You know what? I hate html.I wish I was doing almost anything else.Like getting laid. I could be having sex right now, but noooo.I watched Utena lose her virginity again this weekend.That scene is so hot.The fine line between obsession and madness is... what was I saying?GIRL ON GIRL ACTION!!!I want that outfit. I like red and black. What a surprise.This layout took forever to get just right. But that was because I took so many breaks.I never ate glue in kindergarten. Hard to tell, huh?Gio keeps talking about food. What a bitch.LEGS.See, I'm being productive. Now if only I could do this at work, where productive is just a dream...GODDAMMIT STOP TALKING ABOUT FOODYou know, those are the only important things in life. Food, sex, and sleep.Everything else is just window dressing.I have to clean my house still. That sucks.I hate cleaning. I should buy maids.I want to go to a museum, but I don't want to get out of my jammies.I suck at being energetic.Funny, you don't look Druish.


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 I?"

"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 it now."

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. "Are you?"

"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 as frequently."

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 that."

Saionji started back as if she had slapped him. "You apologize?"

"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 what happened?"

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 speak."

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, but…"

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 her."

Of that she was sure, but Saionji seemed to imply something more. She frowned. "Mutual respect. If I could be a friend of his, I would."

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 well indeed.

"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 blank.

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 remember it."

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 make it.

"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 sore.

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 them.

"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 you."

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 that morning?

"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 you hurt?"

"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," Kiryuu said.

"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."

"Thank you."

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 happened.

"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 my head."

"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 else?

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.