He's doing it again, he's staring at me with eyes more intense than usual - and believe me, for Seiji, that's a statement. He blinks and I quickly go back to chopping carrots. Don't say anything, don't say anything, don't say anything...

He didn't say anything. Whew, I'm in the clear. I throw another glance only to find he's staring at me again, and I quickly turn back.

He's been doing that lately, Seiji has, and it's got me really worried. There are times when I'll just find him standing perfectly still, and his eyes are a deeper violet than they normally are, and they are always directly locked onto me. What, exactly, is it about me that's gotten him into random staring contests? Don't think I haven't tried to meet his eyes; I actually managed a full thirty seconds before I quickly found an excuse to leave the room. Hell, I would have left the country if I could. Yes, yes, this is the part where you start brow beating me. The mighty, virtuous, unstoppable warrior who savagely slashed unsavory citizens of the Youjakai is running in resolute terror rebound upon him by the overly intense eyes of his number one cheerleader.

Hey, I just managed alliteration. My English teacher would be proud.

But yes, dear Seiji is my number one cheerleader. Shin's my psychologist (though I think he must be one for everybody...), Shuu is my trainer, Touma is my manager, and Seiji is my cheerleader. Ignoring my grotesque disgust for Touma, (damn him that he can always make me do as he wants!) I've somehow managed to fall into the best set of friends a guy could ever ask for. It's a really nice, feel-good feeling that sometimes can sweep over me at unexpected moments. It fills me up even in my darkest times - and believe me, I have a lot of dark times, thank you - and give me the courage to keep going forward, fighting the good fight, saving the world, and all the other little side affects of having a mystical armor that can be called up at will and shoot out rounds of fire in the defense of mankind.

Oh, did I not mention that? I, we, all have yoroi, greatly changed since Suzunagi helped us, and we can call upon it to perform great damage if we think it benefits someone.

Do I sound bitter? Sometimes that sweeps over me too. Even after Suzunagi, there are moments when all the despair, desperation, and heartache well up, in all of us, and almost tears us to pieces.

That's why Seiji is so helpful to me. Am I still not clear? Let me try again. When I've locked upon an idea - usually about sacrificing myself (not that I ever think of it that way; usually I don't think at all, I just do) - Seiji is the only one, the only one who will allow me to do it. The only provision is that he follows in right after me to save my sorry ass when I go a bit too far. The others won't let me; they try their darndest to stop me. Do they think I can't handle things? I know Shin found me unconscious, and Touma saw me pretty beat up, when they were respectively woken up. Even Shuu found me (and Shin) hammered to a pulp after Rajura tricked us into fighting each other. The funny thing, though, is that Seiji's also seen me unconscious. He's even hinted that he heard me crying out for him in Akiyodashi. Of all of them, he would be the first in line to stop me from doing something they label as "stupid."

But he doesn't. He lets me do my thing.

Ah, I love him for that.

Hey, why are you balking? Is it really inconceivable for me to love somebody? To even love another Trooper?

Oh, let me guess, you think that I'm above such things; I'm too perfect for something as trivial as love.

Well, screw you. And yes, I just said that. I'm proving a point: I'm not perfect. I don't know the right thing to do, I don't instinctively know how to handle my friends, and I haven't the faintest clue what my destiny is. It took me years before I could acknowledge that it's necessary (not okay, not by a long shot) to put my friends in danger in order for them to A.) Not worry, B.) Give me strength and C.) Make defeating the demon du jour easier.

Hey, I alliterated again. Yay me!

What I'm saying is that I have my own faults, thank you, so I'm not so perfect as to be above falling in love, and Seiji himself is very lovable. Touma would choke on his cake if he ever heard me say that, but it's true. Once you get past that very carefully composed exterior, Seiji is actually quite sweet. There are times when I think he's the only one to know what I'm feeling, or at least deem it worth bringing up. When Touma up and decided to push me out of the fight, I found out later that, while none of them liked the idea, he was the only one to say so.

