Chapter 1

He couldn't move.

Hatori could do nothing but relive the moment when Akito had attacked him and nearly attacked Kana…and he wanted to protect her, but couldn't. Tohru was being held by the most vicious and vindictive person that he'd ever known and he was frozen.

How had he not leapt forward when Shigure and Yuki had? How had he not tried to help them? Help her?

One of his legs was ready to spring his body forward should the need arise, but the rest of his body was still.


He couldn't see her face, but he could hear her heartbeat…and it was steady.

She was not panicking, she was not frightened; she was as steady as a mountain in a storm. Unmovable. Unshakeable. Solid. How was that possible? He knew that Akito's grip was harsh and unforgiving, and that he would have hurt her if the other two had not lunged forward when they did.

After everything had died down, Hatori found that he still hadn't moved. He was still in the same place as before…still watching her.

The other two left the room and for a brief moment, he and Tohru were alone.

She walked over to him and knelt down next to him, leveling her eyes with his, her blue eyes more serious than he'd ever seen them before.

"Thank you," she whispered. The words were so quiet he could barely hear them, even though she was right next to him, her body mere centimeters from touching his own, her stocking-covered knees bent and sticking out from under the hem of her skirt.

Hatori looked at her in confusion, turning his head slightly so he could see her properly as she was on his left side.

"What for?" he asked, honestly confused.

A faint smile touched the corner of her mouth and she reached up a hand and placed it on his face so that it was gently holding his jaw and he was so surprised that he didn't move, and instead only stared straight back at her, waiting for her to say something more.

"You didn't try to help. Thank you for that, Hatori…"

He noticed she left off the formal address and he looked at her again, trying to figure out what she meant, but then she explained.

"I mean, it's nice that Yuki and Shigure wanted to help me and keep me safe from Akito, but he never would have hurt me any more than you could heal me…" Hatori blinked, shocked by what he was hearing. "…I was never afraid of him; only afraid for him because no one had ever tried to understand what he was going through and that he was suffering all alone…"

She paused for a moment, gently rubbing her thumb on his cheek and he subtly leaned into it.

"It…It's nice to know that someone knows that I can stand on my own. Thank you, Hatori, for not trying to protect me."

With those words, she stood up and walked out of the room.

He couldn't move.

Instead, he stared after her for a long moment, and then in one fluid movement of his body, much like a dragon rising from a crouch, he sprung forward and in two long, elegant strides was out the door, and in two more strides had caught up to her and his hand reached out and grasped her wrist, pulling her back against his chest, wrapping his arms around her, not caring if he should transform, so long as he could show her for a brief second how much her words had meant to him.

Hatori heard Tohru's gasp of surprise as she was pulled against him, and he felt her tense up, as did he, waiting for the inevitable moment…

…but it didn't come.

They stood outside, his arms wrapped firmly around her shoulders, holding her tightly, and slowly both of them relaxed into the other, and a soft sigh escaped their lips at nearly the same moment as they relished in the feeling of being secure.

Finally, Tohru whispered… "How…?"

He shook his head and gently tightened his hold for a brief second.

"I…I don't know."

They stood there for several seconds, savoring the moment. And then, ever so slowly, they pulled away. Tohru turned around as she did and caught Hatori's gaze, searching for an answer in his steady, unwavering look.

The doctor held her look and, still holding the wrist that he'd never let go of, he slowly pulled her towards him, his head lowering…

..but the moment was broken as Shigure appeared around the corner, and they snapped away from each other as though they'd been stung, Hatori's fingers quickly letting go of her wrist, leaving Tohru feeling slightly colder than before, missing the warmth of the older man's firm, yet gentle grip.

"Tohru! Hatori! Are you coming or not?"

Tohru flashed Shigure a bright smile, though forced, and nodded, faking carelessness.

"Oh, yes! We're coming Shigure-san!"

She did not look back as she ran to catch up to Shigure, but her eyes betrayed her as she started to turn the corner around the edge of the house and caught a glimpse of Hatori as he followed in his usual stoic way behind the rest of them.

His eyes were cast down towards his feet and his hands were clasped behind his back and she felt a brief pang of sadness, but then her head snapped back in front of her as she heard a small, enthusiastic voice yelling to her.

"Toh-ru! Toh-ru! How did everything go?"

She smiled as Momijii ran to her, his arms outstretched, and Tohru let him jump in them, even as she heard Hatori say the young zodiac's name in a scolding manner at his disregard for the rules. What could it hurt? She couldn't affect them anymore, as she had just seen with Hatori.

However, the moment her arms wrapped around him, she suddenly, though it should have been expectedly, found a rabbit in her arms.

"Hiii, Toh-ru!" said the yellow rabbit in her arms. "How did everything go?"

