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Painless

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"Hey, did you see that Aoyagi-kun's ears were gone?"

"Really? I didn't notice!"

Ritsuka twitched as he felt eyes boring into his retreating figure. It wasn't as if he asked for this sudden attention…it was simply a walk down the hall!

Then again, anyone who lost their ears would be prone to sudden rumors immediately following the day after they were gone. The realization had came to him too late to be of any use to him at that moment…it hadn't occurred to him to purchase false ears on his way home the other night.

I did nothing wrong…he thought, digging his hands into his pockets as he sped up his pace, hurrying farther down the hallway of the high school, wanting to get to the privacy of the roof as soon as he could. At least up there he would be able to hear himself think and would no longer be prone to prying eyes and whispers.

True he was only sixteen years old but strangely enough…there were very few students who had lost their ears at this age. Yuiko still had hers, Yayoi still possessed his, most of his class even kept their own throughout the years.

Maybe that was why it was such a hot topic among the other students…

Then there was the final thought...who made him loose his ears?

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Winter was growing bolder and bolder with a chilling atmosphere that made Ritsuka shiver as he stood upon the full exposure of the rooftop. Being the brilliant person that he somehow managed to become, he had forgotten his coat, which had been shoved into the depths of his shoe locker upon his arrival and now that the halls were lined with students during their lunch break, he was trapped without a coat.

At first the chilly air felt pleasant compared to the oven that was the school with the cranked up heating system…but now the welcome cool air had lost its luster and Ritsuka wanted to retreat back inside.

Removing his hands from his pockets, he folded his arms across his chest, holding his school uniform blazer closed about him. Ever since he had gotten into the high school the students had been required to wear uniforms, in spite of the fact that they didn't need them when he was in grade school. The concepts confused him and they didn't insulate worth a damn…

The Sacrifice sighed, his shoulders shaking with the little improvement as he advanced towards the edge of the roof, peering down upon the students that braved the cold down below. They crawled across the grounds at a snail's pace, tails shivering and ears firmly down against their heads. The wintry air was always irksome, it always chilled his ears without mercy…it was strange not to feel that icy cold touch above his head now.

Risking his warmth, he absently reached up, pressing his hand firmly atop his head where his ears had once been…nothing but hair and the slight bumps that were where the cat appendages once protruded…Soubi had these bumps too…

…Soubi…

He had almost forgotten about the Sentouki…if that had been possible.

The night they made love for the first time was an awkward experience but Ritsuka had felt closer to Soubi then they had ever mustered before…but when he had begun to scratch at the strange mark upon his chest…Soubi appeared rather upset.

Just feeling the bumps upon his head seemed to make him uncomfortable all of a sudden…he hadn't expected to see Soubi look so distant all of a sudden. He lowered his hand, wrapping his arms about himself again as he crouched down upon his haunches, turning his back on the view from the school's roof.

As he thought about Soubi, the memories of their first night together crept perversely into his mind and he shivered. The warmth of Soubi's large hands that ran up and down his arms and over his body so delicately…he felt fragile in his arms that night…but he wasn't about to inform the Fighter that any time soon.

"Soubi…"

Words…he wanted his words. That spellbinding voice to whisper against his human ears now that the catty appendages had disappeared…he wanted phrases to spill into him and course through his body like blood through his veins and stay there, locking away into his heart where they wouldn't escape.

Squeezing his upper arms tightly, Ritsuka trembled where he crouched into his miniscule warmth for what felt like ages. An eternity of loneliness…until something spread around him and a comforting warmth pressed into his shoulder and his body. The scent of strawberries and feminism was all he could smell with his numbing nose and he managed to peek off to the side at the girl kneeling on the rooftop, her arms around him and pressing down his own coat over his shoulders.

"Yuiko…"

"Ritsuka-kun…don't be sad…I don't like seeing you sad." She said, squeezing him tighter.

The Sacrifice winced, unnoticed.

It was amazing that Yuiko was embracing him like she was…even though he had turned her down when she had declaired her love to him the other day…in fact, it was the same day he had lost his ears with Soubi. How could it have felt to tell someone that you love them and then be turned down immediately…only for them to appear at school the next day without their ears?

Yuiko knew that Soubi was the one responsible for his missing ears…he knew that she knew…and yet she brought him out his jacket to him and was trying to warm him. Perhaps…this was just the way a girl loves someone. Gentle to the person that had turned her down even though it may have hurt on the inside…

Yuiko…has grown up a little since I last saw her…

Ritsuka managed to muster a small smile and Yuiko noticed it right away, releasing him and grinning as he pulled his arms through the sleeves of his jacket and zipped it up, encasing himself in warmth at last.

I'm sorry…Yuiko…I let you see me in a pitiful state.

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Ritsuka winced as he removed his uniform shirt, lightly touching the bandages that were wrapped about his upper torso, he could see spots of blood where the wound had re-opened again from his daily movement.

Mother…you probably will not be able to forgive me for my sin…

It happened after he had returned home from Soubi's the night he had lost his ears…his mother was waiting for him. Ritsuka did not even have a chance to retreat to his room and be able to call out to her from the safety of his locked door. No…Mother was waiting up for him that night.

When Ritsuka entered, she appeared in the doorway of the kitchen, one hand holding onto a kitchen knife that she had been using to chop up garlic to use on making a late dinner for Ritsuka and herself. She was beginning to mention his surpassed curfew when she noticed that something was different about her stranger of a son…

Ritsuka…what happened? Where are your ears?

