The Embrace of God

A/N: [PLEASE READ THIS!!!] Okay, for those who haven't already, please read my bio first. I have an important message to readers of TEoG. This is the last complete chapter of TEoG. Chapter 18 is on hiatus, but that will likely be the last chapter I post for this story (if I ever finish it). Hopefully, the author who agreed to take over TEoG will be able to do so, soon.

Disclaimer: I do not own Fruits Basket.


Chapter Seventeen (Part Two): Confessions

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"Akito-san, where is it? There are lots of places that serve dinner, depending on your preference for the style of the restaurant." Tohru walked in his shadow as they ambled along the sidewalk in front of a cluster of restaurants.

"Here we are."

He jarred to a halt as a restaurant's lights reflected in his dark pools, shedding a bright golden light to the surface of his eyes. Tohru found her eyes gazing at a giant sign that read "Kotta Ryouri" [1] in elegant, brush strokes over the front entrance. The delectable aroma of fine cuisine steaming from hot smoke escaped the casually opened windows and drifted to their noses. The smell invoked a plethora of flavorful, mouthwatering images in their minds. Tohru's stomach responded with a growl of approval.

"Sorry, I'm just really hungry." She said sheepishly. She glanced over to the front windows and saw the meals neatly arranged on top of horizontal racks. The dim lighting behind the window captured each appetizing item in its own spotlight. If one were to touch the food, then one would be shocked to realize that they were all made from wax and plastic. The replica was to tempt the appraiser's eyes as well as provide a very accurate depiction of what the real course will look like.

Akito walked over to the glass, his hands curled in his pockets as he assessed the available items. "I don't know what you like. You may choose whatever you want, it doesn't matter to me." He added, seeing her face.

"But...the food is expensive! I wasn't thinking about an elaborate dinner. Something more like..." Tohru's eyes scanned the streets, more populated than ever now that it's almost dark and most shops are coming alive with flashing neon signs advertising games to fast food and even clubs. The festive atmosphere temporarily made her forget about her hunger and enjoy the scenery as the plaza was mostly crowded with adventurous teenagers, all middle-aged to senior people retiring for home.

"McDonald's." He flatly finished for her, seeing as she fell in a trance.

"Uh...well, maybe not fast food. Something in-between those two options are fine." Tohru humbly replied.

He sighed. "There's no need to be modest you know. It's not like I come out here that often. I only heard about this place from someone who was drunk because he went drinking behind my back."

Tohru giggled. "That sounds like Shigure-san." She smiled. "Although I don't know what he's like when he's drunk."

"Good. Keep it that way. There are some things I'd rather you not know about that mutt." Akito said grimly. Before she could utter another word, he searched for her hand through the darkness and half-dragged Tohru inside the restaurant. Before the poor girl could figure out how she ended up in front of two elegantly dressed waitresses in a lavishly decorated room with chairs, they bowed and greeted "Irasshaimase!" [2] before escorting them directly into the main restaurant.

Tohru could do nothing but be swept along with the tide as she followed Akito's side while they were being led through a hallway. Despite the dimness, she can see the floor was polished and it reflected the lanterns hanging from the ceiling. On either side of the semi-transparent walls were doorways with silhouettes of people drinking and chatting with each other. Tohru felt nervous and out of place as she continued to walk alongside Akito. She's never been to an authentic restaurant in her life. The closest place she ever been compared to this was before she met the Sohmas, when she and her mom went to a decent restaurant to celebrate her 16th birthday. Thinking back on it now, she wished her mother could've seen this. This place is awe-inspiring.

"Here is your dining room. My name is Rei and I will be your waitress for this evening." The lady said as she pushed open a door leading to a vacant room save for a low, reddish brown table and two ivory mats. Akito nodded and took off his shoes, a practice Tohru has rarely seen in a regular restaurant. She did the same, almost clumsily tripping as she entered the seating area.

Akito didn't say a word, but his amusement showed. Tohru saw that he was poised, like he's done this numerous times. He looked calm and well-mannered and graceful as he took his seat. Not wanting to seem like the awkward fool she felt, Tohru hastily mimicked him and sat opposite. She thought it was best to be polite and dip her head instead of ogle at the rice papered walls adorned with venerable silk art and calligraphy painted onto the scrolls.

'This place is so overwhelming. But it's beautiful too. I feel like I'm visiting the feudal era.' She thought dreamily.

Rei poured them tea and then she gave them their menus and two trimly folded oshibori to cleanse their hands with before eating. After that, she bowed and left them to decide on what to order.

'Thank goodness I've been out a couple of times to know where the chopsticks are usually kept.' Tohru thought relieved on that simple knowledge. She waited for Akito who leaned back to pull out a small drawer under the table to retrieve a pair of disposable chopsticks before she did the same. He scrutinized the menu before glancing over the top at Tohru. She was busy looking over the dishes to notice him marveling at how well her hair blended in with the peach-yellow walls of the room.

Taking a sip of tea, he finally broke the silence. "Have you made up your mind?"

She looked up and blushed. "Oh! I'm sorry. I was looking at the imported foods. They even have dishes that originated from Europe and America." Tohru took a sip from her cup. "What do you like?"

"...I don't know." He was uncertain about ordering any of these foods. He might get sick since his body is so used to eating the same varieties of food everyday. It seemed that the only foods he liked are the ones Tohru prepared for him.

"Well, it doesn't hurt to try something new." She examined the menu, "Hmm...How about nattou since it's very good for your health?" She suggested.

He made a face. "I'm sick of eating those. And you're sounding like Hatori again." He mumbled.

She nervously laughed and it sounded like bubbles to his ears. "Ok...well, let's try ordering an appetizer first."

"I want something that has a taste of ginger." Akito said.

"How about the marinated ginger shrimp? It's a popular choice." Tohru pointed out.

"Just order what you like." He replied.

"Oh no, that's selfish of me! I-I want you to eat something that you enjoy as well!" Tohru stuttered.

He watched her idly, chin supported by a hand. "I'm hungry, Tohru-kun. I'll eat whatever you order since I don't have the patience to choose. Everything looks delectable when you're starving." He grumbled.

Tohru chuckled. "Um...okay, if you insist. Let's see now...there's gyoza...and tsukemono, Hana-chan said that they're really tasty. And maybe some agedashi tofu. Oh, and there's tonkatsu with chopped cabbage! Now for dessert..." She flipped the page as she quietly made comments to herself, promising to find the recipe for certain foods when time permits. Akito found her soft voice as lulling as a sweet melody. He smiled lazily as he watched her eyes glow with a lively spark every time she discovers a new dish. He now understands why his Jyuunishis are so attracted to her; Tohru possesses a kind of warmth about her person that makes her approachable and nonjudgmental about people.

He thought of his undisclosed plan as Rei returned and asked for their order. While Tohru listed the dishes she found interesting enough to try, Akito's mind drifted over to how he planned to spend the summer with her. Just the two of them, alone with no nuisance to interrupt their private time with eachother. It sounded like a dream, but the gears are already set into place. He's taken measures to ensure Tohru will be his and he even has a back-up plan in case she needs a little encouragement to make her choice.

"Akito-san? Would you like some more tea?"

He returned to the present. "Yes, thank you." He watched as she carefully poured more tea into his cup. "So, I haven't heard much about how school is going. Is everything well and all?" He blew away the rising steam before sipping.

"Yes, everyone's been a little busier than usual, especially for seniors since it's our last week before finals. And then after there is prom, followed by graduation." She informed.

"Ah, the prom. I assume you must be excited. It's an once-in-a-lifetime experience I was never able to attend." He sulked.

Tohru stared at him. "W-what do you mean, Akito-san?"

"Unlike the Jyuunishis, I was home-schooled. Public schools are a breeding ground for diseases and private schools don't allow family doctors to treat you when you're ill. So the family hired some of the most renowned educators to tutor me until I was 17." He said.

Tohru let the information sink in. "What was it like being home-schooled?"

He grimaced. "Exhausting. One cannot appreciate silence until one has had a tutor harking in one's ear about constant vigilance."

Tohru smiled sympathetically. "That sounds harsh. But at least you learned about matters you otherwise wouldn't have known, right?"

"I suppose so." He sighed. Back on topic: "So are you going to your prom?"

"Eh! N-no. I've decided not to." She shook her head.

He raised an eyebrow. This was news to him. The last he heard, Tohru was going with her friends. He wondered what prompted her to change her mind.

"Why not?" He asked, irritation lacing his voice.

Tohru fidgeted uncomfortably. "Well, th-the truth is...lately I've been having some difficulty focusing because of...what happened that night." She sighed, her eyes downcast on the table. But then she quickly looked up with a smile. "So I've decided that I'll devote all my time to studying instead of the prom. Besides," She shrugged, "I haven't had enough time to prepare anyways. It's for the best."

He had hoped for another reason, like maybe she hasn't picked out a dress yet, or perhaps she felt too nervous to go.

"Don't you think your mother would have wanted to you go? She wants what's best for you, doesn't she?"

"Yes, but she also wants me to finish high school because she never did. That's always been my first priority." She smiled wistfully.

'Well, that's a shame then.' The words sat on the tip of his tongue, but at that moment the door opened to reveal two trays full of succulent dishes and a pot filled with steaming white rice.

The rest of the dinner was a blur. While the tsukemono was savory and the shabu-shabu unforgettable, the real pleasing event was when Tohru remarked how delicious everything tasted and how happy she was. He couldn't take his eyes off of her beaming smile. After paying the bills (Akito: Tohru-kun, there's less zeros than you think. Stop apologizing), they left the restaurant feeling satisfied and rejuvenated.

---

They had walked for a few minutes after they left the restaurant and the two soon found themselves back in the hustle and bustle of the downtown plaza. It seemed that the crowds have gotten denser while they ate and the noise level amplified.

"So where to now?" Tohru asked idly rocking on her heels. With her stomach replenished with food, she felt ready to explore again. Her eyes wandered over to the dark figure a step to her right, and a contented smile unfurled on her face. Akito appeared to be deep in thought, but his dark eyes were open and alert.

"Where is your bag?" He suddenly glanced down at her empty hands.

Tohru blanched. She was feeling a little light for some reason.

"I must have left it at the pet store!" She cried frantically.

"Oh well. It's not that important anyway." He shrugged before he started to walk away. When she made no move to follow, irritation pricked at him.

"What is it?" He glared at her crestfallen eyes. Why did she have to look at him with those melancholy eyes? It made him feel like he just got kicked in the gut every time she sniffled. That emotion that pulled at his heart strings earlier is resurfacing. He sighed and rubbed his temple; he'd better develop immunity to her charms like he does for Hatori's medicines or else he'll end up being her slave.

"Go. I'll wait here." He crossed his arms grudgingly. He scowled at the eager grin on her face.

"H-hai! I'll be back in a jiffy! You just sit tight and wait for me!" She pumped her fists in determination.

"Easy for you to say." He scoffed as she skipped away. After her figure disappeared, he sauntered to the fountain and sat on its border, a hiss escaping his lips at the iciness. The fountain had several layers with water spewing from the mouth of a cartoon character he failed to recognize. Catching a loud, obnoxious smacking sound, the Head turned and much to his disgust there sat a couple whose lips were locked in a heated battle of the tongues.

