I totally don't own the characters in Fushigi Yugi. Ms. Yu Watase does. So there.

"Tamahome, let it GO, will you?" the blue haired man groaned, shaking his head in disbelief.

Never was his comrade one to pass on an opportunity to make money, but this was plainly ridiculous.

"But Nuriko..."

"No buts. We're past due at the palace and the Emperor won't be pleased. You know how he despises tardiness," he pointed out, grabbing the taller man by the ponytail cascading down his back.

"Ow! Hey, cut it out!" the man known as Tamahome griped, before giving in and following his companion.

"Do you have any idea how much money that would've been? And besides, it's a public service. The townspeople need someone to keep these thugs out of town," he protested, brushing himself off as they continued through the center of town towards the palace of the Emperor.

"Right, a "public service". And as such, it should be offered free of charge. You ARE a warrior of the Emperor, Tamahome. The least you could do is protect his people," Nuriko said coldly, rolling his eyes at the barrage to follow.

"Free? Right. I don't know about you, but I have debts to pay, and a family to support. That's not easy these days, Nuriko. Don't forget that," he shot back, suddenly stopping dead in his tracks.

"What are you doing?" Nuriko asked, coming to a dead stop as well.

"Shut up. Don't you hear that?" his friend asked, turning to look behind them.

"Have you gone totally insane? I don't hear anything," Nuriko griped, tapping his foot impatiently.

"We don't have TIME for this, Tama," he pointed out with irritation.

"Someone's screaming," Tamahome muttered, his brows furrowed.

Turning back, he was off in a sprint, leaving Nuriko with no choice but to follow.

"Get OFF of me, you bastard!" she cried, kicking at her attacker with all her might.

"Hold still, you little wretch! Why don't you just relax and let me show you what it is men do," he barked, pinning the petite redhead to the ground as she struggled beneath him.

"You are no man. I said get OFF!" she shouted, her hand searching for anything at all that could be used as a weapon.

His hands were tearing at her clothes, and she heard the sound of the fabric ripping, causing her to panic further.

Her hand landed upon a rock and she didn't hesitate in connecting it with the side of his head, sending him reeling backward.

"You little bitch!" he roared, slapping her hard across the face.

She tasted blood, felt the warmth of it flowing down her chin.

"Did you think...I'd make it easy for you?" she asked, getting to her feet before being slammed against the wall behind her.

"So impudent. I'll teach you a lesson you'll not soon forget," the man threatened, his fingers tight around her throat.

She couldn't breathe, felt her strength leaving her entirely. Her feet dangled above the ground, her fists clenched at her sides.

With all the strength she could muster, she raised her hand, clawing down the side of his face as hard as she could.

He shouted his pain, fingers tightening further around her neck.

She prepared herself for what was coming. Men were all the same, she thought bitterly. They only sought out one thing, and this one was more determined than most.

Suddenly, she could breathe again, her body sliding down the wall onto the ground.

Coughing and spitting blood, her eyes widened at the sight before her.

A stranger had appeared, and was dealing the fiercest beating she'd ever witnessed to her assailant.

Her mouth gaped as his face bloodied, the strangers fists landing blow after blow. She was sure that if he didn't stop, he'd soon be dead.

When it seemed as though the body lay lifeless, another man appeared, pulling her savior backward with force.

"Tamahome, enough!" he shouted, his effort showing across his face.

She stared up at them, her heart racing and body shaking. Who were these men?

"Did you kill him?" the shorter man asked, still restraining his companion.

"No, but I should have," came the somewhat breathless reply.

His eyes turned to the girl, still cowering against the wall behind them.

He approached her cautiously, unaware of how she might react after such a terrifying ordeal.

"Are you alright?" Tamahome asked, kneeling a few feet away from her. Her eyes were wild, her body still shaking.

As his hand reached out to her, she shrank back, clutching at her tattered garments.

She was a mess, her clothes ripped and blood dripping from her nose and mouth.

"It's alright. I'm here to help you," he assured her, edging ever closer.

"What's your name?" he asked, now kneeling just before her.

He produced a handkerchief from his tunic, and cautiously began wiping blood from her chin and lip.

She allowed him to do so, before quietly offering her name.

"Miaka," she answered, wincing as he touched her split lip.

"I am Tamahome. What happened here?" he asked, continuing to gently clean her wounds.