He expressed such profound belief in me, when we thought the others were dead and Arago's body was still forming. It was the first time he'd done it in words, and ever since then, I see it constantly in his actions. It's like, if I make some kind of decision, he automatically thinks it's the right one and starts following me. It was probably the first thing I loved about him.

That he's drop dead gorgeous helps, too. Does that sound shallow? I've met his parents, his has his mother's features; oval face, small nose and thin mouth, and his grandfather's intense eyes. The hair is his father's though. When I told Seiji this, he was honestly shocked; saying no one outside his own family had ever seen the resemblance. His pale coloring makes everyone automatically assume he's adopted or something. He was really touched when I said that.

How can I tell? Geez, isn't it obvious? His eyes widened, his eyebrows raised an eighth of an inch, and he didn't speak for a full ten seconds. When he's angry his lips press really thin and the color bleeds out of his eyes. When he's happy his lips fight against the smile, but his eyes are smiling on full volume. When he's in deep though his eyes are very far away, even then he always know what's going on around him (if only I could do that, it would make life fighting demons so much easier). It's not really that hard.

The veggies are in the pot with the fish and ramen. He has his arms crossed in front of him with the far away look.

I wonder what he's thinking. He gives off the aura of a deep person, the kind of guy you expect in older dress pondering the meaning of the universe. We've all caught him at random points in the lotus position, and Touma likes to theorize which sutra he's contemplating.

Personally, I think he does that to think about the events of the day, to reflect and be happy about things. I do it to, just without folding me legs into pretzels. I loved standing out on Nasutei's balcony, watching the sunset over the lake, amazed that we had somehow survived another day, wondering darkly if we'd be doing battle the next day. Those were dark times, and none of us came out of it without scars.

But it was also a good time too, because I don't think the five of us were ever closer. The bond we share is so strong; some of us can connect almost psychically. I heard Seiji's voice when Touma and I had first entered the Youjakai, and he sensed Touma's arrow before it arrived. They all felt Mukara, and I felt every one of them with Suzunagi. I wonder if it will get stronger over time.

Oh, he just smiled! That's a rare event indeed.

"You're in a good mood," I can't help but say. I want to know why he's so happy. "Did something good happen?" Preferably to do with me?

"I just had a funny thought."

"Really? What was it? Come on, spread the good cheer!" I want to know what makes you happy; I want to know that it's me, and if not I want to do everything that makes you happy so that it becomes me.

"I was picturing..." He's paused, his mind is off again.


"I was picturing those chibi-tiger boxers you have."

... He saw those? A laugh bursts out of me and I'm certain I'm turning bright red. "I can't believe you remembered those! I nearly died of embarrassment when Nasutei bought me those!" and now comes the humiliating story of why I got those. Dear god let me die quietly of the embarrassment.

"Nasutei bought you those?"

"Yeah, just after we defeated Arago the first time. I was sleeping most of the time, and apparently none of you were my size, and nobody knew where I lived yet. So she went out and bought me a few essentials. Would you believe that there were a coordinating socks, towel, and toothbrush? When she showed me I think I turned about as that sweater I always wore." You know; kind of how I'm looking right now? Actually, I'm sure I've gone from red to purple. Of all the things he had to picture to make him smile it was those horrible things. I never wore them; I thought I'd hid them deep, deep in the bowels of my drawer. How did he even see them?

Part of my mind is wishing (okay, okay, deluding myself into thinking) that maybe he loves me back, and was having some kind of wild fantasies when he put away the laundry. On second thought, that's a little creepy.

Besides, I'm pretty sure he isn't in to guys. Whenever we're out together or with the others, the girls naturally flood him, and however strained, he fights to be polite and courteous (well, duh) with them. The guys, however, always bring about this tiny sweat drop down his right temple, and he has a much harder time coming up with an appropriate response. My fantasies tell me it's only because the rest of us are with him, he's embarrassed that he keeps being solicited like this, and the men who admire him are stranger than normal. But then, I'm not one to judge, because I have a yoroi and can take out several city blocks with a thought and a shout.

