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 Nine


Honesty is precious to me now. After so many years of dishonesty, I couldn't stand it anymore once I was actually free to be honest. Nanami and Kyouichi know how much they're worth to me—something I was never really able to tell them before. In action, yes, but not in words. Before her, I was never honest with them, not even in action.

It's important to hear the words. That's another thing I've learned. Even if it's a lie, I still need to hear something, anything. Silence is worse than a false answer.

Kohana was the same way. Not knowing something could drive her up the wall. She once called me 'my other self', and she was right, to a certain degree. There was so much that was the same—our selfishness, our desire to be in control of the situations around us, our willingness to be cruel if the circumstances called for it... It seems now like all the things we had in common were bad things. Let me list a few of the good ones: fearless, intelligent, determined, and passionate about the things we believed. She passionately believed that every day should be lived to its fullest. I passionately believed that women should never be treated ungently.

Which brings me to what Saionji had done. I hit him when I found out. I couldn't believe that he could do something like that, that I could be friends with someone who could even think of trying to rape a woman.

This was just after it was all over and Kohana was gone.

I still wonder why she protected him. If she truly thought she still needed him after that, she was only fooling herself. I never let Saionji know any more than was good for him, and she would have known that, if she had known me or herself at all. Was it kindness? Her own words were that she'd driven him to it, and he backed that up after I calmed down enough to speak to him. Was she trying to heal the hurt she'd done him?

I guess I'll never know now. After all, I can't exactly talk to her. My words just slide off of her like raindrops off a rose leaf.

Honesty and dishonesty are almost the same, when you look at it from our point of view back then. The lies people told were almost as good at telling us what they wanted as the truth. But all I hear from her now is silence.

It's the silence that hurts the most.


The morning went fairly well, for one that was spent in bed and recovering. Kohana had called Saionji to tell him that she would be in to see him in the afternoon, if Touga would let her out of bed. Touga did seem determined to keep her in bed, though not in a way she would have liked; he too stayed home from school, making phone calls, bringing her food and making her eat even though the food made her feel a little sick, talking to her and keeping her amused.

Tanrei helped quite a bit as well. His purring relaxed her, and he even deigned to play with the white curls she draped over his face. Touga caught her at that, dragging a curl just in front of Tanrei's swats, giggling like a little girl. She hadn't even noticed him until he cleared his throat; the sound startled her into sitting up straight, a perfectly innocent look on her face.

He just laughed and left the room, returning with a feather. "Am I competing with my cat for your attentions?" he asked, seating himself beside her on the bed.

"I don't know. Are you?" She leaned down, coming nose to nose with Tanrei. "He'd better not be. If he was competing with you, he might lose."

Tanrei bit her gently on the tip of the nose. Startled, she jerked away.

"See? Even he thinks I should win." Touga ran the feather along her chin, and then kissed her nose. "He may be charming, but I'm better looking." The feather stroked her throat.

"Did you bring that feather for him or for me?" She gathered Tanrei into her arms, tickling him with her hair. The cat quickly got himself tangled in it, claws full of white strands, teeth fastened on a large lock.

"For Tanrei." Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him smile devilishly. "Originally." She shivered as the plume gently tickled the back of her neck.

"Oh, really? Well, I'm sorry, you'll have to wait. Tanrei and I are busy." Kohana snuggled her face into the soft fur of Tanrei's belly. A loud purr commenced, though the chewing sounds continued. Kohana hoped he didn't eat too much of her hair; it would give him one hell of a hairball.

Touga sighed melodramatically. "My favorite girl is ignoring me for my cat. The world truly is a cruel place." Before she could speak, he continued, "Would it help if I said I had a bigger bank account?"

"Maybe," she said, muffled by Tanrei’s fur.

"What about a better motorcycle? I don't think he can even drive." A soft kiss was laid on the back of her neck.

"Really?" She pulled her face out of Tanrei's belly. "Tanrei, is that true?"

He swatted at her hair, catching another curl and chewing it delightedly.

The feather tickled up her spine. "I don't snore."

"Neither does he!" Kohana glared indignantly at Touga. "It's not snoring, it's just purring in his sleep."

