Mariyako: The Ultimate Curse

Author's Note: This is a Fruit's Basket fic—which I have decided to put up here because I already have one on (which I should work on…) The show, the characters, the idea of it is not mine—my OCS are (of course) mine. I know this is FictionPress, and this ain't OF, but I got my reasons, and I won't get into any trouble for this, 'cause I ain't the only one. This chapter should be longer (sorry about the length—just to warn ya, long descriptions, please read anyway—and I really am sorry about them, so please FORGIVE ME!), and it ends in a bit of a surprise, but just you wait until the end of the second chapter! MAJOR CLIFFHANGER! This one: MINOR.

Also: I am, like, in love with the words "somewhat" and "nonetheless", as well as the semicolon (;).

Thank You's: I'd like to say thanks to all who reviewed. I submitted the first chapter the day before I went to Florida, and when I got back hardly five days later, I had three reviews! These three people come first—for they are the awesomest—although I do love all my reviewers! Here comes first batch of acknowledgements…(not in order—sorry!)

My Best Friend: Thanks for the review, even if it isn't really a review. I already emailed you, so you know the answers to your questions. Still, I love getting reviews—as long as they are at least slightly relevant—non-relevant reviews just get me pissed, though! (Depending…) Just to warn all readers…Yeah, I'm that scary…

Ray: I have no idea about what you were talking in the beginning of the review (please clarify—for all my intelligence, sometimes I'm just downright slow!) Thanks for the compliment; I'm glad you liked it! I did too. I hope you like this chapter, the middle, the end and all the rest of this story as well! Keep reviewing!

Rose of Battle: I know it is! (lol) Just kidding—I'm not that snobby! Anyway, I answered your question as well, good friend. I also hope that by the time I put this up I have moved my lazy ass and done as requested. If not, you may hurt me. (…On second thought, please don't!) And I am ashamed; I would expect a better review from one of my best friends! (sigh) Oh well. I know you will continue reviewing, 'cause if you don't, I'll be the one to hurt you! Love ya!

Chapter Two: A Stranger In a Strange Land

(But one who, although she may be strange—VERY strange—is still awfully familiar—same goes for the land!)

The way to Shigure's house is as familiar as I remember it to be, while still being a way of mystery and suspense—two things out of many that I hold no recollection of. Perhaps it is because I was very young the last time I walked down this way, holding the hands of my devoted, loving parents, and much smaller. Maybe it is because I knew I was safe and well protected, never alone, as opposed to always alone, as I am now. Perhaps it is also because the anxiety and nervousness I feel beginning to finally sink in is clouding my thoughts and altering my vision and perceptions; so many things have changed, the least of which is not the time that has passed.

Shigure had said that he had the house all to himself now, yet not, because although it was "his" house (everything was really Sohma property), he was hardly alone, and the other occupants more often than not dominated the house. Perhaps it was a wife that did such things? Perhaps he had found a woman and settled down. I smiled, imagining that possibility. I was sure-and always had been sure, even as a young girl—that if Shigure ever settled down it would be with a strong, temperamental woman who could keep him in check. He would need a domineering, commanding woman to control him and his life. Anyone else would just allow his dog-like, abominable behavior. Yes…This woman would be strong, and full of fiery anger and a powerful personality—as well as armed with a frying pan that she knows how to use! (Maybe like Shigatsu…or Tatsu…not like Mikomi or Ai, though…maybe kinda like…me?)

I giggled softly, covering my mouth with my hand and returning to reality—whatever reality it was that is classified as my life. I looked around me and didn't recognize a thing, but I still know that I am going in the right direction. The reason for my unfamiliarity is the years I have spent away; away from this life, these things, this place. Houses have changed because the people, their residents, their surroundings have been altered. I have changed too, for that matter—the only difference is that all of this seems normal, even to they who find it strange, while I do not—never have, never will, sadly enough.

Shaking myself out of that rut of sad thoughts and impossible memories, I sink back into my own little world of pretend, beginning to contemplate more possibilities.

Now that I go back…I do remember Shigure mentioning that I knew the new additions to his humble home, and that I would be surprised by the identities of a few of the new tenants. This means that there are more than one—although the way Shigure said it leaves me room for doubt…What a man that Shigure Sohma is! So aggravating and mysterious! Like me, only he does it on purpose. More of a tease than anything else. Perhaps it isn't a wife, but Ayame and Hatori—but why would they move in with him? They may be best friends, but they are so different—I doubt Hatori would be able to stand one of them, let alone both. Ayame might be living with Shigure, but how is that shocking? Why would it be such a surprise that he was bubbling with excitement upon telling me only a little and keeping the rest a secret?

