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 Fifteen


Several times Kohana awoke to more pain, and each time something was different. The first time, Ohtori had been carrying her, and there were blankets wrapped around her. She could still feel glass in her body. She passed out quickly.

The next time, she'd been in Ohtori's car, and she was lying across Touga's lap while he picked slivers of glass out of her and bandaged the wounds that were as clean as he could get them. Streetlights raced by through the windows; Ohtori had the top up, thank goodness.

"How is she?" Ohtori asked.

"Awake," Kohana rasped. "Where's Miki?" Touga's uniform was soaked with blood. Her blood.

How fitting. I know you know it too.

Touga briefly laid his hand on her mouth, trying to stop her from speaking. His eyes were exactly as she'd painted them, so calm, but so filled with sorrow and pain that it hurt to look at them. "In my car. Juri's bringing the others." He paused for a moment, reasoning out why Kohana wanted Miki, and then said, "I'll tell him for you."

Kohana smiled at him despite the pounding agony in her head. "Thank you." She could already feel the promise of unconsciousness beckoning her back.

"Tell him what?" Ohtori asked, glancing down at her. His mouth was twisted down at the corners, as if he was angry, but his eyes were soft with concern.

"That it wasn't his fault," Touga answered, shifting her as gently as he could so that he could reach another jagged bit of glass.

She still winced, her indrawn breath a harsh hiss. "Please wait until I'm unconscious again. I think I broke a rib."

Swearing softly, Touga turned his face away from her for a moment. "I—"

"How bad is it?" she asked, the sensation of blood drying on her face and scalp tightening her skin unpleasantly as she spoke. She didn't want to hear what he'd been meaning to say.

After a moment, she heard him say something else, but she was sliding away again.

There was a series of images after that—Ohtori glaring at Touga and Touga glaring back while the car drove on, Miki's worried face as Kohana was wheeled into the hospital, Sakura looking at everything around her like she was lost, Juri with her arm around Miki, looking almost as composed as ever except that she was glancing nervously toward Kohana. When she saw that Kohana's eyes were open, she jumped.

"It's okay," she tried to say, but she wasn't sure if they heard her before she passed out again.

The next time she woke up, the lacerations from the glass were being flushed and she was wearing an oxygen mask. The pressure on the wound sent a spike of pain up her back, through her ribs, and straight to her head.

She screamed. She couldn't help it.

The door to the room slammed open, and Touga stalked in. His rage and worry were almost palpable. "I thought you said she'd been given painkillers!" he said, his voice low and dangerous. Brushing aside the nurse, he seated himself beside the bed, holding her cold hand.

"Visitors aren't allowed in here. I'll have to ask you to leave, before I call security." The nurse had dropped her tools and had her hand on the buzzer that would alert the guards.

"No! I—"

"Touga..." Kohana whispered. He fell silent, scowling down at their linked hands. "It's okay. It just hurts a little…" She couldn't force any more words out of her strained throat and blood-crusted lips.

"Are you sure? If you want me to stay..." He glanced at her face and then quickly looked away. Kohana could almost hear what he was thinking.

I caused this.

Swallowing to moisten her dry, aching throat, Kohana tried to make her lips move to speak again. "Let them work. I’ll be fine."

He leaned over her, pressing a light kiss to her forehead, and his lips came away bloody. He didn't appear to notice. "I'll be outside, then." Grim determination filled his voice. Stroking her hand, he placed it on her chest and rose. The sound of the door closing behind him was unfinished somehow, as if it knew that he would come bursting in at any sound from her lips.

What was that for?

"We haven't been able to contact either of your parents, Hoshigawa-san," the nurse said, gently bathing the area around another shallow laceration.

"Forget about them. They wouldn't come anyway." The bitterness in her tone caused the nurse to glance sharply at her. Kohana licked her lips and continued, forcing the words to come out properly. The sedative they'd given her was taking hold. "Call my doctor. Sato-sensei. The number's in my wallet. I think—Akio-san might have it if he checked me in."

"Akio-san?" The nurse said blankly.

"Ohtori. The Rijichou. He brought me in."

"Oh, right—I'll get the doctor to get it from him." Now the nurse was obviously placating her, hoping that the sedative would prevent any more screaming.

"Important." Kohana struggled with the words. They scattered away like drops of mercury from a broken thermometer. "Medical condition. Might—interfere."