"How disgraceful, showing such blatant desire in public! This isn't a motel so get a fucking room, you face-sucking swine!" He spat at them venomously. His sharp nails dug into the fountain.

The couple blushed and the boy who looked no older than 15 was about to apologize when the girl who looked surprisingly older shot him a nasty glare.

"Well at least I have someone to suck face with!" She screamed her features contorted in rage. Her boyfriend mouthed "Sorry, she's having PMS" but Akito was too busy hurling back the insults to notice. The poor boy was forced to watch as his girlfriend and the dark stranger exchanged verbal slaps.

After a while, it seemed like Akito was going to win the battle when he was cut off-guard by a cutting remark.

"Well at least I HAVE a someone! Humph! Let's go, Kenji. I'll show you my definition of 'face-sucking swine.'" She winked at him before sticking her tongue out at Akito who could only stare at her in distaste. Growling to himself, his nails dug into his palm until he felt blood trickle down his knuckles. He can't remember any other time he's hated this damn curse that's weakening him so much! His heart felt like it was being squeezed of the blood it pumped as his raspy breathes choked him till his eyelids fluttered. He stared contemptuously at the spot the nauseating couple sat before they fled in a hurry to do things that made him want to puke.

"Don't mind Isamu. She thinks she's all that just because she has a boyfriend." A voice behind him spoke.

Startled, Akito spun around, ready to tell the voice he doesn't need any consolation from a stranger when his eyes are met with the sight of three different girls. One of them looked butch and reminded him of Tohru's Yankee friend. The girl sandwiched in the middle wore thick rimmed glasses and a ponytail

The last girl, Akito noted with disgust, looked like a spoiled brat. Her long blonde hair fell past her waist until it reached her back. Even at his distance, he can smell her heavy perfume which made him want to gag. Its pungent odor caused his eyes to water. Was she trying to knock the plaza out? He didn't even want to look at her blouse and skirt, so pink he wished he was blind.

He sighed. Tohru left him alone for one minute and he's surrounded by drooling girls who were eyeing him like a piece of steak. His mind dragged up images from horror movies he once watched out of boredom with the mutt. This looked like a scene when the zombies were closing in on the helpless victim. The similarity nearly made him wet himself, but he held on to his last shred of dignity after a chunk of it was brutally ripped out. He decided to turn around and pretend he hadn't seen them but he found himself backed up against the fountain.

'I'm going to die, aren't I?' He asked his conscience as the truth dawned.

'Yes,' it replied, 'if you weren't God, I'd suggest a prayer. But since you are, you best hope someone's praying for you. But, with how you've treated others lately...'

"Damn."

---

'I hope Akito-san is alright. I'm sure he can handle a few minutes on his own. What can possibly go wrong?' Tohru chuckled as she entered the pet store which, thankfully, was still open. The clerk was an old man who saw sat in the chair behind the counter reading a newspaper. She cleared her throat and he looked up.

"Um, excuse me, have you seen a white, grocery bag somewhere? It's got medicine and other first aid material inside. I believe I accidentally left it here when I came by earlier." She said.

The old man nodded. "Oh, you mean this? I found it over by the cat box." He reached under the counter and pulled out the bag. Tohru nodded.

"Yes, that's the one! Thank you so much for keeping it!" She gratefully took it and bowed. "Um, if I could, may I please see the orange kitten one more time?" She asked with an apologetic smile. "If it's too much trouble, then that's fine."

"Sure, but...I don't recall us ever having one..." The man scratched his balding head. "Unless, you mean the tabby that was sold an hour ago..."

"Oh...well, I hope he found a good home to go to! Thanks anyway. Goodnight!" He waved backed as she walked out of the door. It was difficult putting to rest the ache inside her chest. She adored the ginger kitten will all her heart. She wiped her eyes, contributing the wet streaks on her knuckles to her exhaustion. With a deep breath, she headed down the sidewalk, counting spotlights on the ground as she walked.

"Hey there, angel face."

Tohru froze in her tracks like a frightened deer. Pet names always brought forth memories of the horrible night. Her knees trembled as she looked up, but it was just a little boy, the last kind of person one would expect to see on the streets at this hour. Still, she felt wary just in case. Could there be deceit hiding behind those innocent hazel eyes?

The boy didn't wait. "My name is Koji! I'm 18 and I must say you're the cutest girl I've ever met!" He gaily smiled at her.

Tohru's jaw dropped. '18!? But he looks and sounds like he's twelve years old! A-and did he just say that?' She waved her hands, slowly backing away.

"N-no! I haven't a clue what you're talking about! If-if you're lost, then—"

"Yes! I'm lost in the sea of your sapphire eyes!" Ignorant of her stutter, he went straight for the kill. "Do you have a boyfriend?"

'He's so bold!' Her eye's widened to the size of dinner plates as a hot blush spread on her cheeks. "Uh...um, he...he's just a frien—" He cut her off.

"Sweet! Then I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I took you to dinner!" He laughed merrily. Without a warning, Koji grabbed her hand, and with a wink he turned but then he swatted himself. "Oh! How rude of me! I never asked for your name!"

Tohru noticed that he sounded very close to a certain Rabbit. Warmth swathed her heart at his resemblance to Momiji. He didn't seem threatening at all. There were no crooked smiles, no derision behind the bubbly laughter and his eyes glowed of youthful jubilance. He was just a daring little boy looking for a friend. Or maybe not, she thought with a smile. Although Tohru doubted his age, she found Koji as sweet as a fresh pickled umeboshi. It was so cute how he's trying to impress her! She giggled to herself.

"My name is Tohru. It's nice to meet you Koji-kun, but my belly's already full. I just ate." She bent to pat him on the head, smiling apologetically. "I'm so sorry."

He didn't look disappointed at all. "No problem, no problem!" He clapped his hands cheerfully.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Tohru. May I call you that?" At her nod, he continued, "You know something, we should totally hang out! It'll be fun!" He quirked his head, his brown bangs falling charmingly over his hazel eyes. Tohru had to bite her lip to avoid squealing at his unbelievable cuteness.

'But wait,' She paused, 'Why is he here all by himself? Where are his parents? It's dangerous to leave a kid out when it's this dark!'

As if he read her mind, Koji waved his hand airily as he explained, "Don't worry. My parents are fine with me hanging out downtown. I've done this so many times, I've memorized my way around here. I'm an expert at navigating this urban labyrinth!" He held up his index finger,

"For example, the central plaza is just is just past those thick bushes. Above that hill," He directed her over eastward, "is the upper part of town. Over there," He pointed towards a row of flowers growing in clusters to their left, "is the park!"

Tohru gasped; she was impressed by his extensive knowledge of downtown. 'He must be left alone very often. I wonder how his parents are. Surely they don't leave him to fend for himself! That would be horrible!' She looked down at the youngster with maternal compassion.

"That's incredible, Koji-kun! You should be proud of yourself." She chuckled. "If only you were pocket-sized. Then I wouldn't ever have to worry about getting lost!" She smiled warmly at him.

"Uh...u-um," Koji blushed hotly as he twisted one toe in the grass. "It's no big deal...but, um, I...I have a favor to ask." He sharply glanced up. "I-I hope I'm sounding rude or anything!" He gulped.

Tohru blinked pleasantly. "Oh no, speak your mind." She said.

His eyes held a mischievous twinkle then. Tohru asked what was funny as he giggled. When he stood on his tippy-toes (she had to bend once again) to whisper in her ear, huge blotches of red bloomed on her cheeks as she lifted a hand over her mouth which hung open in speechlessness. Once she recovered, only two words escaped her lips.

"O-oh my..."

---

If there ever was a time when a deity was at the mercy of three teenage girls, it was now. And the situation couldn't get any more ridiculous.

"Aw, come down from there! We won't hurt you none!"

"Where did you learn to talk? Osaka? I'm not stupid to know that I'll be mangled as soon as I set a foot down!"

"According to my tests, the water in this fountain is contaminated and you'll get a cold if you continue to stay up there where the temperature is coldest."

"Well according to my gut, my instincts are telling me that a cold won't be the worst thing to happen to me if listen to you!"

"Hey girls, I think he's telling us that he wants us to go in the water and get him to come down! Am I right?" The blonde, Ayaka, winked at him. Her two friends Ume and Naomi giggled behind her. They continued to stare at him like he was a lollipop.

Akito growled at them from his little...pedestal. One way or another, as they were boxing him in, he somehow managed to climb to the top of the fountain as he sat comfortably on the statue's outstretched hand. The lower bottom of his pants was partially soaked with water and splashes were splattered on his shirt here and there but he didn't care; he was safe.

More or less.

'Dammit, where is that airhead?' He glared down at the girls who were huddled in a mass, plotting his downfall. Literally. Akito shivered at the glances when one of them will look up and grin at him in a way that made goosebumps appear on his pale skin. He scooted back on the stone hand, his legs dangling over the side.

Being higher than all of the people gave him a rush of power. Combined with the adrenaline racing through his body from being so high up and his restored dignity sitting at the hand of...a character he remembered from the younger Jyuunishi as Ari and his buddy Mogeta. He shrugged; oh well, he couldn't care less. It still made him feel godly and divine. Like he was supposed to feel.

Akito stretched lazily; he could get use to this.

"Ready or not, here we come!"

Halfway through stretching, he almost lost his equilibrium when he heard a high-pitched, peppy squeal he wanted to throw a shoe at. Scowling, he bent forward to look down at his harassers. How dare they attempt to climb what he claimed as his!

"I order you to leave me in my peace!" He angrily shouted, pointing the finger of holiness at them.

"Whoa, someone's having a bad day! Are you still mad about what Isamu said to you?" Ayaka huffed as she bent to dip her toe in the water.

"That's irrelevant to what I'm saying!" Akito snapped. "And get out! You're tainting my water with your filth!"

"Your water?" The butch, Ume raised an eyebrow. Before he could retort, she screamed, "He's so possessive! Like my cat with her mouse toy! I want him!"

"Shit!" Akito loudly swore. "Dammit, you guys are fucked up!"

"I love his vocabulary! I don't get what he's saying, but he sounds so wise saying it!" Ayaka stared up at him with starry eyes.

"Uh...that was a cuss, Aya-chan." Naomi, the girl who looked like the brains of the bunch, said with a wry frown. "He hates us."

"That makes me love him more! Aaah! I just wanna huggle him like a stuffed animal!" Ayaka gushed.

"I second that!" Ume slapped high-fives with Ayaka while Naomi sweat-dropped.

'She'd probably snap his neck by accident with her brawny arms.' She sighed. Yes, she found this Akito person very attractive. And sexy. And just plain bad in a way that made her glasses steam up every time she thought of him staring into her eyes with his piercing dark oculars, like he can see through her soul. 'Oh, if only I wasn't so shy...' Naomi melted in a heap.

Akito pursed his lips as he glowered at them. 'What the hell?' He felt his eye twitch.

"You lay a finger on me and I'll abuse you! I'll abuse you so hard you wouldn't be able to walk for a week!" He threatened.