Perhaps it was Hatsuharu that had moved in with him. Yes…that would explain the suspense, surprise and desire to tell me yet keep it a secret. He knows how I would react, so he wanted to see my reaction while at the same time desiring to hold it in for a later time. This makes as much sense as anything, but something tells me that it isn't quite it…Besides, by the way he looked as he thought of it, I am almost positive that at least one of the new additions is female—I am so lucky that I am one of the few exceptions among young, beautiful, of age girls is not forced to be subjected to his perverted tendencies.

He's such a dog…

I was only a few blocks away, and I felt my heart beating so hard in my chest that I could barely breathe or think for all the excitement. Whatever it was, Shigure's excitement had rubbed off on my, making me even more nervous and eager to arrive. The houses to either side of me seemed to repeat themselves and go on forever. They all seemed the same, as did every block of concrete under my feet, making me feel as if I was walking endlessly. I felt as if I would never make it to my destination…

Perhaps it was my parents! That sudden thought came so unexpectedly that I had to stop and close my eyes to calm myself down. Perhaps they would be there, even if they weren't living with Shigure—who knows, maybe they had moved in with him to escape from Akito. Considering his disfavor towards them (which is all my fault) it is only logical that they would go for a house on the "outside"—preferably with someone who cares, holds favor with Akito (enough to protect) and can keep them out of her reach.

Argh! Why must I always change the pronoun I use for the Head of the Sohma family?! At east with the rest of the cross-dressing Sohma's there is a lack of secrecy! Momiji looks like a boy and Ritsu is well known as a boy to most all—so why can't Akito just be a girl, or at least be truthful about such facts! Argh! It's too confusing!

From now on I might as well just use "it". I laughed at how I imagined Akito might react to me calling him (her—him?—her!—argh!) an it. Dangerous for anyone but me to say—actually, probably dangerous for me as well. Probably dangerous for me most of all, really…

I was almost there, so I couldn't give up and collapse now, no matter the overwhelming mixture of excitement, anxiety and laughter. I took a deep breath, straightened myself up, and set off again with a slight smile upon my lips. I walked with long strides, purposeful and prepared, while still being a bit anxious, walking a bit more hurriedly than is normal. I didn't care. I sped up to a power walk, going as fast as I could without running, and then, all of a suddenly, I was there.

…Standing outside Shigure's house.

I felt absolutely giddy, light-hearted and excited. I hardly got any sleep that night for anticipation over what was to come. I woke up extra early after a light, fitful sleep, after going to bed extremely late—even later than usual, without getting even a drop of work done. Mitchan can wait, I say! I went downstairs to sit by the window and stare out at the calm, peaceful gray morning. I watched the sun rise, just sitting there, all alone and at peace in the quite stillness. I was lost in daydreams and reminiscences when Tohru came down to the kitchen to prepare breakfast—the first up, as usual.

Except, she's not. I am.

She seemed surprised to see me; hell, I was surprised to see me. I smiled at her and chatted idly with her as I sat in the kitchen and watched her prepare everyone's meal. Such a sweet, kind, gentle soul; I wonder how Mariyako with react. She'll love her, I'm sure. The two of them are so similar—it's no wonder that everyone's in love with them. And it's no wonder Akito hates them. They are the only people who heal merely by existing and being there. They are truly unique, rare, beautiful people.

Yuki and Kyo came down, half-asleep and grumpy (respectively) as usual. The only people they brighten up to now are Tohru, who is slowly healing their hearts and curing their old wounds and scars—mostly Akito's fault, might I add. Mariyako had, at one time, held the same power over them. She had been there in their darkest hours; without her I doubt they would have survived. True, they were still hurting when Tohru came along oh-so-much later, but they were there, weren't they? And besides, Mariyako would've fixed it all had she not been taken away, shoved off, removed for the worst. Everyone would be happier if she had remained—except, perhaps, Akito; and he's the one who makes all the decisions around here.

No way around that.

Nobody was going anywhere today. Yuki and Kyo had nothing to do—no "summer school" or "dojo visits" to take their time away. That was more due to the fact that I made a few phone calls than anything—he he he! Bad, bad me!—but still, this means that they would be home for when she arrives. However, they had "studying" to do on their rooms…alone…without Tohru. She said she didn't mind. She was perfectly content to work on her own school work and catch up on her house work. They apologized again and went back up to their rooms after a wonderful breakfast.