That prodded the nurse into action. She dropped what she was doing, picking up a phone and speaking rapidly into it. Kohana's eyes idly wandered to the intravenous bag on its stand, a bag of blood hanging beside it. Type A. At least they'd gotten that right. It seemed like a long time before the pain came again. When it did, it went on for eons. Jaws tightly clamped on any sound, Kohana waited, fuzzily determined not to make any noise at all. The world greyed out, a chaotic blur of seemingly random events, and nothing made sense except the restriction she'd placed on her voice.

The sedative wore off eventually; the world began to clear again. Picking through her foggy recollections, Kohana realized she'd been x-rayed, washed, and dressed in a hospital robe at some point. The room was still spinning nauseatingly. She ignored it and yanked the oxygen mask from her face; she’d had them on too many times before. They always made her feel utterly helpless. Testing her voice, she found it stronger and less raspy. "Give me a mirror. It still feels like there’s blood on my face." The nurse glanced at her in surprise, and the electrocardiogram beeped softly in the background.

"Honey, don't worry about it. You've been through a rough time. Just relax and let us do our jobs. If you start to feel like you can't breathe, put that back on." A young-looking doctor was standing beside her bed. "You're a real soldier, you know that? I—"

Her determination to show none of the anxiety she felt translated itself into sharp words. "Spare me. I'm not in shock, and I don't need comforting." The young doctor looked startled, and almost scared. Softening her voice, Kohana said. "Forgive me. That was uncalled for. Have you spoken with Sato-sensei?"

Every time… Every time I’ve been in the hospital, he’s always there. Every time I collapsed, he brought me through it… I hate Sato.

"Yes," the doctor said. Kohana couldn't quite make out the name on the badge he was wearing. The room was spinning too much. "We're fully aware of your medical history." His brown eyes softened in sympathy, and Kohana had to repress a sudden shudder of disgust for herself. She felt so weak…

"I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't mention it to the others. They're upset enough already, and they don't need to find out about it now." The nurse swiped her face with a washcloth, and Kohana scowled. "Please let me do this myself. I'm used to pain."

Glancing up to the doctor, the nurse waited for his nod and then handed the cloth to Kohana. As she reoriented herself enough to be able to wipe her face off, the doctor spoke again. "We're concerned that we haven't been able to reach your parents. Do you know where they would be?"

"No." Kohana sighed, remembering the ache in her ribs too late. At least it was dulled by the anesthetic. "My parents don't matter. I'll be the one signing the checks."

"Isn't that a little bit thoughtless, hon? I'm sure they'd like to know what's happened." Normally the doctor’s persistence wouldn’t have bothered her, but she supposed she could be forgiven for having less tolerance than usual. She hated hospitals.

Before she realized it, she was actually spilling out the truth, saying exactly what she’d wanted to say every single time she’d ever been in a hospital before. "If you managed to speak to my parents, and on the very slight chance that they would come in, it would only create more problems for you. My mother would probably scream at me for interrupting whatever social event she was at, and my father would look in the room, grunt, and then find a financial magazine to read until you were forced to escort my mother from the premises for causing a disturbance." During her speech, her voice had gained a tinge of panic, enough that Touga, at least, would have heard it. Slowing her words down, she said softly, "They're not parents. They're a bank account."

The doctor regarded her evenly, obviously wondering whether or not she was reacting badly to the medication. The only reason he spoke again was that Kohana seemed sincere and aware of what she was saying, perhaps more than he expected she would be after she'd just come out from sedation. "Are you sure of that?"

"They haven't noticed that I've been practically living with someone else for the last couple of months. I'm pretty sure they won't notice this." The nurse was staring at her in horrified disbelief. Pushing back her uneasiness, she tried for a light tone and succeeded somewhat. "Don't look so amazed. Things like this happen." Kohana continued excruciatingly wiping her face until she decided that the blood was probably gone, if it had ever existed in the first place. "Here."

The nurse took it from her, placing the cloth and a basin where she could reach them if she wanted them. "Is there anyone else we could reach? Grandparents, perhaps?"

"My grandparents are dead." Kohana closed her eyes and went through her mental list of people that might need to know. "Akio-san brought me here, so school is covered. My maid should be at home, but I don't want to disturb her, so I'll call her when I feel a little better. She worries if I don't call for a few days." After a few moments' thought, she opened her eyes and said, "No one else urgently needs to be notified. Just leave a message on my parents' answering machine and you'll have tried. They won’t come, though. They never come when I’m in the hospital." Her voice was growing harsher again. She'd have to make the effort to speak more softly.

