AN: Yeah, I know it was a long time between updates for this fic but, hey,
it's done now. This will probably be slow to update since I feel a more
pressing urge to work on my other fics first, especially Yesterday's Rain
since that'll definitely have some Toriru moments as well as other moments.
Well, I hope you enjoy what's up so far even if it's not much. (^^)
CHAPTER 2: More Than Tea
As she waited for Hatori to return, Tohru sighed disconsolately. She felt
horrible about causing trouble for the doctor when she was supposed to be
here to help him. She fidgeted restlessly, feeling the strong urge to be
up and doing something productive but forcing herself to remain still.
After all, Hatori had told her to rest and it would be rude to go against
his request. But she didn't have long to think about because he soon
returned carrying a small tray bearing two mugs and a pot of tea, setting
them down on a small side table placed between the couch she was sitting on
and the chair nearby upon which Hatori took a seat.
"Ah, Hatori-san," Tohru interjected when he started to reach for the
teapot. "Please let me pour." She felt she needed to do something in
return since he'd gone through the trouble to make tea for her as well, no
matter what he had said earlier. "After all, Hatori-san should be the one
relaxing after driving the both of us here. It must have been tiring and
all I did was sleep in the car on the way over."
"Honda-kun," Hatori said calmly as she started to rise to her feet. "It's
okay. You don't have to-"
But his next words were cut off when, rising to her feet too quickly, she
overbalanced and began to fall. Surprised eyes met in a startled stare as
lips connected a brief moment before bodies touched in full contact.
Luckily, as the smoke surrounded them, Tohru had the presence of mind to
brace herself with rapidly flung out arms just before she accidentally
squished the tiny form below her. Gently, as the last of the smoke
cleared, she parted the folds of men's clothes to reveal the seahorse
within. Taking in the sight, imagining she could see exasperation written
all across the seahorse face, her lower lip trembled as she rapidly bowed.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" she practically wailed. Then she burst
into tears, shamefully turning away as she began to sob uncontrollably.
So intently was she crying, she never noticed the sudden burst of smoke
that signaled Hatori's retransformation. Naked, Hatori quickly drew his
shirt over his waist as he debated a brief moment whether to get dressed
first or contend with the sobbing girl. It was no contest as the kind-
hearted doctor pushed aside his own embarrassment with the situation in
favor of comforting someone in distress. One hand keeping the shirt in
place, Hatori leaned forward in the chair to place a warm hand on Tohru's
shoulder. Startled at the contact, Tohru turned her head and, catching
sight of the smooth expanse of Hatori's bare chest, quickly turned away
again, making sure to keep her back to him from that point on. Noticing
her actions as she tucked her head down shamefacedly, Hatori heaved a
"Honda-kun," he said gently, addressing the back of her head. The crying
had stopped so that was a good thing though her body still trembled with
each tiny sniffle and the sound tugged at his heartstrings. "Honda-kun,"
he repeated soothingly. "It was just an accident. There's no need to be
upset over it. These things happen."
"But," she sniffled, "they happen more often when I'm around."
Well, that was certainly the truth, he thought, but not one that needed to
be said if he wanted to reassure her. Besides, he'd often thought that she
minded triggering one of Jyunnishi's transformations more than they did
which was really saying something. It was amazing the way she always took
the burden of guilt upon herself for it when she shouldn't even be involved
with the Souma family at all. But she was, there was no changing what was
already done. And, strangely enough, she'd already made a place for
herself amongst them though she probably didn't realize how much she'd been
accepted by most of the family, how important she was to them. So he kept
his tone soft as he spoke to her.
"Honda-kun, it's alright. I don't mind, really," he lied, his complex with
his Jyunnishi form still weighing down on him. But he gave her shoulder a
comforting squeeze. "I'm not upset so you shouldn't worry about it. I
know you were only trying to help."
"I didn't help very much," she said miserably. Her shoulders slumped. "We
haven't been here very long and all I've done was cause trouble." She
sniffled again. "After how kind Hatori-san has been to me, I've only
managed to do terrible things in return."