The Head smirked pompously; that ought to scare them off. He felt confident and he gave himself a pat on the back for his cleverness. Whips never failed to strike fear into his Juunishi, and they always did the trick when he felt his Zodiac needed a little push every now and then to obey his commands.

If only he knew about fangirls.

"Aaaah! That is SO kinky! I love the way he thinks!" Ayaka madly squealed. Akito grinded his teeth as he covered his ears which were practically ringing from her shrill pitch. How he wish he had a brick. He mentally added that to his list of items to keep in hand if he was ever forced to come out in the future.

The brawny girl crossed her arms and nodded approvingly. "Mm-Hmm. I'd like a handsome hunk of THAT man meat!" Ume added as she wiped her chin.

Akito gasped, horrified. Not only were they too barbaric to recognize his insults, they were also cannibals!

"Savages!" He growled. "For the last time, I'm telling you to beat it. Scram!"

Ayaka, who had both feet in the water now, swooned, "What's the matter, Mr. Grouchy-pants? Having a bad day? I know a way to cheer you up!" She giggled and her friends joined in. Akito groaned; he's running out of ammo. How can these girls keep going and going? With every barb he fired at them, they retaliated with double the power. He was tempted to close his eyes and jump, but a soft, melodic coo halted him.

"Akito-san!"

Could it be? He gasped. It is!

Tohru was running towards him, a lovely smile painted on her white, cherub face. Under the lamplight, she appeared even more angelic. The gentle sway of her hips as she glided towards him—

"Hey, who are you? His girlfriend or something?" Ayaka's demeanor changed to hostile after she got out of the water and Ume narrowed her eyes. Naomi watched her friends apprehensively as they both adopted a defensive stance.

Tohru almost keeled over. 'Wh-why do so many people think that Akito-san is-is my boyfriend?' Weakly, she tried to smile.

Her face erupted in a hot flush. "Oh dear, why, I-I could never, I mean, how could I possibly..? W-we-we barely know each other, and we haven't—" Ayaka obnoxiously cut in.

"I asked a straightforward question. Geez, you'd think I was asking for her bust size or something!" She flipped her hair airily. "Whatever, all I wanted to know was his status so he could be MY tall, dark and handsome boyfriend." She smirked haughtily.

"Her dark prince." Ume dramatically added in.

"My knight-in-shining-armor!" Ayaka sighed dreamily as she cradled her face.

"Um, guys? I don't think they're watching anymore..." Naomi nonchalantly pointed out.

"What?" Much to Ayaka and Ume's horror, Tohru walked right pass them like they were nothing more than thin air. She toyed with the handles on the bag as she walked over to the fountain. Seeing Akito sit on the hand of Ari as he reached toward the stars while his buddy Mogeta rode on his shoulder put a very funny squiggle where her lips should be. Akito watched her with an amused expression; he thought over how he was going to explain his predicament.

"Um, Akito-san, how did you get up there?" Tohru ogled at him speechlessly.

Akito leveled his eyes with her. "Ask them." He grunted.

The brunette looked from Ayaka, Ume and Naomi back to Akito as her mind gradually registered the information. A strange feeling bubbled inside her chest and she felt the corners of her lips twitch. Before she could decipher what it was, it burst forth and the next thing she knew, she was grasping her sides in pain from laughing so hard as tears leaked out her eyes. Akito, however, found no humor and was taken aback she was laughing at him rather than fussing over him like the mother hen she usually was.

'Shouldn't she be thinking of a physical way to keep me warm in case I get hypothermia?' An angry flush gathered under his cheek. He leaned forward slightly, glaring at her. How dare she find it hilarious that he's half wet, cold and seeking refuge from crazy girls?

He scoffed; fine, not even she cares about him.

"Keep laughing, you silly girl. Keep laughing while I freeze to death up here where it's below zero!" He said vengefully. Tohru instantly stopped and bowed sheepishly as she tried to appease him with her hysterical apologies.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, it was inconsiderate of me to deride Akito-san's quandary like that! Please forgive me, I promise I'll never—heehee—do it again!" She slapped a hand over her noncompliant mouth. Where did that come from?

"I'm sorry, I was laughing with you!" She cried hopelessly.

Akito didn't bat an eyelash. "Do I look like I'm laughing?" He asked grimly.

Tohru ducked her head. "No." She whispered softly like a child being scolded. She never felt compelled to laugh at anyone before. It was boorish and demeaning. Tohru didn't know what made her laugh so hard; Akito glaring at her from his little self-made throne, him having an irrational fear of fan girls, or it could be all of the above. Whatever it was, she was glad he found some method of entertaining himself while she was gone.

"You must but soaked to the bone! Hurry and come down, you'll catch a draft up there!"

He crossed his arms and humphed. "Why? Don't you wish to mock me some more before I die of the cold?" He sneered.

Tohru shook her head. "No, not at all, Akito-san! My father died of pneumonia and I don't want you to end up with the same fate! Please come back down!" She searched his eyes pleadingly.

"You little liar!" Ayako accused after watching them. She pointed a finger at Tohru. "Only a guy's girlfriend could ever be that concerned for his welfare!"

Tohru wasn't sure if she should feel flattered or flustered. "What? No, not at all! In fact, anyone—"

In a flash of dark blue, Akito appeared in front of her.

He grinned wickedly at the blonde before he grabbed Tohru's arms and pulled her up against his chest, locking his arms around her soft body as he greedily robbed her of the warmth it radiated. Tohru could only shiver in his inexorable embrace. She clumsily fumbled in the bag for a towel, but he deftly hooked his fingers under the handle and lifted it out of her grasp. With cavalier regard for its contents, he unceremoniously tossed the bag to the ground, earning a gasp from Tohru as well "Oooh" from the girls. Speaking of which, he was getting tired of their presence. He was helpless before, but with Tohru by his side, he was armed with a special weapon that can clear a room of these insufferable idiots in just mere seconds.

With a growl, Akito pushed Tohru forward as he twirled her to face him. She stared at him wide-eyed, but he hasn't done anything yet so her muscles remained lax even when she wanted to run for the hills at what he was about to do. Slyly winking at the audience he had going on, Akito continued to force Tohru backwards as they danced this dangerous tango until Tohru felt her back bump against a rough surface. She winced as Akito pushed her up against it, which caused her back to be scratched by whatever she fell against.

Seeing the kind of stares they were getting, Tohru pressed against his shoulders. Her face dropped into a disapproving frown. "Akito-san, I don't think we should—"

"Just play along." He whispered in her ears before he pulled back. She stared quizzically at him before she realized what he meant. She nervously glanced at the three girls. This was against everything she stood for, but Tohru can sense the strain they were having on Akito. He wasn't used to fangirls. 'They must have sapped a lot of energy from him...' She gazed at the Head with sympathy and lightly grazed his cheek with a shaky hand.

As if her touch was fire, he suddenly came alive. His hold around her waist tightened as he coaxed her to keep still. She obeyed lackadaisically and felt the battle between her logic and her will commence when he buried himself in her neck; indulging his senses with her scent and skin. Tiny tremors rippled down her throat from his steady breaths. His fingers glided down the column of her neck as he barely grazed his lips over her vulnerable gullet. Tohru couldn't help but notice that this time he was being...oddly gentle. Not rushed or brusque in his caresses. Unwillingly, she began to relax into him as he worked taut flesh between his teeth while his hand traveled down her back.

Tohru had barely become aware of the thumps inside her ribcage; she was too distracted by the sensations that are frothing in her stomach. They felt like tiny soda bubbles that floated up and then popped. A soft hiss escaped her lips a breadth apart when she felt warm, moist lips enclose over the skin under her jaw. So caught up in this passive, exciting emotion, Tohru failed to notice when his hand suddenly slipped south. With wide eyes, she pulled back, her mouth slightly ajar. It was then a very wicked smirk found its home on his well chiseled face. A tingle shot down her spine at its insinuation.

Akito was enjoying this new gentlemanly side of himself. Pity that it won't last long, he thought as he felt longing grind away at the bottom of his stomach. He won't be able to hold it back much longer. He was never a patient person, which explained his temper and his irritability, and he wondered bemusedly how long it would be before he looses control and does something that will scare her away like a frightened deer. Forcing himself to stop his lecherous ministrations under her blouse, he turned to face his tormentors with a victorious smirk.

"O-o-oh mny gond..." Ayaka looked at her new shirt which was splattered with blood from her nose. "My brand new shirt! Aaah!"

Ume stared cross-eyed and Ayaka had to pinch her to get her to snap out of it. When she did, she covered her nose; it was beginning to drip. "Mny mnose!" She whined.

There were no nosebleeds from Naomi, but that didn't mean she wasn't affected by the little "display". Her glasses looked like she just stepped out of a hot steaming shower. "Whoa..." She slowly took it off and stared into it.

"There are still so many things I do not understand...I must do more research..." She robotically followed behind Ayaka who was crying because her shirt was ruined and Ume who was clutching her nose in the air and making oinks like a pig.

Akito silently laughed to himself; revenge was sweet. Now not only were they gone, but he had Tohru all to himself again. And this time he can be as rough as he liked with her, since no one else was present.

Or so he thought.

"Woooo! You guys were about to get it on!" A deep rumbling growl snapped Tohru out of her daze as Akito swore.

"Koji-kun! Oh god, f-forget what you saw! Th-that was nothing!" Tohru blushed as she tried to push Akito away, but he firmly held on, still half-hugging her and resting his head on her shoulder.

Akito followed the source of the infuriating sound, and discovered that it belonged to a little boy with brown hair and hazel eyes. A growl sounded from his throat.

"Isn't it past your bedtime? Go home." He said authoritatively.

Koji scowled. "Who are you? Are you Tohru's boyfriend?" He drew up to his full height.

"A-ano, he's not—" Akito sharply interrupted.

"That's got nothing to do with a pipsqueak like you," He waved his hand dismissively, "Go run along and play now."

"Akito-san, he's just a boy." Tohru whispered to him. He rolled his eyes, finding her shoulder very comfortable.

"I don't care. He's being a nuisance." He drew in her strawberry scent. Tohru held back a sigh.

"But...I already invited him to stay with us for a little while." She said forlornly.

Akito's eyes, which were peacefully shut, shot open. As if her skin scorched him, he harshly shoved her away.

"You WHAT?" He shouted in disbelief. Tohru cringed.

Koji fearlessly stepped up to Akito. "Hey, if you hurt Tohru, I'm gonna kick your ass!"

Tohru gasped. "Koji-kun!" She cried admonishingly.

"Don't make me laugh, a runt like you?" The Kami challenged.

"Akito-san!" She looked at him disapprovingly.

Both Koji and Akito leaned forward as sparks flared.

It was on.

Tohru sighed. "Boys! No more fighting! Now Koji-kun is our guest for this evening, and we should be hospitable towards him." She stood behind the lad and placed her hand on his shoulders. Akito glared jealously. Just when he thought he was going to be alone...

"Fine, but keep him away from me! If he so much as bump into me, I'm will dump him in a garbage disposal!" He warned. Tohru smiled and took Koji's hand as she reached for the bag.

"Oh, let me carry that for you, Tohru! It's the least I can do after our deal!" The boy cleverly grabbed the bag. Akito screeched to a halt and spun around.