"I was on my way home from the market. He pulled me into the alley and attacked me. I thank you," she said, her eyes connecting with his.

He nearly gasped as the emerald green orbs locked with his, so full of pain. This girl had been through so much. His heart pained him, and he was grateful for being able to put a stop to her distress.

"Nuriko," he said, capturing the attention of the man behind him.

"Is she alright?" he asked, stepping over to them.

"I'm fine," she replied, beginning to stand. Her legs buckled beneath her, though she never touched the ground.

A strong arm caught her before she fell, her hands coming to rest upon it.

"Here, let me help you. You must be exhausted from such a struggle," he noted, his arm wrapping about her waist as she straightened up.

"You're going to feel this tomorrow," he told her, as they began walking back out onto the street.

Nuriko followed, glancing back at the unconscious man lying on the ground.

"Bastard," he spat, before following the two out of the alley.

"Where do you live?" Tamahome asked, ignoring the stares of passers by.

"In the north side of town, near the gates," she answered.

"Do you live alone?" he wondered, stopping as he did so.

"With my brother. But he's away. I'm sorry, Tamahome. I don't think I can do this," she told him, the pain in her body growing by the second.

"Nuriko, could you get the horses? I'll stay here with her," he said, and Nuriko nodded, soon disappearing into the crowd.

"Here," he said, maneuvering her over to a nearby wall. He sat her down, soon joining her.

"Thank you...for everything," she told him, holding his handkerchief to her lip. The bleeding had let up but had yet to cease entirely.

"Don't mention it. I couldn't have overlooked that," he said. Without knowing it, his hand moved to clear a strand of hair from her face, embarrassment immediately overtaking him.

His hand pulled back, his eyes looking away.

"I want you to come with us. If your brother is away, I don't want you being alone," he told her, looking up as Nuriko approached leading two brown horses behind him.

"Tamahome, I'll be fine, really. You don't have to..."

"Nonsense. You're coming with us," he insisted, standing and offering his hand.

"To where?" she asked, taking his offered hand.

He felt foolish, not having told her who they were. Of course she was apprehensive, after having just been attacked by a strange man, only to have two more insist she go with them to a place unknown.

"Forgive me. We are warriors of the Emperor Hotohori. We are here to serve you," he said, offering a small bow.

"This is Nuriko," he told her, introducing his companion at last.

"Nice to meet you, Miaka. I wish it could've been under different circumstances," he said, also bowing slightly.

"And you, Nuriko. But I'll be fine at home. I don't need to..." she began, only to have Tamahome cut her off in mid sentence.

"The Emperor will insist on knowing why were were absent. If you don't go, he'll have my hide," he said, a small smile touching the corner of his lips.

"Somehow, I don't believe that. But if you insist, I'll come with you," she said, realizing that the man wouldn't be taking no for an answer.

"Good. Now here," he said, leading his horse around. He boosted her up into the saddle, then mounted behind her.

She felt his arms go around her, her body tensing for a moment before relaxing once more.

Something about him felt oddly familiar, though she couldn't quite place it.

A moment later they were off towards the palace, Nuriko bringing up the rear.

Upon their arrival, they passed through the palace gates, receiving bows from the men standing guard.

Tamahome and Nuriko nodded in return, continuing on the path to the palace.

Miaka took in the surroundings, the gardens and fruit trees. There was a large fountain in the center of the courtyard, the sounds soothing as they passed.

Tamahome noticed her attention, leaning in closer.

"His Majesty will enjoy meeting with one of his subjects. It's not often that he is allowed to do so," he said, causing a blush to creep across her cheeks.

His proximity was almost unnerving, one arm wound around her waist as they rode.

"I'm afraid I'm in no shape to meet the Emperor," she told him, imagining how wretched she looked at the moment.

"Come now. You look fine to me," he said, as they reached the front stair.

He dismounted, then lifting her down to the ground. She gasped as she was again swept off the ground, being carried up the stairs.

"Tamahome, this really isn't necessary," she protested, feeling like an invalid as they neared the palace entrance.

"No use in fighting me," he informed her, as they passed through the entryway into the palace.

They traveled down a long hallway, with many tapestries hanging upon the wall. The place positively wreaked of wealth.

The province had been one of peace and prosperity since the current emperor had taken the throne. He ruled with kindness and his people loved him for it.