"It's not that bad." He couldn't help his amusement. He'd had much worse
things done to him in the past; this was almost fun in comparison. Then he
frowned. "Though I feel that I'm the one who should apologize."
"Eh?" She swiveled her head to look at him in surprise, being careful to
keep her gaze trained only on his face. "Why should Hatori-san apologize?"
He stared at her in consternation. Despite his discomfort with the topic,
he broached it. "Honda-kun, have you ever been kissed before?"
She flushed, looked away. "Well, Hana-chan and Uo-chan have kissed me."
"No." He shook away the image that popped into his mind. "That's not what
I meant." Really, uncomfortable now, he felt his face warming as he tried
to be more precise with his question. "Have you ever received a kiss from
someone else, a male someone else?"
She mumbled something under her breath that he couldn't quite catch.
"What was that?" he asked, wondering if she had been kissed before after
She turned her head a little towards him, eyes still averted in
embarrassment, as she said a little more clearly, "Only by Hatori-san."
"Ah." He felt his heart skip oddly at those words but pushed it away as
his face flamed. "I'm sorry," he apologized.
She shook her head. "It was my fault."
"No," he said firmly. "It was an accident. Nevertheless, I'm sorry. I'm
sure a girl's first kiss is very important to her and I apologize for
taking it away."
"Hatori-san doesn't have to apologize!" she cried, alarmed that he might be
feeling guilty over it and determined to alleviate his fears. She looked
up at him earnestly. "I feel very lucky that my first kiss was with Hatori-
Hatori's eyes widened. She couldn't possibly be aware of the implications
of what she was saying, could she?
At his expression, her face crumpled. "I'm sorry." Her head bowed,
nearing the verge of tears once again. "I didn't realize; it must have
been a terrible experience for Hatori-san."
"What? No." He shook his head, whirling in confusion at the twists this
conversation was taking and alarmed that he'd somehow injured her feelings
again without meaning to. He dragged a hand over his face, trying to
collect his thoughts. "Honda-kun, I never said anything like that so,
please, don't jump to conclusions."
"Then it wasn't bad?"
How did he answer this? But, at the hopeful and concerned expression on
her face, he was trapped and responded in the only way he could. His face
softened as he reassured her, "No, it wasn't."
"Oh," she said with obvious relief.
Hatori stared down at her as she knelt on the floor beside him, knowing
there were other things that needed to be said but, since she was calmer
now, he had something in particular that required more immediate attention
for the moment. After all, he was fairly modest by nature and it was
extremely awkward for him to hold a conversation with a pretty girl whom
he'd just kissed, even if it was an accident, while he had nothing but his
shirt wrapped around his waist.
He cleared his throat. "Honda-kun?"
"Yes?" She looked up at him expectantly.
"I need to get dressed," he said as calmly as he could. "So if you could-"
"Oh!" She flushed, paled, and flushed again, shooting to her feet and
heading for the door. "I'm sorry! I'll be outside while Hatori-san gets
With that, she made her escape, face flaming in embarrassment as she left
the doctor behind.
Dressed, a cool rush of air washed over him as Hatori stepped outside in
search of the girl who had beaten a hasty retreat a short while before. He
didn't have to go far for he spotted her a short distance away, her back to
him as she crouched on the ground before a cluster of bushes. Curious, he
approached slowly until he came to a stop beside her, wondering what it was
that was holding her interest.
"What are you looking at?"
Startled, she shrieked, tried to whirl around but lost her balance and fell
backwards, landing on her bottom as she stared up at the doctor in
surprise. She blushed, hastily closing her legs and rising to her feet
when she realized that her legs had sprawled out in an ungainly fashion
that sent her skirt hiking up her thighs. Noticing a slight flush across
his cheeks as he looked away, she felt even more uncomfortable and silently
chastised herself for being so clumsy today.
