Tohru was busy cooking breakfast that morning when she heard a throat being cleared behind her. She turned around and found Hatori looking at her, face carefully blank again.
"Where is Kagura?" he asked. "She is our cook every morning."
"A-Ano…she went downtown to buy groceries," she replied nervously as she wiped her hand on her apron.
His forehead creased. "Where is Shigure? He's the one who buys them."
She looked down. "I think he's still in his room. Ayame-san said that Shigure-san got drunk last night." She remembered that the novelist wiped out the remaining catsup stocks they have for the week while he and Yuki's brother were playing Chinese checkers.
"Where is Yuki then? He's the one who reprimands that stupid dog," said the clan doctor.
"Um…in his garden, I think," she said slowly.
"Hmp." He looked at the vegetable noodle soup she was making with disdain. "Tell Kagura that if she's going to leave her chores, tell me first. Now I have to make do with that."
She looked at the boiling ramen, then at Hatori, who was on the counter, reaching for a bowl. She hurried towards him. "A-Ah, matte! P-Please sit down! L-Let me do the serving!"
Although puzzled, he sat down as Tohru took the bowl from him and filled it with her just-cooked noodles. She placed it in front of him, and then hurried towards the refrigerator to get him a glass of orange juice.
"There!" she said, planting the glass on the table. "You can take your breakfast ahead of us!"
He looked at her sideways, and then tasted the soup. His eyes lit up, but he quickly returned to his passive mode. "The flavoring is just right."
"R-Really?" Tohru looked very pleased. "I am so glad that I satisfied Hatori-sensei!"
"Why should you look so happy?" he asked. "What benefit shall you derive from my satisfaction?"
She smiled shyly. "I can't explain it." She beamed at him. "I guess, it's just the thought that I brought delight to someone even in my own simple way…that's what's making me happy."
He paused, then continued eating. "What did you put in here?" he suddenly found himself asking.
She was really surprised by his sudden interest to extend the conversation, so she ended up stammering. "A-ano…leeks and little chicken meat."
"And the noodles," he said.
"It's not so bad," he said at last. "At least, for a catsupless dish."
Her eyes widened.
At that point, Ayame arrived, humming merrily. Upon seeing Tohru, he approached her immediately. "Good morning, princess!"
"E-Eh?!!" Her face heated when he clasped her hands to his chest. "Ayame-san, o-ohayou!"
"Ah, you cooked something for us!" He sat down beside the suddenly dark-faced Hatori and smiled at him cheerfully. "Tori, I thought you swore to the stars that you'll never eat something without catsup."
"I was hungry," he said simply.
"Your ten-year resolve melted in those three words, and Tohru's cooking, of course," said Aya, laughing dramatically. "You really astounded me!"
Tohru sweatdropped when she saw the clan doctor give his cousin the lethal look. "A-Ano..!" she whispered, freaking out.
Aya turned to her. "Princess, I swear I can feel that Tori is getting very fond of you. He just doesn't show it much because it will ruin his reputation, right?" He nudged the doctor on the ribs. "Just like how you don't want to show the others how close we really are, eh?"
Hatori suddenly found himself contemplating on how to make another use of the chopsticks he was holding. Stabbing a talkative silver-headed idiot was starting to sound good.
Tohru, flustered, put Ayame's noodle soup down on the table hurriedly. "H-Here…!" She gasped when she accidentally spilled some of the liquid on Hatori's crotch. The man cursed as he jumped out of the table, fanning his pants.
"A-Ah! G-Gomen nasai!" she cried, not knowing what to do. She took the nearest rag she could get. "S-Should I wipe it?"
"Stay away!" he snapped. "I'll take care of myself!"
"Y-Yes." Tohru bit her lip.
"Ah, Tori, let me help you! I'll massage that part so the pain will go away!" said Ayame suddenly.
Tohru and Hatori blinked.
Tohru placed an ice bag on the bump on Ayame's head. "You shouldn't have teased him too much, Ayame-san," she said, sighing. "Now look what happened."
"I knew he was going to hit me!" he said knowingly. "But the look on Tori's face is priceless! Definitely worth it!"
He chuckled. "Alright, I know when to stop." He then noticed her hand. "Oh dear, your hand is bandaged! What happened?"
"Are you sure?"
"Y-Yes! It will heal soon!"
