A theory for why Aoi is so jumpy about having Kyouichi over and why she lopped the braid off at the beginning of Season 2.

Disclaimer: I did not write or draw or have anything to do with this series. It would've felt a little less like an LSD trip if I'd been on the staff. Or more…

The Braid

"So why did you call me, then?" grumbled Kyouichi, letting his shoulders droop forward as his spine curved against the wall.

Aoi folded her hands in her lap and kept her gaze determinedly on the interlaced fingers. Across the room, she felt almost safe, yet the question—and the answer—offered no safety for her. That was the point, though. Wasn't it? She felt her braid slide from behind her shoulder to brush against her cheek, heavier than the rest of her hair, as she debated on what to say to him. Whether to lie, or if she could get away with it.

"I called because… because I wanted to talk to you," she said, her voice barely a breath, so soft and delicate it could probably have broken in a strong enough wind. Briefly, she looked up, her sapphire-shot eyes catching his before dropping just as abruptly.

He snorted and folded his arms, glancing at her through the perpetually tangled bangs in his eyes. "So talk," he answered, his rough voice grating as he studied her. Slight and submissive, to the point where he wanted to grab her, shake her and force her to fight back. And she wouldn't; he knew she wouldn't fight, not him. Not Aoi. She lived by her heart, by whatever she knew to be right and kind, no matter how much of a pain in the ass it might prove to be. Especially if it was a pain in the ass, it seemed.

Kyouichi intimidated her. Perhaps that's why she wanted him there, with her. Why she put up with all the yelling and swearing, the constant insults. Everyone else treated her like a glass flower most of the time. He just yelled and told her she was weak, to stay out of the way, or he'd push her out of the way if he was sick of yelling. There just wasn't any sugar-coating to him.

"I guess," she twisted her hands together anxiously, looking timidly at him, "I guess I wanted to know if you could teach me some things."

"What kinds of things?" he smirked, stepping away from the wall opposite her and sauntering in her direction. He stopped a step away, just within that small bubble of her personal space, and grinned down. Of course he had to act like it was something dirty; not only was he a boy, he was Kyouichi Horaiji.

She flushed slightly, her pale cheeks growing pink at the edges, and refused to make eye contact. "Not that," she whispered, trying to hide her face behind her hair. "Hiyuu—"

"No way. You're not screwing around with him, are you?" he demanded, leaning down until his nose nearly pressed against hers. He grasped her chin and jerked her head back, forcing eye contact. "You—you are."

Shaking her head slightly, Aoi closed her eyes sadly. The whole disaster rose within her and she quelled it with gritted teeth. She could see him now, the way he smiled and waved so happily, so carefree. As though he couldn't feel any of the pain she did, as though it hadn't hurt him at all to end things. "It was my fault," she whispered, ashamed to admit this to him. It had been just moments with Tatsuma, just those precious days of early discovery, the time too soon to tell anyone. While it had still been just a wonderful secret, it had ended. Not even Komaki knew. "I shouldn't have been so jealous of her. She was dead, anyway."

"You mean," he said, sitting heavily on the floor in front of her, "You guys broke up?"

"How can you break up if you weren't really a couple to begin with? It was just a few days. It's over," she shrugged, forced her voice to remain monotone, tried to keep that bitter note from seeping through. She looked down at him: legs sprawled out beside her chair, his bangs messy over his troubled expression, the weightless points of his fingers on her knees. Framed in the friendly clutter of books and antiques, he seemed lost and alone, more than she felt.

He didn't want to know, but he asked it anyway, like some kind of masochist. When it came to her, he was always a masochist, though. "What happened? Why didn't it work?" And he didn't want to hear, really didn't, but he needed to know it. Needed to know his best friend had no lingering feelings for Aoi Misato.

A puff of air escaped her lips to ruffle his hair. He suddenly wanted to lean forward and rest his head on her lap. And even though it would've upset her, he didn't.

"Well, we were keeping it a secret," she answered slowly, twisting folds of her uniform skirt around her fingertips. He watched the tiny flashes of skin that the motion exposed and hid, trying not to let it entrance him. Only centimeters separated their hands. "It made no sense to be public about it, what with Kozune and all of that going on. Then when the Bodhisattva Eye, and I stabbed him… I guess it was too much."

Kyouichi frowned faintly and stared at her face. "You're not telling me something," he accused, sitting up on his knees so that he barely had to look up at her. "What really happened, Aoi?"

They both blinked. He never called her by her name. That would be… friendly. Intimate. Neither of those words described him, let alone their relationship. Whatever they were, friends hardly qualified. To hear the slip gave her pause, but she didn't say anything about it. What could she say to him, anyway?

She sighed again, her small pink lips pursed. "Well, I got jealous about that girl," she answered, averting her ashamed gaze.

