It was growing darker, but the clouds had receded to show a glorious red sun and orange sky. It was a typical, colorful autumn evening.

Tobi sat on the edge of his bed and slipped his shoes on; he'd already put on his jacket and gloves, needing them for the cold evening weather. It was getting down to the forties at night these days.

"Hey Tobi," Sadami pushed open the door without even knocking, "Chiharu and I are gonna— Where are you going?" He said, raising a brow.

Tobi sighed; he really wished he wasn't allowed to make his own decisions anymore, especially now when there was no turning back, "I'm going to go do this stupid interview for Miss Creepy's project so she'll fuck off. She was begging me since it's for her schoolwork. All I need is about an hour."

"Wow, you're actually going out to deal with someone… you feeling okay?"

Right on cue, Tobi sniffled, "Not really. I think I'm getting a cold. Maybe Creep will get one too."

"Well, I'm proud of you for going to handle this yourself… but I'm waiting to get a message from Chiharu saying she's outside. We're gonna hang out for my birthday."

Tobi wasn't as happy as he wished he felt, but he was able to nod, "Cool." He stood up — he saw Sadami eyeing him oddly, "What?"

"Are you taller?"

He sure hoped not, "I've always been taller than you."

"Yeah, I still need a booster seat." Sadami grinned, seeing how tense his friend was about having to leave the house, "Hey, what should I do if Chiharu messages me and you're not back?"

"Chikako will be fine; she knows no to answer the door for anyone. I think she's capable of being on her own for half an hour if it comes to that." Tobi made sure his jacket was snug; he pulled on his petrol-blue jeans to stretch them out and get rid of the creases.

He started to wonder why he cared about looking nice and started towards the door, "I'll be back soon. If Chiharu shows up, just head out." He smirked and lightly punched his shoulder, "Have fun."

Sadami rubbed his sore spot; Tobi still underestimated his own strength, even if he was playful, "I'll try."

They followed each other to the living room and Tobi said, "I'll tell Chikako where…" his voice trailed off; lying asleep on the couch with Howl clutched to her chest, folded in her arms, was the blonde herself. The pup lied restfully on her chest as she breathed softly, causing him to move up and down.

"Just like a sleeping princess, huh?" Sadami snorted, reaching into his pocket for his phone. Tobi sneered and went for the door. Sadami opened up the camera to take a photo, "Good luck."

"See you in a while." He replied. He couldn't help but take another peek at the resting children before he closed the door behind him.

Despite himself, Tobi grinned about it before moving down the hall.

But then he returned his focus to the situation; out-creeping Hanna Kappel. Whatever stunts she pulled, he'd rebound them two-fold… at least he'd try to.

Once outside, he felt a light drizzle that was left over from a storm. People were walking around with their umbrellas or in a hurry to get home in case it poured again. Perfect time for Tobi to not be noticed; he pulled his hood over his head and walked down the road, hands in his coat pockets.

Sadami tapped his foot in unbearable anxiety, waiting for his phone to buzz in his pocket so he could hurry outside. Just to be safe, and in case Tobi wasn't back by the time she woke, the redhead shook Chikako's knee, "Hey," she seemed to jerk, a natural response to suddenly being touched, but then she calmly rubbed one eye and moaned.

"What?" She started to sit upright and stretch; Howl had jumped off of her chest and to the ground, still drowsy.

"Chiharu's gonna text me in a bit, we're going out."

Chikako nodded, her grogginess having the better of her, "Cool..." Her voice gently rasped, "Cool." She stretched her back, "I don't know why I conked out; Howl wouldn't let me move."

"Everyone deserves a good cat nap every now and then." He chuckled.

"Where's Tobi?"

Sadami's eyes went wide, "Oh yeah; listen, he left to go tell his stalker to beat it."

Now Chikako's own eyes were large and she was now full of vigor and surprise, "Tobi went out?"

"It's not like he's a hermit crab. He's just… you know, selective about when he leaves the house." Sadami tried to explain. He then stood up for no reason; his anxious thoughts now puzzling his motor skills he walked slowly around the table.

"You think he'll be okay?"

