A/N: About time I get back to work on this thing, lol.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, or these characters, as they belong to Yoshifumi Hashimoto.

The Invitation

"Would you like to go on a date with me?"

Tori froze, the book in her extended hand dropping to the floor before it reached the shelf, as she tried to process the question just asked of her.

"W-W-What?" she stuttered after a full minute, her hand dropping to her side slowly.

"I asked if you wouldn't mind going on a date with me."

How was he so calm about this? She felt incredibly uncomfortable and embarrassed, and not at all happy despite the invitation extended to her. Her face was on fire, and she was sure if she turned to look at him now, he'd see the cherry red of her cheeks, so she decided to keep her back to him. She had never been asked on a date before, and she hadn't really thought about what it would be like if she was – nor how she would reply if it was the man currently in her company doing the asking – so she was fairly lost as to how to respond.

What didn't help her decision making was that she had heard the same man that was asking her on a date now ask the same question to Lara, the beautiful nurse that worked in Edward's clinic next door, not even three days ago. Would he be asking Felicity – the sickly but pretty girl that worked in the shop a block over – three days after this, or even sooner if things didn't go well?

Still keeping silent as she continued to think, her eyes drifted slowly downwards until she spotted the book she had dropped. She reached down to pick it up but was beaten to it by a larger, familiar hand. Her blush reddened tenfold as she recognized instantly who it belonged to. She stood back up quickly, returning her gaze to the books on the shelf, but when she felt a hand on her shoulder her eyes immediately snapped upwards.

Her eyes met with his briefly, and then he was looking at her would-be suitor and the soft smile that had just been on his face was suddenly replaced by a larger, faker grin.

"Raguna, would you mind terribly if I stole Tori away? I have several new arrivals that need shelving, and I require the assistance of my assistant," Russell asked with perfunctory kindness, still smiling in that unnatural way.

"Oh, of course. Sounds like a lot of work. See you later," the younger man answered in a friendly tone. He smiled and gave them both a wave before heading for the door, apparently unaware of Russell's less-than-pleased attitude during his none-too-subtle dismissal.

After the farmer had left, the two standing between the shelves remained silent for quite some time. Tori felt some of the color leaving her face, but the heat remained with Russell's hand still on her shoulder. When she finally trusted her tongue to not trip over every word, she opened her mouth to speak but was again beaten to it by the sound of his deep, familiar voice as he reached over her to finally return the dropped book to the shelf.

"Hey, you know," he began, his voice quieter than she was used to, and with an almost undetectable waver. He took his hand off her shoulder to push up his glasses and she immediately missed the warmth.

"This may be a bit late, but... I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner... with me."

Surprisingly, though she had just experienced her first date invitation only minutes earlier and suffered through serious hesitation and confusion as a result, this time she knew her answer rather quickly with no indecision or unhappiness at all.

"... Yes. I'd like that very much," she answered with a smile, and stood on the tips of her toes to kiss him on the cheek. Russell stood immobile for a moment before his face turned a rather cute shade of pink and he coughed into his fist.

"Y-Yes, well. I actually do have some new arrivals that need to be shelved. Care to help me before dinner?" he asked, still unable to look her in the eye. She stifled a giggle and nodded, carefully placing her hand in his.