"Why don't you come with us for a little while?"

"I'm sorry but I'm waiting for someone."

The feminine reply was polite but distressed as she responded to the male that seemed to be trying to coerce her into something. Not only that, but she appeared to be outnumbered as a different male voice joined in trying to encourage her to do what they wanted. It made him quicken his pace towards the direction of the voices in his urgency to get there before anything happened. He rounded the corner just in time to see a dark-haired guy with glasses make a grab for her arm as she was pressed against the wall of the school building with two males crowding her too close for comfort.

"Come on," said glasses as he gripped her arm hard enough to make her wince.

"Yeah," said the other guy as he bent down closer to her. "It'll be fun."

He leaned even closer, about to go in for a kiss, when a sudden force had him bouncing off the wall and landing on the ground with a hard thud that had him seeing stars. A high-pitched shriek and another thud had him glancing over to see his companion on the ground as well except, glasses askew, he was staring upwards with the most terrified look he'd ever seen. Feeling a cold chill overtake him, he slowly glanced up as well and barely suppressing a scream of his own when he made eye contact with the enraged figure towering above him.

"Bastards," he growled, glowering down at the two males.

"Hatsuharu, it's okay!" the girl cried.

"Shinji," whimpered glasses as his face completely drained of all color. "That's Souma Hatsuharu! Oh, God! We're going to die!"

"Shut up, Masao!" Shinji snapped, although he was no less terrified.

Shinji and everyone else in the school were fully aware of the violent reputation that was attached to the name of Souma Hatsuharu. It was spoken with a little awe and much fear as everyone tried to stay out of his way and his terrifying temper ever since that one time a while back when he'd gone nuts and practically destroyed an entire classroom for no apparent reason. Shinji had also heard that Hatsuharu had a girlfriend and silently cursed his bad luck that had apparently brought him to unknowingly hit on her. Despite his fear, he did his best to worm his way out of the situation and tried to produce a placating smile.

"Hey, this isn't what you think," Shinji blustered. "We didn't know she was your girl. We were just-"

His words ended in a squeak as he the front of his shirt was grabbed and he was lifted up and slammed against the school building. Shinji squirmed and tried to pry the hand that held him in place but the steely grip wouldn't budge despite his best efforts. He soon stilled, mouth drying up when he met that burning rage-filled gaze.

"Son of a bitch," Hatsuharu snarled as his grip tightened, bunching up the material in his hand until the collar around the guy's neck was pulled taut. "Do you think I'm stupid?"

Shinji tried to breathe around his tightened collar as he vigorously shook his head as he gasped, "Of course n-"

"You think I don't know what you were trying to do?"

The growling voice, accompanied by the further tightening of his collar, was heard distantly in Shinji's mind as he felt himself grow dizzy from lack of air. Even his vision started to dim as the background noises of Masao's sniveling cries and a tearful feminine voice vaguely reached his ears.

"Hatsuharu! Hatsuharu, stop! He can't breathe! Hatsuharu, let go! Haru!"

Suddenly Shinji felt himself falling back to the ground as he gulped for much needed air. Gasping as his vision returned to focus, he looked up to see the girl clutching at Hatsuharu's arm while she gazed up at him with concern. Meanwhile, the rage that had suffused his features seemed to have dissipated as Hatsuharu stared blankly down at Shinji and Masao who still sat frozen in horrified fear nearby. Shinji didn't know which was worse, the enraged demon that had nearly choked the life out of him or the empty- eyed person that regarded him now. Either way, the abrupt switch in moods was chilling as Shinji decided that the rumors surrounding Souma Hatsuharu didn't even come close to the truth and vowed to avoid him and anything to do with him in the future.

"Um," the girl was saying to him as she kept her hands on Hatsuharu's arm. "Are you alright?"

Her gaze flickered anxiously between Hatsuharu and the two males on the ground as her question was answered by nervous nods. It was obvious that she didn't want to let go of him for fear of having a repeat of events. If she was somehow restraining him, Shinji was grateful. He vaguely wondered why a sweet and cute, although somewhat dumb looking, girl was involved with such a dangerous guy like Souma Hatsuharu. He watched as a relieved smile curved her lips at their nods that they were okay.