My humiliation would happily continue until, "Hm," Seiji says. "She's like that, always looking out for us in way that we never even thought of."

"Yeah..." He's saved me from death by sitcom! I'm back among the cool! Oh, happy day!

See? My number one cheerleader.

Which is why it worries me so much that he's been acting strangely. Whenever I'm in the room, he acts almost nervous; he's always ducking out. I wonder if he's noticed that I'm always trying to have his company (especially by myself. The last thing I want is Touma butting in about chocolate cake, or Shuu dragging us out for a jog, or...). There must have been over a dozen moments, where he looks like he's about to say something, something monumental, when poof, it disappears and he turns around. What the heck am I supposed to do with that? What am I supposed to think other than he's mad at me?

The timer goes off and I get up to dish out the ramen. I've used all of his favorites; I sure hope he notices it. I set the bowls down and pick up my chopsticks. His tea is empty, so I get up and refill it. He doesn't even blink; he's off in thought-land again. Argh! This is frustrating. It's really hard to have a conversation if the other guy is not only the love of your life but completely tuned out to you because he's mad over... just what the hell did I do anyway?

"Seiji? You going to eat?"

He blinks and his eyes come back into focus. He stares at the bowl, glares at it, as if to demand what right it has to be there.

Oh, screw heavy silences! I'm getting to the bottom of this!

"Seiji, is something on your mind? You've been acting a little weird for the last couple weeks. Have I done something wrong?"

Stupid, stupid, stupid! You shouldn't have mentioned yourself. You should have just let him tell you about it in his own words! Stupid!

So what does he do? He bursts out laughing. Now, he's laughed before, it's not foreign, but this was the weirdest laugh I've ever heard. It's actually a giggle, only that's too light a word for what he's doing. The first thought that flashes across my mind is that he's officially gone insane; the next logical thought is that it's my fault. I've obviously done something to drive him over the edge! What the hell did I do to cause this much trouble in him! How horrible am I to make my friend have to live the rest of his life in an institutional rubber room with a straight jacket (which is strangely sexy) and getting electroshock treatment which wouldn't affect him at all and he'd froth at the mouth whenever he'd see me and--

"Only you, Ryo," he sputters. "Only you."

... Hah?

"Only me what...?" I ask tentatively. Please don't do insane again, please don't go insane again, please don't go insane again!

"Only you could be you," His face is still laughing, I've never seen his lavender eyes brighter; they look like jewels. He's never looked more handsome. "It's what I love about you."

... Wait, did he just say that?

There's a light, brighter than the overhead light of the kitchen, brighter then the sun, and it's bouncing off his wonderfully blonde hair and into my life. Then I realize all the emotion I've been suffering under the last few weeks was wasted. Son of a...

"Is that what this is all about! Geez, Seiji, why didn't you tell me sooner?"

It's the first and probably only time I've ever seen him completely speechless.

"I was wondering if that was what it was. Seiji, how many times do I have to tell you not to hide your feelings from us? From me? You did it in America, you did it Africa, and you did it with Suzunagi. It's not healthy!" I'm mad now, the emotion boils though me as quickly as it appeared, and leaves just as fast. "You could have saved me a world of worry. I thought you were mad at me, that maybe you'd found out that I loved you and found it offensive or something. God knows, you're always freaked out when guys try to hit on you. But noooo, you're too busy freaking yourself out because you love me."

He's still speechless; I can tell that his mind has gone blank. He didn't know that I loved him? Well, that's fair, I suppose; I didn't know he loved me. It's funny that we're all so close, and yet still so far away from each other. I thought feelings this strong would have been sensed. Goodness knows Shin and Shuu have been eyeing us lately. This has shown me how much we still have to learn about each other. We have the rest of our lives to do it.

"You... love me?" I can actually hear the shock in his voice, he's completely off guard. How did I get so close to his face? "As in... 'love' love?"

A giggle falls out of my lungs.

"Yes, Seiji, I do."