"Deal? You struck a deal with that brat?"

Tohru nodded and smiled sheepishly. "We met after I walked out of the pet shop. Koji-kun was very sweet to me and we talked and then he asked me for a favor..." She drawled.

"...what kind of favor?" Akito asked. His eyes were filled with dread.

Her blush reddened. Tohru averted her eyes shyly as she innocently rocked from side to side. "Um, he...he asked me if...if..."

"If what?" Akito asked impatiently. "Spit it out!"

"...if she could be my girlfriend!" Koji said smugly.

A vein can be seen pulsing on Akito's forehead. The atmosphere notably changed as his knuckles whitened, bringing a sharper contrast with his dark pants. His smile was intimidating through his clenched teeth.

"Care to repeat that, you little—"

"Oh my, look over there! A sale on socks! That's just what I came for! Let's go, I don't want to miss out on a hot deal!" Tohru laughed nervously and took Koji's hand. Before Akito can pull away, she grabbed his as well and with surprising strength, she plunged forward dragging two very confused boys behind her.

---

'Just take me now.' Akito begged.

The little waif was following Tohru around like a baby chick. Akito had to avert his gaze every time they hugged because he found it sickening. His poor stomach churned and to add insult to injury, Koji's head was on par with a certain part of Tohru's anatomy so whenever they hugged, Akito felt like somebody just kicked him. Tohru didn't notice because she was innocent like that, but Akito did and he was pissed at her naivety.

But he didn't show it.

So in order to put some distance between the happy couple, he cunningly suggested they go shop for clothes. He knew children of Koji's age had very short attention span and would typically wander off. Unfortunately, his plan backfired when the whelp ended up giving her second opinions and being her self-proclaimed bellhop. He scoffed when he saw the blue bags he swung back and forth; even a girl like Tohru could not resist the lure of new clothes.

'How typical of females' He sighed as he waited outside the shop. He can hear some giggling but he refused to look; it's probably another dress up disaster. While he admitted the colors and even a few patterns caught his attention at first, he soon discovered how boring it was to shop for clothes. Especially when there was a little kid tugging on your sleeve or pulling on your pants when you tried to find something worthwhile to wear.

So less than fifteen minutes later, he decided to wait for them outside.

He groaned. What the hell was taking them so long?

With a huff, he stormed back into the store. Tohru was feverishly digging in her bag while Koji (the little brat) stilled lingered behind her in a long line. A few customers were getting impatient as they tapped their feet, an action which made the poor brunette fumble even more. Akito was tempted to leave them there, just to punish them, but he didn't appreciate the way the old man behind Tohru was eyeing her ass so he stomped over and slapped a quick $100 on the counter.

"Keep the change." He didn't even look at the cashier's white, gawking face as he coolly took the bags, the receipt and two mannequins before bolting out of the shop, leaving a comical trail of dust behind him.

Once they were out of sight, he dumped the bags on top of Koji and rushed over to Tohru. She gratefully accepted his hand and dizzily stood up, only to have her quivering knees buckle. Akito swiftly caught her and she leaned against him for support as she waited for her breath to catch up. "Thank...y—"

"Don't speak. Have some water." He said gruffly. He extracted a fresh bottle and twisted open the cap. She took three large gulps before she moved to put the top back on, but he sharply pulled away and accomplished the task himself.

"So, enlighten me. What happened?" He glanced impartially at her.

Tohru studied him for a minute before she opened her mouth. "I couldn't find enough money..." She drawled before she closed her eyes and he laid her on a bench.

He winced. He shouldn't have forced her to go shopping, knowing she'd get carried away. He wondered what was so expensive she couldn't afford it with her measly budget. 'Probably a designer purse or an evening gown.' He speculated wryly. Nevertheless, he looked the bag and nearly fainted.

It wasn't some purse or a dress. It wasn't even a regular shirt. Hell, it wasn't even for her.

It was for him.

Koji stared at the sleek and thin sweater in Akito's trembling hands with confusion. The older man's mouth was slightly ajar and he sat there looking like he just got struck by lightning and survived. The boy's eyes traveled down to the shirt and he gazed at the elaborate, sycophantic designs threaded into the fabric with painstaking care. Even though the design itself was small, its detail and embroidery made it a feast for the eyes. In contrast, the shirt was not very noticeable due to its casual dark flare.

She knew his taste, he thought amusedly with a chuckle. He had to wonder if she snuck into his room again, even though he locked it after the "forbidden discovery". He remembered that she caught a glimpse of his dark wardrobe earlier today and he softly shook his head at the unconscious girl.

Akito folded the attire back with painstaking care, smoothing out each wrinkle as he stared blankly ahead.

'Why had she gone through all that trouble?' He wondered befuddled with her motive for buying him clothes. That wasn't to say he didn't approve of the outfits though; he just would never admit it to her face.

A self-righteous smirk defined his lips when the thought of wearing the attire to the next banquet crossed his mind. He rubbed his hands together; it would be very entertaining to watch the emotions that surface after he tells his Juunishi that Tohru, their savior, has bought this for him. He laughed as he imagined the sour faces of Yuki and the Cat grimace with angst that their sweet beloved Tohru would betray them this way.

Koji shivered at the low, scheming chuckle and he backed away slowly. But then he saw Akito move predatorily over towards Tohru who was still resting. Instinctively, he ran over to her and held his arms out protectively.

"What do you think you are doing, boy?" Akito snapped as he withdrew his hand.

Koji stared defiantly at him. "You can't hurt her." He said firmly.

Akito jeered. "Pardon? I can't hurt her? Is that what you said?" He smiled.

Koji gulped as Akito's shadow almost seemed to engulf him. However, he was determined to protect his girlfriend, so he fisted his hands and stomped his foot angrily.

"Hell yeah! You need me to repeat that for you?" He almost yelled. Akito's brow rose in slight surprise at the kid's outburst and it appeared as if he was about to back off. That's until the moonlight revealed a malicious smirk which broadened when his fingers curled around Koji's neck like a python constricting its prey. He chuckled as he mockingly petted Koji's soft hair like how one would pet his or her rabbit. His touch was mild, but his intent was not. Koji winced as sharp nails dug into his scalp.

"That's twice," He tut-tut Ted, "Haven't you been taught to show respect to your elders?" His eyes narrowed icily. "What a spoiled child you are." He said as if he was commenting on the weather.

Koji scowled at him. "I only show respect to people who respect Tohru," He added, "And I may be spoiled, but at least I am independent enough not to rely on my girlfriend!"

The God chortled. "Respect? Who needs respect when there is fear...? Respect is for the weak. It's for people who have no other choice." He paused, digging his thumb and index finger into the boy's chin. "And girlfriend?" He snorted, "You're barely out of diapers and you have the selfish sense to claim her as yours?" His voice grew louder and angrier as he spoke, "What makes you think she would choose you!?" He viciously snarled.

Koji swallowed despite the pain under his tongue. His fingers held onto Akito's wrist as he tried to twist out of his snare. "On the contrary, fear is the method that people use as a last resort. And for your information, I'm thirteen and I can make my own decisions, thank you very much! I not trying to sound conceited but I know that she is happy with me because I can make her happy! I love her!" He proudly exclaimed before Akito slapped a hand over his mouth as his lips curved into a petulant curl.

"Don't you ever, EVER repeat those words or I will make you regret the day you were born!" He hissed. The thin cracks that were his eyes glowed faintly in the dark as his hands trembled from anger, vulnerability, fear and denial at the boy's words. His breathes were harsh, and his heart pounded like he had run a mile. Where did this boy learn these things? Shouldn't he be interested in Pokemon, battle ships and superheroes?

The youngster was silent and the God smirked arrogantly. But then, in a tone that he's never heard before, Koji brokenly uttered, "I already regret that day! Stop rubbing it in! I regret the day I was born, okay? There, you have it. You won. Congratulations. Enjoy your million dollar prize; a swell of ego to the head! N-now let me go!" His bottom lip quivered.

The swell of ego never reached Akito's head, however; it's been turned inside out from what his ears heard. What did he mean? What did he have to suffer to regret about?

"What did you—"

A yawn turned their heads to the sleeping beauty that had woken up. Tohru sat up as her muscles stretched and her bones shifted comfortably. She mumbled incoherently as she rubbed her eyes before fixing her attention on them.

"Akito-san!" She cried and he hastily relinquished the little boy. He winced at the rare harshness in her tone. Was she normally this protective around children and animals?

"Koji-kun! Are you hurt? Can you swallow?" Tohru rushed over and her hair teasingly kissed Akito's face as she sharply turned and knelt to Koji's eye-level. Akito crossed his arms in a huff. The squirt who was putting on quite a show with those fake tears.

"I'm...I'm f-fine, Tohru," Akito felt goosebumps crawl on his skin at the sappiness of his voice choked with tears, "B-but he was being a meanie and he was scaring me cause he thought it was safe to bully me while you were asleep! Oh, I'm so relieved; you woke up just in time! He looked like he was about to give me a noogie!"

"Liar! I don't even know what you're talking about! What the hell's a noogie!?" Akito shook his palms incredulously. "Besides, you have no proof that I...administered this 'noogie'." He air-quoted.

"Oh yeah? Then what do you call this then?" On 'this', Koji pointed to his hair which had been ruffled by Akito during their quarrel.

Tohru stared at Akito like he was a depraved, frothing, flea-bitten dog. She maneuvered Koji around her like a mother hen defending her chick from a famished wolf.

Akito wanted to smack himself. 'Damn, this brat is quick!' He cursed. "Old habits die hard.", the mutt once told him as he took a swig of beer. Now the God knew what he meant. He wanted to spit at the way the runt was garnering affection from his Tohru. His! He was sick of having to share her with everyone. First his Juunishi, then a cat, and now a stranger off the streets!

"Is it true?" He noticed she didn't even bother to address him formally.

All the emotions he's been holding in suddenly erupted. He doesn't give a shit he's getting blamed anymore.

"Yeah, it's true! Why do you feel the need to ask me if you listen to everything the whelp babbles out of his mouth? I don't care! Do whatever you want! I DON'T CARE! Bring on the shackles! Put me in a dungeon! Lock me up and throw away the key! See if I care! It's not like I'll live long enough to suffer anyway!" He spat. His shoulders heaved as he fought to catch his breath. His back slouched as he clutched his sides. His vision blurred and he had to steady himself against a wall.

He couldn't remember the last time he had an outburst this powerful; with Tohru by his side, he generally felt calm and insightful. Even his occasional tantrums weren't as physically draining as this. The exhilaration of release surged through his tense muscles as he slowly slid with his back down the wall clutching his head in pain.

A cool, dry cloth dabbled over his brow and the nostalgic smell of strawberries invaded his nostrils. His eyes opened a halfway and he saw the corner of her face as she wordlessly wiped away the thin sheet of sweat on his head. His hoarse pants diminishing to low, erratic breaths, he reached for the side of her cheek and brushed his thumb against her baby soft skin with awkward gentleness. She froze but her eyes slowly closed as she exhaled a shaky breath she's been holding in.

