's okay. Honestly, all I know about the guy is that he was a singer, tall and I have his hair and eye color... besides if anyone deserves bad waves sent their way it would be my grandparents." I joked about them but I was also being truthful. Mama's parents were a nightmare. I only met them once, but that was enough.

"I think after that...Mama was lost, her parents told her to get rid of me but Parr-daadi, my great-grandma, thankfully took her in and Tada, I was born... and she shared with me that she didn't regret any of it for one moment because she got me in the end." I told them, smiling at the memory of my mother.

" Then her and Bapu found each other and got married, and Bapu treated me like I was his own, even if I was a bit of a brat to him at first." I laughed thinking about all the pranks I pulled on him when he was first introduced to me.

" When they... died, I had nowhere else to go and Dadaji, Bapu's dad, took me in and officially made me a Sohma." I finished and smiled at the thought of the grumpy man who seemed nothing like my goofy Bapu. Dadaji had a reputation of being intimidating and being unkind, but after my parents passed away, he was there for everything, barely left my side at the hospital. He was a sheep in wolf's clothing, someone who hid their kindness with glares and tried to protect their own vulnerability by snapping at anyone who got to close. I was one of lucky few who he allowed in.

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I wouldn't have Dadaji be any other way, he's perfect the way he is. As long as he's happy, I'm happy.

.

My three friends continued with conservation that I barely could pay attention too as I was still caught up in my own head,

The bell rang, and we gathered up our lunch and returned to class. As we walked, I saw Yuki and told the girls to continue without me. I haven't had the chance yet to talk to him about his brother and I wanted to clear some things up at least.

"Hey! Yuki, can I talk to you for a moment." I asked the popular boy as I gently grabbed onto his arm.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-

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Kyo sat at his desk, reading a comic as the bell rang, alerting the other students that the lunch period was over. His peers started to pour in, and he glanced back and forth between his book and the door to check who had walked in.

His housemate arrived with her friends in tow, but a certain brown-skinned beauty was missing causing Kyo to raise his brow and look around the room to see if he had somehow missed her coming back. She seemed pretty out of it the entire morning. Her eyes that were red from crying had been flashing through his mind.

Kyo got out his phone and decided to try texting her, but he wasn't sure what to text without it sounding like he was worried or something. Cause he wasn't. He just wanted... He didn't know what he wanted.

He heard her melodic laugh first and then saw her walking in with Yuki. Chatting together as if they were close friends. Kyo threw his phone in his bag with vigor at the sight of Marley with the Rat. Kyo returned his gaze to his comic book, glaring at it as if it had offended him somehow. A tight pinch in his chest only pissed him off more.

.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-

Yuki was telling me about how Ayame was causing trouble in their home, and then after days of telling him to go away, all it took was Hatori to show up, and Ayame left without a fight. I wish I had been there to see it. The scenario I imagined in my head caused me to laugh.

"I'm glad that Hatori was able to pick him. Again, I am sorry about sending him over, even by mistake. I know I shouldn't be sticking my nose where it doesn't belong." I apologized to Yuki as we walked into the classroom.

"I feel like you have more you want to say." He let out a sigh, looking like he didn't want to hear it.

" I know, I know.. I'm a bit of a meddler, but I just have one thing to say, I promise. The look on your brother's face when I mentioned that I was worried about you. He cares about you a lot. Maybe..right now you can't see it, but I hope you give him a chance to show you that he cares." I mentioned to him as I recalled being in Hatori's office and the look on Ayame's face when he thought that Yuki might be troubled.

"But I can also understand needing space, he is... quite the character." I laughed as I thought of the Snake Zodiac. Before Yuki could respond, I was pulled away.

"Oi! You have some explaining to missy. Explain this!" Yelled one of Yuki's fangirls who seemed to live to pester me these days. Yuki quickly removed himself from the situation, not wanting to be involved in the wrath of his fangirls.

.

Thanks a lot, Prince Yuki

.

The fangirl shoved a phone into my face. So close that I had to step back half a step to be able to see the picture.

"Oh, wow, they posted! I wish they would have let me know." I piped up as looked at the Instagram post put up by the gymnasium where I did aerial silks. The picture was me doing an aerial split balance, my feet wrapped in separate blue silks.

"This has got to be photoshopped! There's no way you can do this! You're just showing off to Yuki." Accused the girl.

"That's not photoshopped... plus how it showing off to Yuki if I didn't even know that they posted that?" I countered their accusation, smiling at the two girls with a challenging look in my eyes. Daring them to try and justify themselves

"Prove it!" They yelled, flustered with me even more than before.

"How?! I don't carry around 30 feet long strips of silk with me." I laughed, hoping the girls would just let it go.

"Prove it!" They said again, and I just let out a sigh and decided that I could at least shut them up a bit.

Looking around at what I was working with, I made a decision as I looked at the chairs of the school desks.

"Kyo, do you mind just spotting me?" I asked the mysteriously quiet Cat.

"Why don't you ask that damn Yuki to do it." He spat without even looking away from his comic. He didn't move a muscle, yet I felt like I had just been slapped in the face.

.

Did I do something to upset him?

.

"Oh... um, Uo do you mind?" I slipped on a smile that didn't quite reach my eyes. Uotani walked over, and I told her to just to clasp my left elbow to make sure I don't fall flat on my face.

I stepped up onto the chair of the desk that was to the right of my own desk. I faced the window and with my left foot planted I stepped out with my right and placed it on my own desk chair and slid my own body down while holding onto Uotani's arm for safety as I slid down into an oversplit. Once I was down, I let go of Uotani and balanced, lifting my chest up properly.

The students in the class awed at my flexibility, and Uotani whistled, which made me wink at her causing her to laugh.

"Show off." Spat the fan clubs girls inciting me to chuckle at them.

.

I'm never gonna win with those girls

.

"Well, you guys wanted proof." I teased as I rose up out the position as Uotani held my arm to help me safely.

"Thanks," I said as I stepped down gently from the desk chair right at the moment that the teacher walked in and asked everyone to take their seats. I smiled at Kyo before sitting down, but he just let out a 'tsk' and looked out the window.

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What did I do?

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.-.-.-.-.-.-

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"Please, Please Marley" Begged Momiji as he pulled on my sleeve as I walked with him and Haru to the front of the school. Yuki, Tohru, and Kyo walked a little behind us.

"I'm sorry I can't, I have culture training today. ." I groaned thinking about strict Naomi-san.

"Why? I thought you were done with all that, for the most part." Whined Momiji, disappointed that I was busy.

"So did I but apparently now I've got to be trained on how to serve tea. There's a wedding happening next week, and Dadaji wants me to host a tea ceremony for the bride and groom before then." I clarified as I readjusted my backpack.

"He thought this would be a good way to introduce me to more responsibilities," I explained.

"He just didn't want to do it himself." Interjected Haru, I just stuck my tongue out at him.

"Who's getting married?" Asked Momiji, curious if he knew them or not.

" A Sohma from the outside. What was her name... K. K something... oh Kana." I remembered. An awkward air went over our little group. Momiji's grip on my sleeve had loosened considerably.

.

"Something wrong?" I asked my friends, Tohru looked especially saddened at the name.

"No! No... Kana's really nice, I hope she's happy" Blurted Momiji as he covered up his sad eyes with a bright smile.

"Ok well, I'm going to walk today. Feel free to come by later, Kisa and Hiro are coming over for breakfast for dinner. You should come." I offered, hoping to cheer him up a bit.

"YAY! Count me in, we've got strawberries in the fridge I'll bring them over." Cheered Momiji, his smile is genuine this time.

" My favorite! I can't wait." I mentioned as I smiled down at him. He jumped up and placed a kiss on my cheek before hopping into the car.

"You and Zuzu are welcome to come to if you aren't too busy," I whispered to Haru and then wiggled my eyebrows at him. He blushed and smiled gently before entering the car, mentioning he might see me later.

I walked along with Tohru at my side while the two boys walked a bit behind till we came to a crossroads and we had to split ways.

"See you tomorrow, have a good night." I waved as I bid them goodbye, turning to head in the direction of the Sohma Estate.

.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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Kyo stood in place as he watched the bright girl walk away, her long white-blonde hair swaying in the wind behind her.

"Kyo-Kun?" asked Tohru as she looked back at Kyo as he hadn't started to walk with her and Yuki back home.

The orange-haired teen had been relatively quiet most of the day, only snapping every now and then. While Tohru worried about him, he thought of Marley who had spent the half the day nodding off in her seat. Then had to leave the class only to look like she had been crying when she returned, her bright red eyes and nose giving her away.

Kyo had meant to talk to her at lunch, but Marley was swept away quickly by Tohru and her friends. He knew if he asked her in front of them that the ex-gangster would be quick to tease him. He had wanted to check on her, but when she came into that classroom with Yuki, she was laughing and seemed fine. That Rat had helped her, she seemed happy, which was a good thing. Yet, Kyo couldn't figure out why he was so pissed off.

"Kyo-Kun, are you okay?" Asked Tohru again, now standing in front of him.

"Are you deaf, or maybe Cat's got your tongue." Spat Yuki as he stood waiting for his housemates to start walking home.

.

Kyo glared at Yuki, gritting his teeth before turning around and heading home ahead of the two.

"Shut up ya Damn Rat." The agitated Kyo spat at Yuki as he passed him, which only caused Yuki to roll his eyes.

He heard footsteps lightly jog up next him and looked down to see the only housemate he could stand.

"Did you know that Indian isn't a language!" Quipped Tohru who looked like she solved a fundamental riddle, her for finger pointing to the sky.

"You don't say..." Answered Kyo, not really all that interested in the fun fact. He just stuffed his hands into his pockets and walked along as Tohru kept up with him.

"Marley corrected me! When she was reciting that poem in class she was speaking...um...pun... pun-something.." Tohru struggled to remember the foreign word.

Kyo thought back to the moment in class when Marley had started reciting and although he couldn't understand what she had been saying it sounded beautiful. He wanted to ask her himself, but he just hadn't had the chance, and he didn't want to risk upsetting her somehow. She looked like she had seen a ghost or something when Marley realized she wasn't speaking Japanese.

"Didn't it sound pretty, though." Commented Tohru thinking about her new friend.

Kyo didn't answer, just slumped his shoulders and looked at the ground while the teens walked their usual route back home.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

.

"Your whisking too harshly, softer, softer. But still quickly." Instructed Naomi-san as I was practicing making matcha for a tea ceremony.

"Can't we just order matcha lattes from Starbucks? They deliver." I teased as I slowed down my whisking a bit. This comment earned me a glare, and she raised the cup she was holding in her hand.

"Just a joke, sorry, sorry," I said quickly before she threw it at me.

We had been at this for two hours, Naomi-San walked me through the order in which things were to be served and who to serve first. Now I was finally learning how to make the tea properly so I wouldn't embarrass myself.

"You will then pass the bowl, not directly to their hands but on the floor in front of them and then bow."

"When drinking from the bowl, you will place the base of it on your left palm. Then hold daintily with your right hand. Raise the bowl slightly."

I copied her movements, but my mind was racing with other thoughts that had nothing to do with ceremonies, matcha, or tea of any kind. I thought that the Kyo and I had become friends at this point but...

.

Did I do something wrong

.

"Do you remember the 4 basic principles of the tea ceremony?" she quizzed. Her left eyebrow raising, wating for my answer.

"yes, ma'am."

"Repeat them" She ordered

"Tranquility, Respect, Purity, and ..." She pursed her lips, impatiently tapping her fingers against her teac cup and waiting for me to finish.

"Harmony?" I finished a little unsure of my answer.

She let out a sigh and said good enough before continuing on. I tugged at the kimono around my neck area a bit, feeling uncomfortable in the many layers.

.

Maybe he really regrets hanging out with me yesterday

.

"Stop fidgeting." She ordered, slapping my hand.

"Ish! Sorry, it's just a bit itchy." I complained as I now rubbed the red spot on my hand.

"You must remain poise... elegant. You are representing the head of your household." She reminded me.

I tried to pay attention. I really did... But my mind was still on the Kyo who had seemed very cold today. Racking my brain for what I could have done to make him upset with me.

"Are you listening to me? Marley-Sama!" She brought me back to earth by throwing a ladle at me.

.

This woman is trying to kill me

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

.

Dragging myself home I couldn't wait to lay down, really hoping I could make it to the house without being stopped too much while walking through the 'Inside' of the Sohma Estate.

My kimono was beautiful, but a pain to move in. I let out a sigh of relief when I finally made it home and slipped off my sandals.

"I'm home!" I called through the house as I entered.

"Marley-Chan!"

"Onee-chan.."

Kisa and Momiji had come over immediately and grasped onto my hands.

"You look beautiful in your kimono." Gushed Momiji as Kisa nodded her head softly, agreeing with the Rabbit as she continued to hold onto my hand.

"Aww thank you. I might be stuck in it, so at least I look good." I joked. This thing had like 5 layers, and the belt and multiple strings around the middle was another mystery to me.

"I'll help, I know those things are a pain." Sighed a familiar black-haired beauty as she approached me.

"ZUZU! You're my savior." I cried to the girl as I leaned into her, my hands still occupied by the Tiger and the Rabbit.

"Yeah yeah." She muttered as she shooed away my two younger friends and dragged me upstairs to my room.

I quickly waved to Hiro and Haru who were in the living room as I was dragged by. Kisa diligently following us as we escaped upstairs. My friends expertly helped me take off the complicated clothes, and I changed into a long floral skirt that went to my ankles and a cropped grey t-shirt.

.

I sat down at my desk, and Kisa gently pulled out the various ornaments and bobby pins out of my hair, letting it flow freely. Letting out a sigh of relief alerted my close friend.

"What's wrong?" Asked Rin as I took out my contacts and threw them in the trash, Kisa handed me my glasses that had been resting by the bed. I gave her a small 'thank you' as I slipped them on.

"huh, oh, just tired. Long day." I said as I rolled my shoulders a few times, trying to stretch them out a bit.

"Is that it, huh." She saw right through me.

"I also may have upset someone, but I don't know what I did," I whined as I laid my head down on my desk. Still trying to figure out how I managed to piss the Cat of the Zodiac off. The list could go on.

" And you haven't jumped down their throat asking what you did? Apologizing, even when you're not sure what you're apologizing about?" Mocked Rin as Kisa giggled, she had also seen my apologetic nature in action.

"I feel really called out right now... plus I haven't had the chance to ask them yet... it's been a long day," I sighed again.

"Do you want us to leave?" Asked Kisa, looking like was ready to apologize for even being there.

"No! No, I honestly need this, I've been looking forward to it." I reassured her as I grabbed her hand and went back downstairs to join our family.

I stuck my head into Dadaji's office, he was hunched over his desk, going over a small hill of paperwork.

"Dadaji, dinner's in an hour. How do you want your bacon?" I asked, and he didn't even raise his head, not wanting to lose his place.

"Slightly burnt." He ordered as he continued signing papers.

"Yes, Sir!"

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

.

Drizzling maple syrup over my French toast, I was happy to be sitting down between Kisa and Rin as they munched on their own dinners. I had made Rin some oatmeal in case the French toast or bacon was too harsh on her stomach.

It's a good thing Kagura's not here, she might have been offended by the bacon.

The thought made me wonder if Haru ate beef or if the rooster of the zodiac would be bothered by fried chicken.

"You look like your thinking about something stupid." Teased Hiro as he took a bite of French toast.

"Maybe next time I'll prepare a nice lamb curry." I teased which made him scoff, and I just threw a piece of strawberry at him.

"Really mature." He said as he threw it back at me, and I caught it in my mouth. Hiro rolled his eyes as I chewed and swallowed.

.

I wonder if Kyo likes French toast and strawberries...

.

The thought surprised me... I needed to find out what was wrong with him before I started wondering about what kind of foods he would enjoy.

"Marley-Chan! Let's play Mario Kart! " Cheered Momiji as he finished his food.

"Sounds like fun! You guys get started, and I'll clean all this first." I suggested as I quickly brought out my Nintendo Switch and handed Momiji the controller.

"I'll help." Said Hiro as he grabbed a few plates and headed into the kitchen. I raised my eyebrow as Hiro had never helped with dishes before. Wondering if maybe he just wanted or break from all the company.

.

Or... is there something he wants to ask and can't in front of everyone else

.

"And Dadaji... I call dibs on Princess Peach!" I demanded with a goofy smile, as I took his plate from him. I doubt many people would believe that the great Tetsuo played video games, Dadaji actually threatened the Zodiac members in the house to never tell a soul.

.

Guess he doesn't want his image 'ruined' or something

.

"Hmp.. good luck with that." He let out in a grouchy tone as Momiji handed him a controller and I stuck my tongue out at him. Kisa looked excited to just watch her family play as she gave her controller to Haru so he could play instead of herself.

I collected a few more things in one hand and got into the kitchen, sliding the door behind me.

Hiro was standing on a block to help him reach the sink easier and had already started filling up the sink with warm water and soap.

I handed him the plates, and he placed them in the sink. While we settled into a rhythm, I started humming The Supremes, 'Where Did Our Love Go.' After a while of cleaning dishes, he finally broke the seal.

" Can I... can I talk to you about something?" He asked as he handed me another plate.

"Anything." I pledged to the young lamb, drying the plate he handed to me and then turning to fully face him.

"Say.. if someone cared about you.. you'd want to know right." He stumbled with his words a bit as he handed me another plate, avoiding my eyes.

" It's important to know that people love and care about you." I was trying to figure out where he could be going on about.

" And you'd want everyone to know, right." He was talking very tentatively, not in his usual confident, sarcastic speaking pattern that I am used to. It finally clicked, I knew what he was talking about, and I couldn't hide the smile on my face if I tried.

" I think you should tell her," I said confidently, taking another plate from his hands before he dropped it.

"What! This isn't - I'm not- Not talking about me." He stuttered, and his face bloomed bright red.

I smiled down at the blushing boy. It was rare that Hiro had trouble forming words, and I was kind of enjoying his small nervous breakdown.

.

The Lamb that's in love with the Tiger.

.

"I think Kisa is very lucky to have you. And I think you should tell her. People need to know that they're loved. We never know what might happen, it's good to let people know how you feel." I said as I smiled genuinely down at him. Excited for him. But I just couldn't help poking him just a little bit.

"Hey, Hiro," I called to the still blushing pre-teen.

"Yeah what." He groaned, expecting me to make fun of him.

"I love you," I told him honestly, he's what I imagined when I thought of having a little brother. Even if he was a brat sometimes, he had a good heart, and was so good to Kisa and clearly wanted to take care of her. Even if he sometimes missed the mark.

The boy exploded into a bright red color and jumped down and ran out of the kitchen into the living room to join everyone else. I laughed at the reaction and finished up with the dishes. Getting lost in my thoughts, I thought more about what I had said to Hiro.

.

People should be more honest with other, rather than avoiding things

.

"Onee-Chan?" A soft tug on my skirt interrupted my thoughts.

"May I have some tea?" She asked so quietly I could barely hear her. She seemed to say less and less each day, but she kept smiling through whatever trouble she was having. Every time I had asked her what was wrong, she would just say 'I just need to try harder.' I told her that I would cheer her on then.

"Of course Honey Bee, why don't you help me, we'll make enough for everyone," I suggested as I put away the last plate and brought out the large pot to put on the stove.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

.

Finally melting into my comforter after a long day, I was still plagued by Kyo's cold glare. I then recalled the conversation I just hours ago in the kitchen with the Lamb who was looking for advice.

.

It's good to let people know how you feel

.

I thought back to Kyo's cold shoulder during the school day and started stressing about what I could have done. Had I insulted him in some way? Maybe he's mad that I had to sneak him into the Sohma Estate? Or perhaps I looked like a show-off today at school, and it annoyed him?

Gimli jumped through my window and walked along my bed before settling into my lap while I gave him little chin scratches.

"What do you think, baby? Should I call?" I asked my feline companion as I felt the vibrations of his purring on my thigh.

He meowed at me, which I took as a 'yes.'

I reached for my phone I went through my contact list and pressed on Tangerine Karate Kid, hoping that the late-night call wouldn't piss him off more and I was exhausted, but I didn't want to go to bed anxious.

The phone rang a few times before being picked by a groggy voice.

"Who - the hell" His recognizable voice came through the phone.

"ah I'm sorry I didn't mean to wake you up, I just-" I apologized quickly but was cut off.

"What the hell do you want?" He said in a harsh tone, sounding a lot more awake than 5 seconds ago.

.

This was a terrible idea, I should have waited.

.

"You knew what, never mind, I'm sorry I'll just talk to you at school, I'm sorry... goodnight" And I clicked the phone off before he could respond.

I laid back down and shoved a pillow over my face. Screaming into it, letting out my frustration. Gimli just took this as an invitation to move from my lap to my chest, making himself comfortable.

.

I'm such an idiot, couldn't just let it go could I, had to call, now he's probably madder than he was before... Good going Marley

.

I started hoping that maybe he would be so tired that he would fall right back to sleep and forget my mistake.

My phone started vibrating, and my heart dropped at the caller ID. Kyo was calling her. I took a breath before picking up the phone and accepting the call.

"Moshi Moshi," I answered, trying to act as normal as possible.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

"WHY CALL AND THEN HANG UP!" Yelled Kyo he fully sat up on his futon, thinking no one would hear him.

"SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP STUPID CAT!" Yelled Yuki from his down the hall.

"CRAM IT YA DAMN RAT!" Kyo screamed back, fully ready to fight the Rat is he spoke again.

After that, Kyo was fully awake and started to pull together his senses. He had recognized the voice on the other side of the random phone call even though he had answered before checking the ID. He was just surprised that someone would call him so late and hadn't realized how pissed off he sounded til' after the girl had hung up.

He huffed and tapped the screen of his phone. 'Marley' came up and he called up the girl. Might as well deal with this now since he was up.

She answered quickly, greeting him with "Moshi Moshi." Kyo's ears perked up a bit at having her voice so close and moved it away a little bit.

"What do you want?" He answered, still in a pissed off mood but now was also irritated at how easily she was able to fluster him.

"I... I just wanted to see if you were alright.." She admitted, sounding already defeated on the other end.

Kyo didn't answer, slightly in shock that she would even be thinking about him and when he didn't reply Marley continued on.

.

"You were so quiet today, and you seemed... upset with me, and I wanted to know if you were okay and I wanted to apologize for whatever it was." She said softly on the phone.

"You called to apologize?" Kyo groaned, he felt he really shouldn't be allowed to be near people, and this was another example. He had gone and made someone feel bad without meaning to.

"I know that maybe I can be a bit pushy... and sometimes I'm nosy and I say the wrong things or blurt stupid things... and Naomi-san says I act too casually and I shouldn't be so touchy cause it can make people uncomfortable." she blubbered on, trying to pinpoint what It could have been that Kyo was upset over.

"Look- - It's not-" Kyo tried to interrupt, but Marley continued on.

"So if there's anything that I did to offend you in any way, please tell me because I don't want to stop being friends with you over something... well I probably can't change.. but I want to at least be aware, cause maybe you don't like touching or something - "

"IT"S NOT THAT!' Yelled Kyo who was already playing the image in his head of Marley grasping Kyo's elbow while she pulled him around or squeezed his hand when her grandfather wanted to have a talk with him. He didn't 'love' it, but he didn't want her to stop. Only because Marley liked holding hands, not because he liked it, he would just put up with it.

.

"Oh... um, well I was just worried about is all, that's why I called. You can always tell me if I've done something to upset you." She said gently, trying to get the boy to open up to her.

Kyo clung to a few words she had said and felt bad for troubling her when he knew it wasn't her fault he felt this way, cursing himself for hurting the girl's feelings. He had been pissy all day because the Rat seemed to be able to fix everything while Kyo himself felt useless.

"It's nothing you did, don't worry. That damn Yuki just really got to me today." Sort of telling the truth, Yuki had been the one to piss him off because obviously, Marley likes Yuki more because everyone did, that wasn't Marley fault though.

"oh... You two really don't get along, huh? I hope that you're at least feeling better now." She said in slight relief that it wasn't anything she had done.

"Now I'm just mad that I was woken up by some weirdo who worries way too much." He jested hearing a defiant 'Hey!' on the other end. He smiled, imagining the slightly offended look on her face.

.

"...so you must really hate public speaking huh?" Tried Kyo, even though he had wanted to ask if she was alright, he didn't want to sound worried about her or something. He laid back down on his futon, throwing his free arm behind his head, getting comfortable.

"Huh?" She responded, confused at the comment.

"Today? When you totally messed up reading in front of the class?" He reminded her. Kyo then realizing how harsh that had probably sounded and cursed himself for being an idiot.

Instead, he was met with Marley's laughter over the phone.

"Oh, no! What it that bad?! Maybe I was showing off my language skills." She joked, but to Kyo, it sounded like she was just trying to cover something up.

" I doubt it was intentional...You seemed pretty upset over it... you okay?" He finally asked what he wanted.

"... I guess I just wasn't thinking and... it just poured out, I forgot to translate and read out loud." She admitted.

"Forgot to translate? I thought you were fluent in Japanese?" He asked, confused.

"I am, for the most part, but my first language is still Punjabi, and I have to translate everything I read in my head first. Conversation is a lot easier, but reading takes my brain a moment." She admitted.

"Sounds like a pain." Groaned Kyo, translating stuff for English class was hard enough, he couldn't imagine having to translate everything.

.

"... was it that bad though?" She sounded so unsure, and Kyo knew that she was probably embarrassed over the incident.

"Nah, couldn't understand what you were saying but it sounded fine... Nothing to be embarrassed over." he had wanted to say it sounded really pretty but was too prideful to admit it to her.

"You should do it more often actually, it was kinda funny to see everyone's faces." He added. Hoping he could get her to speak the in the mysterious language more.

"I don't know, it honestly kind of made me sad when I realized I had done it." She admitted.

"Why?" He was confused about why something like that would make her sad.

"Well... it's just... the last time I really spoke Punjabi was with was my Mama and.. well it reminds me that I never will speak to her again." She slowly spoke, as if trying really hard to get the words out. Kyo felt like an idiot, he was trying to make her feel better, and he had made it worse, he should have just kept his mouth shut.

"That's too bad." He muttered, thinking that it would be a loss to never hear that sound again.

"Why?"

"Well, I dunno, if it's like a connection to her or whatever, she might be sad or something if you just stopped using it." He answered honestly, but he could also understand wanting to push away anything that reminded her of her dead parents.

She remained silent, and Kyo cursed himself for what had to be the 20th time that day. He just said all the wrong things.

"Ignore me, pretend I didn't say that it doesn't matter to me if you-" Kyo started to try and backtrack the conversation, covering his eyes with his hand.

.

"Thank you, Kyo," Marley replied, sounding genuine.

"Eh, for what?!" Kyo couldn't think any reason as to why the girl with the cute accent would be thanking him.

"Thank you for saying that... I think she would be sad too, she loved her homeland a lot, even if it was painful sometimes because off all the things Mama had to go through, she felt her language was a connection to it.. she would be sad if I stopped using it." She said gently, Kyo could just picture the soft look in her big eyes, one she wore whenever she spoke of good memories of her parents.

"Now I just have to find someone to speak it with." She was laughing, it sounded lighter than the other one she been using earlier, it felt honest.

" Ya good luck with that, now can I go to sleep." Teased Kyo, grateful that no one was around to catch him smiling.

"Oops, Sorry, it's funny I called to try and make you feel better, but in the end, you actually helped me... Thank you." She thanked him again.

"Yeah Yeah whatever." Kyo could feel his face getting warm at the praise. Marley just giggled and wished him sweet dreams while Kyo grunted in response and hung up.

Unfortunately, now Kyo was wide awake and an idea ran through his mind. It was a dumb idea, but he needed a way to make up for making Marley worry unnecessarily about him.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

The following day went by smoothly, everyone seemed good for the most part, and Kyo even ate lunch with me. I had gotten him to try some of the potato stuffed naan that I had made this morning. The only hiccup was that I had mentioned to Akito about my aerial silks practice and wanted to come and watch. I was still rough around the edges and was working on some stuff, definitely too nervous about letting her watch me practice.

She wasn't too happy that I told her no and fought me on it for a bit before I promised that the moment I felt comfortable performing in front of people I would let her know. She hung up in a huff, I barely caught the 'fine' she spat.

.

Akito is not used to being told 'No.'

.

"Marley-San, someone's on the phone for you, they sound pretty desperate." Said the receptionist of the gymnasium as she stood on the mats below me while I was suspended in the air by burgundy silk.

I carefully rolled down and stepped out to follow her to the main desk.

"Marley speaking-"

"Marley- san! I need you to come to the hospital - It's Kisa! She- she." A distraught voice I recognized as Kisa's mother was speaking rapidly, and it was hard to understand but I didn't need any more information as I dropped the phone and rushed to grab my bag and flew out the door, quickly hailing a cab and slipping inside, getting out my phone, seeing it had 15 missed calls from Kisa's mother and Dadaji.

.

What happened? Please let her be alright, please, please, please let her be okay

.

.-.-.-.- To Be Continued .-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

 

Chapter Text

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Rushing through the hallways, I felt like my brain was on auto-pilot, all I could hear was my heart pumping in my body. Kisa's mother met me in the lobby and locked me into a tight hug. Mumbling incoherently into my shoulder as I rubbed her back.

"Is Kisa.." I started to ask, but the older woman pulled away and rubbed her eyes.

"She..." She then cut herself off as if figuring out what to tell me.

"She had a bad fall... at the main house." She explained, and I noticed her hands started shaking as she tried to pull herself together. I clasped onto her hands with my own and squeezed, trying to comfort her.

" Is she okay?" I asked, waiting for an answer, hopeful for a good reply.

.

Well, a good enough answer I guess, nothing seems good right now

.

" Bruises... a sprained ankle, a few cuts they had to stitch up, one pretty bad bump on her head." She answered.

"She's been asking for you..." She mumbled as she walked towards the elevator, and I followed diligently behind.

.

She's gonna be okay.. she's fine.. she's fine

.

The elevator door opened and a surprising figure stepped out, clad in dark pants and a black turtleneck, onyx eyes staring into mine.

"Akito-Sama? What are you doing here?" Asked the worried mother as she held onto my wrist and clamped down tightly, moving slightly in front of me.

" Just checking on dear little Kisa, I was distraught, you see. I hate seeing any of my precious Zodiac members in pain. I just had a quick word is all, but now I must head back." Akito spoke to Kisa's mother and then turned her sights on me.

There was an odd air of malice in the air, all round I felt the air grow cold and I felt like I couldn't breathe.

Akito stepped fully out of the elevator and reached for my free hand, caressing the back of my hand with her thumb. For a comforting gesture, it made my instincts scream.

.

I need to get away, I need to see Kisa

.

"Kisa's waiting for me... I have to go." I stated, struggling past the lump in my throat as I pulled my hand out of her grip and walked into the elevator with Kisa's mother.

A hand latched on my wrist tightly right before the elevator door closed. Akito squeezed my wrist, trying to tug me towards her, but Kisa's mother held onto my other arm firmly, keeping me by her side.

"Marley.." Akito let out as she looked at me with pleading eyes, her mood seeming to sway right before my eyes. I looked over at the petite woman beside me and told her that it was okay and Kisa's mother unlatched from my arm. I quickly wrapped up my arms around Akito and rubbed her back.

"Go home Akito. I'll see you back at the estate." I promised as I pulled out of the hug and squeezed her arms lightly before stepping back into the elevator, barely catching the glare Akito sent my way before the doors closed.

.

Well that can't be good, maybe she's just worried, she has a special connection to the Zodiac members, one that I'll probably never understand

.

I let out a breath I didn't even know I was holding as the elevator ascended. I just wanted to concentrate on Kisa, how she was doing, thinking of any way I could help.

"Marley, please be careful." Warned Kisa's mother as she held my hand as we walked out of the elevator and down the hall. I looked over at her inquisitively.

.

Careful of what? Of Kisa?

.

"I promise, I'll try not to fret over Kisa too much, and I'll try not to squeeze her too tightly when I hug her," I stated as we walked along the hospital hallway.

The exhausted mother just shook her head and didn't say anything more as she dragged me into a hospital room.

"Onee-chan.." Cried out Kisa as she reached for me, white gauze peaking out her hospital gown and around her head.

"Oh, Kisa!" I rushed over and took her uninjured hand, looking over all her injuries, heart-clenching at the sight as tears welled up in my eyes.

.

She's okay... she's fine, this will heal

.

"Onee-chan... it hurts." She whimpered out, and as she said that her mother walked out to get a nurse or something to administer some sort of pain medicine.

"I know Honey Bee, I know." I cried gently while I lightly rested my forehead against hers.

.

But you're alive

.

I cried in relief, deleting all the horrifying images that had entered my mind when I had first gotten the call. She was hurt, covered in bandages, but she was alive, and I'm thankful.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Rummaging through a storage chest, I gathered what I would need and cradled everything in my arms. Carrying all the materials downstairs, nearly tripping over my own feet. I felt compelled to finally finish a project I had started earlier in the year. Determined to get it done by tomorrow for the little Tiger.

"Go to bed. You need to rest." Ordered Dadaji as he held my shoulder, hoping to convince me to put down the knitting needles.

"I can't." I simply put as I continued with my cable knitting, carefully handling the sunshine yellow yarn.

Dadaji let out a sigh and shook his head, knowing that he had little chance at stopping me. Instead, he went into the kitchen and came back out to put down a cup of green tea and a small bowl of almonds.

"Thank you," I muttered, barely looking away from my project. Dadaji squeezed my shoulder, and I lightly felt his lips touch the top of my head, and he walked upstairs, most likely going to bed.

"Hey Google, can you play the Forrest Gump soundtrack on shuffle please." I called to the device, not wanting to lose my place in my knitting.

.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone

.

I sang along with the Jackie DeShannon as I knitted, trying to distract myself from thinking about the poor little girl stuck in the hospital, covered in gauze and in pain.

Time passed as I completed the blanket, now big enough to cover Kisa's hospital bed. I had been saving the present as a gift for her birthday, but I would come up with something else for that. I wanted her to have the blanket now. I didn't know what else to do.

My mind was racing with ideas on what to bring her while she stayed in the hospital recovering. Lists were compiled of movies I can download onto my laptop to leave with her and maybe there were some activity books I could gather. Dancing would be out of the question for a while.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

" I'm curious about that chicken eating the rock. He seems to lack the basic intelligence required for pretty much... everything. Should we maybe just cook him?" Asked the villager as he lifted a rock with a pair of tongs.

"Sometimes our strength lies beneath the surface. Far beneath in some cases. But I'm sure there's more to Heihei than meets the eye." Defended Moana as she watched her chicken friend hock up a rock.

.

My laptop rested on top of Kisa's eating table while we watched the movie, the sound of rain playing in the background. It felt strange to watch Moana in the Japanese dubbing, but it was still good, just different.

I rested my head overtop of Kisa's as we watched the movie. We both had barely moved from the bed, I laid on top of the covers while she was nestled safely under the wool blanket I had finished the last week. I had even missed the first few classes finishing up the blanket. Kyo had sent a few texts asking if I was skipping which I had teasing texted back 'What? Miss me?' which resulted in him sending a 'NO' in all caps. I smiled thinking of the easily flustered boy, so quickly to get riled up. I had finished the blanket before lunch and arrived for the rest of the school day. Kyo had just pouted and crossed his arms at me, calling me a slacker.

It's now been a week since Kisa's accident, she had taken a fall in the Main house on the Sohma Estate, although she seemed a lot more battered than that. Her one side was still covered in dark bruise's and had a sprained wrist along with a pretty nasty bump on her head.

A majority of my time had been spent by her side while I tried to balance school, dance, and getting ready for a wedding on the upcoming Saturday. During Kisa's visiting hours it was usually Haru and I keeping Kisa company, but it was just me today. I was concerned at the fact that Hiro seemed to disappear, he had apparently just dropped by once to drop off flowers but hadn't been by since. I had tried getting a hold of him, even showed up at his door but Hiro just didn't want to see anyone.

.

I can understand it is tough to watch a loved one in pain and Hiro is still just a kid... maybe it's just too much for him... but Kisa needs him here.

.

"Onee-chan." Whispered Kisa as she gripped one of the pleats on my school skirt. I hummed in response, lightly turning my head to look at her.

" I don't want to be alone... I wanna come home." She whispered.

"Hey, it's only for another day or so, then you can come home, the doctors are just being careful." I comforted as I brushed my fingers through her hair.

" Oh, that reminds me! I have a friend who promised to look after you." I mentioned enthusiastically as I paused the movie and hopped out of bed to go through my backpack and retrieve a friend.

My little lion plushy was obviously very worn, his bright orange mane wildly surrounding his face. I brought him over to Kisa as laid back down on the bed beside her.

"This is Shere Khan, he is the best companion you could count on. He was with me when we moved to Vegas, he was there for me during my hospital stay, and I want him to be there for you. He will keep all your secrets, protect you from the dark, will never judge and most importantly... is the very best cuddle buddy." I explained as I handed the adorable lion plushy to the Tiger of the Zodiac.

It was surprisingly hard to let go of my little lion friend, I had contemplated over the week and kept meaning to bring him in, but maybe he could bring comfort to Kisa. I know that the lion plushy had helped me through more than I liked to admit.

She held it softly as if the doll was made of glass and then looked at me.

"I trust you to take good care of him." Once I said that her eyes watered up and she wrapped her arms around me, still holding Shere Khan in one hand.

"I will..." She whispered softly into my chest as I rested my head on top of hers, she then let go of me and hugged the doll close to her.

"... he's so soft." She mumbled into the plushy's fur. I smiled at the sight, happy I could give her some sort of comfort, even if it came in the form of a simple stuffed animal. I wished I could take all her pain away, but for now, this would have to do.

"Marley-San, I'm sorry to interrupt but visiting hours are over." Reminded the nurse as she came. I sighed and got up from the bed and gathered my things but leaving Kisa with my laptop so she could pass the time with some movies. Wrapping my arms around Kisa and kissed her on top of her head and promised I would be back tomorrow.

"Maybe I'll even sneak in some desserts," I whispered to her which made her giggle lightly. I even gave Shere Khan a little pat and told him to look after Kisa. Grabbing my yellow raincoat, I headed out the door while waving goodbye to the sweet girl.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

As I walked through the hallways of the hospital, I was stopped in my tracks by a hand on my shoulder. I was turned swiftly and brought into a hug.

"MARLEY! It's so nice to see you." Greeted the familiar voice as I was still trapped in the hug. Nearly squeezing the life out of me.

" Mika!" I recognized the easily excitable nurse as I was finally let go.

"I heard rumors about a beautiful foreigner who was practically stationed here during visiting hours." She teased as she stepped back and smiled brightly at me.

"Ah yes, I was hoping they would let me stay, but they keep kicking me out," I admitted. Mika was the nurse I was most familiar with during my previous stay here. She was very enthusiastic but was a huge gossip. She would let me in on all the hospital drama and would by mistake reveal sensitive information, Following it with ' Oh, don't tell anyone I told you that.'

"Thank goodness, our chocolate pudding supplies would never survive." She joked as she walked with me to the exit.

"How are you? Still causing trouble?" I asked, and she shook her head, her short brown had grown since I last saw her, now brushing against her shoulder as she moved.

"I've been perfect, I've gotten much better at keeping sensitive information to myself, thank you very much." She defended herself as we passed a patient room, we could hear yelling as we passed by. Sounded like a lovers quarrel of some sort, I was kind of curious but was trying to work on not sticking my nose where it doesn't belong.

"So that woman has two uteruses." Explained Mika as we walked by.

"Two uteruses? Uteri? That's incredible." I awed at the information, thinking about how incredibly rare that must be.

" Anyway, this boyfriend of her's thought both of the kids were his, turns out one baby is due any day now while the other's due date in 6 weeks. During which time they were broken up." She gossiped, enjoying the juicy scandal.

.

Yep, same old Nurse Mika.

.

"I thought you said you were better!" I laughed as she shared sensitive information with me.

"Oops, your right.. don't tell anyone I told you that." She finished as she held her finger to her lips.

"I honestly don't know if anyone would believe me if I told them that," I explained honestly.

.

One day she is going to say the wrong thing to the wrong person I swear

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Researching on my phone was tougher than I thought as Kisa still had my laptop at the hospital. I was trying to figure out the best way to enjoy some fresh, non-city air. Plus Dadaji is insisting a take a few days off in general. I knew the Sohma's have a few vacation houses, surely there was one out in the countryside or something.

.

I doubt Kisa would be able to go, her mother will only become more overprotective after this. And Akito hates doing anything outside of the Main Estate. Maybe Zuzu and Haru -

.

"How's your friend doing Marley-Chan?" Asked Tohru as interrupted my thoughts as we walked the hallways of the school.

"She should be getting out tomorrow, gives her the weekend to rest, and golden week I guess before she has go back to school," I explained, happy that Kisa could relax at home for a bit.

"Poor kid... must have been a pretty bad fall." Sighed Uo, shaking her head.

.

That's what everyone keeps telling me, even Kisa was adamant about it being a fall..but..

.

"You seem unsure Marley?' Asked Hanajima, she had probably been able to tell by my waves or something.

"I just... I feel like people aren't telling me something, like I've been kept from something." I explained, not able to shake this dark feeling in my heart.

"So what are your plans for the weekend?" I asked the girls while also changing the subject.

"Oh, it's the anniversary of Kyoko-San's death, so we were planning to go pay our respects." Explained Uotani as we walked down a flight of stairs.

"Yuki-Kun said he was going to come along to visit Mom as well." Piped up Tohru, seeming excited that her housemate would join her for the grave visit.

"Huh? So the Prince is coming too? What about Kyon?" Asked Uo

"Ah... I don't know. He didn't answer..." Pondered Tohru as she thought of her other housemate.

"I bet Kyoko-san would've like Kyon. I can see her teasing the hell out of him." Tohru laughed at the image that Uo created.

"And then when Kyo Sohma finally became infuriated.. she would've given him a back-crushing bear hug." Piped in Hanajima which made me cringe at the idea.

.

Okay that would be bad news bears... for a few reasons

.

"You know who else Kyoko-San would have adored?" Smirked Uo as she gazed at Tohru.

"Who?" Asked Tohru as she thought of who Uo was talking about.

"Marley-Chan!" Cheered Uo as she wrapped her arm around my shoulders, shaking me slightly.

"Really?!" I was surprised I was even being brought up in this conversation.

"Mom would have loved you Marley-Chan! Especially if you ever cooked for her." Agreed Tohru as she was most likely thinking of the pakora dish I had shared earlier this week.

"I'm honored, Kyoko-San seemed like an amazing woman." I rejoiced at the idea of the woman, who my friends spoke about so highly, welcoming me with open arms.

"She would have fussed over you for sure, plus she probably would have been amazed at your height." Teased Uo.

"Why my height?" I whined, rolling my eyes at the fact that my height had been brought up again.

"Cause it makes you totally badass, you're like my goal height, maybe 5'10." Gushed Uo as she once again compared her height to mine.

.

"Plus you're a total cutie, who wouldn't adore you." Cooed Uo as she rubbed her cheek against mine, causing me to giggle.

"Oh don't worry, they are out there..." I laughed as I thought of the many elders at the Sohma Estate who definitely didn't find me adorable.

"Um.. maybe if you are not busy Marley-Chan, you can come with us to visit Mom, she would love to meet you." Suggested Tohru.

"I'm sorry I can't, I'm booked solid this weekend. But thank you so much for the invite." I apologized to the girl, genuinely disappointed that I wouldn't be able to join the group. Although I was really looking forward to the all-day workshop on Sunday, I've wanted to try this style of dance for the past year. And there was no way I was gonna get out the wedding on Saturday, I had hosted the tea ceremony just the other day and was not looking forward to another moment stuck in a fancy kimono.

.

Like yeah, wearing a kimono is amazing and it's beautiful, but I can barely move in them. Give me a saree over a kimono any day.

.

"No no, don't be sorry. Maybe another time." Offered Tohru and I smiled over the at the kind-hearted girl and reached over to squeeze her hand.

" I would love to pay my respects one day," I replied, genuinely wanting to support my friend through this.

"I can't believe it's been a year... since your mother passed away." Confessed Hanajima as made our way down some stairs.

"Yeah, I still... get the feeling she'll suddenly show up...Saying 'my bad, my bad' with a big smile on her face." Admitted Uo, throwing her hands behind her head.

I smiled slightly as I looked outside. I sometimes expected my own parents to come through the door late at night, saying 'sorry, sorry! Didn't mean to keep you waiting.'. Both of them smiling at me as they apologized. All of a sudden, I felt a wave of sadness wash over me, and I excused myself, walking away from them to go back to the classroom, claiming I had forgotten my phone.

As I entered the classroom, I let out the breath I had been holding and let my smile fall as I leaned against the door I closed behind me.

.

Breath in... breath out... breath in... breath out

.

"Yo."

I let out a small scream as I noticed the orange-haired boy in front of me. I honestly thought it had just been me in the room.

"What happened to you?" Asked Kyo as he inspected my face.

"Oh, um nothing, nothing. Actually, I was just thinking about a sad movie, and you know how movies can just really get ya." I blabbered as I waved my hands in front of me, trying to blow off how I was feeling.

"Ya, what movie was it?" He asked as he raised his eyebrow, clearly not falling for my act.

"uhhhhhh" I dragged on trying to recall a single movie that triggered tears but couldn't come up with anything.

He shook his head lightly and brought his hand to my face and wiped away tears that had escaped.

"If you're sad about something, you might as well just say it, you're kind of a shitty liar." He mused as he waited for me to answer.

"Sorry," I uttered, wiping away the rest of my tears on my uniform sleeve.

"And don't apologize about it either!" He yelled, frustrated with me.

"Your right! Sorry!." And then covered my mouth when I realized I had apologized again.

He groaned and didn't bother repeating himself, he even seemed to chuckle at my actions.

"So, what was it?" He asked as he walked away from me and headed to his desk.

"Oh.. Well the girls were talking about Tohru's Mom, and they're visiting the grave this weekend. I guess the more they talked about it, the more I just... I just needed a moment." I admitted as I walked over to the window by my desk, looking out over the courtyard.

"Are you going on Sunday?" He asked as I felt his eyes on my form, waiting for an answer.

"Huh? Oh, I can't, I've got a dance workshop all day." I explained as I thought of the West Coast Swing workshop at the studio.

He just grunted in response as I heard the squeaking of a chair,.

"But if you can, I think it would be nice if you went." I told him as I turned to look at him, he had leaned back in his seat, trying to relax. He didn't answer me, just groaned at my suggestion.

.

I know it doesn't sound like a good time, but Kyo cares for Tohru, I'm sure of it, and he should be there

.

For some reason, I felt a pinch in my chest as I thought of my two friends and their relationship with one another.

"I think it would make Tohru happy. It would mean a lot to her if you went. Yuki's going, and you are both precious people in her life." I suggested as leaned up against the ledge of the window, watching his reaction.

He didn't say anything for a while, but I could imagine the gears in his brain working as he came to an answer.

"Fine... I guess when you put it like that... I'll go in your place." He mumbled as he looked away from me.

"That's very kind of you, appreciate it." I smiled, thinking how happy Tohru would be at Kyo's attendance.

"But don't ask me to go to any more grave visits." He groaned, really not looking forward to visiting the shrine visits with Yuki of all people.

" I promise I won't," I stated as I held a hand over my heart.

.

"So... what kind of workshop are you doing?" He asked, I smiled at his attempt to change the conversation and immediately started to explain west coast swing and why I was excited to learn.

"It's this partner dance, and I've been eager to learn it since last year. It's an all-day workshop, and the fact that it's at my regular studio makes it perfect." I gushed as I talked about the workshop, happy to not be talking about grave visits anymore.

I popped out my phone to show him some videos of people dancing WCS, spending the rest of the lunch hour browsing through videos, getting myself more and more excited try the dance myself.

"Hey and there's actually a lot of distance for the most part between the dancers, maybe one day you can dance it with me." I was resting my elbows on his desk as I showed him some videos.

"Ya, good luck with that." He teased as he tugged on a piece of my hair.

"Aww so cruel, I'll even let you teach me some kung fu moves." I offered as I put my hand into a fist and assumed a fighting position. He let out a sigh calling me 'hopeless.'

"What am I gonna do with you?" He mused as he lightly shook his head and smiled at me softly.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Kyo walked back into the house with his housemates, feeling drained by the day. Contemplating along the way, feeling racked with guilt over what he had done, or hadn't done.

He thought back to what wave girl Hanajima had told him, she knew he was burdened with guilt but did not know why. That his waves were in 'chaos.'

After trying to distract himself with getting his homework done. Kyo abandoned his books to walk downstairs, feeling restless. The burdened Cat of the Zodiac came across Tohru who was sleeping soundly on the porch, a cup of tea resting by her head.

"Why the hell.. is she sleepin' on the porch?" He muttered to himself as he kneeled down and tried to shake her awake.

"Hey. You wanna catch a cold, come on, wake up." He said only for the girl let out a laugh and turn over, still sound asleep. Kyo shook his head, exasperated at her behavior. Looking down at the girl, he was reminded of his wrongdoings. Feeling drowned by it.

The Cat of the Zodiac leaned down to Tohru's ear and softly let out an apology. It somehow only made him feel worse. Like a coward.

Kyo rose to his feet and headed towards the door, slipping on his sneakers and fled. He wasn't sure where he was going, Kyo just knew he needed to go. Runaway.

Troubled thoughts ran through his mind. Kyo needed space. Or something. He had no direction in mind as the sun was beginning to set, and the night started to settle over the city. Kyo didn't know how long he had walked for, and nothing was stopping him.

.

Midnight, you come and pick me up, no headlights
Long drive, could end in burning flames or paradise
Fade into view, oh,
It's been a while since I have even heard from you

.

Music brought Kyo out of his trance as took in his surroundings. This had been where he walked Marley not that long ago. The music was pouring out from the open windows of the studio. Kyo wondered if this was part of the dance thing that Marley mentioned she was doing and curiosity got the better of him.

He peeked into and noticed many pairs of people moving across the dance floor to what sounded like a pop song that Kyo was unfamiliar with. Then he caught a flip of a long white-blond ponytail and his eyes locked onto the tall beauty dancing with a tall black haired male. She was wearing tight black pants tucked into flat boots and a light blue tank top. Smiling at her partner while he led her in the dance. Spinning and leading her into lots of what looked like tricky moves. She laughed as he did so.

.

Cause you got that James Dean daydream look in your eye
And I got that red lip, classic thing that you like
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time
'Cause we never go out of style, we never go out of style

.

"Can I help you?" A voice piped up out nowhere, causing Kyo to jump out of his skin.

The surprised orange-haired teen turned to the voice and noticed a girl that looked to be little older than him, standing there and glaring at him. She had a shoulder-length straight bob and brown eyes that were glaring into his soul.

"I'm gonna need you to stop being a creep." She spat at him as she put her hands on her hips while staring him down.

"I'M NOT BEING A CREEP!" Hissed Kyo walking up to her, his shoulders up to his ears in irritation.

"Then why are you peeping through the window?" She asked, crossing her arms.

"I just... I know someone in there." He commented, thinking about the white-blond girl who had looked like she was really enjoying herself. The last thing she needed was to have him around. Marley was probably better off without him.

"Ya, who?" She looked like she doubted him as she raised her eyebrow at him. Kyo just let out a sigh and muttered a 'Whatever' before turning around and heading back.

.

"Kyo!" A hand latched onto his arm, turning him where he was met with the flushed face of Marley. Her cheeks red from dancing and some hair was sticking to her forehead from sweat.

"Oh, so you're Marley's boyfriend." Stated the mystery girl.

"I'M NOT HER BOYFRIEND." Yelled Kyo as Marley just laughed, Kyo face was now bright red at the comment.

"Don't mind Rei, she just likes to mess with people." Explained Marley as she held the temperamental boy in place.

"What are you doing here?" She asked, observing him with concern in her eyes that Kyo tried to avidly avoid.

"Just... started walking..." He confessed, surprised at himself for answering truthfully, even more, surprised that this was where he had ended up. Marley gave him a small smile and squeezed his arm slightly.

"Hey, Marley? Are you heading out? Do you have time for one last dance?" Asked a guy who had stepped out from the studio, he wasn't the one Kyo had seen dancing with Marley before, but he was also tall and seemed to be a foreigner. Kyo imagined that Marley was a very popular dance partner.

Kyo looked over at Marley and couldn't help but notice she had at least a good inch over him, even if the boy stood up straight Marley was still taller than him. Marley looked at Kyo, looking hopeful at him.

"Kyo, do you wanna dance?" She asked, smiling gently at him. The boy flushed and turned away.

"No way... I don't dance." He stated, scoffing at the idea. Marley looked over at him, and although she was disappointed, she didn't push him. Marley could tell that the Cat seemed to be more burdened than usual today. She didn't know how, but she wanted to help him.

.

"Then promise you'll at least stay. I'll be done right after one last dance." She requested.

"I -" Kyo started to say but was cut off.

"Please. I'd really love to hang out after." She asked, moving to hold both his hands in hers.

"... Fine..." He was finding it harder and harder to say no to the cheerful girl who always looked happy to see him, he might have even danced with her if he wasn't terrified of transforming, and terrified of making a fool of himself in general.

Marley turned to the guy waiting and agreed she would dance as she also dragged Kyo into the studio.

"You don't have to dance, just hang out and watch. Maybe it'll make you wanna join next time." She suggested as she led him to a bench where he could sit. Then the guy wasted no time in sweeping her away as the next song started. Holding her close at first, seeming to take a moment to find the rhythm for the up-beat song before he took a step backward and pulled her with him. Marley shined so brightly on the dance floor, so carefree, so graceful that Kyo couldn't tear his eyes away as he sat on the bench, watching.

.

I never felt so in love before
Just promise baby, you'll love me forevermore
I swear I'm keepin' you satisfied
'Cause you're the one for me

.

Kyo didn't know the song as it was another English song, he only vaguely recognized it and found himself slightly humming along as he watched Marley dance. Every once in awhile, she would catch his gazes and smile brightly at him, making him quickly look away, thankful for the dark studio hiding his red cheeks.

But as Kyo thought of that warm smile that she would give him, he wondered. Would Marley still smile at him if she knew? If she knew what he had caused... would she be so eager to want to dance with him if she knew that he was a monster. Kyo knew the answer. He knew what he was, and Kyo was at peace with it, as much as he could be.

Kyo watched at how happy Marley was on the dance floor. He felt regret over saying no to her request. But the Cat doubted she would have looked that happy if he was there in that guy's shoes. Kyo worried that he might mess up, step on her, or just look plain stupid.

He observed as the guy spun her and then placed his hand on her waist, and she put her hand on his chest as she stepped backward. Kyo thought to himself that maybe looking stupid wouldn't be so bad if it meant he just got to dance with her.

.

The way you make me feel
Hee hee hee!
You really turn me on
You knock me off of my feet
My lonely days are gone

.

The song came to an end, and Marley was brought into a low dip, her partner brought her back up, and she appeared to thank him for the dance before leaving him on the dance floor to approach Kyo.

"Let's get out of here." Marley yelled over the music as she dragged him off the bench by his hand as the next song started, with her free hand, she grabbed a purple backpack and hooked it onto her free arm. Marley led him across the dance floor, slightly dancing her way through as Kyo just walked behind her, letting a small smile out as he watched her enjoy herself. Marley had a particular gift of helping Kyo forget about his troubles and just want to be part of her world. Even if it was just for a moment.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

I held onto Kyo's hand through the studio and finally let him go free when we made it to the street.

"ah, the fresh air feels so nice." I cheered as I stretched out, reaching towards the sky.

"I thought you said today was about learning? You looked like you knew that dance pretty damn well." Commented Kyo as he waited for me to stop stretching.

"I've been learning since 10 this morning, Man my legs are gonna be like jelly tomorrow." I moaned as I thought about all my muscles that had been worked. Sitting down on a bench, I opened my backpack and got out my fuzzy teddybear coat to protect me from the chill in the air.

" I guess they're gonna start doing this dance social every Sunday night, now that so many people around here are interested," I explained as I slipped off the flat suede black boots and brought out my white keds to slip on, putting the dance boots in my bag.

I finally took into account what he was wearing. Black track pants and a black Adidas track jacket with his orange Adidas sneakers.

.

"Did... did you wear that to the shrine?" I asked as I tried to cover my mouth so he wouldn't see my smile.

"Yeah, so what?" He groaned as stuffed his hands into the pockets of his track jacket.

"No it's nothing, um... so is this your formal tracksuit?" I joked as I bit my lip, trying to stop a laugh from bursting out.

He just groaned as I laughed at his 'athletic' sense of style. I could only imagine what he might try to wear to a black-tie event if this is what he wore for a grave visit.

There was something off about Kyo today, he didn't even have the energy to fight off my jesting about his clothes. Most days he appeared to have a chip of some type on his shoulder but today was different. I noticed when I first saw him standing outside the studio and hoped that getting his mind off of whatever was plaguing would help, but he still seemed to be.. lost.

"I'm starving, have you had dinner yet?" I asked as I continued to observe him. He just shrugged his shoulder, not really having an opinion on the matter.

"There is this ramen place I really like around the corner. C'mon my treat." I offered as looped my arm around his and led the way. He didn't complain as we walked along, just went along with it.

.

Maybe food will help

.

"I hope that you know if you ever need to talk... I'm here for you." I offered as I squeezed his bicep slightly.

He looked over at me as if considering the offer and then turned his gaze down to the pavement.

"Don't worry about me." He let out in a sigh as we walked along. I decided not to push and support him by just staying by his side. Kyo would open up when he was ready.

.

A called cat never comes

.

We walked into the ramen shop, and the shop staff welcomed us. I sat us down at the bar in front of the kitchen area. The owner immediately greeted us and asked me if I wanted my usual.

"How was dance tonight?" Asked the ramen chef as he skillfully cut up vegetables.

"It was great, tiring, but great," I explained as I let Kyo look over the menu.

"This your boyfriend?" He asked quietly to me as he wiggled his eyebrow at me.

"No, no, just my date for the night." I corrected him under my breath, not wanting to rile up Kyo all over again.

Kyo ordered what he wanted, and we sat in a comfortable silence as we waited. Just listening to the sounds of the small ramen shop around us. A few businessmen in the corner were cheering in the back corner, clinking beer glasses while another gentleman at the bar expertly slurped his noodles.

.

"One tonkotsu ramen with a soft boiled egg and vegetarian spicy miso ramen with a soft boiled egg." Announced the chef as he placed the bowls in front of us and I thanked him.

"So you can eat eggs but not salmon?" Asked Kyo as I broke apart a pair of chopsticks.

"What? It doesn't have a face! Yet.." I defended my diet choices, which only made him smile and shake his head.