"That's so horrible..." The nurse was gazing at her with sympathy.

The nurse was too sympathetic—Kohana had to steady herself and collect her scattered thoughts. She wasn’t used to sympathy. When she was under control, she realized that she could use it to her advantage, and the panic seemed to ease back a little. "Would you do me a favor?"

"What is it?" The doctor was watching her sharply, but now she could see the impact her words had made. He was ready to accede to any reasonable request. Kohana was glad of it—she wasn’t completely helpless after all.

"You've probably restricted visitors to my immediate family. Can I ask that you allow a few other people as well?" This would work out well enough. As long as she could still maneuver the people around her, the anxious feeling faded into the background.

"Depends on how many there are. Only two people at a time, and the list can't be any longer than, say, five people."

"How about six?" The doctor hesitated, and Kohana rushed to add, "I would have agreed to five, but the Rijichou has been so kind to me, and I'm sure he would like to reassure himself that I'm all right." It was actually rather amusing, though she couldn’t yet bring herself to feel amused; the subtle threat that she might leave one of the few adults that had shown her any concern at all off the list would force the doctor to agree. As he acquiesced, Kohana allowed more soothing relief to wash away at her dread of vulnerability. Hospitals… she’d been in hospitals ever since she was little. "A pen and paper, then, and you'll have to sign the list to approve it."

The nurse finished whatever busywork it was that she was doing, and gave her the things she asked for. Kohana concentrated on making her normally perfect handwriting legible and her normally controlled thoughts obedient. She had planning to do.

Kiryuu Touga

Of course. There was no way she was going to shut him out—he would only find a way to make more trouble for her. And he could be so sweet when he wasn't bothering her.

Ohtori Akio

A whim. He might or might not show up, and they certainly couldn't do much while she was in the hospital... or could they? Never mind—he'd probably be afraid of hurting her or something. But at least she'd have the token adult on her list.

Saionji Kyouichi

There was a little more hesitation before she put Saionji's name down. He might be worried, yes, but she would have left him off if he hadn't been Touga's friend. That meant he was especially vulnerable at this time, though Touga probably wasn't going to try too much while he was still feeling guilty.

Toyomatsu Ichida

Ichida needed something other than Sakura to occupy his mind. And he'd be upset and determined to know what had happened to one of his closest friends.

Kaoru Miki

Miki needed reassurance, no matter what Touga had told him. Kohana couldn't very well reassure him if he couldn't visit her.

Arisugawa Juri

Ah, Juri. She would need some reassurance as well, judging from the way she'd looked when Kohana had caught that glimpse of her. Kohana’s scream when Touga had touched her had probably gone a long way toward showing Juri that she’d been played.

Kohana signed the list shakily, handing it to the doctor. "Are the people who came in still all outside?" she rasped.

The nurse got up and poked her head out of the door. Instantly, Kohana could hear the low purr of Touga's voice, sounding strained and upset, and the raw-silk rumble of Ohtori's, calmly asking how she was. She would have smiled if she hadn’t still been feeling shaky. The nurse spoke shortly to them, and then closed the door on their questions. "All of them are still there. The redheaded boy is very upset, though he's taking it well now."

"Touga..." Kohana smiled gently. "He always worries about me."

He feels guilty for this, but… I wonder if he’d actually care if it weren’t his fault? Somehow, I doubt it.

"You probably want to see him." The nurse sat near the bed, readjusting Kohana's pillow while the doctor scribbled notes on charts. "Is he your boyfriend?" The doctor turned Kohana's head to the side, murmuring instructions to her, and checked her eyes.

The question gave Kohana pause. What was Touga to her? "I honestly don't know. It's complicated." Lover? Boyfriend? Rival? Enemy? Partner?

"Well, you're lucky to have someone who cares about you so much. If he wasn't so polite about asking after you, he'd be an awful nuisance." The nurse grinned, trying to put Kohana in better spirits. "He's very handsome."

Kohana smiled obligingly. "Watch out. He's a flirt. If he wasn't upset, he'd probably have all the nurses wrapped around his little finger." Reaching for the bed controls, Kohana adjusted herself into a more upright position as the nurse laughed. The room spun crazily for a moment, but she closed her eyes for a while and the dizziness decreased again. The helpless feeling suddenly roared back, and she had to struggle to control it as she said, "All right. Let me hear the bad news, and then I'd like to see him, if you think it's advisable." There was a small quaver in her voice that betrayed her anxiety, but other than that, she felt she’d carried it off well.