"I'm sorry... I was so excited about coming downtown that I...I forgot about Akito-san. I was being selfish and ignorant to Akito-san's needs. I'm so stupid; I never meant to ostracize Akito-san! I only wanted him to enjoy this visit and maybe discover something new he liked. I'm so sorry!" Tohru cried as she buried her face in her hands.

Koji watched as Akito threaded his fingers through her russet colored hair in a manner that was completely different to when he touched his hair. There was almost...hesitancy behind his movements, as if he were afraid that if he was too harsh, she would shatter like porcelain. He didn't apologize, but his eyes—which were so hard to read most times—said it all. They softened conspicuously when she laid her hand over his and helped him up.

Then, as if nothing had happened, Tohru turned back to face Koji with a jovial smile.

"Well," She said positively, "Since the nearest shackles are currently on display inside a museum on the east side of downtown, I don't think we can borrow it at this hour. So your new punishment is..." She giggled. "...to go buy ice cream for Koji-kun."

Akito eyed the boy peevishly. "He can go buy ice cream himself. You told me you were a very independent boy, right, Koji-kun?" He smirked.

Koji felt bad after he witnessed the result of his last half lie. As an amendment, he decided to be honest so he nodded.

"Eh," Tohru twisted her skirt into a wrinkled mess, "Koji-kun d-doesn't have an allowance."

Annoyingly, the squirt peeked out from behind Tohru as he pointed to his lips and winked at him.

'"I know that she is happy with me because I can make her happy! I love her!"'

'Shimatte!' Akito swore as he grudgingly reached inside his pants pocket and took out the wallet which he rarely used. The Dragon sneaked this into his pocket when he wasn't looking, but he found it useless to spend cash when he could've written a check which he did back at the restaurant. Thoroughly, he searched for money but then he remembered: he spent the only cash he had on hand for the clothes Tohru bought for him. Speaking of which, he intended to keep his mouth shut about that just so she could "surprise" him. He's already planned the perfect reaction.

"Uh, n-nevermind what I said! Since Akito-san helped us out of that jam earlier, I'd say an apology would be more appropriate." Tohru hastily amended when she read Akito's face.

He suppressed a sigh. 'I bet that was her whole plan all along. Just to make me apologize to the small fry.'

He walked up to Tohru and looked over at Koji like he was the plague. He resisted the childish temptation to stick his tongue out, even though his psych was already messed up as it is.

"I...I-I'm...sss...sor...sorrrr..." He slurred. He cringed; he sounded like a drunk.

'God dammit, why won't it come out?'

"I'm soar-rie." Tohru annunciated tolerantly. "You're getting it, Akito-san." She smiled.

Nausea crept up the lining of his stomach at the way she treated him like a kid. Akito grinded his teeth.

"I'm sorry." He sounded like he had something wedged in his throat, but it was a good place to start, Tohru noted optimistically.

"And Koji-kun, what about you?" She looked at him expectantly. Akito couldn't help but notice that she was extremely patient when dealing with children. If it were he, he would probably chain them all together and make them watch M-rated horror films or threaten to throw them down a long flight of stairs if they do not obey him in less than five seconds.

The little brown-haired boy smiled and energetically shook his lazy hand in truce. Akito sighed as he drummed his fingers on his hip.

"Wonderful! See, that wasn't so hard, was it?" Tohru clapped her hands perkily.

He begged to differ.

"As a reward for good behavior, I'm treating you both to ice cream!" She smiled brightly.

"Yippee! I love ice cream! Maybe we can share, Tohru!"

He groaned. 'Why me?'

---

"Oh! I want a vanilla and chocolate sundae cone! I love eating them, they're so tasty!"

"Me too! But my favorite flavor is strawberry even though chocolate and vanilla are close seconds." Tohru turned to Akito, who has been staring at the selection ever since they stopped at the ice cream vendor truck. She gently nudged him and he seemed to awaken from his stupor.

"Have you decided yet, Akito-san?"

He shrugged. "I don't know which one to pick. I don't like cold foods." He said glumly.

Tohru made an 'o' with her mouth. "That's right...Hatori-san told me that your body could only tolerate cool to warm foods. No extreme temperatures. Hm...Well, if you want, you can have yogurt." She suggested.

He made a face. "I don't like how sticky it is in my mouth." He said.

"Erm, what about a non-frozen milkshake?" She asked.

"No. It's too liquid-y. I don't want to eat something in one gulp. How am I supposed to savor it?" He shook his head.

"U-uh...the premium ice cream bars?" Tohru said hopelessly.

Akito glanced at the selection. Tohru thought that he was about to say no again when he asked "What is it?"

Tohru pointed to the bottom item. It was a regular vanilla bar coated in chocolate and its simplicity pleased Akito very much. Unlike the cone Koji held in his hands with peanut chunks, sprinkles and a cherry on top, he'd much rather have plain ice cream bars. He looked down at himself and chuckled; it had to have something to do with his choice for clothes as well.

So after Tohru bought him his ice cream, he went to enjoy it over by a nearby bench while Koji sat against a tree beside them. It was then he noticed something very odd.

"Hey Tohru, where is your ice cream?" He looked up at her. Tohru laughed at his little mustache. "I didn't buy one."

Akito stopped gnawing on his bar and watched her observantly as Koji asked why.

"Well," Tohru looked at her knees humbly, "I wanted to save some money for the public transit." She explained. Koji nodded and looked down thoughtfully at his ice cream. Akito was trying to figure how to eat his frozen treat when a question nearly made him drop it on the ground.

"Have a bite then! I want you to enjoy this as much as I do since you're my girlfriend!"

Akito stared at the little boy as if he had just asked if Tohru would marry him. Where in the world did he get these ideas? And that infuriating cleverness and that bold charm that made Tohru blush so much even though he was five years younger and a midget?

'What the hell was a public transit? Was it another store she planned to visit?' He pinched the bridge of his nose tiredly. His feet were starting to throb from all the walking. To be honest, Akito wouldn't be surprised if he woke up in bed tomorrow with arms reduced to fleshy twigs and body so much thinner that he wouldn't even have the strength to lift the sheets.

Tohru blushed copiously but she declined. "Oh, no, it's fine Koji-kun. You deserve to have the sundae to yourself. You've earned it."

The lad would not surrender. He pouted and his face tilted to the side, his bangs falling over one eye. "But...I insist! I would feel awful if I sat here and enjoyed this ice cream while my own girlfriend watched me!" He whined.

Akito so badly wanted to throw his own ice cream at the boy's face right then. But he couldn't waste Tohru's money like that.

"Oh...well, alright then. Just one bite couldn't hurt."

'Dammit.' He watched from the corner of his eye as Tohru leaned over and took a small bite out of Koji's sundae. The brat cheered ecstatically.

"Hooray! How does it taste? Is it good? Do you like it? I know it's not ichigo, but I thought it tasted pretty good, if I do say so myself!"

Tohru licked her lips. "Mmm, it's absolutely delicious!" She grinned. Koji's laughter rang across the whole street.

"Have another—"

"Oh no! Akito-san, your ice cream is melting!" He glanced down disparagingly at the frozen treat. A cold dollop fell to the ground with a 'splat!'

Tohru tried to keep his ice cream from falling apart, but she only managed to get her fingers coated with the thick, chocolaty syrup. Akito was too engrossed by how warm her hands felt even when blanketed with all the sweet fillings to realize his treat had fallen apart and was nothing but a gooey mess that caked Tohru's hand and a little of his too. The popsicle stick was the only thing he held in his hand.

"I'm so sorry! Don't worry, I-I'll buy you another one!" She stood up and bowed in apology before she turned to revisit the vendor, not realizing both her hands were practically popsicles themselves. Akito didn't know what made him do what he did next; it was sort of a thrill for him.

He sharply tugged her wrist and pulled back on the bench with him. Before she would pull away, he kissed her fingers as if he were a knight greeting his lady. Tohru's mouth popped open as she stared morbidly at Akito before the Sohma Head slyly enclosed his lips over her pinkie and sucked on it with erotic gusto. Tohru's other hand trembled at the pleasurable ministrations. Her eyes stared disbelievingly as her fingers pulsed from his warm breath while his tongue curled around her digits and moved in a way that made her other fingers twitch from the rhythmic suction. Tohru was left stunned and speechless after he's cleaned her hands and moved onto his own as he tauntingly licked his fingers. His eyes roved over her form and the corners of his lips twisted into a crafty smirk.

"Thank you, Tohru-kun. My frozen treat was quite tasty if I do say so myself." He snickered at her priceless expression. Tohru gaped at him hilariously as she struggled to form a complete sentence. But all that spewed forth were recurring babbles.

'Poor thing...she can't handle shock very well.' He chuckled. Seizing the opportunity to silence her with his lips, the deity swayed over and almost, barely grazed her petals when a loud noise caused him to jump back. Tohru snapped out of her daze to look at Koji who was holding a cell phone in his small hands.

"Sorry, it's my aunt." He sighed before bringing it up to his ear. "Hello?" Indecipherable gibberish responded. "Yeah, I know. I was just chillin' with my girlfriend and her best guy friend." He paused.

"No, I wasn't interrupting them."

'I am not her best guy friend!' Akito seethed. He watched as Tohru swung her legs without a care in the world. He can sense the hotness of her face as she pretended not to listen.

Koji nodded. "Mm-kay. I'll be home in fifteen minutes." He hung up and turned to Tohru with a sad face. "Well, I have to go home now since my aunt is getting worried. She even made my favorite food so I better hurry home or she'll be disappointed. Thank you so much for regarding me kindly! I'll never forget this night!" He hugged Tohru. Graciously, Tohru was at his level on the bench so his head rested against her shoulder comfortably.

She hugged him tightly. "I won't either. I'm glad we had fun! Thank you for carrying these bags for us. Oh, I almost forgot!-" She reached into her pocket and gave him a little blue box wrapped with a velvet green bow. "This is for you."

"Wow! I wonder what's inside." Koji tapped the box curiously.

The brunette smile. "It's a surprise."

"I love surprises!" He held the box up in the air joyfully. "Thank you! Thank you! You're so sweet, Tohru!"

"You're welcome." Tohru blushed as she laughed.

It looked like the two lovebirds were going compliment eachother till the crack of dawn so Akito hurriedly ushered the boy away.

"Yes, yes I had fun too, now go home, eat and go to bed. Kids aren't supposed to be up this late anyway." He muttered grouchily. Koji laughed.

"Wow, my parents don't even care when I'll be home. I'll be jealous of the lucky person who will be your kid!"

Akito choked and keeled over. "What!?!"

"See yah!" The boy sprinted away before he could fling a rock at him.

Tohru walked over to Akito as he stood there in incredulity at the audacious boy's words. "I think that was a compliment, Akito-san. Koji-kun was praising you." She giggled.

"Well he has a very ridiculous way of showing it." He said disgruntled. He glanced at her dispassionately. "Are you still his girlfriend?"

Tohru choked.

"Oh, we were merely playing, Akito-san." She said surprised at his hurt tone. "Koji-kun is still young and children like to pretend because it let's their mind be free from all the rules and restrictions in a world that is run by adults. We never were that." She gently explained.

"Besides, he is a very lonely boy who's mistreated by his parents so he lives with his aunt. I knew it would make him happy so that's why I agreed to be his girlfriend for one night."

