Warm Cocoa and a Kiss
by the Black Rose
A Fruits Basket fanfiction.
AN: This is a Haru + Tohru ficlet for the Furuba Lemon Basket ML Valentine's challenge. I hope it's okay. And Happy Valentine's Day. Love, Rose
Wonder filled the early days of spring with warmth and light – long missing after the many weeks of cold and snow. All that remained of the winter were the cool mornings; but as the sun climbed in the crisp blue sky, they yielded to perfect afternoons, the way one season gives way into the next.
Tohru smiled at the day outside the kitchen window. Saturday mornings were usually lax, and she had spent the earlier part of the day catching up on some needed rest. She guessed she wasn't the only one. The house was silent; she hadn't even seen Kyo – and he was almost always up before everyone else.
"Tohru, I'm leaving." Shigure's voice cut into her thoughts. She opened the kitchen door and followed the sound to the hallway. The writer had a parcel tucked under his arm, and he grinned over his shoulder as he moved towards the door. "Take care of the house like a good little wife."
"She's not your wife." Kyo emerged from the stairway, his usual sour expression directed at Shigure. The taller man turned away and seemed to ignore the scowl while he searched for his shoes.
"Oh, you're still here. I thought you'd already left, Kyo."
Tohru's head snapped up. "Kyo's leaving, too?" I guess they were up all along.
Shigure nodded. "There's a martial arts tournament at the school. Kyo and Yuki are both going. I guess you'll be here by yourself for a while."
"Oh. I'd like to go watch." She glanced over at the redheaded boy for permission. His jaw tightened and his eyes flashed. He looked from Tohru to Shigure.
"Forget it! I don't want some girl there." The smile fell from her lips. She glanced away to hide her disappointment as Kyo raged on.
"And since when did that damn Yuki decide to enter? He wants to be humiliated in front of the whole school?"
"Actually, Yuki's not part of the tournament." Shigure pulled a light jacket off the rack and shrugged it on. "He has to be there as president of the student council."
Kyo unclenched his fists and his posture seemed to relax. "Heh. Figures. He's too much of a coward, anyway." The younger Sohma opened the door and two men started to leave. Tohru followed them onto the porch.
"Good luck, Kyo." The boy stopped and looked back at her, his eyes softening a bit when they met her gaze. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but caught Shigure's stare and glanced away.
"Thanks." Kyo's voice was a mumble.
"And where are you going, Shigure?"
"To deliver this to my editor."
"You're going willingly?" Tohru smiled, glad that for once he wasn't going to torture his poor editor.
Shigure ran a hand through his hair and looked down at the envelope. "Heh. Well, she called yesterday and said that if I didn't deliver the manuscript right then, she was going to kill herself. I figured she was bluffing."
Tohru gasped. Or not…
"But either way, I'd hate to push her to the end of her rope. Pun intended. Bye Tohru." He followed Kyo out the door.
"Bye!" She called, watching the two men disappear beyond the gate. "Be safe."
Well, Mom, I guess it's just you and me. And it's such a pretty day outside. What should we do?
Oh, I know!
An hour later, she was humming to herself while spreading a blanket on the ground near a tree not far from Shigure's house. Tohru placed a picnic basket on top and nestled her mother's picture on the ground between the roots of the tree.
"Forget it! I don't want some girl there."
Tohru sighed. She had just wanted to go cheer for him. She knew he didn't mean anything when he said things like that, but she couldn't keep the words from stinging her heart. She cared about him - the cat that was cruelly tricked by the rat and left out of the Zodiac banquet. She just wanted him to know….
It's hard to believe that Yuki is the rat. He's so kind; not at all mean like the creature I imagined the rat of the Zodiac to be.