The doctor looked up from his papers, nodding. "As long as he's not disruptive and doesn't wear you out, he can visit. But for now, you can only have one visitor at a time, and only as long as you feel well enough to have them." Shuffling the papers again, he continued, his voice even and full of that soothing bluntness that Kohana liked in a doctor. "You have quite a few lacerations, most of them shallow, but a few did require stitches. A hairline fracture in one rib, a moderate concussion, minor skull fracture, anemia and blood loss, and you're undernourished. You'll be staying here until we're sure that your skull fracture and your concussion won't result in complications, since you have no reliable supervision at home. A week, at least, and I'd like to keep you longer if possible."

"That's kind of annoying. I've got a Student Council meeting to attend." Kohana forced a grin, trying to wish away the defenseless feeling her list of injuries had revived. "Any restrictions while I'm here?"

"Stay in bed." The doctor mock-frowned at her. She chuckled obligingly; he continued, "At least for the next day or so. If your chest bothers you, we can prescribe additional painkillers."

Her chest—she didn't want to think about her chest. It hurt. "I'm fine. A little dizzy, hurts to breathe and all that, but I can handle it."

"Good, good. You seem to be taking the head trauma well—Ohtori-san told me you were roughhousing and got thrown into a mirror."

Kohana accepted the lie with ease. No one wanted Juri in trouble, especially since it was Touga's fault. Wrinkling her nose, Kohana said, "He makes it sound so bad—it was just an accident. We were playing."

"Looks more like a brawl to me, but that's probably just the bruises from the bar. Next time, don't play so hard." The doctor smiled, and suddenly he was kind of cute. "I'll go tell your friends they can come in one at a time. They're all on the list?"

"Er, no, not the blonde girl. Will you give her my deepest apologies? I really wish she could have been on." Kohana sighed, then winced, then waved him away, smiling. "Shoo. Go tell them, and then do some real work." He chuckled and walked to the door.

The doctor considerately left the door open while he stood in front of it to prevent the others from rushing to look in. He told them that she was fine, listed off her injuries, and then after further reassurance, finished with, "Normally, I wouldn't allow any of you to see her, as you're not in her immediate family, but Hoshigawa's convinced me to allow a few of you in as long as she feels well enough to see you. Visiting hours end at nine; consult the nurse before entering the room."

The nurse finished the last of the charts she had been working on and stepped over to the door as the doctor walked away. "Kiryuu Touga." He walked more calmly into the room this time, though he brushed past the nurse as if she weren't even there. "I'll give you some privacy, but I'll be right outside if you need anything."

"Thank you," Kohana said weakly. The door shut behind the nurse, and Touga sat down near the bed. He was looking her over most concernedly, noting the oxygen mask that lay near her hand. "You look upset."

He smiled wryly. "I don't see why I shouldn't be."

"I'm fine." Her fingers found his and squeezed. "I've had headaches before. I just wish I could have a bath."

"Concussion. Broken rib. Fractured skull. Lacerations. This is fine?" He brought her fingers to his lips and kissed them.

"I know you were behind it, Touga." He froze, his face unreadable, and Kohana smiled gently. This was part of what made the hospital worth it. "I know you didn't mean for it to end like this. Don't worry—to anyone else, it'll just be big misunderstanding. I'll keep it a secret if you will."

Anger flashed in his eyes for a split-second, but cleared, leaving nothing. "Do I owe you something more?"

"No. It just didn't work out the way you expected—I don't blame you for this. It wasn't your fault." Kohana squeezed his fingers gently, glad that the pain was receding slowly but surely. The nurse must have put an anesthetic into the IV that was in Kohana's other arm. Hopefully it wouldn't interfere too much with her thought processes—most anesthetics did. She supposed that she was likely one of the few people in the world who had a preference in anesthetics noted down on her medical history, and of course, it was a light one that left her head relatively clear. She could handle the pain.

The blood on Touga's uniform had dried by now, and along with his red hair, it was the only splash of color in the room. Even his face was paler than usual as he sat pondering her statements. It was so good to have an equal; he didn't truly understand that she was his equal yet, but he would soon find out. Maybe after she was recovered.

I may not be able to afford friends, but I have a best enemy. I like that.

