The phone rang and Hatori sighed. There were a very limited amount of people who could be calling, and he didn't feel like talking to any of them. The day had been long and whoever was on the other end of the line was just going to prolong it. He massaged his temples and tried to decide whom he'd least like to deal with. Aya? He certainly didn't feel like being kept on the phone for the next couple of hours. He hadn't eaten yet. One of the Honke nurses with another so-called emergency? A summons from Akito? It rang a third time and he gave in and picked up the receiver.
Hatori considered hanging up the phone. His hand was halfway to placing the receiver back in the cradle when he realized that Shigure was still talking, and indeed hadn't paused for any sort of confirmation that it was Hatori who'd picked up the phone.
"...little flower was wondering what you'd like for dinner..."
Hatori looked at the speaker in consternation. Flower? Dinner? He placed it back up to his ear and sighed. "Hmmn?"
"I said, Tooru-kun wants to know what meal you would like." Shigure's voice was playful and eager. Hatori immediately suspected he was up to something.
Well, he was always up to something.
"Meal?" Hatori's voice was deadpan.
"Mmm! Mmm!" You could practically hear the dog's ingratiating smile over the line. "As a thank you for taking care of her while she was ill, and for taking a special trip to look at her hand, Tooru-kun wishes to invite you to dinner."
Hatori was silent on the other end. He blinked at the blotter on his desk a few times. Tooru wanted him to come to dinner. A 'thank you'. It felt a bit strange knowing that someone was thinking of him. "When?"
"Ha-san agrees so quickly? I'm shocked! Has Ha-san fallen in love with our bride? We won't let you kidnap her!"
Hatori placed the receiver firmly in the cradle, lit a cigarette and started to count to five. He got to three when the phone rang again.
"Yes." He took an extended drag of cigarette.
"Ha-san is so meaaaaaan!" Shigure sobbed. "I just called to ask you to dinner tonight-"
"Tonight?" Hatori looked at the clock. This late? If he left now he'd arrive at the time most people would be thinking of settling down for the night.
"Yes. I told Tooru-kun how busy things have been for you at the clinic and she thought it might be a nice surprise...you haven't eaten yet have you?" Shigure let a note of concern wriggle in under his words. "She'll be so disappointed. But I suppose we could set another time..."
"I haven't eaten yet." Hatori said. He was in the habit of eating late in the evening. With the nature of his practice it was easier to leave the time most people were free open and adjust his own schedule to suit. He wasn't aware that anyone had noticed.
"Good, good." Shigure had to be smiling. "What should I tell her to make?"
Hatori considered the cup of instant ramen he'd been about to make for dinner. A home-cooked meal, cooked by Honda-kun..."Anything is fine."
"Okay then! I'll tell her you're on your way. See you soon!"
"Yes," Hatori said and hung up the phone.
He stood and looked at himself in the mirror. He threaded his hand through his hair and decided to take off his slack tie. He ran a hand over his shirt to smooth out wrinkles and considered changing into a fresh shirt. But if he changed into a fresh shirt, it would just make his rumpled suit look worse. He looked at his watch and decided he didn't have time to change. He picked up his keys and jacket, flipped the lights off and walked out the door.
It was a strangely elating sensation knowing someone had been thinking about you, he reflected as he drove through the quiet streets. He was surprised at how pleased he felt to be invited over to Shigure's house. He was used to being the person called on when needed, not 'just because.' He wondered what Honda-kun would make for dinner.
He pulled into the drive and looked at the well-lit house. It looked very inviting after a very long day. For a moment he felt a pang jealousy because Shigure had been able to make his home such an oasis away from the Honke. He stepped out of the car and reflected that was mostly due to the happy accident that was Honda Tooru. He stepped up to the door and raised a hand to knock.
"I'm NOT GOING!"
"Baka Neko! We can't back out now!"
"There's no reason both of us have to go!"
"You're right. You can go alone."
"Me? Why should I go?"
"You were elected."
"So were you!"
Hatori regarded the door in consternation. This wasn't the homey environment he'd been imagining. He realized he'd dropped his hand without noticing. He raised it back up to the door.
Hatori's knuckle paused a hairsbreadth from the door.
"Come out now! Really! We can't wait much longer!"
His brow wrinkled at the anguish in Shigure's editor's voice. Something was not right here. He considered turning around and getting back in the car. But they were expecting him weren't they? Honda-kun had made dinner...
He knocked on the door.
"Yes!" He heard a patter of footsteps towards the door. "Just a minute, please!" The door slid open and Tooru looked up at him in surprise.
"Ha-san!" Shigure burst into the room. "You're here!"
"Eh? Hatori?" Kyou poked his head around the corner. Yuki looked over his shoulder; both were plainly surprised to see him.
