If I Could - Chapter Eight
When Kohana woke, she noticed at once that she was no longer on
the floor of the kendo hall. So far, so good.
Of course, that all depended on where she was, who had brought
her there, and who had seen her being brought there.
Perturbed, she opened an eye long enough to discover that it was
far too bright, wherever she was, and that her head hurt. It wasn't
a migraine, though, and thank goodness for that. As she was working
up the nerve to open her eyes again, she heard Saionji's voice.
"You're awake." There was no mockery in his voice; it
was hesitant, and she decided that he must still be unsure of how
to deal with her.
"Yes," she said, keeping her eyes shut. "Where am
"Open your eyes."
She frowned. "I tried. It's too bright."
There was a rustle of cloth and a click, and then he said, "Try
Blessed, soothing shadows. "Thank you." She was silent
a moment, and then laughed ruefully. "I think this is the politest
conversation we've ever had."
He grunted noncommittally. She couldn't tell exactly what time
it was, but it was much later than she'd expected, because the light
that slanted down under the shutters on the window was fading. Near
sunset. Kohana tried to sit up, restrained her hiss of pain, and
then tried again and succeeded.
Saionji was seated near the bed. This must be his room; a katana
was proudly displayed on the wall, and other than the various little
carvings scattered about, the room was sterile.
She'd been right to think that he was hesitant; he was still looking
at her as if he didn't quite know how she'd gotten there or what
she was doing there and whether she was dangerous or not. Glancing
down, she realized that she was wearing a blue shirt she'd never
seen before. "This must be yours."
"And this would be your room."
They looked at each other for a while, neither one sure of what
to say. That was quite the oddity for her; she didn't think she'd
ever really been at a loss for words before. Well, that night at
the dueling arena might count, but she hadn't been trying to have
a conversation with someone then. She decided that it would be best
to say anything before the silence crystallized. "I have no
idea what to say, so I'll just list off a few of the things most
people would reject in a situation like this. I'm sorry, thank you,
who did those carvings, do you have any aspirin, I like your shirt—"
He'd been staring at her disbelievingly while she spoke, and interrupted
her. "Stop—please." The word came out with great
effort, she was sure of that. In any case, he paused before he continued,
"Are you all right?"
"Yes," she said. The bruises on her wrists would only
take a few days to heal, and she was used to dealing with headaches.
"What do you mean?" The apprehension grew stronger.
Before he could say something that would start an argument, she
said, "You looked a little upset for a moment there, in the
middle of things. I'm not angry about it, if that helps any."
Not now that I have blackmail material. Besides, he was pretty
good when he finally realized what he was doing.
Saionji rejected this out of hand. "I raped you." He
still sounded like he was a little bit in shock. No wonder it was
so easy to steer him around arguments.
"No, you didn't. You can't rape someone who's more than willing."
There. With this out of the way, everything would go more smoothly,
and she could start to build up trust between them. "And believe
me, I've been more than willing since the first time I saw you."
He shook his head, clearly repulsed by himself. "How can you
say that? You weren’t cooperating… and I…"
Pushing herself up a little, she touched his face lightly. "Saionji…
I’ve had sex with people who were rougher than that. You were
so angry that you didn’t realize what you were doing—I
understand. You can’t blame yourself for this, and I won’t
blame you for something that I ended up enjoying."
"How could you enjoy it?" he asked bitterly. "Is
that all there is to you? Sex?" It seemed like he was actually
making an effort not to get angry with her. If he hadn't been, she
would likely have punched him for that question alone.
"Do you really think so?" Kohana looked at him flatly
until he shook his head. "Why shouldn't I enjoy myself? I like
sex... but I like other things as well, and indulge myself just
One green eyebrow arched. "Like what?"
"Chocolate. Silk clothes. The smell of cinnamon and vanilla.
Must I go on?" He shook his head again. "I don't deny
myself the things I like."
He was silent for a long time, thinking this over. "And today..."