"Okay Weirdo, you make your own rules." He teased as he dug into his bowl.

I softly blew on my noodles before diving in myself. Savoring the salty taste that had a bit of kick. This was heaven, a long day of dancing and got to end it with good food and Kyo.

Gazing over at Kyo, I caught his eyes as if he had been staring my way.

"Is there something on my face?" I asked the boy, gazing into his orange eyes. A small blush graced his face, and he turned back towards his food.

"Ya, some broth on your chin." He muttered as he returned to his food but not before handing me a napkin.

"No! Really?!" I moaned as I grabbed the napkin from his hand and dabbed my chin and the area around my mouth to be safe.

.

How embarrassing

.

As I freaked out, Kyo just chucked at my reaction, enjoying my embarrassment.

"What so funny?" I whined as I crumpled up the napkin and tossed on the counter.

"You missed a spot." He said as he smirked at me.

"So mean!" I accused as I picked up the napkin and tossed at him, causing him to yell 'Hey' but it was hard to believe he was too mad as he was giving me a smile. A genuinely, endearing smile.

"You have a beautiful smile." I complimented as I looked at him straight in the eye, smiling at him. The compliment immediately made him turn red and face back towards his ramen.

"Ah... to be young." Mused the chef as he smiled at us,

"But if you two keep flirting your ramen is going to get cold." He warned as pointed his ladle at us, causing me to laugh.

"I'm not flirting!" Yelled Kyo at the chef who just replied with a smile.

"Here Kyo, you can have the other half of my egg." I offered as I placed the egg into his bowl of ramen, it kept him from continued his argument with the chef, and he uttered a small 'thanks' before he ate it.

.

We finished our meals, and I paid before Kyo could put up too much of a fuss and led him out of the restaurant.

" I thought girls liked it when the guy paid..." Mentioned Kyo as we walked along the quiet streets.

"Ya I like being treated, but I invited you out, it would be rude to make you pay." I explained as we came to a crossroads.

"I guess I won't see you till after the break." I realized as we came to a stop, a bit sad at the idea of missing out on seeing Kyo's orange locks for an extended time.

"Huh? Why?" Asked Kyo as he raised his eyebrow at me.

"Well, it's golden week starting tomorrow, right?" I asked, wondering if I had gotten my dates completely messed up. Realization came over Kyo's face as he groaned. Complaining about being stuck in the house with the 'Damn Rat.'

I shook my head at his response and wished him a good break as I walked towards the Sohma Estate.

.

"Oi!" Called Kyo as he caught up with me and just started walking alongside me.

"Umm, I thought Shigure's house was in the other direction." I pointed out to him.

"I'm not gonna let a girl pay for my dinner and then not walk her home, Weirdo." He stated as if it was common sense.

"Plus, it's dark out, and your grandfather will blame me-" He started rambling on all the reasons he was walking me home.

"Kyo." I cut him off, and he looked over at me.

"Thank you." I simply said as I smiled up at him. His face erupted into a blush, and he just grabbed my hand and kept heading towards the Sohma Estate, increasing the speed of our walking pace.

"You walk too slowly." He mumbled as he continued to hold my hand and walk briskly ahead of me. I could only smile at the back of his head as I was lightly pulled along.

.

I hope he's at least feeling better than he was before. Kyo is much more delicate than he tries to portray.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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"Ah, Testuo-Sama. Evening, it's Shigure. Is Marley-Chan around, wanted to ask her something." The Dog of the Zodiac

"That's Marley-Sama to you, perverted novelist." Spat the elder of the Sohma clan, clearly not a fan of Shigure's.

"Marley, the Dog is on the phone for you!" Called Dadaji, Shigure could just imagine the elder's agitated face as he called for his granddaughter.

Shigure waited as he stood in the hallway of his home, he heard movement on the other end, and then a sweet voice with a recognizable accent came through.

.

"Marley speaking. How are you, Shigure?" Marley asked through the phone. Shigure remembered why he was calling and had to remind himself be nice.

"Marley-Chan, so lovely to hear your voice so close, the voice of an angel." Shigure's tried to sweet-talk the young girl.

"That's very... sweet of you to say but is there something you were looking for?" She asked, clearly wanting to get to the point. Shigure was surprised he wasn't able to fluster her more. Maybe he had underestimated her.

"I called the main house, hoping to use the lake house for the golden week and they mentioned that I would have to talk to you." He explained, lightly fanning himself.

"Ya, I have it booked, but if you need it you can have it, I'll let them know." She offered up the lake house with no fuss.

" I was gonna take Yuki, Kyo, and Tohru up for the holiday. Get some fresh air, and the lake will be perfect for that." Explained Shigure, even though he hadn't told the teens in his house of his golden week plans.

.

"That sounds wonderful, you guys are going to have a great time." Gushed Marley as she got excited for them.

"Well, I'm sure Tohru would really appreciate having another lady around. You should come with us."

"Are you sure? I don't want to intrude or anything." She sounded nervous at the idea of joining them on a trip.

" I would need a little favor from you. I need Haa-san to come with us." Requested Shigure, knowing the doctor would be quick to shoot him down but had a soft spot for the sun-kissed beauty.

"Haa-san... Hatori? May I ask why?" Marley inquired, sounding slightly suspicious.

"Hmm.. the poor guy just needs a break, don't you think. I'm sure he would rather go to a Lakehouse with a pretty girl than me." He teased, which caused Marley to laugh.

"Don't sell yourself short Shigure, you're very pretty yourself." She complimented and teased the Dog of the Zodiac right back.

Shigure smirked, surprised at the side of adopted Sohma that he had yet to see. Wondering how he could work her into his plans.

" But he does deserve a break so I'll try to convince him to come. Should I book us a driver and van?" She asked, clearly going through a list in her head.

"I'll have to call again and let the staff know how many people are coming... it's a bit late right now, but I'll call them first thing in the morning before we leave..." She trailed off, Shigure could hear the scratching of a pen as she made some notes.

"Haa-san has his license, he can drive." Mentioned Shigure before Marley could go off and make plans.

"True but we'll still need to get a van, are you sure he won't mind driving though? It's a long drive." She mentioned, trying to be considerate of the overworked doctor.

"Although... it would be nice to give Sousuke-San the day off..." She started talking to herself.

.

"Oh and one more thing Marley-Chan, do you have any of your Dad's old guitars?" Asked Shigure as he thought of Yuuto Sohma. The friendly Sohma would play in the garden in the Sohma Estate when Shigure and his friends were kids. Yuuto was even kind enough to share his guitar skills with others.

"Bapu's guitars? They're in storage, why?" She asked, sounding skeptical.

"You should bring one to the lake house. There might be a surprise in it for you." Smiled Shigure, thinking how shocked the teens would be at his reveal.

"Okay, fine. We'll pick you guys up around 8 then?" She suggested, giving into the Dog's request, giving in to her curiosity.

"Perfect. Goodnight Sweet Marley. I must admit, I'm very excited to start new memories with a flower such as yourself." Sighed Shigure

"See you in the morning, Shigure." She laughed, clearly not taking him seriously. The phone call ended at that. Shigure smiled at this accomplishment and decided to tell the teens in his house the good news. Shigure was also excited at the idea of getting a better idea of who Marley Sohma was and what better opportunity was there then a few days together at the lake house. What had Akito so enamored with the exotic beauty?

What was so special about God's new plaything?

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.- To Be Continued .-.-.-..-.-.-

Chapter Text

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.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Gimli swished his tail back and forth as I moved about the room. Green eyes watching my every move as I packed a small bag.

"What do you think Baby, denim jacket or teddy bear?" I asked the giant orange and white feline as I held up the articles of clothing. He jumped on the bed and meowed, swishing his tail to the left.

"You're right, it might get cool at night... teddy bear coat it is." I decided as I laid the light brown coat on the bed and put away the denim jacket.

My hair was still up in a towel as I put the last remaining things in a bag and packed up toiletries. Before I could close the duffel, Gimli decided to sit in it.

"Gimliiiii, noooo. You can't come." I whined as I picked him up in my arms and put him on the ground, zipping the bag closed as he meowed and rubbed himself against my legs.

"It's only for a few days, plus you have to keep Dadaji company," I told him which only made him meow in protest.

"He'll probably be able to sneak you more treats if I'm not around." I pointed out and at the mention of treats, he left my room, and I heard his feet moving quickly down the stairs.

I slipped on a white denim skirt and a white crop t-shirt, my locket resting a little below my collarbones. I threw over my teddybear coat while going over a list in my head.

"Marley! Hatori's here!" Called Dadaji from downstairs.

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"Sorry! Almost ready!" I called back as I remembered Shigure's request. Racing to the storage room, I grabbed Bapu's guitar case in one hand and my duffel in the other. Flying downstairs I made a quick stop by Dadaji to give him a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Bye Dadaji, I left some food in the freezer with instructions. I'll call you when we're there." I promised as I gave him a quick hug before he shooed me away.

"Go already, be nice to have some peace and quiet around here." He let out in a gruff voice. I just laughed and continued towards the front door. I slipped on my white sneakers and left the house.

"Good morning Hatori, sorry to keep you waiting.' I apologized as I quickly put my things in the trunk space of the van.

Hatori only looked to my head and raised his eyebrow.

"New look?" He asked as he gestured to the top of my head. I tilted my head slightly and touched my hair only to feel the fluffy fabric of my towel.

"I totally forgot!" I whined as my cheeks flushed pink. He only chuckled as he shook his head and got into the driver's side of the car. I quickly raced back inside and slipped off my shoes, running through the house to throw the towel over the rack in my bathroom. Spraying my hair with some detangler and stuffed a brush and some elastics into my jacket pocket.

"Okay, now I'm leaving, bye-bye Dadaji!" I quickly snuck in another kiss on the cheek, causing him to try and swat me away.

Checking my pocket for my phone, I slid open the van door and sat in the back row.

"Seatbelt?" Asked Hatori as I stared at me through the rearview mirror. I clicked it on and gave him a thumbs up.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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Tohru stood with her housemates at the road awaiting their ride, Yuki was still half asleep, and Kyo leaned back against a fence with his hands stuffed into his pockets. Shigure stood with a cheeky smile while lightly fanning his face.

"Why do ya look so cheerful?" Asked Kyo but not in his usual snappy attitude. Tohru had noticed that the two boys had been relatively quiet since last night and it was making her anxious.

"Just looking forward to spending the weekend with the lovely flowers of the Sohma household. No need to be a downer Kyo." Teased Shigure as he sent Kyo a wink.

"Flowers?" Repeated Kyo, more confused than before.

"Ah, there they are." Cheered Shigure in a sing-songy voice as he waved at the incoming black van.

"They?" Piped up Tohru, tilting her head slightly.

The van door slid open and a bright smile with long flowing white-blond locks, that looked slightly damp, greeted the group.

"Good morning!" Marley greeted the group as she stepped down out of the vehicle.

"Marley-Chan! You're coming to the lake too!" Tohru clasped her hands onto Marley and smiled in excitement. She was so happy to get to spend the holiday with her friend.

"Yep, Shigure invited me, I hope you guys don't mind me tagging along." She asked the three teens.

"No! I'm so happy you're coming, this is going to be so much fun." Tohru was grateful that Marley was coming, especially since maybe she could help with the boys' awkwardness and they could find out what was bothering them. Also, it was nice to have another girl around.

"Thank goodness, I've been dying to get away from the city and into some fresh air." Explained Marley as she let out a big sigh.

"We should get going before we hit traffic." Mentioned Hatori as he stuck his head out the window.

"Oh, right, here I'll help with your bags." Offered Marley as she hopped over and grabbed a navy blue bag on the ground, grabbing the strap right before another hand. Marley recognized the red and white beads adorning the wrist.

"Good morning, Kyo." Greeted Marley as she smiled at the boy. He looked to the side muttering out a 'mornin' and blushed lightly but didn't let go of the bag, or in this case, didn't remove his hand from Marley's.

.

Shigure looked over the interaction with the lower half of his face covered by his fan, hiding a small smirk. The dog was intrigued by a development that no one had told him about. He would be keeping his eye on this. Shigure imagined that a certain someone would not be impressed with Marley being close with the Cat of the Zodiac.

"Alright kids, let's hurry on out." Teased Shigure as he hopped into the passenger seat at the front. Marley pulled the bag out of Kyo's hand with ease and placed it in the storage of the van.

Kyo and Yuki piled into the car, not sharing any words as they sat in the back row on opposite sides, the Rat and the Cat stared outside their respective windows, keeping quiet.

Marley looked over at Tohru, raising her eyebrow in question while Tohru smiled nervously and shook her head. The girls stepped into the vehicle, looking forward to the holiday. Marley took the seat in front of Yuki, behind Hatori while Tohru sat down next to her.

"You look so cute in your pigtails Tohru." Complimented Marley as they settled in and put on their seatbelts.

The girl got flustered at the compliment, and Marley could only laugh as she brought her own wet hair over her shoulder.

"I never realized just how long your hair was Marley-Chan." Wowed Tohru as she observed Marley's hair falling over her shoulder and into her lap.

.

"Ya, when it's wet it's a nightmare, such a hassle. Takes forever to dry." Complained Marley as she brought out a comb from her jacket pocket and started to brush her hair, grabbing sections and going over every bit diligently.

"But it's so beautiful." Continued Tohru, but she could also see why long hair could be 's nightmare.'

"I guess... I just wish it was easier to manage." Marley sighed as she continued brushing.

"Why not cut it." Asked Kyo as he looked over at the white-blond beauty.

"I guess it's just what I'm used to.. All the women in my family had long hair, it was against their religion to cut it. Mama would have been horrified if I cut it. It was cut ONCE accidentally when I was around 8" Marley shook her head at the memory.

"Accidently?" Piped in Shigure.

"Well, there were these really mean kids, and I guess I got in their way, they were threatening to torture an animal with a knife." Explained Marley as she started brushing the hair on the other side of her head.

"That's awful!" Cried Tohru, remember her own troubles with cruel kids.

"They cut out a few chunks and ended up nicking me slightly instead." Sighed Marley as she turned her back to Tohru slightly and moved her hair so that Tohru could see a 2-inch white scar on the back of her neck, curving to the left of her neck.

.

"Mama was pissed." Sighed Marley as she turned back around and moved her hair into a middle part and started working with the hair on the right side, starting at the top of head she began to braid.

" I remember hearing about this, your family left the Estate the following day." interjected Hatori.

"Wait? This was here? In Japan?" Asked Kyo, visibly surprised at the information...

Marley nodded as she continued tightly braiding her hair.

"Ya, not long after Mama and Bapu got married we came to the Sohma Estate. I don't remember very much.." She explained. It was shocking news to the teens, especially those in the back row.

"It was a few weeks at most, right?" Asked Hatori and Marley only hummed in agreement.

"I wonder how your life would have changed had you stayed?" Mused Shigure as he looked back at the girl.

"Who knows." Marley didn't look very enthusiastic about reminiscing about what could have been. She just finished her braid, putting a small black elastic on the end and moved to the other side of her hair to repeat the process.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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"Oh, these apples look delicious." I gushed as I looked over the fruit section, choosing to put a bunch in my cart.

"If we grab some oats and cinnamon we can have a nice apple crisp for dessert tonight," I told Tohru as my mouth slightly watered at the idea.

"That sounds amazing! Just let me know how to help." Tohru agreed as she carried her own basket.

Tohru and I were doing some light grocery shopping for the lake house. It was an easy stop, and we're only another 20 minutes or so away from our destination.

.

Also I just really needed to stretch my legs, I wouldn't have made it another 20 minutes.

.

The boys were in the supermarket too, but we had lost track of them. The car ride had been relatively quiet, which surprised me. Whenever Yuki and Kyo were within a few feet of each other, they always bickered but they had been quiet all day. Barley sparing each other a glance.

.

Had something happened since last night? Or maybe it's because I decided to tag along...

.

While Tohru and looked over the meat section and picked out a few things to cook up, I decided to ask.

"Are the boys okay? They seem kind of... off somehow? Is it because I'm here or.." I asked as I looked over at my brunette friend.

The question caused her to drop a package of minced chicken.

"No! No, it's not that, they've been like that since last night. I think it may have been something I said or did." Tohru frantically replied, looking incredibly stressed over the boys and their moods.

"I'm sure it's nothing you've done Tohru, those two adore you." I couldn't help but laugh at the idea of Tohru doing anything to make the Zodiac members upset with her, it just wasn't possible.

"Maybe if you get a chance you can always ask, they might share with you." I consoled the girl as I rubbed her shoulder.

"Maybe..." She exhaled, calming down a bit.

"I'm gonna grab some eggs and cheese... also keep a lookout for the boys. I'll meet you at the checkout." I told her as I gave her a smile, hoping she was feeling a little better.

"Right, I'll just head over. I hope Hatori-San and Shigure-San are still okay in the car." Worried Tohru but I only laughed at the two old friends.

.

I'm sure Shigure is annoying Hatori somehow, thankfully, Hatori has the patience of a saint.

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The more I thought about Shigure, the more unsettled I became. We haven't really spoken much except when we cross paths at the estate. And whenever he saw me, I could almost imagine the gears working in his head. As if he's planning something I have yet to see.

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Maybe I'm just being paranoid... I hardly know if so it wouldn't be right to judge... I'll just try to be open

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I picked up some eggs and headed towards the refrigerated area for cheese. I came across a familiar face standing in front of the dairy section.

"Yuki, there you are." I greeted as I walked up to him, he turned and gave me his polite princely smile.

"Marley-San, did you get everything you needed?" He asked as he looked at my basket.

"Yep, just picking up the last few things," I mentioned as I placed my cart down and grabbed a few different kinds of cheese blocks. A sharp cheddar, brie, a decent gruyere cheese, and a parmesan.

Yuki had grabbed my basket from the floor and insisted on carrying it. I tried to argue, but he kept a pretty firm handle on the basket.

"That's quite the array of cheese, what do you plan on making?" Asked Yuki as we walked along the aisle. He almost looked a little excited as I tossed in the various cheeses.

"Oh, Tohru mentioned she's never had macaroni and cheese, so I thought it would be a good dish for dinner tonight," I explained, thinking if there anything I was missing.

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Noodles, check. Cheese, check. Chives, bacon, check... oh butter and milk.

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I made a quick stop and opened the store refrigerator to grab the remaining ingredients.

"Macaroni and cheese?" Repeated Yuki as he raised an eyebrow at me as I placed the milk carton and stick of butter into the basket.

"Um... it's like noodles and cheese... although that's a poor description. Macaroni n' cheese is like the ultimate comfort food." I tried to explain as I shrugged my shoulders and smiled at him.

Yuki smiled back, a little less politely, more of a softer smile.

"I look forward to it then." He said

.

I wonder...because Yuki is the mouse of the Zoidac... does that mean that he LOVES cheese? Kyo himself has a passionate love for salmon... he can't believe that I won't try it.

.

"Is something wrong, Marley-san?" Asked Yuki as he stared directly into my eyes, looking concerned.

"Huh, oh I'm fine, why?" I asked, slightly tilting my head at his question.

"You looked very serious all of a sudden." He pointed out, and I could only laugh, realizing had to spill the reason for the serious expression I had worn moments ago.

"Sorry, I was... this is embarrassing, I was thinking... um.. if you like cheese, because... you're the mouse," I confessed through my laughter, realizing how stupid I sounded.

Yuki's face went a little red, and he then covered his face with his hand, shaking his head slightly.

"In my defense. Who doesn't love cheese?" He finally uttered as we came to the checkout. I giggled and couldn't help but agree with him. Tohru was in line, and I popped in beside her once I took the basket from Yuki, and he walked over to the door, Kyo was already there waiting. The two boys didn't even acknowledge each other.

Kyo looked over at me and gave him a smile, he just turned away from and stuffed his hands into his pants pockets.

.

Must have something on his mind

.

"How would you like to pay?" Asked the cashier once he put both of Tohru's and my stuff through.

"Credit card please," I answered as I pulled my wallet out and handed him the platinum Sohma credit card.

The boys helped us with the bags and got them into the van before settling into their seats.

"Welcome back kids. Hatori was getting worried." Teased Shigure.

"I was not." Said Hatori in is straight tone as he started up the car and began driving towards the lake house.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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"Wow! It's beautiful!" Gushed Tohru as we stood at the window, overlooking the property and the lake in the background.

"And so big!" I piped up as I gazed at the pristine lake.

.

Too bad it's still a bit too chilly to go swimming

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"Is a lake all that exciting?" Asked Hatori as he joined us by the window.

"Yes! This is my first time seeing one in person!" Revealed Tohru, a bright smile adorning her face.

"I thought you would be more excited about a body of water, being an aquatic creature and all." I teased the Dragon of the Zodiac, causing him to lightly grab my cheek.

"Sorry sorry, couldn't help it!" I was barely able to speak as my cheek being pulled and laughing at my offended friend.

"At a cottage on a lake like this, I wouldn't be surprised if Jason paid a visit." Shigure mentioned while he relaxed on the couch.

.

Jason? Like Friday the 13th Jason?

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"Jason.. Jason.. sounds familiar." Kyo pondered as he sat cross-legged on the rug.

"'Jason' is a new type of bear, my ignorant Kyo-Kun." 'Corrected' Shigure who looked like he was having fun.

"I knew that!" Lied Kyo as he yelled at the playful adult.

"It is not.." Muttered Hatori as his hand left my cheek to place it on his own face, massaging his brow. Hatori looked worn out already.

"Is it a bear from another country? Did you have 'Jason' bears in America Marley-Chan?" Asked Tohru, being completely serious. I couldn't help but giggle and shake my head.

"But I'll sure to be on the lookout," I said, deciding to play along with Shigure.

"Not you too.." Hatori had gone back to pinching my cheek to reprimand me for going along with the Dog's ruse.

"I'll go grab the bags." I volunteered as Hatori set me free, and I headed outside.

"I'll help Marley-San." Said Yuki as he walked with me, opening the door for me.

"Ah Yuki, such a gentleman, a true prince, be sure to protect our princess from Jason." Teased Shigure as he waved his fan on his face.

Both Yuki and I rolled our eyes as we walked out the door, I couldn't help but laugh a bit at the Dog's teasing.

Yuki grabbed most of the remaining bags, but as he reached for the guitar case, I stopped him, insisting that I carry it while also grabbing my own duffel.

"You play guitar?" Asked Yuki

"No, no, couldn't play to save my life." I joked as we walked back into the cottage.

"Who's -" Yuki started to ask but was interrupted

"Marley-Chan! You brought it!" Cheered Shigure as he came over to me and tried to take the guitar case from me. I held on tightly, not wanting to hand it over just yet.

"Um, Sorry. I just.." I wasn't letting go, I couldn't. My knuckles were white from holding on so tightly.

"That's okay, we'll save it for later maybe." Smiled Shigure as he softly let go of the guitar case and backed away from me.

"Do you plan on playing it?" I asked him, still unsure of the Dog's intentions.

Shigure brought his finger to his lips and said that he would tell me later and gave me a small wink. I decided not to ask further as Tohru came over and offered to show me to the room we would be sharing. We went upstairs and put our stuff away before joining the rest of the Sohma's in the living room.

"Shigure, Why'd you suddenly come up with this anyway?" Asked Kyo,

"huh?" Shigure had stopped fanning his face at the question.

"... I was wondering the same thing. You have some ulterior motive, I assume?" Yuki pitched in as well, untrusting of the Dog.

"What a cold world this is. All I wanted was for us to take a little vacation together... I didn't expect to be given the third degree about it." Pouted Shigure as he relaxed on the couch.

"If you two have the free time to gang up on me like, why don't you two use it to escort Marley-Chan and Tohru-Kun on a walk to the lake?" He suggested.

One could cut the tension in the room with a knife.

"What? Is something wrong? Why so gloomy?" Asked Shigure as he tilted his head at the boys.

"Um, I can walk there myself." Tohru offered, not wanting to cause trouble for the group.

"We can go together, right, Tohru. No need to escort us if you two don't wanna check out the lake." I assured her and the boys, not wanting them to walk us if they really didn't want to.

"Hmm... We need someone sunny to cure your cloudy moods. I've got it! I'll call Aya!" Announced Shigure as he went for the phone.

"Invite him and you're dead." Spoke both Yuki and Kyo in perfect unison as they stood over Shigure's form with intimidating auras.

With that threat, Shigure put down the phone and Yuki, and Kyo ushered us out the door to go for a walk.

The boys walked in complete silence in front of us, and the only thing that really concerned me was Tohru as she seemed to be freaking out at my side.

.

... the mood is so thick, and they're not even arguing... Did something happen at the grave visit yesterday? Or maybe IT IS because I'm here and Tohru is trying to protect my feelings

.

I was about to ask Tohru, but she looked like she was having an internal dilemma of her own, so I reached out and grabbed her shaking hands.

"Hey.. you alright?" I asked her softly, concerned for the kind-hearted girl.

She shook her head violently and then stopped in her tracks. I let go of her hands and was about to ask what was wrong, but Tohru had something to say.

"Um.. I'm sorry..." Apologized Tohru as she went into a 90-degree bow.

The two boys turned around and looked at us with a confused expression, I just kept my eyes on Tohru, curious about what she was apologizing for.

"I'm so ditzy that I wouldn't have realized .. b-b-but um, if I hurt your feelings, please tell me. I'll be more careful from now on, so .. so... please." She blubbered out as she looked at the ground, holding her hands tightly, I could see tears starting to gather in the corners of her eyes. I gently slid my hand up and down her back, trying to offer some comfort. It was strange to see someone who had similar anxieties of my own.

.

At least I'm not alone in my mindset and anxieties...

.

The boys looked extremely confused at Tohru's apology.

"Honda-San? Wait... Wait a second here.." Yuki started to say although he didn't seem able to put a sentence together.

"Wh-What the hell? I've got no idea what you're talkin' about..." Kyo took a step only to slide and fall to the ground.

"Kyo!" I called out as I stepped towards him.

"Kyo-Kun! Are you okay?!" Asked Tohru as I helped Kyo up.

"DAMMIT! What's with these animals tracks!?" He looked at what he had tripped over.

We looked down to see some pretty impressive paw prints.

.

... Maybe Shigure wasn't messing with us...

.

"These paw prints... " Observed Tohru as she knelt down to look at them.

"... Jason maybe?" Continued Tohru as she inspected the paw prints.

"JASON!?" Tohru and Kyo were freaking out while Yuki watched and I started glancing around to see if the bear in question was anywhere nearby.

"They're just bear tracks." Mentioned Yuki as he shook his head at the two freaking out.

"JUST bear tracks?! HAVE you ever seen a bear?" I said to Yuki, I didn't want to run into a bear, never mind bears named after movie characters, any bears are scary.

"Wh-Wh- Wh-What should we do!? It's dangerous! Treacherous! Even Perilous!" Tohru was panicking as she started stepping back, her entire body was shaking.

"Okay, breath." I tried to settle her down as I stepped in front of her.

"Let's go back to the cottage.."Tohru took another step backward

With her next step, she slipped and started falling down the hill. Being closest I reached to grab her and tried pulling her back, but I ended up falling with her.

"Honda-San! Marley-San!" Yelled Yuki as we fell down the steep drop-off.

I felt arms wrap around me tightly and then nothing as I was surrounded by purple and orange mist.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Hatori took a puff of his cigarette on the porch, he was aware that Marley would chastise him if he smoked in the cottage. She hated his smoking habit, and he did want to stop, but it was easier said than done.

Shigure joined him after he was done crying about having to call his editor, he felt like all his fun had been ruined.

The dog bummed a cigarette off his old friend and tried to look innocent.

"don't think that I didn't see the guitar case that Marley was carrying," Hatori spoke up, eyeing Shigure.

"Whoops, you caught us."

"I'm sure Marley has very little to do with whatever your planning." Hatori had known Shigure for years, and even though he considered them friends, he knew the Dog would do anything to get what he wanted.

"I just thought you might like to play is all." Shrugged Shigure.

"If I wanted to play, I could use my own guitar." Pointed out Hatori, not understanding why Shigure would want to bring Marley into this, not sure what it would do for the Dog.

"Well, I couldn't have her try and look through your house to get it. It's much easier to just grab your Nii-san's guitar." Pointed out Shigure while also teasing the Dragon about his admiration for Yuuto.

.

Hatori let out a puff of smoke and shook his head, not believing he was had saddled with such a troublesome friend.

"You didn't think that it might cause Marley to be a little upset, another person playing her father's guitar." Hatori himself was unsure if was ready to touch a guitar again.

" Does she not know that you play? When's the last time you touched a guitar anyway?" Asked Shigure as he took another drag.

"... I'll only do it if she asks, and I don't need you manipulating her. Have some respect for Yuuto-San." Chastised Hatori as he slightly glared at Shigure.

"I have nothing but respect for Yuuto-San, I actually see quite a bit of him in Marley-Chan, don't you think?" Hatori stayed silent at that. It was sometime hard not to see the similarities between the two. While they didn't share blood, they shared a lot of the same tendencies. The deceased Sohma had been a prominent figure and tried to look out for Hatori when he was younger. It was difficult when Yuuto moved to Vegas to start a new life with his new family, Hatori never imagined he would return to Japan only to pass a few months later.

.

"Well, while we wait for them, why don't you sit back and relax?" Suggested Shigure as he noticed the sad look in Hatori's eyes.

"Relax?" The word seemed foreign to the overworked doctor.

Shigure disappeared back into the house, and Hatori decided to follow, but not before putting out his cigarette.

Shigure started piling books onto the coffee table. Some Japanese literature and even some Englishforeign books.

"I brought a lot of recommended reading for you. I remembered that you enjoyed books almost as much as I do." Mentioned Shiugre as he patted the pile of books.

"Huh?"

"Kickback for once and enjoy a few good books. Maybe it'll even inspire a few songs you want to play."

Hatori caught onto was what Shigure was doing. Both him and Ayame must have been worried about the lonely Dragon since it was Kana's wedding this past Saturday. Ayame had even come by his office and made him a cup of tea to try and distract him.

"Shigure.."

"Yes?"

"It really has been a long time... since I've had the chance to just sit and read." He admitted as he picked up a book from the top of the pile and sat down to read. Hatori even smiled at the fact that Marley had brought her father's guitar and the pleasant surprise it might be for her if she let him play it.

What song would she enjoy? What would Yuuto play if he was here?

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

I was trying to sit up but noticed an orange lump sitting on my chest. I felt claws slightly digging in through my T-shirt.

"Kyoo... claws." I winced, still laying back.

"Watch where your going next time!" Hissed Kyo as he jumped away from me and sat on the ground, facing away from me.

I gingerly sat up, groaning through the pain of a few bruises and scratches.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Cried Tohru as she sat against a tree. Covering her face with both of her hands.

The boys' clothes were strewn everywhere, pants on the ground, a shirt hanging from a tree, shoes tosses about. Kyo's army green cargo pants were laying across my legs.

.

Ugliest pants ever, I'm sorry Kyo, but they are

.

"Are you hurt Honda-San? Marley-San?" Asked a small voice that sounded like Yuki but I couldn't see him.

"I think I broke something.." I felt behind me, something pointing into my back and pulled it out to reveal a decently sized stick snapped in half.

"...I'm fine..." I muttered as I threw the broken stick away from me.

"No I'm fine..I'm sorry-I'll grab your clothes." Offered Tohru as she got up and started to collect the displaced articles of clothes.

"I'll help." I got up as well and folded Kyo's pants first before jumping up to grab a red pullover from a tree branch.

" 'Watch were you're going?' That's rich, coming from the one who fell first." I heard Yuki's voice call out and I turned around to see where he was.

A small grey mouse was dusting himself off as he stood on the tree. He was so adorable, I was about to rush over and tell him how cute he was.

"WHAT?!" Kyo hissed back at the mouse, back fully arched.

.

Okay, right now might not be the best time to get all excited over Yuki's Zodiac form... but it's sooo cute

.

"That's bull! You're the one who fell first! Just goes to show a spoiled rich kid who's shut up in his room all the time is useless!" Kyo continued, insulted that Yuki was blaming him for the fall.

"Better that than going off to train in the mountains only to come back as hopeless as before!" Yuki calmly replied back but not without a particular 'bite' in his attitude.

"UP YOURS! You don't learn everything there is to know about the mountains in four months! And you wouldn't even last two days up there! Hopefully, you learned something about nature today!" Kyo's claws were now out and was now approaching Yuki. Tohru continued to pick up a few things while I was totally distracted by the literal cat and mouse fight.

.

Wow, they went from not saying a single word to each other to this... this is intense.. but somehow feels better than their silent treatment

.

"You could stand to learn a little more common knowledge. Like the fact that 'Jason' isn't a bear but a character in a horror movie!" Yuki pointed out as he started to quickly climb the tree in his mouse form.

"WHO CARES ABOUT CRAP LIKE THAT!? What do I care if they put a bear in some horror flick?!" Kyo shouted, his movie trivia clearly non-existent.

"You really are stupid." Sighed Yuki as he reached a branch and leaned back.

"I'LL KILL YA!" Kyo was now trying to climb the tree, his claws scratching the bark as he kept sliding down.

"I swear, this'll be the day you breathe your last!" Kyo continued to threaten Yuki.

"I am so tired of hearing that line..." Tohru seemed to have finished picking up clothes and joined me in watching the fight before us. Both of us completely enthralled.

"Quit movin' for cryin' out loud! Fight me fair an' square! Takin' the high ground is playin' dirty!" Kyo was in infuriated as he couldn't quite reach Yuki's branch.

"Considering our respective forms right now, you're the one who has the upper hand" Yuki pointed out which only spurred Kyo on more as rats started to pop out of nowhere and surround Yuki's form.

.

Oh, right, Kyo mentioned that Zodiac members attracted animals of their year...

.

"YOU DIRTY RAT! Look at you, summonin' your rat army! And don't be so calm!" Kyo accused, his orange fur standing on end. I couldn't help but let out a little giggle at the term 'rat army,' but I hid it behind my hand.

"I can't help it. They just come to me...Unfortunately, it looks like you don't have any feline friends in these parts." Tohru and I looked at each other and then back at the boys.

"DAMMIT! This is what I hate about rats!" Tohru again looked over at me, and I couldn't help but let out a laugh which spurred her on as well. Seems we both couldn't hold back any longer as we laughed beside together, each of us leaning into the other for support.

"Y-you two are fighting again...heh-heh ah ha ha!" Laughed Tohru as tears started to form in her eyes from laughing so much.

"Ah ahhaha! Haha haa Rat army!" I had to hold my ribs, they were starting to hurt at how hard I was laughing.

"Honda-San, Marley-San...?" Yuki climbed down from his branch and approached us as we tried to calm ourselves.

"Wh-what's wrong with you Weirdo?" Kyo walked towards and stopped a bit away from my knees.

"S-ssorry" I let out as I caught my breath.

"It's rude of me to laugh when you're fighting.. but for some reason... I'm relieved." Confessed Tohru as she wiped away some stray tears. I nodded in agreement.

"It's so weird, normally I wish you two wouldn't clash so much but.. you two seemed to be troubled or something, but it's like now your back to your old selves." I piped in which made Tohru nod in understanding at what I said.

"Thinking that...made me feel so relieved... I couldn't help but laugh." Tohru let out a laugh at the realization.

Both of the Zodiac members looked to be in shock and didn't know what to say, but Yuki broke his silence.

"Um.. Honda-san... before we fell, you said something..."

Yuki explained to Tohru that he wasn't angry at her or anything of the sort, just that he had a lot on his mind and placed his cute little paws on her knees as an act of comfort. I couldn't help but smile at the sight.

.

So darn cute... and he looks familiar somehow...

.

"I'm kinda relieved myself... I thought that perhaps... you two really didn't want me with you on this trip and I was starting to feel awful about coming." I confessed as I looked at the mouse and the cat.

"I'm sorry for making you feel like that Marley-San, it's not that at all..I'm sorry for making you worry about me Honda-san, Marley-San." Apologized Yuki as he bowed his little head.

Kyo decided to pipe up as well.

"Me too... I ain't especially angry about anything either... it's just... I had a lot on my mind too..." His tail swished back and forth as he tried to apologize.

"Small mind that it is." Spat Yuki who couldn't resist teasing the Cat. I giggled at the comment.

"WHY I OUTTA-"

*poof*

Two naked boys stood up from the smoke and Tohru, and I quickly turned around as I threw Kyo's clothes at him in panic. Tohru and I waited patiently, listening to the sound of shifting fabric.

"Well... I hope you two are feeling a bit better at least..and if you two have something on your mind, you have people who want to help, or at least listen to your problems" I gently offered to the boys as I also nudged Tohru, implicating that they have her to go if they ever need to talk.

"A-Anyway I'm glad it was just because you weren't feeling well... Ah! No- I mean that's definitely bad, but I'm glad you haven't changed, um, otherwise..." Tohru admitted.

"Changed?" Repeated Yuki.

"No, I haven't changed, especially," Kyo mumbled.

" I hate this guy as much as ever." The rivals spoke in perfect unison as they pointed to each other.

The two then started intro other argument and Tohru, and I looked at each other and started laughing again.

.

It's so weird to think that they're bickering somehow makes me happy...

.

"Maybe we should head back" Suggested Tohru as we rose up from the ground.

"I wouldn't mind getting started on dinner," I mentioned as I started dusting off my clothes.

"I'll help!" Tohru volunteered, and I much accepted her help as we walked back to the cottage together with our elbows linked together.

"Yeah, tomorrow we can check out the lake." Kyo offered as he followed behind.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

"I am stuffed! Whoever you're future husband is.. he's a lucky man, Marley-Chan." Cheered Shigure as he patted his belly and handed me his empty plate.

Kyo, Yuki, and Hatori started reprimanding Shigure while I laughed and shook my head at his comment. I grabbed the plates from the table with Tohru's help as she also commented on how delicious everything was.

"Well if you find someone my age that has a few inches on me, send him my way." I shot back as I winked, playing along.

Tohru collected some dishes as we left the table. The kind girl complimented my cooking again.

" I couldn't have done without your help Tohru, it was really nice to cook with someone else." I commented as we walked into the kitchen with our stacks of dishware.

" I had no idea Kyo who have such a hate for chives off all things!" I laughed, thinking about him nearly hissing at the garnish.

Tohru had been so helpful and was a bottle of joy to work with. For two people who were used to working in the kitchen on our own, we fell into a pretty natural rhythm when we had been preparing mac n cheese, the cabbage slaw, and the cornbread.

.

The last time I worked with someone in the kitchen was with my great grandmother, and I just watched and helped roll out roti's back then

.

"Maybe we should wait a bit before making dessert. I don't want to make their stomachs explode or something." I half-joked as I ran the tap over the dishes.

"That might be a good idea, Yuki-Kun and Kyo-Kun had two helpings at dinner." Giggled Tohru as she dried a plate I handed her.

"I'll make some tea and maybe just relax for a bit. I'll just ask if anyone else wants some..." I mentioned as I threw a dish towel over my shoulder and walked into the living room.

"Would you gentlemen like some tea?" I asked as I quickly wiped down the dining table. I was leaning over the hardwood by Kyo as I waited for their answer.

"Do .. do you have any of that tea?" Asked Kyo as I cleaned the table.

"huh?" I raised my eyebrows at him, which made him groan in annoyance as he tried again.

"Ya'know.. the one you made back at your place."

"What are you two lovebirds whispering about?" Teased Shigure as he hid half his face behind his fan.

.

"MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!" Yelled Kyo as he stood up suddenly, his face turning bright red. I could only giggle at the reaction.

"Sorry Kyo, I don't think I have the right ingredients for chai here. But when we get back your more than welcome to come over and I'll make you some." I offered as I rubbed Kyo's back soothingly, which made him sit down.

"I'll take a cup of tea please, Marley." Asked Hatori as he lifted his head slightly from his book.

"Tea made by a beautiful maiden? How could I resist?" Shigure had been making these types of comments all day, but the rest of the men in the house were always quite quick to shoot him down.

.

But it is getting old, I feel like he's making fun of me.

.

"Tea is on its way," I announced as went back into the kitchen only to kind Tohru had already gotten started on tea.

"Thanks, Tohru."

"No problem."

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-

.

.

As we sat around the living room relaxing, I couldn't help but notice as Shigure kept looking at me, as if waiting to ask something.

"Marley-Chan, did you know that Hatori used to call your father Nii-San when we were younger ?" Asked Shigure which caused Hatori to abruptly close the book he had been reading.

"Shigure."

" Oh... no, I had no idea," I admitted as I tried to recall all their interactions in the hospital.

.

It's kinda like how Kisa calls me Onee-Chan. Cute.

.

The idea of a younger Hatori following around Bapu and calling him big brother made me smile.

"Shigu-"

"Hatori used to follow Yuuto everywhere when we were kids. Haa-san really looked up to him. Your father even taught Hatori how to play guitar!" Announced Shigure, giving a huge smile as if let the cat of the bag.

"Really? Hatori, you play guitar? I had no idea..." I was shocked, the idea of Hatori holding a guitar.

"That's why you wanted me to bring Bapu's guitar" I sat for a moment thinking over the new information before I stood up and ran upstairs to my room. Hearing a few people call my name as I disappeared.

.

.-.-.-.-.-

.

"Marley-Chan..." Whispered Tohru as she watched her friend race up the stairs.

"Good going Shigure." Snapped Yuki, the rat wanted to shake the dog from side to side but restrained himself.

"You couldn't keep your damn mouth shut." Hissed Kyo, sitting at the other side of the room, farthest away from his family members.

Hatori didn't say anything, he looked at the stairs. Feeling like he had done something wrong. Hatori felt like he hurt and caused pain to anyone involved with him. The last person he wanted to hurt was the beloved daughter of his deceased friend.

Tohru started to get up and was about to make her way up the stairs until Hatori laid a soft hand on the girl's shoulder.

"This is something I have to do." Announced the Dragon as he made his way up the stairs, on a mission to help fix what was probably unfixable.

Hatori stopped at the girls' door, slowly bringing his hand up to lightly knock on the door but he waited a moment... and another... and one more.

The doctor recalled the first time he was standing outside a door with Marley on the other side.

"Haa-Kun!" Hatori was bear-hugged by the burly figure of his old mentor who's goofy grin hadn't changed, but he did notice that Yuuto looked like he was sporting a few extra-wrinkles and some grey hairs had appeared since the last time he saw him some 8 years ago.

"Nii- Yuuto-San, it's good to see you. It's been a long time." Replied Hatori as he awkwardly returned the hug. He almost called the older man brother out of habit, but it somehow felt inappropriate as Hatori was now an adult.

He hadn't expected to see Yuuto again, he especially hadn't expected their reunion to be in the lobby of a hospital, surrounded by Christmas decorations in an attempt to bring holiday cheer to a usually uncheerful place.

"Are the other parts of the Mabudachi trio still giving you hell." He joked as he shook Hatori's shoulder.

Hatori groaned, wondering how he had gotten stuck with the Snake and the Dog. Yuuto laughed at Hatori's expression.

"Did you call those loud idiots as well." Groaned Hatori, not wanting to deal with the headache they would inevitably cause.

"No no no, just you. I called you because.. well I just needed someone here that I trust. And you're the only I trust with someone very special. The other two might be a bit... too much for this situation." He explained, his smile not leaving his face, but it definitely lessened.

The two entered an elevator and walked the hallways as they caught up. Hatori decided not to tell his dear friend about Kana and having to erase the love of his life's memory last year. He didn't want to bring anyone else down with him.

" My daughter, Marley.. she' sick. Real sick. Can barely walk around without going into heart failure. They're supposed to have the best cardio people here; otherwise, I wouldn't have begged my father to help us out... I just want someone who understands what they're talking about and keep us in the loop. I trust you." Yuuto had stopped outside a door to a hospital room. Taking a breath before entering.

Hatori wasn't sure what to expect as Yuuto opened the door and walked in, Hatori following closely behind. The bed was empty, disheveled and the room was quite cold, colder than it should be. Hatori looked at all the machines that were giving him information about the patient and his eyes followed the wires that led towards the window and was met with the sight of a tall figure with long flowing white-blond locks wearing pink floral pajamas. The tall figures was facing the open window and was slightly leaning out of it, their arm reaching out to feel the snowflakes falling from the sky.

"Sweetheart! It's freezing out!" Scolded Yuuto in English as he grabbed a light blue fleece blanket from the bed and wrapped it around the figure. Hatori was grateful he could speak the English language reasonably well.

"But Bapu! It's snowing!" The figure laughed, speaking English in a slightly musical accent. The mystery person turned around, and Hatori was met with the smiling face of a beautiful foreigner. Hatori could tell the figure was sick, she was slightly pale, and her cheeks weren't as flushed as she should be and had bags under her eyes, but that didn't take away from her bright smile and her eyes that shined like amethysts.

She looked so happy about the snow falling outside as if it was a miracle. Pure joy emitting from her figure.

"I want you to meet a very old friend of mine." Yuuto switched to Japanese seamlessly as he walked the girl over to where Hatori was standing.

"Hatori, this is my daughter Marley. Marley this is Hatori." Yuuto introduced the two to each other

"Bakshi Marley, it's very nice to meet you." She introduced herself as she took both of Hatori's hands in hers and gave him a bright smile that was just aimed at him

"Sohma Hatori." But as the girl held his hands, he couldn't ignore how cold her hands were to the point where he started to rub them as he brought her to the bed, immediately going into doctor mode.

"You're freezing Bakshi-San." Scolded Hatori as he motioned for Yuuto to close the window.

"Well... I just really wanted to feel the snow..." She pouted as Hatori had her lay down and he tucked her in, and Yuuto draped a blanket over her and kissed her forehead.

"I know sweetheart.. next time it snows... I promise we'll..make snow angels." Yuuto said as he caressed Marley head, brushing a few pieces of hair behind her hair. Hatori watched the interaction, and even though the two looked nothing alike, he could see the similarities between the Sohma heir and the rich-brown exotic young girl. The light they both exuded through a simple smile was a super-power that Hatori had always been a bit jealous of and wish he had it.

" And we'll build a fort." She continued

"And we'll build a fort." Yuuto laughed and nodded at her suggestion.

"And Hatori is on my team for the snowball fight," Marley spoke as she looked over at Hatori, giving him a bright smile. Hatori felt a small warmth in his chest he had thought had gone out when he erased Kana's memories.

Yuuto laughed at his daughter's request and said a quick 'fine' while he ruffled her hair. Hatori raised his eyebrow at the strange request and also couldn't imagine himself in a snowball fight at his age.

"Where's your mother?" Asked Yuuto.

"She went to grab a coffee." Explained Marley as she leaned back into her pillow, getting comfortable.

"That sounds like a good idea actually, Haa-Kun you want one?" Asked Yuuto as he headed towards the door. Hatori said he was fine and Yuuto promised he would be quick.

Hatori looked back at the girl, but she was already distracted by the snow falling outside.

"Why would you want me on your team?" He decided to play along, curious about the girl's decision. The question made the girl turn away from the window to face him. Her large eyes entrancing him.

Marley brought her hand to her chin, as if in deep thought as she looked over Hatori's form.

"So you speak English?" She inquired.

"A little, I don't use it very often." He admitted as he took a seat by her side.

"I dunno, I look at you, and you seem... dependable. You also look like your in need of a good snowball fight, people always look like they're having fun when they do them." She explained her reasoning.

"So you've never actually been in a snowball fight?" Hatori asked, a little confused.

"Well, it doesn't snow a lot in Vegas... or India. I finally get to see snow, and I'm not allowed to go outside." She sighed as she looked back outside at the snow falling longingly.

"People normally don't like snow."

"Why not?" She questioned, tilting her head slightly as she waited for his answer.

Hatori took a moment to think. He was often compared to snow, winter in general as he was cold. Frozen.

"It's cold, frozen..." He simply put, slipping back into Japanese. The snow carried painful memories. He was burdened with tremendous heartbreak, and he felt like he was stuck in an eternal winter.

" The cold brings people together. Winter means Christmas lights and hot chocolate, there's something whimsical and magical about this time of year like anything can happen. And very little compares to the beauty of freshly fallen snow." Her melodic speaking pattern had Hatori leaning forward to keep listening.

"Winter means new beginnings, the snow covers everything up, making it look beautiful... til spring comes along and we're met with the new life that was growing underneath." This girl was more than what she seemed as she smiled softly outside at the falling snow.

"Plus, we both have purple eyes; therefore, you have to be on my team." She quipped, changing into Japanese, ending her argument with a goofy smile.

"That's silly," Hatori commented, shaking his head at the silly reasoning. Even if they're not related, there are definite similarities.

"So is chucking balls of snow at your friends but it still looks super fun." She countered.

Hatori smiled, it was soft and barely noticeable, but he smiled. He couldn't remember the last time he had, but he couldn't help himself. Even if Marley loved the snow, she seemed to be the warm sun who blind people unintentionally with her light and warm their hearts.

"So you and Bapu are friends?" Hatori simply nodded.

"Then maybe you can tell me more about him. You know ... embarrassing stories? Fun facts? Gossip? Daytime TV is super boring." She whined as she motioned to the television in the corner.

Hatori warned himself not to get too attached to the girl, he could see by all the machine's she was surrounded by and skinnier than average form that her survival looked to be slim.

What can I do to help

.

.*.**.*

.

But she lived, against all the odds Marley had come back from the brink of death and was strong. Hatori had tried his best to look after her but was definitely careful when it came to talking about Yuuto. Now he was wondering if maybe he should be talking about her late father. If it would help. She deserved to know more about him, especially since she was now surrounded by his family.

Here goes nothing

Hatori finally knocked on the door, and Marley's soft voice called for him to enter.

He entered the room and was met with Marley's figure facing away from him, kneeling on the ground over an open guitar case.

" So Bapu taught you how to play?" She hadn't even looked to know who it was.

"How did you know it was me." Her shoulders shook a few times as she laughed.

"You always knock in the same rhythm." She then repeated his knock lightly on the guitar case. Of course, Marley picked up on small things like that. She tended to be intuitive on strange things.

" He did... I caught him playing one day when I was young and... tried copying at first, learning on my own until Yuuto.. your father decided to take me under his wing." Explained Hatori as he chose to wait on the spot. He watched as Marley softly caressed the deepsolid mahogany acoustic guitar. Lightly touching one of the 6 strings.

.

" He used to play...all the time... He wanted to teach me but, it wasn't for me." She admitted as she lifted the guitar out of the case and stood up.

"I'm glad he got to share his skills with someone, I bet you made a wonderful student." She turned towards him and smiled. Hatori looked over the tall girl. Her skin was glowing, cheeks had a healthy color, there was life in her. She was now a fit slender instead of the skinny frame she had when she was in the hospital. She had grown into a beautiful woman.

Yuuto had trusted him to look after her, and he would uphold it. Hatori would do what he could.

"Would... would you play it?" She asked as she held out the guitar to him.

"Marley I-" Hatori was now realizing how long it had truly been since played, he hadn't even played for Kana. What if he was no good?

"Please. Bapu would have wanted you too. He loved you a lot... you were an important person to him, this would have made him happy." She smiled up at him as she continued to hold the guitar. Hatori let out a defeated sigh and grabbed the guitar gently as if it was a delicate flower.

"C' mon, we need to show off Bapu's teaching skills to everyone," Marley said as she squeezed Hatori's arm before she walked out the door.

"Wait hold on -" Marley stopped to look at Hatori, waiting for him to finish.

" Your father mentioned to me that you two would play together. You might not be able to play the guitar, but Yuuto spoke highly of your voice. So if I'm going to do this, then. I think your father would have liked you to sing." Hatori reasoned.

.

Marley smiled at him, it was a gentle smile, not goofy or bright. A gentle one that made Hatori smile right back.

"I can do that." She agreed to the terms with ease, and they both made their way downstairs.

The two amateur musicians walked into the living room, and Hatori couldn't help but notice as Kyo's eye did not leave Marley's form, watching her with concerned eyes.

Hatori knew he would have to keep an even closer eye on that. He didn't want either of the two to experience the heartbreak he had. Hatori also caught Shigure's eye, they had both been picking up on the Cat's point of interest and Hatori was sure Shigure was making schemes. Hatori had his work cut out for him.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.

.

No words were said as Hatori took a seat and fickled with the guitar a bit, picking a few strings and tuning it accordingly. He took this as seriously as he took everything else with his life. The Dragon took a deep breath and began to pluck a few strings while he locked eyes with mine.

I smiled as I recognized the melody and closed my eyes as I sat down beside him, sitting up straight on the couch. I took another deep breath as I envisioned my sweet father's smile that adorned his face whenever he played.

.

This is for you Bapu

.

Opening my eyes slowly I gazed around the room to see everyone watching us intensely which only made me giggle slightly, and I locked eyes with an orange pair which looked concerned but also intrigued at what was happening. I smiled as I listened to Hatori playing, and I chose my moment to chime in. Letting the lyrics flow with ease as I sang, recalling many times I had sung with the previous owner of the guitar.

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There's a land that I've heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.

The group said nothing has Hatori and I performed, we kept our eyes on each other, a type of connection that we shared with each other thanks to my dearly departed Bapu. He might be gone, but he left me with caring people. A family who he trusted would take care of me. Even after he's gone, he still looking over me.

Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

Hatori and I finished, and I simply laid my head on his shoulders, letting out a sigh. Feeling almost euphoric over the song. The room was silent for a moment until Tohru jumped up.

"That was beautiful! Hatori-San and Marley-Chan! I feel so lucky." Gushed Tohru as she rushed over and grabbed my hands.

" Haa-san, I forgot how cool you looked with a guitar, I'm jealous." Teased Shigure but he seemed to be genuinely happy his friend had played. I noticed the more honest look in Shigure's eyes as he spoke to us.

"Hatori I had no idea you were so... musically inclined." Commented Yuki as he appeared to be shocked by the new side of the man he thought he knew.

"Yuuto-Sama and Haa-San used to spend hours in the main garden in the outer estate 'jamming' out." Explained Shigure as smiled over at Yuki. I caught a look of recognition on Kyo's face as if he remembered something but quickly shook his head.

.

I wonder if Kyo ever heard them play?

.

"Let's hear another!" Cheered Shigure, wanting to keep the 'concert' going.

"Are you alright with that Marley?" Asked Hatori as he turned to look at me. His dark purple eyes looking into my own lighter purple pair.

"I am if you are." I simply put as I smiled gently at him, giving him the signal that I was okay.

He started playing again and went with another one of Bapu's favorites that made take a deep breath in. My body fell into melody, and I opened my lips to let the music escape.

Hold me close and hold me fast
This magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose

I hoped Hatori would hold on to the guitar and play it regularly. The thought of it going another moment untouched and collecting dust broke my heart. I knew that Bapu and Hatori had been close and I think it would mean a lot to Hatori to hold on to a piece. Bapu would have been happy too. I looked beside me and swore I saw long black hair in a loose braid, a small smile and big brown eyes smiling at me, curled into the side of a tall, burly man with a short crew cut, a few gray hairs poking through his own dark hair. My beautiful parents were cuddling on the couch, smiling at me.

I blinked again, they were gone, and locks of bright orange were in their place, matching tangerine eyes watching me as Kyo sat down on the couch and rested in elbows on his knees, keeping his gaze on me.

Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be la vie en rose

There was light applause around the room, but Kyo tugged on my right dutch braid lightly. Stealing my attention from the rest of the people in the room.

"You're not half bad, weirdo." He muttered, blushing slightly as he complimented me. I laughed at his attempt and thanked him. I hadn't even realized I had been clenching onto my locket until I released my hold.

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I wonder if there's a song Kyo would want to hear..

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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Tohru and I worked together on cooking up some dessert while the boys relaxed. Hatori kept playing away on the guitar while Shigure read one of the many books he had brought. Kyo wandered in and grabbed an apple I was about to cut.

"Hey!" I shouted as I tried to grab it back.

"I was about to use that." I chided him as he hid the apply behind his back. Tohru glanced our way, taking her eyes off the pot of oats she was in charge off.

"You have lots of apples to use." He defended his apple stealing ways.

"Yes, and I need all of them." I continued as I tried to move around him, trying to grab the stolen apple. Although I probably didn't sound very convincing as I was laughing as I chased him around the kitchen.

Kyo brought the apple to his mouth and took a giant bite. The crunch ringing in my ears. I couldn't help but gasp at the defiant act. He raised an eyebrow and held out the apple to me.

"Oh, it's your now," I admitted in defeat as I returned to the cutting board and then slid the sliced apples I already had into a pan. I shook my head at Kyo's actions but couldn't stop smiling.

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It's nice seeing Kyo's playful side... even if it did cost me an apple

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"Kyo-Kun stop flirting! Marley-Chan is trying to work." Teased Shigure from the living room as the kitchen was easily visible from where he was seated.

"SHUT UP! No ones flirting!" Yelled Kyo as he stomped out of the kitchen, causing both Tohru and me to giggle at his actions.

Tohru and I finished up and separated the helpings of cinnamon apple crisp onto 6 dessert plates. We placed everything down on the living room table, and I noticed something was missing.

"I'll grab the ice cream." I offered as returned to the kitchen and opened the freezer door. Once I grabbed the carton of vanilla ice cream, I closed the door and was met with dark grey eyes.

"Can I get you anything Shigure?" I asked as looked straight at him.

"I just wanted to check-in, although I must admit it was quite the treat to see Hatori playing. I hope you enjoyed the surprise too." He said.

"Oh.. yes I did, I had no idea that he played. He looked pretty handsome with Bapu's guitar." I admitted to him as I moved around him to grab a large spoon from the drawer.

" I heard you were at the wedding on the Sohma property on Saturday." He pointed out. I was unsure as to why he would be bringing it up now.

"Hmm, yes I had to oversee a few things," I explained, thinking off the ceremony I attended and all the pictures I had taken of me with the bridal party.

"Do you know the bride and groom?" I asked as I moved to head into the dining area, but Shigure stepped in front of me.

"I'm actually pretty familiar with the bride, Kana." He had a cold look in his eyes as if he was hiding something back.

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Did they use to be lovers or something?

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I was about to ask more, but another voice interrupted.

"Shigure. That's enough, let her through." Hatori appeared, looking less than impressed.

"Aww, I was hoping to get a moment alone with our beautiful desert rose." He whined, putting up his act again. I simply moved around and headed towards the table.

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What does Kana have to do with anything?

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I looked up at Hatori who was watching me, he looked worn. Heartbroken. I gazed at the eye that was mostly hidden and was reminded of what Akito had shared with me.

Akito had been scared that Hatori would be taken away from her, she was trembling as she told that Hatori had once asked for her blessing to get married... Is Kana the woman who's responsible for hurting Hatori's eye? But Kana seemed so sweet, incapable of hurting a fly

Somethings not adding up

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.-.-.-.- To Be Continued .-.-.-.-.-.