Aya clicked his tongue. "And you told me that you sewed last night? What are you trying to do to your hands, punish them?"
She sweatdropped. "It's not that bad…"
"It is!" His eyes flashed with sudden emotion. "Your hand shall someday carry a ring between its fingers, so your hand must be preserved carefully for that day."
She blinked. "M-Marriage? But Aya-san, that's the farthest thing on my mind right now! I'm too young!"
"Ooh, I love how you blush uncontrollably!" he gushed. "So pretty!" His eyes lit up. "Hey, I have an idea! Why don't you come with me to my room? I'll show you the project I have been slaving over!"
"Really?" She looked thrilled. "OK!" She then looked at the breakfast table. "B-But I still have to prepare breakfast-"
Ayame pulled her insistently. "The people in this house are already old enough to do things for themselves. Now let's go!"
Kyo was awakened when he heard a horribly familiar screech calling out his name. His eyes opened alertly, but he wasn't quick enough to avoid Kagura's lunge on him.
"Oh, good morning, my beloved Kyo!" She swung around his neck side to side as the boy looked at her with narrowed eyes. "Did you sleep well-" She paused when she noticed the shawl around his shoulders. "Hel-lo?" she said, picking up the cloth daintily between her fingers. "I didn't know you have a shawl like this."
His eyes looked at the cloth, then remembered Tohru. He gently slapped her hand away from the cloth. "A friend gave me this."
She looked at him quizzically. "Since when did you have a social life, Sohma Kyo? Even the worms and the birds find you anti-social, in case you forgot."
He didn't reply.
"Oh well!" said Kagura brightly. "Let's eat!"
Yuki looked up at the sunny blue skies, shielding his eyes with his hand. He then looked down at the basket he filled with the best fruits he handpicked from his own garden and tied the container with a ribbon. He then passed by Tohru's room and knocked.
When he got no reply, he tried the door. It swung open freely. He placed the basket on the table.
"There!" gushed Ayame as Tohru twirled around for him. "This maid uniform is so cute, don't you agree? It suits you!"
The onigiri looked at her reflection in the mirror. "Um…" She was wearing a bright pink and white maid ensemble with white knee-high stockings and white gloves. She was wearing a maid's cap on her hair that was brushed by Aya patiently until it shone like a newly-polished marble. "The dress is too nice for me," she said.
"Nonsense! I say that the dress suits you perfectly!" He then opened the door and gave her a gentle shove outside his room. "Now go along and ask everyone what they think of your outfit! Don't forget to say that I designed it!"
Although embarrassed, she did as told. Shakily, she started to make her way down the stairs, but she then decided to take a last good look at herself back in her room just to make sure that she looked fine.
She opened the door, and was stunned to see Yuki sitting on her bed, writing something.
Yuki heard the door open, but realized it only after one full minute. He turned to the door and found Tohru gaping at him…
His eyes widened. She was wearing a skimpy pink and white maid outfit! His forehead creased. There could only be one suspect for this: his brother.
Tohru panicked when she saw Yuki frown at her. She twisted nervously. "Um…"
His eyes scrutinized her intently, then he abruptly left the room.
She bit her lip. Did I disgust him?
"How dare you make her wear that piece of cloth you call a uniform!" yelled Yuki as his brother, who still couldn't get over the fact that his beloved estranged brother had marched into his room without warning, smiled at him indulgently.
"Well, I think she has the wares to flaunt, so I designed something that will enhance her natural beauty," shrugged the elder Sohma.
"God, her skirt is too short!"
"She was wearing stockings."
"Even so!" Yuki wanted to tear his brother's perfectly brushed hair apart. "You're making her expose flesh!"
"But don't you think she looks cute in her outfit?" he asked casually.
"Well, I do. Pink looks nice on her-" Yuki's eyes widened when he saw the gleeful smile on his brother's face. "DON'T CHANGE THE TOPIC!!!"
"I'm still on the topic," said Ayame confidently. "You like her a lot, don't you?"
He turned his back on him. "I refuse to talk about such absurdities."
"Anything real is not absurd," countered Aya. "If you are not concerned about her, then why did you barge in here, all worked up because of something so trivial such as the length of her skirt? You're acting like a possessive boyfriend!"
"I can't believe I'm talking to you! You are nothing but nonsense!" With that, Yuki stormed out of the room.
