She had to grant that he made an impression.

At the counter, bored with the regulars and blackly counting the seconds until the loser geriatric case at table seven requested more tea just so he could get an eyeful, she heard the room full of conversations at the busy Cafe Hinata begin to slow and then stop. Mitsune Konno, Manager of the Cafe, saw the sunlight of a beautiful spring day dim at the front doorway, occluded by a huge man. He made an impression and she was the right person to judge: for as long as she could remember she had loved big entrances.

He wasn't sumo massive. He was just plain big. Had to duck his head to step through the door and shift his shoulders so that they fit through. Thick waisted but not fat, perhaps what nature had required to support those shoulders. Whooooeeee, look at those shoulders. His bull neck supported a square- cut head, black hair just over the ear - tops, well defined jaw that squared off with a nice cleft. She couldn't see his eyes behind his shades, but by that point the water she was pouring had spilled over the glass and she had more pressing matters to mop up.

His head turned as he took in the Cafe, and the staring eyes. He shifted his backpack on his shoulder and smiled with suitably large, white smile. "Good afternoon." he rumbled in kansai. With everyone still staring, he shrugged and shuffled carefully through the occupied tables to an empty one. The wood of the old bench made distressed sounds as he seated himself and he froze. He eased himself down with a surfeit of creaking until all his weight was on the bench. It did not explode, so he placed his backpack down and removed his sunglasses.

Now that he was more or less out of the direct line of sight, conversations began to pick up again. Kitsune waved off the server in that section, picked up an order pad and began to sashay over. He weren't no regular... here was some new blood to have fun with. Flirt mechanism fully engaged, boobies at full charge, safety interlocks removed from wit. She made her hips flow like water, confident that he was a- watching.

And, she was right. His eyes were green and openly appraising as she strutted to a stop at the table, their color enhanced by the tan he wore. "Hiya," she said with her off- center grin and a little wave. "You're a big - un, ain't you."

He smiled at her with big white teeth. "Jesus H. Christ." he said in English, after a moment's pause. "That long – ass train ride was worth it."

Her eyes flew open in surprise, mouth gaping. "Damn, boy!" she replied in the same language, "Don't be getting ahead of yourself!"

He snorted. "You got me, I'm sorry, you got me…" He slipped back into kansai. His eyes crinkled as his smile widened (dimples, dimples!).

Her grin back in place, Kitsune asked sweetly, "So, will you be ordering, or should I just stand here and pirouette…?"

"Much as I'd like that, I'm absolutely starving…" He ordered Kare Raisu, green tea and a pitcher of spring water.

"And," Kitsune inquired, innocently, as she marked his order on her pad, "are you here for our famous hot springs?"

He smiled up at her, folding his hands before him on the table. "Nope. But, maybe I'll make the time to take a dip before I move on."

She noticed that his hands were of a piece with the rest of him, large enough to easily encircle her head. Or, other things. And, no wedding ring. With quick efficiency, based on years of field-testing, she mentally registered his possessions for a rough guess at net worth. From shades to shirt, watch to backpack, he was in extremely high quality casual dress (showing minimal wear) and wore it easily. No corporate toady forcing himself out of a three- piece here, this was a guy who dressed as he liked and showed nice taste doing it. She then realized that he probably paid a lot more to find this clothing in a size that would fit his huge frame.

All indicators read: increase flirt, increase flirt. Engage. Her head tilted as the mental gongs began to sound.

He quirked an eyebrow at the odd motion and her glassy eyes. "Are you okay, Miss?"

"Urk. Oh, oh yeah." She could feel herself blushing. She looked around to make sure that the Café staff were taking care of business and that no customer issues were requiring her attention. Satisfied, she placed her rump on the table, just near his folded hands.

"I think," she said, continuing the conversation, "you definitely should try to take a dip. Amazing things happen here, " she winked, "especially with the right person."

His other eyebrow shot up and his lips began to curl. "Really?"

She placed one hand over her mouth, eyes smiling. "For you, probably 'persons.' It's gonna take a lot of time to wash that back of yours." After a moment, she leaned over towards him, resting one hand on the tabletop. "Come on, level with me… if you're not here for the springs, what'cha doin' in Hinata?"

He leaned back on the bench, somewhat startling her, and crossed muscular forearms, chin held between the thumb and index finger of his right hand. "Are you this curious about all of your patrons, Miss, or am I just lucky?" A light seemed to dance in his eyes.

She leaned back as well, placing both hands behind her on the table- top and, with shrug, answered. "When you know the regulars like I do, bud, your always dying for distractions. The run – of – the – mill vacationers are okay, but…" She allowed her eyes to show her frank inspection of him. "But you, big boy, you're just…" She smiled full out, "…lucky!"

He chuckled, a basso rumble that made the whole of his great torso shake. Because he was jammed against the table, it began to shiver in syncopation with his laughter. Kitsune could feel the vibration running up her fundament, a turn of events she found… interesting.

Now, distraction was becoming less and less the correct term.

