She Holds the World Together With Her Thoughts

Kazuha has seen him shirtless before. She's even seen him butt naked. But that was when they were six years old and joined by steel bracelets. Now she's not six anymore and when she walks in on Heiji shirtless...reading a book in the hot summer heat she feels an instant of butterflies in her stomach.

"Kazuha? Jeeze, you should have knocked or something! I'll put on a shirt."

She blusters past him, trying to ignore the heat in her cheeks. "Oh please. You don't have anything I haven't seen. Half the boys on the karate team walk around shirtless during practice."

He shrugs and drops the shirt he was about to put on. And if, when he sits back down, he's holding himself a little better, preening a little....hell, she's not going to call him on it. She sits next to him on the bed, but not too close.

"So what brings you by?"

"I was working on our summer break homework, and I wanted to ask you a question about the science." As she opens her notebook across her knees she is surprised to see the omamori dangling from his neck, lying against his heart. She feels relieved, if he wears it even now in his own room, he MUST wear it on cases, right?

He moves to grab a pen, stretching across the bed towards his desk. She notices the line of a scar, pale against his dark skin.

Kazuha reaches out and touches it. It is an involuntary reaction. His breath draws in with a hiss and he sits very, very still.

"That's where he shot you, isn't it?"

He nods.

She remembers how scared she was that day, afraid he was dying, and her heart beats a little faster in a sympathetic echo of the memory. Her fingers move across his skin, silently remembering each brush with danger. Beaten, bruised, attacked. Why is it that Heiji always seemed to get hurt? Even she scarred him, Kazuha thought, as she discovered the little nick across the back of a palm. He'd tried to hide that from her.

And other things as well. There are scars here that she doesn't know about. Stories he never told her. She searches them all out.

Kazuha also knows that if she could part his thick hair in just the right place she would find a scar there too. A memento of Kyoto. Her fingers tangle in it briefly and it's like he reads her thoughts. "

"I was lucky you were there that time." He says, "He would have killed me for sure."

All these dangers he's faced, and still faces. And he never seems to come out of it unscathed. Each pale knot a time she could have lost him forever. And suddenly it's too much and the tears well up in her eyes, stinging like salt. She hugs him fiercely, burying her face against the strong line of his shoulder and not caring about the skin.

His voice is rough and warm. "Aww, Kazuha, you're not supposed to CRY."

She shakes her head, ponytail swinging in his face. But he loops one arm around her shoulders and pats her back with the other murmuring encouragingly.

"Oh, Heiji," she says, and she hates the helplessness in her voice. "Oh, Heiji, be careful."

"Nothing's going to happen."

"Don't do anything stupid. Promise me. What would I do if you ever..." She can't think it, let alone say it out loud, so he hugs him tighter instead.

"I won't. Not as long as I have you to protect me." He runs a finger along the cord at her neck, the twin to his own omamori.

It isn't a confession or a declaration. Not from either of them. And tomorrow they will be back to normal. But just for now it is enough. He is her rock. And she holds the world together with her thoughts.

Author's Notes:

1. Very pleased with this one, even if it is incredibly short. Ysabet asked for Heiji naked, but shirtless was the best I could do at the time. There is just the tiniest hint of a spoiler for the 7th movie. Sorry. The title comes from a phrase in Emma Bull's "Freedom and Necessity" but I'm fairly sure she was quoting something else at the time.