Notes: Set approximately six and a half years post-series (for reference, that makes Haru 24 and Rin 26); meshes with my other post-series fanfic but stands on its own.
This is set further from the end of the series than I prefer to write, but the series concludes about halfway through the zodiac cycle, and this wanted to be set at the end. That meant imagining more things about what the characters have been doing for almost seven years than I have any intention of writing about in detail, but so it goes.
Contains full-series spoilers.
Original release date: January 26, 2009.
**********December 31, 2007
"You sure you're up for this?"
Haru's voice was low, as if reluctant to break the nighttime quiet. His breath fogged in the cool air, dimly visible in the moonlight. After years of avoiding family celebrations, it was strange to think that so many of their relatives were so close, that a minute's walk down a different path would take them to a sprawling building bulging at the seams with Sohmas. Except for the occasional distant sound of music and the lights in the windows just ahead, the compound might have been deserted.
"If we were going to have this conversation, we should've done it indoors." Rin rubbed her upper arms with rapidly-chilling fingertips. Her dress was just about warm enough, with the help of the scarf Haru's mother had given her as a birthday gift--a month late and entirely unexpected, but beautiful--but only as long as they went straight from one building to the next. "You sounded happy enough when I told you I managed to get an earlier flight."
The trip home from Munich had left her barely enough time to get back to the family estate, meet up with Haru, and bathe and change at his parents' house. Between the jet lag and the hours of travel, she was exhausted but as wired as if she'd spent the day ignoring Hatori's advice and drinking coffee.
"I'm glad you're home for New Year's, sure, but..."
"You were all for it when Momiji started talking about doing this." She took Haru's hand between both of hers, lifting it to eye level. "It doesn't really work if we're not all here." She spread his fingers to get a clearer look at the dark shadow circling his ring finger. The moonlight blackened it, blurred its details. "You're not wearing your wedding ring?"
"I took it off when you left." He folded the finger down to his palm, rubbing at the tattoo with his thumb. "I pretty much only saw family while you were away."
"I was only gone a week," Rin protested, but she smiled. Haru had been willing enough to design and wear a ring that complemented hers, but the tattoo underneath it meant more to him. It also mattered more than the disapproving way strangers looked at the ink on his skin, but the idea of having a secret mark of his love for her under the public one pleased him. "And I'll be fine tonight, so can we please go in and get this over with? I'm freezing."
Haru nodded, and she impulsively tugged his hand to her lips, kissing the exposed tattoo before tilting her head back so he could kiss her mouth in reply. "Welcome home," he said, just as he had when she'd finished her shower and he'd carefully slipped the silver hairpin he'd made while she was away into the twist of her hair.
A familiar laugh interrupted them just as Rin was starting to think that staying outside for a few more minutes might not be such a bad idea. "Oh, come on, you two." Kagura came up beside them, her eyes bright with mischief, although she didn't touch them until Rin had stepped back. Kagura hugged each of them quickly, utterly unfazed by having disturbed them, and then gave Haru a wink. "At least wait 'til you get home."
"We're not getting home until tomorrow," Haru said. "We're crashing at my parents' place tonight, and going to see the sunrise if Rin wakes up--"
"I'm probably not going to bed," Rin interrupted. "I had a seventeen-hour flight, and I can hardly tell what day it is."
"Oh, then you can make your temple visit with me and Tsuyoshi after we're done here," Kagura said cheerfully, pushing the door open and leading them inside to face their family.
"We're going tomorrow." Haru deflected the invitation more gracefully than Rin would have, with a warm smile. "After we pick Seika up."
Kagura, dressed more sensibly for the weather than either of them, shrugged out of her coat. "Is she with Tohru-kun?"
Hiro was standing inside the entryway, making no attempt to hide the fact that he'd been waiting for them and listening in. "Nope, my mom's got her. Tohru's waiting for us to finish here." He glanced into the main room, where familiar voices were already spilling over each other. "Hey, Rin, are you sure--"
"Don't you start."
He gave her a dubious once-over and shrugged. At nineteen, he was nearly as tall as Haru, and Rin wasn't entirely happy about having to crane her neck to look up at him. "Okay," he said, after a long pause. "But you don't have to prove anything by being here. How'd the meeting with the curator go?"
That was safer ground. "It was fine. They might buy something." In the past few years, Momiji had gradually become acquainted with the German side of his family, although they knew him only as a close friend of Momo's. While the family didn't dabble in as many fields as the Sohmas did, they had a wide sphere of influence; Momiji, who tried hardest of the former Jyuunishi to stay close to the others, had introduced Rin's work to an uncle who served on the board of a Munich art gallery. "I stayed with Momiji's aunt and uncle. Nice people." She unlaced her boots and stepped out of them. "And I figured out the hard way that my German's worse than I thought."