Chapter Text

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.-.-.-.-.-.-

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Sunlight peaked through the curtain, making it easier for me to see while I navigated the room, not wanting to disturb my soundly sleeping roommate. Quietly I tiptoed out of the bedroom Tohru and I were sharing over the holiday, carrying what I need to the bathroom.

I splashed water on my face and did my usual routine, slipping off my glasses and putting in my contacts. Changing from the giant oversized black and silver L.A Knights T-shirt into black cropped yoga pants and a fitted maroon crop t-shirt.

It was early enough in the morning to assume that I was the only one awake in the cottage so I moved as carefully as I could as I left the bathroom and went downstairs and stepped out on the porch into the morning sunshine. Stretching my fingers towards the sky, greeting the brand new day. I brought out my phone to play some music.

Going through my regular yoga regiment to the soft acoustic music coming from my phone, I stretched my back, moving from downward dog into a cobra and back again.

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I feel lighter today... it was really lovely singing to Hatori's guitar playing... I wonder if he would ever be interested in doing it again

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I decided to move to the fence on the porch, using it as a dance bar and started working on barre exercises, placing my hand on the wood. I was diligently going through my routine, trying to make up for not getting it done the day before. Taking a deep breath, I placed my weight into my left, standing and lifted my right leg almost up to my shoulder. I breathed through the slight burn in my muscles, it wasn't painful just a tad.. uncomfortable.

I brought my foot back down and this time grabbed it in my right hand and lifted it towards the sky, grabbing the fence with my left hand as I tilted my body towards it, keeping my toes pointed.

"Are you kidding me right now?!" An alarmed voice interrupted my morning routine. I tried to turn my head while still in my stretch, Kyo was walking up the stairs to the porch, his skin glistening with a sheen of sweat.

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I'm not the only one who like to start my mornings early

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"Good Morning! You're up early." I greeted Kyo, honestly surprised that anyone else was awake.

"I'm always up around this time..." he was still staring at my leg that pointed up towards the sky. I brought it down and turned myself around so I could place my right hand on the fence. I lifted my left leg to the sky, my hand holding it place.

"You must be missing bones or something..." He said in shock as he continued to stare.

"I have bones! I just stretch a lot." I defended myself while giving him a smile.

"Why? " He crossed his arms at me, slightly shaking his head.

"Because there is something magical about seeing people's faces when I do something like this." I teased as then rose to the balls of my foot and titled my form towards the fence, deepening the stretch. Right on queue Kyo's mouth dropped a bit. I couldn't help but giggle slightly at his expression, but the moment didn't last long due to my stomach letting out a distinctive growl.

"Aaaaand that's my queue to get some breakfast on the stove." I laughed as I brought down my leg l slipped away into the cottage only to find Tohru already working in the kitchen.

"Morning Tohru."

"Oh! Good Morning Marley-Chan, I thought I would get started on breakfast." Suggested Tohru as she turned on the rice cooker.

"Let me help, just tell me what to do." I offered as I washed my hands at the sink.

"No, I couldn't possibly-" She started waving her hands, insisting that she do everything on her own.

"You helped me last night, now you can boss me around." I teased which caused her to get flustered.

" I could never-" I could only laugh at her reaction as I told her to calm and just asked what I could help with.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-

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"You're going to the lake? Don't drown Kyo-Kun." Teased Shigure as he was lounging on the rug and enjoying a book.

"I ain't gonna drown!" Hissed Kyo, annoyed with the Dog's teasing.

"Where's Marley-San?" Asked Yuki as he looked around the room for the adopted Sohma.

"I recommended a book to her, I think Haa-San and her are reading." Mentioned Shigure as he continued to read his own book.

"Ah! See you later Hatori-San, Do you still want to go to the Lake Marley-" Tohru went over to the couch, and Hatori was laid out on the couch with a book resting on his stomach, sleeping soundly.

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Marley was curled up in a fetal position at the other end of the couch. Snuggled into the cushions as a book dangled from her hand over the armrest. "What's this? Is Haa-San napping." Asked Shigure as remained on the floor.

"Yes... Marley-Chan too." Said Tohru as she gently smiled at the napping figures.

"Hatori sleeps?" Questioned Kyo, surprised at the sight.

"Come now, Kyo-Kun, everybody sleeps." Mocked Shigure, shaking his head at Kyo.

"I know that for cryin' out loud! He just doesn't seem like the kinda guy who'd sleep in front of people." Kyo justified his comment.

"Oh... Yes, true. This is unusual for him... He's spent. ... For a variety of reasons." Shigure mused as he looked over at the resting Dragon. Kyo ignored him for the most part as he walked over the spot Marley was resting in. Grabbing the dangling book from her hand and placing it on the table.

"Oi, weirdo, you were the one who was so excited about the lake. Wake up." Kyo nudged the sleeping girl, she didn't wake but settled into a curled position. Kyo couldn't help but compare her to a sleeping cat. One of those elegant fluffy white cats that were always impeccably groomed, with bejeweled collars.

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Tohru padded back into the room with a pile of blankets in her arms.

"They'll catch a cold like that, so I brought some blankets." Tohru worried as she placed a blanket over Marley. The sleeping girl subconsciously grabbed onto to the blanket and cuddled into it."You're very kind Tohru-Kun. You'll make someone a good wife." Commented Shigure, enjoying playfully teasing the easily flustered girl.

"Wha..?! Oh, but this is -" Tohru became flustered as she moved to put a blanket over Hatori' s sleeping form.

"No, It's truly admirable. You are very considerate." Kyo rolled his eyes. There's no way he's going to the lake now. He wouldn't leave Marley sleeping in the open while Shigure was lurking about.

"He is right. That was wondrously attentive!" A loud, boisterous voice boomed through the room. The Snake of the Zodiac appeared behind Tohru and put his arm around her shoulder. Everyone else in the cottage was silent in shock.

"What's the matter? You're all standing there like statues. Is it a disease?" Laughed Ayame as he patted Tohru on her head.

"IT'S BECAUSE YOU SUDDENLY SHOWED UP!" The Rat and the Cat yelled at the intruder.

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.-.-.-.

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Loud voices brought me out a warm nap, and I curled in more, wrapping myself into a comfortable blanket. "Before that, I'd like to sink you to the bottom of the lake..." I heard Yuki's voice, sounding as if he was on the verge of cold, calculated murder.

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What?!

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A sharp pain shot through my head, causing me to wince. A little out of sorts as I looked around the room. Remembering I was at the cottage and not at home.

"I see, I see! As brothers, we'll always be together." A very familiar boisterous voice called out.

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Ayame?

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I properly sat up and looked over the armchair to see Ayame holding Yuki's hands. Yuki looked like he was about to flat out deck the Snake of the Zodiac.

"Nope. I'm leaving you there!" Snapped Yuki as he ripped his hands from Ayame's grip.

"I told you not to annoy everyone..Ayame." Scolded Hatori as he lightly hit the back of Ayame's head with a book. I shook my head and slowly got up from the couch, patting down the long blue dress I had fallen asleep in. I sharp wince shot through my head again, I rubbed my temples, trying to relieve the headache I could feel coming.

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I wish I hadn't fallen asleep... hopefully this headache goes away quickly

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"Oh, Tori-San! Marley-Chan!" Ayame turned around to greet us, yelling as if we were miles away when we were only a few feet in front of him.

"Hatori-San... Marley-Chan... Did we wake you?" Tohru looking a little guilty, as if she was the one behind all the noise.

"How could I sleep with all the ruckus?" Hatori let out a sigh as he went to sit down at the table.

I simply walked to the sink to grab a glass of water, hoping that it would help as I tried to drown out the conversation in the living room. Apparently, Ayame had found out about our last minute trip to the cottage from a maid at the Estate.

"Yuki, Kyo. Weren't you going to take Marley and Honda-Kun to the lake today?" I heard Hatori mention to the boys.

"Oh? Is that true? Then make haste and take your leave. I don't know why you're dragging your feet, but you need to be slicker if you're going to escort such lovely ladies." Scolded Ayame as wagged his finger at the younger Zodiacs.

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We probably would have left by now if I hadn't fallen asleep...

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Finishing the glass the water, I barely placed it down before I was snatched at the elbow and dragged out of the kitchen towards the front door of the cottage.

"Kyo-! Wait! My shoes!"

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.-.-.-.-.-.-

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"Ahhh..." Tohru gaped at the beauty of the lake.

"This is so nice, I wonder how long it would take to walk around the whole lake?" I Questioned as I stood on the edge off the dock, overlooking the lake with Tohru. Breathing in the natural beauty of the environment.

"What do you guys think?" I asked the boys as I turned around to be met with a gloomy aura.

"I wonder... if he means to stay overnight." Yuki thought out loud, looking as if he just been told his pet had died.

"He's your brother. So do something about him." Scoffed Kyo, looking just as miserable about the unexpected guest.

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This resulted in another infamous Kyo and Yuki fight that honestly... I kind of had enough of at the moment. I was pleased with it yesterday because it was somehow better than their silent attitudes, but right now, I thought my head was going to spit in two. I massaged my temple again, hoping it would help.

"Marley-Chan? Are you alright?" Asked Tohru as she lightly grabbed my shoulder.

"huh? Oh, it's just a headache, I'm fine. The fresh air should help." I tried to not make her worry about me. It's just a headache after all

"Are you sure it's okay?" Asked Tohru again to which I only nodded.

"I ain't talkin' to you 'cos I enjoy it!" Screamed Kyo, the loud sound making me wince slightly.

I took a big breath and rubbed my temple. Tohru looked back and forth between the boys and me before grabbing my hand and pulling me along the shore.

"Thanks, my head is killing me. I feel kind of bad ditching them." I admitted as we walked along the edge of the lake. We could still lightly hear their arguing, but at this distance, it was a lot more manageable.

"I understand that their arguments can be a little... jarring. Even more so if you're not feeling well." Tohru comforted me being the sweet girl that she was. I was very grateful that she put some distance between the loud boys and me, even if for a moment.

"I can see why Kyo accepted my offer now." I thought out loud as I remember when the Cat of the Zodiac came over to my home when Ayame was visiting Shigure's.

"Hm?" Tohru tilted her head, slightly confused.

"Oh, Kyo came over to my place to escape for a few hours when Ayame was visiting Yuki," I explained to Tohru, the memory was a fond one and I hoped that Kyo enjoyed himself enough to return.

We walked along the lake, enjoying the quiet atmosphere, the sounds of birds pleasantly chirping in the sky. It seemed everyone was enjoying the beautiful day. Although, thoughts still plagued my mind as I wondered about this last-minute trip and Shigure mentioning Kana and the wedding in the kitchen last night. The sad look on Hatori's face when he told Shigure, 'That's enough.'

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He seemed so broken somehow.. tired out... what if

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"Say Tohru... do you know anything about Kana and Hatori?" I asked my friend, who was walking silently beside me.

She immediately went rigid, which gave me all the information I needed. A look of panic crossing her eyes.

"W-Why?" She asked, clearly nervous about the subject.

"... It's nothing, don't worry about it." I said to her, feeling bad that I had brought it up in the first place. Even if I wanted to know the details, I would have just to let it go.

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It's not like I can do anything to help

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I heard the sound of running and turned to Yuki and Kyo were running along the lake's edge towards Tohru's and I location. The boys must hve finally stopped arguing long enough to figure out we had left them behind.

"Are two alright?" Asked Yuki once he caught up to us.

" Marley-Chan has a headache, so I thought she might need... a nice walk" Revealed Tohru, only trying to look out for me without hurting the boys' feelings.

"I'm fine, really." I tried to reassure the group, but they didn't look very convinced.

"Do you want to head back Marley-Chan?" Asked Tohru looking concerned.

"No no, Ayame is fun and all, but he's defiantly a loud personality." I pointed out, I knew hanging out at the house would make it worse.

"Let's just keep walking, it'll be fine." I tried to convince them as we started walking along, enjoying the lake.

"This is your fault, that bastard wouldn't bother coming here if you weren't" Kyo snapped at Yuki

" No one wants you here in the first place, leave." Snapped Yuki right back.

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Here we go...

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I rolled my eyes, begging them to stop in my mind.

"Why don't you guys go for a walk... maybe I'll walk back to the dock and rest there." I convinced Tohru and after a while of me insisted that they go on ahead she finally continued on her walk with Kyo and Yuki in tow. I waved my friends off as they continued on their walk as I walked back the way we came. Thankful for the bit of peace and quiet, although it was a tad lonely.

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Once the dock was in sight, I looked at the lake longingly, wishing I could go for a swim. I slipped off my sneaker s and grabbed a bunch of my pale blue floral chiffon dress to keep it from getting wet as I waded into the water. Slowly stepping further and further as I got used to the cold chill.

I stood in the water for a bit, the cold water reaching my mid-calf. It was a comforting sensation, refreshing.

"Hey! That lake is freezing, get outta there." Scolded a voice from the shore. Turning around, I was surprised to see Kyo standing there, arms crossed and looking less than impressed with me. I waded through the water towards the shore and stepped onto the dirt.

"Aw, you do care." I teased as I released the hold I had on my dress, letting the fabric flow.

"As if! Don't get the wrong idea!" I winced a little bit at the loud noise and stepped back.

"Shit... I didn't mean..." He tried to apologize in a soft voice, but I promised him that it was alright as I gave him a small smile.

"You already walked around the lake?!" I asked the boy with the beautiful orange locks as I grabbed onto his arm and walked him with him along the dock, swinging my sneakers in my other hand.

"What?! No... I didn't want to spend any more time with that Rat than I have to... and I can't go back to the house... so I guess that means I'm stuck with you." He muttered as he let me lead him down the dock until we came to its end.

I lightly laughed. I had learned by now that Kyo had a difficult time saying what he means and shows his concern a little awkwardly. I let go of his arm and sat down at the edge of the dock, letting my legs hang, my toes barely touching the lake's surface.

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He kind of reminds of Hiro in some ways

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"Thank you." I simply said as I leaned back and looked up at the clouds. Kyo eventually sat down beside me and laid back. We shared the silence for a while until I broke it.

"The Sohma's have a lot of secrets, huh?" I muttered, not really thinking before I said it and also not thinking I would get an answer.

"What makes you say that? Are you talkin' about the curse?" Asked Kyo.

"No, not that one specifically, that secret makes sense. It's just that... I've been living in the Sohma Estate for almost a year and yet... I feel like I'm missing out on so much. There's so much I don't know, so much people aren't telling me." I tried to explain, feeling lost in my place among the Sohma clan.

Kyo seemed to go very tense as he didn't even answer. I'm sure he had secrets of his own.

"Sorry... forget I said anything." I sighed as I closed my eyes, feeling guilty that I probably brought up something painful.

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I really need to learn to keep my mouth shut

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"Is this why you have a headache? Because if it is, then you should forget about it. If people aren't telling you things, maybe it's because it's none of your business. " I turned my head to look at him, and his attention was on the clouds passing above us.

"I guess... I just feel maybe.. if I knew more than I could help...something..." I confessed, laying out my thoughts.

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Shoulder the burden... The Sohma's have been so good to me, I wish I could give something back

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" You help plenty, maybe you outta stop worrying about everyone else and worry about yourself." He suggested.

I started to giggle a bit. Realizing who else Kyo reminded me of at that moment.

"What now?" He mumbled, probably thinking I was making fun of him.

"Nothing... it's just... it's something Mama would have said. " I revealed, smiling at the memory of my beautiful yet sometimes harsh mother. Her harshness had come from a place of love.

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She never wanted me to make her mistakes

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"It's a compliment, I promise." I turned my head towards him and met his eyes. Mama was a 'look out for your own' kinda person and always worried about people 'taking advantage' of me. Somehow she got stuck with Bapu and me who were continually meddling in other people's issues.

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Bapu was worse than me when it came to asking questions and getting involved, drove Mama nuts

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We didn't say anything else as we just enjoyed the sun's rays and relaxed on the dock, falling into a comfortable silence. The only sounds were the waves of the lake hitting the dock and birds singing.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

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The silver-haired Snake placed a stack of something on the outdoor table where the three long-time friends were enjoying a cup of tea and catching up. The mid-day sun creating a warm glow on the porch.

"What are those?" Asked Hatori as he looked at the stack suspiciously.

"Photo's from Kana-Kuns's wedding. Whether you look at them or not it up to you, Tori-San." Said Ayame in a severe tone that few people got to hear from him.

"I don't believe it. You went to the wedding, Aya?" Shigure was shocked, to say the least.

"No, no. I got this from Mayu-Kun." Informed Ayame. The Snake didn't want to be seen with 50 feet of Kana or anything to do with her.

Shigure was surprised to hear his old flame's name, even more, shocked that his friend had seen her and gotten pictures from Mayu. The Dog's two friends then proceeded to tease him about Mayu who had called him a 'ripple.'

"There's actually a few pictures of our exotic flower attending the wedding, she looks quite stunning in her Kimono. Apparently, Mayu is Marley-Chan's homeroom teacher." Mentioned Ayame offhandedly, not realizing he was actually tempting Hatori to look at the photos.

Ayame mentioned that Hatori should have gone to the wedding and stolen Kana away. The Dragon of the Zodiac knew his friends were trying to comfort him, but he knew his time with Kana was done. It was too late. Hatori didn't want to cause her any more pain.

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"I have no desire to see her. All that's left to do now is pray." Hatori only wished happiness for his past love. But of course, Ayame wasn't satisfied.

"Kana-Kun isn't playing fair! She got to forget everything and move on while you are left to carry the painful burden. You obviously got the short end of the stick, Tori-San." Chided Ayame, hating how much pain his dear friend had to put up with.

Hatori sat there silently for a moment, thinking if he really had been given the 'short end of the stick.' "Did I...?" The doctor thought of his life over the past two few years, how much it had changed. A vision of the sweet, optimistic brown-skinned girl singing along as he played guitar went through his mind. He couldn't hold back the small smile that graced his face.

"I wouldn't ... say that." Hatori whispered out as he thought he had been quite lucky.

His two friends went into a tirade of calling him too kind, pushover and that's why people made his life harder. It was rich coming from the people who tended to always make Hatori's life more complicated than it had to be.

" Well, anyway... I hope you meet a new woman, one who never make you feel lonely when you're with her. A woman who'd make you happy when you're together." Proclaimed Shigure, who was being completely genuine. A rare occurrence for the Dog of the Zodiac.

"That's my Gure-San! You're a poet, and you know it!" Cheered Ayame.

"No, no! Novelist! Novelist!" Corrected Shigure as he brought out one of the books he had written. Hatori didn't want to think about where he had been hiding it.

But a new love? It seemed like too much to ask for. Hatori felt grateful for the time he had with Kana. Members of the Zodiacs hardly ever got one love, never mind two. Hatori felt he couldn't ask for anything more.

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"Ah, they're back." Announced Shigure, causing the three adults, well one adult and two children hiding in adult shaped bodies, to look towards the path leading up from the lake.

Marley and Tohru walked together, swinging their hands back and forth while the boys looked intrigued by their conversation. Marley and Tohru giggling now and then. They all looked... happy, and that's all Hatori wanted. He decided he would watch over them. To keep them from making the same mistakes he did. To make sure that they don't lose those smiles.

Hatori watched as chaos seemed to erupt as Ayame approached the group and Marley seemed to slip past the Snake to join Shigure and himself at the outdoor table.

"How was your walk?" Hatori asked as Marley took a seat across from him. She smiled, confessing that she didn't actually walk around the lake and chose instead to relax on the dock.

"Oo, what are these?" Marley picked up the stack of photos, her curiosity getting the best of her.

"... these are from the wedding.." Marley was thankful that she was sitting across from Hatori and not beside him as she saw the photo of Kana in her white wedding dress. It had been a Western-style wedding but the Sohma elders, including Dadaji, insisted that Marley wear a traditional kimono. It had made her feel even more out of place even if she had gotten lots of compliments.

"..Sorry," Marley whispered as she was about to put the photo's down, but they were grabbed from her hand by Shigure who flipped through a few before he pulled one out.

It was a picture of Mayu and Marley. Standing together and smiling into the camera. Mayu was in a simple western-style dress while Marley wore an intricate light blue kimono decorated with a yellow floral design, her hair in an elegant bun with ornaments poking out from it.

"I heard you know Mayu-Chan?" Asked Shigure as he looked from the photo to her.

"Oh, um yes she's my homeroom teacher, we were pretty surprised to see each other at the wedding." She explained, still feeling guilty about bringing up the wedding at all. She was sure that Kana was the woman Hatori was going to marry a few years ago. Marley didn't understand the full details of what happened, but she was sure it was painful to talk about.

"Haa-San. Doesn't Marley-Chan look regal? Like an empress or something" Teased Shigure as he handed Hatori the single photo. Hatori grabbed it and looked it over before smiling at Marley.

" You look lovely Marley." He complimented but Marley could see through his smile and could tell he carried the pain of his lost love.

"Yes, well... I look forward to the day you get married, and you're sporting a very handsome tux... And I'll only wear a kimono at your request otherwise I'm wearing a saree" Marley pointed out while crossing her arms, she was being completely honest. Hatori was very handsome to her and loved seeing him in all his tailored suits and enjoyed imagining what he would look like at his own wedding. Marley also wanted to mention that the groom was no where near as handomse as he was but didn't want to push it. Hatori shook his head at the idea, but he had to admit to himself that he would want Marley to wear the traditional Indian garments. Hatori had only ever seen pictures of her and her mother wearing them, and he looked forward to seeing it in person.

"See, see! Marley wants to go to your wedding, now you have to start looking for a bride." Teased Shigure, seeing his friend's mood brighten a bit more now that the optimistic Marley had returned.

"Kyo-Kun! Yuki-Kun! Look at Marley-Chan in a kimono!" Cheered Shigure as he got up from the table to try and get a reaction out of the young boys, teasing their red faces. Marley could only laugh as she watched the chaos with Hatori. Not even wondering why Ayame was passed out on the ground with a giant red bump on his head.

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.-.-.-.-.-.

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"Wait- Wait... Dammit" I tried to get all the white stuff off my hands, frustrated with myself.

"You suck." Chuckled Kyo from beside me as he watched me struggle to make anything the whole evening.

"It's a gift!" I laughed as Tohru got a warm cloth and wiped the sticky rice off my hands.

We were making sushi for dinner, and I was... not really doing that well. Even Yuki, who apparently couldn't cook was making a few decent sushi rolls while I had yet to make anything worth eating.

I watched as Kyo expertly molded the rice on the seaweed, none of it stuck to his hand. He placed a strip of salmon and simply rolled it all together, creating a perfect salmon roll.

"Kyo! That's amazing, you're like a chef!" I complimented, thoroughly impressed. He just let out a sigh as he shook his head at me, mumbling 'it was nothing.'

"Please teach me, sensei!" I joked as I was ready to try again, filled with determination.

"We're gonna run outta stuff if you keep messing up." He teased as he gestured to my work station, which looked like a tornado had run through it.

"How about you teach me how to make sushi, and I'll teach you how to be more flexible, I'm sure it would benefit your martial arts." I offered as I leaned towards him, hoping he would take the deal.

"Ooo you should take that deal Kyo-chan, you never know when that flexibility will come in handy." Teased Shigure as he raised his eyebrows suggestively, causing me to laugh and shake my head at the silly pervert.

"Wh- Wh-" Kyo started sputtering while his face turned red at the suggestive remark.

.

"I think we may have to cut you off, Marley." Piped in Hatori, making his own perfect sushi rolls beside me.

" I can do it! One more try please." I pleaded, not wanting to give up yet.

"Marley, I can literally see a clump of rice on your braid." Commented Hatori who had little faith in me. I quickly tried to remove it, which now just created the problem of rice sticking to my fingers again, which Tohru had to again hand me a cloth to get rid of it.

"Fine..." I admitted defeat.

.

I'll try again at home when there's no one to judge me... YouTube will help me

.

As everyone was talking, I just ate plain rice as I had been unable to make my own vegetarian sushi rolls. Tohru offered me some of her tuna roll, but I had to politely decline. I was just happy everyone was able to sit down for a nice meal. Plus Hatori had given me some medicine earlier, and my headache was gone.

Kyo then slid a plate towards me that had a roll on it. The others too caught up in their own conversations to notice.

"That's okay Kyo, you eat it." I declined the kind offer, surprised he had forgotten that I was vegetarian since he liked to give me a hard time about it most meals.

"It just has cucumber in it, don't worry about it," Kyo explained quietly as he returned to his own food, but I couldn't help but notice the tips of his ears were red.

.

Cute

.

" Thanks, Kyo." He only nodded in response, and I dug into my veggie roll, a warm feeling spreading from through my body. Savoring the taste as I enjoyed Kyo's kind gesture.

" Just- don't look into it much, I just made a mistake, and I don't wanna eat it." He Sputtered, not wanting to admit that he made something for me.

"Proud to reap the benefits." I giggled, knowing he was trying to hide his kindness. Loud laughter tore my attention away from the blushing Cat and to the far end of the table.

" You should really slow down with the sake." Commented Hatori as he looked at the Dog and the Snake who was opening another bottle, their faces slightly flushed from the alcohol.

"Tori-San! We're on vacation. You should have some!" Cheered Ayame as he poured Hatori an overflowing cup of sake, his cheeks bright red.

"Someone has to keep an eye on you two." Scolded Hatori, refusing to drink the cup and pushing it back towards his friend.

"Aww Haa-San, this reminds me of high school!" Whined Shigure, his own cheeks glowing pink from the alcohol.

"High school?"

"Oh, Marley-Chan. Hatori-San, Shigure-San, and Ayame-San all attended the same high school." Pointed out Tohru, happy to share the fact.

"Really? At the same time?" I asked, slightly intrigued at the new info. Smiling at the idea of Hatori diligently watching over the other two from causing too much trouble.

Shigure nodded and confirmed that they all together from elementary to high school.

.

Three members born in the same year? Quiet the coincidence... but a lot of the Zodiac members seem to be pretty close in age

.

The more I thought about the Zodiac members, the more my curiosity rose. I wondered if members were typically born so close together. There had to be an archive or something at the Main Estate that I can look into.

Just for fun... I wonder if there's a pattern

.

.-.-.-.-.-.

.

My phone dinged, finally able to get some service. After waving my hand around different area's around the cottage, it felt like a success. I quickly used the small-signal I got to do a search, checking the weather report.

.

YES! Now I just need to ask if anyone else is interested.

.

Entering back into the house, I was surprised at how quiet it was. Ayame and Shigure were passed out on the couches. Hatori and the boys were nowhere to be seen downstairs. I wondered if everyone had already gone to bed.

My eyes gazed to the clock on the wall. Even I had to admit that half-past twelve was a little on the later side. My shoulders drooped, but it was my own fault for not planning ahead. My last hope was Tohru, but as I walked into our shared room, she was already fast asleep.

Drool was already falling from the edge of her mouth, and the covers were halfway down the bed. It must have been quite the walk around the lake if the poor girl was this tired. I took the edges of the blanket and tucked her in properly.

It seemed I would be on my own for the evening. I quietly changed into some comfy grey sweatpants and a white sweatshirt, slipping my coat overtop. I grabbed the blanket from my bed and made sure to turn off the lamp before I left, closing the door behind me.

In the kitchen, I made myself some hot chocolate, making sure the kettle didn't make a sound as it boiled. Although I'm sure an elephant could walk through here and the two sleeping Zodiac members on the couch wouldn't notice.

Pouring the hot drink into a thermos, I twisted the lid shut tightly and escaped from the cottage towards the docks, the moon lighting my path.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

"Tohru-"

"Mom..." Brown eyes opened up to an empty room, moonlight peeping through spots into the curtain, creating enough light for the girl to notice she was alone. Rising out of bed, she peeked outside wanting to look at the moon but instead caught movement on the ground.

A figure walked away from the cottage carrying a bundle in her hands, the moon shedding light on her white-blond hair.

"Marley-Chan?" Tohru whispered out and wondered why her friend was heading towards the lake. The brunette wanted to follow, but.

What if Marley wanted to be alone and Tohru just bothered her. Yet, thoughts of the girl alone in the dark were enough to make the worried girl throw on her coat and follow. Not noticing the grey eyes that followed her as she walked out the door into the night.

As Tohru made her way down the path, she tried not to think of 'Jason'... but that only made her worry if Marley had run into the foreign bear. Walking a little faster to try and find her friend, thankful that the moon was out. It was a beautiful night.

The path led her to the lake, but she didn't see who she was looking for.

"Ohno... where did she go?" Tohru asked herself as she looked around frantically.

.

"Tohru?"

"EEeP." Tohru let out a small scream and turned around wishing she had her school bag or something with her. Brunnette eyes met lavender, and Tohru let out a sigh of relief.

"Thank goodness... I thought you were Jason." Admitted Tohru as she smiled nervously at her friend, which caused Marley to laugh lightly.

"You thought I was a bear." She giggled, readjusting the blanket she carried in her arms, a thermos resting on top.

"Ah here let me help." Tohru reached up and grabbed the thermos before it fell.

"Thanks but ... is everything okay? What are you doing out here?" The white-blond girl asked as she looked down at Tohru slightly concerned.

"I- I just thought I would go for a nice walk you know, enjoy the beautiful evening." Blubbered Tohru as she tried to lie.

"A nice walk in your slippers?" Marley tried to stop herself from laughing again at the frantic girl.

"Ahh H I - Um- you see..."

"Tohru." Marley stared at her, waiting for the truth, but she still had a gentle look in her eyes.

.

"I.. I saw you walking towards the lake and was worried.." Confessed Tohru as she gripped the warm thermos in her hands. If Marley had any free hands, she would have reached out for the girl.

"... Thank you, Tohru." The foreign girl was truely touched although she never meant to make Tohru worry, it still felt nice knowing someone had come after her.

"Maybe... if your not too tired or anything, you wanna watch the stars together?" Offered Marley as she tried to gesture towards the dock.

"I'd love to Marley-Chan!' Cheered Tohru, excited to be invited. Marley shared in the girl's excitement by giving her a bright smile, and they walked together to the dock and took a seat at the end. Marley covered them both with the thick blue duvet she had brought along, and Tohru placed the thermos on the dock.

"Is this why you left, you wanted to stargaze?" Asked the brunette as she made herself comfortable.

"Well actually, there's supposed to be a meteor shower tonight." Confessed Marley as she looked towards the stars.

"I've never seen a meteor shower!" Tohru's heart was pounding, and she looked at the sky, expecting to catch the sight at any moment. Marley could only laugh at the girl's enthusiasm.

"Don't worry, we still have some time before it really gets going." Comforted Marley before she too looked towards the sky, searching. Tohru looked over at the girl and was surprised at the longing look that crossed her face.

"The stars sure can make you feel small... " Mumbled Marley as she continued to watch the sky. Tohru also returned her eyes to the sky, remembering her time living under the stars.

.

"True... but looking at them makes me less lonely somehow. I remember when I lived in a tent and -"

"You lived in a tent?!" Marley interrupted, taken aback by the new information.

"Hmm, oh, yes. My Grandfather was getting renovations done, and I figured it would be easiest to live in a tent for a bit." Tohru said it so casually it just Marley more curious.

".. Wait, so where did you Grandfather stay? In the tent with you?" Marley looked utterly perplexed at what she was hearing.

"Hmm no-no, Grandfather stayed with his relatives." Corrected Tohru.

"Aren't his relatives your relatives." Marley pointed out.

"I guess." Tohru started to feel nervous, she felt terrible about bringing up the tent at all.

"And so your Grandfather was living with relatives, and you were living in a tent?" Marley asked, trying to get the facts straight.

"Yes.."

"And Hanajima and Uotani couldn't house you?" Marley was really not letting this go.

"Uh well, I couldn't possibly ask them." Tohru defended her friends, she was sure they would have had she asked, but it seemed too much to ask.

"Your Grandfather had no idea where you were living? He didn't check-in? He didn't feel the need to make sure you were alright?"

Tohru felt herself choking up as she tried to smile and nod her head. Telling herself that the situation was okay. It was fine... It was fine. It was the only way.

"You lived in a tent... because your Grandfather's house needed renovations... he stayed with family and you... lived in a tent..." Tohru looked over and saw Marley gritting her teeth, tears pouring down her face as she looked across the lake as she started speaking faster and even dropped the Japanese and started speaking in her 1st language. So distraught that someone would treat Tohru so... unkindly.

"Marley-Chan..." Tohru gently called out, reaching over but before she could, Marley jumped to feet and started pacing. Still mumbling in Punjabi which Tohru couldn't understand. After a moment, Marley stopped and stood in place, hands clenched at her side.

"Tohru that's... that's... BULLSHIT." Tohru was shocked to see Marley so visibly upset. She felt responsible, and immediately wished she hadn't shared her tent predicament. Tohru hadn't meant to make Marley upset.

Marley brain was spinning thinking about Tohru's situation. She lost her mother last May... she was in mourning, and then Tohru's own grandfather basically kicks her out and doesn't bother to find her proper living arrangements. It made Marley furious. People who weren't even family by blood had taken Marley in when her parents had passed. Dadaji had become extremely hands-on after the accident, trying to buy gifts and made sure Marley was always well-taken care off and yet Tohru's real, blood family they just... abandoned her.

"I'm sorry I-"

" They should have taken care of you! Your Grandfather should have made sure you were safe! AT THE VERY LEAST! You deserved so much better." Marley cried to the sky, frustrated for her friend. A dam broke in Tohru as she watched Marley cry for her. Tohru began crying as well, tears flowing down her cheeks as she stared up at Marley.

The white-blond couldn't believe that Tohru had been through so much and came out so kind, it was unfair. Marley felt like Tohru shouldn't have to go through such trials. No one should. It made Marley realize how fortunate she had been to been so cared for and loved.

Marley came back down to Tohru's level and wrapped her arms around the girl, embracing her tightly, and Tohru immediately hugged the compassionate girl back, finding comfort in her friend's arms.

After a while, the crying turned to sniffles, and the girls parted, using their sleeves to wipe away their trails of tears.

.

"... but you know, if all that hadn't happened. I wouldn't be with the wonderful Sohma family. I wouldn't be here with you." Tohru admitted, still thinking how blessed she was to be where she is. Tohru especially felt a true kinship with Marley, and the foreign girl felt the same. The two orphans came from completely separate walks of life but ended up here, sitting on a dock under the stars.

" Always thinking on the bright side." Teased Marley as she wiped away any remaining tears.

" It is kinda amazing, isn't it..." Marley quietly let out as she looked back up at the sky.

"What is?"

" .. I always felt like a bit of an outsider, like I didn't belong.. weather it was in India or the States... yet I found a home in the most unlikely of places... I'm so grateful. But it' still kinda funny I found a family with a strange curse." Marley laughed lightly.

"Right! We're like two riceballs in a fruits basket!" Cheered Tohru, looking happy about the revelation. This just left Marley confused, and she wondered what riceballs have to do with a fruits basket.

"But Tohru, I hope you know that if you ever need help, I'm here. I want you to reach out, you have so many people who love you and want to help you. You're not alone." Marley squeezed Tohru's hand, trying to get her point across.

"You too Marley-Chan...if you ever need anything I'm here for you. I don't know how much I'll be able to help, but I'm here for you." Tohru said it with such conviction that it made Marley smile at her kind friend. They settled onto the dock under the blanket and watched the stars. Both the girls happy that they weren't alone. Not in the slightest.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Dark grey eyes stared up into the night sky. The stars made her feel, and she hated that feeling. Like everything and everyone was so far away from her... and she was alone.

But God couldn't be alone because God was special. She was special... She was born to be loved.

"Akito, you're going to get sick. Come back inside." A warm voice called to her and then an arm reached around her and led her inside, back to her room.

Kureno was gentle with Akito as he led her back inside, feeling she shouldn't be left alone. He wanted to help her but didn't quite know how so he would just stay by her side.

"She left.. again. She's always leaving.." Akito mumbled Marley had said they would be friends yet she was gone at the Lake House with God's Zodiac animals and the outsider. Kureno could tell who Akito was talking about without needing a name.

"Marley-San invited you Akito, you said you didn't want to go." Kureno pointed out, remember the conversation between the two women quite well. Akito had been quick to say that the last thing she wanted to do was 'frolic in the woods.'

Kureno felt a sharp sting across his cheek, the force keeping his gaze to the sight.

"Then she should have stayed here!" Akito screamed, frustrated with her family, with her friend. She was alone, and she wasn't born to be alone.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

I tried to wrap the blanket around Tohru as her head rested in my lap. She had fallen asleep pretty quickly after our cry session. Emotionally exhausted, she had fallen asleep on my shoulder, and I thought it might be more comfortable for her to rest on my lap.

.

I'll wake her when it starts

.

Gazing up at the stars, I started trying to think about my place in the Sohma family. How different my life could have been if the Sohma's had been more open to Mama and Bapu's marriage. Would we have stayed? Would I have made the same friendships?

.

Would they still be here? Would we have come out here to enjoy the lake and stargaze?

.

Footsteps took me out of my mind, and I tried to turn without waking Tohru before I could try and call out I felt a light tug on my braid.

"Why the hell are you out here alone in the middle of the night?" I heard a familiar voice sounding annoyed.

"I'm not alone." I fired back, giving the figure a big smile.

"C' mon, let's go back." He said, waiting for me to get up. He even held out his hand to me. I shook my head at him.

"Nope. I'm staying right here." I kept my ground, decided to finally take off the elastics from my dutch pigtails, running a hand through the braid, letting my long hair flow freely around me. The white-blond locks in distinct waves from being kept in braids for so long.

"Why are you so strange.." He moaned I couldn't help but laugh at his exasperation.

"If you want to go back, you can, but I would also love it if you stayed," I mentioned to him as I patted the space on the dock beside me.

He let out a sigh and took a seat beside me. Pouting as he did so and he crossed his arms.

"How did you know we were out here anyway?" I asked him, his orange hair recognizable even in the dead of night.

"That damn dog mentioned you two walked out of the cottage. I figured you'd be here." He explained as he rolled his shoulder back, slightly stretching them out. I adjusted the blanket again and threw some over Kyo. Before he could protest, Tohru interrupted.

She was still fast asleep but mumbled something incoherent and giggled slightly before curling further into the blankets and my lap. I couldn't help but laugh lightly at the sight.

"She kinda sleeps like a kid," I observed as I turned to Kyo, seeing if he agreed.

"Ya... So why are you here, anyway?" He asked.

"There's supposed to be a meteor shower tonight, and I really wanted to catch it," I explained.

"It's actually partly the reason I wanted to come to the cottage in the first place, it's easier to see the stars when your away from the city lights.." I explained to Kyo as I watched the stars, wondering who wouldn't love looking up at the night sky. I then looked over at Kyo, and he too was looking up at the stars, looking at peace.

"The stars must have looked beautiful up in the mountains." I sighed as I returned my gaze to the stars above.

"Huh?"

"When you were training? With your Shisou?" I asked as I turned to him, subconsciously tilting my head to the side.

".. Yeah... They were." A soft smile graced his face.

"Even though I was exhausted, Shisou would always sit out and watch the stars. We talked about training and what to work on the next day." He told me as I listened intently.

"It'll be nice when he gets back, you guys should plan another camping trip or something," I suggested, getting excited for him.

"Yeah.. so why are REALLY out here in the middle of the night?" He asked, his eyes gazing to my hand that was lightly touching my locket.

I looked back up to the sky, watching a few clouds pass over, hiding the moon and causing the night to become so much darker.

" When I was young... Mama was working overseas and my Nani... my great grandmother, was looking after me in India. But every time Mama was able to come back home, we would lay a blanket out in the field behind our house, and watch the stars... they always make me think of her." I smiled up at the sky as the cloud moved and the moon was revealed, making the lake shimmer in its light.

I then started laughing as I remembered something I wasn't very proud of.

"What is it?" Asked Kyo, perplexed at how I could go from talking about stars and Mama to laughing like an idiot.

"It- its.. the first time Mama invited Bapu to watch the stars with us... I was so -mad... Because to me, stargazing was Mama and my things... As soon as he took off his shoes to -relax on the picnic blanket - I started- stuffing his shoes- with some dead centipedes- I had found." I laughed.

"Remind me never to piss you off." He mumbled, shocked that I would do that.

" - then as we laid down, a shooting star passed by, and then another, and another. The sky was filled with them. It was beautiful. I had never seen anything like it." I finally calmed down from laughing and was smiling fondly at the memory.

"Did he... find the bugs?" Kyo asked, looking unsure if he really wanted to know.

"Oh yeah! I got in so much trouble from Mama... but Bapu forgave me pretty quickly, even told me 'nice job.' " My cheeks were hurting from smiling so much.

.

Bapu saw it as his 'initiation'.

.

I unscrewed the thermos and took a sip of hot chocolate, savoring the sweet taste.

"Would you like some?" I asked the Cat as I held the thermos out to him, he looked down skeptically at the drink.

"I promise I don't have cooties." I teased the boy lightheartedly before I took another sip. I could see his bright red face even in the dark.

Before Kyo could say anything, I noticed a flash of something in the corner of my eye. I latched onto Kyo's shoulder and pointed towards the sky.

"I just saw one!" I gushed, getting excited. Soon after another one followed. And then another. The sky was soon filled with streams of fleeting light.

Kyo gazed up at the sky in wonder, and I moved to gently wake up Tohru. Not wanting her to miss the natural wonder.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

The kids had yet to return, and Shigure was thinking about going after them himself. He woke up Ayame to go with him, which ended up being a bad idea because he then woke up the rest of the house.

"What's going on down here?" Asked Hatori as he shook his head at his childhood friends.

"Shigure sent the kids into the woods!" Ayame pointed his finger at his friend, still slightly drunk from earlier.

Hatori fully glared at Shigure, wondering what he was up to.

"No, no! That's not what happened! Tohru walked off into the woods, and then I checked, and Marley was out of her bed as well, and I sent Kyo after them, and they haven't returned... " Admitted the Dog, trying to sound more responsible but he was not giving himself a good case.

"When did you send Kyo?" Asked Hatori as he put on his coat and grabbed a flashlight from the supply closet before slipping on some shoes.

"An hour ago..." Admitted Shigure and Hatori shook his head and walked out the door.

.

"Idiot." Mumbled Yuki as he two put on his coat and shoes, following the only responsible adult in the house.

"Wait for us!" Called Ayame as he and Shigure struggled to put shoes and a coat on to follow.

The group followed Hatori as he marched towards the lake. He quickly noticed a lump of figures on the dock, some light laughter could be heard.

Hatori let out a massive sigh and approached the missing teens. Lightly bonking a white-blond head to grab their attention.

"Oh, Hatori! And everyone.. hello!" Greeted Marley as she smiled at the newcomers.

"Marley, what in the world-"

.

"Hatori look! " Marley interrupted, pointing towards the sky. The newcomers all looked up, finally noticing the show happening above them.

"It just started you guys! Sit down." Suggested Marley as she beamed with excitement and wonder.

"Quick Aya! Make a wish, make lots of wishes!" Suggested Shigure as shook his Snake friend.

" All of my wishes are being said for my dear baby brother! May he live his best life! " Ayame wished as he pointed to the sky as if demanding it follows his 'wish.'

" I wish you would go away..." Mumbled Yuki as he went to sit beside Tohru, causing Marley to laugh. She figured that would be Yuki's wish at that moment.

Hatori watched the sky for a bit before turning back towards the previously-missing teens. Marley and Tohru were sharing a thermos of some sort of drink as they spoke to another and then point up a the sky, looking overly excited and he saw Kyo gazing over at Marley, a gentle look in his eyes.

"Hatori! What would you wish for?" Asked Marley as she lightly tugged on Hatori's coat.

"Right now I wish you were where you're supposed to be, at the cottage." Critiziseized Hatori, trying to glare down at the smiling girl but failing miserably.

.

"Aww! Okay but just a little longer, please." Marley pleaded which caused Tohru so also look up at him, subconsciously giving him puppy dog eyes.

Hatori lowered his head in defeat and decided to sit down on the dock behind the girls, enjoying the night sky with his family.

He should have been furious with her, for going off into the dark without telling anyone. But she looked so happy, so at peace. He would let this slide.

Hatori looked to the stars and made a wish of his own. For his loved ones to be happy.

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

Listen baby, ain't no mountain high
Ain't no valley low, ain't no river wide enough baby
If you need me call me no matter where you are
No matter how far don't worry baby

.

It was midday, and the household had actually gone half the day without annoying each other too much. Spirits still high from watching the meteor shower the night before.

Marley played her music on her small bright pink Blu tooth speaker she had brought along. Her and Ayame dancing around to the happy music, being goofballs while the others in the house watched. Marley soon grabbed Tohru's hands and made her dance, causing the two girls to giggle as the white-blonde brought the brunette into a spin. Ayame then spun Marley, being careful not to get to close so he wouldn't transform. Yuki and Kyo kept themselves far enough to watch but not get dragged into dancing.

.

'Cause baby there ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe

.

The cottage phone rang, nearly interrupting the little dance party that only seemed to grow as Ayame tried to drag in Hatori who would not budge no matter what they tried.

"I'll get it!" Offered Shigure as he went to answer the landline.

"Sohma Lake House, Shigure speaking."

" Akito-Sama calling for Marley-Sama." A voice he recognized as the head maid of the Main Estate.

He was about to answer, but he heard a commotion on the other end, and a familiar voice came through.

"Marley?" A voice he craved called out a name, Akito was asking for someone else, not him. Shigure felt his grip on the phone tighten.

"No, this is Shigure."

"Shigure.. give the phone to Marley," Akito ordered, not wanting to play around with the Dog.

"Not even a hello? I'm hurt." He whined, trying to antagonize her a little bit.

"Enough of the teasing, give the phone to Marley." Shigure glared at the wall, feeling a dark sensation in his chest. He turned around and watched as Marley laughed and danced with his family.

.

Oh no darling
No wind, no rain
Or winters cold can stop me baby, no no baby
'Cause you are my goal

.

He knew he shouldn't stoke the fire, that it might lead to more trouble. But he had a goal, and this could help tip the scale. Spending this holiday with Akito's new favorite toy had been eye opening. Marley was the last person he expected Akito to cling was bright, full of sunshine and talented. She was a good and kind person... it was too bad that Shigure found these qualties, boring almost. Although it was interesting to see her interations with his fellow Zodiac members.

"Sorry Akito, Marley-Chan is very busy. Maybe she can call you back?" Shigure didn't even get a response and heard the other end 'click' ending the call.

Marley approached him, looking slightly concerned.

"Everything okay?" She asked, staring at him with those large entrancing lavender eyes, thick lashes emphasizing her natural beauty. Shigure had to remind himself that Marley wasn't an enemy. But all Shigure could hear in his head was Akito asking for Marley instead of him. He admitted to himself that he was jealous.

"It was nothing, wrong number." He lied, throwing on a smile. Akito would not be impressed when Marley doesn't return the call. Maybe it would lead to a tantrum. How much had Marley experienced at the hand of Akito.

"Oh.. okay well come on! I bet you're a great dancer!" Marley lightly grabbed Shigure's hand and dragged him to the others, smiling all the way. Shigure could feel her warmth through her touch, her genuine kindness in her smile, her trust in her eyes.

A part of him felt terrible, it really did. But he would do whatever it took to get what he wanted and right now, the one he wanted, wanted Marley. And that was unacceptable.

.

Ain't no mountain high enough
Ain't no valley low enough
Ain't no river wide enough
To keep me from getting to you babe

.

.

.-.-.-.-.- To Be Continued .-.-.-.-.-.-

Chapter Text

.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-

The orange-haired teen left before his housemates, choosing to walk alone to school as a morning breeze ruffled his hair. He found himself actually missing being at the lake house, despite how loud and noisy it was. It had been.. fun. They had only been back a few weeks, and everyone had returned to their usual schedule. Kyo's footsteps seemed to move faster as he neared the school.

He found himself not hating school as much as he used to though he couldn't really tell why. Maybe this school was just less annoying than his last school.

The Cat entered his classroom, barely acknowledging his classmates, eyes subconsciously taking in the exotic girl already seated at her desk the morning sun reflecting off her strange hair and brown skin, staring at a stack of paper while the ex-gangster and wave girl stood around her.

"Yo.." The blond Yankee greeted him, and the wave-girl gave him a nod as he just gave them a lazy 'Hey.'

Marley's eyes hadn't left what looked like a stack of letters, not even acknowledging the boy.

"What's up with her? Is it that damn Rat's fan club again?" The boy asked, slightly concerned over the usually cheerful girl's dark cloud.

The two strange girls just shrugged, not being helpful at all.

"Don't think so, she just walked in with that stack, sat down and has been staring at it ever since." Explained Uotani, shaking her head.

"Her waves are almost difficult to read. She's afraid, anxious... " Spoke Hanajima in her usual monotone voice.

.

Kyo let out a huff of air as he got tired of waiting and finally reached out to bring the girl out of her daze. Lightly pulling on a loose curl.

"Oi. What gives?" Asked the Cat, the jostled girl immediately looked up at from her seat.

"Oh! Good Morning Kyo." She gave him a smile, but it only managed to piss him off. It was a strained smile, hiding whatever she was truly feeling at that moment.

" Something bothering you?" Asked Uotani who was also able to see through the girl's smile.

Marley's gaze returned to the stack of letters in her hands, only making the Cat more curious about the letters. Where had they come from? Why so many?

"Someone's been leaving these letters in my cubby all week... I was hoping it would stop, but there are new ones every day." She explained, losing the smile and looked sadly at the stack.

"What do they say?" Asked Hanajima.

" I haven't opened any... too scared." She confessed, her shoulders sagging as if she was carrying a heavyweight.

"Why?" Kyo asked as he just grabbed the stack from her, surprising the girl but Kyo kept them out of reach as he flipped through them. Marley's name had been written on all letters, but way her name had been written was different. All these letters were from different people. But they didn't look scary.

"I.. used to receive notes at my old school... they were unkind, to say the least." She tried to explain, looking more and more depressed the more she seemed to think about it.

Kyo couldn't imagine anyone being mean to her... he then remembered his first meeting with the girl.

.

"Some outsider like you... You... YOU'RE JUST SOME FOREIGN BITCH."

.

The less than kind words he had yelled at her. Taking out his own frustrations on the adopted Sohma. He had been an idiot, he was just lucky that she gave him another chance.

"Who would dare mess with you." Commented Uo as she crossed her arms.

"Kids can be cruel..." She muttered. Marley wasn't wrong, everyone surrounding her desk had experienced cruelty from kids when they were young.

" I wonder if I could send waves overseas." Hanajima pondered.

Marley giggled a little bit before she mentioned that those people wouldn't be worth the time and energy, commenting that they were just ignorant kids. Of course, the forgiving girl would say something like that. Marley had been quick to forgive Kyo for his own ignorance.

" I guess I was hoping not to receive anymore... unkind letters. No one seems to mind me too much here. Except for a certain fan club, but they are always very open about how they feel. I don't imagine they would feel the need to write letters..." Marley explained. The girl was popular at the school, people were completely enamored with her and always wanted to ask her questions. It annoyed Kyo to no end because he even he could see that Marley didn't really enjoy people fussing over her. There had been rumors of a fan club for her, and he hoped that that's all they were. Rumors.

"Well let's find out what these assholes have to say," Uo announced as she grabbed a few letters from Kyo, ripping one open and quickly reading it. It only took a moment for the girl to burst out laughing.

The wave girl grabbed one and opened it, shaking her head slightly.

.

"Unacceptable. This will not do, writing is terrible. They should have done a few drafts before giving you a final product." Criticized Hanajima.

"Are... they really bad?" Asked Marley as she dared to not even look at the girls, instead started fidgeting with the hem of her skirt.

"Haha, these are great." Teased Uo as she handed Marley the letter, a huge grin on her face.

Marley took a deep breath and then read over the letter, her eye's moving up and down the sheet. A small blush started to bloom on her cheeks.

"oh..."

"Lemme see." Kyo's curiosity got the best of him as he grabbed the letter from the girl. Reading over the cruddy writing quickly.

.

My beautiful Marley,

I'm writing to tell you that you make my heart spin, my breath stop, and my world turn. Your hair shines like the moon and eyes are like glittering jewels. Your skin reminds of hot chocolate, keeping me warm on cold nights alone. How I wish to hold your hand -

.

A confession of love... The Cat groaned and couldn't even finish reading. Now he found the letters scary. And he knew of an excellent place to put them as he glanced over at the trash can.

"Our Marley-Chan has got herself some admirers." Teased Uo.

"I don't blame them, I just wished they were creative." Hana pointed out, folding the letter she had read and handed back the stack to Marley who looked utterly bewildered.

Her amethyst eyes turned towards her Zodiac friend, Kyo had finished reading the letter and a white rage poured over him, feeling the compulsive need to rip the love letter to shreds. If they really cared for her, they would say so, not hide behind some paper.

As the boy was about to crumple the letter, gentle hands grabbed his, causing him to look at the girl responsible in shock.

"Wait!" She pleaded, stopping him from damaging the letter.

"What? Your into guys who don't even have the courage to ask you out in person?" The boy snapped, frustrated that she would want to keep the letter.

"No, it's not that it's just... It would be cruel to damage it... I don't want to hurt their feelings." She reasoned as she gently took back all the letters and tucked them away safely.

.

"I'm still a little confused. I thought I was the complete opposite of beauty standards here." She confessed, smiling sadly. Kyo was surprised to find that the beautiful girl was self-conscious about her looks, he couldn't see why.

"Screw beauty standards. You're tall and beautiful. A babe! I'm surprised it took this long for you to start getting love letters." Explained Uo. Kyo couldn't help but think how superficial all those things were, even if they were obvious. He doubted the love letters included her kindness, her talent, or her ability to make a room brighten by just walking into it. He also doubted any of the boys knew about the fact she was a complete nerd when it came to movies.

"Plus you've got nice tits." Uo popped in a giant smile on her face.

"UO!" Marley's entire face glowed a bright red, but it wasn't as bright as Kyo's face...

"Why you gotta be a damn pervert you damn Yankee!" Kyo hissed, his hair standing on end as he shook his fist at the girl.

"Well, I'm sure it helped getting all those love letters." The blonde was enjoying this was too much. Marley was still blushing but started giggling and then asked "are they really that nice?" which Uo responded with a thumbs up.

"I'm outta here!" Kyo yelled as he couldn't bear to hear anymore. First, he had to find out about all these love letters, and now the Yankee was openly talking about Marley's ... well it was inappropriate.

"But class is about to start..." Pointed out Marley as she gestured to the clock.

"Doesn't matter! You girls are driving me nuts... And YOU!" The flustered Cat yelled as he faced the girls before exiting the door and pointed at the still blushing white-blonde.

"Me?" Marley pointed to herself, tilting her head in slight confusion.

"Don't be acceptin' any invitations to meet behind the school or something stupid like that." He warned. None of the guys at this place would be good for her, that much he knew.

"No need to be jealous Kyon." Teased Uo, loving every moment of this interaction.

"I'm not jealous!" But before he could escape, he was stopped by the homeroom teacher.

"Where do you think you're going? Class is about to start! Don't make me dye your hair" Mayuko- Sensei threatened as she blocked the hot-blooded teen.

Poor Kyo couldn't catch a break

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

The school day passed without much more excitement, the love letters at the back of my mind. I decided I would store them safely at home, I was truly... flattered that so many people thought so highly of me, but I didn't plan on dating anytime soon.

The school was pretty quiet for the most part, most people departing quickly after the school day ended. The only reason I was still around was that I was on cleaning duty and was only now just finishing up, diligently cleaning a section of hallway windows. The monotonous task wasn't so bad, it gave me a moment to try a sort out my thoughts.

I felt a little overwhelmed, not even including the love letters, but between dance, Sohma estate duties and Kisa's muteness, plus I wanted to do something nice for Shigure as a thank you for helping Hatori. Not to mention Akito had decided to completely ghost me... I wasn't sure what I could do. Akito was ignoring my calls, texts, and even pretended to not be around when I popped by. Not giving me a reason for the cold shoulder.

.

There has to be a way to get to the bottom of this

.

Only knowing Akito for a little under a year, there was still a lot I didn't understand about the Head of the Zodiac. She could be snappy at times, but all I saw was the pure loneliness in her eyes from the first moment I met her. When she wasn't with the Zodiac members or other Sohma's, she was a very quiet woman, happy to go for walks or spend the day doing crafts. Akito was the one who usually painted my nails. She wasn't great at it, but she liked doing it.

She was so sheltered by the Sohma Estate, maids and elders always clamoring over her, not treating her like an actual person. Akito needed a love that wasn't from some... bond that she shared with the Zodiac members, to not believe that THAT is the only kind of bond.

.

Maybe I'm not the right person to show her that.. well, doesn't mean I'll give up... I definitely know there's something she can't resist... I can also do it as thank you to Shigure, two birds, one stone.

.

Proud that I had a trump card to get Akito to open up I started humming as I wiped, getting lost in my own world. Getting lost in my world, ignoring the stares that were burning into my backside.

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

Kyo finished sweeping the hallway, still slightly annoyed by the events from this morning.

"Damn Yankee.. damn Weirdo. Girls are crazy.." The boy muttered as he turned the corner, seeing the white-blonde wiping the windows, completely unaware of her surroundings as she hummed along to some song he didn't know, slightly swaying her hips.

Kyo let out a sigh, shaking his head. The girl really was hopeless, it was no wonder, so many boys tried to win over by some love letter.

"Yo, check it out." He heard a voice and turned to see some unrecognizable boys watching Marley from a doorway.

Kyo focused so he could listen in on their conversation. His cat senses, helping him eavesdrop.

"It's that foreign student. Man, she's hot, look that body." One said as he pushed his friend.

" Too bad she's so dark and way too tall... but I hear foreign chicks are super easy." The other boy got excited as he watched Marley wash the window. Eyes following her hips.

" I know, I bet she's wild in bed."

"Well, go on. Work your magic."

"Watch and learn." One of the boys started making his way to the unsuspecting girl but was stopped.

A loud snap broke the two idiots out of their conversation, and their vision on the girl was blocked. Kyo had stomped over, slamming his fist on the window sill next to the girl, shielding the view of her body with his own, sending a powerful glare to the boys. Daring them to make a move because Kyo would love nothing more than to knock some of their teeth out.

Rage flooded through the boy, pouring out through his orange eyes and gritted teeth.

The boys felt a shudder at the glare and quickly ran away, Marley looked over Kyo's shoulder to try and get a look, but the boys left so fast that she barely got a glimpse. Kyo finished glaring at the boys and turned towards the girl of their affections.

.

Bright orange met shining amethyst, and the boy had to step back, feeling flustered over how close he was to her.

"You really need to pay more attention." He warned as he crossed his arms at Marley.