"I lost my temper." She sighed. "I apologize for
Saionji started back as if she had slapped him. "You
"I was the one who got you that angry in the first place.
To tell the truth, I was upset about other things, and when you
started in on me, I couldn't handle it. The last little while hasn’t
been easy for me either." Reaching out again, she softly laid
her fingers on his hand. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean the things
I said. I was angry and I wanted to hurt someone, and you were the
only one there."
He didn’t quite believe her yet, but he would soon enough.
"Why were you angry?"
"A few things." Waiting for a moment to give her words
more weight, she said, "As well as what Kiryuu so kindly revealed—"
"Kiryuu? You don't even call him by his first name?"
He would have to break in right in the middle of what she was saying.
Restraining a sigh of impatience, she said, "It's not like
I'm in love with him."
"Oh." He seemed awfully surprised. Quickly he shrugged
it off, returning to the previous topic. "Go on."
"Well..." She would have to reveal it sooner or later.
As far as she knew, only Kiryuu knew that she'd caught a glimpse
of something more during the meeting with the Seitokai, and this
seemed to be the best bargaining position she'd held in a long time.
Perhaps she could kill two birds with one stone; find out what the
secret was, and get a better idea of how Kiryuu was different than
she was. It was increasingly harder and harder to see any sort of
difference at all, thought she knew they were there. "I know
that something is going on with the members of the Seitokai. Kiryuu
won't tell me what it is. Frankly, I wouldn't trust him anyway,
but he could at least have made the effort to lie about it.
"Whatever it is, it concerns me somehow, and it's important
enough to give Kiryuu worry lines. I was angry because I don't like
not knowing things like this. I need to know it all, because if
I don’t, I’ll lose advantages. You just happened to
be there at the wrong moment."
Kohana could almost feel Saionji pulling away from her, though
he didn't move. She'd been too delicate with it. His eyes narrowed
slightly, and his voice held a hint of the old superiority as he
asked, "Because we know things you don't is reason enough for—for
Letting the anger she felt be visibly pushed back, she took her
hand away from his and kept her voice low and soft. "This is
a game, right? Even Kiryuu freely admits it by the way he talks
about it. He doesn't expect to be the one to win this game.
She glanced down, picking at the thick blanket. This was hard for
her to say. After all, it was the truth. "Well, it may be just
a game to him, but there's a lot more riding on it for me. You yourself
nearly threw me out of the kendo hall because you didn't need a
student 'whose mind and body were rotting around her'. No matter
how serious or how little it is to you, my life is the prize in
this game. If anyone else wins, they take whatever chance there
might be that I'll live past my twenties."
Kohana glanced back up at Saionji just in time to catch the look
of mingled dismay and hope that passed over his face, though he
covered them up quickly. "You talk like you don't entirely
believe what you've seen."
"I have only Kiryuu's word to trust on most of what I know.
Of course I question it. All I know is that I saw some things I
can't explain that seem to back up his story," she said, fatigue
creeping through her voice. Mentally, she was exhausted, all of
her resources drained by the effort it had taken to finally get
past Saionji's guard. For once, her voice was not entirely under
her control as she said, "I want to believe in it. I don't,
but I want to. If it was true, and I didn't believe, I'd die because
I didn't trust someone who doesn't deserve to be trusted."
The situation struck her as blackly humorous; she laughed bitterly.
"This is all so tangled together that I can barely think straight.
Let it stand that I have more than enough reason to want to know
whatever it is that the rest of you are keeping from me. My life
might depend on it."
During her explanation, Saionji had watched her with sadness. It
made his actions afterward all the more startling. He stood, walking
away from her and going to the window, and the lines of his back
spoke eloquently of tension as he opened the shutters. "Do
your best in the duels," he said, his voice rough. "There
are others who have reasons to enter them that seem as important
to them as yours is. If I could clear up any of your confusion,
I would, and so would Miki and Juri. We can't. We're not free to
Not 'free' to speak? What could possibly bind them so tightly to
the duels that all of them would deny her a possible advantage in
gaining her life? It wasn't as if it was absolutely crucial—she
could manage without Saionji telling her—but whatever it was,
it was definitely important.