Rounding a corner, Miaka found herself in the throne room, facing a grossly elaborate throne.

Upon it sat a strikingly beautiful man, who she immediately recognized as the emperor.

"Your Majesty," Tamahome greeted, setting Miaka down carefully. She began to bow before his words ceased her motions.

"There is no need, dear child. With the state you're in, I'd say bowing should be the least of your concerns. Whatever has happened?" emperor Hotohori nearly demanded, rushing down the steps to them.

"We found her in the city, my lord. She was being attacked by a thug," Tamahome replied, bowing his head while keeping one steadying hand on Miaka's shoulder.

"How wretched. You poor thing. Are you well now?" the emperor asked, stopping before her.

His beauty was unmatched, she thought, almost jealous of his looks.

Long brown hair hung in a trail down his back, whisps of it framing his face.

Noticing the kindness in his eyes, Miaka was at last at ease. Though he was the emperor, she knew that she had nothing to fear.

"Yes, Your Majesty. Tamahome, he...he saved me," she said, a bit sheepishly.

"Well, done, Tamahome. I thank you for being so diligent," he said, flashing a bright smile.

"You will do us the honor of joining us for dinner, I assume," he said, cocking his head to the side as he examined her.

"Child, what is your name?" he asked, amusing her with his words. Child. Surely he couldn't be many years older than she himself.

"Miaka, Your Majesty," she answered, bowing slightly.

"Well, Miaka, what say you? Will you do us the honor of staying the evening?" he asked.

"Of course, Highness. I'd be honored to," she replied, unconsciously leaning against Tamahome as she swayed a bit.

His arm reached out, steadying her.

Hotohori frowned, his order coming swiftly.

"I'll have someone see to you, Miaka. You are yet unwell," he pointed out.

"Tamahome, if you would see her to a room," he asked, receiving a nod in return.

"Yes, Highness," he agreed, scooping up the soon protesting girl.

"Must you do this?" Miaka wondered, her arm draped about his neck.

"I must. Now be quiet. You're going to split your lip open again," he told her, as they disappeared down a corridor to the left.

"Nuriko," the Emperor began, turning to the man who had until then remained quiet.

"Yes, Majesty?" he asked.

"This comes at a slightly inopportune time. We have guests arriving tonight from Qu-Dong. Though I don't mind having her here in the least...does Tamahome know her?" he wondered.

"They seem to be familiar with one another."

"No, he only happened upon her today. He does seem to have taken a bit of a liking to her, though. You should've seen him on the ride here," Nuriko told him.

Hotohori chuckled a bit.

"It could only do him good. He's much too serious," he noted, before beginning to walk towards his chamber.

"I'll now prepare for our visitors. Thank you for your assistance, Nuriko," he said, disappearing soon after and leaving Nuriko alone in the throne room.

She gaped at the enormous, elaborate guest room, with its red carpeting and weapons displayed upon the walls.

"I've never seen anything like this," she breathed, as he sat her down upon the bed.

"It takes a bit of getting used to. When I first moved here, I didn't now what to think either. It's a different world here," he said, looking down upon her.

She was a lovely thing, despite her injuries. Her red hair hung down past her shoulders, her eyes green and full of life.

Her features were soft, rather seraphic, he thought to himself.

Noticing that he was staring at her, Miaka blushed pink.

"Are you feeling well?" he wondered, a smirk appearing upon his lips.

"What? Oh, yes. I'm fine," she answered, only then noticing how disheveled she was.

Her clothes were in tatters, her knee bloodied and scratches covering her legs.

"Someone will be here shortly. They'll take care of those clothes and let you get cleaned up a bit," he told her, turning to go.

"And where will you be?" she asked, before she could stop herself.

"I must join his Highness and Nuriko. I'll see you in a bit," he answered, meeting her smile with one of his own.

He disappeared from the room, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

She looked around, taking everything in. She'd never been in such lavish quarters before.

Shortly afterward, a middle aged woman appeared, a change of clothing in her hands.

"Hello, dear. I am Wo-Yin. His Majesty has told me to be sure you are comfortable. Please, allow me to draw you a bath," she said, gesturing towards the back of the room.

"Oh. I thank you," Miaka said, rising and following the cheerful woman.

"So, Tama...I heard you found yourself somethin' ta' play with," the fire haired man greeted, slapping his companion hard on the back.