"What are you talking about... oh you meant those two?" Marley gestured to the boys who were no longer there.

"So you knew?" So she wasn't a complete space cadet.

"It's not like they were all that quiet." She let out a sigh and leaned against the window sill.

"Why didn't you say anything then?" Kyo couldn't understand why she would just ignore the perverts.

" I guess I'm just used to it," She said not really looking too bothered about it.

"WHAT!?" Kyo hissed.

"People are always going to say stuff like that. Especially since I'm... well a foreigner. People are always gonna feel like it's fine to make comments like that... " Alright, she didn't seem completely unbothered by it.

"Doesn't it piss you off!" Kyo yelled at the girl, frustrated with her compliance.

"... I mean... I don't like it.. but there's not a lot I can do about idiots or perverts. Plus, worse things have been said, so I just try to move forward." She justified, Marley was honest. Worst things have been said, and she could handle a few perverted comments. Kyo clearly couldn't as he told himself to count to ten to try and calm himself down.

"You've gotta stop..." Kyo muttered, frustrated that the girl was so forgiving and was also probably so caught up in her own hadn't realized how... suggestive she sometimes looked just by simply dancing from side to side. Kyo cursed himself for having indecent thoughts of his own.

"Stop what?" She asked, her big eyes searching his for answers.

"All of this!" Kyo gestured with his hands, waving his hands up and down at her.

"Did ... did you just gesture to all of me?" She giggled.

Kyo let out a sigh of frustration because the words just wouldn't come while Marley could only laugh at the boy, but she couldn't help but feel a little happy that Kyo felt protective enough to try and stand between her and her 'admirers.' She then caught the sight of something a little on the peculiar side.

"Kyo..." She asked

"What?"

"Did you break that mop?" Asked Marley as she pointed down at the discarded mop that had been snapped into two pieces, laying where Kyo had been before he stormed over.

By Kyo's reaction, Marley had her answer and didn't bother pushing further.

"We can fix it," Marley said as she handed Kyo the wipe she had been using for the windows and picked up the pieces from the broken mop. She left on a mission to fix it before Kyo got in trouble for breaking school property.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

"Do you have dance tonight?" Asked Kyo as we walked along the road towards our homes.

"Huh? No, today I'm free. Just going to get some stuff done at home" I let out in a sigh, happy to have a 'chill' evening.

Kyo didn't say anything, but he looked like he had something he wanted to ask.

"Would you like to come over for dinner?" I offered as we came to the crossroad, hoping that I wasn't too forward. Kyo was always so much fun to be around, I wanted to spend more time with him. I hoped he felt the same way. I would hate to think that Kyo didn't like spending time with me.

He looked at me kind of shocked at the question and then turned away from me, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

"...whatever," Kyo mutters out as he starts heading towards Sohma Estate instead of his own home.

.

I'll take that as a yes

.

I laughed lightly and jogged to catch up, wearing a small smile on my face as we walked together.

The walk was quiet for the most part, not uncomfortably so. A peaceful quiet. Before we knew we made to the gates and I started walking along the property towards the old cherry tree.

Both of us made the climb and skillfully hopped down the tree on the other side of the wall.

We entered my home, I called out to Dadaji, announcing I was home, as we took off our shoes. Momiji ran around the corner and wrapped his arms around me, resulting in a puff of yellow smoke.

"What the hell?!" Kyo hissed.

"Ah, Kyo's here!" Momiji cheered as he was cradled in my arms.

"Momiji!" I cuddled the yellow rabbit, happy to see him despite only seeing him at school a few hours earlier.

"Welcome.." Haru peeked around the corner.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOUT TWO DOING HERE!? MOMIJI STOP THAT!" Kyo yelled at the surprise guests as he grabbed Momiji by his scruff, taking him out of arms, causing the rabbit to whine.

"... we thought it would be nice to give Marley some company for dinner..." Haru justified.

"And I brought flowers for Marley's elterns!" Momiji pointed his paw to the living room table where a bouquet of yellow and purple flowers lay.

"That's so sweet, Momiji, thank you." I gave the captured Rabbit a small kiss on his forehead, lightly placing my lips on his yellow fur.

Kyo immediately moved Momiji away from me getting more irritated by the second.

.

Kyo might be regretting accepting my invitation

.

"I'll get started on some tea." I hoped that would entice Kyo to stay a bit longer as I headed into the kitchen to get some water boiled.

"You're just gonna let them stay?!" Kyo was just beside himself as I ran the tap.

"Of course, they're friends, they're always welcome here," I called back to him as I placed the pot on the stove. The front door was only ever locked at night; otherwise, anyone was able to find shelter in this home.

"Although maybe we should have given Tetsuo-San a heads up, he seemed a bit annoyed," Haru mentioned.

Dadaji likes to act like the grumpy man he was known for, but I think he enjoyed so many people feeling at home under his roof.

.

I think he has a soft spot for the Zodiac Members especially, even if he denies it

.

The elder in question than walked in and met eyes with Kyo who immediately dropped into a slight bow, still unsure of where he sat with the intimidating Sohma. Dadaji saw that Kyo had Momiji by the scruff of fur, keeping the boy from cuddling with me more and smirked at the sight

While I waited for the water to come to a boil, I grabbed the bouquet from the table. Walking away from the boys and to the picture of my Mama and Bapu, telling them, I had returned.

"Mama, Bapu I'm home... Momiji got you some new flowers." I greeted the photo.

I removed the old white chrysanthemums and red camellias from the crystal vase as I told them about my day, from the love letters to Kyo trying to shield me from idiots, imagining my Mama saying that I shouldn't let people stand up for me while Bapu demanded names. I placed Momiji's bouquet of sweet peas and daffodils. I lightly brushed my finger on the yellow petals.

.

I wonder where Momiji got daffodils at this time of year?

.

"Those your parents?" A voice behind me made me jolt slightly, turning slightly to catch the familiar orange locks.

"Oh! Yes, this is my Mama, Chandra, and my Bapu Yuuto." I introduced Kyo as I smiled over at him.

.

Mama would have loved Kyo, she would have gotten such a kick out of his bright hair and his competitive nature.

.

"Marley! Can I pick a movie to put in?" Momiji, who had turned back to normal, skipped over and looked up at me with his big brown eyes.

"Of course. You know where they are." I insisted, and before Momiji ran off, he turned towards my parents' photo and said hello. The sound of the water boiling reminded me of the tea that I had to make, and I left Kyo at the little shrine.

The strong scent of the spiced tea wafted through the home, giving me a warm feeling that I could feel in my soul. While I waited for the tea in the kitchen, I texted the little tiger of the Zodiac.

= Hey Honey Bee, I'm at home making tea and sweets come over if you're up for it =

"What is this?! Even the subtitles are in another language!" Kyo yelled from the living room. I slid the door open to bring the boys the chai and looked over at the screen to check out what they're watching.

"OH, I love this movie, Momiji nice choice," I commented as I sat down to enjoy Om Shanti Om a bit before getting started on dinner.

"Can you explain what the hell is going on..." Kyo looked utterly lost, and it was only the opening scene.

"Okay to Shah Ruh Khan is playing Om who was an aspiring actor in the 1970s who's in love with another actress but then his character gets murdered, BUT he's reincarnated into present time and he's starts to put together who killed him in his past life and finds Deepika Pakudone who plays Shanti who was the love of his previous life." I explained to the confused Cat.

"But how am I supposed to get what's going on?" He moaned.

" The subtitles are in English, you'll be able to figure out some stuff. Plus everything in Bollywood is really over the top, so it's fun to watch, even if you don't understand." I insisted, really wanting him to give the movie a chance.

It was still the beginning of the movie, and I watched as Shah and the woman playing his mother argued in their home, using overdramatic gestures.

"Here, Om wants to change his name because he feels he'll never become a superstar with the name his mother gave him and his mother is upset he would even think to do such a thing," I explained the scene as I watched his reaction.

A few scenes later we watched as Shah was at a movie premiere trying to catch Deepika's eye as a part of her fuschia pink sari gets caught on his sleeve as he sings in his mind.

.

Tere saath saath aisa koi noor aaya hai
Chand teri roshni ka halka sa ek saaya hai
Teri nazron ne dil ka kiya jo hashar, asar yeh hua
Ab inme hi doob ke ho jaoon paar, yahi hai dua

.

"You guys kinda look alike." Commented Kyo as he watched Deepika walk across the screen.

"Really?" It was a massive compliment as the actress was absolutely stunning, but I didn't really think we looked all that alike.

I can maybe see where Kyo thought that Deepika and could look a little alike, but she was a lot more fair skin than me. Plus she had the classic brown hair and eyes that I did not.

Kyo seemed a little more invested in the movie, so I decided to leave and get started on dinner, I was just happy that my friends appeared to enjoy the films I had grown up on.

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

Kyo took a long sip of his tea as he watched the characters in the movie watch a movie.

The cat complained a little more about not being to get what was going on but couldn't tear his eyes away from the screen.

"Look at all the beautiful colors! And the dances are so cool." Gushed Momiji as he happily watched the movie. Momiji had watched it before with Marley and was able to answer some questions. Momiji was better at reading the English subtitles.

Another song came up, and the characters on screen were beating on drums while the main girl was in an orange outfit dancing with lots of girls who were wearing grey outfits behind her.

"Plus, Marley knows them so well, check it out." Haru pointed out as he gestured to the kitchen. Kyo looked away from the dancers on the screen towards the kitchen. There was Marley, replicating many of the dance moves as she moved around the kitchen, getting dinner ready.

.

Dhoom Taana Ta Dum Ta Na Na Na
Dhoom Taana Ta Dum Ta Na Na Na
Dhoom Taana Dhir Na Dhir Na

.

Her body flowed perfectly, and Kyo could even see her mouthing the words when he was able to catch a glance of her face.

Kyo absentmindedly smiled, glad that the boys at school never got to see this side of the goofy girl they admired.

"Cat you better return your eyes to the TV screen." Snapped Tetsuo as he threw a slice of apple at Kyo.

Kyo jolted, he had almost forgotten about the Elder who was sitting at the table with the teens, enjoying his own cup of tea.

"OO Kyo's got the hots!" Teased Momiji as wrapped his arms around Kyo's neck, enjoying teasing the older boy.

"SHUT UP! I do not!" Kyo hissed, embarrassed he had been caught staring at Marley. Especially since he nearly beat up two boys earlier for being perverts towards Marley.

.

.-.-.-.-.-

.

"Thanks for dinner Marley-Chan!" Thanked Momiji as he jumped up and placed a small kiss on my cheek.

"Watch it Rabbit." Warned Dadaji from the table, giving Momiji a death glare.

" I'm happy you guys came by." I walked them to the door, away from my grumpy Dadaji and the Cat who looked like he was ready to throw his cup at the bubble blond boy.

" And we promise not to tell anyone that Kyo is in the inside," Haru promised as he waited for Momiji to slip on his shoes.

"Is it really that big of a deal, he's family and my friend, he has every right to be here." I hated that I had to sneak Kyo in the first place, while I understand that the family had rules I had to follow, this one was one I couldn't fully comply.

The two looked at each other as if they were having a secret conversation.

" See you tomorrow, Marley-Chan." Momiji bid me goodbye as he headed out the door.

"Have a good night." Haru slightly bowed his head as he threw his bag over his shoulder.

"You too, get home safely." I waved as they walked away.

I returned to the living room, and Kyo and Dadaji were watching the weather channel together, Kyo seemed to have calmed down a bit and didn't look so stressed to be around Dadaji anymore.

.

"Kyo? Do you mind staying a little longer? I was gonna make a little dessert for you to take home." I asked as refilled both their cups of chai.

"Huh? What is it?" He raised an eyebrow, curious at what I was up to no doubt.

"I was gonna make some sweets as a thank you to Shigure for inviting me to the lake house. But I'll make enough for all of you, so you just make sure he doesn't horde all of it." I suggested, the Dog would probably get a stomach ache if he kept all the deserts for himself.

"You don't have to make anything for the damn pervert." Muttered Kyo, clearly not a fan of Shigure.

"I agree with the Cat. Don't go out of your way." Dadaji spat, acting a bit like a pouting child.

" I promise to set aside some ladoo for you Dadaji." I bargained, knowing he couldn't resist sweets.

"... fine." He muttered, easily giving in as he got up and mentioned he had to work on some paperwork.

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

An hour later, Marley brought a large bowl of a mixture into the living room table. Kyo was absent-mindedly flipping through channels, but he tore his eyes from the screen to see what she was up to.

"What is that?" He asked as she grabbed a small amount of the bright orange mixture of fried dough pieces and pressed it in the palm of her hand, making a golf ball-sized treat. She placed the ball on a plate and got started on the next piece.

"Boondi, I'm making ladoos." She explained, but it really didn't answer Kyo's question as he had no idea what 'Boondi' or 'Ladoos' were.

"Here." Marley grabbed a warm cloth in her hands and ran it over Kyo's hands. Kyo froze while Marley gently massaged the fabric over his palms. Cleaning his hands as thoroughly as she could.

She then took a small amount of fried orange dough from the large silver bowl and placed it in his right palm and then made his fist close firmly and when he opened it there was a misshapen ball of dough in his hand. Marley took the ball and placed it on the plate. It looked almost of the place next to the other ball-shaped desserts, but Marley smiled at Kyo.

"Perfect, I knew you would be a natural." she laughed as she placed another spoonful of dough in her own hand. Kyo's face was burning brightly and was still too shocked to say a word. His hands were still tingling from feeling her hands on his. Marley continued making desserts and Kyo finally snapped out of his daze and tried copying her movements so he could help.

They didn't hear the faint sound of the front door opening and closing.

.

"What's the cat doing here?" Kyo was shocked to see the youngest Zodiac member enter the house so casually.

"Hiro?!"

"Oh Hiro, perfect timing. You wanna help?" Marley asked the young boy who was standing in the doorway to the living room.

The young Lamb of the Zodiac looked down at what she was making and seemed to have a good idea.

" Wouldn't that be child labor, why should I help?" He said with a smirk as he crossed his arms.

"Because I would like you to and your so good at it." Marley simply put, being unbothered by the boy's attitude.

Hiro started blushing and instead of giving another snarky remark went into the kitchen where they heard the tap running briefly.

"You know that brat?" Asked Kyo as the two continued making little ball-shaped treats. Marley smiled gently as she never took her eyes away from the task at hand.

" Hiro is a very precious friend, I wouldn't still be here if it wasn't for him." She defended the boy as she looked like she was thinking about something dear to her.

"huh?" Kyo was confused as he couldn't imagine why the sarcastic boy would have anything to do with Marley being there.

Before Kyo could ask more, the young guest came back into the living room and sat down next to Marley and started helping make the desserts.

.

The task was done quickly, only a few mishaps of Hiro making some smart remarks about Kyo's not to round ladoos but soon the plate was filled with a mountain of orange shaped balls, the silver bowl empty.

Marley passed Hiro and Kyo a ladoo before grabbing one for herself.

"Banzai!" She cheered as she held out the little dessert and then took a bite, Hiro showed no reserve as he happily took a bite. Kyo had to inspect it a bit longer before taking a small bite.

His mouth was met with a surprisingly soft texture, and it was deliciously sweet. The combination of the texture and taste was something he had never had before. Kyo felt that there was no way Shigure deserved such a treat.

"Look, it's the same color as your hair." Marley giggled as she held up her half-eaten ladoo to his hair, happy that she had made the comparison. She truly did love the color and didn't mean for it come out in a teasing way.

Kyo shoved her hand away from him as his ears went pink.

.

.-.-.-..-.-.-.-.-.

.

"Tell your mother, I say hi." I told Hiro as I handed him a small container with some of the boondi ladoo inside.

"And here, why don't you drop this off at Kisa's," I asked Hiro, hoping maybe the boy would be able to cheer her little friend up.

" I can't..." He muttered as he looked down, not accepting the extra box of sweets, his mood completely dropped through the floor.

"Why not?" I asked, hoping the boy would open up to me, all I wanted to do was help. Kisa and Hiro were precious to me, and I wanted them to be okay. I needed them to be happy.

"I just can't okay! It's none of your business!" He snapped before running out the door, on reflex I ran after him in bare feet, quickly latching onto his arm. The dark night making it hard for me to see the expression on his face.

"Let go of me!" He yelled, trying to rip his arm out my grip with no success.

"Hiro... it's okay." I said as I got down on my knees so I could talk to him on his level rather than tower over him. The young boy looked away from me, staring daggers into the ground.

"It's okay if you don't want to tell me... but I think Kisa really misses you. You're an important person to her." I tried to comfort the boy. I heard soft sniffles from the boy, and as my eyes adjusted to the limited light, I saw tears falling off his chin and dropping onto the ground below him.

I lightly let go of his arm, and instead of running off, he stayed in place, rubbing his eyes.

"I don't know what to do... I don't know." He quietly let out as I lightly ran my hand over his back in circular motions.

Rising to my feet and placed a small kiss on the top of his head after he stopped crying, wishing I could just reach out and hug him.

.

I don't think Hiro would appreciate turning into a lamb in the middle of the Sohma Estate.

.

"I'm... sorry about yelling at you." He apologized, still unable to look at me. I only smiled and squeezed his shoulder lightly, sending him home.

"And please text me when you get home," I reminded him as he just slightly nodded in my direction as he headed on his way.

Returning back to my home, I noticed Kyo waiting at the door, eyes meeting mine as I walked towards him.

"What's up with him?" He asked as I stepped in and tried to wipe my feet on the welcome mat.

" I think he's having a fight with his friend and he's not sure how to fix it," I concluded, choosing not to mention that Kisa was the one he seemed to have some sort of falling out with. It took everything I had not to meddle more, I didn't want to make things worse.

.

They are just kids... hopefully they'll reach out for help soon

.

As we stood in the doorway, I felt fur rub against my legs.

"Gimli! Welcome home, honey." I greeted the orange and white cat as I reached down and struggled to pick up the giant cat.

" It's huge!" Kyo exclaimed as he watched me hold the cat.

" Gimli this is Kyo, Kyo meet Gimli." I introduced the two as I held up my kitty friend to Kyo.

I remembered all the cats fawning over Kyo at school, so I was looking forward to Gimli doing the same, especially since he was such a mean cat otherwise. I was the only exception so far.

.

Maybe Kyo can help Gimli calm down a bit.

.

I felt Gimli's body tremble in my arms and then heard his very threatening hiss that was directed at Kyo.

"Gimli!" I scolded, trying to get him to stop which only made him decide to reach out and swipe Kyo with his claws, catching his cheek.

"Kyo!" I dropped Gimli to the ground and reached for my friend's scratched cheek.

He winced slightly as he pulled away. Gimli circled around me, continuing to hiss at the boy.

" I told you that's not a cat." Kyo actually tried to joke about the situation.

"I am so sorry! I really thought that he would be okay with you." I apologized as I picked up Gimli who looked like he was about to pounce on Kyo. Ready to inflict more damage to the boy.

"I'll just put him upstairs." I mentioned as I ran past Kyo with Gimli in my arms, wanting to put some distance between the two gingers.

Once I placed Gimli in my room, he had calmed down and just jumped on my bed to go to sleep, seemingly proud of himself. I only wagged my finger at him before closing the door and rushing downstairs.

Grabbing the first aid kit, I made Kyo sit down at the kitchen table to treat the small wound.

"It's fine ..tch." He winced as I dabbed the little cuts with some alcohol.

"I really am sorry about that. Gimli's a good cat, he really is he's just... untrusting of people." I explained as I tried to defend my fluffy friend. Lightly placing a white square bandage over the cat scratches.

" Don't worry about it." He muttered as he looked over at me, Kyo honestly didn't look that mad over Gimli, he seemed more surprised than anything.

.

I really did hope that Gimli would get along with Kyo... maybe they just need to get to know each other

.

I packed up a large container of the boondi ladoo to send home with Kyo along with a small envelope addressed to Shigure.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

The Cat of the Zodiac walked up the long stairs to Shigure's house, planning on heading straight to the roof. Not in the mood to 'exchange pleasantries' with the household. He had hit his limit with the fellow Zodiac members that had invaded Marley's home.

As he slipped off his shoes, he took out his phone and sent a text, letting 'Weirdo' know that he was home.

= Thank you :) sweet dreams =

Shigure peaked over to see who had come through the door, was surprised to see the ordinarily loud boy just standing there, smiling at his phone

"Kyo-Chan~~ What were you doing out late? Did you get into another brawl with a bear?" The Dog asked in fake concern as he noticed the bandage on the younger boy's face.

"Don't call me Kyo-Chan!" Hissed the Cat, already wishing he hadn't come home.

Kyo then fished through his bag and threw a rubber container at the Dog who caught it with ease.

"What's this? Kyo-Chan is giving me gifts now?" Shigure continued to tease.

" She wanted to make something to say 'Thank You'! Just don't eat it all! It's for everyone!" Yelled the Cat as he stomped upstairs, heading to the roof to get some peace and quiet. Thinking about the events of the day.

Kyo always though Marley looked vaguely familiar and his idea of who she might be but once Kyo saw the picture of Marley's mother he was sure. Sadness washed over him as he remembered the strange woman who he had only met the one time but left an impression. Kyo never understood a word she had said but was always curious about what happened to her when she suddenly disappeared from the Sohma Estate. Shisou had mentioned that the woman left for the sake of her daughter.

.

Downstairs Shigure was inspecting the container and came across a letter with his name printed ontop. His interest was piqued as he definitely did not recognize the child-like writing. Ripping open the letter, he pulled out a note that read 'Thank you' in English at the top.

Shigure,

Thank you for inviting me to your lake trip and thank you for dragging Hatori along. I really enjoyed spending time with everyone and learning more about them. Thank you for getting me to bring Bapu's guitar. It was almost like he was there with us. I am grateful that you knew how to cheer Hatori up and get him away from the main house. He truly deserves a good vacation, maybe we can drag him again in the future. You have a good heart, and I hope we can become friends.

Sincerely, Marley Kaur Sohma

Shigure slightly gritted his teeth, wanting to rip the letter. He could understand why his fellow Zodiac members gravitated towards the foreign girl. Marley was giving, cheerful, and had a warm light about her. But the girl bored him. She was too good. It was the girl's relationship with Akito that Shigure had the most trouble understanding. Shigure had been the only one to truly see Akito, no other Zodiac member was as close as he was. But now, in the past year almost every time he had gone to the Sohma Estate to see Akito she had been Busy. With Marley.

A bitter seed had been growing in Shigure's heart and was happy when he had visited last week that Akito had been apparently ignoring Marley, surprising the staff of the main house. Overjoyed that a simple phone call had been enough to break their bond. Marley would surely become busy with the other Zodiac members, and Akito would continue to ignore the girl. Falling back into Shigure's waiting arms.

He slipped the container open and was met with a familiar sweet smell. Little orange balls were stuffed in the container, and he picked one up, vaguely remembering snacking on the treat at Hatori's. It had been good, delicious. No wonder the Cat yelled at him, telling him not to eat it all.

The 'Thank You' gift only made him feel worse. Wishing he was a better person. But Marley was a fool who was too trusting, and Shigure would use to his advantage.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

"Evening Marley-Sama." Asked a woman who had been responsible for the gardening around our house. She and her father were the main gardeners around the estate, but she was slowly taking on more of the responsibil

ity.

"Good evening, how's your father doing?" I asked as thought about the kind old, partially balding, man.

" Doing better, he really loved the lentil soup you dropped off, thank you. Heading home?" She asked as she readjusted her bag on her shoulder.

"No, I'm gonna drop by the Main house, I have a meeting," I explained, not letting her know that it was an unplanned meeting. Akito was gonna have to face me, I wasn't backing down. I wanted answers.

We wished each other goodnight as we parted ways, I moved with a fast pace. The sun was starting to set and evenings weren't quite warm enough yet to walk around in shorts and a cropped sweater.

I entered the main house slipping off my sneakers and was greeted by the maids in the house. The head maid, an old crone that was openly loving Akito's cold shoulder towards me, announced that Akito wasn't around.

.

Liar

.

I told her that was fine as I sat down outside of Akito's quarters and waited with the box of Ladoo in my hand.

" I know you are in there Akito. I'll be right here waiting. Plus I've got sweets that you only get if you talk to me." I called out, and when there was no answer, I just made myself comfortable in the hallway, bringing out my homework.

I can wait

.

.-.-.-.-.-

.

Hatori walked into the main house, ready to do Akito's routine check-up. Looking forward to getting it over and down with so he could go home and rest for the night.

What he wasn't expecting was to see Marley stationed out in the hallway outside of Akito's room surrounded by books and notes. She was wearing some tight grey shorts with a black and white zebra striped sweater. Hatori assumed she had come straight here after dance.

"Marley? Why are you sitting out here?" He ventured as he raised his eyebrow at the girl on the ground.

"Oh, Hatori! Good evening." She greeted him so casually as if this was a normal situation, a bright smile on her face.

"May I ask?"

"Oh, Akito's ignoring me, and I'm taking a stand." She simply explained as she rose up to properly talk with the doctor.

" This is you taking a stand?" Hatori was more concerned about why Akito was suddenly ignoring the person she had grown so fond of. Typically if Akito were mad, she would lash out, not use this 'cold shoulder' tactic. But maybe that's because Marley wasn't a Zodiac member, therefor Akito didn't know how to process this friendship.

" I have to get in." He mentioned as he gestured to the door.

"Oh, of course, sorry." Marley apologized as she moved out of the way and Hatori entered the room, closing the door behind him.

.

Akito was staring out into the garden, the night breeze slightly blowing through her short locks.

"Marley is waiting outside." Mentioned Hatori

"The idiot can't take a hint." Akito spat. Hatori had to bite his tongue at his God's remark about the girl he felt protective over.

" You no longer wish to be friends?" He asked as he brought out his supplies to give her an exam.

"SHE'S THE ONE WHO DOESN'T WANT TO BE FRIENDS WITH ME!" She screamed, throwing a glass at the wall. The vase shattering as it hit the wall.

" Then why would she wait outside?" He put out there. Trying to make Akito see that Marley was willing to probably wait in that hallway all night if that's what it took.

"She's taunting me! Making fun of me!" She accused as she pointed to the sliding door.

" Can I ask why you think that?" Hatori continued to interrogate Akito, hoping she would really think about it. But Akito was the paranoid type and didn't like being proven wrong, so Hatori knew he was treading on dangerous territory.

" I called the Lake House... while all you were up there without me... I called, and she didn't return the call! She flat out ignored and acted as if nothing happened!" She explained, her voice cracking.

" You called the Lake House... Akito, who picked up?" Asked Hatori, vaguely remember the phone ringing only a few times during the break.

Akito froze, really thinking it over. Feeling like a fool.

"Shigure..." Akito spoke, realizing the Dog had probably never even told Marley about her call.

" Do you really Marley is the kind of person to not return a call? Why would a person wait outside in a hallway if they didn't care?"

.

Hatori continued with his check-up, Akito was uncommonly quiet as he went through his regular routine and packed up.

"Leave..." Akito ordered, finally gaining her voice. Hatori bowed and exited, making Marley look up at him as she was still stationed in the hallway. Writing down notes as she rested in a split position.

The doctor did worry about Marley's relationship with Akito, and if the temperamental woman would ever lay a hand on her. Marley was able to get with more than any of the Zodiac members. A strange friendship, two women who couldn't look and be more opposite.

The Sun and The Moon.

"I think she'll come to her senses soon... don't give up." He encouraged making Marley smile at the doctor, wishing him a good evening.

He really did believe that Marley could be a good influence on the sheltered Akito. But just how much would Akito take, would she ever snap on the girl due to someone else's foolish actions. How safe was Marley from Akito's wrath if she were to maybe fall in love.

The Dragon arrived back at his house, still thinking about Akito and the call she made to Lake House. Shigure had answered the phone and not told Marley deliberately. He wanted Akito so be upset with Marley. Was the Dog so jealous that he couldn't even let Akito have friends? Was he threatened by Marley?

Hatori looked at his late mentor's guitar case. Marley had insisted that he take it. She was so happy that he knew how to play and that Yuuto had been so close to him. But Marley had made him promise to not let it collect dust, asking Hatori to do more duets with her in the future. He also remembered Yuuto's simple words that held so much meaning.

" I trust you "

The Dragon gritted his teeth and slipped his shoes back on and grabbed his keys. His day wasn't over just yet.

.

.-.-.-.-.-

.

Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play

Now I need a place to hideaway
Oh, I believe in yesterday

.

With my homework finished, I had resorted to singing in the hallway as I laid on my back. Waiting. I was sure that Akito would have to cave in eventually. I had already mentioned the fact that I made sweets, and I felt that it almost worked because I heard her footsteps approach the door, but nothing happened. This felt like a test of stubbornness, and I was determined to win. I couldn't get to the bottom of what was bothering Kisa and Hiro, but I could at least fix whatever happened to Akito. Or at least I hoped I could.

.

Why she had to go, I don't know she wouldn't say
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday

.

As I hung onto a note in the song, the door slid open, and deep dark purple eyes stared into my lighter pair. She didn't say anything, just left the door open and disa[[eared back into her room.

.

I'll take that as an invitation

.

I gathered all my belongings and grabbed the container of sweets, rushing inside before she decided to shut me out again.

"Alright, before I hand this over, You tell me what's wrong." I reasoned, wanting to know what I had done wrong.

" It was a misunderstanding..." She uttered as she lit another lamp, creating more light in the room. Her kimono sliding across the floor as she walked.

"... a misunderstanding? Can you tell me what the misunderstanding is?" I asked, curious as to what she meant.

"... It doesn't matter.. it will be dealt with..." She uttered, her back still to me.

"Akito, you don't treat friends like that. If you had let me in than I could have cleared up whatever you thought. I was stressing that I had hurt your feelings somehow." I started, cursing all the stress that she put me through over a 'misunderstanding.'

"We talk about our problems, we don't lie or ignore friends. It's unkind." I lectured, I was relieved that we were finally talking, but it seemed like an unnecessary situation in the first place.

"You'll still be my friend?" She muttered, sounding unsure.

"Of course we're still friends I was worried that you-" I didn't get to finish as I was tackled into a hug and fell to the floor, Akito laying over top of me, her arms latched around my midsection.

Her body shook as I felt tears damped my sweater. After a few moments, she lifted her head, and I was able to lean up a bit, resting on my elbows.

" I - thou- I thought- that you- ignored me-because you were - you were making new friends-that you -were gonna leave me." She cried as she sat up and covered her face.

.

I ignored her? When did that happen?

.

"Akito... even if I make new friends it doesn't mean that we won't still be friends," I explained, now realizing that she felt left out, even jealous perhaps that I wasn't hanging out with her.

Still not a very good reason to ignore me but Akito is definitely missing a few essential social skills

She removed her hands and latched onto my arms, tears streamed down her face.

"You won't leave?" She asked, desperation in her eyes as she stared into mine.

I shook my head at her and then brought her into a tight hug,

" I promise I won't leave you, you'll always have me," I promised as I rubbed her back, trying to calm her down.

"You'll stay..." She muttered as she gripped onto my shoulders.

After a few moments, Akito calmed down a bit.

"Akito, why did you say I ignored you?" I finally asked, very curious as to why she would think that.

"... it doesn't matter..."

"But-" I tried to insist, but she cut me off.

" I know who's responsible for it, it wasn't your doing." Her voice suddenly sounded a lot darker. A side I had an only seen a handful of times and was grateful that I wasn't on the receiving end of it.

.

Who's doing was it then?

.

"Marley.."

I let out a hum, waiting for her to continue.

"Let's go out tomorrow," Akito suggested, adjusting her kimono slightly.

"Sounds good to me, there's a cute cafe I've been dying to go to." I could skip school tomorrow, there was nothing really happening as far as tests. Exams weren't till next week.

.

I'll ask Kyo for notes

.

"Did... did you really bring those ball things?" She asked, looking hopeful, I only laughed as I grabbed the container that had fallen when she tackled me.

"Would I lie to you?" I asked as I held out the treats to her, which she happily grabbed one and bit into it. A happy little smile on her face as she ate.

And at that moment, everything felt at peace.

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

A late knock at the door surprised Shigure as he got up to answer, the rest of the household fast asleep.

"Haa-San? This is a surprise." Shigure welcomed his old friend and moved aside, so the tired doctor entered the home.

"Would you like some sweets? Our sweet Marley made a batch of those orange sweets she made for New Years. She spoils us, doesn't she? The Sohma's are sure lucky to have." Shigure laid it on thick, but Hatori walked past him and seemed to inspect the house quickly.

"Are you hoping to catch an eye of our Tohru? Sorry, Haa-San, but she's in bed, and it would be inappropriate to let you see her at such an hour." Shigure teased as he followed the Dragon into the living room.

"Don't be an idiot." Hatori scolded the Dog, but it came out a lot harsher than usual. The man fully turned to the reason he was here, and Shigure felt a shiver go up his spine.

.

His animal instincts telling him to run, but he wasn't sure why.

"Whatever game you're playing with Marley, enough. I'm warning you Shigure." He said in a low voice as he approached his fellow Zodiac member.

"I assure you I have no idea-" Shigure started, trying to act innocent but Hatori wasn't buying it for a second.

"Did Akito call the Lakehouse?"

" Ah yes, Akito did call -"

"Akito called for Marley, and you didn't tell her." Accused Hatori.

"Well, I-" Shigure felt like he about to be scolded as if he was a child. Hatori was good at it.

" You didn't tell her in hopes that Akito would become angry and perhaps lash out. Or at the very least break her bond with Marley so that Akito wouldn't be friends with her anymore."

" Do you really think so low of me? That I would be jealous of some boring nobody-"

Shigure was cut off by a sharp backhand to his cheek. The Dog was in shock as he lifted his head and stared into the Dragon's eye. Shigure had never seen Hatori be violent once in his life and never imagined he would experience it first hand.

"You should be grateful Yuuto-San's not here to see what you've become. Play your games all you want but leave Marley out of it." Hatori warned the Dog who gritted his teeth, feeling shame as he thought of the kind Yuuto. Yuuto who always was there when Shigure needed to get away from his parents as a kid. Treating him to ice cream while they discussed the books Shigure had been reading.

Hatori was right. Yuuto would have been disappointed to see the conniving person Shigure had become. But Yuuto's not here. And the only person Shigure wanted in his life was Akito, he would do anything to obtain her full attention. Even if the rest of the world was against him, Shigure knew he had to keep trying. He could already feel IT breaking.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Rain poured over the Sohma Estate when Akito and I returned. We had spent the early afternoon exploring the Roppongi area, wasting money at the three-story arcade and ending our afternoon with Lattes and cute little hedgehogs at an adorable animal cafe. It had been decently quiet in the city today as we went during school hours. Kyo had even texted me, asking where I was, which I answered truthfully. I was skipping.

I had taken multiple pictures of Akito holding a sweet little white hedgehog and was now using an app to decorate and put stickers on the cute image.

"Akito! Look how cute you are." I cooed at her, even though she dressed as a boy and was trying to pass as one, all I saw was a beautiful girl.

"Delete it." She ordered, a small blush covering her cheeks.

"Nope." And leaned away so she wouldn't be able to grab the phone from me.

"Marley-Sama. I'll let you out here." Our Chauffer made a stop near my house.

"Thanks, Sousuke-San. Thanks for today Akito." I said as I quickly gave her a peck on the cheek, making her blush slightly as she mumbled what sounded like 'whatever.'

I just giggled and hopped out of the car, running through the rain to get to my home.

"Dadaji! I'm home." I called through the house as I slipped off my shoes. I noticed a few extra pairs.

" Haru?" The Cow of the Zodiac had changed from his school uniform and was wearing red chaps? Well, Haru's style was definitely individual, and I couldn't help but enjoy it. He pulled it off well.

"Looks like you're not the only rebel student today..." Haru said which made me tilt my head at him.

"Did you skip school today too?" I asked as I walked further into the house. He shook his head and gestured to the porch where the little Tiger I had been missing sat in her school uniform.

"Kisa!" I yelled as I went over and brought her into an embrace.

"I've missed you Honey Bee, where have you been?" I asked the girl as I looked into her amber eyes. It looked like she tried to say something, but nothing came out, and she just looked down.

.

Kisa doesn't seem like a kind of girl who would just cut class...

.

" How about I make some tea?" I offered as I squeezed her shoulder lightly, she didn't give any kind of response, and I felt at a loss. Kisa seemed so fragile, as if I pushed too hard she would shatter.

I rose to my feet and headed into the kitchen, barely noticing Haru follow after me and close sliding doors connecting the kitchen and the living room.

"You have to do something..." Haru said as I put on some water to boil, putting the heat on high.

"Excuse me?" Confused at the statement.

"Kisa can't go on like this, we need to find out what's wrong." Haru sounded as troubled as she was over the situation.

"What do you expect me to do? Force it out of her?" I argued, frustrated with the scenario. I don't know how I was supposed to help if I didn't have any information. I started putting together the tea mixture, adding a bit of extra cinnamon for Kisa's taste. Getting the teapot ready for steeping.

"She hasn't said a word for weeks! She's stopped going to school. You must know something, she spends most of her time with you." The kettle started whistling, and I removed it from the heat and poured it in the teapot.

"She hasn't said anything to me either." I defended as I started gathering cups for everyone.

"Why aren't you doing anything?" He asked, his tone getting darker and darker the more he pushed me.

" Because I'm not... I'm... I don't know what to do Haru, I want her to speak up too, but we can't push too hard. Hatori already said that it's psychological. She's sealed up her words inside." I explained, feeling lost as Haru was about what to do to help.

"YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO HELP HER!" He snapped, a dark aura overtaking him.

"I - I " I stuttered, tears starting to well in my eyes as my own frustrations beginning to build.

"HELP HER!" He screamed at me, trapping me between himself and the kitchen counter.

"I DON'T KNOW HOW!" I yelled back as tears poured down, ashamed that there was nothing I could do.

"What are two yelling about?" Dadaji appeared in the kitchen, his glare fixated on Haru.

"Can it old man!" Haru turned and snapped at him, moving away from me to approach the elder.

"Don't talk to him that way!" I yelled at Haru, annoyed that his Dark side had come out and that he was yelling at my Dadaji.

" What are you gonna do about it?! " Haru started moving towards me again only to be thrown to the ground suddenly.

"Dadaji!" The old man's strength surprised me, and I fretted over him, thinking that he put out his back or something.

.

"Stay down there for a bit boy and cool off," Dadaji said as he then poured a glass of water over Haru's head. Surprisingly it worked, and Haru changed back to normal.

"Now, I will ask again, what were you yelling about?" Asked Dadaji as he crossed his arms at us.

" We're just... both really worried about Kisa," I revealed as put whole milk into a few cups and poured the tea in. Dadaji opened the sliding door for me as I walked in with the tray of chai.

"Kisa-" I looked around the room as she was gone.

.

Maybe she just used the washroom?

.

I placed the tray down on the living room table and looked down the hall, the bathroom was free. I started walking around the house and even peeked under the table.

"What are you doing?" Asked Haru as he and Dadaji sat down and took a cup of for themselves off the tray.

"I can't find Kisa!" I panicked as I continued searching around the house and then looked out into the rain.

.

Where did she go...

.

.

.-.-.-..- To Be Continued .-.-.-.-.-.

Chapter Text

 

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Rain poured down on my yellow rain jacket as I ran around the Estate looking for Kisa. The humid air made my clothes stick to my skin, and I could feel water seeping through my sneakers. The weather just seemed to be laughing at me as was on my search. Haru was checking area's outside the Sohma Estate while Kisa's mother waited at home incase Kisa returned.

"Kisa!" My voice called, but there was no answer.

While I had been running around the property, I came across a few maids. They were talking on a porch, under cover from the pelting rain. I was grateful that the head maid wasn't among them because she was a pain to deal with, and I wasn't in the mood.

"Marley-Sama! What are you doing out in the rain?" Asked a young maid with a short bob cut. The other's tried to get me undercover with them, but I explained that I was looking for Kisa, asking if they had seen her.

"Poor thing, such a shame." Muttered one the maids as she shook her head.

"What do you mean?" I asked as I stood on the ground in front of them.

"Word is that Kisa was getting bullied. The principal even called Kisa's mother."

.

Is that... all this time

.

"Can you tell me why?" I questioned, hoping the gossiping maids could help me.

I brought out my cell phone to call Haru to see where he was at and to share the new information. He only mentioned that that was typical. We spoke quickly before hanging up and returning to our search.

"Kisa!" I yelled, hoping she would be able to hear over the heavy rainfall.

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

Haru sat in Shigure's living room while Kisa sulked in the corner, still in her tiger form. Shigure was bandaging poor Tohru's hand which had been a victim to the Tiger's jaws. When Haru revealed why the Kisa had run away, she didn't hesitate to latch onto the Cow's arm, sinking her teeth into his flesh.

"... That hurts... What? Are you angry? You don't want me talkin' about you?... Well, you can stick it..." Haru scoffed, irritated with the situation.

"You have any idea how worried everyone is?" He accused. Frustrated that Kisa hadn't asked for help and simply closed herself off. Shut down.

" We've been looking for hours. Marley's out there searchin' for you right now." Reminding himself to text Marley to let her know that Kisa had been found.

Tohru and Yuki both perked up at the mention of their classmate who had skipped class today.

Kisa let go of Haru's arm and ran, causing Tohru to panic and chase after her.

Shigure instead walked over to check on the bite victim.

.

"You're way to calm about this Sensei." Grumbled Haru as he looked at the bite marks left by the scared Tiger.

"Haa-Kun, did you quietly turn Dark when I wasn't looking?" The older male asked as he leaned in to inspect the bite himself.

" Uh-uh, just grumpy from the pain. Don't know what to do with Kisa...Can you call Kisa's mom? I'm gonna text Marley, she'll wanna know..." Haru brought out his phone and sent a text. The Cow then admitted that he didn't blame Kisa for this.

" You seem awfully concerned about her. I don't remember you two being that close.." Piped up Yuki as he watched Haru.

The Dog and the Cow both looked at one another before turning back to the Rat.

"Are you jealous?" They said in perfect unison.

"No!" Yuki slammed his hands down on the living room table, embarrassed and irritated they would assume he was jealous.

"Aww, He's no fun." Teased Shigure while Haru agreed, only irritating Yuki more.

.

"... I just can't leave her alone is all. She reminds me of you.. when you stopped talking that one time." Haru admitted, thinking back at the time when they were kids, and Yuki was at the main house.

" You curled up in a ball.. and wouldn't say a word. All you could do was protect yourself... And that's what she reminds me of" Haru confessed, saddened at the memory, ashamed that he wasn't able to help his first love.

"That's enough!" Yuki exploded, standing up, wanting to run away from the conversation.

"Are you really that angry?" Shigure asked, tilting his head slightly at the traumatized boy who still struggled.

"I am!" Yuki wanted to run away, hide.

"Because you're embarrassed?" Smirked Shigure, enjoying this a little too much. It wasn't often that Yuki showed how he really felt. Yuki couldn't stand to stay there any longer and rushed out.

"You've got a bad habit... of sayin' things that are the equivalent of pouring oil over fire." Haru pointed out, unimpressed with his elder.

"It's my nature," Shigure said proudly as he rubbed his chin.

"Sensei...what happened to your face?" Haru pointed to a bruise on Shigure's cheekbone.

"Ah... one could say I fought a dragon over a princess." Smirked Shigure, knowing he had fully deserved the wrath of Hatori. It had still hurt all the same. He would have to be a little sneakier if wanted to get Marley to do as he wanted.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

The moment I had received the text from Haru, I had run all the way from the Estate to Shigure house, going up the steps two at a time. I was about to knock on the door until I heard voices around the corner.

.

That sounded like... Kisa's mother...

.

Peeking around the house, I caught sight of Tohru and Kisa's mother talking to a little Tiger. Kisa had locked her jaws onto Tohru's hand, and I was about to step forward to help, but the softness of Tohru's voice stopped me.

" It's hard for anyone to say... 'I'm being bullied.' I couldn't say it either. But after a while, my mom found out. At the time... I apologized to her like an idiot... I felt so... pathetic."

.

"Demon!" "Mutt!"

.

" I thought I was worthless for being bullied..." I could almost feel the rocks from the village children. Their blind hatred... their cruelty.

.

"Let's see if it can swim!"

.

" And I was ashamed when my mom learned of it."

.

"Please don't tell Mama Nani."

.

"I was also scared. Scared Mom would hate me..for being so weak." Tohru explained

.

"... don't be mad... I'm sorry... I'm sorry.. please don't hate me."

.

" So when.. Mom said to me... It's okay... it was a huge relief" I wondered if Mama ever did find out despite Nani promising not to tell her. I remember she wanted to... but she tried to help me feel better.

Mama was horrified enough when she found out about the kids that cut my hair, how would have Mama reacted if she had known about all the stuff that happened when she wasn't around.

"When she told me 'you have nothing to be ashamed of'... I was so relieved.. that I cried again." Tohru admitted as she smiled softly down at Kisa who's teeth were still latched onto Tohru's hand.

.

"Cry if you need to but never lose sight of your dignity. Always stay true to yourself."

.

I was caught up in my own thoughts that I barely heard the rest of Tohru's story. Until there was a poof and Kisa was clinging onto Tohru. Kisa was shaking as she held onto Tohru and cried, letting the brunette comfort her.

I should have been relieved, I know, but I couldn't help but feel...

.

Useless... replaced somehow

.

Tears started burning in my eyes, and I turned around and headed away from the house. They didn't need me here. I would be of no help. I had let Kisa down, I wasn't able to find the right words to help her. She had run away, and I did nothing.

The stairs were still wet as I raced down and in my hast, I slipped on a step and fell down the last few. The pain in my chest outweighed the sharp pains on the rest of my body as I quickly got back up and ran.

.

" Go back to where you came from!"

.

.-.-.-.-.-.

.

" I brought some of Kisa's stuff over.." Haru handed Tohru a simple duffle that wasn't able to close due to all the stuff Kisa's mother tried to stuff in it. Unsure of what her daughter needed but wanted to at least give her some things from home.

The bag was filled with some simple clothes, a yellow knit blanket. Tohru noticed a cute plushie sitting on top.

"Awww! How cute." Tohru looked over how worn the lion doll was like it had been loved lots.

"Kisa look. Hatsuharu dropped off some stuff." Tohru showed her the duffle bag, hoping the young girl would be happy to have her own clothes.

Her amber eyes locked on to the plushie and reached out for it, cuddling it gently.

" Have you had him your whole life?" The girl shook her head, and then looked like she wanted to say something but nothing came out. Kisa just tightly held the lion as she hid her face in its mane.

" It was Marley's... she gave it to Kisa a while back," Haru answered, reminding himself to try and talk to Marley. The girl had almost upped and disappeared. Each time he dropped by she was out. Tetsuo said that she was busy but didn't reveal any more than that.

He had expected her to come by, even got a text from her yesterday that she was on her way, but Haru never saw Marley. What had stopped her from coming over?

.

.-.-.-.-

.

Monday morning came, and my body was aching, I had spent the whole weekend taking any drop-in class I could, by the time I got home last night I actually had to dip my feet into a bucket of ice. I had learned a lot over the weekend and while I had been able to do a lot of different dance styles but I hadn't been able to really enjoy it.

.

I wonder how Kisa's doing?

.

Apparently, a Haru had come by the house looking for me, but I was always gone. I didn't really feel like facing him, or anyone for that matter. I was no good. I couldn't even help Kisa. Tohru knew precisely what to say, and she had never even met Kisa before.

.

She's so much better than me...

.

"Good morning, Marley-Chan." The girl that was just on my mind gave me a bright smile as she approached my desk, Yuki and Kyo behind her.

"Good morning." I fought to smile at her, it's wasn't Tohru's fault. I knew it wasn't. But I still didn't feel like holding a conversation with her,

.

I want to ask about Kisa... but it's none of my business

.

Tohru looked like she was about to ask something, but Mayuko-Sensei walked in and asked everyone to take their seats, the final bell saving me.

I barely paid attention to the lesson, staring out the window to pass the time. I wasn't even sure what class it was. Too caught up in my own mind.

Lunch came around, and I made a quick escape to the hallway, claiming I had to grab something from the vending machine. It wasn't a lie. I really did want something from the vending machine, but I also didn't feel like socializing with anyone.

I put my money into the machine and picked out my drink of choice. As soon as I grabbed my cold drink from the bottom, I heard more money put into the machine, and another drink came tumbling down.

I grabbed the two drinks and offered the milk container to whoever was behind me.

"Kyo?" I said as I passed over his milk carton.

"Chocolate milk? What are you, 5?" He teased as he looked at what I was holding.

"... I like it..." I didn't really have the energy to tease back.

"Ah dammit I didn't mean to- what's up with you." He groaned.

"What do you mean?" I asked, trying to seem like everything was alright.

" You're normally always with Tohru and the others for lunch, but you seemed pretty desperate to get out of there."

" Just... didn't feel like hanging out in the classroom. how was your weekend?" I asked, hoping to change the subject.

"Pretty boring...Kisa's been staying with us." He mentioned as he shrugged.

"Oh? That's nice, I'm sure she's having a good time." I remarked, imagining a small smile on her face.

"She just follows Tohru around, it's kind of annoying... " He scoffed as he opened his milk carton and took a long drink.

.

... Kisa must really adore Tohru...

.

" I bet Kisa makes a cute little stalker." I joked, trying to ignore the hurt feeling in my chest, ugly jealousy towards someone I considered a friend.

" Haru came over, he was surprised you didn't come over, he mentioned that you n' Kisa are pretty close...Do ya know why she won't talk?" He asked as he stared over at me.

" I talked with some women at the Estate... at first. It was her looks. Her hair and eyes, they're different, so I guess... kids can be cruel when it comes to things that are different." I subconsciously ran my hand through my hair. People had always thought it was strange, my natural white-blond hair contrasted a lot with my dark skin.

.

"Witch!"

.

"So, the usual." Kyo let out a sigh as if that was the answer he was expecting.

" The usual?" I repeated, watching as he started to ruffle his own hair.

" You were teased for your hair colour..." I realized as I watched him.

" It happens to a lot of Zodiac members.." He mentioned as he took another swig of the milk carton, finishing and tossing it in the trash bin.

" But... your hair is so beautiful," I told him as I looked into his eyes.

"Stop."

"But it is!" I insisted as I stepped towards him.

".. tch alright enough I get it. You're such a weirdo.." He muttered as she turned away from me, but I could see the tips of his ears were slightly red.

.

I wish Kyo could see himself through my eyes

.

Kyo's brilliant orange hair and eyes were stunning. They reminded me of the beautiful glow of a sunset, it made me feel warm and at peace.

"I remember Haru was teased a lot for his looks," Kyo mentioned, taking me out of my thoughts.

.

Just for being a bit different...

.

" How did he deal with it?" I asked, maybe Haru could help out Kisa.

"He would just go Dark and beat the crap outta them." Revealed Kyo. I couldn't help but giggle a bit, I'm sure kids stood no chance against a Dark Haru. And I don't think that approach would work for the sweet Kisa.

" I wasn't as bad as you. You would beat the kids half to death... textbook example of a problem child..." A voice I had been avoiding appeared out of nowhere.

"WHAT'D YOU SAY!" Kyo yelled at the newcomer.

Kyo went off on Haru as I slipped away. I know running away wasn't the answer but I'm sure Haru was still disappointed with me.

.

As he should be

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Big brown eyes watched the white-blonde beauty as she walked back into the class alone. Tohru noticed she didn't have any lunch, just a small chocolate milk carton. Marley was stopped from getting to her seat by a few classmates chatting her up. Tohru couldn't, but notice as the girl's usual bright smile didn't reach her eyes.

Tohru recalled the sad look in Kisa's eyes when Marley was brought up, and Haru had been surprised that Marley hasn't shown up to check on the young Zodiac member.

Both girls seemed so sad... maybe Marley didn't want to seem rude and needed an invitation. Tohru walked over to Marley with a goal.

"Marley-Chan. Do you want to maybe come over today after school?" She asked a big smile on her face, already looking forward to her friend coming over.

"Sorry I have dance today, maybe another time?" She quickly responded like it had been on the tip of her tongue. Tohru stared down at the chocolate milk carton that Marley was sipping from. Was her friend really not gonna have anything to eat?

Tohru thought of the young tiger that was also barely eating anything... Kisa's mother mentioned scrambled eggs and chives but had also brought up that Kisa spent a lot of her dinners at Marley's house.

"Do... do you know what Kisa likes to eat?" Asked Tohru, hoping that Marley would be able to help.

" Why?" She asked, looking a little confused at the question.

"She's not really eating much that I make and maybe I thought... you might have some ideas," Tohru revealed.

Marley looked distraught at the information and brought her gaze to her desk. Her long nails tapped the desk. Tohru assumed that maybe Marley was annoyed with her.

"If you don't-"

"I'll make something when I get home and have it sent over." And on that note, Tohru felt the conversation was over.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Kyo watched as the Tiger followed Tohru around the house while she did her chores. He wondered why Marley was choosing not to come over. He figured Marley was the type of person to want to cheer Kisa up, and she'd probably be good at it. Kyo then locked onto the doll Kisa was carrying, she was finally standing still long enough for him to notice what the doll was.

"Kisa, where'd you get that doll from?" Kyo asked, startling the young girl, causing her to hide more behind Tohru. Kyo sighed at this, the Tiger had always been a bit jumpy around him. It made Kyo stress out a bit... was he that scary?

".. Really? You can't even answer that?" Sighed Kyo, a little annoyed as he shook his head.

This comment only made Kisa hide more, and Kyo felt guilty at her reaction.

"Marley-Chan gave it to Kisa-San," Tohru revealed, a big smile on her face as she revealed where Kisa got the lion plushie from.

"... I'm goin' out..." Kyo announced as he left the common area, barley hearing Tohru ask if he was okay.

By now, the path around the Sohma Estate had become familiar, and he quickly climbed the tree and hopped onto the wall surrounding what seemed like a town. The Cat hopped down the tree on the other side and walked through the garden to the porch.

As he walked up, he noticed a familiar face sitting at the table in the living room. Their long black was hiding her face, but she was still recognizable without a doubt.

"Rin?" Kyo asked as he stepped up on the porch. The girl turned to him and looked just as shocked to see him.

"What are you doing here?" The Horse asked as she stared him down.

" Could ask you the same question." He argued as he stepped into the room.

" At least take off your shoes." Rin pointed out before she turned back to the book she was reading.

Kyo groaned and slipped off his orange sneakers, leaving them at the door.

.

"Zuzu. I'm sorry we don't ha- Kyo?" Marley walked in, holding a tray of cut-up pears.

"Is everything okay?" She asked as she placed the tray down, but Rin didn't touch it, she just kept her eyes on Kyo as if analyzing him. He felt like he was under inspection or something. Her large amethyst eyes were looking at him with such concern. As if she was distraught as to why he was here.

Kyo realized he wasn't a regular like the other Zodiac members. They could just drop by and hang out without much question, but Kyo was different. Kyo wasn't as close to Marley as the others.

"It's not like I wanna be here or somethin', Tohru said she needed someone to go get the food for Kisa." Kyo spat as he told a lie, agitated and embarrassed that he had just come here without asking.

"Oh... I'm sorry I thought I told Tohru that I would have it sent over." Marley responded quietly, looking guilty for having Kyo come here when he didn't want to.

Kyo felt terrible for saying a lie but... he couldn't have her or Rin thinking he wanted to come here just to be here. This wasn't his home, and she wasn't hi

"I'm almost finished so if you don't mind waiting a bit, you can take it home. Sorry, I'll try to be quick." Was all she said as she turned around and closed the kitchen door behind her.

.

Kyo felt a sharp kick to his knee, and the force caused him to fall to the tatami mat.

"What the hell!" Kyo hissed at Rin.

" You deserved it, don't be an ass." Warned Rin as she looked like was ready to last out again. A dangerous aura was surrounding the Horse of the Zodiac, and it was enough to make Kyo to not argue with her.

"So what are you doing here?" He asked as he leaned back, laying down next to the table.

" That's not really any of your business," Rin explained, keeping her secrets.

They sat in silence as the TV played in the background. A mouthwatering smell was wafting through the house, making Kyo hungry for whatever Marley was making.

The kitchen door slid open, and Marley walked in with a green bag. She placed it on the table and then started taking a few containers out. Informing Kyo about what she made.

" This is butter chicken, Tohru can just place the pot on the stove for a bit to reheat it. I made enough for all of you, but I must warn you that Kisa likes it spicy. There's some roti in the tinfoil, just place it in the oven at 350 for a little bit to warm it up. There's also channa masala, I made it pretty mild incase the butter chicken is too much." She explained as she pointed to each container and then placed them all in the bag carefully.

"Are you gonna okay to get it over the wall?" She asked, obviously concerned for Kyo's well being.

"He's the Cat, he'll be fine," Rin mentioned, not looking up from her book.

"Shut it." Kyo hissed.

"Well, I guess I'll head out. Zuzu there's some channa masala and roti in the kitchen when you're ready to eat. The guest bedroom is set up in case you wanna stay over." Marley explained as she grabbed a laptop from the table and stood up.

"See you at school tomorrow, Kyo. Thanks for coming by." Marley gave him a small smile that only managed to piss Kyo off. She began to walk away from the two zodiac members and towards the front door.

"You're the one who should be dropping this off," Kyo said, and it made the girl stop in her tracks, her back to the boy.

"I can't." and before Kyo could ask why she walked away and he heard the opening and shutting of the front door. She was gone.

"Where's she off to in such a hurry?" Kyo asked Rin, although he doubted the girl would answer. Which she didn't. Not right away at least.

" Akito asked to see her." Kyo didn't like the answer she gave. It made him grit his teeth, instantly worried about the girl in question. Rin herself didn't look all that happy about the information.

He recalled the first day of school when he saw the bastard in the courtyard walking with Marley, looking smug as he tugged her along by the hand. What was Marley's relationship with Akito, what did he want with her.. Kyo imagined it couldn't be anything good. Kyo felt a sick, ugly sensation in his chest.

.

.-.-.-

.

I sat at the table in Akito's room, using one hand to browse through YouTube videos on my laptop while Akito painted the nails on my free hand. She had chosen a bright red colour, switching it from the dark blue she had painted them last time.

"What are you watching?" Akito as she reached for my other hand so she could continue painting my nails.

"Oh, just some anti-bullying short films," I explained as I carefully clicked on another, so I didn't ruin the paint job Akito had done.

"Why?" She asked as I could see her raise an eyebrow in the reflection of the laptop screen.

"... were you ever bullied Akito?" I asked, avoiding the question, but was actually curious.

"No, I've always been well-loved." She said, which caused me to laugh slightly.

"What?" She snapped.