"I'm sorry," she said, feeling as if the only thing she was good at today
was apologizing. "I shouldn't have been so startled."
"Honda-kun." His expression was serious, knowing they had to talk about
this or else their entire stay here together was going to be immensely
awkward. "You don't need to apologize so much." He sighed. "I know I
make you uneasy."
"Eh?" She bit her lip uncertainly, thinking that it was somewhat true but
that it would be horribly rude to say out loud. Besides, it wasn't his
fault but hers because she knew he'd never done anything deliberately to
make her uncomfortable. So she shook her head. "No, that's-"
"Honda-kun," Hatori interrupted firmly. "Please, let me finish." At her
nod, he continued, "It's okay; I know I make a lot of people feel that
way." He held up a hand when she opened her mouth to protest. "No, it's
true, I know so there's no need to say anything else more on it." He shook
his head. "But there's something else that I want to talk about."
"What?" she asked confused and a little concerned.
"Honda-kun." He aimed a level look at her. "I know you want to help, but
you don't need to try so hard. It's just you and me here and, because I
don't really mind, it's not necessary for you to become so upset at every
little accident that occurs."
"But I don't want to be a burden," she said in distress.
"You're not," he told her sincerely. "But, as I said before, you're trying
just a little too hard." His gaze softened. "Honda-kun, there's no one
else here; you don't have to impress anyone so just relax and don't take
things so seriously. Everyone makes mistakes, so there's no need to get so
upset over them. Just do things at your own pace and everything will work
out fine. Do you think you can do that?"
She blinked, wide-eyed. "Mother used to tell me that." She smiled softly
and sighed, laughing a little in embarrassment as some of her tension
leaked away. "I'm sorry. I'll try to take it easier."
"Good," he said, smiling at her. "Your mother must have been a very wise
"Yes," she said happily, obvious affection for her mother reflected in her
face. "She was the best!"
As the tension between them seemed to relax, Hatori asked, "So what were
you looking so intently at before I startled you?"
"Oh!" She brightened and pointed. "There!"
His gaze followed the direction her pointing finger indicated before
stopping at a patch of snow that was spread beneath the clump of bushes
she'd been crouching by. It wasn't all that unusual, really, for snow to
linger so long into the year, not in this area where the climate remained
at cooler temperatures than in other areas of Japan that were quicker to
welcome the warmth of spring. Still, the sight of the snow made him recall
things past as it always did, bringing with it a feeling of regret for
things that could never be.
"Hatori-san? Is everything okay?"
He turned to find large concerned eyes looking up at him worriedly and
wondered how long he'd been standing there staring vacantly. Certainly, it
had been enough time to make her anxious and he set about soothing her.
"Yes," he said with a smile. "I'm fine. Just woolgathering."
She looked at him doubtfully. "Is it the snow? Hatori-san always seems to
be bothered by it somehow." She gasped, eyes going wide. "I'm sorry! I
don't mean to pry!"
"No, it's alright," he said calmly to forestall another one of her
apologizing attacks. "I was just remembering some things, that's all."
"Bad things?" she asked concerned.
"Well," he sighed softly. "Good and bad, I guess." He gave her a warm
look. "I'm sure you have memories like that as well. Everyone does, I'm
"Yes," she said quietly, the lines of her face easing though a hint of
worry still lingered.
Sensing it, Hatori shifted gears. "Come on," he told her. "Let's go
inside. You don't have your jacket on and I don't want you catching a
cold. The sun's starting to set and it gets cooler here much more rapidly
than back home so you should keep that in mind."
"Oh!" She frowned at the thought of so much wasted time. "It's getting
dark already and I still haven't started dinner yet." She bit her lip,
beginning to panic. "But there's still cleaning left to-"
"Honda-kun," Hatori broke in. "Remember what I said."
She took a deep breath, telling herself to calm down, an embarrassed look
on her face. "Well," she said, "I suppose the cleaning can wait until
after dinner if Hatori-san doesn't mind."
He nodded, pleased. "That's fine."