"If you say so." His lips quirked upward in a suggestive smile. "And I have a bigger—"

"Touga, not in front of Tanrei—“

"—supply of chocolate." Glancing innocently at her, he asked, "What did you think I meant?"

"Oh, you're impossible." She set Tanrei down and snuggled under the covers. "But if you have chocolate, I suppose I can forgive you."

Reaching over to the bowl of truffles she hadn't finished yet, he took one out and put it in her mouth. "Forgiven?"

Closing her eyes, Kohana wriggled further into the sheets. Chocolate, silk, feathers, cats... Touga's home was a wonderful place to be, for a while. She waited until the truffle had melted completely before she opened one eye and said, "Possibly."

Tapping her nose with the tips of the quill, he said, "There's more where that came from."

"Mmmm…" She shut her eyes again. "I can be bribed. Forgiven."

Tanrei must have decided that she wasn't worth his time anymore—he stood up and stalked off, tail flicking disdainfully as he leaped off of the bed.

"Now look what you've done." Kohana sat up, moving to get out of the bed. "You made me hurt his feelings."

"You're not going anywhere." A warm hand gently pushed her back down to the bed. "You're tired and cold and bruised, and you had a headache all night. You need to rest."

"I'm fine." Pouting, she glared up at Touga. Those sensual lips of his were smiling, the blue eyes gazing at her heatedly. "Oh. Never mind. I'm not feeling well and I need to be pampered and have my every whim catered to."

"That's what I like to hear," he said, and leaned down to kiss her between the breasts.


Touga simply wouldn't leave her alone with Saionji. He still didn't trust him not to hit her. Even though Kohana protested, snarled, threw temper tantrums, and pleaded, he wouldn't give in. It wasn't that she minded if he watched; it was that she wanted to talk to Saionji alone for a while... and she didn't think Saionji would be all right with the idea of his best friend watching him have sex with someone they were both currently having affairs with. There was no reason to push it.

Just as they walked up to the kendo hall, she finally asked, "Do you really want a threesome that badly? Or do you just want to watch?"

"You can do whatever you want, but you're not going in there alone." Touga didn't look at her.

"What’s the matter? Are you afraid I might never come back?"

Just outside the open doorway, he turned to her and said. "No. It's not that I don't trust you, or even him. I just don't trust the way you react to each other."

"How reassuring." Saionji must have heard them talking, for he was suddenly standing in the doorway, his practice sword leaning on his shoulder. "Seitokaicho." He glanced at her, and his natural glare softened a bit. "Kohana."

Oh, she'd done some good work here. "Saionji. Do you know of anything that'll drive him away for a while? I can't seem to get rid of him." She nodded toward Touga.

"Nothing comes to mind, no." He stepped aside, gesturing them to enter. "I'm afraid I can't allow you to practice today, but you can stay and speak to me a while, if you wish."

For Saionji, this was almost warm and fuzzy. Touga looked as surprised as she had ever seen him. Privately, Kohana decided that she'd hate to see Saionji ever fall in love. He was probably the type that would absolutely melt whenever his object of affection entered the room, and that would just be disturbing. "And why can't I practice?" she asked as she walked past him. "I'd like very much to continue, as soon as possible."

Leaning against the wall, Saionji looked delicious. The light slanting across his face made his pale skin seem paler and intensified the purple of his eyes and the green of his curls. An almost embarrassed expression crossed his face before he spoke. "I can't in good conscience push you as hard as I have been, and you're not fully recovered yet."

"Don't go easy on me, Saionji!" The words startled her as well as the other two, but she couldn't have restrained them if she'd tried. "I may have to fight in worse shape than this. I need to learn to deal with it."

Saionji opened his mouth, but Touga cut him off before he could speak. "It's wonderful that the two of you are getting on so well, but I must agree with Saionji. You do need more rest, Kohana. There's no need to push yourself."

"There isn't? I thought I had to become master swordsman within the year, win the duels, revolutionize the world, take care of Student Council business, and do my homework so the teachers don't have any reason to kick me off the Seitokai." She sighed, leaning against the wall. "I don't see any time off in there. I don't even see how I have time to sleep."