"I'm sure he will." And then a vibration in his pocket; he gratefully reached for it and only pulling it half-way out did he read a text from Chiharu reading 'Outside.'

"I gotta go now," he started, "but Tobi will be back soon; probably before me." He saw the nervous look in her eyes; little did he know that this wasn't the first time she'd been left alone anywhere, "You think you'll be okay?"

"I—"

"Because if you want, I can have Chiharu come up and we can all hang out here!" He insisted cheerfully.

"Relax, I'll be okay." Her odd tone was masked by her pearly smile. Something seemed off about her behavior, but Sadami didn't want to delay his time out of the house and not thinking of his father — he told her Tobi would be home soon and he left.

Chikako knelt down and saw Howl lying back asleep on the floor with his toy. She sighed ruefully; she too had been thinking about Asa, but she didn't need both herself and Sadami feeling so depressed on what should be a fun event for him.

...

As Tobi waited outside of Afternoon Tea Room, it became dark. He'd expected so; it was a decent walk to get there and he was sure he couldn't rely on Miss Creepy to be punctual.

He didn't quite catch the time passing, nor the cold wind stinging his face and the people not noticing him as they walked by. He'd been singing At the End of the Day in his head. He hadn't been able to get that song to stop playing repeatedly for some reason and he figured he may as well enjoy it.

Tobi remembered first hearing that song on his mother's CD. He went back to the time they actually watched it together — he'd come home one day in ninth grade and she left him a note saying she recorded a surprise for him on the living room television. Lo and behold, it had been 2012's Les Misérables. Tobi didn't watch it right away; he waited for Motoka so he could see it for the first time with her.

They were both in awe, as she kept reminding him that the cast had sung all of the songs live on camera. No pre-recorded lip synching, like an actual play. It was also quite amusing for Tobi to watch his mother coo over Hugh Jackman, who Tobi was so used to seeing as Wolverine. He had no clue how incredibly he could truly sing until watching him do it with his own eyes.

Listening to the music was one thing, but seeing the thespians give it their all was something truly magical. His peaceful daze was put to on hold when a familiar someone poked his shoulder, "Look who showed up!" She exclaimed like she was sincerely surprised.

Tobi's crimson eyes narrowed and he pierced through her with them, "Listen, I don't want any more bullshit from you. Whatever project or game you're working on, I'll cooperate this once. After you ask me your few questions, leave me alone."

Hanna was unfazed, hardly intimidated, "Alright." She shrugged, "Now are we going inside or not."

Tobi hadn't expected that, "Ah— okay…" What now? Maybe she really didn't have any hidden motives against him. Perhaps this would be easier than he assumed.

"Aren't you going to hold the door for me?"

Or it would be just as irritating as he imagined, "You don't know how to open a door?"

"I was thinking you'd be the chivalrous type." She held out an arm to the door, but Tobi leered at her.

"Me. Chivalrous. That's funny." He said without any hint of emotion.

Hanna scoffed and folded her arms. Tobi didn't have the patience to interact with a child. He played along.

"Fine, here." He opened up the door, "After you, Madam." He growled.

"Why thank you!" She skipped in, "Such a gentleman." They already had the counter server's attention. Tobi wouldn't pretend to be in a good mood for anyone; though he admitted that free tea was something he was always up for — Hanna had promised to pay. This wasn't a date, after all.

It was warmer inside, but the lack of fresh air made it harder for Tobi to breathe again. He sniffled once he entered.

"How many?" The greeter asked. Tobi kept his head low, looking around the small café.

"Two." Hanna said. At least she was being considerate enough to do all the talking for him. Though, nothing else she had been doing was 'considerate' in any way. He refused to think anything nice of her.

"This way." The woman smiled as she grabbed two menus. Tobi followed behind her and Hanna stayed close behind.

She leaned towards Tobi's ear, "Nice ass." She whispered quietly.

Tobi scrunched his nose at her, "Are you serious?" He responded in a hushed voice. They took their seats and their menus. Hanna kept on her shit-eating smile.

"What? It's a compliment. Is the rest of your body that tight?"

"Are you always this obnoxious? Or am I getting special treatment?" Tobi rumbled, going down the list.