"Word travels fast, huh? But not exactly. Where the hell did you come from, Tasuki?" he asked, giving him a shove.

"Is that any way to greet your ol' pal Tasuki? We just got in. I tell ya' what, those Qu-Dong bastards are boooring. The whole way here it was blah-blah this and yadda' yadda' that. Thank a god we got back here before we all dropped dead from boredom," he griped.

"So, Chichiri is here, too then? Any trouble from them?" Tamahome asked.

"Nah, just the usual bitchin' and moanin'. Nothing out of the ordinary. So tell me, Tama...who's the girl?" he wondered, a smile spreading across his face.

"Nuriko and I found her earlier today. Some bastard had her pinned down, ready to do gods know what to her. I beat the life out of him and we brought her back here. She has a brother but he's away and I didn't feel right just leaving her alone after an experience like that," he told him.

"Ah, I see. So you were her savior, eh? What's in it for you?" Tasuki asked, his brow raised.

"What's that supposed to mean? I did what I hope anyone else would've done. Let's leave it at that, shall we?"

"Fine, fine. Whatever ya' say. Just don't say I didn't warn ya' when she has you snared up in her web. Women are killers, I tell ya'," he told him, his arms crossed before him.

"Yeah...like you'd know anything about women," Tamahome shot back, only to be thwacked in the back of the head by his friend.

"And what's THAT supposed ta' mean??"

After washing away the blood and grime, Miaka found herself feeling a great deal better than before.

She felt a bit odd wearing clothes that weren't her own, though they were of a much higher quality than anything she'd ever worn.

The garments were of pure silk she noted, as she ran her fingers along the soft material.

What an abnormal day it'd been. What had begun as an ordinary trip to the market had turned into a near rape, which had then resulted in a rescue and then a meeting with the Emperor himself.

And Tamahome. What of the man that had saved her? He was brave, that she was sure of. And overwhelming attractive, she reminded herself.

She nearly blushed again at her thoughts, before being brought from her reverie by a knock at the door.

Moments later, Wo-Yin appeared, a smile upon her face.

"They're ready for you, dear. Dinner is about to begin. Come," she said, offering her hand.

She took it gratefully, allowing herself to be led down the hallway towards the great hall.

She felt more than a bit out of place as she stepped into the enormous room, feeling as though all eyes were immediately upon her.

Miaka was a sight to behold, her hair up in twin buns and her face free of any trace of the events that had transpired earlier.

She hesitated for a moment, her feet seeming stuck to the floor.

It was then that she caught his eyes. Eyes blue as a midnight ocean, that seemed to look right through her.

Her heart caught in her throat for a moment as she realized he was making his way towards her.

"I'll leave you to him, then," Wo-Yin said, disappearing from sight as Tamahome approached.

She was even more beautiful than before, he thought to himself, stopping not a foot from her.

"So many people," she observed, feeling awkward in the crowd.

"Yes. You happen to be here on the day of the Qu-Dong empire's arrival. They send a small party here once a year. Likewise, we send a party once a year, in order to uphold the friendly nature of our relations. It's been a fragile situation since before His Majesty took the throne four years ago," Tamahome informed her, then offering his hand.

She took it without hesitation, then following him towards one of the many long tables in the center of the room.

She spotted the Emperor, seated at the head of the main table, flanked by Nuriko and a strange looking man in a white tunic.

As they approached, a smile shot across his face.

"Ah, I see you have been taken care of. My, but you are much more lovely than before, my dear," he noted.

"Now Highness...your vanity is showing," Nuriko muttered, causing laughter to erupt form the Emperor.

"Yes, I suppose it is. Come, Miaka. Allow me to introduce Chichiri, my sorcerer," he said, gesturing to the man in white at his side.

"It's my pleasure," the man known as Chichiri greeted, standing as he was introduced.

"And this," Chichiri began," is another of the Emperor's warriors, Tasuki. I apologize for him in advance," he joked, before being jabbed in the ribs by the man standing beside him.

"Hey, now. Let's not give 'er the wrong idea about me from the get go. I'm really not so bad," the fire haired man said, giving Miaka a wink.

"It's very nice to meet you both," she said, finding herself fascinated with Chichiri. His features were very catlike, though a deep scar ran across his left eye. She wondered how a man so young had come to possess such a scar.