"You understand children very well..." He offhandedly remarked. "You have a mother complex."

"Eh..." He watched her obsequious face with amusement. Was it something he said?

"Where would you like to go next?"

Tohru blinked at him, surprised. "But aren't you tired?" She whispered.

"No." He said even when his back slumped. She watched him cordially and touched his cheek.

"Freeze! Put your hands in the air where I could see them!" A loud voice boomed through a megaphone.

"Eep!" Tohru hastily did as she was told. Akito groaned. He recognized that retching perfume anywhere.

"So, we meet again."

A bush rustled and Ayaka, Naomi and Ume popped out like ferrets. Tohru wrinkled her eyebrows. Where had she seen these girls before? She gasped. 'The plaza! They were harassing Akito-san!' But how could they have known where they were? Unless...

Tohru turned to Akito with a weird look. "Akito-san has...stalkers?" She eyed him funnily.

He growled at the giggling girls with nothing better to do but follow him around all day.

"No." He vehemently denied before he grabbed her hand and ran as fast as his legs could carry him.

After what seemed like half an hour later, they were safe. Unfortunately, Akito had taken them the wrong way and they were on the outskirts of downtown. He cursed and brushed a hand through his hair. Tohru blushed but didn't say a word when he leaned his head on her shoulder.

She looked around. "Hey, there is station down by that corner! We can buy tickets and take the public transit back!" She exclaimed. He walked ahead to where she pointed as neither of them acknowledged the fact their hands were still entwined.

When they walked down the subway, Akito saw that the public transit was a long, enormous train that looked smooth and was jam-packed with hundreds of people. His feet stopped and Tohru looked at him with concern.

"What's the matter?"

"Too...many...people." He stared traumatized at the staggering proportion of human beings crammed inside each little compartment. He shuddered as he imagined how gross it would be to go inside where it was all sweaty, hot and crowded.

'Is he claustrophobic?' She gasped. "Don't worry, it won't be very long. Our destination isn't far." She coaxed. He was tired of being babied so he huffily ventured forth once the door opened.

"Oh no, Akito-san look out!"

Tohru pulled him away from the huge mass. He would have most certainly been flattened in the stampede. There have actually been deaths that occurred because of the heavy footfalls of so many people getting off at once.

'That was close! I forgot this is Akito-san's first time traveling on a public train!' She slapped herself. 'I'm so forgetful!'

When the crowd dispersed, they got on the train. Akito stared shrewdly at the seats that were already occupied. When he spotted an empty seat, he was tempted to take it but Tohru caught his elbow and shook her head.

"That's for the elderly people since they can't stand up for long." She explained. He sighed as he watched an old man take his seat. When he saw him, he gratefully smiled. He turned away unsociably.

There were a lot of bars and hooks on the ceiling. He stared at them inquisitively when the door slid shut after more people came in but the crowd wasn't as packed. Tohru glanced over at him and her eyes widened when she noticed he wasn't holding onto anything.

"Oh no, Akito-san! Quick, grab—"

Whoosh!!!

He yelled as he was thrown off balance. The train had suddenly come to life and it felt like an invisible hand shoved him. He was falling, but his eyes darted around as he desperately searched for something to hold on to. Without thinking, he clung onto Tohru like a frightened cat, his nails digging into her shoulders painfully.

Tohru bit her lip as tears filled her eyes. "Ow... Akito-san, you're hurting me..." She knew that wasn't his intention but it still hurt.

"I'm not ever getting on this thing again!" He hissed. He scowled at the looks he was getting particularly from the elderly women.

"My, would you look at that, he can't keep his hands off her for one second!" A lady wearing old-fashioned glasses clucked.

Four-eye's friend giggled. "I can only imagine what a little beastie he is in bed!" They cackled as Tohru turned away with a red face.

Akito glared at them, vengefully wishing them a shorter life. He hated it when maids gossiped around the Honke, but he's finding that this is even worse.

"They look so shy! Perhaps they're having an affair behind their parents' backs?" Tohru buried her face in one hand.

"Are they running away?"

Akito growled as his fists shook. He just discovered the second worst thing to fan girls: old and wrinkly gossiping geezers.

"Looks that way. I wonder if there is a reason? Did he get her pregn—"

Bam!!!

Akito glared at them heatedly from across his hand. "I know something you can do if you're so bored! Why don't you take your balls of yarn—"

Tohru stared at him in horror, "No!"

"—and knit a muzzle for yourselves!"

The elderly woman looked at him like he was a rat that just crawled out of the sewer. "Oh! How rude!"

"Teenagers these days..." Her friend shook her head.

He was about to retort that he wasn't a teenager and that they were the ones being vulgar when the train abruptly stopped and the old biddies waddled out.

"Good riddance." He grunted as he clasped the bars, his face colored with a hot flush. Tohru was being oddly quiet, and when he glanced at her she quickly looked elsewhere. He had no idea why she's so flustered by a simple glance when she didn't even notice when he grabbed her hand.

"I think we're getting close." He remarked.

She nodded wordlessly. A long pause ensued.

Akito twitched. 'Damn, why isn't she saying anything?' He wondered just as he caught something suspicious from the corner of his eye. A long hand was slithering through the forest of legs. He couldn't see who it belonged to, but he knew what it was searching for.

Before it could reach Tohru, he grabbed the hand and twisted it until he heard a yelp. Tohru turned around in alarm. The arm tried to pull back, but Akito dug his nails in drawing blood before he gave a harsh tug—

A middle aged man with untidy hair and wrinkled face came forth. He stared at Akito in terror before he brandished a pocket knife and tried to slash at him. Akito gracefully dodged and simultaneously pushed Tohru out of the way. In the sea of people, the crowd parted as frightened bystanders pushed themselves up against the walls. Women held their children tightly as men could only stare as Akito effortlessly fought the offender. With a roundhouse kick, the deity easily knocked the molester onto his back and swiped the blade away before he held it to his throat.

"Akito-san! Don't do it!" Tohru gasped. She pulled on his arm but he didn't budge.

"P-please, don't hurt m-me! I-I was j-just trying to help my f-family!"

A malicious smiled plastered on Akito's face. "By groping innocent girls? You fool." He sat on him while Tohru telephoned a number on the wall. After she made a report to the police, they waited for their next stop, ignoring the bewildered stares. When the door opened, two uniformed men came in and cuffed the offender. Akito didn't wait for the questions he knew he would be bombarded with so he pulled Tohru along as they hurried out of the subway.

"Like I said, I'm never getting on that thing again." He grumbled.

"How did you learn to fight like that?" Tohru asked. He studied her for a second before he took one of her bags and left her standing under the lamplight.

"That's not important." Tohru followed him down the street. When a melodic song filtered out of her bag, she took out the cell phone and held it to her ear. Akito froze. He knew who it was.

"Hatori-san! Yes, we're fine. Oh, we already ate at a restaurant...uh, no why?" Tohru glanced over at him and giggled. Akito stiffened and he whipped around.

"Yes, we had a wonderful time. He seemed to enjoy it. Oh, how is he? He's—" Akito wrenched the phone out of her hands.

"Hello, Hatori. To what do I owe the pleasure of hearing from you?" He inquired sweetly. Tohru nervously twiddled her fingers.

"No Hari, I've never been better. I suggest that Tohru-kun and I stay a night at a hotel, since I don't want you to tire yourself out with having to drive us all the way back."

Tohru made a very uncharacteristic face. He smiled evilly at her before replying to the angry voice on the other line.

"Oh, all right then," The cunning deity sighed, "Then I believe two more hours will do." He said.

"N-nani?" Tohru gasped.

He chuckled ominously. "Well, I'm sorry to hear about the food getting cold, but I'm holding all the cards here, less you forget. I demand at least two more hours or I—we aren't coming home. And there is no other way you can find us." He smirked. Before the Dragon could argue, Akito hung up and coolly tossed the phone back to Tohru.

"A-are we really going to stay at a hotel?" She coughed. He glanced back at her. The light shadowed half of his face, illuminating his cheek and the slope of his jaw. The longer he stared at her, the faster her heart raced. Thoughtfully, he eyed the distress between her eyes for a minute before a slow, secretive smile curled his lips.

"Is Tohru-kun afraid of being in my presence without the protection of her guardian Dragon?" He asked slyly.

"What? N-no! I-I'm not afraid! It's just that I don't want Hatori-san to worry about us. He's been kind enough to provide transportation home so we won't have to walk, and we didn't even tell him when we'll be back! I feel awful about it, don't you? We should call him back—"

He snatched the phone out of her hands.

Tenaciously, he said, "Two more hours, in the park. Or I'm not going home."

He towered over her threateningly. His lips were held in a thin, pale line and the fraction of his eyes not hidden by his ebony locks pierced through her soul. The cell phone shook in his trembling grip as his other hand balled into a fist. It wouldn't do to put him in a foul mood after such an enjoyable day, she cautiously debated. Even though her muscles ached and she felt ready to collapse any second, Tohru agreed to his suggestion (or rather demand), fearing that he will throw a fit and injure himself, or her.

Hence, they strolled through the front gates and down a small path. There was barely enough light to see where they were stepping, much less admire the plants that grew. Once or twice, Tohru tripped and fell against Akito who oddly managed to avoid all the tree roots above the earth. Contented that his earlier desire has been fulfilled, he went back to being the gentlemen he was and steadied her before setting her upright again. Multiple times she blushed when their hands or shoulders innocently grazed each other's.

Coming to a clearing, Akito stopped and looked up into the star-kissed sky. Behind him, Tohru folded her hands and studied him with a thoughtful smile on her face.

'He looks so much like a child discovering the stars for the first time...'

She saw his eyes sparkle with innocent curiosity as he observed the full moon shrouded with warm grey clouds. He tilted his head slightly.

"How many stars are there in the sky?" He asked.

"Infinite. No one knows how many there are. It's impossible to count every single one." She replied.

"Why can't I see them downtown if there's so many?" He sighed.

"That's because there's too much light. You need the darkness to see stars." He seemed to consider her words.

"You're the first person who's ever said anything good about darkness."

She smiled. "That's because there is nothing to fear...just as with daylight, there are some things that depend on darkness. Like the stars for example." Tohru cast her gaze upwards. "And mom."

He snuck a glance at her and was surprised to find her standing closer than he thought she'd be. "Your mother is up there?" He asked incredulously.

Tohru nodded confidently. "Yes. The last words she even uttered to me were 'I'll be watching you from a star.' I think that fits her very well. She's always had a spark in her personality."

He looked away. "I don't suppose my father is up there as well." He added morosely. Tohru stared at him.

"All our beloved ones turn into a star when it's their time. That is why they are innumerable." She replied.

Akito didn't say a word as they continued their stroll. The earth crumbled beneath their feet, but the crunch was barely heard. Ferns and grasses bristled as they walked pass by. The night was silent except for nature's symphony of chirps and hoots. The air was crisp and the smell of bark and the algae-spotted pond filtered through their noses. As they ventured further into the park, fireflies became their guide as they illuminated the cobbled passageway. A balmy breeze rustled through the dark foliage and gently teased their hair.

Akito wasn't sure where they were, but he found this place as peaceful as the memorial ground he and Tohru visited.

