7-6-02: Well, I finally rewatched all of Fruits Basket and it's official. I'm totally hooked on this series. ^_^ There's only one problem... I want more! *sniffles* I guess I'll have to go buy the manga and find out if there is any more. *sighs* More money that I don't have to spend. O_O;;; Anyway, I tried to figure out who my favorite characters are and in what order. ^_^ I think I'd have to say it goes like this: 1) Kyou 2) Hatsuharu and Hatori 3) Ayame, Shigure, and maybe Yuki--he might actually belong at position 4. *sheepish grin* But! ^_^ Yes, there is a "but". All that aside everyone knows I always end up loving the bad guy--I mean, Seishirou- san is my favorite CLAMP character. ^_^--and this series is no exception. Problem is, Akito is a right bastard, right up until the end of the series. -.-;;; I think he's salvageable... but he'd need time, something he doesn't have a whole hell of a lot of. So, he doesn't get counted in the ranking, but he gets a special spot all his own. And wouldn't you know, the minute he had it, he started bothering me for a fanfic. O_O;;; So, since I absolutely was feeling the need to write something and I didn't want anything long and complicated... here is the fruits ^_^ of my train trip back from DE.

Summary: Akito has a conversation with his little bird after his confrontation with Tohru. O_O;;; ((Does that sound as cheesy as I think it does?))

SPOILER Warning: This takes places immediately after the end of the series. If you haven't seen all 26 episodes then there will be SPOILERS abounding! You have been warned.

Title Comment: The title came from a song by Nina Gordon, entitled Now I Can Die. -.-;;; The song really has nothing to do with the fic other than that. ^_^

Random Comment: It's never really stated in the series if Akito is one of the Jyuunishi or not. However, as of episode 26, two of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac haven't made an appearance: Horse and Rooster. So, in theory, since one of the Jyuunishi--I want to say Momiji, but I'm not sure--once commented that there are only three females in all the Jyuunishi, then if one assumes the Rooster must be male, then the Horse would have to be female. Therefore, if Akito were one of the Jyuunishi, he would have to be the Rooster. O_O I didn't really like that idea and I haven't really reached a decision (for myself, at least) about Akito's potential Jyuunishi-ness, so I left it vague in this little introspective. ^_^ For my own amusement (since I noticed myself using a few very horsey comments in Akito's thoughts) I ended up leaning a little bit towards him being the Horse. But the truth is, I don't think that Akito actually is one of the Jyuunishi. If anyone out there has the manga and knows for sure, please let me know! Thank you! ^_^

OK... that really was random. O_O;;; I'll shut up now. Don't forget to let me know what you think of the fic!

Now I Can Die
by Renee-chan

I feel cold, empty, like a hollowed out shell whose inhabiting life form has long since been sucked out by some errant beachcomber. I feel broken, too. Sick... far more so than can be accounted for by my frail body, a body so useless that it keeps me chained in this house, day after day, unable to go for even a short walk into the outside world without help. Fractured... I feel like shattered glass, pitifully trying to reflect what might have been.

And it's all her fault.

Oh, don't look at me that way, as if I'm singing the same old song to a new tune. I'm not. I recognize the distinction, if no one else does. I know it isn't truly her fault. She was merely the catalyst... the mirror that allowed me to see myself as I really am. I didn't want to see, didn't want to know the truth. I knew it would be the cruelest, most painful thing of all. For the truth, you see, is...

I am a monster.

I've known, or at least suspected, for a very long time. This thing inside me, this force that prompts me to reach out, time and again, to hurt those I should love. It emerged early, this demon inside me. I don't even remember when it was that I first struck out. It really doesn't matter. I've done it so many times since then that it is almost irrelevant. Each time I reach out, attempting to soothe the fury within me, it only rises higher. With every act of violence, it becomes a little more uncontrollable. It occurred to me once that I might be going about trying to soothe it the wrong way, but no one objected to my ever increasing cruelties... so I just ceased caring. But no matter how it started or why it continued, the end result is still the same.