Tohru looked over at her ever smiling companion. "I wish you could have met them in person, Mom. But I suppose, as you said, things happen for a reason. And had you lived, I might never have become friends with Yuki and the others in the Sohma family." She gasped, and dove forward to pick up the picture. "Not that I'm glad you're gone, Mom. I miss you all the time. I wonder if I'll ever stop." Hot tears welled up and began to roll down her cheeks before Tohru even realized she was crying. "And part of me, as much as it hurts sometimes, doesn't want to stop missing you. Not ever. I never want to forget you, Mom."
A tree branch snapped, alerting her to a nearby presence. She tensed and tried to dry her eyes as they roved the surrounding woods. "Hello?"
Silence greeted her.
"Is someone there?" Something cracked.
Unease settled in the pit of her stomach. She was out here, alone. And Kyo and Yuki wouldn't be back for a few hours. "Hello?"
She cried out and turned around. Tohru slowly rose to her feet. "Haru!"
He found her having a picnic by herself near the edge of the forest; her only companion that picture of her mother. He shook his head. She was cute, admittedly, yet why the family was in such a general uproar over this girl, he wasn't entirely sure. But what he did know was that Yuki had a fondness for her.
And so did that cat. Even better. This could be fun.
He smiled. Cute, and the absolute picture of innocence.
"You know, it's not a good idea for you to be out here by yourself." He tilted his head and watched her. She had a hand to her throat and seemed to be breathing heavy. He must have startled her. But even still, she was trying to smile… at him.
"Oh. But…it's such a lovely day, and no one was home. I didn't think…"
Haru took a step forward. Tohru knelt back down and turned her attention to the picnic basket. "Where are Yuki and Kyo?"
"They're at the school," the girl smiled. "There's a martial arts tournament there today. Kyo's competing, and Yuki's there as the president of the student council."
"And Shigure?" Haru shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned sideways against the tree. She looked up at him from a kneeling position on the blanket.
"He went to deliver some papers to his editor."
"Willingly? Or did she have a gun to his head the whole time?"
She laughed. He liked the sound… and the way the skin around her eyes crinkled up when she smiled. "Oh! He went by himself. He just likes to tease her – kinda like a playful little puppy."
"Hm." Haru let his eyes rove over her form. Dark, chocolate colored hair swam in the spring breeze; soft tendrils clung to her face and accented her cheekbones just beneath large, crystal-blue eyes. He didn't know how long he just stood there, looking at her, drinking in her presence as if it was warm cocoa on a chilly winter day.
She finished spreading lunch out on the blanket, and Haru followed her delicate fingers as they fell into her lap, milky white against the blue pattern on her skirt.
"I, um, packed plenty of food. And if you join me, then I won't be alone." Her voice interrupted his thoughts.
"So, would you? Please, stay?"
Haru couldn't help but smile at the girl. That's what she is – warm, sweet, and inviting. This is what that cat likes so much. He nodded and sat down
She offered him the bentou of rice balls. They really looked delicious. Haru took one and stretched out, settling against the foot of the tree next to 'mom'. He chewed quietly, while she made conversation.
"So, did you come to see Yuki?"
He shook his head and accepted the cup of tea she offered. "No. Kyo, actually. I'd hoped to challenge him to a fight today – before the tournament. But, I guess it took me longer to get here than I thought."
"Oh? When did you leave?" Tohru finally took a bite of her own rice ball.
Haru sucked in a breath. "A few hours ago."
"But it only takes…" She lowered her eyes to the blanket.
His smile went away. He should be used to it by now. He didn't have to look at her to know what she was thinking. "I know. My sense of direction's always been bad."
She picked up the plate and offered him another rice ball. "Oh, it just takes practice. You'll get better."
"Nah. I doubt it. Cows in general seem to be lacking in that area. I've just learned to accept it."
Tohru peeked up at him through her bangs. "Well, it seems kinda fun in a way."
He scowled. "Fun? Getting lost? People calling you an idiot because you can't find your way--" He caught himself. "Sorry." Haru felt his cheeks burn and looked away.