Hatori stood on the doorstep and felt his mood darken. He'd known that Shigure was up to something. He felt foolish and at a loss. Everyone was staring at him. He looked at Shigure who looked absurdly pleased with himself.
Shigure opened his mouth to say something when a flying blue shape launched itself at him. "Sensei! The train leaves in 30 minutes! It's the last train! WE HAVE TO BE ON THAT TRAIN!" Mit-chan shook Shigure back and forth as tears ran down her face.
"Yes, yes, yes." Shigure agreed genially. "We'll leave in a minute."
Tooru turned from the door and ran into the other room. She returned carrying an overnight bag and a small wrapped bento. "I think everything you need is in here Shigure-san." She said worriedly. "I wish I'd known about Shigure-san's writer's conference earlier."
Hatori looked at Shigure. Conference?
"It was last minute. I wasn't going to go but Mit-chan insisted." Shigure smiled as he accepted his bag and bento. He sniffed at the bento. "Mmm-mmm. Honda-kun's handmade cooking!"
"You shouldn't have bothered making that pest anything!" Kyou sniffed.
"Ah!" Tooru smiled and ran back to the kitchen. She came out holding two more wrapped bentos. "I made some for Kyou-kun and Yuki-kun's overnight stay at school." The boys accepted them without hesitation.
"Ah...Honda-san shouldn't have bothered. I'm not going after all." Yuki smiled gently.
"You're not going?" Kyou snarled, "Why should you go get to stay home and I have to go?"
"Because you were elected by the students to protect our festival project." Yuki said calmly.
"But the teachers said that students could only stay over if the class representative stayed to chaperone!" Kyou pointed out in triumph. "So you have to go!"
Yuki shot Kyou a dark look of pure ice.
"But, but...It's such an honor that the class trusts you both so much." Tooru looked back and forth between them. "It-it would be rude not to go!"
"But...Honda-san..." Yuki said trying to think of some way to placate her. "With Shigure's conference...You'll be all alone here if we go."
"But you promised the teachers you would be there." She turned to Kyou, "And the students put their trust in you." She put on a brave face. "I don't mind being here by myself! I'll be fine! You can trust me!"
"It's not a matter of trust..." Yuki trailed off helplessly.
"Honda-kun won't be alone." Shigure said happily. He stepped over the sobbing Mit-chan who had fallen to his feet in supplication, counting down the minutes till the train left the station. "Ha-san has come over to house-sit. Haven't you, Ha-san?"
Everyone turned to look at the doorway where Hatori still stood. Now was his chance, he could leave with some shreds of his dignity intact and unmask Shigure for the manipulator he was. Though his face was still the same calm mask it always was he was absolutely furious inside. That damn dog!
"Oh, but..." Tooru took a step forward and clasped her hands together worriedly, "We can't ask Hatori-san to do that." She looked back and forth between the others in the hall, then back at the tall man in the doorway. "Hatori-san is so busy with his work. We can't inconvenience you that way."
"It's no trouble." The words left his lips before his mind had formed the thought.
"Fine then!" Shigure said cheerily. "Let's go Mit-chan. Don't dawdle, we don't want to miss the train." He shouldered his bag and sailed out the door.
Hatori stepped out of his way and inside the doorway automatically.
"Seeeennssseeeeiiiiii...." Mit-chan sobbed following him out the door.
"Well..." Kyou said reluctantly. "If Hatori is going to be here..."
Tooru went into the other room and produced two knapsacks. "The others will be expecting you."
"Thank you Honda-san." Yuki took both bags and tossed one without looking at Kyou. The cat narrowly avoided it striking him in the face by grabbing it out of the air. "We'd best get going." He shouldered his bag, nodded to Hatori and left.
"Kuso Nezumi." Kyou muttered, "Why do I have to spend the night with you?" He shot Hatori a warning look, and then looked at Tooru. "Night." He said and followed Yuki into the night. He paused on the doorstep and gave Hatori a hard look. His narrowed eyes slid back to Tooru's smiling face and he relaxed a bit. "See you tomorrow."
Tooru waved to them in the doorway. As they finally faded from sight she slid the door closed and turned around to face Hatori. She felt a bit odd about being all alone with him under such unexpected circumstances.
"Ah...Won't you come in?" She gestured to the living room.
Hatori realized he'd been standing and staring like a fool. Shigure was always putting him in such awkward positions. "Ah...Un." He took off his shoes and went to sit at the table.
"I'll get some tea." Tooru said and hurried into the kitchen.
Hatori sat at the table with a steaming cup of tea in front of him and something light and classical sounding playing on the radio. He took a sip of his tea and berated himself for being an idiot. As expected he had just been a convenient person to call when needed. He tried to stop himself from slipping into self-pity. This was just his role in the family. He should be used to it by now.
