Chapter 3

He was taking her to a place that he hadn't been since he had been with Kana. It was a small, out of the way place, but it had delicious food that was almost as good as Tohru's cooking, and he was hoping that she would enjoy it as much as he did.

He pulled up to the restaurant and slid into one of the preferred parking places, specially reserved for people such as himself; those with high rank in both name and wealth.

Tohru looked on in shock at the nice place that they had arrived at and suddenly felt woefully underdressed.

Hatori saw her discomfort as she stepped out of the car and he quickly reassured her.

"You look just fine, Miss Hon-Tohru. Do not worry. They will serve us regardless of what we are wearing. They know the Sohma family well, and they will let you dine with me as they know that you are my guest and they would not wish to upset such a modest contributor to their private industry."

She looked at him in surprise. No one was ever able to read her moods so quickly. How had he known that she was nervous about that?

She walked up the walkway in silence, but then had to ask, "H-Hatori…how did you know…"

He finished her question for her.

"That you were uncomfortable with your appearance?" She nodded. "Simple. The way you looked at the building and then glanced down at your shoes. It's a habit born of being self-conscious about one's appearance." He saw she was uncomfortable again, so he reassured her. "There is nothing wrong with it…on the contrary, Tohru, you look quite nice."

And she did.

Even though she wore stockings, they went high enough up her leg to disappear under the hem of her simple, cream colored skirt, which was complemented by a nicely fitted white blouse. Her hair was pulled back by a clip, showing off the lovely curve of her neck as disappeared beneath the western styled collar.

Though her clothes were simple, they were modest and flattering…and they looked nice on her.

On anyone else it might have seemed too simple, but they suited her just fine.

Hatori quickly pulled his mind from his wanderings and stopped in front of the large, mahogany desk and politely asked for a table for two.

The woman discreetly glanced at Tohru and a faint pink tinge appeared on Tohru's cheeks. To dispel any misgivings, Hatori gently placed his hand on her lower back and ushered her ahead of him, showing the woman that Tohru was to be treated with as much respect as one of the Sohmas might.

The server turned her eyes away and led them to a private table that was always kept on reserve.

After they were seated, Hatori watched intently with his one good eye as Tohru picked up the menu in front of her and began to look at the food.

A few seconds later she said, "H-Hatori? Uhm, I don't see any prices…did they type the menu wrong?"

And that was when he realized that she'd never been to a place such as this before, and he quickly amended his way of thinking and acting. Shigure had forgotten one thing when he'd suggested to Hatori to take Tohru out to dinner. To remember that she was more than just a friend to the Sohmas; she was family. And he needed to treat her as such.

He reached for her menu and pointed at a dish that he knew to be exceptionally good.

"It's not a misprint, Tohru. It is simply a restaurant where you don't have to worry about price." He tapped his finger against the name one more time. "You should try this. It is exceptionally good and should suit your usual tastes."

She simply nodded and when the waiter came to their table she requested her order so politely and with such a sincere tone, that it was obvious to Hatori that it took the waiter off guard.

In this kind of place, a waiter was used to being talked down to, and so he was obviously taken aback when he was treated in such a cordial manner.

He looked even more shocked when Tohru said, "Thank you," as he took both of their menus from them. He left their table in a sort of haze and Hatori couldn't hold in the uncharacteristic chuckle at the man's reaction to her sweet and genuine nature.

Tohru looked over at him in surprise when she heard him let out a low laugh.

"What's so funny, Hatori?"

She was proud of herself that she hadn't stumbled over his first name again but was then confused when he gave her a smile, even though the corners of his mouth hadn't moved, and said, "I think you've just made that waiter's day."

Her brow furrowed slightly, and she glanced back to see if she could catch a glimpse of the man who was serving them, but he had disappeared around the corner.

Oh, well, she thought to herself. Maybe when he comes back I'll be able to ask him where he got such a nice haircut. I need to find one for Kyo, Yuki, and Shigure…they all need one soon.

Hatori watched her as she glanced back and he smiled in his head at her actions. The girl never thought of herself once, of that he was certain. She was probably wondering where the young man had had his hair so finely cut; he knew that the three boys she lived with were all in desperate need of one.