Mariyako and Tohru…My thought were continually drifting back to those two, no matter what, causing me to lose myself—but not in a good way. Time still took forever, and I felt awfully slowed down, but these thoughts did give me something to pass the lonely, empty silence with. Oh how I wish Aaya was here…But no. That would ruin it. Yuki wouldn't be pleased, neither would Kyo, and I'm almost positive that that would make it all too much.

I thought of their similarities and differences, and somehow, sometime during my daydreaming, I drifted over into my study and off to sleep.

I stood before the walkway, the gate still closed before me. A house the same as the rest, yet not the same at all. This house was different, apart, removed from the rest. There was space all around it, and a sort of warm, familiar glow about it that made it all it's own. I felt drawn to it and all of its inhabitants—although the number and identity of such remained unknown to me. I didn't know who I wished them to be the most: Ayame, Hatori, my parents, Hatsuharu, a wife…I honestly couldn't decide. All I knew was that, whoever it was, that person would be wonderful and I would be happy to see them—Shigure too.

I took another deep breath and prepared myself for whatever was to come. I opened the gate slowly; it creaked as it inched its way open. I gently left it halfway open so that I could enter into the front yard. I would've closed it, but my mind was on other things. I carefully and slowly walked towards the front door, remembering the first time I had ever walked this very same path, oh-so-very long ago—back when I was around seven, and still somewhat a child.

Back in those days my parents always seemed weary and worried. They tried to be happy and strong for me, but no matter how they tried to hide the truth, I saw it for what it really was. They knew that my life would be eventful in a bad way, and no matter how they wanted to keep me from such an existence, they couldn't save me—at least, not forever.

Shigure was younger back then—a teenager, which means that Ayame and Hatori were as well. If I was seven, that would have made them fifteen—wow, they were really that young? I thought that they were older. For all their immature and childish behavior, Shigure and Ayame seem to be a lot older than they truly are. Of course, they are actually very wise, but most people never see that side of them. I see it every day; I see every side of every one of the juunishi.

I seemed older as well, now that I think about it. At least ten or maybe even eleven. Most people who see me for the first time either think of me as much older, or much younger, depending. I was a bit dainty; even sickly looking, very much like Akito. That was, of course, due to my own, unique curse—and that only added to the ill-treatment received, by me, from the Head of the Family, and my "condition".

Shigure was living in that house with his parents, who aren't that bad as far as juunishi parents can go. Just a bit strict and careless—odd combination. I was going to visit him, primarily, because (even then) he was like my uncle. This was the same year that I was forced to leave; although only my parents and Akito knew ahead of time. Shigure welcomed me with open arms—literally—and welcomed me as his niece. My parents tried to hide their true feelings, and they succeeded.

Only I knew that something was wrong.

As I walked slowly up to the front door, my eyes were closed, remembering that moment in which Shigure threw open the door and I ran into his arms. He closed them around me and hugged me tight, smiling and laughing merrily. This was soon ended with another hug, this time from Ayame, who picked me up. I was then handed off to Hatori, who held me on his hip as they welcomed my parents inside. I hardly ever left those three, whom I love so much.

I half expect the same thing to happen once again; Shigure opening the door, and being hugged by the entire Mabudachi trio. I remind myself that that is quite impossible; even if the three of them were there; they would not be able to pick me up now that I am a nineteen-year-old young woman. Still, it is a wonderful moment I am very fond of and will cherish forever in all of its magnificent simplicity. A simple trio of young men, hugging me as if I was their little sister, as if I truly belonged.

I finally arrived at the front door. I stepped up onto the mini-front porch and stood before the front door. I hesitated, my heart fluttering and my euphoric anxieties and imaginative fantasies clouding my vision and causing my whole world to swirl and twirl and spin and tilt. Finally I got myself under controlled, raised my fist, and knocked on the door loudly and insistently a total of three times.

One for each of the Mabudachi Trio, I told myself.

I lowered my fist and waited, hands intertwined behind my back. I waited patiently, hearing an exclamation of surprise from inside, followed by a loud crash, a thump, an exclamation of silent pain, a rush of hurrying feet and a sudden stop at the end.

The door swung open, and it was not Shigure I saw: instead I saw a young looking woman, delicate, dainty, innocent and beautiful, looking at me with surprise in her kind brown eyes, and a smile upon her lips. She was breathing a bit heavily, panting. I could see why. She was flushed and it appears as if she had just run a long distance to answer my summons—from upstairs, most likely. She was such a pretty, gorgeous young thing that I just had to smile in return. This made her face brighten even more—which filled me with joy and happiness.