"Nothing it's just... I wish I were so confident." I admitted.

Akito rolled her eyes and just continued on.

"What about you? People bull you?" she inquired, not taking her eyes off my nails as she worked.

"Yep... I was strange-looking, and my village was pretty superstitious, they thought that I was a witch or a demon because of my hair.. it was a lot whiter when I was younger. After a few bad situations, Nani decided to keep me in the house because it was the only thing she could do to keep them from... well, she just kept me in the house." I didn't really feel any need to go into details.

.

It was in the past

.

"Nani?" Asked Akito, slightly confused by the word.

"My great grandmother," I explained, slightly smiling at the memory of her. I may have spent a lot of my young childhood inside the house, but Nani always made sure I was busy, so I wouldn't get too lonely. At least she tried.

" Your mother wasn't around?" Akito didn't seem very impressed, but she was always on edge whenever the subject of 'mothers' was brought up.

I had known Akito for almost a year, and she still hadn't mentioned her own mother who I've heard is... well Akito's mother was someone was curious about because whenever I asked it seemed that everyone went tight-lipped.

"No... she worked out of the country and would send money back to us." I explained unbothered.

" How could she do that?" Spat Akito, seeming disgusted at the idea. Many people were judgmental when it was mentioned so I couldn't judge Akito. She had been born with a silver spoon, so money has never been an issue but for us... well who knows how we would have ended up if it wasn't for Mama working overseas.

"It was better that way, she wouldn't have been able to make any good money in India.. also it meant that Mama never saw me being bullied." Had to look on the bright side.

"And that was a good thing?"

" I thought that maybe... if she knew, she would be disappointed, I thought I was the worst thing to ever happen to Mama... I didn't want to make it worse by being some pathetic kid who was so hated... I didn't want her to hate me too." I justified, it seemed sensible at the time. I felt that I could handle it on my own. Who knows what would have happened if I had just stayed there, hiding in that house.

.

Is that how Kisa felt?

.

"Looking back, it's weird. There was nothing I could do about the way I looked, I was just simply born that way. I wasn't a witch or a demon. Just a kid... although they also hated me because I was half Indian and Half European but that's a whole other idiotic issue." I let out a large sigh.

"But I've found people who love me, strange looks and all. And that's all that really matters." I finished as Akito added the clear topcoat to my nails. I took back my hands and blew on the nails, hoping to get them to dry faster.

My phone let off a ding, and I checked for a text. There's was a new message from Tangerine Karate Kid. I carefully placed the pad of my finger on the phone to check the message.

= How do you and Kisa eat this? My tongue is gonna burn off=

I couldn't help but laugh at Kyo's text, decided to just tease him a little bit.

= Sorry, I guess Kisa and I are just tougher than you ;) =

He responded by sending multiple angry emoji's. I was glad he had actually managed to figure out how to use them.

.

At least Kisa's eating... that's a good sign. There has to be more I can do...

.

" There has to be something..." I murmured as I talked to myself.

"What?" Akito looked a little annoyed

" Nothing.. .. I'm just wondering what I can do for a friend." I pondered out loud.

"What's wrong with them."

"There's nothing wrong with them. There IS something wrong with her classmates though.. she was getting bullied and... I wish there were something I could do to help her." I spoke as I turned back towards the laptop as I saw all my YouTube recommendations were now anti-bullying videos. I didn't really like any of them. It's not like I could send them to her and she would just be helped. It didn't seem... personal enough.

" She'll get over it, you did. And it's not you can do a dance and make it go away." Snickered Akito but as she said... something clicked in my mind.

"That's it! Akito you're a genius! I have to go bye!" I quickly gave her a hug and collected my stuff, yelling goodnight as I rushed out.

I went through my contact list and hoped that I wasn't calling too late.

" Kaito! Hey sorry to bother you. I need the studio tomorrow evening. Is it free?" I asked the owner of my regular dance studio.

" Marley-San? Um, It's free after 6, what's up?"

"I want to do a project, and I need a room in the studio for maybe three or four hours."

"What kind of project?"

"I'll email you the details, I still need to figure out some stuff. If I email you can you email anyone you think will be interested? I'll need a few volunteers and a cameraman." I explained as I walked into the small rehearsal space on the Sohma Estate. It was going to be a long night.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

The class was moving begrudgingly slow, but Kyo was thankful that lunch was just around the corner. It was only Tuesday, but it seemed like the school week was moving slower than usual. Marley, who was sitting in front of him, seemed to be working feverously on something that he doubted was school work.

He would catch her bringing out her phone under her desk, messaging people as she seemed to be writing stuff down on a notepad. Something didn't seem to be working out as she crossed out something multiple times on the paper she had been working on and let out a defeated sigh. Marley seemed to get a new message that made her get excited again as she wrote something else down.

Kyo wasn't sure if he wanted to know what was going on with the girl, but she definitely seemed livelier then she did the day before. Had Akito helped her somehow? Kyo hated thinking that. What was Marley doing hanging out with Akito is the first place?

As soon as lunch came around, Kyo couldn't stop himself from asking.

"What's got you so excited?" He asked as he lightly tugged on her ponytail to get Marley's attention.

"Huh? Oh, um. Just working on a little video project thing." She explained as she turned to face him, a smile on her face. Kyo felt a little relieved that she had seemed to be feeling better. It had been strange seeing without her usual energy yesterday like she had felt lost and defeated. He had seen Marley upset a few times already, but it didn't mean he was used to it, or that he wanted to get used to it. It just made him on edge.

Marley went right back to work but Kyo peeked over her shoulder to see her notes. A bunch of names and then a note to pick up post-it notes and pens. Kyo couldn't figure out what she was working on but she seemed determined.

.

.-.-.-.-.

.

The Wednesday seemed to last forever as the Tiger sat on the porch watching the clouds go by. She knew she would have to return to school eventually, but she was scared.

The sound of the door opening alerted Kisa, and she heard Tohru's voice ring throughout the house. The young girl immediately went to meet her and opened her mouth to greet her, but nothing came out.

"Kisa-San!" Tohru immediately wrapped a girl in a hug, happy to see her as well. Yuki and Haru also greeted her, but she stuck to Tohru's side.

Haru simply reached out and gave her a letter, but it reminded Tohru that she also had something for the young Zodiac member.

While the Kisa went to sit and read the letter, the brunette looked through her bag and brought out a small purple CD case with a disc inside. 'For Kisa' was written on it in sharpie with little hearts all around it.

" The most important thing is to learn to love yourself. Find something good about yourself, so you can love yourself. If you hate yourself, how can others love you?" Yukie read out the letter from the teacher.

"Yep, makes me wanna puke." Spat Haru. The boys talked a bit more, and Tohru was unsure how to approach this.

"Um, Kisa-San. Marley-Chan asked me to give this to you." Tohru noticed how Kisa seemed to immediately perk up at the mention of Marley. Tohru handed over the disc case, and Kisa gently accepted it.

"A DVD?" Asked Yuki as he looked at what was in Kisa's hands.

"Do you wanna watch it, Kisa?" Asked Haru as he watched the girl's reaction. The young Tiger took a moment, holding the case in her small hands. A moment passed until she finally nodded.

Yuki took the case from Kisa and popped the disc into the DVD player, a simple menu came up, the only option. 'play.'

The video started playing, and they all heard Marley's voiceover as people seemed to be all crowded into a dance rehearsal space. All of them wearing black but varying from long pants to shorts, tank tops, sweaters. All wore black but different styles.

"Thank you again, everyone, for joining me today, I know it was very last minute, and I really appreciate everyone coming out and willing to partake in my project. It's my first time leading a dance so I'm grateful for your patience and I was also excited to teach the original choreo that Laurie Ann Gibson did nearly 10 years ago. I know you're all tired from working on the choreo so I'd like to take a breather and work on something together before we film the dance."

Marley was talking to the crowd of at least twenty people as she stood in the middle of the space, a hands-free microphone visible by her cheek. Her long hair pulled back into a high ponytail.

" We are here for a reason, maybe you were bullied as a kid, perhaps you are your own bully, or maybe you really just wanted to dance to Lady Gaga. " The crowd laughed slightly at the small joke.

"I'm here all week folks."

"Literally! She never leaves!" A voice called out which caused many in the crowd to laugh, and Marley laughed with them before she continued on.

"Anyway, moving on. When I was young, I was teased... a lot. I just looked different. People made fun of my hair, my eyes. I was too tall, too odd. Adults in my village thought because of my hair that I was a witch or even a demon. The kids of the village heard this, and I became the centre of their entertainment. I couldn't understand, to tell you the truth I still don't. Even now, as I am about to enter adulthood, I still think about it now and then. How much it hurt that I was treated so differently for something I couldn't control. I wasn't a demon, or a witch or anything like that. I was a kid. But... I was embarrassed at the time, even thinking back on it, I find myself ashamed and as a kid... I hated myself for it. For being so powerless against hateful people."

.

Kisa got closer to the television, she was shocked to hear Marley's confession. To Kisa, Marley was.. untouchable. She always seemed so happy and secure. Unbothered by anything. Kisa couldn't imagine the type of people who would make fun of the girl Kisa saw as her older sister.

.

"Now, as I'm older, I hear so many stories from friends about how they were bullied for superficial reasons. I have people very dear to me that were and are teased for their striking features. A friend of mine has beautiful orange hair that practically glimmers in the light and I adore it so much, but he hates it because it signalled him out, made him feel like he was strange. Another friend, very dear to me. My god, it breaks my heart, but she's teased for her beautiful golden-amber hair and eyes. Then they made fun of her voice, anything she did they would attack her for it. She can't help these things. As I see the situation she is going through, I can truly see the cruelty of the kids back in my village. There's nothing wrong with her or me, it's them. "

Marley held her hand over her heart as she walked around the room, speaking to the crowd, looking like she was trying to hold back tears.

"But there will always be idiots who can't see the beauty that this world has to offer, only because it's a little different."

Another person handed Marley something and then started handing out stuff to people around the room.

"I've brought some post-it notes, and some pens as well and I want everyone to take one these plain post-it notes and write something unkind someone has said to you. It could be something someone has said to you, or maybe it's something you've said this cruel thing to yourself, but please write it down and then stick on the back wall."

Soon everyone was writing and placing stuff on the wall. The camera made its way over to the wall and zoomed in some to the posts.

.

[Loser] [pig] [SLUT] [You'll never be good enough] [FATTY] [Ugly] [GO DIE] [Freak] [Stupid]

As everyone finished putting up the mean comment post-it notes on the wall, Marley walked up to the wall and placed her own post-it notes.

.

[ DEMON ] [HALF BREED] [WITCH] [WHORE] [UGLY]

She then placed her hand on her heart and turned to the crowd again.

"Doesn't it look terrible... all those mean words that we let in. They are the only ugly thing in this room right now."

" We get so distracted by all the awful things they say that we practically carry those words with us rather than the words from the people who love us, who may admire us."

The same girl that handed out post-it notes before came around again and handed out some different post-it notes.

"Now I've brought all these bright colours, post-it notes, and I want you to write something positive. It can be a note to yourself, or it can be a compliment to someone else in the room. Maybe you like their smile, their laugh, their hair, it might even be that you like their socks. You don't have to sign the note, you can be anonymous." She explained.

"For example. I really Suzumi's freckles so I'm going to write that first and stick it on here." Marley demonstrated as she wrote down on a green post-it note and placed it on the same back wall as before.

"Aww Marley, thank you."

"Alright, everyone, go." Marley urged as everyone grabbed bright, colourful post its and began writing. Marley was placing lots of notes on the wall, and soon the vivid positive comments had wholly overtaken the negative comments and were farther spread out.

"Now that's beautiful. You are loved, you are admired, you are cared for. I want you to remember that. Look at those gorgeous words. These are the words that matter. We need to listen more to the people who care about us rather than to those who would bring us down."

As Marley was talking the camera once again moved away from her and started zooming around the colourful post-it notes.

.

[Beautiful] [Brave] [Kind] [Smart] [Warm Smile] [Nice legs] [Cool style] [Beautiful Bright Eyes] [Good taste in clothes] [Best Mario Kart Partner] [Awesome nails] [Strong] [Cutie] [ your smile makes me happy] And those were only a few of the words Kisa was able to catch as the camera panned around the notes.

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"Let's continue to spread that love, let's tell people more about what we love and admire about them. Let's support each other. Let's lift each other up and have faith in ourselves. I hope that one day we can all truly see ourselves through the eyes of those that love us... My great grandmother told me that I would meet lots of idiots. And If someone hurts you, tell yourself it's due to their lack of intelligence. Because there's nothing worse in this world than bitterness and revenge. That way, you'll never sink down to their level. My great grandmother also taught me that I would find my people and I wish she were still around so I could tell her.. that I have found them" People cheered and Marley let out a big sigh and bowed a bit, a big smile on her face.

"Okay, let's take a quick water break or do whatever you need to do and then jump into it."

The crowd cheered, and the screen went to black and then lit up again with Marley and a group of dancers stood information with her as they all had their heads down.

Marley had changed from black sweatpants, and a sweater was wearing short black high waisted shorts and crop black mock neck sleeveless shirt. No one was wearing shoes and were wear all wearing similar attire to Marley. All black. Simple. Classic.

Music started, and Japanese subtitles appeared on the bottom. Kisa kind of recognized the song but couldn't name it right off the bat. As Marley and everyone danced around, Kisa's eyes would switch between the subtitles and the routine.

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"There's nothing wrong with loving who you are"She said, "'Cause he made you perfect, babe."
"So hold your head up girl and you'll go far,
Listen to me when I say"

I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby I was born this way

Different groups would seamlessly leave and enter the dance floor, but the beautiful display of colourful post-it notes remained in the background.

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way (Born this way)

Kisa automatically kept an eye for Marley whenever she was on screen and couldn't help but wonder if she would teach Kisa the routine. It felt like it had been so long since they danced together. She missed it. She missed Marley.

Soon all the dancers were in the same shot as they call came together, holding hands, embracing one other, smiling, crying, leaning on one another.

Same D.N.A. but born this way
Same D.N.A. but born this way.

All the dancers smiled at the camera and gave a peace sign before the shot went black. Haru, Yuki, Tohru and Kisa all thought the video was over, but it opened again to Marley sitting with a few girls sitting together. Kisa recognized the girls and had met them a few times at the dance studio.

"Hi Kisa!" they all said together as they waved at the camera.

" We just wanted to hi and that we miss you! Come back!"

"Kisa you are such a beautiful dancer I can't' wait to see what you'll do next."

"You are such a sweetheart and have so much to offer."

" I was bullied by kids because I'm half Japanese and half Black, kids can suck but it does get better Kisa. You'll grow and meet better people. You are so strong Kisa, keep it up." A beautiful girl with a similar skin tone to Marley gave a smile to the camera.

"Kisa, I hope that one day you'll see yourself how I see you. A strong, intelligent and beautiful young girl who is soon gonna surpass me be in ballet." Marley teased a little at the end but seemed very genuine with her statement.

"Ya, and in the meantime, give me the names of those bitches so I can throw hands!" One girl yelled which caused Marley and the three others to scold and yell at her.

"Anyway Kisa, we have to now explain to Ami that she can't go around beating up children," Marley explained as she shook her head at the girl with long black who was still be scolded by the other girls.

"Ganbatte!" They all cheered as they smiled at the camera.

The shot switched again Marley was sitting by herself fresh-faced, hair up in a top bun with her glasses on.

"Kisa, I hope this helps even the tiniest bit. You are not alone, and you have people who want to help, so please don't feel embarrassed about being bullied. So many amazing people are as you saw and I'll always be there for you. Oh, no... I'm gonna start crying again. Um.. okay, I should go. I love you, Honey Bee." The video finally ended and returned to the start screen.

.

"She must have just put that together like last night or something... " Haru was simply impressed that Marley would go to such lengths to do something for the young girl.

Tohru just watched Kisa's reaction, and she noticed tears gathering in her eyes as she clutched the blue fabric of her dress.

Yuki had no idea that Marley and Kisa were so close and began to have more respect for the foreign girl. Marley really seemed to love Kisa and wanted her to love herself. Her bright smile in the video reminded him of Tohru's smile and a smile of a young girl who had saved him a long time ago.

"Your teacher has it backwards, you won't begin to love yourself until someone else says that they love you first. When someone accepts you.. you start accepting yourself. I think that's when loving yourself becomes possible.."

Kisa thought of all the love she received from Tohru in the last few days that she had latched on to. And then thought of all the support and love she received from Marley, who was always there for her. Baking with her, dancing with her. Marley staying by her bedside when she was in the hospital. Kisa had felt like she had let Marley down when she couldn't stop the bullying herself. That Marley would hate her for not being strong enough. But Marley still loved her, she even called her Honey Bee, Marley wanted Kisa to be strong and that she would support her. Marley loved her.

"Yeah..." she finally uttered as tears fell from her eyes onto the lion plushie in her lap. Her voice escaping from her lips.

.

"Yeah...It.. made me happy," Kisa confessed as she closed her eyes and tears started freely falling down her cheeks.

"So what do you plan to do Kisa? Do you want to stay like this?" Yuki as he smiled down at the young girl.

Kisa shook her head, her gold locks moving with her.

"No... I can't. I need to try harder. Or.. Or else I'll turn into an even worse person. Even if I can't be friends with them... Even if they keep ignoring me... I have to make sure to try a little harder..." Kisa could feel her strength returning the more she spoke, the love she received from her family, pushing her forward.

"Good thinking, Let's both do what we can. And if you get sad again... or the going gets tough, you can come back to our house. And it looks like Marley-San would be happy to see you. We are all here for you Kisa."

Haru couldn't hold back any longer as he brought the young girl into a hug. Relieved to hear her voice again.

"Tohru-Nee-Chan.." Kisa looked up at the brunette. Tohru was squealing on the inside about how cute her voice sounded but kept her composure. There was someone who was missing Kisa.

"Kisa-San... let's go see Marley-Chan." Tohru offered the young girl, being sure that there was no one she would rather see. Kisa nodded as Tohru rubbed away her tears with a handkerchief.

"I think I know where she is," Haru announced as the group of teens got ready to go out.

The group walked down the road, and Kisa immediately started walking faster as they got closer. She was familiar with this area, she knew this road. They came to the studio.

As much as Kisa wanted to go in, she was still nervous.

"C'mon." Haru gently grabbed her little hand and walked in. The receptionist in the main lobby turned to look at him and looked like she was about to kick him out because he wasn't a regular and it was close to closing but locked onto Kisa's form.

The receptionist smiled and told her that she came at a perfect time.

"They're working on a blindfold experiment, they're about to finish up but why don't you head in." She offered as she nodded towards a door to her left.

Tohru took Kisa's other hand, and they walked into the studio further into the far back room where the music was coming from. The receptionist insisted that they enter so Haru opened the door and they slipped in.

.

Walkin' out of town
Lookin' for a better place (lookin' for a better place)
Something's on my mind
Always in my headspace

A few faces turned, but the outsiders only had eyes for the tall figure in the middle of the dance space. Marley had a black cloth wrapped around her eyes as she danced.

As they watched, a man that Kisa recognized as one of the main instructors came towards them.

"Kisa-Chan, it's good to see you. I have a very important job for you. Can I count on you?" Kaito asked in a soft voice. Happy to help in any way she could the Tiger nodded, still feeling awkward with her voice.

Haru and Tohru let go of her hands, and Kaito led her the edge of the dance space.

Yuki watched as the man whispered in the young girl's ears and while although she looked unsure at first the man gave her a thumbs up and she gave a timid one back.

Isn't it lovely, all alone?
Heart made of glass, my mind of stone
Tear me to pieces, skin and bone
Hello, welcome home

In the middle of the dance studio, Marley was on the floor in an odd position, head, backside and feet were on the ground, but her chest and knees were lifted to the ceiling as if held by a string.

As this moment, Kisa started walking slowly towards Marley and people watched in anticipation. The blindfolded Marley went to a sitting position the moment Kisa's feet met Marley's and almost in unison the girls reached their hands out towards each other and Kisa interlocked her fingers with Marley. Yuki could tell Marley was confused at the small hands and tilted her head, and the man who Kisa was talking to before came behind Marley and undid her blindfold, and it fell off her face.

"Marley-Nee-Chan..." Kisa cried as the girls stared at one another.

"Kisa!" Marley shouted as she let go of Kisa's hand and engulfed her in a huge hug. Kisa's head was leaned into the crevice of Marley's neck, and he could see both girls shoulder's shuttering as they cried and even laughed together. The room clapped, happy for their fellow dancer. Tohru herself was crying at the sight, relieved that Kisa and Marely were better. Marley reached out a hand for her and Tohru was brought into the emotional hug.

Hello, welcome home

.

..-.-.-.-.-.-

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Kisa had slept over at my place last night, but today she decided she wanted to back to school, so Haru, Momiji, Tohru and I were all going to walk her halfway. Even though she still found it awkward to speak, she wanted to try.

.

Do your best Honey Bee

.

We waved to the brave young girl as she walked down the road away from us. Kisa's strength and bravery truly inspired me and made me want to fight a bit harder for her sake. But first things first.

"Tohru. Thank you for being there for Kisa." I smiled at the girl, and she became immediately flustered at the thanks. Denying that she did anything.

I could only giggle at her reaction and tried to assure her.

"You're amazing Tohru, you really are. I feel lucky to know you." I told her truthfully, which just caused her to get more flustered.

"You better stop complimenting her Marley, she looks like she might explode," Haru suggested as we watched Tohru go red and continue to deny that she, in fact, was lucky to know us.

After a few more moments, Tohru's face finally returned to a normal colour, and we thought we should get going before it gets too late.

As we walked to our own school, Momiji and Tohru walked ahead while Haru and I lagged behind.

"I'm sorry that I've been avoiding you..." I confessed to the Cow of the Zodiac.

" I figured you were." Haru shrugged,

" I just... I felt like I let Kisa down. And that I'd let you down." I told him truthfully. I had found it hard to face him.

" You know that's not true, you do so much for Kisa, she loves you, I should apologize..." He surprised me, and I could only stare at him as we stopped in our tracks and he turned to face me properly.

" I put too much pressure on you, I saw someone I love go silent just like Kisa, and I got frustrated and took it on you. Please forgive me." He dipped into a slight bow. I reached for his hand and gave it a small squeeze.

" There's nothing to forgive," I assured him as I smiled at him. He gave my hand a squeeze back. We were both on the same page. We had just wanted Kisa to be okay. We just wanted what was best for the people that we loved.

"Marley-Chan! We better hurry or we're gonna be late." Momiji ran up to me and grabbed my hand, pulling me along as he gave me a bright smile. Tohru smiling together with him. Haru came up and ruffled my hair slightly.

I've found a family, one that I would do anything to protect, people who deserve all the love the world has to give

.-.-.-.-.-.-

Chapter Text

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

.

Flipping through numerous pieces of paper, I desperately tried to scribble down what I could. My writing was barely legible, but I was in a rush and dreading the ringing of the morning bell.

.

Should have tried to finish this earlier... I stayed wayyyy too late at the gym last night...

.

I could almost hear Mama giving me a speech on how I always did this and how much easier my life would be if I planned better. How school was more important than my activities.

.

" Titali, what have we said? Education comes before dance."

.

Though... she never mentioned school after I got sick, we had bigger worries than my less than desirable math scores. Now that I have this second chance, I know I should take school a little more seriously than I did before. I just hope I could graduate with decent grades and not let her down.

I was thankful that the school library was virtually empty, too embarrassed to be caught doing last-minute homework at my desk. I still had at least another 30 minutes before homeroom. Enough time to get... some stuff down.

The last week had been packed, planning and making Kisa's video had taken up almost all my free time. The studio where I was doing my aerial silks was hosting a showcase and wanted me to do a routine. It was very flattering and exciting but gave me no time for school work and here I was, paying the price.

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I'm so screwed...right now I could really use a miracle to get me through this math worksheet

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"Marley-San?" A soft recognizable voice rang out in the quiet library.

"Yuki! Good morning... Ah, don't mind me just trying to organize my notes." I lied, fumbling to grab all the papers, embarrassed that I had been caught.

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I bet Yuki is never behind when it comes to homework..

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A few pages fell to the ground, and Yuki knelt down to pick them up.

"Ah- That's-"

"This is due after homeroom." Yuki pointed out as he held the Japanese Literature homework. A simple fill in the answer sheet for The Tale of Genji... which I had read but couldn't remember a single thing at the moment.

"I.. I just got so caught up in.. well there was no time... that's a lie there was time, but I decided to keep doing it later and then... later caught up with me " I sighed as I looked down at the table, disappointed in myself.

I heard a zipper of some sort and then the sound of shuffling papers.

"There is still time before class, you can use this." Yuki offered me a small stack of papers. Flipping through, I realized he had handed me his homework.

"You...You'll let me copy your homework?" I questioned, being unsure of the gesture. I looked up at Yuki, searching his eyes, we hadn't really spoken much, but I considered him a friend. I had hoped he thought the same of me. The handsome boy just smiled softly and nodded his head.

" I imagine putting all that stuff together for Kisa took up a lot of time, and I'm grateful that you did it. So please, use this to help you get through." Yuki comforted, helping me feel better about borrowing his homework. Warmth flooded my chest, and I couldn't stop the enormous grin that stretched across my face.

"Yuki... Thank you, thank you, thank you!" I cheered as I leapt up out of reflex and placed a quick ' thank you' kiss to his cheek, my lips barely grazing his skin. Thrilled that the burden of homework was lifted from my shoulders. Yuki indeed was my prince in shining armour at this moment.

As I stepped away from the kind grey-haired boy, I looked at him to say thank you again but was surprised to see the look on his face. Not only was his entire face bright red, but his mouth was wide open in shock. I went to ask if he was okay but before I could...

A popping sound vibrated through the library, and bluish green smoke surrounded my table.

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Oh no...

.

"Yuki?!" I yelped, worried about the boy.

Hearing some voices in the hallway, I panicked and searched for Yuki.

I looked down at Yuki's uniform on the ground and looked for any movement. As soon as I caught sight of his little mouse form, I picked him up and put him in my school cardigan pocket. I rushed to pick up our stuff and moved to the back corner of the library, hidden by bookshelves.

" I think... we're okay." I let out a breath of relief as I carefully out Yuki on the ground in front of me. He turned his back to me, and his little head seemed to face the floor, his thin tail wrapped around him.

"Yuki.. are you okay?" I asked softly, worried for my tiny friend.

" I didn't hurt you did I? I'm sorry, I just wanted to get us out of the open and didn't-"

Yuki let out a massive sigh, well, as large as a sigh as he could under the particular circumstances.

" It's fine, I'm fine. It's fine as long as no one saw." He reassured me, I can't imagine what I would if someone saw.

" I'm sorry, but I thought you would only transform if I hugged you?" I questioned, thinking about why he would suddenly transform.

"We also change when our body is under stress.." He explained as he walked in a little circle and finally faced me.

"Are you not feeling well? I could carry you back to Shigure's?" I offered as I leaned down towards him and pressed the back of my hand to his little mouse forehead

.

This might be on the stranger side of things I've done... checking a mouse's temperature for a fever...

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"No no, it's nothing like that, I was just... when you.." He started to stay and then covered his face with his paws.

"When I?"

Yuki started to look flustered as he covered his face. I tried to think of anything I did that would cause stress.

.

Okay... he offered his homework... I thanked him... and Oh...

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"I'm sorry! I was just so happy and thankful, and I completely just jumped you!" I apologized as I bowed my head to the ground, cursing myself for getting so excited earlier that I completely disrespected his boundaries.

"I'll never do it again," I promised as my forehead grazed the floor.

"Ah, no, that's not... nes-." A loud popping sound interrupted the Mouse of the Zodiac and smoke filled the back corner.

Yuki stood straight up in the nude in front of my kneeling figure, and I quickly covered my eyes, letting out a tiny squeak as I felt my cheeks warm up a bit.

.

Yuki has quite a nice figure, considering his more feminine features... it's easy to see why he has a fan club

.

After some shuffling noises, Yuki said it was okay to look, and I removed my hands from my face. He was covering his mouth with a hand and could see a small blush on his cheeks.

"I am sorry, truly. Dadaji has told me that I need to try and be a little more... I guess not so touchy is how he put it..." I tried to apologize again, feeling ashamed that I had embarrassed Yuki to the point that he transformed.

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I really need to be more mindful...

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" No, don't be sorry. It... was nice." Said Yuki as he still refused to look at me. I cocked my head at his statement, generally confused. I was interested in this more.. awkward and unsure side of the usually very put together Sohma.

He was always polite and proper.. except when it came to Kyo... but there was still something more to Yuki's respectful.. and a sometimes fake smile.

I had to use the polite smile a lot while around the Sohma Estate, especially around some of the Sohma's who truly believed that I didn't belong here. So I felt like I had started to notice more of Yuki's fake smile.

My eyes stayed glued to him as he continued to cover half of his face. Shielding himself from me. As if he was afraid that I would judge him.

"Please... you don't have to hide," I spoke without really thinking, and the sentence caused his eyes to meet mine, looking a little shocked.

"Just... if you're embarrassed for whatever reason, that's fine, your human, but please don't hide. I want to see you." I tried to explain as I continued to stare up at him from the ground.

He looked at the ground and held his arms, hiding still. I shook my head and slowly got up and laid my hand on his arm, giving it a small squeeze.

"Whenever you're ready, of course," I mentioned, not wanting to push him too much. I gave him a small smile and picked up the school work, moving back to the table to quickly copy down Yuki's work.

Yuki eventually joined me at the table, choosing to sit and just watch as I wrote down the work. He seemed like he wanted to say something but held himself back.

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Hopefully one day he'll trust me enough to open up

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"Oh, also. You are by far one of the cutest mouses I've ever seen." I had to mention, wanting to give him a compliment.

"...thanks..." He uttered as he still faced away from me. I only smiled and returned to finishing up the worksheets.

He just groaned and looked away from me, the tips of his ears slightly pink.

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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The third-year Motoko Minagawa happily walked through the halls of her school, hoping to catch a sight of her beloved prince.

From her end of the hallway, she saw the library door slide open, and a tall figure with long flowing white-blond walked out, smiling back behind her as she adjusted her purple backpack. Motoko couldn't hear what the foreigner was saying, but she seemed to be a good mood. Her usual annoying smile in place.

Motoko's heart broke her Prince walked out of the library, carrying a casual conversation with the foreign girl. He looked different somehow. She ducked behind the corner and peeked around, not wanting them to know she was watching.

The tall girl laughed at something and reached for Yuki's tie that looked dishevelled. Motoko was sure it hadn't looked like that when she had seen the Prince earlier this morning when he walked through the school gates with that Witch, Tohru.

Marley Sohma fully undid Yuki's tie and then did it up properly, they talked while she quickly did her work, her fingers working delicately on the fabric around Yuki's collar.

.

The president of the Prince Yuki fan club felt rage at the core of her stomach that quickly spread throughout her body. Angry at the fact that the foreigner was brazen enough to talk to her prince, let alone touch him so freely. It was ridiculous.

"Who does she think she is?!" Motoko muttered to herself as she clenched her fist, her nails digging into her palms.

Motoko already had Tohru to worry about, and now she had to make sure that the foreigner didn't corrupt her Prince Yuki. The black-haired senior already had a plan in motion to try and combat the Tohru problem, but now she realized she would have to come up with a plan to take down Marley before the foreign whore got too comfortable with Prince Yuki.

She watched as the Marley finished Yuki's tie, and they walked down the hallway away from her, most likely heading to class.

Motoko reminded herself that as much as she wanted to tackle the white-blond girl right there in the hallway, that was not the way to win against the manipulative and crafty Marley Sohma. She would have to wait for another day to deal with that threat.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

" And voila, three servings of salmon," I announced, popping the pan-cooked fish onto separate plates and sliding them over to my group. The smell of the honey-soy marinade drifting from the dish.

For our home eco class and we had learnt to make some simple breakfast items. It was the only class, aside from English, that I felt comfortable that I could do no wrong.

.

Can't wait to experiment with tamagoyaki a bit at home, give it a little kick with some chilli peppers or something

.

"That looks delicious Marley-San, do you cook a lot at home?" Asked Yui, the class vice president, as she filled some bowls with rice from the rice cooker.

"Hmm, yep, I think I've been cooking since the moment I was tall enough to reach the counter." I joked as I plated another fillet of salmon and let it rest in the middle.

"Itadakimas!" We all cheered, and then we dug in.

"This is amazing, the salmon is perfectly cooked." Moaned Riko, a girl with a short pixie cut and a flower barrette in her hair.

"Thank goodness, I always get nervous when I make meat dishes," I admitted as I took a piece of the egg omelet, happily popping it into my mouth.

"Would any of you like my piece of salmon?" I offered as I held up the little plate the fillet rested on.

"No I'm good, they're so much food to get through. You're not going to have it, Marley-San?" Asked Yui as she readjusted her rectangular glasses. I shook my head and stood up from the stool.

"I'll be right back," I mentioned as I took the small plate and walked away from our group's working station towards someone I knew who would enjoy the extra salmon serving.

"Kyo. Can you eat this for me, please." I asked the orange-haired boy as I made my way to his table and offered him the plate.

"Ya, give it here." He rolled his eyes as he took the plate from me, already used to my vegetarian ways, even if he didn't fully understand it. I was just grateful that he would eat what I couldn't. I didn't want any food to go to waste.

"Kyon-Kyon! How come you get Marley-Chan's cooking!?" One of the boys whined as he watched Kyo hold the plate I had given him.

"Ya! It's not fair!" The brunette male yelled at Kyo, causing him to tell the two to 'piss off and take his chopsticks to the fillet for a bite.

"You made this?" He asked as looked up at me from his seat, his home economics partners watching intently.

I nodded, hoping that I made it right.

.

It's hard to know when you can't taste-test it. The girls liked it, but maybe Kyo was pickier when it comes to his salmon. Does he being the cat make him pickier about his fish?

.

"Is.. is it alright?" He avoided my gaze and looked like he was about to say something when Yuki interrupted.

"Are you stealing her food now?" Yuki snapped from his own work station.

"Shut up, girly boy, she can't eat it anyway!" Kyo snapped back, immediately in a bad mood.

"Are you allergic to salmon, Marley-Chan?" Tohru asked as she sat her own work station with Uo and Hana.

"Huh? No, nothing like that. I'm a vegetarian." I explained, slightly shrugging my shoulders.

"Really? I never noticed... but didn't you make that chicken dish?" Tohru asked, tilting her head slightly.

"I try not to make a big deal out of it... I can make meat dishes, I just don't eat them." Thinking back to last week when I sent Kyo home with butter chicken dish for Kisa when she was staying at Shigure's house.

" It was delicious, I'd love to get the recipe, if it's not too much to ask," Tohru asked tentatively, clearly nervous about asking for any kind of favours.

"Sure, I can even show you how to make it a little less.. spicy." I joked, knowing that most people can't handle mine and Kisa's spicy palette.

"That would be amazing, thank you." She gushed, giving me a bright smile.

" It'll be fun, like cooking up at the lake house." I was getting excited about cooking with Tohru again, and she seemed to share my excitement.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

"Hey! Hey, look, Tohru!" The blond ex-gangster stopped her dear friend by grabbing the sides of her head and forcing her to look down the hall at the peculiar sight.

"Look at what?" Tohru asked as she looked for what had alerted Uo.

"Hanajima's chatting with Kinoshita and Yamagishi!" Uo pointed out the two Yuki fan club girls talking to their Goth friend.

"Ah! You're right... Perhaps they've become friends?!" Tohru got excited at the idea of new friendships forming.

"No way- Hanajima hates their type." But Uo couldn't think of any reason why the annoying girls would be talking with the dark-haired beauty. The two onlookers watched as the Yuki fan club girls waved goodbye to Hana and walked away.

"Oi! Hanajima! What's up? Were they harpin' on you about something?" Asked Uo as she and Tohru walked towards her.

"Oh.. you saw that?" Hanajima asked the two girls.

"What happened? They have a problem with you?" Uo questioned, ready to break out the metal pipe and threaten the Yuki fan club if they even dreamed of messing with one of her friends.

"They want to do a special feature on my waves for the next edition of the school newspaper.. and they asked if they could visit my house for the story," Hanajima explained, still looking a little perplexed on the matter.

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"Huh? What's the point of doing an article like that?" Uotani was more confused than before at the reason.

"Don't ask me... but I keenly sensed unpleasant waves..." Hanajima revealed as she closed in her eyes in thought, wondering what the Yuki fan club truly wanted from her. Tohru let out an audible gasp at the information, an uncertain feeling gnawing at her chest.

"So, you said okay?" Uotani guessed though she would never be able to agree to have those girls over at her house.

"Of course, I did... If they throw down the gauntlet, I'll pick it up with my waves... I never back down from a wave fight." Declared Hanajima, feeling confident that she could handle anything the frivolous fangirls through at her.

.

"Yeah! That's the spirit! It sounds so shady that I'm curious. Can I stop by after I get off work?" Uo was getting pumped just thinking about the drama that could unfold. Tohru could only smile nervously at her friends, not revelling in the idea of a fight as much as her two friends.

"Yes, of course... are you coming too, Tohru-Kun?" Hanajima asked, looking forward to spending more time with the kind brunette. She felt like she hardly saw her these days.

"Ah! Sorry, but Marley-Chan said that she could teach me to make some Indian dishes this afternoon since her dance class got cancelled, were actually going grocery shopping right after school." Tohru explained, even though she was really looking forward to the opportunity to learn from her new friend, she felt guilty that she couldn't go over to Hanajima's house.

" I see... Oh, well." Hana understood that Tohru had other plans and smiled at the girl, but a dark feeling tugged at her heart. Hanajima couldn't help but feel one of her most beloved friends was being taken away from her.

The bell rang, signalling the end of the lunch period.

"Let's go to class."

"Man, I'm getting excited." Uo voiced, looking forward to what kind of drama could unfold at Hanajima's house.

Tohru looked on with worried eyes, uncertain of what to do in this situation.

.

.-.-.-.-.-..-.

.

"Ahh... that's better... Yuki seems to be shining more brilliantly than he was this morning. Is it the majesty of being the next president of the student council or now he's not being bothered by that foreign bitch? Maybe... No, that's not it. It's the radiance of a prince... It's Yuki's natural glow..."

" President Motoko-Senpai! The plan to infiltrate wave girl's house worked!" A girl with sandy brown hair in pigtails burst through the door. Huffing and wheezing as if she had run a marathon.

"Well done, Minami-San. Well done. And wave girl wasn't suspicious?" Motoko asked her lower classmate and club member.

"Nope, she bought it, hook, line and sinker." Minami boasted as she stood tall, her friend entered the room and closed the sliding door behind them.

"Minami-San, Mio-San, you share a class with Marley, have you found her to have any weaknesses yet?" The Fan club president asked, already wanting to start on their next Yuki protection plan.

"We've tried, nothing we do works. She just smiles, as if to say, try again." Minami said, clenching her fist in frustration.

"We'll keep an eye on her, for now, let's Focus on The Witch, Tohru Honda, and her Demon protector." Motoko decided, looking forward to taking out anyone who kept her from Prince Yuki.

.

" We have to get rid of Tohru Honda. What right does she have to laugh and be by Yuki's side? Tohru Honda! Too long have we stood by and done nothing! We have to protect our Prince Yuki from that Witch!" Minami cheered

"But Marley -" Mio Yamagishi piped up, wanting to bring up a point but was cut off by her President.

" Yuki would never be entranced by her, he's better than all the other boys at this school who are easily seduced. Prince Yuki is much too divine to fall for some foreigner. The girl is an eyesore... but she might be persistent...she'll be dealt with eventually."

"One threat at a time," Motoko stated as she stared out the window again, spotting the white-blond foreigner with her headphones on as she rested against a tree, making notes in a green notebook. Marley Sohma clearly hadn't heard the bell marking the end of the lunch period as she was still scribbling down notes as she listened to whatever was playing on her headphones.

Motoko smirked, hoping the girl might at least get in trouble for being late for class. It felt a bit petty, but that didn't matter to the Prince Yuki club president, she enjoyed this small feeling of superiority and held onto it as she looked down on the foreigner. The rage and jealousy she felt from this morning still brewing in her heart.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Tohru and I walked along the produce section of the supermarket in search of ingredients. I was going through a list in my brain, figuring out which recipes to teach Tohru.

" Okay, so we'll need... cauliflower...potatoes... some white onions... or is it red onions?" I held up the two different types of onions in each hand. Trying to remember which one I used.

"Hmmm... let's do red onions." I decided as I placed two in the basket that was resting on the floor.

"Cauliflower... red onion, okay! What's next?" Asked Tohru as she held a pen and paper in hand, writing down the ingredients so she could recreate it herself.

" Cilantro.. a few limes..ginger. Normally I would grab some green chilli peppers, but we'll skip that today. Oh and some garlic and a few tomatoes. Then we need to go to the spice section. Hopefully, they have turmeric because the last time I was here, they were out."

Tohru followed me as she wrote down the ingredients, and I picked out vegetables needed for the Indian dishes I would show her.

" Should we pick up some baked goods for dessert?" I asked Tohru as I eyed the lemon tarts in the bakery section, my mouth slightly salivating. Citrus treats were my ultimate weakness.

.

Tohru didn't reply, and I called out her name only to receive silence. Turning to look at the girl, she seemed to stare into space, looking like she was worried about something. I walked up to the alarmingly quiet girl and placed my hand lightly on her shoulder, bringing her back to Earth.

"Hey, everything okay?" I asked her, wondering what could have possibly happened today that made her go quiet.

" Oh! Sorry! I was just- Um was trying to think how to repay you for taking the time to teach me, and I thought maybe chocolates and then I thought, I don't think I've ever seen you eat chocolate so then I was thinking maybe a fruits basket and" Tohru was speaking so fast that I could barely keep up.

"Tohru, Tohru!" I tried not to laugh at the girl's fast-talking and flustered state, but a small giggled slipped through.

" You don't have to 'repay' me or anything. I'm happy to share recipes. And also, why don't you tell me what you're really thinking about." I wanted her to tell me what was bothering her, hoping I could help.

Tohru looked at me and then at the ground, looking at odds. I waited, not saying anything.

" Hana-Chan has Kinoshita-San and Yamagishi-San over at her house for some sort of interview for the school newsletter, but Hana-chan said that she sensed unpleasant waves..." She confessed as she finally looked into my eyes.

"Who's at Hana's house?" I asked, not recognized the names at all.

"Oh.. um... they're part of the Prince Yuki fan club." She explained and then it finally clicked on who she was talking about.

.

That is strange... Hana hates the Yuki fan club as much as Uo. Why would she have them over? ...And we have a school newsletter?

.

I looked down at our grocery basket and then up at Tohru, who seemed to look more and more worried by the minute. The three girls had such a strong friendship and loved each other so much, I couldn't help but feel like the odd man out sometimes with them... but that wasn't their fault. They had been together for years, and I was just the newcomer.

"We could always do this another day, and you can go check on Hana?" I offered as I placed the basket on the ground, slightly disappointed that I wouldn't get to cook with Tohru today, but I understood that she wanted to be there for her friend.

"No, I mean, you've already taken the time to do the grocery shopping and tell me the ingredients, I don't want to ask too much by asking to do it another time."

.

She really does put everyone else before what she wants...

.

"You know... I bet Hana would love to be the taste tester for what we're cooking today." I pointed out, wanting to check on the Goth princess for myself. I knew Hana could stand her ground, but it didn't mean she was invincible. Mysterious wave powers or not.

I had never been to Hana's house, I had actually never spent any time with Hana or Uo out of school, so this would definitely be a new experience. I started to wonder what her house looked like and her family life.

.

Hana's so beautiful, I bet her entire family is gorgeous

.

"Now let's hurry up here and then head to Hana's house, Sousuke-San can drive us over to the train station," I announced as I started walking away from Tohru to grab the rest of the ingredients.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Saki and her brother were seated at the table in her room, occasionally sipping at their cups tea while her 'guests' stood, frustrated that their plan was falling apart by the seams. The 'Demon Queen' knew why they were there and had insulted their Prince.

"I.." Motoko caught her mistake and continued on with her speech.

"We adore Yuki. In fact, we love him. So can you fathom how Tohru Honda's behaviour has trampled on our feelings? And now that foreigner... That expression of hers... she seems to think she's Yuki's favourite... as if... because she has admirers that she can stand on the same level as him... Gloating over how she can toy with him!"

"You shouldn't think... you can get away with anything... Just because you 'love' someone. Because if that is what you think... I suggest you do some soul-searching." The young boy advised the three high school girls.

"Directing an ever-increasing amount of one-sided love at someone... becomes burdensome to that person...And at some point, you'll hurt them. Remember to respect and consider that person's feelings..." It felt like a warning,

"Wha...?"

"Otherwise... they'll come to hate you in the end... Minami-San... Mio-San... and Motoko-San..." A small underlying threat came from Megumi was enough to send the guests rushing out of the house.

.

"Did I.. go too far?" Asked the young boy as he stared at the door with his older sister.

"No... but how did you find out their names?" Saki asked, genuinely curious.

"While you were getting tea, they called one another by name... so it was easy..." Megumi recalled the trio of strange girls as they communicated amongst themselves while he waited behind the sliding door.

"Actually... I was a little jealous too." Saki confessed as she took out her hair tie and let her long ebony locks flow freely.

To Saki, it seemed like the Sohma's had taken Tohru-Kun away from her.. which left her feeling... a little lonely. At first, it had been Yuki and Kyo that seemed to be taking up much of Tohru's time... but now it was also Marley Sohma, the bright and optimistic foreigner that sometimes reminded Hana of Kyoko. Maybe that was why Tohru found herself drawn to Marley and Hana couldn't really blame her.

"But... like you said... that doesn't give me the right to be selfish. I can't let myself become like those three..." Saki decided, weirdly grateful that the girls had come over. It gave her insight into her own feelings.

"You can learn from them how not to be..." Megumi suggested, happy that his sister could learn from the experience.

The sound of the doorbell ringing surprising the two siblings. Saki remembered that Arisa mentioned that she was going to stop by after work.

"Coming..."

.

"Hello!" Bright amethyst eyes greeted Hana as she opened the door, her hands were filled with grocery bags.

"Yo!" Arisa saluted Saki, and then Tohru popped up behind the two taller girls.

"Hana-Chan.," Tohru called out as she looked over her friend, checking that she was okay.

The guests were indeed a surprise to the black-haired beauty, as Tohru had already told her that she was busy with Marley.

"We ran into each other at the station." Revealed Arisa as the girls stepped into the Hanajima household.

"Where are the Yuki fan club? Is the interview over?" Marley asked as she looked around, Saki was surprised that she knew but assumed that Tohru had told her.

"Long time no see Tohru-San, Arisa-San." Megumi greeted the two familiar high school girls.

"Yes, it's been a long time Megumi-San." Tohru happily hopped over to say hello to the young boy.

"Is this your brother!?" Marley spotted Megumi as she lugged her grocery bags over.

" Hanajima Megumi, it's nice to meet you.." He slightly bowed his head to the new girl.

"Sohma Marley, nice to meet you." Marley introduced herself, slightly bowing.

"Let me take those." The young boy offered as he reached for the grocery bags.

"Oh, I couldn't possibly -"

" Please, I insist." And Megumi took the grocery bags from the exotic beauty.

"Such a gentleman." Marley gushed as she held herself back from fawning over the cute little boy.

"I'll put these in the kitchen then.."

"Ah Yes, Hana, may we use the kitchen, Tohru, and I can make dinner for everyone," Marley suggested, and Saki was kind of in shock at the turn of events.

"Of course... I look forward to it." Saki smiled as Tohru thanked her and also apologized for dropping by unannounced while Marley followed Megumi to the kitchen.

"Ah! I should get to the kitchen, can't learn if I'm not there." Tohru mentioned as she excused herself and headed to the kitchen.

Saki couldn't help but smile, grateful she had such wonderful friends. Even if Tohru was spending more and more time away from her, and it could feel lonely sometimes, Tohru made her happy in the end.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.

.

"Okay, so we have our aloo gobi and our chicken makhani on low simmer so we can leave that alone, for the most part, stir and check every few minutes. I like to save the roti for last." Marley explained while she got out a large bowl, and Tohru watched and only helped when instructed.

" We take... I've never actually measured this before... I guess.. maybe 2 cups of wheat flour, and keep maybe half a cup on the side cause we'll need it when rolling it out. A splash of vegetable oil, and a pinch of salt." She put all the ingredients together while Tohru watched and took notes. Marley then washed her hands and told Tohru to do the same.

"About a cup of lukewarm water, not cold or hot, just warm. And add it bit by bit, you don't need to add it all in at once." Marley poured a little water in the bowl and then began to mix it together with her hands and then invited Tohru to do the same.

Megumi was standing in the kitchen, interested in the process and curious about the new girl in the house. Arisa and Saki chose to watch from the kitchen table while the cooking show happened before them. To them, it seemed like Tohru was having fun learning the new dishes, and that's all they needed.

"Hey, it seems Tohru was really worried about you," Arisa revealed to Saki as she leaned towards her.

"Now we need to knead it really well. Otherwise, we won't get the rise we want." Marley explained as she took the ball of dough out of the bowl and onto the counter.

"How long?" Asked Tohru as I let her take over.

"Hmm... about 5 minutes or so... it can be a bit of a workout." Marley joked as Tohru worked on kneading the dough.

.

It certainly was a cute sight to see. Arisa and Saki had become used to seeing Tohru cook, generally on her own without any help. Even when Kyoko was around, Tohru took on all the responsibility for meals and worked alone, only accepting minimal help form anyone. But Marley and Tohru seemed to have a good rhythm in the kitchen, never getting in each other's way, just simply working together.

"Megumi, do you want help roll some out?" Marley asked right after she told Tohru that the was dough looked perfect.

Megumi nodded, and Marley had him wash his hands and then join her at the counter. Marley then sprinkled some flour into a bowl.

"Now we separate the dough into little fat balls, take this, and roll it on the palm of your hand to the countertop a few times, flatten them out a tiny bit. Check to make sure there are no cracks. Coat them in a bit of flour." Marley gave a few demonstrations before letting Tohru and Megumi in. While they made those, Marley checked on the food on the stove, deciding to turn off the heat completely.

Soon they had fourteen little dough patties ready to go, and Marley was showing Tohru and Megumi how to roll them out with the rolling pin.

"Once you're happy with the size, pick it up and kind of lightly toss it between your two hands before placing down on the plate." Marley seemed to glow as she taught, memories of her great grandmother in the kitchen were hanging in the front of her mind. Grateful that she had learned from such patient and kind woman, hoping that she was doing a good job at teaching others.

.

"Alright, let's get the stovetop going and cook these up, we're almost ready to eat," Marley announced, hoping the group was hungry enough for all the food they had made.

"I'll set the table." Saki offered as she rose up from the kitchen table and gathered plates.

"Man, this all smells so good, I can hardly wait." Commented Arisa as she got up to help.

"Now, I usually use my fingers to flip the roti, that's how I was taught, but I would rather you use a spatula," Marley explained as placed one of the flattened out rotis on the pan.

"Now, once you see all these little bubbles, that's a good time to flip it over. We don't need to cook them for very long. And see these bubbles, we want some of them brown and look, it's puffing out, which means that you kneaded it really well." Marley told Tohru, which caused her to blush at the simple compliment.

"Here, I'll let you do the rest, but I'm right here if you need me," Marley explained as she stepped to the side and made Tohru stand in front of the stove.

"Right, I won't let you down," Tohru said as she put on her determined face and watched the roti cook, diligently checking for bubbles with her spatula in hand.

Within ten minutes, the table was set, and the food was plated, a stack of fresh roti was placed last, and everyone was seated.

"Thank you for the food, Marley and Tohru-Kun," Saki said as she looked at the delicious food on the table. A warm feeling in her chest at having her friends and dear brother together, enjoying a meal together.

"Thank you for letting us your kitchen," Marley said as she began piling stuff on plates and handed them out.

"Let's dig in!" Cheered Arisa as she found herself not wanting to wait any longer.

"Itadakimas!" everyone cheered, and all conversation stopped as everyone happily dug into the home-cooked meal.

"This is amazing, Marley-Chan." Tohru complimented, and Marley only shook her head.

"This was both of us, and I'm sure it'll be even better the next time you make it. I'm looking forward to it." Marley encouraged, which made Tohru blush and laugh.

" My mother really liked tofu hot pot that I think you would like Marley-Chan, maybe we can try making it next time," Tohru suggested, smiling at the memory or making it for her late mother.

"I'd love that, I bet it's delicious." Marley smiled at Tohru, looking forward to the next time they'd be in the kitchen together.

Saki watched the interaction and smiled. All she knew is that the Sohma's made Tohru happy, and that's all Saki needed.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Hana and Tohru were plating the lemon tarts we had brought from the store while Uo and Megumi were chatting at the table.

I found myself wandering around the room and staring at the framed pictures. One caught my eye in particular.

It was a picture of Tohru, Uo and Hana but it looked like it had been taken a while ago. Uo and Tohru had shorter hair, and they were wearing different uniforms.

.

Probably middle school

.

"Marley-San, some tea?" Hana asked as she walked up to my side and gestured to the table where tea was being served.a

"Oh, um, no thank you." I politely declined as I continued to look at the picture.

"Why was the Yuki fan club here? I doubt it had anything to do with a school newsletter." I asked, feeling like I'd waited long enough to ask.

"They wanted to know my weakness." She revealed as she looked at the picture I had been staring at.

"Your weakness? Why?" I asked as I turned to look at her.

"They're upset that Tohru is 'taking away' their Prince." She explained, almost letting out a small smirk.

"and they can't touch Tohru with you around." I concluded, knowing that Hana was quick to threaten with her 'waves' if the fan club even tried to get to bother Tohru.

"Did they figure out your weakness," I asked to which Hana shook her head.

"Even if they knew, it wouldn't help them. I'll always protect Tohru." Hana declared.

"She's very lucky to have you," I mentioned as I smiled at her, she shook her head and denied the statement, suggesting she was the one lucky enough to have Tohru.

"How about... you guys are all lucky to have each other," I suggested as I smiled back at the photo. They really did love each other.

.

" What are you guys talking about?" Uo asked as she came over and slung her arm over my shoulders.

"Oh, I was admiring this photo of the three of you, it's adorable," I mentioned, pointing to the framed photo.

"Yep, that's back from our middle school days... Hey! Let's take a new picture!" Uo suggested.

"Sure, you want me to take it." I offered as I reached for my phone.

"What? No, you gotta be in it." Uo laughed as she gestured to Tohru and Megumi to come over. I found myself a little shocked, while they had been kind and welcoming to me, I wasn't sure if they considered me a friend yet, as much as I wanted to be. Their friendship seemed so perfect, I sometimes didn't want to intrude.

" We'll set a timer...everyone get in." Uo got out her own phone and placed it on a shelf. Tohru stood to my left, and the Hana stood on her other side.

"Oh, Megumi, here." I offered the spot in front of me so he could fit in the picture. I rested my hands on his shoulders.

"Alright, everyone get ready," Uo ordered as she took the spot to my right, throwing up a peace sign.

"My heart pounds as I'm surrounded by older women..." Megumi sighed as he placed his hand on top of my own.

I laughed at his statement, it seemed comical coming from the middle-school boy, and I couldn't tell if he was joking or not.

"You act nothing like a middle schooler..." Uo pointed out, still in her pose.

"The timers about to go.," Hana warned.

"Ah, right!" Tohru hooked her arms with mine and Hana's.

"Cheese!" We all cheered, smiling as the snap of the camera went. Uo left my side to check the photo and seemed happy with it.

" Now, that 's a keeper!" Uo declared as she showed us the photo. It was an adorable photo, all of us looked genuinely happy, even Hana and Megumi subtle smiles were visible. Uo mentioned that she would send everyone a copy.

.

"We'll have to do this more often," Hana said softly as she seated herself at the table to dig into the lemon tarts.

" I would love that!" Tohru gushed, a bright smile on her face as she took my hand and brought me to the table to eat dessert.

"Next time we should go to Tohru-Kun's. I'm still curious about the Sohma waves." Hana suggested, she had mentioned Yuki and Kyo's strange waves before, and I assumed they gave those off due to the Zodiac curse.

"And we can play rich man, poor man!" Tohru suggested as she sat herself down.

"Play what now?" I asked them, feeling a little lost.

"Don't worry, I'll teach ya." Uo offered as she ruffled my hair before digging into her dessert.

.

I won't always be the odd man out... as long as there are kind people who will include me...even if they already have strong bonds.. doesn't mean I can be part of it as well

.

"Marley-San, would you like me to feed it to you?" Megumi offered as he a piece of tart on a fork to me. I blushed a little at the cute gesture.

"I think you have a new admirer Marley!" Uo laughed as she shook her head at Megumi.

"And a very handsome one at that." I giggled before I opened my mouth and let him feed me the piece. The tart was perfectly sweet and sour, my taste buds were thrilled as I savoured the treat.

"You might be out of luck Megumi, Marley is into tall guys."

" Oh, so I made like one comment Jason Momoa and how I like tall men, and now it's a requirement?" I joked as I felt my face go a little warm as I blushed.

"I'll grow." He countered, very confident that he would grow into a tall adult.

"Careful Megumi, you'll also have to go up against many admirers, it could be quiet competitive," Hana warned.

"Yep, a fan club is not far behind." Uo teased as I nearly choked on the tart I was being fed.

"Stop- that's the last thing I want," I whined as I thought of Yuki's fan club and how much of a nightmare they were.

.

Poor Yuki looks exhausted whenever he has to deal with his fan club, I don't know if I'd have that patience

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Hana, Tohru and I were walking down the hallway at school until we ran into a trio of girls who looked like they hadn't slept a week.

A girl with long black hair with ribbons in her hair stood in front of two girls from our class.

"Hello..." The girl with long black hair greeted us, looking less than happy about seeing Hana.

"...Hello." Hana said, looking just as enthused.

"Hello!" Tohru chirped while bowing her head slightly.

"Good Morning." I threw in as I smiled at the three girls.

"We blundered badly yesterday and ran off... but The Prince Yuki Fan Club will not back down!" The main girl declared, she sounded quite proud and stood tall. As she spat out the last words, she stared me down.

"umm. okay." I uttered, for some reason, I feel like I'm agreeing to a duel or something. With that said, the main girl let out a 'huff' and stormed past us.

"That's fine. Do as you like... oh and... three days from now, the curse will kick in." Hana revealed, causing the girls to stop dead in their tracks.

"Hanajima-san! Y-y-You didn't really have him put a curse on us...?" One of the girls stuttered out, a look of fear on her face.

.

A curse?

.

"Well... you'll find out in three days." Hana seemed to warn, enjoying putting the fear of God in the girls.