When they approached what appeared to be a bridge with a graceful arch in the middle, he was the one to take the first step onto it. Tohru hesitated and she stopped centimeters from the first tread across. She looked at him tensely before he walked over and took her hand. With a squeeze, he led her over to the middle where the moon reflected in the peaceful waters. She cautiously peeked over the railing and saw that a pair of swans was nestled in a cluster of cattails by the far edge of the pond.

"They're so cute with their heads tucked under each other's wings like that. I wonder if they're mates..." She vaguely uttered before a blush crept up her face when she realized that she spoke those words out loud. And to Akito nonetheless! Mortified, Tohru glued her eyes to the shimmering waters below; she had no idea what caused her to say something like that!

'Oh mom, I hope he didn't hear that! I think I'm too tired to control what goes out of my mouth! I better shut up now.' She buried her face in her arms and tried not to let her eyes wander over to a certain dark-haired individual whose eyes, she can feel, was burning into her face.

He chucked amusedly. "I think they are, Tohru-kun. Swans are often a couple, even when it isn't breeding season."

"B-b-b-breeding season?" Tohru stuttered when he trailed a finger down her back. Her hands tightened on the rail as she involuntarily squirmed under his touch. She tried not to think about the warm breath in her ear and enjoy the scenery, but her stomach kept doing flip-flops every time his fingers lightly grazed her sides. When his reflection suddenly vanished, she drew in a relieved breath before she straightened.

Hands sprung around her. The girl yipped and she jolted as if she's been electrocuted. Akito snickered, letting his lithe arms enclose around her waist. His nose finding a comfortable spot to nuzzle into in the crook between her neck and shoulder, he smirked down at their reflections. Coaxing her to lean into him, he languidly threaded a finger through her hair. Tohru's lips felt very dry, just like her throat. She reminded herself that he's done this so many times, she should have been used to it by now. It's his way of showing friendliness, although she wished he'd let her heart have a rare moment of rest when he's around.

Provoked by the "friendly" embrace, her mind wandered over to the unbidden thoughts that plagued her conscience of the intimate moments they shared like this one. Intimate, as in very close acquaintances, she firmly drilled into her head. In spite of the moments others would think of as romantic or passionate, she unconsciously built a dam to sieve out every promiscuous outlook so that only clean, pure moments are what are left. There is also a logical explanation attached to each moment, like tags that are appended to suitcases in order to avoid confusion as well as guarantee order. Some explanations include that he is very lonely, or that he needs maternal affection which he never received. Other rationales integrate his unsociability with anyone else as possible reasons for his frisky antics.

But still, she contradicted, there were times when it seemed like the only reason why he acted the way he did was because—he was a male. Despite how sickly he was, how feminine his beauty looked (she blushed), how surprisingly gentle he touched her face, Akito was a boy. It made her self-conscious to think that he could ever feel this way for someone as common as her, but she can't find any other reason as simple as that sounds.

The brunette stared into their reflections in the water, but she didn't have the courage to glance at his face.

The serene atmosphere brought her musings over to a time when things were tense in a different implication. She recalled the visit she had with him after she discovered Kyo's true form, which seemed ages ago. Tohru stilled remembered all the emotions that passed his face when she spoke to him the words that broke the barrier that sheltered his fragile heart. She hadn't known they were the words to his undoing, but it made sense to her why he was so angry and protective. Akito too, was a human being despite the spirit of a deity possessing him. He had a mind of his own and he was not the cruel and heartless Head of the House that others implied he was.

He was afraid, and who wouldn't be when they were told the minute they're born that they were the sacrificial lamb of an ancient family? A pawn was what he must have felt like...

"What had your mind in such a daze that you didn't even notice when I kissed you, Tohru-kun?" His lips mumbled against her neck.

"Huh!?!" Her whole face turned pale like the moon.

He chuckled. "Really, you know I would never attempt something as dishonorable as that." She felt his lips twist into a wicked smirk.

"Uh-huh..." She mumbled. His eyes glinted of something she couldn't tell as he pulled away and walked further along the bridge. A rush of coldness attacked her back and she hastily trailed after him.

They approached what appeared to be a gazebo that sat on a small island in the middle of the pond. An old weeping willow grew beside it, its long, leafy stems swaying idly in the breeze. The tree looked like an umbrella for the wooden pagoda. Its abundant growth acted like a giant curtain.

Akito stared at it as he thought over the moment he and Tohru shared before her friends popped up with false accusation that they were attempting a kiss. He sighed; he was about to tell her how he felt, but the mood was ruined thanks to them. Now, the opportunity presented itself again and he would jump headfirst into the pond if he were to be interrupted this time! Warily, he glanced around for any onlooker who might need a good dunk in the pool. When none greeted his eyes, he smiled victoriously before he grabbed Tohru's hand and made a short work of the rest of the steps.

"Akito-san, where are we going?"

He could barely contain his excitement. "It's a surprise, so close your eyes." He smirked.

"O-okay." Evidently, she did and clumsily fell against him. He patiently helped her to her feet and covered her eyes for her since he didn't trust her blindfolded in the dark anymore.

He set her down on a bench. "Now open them." He whispered.

The view of the pond from the island took her breath away. "So this is where the bridge ends!" She gazed at the moon which seemed closer than before, and reached towards it like she could touch it with her fingertips. Instead, a stem from the willow brushed her outstretched hand before it blew away.

"Akito-san, come see this, this is beautiful!"

'No, Tohru-kun. You're twice...no triple the beauty of the moon...' The words almost escaped his lips but he held his tongue. Akito watched her fondly from his place by one of the pillars. While she marveled at the moon, his admired her. Every part of her—her soulful eyes, her delicate curves, her childish smile, her uplifting compassion—he loved. He had no idea when it began, when he started looking forward to hearing her voice, when his name had a special ring to it whenever she uttered it, when simply the sight of her smile made his heart skip in way that didn't require medical attention. He felt like he was in his own fairy tale, even though he knew fairy tales were when the princess marries the valiant prince, and not the wicked villain.

'How can I tell her?' His face contorted in anguish as his mind conveniently went blank. Then a thought hit him: what if she rejects him? 'No. She wouldn't do that.' He almost added dare but stopped. Akito glanced at her sorrowfully.

She was humming a tune with the gust, her body swaying in synch with the willow. He sighed; he didn't want to hurt her anymore. He wanted to be embraced by the same love she felt for the Rat and the Cat. To think that God wanted what his animals had was laughable, but Akito knew that Tohru was a jewel hidden in a cluster of fake gemstones. And he planned to steal her before anyone else discovered her true value.

All his life, he had to deal with deception. It didn't matter what kind, he's seen it all. His supposedly "faithful" Dog committed an unspeakable act against him and lied about it. The maids gave him empty hope of his father through an equally void container. Even his own doctor, the Dragon, lied about how his health was "improving" when in fact he vomited right after the exam. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

So, for every lie that was thrown at him, he tightened his stranglehold over the whole damn family. They thought he was too ill to be able to use logic and instinct to see pass their fake smiles, fake apologies and fake information. But he proved them wrong by making sure that everyone who let a false syllable slip pass their lip be punished. They lied to him, so he made their lives hell as he dragged everyone down with him. That was how it's been.

Everything he did back then was out of pure vengeance, until...

' "I'm happy...I'm happy to have known you, Akito-san..." '

...she stepped into the picture. A nobody. An Outsider.

' "I want to know how you feel..." '

A being that cared about him...

' "...even if you're angry, or bitter, or frustrated...that's okay!" '

...even the ugliest side of him.

' "Because right now, the important thing is..." '

A woman who he initially loathed and tried to scare away...

' "You're alive..." '

...had given him a purpose to live.

He drank in the full image of her gazing up at the moon, her arms resting on the beige balustrade and her shapely legs tucked under her. Her pastel skin emanated its warm, healthy glow, not only emphasizing the ripeness of her body but also the youth her eyes still conveyed despite her maturity. Her hips were round rather than full, her curves just finished growing from adolescence. The swell of a breast which was modestly cloaked by her indigo blouse reminded him of how much she has grown under the shelter and unconditional love of the Sohmas in just three years. When he first met her, he was taken back by her awkwardness and her plain appearance. Easily, he overlooked the bud that has yet to bloom and dismissed her. Then, nurtured by the affection and the attention his Juunishi zealously showered her with, Tohru grew into the woman of every man's fantasy.

Even God's.

The flower has come into full bloom in his beautiful garden, and since then she has become the main attraction. He can smell the sweet aroma that wafted from her, and has even sampled her nectar. She was sinfully intoxicating, and she was ready to be plucked off her stem.

"You're unearthly...Tohru Honda-san."

The whisper of her full name made her pivot. She watched him mildly. He caught a glimpse of confusion which reflected in her eyes, and his heart raced at the way she daintily swung her calves over the bench, her skirt fluttered innocently as it revealed a brief, fleeting flash of her smooth under legs. He firmly glued his eyes to the ground, as if meeting her gaze would blind him in her radiance.

She situated herself at the center of the gazebo, her hands meekly played with the hem of her modestly long skirt. From the angle of his eye, he saw her head tilted slightly at him in query of his accidental remark.

"What does Akito-san mean...I'm unearthly?" Her soft lips intoned. "I'm just another human being, like you." She touched her heart and eyed him with sincerity.

Akito's arms were folded behind his back as he walked pass her, to her perch. He fixed his eyes on the moon, and prayed that he won't sound as pathetic as he felt. In her presence, he did not feel like God, or authoritative in any way. The way she looked at him, the tone of her voice and her conduct, was how she treated the Juunishi. He wasn't angry that her aura stunted his pride, but rather he enjoyed the humility of being treated as an equal. He glanced at the moon's pallid reflection in the water with a thoughtful smile.

"I have no doubt that you are, in every meaning of the term, a human being. What I meant to say was that I find your person to be unlike anyone I've ever met." He clarified. The wind danced through the branches of the willow, and he entangled his hand through its verdant hair.

"When I warned you of what you were getting into by living amongst this family, you blithely ignored my caveat. I didn't think you could embrace the darkness that is the curse, but you proved me wrong when you accepted the Cat's true form. Being the skeptic I was I still couldn't believe you. So I confronted you—or rather, you confronted me—and I showed you the source behind the family's misery—myself." He gave a humorless chuckle which sent a tingle up her spine.

He looked thoughtfully up at the moon. "I should've known that I was in for a tear fest. I should've been wise enough to think that if you were able to get through to the Mon—Kyo, you wouldn't have too much trouble doing the same with me." He heard her shift slightly and inclined his head towards her.

Tohru sat uncomfortably as she worried her lip. 'Mom, what is he trying to tell me?' She wondered confusedly. Whatever it was, she felt that when in doubt, apologize.

"I'm sorry if that offended Akito-san." She meekly ducked her head.

He surprised her when a hand came up to lightly touch her hair. "No, I'm the one who should apologize." He brushed her bangs to the side, "I must have hurt Tohru-kun very much that day..." His eyes captivated her as he leaned so close their noses barely touched. Tohru's hands felt clammy as she nervously rubbed them together. She was relieved when he turned away so she could resume her breathing. His aura was incredible.