When she looked back, he raised an eyebrow at her and simply said, "Haircuts for the boys?"

Her eyes widened in shock.

"How did you know?"

He gave her an actual smile this time, his lips curling upwards and making him seem more approachable.

"Well, as I've seen them all recently, I know that Shigure is looking dogged, Kyo like a mangy cat, and Yuki's hair is becoming more and more like a rat's nest by the day," he said, playfully using terms that she would recognize immediately, and he was pleased when she let out a small laugh. Not a giggle like a schoolgirl, but an actual laugh, and in that instant he could see the young woman that she truly was. Her eyes shone and she shook her head at him, tilting her face slightly.

"You know, Hatori," she said, giving him an almost playful look, reminding him of how she acted around Kyo. "Are you sure that you haven't been doing Shigure-san's writing for him?"

He shook his head.

"No. I don't have the energy for it that he does, the wild puppy that he is."

She shook her head this time, disagreeing with him.

"I don't know, Hatori…you're certainly smart enough for it. After all," she added shyly, ducking her head and breaking their eye contact. "You are a doctor…"

Her finger came up to the table and began to absently trace circles along the edge of the patterned table covering, and then was following the golden leaf design along the trim, and he couldn't help but be fascinated for a moment at how delicate her fingers were. He followed their delicate line up to her wrist, which was just as finely boned, and when he realized where his eyes were leading him he silently chastised himself…

…but then wondered why he was.

She was very mature for her age, and he had always been young at heart. He had been forced to grow up quickly because of his curse, so he had an inner part of him that longed to simply take off and be as carefree as his cousins were, but he had never been able to because of his responsibility to Akito and to the Sohma family.

He suddenly longed to reach across the table, grasp her hand, and spirit the two of them out of the restaurant and down the street, letting their feet take them to who knows where.

But, of course, that wasn't what was expected of Hatori Sohma, so he kept the impulse inside, pressed down, and instead watched her take the waiter off guard once more as she accepted her water from him with another "Thank you," and then registered what was happening next too slowly…

…the waiter's hand had started to shake when she'd thanked him the second time and when he'd gone to give Hatori his own water, the glass slipped from his hand…

…and now Hatori found himself drenched in icy cold water, with ice cubes sliding down the front of his shirt.

No, he thought to himself. Not in front of Tohru…

He knew that if he didn't get his reaction immediately under his control, he might ruin his reputation, so he quickly stood up, pushing himself away from the table in one fluid motion, about to excuse himself to go to the bathroom but at the same time accidentally brushed into a female patron walking by their' table.

He didn't think anything of it, but then felt a familiar tingle along his spine…

No. This couldn't be happening. He was cured…wasn't he?

Immediately, Tohru saw what was about to happen and stood up and grabbed his wrist and pulled him around the table back towards the employee area, pulling down on his arm to hide him behind the counter.

In a flash, he was no longer in human form, but laying a sea of cloth.

Tohru quickly retrieved him and pulled out a glass of water and gently placed him in it, and then ducked out from behind the counter and stammered out, "S-Sorry! He ran to the b-bathroom," and she motioned to the door that was luckily just on the other side of the employee counter.

She kicked his clothes behind her, hiding them, and then gave a sheepish smile, hiding the glass behind her back.

The waiter immediately began to apologize profusely, but she cut him off.

"It's not a big deal! J-Just a little water, that's all! He j-just needs to dry off his shirt," she finished, waving a hand at him and slowly inching back towards the bathroom. "So, I-I'll just help him out, al-alright?"

The waiter, baffled, nodded, and then turned around, scratching his head, and Tohru used that moment to push open the bathroom door and pushed Hatori's clothes inside, closing the door behind her, locking it. She let out a whoosh of air and slid down to the floor, the cup in her hands.

"I'm sorry, Hatori," she mumbled, looking forlorn. "It was really nice anyway…"

And then she felt a slight shudder in the glass and she realized that he must be turning back…

Quickly, she pulled him out of the glass and placed him on the floor and then just as she heard the rushing sound that accompanied all of the Sohma's transformations, she remembered something vitally important.

But then it was too late.

And suddenly she found herself standing in a small bathroom alone with a very, very unclothed Hatori…

Part 3/?