Quick note: Good things have been happening. I have been accepted into an MSW program at a good school. I've had to get back into the swing of things, specifically, the swing of writing 25 page academic papers. In APA style. I'm an MLA kind of gal.

Also, bad things: For the last six months or so I'd been feeling kind of adrift, and I would open up my stories and just stare at them. My inner critic smirked even more than usual. "Oh my God," she said. "You suck. You never finish anything. You have no motivation. This is bullshit."

Eventually I forced myself to write, even though I was certain my writing was really bad. I'm a huge perfectionist and that really puts me in a strangle hold. I love to write, and I have to write, but it's like going bungee jumping, or getting my blood drawn—it's really scary. Everything is pretty tentative because I'm still a little bruised, but I'm going to try to force myself to write every day.

Thank you for reading and reviewing, and thank you Takahashi!

Building the Wheel

The broom handle striking Kaiba's shoulder had sent a shock through his bones. Now, in the limo, the jolt had been replaced with a throbbing that echoed down the corridors of his nerve endings and all throughout his body. The decision that Téa's rejection or acceptance would mean death or life for him had been replaced with shock, curiosity, and determination.

He had underestimated Téa Gardner. How had that happened? Where had she hoodwinked him into thinking that she was completely passive and tame?

He had certainly expected her to be hesitant. He had pictured her saying no, but with demureness— her blue eyes cast down under those long black lashes, her hair falling into her face, a blush blooming on her soft pink cheeks. He would have told her that her parents had given their blessing, and, perhaps even more important, that Yugi had given her to him, that her best friend knew what was best for her. Then, if necessary, he would have reminded her that he had saved her life, and of the promise that he made to her in the bed on the blimp: she would never be hurt again, by anything. She would join Mokuba in the ranks of those he protected, along with any children she would bear for them, and she couldn't deny he was a good big brother, so, why wouldn't he be a good husband and father? He would bring her around to the idea of their coupling, and himself back from death.

Instead, he had gotten down on his knees and she had smote him. How could anyone be so blind to what he offered, so crazy, so ungrateful?

He strode up the winding stairs. He wasn't even in his room before he started pulling off his shirt. He threw it on the floor and slammed the door with enough force to reverberate the walls.

It wasn't until he unbuttoned his pants that he realized he was hard. He glared at himself.

This is your fault, he thought.

But he realized it wasn't just his genitals that were the enemy. It was also his hands. It was when he reached for that little white scar on her thigh that she hit him with the broom.

Stripped now, he stepped into the shower, turning both knobs full blast. The tile directly at his eye-level had a tiny white spot, right at its center. He pondered what he would have done if she hadn't swung the broom.

He would have gently placed his fingertip on that little white spot. Then, his palm would land softly on her thigh. His fingers would slide around to the back of her leg, and then his other hand would come up and join fingers with the first, cradling the back of her thigh. Then he would lean down and press his mouth against that little white scar, that tiny pinprick of a lightning strike surrounded by creamy skin.

His mouth probably wouldn't have stopped there. It would have kissed up that thigh, that silk that he hadn't stroked in so long, but he hadn't, out of respect for her. At the very top was the place he had made her bleed, the place where she held her fear of his sex and his fingers. But why would that place be afraid of his mouth? His mouth was blameless except for that one time in the classroom, when she told him to shut up, and called him pathetic, right in front of Wheeler and Yugi and Tristan. He had called her a whore, but anyone else would've done the same thing. Disrespect earned disrespect.

His mouth, except for that, had been quiet toward her, gentle. It had done nothing but offer her things that would make her life easy and happy—money so she could buy a gift for a friend, a ride home, the opportunity to be his wife. He could use it to give her pleasure, too, like how he read in his research. What was that called? It was some sort of labyrinthine word he couldn't remember exactly.

He couldn't really remember anything too complicated right now, except that little white scar, and how it looked like the one branded on his flesh. And the blow to his shoulder, and how he told her—ordered her—to do it again. The blow had felt so strong, and solid.

He realized that what he was feeling now was just more evidence that he was a freak, but he felt oddly detached. Endorphins pumped through his body, originating from the bruise on his shoulder, and he observed this with curiosity, not shame.

He wanted sex. He wanted power. He also wanted her rage. He wanted her to scald him with it, drown him and crush him. The question was, would he tolerate her infliction, over and over?

As he asked himself this question, he realized it wasn't a question of tolerance. He had to do this. He had to prove to her that he could take it. He wanted to prove to himself he could take it. And after that, they could explore the possibilities of a normal life, a normal marriage, a normal love—a love like her parents'. She could initiate him into the world of nice people.

He wondered about his own parents. Were they nice people? He could hardly remember his father. Had his father snuck up on his mother and rubbed, stroked, and penetrated her in secret? Did he hold her softly afterwards? Did his mother like the holding? Maybe she had liked the violence. Maybe that's why he and Mokuba existed. Was that how his father and mother made them, by their father grabbing his mother and pulling, grunting, thrusting himself onto and into her? How had Téa's parents made her? How would he and Téa make babies?

He was getting way too ahead of himself.

There was still so much for him and Téa to teach each other. They could take turns. She had dominated him, and yet he didn't mind. He had gotten on his knees, and felt no humiliation. It felt similar to when he dominated her all those times, but turned inside out and upside down. It was oddly satisfying, but, like those times he dominated her, he was not sated. He was not sated because he knew she was not sated.

He imagined them in a wheel, turning over and over. One on top, one on the bottom, switch—and in between, they would be face-to-face, equals, until the wheel turned again. She'll see how strong he was, how fearless, in the face of her blows, and it would melt her. Meanwhile, he'd learn to please her, and she would forgive his fingers. She would see the scar on his penis, and she would empathize and forgive it, too.

There would be plenty of time for gentleness, for tenderness. All the time in the world.