The guys were silent for a few moments, glancing at each other and then back to her. Touga ran his fingers down her face. "It's not quite as desperate as you make it seem. As long as you practice every day, you won't lose anything you've learned. And you do need to rest, or you'll only end up hurting yourself."

"The Seitokaicho is correct." Saionji tucked her hair behind her ear. "The migraine you had last night may have been caused by stress. And I meant to ask, by the way, if you were feeling any better."

This earned him a glance of surprise from Touga, but he apparently decided it was better not to ask, at least in front of Kohana. "Much better, thank you. I should be completely recovered within a few days."

"And aside from an hour or two each day, you'll spend them resting." Touga's voice was firm.

Equally adamant, Saionji said, "No more than an hour."

"Fine, fine!" she sighed, and then laughed. "I hope you two don't make this a habit, because eventually I'll just start ignoring you both."

"I know." Touga smiled, moving closer to them. "But this is important." His fingers twined in her hair and stayed there.

Less hesitant than the night before, Saionji gently pulled her to him. There was still a flicker of apprehension in his eyes as he slowly leaned down to kiss her. It was dispelled when she turned her face up to his, her mouth meeting his eagerly.


Touga's fingers moved to the back of her neck, feather light pressure sending shivers up her spine, and Saionji's hands went to her shoulders, his mouth opening to hers. Warm hands slid around her waist, Touga's mouth pressing moistly at the curve of her throat. The cool air seemed charged with sensuality, living desire teasing at her skin, and Kohana sighed in pleasure. One of her hands slid up Saionji's chest, delightfully bare in his keikogi, and the other wrapped around Touga's waist.

A complacently amused chuckle hummed against her throat. "Later, greedy little wanton. You're resting."

Her eyes opened as Saionji sucked tenderly on her bottom lip, pulling away and glancing at Touga. Saionji’s expression was unreadable, though it seemed to Kohana that he wasn't averse to the idea—good! Great, even! Wonderful! The two of them at once—that was almost as good as Touga and Ohtori.

She let her head fall down to Saionji's chest. "I think you're trying to make me die of frustration."

"You couldn't possibly. You might wish to, but you couldn’t." Touga pulled away from her. "Be a good girl, and you'll be rewarded."

"If I must. Will you go away now?"

"You're resting." Touga's voice seemed terribly amused.

"You're not serious." Kohana looked over her shoulder at him. He was serious. "Are you insane?"

Saionji turned her face back to him. "Just for today." The tiny smirk he was wearing was almost unbearable, but she supposed that if he actually smiled, he'd crack his face. "I'll see you tomorrow, Kohana."

"I hate you both and I'm going shopping now." She pulled away from both of them, walking out of the hall.

"I'm coming with you." Touga's amusement was clearly audible. "I'll keep an eye on her," he said, an aside to Saionji. "Tomorrow, then."

There was a soft murmur in reply, and then Kohana clearly heard a wet parting of lips. She'd turned around before she fully realized she was going to.

Framed in the doorway, Touga and Saionji were kissing hungrily. Red hair mingled with green curls, both of their eyes closed in enjoyment, bodies pressed together and arms wrapped around each other—that was just too much! Saionji's hand went to the nape of Touga's neck, fingers threading through the silken red strands. They pulled apart slowly, hands lingering on each other.

Maybe this would be as good as Touga and Ohtori.

Touga shot her a taunting glance, stroking Saionji's cheek as he turned away. Purple eyes were very amused as Saionji too looked from her to Touga, and he turned and walked into the kendo hall without saying anything.

As Touga drew up beside her, Kohana raised her eyebrows at him, waiting for him to say something. With a purring chuckle, he shook his head at her and said, "You'll enjoy what I have planned for when you're well."

That explains why Saionji wasn't really responding—if I'd known this, I would have been more direct!


The inside of the mall was as busy as ever, the muted roaring of the crowds muffled somewhat by the fountains that lined the corridors. Heads turned as Touga and Kohana walked by; she didn't think it was often that people saw a pair as perfect as they. Aside from the bruise on her cheek, they both could have fallen straight from heaven.

Maybe that's why I have the bruise—I landed wrong.

The sarcastic little thought made her chuckle; Touga glanced inquiringly at her.

"Nothing. Just a funny thought," she said.

