So this takes a while to get to the point, and once it does, it's rather less than satisfactory. If, when I'm more coherent, I find things to change, I'll do that. :D

Be on the look out for really. Bad. Puns.

A whole line of them. (Heehee... I love puns.)

Himeno was biting her fingernails. Hayate tried not to stare, but it was extremely interesting, to watch her little white teeth nibble away, rather like a rabbit.

"I don't want to get involved in this," said Goh. "It's none of my business."

"But it's so fun to watch," Mannen said, frowning. "Isn't it fun to watch, Hajime?"

Hajime shrugged. "Not… really…"

"We're simply here to intervene where intervention is needed," Sasame said calmly. "The rest of it will solve itself."

"That sounds great," said Hayate blandly. "But what the hell are you talking about?"

"You and Himeno, of course," Kei replied, as if this were thoroughly obvious. "The rest of us don't work well in an environment where lives may be susceptible to ending."

"Sorry?" said Himeno, looking a bit lost.

"You two always want to kill each other," Goh supplied.

She blushed furiously and looked down at her feet.

Hayate ground his teeth together. "This is ridiculous. There's nothing wrong between me and Himeno." He worked up his nerve and looked smoothly across at her. "Right?"

Her cheeks went pink once more, and she went back to examining her laces. "Er… right."

"Mhm." Sasame did not sound convinced. "If that's so, I suppose you won't mind us leaving you two alone for a moment."

"And what exactly would you like us to discuss?" Hayate demanded.

Kei's eyes went skyward in deep thought. "Revisions to your methods of interaction," he said finally.

Himeno shot an uncertain glance at Sasame, who winked back at her. Hayate couldn't quite explain his strong desire to punch Sasame in the face right then.

Instead, he cleared his throat. "Any particulars?"

"I think you both need to cool down," said Mannen, grinning around at the other Knights.

They cottoned on immediately. "Things are getting a little heated," Goh agreed.

"If only you could listen to each other…" Sasame began.

"Then you could shed some light on the situation," Kei finished. They nodded at each other with an air of great composure.

"And grow from the experience!" Shin cried, looking extremely pleased with himself. Goh raised his eyebrows, impressed, and slapped him a high-five.

They all turned to Hajime, who blanched on the spot. "So… don't sweat?" he suggested timidly.

"Weak," said Mannen. "Very weak."

"He didn't have a ton of options," Goh pointed out.

"You're all hilarious," Hayate snarled.

"I'm dying of laughter," Himeno agreed drily, crossing her arms.

Shin frowned, perplexed. "But you look mad. You're not even laughing."

"Alright, out," said Sasame, as Mannen opened his mouth to explain that girls could be sarcastic, too. "Out, out, out." He ushered Shin and Hajime toward the door; Goh grabbed Mannen by the collar and dragged him along.

Hayate and Himeno lunged simultaneously after the group, but Kei clucked his tongue at them and stood, hands on his hips, at the door. "Do you really think I'm going to let you out of this room, Hayate?"

"You will if you know what's good for you," Hayate shot back.

"I don't think so." Kei twirled a piece of hair around his finger, looking bored. "It's all like Sasame said: you two have a score to settle, and it's going to be settled now." He slipped out of the room, but not before leaning back in and drawling a low, "Good luck."

A low growl rumbled in Hayate's throat. "'Score to settle'," he muttered. "What score to settle?"

Himeno leaned wearily against the door, jiggling the lock with her ring finger. "I guess they mean the fact that we can't be in the same room for more than three seconds without going at each other's throats. Or rather," she corrected herself, "you can't look at me without pointing out five and a half things I'm doing wrong."
"I do not!" said Hayate hotly, whirling around from his stance by the window.

"Oh, don't you?" Himeno stiffened, bristling. "So you don't make fun of me constantly and nitpick and… and other things?"

"Other things, what other things?"

"Maybe just those things, I don't know! Those stupid little tests you had me do, just to prove I wasn't good enough, because Lord knows if anything's going to boost my confidence, that will…"

"Clearly the point wasn't to boost your confidence, it was to get your head out of the clouds!" Hayate cried, starting to pace.

"What exactly are you insinuating?" Himeno demanded nastily.

"You act like you're infallible!" he roared suddenly, twisting to face the window again. "You act like there's nothing to lose -!"


Hayate stiffened, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. Very slowly, he turned to face Himeno.

Her fists were clenched and she stood slightly hunched over, as if someone had delivered a heavy blow to her back; every inch of her was trembling, and her eyes were as wide and fiery as any Hayate had ever seen.

Damn, she could look scary when she wanted to.

"What I meant to say," Hayate continued after a heavy swallow, "is that you act like everything's fine all the time - "

"Oh, and I should be more like you," Himeno said, her voice quaking. "I should be more like you, and bemoan every little pitfall and never move on, because getting stuck on all the minute details of your life is oh so wise and mature -"

"If you're talking about Saihi," Hayate said through clenched teeth, "I advise you don't go any further."