I am a monster, and now, thanks to one Honda Tohru, I can no longer hide from that fact.

At first, her existence was as nothing to me, a momentary distraction, an intriguing tale Shigure carried to my ears, and nothing more. What more could she be anyway? Only the Jyuunishi matter. She is not one, not even a Souma. And so, for the most part, I ignored her, forgot she even existed. After all, what harm could she do? From the beginning, Shigure was entranced by her. Then again, he was entranced by anything in a skirt... and judging from my observations, the skirted person need not even be female to capture his attentions. Besides, the Dog's loyalty need never be called into question and I know it. I am his Master, after all, always first and foremost in his thoughts. And since he knows it, too, I didn't worry. That's why I let him live away from the main house to begin with. And since his will is merely an extension of my own, I even trusted him with my most precious possession...

My Yuki.

For my Yuki... my Mouse... my imperfect little mirror... so like me and yet so not like... my little porcelain doll to play with as I chose... for him I worried. For with him, Honda Tohru's influence quickly became a liability. He did not attend my winter festival--though he had to know it would likely be my last--for this girl whose existence should mean nothing. This worried me. So I sent Hatori, another of my ever-faithful, to feel out the situation. It was implied, though not directly ordered, that for the insult of Yuki's absence, the girl should pay with her memory. And yet... Hatori returned to me having left the girl's memory completely intact. Never had he disregarded me wishes--even the unspoken ones-- like that before. Even with that fling of his--

Don't look at me that way. I know that Souma Kana was considerably more than a "fling" in my Dragon's eyes. I know. I know...

But the point is, even given a second chance--under the supervision of the main house this time--he still ignored my implied order. Hatori is not stupid and he has never failed to pick up on my unspoken thoughts in the past, so it was then that I sat up and took notice. But it was far too late. One by one, I lost them all. Yuki, Kagura, Hatori, Momiji, Hatsuharu, Ayame, Kisa, Hiiro, Ritsu, even the damned Cat... Kyou. Each and every one of them drifted away from me. Only Shigure, my faithful Dog, remained at my side. Oh, they all went through the motions of being faithful, pretending to hear and obey my orders, then sneaking off to her so that she could tell them it was all right to disobey. My dear Hatori especially tried to fool me--he's always been too kind for his own good, watching out for me and caring for me when no one else dared approach, taking all the abuse I could think to dish out then coming back for more--but I could tell. I could tell when each one slipped away from me. How could I not? What little control I had over myself, I lost after that.

I didn't want to be alone.

And then, Souma Kazuma, everyone's favorite teaching master, unwittingly handed me the solution to my little problem. I never should have allowed Yuki out of the main house--never should have allowed anyone--but I had grown too complacent. I thought that since Shigure was mine he would ensure that Yuki stayed the same. But this Honda Tohru, and later Kyou, threw a pair of wild cards into the mix that changed the outcome of my little game. And with their cozy little home, those four gave the others a place to go other than the main house, gave them someone to turn to other than me. But if I could destroy that safe haven, remove the alternative, then everyone would return to me. Everyone. Even my Yuki.

And what better way to accomplish this than to take out the weakest brick in the foundation?

So I sent Kazuma to Shigure's house to do exactly that--to pull on the brick that is Kyou and watch the whole house fall down. I half-expected him to disobey me--he could have done it, too, for he is not Jyuunishi--but he put up no fight for his prized "son". Perhaps he had an ulterior motive. Perhaps he was sick of being shouldered with the burden of the cat's curse. Perhaps he merely hoped that the damned cat was made of stronger stuff than I thought and would survive the experience the better for having had it. Whatever the case... my plan failed. I did not even know how badly until this very afternoon.

What happened? You were there. You saw. You saw...