When they spoke, it was hesitant, both of them starting at the same time. "Can we—"

Touga began to laugh, and Kohana chuckled a bit before choking it off because of a flare of pain in her chest. Feeling a bit light-headed, she groped for the oxygen mask beside her head and took a few shallow breaths, stroking Touga's fingers to soothe the worry that had suddenly reappeared. Once the dizziness abated, she dropped the mask back on the pillow. "I don't feel so well."

"Do you want me to call the nurse in?" he asked, and Kohana could swear that she saw a bit of real anxiety in his eyes.

"No. I think it's because of the broken rib and such." He shouldn't be anxious over her. He should be a little angry, because his plan had been foiled, but he shouldn't be anxious. "What were you going to say?"

He hesitated a little, his eyes not quite meeting hers, and then frowned slightly as he looked away. “It’s not important.”

With a soft sound of acquiescence, Kohana too looked away. There was no point in calling a truce—she had the upper hand. Realizing that Touga had just asked her what she was going to say, she smiled slightly and shook her head, unable to make her gaze meet his even though she knew she should. “No. It’s nothing.”

He knew anyway that it hadn’t been nothing, but he brushed it off as she had with him. If it was never discussed, it would soon be forgotten. “How long are you going to be in here?” Touga asked, his voice sounding calm, even emotionless. “The doctor wasn’t very clear on it.”

Aiming for the same calm, Kohana replied, "I don't know yet. A week, at least, but he wants to keep me longer. I had to tell him that my parents weren't around very much, and apparently head injuries need 'reliable supervision'." She grimaced. "I shouldn't have told him, but he annoyed me and I wanted to shut him up." That explanation would suffice. There was no reason to be honest about anything if she could possibly avoid it.

"I suppose. Do you think he would allow you to leave if you were to stay with me?"

For the first time, Kohana actually felt a spark of humor—it drove the hanging shadows of panic back a little further. She smiled, a true smile, and squeezed Touga’s hand. "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer, hmm?"

He grinned devilishly, a lock of his scarlet hair framing his face as he leaned toward her. "Are you my enemy?"

Absolutely, sinfully, utterly sensual. Kohana had to reinforce the idea that she was hurt and in pain with a deeper breath. "I don't know. Am I?"

"Yes," he said, pulling her hand to his lips and tenderly biting the tip of her finger. "Among other things."

"That's good to know." Kohana licked her lips, wishing she hadn't pissed Juri off to the extent that she had. "But for now, a truce. You can say whatever you like to explain why Sakura can't come in—I still need her to hate me for a while."

"I know. I'll make sure she's not around if Ichida comes to visit." Standing up, Touga leaned over the bed and ran his tongue along her upper lip before taking possession of her mouth with his. If she'd shown even the slightest hesitation, she knew that he would have pulled away; neither of them wanted to spoil their fun with pain, and it wouldn't matter to either of them which one was feeling the pain. The fun would still be spoiled.

Before the kiss had gone very far, Touga pulled away. "I hope you feel well soon," he said, his voice suggestive of delights to come when she was feeling better.

"I hope I do too." She planned on appreciating each of those delights to the fullest.

"I'll bring you some things from the house." As she went to reply, he forestalled her, saying, "I know what you want already. Chocolate, something comfortable to wear, your shampoo and toothbrush and the rest of that, and a thicker blanket."

Kohana bit her lip to keep from laughing. "All right, go, or people will think you climbed into bed with me. And change your clothes; they're all bloody."

As he opened the door, he said, "As the lady wishes,” smirking at her.

She just smiled back at him. The poor boy still didn't understand yet, even though they were so alike.

As Touga stepped away from the open door, Ohtori walked past him and paused in the doorway. "May I come in?"

Smiling, Kohana waved a hand weakly at the chair. "Of course. I'm afraid I'm not dressed for company, but have a seat." The sudden humor that she’d felt in Touga’s presence was fading, and the dread was slowly returning. That realization only compounded it—why should he be able to cheer her up?

Ohtori closed the door behind him, eyeing her form with concern. He did, however, cross to the chair and seat himself. "I'm not sure how to say this, but Juri told me..."

Focusing her attention fully on Ohtori, she drove the other thoughts out of her mind. It was time to work now. "Touga was talking to her beforehand. I know that." Kohana shook her head; the room swayed a bit, but soon stilled. "It's nothing to me."

Scowling, Ohtori reached over to touch one of the wounds on her arm. "This is nothing?"