"I thought Momiji-chan was practicing with you?" Kagura led the way again, apparently oblivious to the potential for tension as they entered the room. As usual, Rin couldn't decide if her cousin was faking her confidence that everything would be fine, or if she was simply that determined to look on the bright side of things. Her resolute good cheer had only gotten more impenetrable over the years.
Heads turned to look at them, mostly smiling. After a week in a foreign country, it was both comforting and disconcerting to know everyone looking at her. Yuki immediately headed in their direction, and Rin quickly answered Kagura's question. "He got me up to a decent vocabulary, but my pronunciation isn't great."
Whatever Kagura said in reply, Rin didn't really register it, or anything else that happened in the next little while. They were the last ones to arrive, and somehow fourteen people were enough to make the room seem overfull, especially when she didn't let herself look over to where she knew Akito was standing. It was easy to think that she could feel the head of the family's presence, but she remembered the reality of the bond too clearly to believe it. It was only anxiety, she told herself, the prickling reminder of things she tried to never think about. All that was real about it was Haru's hand in hers, the light touch of his fingers on her cheek as he said her name under his breath.
"What?" she asked, lifting her gaze from a table she didn't remember kneeling at. Worry brimmed in his eyes, and Yuki was sitting close beside him, their bodies forming a casual wall between her and the other side of the room.
"You're shaking." Haru's lips shaped the words silently; excellent hearing was a family trait that hadn't disappeared with the curse.
"I'm fine," she answered, wondering if she'd say anything else for the entire evening. "It's just for a couple of hours." She took a steadying breath. "Is Machi-san up at the main party, or did she have the sense to go somewhere else?"
"She's off with her brother and his wife," Yuki said. "I'm going over there after we finish here."
"That's one way to avoid explaining why we're all here by ourselves," Haru said. "At least Honda-san understands what's going on."
"Not that Kyo looks happy about it," Rin noted, squeezing his hand tighter as she looked around the room and found the former Cat, part of a formal Jyuunishi gathering for the first time. "Or maybe that's because Aya-nii's got him in a corner."
"Maybe we should rescue him," Haru suggested. "Hey, Yuki, distract your brother."
Yuki fixed him with an icy stare. "Isn't family wonderful. How I've missed you all."
"At least you don't have to dance tonight," Haru said. "Anyway, did you want one of us to try handling him?"
"Not really, no." Yuki sighed. "Want me to send Kyo over here?"
Haru looked at Rin. She nodded. Better to have people come to them than to move away from the side of the room where Akito wasn't.
She didn't watch Yuki go, preferring to avoid the contact embarrassment that always came with watching his conversations with Ayame. From Haru she knew that the brothers' relationship was probably the best it would ever be, but knowing that Yuki had come to terms with it didn't keep her from wanting to cover her ears whenever his mere presence flipped Ayame's Brotherly Affection switch on.
On cue, Ayame's voice soared above everyone else's in a burst of exuberance. "How?" she asked Haru, trying not to cringe. "How does he have that much energy?"
But it was Kyo who replied, dropping down on a cushion beside them. "He's not human." He gave them a dazed look. "Nobody likes parties that much."
"It's his favorite holiday," Haru said. "You should've heard him going on about the soba earlier."
"Soba? How long have you been here?"
"A couple days. Satsuki-san and Kagura-nee both wanted to fuss over Seika." The entire estate had been caught up in a flurry of New Year's preparations, including a few of the larger individual homes being opened up to share the traditional final meal of the year, although the amount of food at the main party up the hill was staggering. Haru had found he'd missed some parts of the holiday excitement, when the entire family contributed; servants still took care of most details, but everyone found themselves busy. "My mom said it's the most she's seen of us in years."
The conversation stayed domestic for a while; homes and small children and the future were all safer topics than the past, or the family traditions that Kyo had never been part of. Enough of the former Jyuunishi had continued spending New Year's with the family that he and Tohru had wound up doing the same, with the younger Sohmas pointedly running interference with their older relatives to make sure that the once-Cat's sons were protected from the stigma that had followed him.
Haru had it all secondhand, since this was the first time Rin hadn't flatly refused to come back to the Main House for a holiday, but the stories the others told were all the same: every year things grew less strange, and the rest of the family lost a little more of their discomfort over the loss of the family curse--the thing that, for many of them, had marked the family as special, if not blessed. Seeing it for himself over the past two days had proved interesting, as distant relatives who had never spoken with him before had proved surprisingly happy to come talk to him and admire his daughter. Only one, a clever-eyed old aunt bent with age, had thought to comment on his decision to marry within the family, or on Rin's absence.
Now that Rin was home, he found himself sitting back and listening to her talk to the others, observing the ways she let her guard down a little while keeping the conversations firmly on superficial things. "You're making small talk," he told her during a lull. "Should I be impressed or scared?"