He sighed and shifted the bag he was carrying. "Are we finished here?"

"Not yet. There's one more place I have to go." An art shop, of course. Paints and brushes and canvas and an easel and charcoal and… maybe a few more books. Touga had already agreed to allow her to have things delivered to his house; it was either that, or they carried the few sets of clothing she'd bought and the rest of the things they'd wanted to buy for his room.

It was almost like she was moving in. She wasn't, not really, but she had been spending enough time there that she needed to keep some things there. And Touga had already notified her of the fact that she was staying where he could keep an eye on her until her bruises healed and the small lump on her head went away.

Plus, well, they both had money to burn. It wouldn't matter if their 'relationship' ended badly—he could always throw her things away.

Oh, and she needed some more brush cleaner.

It had really been irritating her that she hadn't had time to paint lately, so she'd decided that she would use this time to paint. It would take her mind off of other things. Naturally, the main thing she wanted her mind off of was how hot her skin felt and how tight the clothes she'd borrowed from Saionji seemed. They weren't, not at all, but they seemed that way.

Scanning the shops she could see, she decided that she vaguely remembered the art shop as being to her left. She hadn't actually been there in ages; all she usually did was phone in an order and have it delivered and charged to her account. The bank paid her monthly fee to the shop. It saved hassle. But she had to have something to do now, and this would waste some time.

As she started off, she heard a knee-weakening voice near her call out, "Kohana, a truant? I thought you were determined to be the best Seitokaicho Ohtori had ever seen."

Ohtori, of course. She turned toward the voice, seeing him with a lovely woman only a few years older than she was. As they approached, the woman said, "Oh, what's happened?"

For a moment she looked blankly at them, but she 'remembered' the bruise just in time to be cut off by Touga. "There was a small accident. Kohana had a migraine and fainted."

At least he left Saionji out of it. The woman and Ohtori were watching Touga suspiciously, though—it seemed his persuasive personality had, for once, failed him. "Do you get them often, Kohana?" Ripples of warmth shivered up her spine.

"Not often, Akio-san, but often enough. I was lucky that Touga was there to take me into my house, or I would have lain on the walk for a long time." Might as well use that situation again. As far as she knew, there hadn't been any rumors about it. Sakura, Ichida, and Ayame had done a good job of keeping their mouths shut.

The answer mollified him somewhat, but he was still suspicious. He was also completely unassuming, as he had been when she'd 'met' him at lunch that day. "If you're not well, why are you here? You should be at home, resting."

An outburst was the way to deal with this, as well as clear Touga's name a little more. "Oh, I am so sick of that word! No one believes me when I say I'm fine, Saionji won't let me practice my kendo, Touga won't let me out of his sight because he's afraid I'll overexert myself some other way—it's like being surrounded by nannies!"

"Kohana, you agreed to it." Touga seemed unaffected by the outburst, but she could tell from the softness in his eyes that he was grateful for her support.

"Only because you threatened to deprive me of chocolate."

The woman laughed, brushing her pale green hair back from her eyes. She was satisfied by this explanation. Ohtori, however, still appeared doubtful. Appearing to brush it off, he said, "I apologize, I haven't introduced you to my wife yet. Kanae, this is Kohana, the Seitokaicho's assistant."

Greetings were exchanged, and the woman pressed her hand warmly. As far as Kohana could tell, this woman wasn't hiding anything at all. That was a welcome relief. And—Ohtori's wife? Interesting. Did she know about his little dalliances? It seemed like she didn't, or didn't agree with them, because otherwise Kohana was sure that Ohtori would have approached her differently.

"Akio-san, not to appear flip, but aren't you playing truant as well?" Of course she meant to appear flippant. If he could be truant, so could she. It was the way the world worked. Rather, it was the way it worked for her.

He laughed, sending a wave of warmth through her body. He had the most wonderful laugh—deep, rich, velvety, chocolate. All right, she had to admit it, even when he wasn't absolutely radiating eroticism, she still wanted to eat him alive. "I suppose I am, Kohana. I won't tell if you won't." He held out his hand for a handshake to seal the deal.

