Written for the 31_days community on livejournal. The prompt was "when everybody loves you, you can never be lonely."

Being alone was something that Haine hated. No matter how many friends she made or how close those friendships were, there would always be quiet moments that ambushed her, and she would find herself alone. And it was in these moments that her thoughts, as if they had a mind of their own, would wander back to all the things she didn't want to think about — her father agreeing to sell his daughter, her mother speaking to her as if she didn't know her, the Shizumasa she had fallen in love with and the Shizumasa she had been in love with telling her they were two separate people — yes, Haine hated being alone because then there was no one to protect her from herself.

There were times where those dark thoughts would swirl around her like a magic spell, but all it would take was a hand on her shoulder or the sound of someone calling her name, and the spell would be broken. Her friends would find her, and they would be a shield against all the memories that tried to hurt her.

Ushio would wrap her arms around Haine's slender frame and hold her tightly, so tightly as if she was afraid Haine would disappear at any moment; Maora would smooth her hair down and would whisper in her ear, laughing when Haine's serious expression melts into a pink blush and distracting them both from their worries; Maguri would yell at her, saying Shizun will be upset if he sees her looking like that, and that he'll take Shizun from her if she makes him unhappy; and then Takanari would be there, and he would smile at her gently until she told him everything, everything that she couldn't say to anyone else.

And he would listen to her patiently with that same smile until she was done and he could pull her close to him, and her heart would cry out (in joy, oh how she loved his touch) (in pain, she was betraying Shizumasa) — they would almost kiss, but one of them would feel guilty enough for the both of them, and they would pull apart, separate, and she would once again be alone with the monster in her head.

The students who looked up to the Council would all croon over her and say how much they envied her, how she must never have anything to worry about, and she would smile, smile, smile until the day was done, and Haine would realize that she didn't hate being alone after all. It might mean facing her demons, but when she was alone, no one could see her cry.