Fabric rustled beside him, and he turned when she put a hand on his arm. He glanced up into dark blue eyes filled with something intangible, but real none-the-less. Something that seemed just a bit different than the way she looked at Yuki or even Kyo. Something he could say was unique to him – for him. It took his breath away. This is why…
"I feel sorry for people who say those things," she said. The sincerity in her voice seemed to reach out and soothe him. Haru sat entranced by the girl across from him as she continued to speak. "They'll never get to experience the adventures you do, or see different places. They'll spend their whole lives staying on the same paths, the same roads – always afraid of wandering too far from what they already know." She swallowed and stared down at her hand, but he wanted her to look at him. He reached over and tilted her head up with his hand.
"I don't think you're dumb at all. I think you're wonderful, and brave. I'd like to get lost on an adventure sometime, just take the time to see different things. It must be exciting."
Tohru settled back on her knees. He couldn't read the expression on her face. That smile…
"I--" His mouth worked, but none of the other words he wanted to say came out. He finally gave up and settled for: "Thank you."
"Not at all," she moved back to her place and poured another cup of tea. "Thank you for keeping me company."
"The pleasure is mine."
Her face broke out in an even more beautiful smile; the breeze picked up again and tossed gentle strands of chocolate silk. Haru felt the urge to touch them.
"So, which one do you like better?"
Tohru looked up from her rice ball. "Which…one?"
"Yuki or Kyo?"
"You know, which one would you go on a date with if they asked you?" He pressed. Haru had expected her blush, but instead, she looked sad.
"Uhhhh, but I've only been on a date with Yuki. Kyo's never asked. He didn't want me to go see him fight today." Her smile faded and she went back to staring at her hands. Haru could feel his lips twist into a grin.
"I'm sure it was just that he didn't want to be distracted. You can't help it if you're so cute."
She finally blushed. "I…I'm not cute. Kyo and Yuki, all of the members of the Sohma family - you are all very good-looking." Her hands toyed with the edge of the blanket. "They call Yuki a prince at school, but really you all are princes in your own way. Compared to all of you, I'm just plain ol', ordinary Tohru."
A stray leaf caught in her hair. He gave in to temptation and reached to gently untangle it, allowing the locks to sift through his fingers. She wouldn't look up. "Okay then, you're not cute. You're very, very pretty. But you still didn't answer my question." He shifted against the tree trunk to a straight upright position, and crossed his legs. "Or maybe you don't know. You really don't favor one over the other?"
"I don't understand…. I care for them both." Tohru looked up, and he could see the truth to that statement. Maybe she didn't love one more than the other. But could it really be because she wasn't in love with either of them?
"Yes, but which one would you let kiss you." Her eyes widened. Haru leaned closer. "Like this." He brushed his mouth against her lips. It was quick, meant just to tease her a little and bring that cute little blush back to her cheeks. But it made his heart lurch against his ribcage, and he couldn't pull too far away. He stayed close, watching the expression on her face and waiting – for what he wasn't quite sure.
She blinked and the corners of her mouth curved up. He had to breathe. The boy bent forward and claimed her lips again. It made him smile when she responded, pressing her lips back against his. He urged her mouth open and deepened the kiss. His hand came up to tangle loosely in her hair.
"AHEM." A voice cleared itself loudly behind him. Haru broke away and was treated to another glimpse of the girl wearing a tomato red complexion. He schooled his face into a blank expression and turned to face the opponent he had come to challenge.
"How was the tournament, Kyo?"
Red eyes flashed, and Haru could practically see steam boiling from Kyo's ears. "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?"
Haru shrugged and leaned back against the tree. "I just came to keep Tohru company. You left her alone. I thought I'd cheer her up a little."
The cat's hands clenched into angry fists. "I'm going to tear you apart! Get up."
"We're still picnicking. Come back later."
Kyo stomped closer; his shadow fell across the blanket. "No, we're going to fight, now."
Haru stretched, and his fingers sought out the remainder of his lunch. "What's the hurry? You just got back. I'm sure you're tired."
Tohru cut in. "Um, Kyo, would you like something to eat?" She held up the remaining rice balls and offered them to the seething cat.