It wasn't until she was talking to Ritsu about his parents' hot spring--the only family-owned place she had real fondness for--that Haru quietly got up, touching her shoulder. In the space between one breath and the next she froze completely and recovered, asking Ritsu to repeat himself as if nothing had happened. "I'll be right back," he said, and she nodded without looking up at him. He took his hand away, squared his shoulders, and crossed the room.
Akito watched his approach warily, breaking off her conversation with Hatori; by the time Haru stopped in front of them, Hatori was already nodding to him and moving away to give them space, and Haru found himself unexpectedly alone with the woman who had been his god.
"Happy New Year," he said, before awkwardness could set in. "How are you?"
"Busy," she replied, frowning ruefully. "It never stops." She made a small gesture that might have encompassed many things, most of them having to do with running a family that had spent twenty years managing just fine with her serving as a figurehead. Haru didn't know most of what she did, only that she had knuckled down to her responsibilities with a vengeance shortly after the curse had broken.
Knowing that she was doing it almost entirely out of guilt didn't make his life any easier, although her efforts made things simpler: Rin wasn't the only one of the Jyuunishi who would never directly accept anything from Akito, but it was within Akito's power to make sure no one else took anything away from them.
"How's your daughter?"
The innocuous question put an instant, cold knot in his stomach, a mix of his own protectiveness and his intimate knowledge of how Rin would respond. No amount of logic and understanding that Akito had changed would undo what she'd done, and while Rin had made some peace with it in the intervening years, there were still uncrossable lines.
"I'm sorry," Akito said, reading his face. He had to credit her with that: she didn't know exactly where Rin's lines were, and probably never would, but she was quick to respect Haru's defense of them. He'd only had to explain himself once, not long after the curse had broken, when she'd unthinkingly reached out to touch him.
It doesn't matter if I forgive you. Rin doesn't, and I've belonged to her since the second I was free of you.
"She's fine. Anyone else could've told you that."
The look Akito gave him was so tired that he was unable to suppress a twinge of remorse. Rin's unrelenting bitterness might not have affected Akito so deeply if Tohru weren't still the closest friend either of them had, but as it was, the strain on all of them was unmistakable.
But it's not up to us to make her life easier, either.
"I can't ask how you've been without asking about her," Akito said. "Everyone knows you're the one who takes care of her." Frustration sharpened her voice, but there was no judgment in her tone--a refreshing change from the way some of the old aunts reacted to the idea of him being so involved with his daughter when she had a perfectly good mother, the latter remark often delivered with something approaching a sneer. Inevitably, it made him remember just how satisfying it could be to punch someone in the face.
Haru considered it. "We're both fine. She turned two in July."
Akito nodded, accepting the concession. "Good. Happy New Year."
There was nothing left to do but offer her a formal, distancing bow, wish her well, and walk away.
Kagura had joined Rin and Ritsu when Haru returned, and judging by the look Ritsu gave him, the conversation had long since moved away from the therapeutic benefits of hot springs. "Honestly, are you ever going to settle on a guy?" Rin was asking, examining her nails.
"Probably." It was a recurring conversation, and if there was a faster way to actually get under Kagura's skin, Haru had yet to see it. What he hadn't figured out was how much of Rin's motivation in bringing it up was genuine concern and how much of it was needling in response to Kagura's frequent and usually-unsolicited advice on dealing with children.
"Are you going to settle on this one? What was his name?"
"Tsuyoshi, and I don't know, Isuzu. Just because you and Haru-chan got married when he was still in high school--"
"No, we didn't," Haru interjected, making a halfhearted effort at derailing the discussion.
"--fine, a month later--the point is that I don't need to be part of an old married couple just yet."
Ritsu, who had been watching with interest, turned to Haru. "I'm pretending they're drunk," he said. "Customers only sound like this when they've kept the sake coming for hours." His face reddened dramatically when the two women glared at him in unison. "Oh. Oh! I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to say that--"
"--out loud," Haru added. "They're always like this. Just pretend they're sisters."
"Oh, whatever." Rin stood abruptly, rubbing her eyes. "I need some air."
By the time she finished lacing her boots in the entryway, the need to get away was choking. Just for a minute, she told herself firmly as she went outside, already shivering. Talking to her family was one thing; knowing that Haru had been talking to Akito was quite another, no matter that she told herself, every time, that he wouldn't if she asked him not to. She took deep breaths of the cold air, counting them, until the chill hit her lungs halfway through "five" and made her cough. It almost covered the sound of the door opening and closing behind her.
"No coat, Rin-chan?"
"You're not wearing one either," she replied, guessing. Shigure walked up beside her, shrugging as he came into view. She was silently pleased to have been right. "What do you want?"