But Saionji really did seem as if he wanted to tell her. It was
either that or he was better at playing people than she or Kiryuu
was, had anticipated her moves since the very beginning, and was
a great actor. And the least complicated explanation was almost
always the true one. "And Kiryuu? Is he free to speak?"
Saionji turned, his face relaxing into calm. When at ease, it seemed
as if it had the same cast of worry that Kiryuu's had. What was
it that could create such anguish that young faces were aged by
it? "You seem to have a bad opinion of him, and this isn't
going to make it any better, but he's the only one who could speak
freely of it. He won't. He never will."
"There's a reason, then. He never does anything without a
reason." She pondered this for a moment, and then looked back
at Saionji. "I don't have a bad opinion of him. I just don't
trust him. I actually enjoy his company quite a bit."
"We were best friends once." Saionji's face was unreadable.
"Not any more?" That was only to be expected. Adding
up the information she'd gained, Kiryuu would never allow anyone
to be close to him for the simple fact that they might find out
whatever secret it was that he held.
"I'm his friend. More now than I ever was, even when we were
children." Saionji walked away from the window, seating himself
in the chair he'd vacated earlier.
Kohana decided to speak her thoughts aloud. Part of them, anyway.
If Saionji confirmed them, she could be on the right track. "But
he can't allow himself a friendship."
Success. Saionji shook his head, and said, "There was a time,
once… but it’s over now. I almost thought he had changed…
He lost someone important to him without ever really having her,
So she was wrapped up in this as well? Maybe... in combination
with the secret, that gave Kiryuu a very strong reason to hide whatever
capacity for love he had. If only she could count on him to hide
it so well that it wouldn't become a problem. "That girl. He
told me about her."
"He did?" Saionji's eyes widened in shock. "He never
speaks of it now. We all knew her..." He seemed to start to
say something more, then glanced at her apprehensively and stopped.
"What is it?" So, his guard was finally going back up.
He probably wasn't sure of how much to tell her. She wondered briefly
how much information she could get out of him before she had to
take drastic actions again.
A little more, it seemed. Saionji watched her for a moment and
then said quietly, "I can't remember her name."
Now that was strange. If Kiryuu truly had loved this girl, she
could understand if he'd blocked the memories of her. But if Saionji
couldn't remember her either... "No one can?"
Having told her some of it already, he made the right decision
and decided to tell her more. "No. All we remember is that
she did something important. I think she might be dead, but no one
knows. No one remembers her very well except Touga, and even he
doesn't remember the color of her hair."
That stank of magic. Up until the duel, magic hadn't been real.
She still disliked the idea intensely.
This triggered another theory. If no one could remember her,
that likely meant she had something to do with the duels. "No
one remembers what it was that she did?"
"No." Saionji shook his head thoughtfully. He seemed
preoccupied by the idea of her for a moment, and then glanced
back toward Kohana. "He must think very highly of you to speak
Of that she was sure, but Saionji seemed to imply something more.
She frowned. "Mutual respect. If I could be a friend of his,
Instead of just implying it, Saionji said it outright. "More
than that, I think."
Kohana really hadn't wanted to hear that.
Covering up her unease at the idea, she pondered for a moment,
and then said, "I don't know. I'm not the type to stay with
one guy, though." If she'd ever made a purposeful remark in
her life, that was one. Mentioning sex was always a good way to
stop an uncomfortable conversation; at their age, most people were
intensely interested in it.
Those pretty purple eyes caught and held hers. "And that means?"
He'd caught the hint, but he needed the clarification before he
assumed what she wanted him to assume.
"That I don't want to have to choose between my way of life
and Kiryuu. I like variety, though I have a feeling I'm going to
have favorites from now on." She laughed and lay back down
on the bed, rolling on her side so that she was facing him. "Do
you have a problem with that?"
Saionji looked confused for a moment. "Why would I care?"