She realized he was expecting her to say something, so she hastily reassured him. "No! Not at all! I was perfectly fine afterwards! I'm still alive, aren't I?" She nervously laughed.

"I'm glad you are," He said seriously, "this family has never been so different...in a good way of course." A short laughter followed.

Tohru flushed modestly. "I could not have made that much of a difference; I only did what I thought would help."

"Then you have helped...especially me." His hand found its way to his raven hair and he toyed with the lock as he waited for her reaction.

Tohru glanced up, her thin eyebrows arched over her moon-reflected eyes. "If Akito-san is talking about the snakebite, or painting me or—"

He quietly interjected her. "I don't mean any of the palpable times you have helped me, Tohru-kun. You taught me that materialism in friendship has no merit. It's the trust that fortifies the bond between you and me." He paused as he seemed to circumspectly weigh his words. "I admire your fidelity and keen devotion to my wellbeing... If given the chance, I think I'd like to be...the kind of benevolent person you are, maybe, one day."

"Regardless," He added as the darkness overshadowed his grin, "I would like to get to know you better."

Her oculars focused on his straight backside, and then slowly traveled the back of his neck. His midnight hair eclipsed the ashen moon, the edges of his suit painted with wan luminosity. She watched his slender figure with disbelief but also anticipation. Her heart intensified as the gap of silence widened, like an invisible bridge in between them. His poignant speech sank into her mind, the silken lexis sounded so familiar she had to recall her memory. Where had she heard them before?

Then she remembered. And her bottom lip fell as tears consolidated under her aqua pools.

He was...after all this time; Akito was trying to show her...

"I...I want to change... I don't want to be the way I am now. I want to understand you better. You've helped me, but I don't want...to be selfish. Even if that is exactly what it means to want to get to really know someone. Which is why I want to say—"

Like a bolt out of the blue, twin appendages locked around his willowy frame in a fierce, tight embrace, restricting his breath from flight. The pump in his chest rapidly fluctuated between high and low, causing his breath to increase and a thin sheen of sweat to glisten on his forehead. Likewise, his bony fingers felt clammy and sticky. The bones in his thin legs melted like hot butter, and Akito was overcome with vertigo which vibrated through his limbs. Foggily, he glanced down at the dainty limbs that wrapped around his waist. He tentatively touched her, embracing the warmth, embracing the love she freely offered him with euphoric gratitude.

Tohru sniffed as she buried her head into his back. A smile found its way to her lips. Flustered for crying into his back (and ruining his expensive shirt), she laid her cheek between his shoulders and sighed when she felt his thumb stroke her wrist in soothing motions. Groggily, she said, "I did very little Akito-san. I'm flattered but it was you who opened your heart and chose to accept me." She yawned and moaned into his shirt.

Akito revolved so he could hold her against his chest. His stomach fluttered from the presence of her body pressed against him. How they seem to fit together perfectly was a question he wanted to ask after he was good and gone. For now though, he eyed her shiny crystalline orbs endearingly. The smell of her hair as it gently tickled his nose, the moon's pallid shine washing over her delicate cheekbones, and the sense of security and peacefulness that engulfed him caused his arms to casually drape around her.

"It was you who showed me love." He felt that the smile on his face is the most genuine he has ever given. Much to his surprise at what happened next, he was left breathless when her lips pecked the blessed area of his cheek.

Tohru smiled, blithely ignoring the warning of the consequences her action might've brought on. He finally accepted her, just like Yuki and Kyo! She knew all along he had a good side to him, underneath all the despair and resentment. He just needed more coaxing out of his shell than the others, but in the end he was a human being, like everyone else.

'Mom, I knew Akito-san was a nice person way deep inside!' She thought contentedly. Feeling a blush coming on from their prolonged embrace, she embarrassedly set her gaze on his collar. Unfortunately, her eyes were welcomed by the sight of his V-neck, the plunge taunting her eyes with a provocative front view of his cream-white clavicle. Abundant shame for dressing Akito in a seductive shirt overwhelmed Tohru and she weakly sagged against him, like the night he found her on his porch step.

All the blood in his thin body surged to his face, particularly the patch of skin where her heavenly lips kissed. A dizzy smile plastered on his heated cheeks, which felt like they were as red as the kimono he routinely wore, possibly redder than that even. A very pleasant feeling gurgled in his stomach, not at all like the disdain that broiled there when wrath was all he could see. He noticed the weakness in her legs and he gently sat her down, never breaking the tangle around her sides.

He played with the words that sat on his tongue, rolling it around as he mulled over the various ways he could tell her how he felt. He wasn't sure if there were certain "rules" or guidelines he ought to follow, but the book from the Dog advised he should go slowly. Girls were very much like deer, he once read, and they will sprint if one fails to execute his plan properly. His hand moved to the back of her head, and in fluid deft motions, he combed the strands of chestnut hair he found. His breath hitched when Tohru shifted a little, but she only snuggled deeper into him, apparently enjoying the soothing sensations of his fingers running through her long, dark mane.

'Is she enjoying this, or is she too tired to pull away?' He wondered uncertain. At any rate, he mentally gave himself a pat on the back for his success so far. Bringing her face closer, he smiled when she coyly turned away. Before she could pull away, he trailed his lips up her neck and whispered in her ear, "Suki desu."

"I know, Akito-san. I knew all along how you really felt." Tohru murmured with her eyes half closed. Akito's lips opened in slight surprise; was his mind playing cruel tricks on him? Or does the angel of his dreams truly love him like he does for her?

"Tohru-kun..." He buried his face in the dip of her neck, his eyes growing wet as rampant ecstasy swept over him. His hands squeezed her arms protectively, inexpressible feelings flooding the gates of his heart which no longer felt the coldness of winter.

For the deity, spring has finally bloomed.

"I'm glad I can get to know Akito-san better, and I'm happy to be part of his family." Tohru smiled, her chin resting on his shoulder as she gazed pensively at the full moon. Akito drowsily leaned against the bench, his hands caressed the small of her back languidly. A sigh escaped his throat at the perfection of this tangible nirvana.

"I feel the same warmth with you as I have with Sohma-kun, Kyo-kun, and the others. You've all been so kind to me..."

Hearing the sound of glass shattering, Akito's onyx black eyes sprung open, the river of life flowing through him froze subzero at her absentminded decree.

Her words cycling in torturous repetition inside his cranium, the moon, the lake, the pillars, her—all began to spin around. Everything blurred like a merry-go-round, his heart pounded in his ears as he struggled pathetically to clarify his earlier confession.

"No...hugh... Tohru-kun, suki desu...SUKI DESU!" He coughed and felt his heart hammering inside his chest.

"It's alright." His ears perked. He blinked when he saw her holding a shiny object, its edge traced with luminous glow.

'No! Not now! He can't come right now!' He shouted, but his throat felt dry. Nausea gripped his bowels and he clung to the bench, his erratic breathing muffling her panicked voice as she talked on the phone.

"No, I-I think he's been out too long! He has a fever," Tohru recoiled when he slapped her hand away after she touched his burning forehead. Weakly, he fought to stand, but she pulled him back down. Growling, he cursed at his disadvantage. Just when he thought his life was complete, she had to...misinterpret, because she's a dimwit like that and he should've...should've known better to tell her straight out.

Summoning what remained of his strength, Akito supported his weight on his feeble legs as he took advantage of Tohru's busy conversation to pin her against the bench by her shoulders.

"Akito-san, you must sit! Please! You're exhausting yourself by standing like that!" Tohru looked imploringly into his smoky eyes, which were clouded with vexation.

"No. Listen to me...I—!" He broke into a fit of inconvenient coughs. He cursed again as his knees bucked and Tohru had to hold him by his waist.

The strength to assert his independence was gone, thanks to the foolish attempt to stand. All he could do was angrily watch her talk with the stupid, stupid doctor, making a big deal out of this little fever. The only plus side was that he got to lay his head in her lap, which he made sure to take full advantage of.

"You don't understand...you don't...suki desu...suki...desu..." He muttered his eyes glazed over as if he were in a trance. Her head appeared over him, her eyes dripped of compassion that no longer appealed to him. Not if this is all she felt for him...

"I know. I know..." Tohru smiled ruefully, her eyes gleaming in the darkness. Akito stubbornly shook his head when she tried to pet his hair to calm him. Dejectedly, she pulled away with sad eyes and reached for the medicine bag. Mining out a bottle of water, a towel and some mild sedatives, Tohru set the items by her side. She opened the bottle for him and while he grudgingly accepted the drink, she wiped the towel over his face. Shaking out the prescribed number of capsules, she patiently waited for Akito to finish before handing him the medicine.

"I'm not sick." He turned away, grumbling. He felt her eyes stare at the back of his head and he shook that off.

Tohru suppressed a sigh as she stared at the pills in her hand. She wondered how to convince him when he was in a fickle mood like now.

'What do I do? He won't listen to me if I try to reason with him! But I can see that he's getting weaker each minute...' Tohru buried her face in her hands. 'I doubt this will work, but it's all I've got...'

Putting on her best smile, she pleaded with him. "It will make me very happy if you take them, Akito-san."

"Feh. Why should I care?" He grunted.

"Because...tomorrow is my birthday." Tohru smiled.

Akito choked. "What!?"

"Well, technically, it's today since it's past midnight." Tohru said casually. She sheepishly watched Akito's speechless face. "Ano, I neglected to mention this earlier because...I forgot with the excitement and mom's anniversary."

"You're mother passed away the day before..." He gaped as Tohru nodded stoically. An awkward silence settled between them.

Finally, he sighed and shook his head. She was hopeless. He held out his hand.

"Just give me the damn pills so I'll be spared."

While he swallowed the drugs, he watched Tohru out of the corner of his eye. She idly fingered the hem of her long dress, purposely avoiding his eyes. Another uncomfortable interval of silence followed.

"Will you invite your friends over? Have a celebration?" She shook her head.

"No. I don't want to cause a racket. Akito-san needs sleep after such a long, tiring night." Tohru mumbled. Akito raised an eyebrow but he kept silent. As they both waited for the doctor, the cinnamon-haired female leaned against his shoulder from fatigue. Almost too happy to return the favor, he scooped her up and sat her in his lap; her long milky legs dangled over the bench as he held her like one would a lover. The only things that watched them were the weeping willow and the pale moon.


A/N: [1] I couldn't think of a proper title so I did a little research on the restaurants in Japan and found some words to slap together.

Kotta = Exquisite/Refined

Ryouri = Cuisine

[2] That means "Welcome".

So, as some might have guessed from the title, that was Akito's confession of his love for Tohru. I hate to burst all your bubbles, but Tohru doesn't feel the same way for him.

Ha-Ha! Gotcha! XD Well, not really...

You see, Tohru mistook Akito's words for a different kind of love instead of the kind he hoped for. In Japanese, "suki desu" (pronounced skee-des) has twin meanings. (lol) It can be interpreted as "I really like you" in strong friendships (bingo), and it can mean the ever famous "I love you".

So even though Akito is evil, let's have a moment of silence for the poor kid who just got his heart half-broken, after how hard it took for him to pluck up the courage to tell her.

Love hurts. :(

~AmEva