"That's good," she said. "Then if everything's alright, perhaps you should go."

"Leave."

Though soft, there was no mistaking the command inherent in that one word voiced by the figure whose arm she still held on to. It was all that was needed to send Shinji and Masao to their feet and racing off the school grounds as fast as they could with a silent vow to never bother Hatsuharu or his girlfriend again.

"Tohru."

The voice had her jerking her gaze away from the retreating figures to regard Hatsuharu guiltily, knowing what he was about to say since he'd lectured her on it so many times before. She gave him an embarrassed smile as her hands released their grip on his arm that she had grabbed when he had cocked one back to let loose with a punch at the guy he'd kept pinned to the wall with his other hand. Whatever he had to say, she couldn't regret her actions. She thought they were lucky that Hatsuharu's rage hadn't done much damage since he had stopped, just barely, before throwing a punch. The last thing she wanted was for Hatsuharu to have another suspension on his record because he'd been fighting on her behalf.

"Do you remember what I told you about stepping into my fights?" Hatsuharu asked.

Tohru nodded, chastised, though she tried to gloss it over. "But since it was about me, it's okay, isn't it?"

He sighed. "No matter what the fight is about, you shouldn't get involved. It's too dangerous. Especially when I'm Black."

"But I'm perfectly alright."

"This time but next time may not work out so well."

"But-"

"No," he said firmly. "You've been warned before by me, by Yuki, even by Kyou. You should stay away from me when I've gone into Black mode." He shook his head. "What were you thinking to grab on to me like that?"

"Well, it seemed the best thing to do at the time. If I had held on any of the other ways I thought of," she waved a flustered hand, "there would have been a cow and the Souma's secret would have been let out. So things worked out nicely the way it did, didn't it?"

"You could have been seriously injured." Hatsuharu frowned. "By me."

"But I wasn't."

His expression turned sad as he thought about what could have happened. "I would never forgive myself if I had hurt you."

"Don't worry so much." At his incredulous expression, she couldn't help but give a little giggle. "I just mean that, Black or White, Hatsuharu would never hurt me. I'm not worried at all about that."

At the serene expression on her face, he gave up. No matter what some people said about how open to suggestion she was, he knew full well that there were times when she was as stubborn as a mule, even if she didn't appear that way. Even if she seemed agreeable, that didn't mean she was and this was one of those times when she wouldn't listen to anyone but herself. It was daunting to him, her staunch belief in him no matter what personality he wore. It was also worrisome as there were moments when he lived in fear of unintentionally betraying that belief from the one person who trusted him no matter what. But, not one to dwell continuously on things that couldn't be changed, he decided to concentrate on the now and on her. With that thought in mind, he sent a teasing smile in her direction.

"Why 'Hatsuharu'? I thought I heard you say 'Haru' earlier."

"Eh?" She blinked and then flushed a bright pink. "Ah, well, that was-" she flapped her hands as she grappled for the words to explain. "I was just- I thought- Well, at the time, it seemed-"

She stopped short when a low chuckle reached her ears. To her, it was a lovely sound that she always enjoyed hearing, even when there were times when she didn't really appreciate being the cause of it. But this time, if it meant that he was no longer preoccupied with thoughts of how he might have physically hurt her in a way that she wholeheartedly believed that he would never do, she didn't mind at all.

"It's okay," Hatsuharu said once his laughter died down. "I liked it." His lips curved when her blush deepened. "Don't worry, you don't have to force yourself to say it right now."

