Standard disclaimers apply.



"Do you know what time it is?" he lashed out at Tohru, failing to keep the anger from his voice. He had been standing outside the hotel for nearly an hour now, but he had spent the previous two hours at home worrying what was taking her so long. "What would you have done if I didn't pick you up, huh?"

She bowed her head apologetically, and there was a little ache in his chest. "Gomen ne, Kyou-kun," she said. "But I had no--"

"Forget it," he cut in gruffly. He didn't want her apology. Why did he keep on saying the wrong things with her? He was just upset that it was already late and she hadn't come home yet and Shigure insisted on telling stories of that local pervert on the prowl. He couldn't just sit there and wait for her to walk home in the dark, could he? "Come on," he said, grabbing her book bag from her grasp and slinging it over one shoulder.

"Thank you," Tohru said simply, folding her hands together. Her face was illuminated by a nearby street lamp, but Kyou was certain that the faint arcs under her eyes were not caused by the lighting. Why did she keep on working herself ragged? He just couldn't understand it. Kyou sighed and walked away.

She picked her pace to catch up with him, and he was torn between his desire to get her home as quickly as possible so that she could rest and the fact that she had been too overworked lately to stand being rushed like this. He decided to slow down. Maybe the walk would relax her a bit. Maybe it would do her good.

Who was he kidding? A long walk with her will do him good.

He breathed in her presence beside him. She calmed his frayed nerves in so many ways. She pulled him into her circle with just a smile. "Have you eaten?" he asked abruptly.

The slight falter in her step betrayed her. "Uh," she stammered.

He stopped in his tracks and faced her. "You mean you haven't eaten anything since lunch?"

She remained silent, her cheeks Flushed. Kyou stared after her in dismay. How could she insist on taking care of others when she couldn't even take care of herself? "You idiot," he growled.

"You see, Kyou-kun, I've been saving up since Kisa and Hiro have been wanting to go to an amusement park but--"

He didn't let her finish, pulling her left arm along as he wove through the streets. She was working hard for Kisa and Hiro? What for? Okay, so maybe Kisa deserved a little break after what she had been through but seriously… Hiro? That brat? She had to be a martyr.

And she put up with him. He shook his head. She had to be a saint.

The idiot.

Her skin under his grasp was warm and frighteningly soft. Kyou could feel it burning into him, and although it was his hand firmly holding her, it was as if she were the one possessing him and not the other way around. He dropped her wrist. "We're here," he announced.

It was a small stall that served soup and noodles, something he discovered one night he was roaming the streets after another loss to Yuki. The old woman who had served him just smiled at him and produced a thick bowl of miso soup. As he drank it in, he felt the warm liquid invading his senses, soothing his tired body. It was nothing like the dishes Tohru prepared for them day in and day out, but he felt that she would appreciate being served once in a while.

He led her to a stool and took the seat beside her. The old woman was still there, smiling at them so hard that her eyes disappeared behind the thick folds of her face. "One bowl of yakisoba, please," he ordered.

Tohru looked at him in protest. "Kyou-kun, you don't have to. I'm perfectly fine."

"You don't have to pretend, you know," he told her, rubbing the back of his neck and looking elsewhere. He didn't want to see her brown eyes looking gratefully up at him.

"Kyou-kun is always kind," she said. "Arigatou gozaimasu."

"It's nothing," he muttered. "If you didn't eat then you would get sick again, and then we'd have to take care of you again."

She blushed at the memory. "I'll try to stay healthy for Kyou-kun, then."

Her words hit him, and Kyou felt that his heart had taken up residence in his throat and was going nowhere. "Idiot," he grumbled a few precious seconds later, once he had calmed down. "You don't have to do it for anyone else, you know; you just have to stay healthy for yourself."

The old woman set one bowl of steaming soba in front of him. He shoved it over to Tohru. "Here. Eat."

"Itadakimasu," she said, before feeding herself a mouthful of noodles.

Kyou was content to watch her eat, in graceful measured mouthfuls. But she deserved much more than soba. She deserved fancy restaurants and elegant food and being treated like a queen. But he could only give her this. He stood up so quickly that his stool nearly fell over.

"Is there something wrong, Kyou-kun?" Tohru asked, concern in her wide eyes.

He shook his head. "I just need to go outside for a while."

She let him go.

Kyou strode onto the sidewalk, his hands buried deep in his pockets. He had to get away from her once in a while. Too much of her overwhelmed him with a sudden burst of emotion that he could not comprehend. He took three slow breaths, watching the air turn a soft misty white as he released them into the night.

When he came back to her, there was another bowl beside her, filled with half of her soba.

"Here, Kyou-kun," she invited, patting his empty seat. "You'll eat too, ne? So you can stay healthy for Tohru?"

And there it was again, that pounding in his chest, that warmth in his cheeks. She could ask him anything, anything at all, and he would say yes. Her eyes were so bright.

He was so lost.

He sat down beside her and dug into the bowl.

"Itadakimasu," he murmured.