"Done." She took his hand, trying to ignore the little shiver that wanted to race through her. They shook once, firmly, but as he let go, his fingers slid over the pulse at her wrist. She glanced up toward Kanae; the woman hadn't noticed.

Touga, however, had, and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Kohana, we shouldn't detain the Rijichou any longer. You still have one more place to go, and then we should leave so that you can relax for a while."

Polite protestation in her tone, Kanae said, "You're not detaining us. If anything, you might be able to help us. You see, the art store I usually go to recently went out of business, and I heard there was a very good one here. Do you know where it is?"

Touga opened his mouth to deny it, but Kohana cut him off. "I think so. I was planning on going there too."

"You were?" Touga raised an eyebrow at her. "I wondered where we were going."

"As long as we're all going to the same place, we might as well walk together." Ohtori took his wife's arm. "Lead the way, Kohana."

There was little conversation on the way to the shop, the greater part of which was provided by Kanae and Kohana, comparing their different styles of painting while the men stayed silent or laughed at one comment or another. Touga seemed uneasy—she still didn't really understand why. Ohtori wasn't harmless, but they hardly ever saw him. What did it matter if he'd slept with him?

As they rounded a turn and Kohana was about to decide she didn't remember where the art shop was after all, she caught sight of it. "Oh, they've got French easels! I need one of those."

"Where?" Kanae asked, and then said as she caught sight of it, "Oh, I see them. Let's go!" She giggled, and started walking faster. They left the men trailing behind them and dove eagerly into the store, searching for all their favorite treasures.

Kohana soon managed to separate herself from Kanae in the store; she preferred oils while Kanae painted in watercolor. Two totally different styles of painting, with accessories to match. Reveling in the clean, dusty paper smell of the art store and filling her basket with all the shades she loved, she didn't even notice someone walking up behind her until he spoke. "It looks like you're buying the whole set."

Ohtori. That voice was recognizable anywhere, so she didn't bother to turn around. She'd been wondering when he would try to get her alone.

"Not really. I don't need all of them, just the main ones. I like to mix my own shades." When would the conversation turn to sex? Kanae was all the way at the other end of the huge store, and Touga likely had no idea where she'd be. But it wouldn't be long before he found her, knowing that Ohtori was probably with her. "I didn't know you were married, Akio-san."

"Does that bother you?" There was a hint of laughter in his voice, just a tingle that gave her goosebumps.

"No." She moved on to the brushes, ignoring the fact that she had to strain to reach them.

At that he did laugh, and then she felt his hand on her shoulder. His fingers wrapped around her arm, sliding up it and bringing her wrist down to eye level. The sleeve of Saionji's shirt had pulled back, exposing the bruises, and Ohtori wrapped his hand around them. It covered them completely. "Someone with hands a little smaller than mine," he mused, stepping into her line of vision. "Tell the truth, now, Kohana. What happened?"

Damn it, she couldn't say anything without implicating Saionji, and if she said nothing, Touga would take the heat for it. She still had a score to settle with him, but she didn't want him kicked out of school or in jail or something. "Please, don't concern yourself. It was nothing but a misunderstanding between a friend and I, and it's been cleared up."

"Are you sure?" he asked, bringing the bruised place up to his lips. The soft kiss he placed on it made her tremble—that was nowhere near chaste. "Because if you wanted, I would be more than glad to make a place for you in my home."

Oh, she was certain of that. The way he was smiling at her said that he'd also be more than glad to make a place for her in his bed. "Taking advantage of a woman in distress?" she murmured. She smiled at him, her eyes heavy-lidded and promising.

Laughing ever so softly, he leaned down to whisper in her ear. His warm breath and the brush of his lips taunted her as her said, "You won't tell anyone, will you?" The scent of his cologne was absolutely voluptuous.

Before she had a chance to answer, he had taken her ear lobe between his lips, sucking at it and sending little bolts of pleasure through her entire body. It was too much; she'd been itching to drag someone into bed all day, and Touga had managed to drive away anyone who seemed amenable. Kohana leaned into him, running her hand up his arm and cupping his jaw to hold him there. Ohtori nibbled a trail down the side of her neck; she pushed her breasts against his chest, enjoying the contrasting feelings of the silky wetness of his mouth, the sharp pleasure-pain of his teeth, and the strength of the hand that was still gently holding her wrist.