"You're a demon! A Demon Queen in body and mind!" They screamed as they ran away down the hall.

.

The fan club is crazy if they think they can take on Hana... but who's placing curses?

.

"Did I miss something?" I asked my two friends, hoping they would give me some insight.

Tohru looked just as lost as I was, and we turned to Hana.

"Nothing for you to worry about." She smiled and then walked into our classroom, leaving me with only more questions. Tohru smiled at me and continued into the classroom, used to her friend's mysterious ways. I was still trying to figure out what the Yuki Fan Club meant by being cursed. I small tug at my pony-tail brought me out of my daze.

"What's up with you?"

"Oh, Good Morning, Kyo." I greeted the orange-haired boy, happy to see him.

"Mornin'... so what are lookin' at?" He asked as he looked into the classroom.

"Oh, Hana's being mysterious." I quipped, informing him of the situation.

"What else is new." He said sarcastically and rolled his eyes. I couldn't help but giggle at the look on his face. Uo and Hana had a habit of teasing Kyo with every chance they got so I could see why we would be a bit... exasperated when it came to them.

"What are ya laughin' at?" He raised his eyebrow at me, and I just pointed at him, which caused him to lightly pull on my ponytail even more.

"Ok, sorry, sorry. You just looked so cute." I confessed, this only caused him to shake his head at me before turning his face to the side. I could still see his rosy cheeks and couldn't help but smile.

"Oh, it looks like Kyon-Kyon is putting the moves on Marley-Chan." One of Kyo's friend's announced, giving Kyo a thumbs up.

" Sorry Kyon, I think you gotta be at least this tall to date Marley." Uo teased as she held her hand up a few inches above the top of my head. It appeared that Kyo was a little bit shorter than I was.

"Wha- As- What are ya talking about?! I don't wanna-!" Kyo fought back as his entire face went red, and Yuki was quick to join the conversation.

"As if she would, stupid cat." Yuki spat, giving Kyo the stink eye. The class had clearly become used to the intense relationship between the cousins as no one batted an eye at Yuki's insult.

"That's it, girly boy, today's the day I -" Before Kyo could finish his sentence, Tohru interrupted him with a determined look in her eyes.

"Don't worry, Kyo-Kun, you still have time to grow!" Cheered Tohru, who was being completely serious in her encouragement. Kyo couldn't even respond and hung his head, not believing that even Tohru was now participating in his torment.

.

Poor Kyo, someone should probably stop this before it gets out of hand...

.

" Get to your seats, class is about to start." Our homeroom teacher scolded, causing all conversation to stop.

We rushed to our seats, and we settled into class. I got a text from the teacher organizing the showcase.

- How many did you want to invite to the show?-

It was a weird question to get so flustered about, but I couldn't help but panic. I didn't want to bother anyone unnecessarily by having them come to the show.

.

But it would be nice to have loved ones in the audience...

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

 

Chapter Text

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

.

Swinging back and forth, half-heartedly upside down in the silks, trusting the silks to hold my body weight with ease. The studio was decently quiet for a Sunday, which was perfect, except there were two girls present who lived to try and interrupt me every time I was getting started on something. I was supposed to be working on my routine, but I just couldn't put anything together. I hadn't even come across a song that I wanted to use. Now I had given up and was just letting the blood rush to my head. Feeling defeated, I decided to put my mind to better use. What to cook for dinner tonight.

.

Maybe I'll pick up some fish, and I can grab some vegetables for tempura...

.

"What are you doing, Marley-Senpai?" Two high-pitched voices said in perfect unison.

.

Why do they always sound so sarcastic when they say 'Senpai.'

.

I opened my eyes and looked up at the Tanaka twins from my inverted position. They had their long black hair up in a ponytail, and their bangs were swept to the right. They looked identical and even played it up by wearing matching baby pink yoga pants.

.

Those are actually kind of cute... I'll have to pick some up for myself.

.

" Oh... I was thinking about what Dadaji might want for dinner tonight..." I confessed, slightly embarrassed that I wasn't working on my routine. They had their rhythmic gymnastics routine down, and I hadn't even picked a song for mine.

"Who?" The middle schoolers asked as they raised their eyebrows at me.

"My Grandfather."

" Is he going to make it to the showcase?" They asked, a fake smile on their faces.

"No, unfortunately, he's going to-" I tried to answer but was quickly interrupted.

"What about your parents?" Ayumi on the right asked, tilting her head to the left slightly.

"Oh, they won't be there, either.." I couldn't be too upset with them because I doubted they knew that my parents had passed. It didn't mean that I didn't want to leave this conversation immediately, but my ankle was locked up in the silk, so escape was futile.

" We heard that your mother taught you." Azumi on the left mentioned, tilting her head to the right slightly.

"Hmm yeah.." I answered, wondering what they were trying to get at.

"Isn't it weird that she's not going to be there? Are you a bad student, and she doesn't want to see you mess up? Or maybe she's a lousy teacher? " Ayumi asked while clearly scanning my face for a reaction, my eye twitched as I fought to not give her a death glare.

.

They're just trying to get a reaction, don't give in.. just breathe

.

"Do you have anyone going to showcase?" They said in unison, a fake look of concern on their faces.

"Wait, I remember now. The coordinator was asking about tickets-" Ayumi started, but then Azumi picked up and finished the statement.

" and she asked if you needed any tickets and you said 'no.'" They were both smirking at me.

"So that must mean none of your friends or family want to come?" They teased in unison, leaning their faces closer to mine.

It was true that I hadn't requested any tickets, but I also hadn't asked anyone if they wanted to come. I didn't want to trouble any of them, but I don't think me telling the twins that would stop them from saying snarky. They were just trying to get under my skin... and they had been watching me when they should be focused on themselves. They need lives.

"Guten Tag!" My five foot one saviour came prancing in, smiling brightly at me and also waving at the twins who were blushing slightly at the cute boy,

"Momiji, what are you doing here?" I asked as I looked at him, hoping nothing was wrong at the Estate, no one else had ever come to the gymnasium before.

" Tetsuo-Sama sent me to pick you up." He announced, putting his hands on his hips, seeming very proud of himself.

"Did he?" I questioned, skeptical that Dadaji would ask Momiji to do that.

"No, but he said this was where you were." He revealed, giving me a cheeky smile and a peace sign. The girls had gone uncharacteristically quiet since Momiji came, their eyes didn't leave the blond boy, and their cheeks remained slightly flushed.

"Alright, let's go home, I'm not getting anything done here." I sighed as I flipped out of the inversion, hopping out of the burgundy silks. I waved goodbye to the girls, wishing them a good day, and they weakly waved back.

.

The Zodiac members are so gorgeous, it's like a superpower

.

"So, what's this showcase they're talking about?" He asked as he followed me off the gymnasium floor and towards my duffle bag.

"Oh ya, the studio director asked a bunch of people to perform. It's kind of cool because a majority of the proceeds are going to charity." I explained.

" Can I come?" He asked, looking at me with his big chocolate eyes that were hard to resist.

" That's okay, Momiji. You don't have to, it's a two-hour show, and it's in the middle of the city, and it could be super crowded-" I started babbling, but he interrupted me halfway through my reasoning.

"Please, please, please, I wanna come." He pleaded as his small soft hands grabbed my own and begged.

"You do?" Genuinely surprised that he wasn't deterred, I could feel my cheeks go a little warm and couldn't stop the smile that pulled at my lips. Leave it to Momiji to make me feel special just by showing interest in going to a simple show.

"Of course! Who else is going?" Momiji asked, not knowing that he was the only one who had any inkling about my performance. He was most likely already wanting to plan who he would carpool with. I slipped on my sneakers and threw on an oversized mauve-pink sweatshirt, tucking a little of the front into my bike shorts.

"...Want to help me to do some grocery shopping?" I asked, attempting to change the subject.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Momiji helped me carry the groceries through the Sohma Estate as we headed to my house. A few people waved and smiled as we passed, it's been almost a year since I became a Sohma, and many more people had welcomed me than what I initially thought. There were still some who couldn't accept that I was here to stay, but that was their problem.

" Why haven't you asked anyone else," Momiji asked, not wanting to let it go.

"I just.. what if I'm terrible.. or boring ...and then you're all stuck there watching my awkwardly getting trapped in the silk." My imagination at work as I thought of all the things that could go wrong. Then I remembered there would be certain people missing.

"What if I let her down..." I muttered softly, but Momiji caught it.

" Who would you let down?" He asked, tilting his head slightly.

" Mama... She taught me... and I guess I worry that someone will see me and be like 'who told her she could do this,' ' how embarrassing' or something." I confessed, getting uncomfortable, even talking about it. I had never performed in Japan, and I had none of my regular fellow dancers. I loved performing, whether it was dance or aerial silks, but the last time I had been part of a show was 2 years ago, and I felt like I had changed a lot. I liked to think I had started to move on, thanks to the loving support of my family, but I still wanted what I couldn't have.

.

I wish she were here... there's still so much she has to teach me...

.

"Your Mama and Papa are already really proud of you! And I bet that if she taught you, then you're amazing. I'll be there to cheer you even if they can't be." Momiji stated, his determination making me break into a smile.

"Thanks, Momiji. It would mean a lot to have you there. I won't let you down." I promised, realizing that I would really have to put some hard work in for the next little while. I wanted to give Momiji a show worth coming to.

" So your Mama did that silk stuff?" He asked.

"Aaho, aerial silks and a bunch of other arts. She was a bit of an acrobat, she actually used to perform in the circus." I revealed, remembering all the stories she used to tell me. Some of it sounded to be made up, but she enjoyed telling me the strange tales.

"Ah, so cool!" Momiji's eyes were just beaming, clearly excited over the new information.

"Yep, she was one of the main aerial artists, she was amazing. That's actually how she met Bapu. He was on a trip in Paris and by chance, went to the circus and bam, he was in love." I chimed, a warm feeling spread throughout my chest as I reminisced about my parents.

Mama found it embarrassing being from the circus and wished they had met differently, but Bapu was grateful he had been there when he had. Otherwise, they might have never had a chance to meet. Mama's face always got so red whenever their first encounter story was brought up.

"That's so romantic." He awed as he skipped next to me.

" I may not be able to ask her about any tips for my routine... but maybe watching her will give me some sorely needed inspiration." I thought out loud, looking up towards the blue sky.

.

Mama, you won't mind if I steal some of your moves, right?

.

"Watching her?" He asked, clearly confused as he stopped to look back at me.

"Ya, I've got lots of videos of her performances, some aren't very high quality, but maybe it'll make something click. I can show you some after dinner if you wanna watch?" I asked, even though I was pretty confident that the curious Rabbit would enjoy watching some old performance videos.

"I'd love to, let's go!" Momiji cheered before he took off running ahead of me.

"Wait up!" I laughed as I jogged behind him, trying to be careful not to jostle the groceries too much.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Placing the lightly battered brussel sprouts into the hot oil, I tried to be careful to not burn myself on any rouge oil spurts. Dinner was almost done, and I was just waiting on the last few things to finish up. I could hear Dadaji trying to teach Momiji how to play crib in the living room, every once in a while I would listen to the elder get frustrated, and the cheerful Zodiac member would just laugh it off.

I was happy enough to escape to the kitchen to cook because I could only lose to Dadaji so many times, and after Dadaji failed to rope me into playing, Momiji bravely stood up to the plate.

.

Wouldn't have thought Momiji would have enjoyed a game that involved so much strategy and numbers

.

The sizzling of the miso-glazed cod brought me out of my dreamland, and I hurried to move it around the pan to evenly cook and then started getting out plates to set the table.

"Are you looking forward to your trip, Tetsuo-Sama?" I heard Momiji ask as I bustled around the kitchen.

"It's a business trip, nothing more. It's going to be a few weeks of incompetent idiots schmoozing me, trying to butter me up by taking me to ridiculous restaurants that charge too much for a damn salad." Dadaji ranted.

I couldn't help but giggle at the comment, Dadaji had been complaining for the last few days, he wasn't one for travel, but unfortunately, he didn't trust anyone to properly attend the business meetings. I imagined if things had worked out differently, then it would be Bapu taking the business trip. Or at least he would have tagged along to help Dadaji.

" Can you bring me back a souvenir?" Momiji asked hopefully, ignoring the fact that Dadaji wasn't going to New York and Hong Kong for pleasure.

"Please, please, please!" He begged, which only made the elder groan. A vibration from my pocket made me put down the plates and rested them on the kitchen counter so I could reach for my phone.

+ New message from Tangerine Karate Kid +

.

I wonder what's up?

.

+- This makes no sense! Why is it like this?! -+

Attached to the text was a photo of what our English homework about latent letters. His finger was pointing to the world 'Island'. I shook my head and smiled, completely understanding his frustration with the English language. I remember all the headaches and snapped pencils when my family had moved to the states. I tried to text back my best answer, hoping that he would understand.

+- English can be such a nightmare! It's full of non-phonetic spelling. You're apparently not supposed to pronounce the 'S,' but I don't know why they put it there in the first place.-+

+- You are no help-+ He replied, I could just imagine him rolling his eyes.

+- Sorry -+ and I popped in a smiling face with tongue sticking out emoji, only subtly enjoying his struggle while also be sympathetic.

+- But if you want a tutor, let me know, I'd probably be more helpful in person.-+, and I finished with a simple smiley emoji.

"Marley... is something burning?" Dadaji's voice interrupted my texting, and I nearly dropped my phone. Rushing to remove the pan from the heat, I let out a breath of relief as I realized I had only burnt a small part of the tofu I had been cooking for myself.

"Sorry! Dinner's ready." I laughed as I hurriedly plated everything, leaving my phone on the kitchen counter.

.

.-.-.-.-.-

.

After dinner was cleared and everyone's bellies were filled, Marley looked through the box of home movies, taking out all the DVD's that had 'Aerial' written on the covers. Popping one in she recognized, Marley and Momiji watched as a beautiful figure in a deep red bodysuit rested in a black silk hammock. Looking as if she was sleeping until the music started, then her routine came to life.

.

Summertime, and the livin' is easyFish are jumpin', and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good-lookin'
So hush, little baby, don't you cry

.

Every movement perfectly controlled and effortless transitions, moving with grace and fluidity. The music picked up, and the woman made her way up the silks, wrapping the fabric around as she ascended. Then she dropped, spinning towards the ground. Momiji let out an audible gasp before the woman came to a pose, inches from touching the floor.

"Isn't she amazing, that's a move I'd like to do it in my routine." Marley pointed at the screen, getting more enthusiastic about her own routine. An orange cat came strolling into the living room and made himself comfy on his mother's lap. Marley was happy to give the cat a massage as he fell asleep in bliss.

"You can do that?" Momiji looked at Marley in wonder, and the girl nodded with a small blush on her cheeks, along with a proud smile.

.

Tetsuo watched as his granddaughter and her friend watched the screen, flipping through multiple performances. Marley would every once in awhile pause something and explain to the rabbit. Either about the music choice or the particular move her mother was performing.

"What brought this about?" Tetsuo asked as he stood in the doorway with his Granddaughter's phone in his hand, he had found it on the counter after mistaking it for his own.

"Oh, Marley-Chan is looking for inspiration for the showcase!" Momiji cheered, happy that he got to be part of Marley's 'artistic' process.

"Momiji!" Marley tried to hush Momiji, but it was too late. There had been another reason that she had yet to invite anyone. This action also caused Marley to stop scratching Gimli, who was not happy about that and started meowing in protest until she continued.

"Oops. Was he not supposed to know?" Momiji asked, slightly tilting his head and playing up his cuteness. Marley shook her head, knowing what he was up to.

"Showcase?" Tetsuo repeated the word, unsure of what was going on, but could tell he was not in the loop. Marley gave a guilty smile to Tetsuo, not sure how she was going to play this off.

"Are you performing in this showcase?" Her Grandfather asked, crossing his arms in the process.

"...maybe..." Marley was trying to come up with an excuse, but her mind was blank.

"Marley." Tetsuo lowered his tone, scolding his Granddaughter.

"... yes." Marley finally uttered as she looked down at her giant, fluffy orange and white cat instead of look into Tetsuo's eyes.

"And when is it?" The Sohma elder asked, ignoring Marley's vibrating phone in his hand.

"...Next Friday..." The white-blond girl confessed, subtly looking up to check her Grandfather's reaction.

" I'll still be out of town." Tetsuo sighed, and his shoulders sagged, realizing that he wouldn't be around for his Granddaughter's show. Momiji looked a little disappointed, not realizing that the Sohma Elder would still be travelling during the showcase. Marley's dance was a huge part of her life, and Tetsuo wished he could attend any event that she was a part of. He remembered his son had mentioned that both he and Chandra had felt guilty about not attending Marley's shows due to work. They regretted it, even more, when Marley got sick, and there was a possibility of her never performing again.

Now it was too late for them to cheer her on from the crowd. Too late to offer congratulations, too late to shower her with affection and praise for all the hard work she put it in.

.

"I know.. I just didn't want you feeling obligated or bad or something that you weren't going to be there." Marley was right. Tetsuo did feel bad, Marley had been pretty quiet since he brought up the trip. She hadn't even asked him to bring anything back for her. Tetsuo now figured she was on the quieter side because she was disappointed that he wouldn't be around for the showcase.

"The next time you have a show or anything, you tell me right away. I need to know, otherwise, how am I supposed to brag about you." Tetsuo teased. Marley didn't know this, but every time someone paid a compliment about Marley to him, the Sohma Elder would merely hold his head up high and say a simple, 'She's my granddaughter, what else would you expect?'.

"Aww, Tetsuo-Sama- Your such a softie." Cooed Momiji, being completely honest in his observation, but Tetsuo still felt like the young boy was teasing him.

"Shut it before I ban you." He growled as he grabbed the young boy by the ear. Tetsuo wished the boy hadn't been there for what he considered to be a private family moment.

" Maybe we should take a break and grab some an ice cream from the store for dessert," Marley suggested as an effort to break the tension while lifting Gimli up who meowed angrily as she put him down on the tatami mat. Momiji was able to hop out of Dadaji's grip and race away to the door before he could be caught again.

"I'll bring you your favourite Dadaji!" Marley promised as she headed out of the house. Tetsuo shook his head and let out a breath he had been holding. The phone in his hand vibrated again, and he looked down to see the screen light up. Tetsuo slightly narrowed his eyes, his protective side flaring up.

+- Missed call from Akito -+

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

The sun was starting to set, but the June evening was warm enough to not need a jacket. Momiji swung the insulated bag of ice cream back and forth in one hand while he held my hand in the other. Momiji had been gushing about my mother's looks and how much he saw her in me, which made me feel relieved. Maybe Mama didn't see my birth father every time she looked at me.

"So you must look like your Mother too; she's the German side, right?" I asked, realizing I had yet to meet Momiji's parents. Momiji nodded his head, a bright smile on his face.

"I have a photo!" He announced as he let go of my hand and reached into his pocket. Momiji handed me a small photo that had a picture of a blond European woman, a gentle smile on her face.

"She's beautiful Momiji, I see where you get your good looks from." I complimented, and he giggled and blushed. I continued to look at the photo, wondering if I recognized her from anywhere around the estate. Momiji was such a kind and friendly person, his parents must be good and kind people. I also assumed they were both very good looking.

"Yep, Mama and Papa met in college. She's so beautiful, I don't know how he managed to snag a woman like her." Momiji bragged about his good looking mother while also putting down his father, which I couldn't help but giggle a bit.

"And I have a little sister! Her name's Momo, and she looks exactly like Mama." He revealed, giving me a bright smile and nearly bouncing on the spot.

"Oh, you have a little sister! I bet she's adorable." I started imagining a little girl version of Momiji.

.

I'm surprised Momiji hasn't mentioned her before

.

"Ja! She's in second grade. She's spoiled rotten, and she trails after Mama like a baby chick. And her Japanese isn't that good, so she speaks in this halting way...and that's so adorable." Momiji continued to gush about his little sister, his blond hair bouncing as he moved.

.

Momiji must be an amazing big brother

.

"We should hurry home and finish, I'm sure Momo and your Mama will want you back home, or maybe we could invite them over for ice-cream," I suggested as I handed Momiji back his photo.

"Ya... that would be nice." He said softly as he looked at the photo, a small, sad smile gracing his face.

"But Mama doesn't know about me..." He trailed off, I almost thought I heard it wrong.

.

What doesn't your Mama not know about you...

.

"Momiji-Chan?" We heard a voice from above us, and I looked up to the balcony above us. A beautiful blond woman was standing there, taking the laundry off the line.

"What are you doing out so late at night." I could hear a slight accent in the woman's Japanese.

.

Momiji's Mama?

.

"Me and my friend were just out for a walk," Momiji answered, smiling up at his mother.

"Oh, you're Marley-San, Tetsuo-Sama's daughter." The woman looked me over, probably surprised to see another foreigner in the Sohma Estate.

"Oh Granddaughter, actually. Marley Sohma, It's nice to meet you" I introduced myself and bowed my head slightly. The air felt weird, something was wrong, but I couldn't place it.

.

"But Mama doesn't know about me..."

.

" Mia Sohma. And it's an honour to meet you. I can come down-." Mia started putting down her laundry and looked like she was heading inside, but I stopped her, not wanting to feel like she had to go out of her way just to introduce herself properly.

" No, that's okay. Please don't trouble yourself... " I then noticed a small figure peeking around the woman's figure. Her little fingers clinging onto the woman's dress. Large light brown eyes looked from me to Momiji, looking thoughtful as she leaned out further, her short light brown swaying in the breeze slightly.

"Momo, why don't you introduce yourself." Mia cooed to the small child, encouraging her to come out of hiding.

The little girl looked at me, and I sent her a small smile and waved. She blushed a little and stepped back behind her mother.

"Sorry, she's shy." Apologized the beautiful woman as she smiled softly down at us.

" That's alright. I was shy at her age too." I assured Mia, although I wished I could just bring the little girl into a hug, she was as adorable as Momiji said.

"Don't stay out too late, Momiji-Chan ...I'm sure your mother will worry," Mia stated, and I felt my heart come to a stop at her words.

.

"But Mama doesn't know about me..."

.

"It's okay, I'm just walking Marley-Chan home, and then I'm going home," Momiji explained as he gave a broad smile, not missing a beat in the conversation.

" Get home safely, you two. C'mon Momo, we should get you ready for bed." And she took her laundry basket inside and was gone. Little Momo looked at us as she was ushered inside.

I stood there, staring up at the now-empty balcony. Momiji wrapped his fingers around my t-shirt and started walking, pulling me along. He was talking about having to apologize to his father about being seen, but I was still stuck on what Momiji's mother had said.

.

"Don't stay out too late...I'm sure your mother will worry."

.

Momiji dragged me through the Estate, and I could barely acknowledge the other people moving past me, I heard a few of their greetings, but I felt frozen, I didn't know what to say. I could feel my heart cracking as I put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Once we walked through the small gates to the inner part of the Estate, I finally came to a halt, causing Momiji to stop at well. He looked up at me with his large chocolate brown eyes that held so much pain. Longing.

"Momiji..." I finally voiced, so many thoughts and questions running through my mind that I wasn't sure where to start. The young boy turned away from me and chose to face the ground instead, his shoulders sagged as he stood.

"Yeah... like I said... Mama doesn't know about me... or more like she forgot. Her memories were erased. Now Mama thinks I'm the son of some other Sohma." He confessed, his eyes not leaving the dirt.

.

Momiji's mother... doesn't know about him...

.

"Did you know... that children possessed by spirits are born two months early?" He explained as he kneeled down and placed the bag from the store on the ground.

" Can you imagine meeting and falling in love. Getting married and you have a baby... but when you finally get to cradle that child... it turns into a strange baby animal." Momiji continued as he used his finger to start drawing in the dirt.

"I wonder about the depths of despair a mother of such a child would feel. In many cases, the mother of a cursed child either becomes extremely overprotective or rejects her offspring." The ordinarily cheerful boy explained.

.

Rejects...

.

"In my case, Mama rejected me," Momiji revealed, and I felt my body go into shock. I could only stare at the dirt Momiji was doodling in as I felt my lips tremble.

"She rejected me with every fibre of her being. She refused to look at me. Even so, she was always on edge...and often screamed hysterically. Looking back... I figure she was emotionally broken. Like Kana..." I only knew a little about the Kana situation, but I knew she was Hatori's old love and that she had recently got married to another man. Akito had blamed Kana for Hatori losing most of his sight in one of his eyes.

.

I had no idea that Kana had been so emotionally distraught over the situation... that's why Hatori let her go

.

"Papa told me that Mama's condition was so bad that the only way to help her was for her to forget about me... and so I was scrubbed from Mama's memory. She got better after that. Two months later, she was smiling again. I hope I was able to help Mama." Momiji stated, being completely honest when he wished happiness for his mother. My long nails were digging into my palms as clenched my hands.

.

Momiji... he's been watching from a distance... his mother is right there and he... can't

.

"I didn't want her to forget about me... I want to believe that.. that not a single memory should be forgotten. I didn't want her to give up.. but this is just. me being selfish." He confessed as he stopped drawing in the dirt and just rested his arms and head on his knees. Curling up in almost a protective position.

.

Momiji had been robbed of the love of a mother... all because of ... this curse

.

Mama hadn't been perfect, but she loved me with everything and made sure she knew that I was loved, that I was precious to her and was her world. She taught me and wanted to protect me from everything. Even when I got sick, she wanted to do everything in her power to save me, and now she's gone. But Momiji's mother, she's still alive, she's...

"She's right there..." I choked out, tears falling down my cheeks and off my chin. I knew I wouldn't have been able to let go of Mama, even if I knew she might have been happier or better without me, I would have held on. Yet they asked a young boy to be okay with having his mother being removed from his life.

.

To live a lie...Momiji thinks' he's being selfish just for wanting his mother to fight for him

.

"Marley-Chan-" Momiji started but was interrupted when I wrapped my arms around and held him tightly till smoke erupted, and I was instead cradling his soft rabbit form.

"It's not... that's not...It's not selfish." I started, trying to form the words I wanted him to hear.

"Mar-"

"You deserve to have her, you deserve to have a mother who loves you. A mother who would fight anything in this world to be with you. A mother who is as strong if not stronger than you are. Momiji! You deserve all the love in the world that she should have given you." I cried, my tears wetting his yellow fur.

.

Mama and Bapu may be gone, but they loved me with everything and gave me everything they could.. Bapu, who loved me like I was his own daughter.. they're gone, but I still carry the love they had with me, in my memories... Momiji's Mama ... she chose to leave him..to have his very existence wiped from her mind... she is right there and he... all he can do it watch in secret... wishing

.

" I love you, Momiji. You are so loved." I told him as I pulled away so I could look at him, tears were falling down his little rabbit face.

"I love you too, Marley-Chan." Momiji hiccupped, and I held him close once more. The sun was starting to disappear, and the lamp posts began to light up.

"... Marley-Chan... Can I sleepover tonight?" He asked into my shoulder, I hummed and nodded, cuddling him close in one arm while I gathered his clothes and then picked up the bag with our ice cream in it. We would need it.

.

I really don't know anything about the Zodiac member's parents. I know Kisa and Hiro's... and now I know Momiji's... Zuzu said she has a strained relationship with her parents...

.

Momiji's words rang in my head, like a broken record.

.

"In many cases, the mother of a cursed child either becomes extremely overprotective or rejects her offspring."

.

I was only reminded how lucky I had been to have Mama and Bapu, who I know would have loved any child, cursed or not. They had been kind and loving parents, and I was becoming increasingly aware that these traits might be rarer than I wanted to admit. Every child deserves someone to love them unconditionally.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.

.

The Sohma elder zipped up his suitcase, his assistant and chauffeur were waiting in the car to drive him to the airport. The early morning sun lighting up the house as he moved through the hallway.

"You have to go to Marley's showcase and make sure to take a video. A good quality one. And flowers, make sure she gets flowers." Tetsuo ordered to the doctor who would be 'babysitting' his granddaughter.

"Of course. And we'll take Marley out for a nice dinner after if she's up for it." Promised Hatori as he followed the over-protective increasingly doting grandfather.

"I told Satsuki-Chan to check on her as well." Tetsuo mentioned, Hiro's mother had taken quite the shine to Marley and Tetsuo had actually appreciated Marley having a mother-type figure around, even if Satsuki was a bit of a ditz, she was a good mother.

"Careful, Satsuki-San might try to adopt Marley as her own while you're gone.." Hatori said in his normal serious voice, but it seemed to be an attempt at teasing.

.

"Where is Marley? I thought she would be up to see you off," Hatori asked, he knew the young girl was an early riser, so it seemed strange to not see her up and about.

"The rabbit slept over, so they probably stayed up late watching some cartoon. " Tetsuo sighed, only a little disappointed that Marley hadn't woken up yet.

Tetsuo softly opened the door to Marley's room, careful to not wake the sleeping teens. Marley and Momiji were comfortable asleep under Marley's yellow and white polka dot duvet. Momiji's soft snores filling the room as Marley slept silently until she rustled a bit and turned over, her hand hanging over the side of the bed.

" They came back last night from the supermarket, and they both looked like they had been crying..." The Sohma Elder mentioned as he tried to go over in his head that he had all he needed for the trip.

" Did you ask why they had been crying?" Asked the doctor, slightly curious himself. Tetsuo shook his head and was about to close the door, but a light voice interrupted him.

.

"Dadaji?" Marley was sitting upright in the bed, rubbing one of her eyes. Tetsuo approached her and sat on the bed. Momiji stayed asleep and even curled into the blankets more, cuddling a small pillow.

"Are you leaving for the airport?" She asked softly, looking at him, and even with the low light seeping through the curtains, Tetsuo could see the concern in her eyes.

"Yes, the car's waiting for me." He confirmed but he didn't rush out. The car would leave when he was ready, not the other way around.

"I'll walk you out." She pushed as she moved to try and get up, but Tetsuo only grabbed her shoulders to stop her.

"No, go back to sleep." Tetsuo insisted, patting her shoulders lightly.

"But-"

Tetsuo wrapped his large arms around the girl, embracing the girl tightly. It startled the young girl a bit. She was normally the one to initiate hugs, so it seemed strange to be the recipient instead. Marley returned the hug and held on just as tightly, wishing that her grandfather didn't have to leave.

" I'll call to check-in, try not to burn down the house while I'm away. No parties." He said as he pulled away and looked Marley in the eyes. She smiled and tried to stop herself from yawning as she promised that she would throw no 'huge' parties. Tetsuo only rolled his eyes and then looked down at the young boy in the bed who was still sound asleep. The Elder was grateful that Marley wouldn't be lonely while he was gone.

The young bronzed skin beauty had become a treasured member of the Sohma family, and this was made evident by the continuous flow of people who wanted to be around her. Marley's kind and warm nature was hard to resist for many of the Sohma's, and she loved them as they loved her. Tetsuo almost wished she wasn't as trusting and kind as she was because Marley had yet to learn of the darkness that surrounded the family, he prayed she never would.

"You should know that Hatori will also be coming over to check on you, so maybe try to cause him a bit of trouble," Tetsuo suggested, which made Marley giggle softly.

"Have a good trip. I love you..." She told him, grasping his hand, her large amethyst eyes were still not fully awake, but she was trying to hide it.

"I will... I love you too." Tetsuo finally coughed out and gave her hand a squeeze, the words sounding foreign on his tongue, but he was trying to get used it. He hadn't said it enough in his lifetime. Tetsuo rose from the bed and placed a soft kiss on top of Marley's head and then made it way out of the room, carefully closing the door behind him.

Tetsuo started thinking of what he might be able to bring back as a souvenir, make the business trip at least a little worth it.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

The long Monday was finally winding down, and a makeshift family sat around the table, enjoying dinner, a small summer breeze blowing from the porch.

"Guten Abend!" Momiji burst into Shigure's home, surprising the household.

Kyo groaned, not having the energy to deal with his bubbly blond cousin. He felt like he got enough of his cousins at school and didn't feel like he should have to see them more than he already did. Momiji had already bothered him when he came by the classroom to eat lunch with Marley, taking up most of her attention and hanging off her like a leech.

Kyo doesn't know why it pissed him off so much, it just did.

.

"Why the hell are ya here... AND HOW DID YOU GET IN?!" Yelled Kyo, not in the mood for any of the Rabbit's energy.

"The front door was unlocked!" Momiji cheered and throwing up a peace sign, very proud of his answer.

"That doesn't mean you can just bust in!" Kyo argued, moving to grab Momiji and brought him into a headlock.

"Momiji-Kun! Would you like some dinner?" Tohru tried to rescue her small friend, but her suggestion only made Kyo snap at her.

"Don't give him food!" He hissed, which caused Yuki telling him to be quiet, which only started another fight, and the brunette felt at a loss at what to do.

"Yes, please!" Momiji piped up to Tohru's question while still in the headlock, Kyo groaned and finally let him go, choosing to just quickly finish his dinner so he could escape to the roof for some peace and quiet.

.

"It's always a joy to see you, Momiji, but may I ask what we owe this surprise to?" Shigure asked before he popped a piece of teriyaki stir fry into his mouth.

"I brought a gift! Or maybe I should say gifts." Momiji said as Tohru placed some food in front of him, and he thanked her before revealing what the gift was.

"Tickets to Marley-Chan's show spectacular!" Momiji brought out a bright yellow envelope that had cartoon bunny rabbits on it. Shigure took the envelope and opened it, fishing out four tickets. There was one for everyone in the household.

"Marley-Chan's in a show?!" Tohru exclaimed, stars in her eyes as she got excited.

"Yep, she's performing in a showcase! She's gonna be flying from the ceiling!" Momiji explained, exuding excited from his tiny body.

"Hah?!" Kyo exhaled, trying to figure out what the Rabbit was trying to say.

.

"And I'm also gonna get tickets for Haru, Isuzu, Kagura, Kisa and Hiro! Harii's coming too!" Momiji could barely sit long enough to eat the dinner that was placed in front of him. His entire body vibrating, he was genuinely excited to see his friend doing something she loved. Momiji had seen Marley dance a few times, but this would be completely new.

"Count me out..." Groaned Kyo, this just sounded like a nightmare. It was probably going to be crowded, and if all his cousins were going to be there, then he was guaranteed to get a headache. Kyo definitely wanted to avoid Kagura at all costs.

"But Marley-Chan's gonna be amazing!" Insisted Momiji, knowing that he couldn't let anyone miss out on such an opportunity. He also wanted as many people as possible to show up for his dear friend.

"That's so exciting! I can't wait!" Gushed Tohru, feeling honoured that she was invited to the event.

" Does Marley-San know that we're all coming?" Yuki asked, this sounded like a bad idea to him, he wondered if Marley even wanted them there. But even Yuki couldn't deny that he was curious about what Momiji meant when he said that she would 'fly from the ceiling,' what kind of show was Marley involved in?

"Nope! It's gonna be a surprise." Momiji said, bringing a finger to his lips, looking forward to the look on Marley's face when her family was there to support her.

.

.-.-.-.-.-

.

Music played as two young women bonded over new experiences. Marley lightly dusted Akito's cheek in a rouge blush, nearly finished with her 'vampy' makeup look. The head of the Zodiac had been more curious about makeup after seeing Marley in so many different lip colours and how glitter seemed to shine from her cheekbones every once in a while, finally gaining the courage to ask Marley to do her own makeup.

The adopted Sohma had immediately said yes and even went to the department store to buy Akito her own foundation and concealer because Marley's complexion was a lot darker than Akito's pale porcelain skin.

"Close your eyes, please." Akito did as she was told, and Marley started carefully lining Akito's lash line with a thin black eyeliner, winging it out slightly. Marley fanned her hand a bit to her friend's face so that the eyeliner could dry quickly.

Say nighty-night and kiss me
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me
While I'm alone and blue as can be
Dream a little dream of me

The kind beauty then instructed her friend to open her eyes and Marley started carefully brushing mascara on Akito's lashes. Halfway through a stroke of the mascara, Marley got an idea in her head and turned to the notepad resting beside her, jotting down things now and then, curious dark eyes gazing down at the scribbles.

"What are you doing?" Akito asked, wanting to know what had been so important to stop Marley mid-brush.

"Hmmm? Oh, sorry, I just wanted to jot something down before I forgot." The white-blond teen explained, giving Akito an apologetic smile.

She gestured again to the notepad, Marley could see her squinting to try and read it, but the scribbles were a mix of English and Sanskrit words.

.

"The song I originally picked for my routine just isn't working, so I'm looking for a new one, and I'm trying to think of what tricks I want to use," Marley explained as she returned to putting mascara on Akito.

"You seem to be working on this a lot... What is it for?" Akito asked, raising her eyebrow skeptically without moving her face too much.

"... It's actually for a routine that's going to be in a showcase." Marley revealed, looking through her makeup bag and finally brought out something in a small spray bottle.

"Showcase? You're going to be performing?" Akito was a little shocked that this was the first she had heard about it. Marley took a breath and decided to be brave.

"Yes, and if not too much trouble, I'd like you to come." Marley invited Akito, wanting her friend to be part of the evening.

"You... you want me to come to your show?" Akito asked, a little unsurely. She had never been a dance show or any theatre production. She found leaving the Estate troublesome and didn't like dealing with the outside world, but Marley always seemed to try and push her boundaries.

Akito watched as Marley's expression faltered a bit, but she kept a smile on her face.

"Yeah, if you don't want to that fine, I don't want to pres-" Marley started to ramble as she waved her hands.

"I'll go." Akito interrupted Marley, wanting that sad look in her eyes to go away immediately.

"Really?! Thank you, I'm so happy that you'll be there." Marley reached her arms around Akito and gave her a tight squeeze, excited that her friend was coming.

She pulled away and asked Akito to close her eyes while holding the bottle to her face.

"When is it?" Akito asked while Marley spritzed some finishing spray on her face, giving off a dewy finish. This also caused Akito to get a small mouthful of the product that had a bit of a lavender smell, and she coughed a little. Marley tried not to laugh and apologized. Marley then brought out a small pink sponge and started dabbing at Akito's face, blending her makeup out once again.

"Um, not this Friday but next Friday," Marley explained as she looked through her makeup bag again. Her showcase was a little less than two weeks away, and she really needed to buckle down and get it done.

"... and you haven't even picked a song yet?" Akito asked, trying not to smirk, but she knew that Marley had a bad habit of leaving things to last minute and couldn't help but laugh a little.

"No.. but that just means I'm going to be really working my butt off for the next little while... OH! Akito, why don't you pick a song?" Marley suggested, looking at Akito like she had just had a brilliant idea.

"Me?" Akito's mouth dropped open.

"Yes! Please? I could really use your help. I'm so indecisive I'll never decide. There's so many to pick from." Marley slightly whined she had been exhausted by looking through her music library, there were so many that she wanted to use but couldn't commit to one.

" What should I pick?" Akito asked as Marley brought out a few lipsticks and looked back and forth between them as she tried to decide which one to use.

"Whatever you feel like. Something that has oomph. But not too fast. Mama always used Jazz, so maybe I should try something different?" Marley was really curious about what Akito would suggest. Their music tastes were surprisingly similar, the only difference being Akito really couldn't stand rap.

.

"Okay, now just a touch of red..okay now smack your lips together...Akito, you're such a babe." Marley gushed as she grabbed a mirror so Akito could look for herself. She stared into the reflection, her hand coming up to slightly touch her face.

" I ... I look like my mother." Akito put the mirror face down but glared at the object.

"Well, your mother must be very beautiful then." Marley meant it as a compliment, but Akito turned away from her. Marley was only reminded me of how little she knew about the Sohma's and their relationships with their parents.

"She's a whore..." Akito spat, and Marley had to stop herself from scolding Akito. Marley barely knew anything about Akito's mother, she knew that Akito thought well of her father. He had been kind and had loved Akito very much, but Akito's mother had been a mystery except for the snippets she got now and then. And none of them had been kind.

The white-blond teen was reminded of Momiji's mother, who 'rejected' her son for being in the zodiac and wondered if Akito's mother had rejected her, even though she doesn't turn into a zodiac animal. Marley also knew that Akito's mother had wanted her to be raised as a boy but couldn't understand why.

Marley had noticed a few things when it came to Akito that were questionable. When they had met, Akito had an apparent distaste for anything feminine. Calling a lot of 'girly' things silly, stupid etc. It made Marley wonder where this came from and who. But with time, the young woman also noticed that Akito would look at her with curiosity when Marley was online shopping and even started showing Akito's dresses that she thought would look nice on the black-haired beauty. Akito soon would point out clothes she liked, and to Marley's surprise, it was a lot of modest dresses and long pleated skirts, was drawn continuously to soft and baby blue fabrics and even the odd floral pattern. Akito was showing interest in 'girly' things but felt like she couldn't allow herself to actually be feminine.

She had been raised by women for the most part, from her great-grandmother, her mother and her mother's co-workers in Vegas. She was raised by a village of women.. and her father figure, Yuuto, of course.

Marley smiled, thinking back at all times she spent in the dressing room at her mother's workplace. The bright costumes, the sequins, the line of vanity mirrors, the mess of makeup, hair accessories, costume jewelry. Her mother's fellow performers all fawning over Marley, asking what was new, if she was dating anyone, what she was learning in her dance classes. The girls of the dressing room always had something to say, whether it be offering advice on make-up, dance or even the practice of self-love.

They were all confident, strong women who Marley felt lucky to know and who's friendship and guidance she wouldn't trade for anything. Where was Akito's positive female influence?

"Akito... do you want to start dressing like a girl? Or are you happy having people think you're a man." Marley asked, genuinely curious but also wanting Akito to live her life the way she wanted to.

"It's never been anyway else... I was raised to be like this." Akito shrugged, not really giving an answer.

"Yes, but are you happy pretending to be a man?" Marley asked the loaded question.

She shrugged as she picked up the mirror again to look.

.

"Do I look pretty?" She asked as she looked at her reflection. Marley smiled softly and took the mirror away.

"You look beautiful, Akito, with or without makeup." Marley complimented Akito, hoping that her friend could feel a little more confident. Akito's cheek warmed up a bit, and Marley could see her red cheeks even through the make-up.

"But the make-up's fun, isn't it?" She chimed in, and Akito tried not to smile back, but it was hard to hide from her friend.

"It's okay.. a little itchy," Akito complained as she lightly scratched her cheek. Marley laughed a little, understanding the complaint.

"Eh, you get used it." Marley shrugged as she handed Akito a make-up wipe, offering her a chance to clean it all off.

"I can keep it on for a while..besides I should start looking for a song for you," Akito mentioned as she waved off the make-up wipe and got up to grab her laptop.

"Great! Let's get started. I really do appreciate the help Akito." Marley thanked Akito, grateful that choosing a song was no longer on her shoulders.

"Well, if I'm going to attend, then you might as well use a song I like." Akito huffed as she opened her music player and started browsing through her library. Akito was thrilled that she had been trusted to pick a song for her friend but didn't want to show it. Marley could only smile, enjoying that Akito seemed to be enjoying herself as they went through her music late into the night.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

 

Chapter Text

-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

.

"Ish!" I squeaked out when I felt a the measuring tape tighten around my chest, the feeling surprised me more than it hurt.

"Ooopsie, sorry about that." Ayame laughed as he released me from the tape and then wrote down some notes.

"I wish I had more time; I could make you something really spectacular." Ayame sighed as he put away his supplies and continued to write down some things in his notebook. He now had my measurements, and I told him what I needed in terms of cut and flexibility and what colour silks I was using in my performance. The rest would be up to him.

" I'm just happy you're doing this at all, Ayame. Thank you so much." I told him as he took a seat on the couch, releasing his hair out of a braid and letting it flow. As I sat next to him, he took my hands in his and held them to his chest.

"No. This was destiny. It's only natural that this would happen as our fates have been intertwined. I am your loyal seamstress, my sweet muse-" Ayame's 'charming' speech was cut short by a book being thrown across the room to hit the poor Snake in the head. Hatori just returned to his own business as his desk, ready to intervene further if needed.

The whole reason I was in this position in the first place was that none of my show bodysuits fit anymore, and my torso was too long for any of the bodysuits sold in stores around Tokyo.

.

Also, I could barely breath or move

.

"Well now that I have your measurements I'll be sure to make some real Ayame Original designs that will have the entire world in astonishment, we will make the world weep with our union, your gorgeous figure and my-"

"Ayame... enough," Hatori scolded, ready to throw his cousin out the door.

"Ah Tori-San, sorry, got a little ahead of myself." Ayame sang as he smiled at his friend. Hatori shook his head as he slouched at his desk, exhausted and ready for bed even though it was still light out. I couldn't help but laugh at the two, I really needed this little bit of fun after my interaction with one of the Sohma Elders, who was not a fan of me.

Before I headed over to Hatori's office to meet up with Ayame, I wished Momiji a good violin lesson, and he gave me a kiss on the cheek before he ran off. I had become used to the gesture and just waved him goodbye as he left. Before I knew It was grabbed by the shoulder and forced to face the angry beady eyes of Ino Sohma.

The elderly woman was stronger than she appeared as she had squeezed my arm and scolded me for being too openly affectionate with male members in the open. I tried to stand my ground and told her that Momiji was a close friend, and we were hardly doing anything incriminating. Ino wasn't taking it and took a shot at me that racked my entire being.

.

" You bring shame to this family, don't fool yourself into thinking that an outsider like you could be one of us."

.

That particular Sohma Elder was always the outspoken one, I had met other elders, and they either didn't have a problem with me or decided to talk behind my back instead. I wasn't sure what I preferred. Dadaji told me not to worry about their opinions, but I couldn't help but want to prove to them that I loved the Sohma family and would do anything for them. The last thing I wanted was to bring shame, but I wasn't going to stop being affectionate with my friends.

Ayame's voice brought me back to the present.

" How is your routine coming along, Marley-Kun?" Ayame asked, as far as I knew it was only him, Hatori and Momiji, and Akito, who knew about my showcase. There were other people I wanted to invite, but I didn't want to bother anyone... and I was still nervous about performing again.

"It's coming together, I finally have a song, and I've gotten a lot of good ideas from Mama, and one of the coach's at the gymnasium is helping me put it all together," I explained. After I was done here I was planning on heading to the gymnasium to keep working on it, I'd probably be there late again, but I wanted to put as much time as I could into it.

It was Wednesday afternoon, I felt like a timer had started and I didn't have enough time to get everything done before next Friday. It was crunch time, and I really couldn't waste energy, especially on people who wanted to bring me down.

.

I'm talking about you, Ino Sohma

.

" If there's anything I can do to return the favour, please let me know." I insisted before I took a sip of the English breakfast tea Ayame had been kind enough to make me. Apparently, it was quite the honour as he boasted that he only made tea for a few people.

"Well, if the modelling is out of the question.." Ayame started but was quickly shot down.

"It is," Hatori interjected before Ayame could even finish causing a small laugh to escape my lips.

"Then maybe a song and have Hatori bring out Tou-Nii's guitar." Ayame proposed confidently.

"Absolutely not," Hatori simply put, but I was already nodding my head, agreeing to the request.

"Sure." I smiled, looking forward to Hatori on guitar.

" Perfect. Well, let's go, chop-chop." Ayame announced as he clapped his hands as he was a king at court.

"I said no..." Hatori insisted, not moving from his desk.

"Please, Hatori. You look so good with the guitar, and I need you to play. " I encouraged him as I gave him a smile, eager for him play guitar again.

"... Fine. Just a moment." Hatori sighed as he got up and left the room.

"So it's true. Tori-San really can't say no to you." Ayame pointed out.

"Oh, I don't know about that. Hatori is just a very kind person." I insisted as I waved my hands.

"That he is." Ayame agreed with me as he smiled softly down at his tea, a soft loving gaze in his eyes as we spoke highly of the overworked doctor.

Hatori soon returned with Bapu's guitar case in hand, he laid it down and opened it with care, gently taking the old guitar out and sitting himself down on the couch. Hatori nodded at me, and I smiled back.

"Any requests, Ayame?" I asked the silver-haired man who looked like he was lounging like a king on the couch.

"Surprise me!" He cheered as he got ready to be serenaded. I was sure he would just rather have Hatori sing and play guitar to him, but there was only so much one could push the Dragon to do. I took in Ayame and his golden eyes, thinking up a song on the spot.

I moved beside Hatori and whispered in his ear, making sure he was familiar with the song I was thinking of. He nodded, and we both got comfortable, he plucked a few strings while looking perfectly serene holding the guitar. I took a small breath and then let the words slip through.

Once there was a way
To get back homeward

Once there was a way
To get back home

Sleep, pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Ayame looked as if he had stars in eyes as he watched, though his eyes seemed to be glued to Hatori. I couldn't blame him, Hatori looked good with that guitar.

Golden slumbers
Fill your eyes
Smiles await you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling
Do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Hatori played perfectly while I did my best to not ruin the performance that Ayame had requested. It didn't feel like it was enough of a thank you, but Ayame looked thrilled as he sat across from us. When he finished, he jumped up and started clapping enthusiastically.

"Bravo! Magnifique! Stupendous! Encore! Encor-" Ayame was abruptly cut off by the sliding being violently thrown open. A maid from the main house stood there, looking at us with disapproving eyes.

" Hatori-San, Akito-Sama has a fever. He needs you right away." She demanded as she stared at the doctor.

Hatori let out a sigh and put the guitar away carefully and gathered everything he would need for the doctors' visit.

" Can I trust you two not to get yourselves into any trouble?" The tired Dragon asked as he looked to the two of us.

"I make no promises!" Ayame jested as he held up his cup of tea, which made Hatori slightly nervous and annoyed all in one.

" Tell Akito I say Hi, Hope everything's okay," I mentioned and he nodded at me before he left. I made a note to try and make a simple soup for Akito if she was feeling up for something to eat.

"Poor Hatori... he works so hard." I sighed once he was once out of sight, Ayame agreed with me as both sat down to finish our tea.

" I'll have to make a request for next time. I always enjoyed it when they played." Ayame mentioned before he took another sip of English tea.

"They?" I asked, curious about who he was speaking of.

"Tori-San and Tou-Nii-San," Ayame explained, bringing up my Bapu again.

"Tou-Nii-San certainly had his way with people. He could understand people's feelings like I never could. He always knew what to do to make someone feel special." Ayame said softly as he gave me a gentle smile.

.

Bapu, you really are missed, I wish you were here

.

"I'm sure seeing Bapu and Hatori play together was something special." I sighed as I smiled at Bapu's guitar case, really wishing I had seen them play together. The more time I spent on with the Sohma's, the more I learned how involved Bapu had been before he moved away.

" But seeing you see alongside him is something special too." Ayame encouraged as patted my head. I felt a small blush on my cheeks, embarrassed over the small compliment.

" I should head out, still have a lot to work on." I mentioned as I finished up my cup of tea.

"Don't work too hard now." Ayame waved as I picked up my bag and slung it over my shoulder.

"Oh, and Ayame. You have a way of making people feel special too. Thanks again for taking the time for me. Whatever you make me is going to be perfect, I just know it." I mentioned as I gave him a bright smile before I left, jogging out of the Sohma estate and to the gymnasium for aerial practice.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Thursday morning came before I knew it. I had stayed late at the gymnasium, too late, and I hadn't gotten home till past midnight, Sousuke-San promised not to tell anyone, and I made a mental note to make him something to thank him for putting up with me and the late-night pickups.

Currently, I couldn't even think about to do for him because, as of right now, I was very late for school. I had woken up right at the time I was supposed to meet up with Haru and Momiji to head to class, but I texted Momiji to go without me.

Rushing around the house, I tried to get everything together. I thought I had everything as I was about to put on my shoes and then realized I was missing something.

"Socks!" I muttered as I put down my bag by the door and rushed upstairs, cursing myself for being such a scatterbrain this morning.

What else could possibly go wrong this morning?

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Saffron eyes glared at the empty desk in front of him. Class had already started, and Kyo was aggravated towards the missing girl. A few other students commented on the exotic girl's absence but voiced that she was probably just late. It was odd. Marley was usually first in the classroom, and if there were days that she was skipping, she would text him asking to tell her about the homework before the day even started. And Kyo hadn't received any texts from the white-blonde.

Kyo carefully brought out his phone and quietly tapped on his phone to send a text, eyes constantly glancing up to check that the teacher hadn't noticed.

+- Where the hell r u?+-

Kyo sent it and stuck the phone back in his pocket and waited for it to vibrate. And he waited... and waited.

Kyo's foot started tapping his foot impatiently. He wasn't worried, not at all. Just annoyed because now he didn't know if he was supposed to grab her homework or not.

+- You better not be dead in the street some- Kyo gritted his teeth as soon as he typed the text and backspaced immediately. He didn't want to even joke about that.

+- At least let me know if you need notes or something -+ He sent off the text and again, waited for a response.

.

His phone didn't go off all class, and his mood didn't improve either. Especially with others picking up on his edgier than usual attitude. By the end of the 2nd period, Yuki had enough and decided to speak up.

"What is wrong with you? Stop tapping your foot, you're annoying everyone." Yuki spat at his cousin, annoyed that they were even remotely related.

"Shut up, ya damn rat boy!" The already aggravated boy spat back, his hair standing on end.

"He's worried..." Hanajima decided to pipe up, giving a small wave report.

"I Am NOT!" Kyo denied, not wanting to be teased more than he already was.

" Kyo Sohma must be wondering where Marley Sohma is..." Hanajima revealed, enjoying watching the boy squirm under her watchful eyes. It was entertainment for the dull day.

"Shut it." Kyo hissed, ready to jump out the window if need be. He really didn't see why everyone was on his case today.

"Aww, poor Kyon!" Uotani decided to join in, always happy to tease the carrot top

"All of you need to back off!" Kyo was already up and stomping towards the door with his bag slung over his shoulder.

"Ah, Kyo-Kun? Where are you going?" Tohru panicked as she watched her friend slide open the classroom door.

"The HELL OUTTA HERE!" The temperamental boy yelled, slamming the door behind him.

Kyo stomped his way down the hall, only stopping quickly to change shoes at his cubby. Soon he was off the school grounds and was making his way to give the missing girl hell.

.

"Damn.. this is stupid. Making me all... have to go all the way there. She's the one who makes me get the damn phone, and she can't even answer it." He grumbled as he waited for the light to turn red so he could cross the road, stuffing his hands into his pocket and glaring at the ground.

"Mommy, that man is talking to himself." a little boy pointed at Kyo while he tugged on his mother's sleeve.

Kyo only hissed at the kid, making the mother and the kid move away awkwardly. Kyo felt more and more uneasy, the more he walked, and the longer his phone went without receiving a text back.

After walking for what felt like forever, he came to the familiar tree he had gotten used to scaling and quickly hopped down to the other side of the wall. Stomping his way through the garden path and up to the porch, sliding open the porch door and marching into the house.

"Oi! What's the big idea! YA CAN'T ANSWER A DAMN TE-" Kyo yelled as he went through the house only to go speechless at an odd sight.

"... oh... Hi Kyo!" Marley greeted as she looked up at him, smiling as if nothing was wrong.

"Don't 'Hi Kyo' me! WHAT ARE YOU DOING SITTING ON THE FLOOR AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STAIRS!?" The boy yelled as he pointed down at her, enraged that she had just been hanging out while he worried about her. Which he would deny. He only left school because everyone was annoying him, or that that's what he told himself.

"umm... I may have kinda... slightly... slipped and now it sort of... hurts to walk..." Marley nervously revealed while she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

"You fell down the stairs?" Kyo let out a sigh, trying to figure out how someone who was a dancer could be as clumsy to fall down the stairs in their own home.

"Well... yes... but it's really not that bad." Marley nervously laughed, trying to play it off as not as bad as it felt.

Kyo then looked down to notice Marley's left ankle was a little red and slightly swollen.

"Dammit... why didn't you text me or call anyone?! Is Hatori on his way?" Kyo asked as he tried not to raise his voice, wondering how long she had sitting her alone and in pain.

.

"My phones in my bag by the door..plus I'm sure once I sit down for a while, I'll be fine." Marley insisted, waving off the pain she felt whenever she moved.

Kyo brought out his phone and was about to make the call when Marley reached and grabbed his pant leg.

"Please! I don't want to bother him, He spent the whole night looking after Akito, he must be exhausted." Marley begged, making Kyo pause before he pushed the call button.

"Where's the old man?" Kyo asked, looking around as if the Sohma Elder was just going to appear at being mentioned.

"On a business trip.." Marley sighed as she looked down at the ground, fiddling with one of the rings she wore on her left hand.

"I'm calling Hatori." Kyo decided as he went to make the call but was interrupted again.

"I'm fine!' Marley said stubbornly as she tried to get up only to wince and fall back down.

"You can't even get up. You are not fine," Kyo scolded, not believing how in-denial the girl was being.

" I will be... I just need to rest it a bit, some ice maybe, Hatori's got enough on his plate, and I don't want to add to it with something so stupid. Please don't call him." Marley begged as she stared up at Kyo from the bottom stair with her large light purple eyes, long eyelashes fluttering.

"...Fine..." Kyo gave in as he looked to the side, his hand coming up to hide his slightly flushed cheeks. This girl was going to be the death of him, he was sure of it.

" Thank you, I'm sorry you had to check on me, why don't you just go back to school." Marley offered as she relaxed a bit, giving Kyo a small smile.

" You idiot, I'm here now. No point in going back. C'mon, let's at least get ya away from the stairs.." Kyo groaned as he rolled his eyes and reached for her elbow, easily lifting her up. Despite the fact she was taller than Kyo, she seemed to weigh nothing to the boy.

Kyo helped her to sit on the floor in the living room. Kyo grabbed a zaisu chair so it would be more comfortable and grabbed a few floor pillows to help elevate Marley's ankle.

Marley looked like she wanted to ask something but kept to herself till Kyo demanded that she 'spill it.'

"umm.. do you mind grabbing my phone?" She asked, and Kyo just grabbed her school bag by the door and sat it beside her and then he went straight for the freezer to grab an ice pack for Marley's swollen ankle...

"Dammit, you don't have any ice packs..I'll be back. Don't move!" Kyo ordered as he stomped out of the kitchen and past Marley.

Before Marley could even respond, the boy was out of the living room and back in the garden scaling the tree and hopping over the wall.

Marley let out a sad sigh and decided to at least send a text to Momiji to let him know what she was 'skipping' school, she didn't want to worry the younger boy with her absence. Opening up her phone, she noticed the messages that Kyo had sent her.

"Was.. was he worried about me?" Marley whispered as she thought about the boy who had rushed out to grab ice for her ankle. The girl was touched that he would go so far out of his way for her, a warm fluttering feeling spreading through her chest, she barely even felt the aching pain in her ankle anymore. More overwhelmed with the kindness that Kyo was showing her.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-..-.-.

.