Tooru stepped into the doorway and looked at the stern man sitting at the table. His head was bowed as he looked into his teacup, his long bangs falling over his face. The slope of his shoulders was bent and his mouth was turned down. She bit her lip. The tall doctor was always hard to read but he didn't look happy. He looked tired and worn down. Shigure had said that his clinic had been busy lately, and he didn't have much help. She felt terrible for taking him out of his home and his well-earned rest.
"Ano...Hatori-san...." She said hesitantly. "Have you eaten yet?"
Hatori looked up and measured his words carefully. She didn't know that Shigure had promised a home cooked meal. She hadn't been the one to invite him over under false pretenses. "I had a late lunch."
Tooru clapped her hands delightedly. Here was something she could do for him for kindly staying over. She ducked back into the kitchen and came back out with a platter of onigiri. "I...I know it's not much...with everyone going to be out for the night I thought I'd make myself something light for dinner...but please have some." She smiled warmly.
Hatori felt something loosen in his chest. As always she looked so eager. "Thank you Honda-san." She set the platter down and sat on the other side of the table. They sat and ate in silence for a bit.
Tooru refilled Hatori's teacup without needing to be asked. "Is this enough, Hatori-san?" The onigiri had disappeared between them more quickly than she had expected.
"It's plenty, thank you." Hatori assured her. It had been better than the instant ramen he'd been planning to have.
The sound of a growling stomach filled the space between them.
Tooru bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling at the light flush that chased over Hatori's features.
"Hatori-san has been working so hard lately, you should eat more to keep your strength up." Tooru smiled as she stood. "Please wait just a moment."
Hatori followed her with his eyes then went to massage his temples. He supposed it was somewhat funny for a doctor to get health advice from a high schooler. It was a rather nice feeling however.
Tooru returned in moments setting a crock of stew in front of him. She sat down kitty corner to him and gave a small smile. "I'm sorry its just leftovers, but I hope you enjoy it."
Hatori nodded in thanks and sampled a bit. "It's very good." He said and meant it. Shigure was always rhapsodizing about Tooru's home cooking. He'd taken much of what he said as exaggeration...but if this was what 'leftovers' tasted like he'd have to revise his opinion.
Tooru watched Hatori eat and smiled. It was such a nice feeling to be useful, even if it was just providing leftovers. Shigure was always talking about how hard Hatori worked. He did look tired, and by the way he was quietly attacking his dinner he obviously hadn't been eating regularly.
Hatori sat back from the table with a satisfied sigh. He took a sip from his cooling tea and came back to reality slowly. Tooru's head was bent over some industriously over some sewing. Feeling his eyes on her she looked up with a smile.
"Are you finished?" She asked and put the sewing to the side.
"Yes, thank you."
She stood and started to gather up the dishes. "Ah...Let me help." Hatori started to rise from the table.
"Oh no!" Tooru said firmly. "There are only a couple, and Hatori-san has had a long day. This will only take me a minute." She sailed into the kitchen. "Would you like some more tea?"
Hatori assured her he wouldn't and found himself with suddenly with nothing to do. He wasn't used to being idle. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. At home he'd be going over his reports from the day, and planning what he'd do with his next. He sighed, ran a hand through is hair and felt comfortably full. He listened to Tooru's rattling in the kitchen over the soft music playing on the radio. Shigure was a lucky dog if he got to have this kind of atmosphere every day.
Tooru came in from the kitchen with a slice of cake. She stopped in the doorway. Hatori leaned up against the wall, sound asleep. She went back into the kitchen and put the cake into the fridge. She went to the linen closet and pulled out a blanket. She carefully tiptoed into the living room and looked at the sleeping dragon.
His face was slack and peaceful. Hatori was never very animated but in sleep he was his stern face was softened. His hair fell over his face and he breathed in and out deeply. She kneeled next to him and just looked at him for a bit. There were hollows beneath his eyes. Even while he was sleeping he looked tired.
Tooru's heart went out to him. It didn't seem anyone was looking after him. She bit her lip and looked around the room. She wondered if she should wake him. Deciding against it, she carefully wrapped the blanket around him instead. Unable to fight her maternal instinct, she smoothed his hair back away from his face.
Hatori, like most of his family, was very attractive she thought. It wasn't always obvious when he was next to the flashy beauty of Ayame or Shigure's playful handsomeness...but Hatori's attractiveness was one of quiet strength. She smiled and sat back on her knees. She could see why everyone was so willing to leave things to him. There was just something about him that told you that you could depend on him.