That question made her nervous, but she answered it as smoothly as possible. "It is. Juri was angry with me because she heard me say something out of context and assumed it related to whatever it was that Touga told her. It's not her fault; it's not anyone's fault. It was a misunderstanding." Kohana decided to risk a tiny laugh; it didn't hurt very much, just incredible pain rather than incredible fiery pain.

"Would I have gotten the same answer from you if you were unmedicated and angry?" Ohtori was watching her suspiciously.

"Probably not, but I would have said you'd done it if it would have gotten me painkillers." No doubt Ohtori still thought it was Touga who'd hit her, and now it was a hindrance. From his point of view, it must have looked like Touga was trying his best to kill her. As if he ever would. "I'd rather not talk about that any more, if you don't mind. How are Miki and Juri?"

Reluctantly, he accepted that, his fingers trailing down her arm as he leaned back in the chair. "They're holding up. I noticed that they were on your list as well. In fact, I'm the only person on it who isn't on the Seitokai. Why is that?"

"Because of certain difficulties with reaching my parents. The doctor needed me to choose at least one responsible adult, and I didn't think you would mind being one of the privileged few." Despite her unsettled feeling, Kohana smiled, her hand inveigling its way into his. "After all, you've said that we should have a good relationship. Did you forget?"

White teeth shone against that light chocolate skin. "Of course not." Ohtori's hand tightened on hers, his thumb stroking her palm. "I would never forget something that important. I've been busy with Kanae, but I have plans for us."

"So there will be an us. I was beginning to wonder." Kohana sighed, wincing as her chest tightened.

"Be patient. We have time; there's no point in rushing things." Ohtori leaned forward again, laying her fingers on his lips and speaking through them. "But I have a feeling that it's going to be soon, now."

The warm tides of his breath on her fingers would likely have made Kohana shiver, but the pain kept her from enjoying the feeling very much. "How soon?"

"Soon." Delicately turning her hand over, he placed a soft kiss in her palm. "I'll come to visit you, since you've so kindly put me on your list, but I won't tire you." At her pout, he chuckled and said, "Too much, anyway."

"I feel more energetic already, but…" Kohana smiled lopsidedly. "Maybe tomorrow."

"Maybe," he said softly, rising from the seat. He leaned down as if to kiss her, but stopped just before their lips touched. "There are so many reasons I want you..."

The heady scent of his rose cologne dizzied Kohana in a way that was completely different from the dizziness she'd already been feeling. Their breath mingled; ever so slowly, his lips descended to hers, barely brushing them. "I'm yours already," Kohana said. The pain and panic seemed to have disappeared, only the sweet scent and the silky lips real.

Ohtori smiled. "I know." Then he was kissing her, lips and teeth and silken tongue fanning flames that were never quite dead into full life. Kohana found herself straining eagerly toward him, his tongue thrusting into her mouth like an echo of what she so desperately wanted from him. With only that kiss, he laid her bare, plundered her, stripped her of everything but desire. Heart pounding, Kohana could only return the kiss, hoping that he would make good on his promise then and there.

And then it was over, and he was drawing back, his eyes raking over her with restrained desire. "I'll see you later," he said, turning to leave the room.

Once the door had closed behind him, Kohana let out a long, shaky breath. Putting him on the list had definitely been a good idea. Quickly she composed herself, the awareness of pain slowly fading back in, and waited for her next visitor.

A sharp rap at the door confirmed Kohana's suspicion that Juri would be the one to visit her next. Half the battle was already won, then. If Juri was upset enough to disregard the mistrust she had for Kohana and speak to her alone, she would also be off-balance enough to be easily swayed—the only problem was exactly what to tell her. There were so many different versions she could tell... "Come in," Kohana called, wishing her throat didn't feel like it was full of broken glass. She was really too tired to be seeing anyone else right now.

The door closed behind Juri, who walked over to the chair and sat down. The nervous look was almost gone—almost. The corners of her eyes were tight with strain and her mouth was set firmly, as if she was afraid it wasn't entirely under her control. Hardly anybody would even have noticed. "Miki told me what really happened between you. It doesn't seem adequate, but I must at least offer my regrets."

"As far as I'm concerned, the explanation that Ohtori gave was the correct one. An unfortunate accident at most." That's right, Juri hadn't really meant to hurt Kohana when she threw her into the mirror. All just a big misunderstanding resulting in blood and broken bones.

Juri was silent for a moment, but her hands twisted in her lap. "And between the two of us?" she finally asked.