Her attention fell next onto Tasuki, whose personality seemed as fiery as his hair. Blood red drops hung from his ears, his hair bound and trailing down his back much like Tamahome's.

"Well, shall we begin?" the Emperor asked, gesturing for everyone to have a seat.

"Allow me," Tamahome said, pulling her chair out for her.

Dinner was a bit uncomfortable, the buzz of chatter seeming more like a roar.

She sat between Tamahome and Nuriko, who was intent on getting to know her better.

"So, you've always lived in this city? How old are you?" he wondered, stabbing the meat on his place with gusto.

"Yes, my brother and I were born here. I'll be sixteen with the coming of winter," she told him, pushing her food around on her plate.

"Only fifteen, eh? You seem pretty...mature for your age," he said, causing her face to flush.

"I suppose that's what happens when your parents die so early in life. I was only seven when my parents were taken by fever. Since then my brother and I have been on our own. He's always taken care of me, but recently he's had need to be away. He's gone looking for work," she told him, finally taking a bite.

"I'm sorry to hear that. My parents live to the west in Xi-Lang, with my brother and sister. I came here to serve His Majesty. We were originally from here, though my father chose to relocate when we were all very young. It's quite the journey just to visit them," Nuriko said, twirling a strand of hair around his finger absently.

"I wish my brother would return soon. He's left me to tend to everything myself. I worry that I won't be able to manage it alone," she confessed, at last giving up on her meal.

"Best not to fret over it. I'm sure you'll do just fine. When is he due back?" Nuriko wondered.

"Not until late fall. We had a very hard winter last year and he's determined to not allow it to happen again," Miaka said, feeling someone's eyes upon her.

She turned to find Tamahome looking at her intently, his eyes deep like water.

"Your brother is a noble man," he noted, taking a drink of wine.

"Wine?" he asked, filling her chalice as she nodded.

"So, what about you?" she asked, taking a drink from her newly filled vessel.

"What about me would you like to know?" Tamahome asked, somewhat amused by the urgency with which she seemed to be downing her wine.

"Do you have family?" she asked, allowing herself a good look at him.

With a strong, lithe build, his dark hair hung down into his eyes, causing him to clear it now and again.

His eyes were striking, the darkest blue she'd ever witnessed. Those eyes held much, fathomless in their depths.

"I do. My father and four brothers and sisters. They also live here in the city," he told her, his hand coming to rest upon hers as she began to take another drink.

"You may want to slow down. It's pretty potent," he said, though she wouldn't be persuaded.

"I can handle it. But thank you," she replied, downing the rest in one gulp.

"I'll have some more, please," she said, and he kindly filled her chalice once more.

"As you wish," he said simply, imagining just how tipsy she'd be after a few moments had passed.

"And your mother?" she blurted before she could stop herself.

His face paled a bit, though he didn't hesitating in answering her question.

"She died three years ago, giving birth to my youngest sister," he said gravely, causing a stabbing pain to shoot through her chest.

She felt wretched, asking him such a personal question. But he seemed not to mind, though the memory of his late mother pained him greatly.

"I'm sorry, Tamahome. I didn't mean..."

"No, it's alright. You didn't know," he interrupted, leaning back in his chair.

"Soooo," came the slightly slurred intro, "you're all but ignorin' me over here. Dontcha' wanna' know anything about me?" Tasuki teased, leaning forward from across the table.

"Don't overwhelm her, Tasuki. She's only just met the rest of us," Tamahome said, amused by how eager his comrade was to speak with the girl at his side.

"I know, I know. So, Miaka, this one over here saved ya', huh? I bet he really gave that guy a poundin', didn't he? That's our Tama! Always ready to defend a lady," he bragged, causing both Nuriko and Tamahome to roll their eyes.

So, he made a habit of being heroic, did he?

Though she didn't know why, Miaka was slightly disappointed upon the discovery.

For some reason, she had hoped...

"Yeah, this one here's good for all yer' standard manly good deeds...for a price. I'm surprised he hasn't asked ya' for payment yet," Tasuki continued, causing Tamahome to become a touch irritated.

"I think that's enough, Tasuki, and that you've had enough," he pointed out, grabbing his friend's chalice and downing the contents despite his protests.

"Just look atcha'! You'd deny me something as insignificant as a drink? He treats me like this all tha' time," Tasuki griped, causing a laugh to escape from the girl sitting across from him.