He remembered how long it had taken her to say 'Hatsuharu' instead of 'Hatsuharu-san' without blushing. Now she said it easily but he imagined that it would take just as long for her to say 'Haru' instead, at least publicly. There were special moments, private ones, when it came to her lips easily and he was thankful for each of those occasions. In some ways, it was like a shared secret just between the two of them so he supposed that it didn't really bother him all that much if she did use the full version of his name. It was testament to her shyness and sweetness of personality that such a little thing as a name, the use of which more and more people were taking for granted these days, and how she addressed him meant so much to her as it marked the development of their relationship. Truthfully, it meant a lot to him as well that she thought so much of it. But, figuring that he'd teased her enough for the time being on the topic of his name, he switched tracks.

"So," he began. "Were you waiting for me?"

She nodded.

"Why?" he asked. "I told you I had clean up duty after school and didn't want you to wait."

"I wanted to." Then spying her school bag lying on the ground where she had dropped it when she had grabbed on to him, she frowned as she exclaimed, "Oh, no! I hope it didn't break."

"What?" he asked, curious and suspicious.

"Here!" She pulled out a gaily-wrapped package. "For Hatsuharu!"

Suspicions confirmed, Hatsuharu sighed. "Tohru-"

"I know, I know. I wasn't supposed to give any Valentine presents this year." She looked at him hopefully. "But since I already did, it would be a waste not to take it now, wouldn't it?"

What could he say to that?

Hatsuharu gave in and took the box from her. It was a pleasant surprise since he hadn't really expected anything for Valentine's Day, not with the way his other classmates seemed to be a bit leery of him after he'd turned Black last year and trashed one of the classrooms. While Momiji had told him that some of the girls were in awe of him and thought he was cool, apparently they were too afraid to give him any chocolates. He didn't mind really, he was just as happy leaving the receiving of Valentine's Day chocolates to Momiiji and the others. Fingering the curled ribbons decorating the box in his hand, he was perfectly content with what he did have.

"Come on," he said, grabbing her hand as he led her towards the entrance gate of the school grounds. "We should leave before the gates are locked."

"Where are we going?" she asked, enjoying the comfort of her hand in his as she was willingly pulled along.

"Our place."

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'Our place' was the spot where they had first met. Although it wasn't exactly private, there really weren't all that many people who ventured down here so the two of them often came to the spot to just talk or enjoy each other's company. Sitting there, watching water flow by while the sounds of people passing by above them, she recalled her embarrassment from the first time she'd gotten a good look at him when he'd been sprawled upon the grass. Even now, the recollection made her blush.

"What are you thinking about?" Hatsuharu asked, intrigued by her pinkened cheeks.

"Eh?" She gave a little shrug. "Oh, just remembering the first time I saw you."

"Ah." He was amused. "When you thought I was an old man."

"Yes."

She gave an embarrassed laugh, both hands coming up to cover her burning face only to have them gently tugged away and gripped firmly by his. She looked up to find his face inches away from her own as he stared down at her with that soft expression that never failed to make her heart skip a beat every time he turned it in her direction as he was doing now. As she watched with wide eyes, his head tipped down, brushing his lips softly across her own in a butterfly light caress before he spoke in a hushed tone.

"Bet you're glad I'm not an old man."

She burst into delighted laughter at his unexpected words even as her blush heightened at his proximity. She could tell that he enjoyed her sounds of merriment, he always did. Once she'd calmed herself, she sent him an amused smile of her own.

"Yes," she told him lightly. "I'm very glad."

"So am I."

He leaned forward until their foreheads were touching while her fingers remained entwined with his and simply enjoyed the moment, closing his eyes in appreciation while basking in the physical contact. They had both found in each other a similar inclination in that they took great pleasure in the simplest of human touch whether it be holding hands or otherwise. He felt he could have stayed like this forever until he was startled by her sudden exclamation.

"Oh!"

He opened his eyes reluctantly to find her gazing at the unopened box by his side. The look she turned on him was questioning, giving her a soft appearance that he found adorable.

"You want me to open it?"

Her bright smile and enthusiastic nod to his question was all the response he needed. He carefully tore into the wrapping to reveal its contents, visible through the clear plastic of the encasing box. His eyes widened in surprise at what he saw.

"It's a cow!" Tohru exclaimed excitedly.

"So I see."