His other hand made its way to her waist, crushing her even closer to him, her back arched at an impossible angle that only intensified the feeling of defenselessness against her own lust. Ohtori's hips were canted toward hers, and she could clearly feel him hardening through the layers of material that separated them.

"They'll notice if we slip off for a while," he said into her skin, a regretful whisper. "Especially Touga."

Something in his voice made her crack her eyelids open, and she saw that Touga was leaning against the shelves, watching them calmly. He crossed his legs, folded his arms over his chest; Kohana saw the uneasiness betrayed by those movements, but couldn't bring herself to stop Ohtori.

It was he who ended it, biting gently at her throat, and then slowly releasing her. "Some other time," he said. "And we'll be sure to make up for all of this delay."

"That had better be a promise," Kohana purred. She already knew it was.

Ohtori laughed, running the tip of his finger down her cheek before turning away. In passing, he said to Touga, "I never thought a gentleman would treat a lady so roughly."

Kohana, shocked, couldn't speak until after Ohtori had disappeared into another aisle. "What in hell gave him that idea?" she finally stammered. He didn't still think Touga was the one who had done it, did he?

"Whatever lie you told him," Touga answered coolly. He took the basket from where she'd set it down, and asked, "Are you finished here?"

Now Touga thought she'd told Ohtori he had hit her. Just great. She should have told him that Saionji had done it, and let Saionji deal with the consequences. "I only told him the same thing I told you, Touga."

"Really?" He wasn’t as angry as she'd thought he should be. That didn't mean he wasn't angry. "In any case, you were a little indiscreet, Kohana. Kanae is in the store."

"I know." She sighed and leaned back against the shelves. "But I just couldn't... I don't know." Quickly turning back to the brushes, she selected the ones she wanted while she spoke. "I didn't tell him that you were the one who had hit me, Touga. Even you have to know that it’s not in my interest to get you in trouble with the school, and I didn’t want to get Saionji into trouble. I didn’t mention anyone’s name."

There was a short silence, and she heard footsteps coming towards her. She continued to stretch to reach one of the brushes she wanted.

"Don't," he said, reaching up to get the brush for her. "That was what you were doing when he asked you about it, wasn't it?"

"Yes. I wasn't careful enough, I suppose."

"Another reason we want you to stay away from the school until you're healed. People will ask questions." He handed the brush to her, and waited for her to point to another one. "You can't be careful all the time, and if you're not and you're unlucky, everything can come crashing down."

"I know." Right about now, she knew it very well.

"Then I'm glad it was the Rijichou who saw them, and not someone else. He won't do anything." Touga smiled at her, tenderly taking a hold of her chin and kissing her. As he pulled away, he said, "But you've got to be more careful in the future, especially about where you are when you're with him. He'd find a way to make it your fault if you two were discovered together even if he had you tied up."

"Wouldn't we all," Kohana murmured. What was that strange tone to his voice? It was almost like he wanted to tell her something more, but didn't want to at the same time. There was something about his reaction to Ohtori that prickled the hair at the nape of her neck.

"Let's finish up, then. They'll be here for a while; I spoke to Kanae, and she's having trouble deciding what to buy."

Before long, she had all of the paints and brushes she felt like carrying, and they'd asked the store to deliver the rest of the things she wanted to Touga's house. It would be good to sit down at the easel she'd bought and try to work things out on canvas—it always helped, sharpened her thoughts somehow and brought them into focus.

As they left the store, she said, "Touga, pose for me."

"Now?" he teased, flicking his hair over his shoulder.

Kohana just shook her head and laughed. Maybe she'd do one of herself, too, to hang in her room. There were a few pictures of her at home—she could easily pick them up. It had been a long time since she’d done a self-portrait, but there was a theme that had been developing in her mind ever since she’d met Touga. It would be interesting to see how it turned out.

"Are you doing one of yourself as well?" He glanced at her with amusement in his eyes.

"You read my mind." And it happened so often. Very interesting indeed.


