Disclaimer: I do not own Fruits Basket.
Shigure let out a sad sigh. "Alas, both my beloved Tohru and the wonderful Ritsu have forsaken me. What shall I do with myself? However will I survive?" he exclaimed to the empty kitchen. He looked around dejectedly before sighing once more.
"Ah, well," he said, perking up. "When all else fails, take matters into your own hands!"
His dilemma, of course, was an unnatural desire for jelly buns that had forced itself upon him early in the day. As Tohru and the others were off at school, he couldn't talk anyone at his immediate location into running out and getting him some. He had thought about calling Hatori and complaining of leg cramps to get the doctor to make the trip, but thought better of it at the last moment, remembering that he was already upset with him and had many instruments of torture at his disposal.
Naturally, he next thought of Ayame, wondering if it would be enough to ask him to prove his love by bringing a gift of jelly buns. Though he decided that it would probably work, he chose not to go for that option, either. "Wouldn't want to disturb his noble work, after all."
So that brought it down to sending for Ritsu or going himself.
"As much as I enjoy the chance to use the magic touch... I just don't want to put up with that today. It has the potential to ruin the jelly bun mood."
And so, he resigned himself to making the journey on his own.
Despite his initial disappointment at being forced to take the initiative himself, Shigure found that a nice walk in the crisp air was just what he needed. Nature really is a beautiful thing. He smiled contently as he began passing more and more people. Humans were incredible creatures as well, and it hurt him deeply to have to keep his distance from them. But he wouldn't think of that now. He would just think of jelly buns.
Ah, this must be the place. So it was. Shigure pointed and picked out what he wanted, smiling openly the whole time. Leaving with satisfaction, he walked to a small park and sat on a bench, preparing to eat a few of his snacks before he had to get back to work on that manuscript.
Just as he was about to take a bite out of the first jelly bun, he felt the bench shift only slightly. He looked out of the corner of his eye to see a woman sitting on the opposite end, her back to him, seemingly tying her shoe. He let out a breath when she got up and walked away.
The jelly buns were delicious. He listened to various conversations around him, taking in the atmosphere.
"What did you think I meant, I just told you."
"Really? I thought-"
"Do you like it here?"
"My, it is a very nice day today."
"That's what I said!"
"Hey, how are you? I haven't seen you in forever!
Shigure let out a happy sigh and took another bite of his second jelly bun.
He blinked and looked around. Who was ignoring such a lovely voice?
Shigure jumped from the force and proximity of the voice. He turned to the previously empty spot next to him to find a new occupant. A young woman, probably around his age, sat there looking at him with a mix of annoyance and panic. He couldn't deny the loveliness of her face matched the loveliness of her voice. She looked like a kind of elf or forest fairy, her dark brown hair waving down her back and her earthy green eyes staring up at him.
"I'm sorry. I was in a bit too deep with this jelly bun and it didn't want to let me go." He smiled warmly. "Is there some way I can help you?"
The woman looked down at the wood between them for a moment, seeming on the verge of tears. She tucked a strand of her wavy hair behind an ear and then thrust a photo out before her, looking at him pleadingly.
"Have you seen this dog?"
Shigure looked at her in surprise, but took the picture and began to study it, his face shifting in his concentration. "No, I can't say that I have. Is he yours?"
But she was already tugging the photo from his finggers and saying, "Thank you for your time."
"Wait!" he called, grabbing his bag and jogging the few feet she had moved.
"I'm sorry, but I really have to..." she started.
He cut her off. "I'll help you look."
Now her eyes really did fill with tears. "No, really, you don't have to. I'll just ask someone else if they've seen him."
Shigure smiled and reached out to put a hand on her shoulder only to find that she had stepped out of his reach and was now walking toward another park-dweller. Catching up to her again, he said, "My extremely strong sense of chivalry would be very disappointed if I didn't help out a fair maiden such as yourself. Besides, two eyes are better than one, as they say."
She stopped and spun to face him, the first hint of a smile on her face, her elven eyes sparkling with both water and mischief. "Last time I counted, I already had two eyes. Are you saying I need four?"
Shigure grinned. "It couldn't hurt. Now then, where was the last time you saw..."
"Zorro? Right, where was the last time you saw Zorro?"
"My house. He got out. He was..." She looked slightly uncomfortable. "...chasing someone."
Shigure blinked. "Chasing who?" Perhaps he had chosen to help the wrong person... Then again, he had heard that it was good luck to help a wood nymph... if you survived.
The woman fidgetted. "The plumber."
"Why was he-"
"I don't have time for this! You can come along, but I can't stand here and answer any more of your questions."
"Sorry," he said, walking after her, the open smile back on his face. Anyone who got this worried about a dog couldn't be all bad. "May I ask one more while we're walking, though?"
"Sure," she said with a sigh.
"What is your name?"
She paused a moment, as if deciding if she should tell him or not. With a hint of a shrug, she said, "Call me Tal."
"Pleasure to meet you, Tal." He thought over his words. "I only wish it could've been under more pleasant circumstances. I'm Shigure, by the way."
Tal didn't stop moving as she nodded her head in acknowledgement. "No offense, Shigure, but if it weren't for the unpleasant circumstances, we wouldn't have met at all. And at the moment, I'd rather have my dog." She mumbled the words soft enough that most people wouldn't be able to hear, but Shigure managed to get the hint.