It certainly was a cow, a very well made one created with white and dark chocolate mixed in such a manner that could only be attributed to culinary genius. This was no ordinary run-of-the-mill Valentine chocolate that could be picked up at the store, few would carry cow shaped chocolates and especially not ones done to the high degree of skill it must have taken to make the one in his hands. It was perfectly detailed from its sculptured head and body to the little metallic cowbell tied around its neck with a ribbon for a whimsical touch. What amazed him the most was the arrangement of spots on the white body of the cow, especially the precise heart shaped spot on its side created by dark chocolate. Though his knowledge of cooking could fill a thimble, he could tell that it must have taken a lot of time to create.

"What's wrong?"

Her nervous voice had him glancing in her direction to see her fidgeting, obviously concerned that he didn't like it. He sent her a reassuring smile, tugging her closer until she was leaning against him.

"Nothing's wrong," he told her. "I love it and think it's amazing. You made it, didn't you?"

"Yes." She smiled happily. "It was fun!"

"You didn't have to go through so much trouble."

She shook her head. "As long as Hatsuharu likes it, I don't think it was any trouble at all. No," she said firmly, placing a finger over lips when he was about to continue protesting. "I already made it and gave it so it's no use talking about it anymore." She looked at him sternly. "Arguing about it will only make me feel bad so just enjoy it and make me happy by eating it."

Hatsuharu's lips twitched. Put like that, how could he refuse?

Still, he found it difficult to take the first step towards devouring the chocolate masterpiece. It seemed a shame to have it end up in a chocolaty mass in his stomach after all the effort that had gone into making it. Then his eyes narrowed slightly as a thought struck him.

"Tohru."

"Yes?"

"Did you make chocolates for everyone?"

"Ah, well, I know I wasn't supposed to but," she wore a guilty expression, "I couldn't resist."

"I see," he said blandly. "That must have taken a lot of time, too."

She tilted her head, regarding his impassive features thoughtfully before she responded, "Not really." She leaned in closer to whisper, "I only did one animal-shaped chocolate."

He looked at her.

She looked back.

Finally, he let out a soft chuckle, brushing another light kiss across her lips before apologizing, "I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't be jealous."

"No need to apologize. It's sweet." She gave him an arch glance. "But completely unnecessary."

"I know, I know. But it's something that just crops up from time to time without any reason. Mystery." Hatsuharu gazed at her. "Forgive me?"

"Of course."

"So what did you make for everyone else?" he asked curiously.

"Hearts and stars."

It was said simply but he had no doubt that they were anything but simple. Granted, they may not have taken as much time to make as the chocolate cow she'd given him but he was positive that they had been created with an equal amount of care to detail and quality that she gave to all her cooking endeavors. Still, he found himself a bit relieved that he was the only one to receive a Valentine's Day chocolate that was unique from the shapes traditionally given out on this particular holiday. Even though they were officially a couple, and had been for months, there were odd moments when he still found himself wary of the other males in Shigure's house that she lived with.

"Hatsuharu's the only one for me."

The look she directed at him was as soft as her voiced words and had him marveling again at her uncanny ability to pick up his thoughts and say just what he needed to hear. Not for the first time, he counted himself lucky to be blessed with her presence in his life. He smiled at her, happy when she cheerfully returned it.

"Shall we go get dinner?" he asked.

She blinked owlishly and glanced down at her rumpled school uniform. "Like this?"

"That's why I told you not to wait for me. I would have gone to Shigure's to pick you up."

Her lips pursed stubbornly. "I wanted to wait."

Hatsuharu shook his head in exasperation. There really was no winning that particular battle. Sometimes her stubbornness rivaled his and he often wondered if constantly being in each other's presence had caused traces of his own aggressiveness to rub off on her. Of course, since it was a trait they had in common, he supposed it made them balance each other as well as they did. Despite how flexible she seemed, there were some things she just wouldn't let him get away with. Even if it was frustrating at times, he knew it was something he needed as a completely malleable partner wouldn't be able to hold his interest for long. Plus, he thought she was cute when she was asserting herself.