"It must be hard being so dependable." She thought. She looked back at the mound of aprons she was sewing. The class was going to wear them for café they'd created for the festival. She sighed and got back to work. They weren't going to sew themselves.
Hatori stirred. He had a crick in his neck from falling asleep sitting up. He massaged it and sighed. Had he fallen asleep at his desk again? The blanket slid down as he moved. He blinked at it sleepily. Who had covered him in a blanket? He sat up and remembered where he was.
He looked around him in consternation. He'd fallen asleep at the table? How embarrassing. Tooru must have covered him with the blanket. She was so considerate, but he wished she had woken him instead. He looked at his watch sleepily. What time was it?
A soft sound caught his attention. Tooru had her head nestled in a fall of snowy fabric. On one side a large pile of folded aprons sat, on the other a few un-hemmed aprons that were obviously waiting for her ready needle. She'd fallen sound asleep in the midst of her work. He looked at his watch again. It was past 3 in the morning. How late had she planned to work on those? And what in the world did she need with so many aprons? He shook his head and stood.
Carefully so that he wouldn't wake her he collected the teacups and kettle and brought them into the kitchen. He washed them out trying to make as little noise as possible. He placed them on the drying rack and walked back into the living room.
He paused a moment and studied the girl sleeping on the table, her hair spread about her like a veil. He was surprised at how plain she seemed. He'd always thought Tooru a pretty girl, but now lacking her usual smile and animation she seemed much more...ordinary. She sighed deeply in her sleep. It's amazing how much difference a person's spirit can make he reflected. It was Tooru's personality and concern for others that really made her shine.
Hatori was tempted to cover her with the blanket she'd used on him so that he wouldn't have to disturb her. She looked very peaceful. But she'd regret sleeping in that position come morning. Her back would be in a mess of knots. He kneeled down and shook her shoulder lightly.
"Ha-ha-ha!" She laughed in her sleep and slid off the table. "ha." She whispered softly and curled into a ball.
His hand still in the air as if reaching out for Tooru's phantom shoulder Hatori looked at her with a sweat dotted brow. What the heck was that? Laughing in your sleep? Who actually did that?
He sat back on his knees and looked at the girl again. She was so soundly asleep. He wished he didn't have to wake her, but he couldn't just leave her there. He reached out to shake her again.
"Honda-kun." He whispered, his deep voice more a rumble than actual words. "It's time to go to bed. You shouldn't sleep here, you'll get a cold." He was amused to hear the old adage from his own lips. But it wasn't as if it wasn't true. The floor was drafty.
Tooru's only response was to make a little noise and to drift deeper into sleep. Hatori sighed and contemplated his options. He could leave her here, and just make sure to cover her well. He looked at her again. She looked so small.
Well, if he was careful...he should be able to...
Making his decision, he shifted his legs underneath him and put his arms beneath her. Making sure of his grip he stood with her in his arms. He was surprised at how light she was. He looked down at her head nestled in his elbow. She hardly stirred. Holding her carefully away from his body he carried her upstairs.
He laid her out on her bed and looked at her in consternation. Should he let her sleep in her housedress like that? He didn't think it would harm anything to leave her that way. He did take a moment to remove her socks, laying them carefully over the back of her chair.
He looked at the bed Shigure had bought her and sighed. What had he been thinking? The thing was huge, it wasn't made for a single girl, it was made for two people. He sighed. He knew what Shigure had thought when he'd bought that bed. 'A pretty high school girl sleeping in my house.' She was lucky Yuki and Kyou were in the house or who knew what he would have tried.
He shook his head and cautiously pulled the bedcover and blankets down beneath her. He had them down to her feet when she startled him by moving. She rolled to her side, and curled up muttering in her sleep. He made to pull the blankets up and paused to look at her again. He was struck by the sudden urge to crawl into bed with her.
It wasn't that he desired her...or to be honest with himself, there may have been some of that deep down...but it was just the sudden want to be close to someone again. That wonderful casual feeling of waking next to someone, he missed it. It had been a long time since he'd had it. He closed his eyes and waited for the familiar pain to strike in his chest.
He opened his eyes and looked at the young woman in the bed. Feeling an uncharacteristic tenderness, he gently pulled the coverlet and blankets up to her chin. He tucked and smoothed the blankets around her. She sighed happily in her sleep. Feeling more than a little like a mother hen, he pulled her hair out of her face and laid it back across the pillow. His knuckle brushed against her cheek and she made a little noise. He hurriedly pulled his hand away and wondered what he was doing.
He turned away from the bed quickly walked to the doorway. It wasn't until he hit the hallway that he paused to wonder where he was intended to sleep tonight. He was completely unprepared to stay the night. He hadn't even brought his toothbrush.