He felt his stomach turn watching her, listening to her speak. Obviously she had shouldered the blame for the failure of their relationship, and the disappointment and sorrow it caused her certainly explained how she was so vulnerable to Kozune when he manipulated her into accepting the Eye. Without considering the action, he let his hand drift over her leg to rest of her hers. Their fingers tangled together and he felt the trapped air leave his lungs at last. He hadn't even realized he'd been holding it, too nervous of her to even breathe.

She continued to speak, her thumb tracing a delicate kanji pattern over his palm. He wanted to focus only on that feeling, to read what she wrote in his hand, yet he remained enraptured by her voice, unable to tune it out. "And the secrecy was too much of a strain. He just didn't want to tell anyone, especially not you."

"Me? Why wouldn't he want to tell me?" he demanded, feeling his questions whip into a vortex, sucking him down. A man drowned by his own curiosity, asking what he didn't want to hear and still desperate to know. "I'm his best friend."

Aoi hung her head and slowly lifted his hands away from hers, leaning forward to place them against his chest. As she withdrew, she squeezed his fingers briefly, almost wistfully. "Ta—Hiyuu said that we ought to wait to see if it was worth it. I guess it wasn't. He told me that we'd be hurting you. He thought you liked me, and he values your friendship more than anything I can give him."

Kyouichi could manage nothing more intelligent than babble, reaching forward towards her hands once again. "He said what?"

She blushed and smiled softly at him. "He said friendship was always worth more. That's just how he is. Always caring for everyone. Especially you, Kyouichi. You're like a brother to him," pausing, she laced her hands with his again. "I think it's kind of silly, because obviously you don't, you know… like me, but he insisted."

Throughout his life, he'd built walls to keep everyone out. To make sure that no one could break his heart again, the way it had broken when his father died. And it all seemed so stupid, so… teenaged, now. He could've sworn he heard the barriers crumbling around him as he lunged, keeping her in place with their joined fingers, freeing only one hand to cup the back of her head as their mouths met.

At first he only felt the warmth, radiating from her lips as they brushed his. The softness of her, the way her lower lip curved against his. A series of delicate, small kisses, and then he managed to catch her properly, found her mouth opening and the heat of her tongue against his.

Her cheeks flushed pink and her lips swelled. She stared at him as he drew back, her eyes wide and lit with startled passion. "Oh," she whispered, raising one hand to her mouth. The fingers never quite made contact, as if she were afraid to ruin the sensation of him kissing her. He felt a sudden surge of satisfaction—more like a giddy outpouring of glee—at the idea that her lips tingled just as much as his.

"Sorry," he whispered, still inches from her face, grinning. He knew it was a lie, but it seemed like the right thing to say. Even if she slapped him, beat him down Bodhisattva Eye-style and told him never to speak to her again, he could never regret kissing her.

She looked at him, smiling suddenly. "No, you're not," she laughed. "You're anything but sorry, you look like a cat that just ate—mmph!"

The laughter, the inherent forgiveness of it, the glimmer in her eyes. He smothered her with his mouth, kissing her again, leaning in until their chests bumped together, and then he sat back, pulling her out of the chair and into his lap as their tongues tangled again. The sharp corner of one of her teeth grazed his lip and he held back a groan as her ass settled against his thighs. Still kissing her, he drew her against his chest, crushing her in his arms. Her legs fell against his, on either side, her skirt draping over both of their hips and he thought, Oh god, I could just undo my zipper.

And just as his hands reached around her lower back, pressing her down against him through their clothes, a loud clatter sounded outside of the door.

"Shit!" Aoi gasped, jerking out of his hold and into her chair instantly. He'd never heard her swear and looked at her in all his layers of shock, still stoned from the kissing. "Quick, Kyouichi, why are you here?"

He fumbled around, saw a glitter of metal on the desk beside her and snatched for it. His hand closed around a pair of scissors and he grabbed her braid and sheared it off before she could object. The silver blade ran along side her cheek and he felt her shiver as the bound lock of hair fell into her lap.

The door opened and Kisaragi entered, scowling directly at him. Their fight still lingered too fresh in the memories of both young men, and neither had capitulation built into his personality.

"What are you doing?" growled the bodyguard, his dark stare fixed on them.

Aoi smiled and waved at him. "Welcome back, Hisui. I trust everything went well at the market?" she chirped. Such a cheerful, gentle laugh. So innocent. Of course Kisaragi would believe she had nothing bad planned, but Kyouichi knew that the other man didn't trust him as further than he could drool. "Horaiji-kun just came over to help me out with my hair. See?"

"I see," said Kisaragi, glaring death at the street punk. He folded his arms. "Perhaps when he is done, he could cut my hair as well."

Kyouichi felt his heart stop. Maybe kissing Aoi hadn't been such a great plan. His pants still felt too tight; he was sure that if he moved there would be no way to hide the evidence of their… play-date. "Sure, yeah," he said, gritting his teeth. "Just, um, let me make sure everything here is even."

His long black ponytail whipped in an arc as he turned to leave the room. Kisaragi paused in the doorway to stare over his shoulder one last time and said, "I'll be waiting."

I may or may not continue this fic. It depends. Feedback welcome.