"Ah, not to change the subject…? But, I'm really hungry."

"Oh." Kitsune said, emerging from her zen – flirt. "Sorry! I'll make sure we get right on that." She jumped off the table, turned and wiggled away. She looked over her shoulder at him and, yes, he was checking her out in a big way.

She put his order in, sent someone back to his table with spring water and tea and checked in to make sure the Café continued to run smoothly. After a short while, his order finished and she picked the food up on its tray. She walked back to his table, noting that he had several spiral bound notebooks on the table top in front of him and was engaged in jotting into one with a mechanical pencil.

"Hiya, big boy. Here's some food to grow on…" She held out the tray. She noticed that he looked much younger when he was startled. She decided that he must be in his late twenties or early thirties.

She placed the food down in the cleared space and watched as he began to eat. He raised his eyebrows at the fact that she remained there, tray in hand, and then she confused him more by taking a seat in the bench directly opposite him.

His eyes looked into hers as he chewed furiously. She was impressed that he didn't attempt to speak until the food was gone (good upbringing, obviously), unlike many men she knew. She smiled winningly as his mouth opened.

"Great food," he said. "My compliments to the chef."

That was not what she expected. He took another bite and began to chew this more sedately, his closed mouth forming a grin. She leaned her head back at an angle, her own grin in place, as if she were a soldat, bore- sighting a particularly lucrative kill.

He swallowed again. "So… not that a beautiful dining companion is undesirable," he said in a puzzled voice, "but aren't you going to get in trouble with the manager for sitting with me?"

She tapped her chest. "Manager."

"Urf." One side of his mouth shot up. "I'm just…lucky?"

She leaned forward and winked. "Better believe it, tough guy."

"So lucky that this…" he spread his big hands to indicate the meal, "…is going to get comped?"

She threw her head back and laughed. "Don't push it, sumo."

He winced. "Ouch, that hurt. I'm a little trimmer than that."

"Then give me something to call you."

"Steve. Steve Seyama." He carefully wiped his hand, and then reached over the table. She held out her hand and found it engulfed, absolutely lost, within his. His hand was warm and dry, slightly rough and hard with what she presumed was muscle.

"Mitsune Konno." She said, eyeing the paw now attached to her hand. Thick fingers, big knuckles, small black hairs sprinkled over the back. He exerted a gentle pressure on her hand with the shake and then released her.

"My friends call me Kitsune." She added, surreptitiously looking at her returned hand.

"'Fox?'" He said, his deep voice rising slightly. Was he making fun of her?

"Yeah. Why, got a problem…" She began, but her words were drowned out by the amazing laugh he gave out, a huge explosion of sound. Again, conversation halted in the Café and Steve, seemingly effortlessly, drowned out any other noise. But, as Kitsune turned her head, she saw that people didn't mind the interruption but were responding to the obvious good feeling being projected. She saw smiles and grins, and then realized that she had been laughing right along with the man.

"Oh, God." He said in English. "Too funny." He shook his head, eyes watering. "Oh, boy. Ohhhh, boy."

"What was that all about?" She asked when he had finally wound down.

He drained the remainder of his spring water and panted slightly, grinning at her in almost a deranged way. "It's your name. Sorry, your nick- name."

She stood, placing one hand on her hip, and leaned over him. "You don't like my name?"

"No," he said, snorting again, "I'm laughing because I love it. It's perfect for you." There was no lie in his eyes, she could see herself reflected in the green depths. She realized he had very thick black lashes. "You are absolutely a fox."

She blushed and realized that, for once, she had no comeback. She had been laid totally bare for the compliment and had nothing in the arsenal to counter his honesty. Her eyes opened wide. "Um, thanks," she stuttered. "I knew that." She finished with a shadow of her normal bravado. She sat down with a graceless thud.

He began eating again, his eyes glancing up. She placed both elbows on the table and cupped her chin as he destroyed the remainder of his meal. It didn't take long and she couldn't seem to get up. At one point he shifted the position of his long legs and his knee touched her leg under the table, ringing through her body like the tone of a bell.

This is wrong, this is very wrong. Flashing amber lights, disengage. Lead, don't be led, do not give up the initiative. You're no schoolgirl, damnit!

He was saying something as he laid his chopsticks down, his eyes alight with private humor.

"I'm sorry? What was that?"

"It doesn't really translate, sorry, don't mean to be rude. My niece watches a TV show on in the states, I don't know if it's shown in Japan…." He gazed at her frankly over the tabletop. "It's not really important. What is important to me is what I'm going to do now."

"Which is?"

"Ask you on a date."

"You… you big pile of crap! You think I'll say yes? You showed up…" She looked over her shoulder at the cat clock on the wall. "You showed up an hour ago and you have the gall to think that I'm gonna… you think I'm desperate enough to… "

He shrugged, and the table moved at the motion. "Hey, I'm lucky. Even you said it. I'll roll the dice."

She snorted and her mouth formed that off- center grin. "Who'm I kidding? Yeah, I'd love to."