"Yeah right," said Ayame under his breath. "And between the two of us, I have more sense than you have right now."
Tohru clutched the note she knew that Yuki wrote just awhile ago. It simply said, "Arigatou".
I wonder if he's mad at me or something. His mood changed when he saw me clothed like this…
She sighed, then stepped out of her room. Just in time to meet Shigure, who have just woken up, in the hallway.
He rubbed his eyes quickly when he saw her. "Kami-sama, please don't wake me up yet if I'm dreaming."
She blushed. "A-Ano, Shigure-san, ohayou!"
He whistled at her appreciatively. "Wait till everyone sees you!"
"Iie! I was about to go to Aya-san's room to return the uniform-"
"No way! You have to show the rest of the family your fabulous look!" With that, he pulled her along with him down to the dining room. "Hey everyone! Check out Tohru-kun today!"
Heads turned to their direction. Tohru suddenly wished that the floor would swallow her up whole right now.
It was Haru, who first recovered. He smiled appreciatively at her. "You look good when you dress up, Honda-san."
Kisa nodded, but Hiro merely yawned and continued eating.
Kagura smiled. "You look so pretty, Tohru-chan!" She nudged Kyo, who was still staring at the onigiri. "Right, Kyo?"
He nodded absent-mindedly, unblinking.
Yuki quietly wiped his mouth with the napkin and left the dining table.
Tohru's worried gaze followed him, not knowing what to do.
"…so you see, Aya-san, I must have done something wrong to make him suddenly cold to me," Tohru told the designer. "And I realized that it must be the dress…so…even if it's rude, I-I would like to return your uniform." She sadly returned the maid clothes that she knew he slaved on for days and nights.
He sipped his afternoon tea calmly. "I'm afraid that I can't accept it, Tohru-kun, unless…"
Her eyes were puzzled.
"Do this for me." He the instructed her on what she should do.
Yuki was at the balcony, thinking, when he heard someone step beside him.
"I finally found you," said Tohru, smiling nervously. "I swear, you must have been avoiding me all day."
I was, he thought. Instead he turned to her. "Is there something I can do for you, Honda-san?" To his dismay, she was still wearing the maid uniform.
"Y-Yes." She looked down. "Please tell me honestly what you think of my outfit."
"T-Tell me if I am improper for such nice clothes, and that you are disgusted because I try too hard to look good when I'm not," she said softly.
He fell silent.
He exhaled audibly. How can I tell her that I don't like to see her dressed like that because I can't take my eyes off her. Because I'm afraid that I might look like an idiot, staring at her?
Instead, he said, "The dress is too skimpy."
She looked at him. "Eh?"
He looked away. "I answered your question already, didn't I?"
He started to walk away. "Goodnight, Honda-san."
"Yuki-kun!" She touched his arm. "W-Wait! Aya-san said that he would only accept this uniform when you will be the one to return it to him."
He looked astounded. "He said that?"
She nodded eagerly, but then freaked out when he started muttering.
"Here, Yuki-kun," said Tohru, handing him her maid uniform.
"Thank you." Yuki looked at her. "Tell me if my brother bothers you again, and I'll take care of him."
"Eh?" She shook her head vehemently. "He is not bothering me! He's very nice, and he's lonely."
She looked at him. "Both of you are."
"Lonely," she said, shrugging.
He looked away. "I'm used to it."
She shook her head. "Y-You don't have to be lonely! If you will open up to other people…"
"It's like surrendering yourself easily," he said.
Her eyes saddened. "I see. But I would like to be your friend. If you don't want me to be your friend because you don't want to surrender yourself, then let me be your friend."
"You don't have to surrender anything to me," she said, smiling. "Think about it, ok?"
He had no choice but to smile back. "Goodnight, Honda-san. I will…and um…"
She looked at him expectantly.
"Awhile ago…you looked really cute," he said softly, a faint blush creeping up his cheeks. "That's it, I guess."
He liked my outfit after all! Although I can not understand what happened to him and to us that day, I still am happy. Very, very happy…
She looked up at the night sky above and noticed the half moon. She grinned. "It will soon be full moon. How romantic!"
Hatori read the letter in dismay. Akito would be going home already next week.
What will I do with Tohru-kun? Should I hide her? Send her away?
He sighed deeply as he looked at the moon.