"I can't help it. When I see something I like, I let them know." Hanna swept some of her hair behind her shoulder, "Now, what do you recommend?"

"I don't know. I never come here." He said, just as curious about the choices as she was. He sniffled again and Hanna put the menu down.

"Alright, now then. There are a few things I want to ask you."

"It better be quick—"

"What can I get for the both of you?" The waiter approached them, making Tobi fidget and turn away.

"Um…" She sang, "I think I'll have the Sencha Superior." She slid her menu to the server.

Tobi did the same, "I'll have the Hōjicha."

"Alright, I'll bring them in a moment." After she left to put their orders in, Hanna raised a brow.

"What's Hōjicha? I've never heard of that kind of tea."

"It's pretty common here," he explained, "it's sort of an 'autumn-themed' tea; it's roasted instead of steamed so that the leaves have a brownish tint instead of green." Hanna blinked, surprised he knew how to explain the answer right away, "I looked it up once when I was bored and wanted to know how they made it." He admitted

"You want to know how to make tea?" She chortled.

Tobi grinned, "I guess you can say I want to know everything — I love learning things."

"So you're studious?" Hanna smiled, "Academic?"

"Eh…" he thought about it, "I wouldn't say academic. I'm more pragmatic than philosophical… at least I think I am. And if you mean school-wise, I did well there, but I really excelled in what I was interested in. I don't just look up random facts I'm not curious about, but I am a fountain of useless information I'll never use in life."

"You're different than me then; I don't want to know something unless it's useful."

Tobi had no idea, but he was being just as comfortable as he was around Sadami. He was uncomfortable during any intelligent conversation — this was the kind of environment he could find himself in… and he was only realizing this at this very moment.

Their cups came, warm and steaming. The server left sweeteners there on the table for them.

"Anyways, enough talk." He took his gloves off so he could feel the heat from the cup, "What's this interview you needed so desperately?"

"Well, it's not a formal 'interview.' It's just a basic what's life here like, the cultures and such… but I'm having more fun talking about you."

"Tch." Tobi snorted cynically, "I'm not interesting."

"Oh really?"

Tobi blew into his tea, "Mhm." He slurped. She may as well be talking someone with brown eyes, as she hadn't mentioned his mutation once. For once, however, he wasn't waiting for her too. He truly felt normal.

"Sure you are. You're handsome and smart. How often does a girl win that prize?"

Tobi choked on his tea as he swallowed. He coughed it down his stuffed throat. Hanna's sneer wasn't one of kindness, not like Chikako's or Sadami's. It was one that knew how to use her charm and unique-looking face.

He coughed one more time. He didn't want to go back to being aggressive so quickly, "Enough with the flirting shit. I'm not into any of that."

"I'm just telling you facts. Whoever wins you heart will be the luckiest girl on planet earth."

'Flattery,' he thought bitterly. Now he was starting to see why she was so charming. She'd been stalking him; she knew what he liked and what he would enjoy talking about. She underestimated how quickly he'd put it together. She just programmed herself to appeal to him for whatever reason.

"What do you want?" He asked.

"What do you—?"

"Cut it out, alright?" He calmly stated, "I almost forgot all that bullshit you went through to learn everything about me. As if you actually found me interesting."

"Of course I do! That's why I stalked you." Now she was playing his game. Tobi wouldn't let some lecherous outsider win this fight.

"You did say you don't care to learn anything unless it's useful, didn't you?"

Hanna seemed to swallow. She stiffened in her seat.

'Gotcha.'

"Well? What do you have to know about me that'll benefit you?" He was cross. Hanna kept her stare away from him and at the few other customers. Having no answer meant he'd won, but Tobi had to know what she wanted to do with him. If she intended to bring him or his friends harm or not, "Tell me the truth."

Hanna scowled; what was she to say now? She didn't have enough time to come up with a decent lie.

Tobi didn't even finish his tea. He stood up and grabbed his gloves. Hanna sat there angrily, but Tobi didn't care what others thought he was doing to her. He was the one being stalked, after all.

"You promised to leave me alone, will you now?"

She looked up at the statuesque man with a childish pout. She'd failed. "Yes."

While her words were freeing for Tobi, she'd stung herself to the core.