"Or what?" Himeno shrieked. "Or what? What are you going to do? Well?" She advanced on him further, her fists rising. "What are you going to do?"

Hayate retreated, his hands rising in an attempt to stave her off. "Don't you start attacking me, we can solve this like civilized people -"

"SINCE WHEN HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CIVIL TO ME?" Her voice grated like sandpaper against his ears, and bitter tears abruptly released from her blazing eyes.

Hayate recoiled in horror. He'd made her cry? Her? She was the strongest person he knew…

"Maybe you have every reason to hate me," she continued, her lower lip trembling wildly as she attempted to keep her voice steady. "Maybe you do. I wouldn't know, because I wasn't around when Takako was Prétear. I don't know everything that happened between you and her, but… but I am not Takako, Hayate. And I've had the chance to walk away, and I very nearly did, but I'm here, aren't I? I'm damn well here, and that means I'm your Prétear. Sasame's and Goh's and Mannen's and Hajime's and Shin's and Kei's and yours. And that means everything that bothers you, every single fight you fight is my fight as well. So I beg your pardon for trying to remain optimistic while battling every demon the seven of you can throw at me, and Saihi besides, since apparently that's too difficult for you. Maybe I could just cave in and dissolve and become another Saihi and brood in my own misery, and that would be more your style."

He shuddered as if he'd been stung by a wasp. "Don't say that," he hissed, his finger pointing at her menacingly. "Don't you ever say that, Awayuki Himeno."

She refused to look away, though a faint flush of shame crept into her coloring. "I only say it because it's true."

"Oh, well," he said loudly, "the Prétear has spoken…"

"It is true!" she shouted, stamping her foot on the ground. "It IS! You just can't bear with anyone else dealing with their lives because you can't handle your own! Just because you're so guilty about Takako, you want me to feel every insecurity I can possibly come up with! Well I won't, Hayate! And do you know why?" She moved closer and seized him by the collar. "BECAUSE IT WASN'T YOUR GODDAMN FAULT!" The tears spilled over again, but her gaze grew only more insistent. "YOU DID NOTHING WRONG." She shook him a little. "So let it go, Hayate, be at peace, and just leave me alone!" She shuddered away from him, dryish sobs wracking her body.

He couldn't move. He could only gape, a wrinkle of horror resting on his brow.

"Go, Hayate."

He swept to the door, but turned back, hesitant. "Himeno - "


He needed no further invitation.

"So," said Sasame, appearing once more in his bedroom doorway. "I guess things didn't go that well."

"It was a stupid idea," said Hayate. "You know she can't be reasoned with."

"I don't know that in the least," Sasame said lightly. "Perhaps you're the one who isn't reasoning properly."

Hayate grunted.

"She's a nice, understanding, compassionate girl, Hayate. You treat her like she's the dirt on Takako's shoes."

"Why does everyone insist on bringing up Takako?" he muttered to the room at large.

Unfortunately, the room at large was empty, and he had learned long ago that his bookcase was not entirely sympathetic to his sorrows.

"Because, Hayate, it's high time you let Takako go."

"I never loved her in the first place!" he cried.

"Exactly." Sasame leaned easily into the doorframe. "And you think that's your fault. I'm not asking you to release your love for anyone, Hayate – I'm asking you to get rid of your guilt. It's dragging everyone down."

"You sound like Himeno," he muttered.

"Do I?" Sasame's eyes glinted mischievously. "What did she say, exactly…?"


"Come on, Hayate - "


"I just want to - "

"I said NO."

"Were you mean to her?"

"She cried," Hayate muttered.

"What?! You moron!"

"I didn't mean to do anything, good Lord!"

"What did you say?"

"All I said was, see, she was about to start her punch-kick moves on me, and all I said was, we can settle this like civilized people, and then she goes off the edge." Hayate shrugged. "Like I said, the girl can't be reasoned with."

Sasame did not look convinced. "Right."



"That's what happened, I swear! I don't treat her like dirt, after all!"

"Hayate, you give that girl's stepsisters a run for their money, and that's saying something." Sasame glanced out Hayate's window. "So I'd say you have some patching up to do with our dear little Prétear, hm?"

Hayate gave him a look that could have killed a small mammal.

"And while you're at it," Sasame added, tastefully ignoring the other's expression, "might as well smooth over another matter at the same time, hm?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about," said Hayate gruffly.

"Look." Sasame leaned further into the room. "You two will keep making life miserable for the rest of us until you admit that you're crazy about each other. Just be a man and get it over with, would you?"

"I am not crazy about her -!"

Sasame blinked. "Sure you're not. That's why you can never take your eyes off her."

Hayate spluttered like a fish. Fish out of water. Fish in water. Wet fish out of water.

