Wow, I managed less than a year before posting something new. Hooray!

Comes some time after chapter 160, but not immediately after. Here we go...

Ren paused in the middle of the hall, water bottle halfway to his mouth, staring down to the end of the corridor where a gloomy shadow was hanging. Inside the shadow was a girl he knew quite well, dressed in her dreadful, shocking pink uniform, kneeling on the ground over a large bag, holding something carefully in her hands.

He knew what it was, of course. Even at this distance, he could recognize the miniature of himself, dressed as Cain Heel, being held in Kyoko's hands, looking like it was receiving a thorough inspection. And it didn't look like it was passing.

"It's no good," he heard her grumble. Though she was a good distance away, in the silent hall, her voice carried just enough he could hear her. "Though I suppose that isn't really your fault. My imagination can only go so far after all." She paused for a moment, looking frustrated and a bit embarrassed. "I should have looked." she grumbled softly.

Ren was working very hard to not draw attention to himself. He had known that Kyoko could create extremely realistic dolls in his image, and he knew that she was a real perfectionist. She had to be in order to make a doll like the one she had made for Maria's birthday. But this was just…

Ren had had mixed feelings about the shower incident. Since his general train of thought that evening had been a depressing downward spiral, the comedic irony of the moment had been a nice temporary alleviation from his agonizing over his past and the break in control he had suffered earlier that evening. He had also felt a bit of pride, when Kyoko had managed to work through the incident without stumbling out of character. At least, not in front of him.

And there had been massive relief when she had still been willing to talk to him even between their work together as the Heel siblings. That she could hold a reasonable conversation with him (and he did remember her eyes being fixed firmly on his face) told him that she was comfortable with the situation, most likely because she had not seen anything to make her uncomfortable.

There had been a part of him (and he was not going to argue with himself over how large this part was) that had hoped in some way she had been aware of the situation. That in some respect, even if she had not looked, she had thought about him, not just as her sempai or brother, but for one single moment, as a man.

So this particular revelation was playing bloody havoc with his feelings, and it took him a moment to realize he should probably leave. Now.

Managing to leave the hallway where she was still sitting, staring intently at the doll in her hands, Ren tried to bring his thoughts back to rationality.

The feeling of shock was probably the one first and foremost hindering him. Any and all reasons aside, that Kyoko would even for one moment think that she should have looked was almost unfathomable to Ren. Oh yes, he had wanted her to notice him, but he had encased himself in a solid barrier of rationality. Kyoko would never, ever think that not taking advantage of the moment was regrettable. She was the most conservative person he knew. She just could not…

And why could he not contain the little flutter of joy that was dancing around inside of him? Her words had been that she thought she should look, but her reason...

The doll. She wanted to have looked because she wished she could make the doll even more accurately, not just on the basis of the model she had built of him from studying him. Her value of a job well done was no secret to Ren. He just did not think it would apply to a hobby that to a certain degree even she found embarrassing. And the reason brought with it a twitch of anguish. She could not really be thinking of him as a person if she was letting her thoughts drift towards regret on the basis of the doll. She had not really noticed him at all, had she?

Ren allowed himself one sigh before she shook himself and let the moment go. He was not supposed to have seen it, and ultimately it changed nothing. His feelings for Kyoko and the way that she thought about him were no different. It had been an interesting and shocking encounter, but it would have no impact on them long term.

He allowed himself a tiny bit of amusement, wondering what Cain would do if he had been the one to discover this information, but let even that pass.

The last thing he needed was for Cain to get involved...

The next chapters will be longer. Hope you enjoyed this. All comments are welcome.