Such a beautiful, kind, strong, unique young girl. This is the kind of girl that can heal any hurt, fix any heart, and make any man happy. Well, it seems like I was partly right—Shigure has found someone…Seems a bit too good for him, though…

She wasn't that tall, as far as women went. I would almost hesitate to call her petite, although something about her screams for someone to protect her always. She's the kind of girl who needs someone strong to be her knight-in-shining-armor; someone who needs her as much, if not more, than she needs him. Not a dependent girl, but a girl with needs nonetheless. Her skin was pale and soft looking; not so much delicate as…sweet. She wore a perpetual smile, which you could tell takes a lot to get ride of. Her eyes were the most wondrous brown I had ever seen, which worked well with her light brown hair (she's really a dark brunette, but she looks better blonde—she needs to be a blonde, it fits her; never thought I'd say that—so I compromised the truth and what is right). She wore a simple summer dress, done in pale yellow, pale pink and pale purple, tied off around the middle with a white sash. Her feet were bare and as small and dainty as she is—although still far from graceful. She cocked her head to the side as she looked at me, nonetheless pleased, just…confused.

As she very well should be, considering how my appearance contrasts with hers. Yesterday I had been dressed as a total goth, all in black; even my demeanor had been calm, quiet, depressed and, well, gothic. Today, however, I was much too excited and nervous to pull that off, so I had instead dressed as a tomboyish punk. I wore a silverfish shirt, casual and practical, which had no sleeves and a curving neckline, over slightly baggy, many-pocketed black army pants, which almost fully covered my black steel-toed boots (I am almost always wearing them). My hair was held back in a ponytail to keep it out of my face, and I wore a necklace which touched the top of my breasts: it was of a dragon, a snake and a dog intertwined in gold with a silver chain. One of my favorites, as you can probably tell why.

"Hello!" she finally managed to say, her voice very sweet and kind and polite and full of all the good feelings of the world. Even if she didn't know me, she was going to be very polite to me, because that's the kind of person she is. "May I ask who you are?"

"Mariyako Sohma," I answered briefly, my manner aloof and mysterious.

"A Sohma!" exclaimed she, her eyes wide and surprised. She immediately bowed so quickly and surprisingly violently that I was caught off guard, almost thinking that her spine would snap. It didn't. "It is so nice to meet you! I am Tohru Honda, Sohma-san."

I smiled at her politeness, realizing that she was still bowing. I gently helped her right herself, awe and shock in her eyes. I smiled at her, and she seemed to relax as she smiled back. "Please, don't call me Sohma-san. I'm not that old yet! Mariyako is fine," I assured her lightheartedly. "In fact, as we get to know one another, I hope you can even call me something more friendly! For now, Mariyako is fine, Honda-san."

She flushed, her pale cheeks now tinged red, and I got the feeling that they did that a lot. "Oh, no, please do not call me Honda-san. It is too…important sounding."

I laughed softly. "Alright then, Tohru-kun."

She blushed even more.

After a bit of a long pause, I asked, "May I come in?"

She snapped back to reality and hurriedly admitted me, moving out of the way and apologizing—for what, I do not know. I took off my boots, leaving my white socks on, and left them by the door. We then stood in the hallway silently as I looked around fondly, remembering what seems like just yesterday but feels like a lifetime ago…or is it the other way around?

I was the one who broke the silence and spoke up. "How do you know the Sohmas, Tohru?"

She looked confused and at a loss for how to answer. "Um…well…They took me in when I had no place else to go," she answered vaguely, leaving many details out, as I could tell.

I got interested. "Oh, really? Tell me—about how that happened, I mean. If you want to, that is. If not, I wouldn't want to impose…"

"Oh, no!" she said hurriedly. "Not at all!"

I nodded and smiled as she began to talk.

"I used to live with my grandfather, my father's father, in his house. It was just the two of us; my dad had died when I was very young, and my mom had passed away, which is why I was living with him at the time—this was only just a little over a year ago. Well, a little while after I moved in with him, other family was going to move in with us: my father's sister and her husband. My grandfather decided to have renovations done so that the house would be more suited to the extra people.

"He was to stay with them, and I told him that I had a place to stay—as to not be a burden. I couldn't, however, impose upon my friends; they have their own family to worry about, and their own homes. So I decided to set up a tent and live in the woods until I could move back in with my grandfather. I would support and take care of myself: go to school, make money and fulfill my promise to my mother."

"Which was?"

"To finish high school, as she had never been able to. So I was doing that and trying my best. One day, on my way to school, I stumbled upon a house that I hadn't known was there. On the back porch were a set of beautifully painted figures—the juunishi."

"Chinese zodiac: rat, cow, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog and pig."

Tohru nodded. "I was marveling at them as a young man came out. I began talking to him about the cat and how it was too bad that he wasn't a part of the zodiac; I told him how I wanted to be a cat because of the sad story. Then, the most popular boy at school walked out and walked me to school.