She gave Momijii an affectionate and loving stroke of her hand over his head and ears and gave him a slightly forced smile.

"Well, it could have gone better, but I still think it was a good idea."

"Yes, it was," said Hatori's voice just over her right shoulder and she looked up in surprise to see him standing right next her, the corner of his mouth faintly turned upward in approval and she felt herself flush at his close proximity.

Hatori then looked seriously down at Momijii.

"You know better. You need to stop doing that, understood?"

Momijii whined and Tohru couldn't hold in the giggle at how his zodiac form looked when he did so. His ears flopped to either side of his head and his little rabbit eyes gave an absolute pathetic expression of disappointment, and she had to lift one hand to cover her mouth as she giggled, trying not to incur any of Hatori's agitation.

"Awwwww….Ha'ri is no fun! I just wanted to hug Tohru, and I'm not even out in front of a lot of people! I'm even on the Sohma property! Everyone already knows here, so what does it matter if I do?"

Hatori looked as though he was about to say something, but Shigure butted in.

"He has a valid point, Tori! Besides, who wouldn't want to hug my little flower after seeing such a fearless display as she showed earlier?"

Momijii's little ears twitched up and forward, turning into a rabbit's expression of interest.

"What do you mean, Shigure-san? What did Tohru do?"

Tohru gaped for a moment, slightly upset at the fact that Shigure had put her on the spot, but Hatori was the one to come to her rescue this time, not Shigure or Yuki, and he quickly covered for her, knowing that she would most likely not want the younger zodiac member to know what had happened.

"That is best left between the people who were in the room," he said, giving a pointed look at Shigure, who abashedly ran a hand through his hair.

"But," he continued, "If Tohru wishes to tell you, than she may, but only if she feels like it, alright?"

He glanced at Tohru to make sure that what he had said was okay with her and she gave him a relieved smile of thanks and nodded. She looked back down to find Momijii pouting and gently rubbed her hand over the back of the little rabbit, smoothing down his fur.

"Don't worry, Momijii…everything's okay. Maybe I'll tell you a bit later, okay?"

At that, the rabbit's ears perked up.

"Okay!" He then hopped out of her arms and raced in circles around her feet, and then just as he took off across the Sohma compound he said, "Catch me, Tohru!" and laughed, and she let out a small laugh of her own, and ran enthusiastically after him, leaving Yuki, Shigure and Hatori standing alone.

Shigure laughed at their antics, while Hatori merely seemed passive and Yuki simply stared at the place where Tohru had just been.

Tohru and Momijii suddenly reappeared from around the corner of a building and the little one raced on, while Tohru stopped for a moment to catch her breath.

Shigure grinned and said, "You'll never catch him on your own, you know, my little flower…come give me a hug and I'll catch him for you!"

Bent over at the waist with her hands still on her knees, she looked up at him, tilting her head slightly, seemingly confused for a moment, and then a broad smile crossed her lips as she realized what he friend was saying.

She quickly stood up all the way and said, "Okay!" and then ran to him and wrapped her arms around him and laughed when she suddenly had a wet tongue bathing her face and a paw on each of her shoulders.

"Go, Shigure-san! Catch Momijii for me!"

He woofed and dropped to all fours, his tail wagging furiously, and said, "Your wish is my command, my little flower!"

He then took off after Momijii and they then heard a voice say, "Hey! No fair, Tohru!" There was a scuffle, and they then heard, "Shigure-san, that's not fair!" There was then the sound of another scuffle and then a giggle escaped Tohru as they heard, "Hey, Momijii…! You're cheating!"

"You cheated first!"

"Yes, but I was helping Tohru!"

"Well, I was playing with Tohru first!"

The sounds diminished as they scampered further away from them over the large expanse of the property, and Tohru turned to Yuki and Hatori, and then saw the slightly strained look on Yuki's face. She then became worried and Hatori watched as a faint line appeared between her eyes as she focused on her close friend and housemate.

"Um…Yuki? Are, are you okay?"

He made an absentminded humming sound and then nodded.

"Yeah. I…I guess I'm just tired. I think I'll head on home," he finished, turning to head to the front gate, and Tohru put out a hand in protest.

"Wait! Don't go…I mean, it's not even…wait a second, what time is it anyway?"

Hatori looked up at the sun and said, "About six o'clock, I would say," and at his words Tohru looked surprised.

"Oh! Is it already that late? I should go home and make dinner for everyone," she said, heading to follow Yuki, but Yuki stopped her with his left hand on her shoulder and gave her a faint smile, different from his expression a moment before.

"No, Tohru, it's alright…we still have the miso soup left over from last night. Kyo and I will be fine for the evening; you just enjoy yourself, alright?"

And with that, he turned and walked out of the compound, leaving her and Hatori all alone.

Part 1/?