"Good. I'm glad you don't mind." Smiling, she grazed
his hand with her fingertips. She hadn't noticed before, but he
wore the same ring that Kiryuu did, the same one she had.
Surprise was writ large across his face. "Oh." Hesitating
for a moment, Saionji frowned and then said, "I’m not—"
"I liked it when you were gentle with me."
The words hung in the air for a moment, and then he finally replied.
"Are you all right?" His voice was as rough as it had
been when he'd told her he couldn't tell her what the secret was.
Obviously he was completely ashamed of what he had done, though
she'd tried her best to decrease that shame. With it decreased her
hold on him, but she needed him to be able to trust her, and she
couldn't have his trust when she was a threat to him. Aside from
the unpleasantness in the beginning, this had all worked out very
"My head’s a little sore, but if I wasn't—"
There was a knock at the door. Saionji said, "Don't get up."
After seeing her nod of assent, he walked over to answer it.
"Kyouichi, are you busy?" It was Kiryuu. She would recognize
that voice anywhere, though now it was full of concern. "There
might be a problem—" He'd walked into the room, seen
her, and stopped. "Kohana. I've been looking for you."
"I've been busy." This was a perfect opportunity. If
she could play on Kiryuu's chivalry—she waved her hand languidly
in the air. "I decided to—"
"What happened?" He noticed the bruises instantly and
walked quickly over to her. Saionji hung back, not quite sure of
what was going to happen, but resigned to it. Seating himself in
the chair, Kiryuu, looked her over before taking her hand and asking,
"More bruises, Kohana?"
So he did notice.
"Well—" Kiryuu was looking strangely at her cheek,
the one she'd had pressed into the pillow before he'd sat down.
"What?" This was going perfectly.
"Saionji," Kiryuu said, his voice smoothly angry. Saionji's
resigned expression became almost fatalistic, as if he felt he deserved
whatever he was going to get. "I thought you were—"
"Leave him alone." Kohana's voice was frosty. "We
had a small misunderstanding, and if it wasn't over, I wouldn't
be in his bed."
"A small misunderstanding doesn't get you bruises around your
wrists and on your cheek." Kiryuu's voice was just as cold
as hers. She should have known he wouldn't leave it at that.
"I said it was over, Kiryuu. It was my fault anyway. I'm the
one who started it." Jerking her hand away from him, she sat
up. The headache was no less this time, but she made sure that she
didn't show any sign of pain.
All throughout their exchange, Saionji's face had been blank. When
he saw that Kiryuu was staying silent, he walked over to the desk
and opened a drawer, pulling out a small bottle of pills. As he
handed them to Kohana, she smiled a little. He relaxed, finally
starting to trust her, even if his trust was misplaced in a general
sense. There was no way she would tell Kiryuu exactly what had happened;
that didn't mean she wouldn't use Saionji if she needed to. Popping
the lid off the aspirin, she dry-swallowed four with the practiced
ease of someone who was used to taking them, though she did hide
exactly how many she took from Kiryuu.
He didn't fall for it. "You're staying at my place tonight.
It's not open to discussion."
"Since when are you my owner?" she asked archly.
"Just get dressed." There was more anger in his tone
than she'd ever heard him display.
"Saionji, will you lend me some pants?" There was no
sense in arguing with Kiryuu when he was this angry. Saionji nodded,
searching through the closet and then tossing some pants onto the
bed. Kohana painfully stood up and put them on, noticing the way
Kiryuu seemed to grow even more still after he saw the red and blue
marks that dotted her legs. He stood without speaking, however,
and walked over to the door.
As she zipped the fly, she said, "I'll be out in a minute.
You can wait outside." Naturally, he wouldn't. His chivalrous
side wouldn't let him.
He merely leaned on the door and watched her, his face utterly
Shrugging, she ignored the throb in her head and legs and walked
over to where Saionji was standing, saying softly, "I'll see
you tomorrow," and running her hand along his arm.