The Cat of the Zodiac couldn't believe how this day had turned out, he was currently at the local supermarket picking up supplies for Marley's hurt ankle.

What if it was bad enough that Marley couldn't even perform?

Kyo was aware of how much time and effort the optimistic girl put into her dance, yet she always found time for others. Whether it be helping students around the school or making food for the family, Marley always seemed to put others before herself.

It was apparent to Kyo that Marley had simply stretched herself too far and was now paying the unfortunate price of misstepping and hurting herself.

Lunchtime was right around the corner, and Kyo wasn't about to let Marley try and hobble around the kitchen to try and make something. Kyo knew he wasn't a cook or anything, but he could make something simple, he looked up on his phone and at first looked up Indian recipes.

"How does she cook this stuff?! There's like a million steps and ingredients!" Kyo yelled at his phone, causing the shoppers around him to avoid the aisle he was standing in.

"Alright.. let's try something else.." Kyo typed something else into his phone and came across something that he knew he would be able to make and that Marley should be able to eat.

Quickly filling his grocery basket with what he needed, he paid for everything and started walking back to the Sohma Estate.

As he marched on, he passed by a familiar place. The lights were dark, and no music was pouring out this time. Marley's regular dance studio seemed eerily quiet. He peeked through the window and was reminded of the night that Marley was being swung across the dance floor, smiling as she danced.

"Kyo, do you wanna dance?" She asked, smiling gently at him.

Kyo shook his head and continued on, quickening his pace. He needed to get back to the Estate, get this ice to Marley and made sure she took it easy.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

I was running my fingers through the fur on Gimli's head, giving him a massage as he purred in my lap. The porch door slid open, and Kyo stood there, slipping off his shoes while holding a grocery bag in one hand.

"Welcome back." I greeted as I gave him a small smile, a warm, grateful feeling spread through my body as he walked into the room. Gimli felt differently of the guest and started to hiss at Kyo.

"Ya... don't feel so welcome," Kyo mumbled as he placed the bag on the table and looked through it. I apologized for Gimli and immediately started scratching and massaging the angry kitten's back, making him fall asleep quickly, ignoring the Zodiac member.

" That's impressive, did ya drug it?" Kyo asked as he gestured to the now nearly comatose feline.

"Nope, the secret is long nails, perfect for scratches and messages." I giggled as I showed off my long nails to the teenage boy who just rolled his eyes as he grabbed an ice pack from the bag and delicately rested it on my slightly swelled ankle.

"Ya hungry?" Kyo asked as he stood up and looked at me.

" Um nope, not at all, I ate a big breakfast." I lied but was quickly thwarted by the growling stomach.

" You're such a shitty liar. I'm gonna use your kitchen, sit tight." Kyo sighed as he turned around and walked away.

"Wait, you don't have to do that." I struggled to try and get up and stop him, but he only marched back and made me sit down again. I winced as pain shot through my ankle.

"Dammit! What is it gonna take for you to sit still?!" Kyo growled as he crossed his arms and glared down at me.

"You are a guest, I can't let you cook for me," I argued, feeling guilty for causing so much trouble.

.

I'm sure if I just balance on my other leg I should be fine...

.

"Right now, you're useless, so just... stop." Kyo nearly growled, clearly done with my attitude. I felt a small stab at being called useless and wanted to prove that I could still do things even with the minor injury.

"But-" I tried to debate, but Kyo only continued

"You know, it won't kill ya to take a break." Kyo sighed, interrupting me before I could try and fight back.

"Look, you need to rest, or else your gonna make it worse, and how are you supposed to perform in that thing if you're injured?" Kyo tried to explain, which caught me off guard.

.

How...

.

" What thing?" I asked, unsure of what he was talking about because it's not like he knew about the showcase.

" Your show thing, the Rabbit got tickets and is making me go." Kyo sighed as he rolled his eyes.

I was speechless, I opened my mouth, but no words came out.

"And I can't go if your ankle's busted. Maybe you don't even want me goin- "

" Yes! I mean no, I do want you to come, I'm so happy, please, only if you don't mind, but I would really love you to come, it would make me so happy" I interrupted him before he could finish. I would have to thank Momiji for inviting him, and I was so excited for Kyo to be there.

"Then, that means that you just sit there and rest," Kyo ordered as pointed at me, using an authoritative voice that made me not want to move a muscle. He was right, I wasn't going to get better if I kept aggravating it.

"Yes, Sir!" I gave him a small salute, which had him rolling his eyes.

"You're such a Weirdo..." He sighed, but I caught what looked like a small smile on his face.

The orange-haired boy stomped into the kitchen, and I heard the sounds of pots and pans and drawers sliding open, getting to work on whatever he had in mind for lunch.

At this moment, I was happy that Dadaji was away, he wasn't here to scold me, and Kyo also seemed a lot more at ease without the Sohma Elder breathing down his neck.

But I wish Dadaji would call already to check-in...I hope he's safe... and hopefully, he never finds out about my little slip.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

As Kyo cooked, he kept looking back to make sure that Marley didn't move, but she just kept looking at her phone, as if she was waiting for something. A dejected look on her face as she kept looking at her ankle and then to her phone.

"Your ankle's gonna be fine, stop stressing about it," Kyo yelled from his spot in the kitchen, hating the sad look on the ordinarily cheerful girl's face.

"Oh.. I know.. it's not that." She said so softly and sadly that the barely caught it. Kyo let out a groan, wishing she would just say how she was feeling instead of pouting on the ground.

Kyo looked over his shoulder again, and now Marley was just staring at her phone, not doing anything, just staring at it. Kyo flipped the bread on the stove and put the heat on low.

"What are you doing?" Kyo asked as he stepped away from the stove and looked down at the white-blonde. Marley looked up and tilted her head, wondering what he was talking about.

" Your phone, you expecting something?" Kyo gestured to the phone in her hand with the spatula he had been using.

"Oh... um, I thought maybe Dadaji would call... I thought maybe I would call, but he might have gone to bed already..." Marley admitted as she continued to look at the phone.

" It's like the middle of the day, why would he be in bed?" Kyo asked.

"Well... he's in New York," Marley revealed, looking sad, and Kyo wondered how long her guardian would be gone and had she been left alone. Was that why Marley was sad? Had she been lonely? No, even Kyo was aware of how the house always seemed to be filled with family members. Something else was up.

.

"Alright, spill, what's bothering you." Kyo insisted, unable to look at the girl while he said so.

"... It's just... what if I let him down." Marley voiced her concern, resting the phone on the table and started playing with her long hair instead, braiding multiple locks of hair.

"How would you let him down?" Kyo raised his eyebrow, not understanding why she was so worried.

" Dadaji.. he said that one day I'm gonna have all these responsibilities... He said he would teach me, but what if... what if I'm no good at it." Marley revealed, and it was like a light bulb went off in Kyo's head. Marley was legally Tetsuo Sohma's adopted daughter, which meant that Tetsuo most likely intended for her to inherit all his wealth, status and his place in the management of the Sohma clan.

While Akito was technically the Head of the Sohma clan, it was well known that Akito served more as a figurehead while Tetsuo Sohma had the real decision-making power.

The only people that Akito truly had any power over was the Zodiac members.

" and I can't even be trusted to be home alone without causing trouble for others... I wish.. I was more reliable, how am I supposed to help take care of Sohma affairs if I can't even take care of myself. What if - What if I'm not good enough for the Sohma's." Marley confessed, small tears streaming down her face.

"you done?" Kyo asked, ready to put his two cents in.

"..hmmm." She nodded through her tears.

" K, first of all, That old bastard is as tough as they come, nothing can take him out. So he's going to be around for a long time to teach you whatever he has to teach you." Kyo comforted the best way he could.

"You already seem to be good at taking care of people, so you'll probably look after the family better than anyone else. But right now, take care of yourself, screw everyone else." Kyo gave his best inspirational talk, feeling confident that he could get through to the white-blond beauty.

.

"Take care of yourself... and stop skipping school so often! It's annoying.." Kyo added because when Marley wasn't it class, it sent him on edge. It messed up his schedule.

"Sorry, I'll stop asking for homework." Marley sniffled out as she tried to wipe away her tears.

"No- It's not- Look, the day just feels weird if you're not there okay if I don't hear you say good morning or that dumb laugh it just-"

"You think my laugh is dumb?!" Marley gasped as she covered her mouth with her hands, not knowing how she would be able to change the way she laughed.

"GAH! Just- I didn't mean...just get better, and come back to class..."

Marley watched as Kyo turned away from her, his ears red. Marley's heart was racing so hard that she brought her hand to her chest. Kyo was doing so much for her, taking care of her, trying to comfort her. Marley wondered what she has done to deserve such kindness.

"I'll bring ya what you need for now, so just... Rest up and get better. And quit worryin' if you're good enough...you're more than good enough." Kyo uttered, and Marley recalled the words Ayame had told her.

.

"Tou-Nii-San certainly had his way with people. He could understand people's feelings like I never could. He always knew what to do to make someone feel special."

.

A strong smell took Marley out of her trance.

"Kyo..l think something's burning..."

"GODDAMMIT! STOP DISTRACTING ME AND LET ME COOK!" Kyo yelled as he ran into the kitchen and slammed the door behind him so Marley couldn't see him scramble around the stove.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Marley was still playing with her phone when Kyo opened the door, he placed the plate in front of her along with a carton of chocolate milk.

On the plate was a golden brown grilled cheese sandwich, one side was slightly burnt, and Marley looked at Kyo curiously. She wondered what had made him cook this of all things.

"It's not much, but its food," Kyo grumbled as he sat down and rested his arms on his knees, peeking out through his arms to watch her reaction.

"I love grilled cheese sandwiches!" Marley exclaimed as she happily picked up the sandwich and separated it, watching the cheese split apart with pleasure.

"Kyo, you're spoiling me." Marley was so happy that Kyo was beside himself. It had been such a simple thing to make, but she acted as if he had made her some 5-course meal.

Marley brought up the sandwich to her mouth but stopped as a realization came to her, the smell of the slightly burnt sandwich awakening a memory. She started giggling, unable to take a bite. Her emotions really were all over the place today, but she really wasn't expecting to get so nostalgic over the grilled cheese sandwich.

"Woah, Woah! What's wrong?!" Kyo asked in alarms, wondering what he had done wrong.

" I'm sorry .. it was just... a memory," Marley confessed through her laughter.

" The last time I-I had a grilled cheese sandwich- was when Mama made it," Marley explained.

"Let me guess, her's was the best." Kyo sighed, regretting making anything at all. He should have just stuck with something Japanese, so she wouldn't have been reminded about something from her old home.

Marley started laughing even more as she shook her head.

.

"No! Mama had no cooking skills what so ever, she was banned from the kitchen for the most part but I was feeling sad, so she decided to cheer me up and figured a grilled cheese would be easy enough to make. She burnt it to a black crisp!" Marley told her story, barely able to keep herself from giggling, small tears gathering, and she tried wiped them away.

Kyo rolled his eyes and grabbed a napkin, so she could wipe away her tears properly.

"Such a crybaby... how is it you're laughing and still crying..." Kyo grumbled as she watched the girl. Marley finally calmed down and started eating her sandwich happily, offering him the other half. She kept complimenting Kyo and thanking him again for the chocolate milk, it was another favourite of hers.

"..It's the only thing I've ever seen you get at the vending machine..." Kyo muttered, a small blush now on his face presently for the last 15 minutes due to all the praise she was giving him.

"NOT THAT I WAS REALLY PAYING ATTENTION OR ANYTHING!" Kyo yelled, not wanting to seem like he was watching her or something. Marley only laughed at his reaction, used to his outbursts.

Marley's phone beeped, and she immediately went to check it, hoping it was a text from her grandfather, but it was just a text from Ayame, letting her know that he was getting started on her bodysuit. Kyo saw the look of disappointment and wanted to find some way to distract her from the phone.

Kyo looked at the TV, and an idea popped into his head.

.

"What... do you think I'll like?" Kyo asked as he gestured to the large TV.

"What?" Marley questioned, her head tilting to the side slightly.

"What movie, that other one was fine, what else ya got?" Kyo almost challenged, curious about what she would show him next.

" Do you like action? Comedy? Adventure? Sci-Fi? What have you seen?" Marley was almost interrogating him but was no longer looking at her phone.

" I got dragged to some kids anime movie a few months ago.." Kyo really couldn't think of any movies other than the one he had been forced to attend on the valentine's double date.

"Did you like it?" Marley asked, and Kyo's expression gave Marley all the information she needed, and she tried to stifle a giggle.

"Hmm, let's see... I think you would like superhero movies... but Hiro's borrowing my marvel collection at the moment and I don't have them digitally... and I don't think Netflix has any of the phase 1 stuff and it might be confusing..." Marley might has well been speaking a completely different language, and Kyo was worried about what he had gotten himself into.

"Oh! How about Jurassic Park?!" Marley announced, clearly proud of her pick.

"Jurassic what now?" Kyo repeated, the word sounding foreign on his tongue.

"You've never seen Jurassic Park! It's so good! It's a classic!" Marley yelled in shock, her mouth open wide. Before Kyo could answer, Marley continued to ramble.

"Kyo, oh my god, okay. I'm so excited. Can you pass that remote, please?" Marley asked as pointed to the small device sitting next to the TV. He did as she asked and quickly passed it to her. Marley turned on the TV but ran into a problem.

Marley squinted at the TV for a moment and realized she couldn't make out any of the titles.

"Kyo... I'm so sorry, but can I ask another favour..." Marley asked nervously, clearly embarrassed about something.

"What?" Kyo asked in an exhausted tone but regretted it when he saw how Marley seemed reluctant to ask and then said never mind causing Kyo to insist that she ask.

" Can you grab my glasses? They're upstairs in my room." Marley nearly begged as she brought her hands together into a prayer position.

" You wear glasses?" Kyo asked, raising an eyebrow, wondering how he had never noticed.

"Well I normally wear contacts, I was just rushing around this morning I didn't get a chance to put them in." Marley explained, realizing she had almost left the house without any visual aids at all, and that would have been a nightmare in class.

"How blind are you? How many fingers am I holding up?" Kyo smirked as he didn't even throw up his fingers to count.

"I'm not that blind, I can see stuff up close and stuff around me...it's just things like the chalkboard at school, or street signs and watching TV that I need them," Marley confessed, she barely used her glasses, opting to use contacts every day. Still, it wasn't like she was going out in public anytime today, so she figured it would be fine.

Kyo finally said he would grab her glasses, and she let him know her room was at the end of the hall on the right.

.

The orange-haired boy ran up the stairs and opened the bedroom door and looking around for a pair of glasses, but he couldn't help but check out the room. Marley had a nicely sized plush bed that could easily fit 3 people. A yellow and white polka-dotted duvet was neatly made with lots of pillows. A white desk with a large vanity mirror and make-up items seemed to be organized on the desk along with a few pictures taped to the mirror.

The curious teen moved closer and looked at the Polaroid pictures. One had Marley smiling with Isuzu, their hair in matching hairstyles with buns on their head, Isuzu was blushing while Marley as smiling brightly at the camera, it looked like they were in a hospital room. Another photo was Kisa and Marley in the kitchen, making pies or something, both them had flour on their faces. One that had his staring a little longer was a photo of Marley with what looked like her parents. Yuuto was wearing a nice grey suit and stood almost a foot over Marley's mother and herself. The two women were dressed in bright, colourful clothing that seemed to be bejewelled. Her Mother's was a deep blue colour while Marley was dressed in burnt orange with gold detailing. Their clothing reminded me of the outfits he had seen in the Bollywood movie he had watched the last time he was there for dinner. They looked so happy, bright smiles on all their faces.

" What would you guys do to help her?" Kyo absentminded asked the photo. After a moment, he shook his head and turned away from the vanity, unable to look at the happy family photo any longer.

Some clothes were resting on a chair in the corner, and Kyo shook his head at the slight mess. The window sill had a potted cactus, it looked like a flower was trying to bloom but had yet to do so. He finally noticed the pair of gold wired glasses resting on the bedside table next to a simple white lamp. Kyo just grabbed the glasses and left the room, feeling like a pervert by spending so much time in the girl's room.

.

"Here," Kyo lightly tossed the glassed to Marley, who almost didn't catch them.

"Oh, thank you." Marley wiped the lens of the glasses on her light yellow cardigan. She was about to put them on but hesitated.

"Well... you said you needed them, right?" Kyo asked as he raised an eyebrow at her apprehension.

She took a big breath and exhaled, finally putting on the glasses, a small blush on her cheeks as she did so.

Marley looked up at Kyo, her gold-wire cat frames suiting her face quite well. The boy wasn't expecting her to look so cute in them, the gold frames contrasting nicely with her bronze skin.

"I know.. I look like a dork in my glasses." Marley laughed a little nervously, feeling self-conscious in front of her orange-haired friend as she blushed lightly.

Kyo opened his mouth but then turned away from her as he sat down on the mat, facing the TV. His cheeks went warm.

"Dammit, she looks too cute in those, that's not fair." Kyo thought to himself as his face grew hot.

"Just start the movie already..." Kyo mumbled, not wanting to blurt out how cute he thought Marley looked.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Our main characters were in their jeeps, driving through gates and over grasslands while John William's score played in the background. The Japanese subtitles playing below whenever dialogue took place.

Kyo was watching, waiting for something to happen while I looked back between him and the TV, excited to see his reaction for the first reveal.

"All right, slow down, no closer. Stop, Stop, Stop!" John Hammond instructed the jeep driver. The other jeep came to a stop beside it.

"This shouldn't be here." Ellie Sattler was inspecting a giant prehistoric leaf in confusion. The music changed as both Ian Malcolm and Alan Grant gazed at something off-camera.

" I thought you said there were supposed to be dinosaurs? How are they gonna do it? Is it some dude in a suit?" Kyo asked as he turned his head to me with an irritated look on his face, clearly getting impatient with the lack of dinosaurs in this dinosaur movie, and we were only 20 minutes in.

"What? No! Just wait, I promise, there will be dinosaurs- look, look, just keep watching." I encouraged, looking forward to the reveal of Kyo's first dinosaur experience. I pointed at the TV to make him look at it, and he rolled his eyes and continued watching.

On the large TV, Alan Grant fumbled with taking his glasses off as he continued to look off-camera.

"Alan, this species of veriforman's been extinct since the Cretaceous Period." Ellie Sattler continued as Alan Grant gently grabbed her head to get her attention.

"I mean, this thing is humongous. What? What?" Ellie Sattler finally stopped rambling once Alan made her turn her head to what he was facing, and all words stopped as her jaw dropped, and she stood up in the jeep, rushing to take off her glasses. A great bellowing sound broke out, and the massive long-necked brachiosaurs walked across the field. The iconic John Williams score playing in the background.

I was barely watching the screen, too intrigued by Kyo's reaction as the scene played out. Kyo himself was speechless and even appeared to be leaning towards the screen. The special effects looking as fantastic as the day it came out.

"H.. HOW!?" Kyo sputtered as he watched, finger pointing to the dinosaur. My heart pounded, and I couldn't stop the giant smile that had stretched across my face.

"I know! Isn't it amazing!" I gushed as I continued to look back and forth between the screen and Kyo's awed face.

The characters on screen had exited the jeep and were in disbelief at the giant creature. The dinosaur bellowed once more before getting up on its hind legs to grab the leaves from the top of the tree.

"How fast are they?" Alan Grant asked as he continued to stare at the giant beast, afraid it would disappear before his eyes.

" Well, we clocked the T. Rex at 32 miles an hour." John Hammond mentioned.

" T. Rex? You said you've got a ?" Ellie Sattler nearly stuttered in shock and awe.

"Uh-huh." The old millionaire nodded.

"Say it again." Alan Grant grabbed the man's arms and looked in the eye, feeling like it was all too good to be true.

"We have a T. Rex." The smiling John Hammond stated, joyful that he managed to get such a reaction out of his guests.

"What the hell is a T. Rex?" Kyo asked, now fully invested in the movie.

"You'll see! She's my favourite," I sang, inexplicably happy that Kyo was enjoying himself.

"Welcome to Jurassic Park."

.

My phone started ringing, and I quickly paused the movie to pick up the call.

"Moshi, Moshi?" I answered, using the Japanese greeting reserved for phone calls, plus it was just fun to say.

"Marley? Just checking in before I went to bed." Dadaji's rough deep voice came through the speaker.

"Dadaji! How's your trip? Is the weather nice?" I asked, relieved to be hearing from him, my shoulder's feeling a little lighter, but I knew I wouldn't be entirely at ease until he was home, safe and sound.

"It's New York. I hate it. The entire street smells like garbage, and the honking never stops." Tetsuo Sohma clearly was not a fan of the large bustling city.

"Dadaji- I'm sure it's not that bad." I giggled into the phone.

"I'm not interrupting class or anything, am I? I was trying to aim for lunch to call."

"Nope, you called at the perfect time, I'm not in class, Kyo and I just finished lunch," I explained. Kyo shook his head at me while I just shrugged my shoulders. Technically I wasn't lying. We weren't in class, and we had just finished lunch. I didn't want him to fret or anything over me just because I don't know how to walk down the stairs.

"Alright... just wanted to check-in." He repeated, clearly not sure what to say.

"You said that." I tried not to laugh, and I could hear him grumble on the other side.

"The house is fine, I haven't burnt it down yet and still no big parties," I informed him.

"...very well... I have an early morning. Take care."

"You too, thanks for the call Dadaji. Have a good sleep. Love you." We wished each other goodbye, and I hung up, letting out a big sigh of relief.

Kyo gestured to the TV, and I smiled and hit play. Everything felt good in that moment. Dadaji was safe and sound, and Kyo and I were enjoying a classic together.

I can hardly wait for the t. rex scene

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

Watching Jurassic Park with Kyo had been a ride. He became so vocal at certain parts and would go silent in awe at others. The Cat of the Zodiac yelled at the young Lex for waving a flashlight around, scoffed when the skeezy Dennis got what he deserved when he was eaten in his jeep. Kyo almost jumped when Ray's severed arm fell onto Ellie and damn near cheered at the end when the T. Rex took out the raptors, essentially saving the day. Marley had cheered along with him, despite having seen the movie numerous time she was enjoying watching all of Kyo's reactions. Marley even chanted with Kyo for the jeep to go faster when they were driving to escape the jaws of the T. Rex. This had been the most fun she'd had in ages.

Marley had been so busy with all her afternoons and evenings are taken up with dance, school work and house chores that she couldn't remember the last time she was able to sit back and enjoy just hanging out.

Don't misunderstand; Marley loved doing all those things, she loved to dance, and she loved cooking for her family, but sometimes it was nice to just sit. To take a moment and enjoy. Now Marley was pretty confident that she had a new movie-watching buddy and was excited to show him all the films he'd most likely never seen.

Kyo Sohma was hooked and wanted more. Marley warned him the sequels weren't as good but were still enjoyable, and that's what they were up to now, half-way through The Lost World.

The main characters where all huddled into a cave trying to avoid the T. Rex's jaws, screaming as the giant dinosaur snapped its jaws past the waterfall.

"Get Away!"

"He can't reach us!"

The carnivore started using its tongue to lick the people, and both Marley and Kyo shuddered. It was moments later that the scene that Marley had blocked with her entire being came on and a white, red and black snake slithered down a character's shirt.

"Oh God!" Marley screamed as she covered her eyes and shook her head, trying to remove the image from her brain.

"What?! What?!" Kyo asked, trying to figure out why Marley looked like she wanted to jump out of her own skin.

"Ugghhgh! I'm deadly terrified of snakes." Marley moaned as she continued to cover her face, waiting for the moment to be over.

"Oh, my god! Ah! A snake! Help me!" The man cried as he started panicking around the cave, only to walk into the jaws of the T. Rex . Marley was practically shaking through the whole scene.

"Gross... what would you rather take on, the snake or the T. Rex ?" Asked Kyo as he winced at the bloody waterfall.

"T. Rex , any day. Bring it on." Marley joked as she was just relieved the snake was no longer on screen.

.

"Marley-Onee-chan?" A soft voice called over the movie and Marley and Kyo looked to see Kisa standing on the porch in her school uniform.

"Honey Bee! " Marley moved automatically to greet her but winced at the action and Kyo scolded her.

"Sit down Idiot, you're gonna make it worse." Kyo shook his head as he reached for the remote to pause the movie.

Kisa looked at Kyo shyly as she sat down beside Marley.

"What happened? Are you okay?" Kisa asked as she looked over the older girl.

" Just took a small fall, nothing to worry about, I'm sorry, but I don't think I'll be able to do ballet exercises with you today." Marley apologized, truly feeling guilty that she couldn't spend time with Kisa on the ballet barre.

Kisa shook her head and clasped her hands onto Marley's arm.

"Is it bad? Does it hurt?" Kisa asked with worry in her eyes.

Marley was about to say something, but someone was quicker.

" The moron can't even walk, she's useless," Kyo replied, he had almost forgotten that the girl was hurt while they had been too caught up in watching movies but had been reminded when the look of pain crossed Marley's face when she tried to move.

Kisa looked at Marley's ankle that was resting on some pillows and had some ice resting on it but looked swollen and red still.

" Did you call Hatori-Oji-Chan?" Kisa asked as she looked at Marley with worry. The white-blond laughed nervously while Kyo shook his head. The young Tiger got a look of determination on her face and rushed out before Marley could stop her.

Kyo smirked as he watched the young girl rush out the door, confident that she was on a mission to grab the doctor.

"Maybe... she really doesn't like the Jurassic Park sequels..." Marley offered, hopeful that the family doctor wasn't going to walk through those doors anytime soon. Kyo only looked at her in disbelief.

"You knew that you'd have to see him eventually. Just let him look at it." Kyo shrugged as he pointed the remote at the TV and unpaused the movie.

.

It was only twenty minutes later, and Hatori rushed through the door with what seemed like a gang of people close behind him. Hatori looked at Kyo in a slight shock before he shook his head and went to Marley to see what was wrong.

Gimli hissed at all the intruders before running off, not wanting to deal with all of the Zodiac members.

"Your cat really doesn't like anybody, huh?" Kyo remarked as he watched the cat run off into the garden.

"He does like people... some people... he likes Dadaji and Satsuki.. and... um.." Marley trailed off, trying to name anyone else that the cat would tolerate.

Momiji rushed in and gently grabbed Marley's hand. Hatsuharu and Isuzu stood in the doorway as Hatori inspected her foot.

"Marley-Chan! Are you okay?" Momiji asked as he looked over Marley, small tears threatening to fall down his cheeks.

Marley smiled gently and shook her head, bringing a hand to wipe away the tears.

"I'll be fine, Hatori's gonna make sure. And Kyo's been a great nurse." Marley informed the young Rabbit.

Momiji leaned his head on Marley's shoulder, wishing he had been around to help her.

"Oi! Don't crowd her! Watch her leg!" Kyo stood as he hissed at the crowd, who all seemed to want to check on the indisposed Marley.

"Aww, Kyo! I bet you've been here cuddling with Marley-Chan all day!" Momiji accused as he pointed his finger at the irritated Zodiac member.

"Shut it, Rabbit! Why would I be doing something stupid like that?!" Kyo yelled as his entire face went bright red.

"Stupid Kyo! You would be lucky, Marley-Chan is the best at cuddling!" Momiji announced as she stood up and put his hands on his waist.

"Momiji, please, behave yourself. Marley, you have a small sprain, but it looks like the ice pack has been helping with swelling." Hatori concluded as he gently wrapped Marley's leg with a bandage to set it.

Kisa came rushing through the room, holding something in her arms.

"Are you okay, Onee-chan?" Kisa asked as she sat to Marley's side and held her arm, her large amber eyes filled with worry.

"Don't worry Honey Bee, I'll be fine, I was just being clumsy." Marley comforted the young girl, patting her head softly.

.

"Here, to help you get better." Kisa offered Marley the orange plushy lion that had once been hers.

"Aww, Shere Khan!" Marley grabbed the lion and cuddled him close.

"Thank you, Kisa." Marley thanked the young Zodiac member and gave her small peck on the cheek.

"Me too! Me too!" Momiji cheered, and Marley laughed and gave him a peck as well.

" Enough! Let her rest!" Kyo yelled as he tried to grab the Rabbit, who quickly evaded his hand.

.

"Kyo? What are you doing here in the inside in the first place, you know that's not allowed." Hatori pointed out.

"Tch, forget it, I'm outta here.." Kyo scoffed as he tried to head out the door, despising that he was reminded that he wasn't 'allowed' to be on the 'inside.'

Marley moved and winced at the pain but was determined to latch onto Kyo's wrist, keeping him in place. Kyo felt his heart stop as her fingers brushed up against his beads. Panic shot through his system as he stared at her hand, her long sparkly pink nails contrasting against his dull white and red beaded bracelet.

" Kyo was the one who came and saved me." Marley defended him, not appreciating the way he was being treated. They had been having a nice time, Kyo was even smiling at some points, and Marley was not gonna let some rule she thought as 'ridiculous' ruin his day. Marley wanted Kyo to feel welcome and wanted, which he was. Marley really enjoyed Kyo's company and hoped he felt the same.

"Saved is exaggerating it a bit." Hatori pointed out, also looking at the way Marley's hand had wrapped around Kyo's beaded wrist, nervous that she would by mistake displace it in any way.

"If Kyo hadn't come by, then I would have tried to walk and made it worse. He was the one who made sure it was elevated and had an ice pack. " Marley pointed out, forever grateful that Kyo had come for her because he had been worried, even if he would deny it.

"Marley, Kyo is the Cat, and the Cat is not supposed to be inside." Hatori scolded, he could even feel his Zodiac spirits distraught at someone who wasn't part of the Zodiac fighting against the rules that had been followed for thousands of years.

"Kyo is always welcome here; this is my home, isn't it? and he is my friend." Marley argued, frustrated that she had to even voice this because, to her, it was ludicrous in the first place.

"I know you don't understand, but there are rules-" Hatori started to raise his voice, but Marley wasn't taking any of it.

" I don't want to understand, just because it's a rule doesn't make it right." The Zodiac members in the room all stared at the girl, Kyo was clenching his fist as his eyes burnt as he stared at the ground. Hatori looked at Marley in slight awe but let out a sigh, he recognized her attitude from somewhere. Or rather, someone.

Marley was Yuuto's daughter alright.

.

"... very well... I won't tell anyone. But you need to tell your grandfather to let him know what happened to your ankle. And you have to stay off your foot for at least another day. I'll be checking on you tomorrow. But with proper rest, it should be perfectly fine after the weekend." Hatori gave in, his human feelings for the girl being stronger in this moment than his Zodiac spirit's distaste for the Cat's presence on the inside of the estate.

"... fine, .. later though, it's like the middle of the night in New York." Marley promised, but Hatori couldn't take his eyes off the way Marley's hand was around Kyo's wrist, and the boy just stood there and let her keep him there.

"Let's order something for dinner..." Hatsuharu decided to interject, already knowing that Marley was going to get her way for the most part.

"Sounds good to me, can I get a zaru soba. Kyo, what would you like?" Marley asked as she smiled up at the orange-haired boy who seemed to be in shock, but as Marley removed her hand from his wrist and instead held his hand, he was brought back to earth.

"Um.. just a katsu don for me..." He muttered out, finally sitting down again, the warmth of the smile that Marley was sending his way almost making him uncomfortable and couldn't breathe. But he wanted to stay, even if he didn't belong.

The Cat of the Zodiac doubted the strange girl would be so happy to have him in her home if she had taken his beads off by accident. Would Marley be willing to hold his hand with such tenderness or smile at him like he was the only person in the room. No... Kyo couldn't let himself hope for that. It was too much.

.

"Kyo is always welcome here."

.

But he wouldn't mind basking in her warmth for a little longer, even if only to make sure she took care of herself.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

Akito had been resting on her futon on doctor's orders, carefully tucked into numerous blankets. She had felt a weird pull for most of the day, and a strange stale feeling broke out almost from her soul. She could feel something... something was up with the Zodiac members... many of them were close, but they felt like they were miles away.

The black-haired beauty just placed the odd feeling on this fever that didn't seem to want to go away, leaving her feeling more weak than usual.

"The bond... I'll always.. have the bond..." Akito whispered as she fell into another deep sleep, convincing herself that everything was as it should be.

.

.-.-.-.-.

 

Chapter Text

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.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

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Summer was on its way. The June afternoon was a lot warmer than anyone had expected had I was thanking the A/C gods as I shopped around the cosmetics counters. Re-purchasing some favourites while finding some new ones.

"Marley-Chan! This would look really cute on you!" The cute Boar of the Zodiac held up a sparkly iridescent lip-gloss.

"Oh, that's gorgeous, I love it." I swatched the tester lipstick on the back of my hand, watching as it sparkled in the light, the back of my hand was littered with different coloured lip glosses, I had only come in to grab some eyeliner.

My ankle was feeling one-hundred percent better thanks to the constant watch and help from the Sohma family. Hatori had even allowed me to return to the gymnasium and lightly practice and test my ankle to see if it was indeed better, and he agreed to let me perform this Friday. As long as I took it easy. I wasn't sure how an after school shopping trip counted as easy, but when I had dropped by Kagura's to drop off some baked goods, she quickly invited Zuzu and me on a journey to a small shopping district.

Kagura mentioned that there were a few vintage shops in the area, and it was hard for me to say no to that. Zuzu came along, claiming that she was only tagging along to get away from the Estate for a bit.

.

But I think she likes a little shopping now and then too

.

"Oh, what about this one? This would look really against your skin tone and bring out your eyes." Kagura handed me another gloss was a light plum colour with some copper shimmers.

"Wow, Kagura, you have really nice taste.." I thanked the girl as I admired the glosses she had picked out for me, popping one into my basket.

.

So many pretty choices, it's not fair

.

" Are we done yet?" Hiro whined as he crossed his arms and pouted.

"Aww, are you not having fun, Hiro-Kun?" Kagura asked, genuinely wondering why the boy was bored.

" What do you think?" Hiro rolled his eyes and then glared at the brunette.

"Sorry, Hiro. We're almost done, Zuzu's just outside waiting, why don't you go wait with her." I offered to try to mediate between the two strong-minded Zodiac members.

"No. I'm making sure you don't shop around for another half hour, c'mon on, let's go, to the checkout. Move it." Hiro ushered me, done with the department store.

"Sorry, sorry, I guess we got carried away." I apologized as I was herded towards the checkout. I put my stuff on the counter and smiled at the cashier lady.

"Did you find everything, alright?" She asked with a broad smile as she started scanning my items and putting them in a paper bag.

" That and more, thank you." I was friendly with the cashier as Hiro tapped his foot, getting more and more impatient.

"Have you tried this? It's one of our most popular skincare products. I highly recommend it to you." She asked, holding up a bottle of lotion of some sort.

" Um no, but I'm good for skincare products, thank you." I insisted as I brought out a credit card to pay.

"I think this will really help, we've seen really positive results. Can really lighten up your complexion, make it... brighter. You would be so much prettier if you use this." The statement made my jaw drop.

.

Right... because I can only be pretty if I have fairer skin...

.

"Tell me. Do you really just that by basically bleaching her skin, she'll be more beautiful? Do you find her brown skin something that needs to be changed?" Hiro started, glaring up at the cashier who couldn't find a response to the young boy and also shocked me in the process as I stared down at my young friend.

" Maybe you should just keep your mouth shut and do your job. But I mean, I'm just a kid, but at least I know that she's beautiful the way she is and doesn't need some ridiculous skin-lightening product." He finished, raising his eyebrow as if daring the cashier to challenge him.

The clerk's eye seemed to be twitching, and I just started giggling at her open-mouthed expression while finishing up the transaction.

"Please come again soon." She said softly, probably scared to say the wrong thing.

" We won't," Hiro said, and as we headed out, we passed Kagura, who hurried to catch up with us, asking what happened at the cashier.

"The idiot at the cashier has no brain, probably been eating the lipsticks." Hiro huffed as we walked out the door.

"Oh! And Hiro thinks I'm beautiful." I revealed which made Kagura start gushing over the poor boy.

"Hiro-Kun! That's so sweet." Kagura beamed, only making Hiro more annoyed.

" I did not! And if I did, it was only to make a point!" Hiro argued, his cheeks turning a bright red.

"Aww, but Hiro, that was so heroic. Thank you so much. I could just hug you." I cooed, genuinely honoured that he stand up for me in his own Hiro way.

"Don't." Hiro groaned, and I just settled to kiss his cheek, causing him to get even more flustered.

"I'm confused, what did the cashier say?" Kagura asked

"Oh, she just thought I should whiten-up my skin apparently, my skin colour was unsightly enough that she was ready to sell me skin-bleach." I groaned, annoyed by the whole situation. I had become comfortable in Japan, called it home, yet I sometimes forgot how much I stuck out as a woman of colour. It seemed no matter where I went that I would somehow not fit in. But as we mentioned, the cashier something in Kagura seemed to snap, and she was giving off a deadly aura. Switching from her cute girly self to a raging bull.

.

Oh no...

.

"She what!" And I had to grab Kagura by the arm before she stormed back into the store. Even with me trying to pull her back, she ended up dragging me until Isuzu came to my rescue and grabbed Kagura's other arm and helped me drag her down the street.

"Do I even want to know?" Isuzu asked as we finally got far enough away that we released Kagura.

" THAT-" I covered Kagura's mouth, not wanting to cause anyone any more trouble.

" Let's just keep going, it's starting to get crowded in this area." I decided to change the subject, moving everyone along. I noticed Isuzu and Hiro exchanged a look, and Hiro just shook his head.

"Just an idiot who was dropped on their head as a baby..." Hiro commented while throwing up his arms and shrugging.

"Hiro!" I tried to scold but could only end up laughing.

Well, the people that matter don't care what colour I am, I won't let the opinions of ignorant cashiers bother me

.

.-.-.-.-

.

"Aren't you just the cutest! I love you, yes I do, I love you so much - ahh... what's her name?" Marley asked as she continued to cuddle with the golden fluff ball the group had come across.

"Mimi," The elder man chuckled as he looked down at his older pup getting love and attention, vigorously waving her bushy tail.

"Mimi! Such a cute name for such a cutie! You are just the fluffiest little cutie, yes you are, yes you are." Marley cooed at the dog she had been giving belly rubs to.

"Little?" Hiro mimicked, clearly judging Marley but the wrong choice of words but happy that his friend was in high spirits, most likely not sparing any thought of the idiot cashier behind her. No Marley did not seem to have a care in the world as she was in dog heaven.

While Marley did love cats and her cat Gimli especially. She was a dog person.

"Marley... enough." Isuzu insisted as she crossed her arms.

"Aww, just a little longer." Marley begged as Mimi jumped on her shoulders, giving the young beauty kisses as Marley laughed and continued to 'coo' and 'aww.'

"Aww, she gave me a kiss!" Marley gushed, feeling honoured while her family wore looks of disgust. Well, Kagura was giggling at least while she held out her phone to take a video, finding the entire encounter endearing.

"Gross.." Hiro mumbled.

"Marley, let's go already." Isuzu was starting to get a little annoyed, already tired of walking around in the humid afternoon.

"Mimi's normally pretty picky and doesn't like strangers, your friend must be good with animals." The old man mentioned as Marley continued to give love and cuddles to his sweet golden retriever. Isuzu and Hiro groaned as they could practically see little cartoon hearts around Marley and Mimi.

.

"Um... ya, you could say that." Kagura giggled, knowing something that the old man didn't know. Kagura wondered if their very Zodiac spirits were attracted to Marley's kind and loving aura.

"Alright, that's enough." Isuzu grabbed Marley by the back of her jean jacket and dragged her away from her furry new friend.

"Bye, Mimi! Have a good walk! I'll be thinking of you." Marley called out as she was dragged away, waving at the old man and the golden retriever. The dog barked while the old man waved back, chucking at the strange scene.

"Lively bunch of kids, and all of them ridiculously good-looking. Ah, to be young. Right, Mimi." The man pondered as he patted his dear old friend on the head, and she simply barked in response.

Once they were far enough away, Isuzu finally released Marley, and she just compliments her on her strength.

"I didn't even get to take off a picture of her." Marley sighed as she walked along with her friends. Kagura revealed that she had videoed the whole scene, and Marley gave her a hug, asking her to send it when she had a chance.

" I promise I can carry a small bag, Hiro." Marley insisted as she tried to grab it from the sweet boy who wanted to put on a hard exterior.

"You're supposed to take it easy, just let me carry it. You can't be trusted." He debated while he continued to keep the bag from her.

"Where should we head next?" Kagura asked as they continued on through the sunny streets of a shopping neighbourhood.

"Oh, there's one more vintage store I want to check out," Marley mentioned as she checked the map on her phone, not wanting to get too lost.

Hiro groaned, regretting coming along for the trip. The boy had only got all wrapped up in the first place because he ended up crossing the 3 girls' path as they were getting into the car at the estate. Hiro didn't even remember why he agreed.

"Sorry, Hiro, just a bit more shopping, then we'll go for crepes, my treat." Marley offered, smiling at the young boy. Hiro now recalled why he had come, Marley had asked him to join and promised crepes. Hard to resist.

"...I guess it's fine...but just one more store." Hiro agreed, already thinking of what crepe he would pick.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

The small vintage store was pretty empty, closing hours were just around the corner, and the Sohma's appeared to be the last customers. Marley was thankful as she always worried about her Zodiac family members in crowded places and tried to look out for them the best way she could.

Marley kept tabs on them as she also looked through the clothing rack of vintage dresses.

"Oh, Kagura, you would look so cute in this." Marley pulled a light purple mini-dress of the rack that had black scalloped fabric around the ends and a simple sweetheart neckline.

"Oh it's so cute, I'm going to try it on!" Kagura cheered as she grabbed the dress from the white-blonde and headed for the small dressing room in the back with a few other dresses she had found.

Marley continued to look through the racks while Isuzu was browsing through leather jackets. As she came across a stand of old T-Shirts, Marley found an unexpected treasure. Pulling it out to hold it up against her, it looked like it would be a bit oversized on the girl, but that was okay with her.

"What are you so happy about?" Hiro asked as he raised an eyebrow at her, and she showed him the old crew-neck T-Shirt that had maybe once been white but was now a dingy off-white colour.

" What's The Karate Kid?" Hiro asked as he read out the writing on the old, oversized garment.

"A classic 80's movie." She explained, smiling at the poster on the T-shirt.

"It's a bit big..." Hiro pointed out.

"Nah, it's perfect." She snapped a selfie of her with the T-Shirt in hand, winking and smiling in the picture and sent it to Tangerine Karate Kid.

.

+- Maybe I'll let U borrow it :p -+ She texted the unsuspecting orange-haired teen.

" You're buying it?" Hiro asked, not a fan of the look. Hiro imagined there were lots of things in the store that would look better on Marley, not some old unwanted T-Shirt.

"Yep, it's perfect," Marley said with a wide smile and then she looked back at her phone as she got a text back.

+- Don't count on it, I wouldn't be caught dead in that -+ Kyo had texted back, causing Marley to giggle and quickly gave a response.

+- Yes, cuz ur army green cargo pants and v-necks are very fashion-forward -+ with a little smirk emoji.

+- What's wrong with my pants!-+

+- Nothing... Ur wearing them right now aren't you! -+ She guessed, smiling down at her phone as she texted back and forth with Kyo.

+- IAM NOT!-+ Marley could just imagine him glaring at his phone, gripping it a little too tightly.

+- Why do you need so many pockets anyway? -+ She texted and then as looked up from her phone, an item up on the wall for display caught her eye.

"Oh, Zuzu! You should try that on." Marley was pointing at a black slip dress that had a slit going up the side with black lace trim.

"That's so you. And oh my god, if you wear that black fishnet top underneath it.." Marley started rambling with excitement as she wandered off to go get some help from a store worker to get the dress down for her.

Isuzu just sighed and gave in, sometimes fighting against what Marley wanted was impossible. Also, it was a cute dress, and she did want to try it on. Isuzu just didn't want to admit it.

As the worker handed her the dress, Marley found a busted seam on the side and the worker started to apologize while Marley just smiled and mentioned it wouldn't be a problem as the worker bowed profusely to her. Apologizing got the damaged item.

" I can mend it, it just needs a little tender loving care." Marley insisted as she tried to stop the worker from apologizing. While Marley further inspected the rip, Isuzu was reminded of the first time she met the optimistic beauty.

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.-.-.-.-.

.

The air was stale as it always was in the familiar building, and the long-haired beauty was done with it.

Isuzu Sohma made a getaway from her hospital bed as soon as the coast was clear and quickly changed from her hospital gown into her black mini-dress and dark burgundy cardigan. Before adequately checking if the coast was clear, she stepped into the hallway but noticed the doctor was on his way, rushing into the room across the hall. Not bothering to check who was in it.

The girl lying in bed seemed to jump a little, her heart monitor catching her quickened heartbeat as a flurry of black hair darted from the door to the far wall, crouching on the other side of the hospital bed. The sound of tearing fabric caught the bed-ridden girl's ear as she looked down, the book she was reading forgotten about as she tried to lean over and was met large dark brown eyes.

The runaway stared up at the stranger from her crouched position, alarmed to see a foreigner's face. Isuzu couldn't believe her bad luck that she wasn't able to slip into an empty room.

Long white-blond hair flipped as the girl in bed turned her to the commotion in the hallway and looked away from the intruder to see a nurse and doctor arguing. Isuzu tried to peek around the bed to get a look.

"She hasn't been discharged yet, where is she?" The young doctor looked panicked as he spoke with the nurse on duty.

"I'm sorry, Doctor, but we're busy; we don't have to time to babysit." The nurse argued, too tired to deal with anyone's nonsense.

The doctor shook his head and then looked around the hall before coming into the room that Isuzu had run into, and she quickly ducked back beside the bed, crouching as she waited.

.

"Bakshi-San? Did you happen to see a girl around your age, long black hair?" The doctor asked while quickly gazing around the hospital room.

"Umm..." The girl in question felt her heart stop. She didn't want to be here. She didn't want to sit in the bed any longer, and she didn't want to get into trouble... Isuzu subconsciously grabbed the strangers sweater covered wrist in a panic. Silently begging not to out her.

"No, nope, sorry, haven't seen anyone like that. No girls with black hair here, just me. Yep, just me." The girl in the hospital bed answered a distinct accent in her voice, and Isuzu had to stop herself from slapping her own forehead. Could this girl be any more obvious?

"...alright... sorry to bother you, Bakshi-San..." The doctor apologized.

"Oh, that's alright, Doctor Kei, but could you please close the door behind you. Thank you." And the runaway patient heard the door close and let out a sigh of relief but had yet to let go of the mystery girl's wrist...

" Whew... that was close .." The girl in bed sighed out in what sounded like English, then Isuzu felt a cold hand cover hers and squeeze it lightly.

"It's okay, he's gone." The girl in the hospital bed comforted, and Isuzu finally looked up at her and was shocked at despite how cold this girls' hands were that her gentle smile was so warm and kind. It reminded her of dear Hatsuharu's smile that could light up an entire room. Isuzu became embarrassed over as she stood up and ripped her hand away.

"oh...Though... I think they might still be looking for you, but you're more than welcome to hang out here." The girl offered happy to offer sanctuary to the stranger.

"I'm Marley, Bakshi Marley." The girl smiled up at Isuzu and held out her hand.

"Sohma... Isuzu." Isuzu just crossed her arms, rejecting the hand gesture.

"Oh, a Sohma? My Bapu's a Sohma, maybe you know him? Yuuto." Marley mentioned, genuinely curious if they were family.

Isuzu just shook her head. She had heard of a Yuuto Sohma but had no idea who he was.

"Or maybe you know Dadaji? Tetsuo?" Marley continued.

"Never met him..." Isuzu had no idea who 'Bapu' or 'Dadaji' was. She knew Tetsuo Sohma was a very prominent figure in her family, but she doubted that she and this foreigner knew the same Tetsuo.

"Oh... Sohma must be a common last name then ..." The girl trailed off in thought.

"But Anyway. It's nice to meet you, Suzu." Marley smiled up at Isuzu.

"It's Isuzu..." She corrected.

"Ehzuzu?" The girl tried again.

"I-IIIsuzu!" Isuzu tried over pronouncing her name, hoping it would help.

"Ahh, sorry IIIsuzu." Marley tried again, somehow making it sound worse.

"Forget it." And the irritated Japanese girl decided she had enough and wanted to run away.

"ahh wait! Please, I'm sorry. Please stay! I'm sorry that my Japanese is so awful, I really am working on it... it's just... some words are harder than others..." Marley explained, her musical accent making her Japanese a little hard for Isuzu to understand, but she got the gist of it.

.

Isuzu finally took a good look at the girl in the hospital bed, attached to multiple wires and lines, machines beeping all around her. She appeared to be about her age, her skin was a deep bronze colour but seemed to be ... dull somehow. Long, white-blond hair was tucked into a messy braid, but it was the girl's eyes that kept Isuzu glued to the spot. Large, gentle amethyst eyes that shined, warm and inviting but within them held loneliness. And loneliness was something that Isuzu knew all too well.

"Fine... only because I don't wanna get caught." The black-haired girl gave in, sitting in a chair on the far side of the room. The smile that Marley gave her when she realized that she was staying nearly blinded Isuzu.

" You have such a beautiful speaking voice. " Marley pointed out, complimenting the unsuspecting girl. Isuzu was speechless at the girl's strange praise. Isuzu had heard people talk about her hair, her eyes, her looks in general, not that she believed those words, but this felt different.

"How so..."

" How do I say... it's got this deep, melodic sound to it somehow. Like a classic song... sorry that probably sounds really cheesy, but I bet you have a charming singing voice." Marley insisted, a little embarrassed she had said such a thing but still wanted to let the mysterious girl what she thought.

"Bapu also has a really nice voice, and his singing makes everyone around him so happy. Do you sing?" She asked.

"Look, I'm just here hiding out, I'm not here for chit-chat." Isuzu spat, feeling self-conscious.

"Oh, okay... I'll be quiet." The foreigner said softly and gave the runaway a kind smile, but her shoulders slightly sagged a bit as she returned to her book. Isuzu just sat in the faraway chair, continually looking back and forth between the girl reading and out the window at the falling snow. Isuzu looked away from the window to stare at the girl in bed, wondering what was wrong with her.

Marley looked up from her book and caught Isuzu staring, which made the girl in the chair immediately turn away. But Marley's eye caught something.

" Oh, um your cardigan, the seam looks like it's popped, on the shoulder." Marley pointed, looking concerned. Isuzu looked to her left and found nothing wrong but then looked to the right on her shoulder the seam had ripped, creating a large hole.

"Dammit..." She spat under her breath, frustrated at ruining her favourite cardigan; it was one of the comfiest ones she owned and wore it regularly in the colder months.

"Here, I can mend it. Just needs a little TLC. " Marley offered as she put down her book on the side table and started to get up out of bed.

" TLC ?"

"Oh, um... " Marley had to take a moment to translate.

"Tender, Loving, Care." She explained as she removed what looked like an old orange lion plush doll from her lap and placed it on the side of the bed, moving it with a gentle hand as if it a living thing and something precious.

" Don't bother... it doesn't matter," Isuzu muttered, not wanting to seem like she cared about a mere piece of clothing.

"Aww but it looks like a cute cardigan, be a shame to not try I'm not half bad, I mend Mama and Bapu's clothes all the time." Marley debated as she looked through a suitcase pocket, bringing out what looked like a small tin box.

Isuzu noted how slowly she seemed to move and how careful she was to make sure none of the wires connected her were strained, sliding her IV stand with her as she walked.

Marley stopped, grabbing the ledge by the window as if the movement from the bed to the suitcase had been a marathon. Like moving around the room was hurting her. Marley started heading back to bed but collapsed suddenly, holding her chest.

.

Isuzu surprised herself with quickly she ran across the room and to the girl on the floor. Panic flooding through her as she basically picked up Marley and placed her in the bed, probably a little more aggressively than needed.

"You shouldn't get out bed if you can't get yourself back in Idiot." Isuzu snapped as she glared at the girl before ripping off her cardigan and shoving it into her lap. Annoyed that she had ignored her health for something as stupid as a ripped piece of clothing.

Marley's eyes widened a bit in shock at the treatment but then started laughing before thanking Isuzu for helping her back into bed.

"Sorry... I don't mean to be a burden. Oh, If your cold, you can use this." Marley grabbed a knitted dark blue blanket with red geometric patterns and unfolded it before wrapping it around Isuzu's shoulders and smiling at her. The dark-haired beauty was in a small state of shock before she snapped out it and glared before stomping back to the chair on the other side of the room.

Marley just went about her task, opening the small tin to look through an assortment of threads and needles, finally picking one and got started.

Isuzu stayed in her chair, cocooning herself in the blanket as she watched the stranger sew. Feeling the soft material of the knitted cashmere wool on her bare skin, a warm feeling spreading throughout her body. Music played from a small pink speaker, and Isuzu took a look around the room, spotting various trinkets, some bunches of yarn and knitting needles, books, a large vase with a bouquet of yellow and white roses along with a few picture frames. It appeared that the Marley had been in the room for a while.

.

Our love is pastured such a mournful sound
Tonight I'm gonna bury that horse in the ground
So I like to keep my issues strong
But it's always darkest before the dawn

Isuzu noted how she hummed along with the music as she worked, a small, close-lipped smile on her face as she fixed the stitching in Isuzu's cardigan. She even started singing now and then, as if she had forgotten that Isuzu was sitting and watching. Marley looked up from her sewing and smiled at the girl in the chair before returning to her sewing.

Shake it out, shake it out, ooh whoa
And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off, oh whoa

.

" I apologize if it's not perfect," Marley mentioned as she cut the thread after the final stitch and held the cardigan out for Isuzu to take. The girl got up and tentatively reached out for the cardigan, laying the down the blanket on the bed before slipping on the fixed garment.

"...thanks .." Isuzu mumbled under her breath, a small blush on her cheeks as she pouted.

"It really is a cute cardigan, and it looks great on you. The deep red colour contrasts your skin and hair perfectly. You're a model, right?" Marley guessed, confident that she was right.

"Wha-! No! Don't be stupid... I'm not... I'm not pretty." Isuzu huffed, her insecurities bubbling under her skin. Isuzu didn't understand what was with this stranger, how everything that came out of her mouth sounded so genuine.

"What are you talking about. You're absolutely gorgeous! I wish I had your looks!" Marley was in shock that the beautiful girl standing by her bedside didn't see herself as pretty.

"Why would you want to look like me?" Isuzu scoffed. To Isuzu, Marley had almost otherworldly beauty, like something she would see in a painting, but Marley only smiled at Isuzu.

" Because you've got beautiful dark hair and these gorgeous brown eyes like Mama," Marley said sincerely, a part of her a little envious of the gorgeous dark locks.

"Like Mama?" Isuzu repeated, curious about what Marley's mother looked like. Marley nodded and mentioned that both her Mama and 'Bapu' had been there earlier but left when the visiting hours ended.

"Although Mama's hair is a bit curlier, she straightens it all the time. Do you ever curl yours?" The white-blond girl asked.

"No.," Isuzu answered. The only thing she ever did with her hair was pull it back, so it didn't get in the way, she didn't bother styling it in any way. It was too much of a fuss.

.

"May I?" Marley asked with brimming enthusiasm, large amethyst eyes sparkling.

"You want to curl my hair?" Isuzu asked skeptically, concerned why the stranger looked excited over something so... simple.

" If you don't mind. It'll be fun!" Marley insisted, with stars in her eyes, Isuzu wanted to say no, but something about Marley made it hard. Isuzu felt dotted on and being the independent girl she was... it felt weird.

"Fine... " The smile on Marley's face made one think that Isuzu had just told her that she's won a trip or something. Marley was about to get up, but Isuzu scolded her, telling her to stay in bed. Marley tried to fight her on a bit, insisting she would be fine, but Isuzu proved to be more stubborn, and Marley finally gave in, telling Isuzu which bag to grab for her.

Marley had Isuzu plug in a curling iron and made Isuzu sit on the space of the bed in front of her. Gently with a soft touch, she first brushed out Isuzu's long black hair section by section. It was a kind touch, even when Marley's cold hand brushed up against the back of her neck, all Isuzu felt in her heart was warmth.

She remembered when her own Mother used to brush her hair, back when Isuzu thought they were a happy family. Looking back now, Isuzu felt like she should have noticed her mother's fake, strained smile, or the way sometimes she tug Isuzu's hair too tightly, hurting her in the process.

But this stranger, who barely knew her, was so gentle as if her hair was something precious. To not be harmed.

The ebony-haired beauty felt her lip tremble and her eyes burn, all unknown to Marley, who had happily started curling Isuzu's hair as she hummed along to the music playing in the hospital room.

.

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open

Say what you need to say, say what you need to say

.

"Taa-Daa!" Marley announced as she turned off the curling iron and brought out a mirror and put it in front of Isuzu, only to notice tears streaming down her new friend's cheeks and started to panic.

"Did I burn you?! Or hurt you! I am so sorry, Zuzu!" Marley's heart monitor was hammering away as she fretted over Isuzu, who didn't even object to her butchered name. Without saying anything, Isuzu turned around and wrapped her arms around the foreign girl. Burying her face into Marley's neck as she cried.

How long had it been since Isuzu thought of her parents and their cruelty? And if even after all the hurt, all the cruel words. She still craved their love. Their acceptance. All Isuzu wanted was a home.

Marley simply held her and caressed the back of her head as Isuzu let it out until she eventually tired herself out and fell asleep cuddled into Marley. Exhausted from the turmoil in her heart that she thought she had buried.

The nurse eventually found Isuzu when the night round came by to check on Marley and escorted her back to her own room. Isuzu didn't fight it, too embarrassed at her own actions, and now just wanted to hide under some blankets for an eternity.

"Have a good night, Zuzu, sweet dreams," Marley called out while Isuzu only grunted., promising herself to stay away from the foreigner.

.

A promise she broke the very next day when she left her hospital room and escaped into Marley's. Standing awkwardly in the doorway, uncertain of herself and waiting for the girl lying in bed to notice her.

Marley had been reading the same book she had the day before, and Isuzu awkwardly tried to start a conversation.

" What's that you're reading," Isuzu asked, breaking the silence and gesturing to the large book that was resting in Marley's lap.

" Oh, Zuzu, good morning. Carrie . Have you read it?" Marley asked as she held up the book, worn from being read. Isuzu shook her head. She was just relieved that Marley didn't bring up last night.

"Never heard of it.."

"Really? Stephen King's Carrie ?" Marley was surprised, she thought that Stephen King would have been popular enough to be well known in Japan, but maybe she was wrong.

"What's it about?" Isuzu asked, moving from the doorway to get a little closer, trying to get a better look at the cover, what had looked like a flower from far way was actually a skull, and Isuzu was intrigued.