A low growling filled the air and Hatori blushed. Seeing it, Tohru
politely bit back a giggle to spare the doctor's feelings as she turned
back towards the house as Hatori fell into step behind her.
"I'll start dinner right away," she said.
In the kitchen, Hatori suggested, "Why don't I help too?"
"Eh?" She paused to stare at him in surprise. "Hatori-san doesn't have to
trouble himself. I can do it."
"It's no trouble." Another low grumbling growl filled the air and Hatori
silently cursed himself as he flushed. "Besides, it will go faster."
"Ah." She turned her back so he wouldn't see the tiny smile playing about
her lips as she conceded. With a hand, she gestured to the counter. "Then
if you could, please cut up those vegetables while I start the rice
"Alright," he said as he moved to begin the task assigned him.
They worked companionably to prepare the food they'd bought at the nearby
town where they'd get their groceries during their stay. It was something
that Tohru found as a pleasant surprise since she'd always been left to
herself when it came to cooking. Kyou and Shigure had never offered to
help. Yuki had once shortly after she started living in the same house but
the results had been a disaster and the other two had banned him from the
kitchen ever since. But Hatori was different, efficient in this as she
imagined he was in everything else he put his mind to and she found that
she enjoyed working alongside someone else in a space that she had
previously thought to be only her domain.
"Hatori-san seems very good at cooking," she complimented.
"Well," he said, a touch of humor in his voice, "I'd hope so. Otherwise,
I'd starve to death." At her puzzled look, Hatori explained, "Perhaps you
think everyone back at the Honke eats together, but that's not so. They
have their own places within the Souma complex and that's where they
usually stay. Really, it's like a small village and I have my own home
separate from everyone else within it."
"I see." A frown tugged down at her lips as she thought about his words.
"Then Hatori-san usually eats alone?"
"Usually although there are times when Momiji drops by." He scowled a
little. "Even Ayame and Shigure from time to time but then it gets too
noisy." Catching the look on her face, Hatori smiled reassuringly. "Don't
worry. I'm used to taking my meals alone. Sometimes my schedule is so
hectic, it's better that way because then I don't have to worry about
keeping someone from holding off meals for me."
Since he was trying to reassure her, Tohru did her best to look placated by
the explanation though, inwardly, she was still troubled. It seemed like
such a lonely existence to her and she believed that the doctor deserved
much better than that. She felt a niggling of guilt that she'd never
thought before about Hatori led his life when, from what she'd gleaned from
his words, he had such an erratic schedule that there were times when he
missed his meals in order to keep to his doctor's duty. Sliding a sidelong
look at his profile, she thought that he really was a wonderful person and
was puzzled why there wasn't someone out there who worried more about him.
Catching her glance, he turned to her and asked, "What is it?"
"Ah, nothing," she said hurriedly, blushing a bit as she busied herself
with cooking the fish.
Puzzled, he watched her for a moment, taking in her practiced and
economically gestures as she cooked and wondered why the gracefulness she
displayed when it came to such tasks wasn't carried over to some of the
other things she put herself to. While cooking, she was at her calmest and
he'd found it a nice change to cook alongside someone else when he usually
did it alone. It was, perhaps, the most companionable that they'd ever
been with each other and, overseeing how she handled herself confidently in
this particular arena, he thought that she seemed much more mature than she
usually did. It was a mystery and he couldn't help but marvel at how such
a seemingly simple person was actually quite complex and wondered if any of
the other Soumas had similar thoughts about her.
"Did Hatori-san get the plates out?" Tohru asked, looking around.
"Ah," he said, heading over to the cabinets. "I'll get them now."
Thoughts interrupted, he'd have to come back to them another time.
Definitely another time, Hatori thought as the scent of well-cooked fish
wafted to his nose and set off another embarrassing set of stomach
growling. At least this time, the sizzling sounds of fish and his distance
from her as he went to get the plates kept her from overhearing them.
Even a modest man had to have some pride, after all.