Honda Tohru paid me a visit. She paid me a visit flanked and supported by my very most precious: my Yuki, my Hatori, and my Shigure. The moment she began to speak, the fury began to rise in me. Not only did she not fear me... the arrogant little bitch dared to pity me. Pity me! Me... And so, once again, I struck out. And for the first time, the very first time, I was held back. My Yuki, my little Mouse, once too terrified of me to even approach me when I was angry, held back my left arm. My Shigure, my faithful Dog, the only one I could still count on to follow my orders to the letter no matter how insubordinate he was about doing it, held back my right arm--the more immediate threat with my hand tangled in the girl's hair. And Hatori, my gentle, caring Hatori, nearly rose to assist them, but he froze halfway, unwilling to take that last step of public defiance.

That is until I ordered him to erase the girl's memory.

With all of my more subtle plans in shambles, I figured it was finally time to take the direct approach. They would cry for her. They would hate me. But how was that any different than now? It didn't matter what they thought of me. It only mattered that they were mine. Mine. From the day that I took on the darker aspects of the Jyuunishi curse, the day that I was sacrificed so that they might live free of this pain, since that day, they were mine. Honda Tohru had sacrificed nothing for them. Nothing! She had given them nothing. I gave them life. What was her paltry, vapid little smile compared to that?

But Hatori... my Hatori... wouldn't do it.

Honda Tohru continued spouting those words. Those cloyingly sweet, poisonous words. When I died, they would be sad, she said. They would cry for me. They were scared that I was going to die... that I was going to leave them. And the moment I looked up and met the eyes of my three dearest... I knew that her words were lies. Not one of those three were scared for me. They were scared for her. They would cry for her and be sad for her. Not me. Never me. They were no longer mine, and Honda Tohru had all-unknowing and completely unintentionally made me face that fact. They were no longer mine... because they were hers. I had driven them straight to her. And it was then that I realized what she had given them--not life, but that which made life worth living. She had given them Hope and she had given them Love. They were more than willing to lose me, if it meant that they could keep her.

It was only then that I realized what I had lost... and through my own actions, no less.

Reflected back from those three pairs of eyes... I finally saw what a monster I had become. Seeing that, I could no longer fight. What little will to live that I still had, what little strength that I had left to fight through the pain for one more day of life... evaporated.

~You call this living?~

I don't. Not now that I know what living truly is. And after showing me what I am and forcing me to face the truth, she dared to dangle that carrot of Hope and Love in front of my face. As if she could acquire me as easily as she had my Jyuunishi. And to my horror, something within me wanted that carrot, wanted it like I've never wanted anything.

Under the influence of that small part of me, my hand slowly released her hair, allowing it to slide through my fingers like so much silk. I could feel the two at my side begin to relax, could feel it as all three silently urged me to take that carrot, no doubt hoping that I would also accept the bit and bridle held in the other hand. At that thought, the banked fury within me fanned once again into a blaze, and I lashed out without even being aware of doing it. I flung Shigure and Yuki off my arms, no longer able to bear their touch or the pity that had leapt from her eyes to theirs. But somehow... I couldn't hurt her. I just couldn't do it. Honda Tohru. She had won and we both knew it. I would never threaten her again.

And that was that. She left and she took my most beloved with her. They will never be mine again... if they ever truly were. They are gone and I am alone with the monster that is my own self. I don't think I will see them again. Now that they have my silent approval to be with her they will leave me to my solitary death. No, I lie. Hatori... gentle, giving, Hatori... will return to care for me. He is a doctor and I am, if nothing else, his patient. He has a professional obligation to keep me alive as long as he can, whether or not I wish it. And Shigure, my faithful Dog... in spite of his having found a new mistress, he will not give me up completely. Not after following me for so long. Dogs are like that sometimes. But the others...

Shigure made the girl promise not to trouble my remaining days after this one visit. Mostly, I am glad for this. Glad that I will never have to face that offer again, for the truth is... I don't know if I could say "No" to her a second time. Because, you see... already, after only a few hours, I regret having said it once. And I can't help but wonder what it would have felt like to accept that carrot, to let her tiny fingers slip that bridle onto my face and over my ears, to feel those gentle hands soothe away some of the pain and the loneliness...

But I am a monster and I don't deserve that tenderness. And it is too late anyway. She is gone with the rest of them and I am well and truly alone. In the end, that is for the best.

Isn't it?

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