" Okay, so Carrie is in high school, and she has this really terrible religiously fanatic mother and is tormented until... she finds a way to get revenge." Marley tried to give only a small peak into the story without revealing everything.

"How?"

"Well, I can't tell you that! I don't want to spoil it." Marley teased, making Isuzu cross her arms and slightly glare at the girl in bed.

"I could just look it up." Isuzu pointed out.

"True, but what's the fun in that?" Marley debated while giving the girl a smile.

Isuzu grabbed the book from Marley's hand and flipped through it but realized it was all in English. Isuzu glared at the writing before she dropped the book into Marley's lap.

"Tell me.." Isuzu demanded, wanting to know who things played out.

"Ummm..." Marley stalled while tapping the book.

"Tell me!" Isuzu insisted, her hands on her hips.

"Aww, but it's so much better if you see it all unfold..." Marley pouted, hardly bothered by the black-haired girl's glare. But then it looked like she had an idea as she clapped her hands together and stared over at Isuzu with excitement radiating off of her.

"We could always watch the movie if you want!" Marley offered up the idea, and before Isuzu could answer, the door to the private hospital room opened.

A gorgeous woman with long wavy black hair entered the room, she shared the same skin tone as Marley, an older sister maybe.

.

They began to converse in a language that Isuzu couldn't pick up. It didn't sound like English and seemed to be a very quick yet musical sounding. The woman placed down what she was holding and took Marley's face in her hands, kissing both cheeks and forehead before pulling the girl into a quick, tight looking hug, making the Marley laugh.

As they conversed, Isuzu really took the woman's features. She was a breathtaking woman, deep brown skin and long thick wavy hair that was dark brown but seemed to give off an amber glow in particular light. While Marley did not share the woman's eye colour, they both had large entrancing eyes and thick lashes.

"Oh, Mama. This is my new friend. Zuzu Sohma. She's been keeping me company." Isuzu's eyes nearly popped out of her head, she wasn't sure what she wanted to take issue with. The fact that Marley considered her a friend already or the fact that she just introduced her as 'Zuzu.' And this woman seemed much too young to have a daughter Isuzu's age.

" Hi Zuzu, I'm Chandra Bakshi, Marley's mother. It's so lovely to meet one of her friends. " The woman just smiled as she hovered over her daughter, taking Marley's hair out if it's braid and quickly brushing it out before braiding it again, her fingers moving so fast like she had done thousands of times before.

"It's Isuzu.." The Japanese teenager finally uttered.

"Suzu?" Chandra tilted her head and tried to say her name correctly, and Isuzu wasn't sure if she could go through this whole routine again.

" People actually call me Rin," Isuzu revealed, feeling strange as she stood in front of the mother and daughter, their large eyes looking at her with genuine interest.

"Oh, why Rin?" Marley asked, genuinely confused about how the nickname 'Rin' came from 'Isuzu.'

"Because ... um, the kanji... it's an alternate reading..." The girl started getting a little nervous as both foreign women watched her with such interest, and she became a little flustered stopped explaining altogether.

"Zuzu is fine..." She gave in, the kindness and beauty of the women's large eyes proving to be too much to fight. Isuzu told her herself that they probably wouldn't get another chance to use their nickname for her anyway; she didn't plan on sticking around.

"Oh Mama, don't you think that Zuzu could be a model.?" Marley pointed out.

"Yes, and I couldn't help but notice her hair's about as long as yours." Chandra agreed with her daughter as she stood by Marley's bed and smiled at Isuzu.

"Oh, you should let Mama do your hair Zuzu? She's a lot better at it than me." Marley gushed, excited to see her new friend in a fun hairstyle. Isuzu's hair still had curls in her hair from the day before, and Isuzu actually really liked how it looked. Not that she would tell anyone that.

The door opened again, and in stepped someone Isuzu was familiar and one she had never met. The ebony-haired teen felt like she really picked the wrong room.

"Look who I ran into in the lobby." An older man with a shaved head and stubble with patches of grey announced as he wrapped his arm around the shoulder of Isuzu's fellow Zodiac member.

" Chandra-San, Marley-San. It's nice to see you again. Happy New Year. " Hatori bowed slightly to the women and Marley only laughed while they wished him a happy new year as well...

"Please drop the -San, just Marley, please." The bed-ridden girl insisted while her mother agreed. Marley then was about to gesture to Isuzu to introduce her but was shocked at the glare Isuzu was giving the doctor. Isuzu had only seen him yesterday when he had driven her to the hospital. Now she was trying to figure out why the Dragon knew this family.

"What are you doing here." Isuzu spat while Hatori shook his head in slight annoyance.

"The hospital called. You know you shouldn't try to run away Rin, it only makes it worse. Let the doctors do their job." Hatori scolded her.

Before Isuzu could retort, Marley spoke up.

.

" Zuzu wasn't running away... she just.. um... wanted to stretch her legs, and she saw that I needed help as she passed by the room and helped me back into bed." It wasn't technically a lie, Isuzu had helped Marley back into bed... the day before.

Chandra and Marley were soon talking back and forth again in the language that Isuzu couldn't pick up, but it looked like Marley was being scolded, and before she knew it, Isuzu was wrapped up in a tight hug. Chandra held the girl, and Isuzu couldn't help how safe it felt. It was a warm hug, one that made her protected. It wasn't like when Hatsuharu hugged her, she cherished those as well, but this ...this was the hug of a mother.

Chandra pulled away but held Isuzu's face softly in her hands, a soft, tender look on her face.

"Thank you for looking after my stubborn daughter, she can be so difficult!" Chandra teased, but a kind and thankful smile on her face. Truly grateful that Isuzu had been there.

"Mama!" Marley fake gasped, but it only resulted in her coughing, and Chandra quickly went to Marley's side, rubbing her back.

"She is a handful." The other man was by Marley's side, handing her a glass of water with a straw in it.

"Not-you too-Bapu," Marley said through her cough while the man insisted she drink some water. While she sipped, the man laid a kiss on top of her head, pulling away and looking down on Marley with loving eyes.

" Rin, this is Marley's father, Yuuto Sohma, Yuuto, this is Isuzu Sohma." Hatori introduced the two as he noticed that Isuzu was staring at the family. When Hatori mentioned that Yuuto was Marley's father, she raised her eyebrow. They didn't look anything alike, and Marley did not appear to be half-Japanese.

"It's Bakshi actually, Yuuto Bakshi. It's nice to meet you, Isuzu. Thank you for looking out for our troublemaker." The man joked, giving Isuzu a giant smile as Marley half-heartedly glared at him before smiling back at him.

Isuzu was now able to see where Marley's nature came from as seemed to be a product of these two doting and somewhat 'cheesy' parents. A part of Isuzu was jealous, she couldn't deny it. But a stronger part was happy that Marley had such a loving family.

"Rin, I just want to check up on you, let's get you back to your room for some tests." Isuzu hesitantly agreed and was about to leave, but Yuuto interjected.

"After Isuzu's done with her check-up, would you two like to come back for lunch, we were going to order take out." Yuuto invited, and when it looked like Isuzu was going to object, Marley pitched in as well.

"Please do! The more, the merrier, right? plus, it beats hospital food." Marley mentioned, hoping to entice her new friend with a decent meal.

Even though Isuzu felt subconscious eating in front of others, she wanted to be a part of something... something that felt.. real. And the Bakshi family felt... right.

Isuzu nodded, and Hatori ushered them out the door. The two Zodiac members walked down the hall towards her hospital room, and Isuzu went through with her blood tests. Once the nurse left and she was alone with Hatori, she finally decided to ask.

.

"Who are they?" she asked while taking her out of the pigtails, letting the loose curls flow.

"Well, Yuuto-San is Tetsuo-Sama's son. He left the Estate almost 8 years ago and moved to America." Hatori started, and Isuzu interrupted, surprised by the information. She had heard stories of Tetsuo's heir and son running away. It had been a massive scandal when he married someone who his father hadn't approved off, and Yuuto chose his wife over the Sohma family.

"Tetsuo-sama? That mean old grump is that man's father? and Marley is...?"

"Chandra's daughter, and while Yuuto-San is not her birth father, he sees her as his own," Hatori explained.

"What are they doing here?" Isuzu wanted more information, all of this seemed strange, and that was saying a lot for the Sohma family.

" Marley-San... she fell ill, and her health deteriorated quickly, and Yuuto-San reached out to Tetsuo-Sama, and he flew them out to get Marley the best care possible."

"What's wrong with her? She could barely walk across the room without dropping to the ground.." Isuzu asked, thinking off the machines she was hooked up to and pain on her face when she toppled to the ground.

" Heart condition... her heart can't pump blood properly," Hatori answered, checking his phone.

"Is that why her hands are so cold?" Isuzu looked down at her own hand, remembering when Marley had held them when she was hiding from the doctors.

" Well.. yes, it is one of the symptoms..though it only occurs in severe cases of heart failure." Hatori said softly, a sad look in his eyes.

"Severe heart failure, but doesn't that mean... that's not fair." Isuzu huffed as she turned to look out the window, glaring at the currently blue sky. Isuzu started cursing herself.

Of course, she had to go and make friends with someone who was basically on their death bed. Marley, who, after knowing Isuzu for such a little amount of time, made her feel ... normal. As if she wasn't a freak. Like she could be herself and Marley wouldn't get mad or judge her. And her parents seemed to be just as kind as she was. They really did look like the perfect family... and what would happen to that if Marley... If Marley...

" No... it hardly ever is, but there' still hope. I have to leave, Akito is asking for me. Now, stop running away from the doctors. " Before Hatori left, he asked Isuzu what one plus one, and when she answered, he snapped a quick photo.

"Your hair looks very nice in curls, Zuzu." and as Isuzu got ready to throw a pillow at the doctor, he was gone, leaving Isuzu to her thoughts.

.

The logical part of Isuzu told herself to stay away from the Bakshi family, but she found herself continually sneaking out of her room and slipping into Marley's. A few more days passed by, and while Isuzu was staring out the window in her own room, she had an unexpected visitor.

"May I come in." The tall man stood in the doorway, gently knocking on the frame.

Isuzu just nodded, not knowing why Marley's father had shown up. Yuuto smiled at Isuzu as he walked into the room.

"The nurses have been gossiping. And they say that you've been sneaking into Marley's room, watching movies late at night." He mentioned as he looked at the small vase of flowers on her bedside.

" The nurses always gossip, it's annoying, especially when they're wrong," Isuzu mumbled, annoyed that she wasn't as discreet as she tried to be.

"We asked Marley the same thing, but my daughter is... not a convincing liar," Yuuto explained as he let out a chuckle. The girl cursed Marley under her breath and finally turned to the man, ready to kick him out.

" But, I bet you are a lot better at keeping secrets, being a Zodiac member and all." He gave her a cheeky smile, which made her stop her words, panic set in.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Isuzu spat, not knowing how much Yuuto knew.

"It's alright, I know, I've known since I was a child." He explained with a kind yet sad smile, hoping to put her at ease while also seemingly thinking back on a distant memory. Isuzu thought about it and put together that he probably knew due to being Tetsuo's son, and nothing happened in the Sohma Clan that Tetsuo wasn't aware of. Well... the old man knew most things, there were still things Isuzu was sure he wasn't aware of.

" I also heard gossip that you constantly try to escape your hospital appointments." Isuzu was surprised at the change in topic, curious about what he was trying to get at.

" I'm here to ask for a favour. My wife and I can't be here as much as we'd like to, and we worry about Marley." Yuuto explained as a sad look crossed his face as he stared down at this hands, Isuzu could see how tired he was as he sat down in the chair beside her bed.

"What does that have to do with me?" The harsh teen snapped, getting ready for him to tell her to stay out of Marley's room and let Marley rest or something. To stop bothering her.

" If we put an extra bed in Marley's room, would you be alright with keeping her company. And maybe it'll stop you from running away from your nurses." Yuuto proposed, giving Isuzu a smile, hopeful that she would agree.

"Do whatever you want, I don't care." Isuzu scoffed as she crossed her arms, wanting to stop the hammering in her heart and relieved that he hadn't told her to stay away. Her attitude only made Yuuto laugh.

"Alright, but that means no more running away. Maybe you two can keep each other out of trouble." He joked as he patted Isuzu on the head like a child making the Zodiac member blush.

"Please continue being friends with my daughter." Yuuto asked, giving Isuzu a kind smile, one that said, ' thank you.'

"We're not friends..." Isuzu crossed her arms, all the while thinking that she wouldn't let herself get too attached to the weak girl with cold hands.

At the statement, Yuuto only laughed and shook his head, as if he knew Isuzu was just stubborn.

"Maybe tell that to the matching friendship bracelet your wearing." He pointed to Isuzu's wrist to the braided bracelet that was made from black and red yarn with silver beads around her right wrist. Isuzu covered it with her hand, and her entire face went red.

Isuzu told herself that as soon as she left this hospital, she wouldn't look back and would be out the Bakshi's lives for good. She didn't want to be around when Marley's machine flat-lined.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

A squeeze of her hand brought Isuzu back to the vintage shop, the warmth of the hand grounding her in the present.

"Zuzu, everything alright?" Marley asked as she looked at her and Isuzu looked down at their holding hands, the same bracelet around her wrist, a matching red and white yarn bracelet with gold beads around her wrist. The warmth of Marley's hand, reminding her that she was here and that her new heart had saved her.

But Isuzu was still Isuzu and struggled with Marley's affectionate self and pulled her hand away, blushing as she did so.

Marley only giggled, seeing that Isuzu seemed to be acting like her usual self and was about to say something else before Kagura bounced over and tackled Marley into a hug.

"This is perfect, Marley-Chan! I'm going to wear it to your showcase." Kagura squealed as she released Marley and started twirling in the cute purple dress. Yes, the cat was out of the bag, Marley found out quickly just how many tickets Momiji had bought for the Sohma family, and while at first, she was immensely embarrassed, Marley found herself excited for her friends to be there.

"It looks great on you, Kagura." Marley complimented the girl and Hiro and Isuzu just rolled their eyes as Kagura continued to twirl and hop around in the dress.

"Let's find something for you to wear, you mentioned that there was an after-party for the performers and their guests, right?"

"Yes, but I already have something picked out," Marley revealed, a soft smile on her face that piqued Hiro's curiosity as he listened in.

"Oooh! What are you going to wear!? Tell me, tell me!" Kagura demanded as she shook the taller girl by the arms, leaving her dizzy, causing Isuzu to step in and pull the Boar away.

" I was actually going to wear one of Mama's lehenga choli's." Marley explained once the room stopped moving around her.

" A what?" Hiro asked, having no idea what Marley had said, but in his defence, no one around her knew what she was talking about.

"Oh, it's like a fancy India skirt and top set..." Marley tried to explain, but it would just be easier to show and brought out her phone and showed the group some examples.

"Wow, they are so many! And so colourful! I can't wait to see you in one. You're going to look beautiful. How many do you have?" Kagura asked, entranced by the beautiful clothing.

"Between mine and Mama's? Probably more than we needed." Marley joked, thinking off the boxes of traditional Indian clothing that was in storage.

" Do you think I could wear one day?" Kagura asked with stars in her eyes.

"Of course, they might be a bit long on you though...but they would still really nice on you, Kagura. We can do a little photoshoot." Marley suggested, happy to share a part of her culture with her family.

"Oh, you're trying to embarrass me! I'll have to show Kyo-Kun." Kagura blushed, but the mention of the Cat's name left Marley a little confused.

.

"Kyo-Kun?" Marley said, in case she maybe heard wrong.

"Yep, love of my life, Kyo-Kun!" Kagura sang as she skipped around the store, looking through racks.

"Oh... Kyo's your fiancé.." Marley uttered, unsure of what she was feeling.

Isuzu watched Marley's face drop slightly. It was barely noticeable, but having spent so much time with the girl, she knew when something was up. Kagura's obsession and forceful nature typically bothered Isuzu, but now it really pissed her off and was about to correct Kagura. Hiro beat her to it.

" You two aren't engaged, plus why would you want to get married to him." Hiro pointed out.

"We are engaged, Kyo promised to marry me when we were kids!" Kagura insisted, and Marley could only think of the first time she met Kagura and how she described her fiancé.

"He's a bit of an angry grump these days... he wasn't always like that... he is.. kind of awkward but a gentle person."

"Didn't you threaten him with a rock or something if he didn't ask you?" Isuzu pointed out which Kagura seemed to completely ignore.

"Kagura... Kyo really is a wonderful person, I can see why you love him so much. "

" Wait... you know... Kyo-Kun." Kagura uttered as she stared at Marley is slight disbelief, and Marley nodded.

"Well we are in the same class," Marley mentioned, she decided not to mention that Kyo had been to her house, she didn't want to get her friend in trouble with going to Marley's home. A girl who was not his finance.

" I love everything about him! The good things, the bad things.. I accept them all!" Kagura proclaimed.

"Well that's good, I'm very happy for you." Marley encouraged, but she was still surprised about the new information.

" No one could ever love him as much as I can! Even his true form, I accept that too!" Kagura yelled, which made Marley raise an eyebrow when Kagura mentioned a 'true form.'

"Kagura. Shut up right now." Isuzu ended Kagura's rant with her ice-cold glare while Marley looked at the two girls, trying to figure out how the room's temperature had seemed to drop, even Hiro looked... disgusted somehow.

"I'm going to go look at shoes over there in the corner." Marley decided before anyone could say anything she left the Zodiac members.

Hiro looked back and forth between the girls, not liking the atmosphere and decided to follow Marley.

.

" You have no business telling other people about the Cat's true form. And don't bother Marley with your obsessive 'love' towards Kyo." Isuzu spat, more than just annoyed with the Boar.

"Does she know?" Kagura asked as she stared down at the floor.

" I don't know, but that doesn't mean you go yelling it without thinking." Isuzu spat, wishing she was in her horse form, and she could give Kagura a good kick to the head.

Both girls looked over at Marley, and she was trying on a pair of cute sandals while talking to Hiro, a smile on her face while Hiro seemed to be blushing and turning away. But Marley's smile was off, somehow it was forced, but Isuzu was the only one to take note of it. She knew Marley's smile, and that wasn't it.

The ebony-haired beauty had been wondering how strong Marley's and Kyo's friendship was and if there was any chance that Marley might even have the slightest bit of feelings for her cursed cousin. The Horse of the Zodiac was also surprised at how familiar the Cat acted with her dear friend.

Isuzu had taken it upon herself to stay over Marley's house to help look after her ankle over the weekend, helping her get around and making sure she didn't push it. Kyo had dropped by, saying he was just dropping off homework, but then he ended up staying for lunch and into the evening before he went home. Isuzu had found it annoying to have him around, but Marley seemed happy that he was there, so she put up with it.

"Has Kyo been cheating on me?!" Isuzu could see Kagura's temper rising and felt she was about to something reckless, and the last thing she wanted was Marley in the middle of any of Kagura's personal drama.

"Kagura, we may be from the same family...but if you lay one jealous finger on Marley, I'll tear you apart." Isuzu threatened, her cold glare stopping Kagura in her tracks. Kagura was wickedly strong, but even she knew when she was no match for Isuzu.

Kagura huffed and went to change back into her clothes while Isuzu just glared before walking to meet up Marley, who was now trying on sunglasses with Hiro.

Marley no longer had her perfect family, but Isuzu would do what she could do make sure her friend was happy and safe. The Sohma's weren't perfect, but Marley made it better, her light helped keep the darkness at bay, if only for a little.

"Thank you for looking after my stubborn daughter, she can be so difficult!" Chandra teased, but with a kind and thankful smile on her face. Truly grateful that Isuzu had been there.

Marley was stubborn alright, but her stubbornness had kept her alive, even when there seemed to be no hope, Marley pushed through. Isuzu had her regrets, but now she would try to stand by her friend's side as long as it was safe to do so.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

The orange light of dusk covered the Sohma Estate as Shigure walked on the cobblestone path, heading towards the main house.

As he slipped off his sandals, the maids of the house greeted him, and he smiled politely as he walked towards Akito's room, where he found her lounging by the porch, an oil lamp lighting up the centre of the traditional room.

"Shigure, what are you doing here?" Akito asked she slightly turned her head towards him, her dark eyes staring holes into him.

"How are you feeling?" The Dog asked as he kneeled on the other side of the room.

"What do you want." Akito didn't feel any need for pleasantries, she figured the man was here for something other than just checking on how she felt. If he cared how she felt, then he wouldn't have betrayed her.

"Yuki and Kyo have started getting happier since Tohru-Kun came. I hope things continue in a positive direction. I assume your real goal is for this to fail, but you're out of luck..." Shigure pointed out as Akito just stared out at the garden. Akito didn't care how 'happy' Tohru Honda made them, she wouldn't be there long. She was... temporary, and Akito's bond was eternal.

"But, I suppose you'll get a chance to see all their happy faces come this Friday," Shigure mentioned, savouring the moment.

"Oh? And what makes you say that." Akito asked as she crossed the tatami floor and stood in front of Shigure's kneeling form.

"Then, you aren't aware?" Shigure amused as he stared up at her through his bangs, a small smirk on his face.

" Aware of what? Stop speaking as if you know something I do not." Akito ordered, her hand moving to the top of Shigure's head.

" Did you know how close Marley has become with my household?" Shigure asked, knowing that Akito most likely had no idea of the happenings outside of the Estate.

Akito was aware that Marley knew the trio that lived with Shigure. They went to the same school, and they ended up on a few trips together. But Akito doubted that Marley was actually friends with them. Especially the monster of the Zodiac.

"It's quite cute; actually, we all have tickets to her showcase, and I know that she's is just over the moon that we'll all be there." Shigure actually didn't know if Marley was excited that they were coming, but the girl was so simple, he assumed she was.

" Kyo is especially excited." Shigure knew he was causing a bit of trouble, but he wanted to play a game, and he wanted the stakes to be a little higher. Move things along if he could.

"... it would be a shame if they all couldn't make it... wouldn't it. But I'm sure Marley would hardly care..." Akito mused as she grabbed Shigure's chin, her long nails only slightly digging into his skin. An ugly feeling built up under Akito's skin. She really didn't see why anyone else had to go Marley's showcase if she was attending. Marley probably only invited them out of pity Akito decided, smirking at the revelation.

"The Monster really should learn his place, and I won't have Marley bothered with his presence." Akito sneered at the very thought of the Cat of the Zodiac. Marley was Akito's, and she didn't appreciate the other Zodiac members taking up her time. The Zodiac belonged to Akito, and so did Marley. Friday might be a lot more interesting than just Marley's showcase. Two birds with one stone perhaps.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

.

After they paid for their things, the cold energy didn't leave, and Marley was beside herself, and what's worse was Kagura looked like her world had been crushed.

While Marley hadn't spent as much time with Kagura as she did with other Sohma members, she still like they were friends and didn't like seeing her looking so dejected.

As Hiro and Isuzu talked about something, Marley decided to hang back with Kagura, who was walking far behind the group.

" Hey, everything alright?" Marley asked as she kept the slow pace with the normally talkative girl.

Kagura looked at her, thoughtful brown eyes searching Marley's concerned amethyst eyes. The Boar of the Zodiac thought of the time she spent with Marley, the cooking lessons, and how patient she was with her, encouraging her with every step. Even she nearly burnt down the entire kitchen, she barely batted an eye and had been more concerned with Kagura's well being.

Marley was kind and had everything to give. Which made the realization that Marley was close with Kyo all the harder. At first, she thought that Tohru Honda was the one she had to worry about. But if Marley was her love rival, then... she felt unable to fight.

" I just remembered that I need to go home for dinner!" Kagura lied, giving a broad false smile to Marley.

"Oh.. we can walk you back, or I can call Sousuke to pick us up-"

"No, no. You all go ahead and enjoy yourselves." Kagura insisted, not wanting any more kindness from Marley at this moment, in her mind begging her to let it go.

" Okay... but text me when you get home to let me know you got home safely," Marley asked, and Kagura cursed in her head again, wishing the girl wasn't so concerned with others all the time.

"Will do. Enjoy your crepes! Bye!" Kagura called as she already started jogging away from Marley, not even saying goodbye to Isuzu and Hiro.

.

Marley watched as Kagura skipped away, her bright orange cat backpack jostling behind her.

"Hey! Hurry up already, I've waited long enough!" Hiro yelled, causing Marley to turn around and see the Zodiac members standing there, waiting.

"Ah! Sorry, Sorry." She apologized as she caught up with her friends, feeling guilty for holding them up.

"Where'd Kagura go?" He asked, inquisitive eyes watching Marley's.

"Um, she said that she needed to go home for dinner," Marley explained as they walked around looking for the place that Marley mentioned should have crepes.

"Finally, she was getting to be a bit much." Hiro sighed, and then he spotted the crepe spot, a small, corner spot that had an over the top french theme with an Eiffel Tower on the sign. The Ram of the Zodiac ushered the girls over to the cafe, not wanting to risk any more distractions.

"She means well. Although I'm still surprised that Kyo is her fiance.." Marley smiled, curious about how the Zodiac couple acted when together.

"So is he." Hiro laughed, putting down the shopping bags on the floor and taking a seat.

"Trust me on this, they're not together." Isuzu tried to explain, thoroughly annoyed with Kagura and the trouble she was able to cause.

"But Kagura does love him?" Marley asked, trying to get the story straight.

" Trust me, Marley, she doesn't."

"Why would Kagura lie about something like that?" The confused white-blond teen asked as she watched Isuzu's annoyed expression.

"Just... it's not love."

"Ho-" Marley was about to ask more, but Isuzu interrupted her.

"Trust me, when you see them together Friday, you'll get what I'm talking about." The Horse of the Zodiac put, already knowing she was going to have without looking at the menu. A simple butter and sugar crepe weren't likely to upset her stomach, she trusted it.

"Ya, you're in for a real show," Hiro smirked, familiar with Kagura's strange obsessive behaviour towards the Cat of the Zodiac. He looked through the menu quickly, eyes stopping on the chocolate ice cream crepe.

Marley was now truly curious about Kagura and Kyo's relationship and somehow relived. Friday couldn't come quickly enough. An excited feeling bubbling through her chest, ready to share her passion with her family and hoping she didn't let anybody down.

.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.

Chapter Text

.

.

.

The room was quiet, the T.V was on mute, only the persistent sound of machines beeping sounded through the room but I had gotten used it.

I stared out the window, it was a beautiful spring day, and I couldn't help but wonder what the flowers looked like. I hadn't been able to leave the hospital since being admitted. Only able to go for short walks through the halls or even made to be pushed into a wheelchair.

"Maybe they'll let me go the roof now that it's getting warmer..." I thought out loud, hoping to get some fresh air.

I checked the time and looked at the phone, waiting for it to ring. I had given Mama and Bapu a few calls earlier as they should have landed in Vancouver by now, and they mentioned they were taking a train from Vancouver to California then a bus from there to Las Vegas. It made for a long day of travelling.

They had wanted to fly, but spring break was in full swing in the states, and it was impossible to find a direct flight or even a connecting flight.

"At least Mama likes trains... don't know about Bapu though...maybe he likes them too. What do you think" I asked the little lion plushy by my side.

Time passed, and soon it was late afternoon, and my phone had yet to ring, so I tried calling again, but it went straight to voicemail again.

I was alone today, Zuzu's health had been good, so she had no need to be in the hospital. While I was happy she was doing better, a small part of me was feeling lonely in the empty room.

Me alone with my thoughts didn't seem to be a good idea as I fidgeted with my fingers, my anxieties bundling up in my chest.

" I'm sure they're exhausted after travelling. I'll try again in the morning." I decided as I opened up my book, hoping the world of George R. Martin would distract me.

.

The sun had gone down, and their doctors did their night rounds, checking on me and my vitals but not offering much in conversation. Which was fine. They're busy.

A knock on the door took me out of my trance, and I turned to see Hatori and Dadaji.

" Oh, hey, what are you two doing by so late? Did you guys have dinner yet? I think the cafeteria is serving curry today, it smelt pretty good." I greeted the two, giving the two a smile, happy to see them.

But they didn't return a smile or seem to be in any sort of good mood as I took in their sagged shoulders as they walked into the room solemnly. Hatori remained standing while Dadaji took a seat by my bed.

"Is everything okay? Did the doctor say anything?" I tried to figure out what had them is such low spirits and what I could to maybe cheer them up.

" It looked like a beautiful day outside, I bet the flowers are just coming in, I heard someone said that cherry blossom season is on its way," I mentioned, not really sure what that meant but it sounded pretty. Bapu had told me they would have picnics under cherry blossom trees when he was a kid.

Dadaji took my right hand in his, rubbing the top of my hands with his thumbs. His eyes looked like he had been crying, and he was clenching his mouth.

" Marley.. there... there's been." Dadaji tried to say something but couldn't seem to get the words out and had to take another breath. I placed my other hand on top of his, and it only made him lower his head.

"Tetsuo-Sama... I can-"

"No." He cut Hatori off as he sent the doctor a glare and then turned his gaze to me, and I only waited, a feeling of dread entering me as he really stared into my eyes.

" There's been an accident. .. I'm-. Your parents ...have passed."

I felt a deep clenching in my heart, and I couldn't breathe. All I heard was the machines around me, harshly beeping as I ripped my hands from Dadaji and brought them to my chest, trying to make the pain in my heart disappear.

"CODE BLUE!"

"CLEAR!" A hard, painful shock tore through my body.

.

I woke up with a start and brought my hand to my chest, feeling my heartbeat rapidly as I stared up at the ceiling. I looked around the room and realized I wasn't in the hospital room but in my room on the Sohma Estate. A lump of fur jumped onto my bed and chose to crawl onto my chest, making himself comfortable.

Taking a deep breath to try and calm down as I used one hand to pet Gimli, who meowed and started purring.

.

That... felt like it was only yesterday...

.

I grabbed my phone and quickly dialed a number, silently praying for him to answer. As the phone rang, I brought my hand to my face and felt it was wet on my cheeks. Tears were still flowing down.

"Marley? Everything okay? It must be 5 in the morning over there." A gruff voice came through the receiver, and I felt myself smile, a breath of relief leaving me.

.

He's okay

.

"Ah, yes, just woke up early, I guess, and I thought I would give you a call," I explained, sniffling a little bit.

" Are catching a cold? You sound a little stuffed up?" He asked, and I immediately tried to come up with a lie to explain my sniffling.

" Yes, a cold... it's from a cold because..well you know summer is around the corner and people get summer colds, and I've been having to carry around tissues but don't worry, I'll take some cold medicine." I told him, hoping he wouldn't see through me and just accept it.

" Okay, well, take care of yourself and get Hatori to do a check-up, the Sea Monkey might as well make himself useful." Dadaji insisted, and I couldn't help but giggle at the poor Hatori's nickname.

"Dadaji." I giggled while trying to lightly scold him.

" Tonight's the showcase, right?" Dadaji asked, ignoring my scolding. I got up from the bed to which Gimli meowed in protest as I went to open the curtains, revealing the torrential downpour.

"Yep, tonight's the night," I responded, silently hoping the weather would turn around by the evening.

" Hatori told me the Rabbit invited half of the Sohma family." Dadaji chuckled as I heard movement from the other side, a door opening and sounds of horns beeping and people talking.

"Not exactly, just a few friends," I mentioned, hoping he could hear me through all the noise. I heard someone on the other side ask Dadaji something, and he told whoever it was that he was busy.

"I'll let you go Dadaji, I just wanted to call and say hi," I told him, not wanting to keep him from anything important.

.

Dadaji's okay, he's alright

.

"Alright, well. Have a good time tonight, you... you're.. have fun." Dadaji

"Thanks, Dadaji. Have a good day, miss you." All I heard was grumbling on the other end till he finally responded.

"... I miss you, too.."

"Awwww, Dadajiiii!" I gushed into the phone.

The phone clicked off, and I couldn't help but laugh at my poor Dadaji, who was clearly at his limit for any of 'that cutesy stuff' as he called it.

I took a deep breath and decided that even though it was raining out, I could use a small jog.

"Gimli, wanna go outside?" I asked the cat as I rummaged through my closet, looking for jogging pants and a rain jacket. Gimli gave me an annoyed look and just curled up on my duvet to fall back asleep.

" I guess you're done with the rain, huh honey." I gently scratched behind his ear, causing him to meow and purr as the rain continued to beat down on the roof.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.

.

The morning sun was finally peeking out from the clouds, giving the Sohma Estate a little break from the heavy rain they had been experiencing the last few days.

Removing my raincoat hood, staring up at the blue sky, I tightened my ponytail while I took a small break from jogging, catching my breath as I took in the smell of summer rain, a smile stretching across my face. There was just something about sunshine after heavy rainfall that was so simple and beautiful that I just wanted to stop and enjoy it.

I took a second deep breath the scent of the fresh rain changed, and the alarming smell made me scrunch my nose as a charred burning smell took over. I looked around and followed the scent quickly and came to a house that was always on my jogging route.

.

Oh no

.

Small clouds of smoke rose out the porch, and I leapt into the door, not even bothering to take off my shoes as I rushed into the house. The forgotten pan on the stove was on fire, and smoke nearly engulfed the kitchen. I rushed to turn off the stove that was left on high, but the fire seemed to have a life of its own.

Scrambling around looking for a pot lid, opening numerous cabinets till I found one and pushed down the fire. Once the flame was snuffed out, I took a breath and tried to calm down my racing heart, opening all the windows in the kitchen to let out all the smoke.

.

How did I go from enjoying the morning rain to putting out a kitchen fire

.

"Hello? Anyone home?" I called throughout the house, finally slipping off my sneakers before I tracked any more mud throughout the house.

I heard footsteps, and a tall man with long chestnut hair in a low hanging ponytail walked in, brown eyes looking at me as I stood in the kitchen with my sneakers in hand.

"Sir, are you alright?" I asked as I quickly looked him over, but he seemed to be quiet calm as he stood in the doorway, looking more surprised at me being there rather than the state the kitchen was in.

.

He looks like he's about Bapu's age... maybe a little younger

.

" Yes, I was just trying to make a quick breakfast, but it appears that I maybe got a tad sidetracked." He mentioned as he looked at the kitchen, the strong smell of burning food still hung heavy in the air.

I stood there in awe at this man who seemed to not understand that he was moments from his kitchen going up in flames.

" Is there something I can help you with, miss?" He asked as he stared at me, a kind smile on his face.

.

Wow... he's completely calm

.

I looked around at the mess of the kitchen and back at him. I then started laughing and covered my mouth, trying to hide my laughter at the situation. After a moment, I put myself together.

"Well, I'm glad you're okay. You could have really gotten hurt, why would you leave the kitchen with the stove up so high?" I asked, really not understanding how he could be so careless.

" Apologies, I didn't realize I had left it on high, I had a good feeling and thought I would give cooking another try." He reasoned, lightly shaking his head.

"Give cooking... another try...?" I repeated, astonished with the man's calm attitude as the kitchen was still slightly smoky. I even lifted the pot lid to see the remnants of whatever the man had been cooking, but it looked like just a black charred mass.

.

Why do I feel like this is far from the first time he's burnt something to near oblivion...

.

" I just got back from a long trip, and there's some unpacking I wanted to get done." He explained as he smiled at me.

"Oh! Welcome home. I hope it was a good trip." I gave him a smile, wondering what his trip was about.

"Thank you, it's good to be back. I'm looking forward to seeing my family." The man replied, a very soft and fond look in his eyes.

.

I wonder how long he's been gone...

.

"I bet they'll be happy to see you too." I encouraged, happy for the reunion as I started cleaning up the kitchen, throwing the burnt pot under the tap was running hot water.

" ... Wait! We got sidetracked... you shouldn't be distracted while cooking, something terrible could have happened to you." I tried to scold him as checked to make sure the water was hot and put some soap into the burnt pot.

.

This pot might not be salvageable, but it's worth trying...

.

" Apologies, I really did have a good feeling about today." He reasoned, looking very innocent.

"Well...maybe next time someone should supervise or help you. Who normally cooks?" I asked, certain that someone had to have been feeding him if he couldn't cook himself.

" My assistant does a lot of the cooking I must admit-" He started to explain, but footsteps came rushing into the kitchen, and a new voice called out.

"Shihan! What did you do?!" A younger man ran in, interrupting what the man in the kimono was going to say, looking around the kitchen. He had lighter brown hair that brushed against his ears and brown eyes.

" This young lady came and saved the kitchen." The man explained and then before he could say anything else the young man bowed slightly.

"Thank you for helping, I'm Tomoda Kunimitsu, I'm Kazuma-Dono's assistant." The boy introduced himself and then looked at me. I smiled and wiped my wet hands on my jogging pants.

"Oh! I'm Sohma Marley, it's nice to meet you too. And I guess.. you are Kazuma?" I smiled and gestured to the older man in the blue kimono who I had been trying to scold for his cooking mishap.

"Yes, it seems I don't know where my manners are today. I'm Sohma Kazuma, and I run a karate dojo. May I call you Marley-San?" The man with the long chestnut brown hair introduced himself.

.

He really is handsome... and he has very kind eyes... like Bapu

.

"Please, just Marley is fine." I insisted, but then I remembered something as I thought about what he had just said.

"Oh! Wait, you must run the dojo on the estate, right? Then do you know K-"

An alarm started beeping from my phone, reminding me to get ready for school. I needed to shower, and it was going to take forever to blow dry my hair. The timing might be a little tight.

"Sorry, I've got to run. Welcome home and please... maybe have supervision next time you want to try cooking, I don't want you hurting yourself." I insisted as I grabbed my shoes and slipped them on at the porch door, giving them a wave and a smile before I jogged home in the sunshine.

Hopefully, the sun holds out for the rest of the day

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

The gym class was being held indoors today due to the field being too muddy because of the rainy season, and 2-D shared their gym period with a few other classes, so the gym was pretty packed today. Two of the gym teachers had disappeared a while ago, leaving one in charge, and everyone was basically doing their own thing. The one gym teacher was too caught up in reading her romance novel to really navigate any sort of order in the gym.

"C'mon you damn Rat, today's the day!" Kyo yelled as he ran the length of the gym, trying to catch up to Yuki, who was dribbling the basketball. The game had started with other players, but the rival's intensity had the other boys just watching from the sideline. Yuki fan girls were happily enjoying Yuki showing off his athletic talent while Tohru, Uo, Hana and Marley rested on the bleachers, observing.

"Kyo's pretty good. It's too bad they scared off the others from playing with them, though." Marley pointed out as she watched the boys play the one on one game.

"Same bet as always?" Uo asked as she smirked over at Marley from her spot, stretching and resting her hands behind her head.

"You're on, Kyo's got this." Marley held out her hand for Uo to shake, sealing the bet. Marley was confident in her saffron-haired friend and his ability to beat his cousin at something. The white-blonde didn't know how beating Yuki would make Kyo happy, but he was so determined and never gave up, so she figured it must be important.

Or maybe it was just a cat-mouse thing.

.

"Yo, Marley!" A tall third year sauntered over to where the girls were sitting, casually running a hand through his shaggy black hair.

" Hey Ryu, how are you?" Marley smiled up at the boy from her sitting position, and Ryu offered a fist which Marley happily returned, lighting bumping his knuckles with hers.

" Not much, you haven't been at the studio the last few weeks, what's up?" He asked.

"Ah, sorry, I've been dedicating all my free time to do aerial silks, but I'll be back in the studio Sunday, maybe? if not, then sometime next week for sure." Marley promised. She was surprised how much she missed dancing contemporary and street while she had been working on aerial. Or maybe Marley just missed dancing with a group of people. She had found aerial was feeling a little lonely.

Marley used to love working on her aerial arts but found herself not enjoying it like back in America.

"Good, we thought maybe you were ditching." He teased with a devilish smirk.

"No, no. Just too busy, I've missed you guys." Marley insisted she had been watching the Instagram stories and snap chats from people in the studio. She was maybe even a little jealous of some of the combos they had been working on.

Uo made a coughing noise from beside me.

"Oh Sorry, Ryu. These are my classmates, Honda Tohru, Hanajima Saki, and Uotani Arisa. Ladies, this is my friend from dance, Ito Ryunosuke. " Marley made the introductions, and everyone said hello. The girls couldn't help but notice how tall and handsome he was.

"Hey, call me Ito-Senpai." He said with a cheeky smile.

"..." And he somehow lost any appeal he had with the girls.

"Or not... We-" The boy was cut off by a bunch of girls screaming Yuki's name when he made a basket, causing Kyo to yell at his fellow Zodiac member.

"Wow... that's... intense," Ryu muttered, a little intimidated by the fan club and their cheering.

"Ya... you get used to it... kind of." Marley smiled but noticed how Ryu's eyes drifted to a group of three girls that were hanging out by the hoop, staring with a small smile.

.

"Ryu?" Marley asked while the boy seemed to be a slight daze.

"Ah, yes, sorry. I actually came over for a favour..." The senior said while eyeing the other girls around Marley, and she thought he probably wanted some privacy for whatever he wanted to say.

"Do you want to go somewhere and talk?" Marley offered, ready to get up and talk in a corner if need be.

"Actually... you girls might be able to give some advice," Ryu said, rubbing the back of his head as a small blush came to his cheeks, his green eyes peeking over the group of girls he had been staring at before.

" So, are you all part of that Prince Yuki club?" He asked, a little unhopeful because he seemed at least half the girls in the school were part of the club.

Uo flat out started laughing while the rest of the girls just shook their heads.

" Do you think that... a girl in the club would be open to another boy asking them out?" The Senior boy asked, hoping the girls would be able to give him some insight.

"If the girl has a brain, then yes," Hana said with a non-expressive face as she continued to concentrate on Tohru's hair, putting it in a french braid.

Ryu looked over at a group of girls and Marley watched his gaze.

" You have a crush, and she's infatuated with Yuki.. right?" Marley asked, pretty confident that she was on the right track. Not that it took a detective to figure this one out.

"... yes..." He admitted, staring at the ground, already looking defeated.

" Which one is she?" Marley asked, getting excited for her friend. Marley had only known Ryu for a few months, but she found him to be a kind and talented person, and always so supportive to the dancers at the studio. She was curious to see who he was crushing on. Marley stared at the group of girls, waiting for him to point out which one.

" the one with the shoulder-length hair..." Ryu revealed, not daring to look over as he was trying not to be too obvious.

"Oh.. the girl with the cute blue hair clip?" The excited foreigner asked, already imagining the two holding hands as they walked through the school.

"Yes." He softly said

"Oh, she 's so pretty! And you two would look so cute together. What's she like?" Marley practically yelled in her excitement and the boy had to shush her.

" She's kind of shy... but really nice and always brings really cute bento lunches," Ryu explained with a light blush on his face.

"Aww, Ryu! You should tell her. Maybe she'll make cute lunches for you!" Marley encouraged her friend while Hana and Uo just stared at the excited girl, eyebrows rising in surprise.

" She only has eyes for that Yuki kid, though." The boy said sadly, not liking his odds.

"Well, if you confess to her, I bet she would change her mind." Marley debated.

" I doubt it. She probably doesn't even know who I am." Ryu already seemed defeated before he had even tried, and Marley couldn't stand for that.

" Don't say that! You're so kind and talented, no one does a body roll like you, and plus you're a total cutie, she would be foolish to not at least see you." Marley encouraged as she talked him up, making him blush, and even the girls were surprised at how upfront Marley was. Her bright eyes were staring up at him, hoping that she was getting across how much she admired him and give him some confidence. Ryu just blushed from all the attention.

.

"Well... I did have this one idea for her to get to notice me..." He admitted, trying to gear himself up to ask for a favour.

"Great! Can we hear it?" Marley asked.

" I was thinking... maybe if she saw... me dance?" Ryu suggested, feeling confident in his dance skills but still uncertain with how that would come across to the girl he wanted to woo.

"That's perfect! You're amazing, if you do one of your body rolls, how can she resist!" Marley encouraged, entirely on board.

" Do women like men who can dance?" Uo asked, looking a little skeptical of the idea already. When she thought of men dancing, she thought of men dancing in ballet tights, and that didn't really do it for her.

"Are you kidding? A guy that knows how to move his body and has rhythm, that's always a good thing." Marley insisted, making Ryu regret bringing it up at all as he blushed even more.

" Would you... do it with me?" Ryu finally asked, looking at the ground as he asked. He had no idea that asking Marley for her help would be so hard. But he really couldn't think of anything else. He had already tried to write multiple confession notes, but they didn't feel right.

"Eh?" A look of confusion crossed Marley's face while the three other girls looked at Ryu skeptically, even Tohru was eyeing the senior over his choice of words.

"It would be weird for me to just break out in dance alone.. and I know that you have a decent memory for the combos. I've even thought of a few from the last month, so it's still fresh." Ryu tried to talk Marley into the strange request, and she seemed unsure about the idea.

"You've put a lot of thought into this." Hana pointed out, wrapping an elastic around the end of Tohru's braid.

" Wait, like right here? In gym class?" Marley asked while looking around at all the different students, some she knew from her class, but there were lots of people she didn't know.

"Yeah, the gym teacher is... chill, and it's not like anyone's doing anything else." Ryu brought up, even gesturing to the gym teacher who was still reading their book with an intense look.

"But wouldn't your crush see us dancing and then assume we're together or something? " Marley asked, not wanting to hurt Ryu's chances in any way.

"Actually, she might see him with you and see him another light, like maybe get jealous or something. People normally want what they can't have. They can be fickle like that." Hana pointed out while Uo only agreed with her.

"See! That's what I was thinking." Ryu gave the girls' a thumbs up.

"Plus, me being seen with the hot foreign chick is bound to get me noticed." Ryu gave her a cheeky smile, which only made Marley tilt her head slightly.

"Really? Hot foreign chick?" Marley looked a little annoyed at the term. She doubted that's what she was known by at the school.

.

" I would love to see you two dance! Are you going to do it right here?" Tohru asked, stars in her eyes as she started to get excited. The brunette was looking at Marley with such interest that it was making her consider doing it just to please her, but she wasn't sure if she wanted to have any more attention on her than there already was. The white-blonde girl also didn't want people thinking she was some sort of show-off.

Plus, Marley wasn't sure if she appreciated being used to make another girl jealous somehow.

Ryu then grabbed her hands and bowed his head.

"Please, I really can't think of anything else, and I just... I want her to notice me." The boy asked, hoping Marley would give in, he really did think this was his best option...

Marley looked at the boy's bowed head, and her eyes softened. She could understand just wanting to be noticed.

"Alright... what choreo were you thinking?" Marley finally answered, and in a flash, Ryu stood up straight and pulled Marley up to a standing position. Wrapping his arms around her waist and swung her around while thanking her. Marley only laughed while Uo told Ryu to put her down.

"How about that '2U' combo, I know it's Bieber song, but it's good?" He asked, and Marley shook her head.

"I think that one may be a bit too intimate, you're amazing at that one, but I think it might attract the wrong attention at school." Marley rationalized. It was a great dance and so much fun, but it was also a combo that was a little... risqué. They needed to do one that was a little more... up-beat.

"Alright... how about... 'Sucker?'" He suggested to which Marley laughed and asked, 'Which one?'. There were lots of dance combos of the popular song, Marley thought of three when Ryu suggested it.

"The Jojo Gomez one, we did it just a few weeks ago, Kaito was really stoked about it.." Ryu hoped that she would say yes because there were only so many dances he knew from the top of his head.

Marley closed her eyes and looked like she was thinking really hard until she nodded.

"I'm just gonna look it up real quick to refresh my memory, but yeah, sounds good to me." Marley agreed as she got out her phone to look up the dance on YouTube.

"Sick! I'm gonna go get some friends to help me with the sound, give me a few minutes?" He asked, excited that he got to show off doing something he loved. Ryu was also grateful that Marley was willing to dance with him. The kind girl gave him the thumbs up, and he ran off.

"Oh man, I'm gotta get this on video. Finally, something interesting in gym class." Uo was getting excited as she brought out her phone.

" Oh, I hope Ito-San's plan works," Tohru mentioned as she looked over the girl Ryu had a crush on.

"I'm sure it-" Rain started pounding down on the roof, the pitter-patter distracting the girls as they looked out the gym window, grey skies and rain was all they saw.

.

"Wow... it's really coming down." Marley thought out loud, and then a body slumped onto the bench she was sitting on.

"Kyo? What happened?" Marley asked concerned for the boy who seemed to have his very life-force drained from him.

" I lost again... dammit... and this damn rain... it's too much." Kyo groaned, sounding exhausted as he rested his arms on his knees and leaned forward. Marley looked at him with sympathy and was about to say something before Hana interrupted.

"It looks like you lost again, Marley." She pointed out, and Marley just shook her head and stood up.

"Double or nothing next time. Next time for sure." Marley insisted while Kyo had no idea what the girls were talking about.

"Ya nervous at all?" Uo asked as Marley stretched a little, touching her the floor and then reaching for the ceiling, twisting her torso a bit.

".umm a little... but if it helps Ryu gets the girl, then I'll do what I can." Marley smiled at her friends while she collected all a part of her hair and put it in a simple half ponytail. Kyo just became more lost. Ryu called Marley over, and the white-blonde winked at her friends before jogging to the other side of the gym.

While everyone was wearing the sports uniform, Marley was sporting black high-waisted sweatpants and a plain crew neck T-shirt, the front of the tee was knotted showing off a little of her midriff. She did own a pair of the school shorts, and they did fit around the waist, they came up a bit high on her thigh, and she asked permission to wear simple sweatpants instead. Her grandfather also insisted as he pointed out the shorts were too short, so the school let Marley wear long pants.

Marley typically had no problem showing off her long legs, but it felt slightly inappropriate at school, especially when her last school in the states had strict clothing outlines.

The gym actually had a decently sized speaker system and Ryu was currently hooking up his phone via the aux cord. A few boys were talking to Ryu and gave him the thumbs up as Marley walked over, and he introduced her to his friends.

The girl that Ryu was hoping to impress was standing with her friends, Marley took another peek at her, hoping that this would work.

"I wanna get a good shot, I'm headin' over," Uo said as she got up from the bench.

"Tohru-Kun, shall we?" Hana asked as she got up, and Tohru was about to follow.

"Kyo-Kun? Want to come?" Tohru asked as looked down at the slumped over boy.

"What is even going on?" Kyo asked, exhausted and slightly annoyed that boys from another class were being so casual with the white-blonde girl at the other side of the gym.

"Marley-Chan's friend from her dance studio is in class 3-B, and he wanted to dance with her here. I'm so curious to see what they're going to do." Tohru gushed, her eyes beaming with excitement. She certainly hadn't expected anything like this to happen is gym class.

Kyo groaned and sat up and looked over at the side of the gym, where Marley was standing with a boy he didn't recognize. He didn't know who he was but seeing him all friendly with the white-blonde girl pissed him off. They were talking and then gave each other a thumbs up.

.

Orange eyes took in the white-blond girl as she seemed to take a deep breath in and out, clearly getting ready for something. The Cat of the Zodiac lifted himself up, using what little energy he had to walk over with Tohru, who joined her friends as they stood close by to watch. Music started to fill the space as Ryu hit play on his phone and Marley swayed, going over the combo in her head as she got into the music.

We go together
Better than birds of a feather, you and me
We change the weather, yeah
I'm feeling heat in December when you're 'round me

Uo got her phone out to record and whistled at Marley. Marley looked over her shoulder and winked at the camera, making Uo laugh. The white-blonde walked away from the camera and turned to it while she waited for the dance cue as Ryu stood closely behind her. The foreign girl closed her eyes, and a small smile graced her face. Marley opened her eyes, and Uo had to whistle slightly at the flirty smile on the tall beauty's face.

"What a vixen, she really turns it on, doesn't she." Uo teased as she recorded the two dancers.

" She certainly has quite the aura, almost drags you in," Hana commented as she stood with her friends. Kyo just crossed his arms and huffed, not seeing what the big deal was about. In his mind, this all seemed over the top, and the ex-gangster's comments were unneeded. Grass was green, water was wet, and Marley was a beautiful girl. If anyone asked him, would he admit that? Not in this lifetime.

I've been dancing on top of cars and stumbling out of bars
I follow you through the dark, can't get enough
You're the medicine and the pain, the tattoo inside my brain
And, baby, you know it's obvious

The cue happened, and both of them in sync started the dance, controlled, precise movements with the music. Even though the two were dancing the same routine, Kyo could see the difference in their styles. While the boy seemed to move in more straight, rigid lines, Marley seemed to flow and curve.

"Wow...that's hot." Uo whistled as they watched. Kyo rolled his eyes at the comment but decided to concentrate on Marley's face. Her expression was one of slight mischief, her eyes seemed to hold a tempting playfulness, one that made Kyo blush ever so slightly as he continued to watch her body roll to the music. But she did look like she was having lots of fun. Marley seemed to almost glow with joy and students watching were utterly entranced.

I'm a sucker for you
You say the word and I'll go anywhere blindly
I'm a sucker for you, yeah
Any road you take, you know that you'll find me
I'm a sucker for all the subliminal things
No one knows about you (about you) about you (about you)
And you're making the typical me break my typical rules
It's true, I'm a sucker for you, yeah

The song came to the chorus, and they jumped into synchronized steps as they faced each other. Spinning and twirling and Marley did a few hair flips and Ryu stopped in front of her and she placed a hand on his chest and pushed him away with a smile.

Don't complicate it (yeah)
'Cause I know you and you know everything about me
I can't remember (yeah)
All of the nights I don't remember
When you're 'round me (oh, yeah yeah)

The students cheered as the dancers seemed to be finished with the dance and Marley was so happy that she was able to remember the combo as well as she did. The girl looked over to see what kind of reaction Ryu's crush had and was over the moon to the girl in question was looking over at Ryu, slightly blushing.

.

The older boy ruffled Marley's hair, and she swatted him away, gesturing to his crush. Marley watched as the two people locked eyes and slightly blushed before they turned away.

Marley only giggled and joined her friends.

"Marley-Chan, that was amazing!" Tohru gushed as she grabbed onto Marley's hands, and Marley lightly blushed at the compliment.

"I think she might be turning in her Prince Yuki Fan club card." Marley teased as Uo offered her a high five, which she happily returned.

"Sorry, Yuki." Marley smiled at the boy who was more lost than anyone when it came to what had just transpired on the gym floor.

"Huh?" The poor Zodiac member was completely lost in what had just transpired, but Tohru promised to catch him up.

.

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

.

The classroom was in a bit of disarray as the students had received their exams, and most students looked relieved, but a few looked like maybe they hadn't done too well.

I let out a content smile at my scores, happy that I hadn't failed, and my studying had at least paid off a little. The school bell had gone off, but students were still socializing and talking about their exams.

"Marley-San!" A few girls from the class came around my desk with their exams in hand.

"Hey! Soooo-" As I gestured to heard how they did, they all happily smiled and showed their English exams to me.

" You guys did great! I'm so happy! Congratulations!" I cheered as I brought them all in for a group hug. They giggled and jumped up and down in joy, relieved that they had done so well.

"Thank you so much for tutoring us. My mom can't ground me over these grades." A classmate let out a massive sigh of relief, her long side bangs covering one of her eyes.

"Oi! You offering to tutor now?" Kyo asked from the desk behind me.

" I wouldn't call it that really, just a little help here and there, I barely did anything." I insisted it was true, I only had to point out a few things, but the girls figured it out really quickly.

" No, are you kidding! You really cleared up stuff." The class vice- president insisted, adjusting her glasses.

"And even though it was really hard, you conversing in English with us was really helpful." Another classmate pointed out.

"I'm just glad I didn't confuse you more," I confessed, blushing lightly at all the kind words the girls were giving me.

.

Plus I got a free latte out of it

.

" You should all have your midterm results by now- but if you failed an of the subjects.. you have to retake it on Sunday!" Our homeroom teacher, Mayu-Sensei, was holding a clipboard as she looked over the class.

A few individuals in the class groaned.

"Be grateful to your teachers for giving you another chance on our day off!" She scolded, clearly irritated with the students.

"That's right. If you don't like taking make-ups, don't fail in the first place!" Uo smirked as she leaned back in her chair.

"At least they offer make-ups, I don't remember having the option in America." I thought out loud, tilting my head slightly as I tried to remember.

.

Were there make-up tests? Maybe in special cases...

.

" I guess, but at least we have nothing to worry about right... Tohru...?" Uo looked over at her friend, who looked like someone had just stolen her wallet.

Tohru was hiding her face in her hands, looking utterly defeated.

"... You failed part of it?" Uo asked, and Tohru nodded.

"... how many subjects?" The brunette held up one shaky finger.

"That's okay, better than two. " I quipped, trying to make the girl cheer up a little. Tohru seemed to be taking the failed exam really hard.

" That's right Tohru-Kun... It's cute compared to me, given I failed every subject..." Hana comforted as she held Tohru's shoulder and smiled down at her.

" Now, you're someone who oughta be depressed about it." Uo pointed out.

"But this is your first time failing a midterm, huh, Tohru? Didn't the Prince help you study for this one?" Uo was surprised the girl had failed even one subject.

"Oh yes.. he did..." Tohru admitted, clearly feeling worse than she did seconds before.

"Honda-San...? Do you have to do a retake?" Yuki asked as he walked up to our little group.

"I'M SORRY!" Tohru yelled, clearly in distressed over the whole thing.

.

She probably feels like she let Yuki down...

.

"...Um... Honda-San...?" Yuki was at a loss for words as Tohru slumped to the ground.

"Tohru, it'll be fine. What subject was it?" I tried to help the girl as I kneeled down and joined her on the floor, ignoring the looks we were getting from the other students in the class.

".. English," Tohru admitted, still staring at the ground as I sat beside her.

" Well, that's okay, languages are difficult. I can help you get ready for the retake, English is my second language. I already helped out some girls in the class, so I might be a better tutor this time around." I encouraged, hoping that I could help her in any way I could.

"I couldn't possible-" Tohru started to reject the idea, but I cut her off.

"Please, it would make me happy to help, I understand how frustrating and defeating failing can be. I actually had to be held back in seventh grade for not being able to keep up." I confessed, a little embarrassed about the info, but maybe it would make Tohru feel a bit less... embarrassed or alone somehow.

"Oh, so you're a year older than us?" Yuki asked, seemingly surprised about the reveal. It not like I went around announcing what year I was born.

"I guess. I turn eighteen in the fall." I told the boy as I sat on the ground next to Tohru.

"Should I start calling you Senpai?" Uo teased, which made me roll my eyes and smirk at my blonde friend.

" Haha, very funny. Anyway, I bet the makeup test will be a lot easier, and we can go over the exam you got back and tackle any difficult spots." I insisted, it really hurt seeing Tohru with such a look on her face, especially over something like this.

.

I'm sure there's more to it...

.

Uo and Hana star