He chuckled softly. It wasn't the first time someone had said something like that, and out of all those times, this was probably the least insulting. This girl was in a frenzied state due to her immense worry for her loyal companion's safety! She simply didn't know what she was saying. "Ehm, Tal... Where exactly are we going?"
"Someone said she talked to a man who heard some large animal in the trees over there, but didn't see anything. I figured I would ask a few more people before I risked it. You never know. It could be a bear."
Shigure laughed. "A bear? Surely your dog wouldn't be mistaken for a bear." He swallowed uncertainly when she didn't look amused.
"Not if they had actually seen him. But he's big enough to sound like one."
"Um... Exactly what kind of dog is Zorro?" The picture had been a black dog with the look of a husky, but there had been nothing in to suggest it's size.
"He's a mutt. No one's quite sure what he is, but there's speculation of at least a quarter St. Bernard blood." She sighed and glanced at Shigure. "So it's not like there are many animals out there that could take him, but that doesn't mean a person might not stumble across him and call animal control or he might get hit by a car trying to get back home. He's smart, but us humans... we can do some awful things."
The smile had fallen from Shigure's face while she spoke, and now he closed his eyes. So passionate about her furry friend... The world needs more people like her! He may have been just a bit biased, though. His goofy smile was replaced with an understanding one. But he couldn't help but crack a joke. "I'm guessing you're a dog person."
She smiled and gave him a look that said "haha you're soooo witty." Standing on the edge of the forest, she gave him a look. "Last chance to turn back." The mischievous look she was aiming at him now brought back the stories he read on fairies luring their pray to their doom back full force.
Grinning, he said, "And leave you to the beasts of the forest? I simply couldn't."
She turned and headed into the trees. "Have it your way." She looked over her shoulder. "You can be the bait."
Swallowing any concerns Shigure may or may not have had, he followed her into the dim light. He wasn't feeling the slightest bit of dread. He wasn't even worried. And he certainly didn't jump out of his skin when Tal suddenly called, "Zorro!" and let out a peircing whistle to go with it.
"Do you really think that's going to help?" Shigure asked. "And what if it's not him?"
"He knows my voice, and anything else that's close enough to want to eat us is close enough to hear us walking whether we talk or not. Zorro!"
Shrugging, he joined her. "Zorro!" He stopped. He heard something far off. A glance at Tal let him know that he was the only human here who could hear it, and the only human in the world who could understand it.
When he brought his attention back the here and now, Tal was standing in front of him. "Did you see something?"
"No, but I might have heard something... Stay quiet for a moment." He frowned in concentration and closed his eyes. "Call him once more."
"There! Come, this way!" He pointed her in the right direction and walked beside her. At least, he walked beside her until he was suddenly lying flat on his back, two enormous paws on his shoulders and the biggest dog he had ever seen glaring down at him. He had been tackled!
Luckily for Shigure, the dog was quickly tackled by Tal, forcing it off of him and allowing him to breathe freely once more. Sitting up with plans to thank her, he quickly realized that she hadn't meant to save him from the beast- she had wanted to give the beast a bear hug!
"Oh, Zor, I'm so glad you're alright." She let the dog sit up before wrapping her arms around it's neck. The massive dog showed it's teeth to Shigure, letting out a low, rumbling growl.
"Hey... there... Zorro," he said slowly, reaching out a hand only to draw it back when the growl grew louder.
"Come on, don't be like that. Shigure helped me find you." She spoke to the dog as if he were human. Shigure couldn't help but fall in love, just a little bit.
"Well, I'm sure its been a long day for both of you. Maybe we should get out of this forest."
"Yah, Zorro and I should probably head home. I just wonder what happened to the plumber..." She quickly inspected Zorro's teeth.
Shigure's eyes widened and a short gasp escaped him. "You don't think... He wouldn't..."
Tal burst into laughter and Zorro seemed to smile and roll his eyes at the oddity of humans. "I'm only joking, Shigure. The plumber is fine."
"Oh." Shigure laughed uneasily. "I knew that." And then he truly laughed. He got to his feet and held a hand out to her. "Let's get going, shall we?"
Tal got to her feet as well and looked Zorro in the eye. "Heel, Zorro. We need to go home, so no trouble now." The dog's large tain thumped the ground. Shigure was sure he heard a tree fall further in the forest at that moment.
When they once again found themselves in the park, Tal turned to face Shigure. "Thank you so much for helping me find him. And I'm really sorry if I was rude earlier. I just... I was worried. Is there any way I can make it up to you?"
Shigure was about to spew out something poetic about helping lovely wood elves being its own reward when he happened to look down at his slightly worse for wear bag of jelly buns. "Well, you could meet me here tomorrow and buy me some of these," he said with a grin as he pointed at his bag.
She blinked in surprise. "Jelly buns?"
She smiled and held out her hand. "It's a deal. Here's my card. Call me with a time."
Shigure took the card and shook her hand. "Count on it. It was lovely meeting you, Tal."
"Same here. But about you." With that, she turned to leave. "Come on, Zorro, let's hit the road."
The dog sat before Shigure for a moment after she left, simply staring at him. "Lucky dog," Shigure said, sticking his tongue out at it.
Zorro let out a bark that sent Shigure jumping a foot away. With what would have been a satisfied smirk on a man, the dog turned and walked away.
Narrowing his eyes, he whispered, "You won this round, but not the war." In his head, a humungous black dog laughed at him.
As he approached his home, munching on yet another jelly bun, he thought of all that had happened.
He had gone out that day for the sake of jelly buns. He had returned with a sense of accomplishment. And, of course, the jelly buns.