He snarled in her direction, but the fire in his eyes was still burning at Haru. "Get in the house. Why were you alone out here, anyway?"
"Uh, well," she said.
Haru saw her shoulders slump.
"It-it was such a nice day…"
"Don't talk to her like that." The white-haired boy sat up straight and glared at the new arrival. Kyo loomed over him like a menacing storm cloud.
"Then get up and do something about it, why don't ya?"
Haru grit his teeth. His chest was starting to feel tight, and the urge to strike out was growing stronger. "You're making me angry, Kyo. I came here to challenge you, but not like this."
Kyo pounded his fist against the tree. "So, this is how you pick a fight, now? By dragging her into it?"
The younger man bristled. "No. It's not like that." I don't want her to think--
"Please?" Tohru's soft voice was calming. "At least…at least not while I'm here. I'll go inside and start dinner." She finished packing her things back in the basket and stood up. "But, I'd really like it if you wouldn't – just this once?"
She picked up the picture of her mother and started back towards the house. As she passed in front of Kyo, he grabbed her arm.
"I'm sorry," he spoke to her in a low tone.
She looked up and smiled. "It's okay. I…I wanted to go, today. I wanted to see you fight in the tournament."
"Can we talk about it later? After dinner? When he's gone?"
Tohru continued in the direction of the house, throwing a quick glance over her shoulder before disappearing completely inside..
Haru frowned, and finally stood up. He wouldn't fight because she had asked, but he still felt the urge to strike out. And the cat. He could already guess what Kyo's problem was. "She wouldn't admit to loving either of you more than the other. I asked her, point blank."
"What? What the hell are you-? I'm not listening to you. The only reason I'm not kicking your ass right this second is because she asked me not to."
A smirk formed on the younger man's lips. "Yeah, yeah, I know. You're mad at me for kissing her."
"You're damn right I am!"
"Have you ever thought to ask yourself why?"
"Stay away from her, or I swear, Haru, I'll--"
His temper had a shorter fuse than usual. The cat was struggling to keep control. Haru had to admit, that alone was progress. Even still it couldn't justify the way he treated her. "Or what, Kyo - you'll what? You think you have some right to her? Like you own her? Well, you don't. She can make up her own mind, and believe it or not…" He felt tension seep from his shoulders as his mind worked out the last bits of a puzzle.
"Just because she can love someone else doesn't mean she'll stop loving you." He smiled, remembering her face when she said she cared for both Yuki and the cat. "Her love is a lot less selfish than yours, Kyo."
Red eyes narrowed beneath a mop of orange hair. Haru stuffed his hands into his pockets and finally issued his challenge.
"Besides, if you're too much of a coward to do anything about it, I'm not going to let her just be alone for the rest of her life. She deserves better than that."
The orange head bowed. His breathing had slowed to deep, steady gasps. There was a long pause before Kyo answered. "You're right. She does."
After dinner, Haru asked Tohru to walk him out. She looked surprised, but complied none-the-less, smiling as happily as if she had been given a compliment. Kyo made the move to follow, but Yuki must have sensed something was up; he grabbed the cat's arm and sent him a glare filled with warning.
The night sky had settled its dark curtain over the earth, with tiny pinpricks in the fabric to allow in a bit of light. Haru took Tohru's hand and raised it to his lips. She gasped, and the sound made him smile.
"I wanted to ask you, away from the others," he said, keeping her hand in his. "Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to dinner and a movie next Friday night?"
Her eyes widened and she stared at him as if he had just asked her her name in German. He swallowed and felt his chest tighten. Perhaps she didn't have the heart to love him, too. "I thought…Maybe…. We could go on a date. Or, get lost along the way?"
Her face broke into a wide grin. "I'd like that very much." She brought his hand up to cup her face. He swept his thumb across her cheek and smiled back.
"Good night," he whispered. He kissed her lightly and took his leave - then wandered home beneath the stars.