"Is he always like this?" she asked, her face hot and smile widening.

"ALWAYS. We've tried time and time again to get rid of him but he always finds his way back," Tamahome joked, causing an all out brawl to erupt between the two men.

"Hey, what's that 'sposed ta'...I outta'..."

"Gods almighty. This gets old after a while," Nuriko griped, only then noticing how flushed Miaka's cheeks were.

"Look at you. He told you to slow down," he pointed out, brushing his fingers along her warm cheek.

"I'm not one to listen to what I'm told," she said, before a hiccup erupted from her, causing Nuriko to chuckle.

"I think the night's almost up for you, my dear," he said, shaking his head.

"Tama? Tamahome!" he nearly shouted, interrupting the playful argument still going on between his companions.

"Yes, Nuriko? What can I do for you?" he wondered, his eyes straying to Miaka.

Her cheeks were flushed, her hair hanging in wisps here and there about her face.

She was quite beautiful, bathed in the glow of candlelight.

"I think Miaka should retire for the evening. We can speak more tomorrow, ok?" he asked, knowing full well that she'd protest.

"No, I'm...I'm fine really, Nuriko. I'm just..."

"You're JUST a little drunk, aren't you? I can see that. Now, be a good girl and let Tamahome tuck you in," he teased, causing laughter to erupt from the men surrounding her.

"Glad I can amuse you all so well," she complained, though she couldn't help but smiling.

She wasn't sure if it were just the alcohol in her system or a combination of that and the company she was currently keeping but despite what had occurred that day, she was feeling as though nothing had happened at all.

"Well," she began, turning then to Tamahome.

"What are you waiting for?" she asked, causing yet another chuckle to escape him.

She rose, a bit unsteady on her feet, and then began making her way towards the Emperor.

"I thank you for taking me in, Your Highness. I am indebted to you," she said, bowing her head as she spoke.

"Nonsense. We are more than happy to have you. We shall discuss many more things tomorrow," he told her, glancing past her to Tamahome, who had risen as well.

"I take it you've got this under control, then?" he asked.

"Yes, Highness," came the reply. She felt his arm slip around her waist and allowed him to lead her away from the great hall and out into one of the many palace corridors.

"Highness? How long will she be staying?" Chichiri asked, his interest peaked. Something about this girl intrigued him.

He'd not gotten the chance to speak further with her but would jump at the chance when next they met.

"As long as she wishes, though I would imagine that she will be eager to return to her home. She has much responsibility resting upon her shoulders," he noted.

"Here, be careful," he said, gently maneuvering his companion down the dark corridor.

As small as she was, it was yet a daunting task to make their way back to the guest chamber in which she was to sleep.

"I'm sorry," she laughed, nearly tripping them both up as they neared the door.

"Don't fret. We're almost there," he told her, pushing open the door with one hand.

Wo-Yin had lit the lamps, a warm glow casting over the large room.

The door shut behind them as they entered, Miaka immediately falling backward onto the massive bed.

She lay giggling as he took a seat beside her, looking down upon her intently.

"Now, didn't I say it was potent?" he asked, only causing her giggling to intensify.

"You did. And you were right," she replied, clapping him on the shoulder.

Her hand remained upon him, her warmth seeming to creep down his shoulder and into the depths of him.

"That I can see. You'll be out in no time at all," he observed, leaning in a bit more closely as her emerald eyes watched him.

"Tell me more about yourself, Tamahome," she asked, her hand sliding down his arm to rest upon the bed.

"About myself? Well, I'm not really one to talk about myself at length," he told her, feeling a bit more than tipsy himself.

How much HAD he had to drink, anyway?

"Come on. How old are you? How long have you been here at the palace? What do you do for fun?" she asked, overwhelming him a bit with her questions.

"My, but you're inquisitive. I'll be eighteen years this fall. I have been in training as a warrior of His Majesty since I was twelve...since before he even took the throne. I've lived here at the palace for just over two years and for fun...well, I like money. You could say I'm a collector," he mused, causing her brows to furrow.

"I don't like money. It only causes problems," she griped, confusing him with the mere notion.

"Problems? I have no problems with it, personally. It helps me a great deal, in fact," he protested.

"Well, I'm glad you relationship is a good one. For me, it's nothing but trouble, mainly because it's so hard to come by. That's why my brother had to leave," she said, sadness touching her voice.