"You'd better rest tomorrow," he said, purple eyes still
full of concern and suspicion and a tiny shred of trust. "I
set a hard pace in the beginning. We'll go easier from now on."
Reaching up, she pulled him down into a kiss. Shocked, he didn't
respond at first, but he soon began to kiss her back.
If Kiryuu can mark me, then I can mark his friend. And soon
it'll be his turn.
She bit gently into Saionji's bottom lip, dragging her teeth along
it as she pulled away. When she looked at him, he was still watching
her with apprehension, but it had dissolved a little more. Silently
she laid her finger on his lips, enjoying the moist softness of
them. "I'll see you tomorrow," she said.
Kiryuu just waited for her to follow him out of the dorm.
The walk to the motorcycle was utterly silent. They were forced
to go slowly, because Kohana was a bit unsteady on her legs. Kiryuu's
anger didn't prevent him from lending her a strong arm to lean on.
The silence stretched on as he helped her onto the bike, through
the ride, while he was helping her off the bike, and all the way
into the house.
Tanrei was waiting for them as they came in the door. As soon as
he saw that Kohana was there, he wreathed around her ankles and
then balanced himself on his hind legs, pawing at her leg and pleading
with her to pick him up. She bent down to do so.
Kiryuu's voice stopped her. "Don't."
"I'm not allowed to pick up your cat?"
He shook his head at her, amused exasperation on his face. "I
meant to let me do it."
"Oh." So he wasn't all that angry with her. Either that
or he actually loved the cat and didn't want to deprive him of something
that made him happy. Kohana had to admit to herself that she was
a little nervous about what his reaction would was—she didn't
want Kiryuu to ruin any of her schemes, and he was in a position
to do so. Not a very good one, but she was sure that he could do
it if he tried.
Gently picking Tanrei up from the floor and placing him in Kohana's
arms, Kiryuu then turned toward the kitchen. "Do you need anything?"
he called over his shoulder.
Strangely enough, she was feeling a sort of pain in her stomach.
It took her a moment to tentatively identify it. Instead of going
to his room, as he expected her to do, she followed him. "I
think I'm hungry."
The frown he was wearing was evident in his voice. "You 'think'
you're hungry? Most people know."
"Kiryuu, I haven't been hungry that I can remember in the
last eight years." It wouldn't hurt to use that as a subtle
jab. Now that she knew it was only he who was keeping information
from her, she would use her illness against him. It was almost as
if he'd done her a favor by finding out. "Believe me, I would
There was no answer. She followed him through the richly adorned
rooms and halls to the kitchen, cuddling Tanrei to her. Cats really
were wonderful creatures. They didn't care what you did as long
as it either pleased them or didn't disturb their naps.
When they reached the kitchen, it was empty. It seemed as if nobody
lived in this house besides Kiryuu and possibly his sister. Glancing
at her, he asked, "Well, what do you want?"
Nothing came to mind. "Do you mind if I see what you have?"
He gestured to the fridge. It was strange, how the anger had to
be just under the surface, but she couldn't see it through the polite
exterior. The very fact that he wasn't trying to get her into bed
as quickly as possible gave it away, though. She untangled one arm
from Tanrei and opened the fridge, searching for something she wanted.
It was well stocked, but nothing tickled her fancy. Then she saw,
of all things, butter. It brought to mind a treat she'd tried while
she was in Europe. She'd loved it so much that she'd learned to
"Have any powdered sugar and cocoa?" Tanrei was carefully
placed on a chair where he could watch the proceedings, after she
gave him one last kiss on the forehead.
"In the cupboards." Watching her for a moment as she
searched through them, he took a bottle of red wine from the cupboard
and two glasses from the rack above it.
It didn't take long to make the truffles. They were an extremely
simple version of the lovely melting confections that she'd tried,
but they satisfied her craving for them. She'd even perfected the
right ratio of cocoa to sugar; she liked them slightly less sweet
than most people, as it was easier to taste the chocolate that way.