"Later on there was a landslide, and it buried my tent. I was sick in bed by then, right here in this house. When I finally woke up, a little bit better this time, he had gathered all of my things. I was then offered the chance to live here: room and board in exchange for cooking and cleaning. I've been here ever since."

Well than, that reassures me: I knew she was too young for Shigure!

"Are you happy here?" I asked, looking at her intently, waiting for an answer. She felt uneasy and nervous beneath my gaze, I know, but it didn't intimidate her too horribly.

Tohru hesitated, not for searching the truth, but for searching for how to tell me it. "Yes, of course! I love it here; I feel so at home, safe and sound. It's wonderful."

I smiled. "I'm glad." I looked around, entering my own little dream-like state. "I always thought the same thing, when I was younger."

She looked at me with eyes full of shock and surprise, which I could fully understand. It was a bit of a shock, but that didn't hold her back for long. "You mean…You used to…to live here?" she finally managed to say.

I shook my head. "No, but I remember this place. It hasn't changed much since I was seven; that's the first time I ever came here," I explained.

Tohru looked awed. "Wow…I never knew…"

I laughed sweetly, as well as softly, for some reason. "Few people do. After all, that was nearly twelve years ago. You weren't around then. Things have changed." That last part was more muttered to myself than announced out loud.

Tohru stared at me, too overwhelmed to speak.

I ran my finger over the wooden doorway that led into the kitchen; it felt the same as I remembered. Funny how such simple sensations can trigger such memories. "Tohru?"

"…Are you happy now?"

This question caught her off-guard, as I knew it would; especially since I had already asked her that. Before she could point that out, I clarified, "I know, I know, I already asked that. But, this is different. Asking you if you are happy here is different than asking if you are happy now. And I don't mean 'now' as in 'at this moment'; instead, I mean 'now' as 'at this time and place within the journey of your life'—are you content with living with the Sohmas, no matter what may be wrong with any of they who call themselves as such?"

A heavy, dark, serious mood replaced the nervous, airy, happy place the conversation had previously been within. It was a serious question, and the both of us knew how very important—and hard—of a question it was to answer. Finally, and in a small voice, Tohru simply said: "I have never been happier, Mariyako-san."

I turned and smiled at her, and immediately the dark mood lifted, and she sighed with relief. Her shoulders, and even her entire body, went slack, as if a great weight had been lifted from her, leaving her weakened yet relieved.

"That's good."

Tohru looked at me, and after a long pause, she cautiously asked a question of her own. "I do not mean to be rude or prying, but I am curious, and if you will, can you answer me this: Who are you, exactly, and why are you here?"

I laughed heartily. "Well, you don't beat around the bush, now; do you, Tohru-kun?"

She blushed.

I went over to her. "Don't be embarrassed. A strong personality is nothing to be ashamed of. It's a good thing that you are a strong person—and it's an even better thing that you are also a good person, polite and kind to all; that makes your strength all the better."

Tohru blushed even more, but didn't argue; despite my demeanor, I am not one who would tolerate such denials when I know the truth. Tohru sensed that, instead denying it silently, to herself, within her own mind.

"As to the answer to your question, I will answer it a bit—for it is a long answer, a lifetime in the making—because of how you asked, Tohru-kun.

"I am Mariyako Sohma, a woman of the family, who has been away from home for a very long time, and who misses her loved ones very much. I am here today because I wish to see my very good friend Shigure, and I am also here to meet the new additions to his household, as anxiously requested by him."

Tohru stared, wide-eyed.

"Oh, and by the way," I said as I turned away from hr to study the floorboards, "in case you were wondering, I do know about the zodiac. The curse, I mean."

She gaped at me, wide-eyed, and was at a loss for words.

"So, any more questions?"

"M-Mariyako…I-is that…really…you?" a voice said from behind the both of us, deep and masculine. I spun around, awfully surprised, and couldn't believe my eyes. Tohru looked so horribly shocked that she almost fell over.

But I hardly noticed her, my eyes were so wide and focused. For there, before me, stood—not only Shigure—but two equally shocked, surprised and frozen boys.

"Yuki! Kyo!" I exclaimed happily, tears of absolute joy welling up in my eyes.

And without wasting another second I flung myself at them, pulling the cat and the rat into an intimate and lengthy hug.

Tohru could only stare, frozen, as time seemed to be.

And that is where I cruelly leave you! He he he! (You're gonna get yourself killed…) Look! Here comes a mob to pay me back for ending it so abruptly! (Aaaahhhh…)