"You miss him, don't you?" he asked, receiving a nod in return.

"He's already been gone for a month. It seems like much longer, though. If he had been here today, maybe that wouldn't have happened," she said, before her eyes locked with his.

"But you were there. I'm so glad you heard me," she told him, reveling in the smile that touched his lips.

"So am I," he admitted, not realizing how the space between them had begun to close.

"Tamahome," she breathed, her hands gripping the front of his tunic.

Their lips met softly, a haze seeming to surround them as he brought her to him, his hand cradling her as their kiss deepened, her arms sliding across his shoulders.

Her mind was shutting down, all reason leaving her as she met his kisses with fervor. She felt drunk but not due to the wine...she felt drunk on him, on his scent and warmth.

Soon she felt his larger form blanketing her own smaller frame, her body longing for his touch.

She had only known this man for a short time, though something about him felt so safe, so pure.

Men had never been held highly with her before, but all the men she'd met that day had seemed to be nothing but kind and decent...especially Tamahome.

After all, he'd saved her from gods knew what. If he hadn't intervened, she's had met a terrible fate at the hands of the thug who had attacked her.

Her fingers ran though his hair, her lips feeling bruised from his kisses. His hands were roaming along her body, feeling the prominent curves beneath her borrowed garb.

Suddenly, the door crashed open, jolting them both back into reality.

Tamahome's head rose, his lips still laced with the taste of her.

"Well, well...I knew I should check up on ya'. One minute alone and you're tryin' to have yer' way with the poor girl," Tasuki chided, leaning against the door frame as Tamahome scrambled to his feet, leaving her feeling cold and denied.

"Tasuki, what the HELL are you doing here?" Tamahome growled, turning to glare at his friend.

"My question is, what're YOU doing?" he retorted, knowing full well what he'd find when he arrived.

He'd watched Tamahome watching Miaka all through dinner. The petite redhead was quite the looker and it was so surprise that Tamahome was already smitten with her.

After a few too many to drink, Tasuki had decided to make a nuisance of himself and invade Tamahome's moment.

"You're drunk," Tamahome accused, taking a step towards him.

"And you're not? SHE'S not?" he asked, shaking his head.

"You're a grown man, Tama, but damn if I'm gonna' let you take advantage of a drunk woman," he slurred, grabbing his companion by the sleeve and beginning to drag him off through the door.

"Tasuki, I'm going to kill you someday," he moaned, breaking free of his grip to return to Miaka, who was sitting up upon the bed, breathless and dazed.

"Are you going to be alright?" he asked, his palm smoothing along her cheek despite his attempts to control himself.

"I...I'll be fine. Just go," she said, ashamed of her previous actions. She'd nearly thrown herself at this man...this man she hardly even knew.

A bit stung by her words, he withdrew, giving her one last look over his shoulder before disappearing out the door with Tasuki.

She immediately felt like a fool. How could she have allowed herself to act in such a way?

And she knew that Tasuki would never allow him to live it down.

Mind swimming and body full of alcohol, Miaka laid down, soon drifting off into a troubled sleep.

"What the hell is your problem, Tasuki? Were you trying to prove anything particular back there?" Tamahome wondered, as the two made their way down the corridor to the warrior's wing of the palace.

"Nah. I was just playin' around with ya'. I thought it was a bit odd that I hadn't seen ya' after ya' took her to her room. Chance had it that I found ya' in a rather compromising position with that nice lookin' young lady," he answered, clapping his comrade on the back.

"Well, thanks. I really needed that," Tamahome said dryly, the ache in his body from the earlier contact still prevalent.

He recalled the feeling of her lips against his own, of the sweet taste of her...the feeling of her body beneath his hands.

How would she feel, he wondered, were she void of the silken garments that she wore?

"Tama," Tasuki said, breaking him from the lust filled haze surrounding him.

"I'd take it easy on her. You know yer' position and what it means," he reminded him.

"I'm well aware," he informed him, coming at last to his own chamber.

"Goodnight, Tasuki. May you be not nearly as irritating in the morning," he said, slamming the door in his face.

"Yeah, goodnight yerself, ya' grump."

So that's that for Chapter 1. I'm trying not to rush things while at the same time keeping things from dragging along.

Let me know what you think and based on that, I'll come up with Chapter 2. Ja ne!