Rolling the little balls she made in cocoa and placing them on
the baking sheet she'd found, Kohana could feel Kiryuu's eyes on
her. She was willing to act normally as long as he was. Kiryuu could
do whatever the hell he pleased, as far as she was concerned, and
she was going to do as she pleased in any case. Including pushing
his best friend to the brink of rape and then screwing with his
mind. And she was glad she'd done it, even if she was a little bit
After she'd stuck the baking sheet in the fridge to chill, she
popped one of the ones she'd kept out into her mouth and walked
over to where Kiryuu was standing. Kohana held the truffle up so
that he could see it, and moved it towards his lips. He did allow
her to feed it to him. That was all the apology he would ever get
from her about the whole situation.
Hands covered in chocolate, she began to clean them off by licking
them. Truffles were too good to waste, even her poor imitation of
"What happened?" Kiryuu turned around, uncorking the
bottle of wine and filling the glasses about halfway.
"Is that any of your business?" she replied calmly, continuing
to lick her fingers.
"It is," he said, taking a sip of the wine as he turned
to face her. Her glass was left on the table. "You are
my business. As is Saionji, though not so much. What happened?"
She didn't intend to answer that at all. "I was angry, he
irritated me to the point where I attacked him, and then we came
to an understanding."
"I didn’t think you were as clumsy as you said you
were," he mused, sipping his wine. "This is what’s
been happening all along, isn’t it? He’s been beating
Kohana stayed silent.
Scowling, Kiryuu asked, "Did you sleep with him?"
If she hadn't known any better, she would have sworn she saw a
hint of jealousy there. "Of course I did. You didn't even need
to ask to know that." She inspected her hands for more chocolate,
and Kiryuu handed her the wine glass as soon as she was satisfied
that it was gone.
"Leave him alone." The words held that anger she had
known was there. "He has enough problems without your interference."
"Mercy, Kiryuu?" she laughed, tasting her wine. Nice,
a rich taste of fruit. Not too sweet. "You care about him,
don't you. Why?"
"Just leave him alone." That spark of anger had grown.
Enough gloating. Kiryuu could ruin her if she pushed him too far.
"I'll try not to hurt him, but I won't leave him alone."
That was the most she could give him.
He leaned back against the table, stroking Tanrei when the cat
jumped up for attention. "I suppose I'll have to be satisfied
with that," he said.
"You know me far too well." She smiled. "You won't
let this ruin our friendship, will you?"
His jaw muscles tightened for a moment. "Don't bother to call
it that," he finally answered. "I think I understand why
Saionji was so confused by you."
"And why is that?"
"Half the time he wanted to kill you, and the other half he
wanted to sleep with you." Kiryuu smiled seductively at her.
"He got one of his wishes." So they'd spoken about her.
Could he have been the person Kiryuu had talked to on the phone
"Will I get one of mine?" Kiryuu asked, stroking her
face with his knuckles.
If she wasn't so banged up—"Not tonight, I'm afraid.
Maybe in the morning."
His gorgeous blue eyes opened wider in startlement. It was rather
strange for her to turn down sex, she supposed, but she truly didn't
think she would enjoy it much at this point. "How badly are
"I don't know. I'll see when I have a bath." It wasn't
too bad. The aspirin had taken the edge off the pain.
Tanrei bumped her ankles, demanding to be picked up. Wincing, she
leaned down and took him in her arms before Kiryuu could make a
move toward him. "You shouldn't have gotten him angry,"
"I'll try not to do it again." Kohana turned and walked
toward the cupboards to get a bowl. The truffles had chilled long
enough, and it was time to take them upstairs.
Kiryuu took the bottle and their glasses from the table, waiting
until she'd filled the bowl before leaving the kitchen. As they
walked, he said, "I'll take care of your bruises. The duels
can sometimes be rough, and I'm used to doctoring my own."
They walked straight to the bathroom, Kiryuu setting the wine and
truffles near the bath while she stroked Tanrei and waited. As soon
as the cat heard the running water of the bath, he jumped away,
disappearing almost instantly. Kohana waited until she had Kiryuu's
arm to lean on before she undressed; she didn't think she was steady
enough to do it on her own.