The next few days were spent in lazy indulgence and sybaritic pursuit of pleasure. Touga insisted on staying with her, supposedly to make sure that she wasn't overexerting herself, but she was sure he enjoyed those days as much as she did. Being with him was almost like being alone; both of them were so easy with each other when not at odds that it was almost frightening. She'd only known him for a little while, after all, and didn't consider him a friend—friends were people you could actually talk about important things with. She had none of those, and didn't want them. But Touga was different, almost like having a conversation with herself, only more amusing. After all, flirting with herself was kind of pointless.

If I could trust him—

But that was pointless, too. She satisfied herself with painting him, flirting, sleeping with him, being fed chocolates, and generally relaxing in a way she hadn't since... well, ever.

The painting was coming along nicely, as was her insight into the circumstances she’d been thrust into. On the first day, she'd roughed in an outline in charcoal, posing him on a wide chair in a loose, almost languid pose. One heel on the seat of the chair, his elbow resting on one arm of the chair and his chin leaning on his hand, looking straight out of the painting at the viewer. Of course, he was wearing his uniform—it seemed an integral part of who he was, though she'd seen him with it off often enough. Sometimes he'd even been wearing clothes.

She'd then sketched a rose from memory, dangling from the other hand that was resting on his knee. It had taken her a while to decide whether his shirt should be open or not; either way reflected some quality she knew he had, dignity and eroticism. But it was already going to be a rather sad painting, she thought, and so she left the shirt open to balance it and give it an aura of distant sensuality.

He'd laughed, joking with her while she gestured in the folds of his clothes and the drape of his hair, getting charcoal spots on her face and hands and sticking her tongue out at him when he laughed at her for being so messy. But when he'd seen the bold, sure strokes of charcoal on the canvas, he fell silent. It was the face that puzzled him—it wasn't an expression he would normally wear. It was calm, but even from the rough sketch she'd done, one could feel the hidden pain and sadness.

"Is that how you see me?" he asked, not turning from the canvas to look at her.

"It's how I'm going to paint you," she said, ending that subject abruptly.

Gradually, color was added, once she had satisfied herself that her charcoal sketch was perfect. The chair was redone into a kind of throne, blacks and greys formed the background for the snowy white suit and red hair—all right, she had to admit, it was a color scheme she liked. Black, white, and red seemed to fit together somehow. With only a few touches of other color, and none of them very bright, the focus was on the face and most of all, the eyes.

Bright, liquid blue. She spent a lot of time on them, doing and redoing and painting over any tiny imperfection until she had them perfect, lifelike and almost ready to blink. Amazing, how the blank canvas had gained a life of its own. It was as if she'd given it some of her life.

As the painting slowly developed into something near art, she also began to see some things clearer about Touga. Obviously he was hiding from her—she'd known that from the beginning. But now… now she could see some of what it was that he was hiding. It had been strange how he seemed to want her on the Council and then had changed his mind, changed it again—and that talk on the cell phone with whoever it was had revealed more than she'd thought at first.

The pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. What he truly wanted was for her not to be on the Seitokai, not because of who or what she was, but because of something else. A danger in the game, perhaps. Someone had a hold over him, however, one that he couldn't refuse. She still couldn't tell what—as far as she knew, there was nothing anyone could hold over him. He seemed to have no family except Nanami, and from what she could tell he didn't care for her very much.

But there was nothing anyone could use to threaten him with besides the things he cared about, and she truly doubted that anyone would be able to cut him off from his games or his women. And what else did they care about?

Nothing, really. Indulging themselves. Being admired, though that was less important than useful. Saionji had said that Touga didn't allow himself to care about his friends, either—oh, it would have been so much easier if he'd just told her and been done with it! In the few moments she was able to steal with him here and there—when they weren't amusing themselves—she found out nothing of real importance. Just that Arisugawa and Kaoru would be near-impossible to crack if she wanted to find out what it was that they were hiding.

In any case, at least she had one of her answers. The members of the Seitokai didn't want her on it. If only she'd been able to turn the sadness on Arisugawa's face and Saionji's resistance to the idea of teaching her into her conclusions about Touga sooner than this! But it was no use berating herself over it; she'd found out some of it, and she'd have to work on finding out the rest.

She decided to wait until she had Saionji there before she did anything. If she did this the right way, he would be a great help to her.