Sweet tension, so tightly reined in… but I still wish I hadn’t done this.

The restless uneasiness was creeping forward again, so Kohana tried to banish it, succeeding only partially. At least she could think logically enough to use her advantages. "I don't blame you for what happened. I know that the Seitokaicho spoke to you, and I know that he didn't expect it to go this far either. It was only accidental that you walked in when you did." And that was what Juri needed to believe; she would believe it, though she would be more careful of her actions in the future. "I understand. Seeing Miki there while Sakura said what she did, hearing what I said—it's no wonder that you were angry."

The stormy emerald eyes fixated on hers. "And why did you say what you did? I was under the impression that Miki only wanted his sister to know."

Definitely a sharp one. "Despite what it may have seemed like, it was protection. I take care of people I like. Sakura knows that; I did it for her often enough, and she already suspected what was happening. I won't allow her to hurt him in rumor or anything else."

"Then why was he there in the first place?" Oh, Juri had quite the intelligence behind that perfect face and body. It might have presented problems if Kohana hadn't had her lies in order.

"He agreed to come so that I could have a relatively impartial observer. For once, I was trying to keep the air clear." Kohana tried a little laugh. It still hurt, and the pain made her feel as if her skin was freezing. "It appears that it's not healthy for me to do so."

As expected, Juri took that as an attack. She turned her face away. "I thought you had forgiven me," she said evenly.

"I thought I'd made it clear that there was nothing to forgive." Kohana paused for a moment, then sighed. That still hurt too. "I'm sorry. I deal with pain by laughing at it, and I thought you understood that I truly don't hold you responsible." Of course not. Everything she’d done was her own fault, and she’d just have to deal with the consequences.

The only thing that matters is that I won that round. That’s all.

"So you're saying it was no one's fault, even though I threw you into the mirror because of something you said and because the Seitokaicho had been telling me that you were trying to break Miki's heart." The soft chirps of the ECG almost seemed louder than Juri's unbelieving voice.

"It was just a coincidence that you came in when you did." A lucky coincidence. "No one meant for this to happen; I know that you came in there meaning to warn me off rather than hurt me, and I know that the Seitokaicho values my skin too much to want it damaged this way." And soon, not only her skin. Her mind as well. Kohana let her voice go soft and regretful. "Miki probably thinks this is all his fault..."

"I hope you'll be able to convince him otherwise." Juri rose from her chair, glancing apprehensively at Kohana. "Are you well enough to be able to see him? I've told him, and the Seitokaicho's told him, but he needs to hear from you that you don't blame him."

"I'll be fine. He doesn't even want to come in, does he?" After Miki, she could rest. Rest sounded like a very good idea.

"No." Juri walked to the door and laid her hand on the knob. She looked much more relaxed, almost as self-possessed as she normally was. Kohana smiled inwardly. Even though Juri still didn't trust her, this would go a long way toward changing her mind. "I'll convince him to see you."


Glancing over her shoulder, Juri looked suspiciously at Kohana. She knew that if Kohana had lied about blaming her, this was when she would exact a little bit of revenge. "Yes?"

"I didn't know you had your driver's license."

A small, ironic smile surfaced on Juri's face. "I don't."

Kohana smiled in return, and after a short and silent appreciation of the joke, Juri left the room.

Only one left…

It was a long time before the next knock on the door came. Kohana had been drifting, the pain dissipating steadily, wavering between panic and relief. The tentative knock that had to be Miki's snapped her out of her daze instantly. "Come in," she said, but her voice was even weaker than before. "Come in!" she called, louder this time. The anesthetic was starting to interfere with her thoughts—they seemed disjointed and it was hard to keep them going in a straight line. Tensing her gashed thigh brought a bolt of agony that sizzled her nerve endings and cleared her head somewhat. She had to think clearly for this.

The door opened slowly, and Miki didn't look at her as he walked into the room and closed it behind him. Kohana waited until he'd seated himself, and then said, "Miki, Juri told me that you're upset."

"This is my fault. I should never have asked you—even if I did need someone, I didn't think of what would happen if Juri found out..." His light voice was unusually harsh, and he sat with his head down, that soft, rough hair of his hiding his eyes.

"It's okay, Miki. I did think of it, and I decided that I'd have to be careful. I wasn't careful enough." Kohana felt a little tug at her heart. Miki looked so upset, so sincerely remorseful for something he hadn't even done that she discarded the idea she'd been toying with. He didn't really deserve to be drawn any further into her games—she wouldn't suggest anything about Touga's part in what had happened even though it was an easy way to get Miki to stop blaming himself.