Bruises large and small dotted her pale skin. There was the large
one on her cheek, the ones where Saionji had gripped her wrists
much too tightly, and myriad others on her waist, her ribs, her
stomach, and her legs. "My god..." Kiryuu breathed when
he saw her. "What the hell did he do to you?" The sight
had shocked him right out of his normal gentlemanly demeanor.
"I attacked him, Kiryuu. I wasn't playing around. He probably
has a few bruises too."
"He should never have allowed himself to lose control that
much." The anger was back in full force, and this time it was
directed fully at Saionji.
If Kiryuu took it up with him, Saionji would find out that his
trust had been misplaced. She'd have to admit some of the
truth. "Kiryuu, don't even think about it. I drove
him to it. It wasn't like he just got angry all on his own, though
he does do a good job of that."
That snapped his eyes back up to hers. "You drove him to it."
She didn't answer him. "You meant to do it, then."
"I meant to get myself beaten up just so that I could make
you angry at him." She rolled her eyes. "I'm getting in
the bath now. Do you have any aspirin?" Well, that would certainly
plant a little seed of doubt in his mind. He'd have a harder time
finding out the truth now—he had a few different motives of
hers to consider, and probably a few different ideas of what had
"Headache?" he asked, his brows knit together in contemplation.
That was one of the things she liked about him; he could think and
talk at the same time, and not necessarily about the same things.
For deep thought, she liked to have no distractions, but usually
she didn't have the liberty. He helped her over to the bath and
seated her on the rim of it.
As he turned to get the aspirin, she said, "Sort of. I hit
"On what?" he asked.
"The floor of the kendo hall."
His hand, holding the aspirin, paused in the air. "Were you
dizzy at all afterward?"
"A little." Oh, no… he was going to think Saionji
had done this too—rightly, of course, but she had to protect
Saionji from him again. That boy certainly needed a lot of protecting.
"You can't sleep for a while, then. You might have a concussion."
Suddenly, he swore softly. He wasn't looking at her, but she could
see an expression on his face that tugged at her heart. All of the
games had fallen away from him for the moment. All she saw in his
face was utter pain. It quickly dissolved into concerned anger.
"He needs to be taught how to treat a woman. How many times
has he done this to you?"
"This wasn't his fault," she put in quickly, off-balance
at the sudden and involuntary warmth she felt for Touga. "We
don’t like each other, and I was angry today—I’m
tired and under a lot of stress. I hit my head because I tripped
while we were fighting. I don't think he even noticed. And I've
already slept. I'm fine, honestly."
"Are you sure?" The pain was gone, vanished without a
trace, but she knew it was still there. What had caused that? And
why did it hurt to see him hurt, when it never really did with anyone
She didn't care about him, did she?
"I'm sure." She couldn't care about him. There was no
point. It would be a total waste of time and energy; he would never
care about her, and she would never be able to live a normal life.
Most of the time, that didn't seem attractive, but for a split second,
it did. A house, kids, two cars, going to work, someone she loved
by her side... no mysteries, no games, no duels. No shadow of death
hanging over her.
No. Don't think about it. You can't have it anyway, unless
you win the duels and Touga was telling the truth.
Kohana took the aspirin from him and put her hand to her forehead.
The beginnings of a different pain were there now. "On second
thought, I'm starting to get a migraine."
Everything happened quickly after that. Touga helped her into the
bath, helped her bathe, and by the time that was done, she was in
so much pain she could barely walk to the bed. Halfway there, he
picked her up and carried her, placing her gently on the soft sheets.
Every little noise made her head pound, as if someone was hammering
railroad spikes into her temples.
He even held her when the pain was so bad that she couldn't keep
the tears from dripping down her face. She was just glad it was
comforting, otherwise she would have killed him for it if she'd
had the strength. It didn't appear to bother him that he was staying
up all night with her just making sure she was all right.
He can be so kind, sometimes... I wish I could be kind.