He peered thoughtfully into the glass in his hand, swirling it so that the single ice cube clinked against the side. "Coincidentally, you came out here right when Akito decided to have a little chat with Kureno. They haven't seen each other in a while."
"And you couldn't stand to watch?"
Shigure snorted. "Oh, I imagine I'll survive. She didn't want me hovering." The ice cube clinked again. "But I don't think you care what she wants."
"No." Rin slowly filled her lungs again and exhaled, watched her breath steam. "No, I really don't."
"We didn't think you were coming."
"I didn't either." She tried to guess the time, and couldn't. "Momiji's helped me a lot. This mattered a lot to him. All of us being together for the end of the cycle."
"So here you are." Shigure stepped in front of her. "Looking like you really need a drink." He held the glass out to her.
She eyed it suspiciously. "How strong is that?"
"It's whiskey. Three shots." He watched her calculating. "The jet lag won't help."
"I know that. Haru's the one who never drinks, not me." Rin took the glass with a sigh. "Gure-nii, do you think the curse really was something beautiful once?"
"I think it was meant to be."
"Well." She was shivering harder with every minute that passed; the glass shook when she raised it. "That's what Momiji said, right? That we're honoring what might've been." She kept her eyes on the lone, unmelted ice cube. "Cheers to good intentions." Two deep swallows almost left only a small mouthful of alcohol in the glass; she handed it back as warmth spread in her stomach, careful not to let her hand touch his.
"Cheers," Shigure echoed, finishing it, and she turned and went back inside.
She made her way back to Haru without speaking to anyone, watching the floor instead of letting herself think about quickly her ability to tolerate the situation had evaporated. "I thought you might've left," he said as she sat down.
"Where would I have gone?"
"My parents' place. Hiro's place. Home." He ticked options off on his fingers, leaning in as if he were going to kiss her. "Now you have been drinking."
"A little. I'm done now." She suppressed a yawn. "Is it almost midnight?"
"Yeah. A few more minutes." He did kiss her then, lips warm on her forehead. A few feet away, Hiro coughed pointedly. "Are you still planning to stay awake all night, or do you want to skip out on the family party and go back to my parents'?"
"I don't know."
"Well, if you decide you feel like getting smashed, I'll carry you home."
"I don't want to, and you have never had to carry me home, so stop that."
"But I would."
"I know." Rin pulled her knees up to her chest and rested her head on them just as a bell tolled.
"That's it." Kisa's voice nearby startled Rin into looking up as the bell rang again. The small family shrine in the middle of the estate had performed the ritual ringing out of the old year for as long as she could remember, and everyone was sitting to listen. It could almost have been any year from her childhood, when the Jyuunishi gathered alone to celebrate something that had worn thin before most of them were born.
Any year, except that Hiro was holding Kisa's hand where everyone could see, with a faint look of defiance that could almost--almost--have sprung only from being part of a traditional family that frowned on public intimacy even within the compound walls. And Kyo was with them, eyes closed, looking deeply uncomfortable at being where he'd always wanted to be, instead of with his family. Out of the corner of her eye, Rin noticed Yuki watching him too.
It's not strange seeing them together anymore, she thought, and hoped she'd remember to say it Haru, to make him smile. He was counting beside her, whispering each number as the bell rang out again and again.
Rin straighted up and looked around, watching each of the others in turn: Momiji, also counting, his voice faintly audible; Shigure and Hatori flanking Akito and nursing what Rin supposed were glasses of the same whiskey Shigure had given her; Kureno looking at ease among them, unlike Kyo.
Her gaze fell on Kagura and stopped. Kagura's stillness was different from everyone else's, as her zodiac's year ended and brought the cycle to a close with it. Rin remembered a similar stillness in her own body as her year had come and gone, unacknowledged by the dances she had always known would begin and end it. She rested her hand on Haru's, stroking his bare ring finger with her thumb, then got up and silently went to Kagura's side, kneeling beside her.
The bells kept ringing and Momiji kept counting, quiet and clear, and Rin shut her eyes to listen.
Once in a while I return to the fold
With people I call my own
Even if time is just a flicker of light
And we all have to die alone
What does it mean when you belong to someone
When you're born with a name, when you carry it on?
It means that I won't give in.
--The Finn Brothers, "Won't Give In" (Everyone Is Here)
Fruits Basket is the creation of Takaya Natsuki, and is licensed in North America by FUNimation (anime) and Tokyopop (manga). Used without permission or the intention of making a profit. This piece of fiction is in no way approved or endorsed by any of the copyright holders. Please support the original work!
"Whatever May Come" © 2009 by .
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The title "Whatever May Come" comes from the song "Won't Give In" by the Finn Brothers, found on the album "Everyone Is Here". Lyrics used without permission.