The teenager sighed softly as he remembered how innocent those words sounded at first…she sounded inquisitive and nothing more…but when he did not answer her, she was upset. He had upset her again and this called for immediate punishment that he convinced himself that he deserved. Ritsuka knew it would be painful…but it was what he believed to be what he deserved. It was atonement…

That's dirty! My Ritsuka doen't do such things! Dirty! You're Filthy!

M-Mother!

He remembered the cold gleam of the kitchen knife and the swift slice of his flesh as it glanced over his side, tearing his uniform shirt and slicing the skin…shallow…but severe enough damage that was still not complete without the sprinkles of tiny bruises made by her slender fingers over his arms. Those alone would never have paid the full price…the price that Loveless had burdened him with.

Peering down, he lightly ran his fingertips over the red mark that had appeared upon the center of his chest. It was strange to see the broken heart forming…but he couldn't bring himself to cover it up when he had dressed his wound the previous night. He was curious about the mark of his name…

He sighed solemnly, draping his shirt over the back of his chair and peering over at the homework pile neatly stacked on the corner of his desk. He had to finish it by Monday…but at the moment…he had to find another shirt to replace his former one.

"I'll have to apologize to her again…" he murmured as he removed a roll of bandages from his desk drawer. Over the years he had noted that he had to keep a first aid drawer handy so that he would have ways of tending to his wounds without troubling his parents or going to the hospital and risking questions he would not be able to answer.

Ritsuka sank down upon the edge of his bed, unfastening the little metallic catch that held the bandages together so that they would not unravel in the drawer. He unrolled the fabric slowly, his eyes scanning over the tiny stitches weaving in and out of one another to make the cover-ups that tucked away his healing wounds.

How much longer will it be before this will become simply one more scar?

Craning over, he reached for the scissors inside of the drawer but immediately flinched away as the wound stung severely and made him cringe from the sharp pain that reminded him of the dinner knife and the bits of garlic that had been stuck to the blade from his mother's preparing a late dinner when he returned home.

Cupping his palm over the exact location gingerly, Ritsuka sighed, the bandages lying in a wad in his lap as he allowed the pain to throb. He let it cut through his flesh and pierce every nerve in his body like electric shocks that reverberated through him, it was all he could do. Simply wait it out until the pain numbed every nerve and allowed him to ease back into his ebbed stature that he managed to stay in earlier.

He gripped the fabric of his uniform pants, fingers catching hold of strips of the bandages. The teen tilted his head back, eyes shut so tightly that he could have felt the hot tears streak one glistening trail each down his cheeks before simply dropping out of existence if all of his senses had not been distracted by the pain of the unconsciously made wound.

Comfort…he wanted comfort. He wanted words…words of comfort…soothing tones rich with a deep baritone pitch that resonated through his body with the same intensity of his stinging nerves.

"Sou-bi…"

Let the nouns and adverbs spark up those charring flames again if that was what would happen, he wanted those phrases and unconscious sonnets to fill his head and push away the reminders of the pains of home. He wanted the sensation of flames…the heat of Soubi's body that he could curl into as if her were a child again…that desire for the Fighter's touch was enough to scorch him…but electricity was deadlier…

Gritting his teeth, Ritsuka pushed the bandages out of his lap, watching through one squinting eye as they flopped upon the floorboards, useless strips of cloth that couldn't ease the pain any faster. They were only there to hide the source away…

The Sacrifice slowly stood up from his bed, shuffling over to his closet. He had to hide it…if he left it in visibility…someone would see it. If Soubi came to the window…

Removing a high-necked sweater from the depths of the closet, Ritsuka managed to pull it on over his head, struggling to push his arms through the sleeves as he choked back a painful cry. The dark fabric drowned him out with black threads that sagged a bit over his already ebon slacks. He almost thought he resembled Seimei in a way but the thought only whizzed through his mind, the pain returning to the top priority. It was somewhat lesser though…

Slowly returning to his bed, he carefully sat upon the mattress and laid back upon the sheets, careful not to lay upon his side and also pulling the cell phone from his pocket.

The movement was regrettable…

At least the phone was out and the Sacrifice found himself calling the Sentouki before he realized that he had pressed the speed dial buttons to call him.

"Ritsuka?"

The Sacrifice made a painful and yet startled cry as he realized what he had done.

"Ritsuka, what's wrong?"

He had heard it…he heard the pain…

"I-It's nothing." He said.

"Then why did you call?"

Ritsuka grimaced. Soubi didn't usually ask him why he called…then again Soubi wasn't aware that his Sacrifice was deeply in love with him before.

"You told me…th-that I could call anytime!" he snapped in his defense, "You didn't say I had to have a reason behind it! If I need a reason every time I need to call you then why did you say I could call you anytime!"

"Ritsuka…you're hurt again, aren't you?"

The teen froze, eyes wide.

"Where are you? Are you at home? I'll come to get you."

How…How could he sound so calm? Why was his voice so calm on the other end of the phone? The Fighter was a phone call away so it may have been possible to sound indifferent when he didn't see the Sacrifice himself. What would he do if he saw the wounds anyway?

"I'm fine. Forget I called." He said bitterly through grit teeth and pressed the "end" button before any more words could pour out of the phone. You drive me crazy…I want to hear your voice…but when I hear it, I feel sick. You make me feel sick…

Covering his face with a hand as he supported his side, he rolled over onto his other side, his back to the window.

It's disgusting how much I love you...

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A/N

((And there you have it! The first chapter of my attempt at the sequal to What's in a Name?

I hope that I can live up to the expectations that have been made by the readers of my previous fan fic. I'll try my best to not disappoint you all! Please revieiw and I'm open to suggestions for thickening the plot a bit. Sometimes my ideas are kind of cliche or dry in some areas...so suggestions are welcome!

Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for the next chapter...whenever that will be...))