"Well," he told her, "unless you want to go back an change, we won't be going anyplace fancy to eat."

"That's okay. Besides," she said, frowning a little, "fancy is expensive and Valentine's Day is about the girl giving something to the guy, not the other way around."

"Actually, in some countries, it is," he informed her with a chuckle.

"But this is Japan, not another country." Her expression was stern. "So no fancy and expensive places. I don't need that."

"As you wish," he said in amusement. "So you don't need to go back?"

"No," she replied, shaking her head. "I made dinner this morning so all they have to do is heat it up tonight. And I told Shigure-san and the others that I might not be back until late."

"I have you all to myself?"

"For today?" She smiled. "Yes."

"Good." He tipped his head. "Then let's go."

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They walked hand-in-hand through the city, the park, the stores, anywhere was okay as long as they got to enjoy being together. They paused at a florist's shop where, under much protestation that this wasn't a day that he should buy gifts for her, he'd bought her a rose. She returned the favor by purchasing a new silver hoop earring for him. Then he had gotten her a small stuffed cow. Before the buying war escalated any further, she put a stop to it by paying for a large sundae that they could both share. Dinner ended up being eaten after dessert. It was quick and cheap as they ate at one of many ramen noodle shops, the bill of which was paid by him only after she had managed to wrangle a promise from him that he wouldn't buy her any more gifts that day. Though twinkling stars fully lit up the night's sky by the time they were done, they didn't want to part just yet.

Outside one of the buildings, he gave her a questioning look, waiting for her shy smile of assent before ushering inside. She waited, leaning against a pillar as giggling couples passed by until he returned and collected her. When they paused outside a door, she blushed when she saw an entwined couple emerging from a nearby room, fawning all over each other. But then Hatsuharu opened the door and nudged her inside, closing it behind them and shutting the rest of the world out.

She walked further into the room, thinking that it was rather tastefully decorated compared to the d├ęcor in some of the seedier love hotels, or fashion hotels as they were referred to now, so popular in Japan for clandestine rendezvous. The interior looked much like that of any regular commercial hotel room. That is, aside from the mirrored panel hanging over the bed. She practically squirmed in embarrassment when she recalled the first time they'd come to a room with one and she had asked him innocently why anyone would want to try and watch themselves sleep. She thought he would never stop laughing.

She turned to find him gazing at her with an amused expression and she blushed even harder, knowing that he was recalling the same memory.

"We could always watch TV," he suggested, laughing when she appeared scandalized.

"Hatsuharu!"

Most of what was available at these types of places was porn. But of course she hadn't known that the first time she had flipped on the television in her nervousness at coming to such a place. The expression that had bloomed across her features when the picture had turned on as moans and grunts filled the air was a priceless memory that he doubted he'd ever forget.

"I'm sorry," he said, coming to stand before her and cupping her cheek in his hand. "I shouldn't tease you so much."

"It's okay." She let out a little sigh, leaning into his touch. "As long as it's Hatsuharu, I don't care."

The warm look she sent him said everything he needed to know.

He leaned forward, pausing just a heartbeat away. "Can I kiss you?"

"Always," she laughed breathily before moving the last space needed to close the distance between their lips.

It started slow, until he entwined his fingers deeper into her long hair and drew her head closer, stoking the heat of the kiss higher, pulling back only when her eyes had glazed over and her breath came out in breathy pants while her hands had fisted, bunching up the dark material of his shirt. A cool draft of air had her peering down in surprise and bemusement to see that he'd managed to unbutton the front of her top with his other hand while she'd been so deeply involved in the kiss.

"Oh."

"Do you mind?"

There was a hint of uncertainty in his question and in his gaze when she met it. It was oddly endearing that, despite his confidence in so many things, something as small as this could throw him off. But she disliked any bit of insecurity that he had, especially if it involved her, and it made her bolder in such situations than she usually was. So, in answer to his question, she smiled shyly at him and pulled the rest of it off, leaving her upper torso bare but for her lacy pink bra. But she was startled when she caught the dark look on his face as he lifted her arm, examining the marks that darkened her flesh.