Hayate spluttered.

"Stop making a fool of yourself," Sasame said with a martyred sigh. "Go on, what are you waiting for?" He sauntered off, leaving Hayate wearing a very interesting expression in the middle of his room.

She was brushing her hair in rhythmic, short strokes when he appeared on the balcony. She jumped a little in her pajamas and thanked the heavens she was still wearing a bra.

He shuffled his way into the room inch by inch; she watched him through the mirror. His gorgeous black hair was whipped and windblown around his face, and occasionally a hand darted up to his head to swipe it out of his eyes. Still, she kept her focus on brushing. Calm. Even. There were no butterflies in her stomach. Her heart was not pounding a thousand miles a minute.

She set the brush down on her bureau and turned around to face him. She ended up facing the bit of carpet by his feet instead.

"I made you a cake," she said quietly, as a means of greeting. "But it's downstairs. I didn't expect you, you know… up here."

He was silent. She chanced a look up at him, and was astonished to see that his eyes were wide and softened.

"I'm sorry I, um, yelled at you. And cried. And did stupid things." She cringed at the memory. She cringed at the sound of her own words. She cringed at her cringe.

"No," said Hayate, and she twitched at hearing him finally speak. "No, I - I shouldn't have - you were right. About everything. What happened with Takako… it's got nothing to do with you. I shouldn't have dragged you into it."

She jerked her head to the side. "Except that, you know, I'm the Prétear."

The corner of his mouth twitched. "Except for that."

"It is complicated," she allowed. "How much I should get involved in it. I'm going to be connected to your past no matter what, but at the same time, I wasn't there, so… so I shouldn't be, but I have to be, because that's what made me Prétear in the first place." She was rambling and she sounded stupid, but she couldn't make herself shut up. "Learning about Takako was the scariest thing - knowing I could end up like her - and realizing that I was just like her and so different from her at the same time, knowing I could become her, or that I could be the polar opposite of her - it made me so scared to be Prétear but at the same time I knew I had to do it, you know?"

Hayate just watched her.

"Lots of paradoxes," she said, laughing shakily, trying to break the silence.

He said quietly, "Himeno…"

She looked up quickly. "Yes?"

But he was staring off into space again. "I…"

"I shouldn't have said all those things," she supplied quickly, in case that was what he was thinking. "About your attitude and… and… yeah."

"Just so you know," said Hayate suddenly, "I only criticized you to make you stronger." He bit his lip. "I only kept you away to protect you."

Himeno nodded. "Just so you know," she said, a slight grin perched on her lips, "I only beat you up because I'm angry."

Hayate stared down at his shoes, smirking. "Makes sense." He started pacing for the second time that day. Himeno watched him meander back and forth, his hair glinting silver shadows in the moonlight. "Because Himeno," he said finally, pausing in front of her, "because… dammit, Himeno, if something happened to you…"

She felt her eyes widening; her heart rate spiked. (She tried to laugh it off. She had to.) "It's all part of the job, Hayate. I made up my mind to do this to protect everyone. You know that."

His lips pressed together until they turned white under the pressure. "That's not what I mean," he practically growled. "Dammit, Himeno… goddammit…"

"Do you want some cake?" she suggested timidly.

"No, I don't want any goddamn cake," he said.

"I was just offering!" she retorted, stung. "You don't have to be so r-"

She was cut off as he reached forward, snatched her head between his hands, and kissed every ounce of retaliation out of her.

When she backed away, stunned, he looked both shocked and extremely pleased with himself.

"What was that?" she barked once she'd collected her wits.

His face fell minutely. "Erm… shit."

"What do you mean, 'erm, shit'?"

"What do you expect me to mean when you're yelling at me like that?!" he cried defensively. "Sorry, I'm sorry, alright? That was impulsive and it was stupid, and… alright, I'm sorry."

"But why did you do it?" Himeno demanded.

"Why the hell do you think I did it?"

"How should I know!" she screeched. "You hate me!"

"I don't - I don't hate you…!"

"Yes you do, you loathe my guts because I'm not Takako, even though you loathed her guts, too, but you're Hayate and you just loathe guts in general, so of course you hate me!"

He seized her by the shoulders and shook her maniacally. "I DON'T HATE YOU!"

"WELL I DON'T HATE YOU EITHER!" she yelled in his face.

That was enough of a confession for Himeno, and it certainly seemed to be enough for Hayate, as he wrapped his arms around her more tightly this time and kissed her once more.

In their case, thought Himeno, lack of hatred went a long way.

Well thank god that finally happened. Sheeesh. You wait the whole series and then you're left flat on your face. Oh well. That's what fanfiction's for.

It took me way too long to write this. Ugh. Far longer than I'll willingly admit.

So... what do you think? I'm not feeling quite done with these two yet, so if you've got any suggestions for further skirmishes, I'm all ears!

Thanks for reading!