I like you, Miki, but I won't let you be my weakness. I'm sorry in advance if I end up hurting you.

The silence stretched out for a while, and then suddenly he looked up. His eyes were bright with tears. "But if I hadn't asked you to help me, none of this would have happened! You're in the hospital because of me!"

Kohana quickly clamped down on the answering emotion that it evoked. There was no reason for anyone to be crying here; she'd won! Miki just needed to be comforted. "Don't say that! I made the decision in the end. Yes, you could have gone to someone else, but I knew a little about how your sister treated you and I didn't want you to have to deal with her anymore. I didn't want to see you as hurt as you could have been if you'd gone to someone who might have been less trustworthy."

He reminds me so much of me when I was young... the only difference here is that my parents made it my fault that I was sick. He doesn't need this to be made his fault.

Kohana abruptly realized why Miki was the most innocent of all of the Seitokai. Even though Touga acted like he didn't care, they all did. Juri protected him, Saionji disregarded him even when he would normally have lashed out, and Touga stopped short at teasing him when he could have taken so much more from Miki. In a way, Miki's innocence and trust protected him from those who could take advantage of him.

Everyone remembers being that pure, even though for some of us it's been so long that we don't recognize it at first.

"But I still could have gone to someone else. Juri wouldn't have been as angry if it wasn't you. She doesn't trust you—but you've done nothing but talk to me and help me, and all I've done in return is give her a reason to hurt you." Beautiful clear blue eyes were spilling over with tears, the impersonal hum of the machines in the background providing a steady rhythm for them to fall to. "I never meant for this to happen."

"Miki, there's no reason for you to think it was your fault. If Juri hadn't walked in just at that moment, she wouldn't have done this. I know that. And I know that if I had asked someone else to come with me, she wouldn't have heard anything that would have made her that angry. If there's anyone you should blame, it should be me." Now this was a first—Kohana couldn't remember if she'd ever said those words and actually meant them before. Of course, she was not in the most stable frame of mind right now.


"Miki, stop. Everything I did, I did of my own free will. You can't take responsibility for my actions." Kohana reached up, silver barbs of agony ripping through her body as she moved to wipe away his tears. "It's okay, Miki. It's not your fault. I'll be out of the hospital in a week or so, and everything's going to be fine. I'll probably even be able to go back to my kendo class in a couple of weeks."

He wanted to believe her, but he couldn't let himself just yet. At least the tears had stopped falling from his eyes. "The doctor said you had a skull fracture and a broken rib..."

"It sounds worse than it is. I'll be fine; it doesn't even hurt as much as my headaches, and I've had them all my life. This is almost pleasant compared to them." It was kind of depressing that she was telling the exact truth. But Miki needed to understand that she'd dealt with worse. "I just wish there was a piano here so you could play if you wanted. They'd probably object to me asking for one; what do you think?"

A ghost of a smile appeared on his face. "I don't think I could smuggle one in. It might stick out from under my coat." A little bit of light came back into his eyes. "I could record some of my playing for you." It was sweet; he instantly became embarrassed afterward. "That is, only if you think—"

"I'd love it if you would do that, Miki. You're so sweet to think of it." Kohana smiled at him, stroking his cheek with trembling fingers. The one time she’d truly comforted someone else instead of pretending, and she had to pretend to enjoy it—dark thoughts roiled at the back of her mind, not dulled in the least by the sedative.

Apparently, Miki caught something of that, because he stood, taking her hand and gently placing it on the covers. "You look tired. I should probably let you rest. I'll come and visit you later."

"Please do. I'm looking forward to hearing you play." Kohana smiled. Before he turned to leave, Miki leaned down and kissed her. It was as sweet as he was; just a soft, chaste little peck, almost embarrassed at itself. Kohana chuckled in spite of the pain. "You're such a sweetheart."

He smiled back at her, not quite as brightly as usual, but at least he was smiling. As soon as the door closed behind him, Kohana let herself relax, the facade of strength she'd kept up no longer needed. The ache and the dizziness and the fatigue all swooped back in; she could swear she felt every individual stitch as if it were the only one, except all at once, and the slowly growing panic was becoming harder to ignore. It was almost too much—Kohana bit the inside of her cheek until it bled, wrestling with her weakness and her dread.

I will not cry!