"Damn it," he growled. "I should have hurt them more. A lot more."

"It's not so bad," she soothed. "It doesn't really hurt."

"You shouldn't have stopped me."

"Yes, I should have."

"No." He shook his head, regretful. "They deserved to be beaten. And worse." He scowled. "Next time I'll-"

"Hatsuharu will do no such thing," she cut him off firmly. "Everything turned out alright."

"But-"

"No," she said, tone stern. "They were completely terrified so I doubt they'll try something like that again. So no more fighting or anything else." She pointed at him. "I don't like it so try to avoid getting suspended and leave them alone." She huffed. "Besides, I don't want to think about them anymore."

He barely suppressed a grin at the militant look in her eyes but conceded for the time being. "What do you want to think about then?"

Grateful that he was allowing himself to be distracted from the previous topic, she forged on. "Well," she said, cheeks pinkening. "It's not fair that I'm the only one with my shirt off."

"True." An eyebrow arched. "Shall I do the honors or you?"

"I will," her chin tilted up defiantly at the implied dare.

He leaned lightly against the wall, watching with much amusement as her blush seemed to deepen with every button she worked undone. She was cherry red by the time she finished and tugged the shirt free of his body. But by then, his light humor had changed to something hotter as the state of her undress got to him, the soft paleness of her flesh attracting his attention like a butterfly to nectar.

He bent down, enjoying her soft gasp when he nuzzle the sensitive point where her neck joined to her shoulder, inhaling her fragrance, a faint mix of strawberries and a unique feminine scent that belonged only to her. He bit down lightly, leaving his mark while she made low sounds that he loved to hear. Soothing the love bite with his tongue, he worked his hands up the warm smoothness of her back, undoing the clasp of her bra. He proceeded to trail warm kisses across her body while he divested her of the rest of her clothes, sitting back on his haunches to gaze up at her when she stood before him in all her nudity. It was hot, the slumberous desire- laden look she bestowed upon him, and it made his temperature spike even as he prayed for control.

"Still not fair," she whispered. "I'm the only one with all my clothes off."

Despite the intensity of the situation, he laughed softly before responding, "Guess I'll have to do something about that."

And he did.

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Much later, having finally made it to the large waterbed that was the centerpiece of the room, they were sprawled upon it, the covers drawn up loosely over them. Her head was pillowed on his shoulder as her hair trailed across the bed in tousled strands while she gently traced the lines of the tattoo gracing his upper arm with the tip of her finger. Rustling was heard as he turned his head to look at her.

"That tickles, you know."

"Good tickle or bad tickle."

He paused to think about it. "Good."

"Should I stop?"

He sighed. "No, you don't have to."

"Good," she said and continued to trace.

Staring up, he commented, "You still can't look at it?"

"At what?"

"Above."

Her gaze briefly flickered upwards before she flushed and returned to concentrating on his tattoo.

"Hatsuharu!" she cried, exasperated as he chuckled.

"You really shouldn't find it that embarrassing," he told her.

"It's not normal to have a mirror hanging over the bed." Her lips pursed. "It's unsettling to look up and suddenly see myself."

"I don't see why. You have a beautiful body."

"Hatsuharu!"

"What? It's true." He looked up. "I like looking at it."

She blushed as he smiled in good humor. He grasped one of her hands, threading his fingers through hers as he regarded her seriously. He took on of the dark strands of hair trailing across his chest and gently tugged, guiding her lips closer.

"I don't want to let you go tonight."

She regarded his features solemnly. "Then don't."

He smiled again before tugging again and bringing their lips together for another deep kiss.

"Oh!" She suddenly sat up in the rumpled bed, looking alarmed and startling him. "I forgot to say it!"

He looked at her curiously. "Forgot to say what?"

"Happy Valentine's Day." She smiled down at him, eyes sparkling. "Haru."

He laughed and pulled her down for a kiss, whispering against her lips, "It certainly is."